Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson return to tv screens for the first time in ten years in the new year, bringing Bellamy’s People to BBC Two. A spin-off from Radio 4’s popular Down The Line, it follows radio talk show host Gary Bellamy (Rhys Thomas) as he travels up and down the country in his “personality vehicle” (a Triumph Stag) meeting the people of Britain to see what makes them tick. Joining them in the cast from the radio show are Simon Day (The Fast Show), Felix Dexter (Armstrong and Miller), Lucy Montgomery (Tittybangbang) and Amelia Bullmore (Big Train).
The award winning Down The Line is the pair’s spoof radio phone-in show, that has now run for three successful series on Radio 4. The show’s host Gary Bellamy takes calls from a variety of characters played by the cast (mentioned above) as well as some guest appearances from others including Catherine Tate, Mark Gatiss, Matt Lucas, Arabella Weir and Iain Lee. Having built up a cast of characters during it’s run, they started to look at how they could best move them across to tv, and decided to poke fun at the increasing number of ‘isn’t Britain brilliant’ type of documentaries, such as those from David Dimbleby, Griff Rhys Jones, Martin Clunes and (more recently) Andrew Marr.
Bellamy’s People is shot on location in the style of a genuine documentary, relying on improvisation without any scripts. And they ended up with a huge wealth of material to draw from, as they filmed more than thirty hours worth of material that had to be edited down to just four. Some of the characters featured include Nazi aristocrats, reformed criminals, cult leaders and traffic wardens. They even filmed a spoof behind-the-scenes section to be made available on the BBC’s red button service, that shows them in a fake meeting with a BBC exec asking for funding from BBC Wales to film in Cardiff to “make it look like the rest of Britain, just like on Doctor Who”.
I’m expecting great things from the show, as the pair’s previous body of work has hardly ever failed to hit the right spot, and Whitehouse has continued to show what a brilliant character actor he is, most successfully in the short lived Help playing a dazzling array of characters opposite Chris Langham’s psychiatrist. And this isn’t the only time you’ll catch Paul Whitehouse on BBC Two in 2010, as he’ll also be bringing us a third series of Harry & Paul with Harry Enfield, as it makes a move from it’s previous home of BBC One. It should be recommended viewing, if the hilarious second series is anything to go by.
As a little taster for the show, below is a little behind-the-scenes feature made about Down The Line courtesy of You Tube, featuring clips and interview footage with Higson and Whitehouse.