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Funny Ladies of British Comedy II – Behind the Lens

October 21, 2009

Several years ago, PBS paid tribute to The Funny Ladies of British Comedy. Hosted by one of the grand dames of British comedy, Penelope Keith, the special featured classic clips from perennial favorites such as As Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served and Fawlty Towers along with insights from the likes of Dawn French, Patricia Routledge, Moira Brooker, Mollie Sugden, Wendy Richards, Prunella Scales and others.

Behind the lens of Funny Ladies II

Penelope Keith returns as host of The Funny Ladies of British Comedy II. Targeted for broadcast in March 2010 on many PBS stations nationwide, the program pays tribute to those ladies you have come to know and love over the years from more of your favorite series like Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, Vicar of Dibley, Last of the Summer Wine, My Hero, Blackadder and Are You Being Served. IMG_1655Having just returned from being a part of the production team taping the host segments, I have to say that one of the nicest individuals on the planet to spend time with both professionally and personally is Penelope Keith.

Far removed from her the characters of Margo Ledbetter (Good Neighbors) and Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (To The Manor Born), Ms. Keith spent the morning with us at the Theatre Royal in Bath where she was appearing in a short run of Entertaining Angels by Richard Everett.

Life after Margo and Audrey

With a huge passion for gardening (she actually has a rose named after her), the former High Sheriff of Surrey and recently appointee as Commander in the Order of the British Empire, Penelope definitely does her part to keep regional theatre alive in the UK along with a host of other British comedy actors and actresses. In looking at the marquee at the Theatre Royal, Felicity Kendal (of Good Neighbors and Rosemary & Thyme fame) is now starring in Mrs. Warren’s Profession through October 31 and later in the year, Tom Owen from Last of the Summer Wine can be seen in Sleeping Beauty in Bath.

Don’t miss The Funny Ladies of British Comedy II on your local PBS station in March 2010. Until then, you can see more photos of Penelope during the Funny Ladies II shoot below or by visiting the Tellyspotting flickr page.

Red Dwarf returns – S10 in 2010?

October 20, 2009

images-1On the heels of the much-anticipated arrival in America of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth comes a recent cryptic ‘tweet’ from actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten). In less that 140 characters, Llewellyn reports that scripts for the 10th season of the series, to be written by Doug Naylor, have been commissioned and should begin filming sometime in 2010. Unfortunately, the long wait for the 3-part, series 9 (10 years after the end of series 8), wasn’t long enough as, while exceedingly popular with audiences in the UK, they met with less than favorable critical acclaim.

The Genius of S1-8

With a reported fan base that includes former President Bill Clinton, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, actor Patrick Stewart and popular TV chef Ainsley Harriot, series 1-8 featured some of the most innovative story lines in years. Lets hope for a return to S1-8 greatness when S10 hits the screen. Red-Dwarf-Back-to-Earth-001

MI5 – 100 years in the making

October 18, 2009

If you are a fan of the BBC series, MI5, then this is the book for you. The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew is a must read. At just over 1000 pages, it’s a long read, but worth the effort. It’s more of a history lesson than it is a spy story.

41afEoDORhL._SL500_AA240_The fascinating aspect of this book is to consider the unprecedented access that Andrew, a Cambridge University Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, had to the inner workings of the British Security Service. The book is divided into 6-parts ranging from the creation of the organizations foundation in 1909 up to its present day role of countering Islamic terrorism. Of particular interest is their dominant role played during the Second World War, armed with an astonishing understanding of Hitler’s objectives, in turning German agents.

headerAndrews recently spoke at a London School of Economics Public Lectures and Events forum to discuss the book that marks the centenary of the foundation of MI5. You can hear the podcast of that talk here. Of particular interest is the important role a sense of humor plays in the recruitment of an MI5 agent.

While unlike the series MI5, where all operations are solved in a 58:46 time frame, there are similarities between fiction and reality that will compliment each other if you watch the show and then read the book or vice versa. If you still can’t get enough, the official MI5 website is a treasure trove of information about the service.

Britcom marathon – behind the scenes from A-Z

October 16, 2009

A very belated, but very sincere thanks to all those that made this past weeks 35th Anniversary British Comedy Celebration a huge success. From staff, to crew, to volunteers, to all the fans of British comedy and KERA, you made (and continue to make) it all worthwhile. For those that joined us in the KERA studios until the wee hours of Sunday morning and those that couldn’t, here a little taste of what you either missed because you weren’t here or missed because you were suffering from lack of sleep at the bitter end. 

You can also visit the tellyspotting page on flickr. Thanks to long-time KERA volunteer, Robin E. for the great photos. Don’t forget there’s still time before Monday to enter the KUA Trivia Challenge drawing for an ‘absolutely fabulous’ prize. Cheers.

Be backstage tonight for Python reunion from NYC

October 15, 2009

imagesNo ticket to tonight’s invitation-only event at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York? Have a invitation, but flight cancelled so you can’t get there? Not to worry. Our friends over at IFC and Pythonline have spared no expense (they do this every 40 years) to make sure you are in the front row. In this case, you are in front of the front row, because you will be backstage with the Pythons during their 40th anniversary reunion/BAFTA award presentation tonight in New York City, the city so big, they named it twice.

Always look on the Bright Side of Life (insert whistle here)

Through the power of live streaming, you’ll feel like the 6th Python this evening. Watch it live at IFC or Pythonline, tonight (Thursday) beginning at 6:00p PT/8:00p CT/9:00p ET. For our friends in the UK, get some rest, it will begin at 2:00a.

And, while you’re watching, don’t forget to test your Keeping Up Appearances knowledge and enter the drawing for an ‘absolutely fabulous’ prize. Check out post below and EMAIL answers to tellyspotting@kera.org by midnight, October 19 to be eligible.


Know Hyacinth as well as Snoop Dog does? The KUA Trivia Challenge

October 13, 2009

Think you know Hyacinth and KUA as well as one of the show’s most recent self-confessed fan? If so, it’s time to test your knowledge of one of the most loved British comedy characters of all time, Hyacinth Bucket (It’s Bouquet…..). Answer the 20 questions below and E-MAIL your answers to tellyspotting@kera.org. Because 21st century trivia quizzes fall victim to iPhones, Blackberrys and the internet, in general, all entries with the most correct answers will be placed in a drawing for an autographed photo of Patricia Routledge. If interested, let me know and we’ll do this once a month for some “absolutely fabulous” prizes.

1.  What street do Richard and Hyacinth live on?

2.  Daisy and Onslow have both a daughter and a grandaughter. What are their names?

3.  What is the postman’s first name (mentioned only once in the series)?

4.  What does the “FH” on Onslow’s hat stand for?

5.  What is the name of the Chinese take-away that people are always mistakenly calling for on Hyacinth’s slimline telephone?

6.  Invitations to Hyacinth’s candlelight suppers always measure the same? What are the measurements?

7.  What is Richard and Hyacinth son’s name? What’s his friends name?

8.  Hyacinth tries in vain to get Richard a new job with a frozen food company. What is the name of the company?

9.  What was Emmet wearing when Hyacinth first saw him at next door neighbor, Elizabeth’s house?

10.  What did Hyacinth buy Richard for his birthday?

11.  What is the distinguishing pattern on Hyacinth’s Royal Doulton china?

12.  What does Hyacinth ask each person that enters her house to do?

13.  Emmet and Elizabeth are related. How?

14.  Hyacinth’s new security system was installed. What date was chosen as the password?

15.  Who was arrested for taking illicit video footage in the park?

16.  Onslow and Daisy win a trip. What did they win?

17.  What color did Hyacinth choose for her kitchen?

18.  The writer of Keeping Up Appearances wrote two other major series for the BBC. What were they?

19.  Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth) has a cousin that was also a famous British comedy star? Who?

20.  Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth) was married, and divorced, to another famous British comedy star?

Don’t forget, e-mail your answers to tellyspotting@kera.org. Entries must be received by midnight, Monday, October 19, to be eligible for the drawing. Winner will be contacted via return e-mail. As Wayne Gretzky says, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot”.

Red Dwarf 'Carbug' up for auction

October 13, 2009

If you’re in the mood for a slightly used one-of-a-kind auto that proudly boasts the ability to go from ‘naught-60′ in three weeks (Top Gear here we come) and does have a television credit, the customized 1999 Smart Car from the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth series goes up for auction on October 29. Good news – it runs and is drivable. Bad news – it’s not road legal without modifications. Remember not to make any noticeable movement unless you’re willing to bid. Any takers?

Only Fools & Horses begin filming 'prequel'

October 11, 2009

Definitely not as “interesting” as Anthony Perkins playing his own mother in Psycho, but it must be equally as challenging to play your own father. That’s what Nicholas Lyndhurst is set to do when he brings Rodney’s father, Freddie ‘The Frog’ Robdal, to life as filming begins on the much-anticipated ‘prequel’ to Only Fools and Horses. Long considered the most popular British comedy in the U.K., the one-off 90-minute special is set in 1960 and stars James Buckley (The Inbetweeners) in the lead role as a young Del Boy Trotter, the character made famous for nearly 30 years by David Jason and 8 years before Buckley was born.

Early photos from the set during the first few days of filming.

OFAH prequel 2

Going by the working title of Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Chips, the prequel was written by John Sullivan, creator of the original Only Fools and Horses. Check out more photos, etc. from the early days of filming courtesy of The Daily Mail. Cheers!

OMG! Monty Python in the KERA studios!…well, actually, in 1975.

October 10, 2009

A mere 24 hours after an unknown film with no distributor called Monty Python and the Holy Grail premiered in Los Angeles, four of the Monty Python troupe appeared at the KERA-TV studios in Dallas in 1975. The following video was discovered on a former KERA broadcast engineer’s “save” reel where it had gone unnoticed for a number of years. Unfortunately, the tape cuts out just as Terry Jones reveals the original title of the Flying Circus.  Thanks to Jesse Thorn, producer of The Sound of Young America for National Public Radio who introduces this classic from almost 35 years ago. Gotta love those 70′s fashions and hairstyles….

Monty Python Invades America – 1974

October 9, 2009

Fast forward five years. It’s 1974. The average home price – just under $11,000.  A gallon of gas – 55 cents. Average new car price just under $4,000. Oh, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 616! Richard Nixon becomes the first U.S. president to resign after the Watergate scandal. Lucy the skeleton was named, popular films were The Exorcist and The Sting.

A year like any other year, right? Not a chance. THIS was the year Monty Python’s Flying Circus invaded America. KERA-TV, the public television station in Dallas, was the first station in the country to broadcast this unknown program on a Sunday evening in the Fall of 1974 to a very unsuspecting, post-Masterpiece Theatre audience. Almost instantly, the Monty Python’s Flying Circus phenomenon was born.

The Python Effect on a young 13-year old Dallasite

I discovered Monty Python on a lazy weekend afternoon. I recently turned 13, and had never heard of the British comedy troupe before. As luck would have it, I turned the channel (this is back when TVs had turn dials) to a KERA broadcast of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I came in just as the Black Knight sketch began, and by the second appendage severing I was hooked. I had never seen anything so comically risky, over-the-top bloody, and flat-out funny. By the time the Knights of Ni showed up, I realized this was the greatest comedy of all time. Nearly 30 years later, I’m not sure I disagree with my initial assessment.

Since then, my love of Monty Python expanded to include their other films and, of course, their TV series. KERA’s Sunday night broadcast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was an important part of my week, and I rarely missed watching the show. Later I learned that KERA was the first U.S. station to broadcast Monty Python, which is a source of pride: We got it — literally and figuratively — when no one else in the country did.

So THANK YOU KERA for the best British import since the Beatles. And thank you for showing a 13-year-old boy there is comedy beyond Hanna Barbera.

Yours in Pythondom,

Kirk Baird, pop culture editor/film critic for the Toledo Blade in Toledo, OH, who was born and raised in Dallas and remains a longtime fan of KERA.

For more pop culture, check out Kirk’s blog, Culture Shock in the Toledo Blade.

There are 1000′s of stories in the naked city from viewers who “discovered” the group that, I believe, have had the greatest influence on shaping the future of television comedy, much like the Beatles shaped music from that time forward.

If you have a Python story or experience like Kirk, please share. Don’t forget to tune in Saturday at 7:00pm for the world premiere of Monty Python Before and After and then pop on over to Trinity Hall at Mockingbird Station on Sunday evening at 7:00pm for a very special edition of the Pub Quiz Trivia with KERA.

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