What TV’s on at the BFI in December? Including The ABC Murders, The Midnight Gang and Sound of Movie Musicals

Ben Elton

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

December is usually when the BFI starts dolling out its TV presents to one and all, like Scrooge after the third ghost has visited, and this year is no different. As well as the traditional League of Gentlemen chat and the usual Missing Believed Wiped revelation of what previously lost TV has been recovered this year (as well as a new animated Doctor Who episode anyone?), there’s a whole bunch of TV previews with starry Q&As afterwards:

  • Sound of Movie Musicals, with Neil Brand
  • The ABC Murders with Rupert Grint and Tara Fitzgerald
  • The Midnight Gang, with David Walliams and Alan Davies
  • Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special with Brendan O’Carroll, Jennifer Gibney, Paddy Houlihan and Danny O’Carroll

There’s a short season devoted to the rise of alternative comedy, while Nish Kumar and special guests will be discussing the new wave of TV satire. There’s even a sitcom workshop for young people. All that before Christmas, too!

Full details after the jump.


Thursday 6 December

20:40 NFT1
An Audience with The League of Gentlemen
TRT 90min

The League of Gentlemen reunited for their anniversary specials last December and a recent tour of the UK. To coincide with the release of the DVD The League of Gentlemen – Live Again! (BBC Studios), we’re thrilled to bring them together once more to talk about writing the new show, being back on the road, and their comedy influences.
The League of Gentlemen will be signing copies of their new DVD before the event from 7-8pm at the BFI Shop. They will only sign copies of the new DVD, which will  be available from the shop on the night. Please note that this signing will run on a first-come first-served basis.

Saturday 8 December

15:30 NFT3
TV Preview: Sound of Movie Musicals + Q&A with Neil Brand
BBC-Zinc Media 2018. Dir Ian Macmillan. Ep1 90min

In his new series, presenter-musician Neil Brand explores the first golden age of the film musical – from 1920s Hollywood, Josephine Baker, Astaire and Rogers to the groundbreaking animation Snow White. Brand will show how the movie musical helped kick-start cinema as he talks to luminaries such as Mel Brooks and Matthew Bourne, and by uncovering a secret history of musical film in 1930s USSR.
We will be adding more guests to join the Q&A, please check bfi.org.uk for updates

18:15 NFT1
TV’s New Wave of Satire, with Nish Kumar and special guests
TRT 100min

Where next for satire on TV in the age of Trump? The Mash Report’s Nish Kumar looks back at great satirical shows such as Spitting Image, Time Trumpet and Brass Eye and addresses how they have influenced current satirical shows from The Thick of It and Veep to Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe, The Last Leg, and Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest show Who Is America?
Check BFI website for final guest confirmations

20:20 NFT3
Alternative comedy: The Early Years + intro by Paul Jackson
TRT 100min

The Comedy revolution of the 1980s mirrored the punk music revolution of the previous decade – in that a new wave of brash young talents arrived on the scene determined to rejuvenate a culture they perceived as sexist, racist and outdated. They introduced a vibrant, and in many cases political, alternative to the established stars, before going on to establish themselves as the next generation of TV comedy.

+ Boom Boom Out Go the Lights
BBC 1980. Dir Paul Jackson. With Rik Mayall, Keith Allen, Alexei Sayle. 30min

The first TV exposure for many alternative comedy acts.

+ The Entertainers: French and Saunders
ITV 1983. Dir Paul Jackson. 30min

An early TV appearance of the comedy duo.

+ The Entertainers: Stomping on the Cat
ITV 1983. Dir Paul Jackson. 30min

Enjoy these early appearances from Ben Elton, Helen Lederer, Jenny Lecoat and others.

Thursday 13 December

18:15 NFT1
TV Preview: The ABC Murders + Q&A with director Alex Gabassi, James Prichard CEO of Agatha Christie Ltd, screenwriter Sarah Phelps and actors Rupert Grint and Tara Fitzgerald
BBC-Mammoth Screen 2018. Dir Alex Gabassi. With John Malkovich, Rupert Grint, Tara Fitzgerald, Andrew Buchan. Ep1 60min

Screenwriter Sarah Phelps (And Then There Were None, The Witness for the Prosecution) adapts another of Agatha Christie’s most compelling novels. It’s 1933 and a killer travels the length and breadth of Britain via the ominous rumble of the train tracks. The killer strikes in a methodical pattern, leaving a copy of the ABC Railway Guide at the scene of each of the murders. As Poirot (Malkovich) attempts to investigate, he’s thwarted on every front. If he is to match his most cunning nemesis, everything about him will be called into question; his authority, his integrity, his past and his identity.

Saturday 15 December

15:15 NFT1
Missing Believed Wiped: Music and More!
TRT c125min

Vince Hill at The Talk of the Town (BBC 1969) will be introduced by Vince Hill himself, who is celebrating his 60th year in showbiz. Alongside this we are delighted to screen a brand new animation of a missing Doctor Who episode and, back by popular demand, the infamous Stars and Garters segment that proved such a huge hit at our 2016 event. We also sneak in a very special – once missing – clip of the late, great Aretha Franklin from It’s Lulu (1970)

17:45 NFT1
Missing Believed Wiped: Philip Morris Presents…
+ intro by TIEA CEO Philip Morris
TRT c125min

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative we’re delighted to unveil rare gems drawn exclusively
from the Television International Enterprises Archives (TIEA) holdings. Among those clips and shows featured will be appearances from firm favourites Morecambe and Wise, Basil Brush and The Kinks.

Sunday 16 December

11:00 NFT1
TV Preview: The Midnight Gang + Q&A with David Walliams and actor Alan Davies
BBC-King Bert Productions 2018. Dir Eliot Hegarty. With Alan Davies, David Walliams, Harish Patel. c65min

When the clock strikes midnight most children are fast asleep, but for the Midnight Gang the journey is just beginning. This extraordinary story of five children in an unusual hospital setting is the basis for an incredible late-night adventure. After the huge success of last year’s Grandpa’s Great Escape screening, we’re delighted to preview another story from the creative mind of David Walliams.
David Walliams will be signing copies of his books after this event for ticket holders only (time permitting)

Monday 17 December

11:00-15:00 NFT3
For 16 to 25-year-olds

BFI Future Film have teamed up with BBC Comedy commissioning for this unique opportunity to explore the art of the multi-camera sitcom. Come along for a hands-on experience and learn the tricks of the trade by signing up as either a cast or a crew member. BBC professionals will take you on a whirlwind trip through the production process, culminating in a live taping and screening of a script specially created by the winner of the BBC’s Felix Dexter Bursary, and a panel discussion.
Tickets £10 (spaces are limited, so booking essential)

15:30 NFT3
Panel discussion: sitcom production
for 16 to 25-year-olds
TRT 90min

In this panel discussion and Q&A the team from BBC Comedy will illuminate the process of writing, directing and shooting multi-camera comedy and will answer your questions about how to pursue a TV comedy career.
Tickets to this discussion are free but must be booked in advance due to capacity

Wednesday 19 December

18:15 NFT1
TV Preview: Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special + Q&A with actors Brendan O’Carroll, Jennifer Gibney, Paddy Houlihan and Danny O’Carroll
BBC Studios-RTÉ-BOXPIX 2018. Dir Ben Kellett. With Brendan O’Carroll, Jennifer Gibney, Paddy Houlihan, Danny O’Carroll. Eps 1 & 2 60min

Watched by upwards of nine million viewers, Mrs Brown’s Boys returns for a much-anticipated Christmas special. Brendan O’Carroll’s unique mix of mayhem and heart-warming sentiment has made the series one of the comedy sensations of recent times; writer-actor O’Carroll says, ‘We are excited that 2018 will see party time at the Browns’ house again.’ Get in the Christmas mood by joining O’Carroll and the cast for this special preview screening.

Booking times

Patrons and champions’ priority booking: Monday 5 November from 11.30am
Members’ priority booking opens: Tuesday 6 November from 11.30am
Public booking opens: Tuesday 13 November 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.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.