Christmas is now only two weeks away, and that means one of two things: you’re either already sorted for present-buying this year, or you’ve got a stressful fortnight ahead.
Well, if you’re in the latter camp, we’ve got you covered, as 2017 has been a bumper year for great comedy on screen and in print, and let’s not forget that a number of our regulars are going out on tour across 2018 too.
So sit back, scan through our list of amazing gift suggestions, and find out which person in your life you need to buy THAT THING for. And if you’re one of those people who’s already sorted out for this year, this is a perfect chance to treat yourself as a reward. Enjoy…
Richard Ayoade – The Grip of Film
The Grip of Film, published in October this year, is the second cinema-themed book to come from film buff Richard Ayoade following the more autobiographical Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey in 2015.
Written from the point-of-view of Gordy LaSure, a man so passionate about film that he eats film, drinks film, and sometimes will even watch a film, as Stephen Fry put it:
“Never has the cult and mythos of hero been so accurately and insightfully illuminated, or with such excoriating passion, zest, knowledge and insane prejudice.”
Most of all, Gordy loves talking to people about films: specifically about how they’d be better if only people would pull their asses out of their ears and listen to him. It’s a fascinating read from a man who not only adores film, but also knows well enough just how strange people who love film can really be…
Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor
Making huge waves over the last couple of months, from troubling the upper reaches of the Sunday Times Bestseller List to getting its author a one-on-one meeting with the dreaded Jeremy Hunt, This is Going to Hurt sees comedy writer and musical comedian Adam Kay (Mongrels, Crims) revisit his time working as a junior doctor.
The medical memoir is fascinating, funny and moving, and it’s gone down so well that a follow-up book has already been ordered and a TV series might be on the horizon. This Is Going to Hurt was also recently voted the UK’s favourite book of the year in a poll run by Books Are My Bag.
You can read our spoiler-free review of the book here, or just buy a copy and find out for yourself how good it is!
Matt Lucas – Little Me: My Life from A-Z
The long awaited autobiography from Matt Lucas, published in October this year, is an emotional read, covering with frank honesty the glittering highs and terrible lows that this bundle of comic energy has experienced to date.
Using the alphabet as a base-line, Little Me: My Life from A-Z takes a non-chronological look at his life with chapters including B for Baldy, G for Gay and, of course, T for Tardis.
Matt has plenty of interesting stories to tell about his childhood and his beginnings in stand-up comedy, as well as getting his big break on Shooting Stars, and his time on mega-hit shows like Little Britain, Come Fly With Me and most recently Doctor Who. A truly interactive book (it even comes with a little downloadable surprise), this is a frequently candid and never less than fascinating look at the man behind the catchphrases.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the multi-talented Alice Lowe wrote, directed and starred in Prevenge, which was shot in just eleven days whilst she was eight months pregnant.
As if that wasn’t an achievement enough, the film has received rave reviews from across the world, and has paved the way for Alice’s impending follow-up, Timestalker, set to shoot next year.
Prevenge follows mother-to-be Ruth grieving the loss of her partner eight months previously, and convinced that she must kill those responsible to please her unborn baby. With a Who’s Who of TVO favourites in the supporting cast – including Tom Davis, Kayvan Novak, Tom Meeten, Mike Wozniak, Dan Skinner and Gemma Whelan, Prevenge is an absolute must see.
Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby reunited to co-write and co-star in Mindhorn: a comedy about a washed-up actor desperate to revive his career, who is given the unlikely opportunity of a lifetime.
Julian plays has-been Richard Thorncroft, who found fame playing Detective Mindhorn on television in the 1980s but is now struggling to find work. His wife long gone (married to Farnaby’s scene-stealing stunt-double Clive Parnavik), it seems Thorncroft’s career is over, until a deranged criminal starts terrorising the Isle of Man and telling the police that he will only negotiate with Mindhorn.
At the end of their tethers, an uncertain local police force bring in Thorncroft, who uses the opportunity to try to launch a comeback.
Russell Tovey, Essie Davis, Andrea Riseborough, David Schofield and Steve Coogan co-star, with cameo appearances by Tony Way, Simon Callow and Kenneth Branagh for good measure. Read our spoiler-free review of the film here.
A complete curveball of a film, Gareth Tunley‘s psychological thriller The Ghoul arrived in cinemas, on demand and on home media earlier this year with the debut director firing on all cylinders.
Tunley – a veteran of Ealing Live and a regular face on our pages – assembled a cast of his longterm comedy collaborators to make a film with very few laughs, but a whole host of unnerving twists and turns that bends our perspective of reality.
Tom Meeten puts in a powerhouse performance as a troubled detective who goes undercover as a psychotherapy patient in an attempt to solve an unusual double murder case. Or does he? As his investigation deepens, he is led into a world where things are not quite what they seem and he begins to lose his grip on reality.
Also starring Alice Lowe, Dan Skinner, Rufus Jones, Niamh Cuasck, Paul Kaye and an electrifying turn from Geoff McGivern, The Ghoul is a must-see movie, and the disc also comes loaded with Tunley and Meeten’s brilliant short The Baron co-starring Steve Oram and Barunka O’Shaughnessy for good measure. Read our spoiler-free review of The Ghoul here.
Inside No. 9
Is there a single comedy series on television with universal acclaim to rival Inside No. 9? We doubt it, and as Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton gear up for a fourth run of their anthology series, we can look back on the third series which returned in January 2017 (preceded by a Christmas episode).
This year’s tales included those set in a restaurant after closing time, a university professor’s office, a karaoke booth and an art gallery. The pair also gave us an unsettling story about a man becoming obsessed with a shoe found in front of his house, and a memorable Christmas special paying homage to low-budget television of the 1970s.
TVO-linked guests in series 3 included Morgana Robinson, Ellie White, Matthew Baynton, W1A’s Jason Watkins, Angelos‘ Javone Prince and Hunderby’s Alexandra Roach, whilst other guest stars included Jessica Raine, Rula Lenska, Philip Glennister, Tamzin Outhwaite, Sarah Hadland, Keeley Hawes, Fiona Shaw and Peter Kay.
Also this year, after much pressure from fans (and Shearsmith & Pemberton themselves!) the first two series were released on blu-ray in February, having been only available on DVD beforehand. Series 1 can be picked up here, and Series 2 can be picked up there, with both series just £8 each.
The BBC’s self-referential mockumentary W1A had its third, and what we’ve been told is likely its final, series this year.
Aside from the jargon-spouting Way Ahead Group becoming the ‘Renewal Group’ to address the corporation’s year of charter renewal, the third series saw PR nightmares involving a swing band and a cross-dressing footballer, the launch of mind-boggling digital platform BBC Me, and Siobhan Sharpe (the always brilliant Jessica Hynes) dealing with Perfect Curve’s takeover by Fun Media.
The huge ensemble cast led by Hynes and Paddington star Hugh Bonneville, has TVO connections left, right and centre, featuring as it does Being Human‘s Jason Watkins, Nathan Barley‘s Nina Sosanya, The Windsors‘ Hugh Skinner, Sightseers’ Monica Dolan, Trollied‘s Sarah Parish and full-blown TVO regular Rufus Jones.
Now, most likely, at an end, if you already own the Series 1-2 pack, you can pick up Series 3 over yonder now, or grab the whole run in one box.
When David Mitchell and Robert Webb decided (alongside writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong) to call time on their mega-smash hit Peep Show, the show’s diehard fanbase was distraught. Fortunately for them, the duo have reunited for brand new series Back, which was so well received this summer that a second series has already been ordered for next year.
Back is written and created by Simon Blackwell (Veep, The Thick of It, Four Lions, Time Trumpet) and directed by Ben Palmer (Urban Myths, SunTrap, The Inbetweeners, Star Stories), so there’s great talent behind the scenes as well as in front of it.
As for that in front, the king of scene stealers, Geoff McGivern puts in a wonderful performance as eccentric Uncle Geoff, and Matt Holness makes a rare appearance in four of the six episodes as Laurie. Also appearing are Sherlock‘s Louise Brealey, Downton Abbey’s Penny Downie, Fortitude‘s Jessica Gunning, Star Stories‘ Oliver Maltman and The Thick of It‘s Olivia Poulet.
And we’ve got this far without even mentioning the plot! The show centres on Stephen (Mitchell) becoming the new manager of his family’s pub after his father dies, but a spanner is thrown in the works by the unexpected arrival of foster child Andrew (Webb). Stephen takes an instant dislike to Andrew and it isn’t long before he’s suspecting him of trying to steal the pub and generally take over his life. Fantastic stuff.
Created by Rev writer James Wood, Quacks burst onto our screens in August to a divided response – folk like The Telegraph claiming the show was “in need of some serious surgery”, whilst The Independent would proclaim it to be “surely one of the most original new TV shows of the year”.
Perhaps this one will be down to the audience, and with TVO regular Matthew Baynton in the regular cast, it’s safe to say a lot of very loyal viewers were soon on-board, and are no doubt eagerly awaiting a second series.
The glossy looking show focuses on three men of medicine in Victorian England – a showboating surgeon (Count Arthur Strong star Rory Kinnear), a hedonistic dentist/amateur anaesthetist (Plebs’ Tom Basden), and an ‘alienist’ or psychiatrist (Baynton). Also featuring Lydia Leonard and Rupert Everett, guest cast members include TVO faces Geoff McGivern, Simon Farnaby, Kayvan Novak and Ben Willbond, as well as Fenella Woolgar, Roger Ashton-Griffiths and Andrew Scott. You can read our review of the series here.
It’s hard to do historical comedy without the shadow of Blackadder looming large over every reviewer’s write-up. It may have been almost two decades since the last one-off special, and closer to three decades since the show was on air on a regular basis, but people just can’t seem to get away from the comparison.
It is perhaps even harder to do so when you’re Ben Elton, and you co-wrote most of Blackadder. Yet despite an uneven start with the critics, Upstart Crow has gained a loyal fanbase for its tales of William Shakespeare’s days writing plays and trying to stay out of trouble, with a third series and a second Christmas special planned for 2018.
For Series Two, the gag-packed sitcom had plots poking fun at everything from Othello, The Taming of the Shrew and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, to religion, gender politics and jukebox musicals. The entire cast returned, including TVO regulars Gemma Whelan and Tim Downie, plus Noel Fielding made a guest appearance as a Jagger-esque musician. Read our review of the series here.
Matt Berry – Night Terrors
Following his 2016 long-player The Small Hours, Matt Berry returned with his latest music endeavour in November. Night Terrors: Nocturnal Excursions in Music is an EP expansion of The Small Hours sound, comprising of remixes and re-takes from the album alongside a handful of new songs.
There are remixes from Saint Etienne and Clark, and a guest appearance from Berry’s longstanding collaborator Thomas Walsh of Pugwash fame, plus African jazz-influenced instrumentals, covers of Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, and a new ballad, Hey Little Girl.
Available on a variety of formats, we can’t help but feel Matt’s music is best suited to vinyl. Dim the lights, grab a warming alcoholic beverage, drop the needle, and sit back for a sensational audio journey.
Click here to buy Night Terrors on vinyl, CD or MP3
Lots of shows have already been announced for next year, with tickets already on sale for a number of tours and one-off live shows. We’re sure more are yet to come for 2018 and beyond, but in the meantime, you could round off your Christmas present buying with tickets to see:
Aisling Bea ♦ Austentatious ♦ Tom Davis ♦ Simon Day ♦ Kevin Eldon ♦ Paul Foot ♦ Richard Herring ♦ Colin Hoult ♦ Sarah Kendall ♦ Tony Law ♦ Stewart Lee ♦ Lou Sanders
And The Rest!
There’s all sorts of great stuff from years gone by still available on DVD, Blu-Ray, CD, Vinyl, Download and in print! If you’re going to be shopping at Amazon.co.uk then you can help TVO out by updating your bookmarks to the following:
Going to Amazon.co.uk from that link will ensure that The Velvet Onion gets a small percentage from every purchase you make – and that pays for our webspace, domain name, and hopefully some very special surprises in 2018! To everyone who buys via us – we thank you wholeheartedly. Merry Chrimbo!