Archive for November, 2007

That Facebook Fan Page

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Item! Mitchell and Webb are now on Facebook, where the young cool hipsters hang out instead of MySpace, in a fan page. It’s as near to an official group as you will get as David and Robert don’t really do computersing all that often and it has real proper links with people who are involved in the shows. So go there at once by searching for Mitchell And Webb in the searchy box thing.
Item! That one-off reincarnation of Saturday Live is on ITV next Saturday (1st December) at 9:40. It has Mitchell and Webb doing something funny plus some other people, some of whom are funny and some of whom are not as funny as the other people. I cannot promise that there will not be any Mrs Thatch jokes, be warned.

That Laurence & Gus Recording

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I got an email for a nice BBC lady today:

L & G
Hello there,
I declare a professional interest, but thought you might be interested in this for your M&W blog, what with the various Sound and Look and Situation connections…

Laurence and Gus: Hearts and Minds
(3rd/21st December)
Award-winning comedy duo Laurence and Gus return to Radio 4 with a new series, stuffed with hysterically heartfelt and mind….thought sketches..

Laurence Howarth (Look Away Now, Safety Catch, That Mitchell And Webb Sound) and Gus Brown (That Mitchell and Webb Look, Rigor Mortis) will be joined by Kate Fleetwood (who recently starred as Lady Macbeth oppositie Patrick Stewart in the West End), Duncan Wisbey (Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression, The Ladies’ Bras) and Isy Suttie (The Now Show, Out To Lunch).

“Quality comedy for clever clogs.” The Evening Standard
“Fans of sophisticated sketch comedy are in for a rare old treat. Consistently funny and often quite profound.” The Guardian

Tickets from the usual, naturally. From what I’ve heard of it so far, its going to be jolly funny.

. . .

Thanks, BBC Lady, but I am busy. I recommend it to anyone who reads this though, and not just because I want to know how it went.

That Saturday Live idea

Monday, November 12th, 2007

From Chortle:
ITV reveals its new Saturday Live
The full line-up has been announced for ITV’s tribute to the influential Saturday Live shows of the Eighties. Marcus Brigstocke, who was a regular on ITV’s recent News Knight programme, will be hosting the revamped show, while original frontman Ben Elton performs a stand-up set. Jimmy Carr, Mitchell and Webb, Jocelyn Jee Esien and magician Pete Firman complete the comedy line-up, while the music will be provided by Hard Fi and Bon Jovi.

Producers have chosen more established names for Saturday Live Again! than featured in the Channel 4 original.

The series first ran for 32 shows from 1985 until 1988 (becoming Friday Night Live on the way), and launched the careers of a raft of then-unknown comedians from the new ‘alternative’ comedy circuit, including Harry Enfield, Lee Evans, Julian Clary and Jo Brand. Regulars included Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson as the Dangerous Brothers. Although the series first ran on Channel 4, its original producer Paul Jackson is now ITV’s director of entertainment and comedy – and he commissioned this new programme. His original co-producer Geoff Posner, who went on to produce Little Britain, is directing it.

Saturday Live Again! is a co-production between ITV Productions and Pozzitive Television and airs on ITV1 on Saturday December 1.

Those Armstrong And Bain, er, Write?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Another day, another Armstrong and Bain interview appears on Chortle

It’s the question that puzzles everyone in TV comedy. Just why isn’t Peep Show a bigger hit? Beautifully written, hilariously funny and wonderfully performed, it still struggles to muster more than 1.5million viewers – even when the full might of Channel 4’s marketing budget is employed to promote it. Writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain seem just as baffled when we interrupt a storyboarding session for the upcoming fifth series to ask them.

‘Why’s it not more popular? I don’t know,’ Armstrong ponders.

‘Because it’s shit,’ Bain yells helpfully from the background.

Unlikely, given the devoted loyalty of that small band of viewers, the growing fame of stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb and robust DVD sales (series four is out this week). But it seems the distinctive style, filmed with wobbly camerawork from the characters’ point of view with voiceovers explaining their inner thoughts, makes it difficult to get into the embarrassing world of flatmates Jeremy and Mark.

‘Maybe the filming style can be offputting,’ Armstrong agrees. ‘Channel 4 gave us a big push on the third series, when Dave and Rob’s sketch show started on BBC Two, but it didn’t do much to the ratings. It’s stuck around the 1.5 million viewer mark.’

The pair have previously admitted wondering what it would be like if the show was shot normally, saying: ‘Perhaps it would have more mainstream appeal and be considered less of a cult. The style makes the show appear edgy even when we’re writing quite traditional comedy.’

But, ultimately, they’ll stick with the internal dialogue that is, after all, the show’s unique selling point. The pilot episode even had the working title PoV to indicate it was about the characters’ point of view.

‘We couldn’t do the voiceovers on the show without that shooting style,’ Armstrong says. ‘They’re an integral part of the plot.’

He adds that there’s also a practical benefit to voiceovers that are added after filming has been complete. ‘We write most of them in the script, but we get a second stab at it in the edit. If we can explain something better, or get a great reaction shot, or see another joke, we can write it in the voiceover.’

There, is, however, an undeniable kudos of being a cult hit – of being, as vocal Peep Show fan Ricky Gervais is fond of saying of his own work, ‘a million people’s favourite show rather than 20 million people’s 19th-favorite show’.

‘I definitely get that feeling, ’ Armstrong says. ‘Probably from being that NME-reading 18-year-old into Jesus and Mary Chain because nobody else was. Peep Show is the comedy form of that.’

It was that Jesus and Mary Chain fan that met Sam Bain while they were both on a creative writing course at Manchester University. They lived together for a year, then went their separate ways for a while before renewing their creative partnership. They worked on several programmes, such as a British remake of US hit That 70s Show, the ill-fated Richard Blackwood vehicle Ed Stone Is Dead, and as jobbing writers creating links for the likes of TV Moments Of The Year. They even wrote a pilot for Ant and Dec. But it was hooking up with Mitchell and Webb, and ‘riding on their coat-tails’ that brought them success.

‘I used to teach comedy writing,’ says Bain. ‘And then I realised quite how incredibly hard it is. We were very fortunate to latch on to a double act to write for – that made all the difference.

‘Performers or writer-performers are always in demand, less so writers. It’s easier to go to commissioning editors and say your show will star Lee Mack, for instance, or Dave and Rob. It gives them an idea what it’s going to be like.

‘We wrote the series for Mitchell and Webb, based vaguely on their personalities and knowing them a bit. Mark [played by Mitchell] is more introvert, while Jeremy is more extrovert, and they’re very good at playing those roles.’

Bain and Armstrong write by getting together to workg out the story arc of the series and of individual episodes – which is what they are currently doing for series five – then work separately on the nuts and bolts of dialogue.

‘We spend ages, maybe six months, writing a massive dossier of all our ideas – everything we can think of,’ says Armstrong. ‘We end up with this unreadable 150-page document, and we then know what the shape of the series will be. Then we split up and work individually on episodes or half-episodes, then cross-edit.’

The old question of ‘where do you get your ideas from’ is easy for Bain and Armstrong, who recycle all sort of embarrassing incidents from their lives, as well as those of their friends and colleagues. Famously, they tell the story of how their boss at Channel 4, Ian Morris, supplied them with an idea for series three: ‘He did a shit into a McDonald’s bag because he was on the telephone and couldn’t get to the toilet. He tried to flush the bag down the loo but it got blocked and for the next three weeks he had to go to the pub every time he needed the toilet.’

Despite this, Armstrong insists: ‘People never think their experiences will end up in the show. ’

Series four ended with an agonising wedding day for Mark, who finally decided to go ahead with the ceremony on the flip of a coin. But new wife Sophie suddenly realised the mistake she had made and ran off en route to the reception.

‘In this next, post-wedding, series we can test our dating theories,’ says Armstrong, ‘Having Mark and Jeremy out and about in the world of singles.’

As well as the Channel 4 series, the almost obligatory US remake is also on the cards – the second attempt to export the Peep Show format following an earlier, ‘unspeakably bad’, pilot version.

‘One US version was made for Fox, but it wasn’t very good and didn’t get commissioned,’ says Bain. ‘It wasn’t really a network show, and it felt watered down. They took out all the point-of-view shooting. It was also really hard without Dave and Rob. It’s hard to replace a double act

‘We’re developing a new one for a cable channel called Spike, and we’re more involved in that one. But we’ve no cast yet.’

And how long will the original go on? ‘As long as Channel 4 keep commissioning it,’ says Armstrong, again acknowledging that even though Peep Show’s ratings don’t match its reputation, the broadcaster has shown great commitment in repeatedly bringing the series back. ‘We’re disappointed for them really,’ he shrugs. ‘But the quality of the show is good and always improves.’

Those DVDs

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

The TMAWL DVD has been out for a week and I still haven’t had time to properly watch it. I know it’s got a rather good documentary on it and I deny ever flicking through it in slow-mo to see how many times I can spot myself as I would never do such a thing. There are some deleted scenes which are mostly as good as the undeleted ones but not all of them are on the disc, and some other bits and pieces. A proper review will follow.

Peep Show 4
Peep Show 4 is out on Monday. It’s almost as good as the other three Peep Shows and is, random fact fans, directed by the director of The Peter Serafinowicz Show. There are some featurettes as usual but I have no idea what they are and probably wouldn’t watch them all anyway. Not because I’m grumpy, I just don’t have the time.