Press Clippings

Here is a collection of the latest previews, reviews and articles related to British comedy which have been published by newspapers and blogs from around the world. Don't forget to look at our news section for the significant stories - these won't be repeated here.

This is mainly related to TV and radio. For stand-up etc see our live press page and Edinburgh Fringe press page.

Good Omens

A masterpiece in pitch-black comedy from the pairing of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is Good Omens (Mon 22 Dec-Fri 26 Dec, 11pm R4 and Sat 27 Dec, 2.30pm), where two angels - one working with God, the other with Satan - form an unholy alliance. Unfortunately, there has been a bit of a mix-up with the birth of the Antichrist, and the American ambassador's son (Warlock) might not be the child to bring on Armageddon after all. The fate of our planet will be decided after Any Questions on Saturday 27 Dec, Radio 4. Thus was it written...

Jane Anderson, The Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Love Actually

There's a been a shock result in our festive Christmas film poll. Once again we asked readers to vote for their favourite, expecting that old favourite It's A Wonderful Live to win (again). Instead it fell to third place and rom-com Love Actually took this year's title.

Written by Emma Daly. The Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Man Down

The Channel 4 comedy's writer and actor pays tribute to his late co-star and reveals The Young Ones legend was the first comedian to speak to him when he was growing up.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Derek

The Derek and Night at the Museum star says, "for everyone who thinks my face brings joy, someone wants to punch the television, and I think that's an important thing"

Written by James Gill. The Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Brian Pern

Apart from the absence of a mention for Rik Mayall, the other notable omission at last week's British Comedy Awards was Brian Pern.

Written by Bruce Dessau. Beyond the Joke, 20th December 2014

Readers have grown tired of the slew of celebrity memoirs, with titles by Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and John Cleese selling disappointing numbers, according to publishing industry experts.

Written by Chris Johnston. The Guardian, 20th December 2014

The Frequency Of Laughter: A History Of Radio Comedy

The Frequency Of Laughter was a simple but effective idea: the history of British radio comedy from the late 70s to the present-day, presented in the form of interviews with pairs of participants, ranging from Graeme Garden through Angus Deayton to Meera Syal, all talking to Grace Dent, who asked the right questions.

David Hepworth, The Guardian, 20th December 2014

Bunk Bed

Peter Curran and Patrick Marber's Bunk Bed wasn't quite comedy but it was certainly comic: two middle-aged men record their nocturnal musings on life and mortality, secure in the knowledge that since they're on different levels of the bunk, their eyes need never meet.

David Hepworth, The Guardian, 20th December 2014

In And Out Of The Kitchen

Radio 4 is always trying to prove that it doesn't solely live in the world bounded by Waitrose, the Hay festival and this newspaper, but it can't help giving away the truth every time it broadcasts a comedy located on precisely those coordinates. The third series of Miles Jupp's In And Out Of The Kitchen was a note-perfect rendition of life in what they used to call at the BBC, "the hostility room". He plays Damien Trench, a celebrity chef who lives suspended between over-confidence and crippling insecurity and pretends not to have heard of anything or anyone more prominent than himself. Trench's swooning arias of condescension are interrupted for recipes which are accompanied by chopping, dicing and boiling sound effects. He always describes these recipes as "easy" despite the fact that they generally call for one ingredient only available by personal application to the sovereign or "a handful of duck meat from a leftover organic roast duck". Like the best radio comedy, In And Out Of The Kitchen has a music to it that keeps you coming back for a repeat listen.

David Hepworth, The Guardian, 20th December 2014

Black Mirror

I'm not sure how much of a reward the Christmas special of Black Mirror would actually be and I think you'd have to be a rather strange individual to want a rather dark present such as the one Charlie Brooker conjured up. Subtitled White Christmas; the feature-length special of Brooker's dystopian fantasy anthology saw Matt (Jon Hamm) and Sam (Rafe Spall) hauled up in a remote shack in the middle of nowhere. We are told early on that Matt and Sam have barely spoke to each other in the five years they've lived and worked together. As you would expect with Black Mirror, the Christmas element become slightly eerie and from the first time we hear it Wizard's 'I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday' takes on an ominous tone. Hamm initially plays up to his smoothie persona in the first story in which we learn of Matt's hobby which involves helping losers-in-love get dates. However, as we discover, his most recent client didn't have the best of experiences after he gatecrashed a Christmas party and ended up a reluctant part of a suicide pact. Whilst this first third was suitably shocking the second segment of the programme; in which we saw Matt at work was rather confusing. Although it did go some way to explain the episode's final act I found it to be rather rushed and also felt that it ruined the significant talents of Oona Chaplin. The real emotional core of the episode was provided by Sam as we learnt of his turbulent relationship with girlfriend Beth (Janet Montgomery) which ended when she wanted to abort the baby she was carrying. This story brought with it one of the episode's central ideas; what if we were able to block somebody in real life like we can currently do on Twitter? The answer was incredibly memorable and also provided some really vivid images which stuck with me long after the episode had concluded.

Whilst White Christmas wasn't up there with Black Mirror's best, which I still feel is series two's White Bear, it certainly had its moments. Many of these were provided by Joe's story which I found to be the most profound thanks in no small part to the brilliant performance from Spall. I think that Spall's facial expressions were perfectly utilised as part of a story in which he had to convey emotion by saying very little. The look on his face when Joe was blocked by Beth was particularly powerful as was the expression when he discovered the truth about the daughter she'd given birth to. Black Mirror has always been based around vivid technological ideas and the legal blocking technique felt like a plausible narrative device. On the other hand I'm still not quite sure what the cookie implant story achieved other than giving us one final reveal. Whilst Spall provided the emotional depth that the episode required; Hamm appeared to be having a ball as the sleazy executive who'd overstepped the line in more ways than one. Hamm's performance as the cool Matt was great in the first voyeuristic tale which I thought went a little too far even by Black Mirror's standards. The Christmas theme of the episode wasn't overplayed but was used just enough and I thought Hamm's cooking of the Yuletide dinner was a nice touch. One thing I did find was that Brooker struggled to write a feature-length instalment and, although all the pieces fit together, the middle of the episode really dragged for me. However, I can't say that Brooker didn't provide a powerful piece of Christmas television and it's also fair to say that that no other festive special will have the same tone as Black Mirror. Ultimately I found White Christmas to be a unique special episode but I feel that the Black Mirror series works better in forty-minute episodes rather than in feature-length installments.

The Custard, 20th December 2014

The Office

'Tis the season when our favourite programmes receive a festive makeover and we grow nostalgic for the classics of yesteryear. To celebrate, Radio Times' team of critics have compiled their top ten Christmas TV moments and voted The Office's finale their all-time favourite.

The Radio Times, 20th December 2014

The Joan Rivers Position

The Joan Rivers Position, a chat show with a saucy agony-aunt vibe that ran from 2004-06, is ripe for a one-hour retrospective. Partly because Rivers was mourned by the comedy world when she died in September, and this was one of the few UK shows where she was more than a guest. Partly because in all honesty, whole episodes were a chore - but the good bits were sensational.

Take Brigitte Nielsen storming out, coming back after the break, then going again. Or Graham Norton frankly discussing his sex life, including a namecheck for RT that very much didn't make it into any of our marketing materials.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Rik Mayall: Lord Of Misrule

In a year when a celeb seemed to pop off every week, some losses were keener than others. Rik Mayall was 56 when he died suddenly in June: nowhere near retirement, as evidenced by his TV comeback last year in Man Down. That show's bereft creator, Greg Davies, contributes to this documentary, as do Michael Palin, Lenny Henry, Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle, Tim McInnerny and Ruby Wax.

The rare footage here should illustrate how Mayall justified the over-used phrase "force of nature". He was like a child eternally refusing to grow up. That's why it was so shocking when he turned out not to be unstoppable after all.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 20th December 2014

Robin Ince on the comedy heroes that left us in 2014.

Written by Robin Ince. Giggle Beats, 20th December 2014

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer choose the biggest fools at their imaginary celeb Christmas party; Sara Pascoe pens an alternative Christmas tale in three chapters; and James Acaster names his biggest schmoozes of 2014.

The Guardian, 20th December 2014

Rik Mayall: Lord Of Misrule

The death of Rik Mayall in June 2014 quite rightly made the front page of every newspaper. There is no one better than the BBC to make a warm and loving tribute to a comedy hero.

Written by Jenny Landreth. The New Statesman, 19th December 2014

Babylon

Well, if there's one thing we've learned tonight, it's that the writers of Babylon certainly know how to leave us on a heck of a cliffhanger! Seriously, we have to wait how long for the next episode?!

Written by Matthew Dennis. Cult Box, 19th December 2014

Mrs. Brown's Boys

Brendan O'Carroll has denied reports that Mrs Brown's Boys won't return for any more full series.

Written by Harry Fletcher. Digital Spy, 19th December 2014

Burnistoun

Burnistoun writers Robert Florence and Iain Connell have pledged to ensure fans get to see the live version of the show after tickets sold out in under an hour today.

Written by Paul English. The Daily Record, 19th December 2014

The Last Leg

The genial triumvirate of Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe present a special New Year edition of The Last Leg, looking at the noteworthy news stories of the past year. There will be a dick of the year award, which - in a pleasing display of democracy at work - viewers will be able to vote on, while their trademark "is it okay?" question will be joined by "will it be okay?", looking ahead at that grey area of good and bad taste for 2015. The trio will be joined in the studio by bashful polymath Richard Ayoade.

Ben Arnold, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Benidorm

Offering a recession-friendly alternative to putting an extra bar on the fire, here's a new series of sun-sodden sniggering from Spain. Harsh economic reality is biting at the Solana too, with staff unhappy at the prospect of a pay cut. Tiger Dyke is the victim of an even more aggressive form of cost-cutting, waking from a drunken stupor minus all possessions, but with a four-letter review of his personality crudely daubed on his forehead. Meanwhile, Jacqueline and Donald celebrate their anniversary in unorthodox fashion.

Mark Jones, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Mrs. Brown's Boys

Whatever you may think of this vulgar panto-style Irish sitcom, it was d'most watched programme of last Christmas. Duly, the BBC has re-invested in two more specials packed with double entendres, ad libs, and actors corpsing. Tonight, following a spate of burglaries, Mammy invests in a "state of the art" alarm system from Buster Brady. True, this is a very uncool show, but it is end-of-the-pier stuff done as well as you're likely to see without an actual pier. It also contains a good joke about the merits of newspapers versus iPads.

John Robinson, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Alan Carr: Chatty Man

Not going out and reluctant to have a hootenanny chez Jools Holland? Never fear: Alan Carr is here to usher in the new year with you! They're at Channel 4 headquarters, so expect a good number of stars from the channel's stable as well as others (Jonathan Ross, Alesha Dixon and James Corden among them) to pop by for a series of party games and sketches. Live music comes from Tulisa and Professor Green, and the studio audience will be doing their best to provide a party atmosphere.

Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Funny Old Year

While this Jason Manford-helmed retrospective of annual events hardly seems a comparable tradition to Clive James's satirical compendiums of yesteryear, AFOY has nethertheless become a regular annual entry in the schedules. Joined by some of the biggest names in British comedy, Manford cocks a wry Mancunian snook at py]2014's most exciting and exasperating moments. Expect the Suárez bite, Ukip, and bendy iPhones to be given the full treatent.

Mark Jones, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Charlie Brooker's Year Wipe

From conscious uncoupling to the ice bucket challenge to those grey-haired berks and their cereal cafe, 2014 has been a year more stuffed than most with inanity, which augurs well for Charlie Brooker's seasonal skewering. He'll be joined as ever by delightful dullards Barry Shitpeas and Philomena "What is clocks?" Cunk, while comedian Jake Yapp will be on hand to mercilessly mock one of 2014's other major moments while talking extremely quickly. A new series of Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe will air in January.

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Mapp And Lucia

A Steve Pemberton-scripted adaptation of EF Benson's arch novels of small-town social snobbery. Mapp And Lucia may seem to have comedy gold written all over it, but in truth this opener takes too long to get going and, for all everyone involved seems to be having fun, at moments lacks pace and zing. Things improve, however, once busybody Elizabeth Mapp (Miranda Richardson) and regal Emmeline Lucas, AKA Lucia (Anna Chancellor), begin to battle in earnest to lead Tilling society. Continues tomorrow and New Year's Eve.

Jonathan Wright, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year

A panel of top-drawer celebrities, including Richard Ayoade, David Mitchell, Mel B, Micky Flanagan, Sarah Millican and Kevin Bridges are grilled by Jimmy Carr to see which of them has retained the most knowledge of 2014. To win the crown, they'll need to recall who purred down the phone in September, why Bono issued a worldwide apology in October, and what sporting event was the most-tweeted-about ever in July. Providing assistance are a host of varyingly beloved celebs including Michael Palin, Rio Ferdinand and Lily Allen.

David Stubbs, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Birds Of A Feather

The trio take advantage of Dorien's generosity and escape Chigwell for the Canary Islands over the Christmas break. Tracey, a nervous flyer, is so anxious she offers to stay home with Garth and Travis, but Sharon's having none of it. Meanwhile, Dorien is looking for inspiration for her next book, and when she's seated next to a handsome stranger on the plane, seeks to join the 50ft-High Club ("You do it while the plane's still on the ground"). This is comfort telly, broad and silly; ideal for Boxing Day.

Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

Agatha Raisin And The Quiche Of Death

Ashley Jensen, Katy Wix and Hermione Norris star in this comic adventure about a friendless, hard-nosed PR maven who moves to the countryside only to find the peaceful village she has chosen is riven with scandal, murder and rigged baking competitions. The script is very thin gruel but some splendid actors go a long way to saving it. Basically, a much camper Midsomer Murders with a no-brainer whodunnit at its centre and no real character development.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

The Boy In The Dress

Adaptations of David Walliams's teen-lit offerings have rapidly become a Christmas staple. The latest book to get a small-screen rendering is his debut - the story of 12-year-old Dennis, a small-town boy whose feelings of difference are crystallised by Kate Moss on the cover of a fashion mag. The title hints at Dennis's habit: it's probably the kind of thing to raise the blood pressure of your local Ukip candidate but it is also a story boasting warm-hearted inclusivity and lessons in tolerance and Christmas cheer.

Paul Howlett, The Guardian, 19th December 2014

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