Following up on a recent Tellyspotting report and review of the one-off “prequel” of
Only Fools and Horses called Rock & Chips, you may recall that the program was set in 1960 on Orchard Street and starred Nicholas Lyndhurst as Freddie Robdal, the man long thought to be Rodney’s Dad. James Buckley will again star as a young Del Boy.
Continuing the British love affair with what has long been recognized as the most popular British comedy of all-time, as voted upon in Britain’s Best Sitcom, comes word that writer, John Sullivan, is currently writing a full-series of six, one-hour episodes for broadcast later this year or early 2011. Click here for more information on the upcoming series, courtesy of our friends at the British Comedy Guide.
Having seen the original 90-minute prequel, it’s a definite candidate for additional episodes. While not laugh-out-loud funny, it does have a definite warmth and charm that warrants a series, plus you get the great Nicholas Lyndhurst along with a great soundtrack from the 60′s. Here’s a bit of cool behind-the-scenes stuff from the prequel….enjoy.
Whether it was Top of the Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Later with Jools Holland, From the Basement or something called Guitar Heroes at the BBC, the channel was home to some unbelievable musical performances in the 70′s. The Whistle Test ran from 1971 to 1987 and was, quite simply, about nothing else but the music.
Do yourself a favor and buy, rent or just watch any of these that are available on DVD. They continue to be unmatched today even in this day and age of countless outlets available for musical performances on television. It’s not British comedy, but still in keeping with our British focus, here are just a few of the British born greats that have graced the stage at the BBC:
The Rolling Stones
Recorded in 1971 as part of a BBC presentation of Guitar Heroes at the BBC.
From a 1975 performance that was actually taped in New York City specifically for The Old Grey Whistle Test.
David Byrne and Talking Heads
This 1978 performance features Scottish born David Byrne and the Talking Heads.
Formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler and brother, David, this 1978 performance came on the heels of being the opening act for the Talking Heads and launched their worldwide popularity.
One constant throughout the years in British comedy is the strong connection between a son and/or daughter and their mother. Unfortunately, the connection may have not always been a good thing, but it’s still a connection nevertheless. Here’s a quick look at a few that would make my top-5 mothers of all-time. Anyone else have additions to the greatest mothers of British comedy?
Keeping Up Appearances – Hyacinth and Sheridan
How can you not have a list that includes the ultimate mother, Hyacinth Bucket. Or is Sheridan the ultimate son. Always calling his “Mummy”, Sheridan was never seen in the series, but did call home frequently. Sheridan is perpetually away at a “polytechnic of university standard”. How can you not recognize the love between mother and son as she agrees to send money allowing Sheridan and friend, Tarquin, to rebuild Romania along with his endless need for silk pajamas.
Are You Being Served – Mrs. Annie Humphries and Wilberforce
Another case of is this the ultimate son or ultimate mother. In the series, Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries still lives with his mother, Annie. While only seen in two episodes, “Founder’s Day” and “Heir Apparent”, Mrs. Annie Humphries was definitely part of the cast with Mr. Humphries referring to her regularly. “Heir Apparent” was classic Are You Being Served? with Mrs. Humphries having to come to Grace Brothers to answer the question surrounding Old Mr. Grace’s assertion that Wilberforce could be his long lost son.
Waiting for God – Diana Trent and niece, Sarah
Ok, technically, Diana Trent was never a mother. She does have a niece, Sarah, with whom she is very distant with, going as far as to suggest that she runs a prostitution ring is constantly attempting to kill her with poison. When Sarah has a child, Diana, we finally learn of Great-Aunt Diana’s inability to have children. We now begin to understand the reason for her overall hostility to the world as a whole. She would have made a great mother.
Sorry – Phyllis Lumsden and Timothy
Phyllis probably won’t win any contests for Mother of the Year. Son, Timothy, is a 41-year old that still lives with his domineering mother. Timothy would love to settle down, but somehow, Phyllis manages to sabotage every potential relationship. Interesting side note, William Morris, who played hen-pecked father, Sydney, was married to Mollie Sugden (Mrs. Slocombe, Are You Being Served?).
Absolutely Fabulous – Edina, Saffy and Mother Monsoon
The ultimate addition to the list as you not only get Edina (Jennifer Saunders) on the ‘mothers’ list, but you get a bonus with June Whitfield’s portrayal of Mother Monsoon. She may be despised by her daughter, but she’s adored by her granddaughter, Saffy. The back and forth between Saffy and Edina and Edina and Mrs. M is priceless and makes them deserving of the list of all-time mothers.
The historic gardens featured in the classic British comedy, To the Manor Born, was recently the beneficiary of a 300,000 pound restoration. The Cricket House country mansion in Cricket St Thomas, the instantly recognizable setting from the British comedy that starred Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles and, only recently, turned into a hotel, now has the lawns that only a fforbes-Hamilton would approve of.
Ian Gyte, general manager of Cricket St Thomas hotel, said in this Telegraph interview, ”The new lakes and gardens will be a stunning testament to the long heritage of Cricket St Thomas whilst taking the gardens firmly into the 21st century.”
Visitors will share the newly renovated gardens and mansion with tamarind monkeys living ”free-range” in the trees and the Cricket St Thomas’s famous lemurs.
Debra Craine with the TimesOnline opens the debate as to “Who Owns the Small Screen Now?” by asserting that, quite possibly, the Americans are winning the battle. One quick note, she’s talking solely about British vs. American drama here, not comedy.
While I can agree with some of what she says when citing the likes of The Shield, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sons of Anarchy, or Mad Men as shining examples of American drama output, I’ll still stand by the belief that the UK remains on top when it comes to quality television output. I’ll put Spooks (MI5), Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes or Hustle up against anything that comes out in America, anytime.
As Debra points out towards the end of the article, “Of course it’s easy to cherry-pick the best of the imports and disregard the acres of dross that fill the schedules across the Atlantic. But even when Americans make something preposterous (Grey’s Anatomy or FlashForward), or something totally formulaic (Law and Order, CSI), there is a slickness and commitment that you just don’t find in British drama.”
For me, maybe it boils down to the simple fact that the British “acres of dross” that Debra refers to is better than the American “acres of dross”. Television is writer’s medium and the Brits win, hands down.
London. 6 May. Election Day in the UK. Who’ll it be? Labour, Lib Dem or Tory party? However it may end up, elections have played an important role in British comedy over the years. Here are a few examples as compiled by the British Comedy Guide.
First up – classic clip from Blackadder III. Baldrick wins using the platform of vote early and vote often with a single voter, one E. Blackadder, voting over 16,000 times.
Next, this classic exchange from Yes Minister as Sir Humphrey Appleby explains opinion polls and why you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on the results.
Whoever you vote for, be happy Rik Mayall, The New Statesman, isn’t on that ballot.
Finally, in Vicar of Dibley, Geraldine finds herself running against Parish council chairman, David Horton in the upcoming Dibley council elections.
May not be immediately top of mind, but many long-time British comedy fans have e-mailed asking about Richard Coyle (Jeff,Coupling). 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.
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.
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.
I’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.
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. You 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. You 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.
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.
Now THIS is what makes the Internets interesting. Since 2010, the desire and hope there would be a Sherlock/Downton Abbey crossover has been an on-again, off-again trending topic on Twitter. I recognize most of Planet Earth would rather see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock step out of the TARDIS but, somehow, seeing Sherlock match wits with the Dowager Countess ranks right up there for me. Imagine if Sherlock had been called in from the beginning, Mr. Bates would have never spent the entire series 3 in prison for the murder of his ex-wife! Given that both Sherlock creators and writer, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, have sizable ties to the Traveling Time Lord, a Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover was always more likely to happen “someday” but still…
Thanks to YouTubber, Jasmin Holmes, we don’t have to wonder what it would be like. At least how the opening of Sherlock would look if done in the style of Downton Abbey. Enjoy!