What TV’s on at the BFI in October/November? Including Doctor Who – Earthshock, Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out, and Watership Down

The Young Ones

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

A really bumper season of TV is coming up at the BFI – enough for two months, one might think, but despite being billed as October/November, almost all of it’s happening in November.

As well as a comedy season that’ll see the likes of Jennifer Saunders, Tracey Ullman, Lenny Henry and Jo Brand in conversation, there are airings of Nighty Night, I Love Lucy, reunions of The Real McCoy‘s cast, and a The Young Ones Q&A. On top of that, there’ll be previews of series 5 of People Just Do Nothing, BBC4’s forthcoming The Secrets of British Animation and Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out, and BBC1/Netflix’s new version of Watership Down.

There’ll also be a US TV documentary about Jane Fonda and a special event to celebrate the HD release of Doctor Who classic Earthshock, complete with Q&A with writer Eric Saward and Adric himself, Matthew Waterhouse.

Details after the jump. Excellent!


Thursday 25 October

20:30 NFT1
TV Preview: Jane Fonda in Five Acts HBO 2018. Dir Susan Lacy. Digital. 128min

Susan Lacy’s documentary is divided into five chapters that mark five distinct periods in Jane Fonda’s life, named after the key men in her story (from her father to her partners), yet the connective tissue of the film is Fonda’s own reflections. Her self-aware and articulate comments on the intertwining of her family’s legacy, her career, politics and personal life make for an insightful and entertaining watch.
As this was made for US TV, the BFI requests a voluntary donation of £11.50 (Members pay £2 less) to assist with covering costs, otherwise tickets are free on the day

Monday 5 November

18:30 NFT1
Jennifer Saunders in Conversation
TRT 90min

As part of the 1980s alternative comedy scene, Jennifer Saunders and her partner Dawn French helped redefine the nature of comedy for generations. From The Comic Strip, French and Saunders and Girls on Top to Happy Families, Jam and Jerusalem and Absolutely Fabulous, Saunders has been at the core of British comedy as both a performer and writer. She joins us tonight as we celebrate her career.
Tickets £20, concs £16 (Members pay £2 less)

Tuesday 6 November

18:15 NFT3
TV Preview: People Just Do Nothing (Series 5) + Q&A with cast members TBC
BBC-Roughcut Television 2018. Dir Jack Clough. With Allan Mustafa, Steve Stamp, Hugo Chegwin, Asim Chaudhry, Dan Sylvester, Lily Brazier, Ruth Bratt. Eps 1 & 2 60min

The two-time BAFTA and RTS award-winning mockumentary series People Just Do Nothing will return in November for its fifth and final outing. For the very first time, the show will premiere on BBC Two and be available online at BBC Three. The cast and production company Roughcut Television will join us for a very special preview of the new series, and to talk about the phenomenal success of the show and what’s next for the UK’s premiere pirate radio station.

Wednesday 7 November

18:15 NFT3
I Love Lucy
TRT 90min

I Love Lucy ran (in the US) from 1951 to 1957 and virtually created the blueprint for the modern sitcom. The show was a phenomenon; the most successful programme on the planet in its day and a huge influence on all those that followed. Central to its success (both on and off-screen) was the brilliant Lucille Ball, whose mastery of both physical and verbal comedy was the engine of the series. Join us to celebrate a rare talent via clips and conversation.

Saturday 10 November

16:00 NFT3
The Joy of Smut
TRT 90min

This bespoke compilation of clips and documentary footage features the kings and queens of British smut: Frank Randle, Marie Lloyd, Max Miller, Wilson Kepple and Betty, Benny Hill, Frankie Howerd, Beryl Reid and others. We also feature clips from the seminal documentary Has Anyone Seen My Pussy (1997). Be warned: many examples will be decidedly non-PC, puerile, juvenile and very funny.
Joint ticket available for all three events £24, concs £18 (Members pay £3 less)

Tuesday 13 November

18:30 NFT1
Lenny Henry’s Father Ted Talk: Black Comedy on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown
TRT 90min

Def Jam and Spike Lee’s Kings of Comedy packaged the stand-up special long before Netflix, building major careers along the way. Richard Pryor, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer found their way to the big screen through this format. But what of the British equivalents? Why haven’t black British comedians enjoyed the same journey to stardom? Lenny Henry takes a stand (up): pitting the UK against the US in a provocative and funny illustrated talk.

Wednesday 14 November

18:15 NFT1
Tracey Ullman on Ullman
TRT 90min

The multi-talented Tracey Ullman is cited as the first non-US female comedian to have conquered the American TV networks. After early UK trailblazing shows such as A Kick Up the Eighties, and Girls on Top, she found fame as a singer before moving to the US, where her satirical primetime sketch shows The Tracey Ullman Show, Tracey Takes On… and Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union garnered many awards. Join us for this special, clip-filled opportunity to hear Ullman discuss her stellar career on both sides of the pond.
Tickets £20, concs £16 (Members pay £2 less)

Saturday 17 November

12:00 NFT1
Doctor Who: Earthshock + Q&A with writer Eric Saward and actor Matthew Waterhouse
UK 1982. Dir Peter Grimwade. With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse. 90min. Digital. Courtesy of BBC Studios

In this story, the Doctor and his companions Nyssa, Tegan and Adric finds themselves on Earth in the year 2526. Inhabitants of a group of planets work together to try and defeat one of the most deadly foes in the universe – the Cybermen. They in return, are planning to destroy the Earth once and for all, but haven’t factored in the arrival of a Time Lord on a mission. This story has a new 5.1 sound mix and has been up-converted to HD.
Tickets £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)
Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 19 is released on Blu-ray on Mon 19 November

15:00 NFT2
The Black Comedy Revolution
TRT 180min

Black British people are no longer the butt of the joke; we’re now dropping the mic thanks to generations of on-screen comic talent. Norman Beaton passed the mic to Lenny Henry who handed it to TV collectives like The Real McCoy, 3 Non-Blondes, Famalam… This day will bring together many of those intergenerational comedians for riotous confessions and wisdom sharing.
Joint ticket available with The Real McCoy Reunion £15, concs £12 (Members pay £2 less)
Please check bfi.org.uk for updates on events

18:30 NFT2
The Real McCoy Reunion
TRT 90min

BBC sketch show The Real McCoy ran for five seasons in the 1990s, a watershed moment in black British comedy. Starring Llewella Gideon, Curtis Walker, Ishmael Thomas and Collette Johnson, who appeared alongside musicians, athletes, and other TV personalities, the show kickstarted numerous careers. This unique event will bring the original cast back together to share memories of that pivotal time.

Monday 19 November

18:15 NFT3
TV Preview: The Secrets of British Animation + Q&A with director
Seb Barfield and guests BBC-Academy 7 2018. Dir Seb Barfield. 60min

BBC Four’s new documentary takes us on a journey through more than a century of animation. It examines the creative and technical inventiveness of some of the great animation pioneers who have worked in Britain – trailblazing talents such as Len Lye, John Halas and Joy Batchelor, Joanna Quinn, and Bristol’s world-conquering Aardman Animations.

Tuesday 20 November

20:30 NFT1
TV Preview: Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out + Q&A with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer
BBC Studios-BBC Four 2018. Dir Mat Whitecross. TRT 90min

Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out represented a seminal moment in 80s and 90s British comedy, and with their new show Vic and Bob re-invent the original format in a constantly innovative and surprising way. Tonight we watch two new episodes packed with their surreal sense of humour, and hear from Reeves and Mortimer as they talk about their careers and comic influences.

Saturday 24 November

11:00 NFT1
TV Preview: Watership Down + Q&A
BBC-Netflix 2018. Dir Noam Murro. With the voices of James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega, Olivia Colman. Ep1 50min

When their home is threatened by humans, a band of rabbits must travel through dangerous terrain towards the beacon of a promised new land. This much-anticipated modern take on Richard Adams’ beloved tale of adventure, courage and survival promises to be an enthralling viewing experience – join us for a preview of episode one.

13:30 NFT1
The Young Ones + Q&A
BBC 1982-1984. With Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Christopher Ryan, Alexei Sayle.
Series 1 210min (plus interval). 15

A group of mismatched students (a punk, an anarchist, a hippie and the cool one) live together in student digs, an environment thriving on chaos. The Young Ones, written by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer, changed the face of comedy on British TV, and was a key entry in the new wave of 1980s alternative comedy that launched the careers of many of today’s most established performers.

Sunday 25 November

17:30 NFT1
Nighty Night + Q&A
BBC-Baby Cow 2004-2005. With Julia Davis, Rebecca Front, Angus Deayton, Ruth Jones. Series 1 168min (plus interval). 15

Jill’s husband is very ill. So ill, in fact, that it’s time for her to go out and find a new partner while he selfishly clings on to life in the local hospital. Should it be Glen, a frugal man with a colourful tic, or next door neighbour Don, who meets her criteria but has a wife in tow? In manipulative sociopath Jill Tyrrell, Julia Davis has created a hilariously disruptive character.

Tuesday 27 November

18:30 NFT1
Jo Brand: The Unvarnished Truth
TRT 90min

Drawing from her background as a nurse, Jo Brand made painfully honest observational comedies such as Damned and Getting On, set, respectively, in the worlds of social services and a geriatric ward. Emerging from the furnace of alternative stand-up, her laconic and biting comedy blew apart preconceptions of what female comedians could be, and she has always proudly remained her own uncompromising self. We’re pleased to welcome Jo Brand to discuss her influences and approach to comedy with producer John Lloyd.
Tickets £20, concs £16 (Members pay £2 less)

Booking times

Patrons and champions’ priority booking: Monday 17 September from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: Tuesday 18 September from 11.30am
Public booking opens: Tuesday 25 September from 11.30am


Members: £9.50
Member concs: £7.20
Non-members: £11.50
Non-member concs: £9.20
Under 16s: £6

Reduced prices for weekday matinees. Concessionary prices are available to senior citizens, students, unwaged and disability visitors. Proof of eligibility may be required.

As always, visit the BFI web site for more details.