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SPOILER ALERT for any show listed below especially Bluestone 42!

So it’s tatty bye to Bluestone 42‘s Captain Nick Medhurst. The bomb disposal detachment’s charismatic Ammunition Technical Officer played by Oliver Chris has finally run out of luck.

Tower Block and Nick running from yet another explosion image credit BBC

Tower Block and Nick running from yet another explosion
image credit BBC

 

He was critically injured while trying to free a fellow soldier from a booby trap and though he survived, Medhurst did lose a leg. Looking back over the past series I suppose there were clues; the tricky Taliban bomb maker who seemed to be targeting the Captain specifically, the IED and ambush that resulted in a tense situation for the team and a serious concussion for Nick. He was definitely on his way out though we couldn’t know exactly when or how.

Anyhow, an amputee explosives expert just won’t do so, of course, Nick will be sent home to Old Blighty. Meanwhile  his replacement has already arrived in Afghanistan. We’ll have to see how new ATO Ellen Best (Laura Aikman) fares in his place.

So why is this television event significant, you may ask? Well, for those who don’t know, Bluestone 42 isn’t a war drama or even a “dramedy”. It’s a proper 30 minute sitcom. And while it’s not unheard of to dispatch a character from a comedy, it seems more jarring than when a crisis is encountered in a more straight forward drama.

For example, after suffering a miserable forced retirement you’d hope that One Foot in the Grave’s Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson) might be granted a happier ending in the series finale.

 

Considering the cantankerousity of the man and his constant state of misfortune, perhaps the writers believed killing him off in a hit and run accident was the kindest thing they could do for him. RIP Mr. Meldrew.

Derek, on the other hand, breaks the mold. It disguises itself as a traditional sitcom with its format and the presence of its creator, director and star Ricky Gervais. The thing is Derek has as many touching, sad moments as funny ones. It is set in a retirement home after all so illness and death are a daily occurrence. Many of Derek’s friends succumb to old age and infirmity and every time, he is grief-stricken.

But for me the most shocking exit on the series was the episode when Ivor, a dog that was brought to the home to visit with the residents, was euthanized on-screen. Not “Say goodbye, Derek. Ivor’s going to sleep now,” then fade out. They re-enacted with painful detail exactly how it is to have a beloved pet put down. It was more devastating, by far, then when Derek’s own father died a few episodes later.

Derek and Ivor saying goodbye image credit Derek Productions and Channel 4

Derek and Ivor saying goodbye
image credit Derek Productions and Channel 4

 

Finally, tragic comedy is stunning even when you know something bad is coming. However, because you’re watching a comedy you think there’s a chance the characters will cheat their fate. Blackadder Goes Forth is a perfect example of this. As we watch one cunning plan after another fail, the viewer wants to believe that there is no way this band of misfit WWI soldiers will be sent over the top to their inevitable deaths.

 

And yet they do, in stiff upper lip, dark British humor style, they do what they must. I still shed a tear every time I watch that scene. I believe it has such emotional impact precisely because it’s placed in a comedy framework.

So next time you’re watching a UK sitcom, don’t let yourself get too comfortable with your favorite on-screen friends. Appreciate them while you have them. Their chances might be better than soap opera or Game of Thrones characters, but no one is ever completely safe in the harsh and sometimes fickle world of British comedy television.

 

When I realized Mothering Sunday was approaching, I wondered if I might give the annual mum-themed post a pass this year. I’ve written about TV matriarchs several times now and I figured I’ve covered that ground rather thoroughly.

But recently I watched Game of Thrones with my son and have wanted to write about it in some capacity. Granted it’s not a British series. However, with the number of UK actors in the cast and a substantial amount of it being shot in Northern Ireland, I think it’s fair game for my blog.

One thing I noted about this show from the start was the relatively large number of strong, powerful female characters featured in it so it occurred to me that marrying Mothering Sunday with this epic fantasy might just be the way to go this time around. That being said, strength is a relative term which can bring out the best or the worst in a mother. Let’s take a look at how the following characters chose to utilize their tenacity and internal fortitude, shall we?

In my book, Cersei Lannister one of the most hated characters in all of Westeros and environs. The only thing worse than this heartless, unforgiving woman is her son, King Joffrey, an alarmingly sadistic monarch with an exaggerated sense of self-importance (or as he’s known in my house, that little weasel-faced bastard).

And while the creation of a demon child can not always be attributed exclusively to the parents, I think we know that Joffrey learned much of his narcissistic attitudes and disdain for his subjects from dear old mom. But Cersei’s not blind to her son’s cruelty and I’m sure she’s smart enough to fear the child despite her love for him. To her credit her other children seem to be adequately normal human beings at this time.

I believe Cersei’s problems date back to the loss of her mother (she died giving birth to Cersei’s younger brother Tyrion). Her lack of a maternal figure and the presence of a domineering, power-hungry father molded her into a vindictive, calculating Queen who seeks “solace” with her brother and doesn’t truly know how to use her heart.

Cersai Lannister

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) image credit HBO

 

 

Catelyn Stark, on the other hand, is an exemplary mother who truly knows what it is to sacrifice for your children. After the execution of her husband Ned for treason, her oldest son Robb resolves to dethrone Joffrey and bring the justice his father sought to the Seven Kingdoms. While Catelyn supports her first born’s intentions, she has five children to protect. Her instinct to save her daughters Sansa and Arya from the Lannisters forces her to go against Robb’s orders and secretly has their prize prisoner, Jaime Lannister, released in hopes his family will free her girls as well.

In the end, Catelyn does what all mothers are certain they would do if in the same situation. When her family and cohorts are ambushed at the infamous Red Wedding she first takes their attacker’s wife hostage and then heartbreaking pleads with him to let her son go and offers to remain a hostage in his place. Her heroics alas are all to no avail, but we all felt a twinge of recognition as she attempted to save her own flesh and blood.

Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) image credit HBO

Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)
image credit HBO

By her own admission, Catelyn could not find it in her heart to love her husband’s bastard son, Jon Snow, thus proving no mother is perfect.

 

Even the most uneducated and unworldly of women have motherly instincts. Gilly Craster is no exception. Forced to live in an incestuous, wildling cult, Gilly and the other women have learned that male babies are not part of the family, but instead are given up as a sacrifice to the terrifying White Walkers. While her father/husband is providing lodging to the men of the Night’s Watch, Gilly has the sad misfortune of giving birth to a boy.

Luckily for her, she finds a protector in watchman, kind-hearted Samwell Tarly. She risks everything she’s known by first hiding her son from Craster and then escaping with Sam at an opportune moment when a battle has broken out in the compound. When Sam sends her away to Mole’s Town to keep her and the baby safe, Gilly uses her wits to hide from a band of wildlings who attack the village. She then finds her way back all on her own to The Wall and to her trusted friend, Sam.

Gilly (Hannah Murray) image credit HBO

Gilly (Hannah Murray)
image credit HBO

 

Olenna Tyrell is the matriarch of an influential family and the grandmother of the future Queen Margaery. Technically that means she is a mother even though she doesn’t speak very well of her son Mace or any other man for that matter. Lady Olenna is the Game of Thrones’ equivalent of  Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess – both are witty, sarcastic and feel they’ve earned the right to speak their minds. She is an expert on court politics and knows how to manipulate the system. She is also fiercely protective of her granddaughter and has taken some rather extreme measures to see that Margaery is safe and well-placed in the power structure of Westeros.

Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) image credit HBO

Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg)
image credit HBO

 

Lysa Arrryn could not be more different from her sister Catelyn Stark. Both have lost their husbands to the Lannisters’ treachery yet Catelyn soldiers on for her children while her sister has retreated into madness, which is putting it politely. The woman is batshit crazy, if you like.  She still breastfeeds her beloved son Robin despite the fact that he looks to be eight or nine years old. The boy’s a bit touched as well to say the least. She caters to his whims and encourages him to delight in their special form of execution, pushing people to their death through the Moon Door. Another entitled sadistic nobleman; that’s just what is needed in the Seven Kingdoms…

Lysa Aaryn (Kate Dickie) image credit HBO

Spoiler: We find out later that Lysa was in cahoots with a lover and killed her own husband so she can’t blame her irrational behavior on the grief after all.

 

Daenerys Targaryen, while not mother to a human child, is known as The Mother of Dragons. In fact, it is an official part of her extremely long and quite pretentious name. How did she earn this unusual title you might ask? She walked into a fire with three dragons’ eggs and came out the other side unharmed and with a trio of dragon hatchlings. As you can imagine, even in a fantasy world, dragons are the stuff of legend yet this remarkable young wannabe queen had the power to bring mythical creatures into reality.

For a while, the dragons are like her children. She dotes over them and they adore her. But just like a human offspring, the adolescent dragons become more and more uncontrollable as time goes on. The reptiles’ aggression moves from rowdy fire play to stealing livestock. It isn’t until one of the dragons incinerates an innocent child that the sanctimonious Khaleesi realizes how truly difficult it is to be a mother even to children of another species.

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) image credit HBO

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
image credit HBO

 

In the Game of Thrones world, being a mother isn’t about baking cookies, carpooling, or attending soccer games. It’s a deadly serious business what with rival houses partaking in poisoning , birthing demon assassins, and throwing children out of tower windows. Survival of your family line is of utmost importance and a courageous, smart and selfless mother is key to that goal.

Tell your mums you love them and appreciate their sacrifices today! Even if they didn’t have to kill, lie, scheme or die for you, you can be sure that they would.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

I’ve been told that math-minded people get very excited for Pi Day because the first sequence of digits of a mathematical constant which expresses the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter corresponds with the numbers in today’s date. Coincidence or one of those mysterious laws of nature that binds our world together? I’m not really bothered either way. What is more interesting to me is a sciencey man resembling Michael Palin (in profile only) who sets out to solve for pi using actual pies as visual aids.

 

More fascinating still is trying to guess who the winner of my Favorite Pie Poll will be. Please vote below and if your preferred pie isn’t on the list, simply tick “other” and type in your choice. Vic and Bob clearly favor a pork pie but don’t let those fools sway you.

House of Fools Vic, Bob and gigantic pie image credit BBC

House of Fools Vic, Bob and gigantic pie
image credit BBC

 

 

The series five cast of Downton Abbey image credit ITV and Masterpiece

The series five cast of Downton Abbey
image credit ITV and Masterpiece

Please beware, there might be a mild spoiler below if you have not already watched series 5!

Yes, you read that right. I didn’t watch Downton this time around. I realize this admission may well put my reputation as a British telly fanatic in question, but I had to come clean. How can I claim to be an aficionado of this medium when I didn’t even bother to watch the show that is probably the most popular UK series ever broadcast in America?  Basically, it comes down to the fact that I just don’t enjoy it anymore.

I used to be one of those people who felt if you started something you had to finish it. Take books – classics, best sellers, what have you.  They’re deemed great literature or enjoyed by the masses so there must be some merit to them; therefore, I muddle through despite that little bit of resentment building in the back of my mind. These days I readily abandon a novel that struggles to enlighten me in any way. With time I’ve learned that there are way too many things you have to see through to the end (if you’re a responsible adult) so when it comes down to things you do for enjoyment, why make a chore out of it?

I actually watched the first episode of series five and made a start on the second before I said enough. I was annoyed with Mary, fed up with Robert and creeped out by Edith’s awkward visits to spend time with her secret love child. Telly watching should be an entertainment, not an obligation (unless you’re paying me to write about it, of course). So I decided then and there I will not bow to the self-imposed pressure of feeling I must watch it because it’s expected of me.  Downton Abbey had ceased being and doing the things I liked about in the beginning so I just needed to tell myself it was okay to stop watching.

Like many of you out there, I found the first series a revelation and each Sunday night our schedule included watching the next engrossing episode. In meeting the Crawleys and company I discovered a world of tradition, class and downstairs scheming that was fascinating. Learning about the family’s unfortunate entail predicament, Matthew and his mother being dragged into aristocratic life and the loss of a hoped-for heir transitioned into the breakout of WWI and a whole new series of challenging sacrifices at the estate.

I trace my waning interest to series three where I stopped caring about the upstairs contingent to any real degree; probably once Lady Sybil died.  With the exit of the only likeable Crawley sister, the rest of the family became more unappealing to me.

Lady Sybil shortly before her demise image credit ITV and Masterpiece

Lady Sybil shortly before her demise
image credit ITV and Masterpiece

 

You can’t be indifferent to roughly half the characters and still expect the stories to hold your interest. I enjoy Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess as much as the next person, but she’s not enough to keep me coming back week after week when I know that Mary will always be priggish and unemotional, Robert will always be stubborn and Cora will always have that annoying, affected baby-talk voice.

You see, I didn’t want to dislike these characters because, once upon a time, I was invested in them. Sadly, what I perceived as increasingly drawn-out melodrama had already tainted things in my mind despite the fact that some stories and characters were still engaging. Take Mr. Molesley and (Miss) Baxter. I could get behind them as a couple, but then you start to think, “Oh they’ll never be allowed to be happy. Look what happened to Anna and Mr. Bates after all.”

Baxter and Molesley in the first flushes of "like" image credit ITV and Masterpiece

Baxter and Molesley in the first flushes of “like”
image credit ITV and Masterpiece

 

The deciding factor for me was that I’d read on British entertainment websites about the tragic demise of Lord Grantham’s beloved Labrador. I become a blubbering mess when animals die on screen. Much more so than when people pass away, for some reason. The time Thomas kidnapped Isis and hid her in a shed was bad enough, I wasn’t going to watch this loyal, beautiful dog die. I planned to skip that episode all along, but it was in the back of my mind even when I was watching the first few installments so I couldn’t help noticing she seemed to be featured in a lot more shots than normal. They were playing with my emotions and I wasn’t having that!

Isis in happier days image credit ITV and Masterpiece

Isis in happier days
image credit ITV and Masterpiece

 

Call me a middle-aged hipster if you want and you might be right. Once the papers were writing about people having Downton Abbey viewing parties and the marketing of DA wine and jewelry started popping up, I was already losing interest.

Believe it or not, I didn’t write this to be mean-spirited (well, maybe just a little). I definitely do not wish to engage in a debate about the merits and faults of Downtown Abbey. My main purpose for sharing this journey of sorts is that it felt very freeing to decide not to watch something I’d decided was required. The point is life is short and when you get some well-deserved “me” time, you shouldn’t feel pressured to catch-up on every pop culture trend of the moment. How often are we told, “You should watch Breaking Bad, Mad Men, House of Cards, The Walking Dead?” The buzz can be deafening.

Watch what you like and never apologize for it.  And when what you liked isn’t what you fancy anymore, don’t feel compelled to finish it. Keep your good memories and don’t let shark-jumping tactics or stories that don’t move you ruin your good opinion of what used to be. I learned the hard way by feeling that being a blogger meant I must be up on the details of all popular shows at all times. It’s impossible, of course and a waste of energy. Perhaps someday I’ll go back and watch that fifth series, but it will be because I want to not because I feel I must.

I wish you nothing but joy in your telly viewing and if Downton brings you happiness then that is a very good thing indeed.

 

When you think of British TV what comes to mind? Cozy, quaint seaside villages with quirky residents? Country manors where murders are committed at an alarming rate, yet no one pauses to consider they might live in a dodgy neighborhood? Or do your thoughts immediately go to the bustling metropolis of London where young professionals suffer the soulless dating scene and housing estates run rampant with drugs and thugs? Whether UK telly means the Yorkshire moors or the Scottish Highlands, you may have to buck up your ideas about where British TV can take you.

It’s likely the things I’ve chosen to watch of late come down to my mood, but there’s no debating that there is a definite international feel to TV production these days. Look at Game of Thrones for example – American network, predominantly British and Irish cast and location shoots from Morocco and Malta to Croatia and Northern Ireland.

Lately, UK networks have been taking their shows on the road to settings beyond our beloved island across the pond. In fact since the beginning of the year, I’ve watched a trio of series that are set, in large part, in other countries while still featuring British characters often telling uniquely British stories.

In The Missing, for example, the Hughes family takes a holiday in northern France only to have their five year old son disappear into thin air the first night. Tony (James Nesbitt) is not only tormented and heart-broken but also guilt-ridden that his son has somehow been abducted under his care. He and his wife Emily (Frances O’Connor) must go through the unbearable ordeal of losing their child in addition to the pressure of an investigation in a foreign country far from friends and family and in the spotlight of the media. French is spoken by most of the local characters interspersed with police officers, for example, who also parlez anglais. Of course it has to be that way for the audience, but if the there was more French it would more authentically portray the parents’ feelings of isolation and disorientation.

Slightly reminiscent of the Madeleine McCann case from eight years ago, The Missing is a haunting portrait of every parent’s nightmare fused with a taunt and compelling mystery.

Filmed in Belgium for its advantageous tax breaks, you still get the feel of a quaint French village -the fictional Chalons du Bois – which is not what it appears on the surface. Its underbelly can be quite unsavory so you may want to reconsider booking your next vacation there.

The action comedy, The Wrong Mans, on the other hand, plops mild mannered Berkshire County Council employees Sam Pinkett (Mathew Baynton) and Phil Bourne (James Corden) right into the center of yet another chaotic life-threatening mission. Their travels begin with a stint in witness protection and a short stay in a Texas correctional facility (Texas was body doubled by South Africa, in case you were wondering).  After a jail break, the boys find themselves in Slovenia where they unknowingly join the company of terrorists who, in a classic case of mistaken identity, expect Sam and Phil to steal chemicals and build a bomb for them. On the last leg of their trip, the duo board a train to France, commandeer a plane to fly across the Channel and, once on English soil, hitchhike back to Bracknell to save the day.

As the clip above demonstrates, Sam and Phil are British through and through no matter where their globe-trotting escapades find them. I mean no one but the English really says “Doolally”, do they? Thus proving that sometimes you have to leave home to discover how much you truly belong there.

The Honourable Woman is probably the most multicultural of the three series mentioned here. American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (who puts on her very best Emma Thompson accent) plays Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli woman who has recently been given a peerage for her dedicated work towards peace in the Middle East. Her dream is to bring equal opportunity to Gaza through the Stein Foundation. A Palestinian-Israeli college has already been established and upgrades for reliable internet access are underway. The progress has to be put on hold, however, when Nessa’s  new Arab business partner mysteriously commits suicide just before the last phase of this joint project can begin. And this is when Ms. Stein’s carefully orchestrated life begins to unravel.

Spied on by more than one country, including the one who made her a Baroness, Nessa tries to find a sense of belonging of the land of her ancestors and the land of her birth. A poor orphan girl who witnessed her father’s assassination, Nessa has suffered more than her share of losses and traumas, none more so than those inflicted on her in the Gaza Strip (nicely portrayed by Douar el Ghadban, Morocco).

So I guess my point here is that we take our national identity with us when we travel away from home and so too can a TV series or film. It’s point of view, experience and characters that provide British flavor much more than the backdrop of a Tudor castle or a big tower with a loud clock. In fact if the sitcom, Benidorm proves one thing, you can take the family out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the family.

Cast of Benidorm safe from foreigners inside their resort walls image credit Tiger Aspect Productions and ITV

The cBenidast of Benidorm safe from foreigners inside the walls of their resort
image credit Tiger Aspect Productions and ITV

When I say “historical” in relation to television programming, what comes to mind? Drama, right? Human rights campaigns, wars, ancient civilizations; these are serious subjects which must be treated with solemnity and reverence.

Apparently not in the UK where history has been the backdrop for many a comedic series. Look at the WWII era alone- It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Dad’s Army. All three of these series are consistently named at the top of British sitcom polls.

The Home Guard volunteers of Dad's Army  image credit BBC

The Home Guard volunteers of Dad’s Army
image credit BBC

 

 

Blackadder famously visited the Middle Ages, Elizabethan and Regency periods as well as WWI. Monty Python often set their sketches and films in olden times to very humorous effect.  And while technically considered a children’s program, the BAFTA-winning Horrible Histories is full of fun and “100% accu-rat” facts.

 

Not that historical settings have never been employed with American comedies. In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a number of WWII sitcoms on network television from McHale’s Navy and Operation Petticoat to the classic POW camp series Hogan’s Heroes. Though to be fair, these shows might have been considered more nostalgic than historic since the war had ended only 20-30 years earlier.

In what seems like an entertainment anomaly now, we even had a very silly Civil War era sitcom, F Troop set during the most painful and divisive period in our history. Watching it today would probably be rather cringe-inducing particularly the cartoonish portrayals of Native Americans in characters such as Chief Wild Eagle and his sidekick Crazy Cat.

That being said, the aforementioned programs were from a different era in American TV history, 40 to 50 years ago to be exact. The point is that the Brits are still setting sitcoms in historical contexts and being rather entertaining the process.

In fact in the past three or four years several such comedies have been produced in the UK. Plebs is a prime example of this trend. Three young men (or more specifically two young men and their slave) are trying to make it in the big city of 27 BC era Rome. Despite the classical setting, viewers are meant to understand that boys will be boys no matter the time period they find themselves in.

Plebs stars Joel Fry, Tom Rosenthal and Ryan Sampson  image credit Rise Films

Plebs stars Joel Fry, Tom Rosenthal and Ryan Sampson
image credit Rise Films

 

Move forward 1800 years or so and we find ourselves in the English coastal village of Hunderby. This is a dark and sexually fueled period sitcom about Helene (Alexandra Roach) who is saved from a shipwreck as she attempts to escape her horribly shameful and unfortunate past. The young woman catches the eye of several men in the village including Edmund (Alex McQueen) a widowed vicar and Dr. Foggerty (Rufus Jones) who is burdened with a invalid wife.

The darkly  funny cast of Hunderby image credit Baby Cow Productions

The darkly funny cast of Hunderby
image credit Baby Cow Productions

This award winning series is available in the US on Hulu and it has recently been reported that Hunderby will return for a two-part special later in the year.

Set in WWI England, 2011’s Chickens is a sitcom about three young men who stay home. Cecil (Simon Bird) has flat feet, George (Joe Thomas) is a conscientious objector and Bert (Jonny Sweet) is a clueless womanizer who keeps forgetting there’s a war going on. Ostracized by the women of the village, the trio must band together to weather the abuse and hardship of their situation.

The one and only series of Chickens is available to stream on Hulu.

 

One of my favorite shows at the moment is a sitcom that would never get made in the US. Putting the slightly quirky title aside, Up the Women is a series that follows a group of hapless suffragette wannabes led by the very earnest but ineffectual Margaret (Jessica Hynes).

If you want to find this one, I’ve had to resort to YouTube since series 2 is currently airing on BBC2.

The question is, for those of you who care, why do historical sitcoms get commissioned and find an audience in the UK and not in the States? In part, I believe the British are much more aware of history and their place in it. British audiences are raised on costume dramas so why couldn’t programs set in the past be funny as well? Though attitudes are changing in the US, corsets, togas and ridiculously manicured facial hair used to be code for the hoity toity types of shows you could only find on Masterpiece Theater. 

Let’s just hope that if Hollywood TV execs finally do pick up on the historical sitcom, they don’t go back this far again…

 

Tonight NBC observed the forty year run of the comic institution that is Saturday Night Live. They celebrated with a televised reunion that lasted four and a half hours when you factor in the red carpet arrivals. Granted, how often does any show run continuously for decades? I found that true to its reputation, this SNL special had hits and misses. Nonetheless, my husband and I chuckled here and there especially during the Weekend Update segment.

As happens in the course of such a long and self-congratulatory broadcast, my mind and my remote began to wander. It’s Sunday night so we couldn’t miss the Great British Baking Show after all (though I fear our detour to the English countryside and fancy fruity breads may have caused us to miss some of the best bits this anniversary special had to offer.)

Nevertheless, it occurred to me that this breeding ground for distinctly American comic talent which has existed for most of my life has certainly welcomed some Brits into the fold over the years – at least for a guest appearance or two. And being the way I am, I felt it my duty to bring those influences to light.

Here are some of the UK performers who have made their own small but unique mark on this bastion of US comedy.

Oscar award winning British actors. Many respected thespians have served as SNL guest hosts over the years including Jeremy Irons, Colin Firth, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Winslet and Dame Helen Mirren.

 

Helen Mirren hosted SNL in April 2011 image credit NBC Universal Television

Helen Mirren hosted SNL in April 2011
image credit NBC Universal Television

 

Two Pythons. Eric Idle and Michael Palin both hosted the show more than once. Palin  notably resorted to bringing his mum on stage during his monologue.

Mother and son on the SNL stage in 1984 image credit NBC Universal Television

A mother and son appearance on SNL in 1984
image credit NBC Universal Television

 

Most of the Beatles. Paul, George and Ringo all appeared at one time or another. Of course, there’s that famous story that Paul and John almost reunited on SNL back in 1976 after the show’s producer Lorne Michaels offered to pay them $3000 for performing three tunes live on air. Alas, a Beatles reunion was not to be. The best Saturday Night Live could manage was a skit featuring a Fab Four tribute band, Hey Dude!

September 2012 SNL sketch featuring a Beatles tribute band. image credit NBC Universal Television

September 2012 SNL sketch featuring a rather confused Beatles tribute band.
image credit NBC Universal Television

 

The ultimate British mash-up. When Martin Freeman hosted Saturday Night Live a few months ago, he did a great job. Like most well-trained British actors, he impressed me with the fact that he never once appeared to be looking at the compulsory cue cards. But the best part of his performance was undoubtedly the pre-recorded segment which married two British classics, The Hobbit and The Office.

 

I don’t believe there’s a live television sketch comedy show in the United Kingdom nor am I convinced they have need of one. I like what the British actors bring to the SNL table when they visit. They might even buck up the permanent cast’s game while they’re there. British readers, how familiar are you the show that is our comic actor training ground and do you think it would be popular there on your side of the pond?

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