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Timothy Spall leads cast for new BBC comedy drama set in Wales

20 May 2024 3 minute read
Gwyneth Keyworth (Image credit: YellowBelly) & Timothy Spall

BBC Comedy and BBC Wales has commissioned a new comedy drama titled Death Valley – a murder mystery starring BAFTA-winner Timothy Spall and Gwyneth Keyworth.

Written and created by Paul Doolan (Mammoth, Trollied) and set in Wales, Death Valley follows the unlikely crime-solving partnership between eccentric national treasure John Chapel (Timothy Spall), a retired actor and star of hit fictional detective TV show ‘Caesar’, and disarming Welsh detective sergeant Janie Mallowan (Gwyneth Keyworth).

Thrown together by the murder of John’s neighbour, John and Janie are an odd, yet hilarious duo with opposing instincts. Every week, they get to the bottom of gripping murders, with various stunning Welsh locations providing a backdrop to their investigations.

When John and Janie are not arguing about a case, they’re inevitably up in each other’s personal business. Despite their differences, they soon realise they are the closest thing each other has to a best friend, and unwittingly help one another move on from the past.

“Unique”

Timothy Spall, says: “I’m really looking forward to teaming up with the brilliant Gwyneth Keyworth and the fantastically talented team of creatives and technicians on this new and unique comedy drama.”

“I’m relishing the prospect of getting stuck in as we embark on creating this truly oddball detective duo who develop their unusual combined eccentric skills to hilarious and surprisingly successful effect in beautiful rural Wales and its gorgeous towns and villages.”

Jon Petrie, Director of Comedy at the BBC says: “This series has all the hallmarks of a BBC Comedy classic; it’s the perfect comedy drama caper which never forgets the funny. We feel thoroughly spoiled to have such a wonderful cast on board.”

Josh Cole, Head of Comedy at BBC Studios Comedy Productions, says: “With a wonderful cast and Paul’s extraordinary scripts, Death Valley is a brilliantly witty and idiosyncratic take on the murder mystery.”

“Comedy in Wales”

Nick Andrews, Head of Commissioning for BBC Wales said: “Comedy in Wales is in terrific shape! The very best comedians, the very best writers are playing their part in establishing Wales as a very funny place.

“We always knew this to be true and now the rest of the UK do too. I know audiences will fall in love with these two brilliant characters as they strike up an unlikely but incredibly endearing friendship.”

Death Valley  is a BBC Studios Comedy Production for BBC Two, BBC One Wales and BBC iPlayer, written and created by BAFTA-nominated Paul Doolan.

The series was ordered by Jon Petrie, Director of Comedy and Nick Andrews, Head of Commissioning BBC Wales. The Commissioning Editors are Seb Barwell for BBC Comedy, and Paul Forde for BBC Wales.

Directed by Simon Hynd and Produced by Nikki Wilson, the Executive Producers are Paul Doolan, Josh Cole and Madeline Addy. BBC Studios will distribute the series internationally.

Additional funding support has been provided by Creative Wales, the Welsh Government agency that supports the growth of the Creative Sectors.

Filming begins in Wales next month.


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CapM
CapM
1 month ago

Apart from the scenery.
Will this series be clearly identified as being set in Cymru due to its characters, narratives, presence of Cymraeg, Welsh idioms in the English language, etc. like the series Tourist Trap.
Or like the series Mammoth which apart from accents is pretty much devoid of anything of the above that grounds it in Cymru.

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

Will it be in cynghanedd with a soundtrack of Cerdd Dant and set entirely on top of Yr Wyddfa? Now that would be a hoot. Surely?

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

I gave an example of a comedy series about Cymru that rings true – Tourist Trap which derives part of its humour from Welsh stereotypes and cliches Cynghanedd and Cerdd dant, their paractioners and associated culture could be parodied for comic effect for a predominatly English speaking audience. Those subjects have already received the comedy treatment in Welsh on S4C. Mammoth the other comedy series I mentioned is funny but it’s generic and it seems the same script could have been used wherever it was set and wherever the characters were from.. Scottish and Irish comedies and dramas leave no-one… Read more »

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

Maybe this new one will break the pattern of decades of irredeemably unfunny Welsh comedies? I’ll be watching through knitted fingers and hoping for the best. If only we could produce something that came within a hundred miles of Father Ted or The Office then that in itself would signify a small triumph.

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

Father Ted and The Office are great ground breaking examples of the genre.
The S4C series Con Passionate, which had a lot of comedy in it, won the Rose D’Or award for best soap/light drama, so I’d say we have come within a hundred miles.

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

Well that’s heartening to hear and well done to everyone involved. But, sadly, I suspect that, despite the accolade, it has- unlike Ted and Brent- never ‘broken through’ to an audience beyond S4C’s niche and the (equally) niche award panel. But, having said that, it was probably still funnier than High Hopes. (Mind you, any of my late mum’s shopping lists for Morrison’s were comedy gold compared to that…)

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

The point I was trying to make that it is possible to produce series of quality based on Welsh rather than generic situations.
Comedy usually does not travel well outside it’s language base. But an English language Welsh comedy does not face that hurdle.

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

What would be a ‘Welsh situation’? Surely the only successful comedy is one that transcends arbitrary borders and achieves universality?

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

I refer you to my initial post! “Will this series be clearly identified as being set in Cymru due to its characters, narratives, presence of Cymraeg, Welsh idioms in the English language, etc. like the series Tourist Trap.” Accepting that of course people must find a comedy funny for it to be successful. One of indicators of success is a reflection /exaggeration /parody /satire of our own situation recognisable to us and ringing true. Isn’t that approach what producers of comedies in other countries employ, be they in Norway, Belgium, Slovenia etc etc etc. Rather than aiming to produce a… Read more »

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

We just need to be funny. That would be a start.

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

Just going on the recent Welsh comedy Mammoth. It’s received positive to very positive reviews in the English press. So I’d guess funny by your standard of  transcending “arbitrary” borders (or at least one so far).

It also has a rating of 4.8. out of 5 (107 reviews) on International Movie Database.

It’s pretty hard to justify saying that we haven’t made a “start”

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

And yet in your initial post you moan that Mammoth is “devoid” of anything “grounded” in Wales. So perhaps it, by your logic, is a false start? Enjoyed our discussion by the way. I’m sure we’d have fun over a pint. Really.

Last edited 1 month ago by Euron
CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

A Welsh (as made in Cymru by Cymry) comedy can be funny and devoid of anything grounding it in Cymru. The two are not mutually exclusive.

My view is that Welsh comedies should aim to be both funny and grounded in Cymru.
The two being mutually inclusive.

I’ve provided you with examples of the first and the second types (both in English and Welsh) to illustrate why this is not just hypothetical.

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

“Grounded in Cymru” (whatever the hell that means) is one thing. Being funny is another. And much more difficult. Personally I don’t give a hoot where a comedy is made or is set. The test is if I’m laughing or not. In ‘situation comedy’ the ‘comedy’ is much more important than the ‘situation’. Otherwise Torquay would be the funniest thing about Fawlty Towers.

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Euron

‘ “Grounded in Cymru” (whatever the hell that means) ‘

For the third and final time to repeat what I wrote in my very first comment!

‘clearly identified as being set in Cymru due to its characters, narratives, presence of Cymraeg, Welsh idioms in the English language, etc. ‘

Euron
Euron
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

I wrote a comedy for BBC Wales a while back called ‘The Beatles in Tonypandy’ (still on You Tube I believe). It was based on my own short story. I’d be interested to know whether this fulfills your comic criteria of being “grounded in Wales with idioms…etc. etc.”

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

That is quite good. And obvs Welsh.

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