Common Ground is a new series of shorts currently showing on Sky Atlantic on Monday evenings. The anthology of ten stories follows the ordinary lives of some rather interesting characters, with two episodes airing each week.
We were lucky enough to talk to the show’s director, Dave Lambert, a man already well-known to us through his work with the Mighty Boosh and Steve Coogan, amongst others:
Dave, can you tell us how Common Ground come about and how you first became involved in the series?
Baby Cow were approached by Lucy Lumsden, Head of Comedy at Sky, to come up with ten shorts for Sky Atlantic featuring brand new comic characters. I became involved after Ali MacPhail, the producer, had been working on it for a while and had narrowed down the potential scripts.
We met with the writers/performers to develop the scripts and started to cast the episodes. Then we got out there and shot them. I’m really proud of the show and hope lots of people see it.
Do you have a favourite episode or character from the series?
No! They are all my favourites! Seriously, I do love them all because they are all different and each tells a different story. There really is something for everyone in this series.
Could you see any of the stories developing for a second run?
Definitely, whether it is a standalone series for the individual characters or a second series of Common Ground – I think these characters need to be seen again, 11 minutes leaves you wanting more. I don’t think it’s the last you’ve seen of them.
At TVO, we’re increasingly directing people to Sky Atlantic to watch the TV shows we write about. Do you think Sky has taken over as the home of interesting TV comedy?
I think Sky have been fantastic over the last couple of years in regard to TV comedy in the UK. There’s energy and excitement around the industry and there’s some great shows being made. Sky Atlantic are all about trusting the talent to deliver the goods and they also give the perfect amount of guidance and input. As a viewer I really like the channel, ‘Girls’ is one of the best things on TV at the moment.
Over the years you’ve been involved in a number of Steve Coogan projects, most recently producing and directing him as Alan Partridge. Why do you think Partridge has been so popular for so long?
Alan is one of the great comic characters. I grew up watching it religiously and it blows my mind that I’ve had the chance to produce and direct Partridge shows. I think audiences will always want to hear his views on the world. He’s always relevant and he’s just brilliantly performed by Steve.
Do you think the character of Partridge has evolved over time?
Steve himself said that in ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ we are seeing more of a ‘pure’ Alan. It’s just him, Simon and sometimes a guest, there are two cameras in that room and you see everything, there’s nowhere to hide. The performance is more nuanced and Alan is a little older. For ‘Places of my life’ that carried on but it was Alan in full presenter mode as well, which is a joy to behold!
You’re also famous around these parts for your Mighty Boosh documentaries. What was it like working with them, given they’re notoriously difficult to organise?
I loved filming the Boosh! There was a period of time when whatever they were doing I would document it. I have tons of tapes and drives with footage of them. In terms of organisation there were a few occasions where my schedule was more urgent then theirs but that happens sometimes! They are a joy to be around, one of my best memories was making the documentary ‘A journey through Time and Space’ and revisiting the venues where they met and did early gigs. It was so funny and great to hear their memories.
You accompanied the Boosh on their infamous 2009 US trip. Will we ever get to see the footage that you filmed?
I hope so yes, there are a few clearance things we are sorting and getting approval from a couple of sources. I think the USA trip doc is really interesting for Boosh fans as it was basically the last thing they have done together. There was a Zappa tribute gig they did in London a while back but nothing else really. I really want to get it out there as that trip was so eye-opening. I’d like the story of that trip to be available to the Boosh fans, it’s really interesting.
Why do you think there’s so much inter-connectedness between the artists who feature in Baby Cow productions, with whom you work?
I think they’re connected by similar comedy sensibilities. They come here to work with Henry Normal, Steve Coogan etc. and they appreciate the type of programmes we make. Like-minded writers and performers get along and work well together.
Next up for Dave is the new series of Mid Morning Matters with Alan Partridge, which will start production after the forthcoming Partridge movie.
In the meantime, don’t forget to tune into the next episode of Common Ground which airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 9pm. This week’s episodes include ‘Rupert‘ with Jonny Vegas and Tony Pitts, and ‘Fergus & Crispin‘ with Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton. For more information about the series take a look at Sky Atlantic’s incredibly comprehensive microsite.
To read more about Dave’s past projects and find out why he truly deserves a place in The Velvet Onion Hall of Fame, why not check out our profile of the man from last year?