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Thanks For The Memories

5 Feb

Celebrating our 5th birthday this week has caused us to get a wee bit nostalgic. So we thought we’d collate some of those “Do you remember when?…” reminiscences into a Best of the first 5 years of TVO. It’s not a comprehensive overview of everything we’ve done, more a subjective account of a few of those ad hoc moments that made us feel warm, fuzzy and just a bit excited.

The favourite moments are different for all of us; sometimes it’s the memory of the event behind the article; sometimes it’s because we nailed an exclusive or wrote something that generated a huge amount of traffic for the website (one post last year generated over 13,000 unique visits in one day, fact fans!), and often it’s the buzz of being able to share something new, exciting and special with you, our readers. So here are a few of the happenings which have brought a smile to our faces over the past 5 years: 


© Paul Holmes

© Paul Holmes

There are so many glorious memories to treasure. There’s one particular Forgery Club that will forever be in my mind, presented by Hot Brew, and featuring a rare performance by Brown Jenkin (Colin Hoult & Stephen Evans), an appearance by The Mighty Thor and loads more. We were sat talking to Steve Oram before the show, and he noted that he’d never made it big because he liked to do things that broadcasters don’t know what to do with… then went on to give the audience an epic, ten minute long version of “Mary“. To this day, I can’t get a cab in London without thinking: “I will not go South of de river.”

I was particularly proud of the Mongrels takeover in November 2011, as various people being very busy meant I did that one pretty much solo, but was riddled with a genuine (and full blown) flu after arranging interviews with the whole cast and creator Adam Miller! I managed to salvage the interviews, strike up positive relationships with every single one of the team I spoke to which continue to this day, and fix up a wodge of behind the scenes stuff AND a competition to win DVDs of Series One, despite being unable to stand up or focus on a screen for more than a few minutes at a time. If you click here and scroll down, you can see everything.

Another good one to mention is Zimbani, which came to my attention early on in the life of TVO, when Dave McNeill & Colin Hoult emailed me to enthuse about their new show featuring Julian Barratt. It was the first time anyone had come to me direct outside of casual chatter, and really began expanding our world for the first time. Colin later made my partner, and occasional TVO designer, Lauren, get down on all fours and pretend to be a pig in front of Simon Amstell. Now that was a strange moment.

Then again, there’s many of those. Getting accidentally lost for a moment in a strange building behind the London Palladium with Isy Suttie at a screening of Alice Lowe‘s People Place. Similarly, getting trapped in a lift with Mike Fielding and an old lady who refused to let anyone else press the buttons to get us out of this chaos. And then there’s that strange bar James Wren led a motley post-Spank crew along to that felt like something out of a Bond film, somehow managing to stay glamorous at 3am. It’s been a funny old time.  But above all else, it’s just been nice to be welcomed into the fold of this wonderful group of friends and collaborators, and be trusted to give them everything I can to help their work reach a wider crowd. Let’s keep doing it, eh?


Having been involved in TVO since the very early days makes picking a favourite moment is a real challenge – but this one was pretty special: In 2011 Dave Brown was putting together Noel Fielding‘s art book Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton. They needed one last thing to finish it off before it was sent to the printers, and they contacted us to provide it. We were able to offer our readers the opportunity to have a photograph of their faces painted over by Noel and included in the book. A double page spread of your lovely faces appeared in the book when it was published, alongside the caption ‘MY TINY CHILDREN’. A wonderful show of their appreciation for the fans, and something which we were delighted to facilitate on their behalf.

© Noel Fielding/Dave Brown

Our Sightseers take-over was pretty special too (click here and scroll down). We had no idea it would become such a cult hit at the time, and it was great to be able to support so many of ‘our lot’ (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Richard Glover Tom Meeten) with a week of exclusives.

© Big Face Productions

On a personal level, getting to know a few of the people who we write about – and discovering that they’re damned nice people as well as being unbelievably talented – has been a privilege.

A particular high point has been getting to know Hoppo. Introduced to me at Club Fantastico as “the only man to have survived Old Gregg”, John Hopkins turned out to have a TVO pedigree as long as his (long) arms, being part of the original Ealing Live gang and having worked with half of the people that we cover. He’s also lovely. If you don’t know who he is, we urge you to read our interview/profile about him and check out his stuff.


There are lots of brilliant moments I could mention, but as a fan of Hayden Black, it’s been a pleasure getting the chance to spread the word about him. I guess I’ve become our resident expert on Hayden’s creative and comedic output; take a look at this to find out more.


The moment that stands out in my mind is Fulchfest (Rich Fulcher‘s legendary comedy night in Kentish Town). I’d say that was the most fun I could have. This Pete Heat video that we filmed summarises it perfectly:

I’ve also had some brilliantly fun nights at Dan Clark gigs – often with Mog. Here’s a review of one of them.

© Mog


I think my favourite moment is the Zappa Plays Zappa gig at the Camden Roundhouse, with The Mighty Boosh Band as support. Being surrounded by odd men with moustaches while weird music was playing… and then rushing across town to a Rich Fulcher gig – where all the familiar faces already were. It was a perfect blend of what started it all and the new direction TVO had pushed us all in.


Seeing the Boosh warm-up gigs in 2013 was great, and it was lovely going to Soho Theatre as part of the TVO team. It was brilliant to see them on stage together again, in a lovely small venue, with the magic between them there as if they’d never gone away. The review was great too!

I loved going to see the Inside No. 9 preview at the BFI. It’s now one of my favourite pieces of TV and seeing it in the cinema was really special.


Being involved in filming TVO Live was one the most fun shoots I’ve done, but also the toughest because it was so difficult holding the camera still due to my laughter! We couldn’t have wished for a better line up. Fingers crossed for a TVO Live 2!


My favorite TVO memory is of when I interviewed Rich Fulcher in LA. I hadn’t done anything like it before, and he was so funny and generous! I admire Rich so much, and it was wonderful that he was everything he seems to be and more. A truly funny man.


The Luxury Comedy coffee competition was great, because it encouraged people to create something artistic. And I loved the series of Noel Fielding interviews to celebrate his birthday, which featured questions from our readers:

So there you have it – a sprinkling of very happy memories from a few of us. A big TVO thank you to the artists who we write about, who have provided us with these highs and who make it all possible. And thanks too to you, for being interested enough in what we do to come with us on our journey to the outer reaches of the comedy universe. It’s been quite a ride so far…

Mongrels Men at FurCon

9 Jan

© FurCon

FurCon (Further Confusion) is one of the world’s largest anthropomorphic (or “furry”) conventions, and is now in its fifteenth year. This year, two of the puppeteers from Mongrels will be appearing at the event!

Warrick Brownlow-Pike (Marion) and Andy J. Heath (Nelson) worked together on the BBC3 show, and their appearance at the convention later this month seems to be causing a fair amount of excitement amongst the organisers.

Many of you will be familiar with their recent puppeteering on Mongrels, but if you’ve ever wondered what else they’ve done, here’s a brief potted history, courtesy of the helpful folk at FurCon:

Andy began his career as swing performer on Doctor Dolittle – The Musical (1998). Since then , he has performed Kit on Play With Me Sesame UK (2004) and has also puppeteered guest spots on Jim Henson’s Mopatop’s Shop, as well as assisting on The Hoobs. He performed a Penguin with The Muppets on their UK spot on The X Factor, and then puppeteered various characters on Muppets Most Wanted (2013). Later in the same year, he was also involved in The Robbie Williams Holiday Special on BBC1. His other film credits include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2004) , Tales of the Riverbank (2008) , Harry Hill – The Movie (2013) and Frankenstein (2014).

During 2009-2011, Andy co-designed, built and operated the puppets for BBC3′s adult sitcom Mongrels with his business partner, Iestyn Evans. Together, they run Talk to the Hand Puppets.

Warrick has performed puppetry on some of Britain’s best loved and most watched children’s shows, most recently in Sesame Street’s The Furchester series. He was also a principal puppeteer in The Muppets last feature film Muppets Most Wanted. He has also been a writer, director and consultant for various projects, including the Jim Henson company. He worked with The Muppets in their most recent movie, and with Sesame Workshop.


FurCon is being held in the San Jose Convention Center, San Jose Marriott, and San Jose Hilton. It takes place from January 15th – 19th, and the organisers promises eminent guests, educational panels, a dealer’s room with comics, artwork, collectibles and clothing, an art show, gaming, nightly dances and world-class costuming. Wowsers!

For more information and to register for the event visit the convention website. Pre-registrations closes at 11.59pm on 10th January (local time), so make sure to get in there quick!

Onion Talking: Adam Kay on Crims

7 Jan
© Adam Kay

© Adam Kay

This week sees the launch of Crims – BBC Three’s new sitcom starring Elis James & Kadiff Kirwan.

We sat down with one of its co-writers: cult stand-up and former Mongrels writer Adam Kayto discuss the gestation of the series, and his plans for its future.

Imagine the scene. You go to pick up your girlfriend’s brother, only to find he’s committed a bank robbery, and you’re now his getaway driver.  More accurately, considering your stationary and surrounded by armed police, his getting-caught driver.

Such is the plight of Luke (Elis James), whose situation is made all the worse when he is confined to a Young Offenders Institution for 600 days, sharing a cell with said girlfriend’s brother – the hapless Jason (Kadiff Kirwan).  The result is Crims, BBC Three’s brand new sitcom from the pens of Adam Kay and Dan Swimer.

“It’s a huge privilege to be trusted to write a few hours of comedy on telly,” Adam tells TVO following a sneaky peak at the first two episodes, “and everyone worked very hard to make the best product we could.  Though, the progression of a comedy writer is to write on sketch shows, write episodes of other people’s shows, script edit other people’s shows, then work towards someone trusting you to write your own rulebook. So if it’s not funny, I can’t say it’s because I was told a character couldn’t say that. It’s because I fucked up. I can blame every other show I’ve worked on for not being funny on other people.” He pauses for a moment and ruminates. “I guess I could still blame the actors on this one.”

Kay needn’t worry. Crims is hysterically funny. Set in a world slightly detached from reality, it features prison guards who are obsessed with urinal cakes, gang leaders with an allegiance to Team Edward, and regular discussions about wanking rotas.  One character goes by the name of ‘Black Elton John’, for no apparent reason than his need of spectacles. It’s that kind of show, and TVO loves every second of it.

© BBC / Adam Lawrence

© BBC / Adam Lawrence

“The show found its feet as we were writing it,” explains Adam. “It didn’t feel out of place in the world to chuck that sort of weird stuff in. You never want to break the world with something outlandish. When people suddenly take stock and realise they’re just watching telly, it’s never good. But we peppered these crazy moments in without making it seem mad.  The temperament of the show allowed us to throw in those moments.”

Every character has something inherently likeable about them – even those who would typically be portrayed as purely negative stereotypes. For Kay, this was a natural decision to make. “You’re inviting people into your living room,” he states, “and the characters are not the most hyper-real on television. We’ve tried to give everyone enough fallibility and relatability to be enjoyable. There’s no real villains. It has to be more complex than setting up a goodie and a baddie, because no-one is really like that in real life.”

It also helps to set the series apart from the shows it will inevitably be compared to. Whilst no-one bats an eyelid at sitcoms set in shops or offices, you only have to look at the way Hyperdrive was dismissed before it even aired as a Red Dwarf knock-off to suspect that Crims will be unfavourably compared to Porridge by some, much as Dead Boss was before it.  Thankfully, Adam isn’t worried.

“I’m happy for anything I do to be compared to anything else,” he asserts. “Porridge casts a very long shadow, and rightly so. But in general, it’s less helpful thinking of a show in terms of the precinct it’s based in. A show is essentially the characters that are part of the world. We’d come up with the characters of Luke and Jason, and their relationship, before we came up with the situation they would be in.  I don’t feel constrained by it. I would happily write a sitcom set in a hotel. We could have set this in a retail bank, and it could have had the same vibe. But as soon as we plonked them in a prison, everything slotted into place.”

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

Part of what makes Crims stand apart from most recent comedy shows, is that it all seems to be coming from relatively new blood. Kay has spent years as a musical comedian, regularly selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe, and you may have heard his viral favourite London Underground. His first major television writing gig was crafting songs for the second series of Mongrels back in 2011. Co-writer Dan Swimer cut his teeth co-writing Grandma’s House with Simon Amstell, and has also written for shows as diverse as How TV Ruined Your Life and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Despite their talents, neither man could really be defined as a household name just yet.

This vibe extends to the cast, too. Elis James is an up-and-coming stand-up with occasional sitcom acting credits to his name, with much of the rest of the cast made up of relative unknowns. Comedian and actress Cariad Lloyd (Cardinal Burns, Fit) plays Prisoner Officer Dawn, the only sane voice in the whole place. Former Dead Boss and Him & Her star Ricky Champ plays fellow warden and hapless idiot Creg. By far the more diverse CV on the cast-list is that of Theo Barklem-Biggs, who plays Twilight-loving thug Marcel – and who you may recognise from his appearances in productions as varied as The Inbetweeners Movie, Silk, Moses Jones, A Touch of Cloth or The Fades.

“We were certainly never put under any pressure to fill it with names,” Adam states. “Everyone just set about making the best possible show.  Cariad is brilliant. Ricky Champ’s been in a huge amount before and he’s always brilliant, likewise Theo. And there are some who’ve done smaller roles or we’re bringing them to the screen for the very first time. It’s exciting.”

This certainly isn’t your typical BBC Three starring-vehicle, though it could have ended up very different indeed.

 © BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

“Lots of people were seen for the show,” reveals Adam, “Some with large amounts of profile, some with even less profile than these guys. The casting director put huge numbers of people up for it. But not only are Elis and Kadiff individually really great actors, but we knew their chemistry would show on screen from the moment we tried them together.  Ellis has been gaining profile of late, but I think this is the start of a long comedy journey for Kadiff in particular.”

One familiar face does turn up in Episode Two, however – in the form of Doctor Who legend Sylvester McCoy. As Luke tries to impress his girlfriend by getting an A-Level on the inside, he meets a daffy old Latin teacher, and the two bond over the true meaning of life, the universe and everything, with delightfully charming results.  Which, given Sylvester’s track record for delightfully charming everyone around him, is no surprise.

 © BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

“I can tell you now,” Adam beams, “he was an absolute joy. Sylvester was a huge presence and source of energy and enthusiasm. We had a puppy on set that day, and normally the puppy gets all the attention on a set, but Sylvester stole its limelight very much, which is pretty unheard of.  He does it really well, too. It’s a very unusual part, and he gets away with it with just the right amount of mad.”

So what does the future hold for Crims? “At the start of every episode,” Adam tells us, “is the number of days they’ve spent in the prison. By the end of Episode Six we’re a couple of months in. If time continues at the same rate, we’re not going to be limited by their sentence. We’d rather keep doing it while we’re all enthusiastic about it enough to want to write more. You know how comedy works. If we were commissioned for Series Eleven, and we wanted to do it, we’d find a way.”

But is there a moment in this first series Adam is most proud of? He has two.  “Episode Six,” he grins, “where Creg is eating a sandwich. That’s a plot construction I was extremely pleased with.  And there’s one thing that Luke says, as a very sarcastic character. In a moment of annoyance to Jason, he asks: “Isn’t there a yourself you can go fuck?” I’m waiting for a chance to say that in real life.”

TVO suggests the slogan could end up on t-shirts. “You’re in,” Adam retorts. “You get 10%.” Deal.

Crims airs from 10pm on Thursday 8th January on BBC Three.

Space Ark Pilot Commissioned

28 Dec


Channel 4 has commissioned a non-broadcast pilot of Space Ark, a sci-fi sitcom starring Justin Edwards and Nico Tatarowicz (former Mongrels writer).

The show, from Hatrick Productions, is set 6 months, 1 week, and 4 days since the earth was destroyed by an asteroid. 200 humans are surviving on board a huge ‘Space Ark’, trying to find a new planet where the human race can be re-established. The Space Ark is populated by the finest minds the earth had to offer, plus an inept crew, an android-bear pilot and a member of the public who won his place by lottery.

In the pilot episode the crew encounter a seemingly friendly alien race, whose space craft has broken down.

The main cast also features Georgia King, Tom Stourton, Alex Beckett and Ricky Grover. If we hear any more about plans to transmit the pilot, or if a full series is commissioned, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Crims From Kay & Swimer

24 Oct

BBC Three has announced a forthcoming sitcom written and created by two writers with previous TVO connections.

© BBC Comedy

© BBC Comedy

Crims follows straight-laced Luke, (stand-up comic Elis James), who is unwittingly led into trouble by his girlfriend’s brother Jasaon (Kadiff Kirwan).  Sentenced to two years in a Young Offenders Institution, Luke will have to rely on Jason’s street smarts to get him through. Unfortunately, Jason is a massive idiot.

It comes from the pens of Dan Swimer, whose past credits include Grandma’s HouseHow TV Ruined Your Life, Big Fat Quiz of the Year and Never Mind The Buzzcocks; and Adam Kay, writer on Mongrels and Anna and Katy, as well as a comedian in his own right and frontman of the band Amateur Transplants.

With a supporting cast including Doctor Who legend Sylvester McCoy, what TVO has seen from a sneak preview is a witty, oddly charming show packed with great gags, and we’ll aim to bring you more news on the show as soon as possible.  Crims is set to air in January.

Mongrels Return – To Dave

14 Jun

© Alexandra Thompson

Although it’s not quite the return we had hoped for, series one of Mongrels is set to air on Dave from Monday 30th June at 3.15am!

As regular readers know Adam Miller‘s foul-mouthed puppet show featured Tony Way as Gary, the owner of a South London pub that just so happens to be surrounded by vermin – from meek metrosexual fox Nelson (Rufus Jones), and his best friend, simpleton feline Marion (Dan Tetsell), to psychopathic champion vulpine swearer Vince (Paul Kaye), and deranged, scheming pigeon Kali (Katy Brand). With Gary’s pedigree chav dog Destiny (Lucy Montgomery) completing the line up, the show was an instant cult smash, until it was axed by BBC3 a couple of years ago.

Dave is a digital channel and part of the UKTV network, who are now making original content for their channels, including the recent revival of BBC 2’s cult favourite Red Dwarf. UKTV Gold has also recently announced that they have the rights to show the final Monty Python live show, so they are obviously serious about investing in content for their channels.

If you can’t wait to see Mongrels again, you can get both series from TVO Store.

Wee Paper People

1 Jun

Regular readers of TVO might remember Paper People – cut out and keep paper models of your favourite TVO folk. We’ve just revisited the site and there are many, many more characters for you to cut out and keep. How many do you recognise from the pictures below?

If you can’t wait to get your hands on your own Wee Paper People, all you have to do is click on the website, download your favourites then print and assemble. Assembly instructions are on the site.

If you want something more personal, the creator of all these fantastic models, Sally Grosart, can make personalised little people of your friends and family, or personalised cards or banners. To contact Sally and see the rest of her creations click here.

“That’s Our Slot!” – BBC Three Axed To Drive Cost Cutting With Aunty

5 Mar

Digital channel BBC Three is to be dropped from Freeview, satellite and cable, as part of the BBC’s drive to save £100 million, it has been announced.


The station, which focuses mostly on comedy and reality television aimed at ‘young adults’, is to move entirely online, with its shows living on exclusively on iPlayer.

The decision follows director general Tony Hall’s speech last week, in which he stated that “tough choices” were needed, and that the BBC was “in the final stages of a budget process to find an extra £100m of savings.”

Launched in 2003, BBC Three was responsible for a number of big name projects featuring TVO regulars – amongst them The Mighty Boosh, Mongrels, Snuffbox, Nighty Night, Dead Boss, Pulling, Tittybangbang, Being Human, How Not To Live Your Life and AD/BC: A Rock Opera.


However, in recent years, alternative comedy on the channel faced tough times, as it focused more on reality programming – though the last few months had seen something of a resurgence with popular shows like Cuckoo and Uncle pulling in viewers.

News of the closure has come under significant public backlash, which may reserve the decision as was previously the case for both 6 Music and Asian Network.  Yet with the continuation of the service as an online alternative, and the recent resurrection of BBC Two as a hub for alternative comedy via hit shows like It’s Kevin, House Of Fools and Inside No. 9, perhaps this won’t be such a bad thing after all…

To commemorate the channel’s past successes, we’ve set up a special section in The Velvet Onion Amazon Store, celebrating some of their finest achievements which feature a cavalcade of TVO regulars. You can peruse the collection over yonder now.

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Four

4 Jan

Hello and a warm welcome to the final part of our Review of 2013. Although October to December may feel like it only just happened, prepare to be amazed by how much you’ve forgotten. We were, but then we’re getting on a  bit.

So here are the best bits from the fourth quarter of the year – cherry-picked from news stories about both our regulars and a few new faces too. Enjoy.


October was the month that Booshmania returned.  Just as the fantastic Behind the Boosh exhibition started its run at Proud Camden, showcasing the history of that most Mighty of comedic troops via the majesty of Dave Brown‘s photography, the boys were back in town.  Or rather, on the pier, as The Mighty Boosh went from the Soho Theatre to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in LA. A final (chaotic) UK warm-up show and a further run through at The Comedy Store, almost halted by a Visa saga, paved the way for a live performance that turned out to be one of the Festival’s highlights. Fan forums and social media platforms were buzzing with photos, footage and reviews of the show.

Another announcement that got us more than a bit over-excited in October was the news that Ben Wheatley is to direct the first 2 episodes of the next series of Doctor Who, starring the new Time Lord, Peter Capaldi. How good is that!?  We’re itching to see what happens when you combine one of the UK’s finest directors with its biggest export, now in the capable hands of an Oscar-winning acting legend to boot.  You can see the moment Capaldi became the Doctor in the 2013 Xmas special below…

More telly stuff, with the launch of Matt Berry’s new series, Toast Of London.  We’d been itching to see it since the pilot back in 2012, and it did not disappoint…

Elsewhere, Richard Ayoade established himself as a permanent fixture on prime time panel shows with a stint as team captain on Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. Ayoade’s intellectual sparring with host David Mitchell certainly made our Sunday evenings feel a bit more highbrow!

What else?  Well, in movie news, there was an update on the cast for Paul King‘s long-awaited Paddington Bear feature film, which included mention of Rufus Jones and James Bachman. To end the month, TVO artists offered us a veritable smorgasbord of comedy options for Halloween night’s out, with special spooky performances from Colin Hoult and Richard Sandling.  And we were sad to lose the talented comedy actor Felix Dexter, who died at the too-young age of 52. He left behind an incredible legacy of great TV performances on shows like Bellamy’s PeopleAbsolutely Fabulous, The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge, Mongrels and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few. He will be much misse, and would typically hate all this fuss about him, so let’s remember him with one of his silliest moments – dancing for Sport Relief alongside Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery.  What a dude.

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88 Keys for Big Talk Talent!

29 Nov
© Tim Minchin

© Tim Minchin

In series-universe, The Velvet Onion was a happening nightclub frequented by Vince Noir and his cohorts.  In reality, the name is all the more fitting, as the many layers of our sphere of interest spread outwards like a great big comedic group-hug.

So we’re particularly excited that a fellow we at TVO have a lot of time for, Tim Minchin, will be appearing in a new BBC sitcom pilot, 88 Keys, which has a number of ties back to what we call Onion Land.

First off, it co-stars the sublime Kayvan Novak (Four Lions, Bad SugarPhonejacker), and is written by the immense talent that is Jon Brown – who wrote a substantial chunk of Mongrels and forthcoming flick Cuban Fury.

The show is also coming from the splendid folk at Big Talk – who were responsible for Sightseers, The World’s End, Spaced and lots more, with the producer of those classics, Nira Park, on board.  Set to direct is Martin Dennis, who has the likes of How Not To Live Your LifeBlack BooksMen Behaving Badly and even Allo Allo on his impressive cv.

Set to feature Minchin as Charlie the cocktail pianist stuck in the Carlton Arms Hotel with grand ambitions, and Novak will be the hotel’s regular barman.  It all sounds rather intriguing, and we’re sure it’s going to be a show most of you will be itching to see.  A non-broadcast pilot will hopefully be followed by a full series commission, so stay peeled for more info as and when we get it.

For more details, visit The Guardian’s article over yonder.

Felix Dexter : Respect

11 Nov


A few weeks ago we were all saddened by the death of Felix Dexter, a legend of alternative comedy and a much-loved and respected actor.

The BBC promised a programme to celebrate his life and it will be broadcast on Sunday 17th November on BBC2 at 10pm (except Scotland where it will be shown at 10.30pm).

The programme called Respect: A Felix Dexter Special, charts his life in comedy from a pioneer of black comedy, his early days in stand-up, to the landmark Real McCoy, The Fast Show, Down the Line, Absolutely Fabulous, Bellamy’s People and Citizen Khan.

During this special tribute friends and colleagues gather to remember Felix, including Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson and Adil Ray.

Felix Dexter, RIP – 1961-2013

19 Oct
© Rolling Sky Productions

© Rolling Sky Productions

The Velvet Onion would like to extend our condolences to the family and friends of Felix Dexter, who died on Friday aged 52.

First appearing Junior Simpson, Kulvinder Ghir. Robbie Gee and Meera Syal in sketch show The Real McCoy, Dexter went on to appear in a number of landmark comedies and smash hit shows over the last two decades.

These included a recurring role as John Johnston in Absolutely Fabulous, spots in The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few.

In recent years, Felix played various characters in Rhys Thomas led radio series Down The Line and it’s television spin-off Bellamy’s People.  He also provided voices for various characters in Mongrels – including, of course, Lamb That Sounds Like Morgan Freeman – and worked as a dramatic actor in CasualtyThe Bill, Empire and Jonathan Creek.

His work obviously touched a lot of comic talent over the years, who either worked with – or greatly admired – him as an actor, comic and friend.  Below are a series of tweets summing up the legacy he left behind.

Dexter is currently starring in BBC One sitcom Citizen Khan as Omar, with recent episodes available on iPlayer.  Sadly, his much reduced role was made whilst suffering from myeloma – a type of bone marrow cancer which claimed his life late last week.

Our thoughts are with his loved ones, and his performances shall live on.

Further Your Comedy Career Here

15 Oct

© British Comedy Guide

The Big Comedy Conference is your chance to hear some of comedy’s finest talking about their careers in comedy – including a few folk with TVO connections!

The day of comedy-related talks and workshops is been organised and curated by The British Comedy Guide. It presents a unique opportunity for anyone interested in pursuing a career in comedy to meet and listen to from some of the industry’s most successful writers, performers and producers. The event will include talks, networking and pitching sessions, and will be rounded off by a bar and live comedy gig in the evening.

© BBC Comedy

The full list of speakers is mightily impressive, but for the purposes of this here website, here are the ones with a link to TVO:  Dan Tetsell (Mongrels), Andrew Ellard (IT Crowd, Count Arthur Strong), David Schneider (I’m Alan Partridge), Caroline Norris (Horrible Histories) and Pete Sinclair (Never Mind the Buzzcocks).

You can see who else is attending by clicking here – and more speakers are still to be announced!

The Big Comedy Conference will take place on Saturday 30th November at The Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0NA. The venue will open at 9:30am, with the talks and workshops running in different rooms at the venue from 10am until 7:30pm. A comedy gig will follow in the evening and the bar will be open until 11pm.

Tickets are usually £149, but can be purchased for the early bird price of £99 before 21st October. Lunch is included in the price. To purchase tickets and for more information about the event, visit the British Comedy Guide here (scroll down for booking info). If you go, we’d love to hear all about it!

Catch Up With Onion Land

4 Apr


The last remnants of your Easter Eggs are starting to look like wicked reminders of pure liquid gluttony.  Spring is officially here, though some parts of the country seem to have swapped sunshine for snow.  As you stop to take a breath, you realise this seemingly barren period in Onion Land is actually filled with glorious programming you might have missed!

There’s a number of TVO regulars cropping up in various shows at the moment, and as some of them won’t be on catch-up for very long, we thought it was as good a time as any to give you a brief round-up.

For starters, Colin Hoult and Steve Oram appeared in the Easter Special of Life’s Too Short – the mockumentary series about Multiverse head-honcho Warwick Davis.  Oram’s also been regularly appearing in Heading Out with Sue Perkins, and all six episodes can be caught on catch-up at present.

Then there’s our full blooded TVO shows to savour – with It’s Kevin halfway though it’s initial run, and all episodes available on iPlayer, you can savour Kevin EldonJulia DavisJustin EdwardsMatt Berry, Alex Kirk and many more joining The Actor, Kevin Eldon for some full blooded titting about.  The show continues on Sunday evening.

© Dave King / Roughcut Television

Over on 4oD is every episode of Anna & Katy – the silly channel-hopping style sketch show from Anna Crilly and Katy Wix, which also features appearances from Fergus Craig, Colin Hoult and David McNeill.  The show wraps up next Wednesday.

There’s also the brand new series of Game Of Thrones featuring Paul Kaye airing on Sunday evenings, which is available on catch-up exclusively to Sky customers, alongside Dan Clark and Katherine Parkinson in Love Matters.

If radio is more your thing, don’t forget that Matt Berry returned for Series 2 of I, Regress last night on Radio 4, who are also in the middle of a rerun of Knowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge.

And if repeats are all you crave, you’ll be pleased to know that Mongrels will be heading to freeview channel Dave from April 12th. All this, plus the release of Sightseers on dvd and blu-ray, and a wealth of archive materials available from our TVO Amazon Stores now!  Get stuck in!

Kaye’s Collective Works

31 Mar
© Paul Kaye

© Paul Kaye

The ever in-demand Paul Kaye will be bringing a selection of his paintings to London’s West Bank Gallery later this month, and the highly versatile star has a number of other intriguing projects in development.

TVO readers may know of Paul from his appearances in Mongrels, Pulling and seminal cult classic Strutter – or his dramatic roles in everything from Two Thousand Acres Of Sky to Being Human and Stella. He will soon be wowing audiences as Thoros of Myr in smash hit fantasy series Game Of Thrones (which returns this weekend), but there’s a lot more to Kaye than you may realise.

With a background in graphic design in the days before he shocked showbiz as crass reporter Dennis Pennis, it’s only natural that Kaye is a gifted artist, and he’ll be exhibiting a selection of his paintings at London’s West Bank Gallery at the end of the month as part of The Collective.

His work, which is as colourful and anarchic as one would expect from such a charismatic talent, will be joining that of artists Kimberley Thomas, Hjordis Folgelberg, Dan Johnson, Tracey Taylor and Lance Tilbury – with private viewing on Tuesday 23rd April, and the show open to the public until Tuesday 30th April.

© Paul Kaye

Paul has also been in touch about his various up & coming projects, and whilst it’s early days, we can’t help but tease you with titbits about them.  He’s currently filming a BBC drama about a 19th century whaling voyage in Malta called The Whale – allowing that impressive beard he’s grown a little more time in the spotlight!

This follows his appearance in forthcoming thriller Blackwood – starring Sophia Myles, Ed Stoppard and Russell Tovey, which is currently in post-production for release later this year.

Most intriguingly, the former rock star (he achieved cult fame in We Are Pleb and TV Eye in the late 80s/early 90s), has formed a new musical project called Zang along with fellow actor Marc Warren and long-standing collaborator Adie Hardy, who he last worked with soundtracking Kathy Burke series Walking And Talking last year.

Zang are currently demoing material, and TVO can confirm it’s exciting stuff – sort of PiL meets Massive Attack with a side order of Bowie’s “1.Outside” period, but still very much its own powerful beast.  We’ll hopefully be bringing you their debut music video in the coming weeks, so stay peeled.

In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this little gem which we uncovered this week having missed it back when it aired as part of a BBC4 documentary on Klezma music last year, which has got us itching for a rocked up version of Oliver! featuring Paul as Fagin.  Enjoy…

Qurios & The Ice Warriors

2 Mar

© Qurios / Pup Ltd / BBC Worldwide

An interesting news story with a TVO flavour emerged this week, when it was announced that Qurios Entertainment – who created the special effects for several shows we have featured in the past – will be bringing missing episodes of Doctor Who back to life!

In a round of Six Degrees of The Velvet Onion, the company, whose previous credits include Mongrels, Hyperdrive and The Omid Djalili Show (the latter featuring Rich Fulcher) have been tasked with recreating episodes two and three of The Ice Warriors: a 1967 story starring Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling as The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria.

The episodes were deleted from the BBC archives in the 1970s alongside countless classic slices of television history, but as with all 106 episodes of Doctor Who which have yet to be recovered, they exist as fan made recordings of the original audio which have previously been issued on cd.

The two animations form part of wider efforts to recreate as many missing episodes as possible for dvd release. You can see a work in progress preview clip below, and for more information visit now.

The Ice Warriors will be released on dvd in August.  Now here’s hoping at least one of those diehard Who fans amongst our regulars – Colin Hoult, Stephen Evans, Waen Shepherd etc – end up cropping up in new episodes sooner rather than later. We’d love to see Alice Lowe play an uber-villain!

NME Awards 2013 – Get Nominating!

16 Dec


The nominations are now open for the 2013 NME Awards, and it’s up to you who gets shortlisted!

Of course, there are several categories that deserve, nay demand, a TVO-related nominee! And 2012 has kindly provided us with a few options. For Best TV Show the psychedelic colour explosion that is Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy surely warrants a nomination? Or there’s award-winning Hunderby, Moone Boy, new Alan Partridge or the much-missed Mongrels.

Best Film?  How about Sightseers, written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram? For Best video you could nominate Tanlines ‘All of Me’, directed by none other than Julian Barratt, and for the various musical category nominations take a long look at the ‘Musicians‘ panel on the right hand side of this page and get typing! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone a bit less predictable won Best Album this year (Sue & The Unicorn or Loose Tapestries anyone?).

Finally, would it be too cheeky to suggest that The Velvet Onion Live would be a worthy nominee for Best Small Festival? And then there’s Best Fan Community? Ahem ;-)

You can make your nominations here. Go on, let’s make the 2013 awards our own! We’ll be letting you know when the subsequent voting commences, but in the meantime it’s over to you…

The Legend Of Farnaby

7 Dec

© GJP Publishing

An interview with Simon Farnaby features in a new book available for charity.

Legends Of Kids TV 2 does exactly what it says on the tin – and interviews a number of stars from the world of children’s television past and present.  The first volume had some impressive names involved, and this particular effort is no slacker on that front, either – with the likes of Geoffrey Bayldon (Catweazle), Tim Whitnall (Mike & Angelo), Tony Robinson (Maid Marian & Her Merry Men) and Sophie Aldred (Doctor Who) contained in its pages.

Farnaby’s interview with author Garry Vaux concerns his work on multi-award winning smash Horrible Histories.  Another TVO-related face involved is former Mongrels star Warrick Browlow-Pike, who spends his days as one of CBBC’s resident pupeteers.

With loads more insightful contributors, you can find out more about the project via publishers GJB Publishing over yonder, and you’ll be pleased to know the £7.99 that your book will cost will be directly channelled back towards Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Children’s Charity.

Dan Goes To Hollyoaks

2 Dec
© channel 4

© channel 4

Dan Tetsell popped up in Friday’s episode of Hollyoaks as a dodgy looking solicitor by the name of Jim McGinn.

It looks like he might be in a few episodes as the synopsis for tomorrows episode is “It’s the first day of  Mercedes’ trial. Whilst Myra acknowledges Mercedes’ solicitor Jim’s brilliance, will Mercedes jeopardise her release?”

Hollyoaks is a drama following the lives and loves of a group of teenagers and young adults in Chester. If you missed it on Friday, you can catch it on 4od.

Dan is probably best known to TVO readers as Marion in Mongrels. The second series is now available on DVD from The Velvet Onion store.

Craft Winners!

28 Nov

© Channel 4/Secret Peter

There were some well-deserved victories for TVO-related TV shows at last night’s Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards 2011/12.

The awards recognise the achievements of the people who work behind the cameras – the designers, technicians and and visual artists who help to produce the programmes we watch.

We’re delighted to reveal that Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy picked up two awards: Ameena Kara Callender & Noel Fielding won the award for Best Costume Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions, beating Strictly Come Dancing and another TVO-related show, Horrible Histories. Their win was described by RTS as, “A true collaboration, a seamless piece of highly creative work that is a live cartoon – true visual madness!”

Christine Cant was honoured for her wonderful make-up design on the series scooping up Best Make Up Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions. Christine’s contribution was described as, Sheer creativity and madness.” RTS then went on to say, “Our winner’s interpretation of Noel’s work was seamlessly integrated with the costume design. Great skill was demonstrated in the various make up techniques employed here, including bold and fantastic colouration.”


Mongrels also picked up an award, well-deserved in our opinion. Andy Heath & Iestyn Evans of Talk to the Hand won ‘Best Special Effects’ for Series 2, beating the much-lauded Downtown Abbey in the process.

RTS said of the win, “It’s not easy to add humour and comedic timing to a puppet show, but our winners succeeded and on a very tight schedule.”

For a full run down of the winners and nominees across all categories click here. Congratulations to everyone who picked up a gong!


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