Yonderland

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Yonderland
Genre
Created by
Written by
  • Mathew Baynton
  • Toby Davies
  • Simon Farnaby
  • Jim Howick
  • Laurence Rickard
  • Ben Willbond
Directed bySteve Connelly
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes8 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Working Title Films
Broadcast
Original channelSky1
Original airing10 November 2013 (2013-11-10)
External links
Website
 
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Yonderland
Genre
Created by
Written by
  • Mathew Baynton
  • Toby Davies
  • Simon Farnaby
  • Jim Howick
  • Laurence Rickard
  • Ben Willbond
Directed bySteve Connelly
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes8 (List of episodes)
Production
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)Working Title Films
Broadcast
Original channelSky1
Original airing10 November 2013 (2013-11-10)
External links
Website

Yonderland is a British family fantasy-comedy television series that was first broadcast in 2013 on Sky1. It was co-produced by Sky and Working Title Films, and is co-created, written by and stars the main performers from CBBC's hit series Horrible Histories.[1]

Plot[edit]

33-year-old Debbie Maddox (Martha Howe-Douglas) is becoming increasingly bored with life as a suburban stay-at-home mum. Then one day an elf (voice of Mathew Baynton) appears from a portal in her cupboard insisting that she's the 'Chosen One' destined to save Yonderland, a magical land threatened by the evil Negatus (Simon Farnaby). Reluctantly, Debbie agrees to meet with the Elders of the realm... only to discover that they've lost the scroll that explains what the Chosen One is actually supposed to do. Yonderland, it turns out, is a very silly place indeed, and it will take all Debbie's resources to complete each week's quest in time to pick up the children from school.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

On 22 March 2013, Sky1's Lucy Lumsden announced Yonderland, saying: "We are delighted to give the incredibly talented Horrible Histories cast the opportunity to write and star in a brand new show for the whole family on Sky1." The show was co-produced by Working Title Films.[2] Principal filming under former HH director Steve Connelly began the following May.

The show initially grew out of the desire of its creators (Baynton, Farnaby, Howe-Douglas, Howick, Rickard and Willbond) to continue working together after Horrible Histories ceased production in 2012. The new standalone troupe wanted to maintain the sketch-based, character-driven comedy style from their previous series. They quickly settled on the fantasy quest genre, with its emphasis on individual short vignettes within the larger plot, as the logical next step.[3]

At the same time, Baynton and Willbond had been developing a film idea about an ordinary person dragged into a parallel universe – specifically, a nostalgic fantasy adventure using puppetry rather than more modern animation techniques, in the vein of Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story."[4] This concept in turn naturally lent itself to the casting of sole female troupe member Howe-Douglas as the central heroine, with her five male costars in multiple roles as the different characters she meets in each episode.[5] In terms of writing together for the first time as a troupe, Howick noted to The Guardian that "[By now] we're such a tight unit, we know exactly what the humour is, and what the tone is." Baynton agreed: "It just grew very nicely out of what happens when the six of us are together in a room."[6]

In keeping with the nostalgic, "lo-fi" tone – and in the interest of creating a more richly populated, inventive and potentially surprising world – Yonderland features numerous Muppet-style puppet characters designed and built by longtime Jim Henson associates Baker Coogan.[7][8] Explaining the decision to keep computer animation to a minimum (save for the portal to Yonderland itself), Rickard said: "Because you can make everything photo-realistic these days, it kind of takes the joy out of it. Even if it's brilliant CGI, you still know it's CGI ... you know it's not there, it's not tangible, and it's the same with comedy."[9]

The first series was considered a critical and popular success, earning solid ratings for its timeslot.[10] On 30 June 2014, Sky announced that the show had been recommissioned for a second series, to begin filming in autumn of the same year and scheduled to air in 2015.[11]

Episodes[edit]

#TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions)[12]
1"The Chosen Mum"Steve ConnellyLaurence Rickard and Ben Willbond10 November 2013 (2013-11-10)1.01
The more Debbie sees of Yonderland, the less she's impressed--until an unexpectedly-fulfilled prophecy convinces her there might just be something to this Chosen One business.
2"Wizard Bradley"Steve ConnellySimon Farnaby10 November 2013 (2013-11-10)0.76
In order to locate a copy of the missing scroll, Debbie must seek the help of a once legendary, now has-been wizard who's quite literally lost his Mojo.
3"Reformation"Steve ConnellyJim Howick and Laurence Rickard17 November 2013 (2013-11-17)0.84
By the time Debbie stumbles across the monks of Old John, their devotion to speaking nothing but the absolute truth has already infuriated Negatus to the point of destroying their monastery. Now, in order to save their lives, the Chosen One must teach them to lie.
4"The Ultimate Prize"Steve ConnellyLaurence Rickard and Ben Willbond24 November 2013 (2013-11-24)0.65
When the incumbent champion of the Yonderland Grand Tournament is killed, Negatus sees an opportunity to send in a ringer and disrupt the proceedings--unless Debbie can convince her own candidate, the incumbent's humble page, to believe in himself.
5"Closing the Portal"Steve ConnellyToby Davies1 December 2013 (2013-12-01)0.47
Debbie has had it with the havoc being Yonderland's Chosen One is wreaking on her family life and decides to resign. Before he can close the portal permanently, though, Elf must take her on one last quest...
6"The Idiot King"Steve ConnellyMathew Baynton8 December 2013 (2013-12-08)0.50
Negatus' ecstatic celebration of the Chosen One's departure is rudely interrupted when he learns that she's not only decided to stay around, but has joined forces with arrogant King Bernard to locate a precious artifact. Soon Debbie and the King find themselves not only treasure-hunting but trying to stay alive.
7"The Heart of the Sun"Steve ConnellyLaurence Rickard and Ben Willbond15 December 2013 (2013-12-15)0.48
On her latest quest to save the inhabitants of Yonderland from themselves, Debbie encounters the Ninnies, a race whose slavish adherence to tradition has actually caused them to begin devolving.
8"Dirty Ernie"Steve ConnellySimon Farnaby22 December 2013 (2013-12-22)Under 0.40
Ordered by his very impatient boss to lure Debbie into a trap, Negatus adopts a harmless disguise and solicits her help on a rescue mission that brings together several of the characters from previous episodes.

Reception[edit]

Yonderland met with generally positive reviews, most focussing on its uniquely all-ages nature and nostalgic callbacks to former fantasy classics. Writing in the Guardian, Sarah Hughes called the series "perfect family viewing", summing it up as "both supremely silly and very clever indeed – the sort of frothy concoction that looks effortless but is actually very hard to get right... the writing is a wonderful mix of knowing and daft",[13] all of which earned it 16th place in the same paper's ranking of the Top 30 TV shows of 2013.[14] Den of Geek's Rob Smedley called the show "joyously amusing... the clichés are magnificently well handled or hidden by some top gags and a cast who know just how to deliver them."[15]

The Radio Times named the show #28 in its own Top 40 year-end list, saying further of the show's writer/creators that "Characters tended to appear once when they could each have had their own series; this gang have so many ideas and such skill in executing them that, in the long term, Python comparisons might not be out of place."[16] Total Film magazine placed it at #25 in their Top 25 year-end list, agreeing that "It’s basically Labyrinth meets Monty Python. Yes, it’s THAT good. Though it’s essentially aimed at the kiddies, like all the best muppet-y stories, there are jokes for the adults, too."[17] Entertainment website Cultbox UK named it their Best Comedy of the same year, "simply by virtue of being a genuinely funny comedy that the whole family can watch together... There's something for everyone in the Horrible Histories team's madcap fantasy-ribbing recipe of puppets, inventive characters, more puppets, and cheeky humour."[18]

DVD release[edit]

The first series of Yonderland was released on Region Two DVD on 17 February 2014, by Universal Pictures UK.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Creating Yonderland". Sky1 website. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  2. ^ "Horrible Histories cast create new Sky comedy Yonderland". British Comedy Guide. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  3. ^ Armstrong, Stephen (10 November 2013). "Yonderland: We wanted to raid the dressing-up box and speak in silly voices". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  4. ^ "Interview with Ben Willbond". British Comedy Guide. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  5. ^ Dobbs, Sarah (5 November 2013). "Yonderland: Interview with Ben Willbond and Laurence Rickard". Den of Geek. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  6. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (8 November 2013). "Yonderland: 'A silly TV show, not deeply political'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  7. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (8 November 2013). "Yonderland: What Horrible Histories did next". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  8. ^ "Interview with Mathew Baynton". British Comedy Guide. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Laurence Rickard". British Comedy Guide. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 11 Nov 2013. 
  10. ^ Hughes, Sarah (8 December 2013). "TV to unleash your little monster: The best family viewing". The Independent. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sky 1 commission 2nd series of Yonderland". Sky Media website. 1 July 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "BARB Top 30s". 
  13. ^ Hughes, Sarah (2 December 2013). "Have you been watching... Yonderland?". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "The best TV shows of 2013: 11-20". The Guardian. 21 December 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Smedley, Rob (11 November 2013). "Yonderland episodes 1 and 2 review: The Chosen Mum & Wizard Bradley". Den of Geek. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "Radio Times Top 40 TV Shows of 2013: 30 to 21". Radio Times. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  17. ^ Winning, Josh (10 December 2013). "The 25 Best TV Shows of 2013". Total Film. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Smedley, Rob (21 December 2013). "Cultbox TV awards 2013". Cultbox UK. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "Yonderland on DVD". Amazon UK. 17 February 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 

External links[edit]