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British comedy pipeline – Going Postal

May 5, 2010

May not be immediately top of mind, but many long-time British comedy fans have e-mailed asking about Richard Coyle (Jeff,strange1Coupling). Having left the successful Steven Moffat series after the third season, Coyle starred in the one and only season of Strange, where he played an ex-priest who dedicated his life to hunting down demons. Coyle was defrocked after being implicated in a number of murders so he set his sights on uncovering the demons he claims were responsible. Sort of a Buffy in a paranormal world. Good series, but fell victim to the inner-workings of the BBC.

Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal

Up next for Coyle and set for broadcast later this month in the UK, Postal looks promising due to the top-notch cast headed by Coyle, David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot) and Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers). More behind-the-scenes stuff from Sky1 site here.


Remembering the BBC Three blobs

May 4, 2010

Even the station ID’s in the UK are brilliant. If you’ve never had the chance to see, here’s a compilation from the creative minds over at BBC Three, the network that brought you Little Britain, Gavin and Stacey and Torchwood. The blobs had been a part of BBC Three station ID’s from the beginning in 2003 until their demise in 2008. If you want to download them all, click here. Anyone else likes this stuff or is it just me?

The BBC Three blobs


The Blobs final farewell

The blobs had such a following back in 2008 when the channel re-branded itself that they were given a very special opportunity to say goodbye, unlike the fate of many British comedy series over the years.


Looks like Summer's over in 2010

May 3, 2010

It’s being reported by the British Comedy Guide that after 37 years, 31 seasons and 295 episodes, Last of the Summer Wine is calling it a day. According to the Guide, it’s being reported by the program’s leading fansite, The Summer Wine Chronicle, that the world’s longest running sitcom will not return after the current season (#31) concludes. Producer/director, Alan J. Bell, told the site that the latest set of 6 episodes in the 31st season will be the last. Gone are Compo, Clegg and Foggy. No more Clegg, Truly and Alvin. Now, no more Hobbo, Entwistle and Alvin.

Thornton #2I’m sure everyone has a story as to why they enjoyed LOTSW. For me, it was seeing the English countryside as you experienced the antics of this wayward group of pensioners week to week. Very different from the usual British comedy filmed before a live audience in a studio setting.

We visited Holmfirth back in the summer of 2003 when taping both the Funny Ladies of British Comedy and the Funny Blokes of British Comedy projects for PBS. I remember Frank Thornton taking us on a walking tour of the city showing all the locations where they filmed and seeing the fondness not only he had for the show, but also seeing the faces of everyone in the town and their genuine love for the show. Seeing the likes of Sid’s Cafe, Nora Batty’s flat, or just that amazing English countryside made you instantly forget it was June and it was freezing cold.

Without question, a major highlight was meeting new cast member, Entwistle, played by Burt Kwouk. After leaving, Frank said, you know who Burt is don’t you? Unfortunately for us, but probably fortunately for him, it didn’t dawn on us until we had all gone that Burt had played Cato in the Pink Panther movies along with parts in the likes of Goldfinger, Casino Royale, The Avengers and almost every other British drama or comedy dating back to Hancock’s Half Hour in the mid-60′s.

So, personal thanks to Frank, Burt and our time in Holmfirth for an unforgettable experience and thanks to Roy Clarke, Alan J. Bell and everyone involved in Last of the Summer Wine for a wonderful ride all these years. Here are some more photos from that 2003 visit to LOTSW at the Tellyspotting flickr page.

The UK really is funny territory, pt 2

May 2, 2010

A quick update to an October 2009 post from Tellyspotting as you make plans to travel to the UK this summer. This just in from the other side of the pond – think about Peckham if you’re a fan of Only Fools and Horses. As reported in The Guardian, the British are way ahead of the game as 1 in 20 Britons have made the trek for a Rodney and Del Boy day in south east London. If that’s not your cup of tea, here are some other options as reported earlier. Safe travels.

Next time you travel to the UK, take a break from the pubs and think about a comedy tour of England, which boasts not only numerous birthplaces of your favorite Britcom stars, but you can quickly check out places like Yorkshire, home to the longest-running sitcom on television, Last of the Summer Wine. 5692PWL-0-1You can actually tour Holmfirth in West Yorkshire and see all of your favorite locations including the world famous, Sid’s Cafe.

South West England

Here you will be in the heart of the settings for Fawlty Towers (Torquay) and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. South West England also proudly was home to local comedy heroes such as Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and British comedy pioneer, Peter Cook. 35-42581Main BannerYou can also see the home of To The Manor Born (Cricket St. Thomas estate in Somerset), Grantleigh Manor. Turned into a hotel several years ago, you can actually live the life of a fforbes-Hamilton, for a price.

The Midlands

England’s smallest county, Rutland, was the inspiration for Eric Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television. If that’s not enough to get you to the Midlands, how about visiting the setting for The League of Gentleman or Northampton, the setting for Keeping Up Appearances.

South East England

Not only does this area boast such local comedy heroes as Hugh Laurie, Eddie Izzard, Benny Hill, Michael Palin and Peter Sellers, it’s also the setting for The Good Life (The Good Neighbors in the U.S.) and The Office in Slough, Berkshire.

You won’t be able to find the World’s Largest Frying Pan or the World’s Biggest Ball of String, but you can attend the World Gurning Championships (it’s best you figure out what this is as you have to see it to believe it) and see the only statue in the world of Eric Morecambe (I know, I was shocked to hear this too).

Check out this map of England if you want a more off the beaten path tour of the UK next time around.

BBC offers apology for Doctor Who gaffe

May 1, 2010

We’ve all seen them in their disgustingly obtrusive glory. Endless promotion with bells and whistles that cover a third of the screen, populate every television broadcast these days to tease the weekly not-too-be-missed blockbuster…or just what’s coming up next. Whatever they promote, they’ve gone way beyond a simple station or network logo that identifies what you are watching. They twist, they turn and they come up animated from the bottom of the screen. They’re everywhere. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we don’t think twice about them as they’ve become a part of our standard television viewing. Well, we now know that final 1% live in the UK where over 5,000 Doctor Who fans were angered during their favorite program this past week.

DoctorWhoadvertLast Saturday’s transmission of the second installment of Doctor Who starring Matt Smith was apparently ruined by an inappropriately placed on-screen pop-up ad. Evidently, just prior to the cliff-hanger ending where the Doctor was being pursued by the weeping angels, a lower-third screen ad appeared featuring a caricature of Graham Norton plugging the next show, Over the Rainbow. After receiving over 5,000 phone calls from fans registering their displeasure, The Beeb apologized for the mistake. Overall, believable or not, it was very civilized.

Sorry, but I can’t for the life of me think that this would happen if enough people called a U.S. network and complained, can you?

If Monty Python were in the FA Cup final

April 30, 2010

With the FA Cup final just around the corner (Wembley Stadium, London, on 15 May), I thought it only appropriate to revisit what many consider to be the second greatest moment in English football history.

The Guardian reports in this article by Julian Baggini, editor of Philosophers’ Magazine, that, on 9 May, Python, philosophy and football will come together once again to not only debate the existential importance of the original Python sketch, but more importantly, to promote the teaching of philosophy in schools as the “fourth R” – and that would be reasoning. A mixture of academics and celebrities will take the field as Greeks and Germans, hopefully, with the hopes that scoring will not wait until the 89th minute this time.


In case you missed Michael Palin’s brilliant call of the winning goal, here it is.

Socrates has scored! The Greeks are going mad! Socrates scores, got a beautiful cross from Archimedes. The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant, via the categorical imperative, is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside.

BBC future becomes hot topic in upcoming UK general election

April 29, 2010

The 2010 UK general election is just around the corner (6 May.2010). Surprisingly, the future of the BBC is shaping up as BBClogobeing one of the top issues facing the voting populace with the Conservative Tory party coming out strongly to cut the BBC license fee which, some say, could jeopardize its future. Both the Labour and the LibDem parties have showed support for the BBC in their published party manifesto. The current government-set license fee structure is for  145.50 pounds ($225) per household, per year, for a color set and 49 pounds ($75.80) for a black & white license and is in place through 2012. In addition to access to BBC channels, the fee goes towards all of the BBC’s services on television, radio and online presence.

Leading comedians and actors speak out

RogerLloydPackIn a letter signed by some 50 plus of Britain’s leading comedians and actors, including Eddie Izzard, David Tennant, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Peter Capaldi, the BBC was categorized as Britain’s most important cultural institution. Another vocal leader in defense of the BBC is Roger Lloyd Pack (Vicar of Dibley, Only Fools and Horses, The Old Guys) who raised fears that “advert breaks could be introduced on the BBC“. He also said, “If we attack the way the BBC is funded, we’ll end up with no channel where viewing isn’t disrupted by commercials every 15 minutes. Watching the likes of David Attenborough’s documentaries would never be the same again.

Sir Humphrey enters the 21st century

April 28, 2010

We’ve talked many times here how Yes Minister is either just as relevant or more relevant today than it was 30 years ago when it premiered in 1980. Memo to the MinisterObviously, the original producers agree as original co-writer, Sir Antony Jay, has written three special election sketches, titled Memo to the Minister, for the BBC to air on BBC Two’s Newsnight leading up to the May 6 general election in the UK. As Jay states, we will see the master of obfuscation and manipulation flick through the main party manifestos and offer his unique advice for any incoming minister on handling, or getting around, aspects of potential future policy.

The role of the 2010 version of Sir Humphrey is portrayed by Henry Goodman, who will also play Appleby in our earlier mention of an upcoming theatre production of Yes Prime Minister at the Chichester Theatre beginning May 13.

Here’s the first one that transmitted on Monday, 26 April.

Next up – Trevor Peacock & James Fleet

April 27, 2010

Long day yesterday that started at 4:30a CT with a great interview with Bob Larbey, the genius mind behind the likes of As Time Goes By, The Good Neighbors (Good Life in the UK) and Mulberry, to name a few. In a word, couldn’t have been more gracious with his time and his thoughts on his life’s work and what it means to him that he’s been able to create something that has made millions laugh over the years.

One of the most memorable moments came when we asked Bob about Mulberry. While he has always felt there was a bit of unfinished business there as he and writing partner, John Esmonde, never had the opportunity to bring the series to an end, he did share how he would always have liked to have ended it. For the answer to that, you’ll have to stay with us until March 2011 when we premiere the doc on the writers of British comedy.

Next up – 1/3 of the Dibley Town Council

images-1imagesToday we’ll sit down with Trevor Peacock (Jim Trott, Vicar of Dibley) and James Fleet (Hugo Horton, Vicar of Dibley) to get their thoughts on writer, Richard Curtis, and the Vicar herself, Dawn French, along with some behind the scenes insights into the production of Vicar of Dibley. Just how did Dawn survive that Christmas Lunch with everyone?

Couple more interviews later this week with Josephine Tewson (Elizabeth, Keeping Up Appearances) and Gareth Gwenlan, current head of BBC Wales Comedy and producer of the likes of To The Manor Born, Waiting for God, Only Fools and Horses, Butterflies and Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin.

Stay tuned….

The great British comedy catchphrase

April 26, 2010

To continue our focus and conversation about the writers, our friends over at the British Comedy Guide in a recent c4-logoprogramming alert about an upcoming special on Channel 4 in London, remind us that buried in the brilliant writing of our favorite British comedy shows are some priceless and timeless catchphrases. As they point out, the nature of the catchphrase is that, by themselves, they aren’t funny at all. However, the classic ones find a way to enter into everyday vocabulary. Many times, you aren’t even aware of it. Interestingly, a catchphrase may be only uttered once in a series, but it’s so classic it remains forever.

Here are some of my favorites in no particular order. Anyone else?

  • Don’t Mention the War – Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers
  • I’m Free – Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries in Are You Being Served?
  • And Now for Something Completely Different – John Cleese in Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  • Are You Being Served? – Captain Peacock in, what else, Are You Being Served?
  • It’s BOUQUET! – Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances
  • He’s from Barcelona – almost everyone in Fawlty Towers
  • Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once – Michelle Dubois in ‘Allo ‘ Allo

That’s all I got from here. Anyone else have a favorite?

Interview with Bob Larbey, writer of The Good Life, Mulberry and As Time Goes By early, early in the AM. Will report back asap.