Archives for September 2011

You Have Been Watching

Jon Aird | 13:06 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Yesterday was a very sad day for comedy as the legendary sitcom writer and producer David Croft passed away aged 89. He was behind some of the 20th century's most adored and classic sitcoms such as Dad's Army, Are You Being Served, 'Allo 'Allo, Hi-de-Hi! and It Ain't Half Hot Mum. 

Here are a few of our favourite clips from some of his shows:

Dad's Army began in 1968, yet lasted longer than the war itself and is a timeless, oft-repeated jewel in the BBC's crown.

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With its innuendo-laden comedy, penchant for slapstick and panto-type characters, Are You Being Served? had something for everyone and became a juggernaut of 1970s television.

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'Allo 'Allo was written and performed as a farce, with David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd making great play of national stereotypes (sex-obsessed French, posh British twits) but this didn't stop the show becoming a massive success on both sides of the Channel. The hit sitcom ran for 85 episodes. 

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Few writers and producers have had such an impact on comedy and influenced an entire generation like David Croft.

If you would like to share your memories of David Croft's shows or what his work meant to you, then please do comment below. 



BBC News - The Comedy Of David Croft

David Croft's Website

David Croft's Obituary from The Guardian

Glass Chair Chair Glass

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Jon Aird | 14:45 UK time, Wednesday, 14 September 2011

This Sunday on Radio 3, Russ Abbot stars in a play that imagines a day when Tommy Cooper met absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco.

Russ Abott wearing a Fez

Russ Abbott

Writer Annie Caulfield tells us how this came about...

I remember my parents laughing at Tommy Cooper when I was a kid. I didn’t like him. I was a grumpy, pedantic sort of child and had to leave the room he made me so cross; “But he’s not doing those tricks properly. We had a much better magician at the Christmas party, why doesn’t he do them properly?”

This dull streak carried on into being a student. I didn’t like Ionesco’s absurd plays; people coming in and out talking nonsense, turning into animals and talking some more nonsense… I liked gritty. Doc Marten wearing plays with lots of political shoutyness.

Maybe I got hit on the head but at some point I realised that I just had to look at Tommy Cooper and laugh. I saw a production of Ionesco’s Chairs and realised that not only was it funny, life was pretty much like that- people coming in and out talking nonsense, turning into animals and talking some more nonsense.

So when producer Gordon Kennedy told me there was a rumour Tommy Cooper and Eugene Ionesco once met it was like a perfect storm.

When the play was commissioned, director Marilyn Imrie bought me a very nice fez. No one ever picks it up and asks if I’ve been to Turkey – they start doing a bad Tommy Cooper impression. People who’ve never seen his act recognise Tommy Cooper from the worst possible impressions; that’s how famous he is.

Tommy Cooper

Tommy Cooper

When Russ Abbot signed up to play Tommy Cooper and I got to pester him for Tommy Cooper anecdotes it felt very strange. If I’d still been that humourless kid, it would have been like meeting someone who really knew Father Christmas.

Recording the play was difficult because along with Russ there was Alan Cordunner as Ionesco and they became an instant double act; Harriet Walter and Emily Bruni formed another instant comedy act and Hugh Ross had this deadpan delivery – everyone was making everyone laugh to the point of lying helpless on the floor. This made it hard for them to reach the mikes and hold their scripts.

The kid me would have thought they were all being very silly. This me thinks they were brilliant.

Glass Chair Chair Glass, Sunday 18th September 8.30pm Radio 3
Produced by Gordon Kennedy for Absolutely Productions

Very Old Pretenders

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Jon Aird | 11:39 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

From Carl Gorham, creator of cult animation classic Stressed Eric, comes Very Old Pretenders, in which two Jacobite soldiers from 1745 are found alive and well in a cave in Perthshire and have to be integrated into modern society by academic Andrew Merron.

Jack Docherty, Rebecca Front and Gordon Kennedy

Jack Docherty, Rebecca Front and Gordon Kennedy

Writer and Director Carl Gorham writes...

History and being Scottish - I’ve always had a bit of a thing about both of these even though you couldn’t get much more English than me; I'm formal, totally non tactile, born in Brighton and have even been known to say "gosh".

The company behind this series, Absolutely Productions, is, however, predominantly Scottish. Some of my best friends are Scottish (When Scotland got kicked out of the '86 World Cup by Uruguay I was the first on the phone to them, offering genuine sympathy and righteous indignation - see below).

I'm probably the only Englishman who enjoys watching Braveheart and have found myself muttering on more than one occasion “Well you can see their point of view”. I love Edinburgh and the Highlands. I love the mists and the melancholy. I even love the sound of bagpipes.

I've always been a fan of history too. When other kids wanted to be pilots or spacemen, I firmly declared that I was going to be an actor and historian. When I was nine I bullied my mum into knitting me a mock chain-mail suit. I was so obsessed that after a year, when the poor woman, hands bleeding, came to me having just completed the helmet part, all I could think of to say was "Where’s the rest of it?"

At one time I also used to come down to breakfast each day dressed as a different historical character - ranging from Richard The Lion Heart to Wellington. The whole fad spanned several years and only ended when my Charles I execution shirt, which was ripped and covered in tomato ketchup, went a bit 'off' and stank the house out.

When the chance came for to me to combine these two interests in one series, I leapt at it. Very Old Pretenders is about two Scottish soldiers from hundreds of years ago trying to make sense of today’s world, gadgets, and attitudes.

Each week there is a different theme as the Scots are introduced to modern notions of patriotism, speed dating, therapy and finally the world of TV. The fact that the person doing the introductions is an English academic adds a further level of complication.

Though specific in its setting, hopefully the series is also accessible. There are references to broadswords, clans and bonnets but it is, at heart, about loyalty, love, and social embarrassment.

I know everyone says this but the making of the show really was a joy. Jack Docherty and Gordon Kennedy were naturals for the two feisty leads seeing as they have been arguing with each other since school and I've known the wonderful Rebecca Front since University. The only person I hadn't worked with before was David Haig who was fantastic, thoroughly nice and has the best moustache in show business.

Here is a preview from the show:

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And now a word from Producer and actor Gordon Kennedy...

I remember the moment: 1986, coming back to the flat with Jack Docherty, Scotland dumped out of the World Cup again, but this time, more than any other time, WE WAS ROBBED. Appalling Ref, disgustingly filthy Uruguayan team, 0-0.

Out, gone, team at the airport. It was 1am. In the grim darkness of the hallway, heavy with the reek of shattered dreams, a single red light flashed on and off. It was winking at us: come on boys...why don't you listen to the message?

Unsteadily I extended a grimy, beer soaked finger towards the play button...surely a guffawing message from our new English friends...a suitable and deserving repost to us singing the Uber Alles after England got thrashed by Germany in the qualifiers. Something, anything to focus our anger and take our minds off the gaping, vacuous pit of despair before us...

It was Carl..."Hello?...Um, Hi Guys...I just want to say that was a disgrace this evening. You deserved to win, it's terrible, I can't imagine what you must be feeling now...." and so it went on....and on...and on for 20 suffocating minutes.

Nooooooooooooo! Doesn't he understand? Not only had we been dumped out of the World Cup; even more shocking and depressing was the revelation that the ferocious, unyielding sporting rivalry that we had assumed, up until this moment, was mutual between England and Scotland...wasn't.

You Bastard Carl, you cruel, complete and utter, utter Bastard. I can't remember who punched the answer machine first, but flushing it down the loo made us feel no better. One way rivalry: as useful as a commons select committee, as rewarding as a torn up betting slip.

Still I guess we got a sitcom out of it...

Nah, still not worth it.

Listen to Very Old Pretenders Thursday, 11:00pm on Radio 4

Gordon Kennedy and Jack Doherty will be talkinga bout the series on MacAulay and Co Thursday, 10:00am, Radio Scotland.

Salford Sitcom Showcase: Final six scripts chosen

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Jaine Sykes Jaine Sykes | 19:18 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Media City UK

MediaCityUK in Salford

BBC North and BBC Comedy Commissioning are pleased to announce that from over 80 scripts submitted to the Salford Sitcom Showcase, six scripts have been chosen and will be staged at the Salford Sitcom Showcase at MediaCityUK in October.

Independent suppliers and BBC in-house Comedy were invited to submit scripts for consideration and the chosen six - aimed at BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Three audiences - will have theatrical presentations which will take place over three evening performances from 12 to 14 October 2011.

The six scripts come from talent across the UK and offer a variety of comedy voices.

Cheryl Taylor, Controller of Comedy Commissioning says, "The Salford Showcase will have half a dozen new offerings with established authors like Georgia Pritchett rubbing shoulders with newcomers Jason Cook and Pippa Evans. The brand new studios at Media City will be a great venue for this initiative and we look forward to welcoming audiences from all over the regions to see these one-off performances.

"We have also committed funds for four TX studio sitcom pilots for BBC One over the next 12 months and are looking forward to growing more successful mainstream comedy to sit alongside Outnumbered, In With The Flynns and Mrs Brown's Boys."

Peter Salmon, Director, BBC North says, "We are dead chuffed that the North West - one of the funniest places on earth - is hosting this big comedy initiative. BBC sitcoms are among the most important programmes the licence fee supports. So this event should be fun and invaluable."

The six scripts to go forward for the Salford performances are:


Citizen Khan
Writers - Adil Ray, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto
Executive Producer - Paul Schlesinger
BBC Comedy

Mr Khan is the Asian community leader character created by Adil Ray and previously seen on sketch show Bellamy's People - here he stars in his very own family based sitcom. Watch Mr Khan's web exclusive videos here.

Writer- Tony Sarchet
Executive Producer - Jimmy Mulville
Hat Trick Productions

When Mum and Dad's Spanish retirement plans collapse around them they are forced to move in with their son and daughter in law in this masterful comedy about family relationships under extreme pressure.



Be Our Guest
Writer - Pippa Evans
Executive Producer - Paul Schlesinger
BBC Comedy

Writer/ performer Pippa Evans presents and stars in this colourful Hotel based ensemble comedy.

Single White Male
Writers - Dan Gaster & Rob Colley
Executive Producer - Mark Freeland
BBC Comedy

Scabrous and wickedly funny account of a gay man living at home with his permanently single mum.


BBC Three

Writer - Jason Cook
Executive Producers - Matt Tiller & Henry Normal
Channel K/ Baby Cow North

Award winning stand up Jason Cook turns his hand to sitcom in this warm and affectionate tale of North East family life.

Up! (working title)
Writer - Georgia Pritchett
Executive Producer -Catherine Bailey
Catherine Bailey Limited

Student comedy about sex, love and friendship in a riotous flatshare.

My Family, Your Family, Our Family

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Jon Aird | 16:49 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

After 114 episodes, My Family takes its final bow tonight. The popular BBC One sitcom stars Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker as parents Ben and Susan Harper alongside a brood of children, cousins and uninvited house guests, played over the years by Kris Marshall, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Gabriel Thompson, Siobhan Hayes, Keiron Self, Rhodri Meilir and Tayler Marshall.

Millions of fans have watched the Harper clan's trials and tribulations and to say goodbye we thought we’d share a few of the lessons we’ve learned from My Family over the years (with thanks to everyone who contributed their favourite moments on Facebook).

Beware the Perils of Internet Dating

Nick had a deep and rewarding relationship with Talia, a 19 year old cellist from Prague…until Talia turned out to be a 48 year old gas-fitter from Sunderland called Stewart (s1, ep1 The Serpent’s Tooth).

Always Check For Chalk Outlines

If you find yourself in a hotel room with an unidentified sticky substance and a colour scheme that’s "every possible shade of cack", remember that things aren’t that bad…until you step over the chalk outline. (s2 ep 5 Death and Ben Take a Holiday).*

Discourage Entrepreneurism

Tree Amigos. Need we say more?  (s3, ep 13 Ding Dong Merrily)

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If it Smells of Fish, it's Probably lasagne

And if you’re going to raid the family kitchen, why not bring a trolley? (s4 ep 4 Return of the Prodigal Prat) 

If You Need Cash You Can Always Rent Out the Loo

And yes, this is the episode in which Peter Capaldi does a star turn. (s5 ep 11 Dentist to the Stars)

Never Take Advice From a Man Named Roger

…particularly if it involves pyramids, and they’re not in Egypt. (s6 ep 4 Living the Dream) 

Heartfelt Declarations are Best Done Face to Face

Or at the very least, wait for her to flush first! (s7 ep 3 Once More With Feeling)

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An Heirloom is Something to Cherish

…until your wife dies and you can buy a sports car. (s8 ep 1 The Parent Trap)

Mum Loves You, No Matter What

...but she might get a bit narky if you come out to Dad first. (s10 ep 2 The Son'll Come Out)

Everything Will be All Right long as Barrowman is dressed up like Indy Jones. (s9 ep 8 The Guru)

John Barrowman and Zoe Wannamker


* This episode also has valuable tips on the hazards of unplanned threesomes.

So that's some of our favourite moments, why not tell us some more of yours? What will you miss most about the show? Let us know in the comments below.

My Family Tonight  8.30pm BBC One

Watch My Family clips on the Comedy website.

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