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British Comedy

new shows with Tim - "Torn Up Tales" & "What the Dickens"
27/05/2008 00:00 GMT

Posted by lisa

Thanks to wackywales for posting info about these shows in the forums.

* "Torn Up Tales"
Surreal comic retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with lip-synching punks and an 18th-century narrator. Starring Emma Fryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Tony Way, Emma Kearney, Faye McKeever and Zoe Iqbal.

Monday 2nd June at 23:00 on BBC 3
repeated, Tuesday 3rd June at 01:45 on BBC3

* "What the Dickens?"
A new panel game on which Tim is one of the team captains.  Starts this Wednesday, 28 May, at 9pm on SkyArts.  Details at

An article about "What the Dickens" can be found on the The Telegraph's website at


Books and comedy: novel ideas for a literary quiz Last Updated: 12:01am BST 27/05/2008

Tomorrow Sky Arts launches its literary panel game show What the Dickens?
Host Sandi Toksvig explains the appeal to Matt Warman

>From Quote. Unquote to The Write Stuff, Radio 4 has a long tradition of
literary quizzes - but television has always lacked a durable equivalent.
Now, however, with a new show called What the Dickens?, digital channel Sky Arts is hoping to make a success of bookish banter on TV.

The show's chair is Sandi Toksvig, best known as quizmaster for Radio 4's The News Quiz and host of travel programme Excess Baggage. She says that "the trick is not to sit there and be smug; you have to make sure that everyone is in on the joke." To give an idea of the quiz's irreverent tone, Toksvig says that she was keen not to be part of something "that feels like it's being made inside one of my own orifices. That would be unpleasant."

Comedians Tim Brooke-Taylor and Dave Gorman will captain two teams - with guest players including Dom Joly, Rosie Boycott, Marcus Brigstocke and Rory McGrath. In the words of the man who commissioned the show for Sky Arts, channel manager John Cassy, "It's going to be a show about the arts, but you don't exactly need to know every word of Wagner's operas by heart to enjoy it."

Mixing mostly literary and cinematic themes, each round will present a different kind of challenge. Teams may be asked to name a book or a film from a very brief summary of its plot. So "boy meets girls from rival family, falls in love, he kills himself because he thinks she has, then she kills himself because he really has" is, of course, Romeo and Juliet - though we are promised that some plots will be a little harder to identify.) Or the panellists might be asked to name as many of The Sound of Music's Von Trapp children as they can remember (perhaps adding, like forgetful Julie Andrews, "God bless Kurt").

"It's going to be jolly and funny - and frankly unashamedly appealing to people who have read a book," says Toksvig. "That's a rare thing on TV these days." Although the show's team claim that it's not directly influenced by Stephen Fry's popular BBC2 show QI, our own James Walton's The Write Stuff on Radio 4 or other similar shows, the format does have plenty in common with those programmes. "It doesn't take itself too seriously," says Cassy.
"We hope you'll feel very happy if you do know the answer to a question. But if you don't, it'll give you a little nugget of ridiculously fantastic information that you can store up for next time."

"There used to be something called the chain of curiosity", explains Toksvig. "Suddenly, after one thing, you'd be drawn to another and another - we're going to rediscover the chain of curiosity. It's a sort of reaction against a country where every kid has only read the same books because they're all cramming for the same GCSEs."

Viewers might get a peculiar insight into both Dickens' life as an author but also into, say, the letters that, Toksvig suggests, "clearly indicate he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - when he was on these grand tours of America, he used to write home and say 'I do hope my inkwell is still exactly six inches from the wall'. If you've only got a limited amount of time and space, that's an unusual thing to concentrate on."

The first episode of the five-part series was filmed on Saturday at the Hay Festival, of which Toksvig has long been an ardent fan. "It's the only place in the world where you can stand knee-deep in mud, looking at the most beautiful countryside, and find you're also having a fag with Beryl Bainbridge," she says. "I can't think of a better place to make this kind of show."

The informal atmosphere helped to recruit that impressive slate of guests, too, says Cassy. "People looked at sample rounds," says Cassy, "and realised that it's OK to get questions wrong because it's a good gig."

Toksvig adds: "You mustn't make the person who hasn't read the book in question feel stupid. This should be accessible to everybody; nobody should feel left out. We're even hoping people might even say 'Do you know it had never occurred to me to read that.'"

So is this a programme for people who don't normally watch much TV? "It's a programme for people who are not always fully served by the television,"
says Toksvig. "Maybe they aren't interested in reality shows or watching houses being made over. And after all, what's wrong with making something for people aged over 22?"

What the Dickens? starts tomorrow on Sky Arts at 9.00pm

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