BBC to mark 30th anniversary of Spitting ImageBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 7 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
The 30th anniversary of ITV's satirical puppet show Spitting Image is to be marked with a special documentary on BBC Four.

In Whatever Happened To Spitting Image? the arts strand Arena will reunite the founding creative team and tell the vexed and frequently hilarious story of the genesis of the satirical puppet show, with exclusive contributions from caricaturists Peter Fluck, Roger Law, and TV producer John Lloyd.

Spanning 131 episodes over 18 series from February 1984 to February 1996, the show was made for Central Independent Television and broadcast across the ITV network.

The puppets became almost as famous as the politicians they lampooned, and in 2000 were auctioned off at Sotheby's. In the course of the documentary, the team sets out to discover where they now reside and who is taking care of them in their old age.

Revealing the extraordinary technical achievement of the series, Arena meets the caricaturists, puppet-mould-makers, designers, puppeteers, impressionists, writers, and directors who worked tirelessly to ensure the show landed its weekly jibes and punches at the politicians, royals, and celebrities of the day. And, tracing its journey to our TV screens, through 12 years of huge audience figures and weekly controversy to its eventual demise, Arena will ask what Spitting Image got right, where it went wrong, and whether its absence for the past 17 years has left a hole in the schedules that has yet to be filled by modern broadcasting.

The documentary has been directed by Arena series editor Anthony Wall, who said:
I made a film about Fluck and Law in 1980, some years before Spitting Image was made, so it's great to be able to revisit their distinctive contribution to Britain's television history.
Cassian Harrison, the channel editor for BBC Four, commented:
It's a testament to Arena's success and eclectic tastes that they've secured access to the Spitting Image team. This is a timely opportunity for Arena to look back at one of television's most extraordinary satirical successes.
A date for broadcasting the one-hour programme is yet to be confirmed, with the BBC currently saying that it will air in the spring, but it will have a preview screening at the BFI Southbank on Thursday 27th February at 6.10pm.
Thirty years ago, Roger Law and Peter Fluck were happily ensconced in a converted Temperance Hall in Cambridge making cruelly funny Plasticine caricatures. These models were photographed and presented to the world in print under the anonymous byline "Luck & Flaw". Unlike a drawing, the caricatures looked like they might move and, Geppetto-style, they did. Law and Fluck, with co-conspirator TV comedy supremo John Lloyd, unleashed one of the most shocking and hilarious TV series ever. Arena tells the story of Spitting Image.
After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Fluck, Law, Lloyd, and Wall.

The big-screen showing and Q&A will be followed at 8.45pm with a special two-hour celebration and Q&A featuring clips and guests including impressionist Steve Nallon plus "victims" Lord Roy Hattersley and Lord David Steel.
We're delighted to host a panel of well-known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge and who became household names in the process, alongside some of their victims - politicians and celebrities - who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers. Using illustrative clips, we examine the show's controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers, and directors. So, in the words of one famous crew member: "Puppets up, loves - wave those dollies in the air!"
Tickets to both events go on public sale at 11.30am on Tuesday 11th February - click here for the preview screening/Q&A and here for the celebration/Q&A - with a joint event ticket also being made available.

FILTER: - Arena - Spitting Image - BFI - Documentary - Comedy - BBC Four

Episodes gets a fourth seriesBookmark and Share

Thursday, 12 December 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
A fourth series of the BBC Two comedy Episodes has been given the green light - with the third one yet to air.

Starring Tamsin Greig as Beverly Lincoln, Stephen Mangan as Sean Lincoln, and Matt LeBlanc as a stylised version of himself, the co-production between the BBC and Showtime - an American TV company - will start shooting next year. As with the second and third series, it will comprise a run of nine episodes.

The show is about British husband-and-wife comedy-writing duo Sean and Beverly who travel to Hollywood to remake their successful British TV series, with disastrous results.

Series three - which sees the couple back together following Beverly's fling with Matt - will begin in the USA on Sunday 12th January. A date for its start on BBC Two is yet to be announced. The second series aired in the UK between 11th May and 6th July 2012.

FILTER: - Comedy - BBC Two - Episodes

Pythons to reunite on stageBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
The surviving members of Monty Python's Flying Circus are to reunite on stage.

Terry Jones, one of the iconic group of comedians, told the BBC:
We're getting together and putting on a show - it's real. I'm quite excited about it. I hope it makes us a lot of money. I hope to be able to pay off my mortgage!
His announcement ended speculation following tweets by fellow Python Eric Idle yesterday and today in which he said:


It is understood that John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam will join Jones and Idle for the press conference, which is expected to be held at The Playhouse Theatre in London, where the hit stage show Spamalot is playing.

The sixth member of the comedy group, Graham Chapman, died of cancer in October 1989.

The five surviving Pythons last appeared together at the 1998 Aspen Comedy Festival.

The comedy group started life as a BBC television sketch show that ran for four series between 1969 and 1974, spawning five films as well as various books and albums, and proved to be a massive influence on comedy.

UPDATE - FRIDAY 22nd NOVEMBER: The show will take place at the O2 Arena in London on Tuesday 1st July 2014, and will see the team performing some of their best-known sketches "with modern and topical Pythonesque twists", as well as new material. Tickets go on sale on Monday 25th November from 10am, with prices starting at £27.50 and going up to £95 (plus fees). More details are available via this link. The performance will be filmed and released commercially.

FILTER: - Comedy - Monty Python - Theatre

Big Bang Theory back for seventh series on E4Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 22 October 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
Sitcom The Big Bang Theory returns to E4 on Thursday 31st October for its seventh series.

The first episode of the 24-episode run is called The Hofstadter Insufficiency.
Sheldon and Penny bond in Leonard's absence, Raj finds someone to share his heartache with, and while away at an out-of-town conference, Bernadette and Amy are 'hit on' at the hotel bar.
It will air at 8.30pm, having premiered exactly five weeks earlier in the USA on CBS.

FILTER: - E4 - Comedy - The Big Bang Theory

Blackadder Is Voted Viewers' Favourite ComedyBookmark and Share

Sunday, 24 March 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
Cult classic Blackadder has been voted the favourite British comedy of BBC Entertainment viewers across Europe and the Middle East.

A Christmas Comedy Countdown poll was held between 3rd November and 9th December 2012 to determine the top ten from a choice of 30 shows, with viewers casting more than 1,000 votes. In the end, there was less than 3.9 per cent between the top three programmes, but Blackadder - co-written by Richard Curtis and starring Rowan Atkinson, who played one of the Doctors in the 1999 Comic Relief spoof The Curse of Fatal Death, written by Steven Moffat - came out on top, with 12.2 per cent of the vote.

Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick in the show, said:
Baldrick is over the moon about our receiving this prestigious title. However, he believes something more tangible than mere words would be in order, and suggests that you purchase a large turnip, carve his initials on it, and send it to him c/o Blackadder and Blackadder, Bankers to the Queen, Mayfair. Thank you.
The top ten as voted for by viewers were:

The other 20 shows in the poll were: After You've Gone, Beautiful People, Big Top, The Cup, Dad's Army, dinnerladies, Getting On, Him & Her, Ideal, Jam & Jerusalem, Last Of The Summer Wine, Lead Balloon, The Old Guys, Rev, Roger And Val Have Just Got In, The Royle Family, Supernova, Taking The Flak, Twenty Twelve, and Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps.

Blackadder ran for four series between 1983 and 1989. There were also three specials, one of which - Blackadder's Christmas Carol - featured Nicola Bryant and Denis Lill as well as another Curse of Fatal Death Doctor, Jim Broadbent, among the cast.

FILTER: - BBC - Comedy

Dave Allen's Life And Career To Be CelebratedBookmark and Share

Thursday, 14 March 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
The life and career of comedian Dave Allen is to be celebrated by a documentary for BBC Two.

The one-hour programme, entitled Dave Allen Night, will feature rare and often previously-unseen archive footage plus interviews with family, friends, and colleagues.

Together with Allen's family, other interviewees include Dame Maggie Smith, Stephen Frears, and Steven Berkoff. It will also feature archive interviews with Bill Cotton - the former head of light entertainment at BBC TV who went on to become the controller of BBC1 - conducted shortly before the television executive's death in 2008.

In addition, the cast and crew of the triple-BAFTA-winning Dave Allen At Large - the comic's best-known, long-running BBC show - unite to talk about their memories of working with Allen, who often courted controversy with his views on politics and religion.

The documentary - whose broadcast date is yet to be confirmed - is a Vera production and has been executive-produced by Geoff Atkinson. It was commissioned by BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow and entertainment commissioning executives Gilly Hall and Mark Linsey. Hall said:
We are delighted to be celebrating the life and work of the inspired and extraordinary comedian Dave Allen on BBC Two. He was an entertainer ahead of his time and an acclaimed actor too.
Allen - who won the Variety Club's ITV Personality of the Year Award for his comedy/chat series Tonight With Dave Allen - died in March 2005 at the age of 68.

FILTER: - Comedy - BBC Two