While Dave Allen was, at the height of his career, one of Britain’s most controversial comedians, he also still remains one of the funniest in my book. The Dublin born comedian regularly provoked the conservative wrath for his frequent pointing out of political hypocrisy and his disregard for religious authority. For the majority of his show, Allen would sit on a high bar stool facing the audience, smoking and occasionally sipping from a glass of what he always allowed people to assume was whiskey, but in fact was simply ginger ale with ice. This would remind me of Dean Martin but, I’m guessing his was, in fact, straight whiskey.
Religion was a focal point for his humor, especially the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, where he generally mocked church customs and rituals rather than beliefs. According to Allen, he was a ‘practicing aethiest’ (he often joked “I’m an atheist, thank God“) and would always end each show by raising his glass and quietly toast his audience with the words “Thank you, goodnight and may your God go with you“.
Unfortunately, very little is available of these original Dave Allen at Large episodes except for The Best of Dave Allen DVD consisting of a compilation of Allen’s favorite gags, routines and observations, selected by Allen himself, from his 30+ years in show business.
That said, BBC Two will honor the Irish comedian with a night of programming in April which will include an hour-long documentary that will feature footage never before broadcast along with interviews with Allen’s eldest son, daughter and widow. The late Sir Bill Cotton, legendary light entertainment executive, BBC One controller and TV producer, will also speak with Dame Maggie Smith, everyone’s favorite Dowager Countess. Look for this really special night in April on BBC Two. Hopefully, it will make it’s way to the States in the not-too-distant future.
Allen died on 10 March 2005 at the age of 68.
With Richard Briers’ untimely passing last month, I’ve been thinking more and more about the brilliance of The Good Life or The Good Neighbors as it was broadcast in the U.S. The 1970′s (gulp!) British situation comedy, which was written by Bob Larbey and John Esmonde, centered around Tom Good (Briers) and his wife/partner-in-crime Barbara (Felicity Kendal) and their desire to become self-sufficient. The series starts on Tom’s 40th birthday, when he decided to turn his back on office life and have the Good’s live off the land. Over the next two years, Jerry and Margot Leadbetter, their suburban friends and neighbors, watched on with a mixture of horror and grudging respect.
Over the years during our various productions for PBS about British comedy, in talking with Richard Briers and Penelope Keith, who played Margot Leadbetter, both felt that the series was even more applicable to the 21st century than it was some 30+ years ago. I’m not even sure the word ‘sustainability’ even existed when the series premiered.
Following Briers’ death, the Daily Telegraph came up with a brilliant Good Life Quiz to give readers the opportunity to determine for themselves (behind closed doors, if necessary) if they were more like Tom and Barbara or Jerry and Margot. It’s extremely lengthy so here are a few to get you started. For the entire quiz and also how you determine if you are a Good or a Ledbetter, here’s the full Good Life Quiz from the Daily Telegraph.
Take The Good Life Quiz…
What are you driving?
a) A company car
b) Mainly a rotary cultivator, especially since our methane-powered car stopped working
a) … make good neighbors
b) … make good fuel when the pig-powered generator breaks down
How would you define “dressing for dinner”?
a) I put on one of my 73 maxi-dresses, teamed with a corsage and a turban. My husband swaps his suit jacket for a sports jacket
b) I take off my wellington boots
Make do and…
a) … spend
b) … mend
Growing your own food is…
a) … self-indulgent
b) … self-sufficient
What’s in your spare bedroom?
a) An exercise bike
b) Home-grown onions under the bed, crab apples on top of it, leeks all over the floor and a couple of King Edwards in the wardrobe
Television is …
a) … frightfully common and not nearly as good as it used to be
b) … pointless when you can easily turn an old set into a useful pottery workbench
The telephone is…
a) … useful for barking instructions at recalcitrant tradesmen
b) … something I try to avoid at all costs, in case it’s the bank manager
How do you pay your council tax?
a) Direct debit
b) In person, in coppers
How much is in your bank account?
a) Which account?
You read something in the newspapers with which you disagree. What do you do?
a) Write a strongly worded letter to the editor
b) We don’t read the papers
a) … a necessary evil
b) … something I dabbled in for a bit
What does your boss call you?
a) The next big thing
What are you most likely to argue about with your spouse?
a) Money, work, family, neighbors, Christmas – in fact, arguing is pretty much a means of communication
b) Whose turn it is to feed the pigs
How would you describe your retirement plans?
a) We’re going to draw on our four pensions and play bowls
b) We’re going to start buying lottery scratchcards
The glass is…
a) … half-empty
b) … half-full, and I’d like a top-up since you’re asking
What are you drinking?
b) Home-made pea-pod burgundy
To find out if you are a Good or a Ledbetter….
One constant in life (even though it’s every two years) is the brilliance of Red Nose Day, the BBC’s centerpiece of Comic Relief efforts which started as an idea from the brilliant minds of Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry. Viewers in the UK have been the beneficiary of spoof sketches such as Uptown Downstairs Abbey, Blackadder: The Cavalier Years and Prime Cracker with Helen Mirren and Robbie Coltrane.
Not to be denied after 25 years, it looks as though the mind of Richard Curtis is once again in genius mode as he brings a new Vicar of Dibley ‘mini-sode’ to the table in tonight’s Red Nose Day broadcast on BBC One. Homeland actor Damien Lewis stars alongside all the familiar faces from the Dibley town council including Roger Lloyd-Pack, James Fleet, Gary Waldhorn, Trevor Peacock and John Bluthal.
In advance of tonight’s broadcast, Dawn French had a warning for viewers: “Viewers should watch this sketch because it’s the first time we’ve been together for ages, so everyone can witness the rapid deterioration of us all. Since we last saw the Vicar and her parish members, the astonishing and shocking amount of decay is alarming,”.
Tonight’s Red Nose Day one-off reunion sees Geraldine and her parishioners heading to London on a mission. “I don’t want to give too much away about the sketch, but the Vicar heads up the fight for equality in church law,” said French.
Should any UK Tellyspotting readers get the urge to put a link up to the VOD mini-episode, I would be forever grateful and look for something fabulous to send you in return. Cheers.
Doing Something Funny for Money as Red Nose Day turns 25!
A star-studded line-up of the UK’s favorite comedians will literally be ‘doing something funny for money’ as Red Nose Day celebrates its 25th anniversary on Friday, 15 March, with a brilliant evening of appointment telly.
As they do every two years, producers of Red Nose Day have assembled an amazing cast of presenters, including Michael McIntyre, Rob Brydon, John Bishop, Zoe Ball, Lenny Henry, Davina McCall, Jack Whitehall, Nick Grimshaw, Jonathan Ross, Dermot O’Leary, Claudia Winkleman, Alan Carr, David Walliams and Russell Brand to name a few, all who will be massively entertaining from start to finish with original sketches from the stars of UK comedy all promising to keep the nation roaring with laughter throughout the evening.
Here’s what we know so far….
In addition to an evening of brilliant sketches, a number of comedy greats are already lending their talents and efforts in support of Red Nose Day leading up to Friday that include a number of ‘challenges’, many of which are met with pain and suffering. Thankfully, we all know that good comedy comes out of pain and suffering…
The brainchild of Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry, Comic Relief was launched on Christmas Day in 1985 live on the BBC to highlight the famine crippling Ethiopia. Before too long, the idea of Red Nose Day was created to focus attention of Comic Relief’s activities and the first ever event in 1988 raised an impressive £15m. After 25 years, over £620m has been raised to help change lives in the UK and Africa.
Just so you know, while working very hard on your behalf, I did my part to support Red Nose Day recently, how about you?
How does one even begin to top the fact that filming on Sherlock 3 is just around the corner? While news that production filming is set to begin on 18 March and cast and crew have gathered for the first read-through on Monday should be enough to tide even the most ardent Sherlock fan over until we see our first stills from the streets of London, Benedict Cumberbatch’s announcement at Tuesday’s South Bank Awards show is enough to set the Internets ablaze. FYI, Cumberbatch’s Parade’s End series took home the TV Drama prize at this years awards ceremony.
Referring to both he and co-star, Martin Freeman, Cumberbatch said: “We’ve agreed to two more series but I could get into trouble for saying that. All I know at the moment is I’m doing these three episodes of the upcoming series and another three.” (The key here is the ‘another three’ part, which translates to series 4 in my book.)
The star added that he would like to see the show continue beyond a fourth series but admitted it would depend on whether he, Freeman and co-creator Steven Moffat could find the time to do it. “It just depends on Martin and I’s availability, how long we can keep it going. It depends on Steven’s ability. I’d love to keep it going.”
Benedict on Sherlock 3 – an ‘absolute stonker’
“You are in for an absolute stonker. It’s going to be a treat,” said Cumberbatch, when asked about yesterday’s initial read-through rehearsal for the first episode of the new series, which will finally explain how the detective survived his fall from the roof of St Bart’s Hospital. Reaching for my Anglotopia’s Dictionary of British English, I now know that this means ‘something really big’ is going to happen. I think I’ll just set the DVR now for January 2014, the early odds-on favorite for both a UK (BBC One) and U.S.(PBS) premiere.
Douglas Adams would have been 61 on Monday. Probably best known for his brilliant work, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams may be gone, but will never be forgotten. He’s just eating at the restaurant at the end of the universe waiting for the rest of his party to join him. Friend and fellow British storyteller, Neil Gaiman, summed it up when he said: “Douglas Adams was a genius. He was a profound and brilliant British humorist who was also a very reluctant novelist”.
Any celebration of Adams’ life and work wouldn’t be complete without a towel. From Chapter 3 of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy… —Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Don’t forget…only 74 days until 25 May and Towel Day 2013. For a list of events happening around the globe, check out the official Towel Day website. If you have an event planned or want to get something started in your community, let them know! And…if you happen to be in the neighborhood on Tuesday, 12 March, check out Royal Geographic Society on 1 Kensington Gore for the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture 2013. hosted by Dr. Adam Rutherford and introduced by Stephen Mangan, who starred in another of Adams’ works, Dirk Gently.
Any celebration of Adams’ life and work wouldn’t be complete without a towel. From Chapter 3 of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy…
—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Don’t forget…only 74 days until 25 May and Towel Day 2013. For a list of events happening around the globe, check out the official Towel Day website. If you have an event planned or want to get something started in your community, let them know!
And…if you happen to be in the neighborhood on Tuesday, 12 March, check out Royal Geographic Society on 1 Kensington Gore for the Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture 2013. hosted by Dr. Adam Rutherford and introduced by Stephen Mangan, who starred in another of Adams’ works, Dirk Gently.
At long last (3 years to be exact) a new series of Foyle’s War starring Michael Kitchen in his new role as Senior Intelligence Officer has tentatively been scheduled for a mid-September run as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series. The new series of 3, two-hour programs will be set during the early period following World War II with Foyle focusing his attention on the world of espionage, gathering secret intelligence in support of Britain’s security, defense and the Government’s foreign and economic policies. Going from World War to Cold War, the first of three mysteries, “The Eternity Ring”, begins in New Mexico in 1945 before switching to London a year later.
Originally part of PBS’ Mystery series in 2002, it’s been three years since we last crossed paths with Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle. According to novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, who wrote episodes 1 and 3, the new Foyle’s War will begin in a post-war era Britain. Besides Kitchen returning as Foyle, Honeysuckle Weeks returns playing the established character of Samantha Stewart. It’s been three years, but remember that Foyle ‘retired’ at the end of series 7 (series 6 in the U.S.). Retirement is short-lived, however, as someone is stealing documents from the Soviet Embassy. Folks over at MI-5 (not Harry Pearce) want him to investigate the suspected Russian who defected with the documents and the possible passing of secrets to the Commies. Why Foyle, you’re asking at this point? Because his former driver, Samantha, has been photographed with a suspected Russian agent.
While UK audiences refer to this as series 8, this will be series 7 for U.S. audiences given that series 4 & 5 were combined as series 4 in the States. Even though Foyle has retired more times than Brett Favre, it’ll be good to have him back this September.
On 29 October 1966, just shy of three years after Doctor Who premiered on the BBC, a seemingly innocent broadcast of the fourth episode of “The Tenth Planet” transmitted showing the Doctor appearing increasingly old and frail and telling Polly that his ‘old body’ was ‘wearing a bit thin’. The First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, then collapsed at the controls of the TARDIS and miraculously transformed into a younger man.
I say ‘seemingly innocent’ as that final pivotal episode of the series has been lost from the BBC Archives since the 1970′s, with the exception of a very short clip of the regeneration itself. Pivotal given that ‘The Tenth Planet’ saw both the introduction of the menacing Cybermen and the departure of the First Doctor, William Hartnell.
Earlier this year, doctorwho.tv revealed that The Tenth Planet would be animated by Planet 55 Studios, who had earlier animated ‘The Reign of Terror’, thus recreating the lost episode. Dan Hall, commissioning editor of the classic Doctor Who DVD range, speaking at the Gallifrey One convention said: “It’s a real thrill to be bringing such an iconic Doctor Who episode back to life. Without the events established in The Tenth Planet episode 4, there would be no Doctor Who as we know it!”
Now, the same folks over at doctorwho.tv have released a first look at the work of Planet 55 Studios. Head of Studio, Austen Atkinson, said “We are about to finish two years of development and production work on the project – the first scene was animated all the way back in 2011! You have no idea how hard it was to keep that secret!“. Chris Chapman, Lead Animator on this sequence, said “We knew that we had to throw everything at this scene and in fact the whole story is historic, with the first appearance of the Cybermen, so we really worked very hard on it. It was a real pleasure. It has definitely made me a fan of Doctor Who.”
The animated version of ‘The Tenth Planet’ will be released on DVD in late 2013. What a brilliant present for Doctor Who fans to get to celebrate the 50th!
With sadness, it’s my unwritten obligation to alert Downton Abbey fans across Planet Earth that when series 4 begins in September in the UK and in January 2014 on PBS in the States, you won’t have the greatness of O’Brien to talk about each week. Following in the footsteps of fellow actors Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), who both asked to leave the highly successful series after series 3, Siobhan Finneran, who played Lady Grantham’s maid, Sarah O’Brien, will not return for series 4 at her request.
“I’m not doing any more,” she revealed. “O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being – that was great to play.” Her love/hate relationship with the audience stems from her lengthy and bitter feud with under-butler Thomas Barrow, as well as causing Cora Crawley to miscarry. The most ‘love to hate’ piece of work on telly since J.R. Ewing
Finneran fans can hold out hope of the possibility of an O’Brien return to Downton but that seems unlikely at this point. In the interim, she is in the cast of the second series of BBC1′s The Syndicate, playing a nurse who wins millions on the lottery with her colleagues.
I wonder what the over/under was on the thought that O’Brien would leave Downton Abbey before Thomas the under-butler….Who knows, maybe she’s just off to India with Shrimpy given his head maid doesn’t want to leave Scotland. Hey, it could happen…and she’d be back and nastier than ever for series 5.