TV times: Amelia Bullmore


Actress and writer discusses some of her small-screen loves

Amelia Bullmore has led a decidedly varied life on our televisions, having appeared in everything from Coronation Street (for 130 episodes in the early 90s she was Steph Barnes) to Chris Morris' Brass Eye and Jam. The Manchester University drama graduate is also an accomplished playwright and screenwriter, having scripted a couple of This Life episodes, as well as additional material for Big Train while her play Mammals was a winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. You can currently see her in BBC Two's period murder-mystery Vienna Blood, while Traces, the crime drama she has written based on an idea by Val McDermid, is due to air on the Alibi channel very soon. In our TV Q&A, she tells us about yoga tights, satin jeans and her dad's cardigan …

What is your first memory of watching TV?
I have vivid early memories of watching a yoga programme. The women doing the yoga were dressed in different coloured leotards and tights. The tights were exactly the same colour as the leotards, so one woman would be completely green, another red, another blue, another yellow etc. I was mesmerised. I think it must have been Richard Hittleman's Yoga for Health. I'm sure it was for modesty reasons, but it's crazy they were wearing tights now I come to think of it: your feet would shoot away from you in downward dog and you'd find yourself in an unplanned sphinx. Other early loves: The Herbs (we were particularly thrilled if The Chives made an appearance as we considered them 'rare'), The Wombles, Coronation Street, Crossroads, The Galloping Gourmet. I could go on and on. I adored telly. I would even sit through Crown Court.

Which programme that's no longer on screen would you love to see return?
Play for Today. I sometimes wish programmes did a bit less returning. Put that world and those people to bed! Their story's done! Make something new! Play for Today was often fantastic. Great writing and acting and it could respond to things happening in the world.

You're a prime-time chat-show host: what's your ideal guest line-up?
Ronnie O'Sullivan, Rufus Wainwright, Olivia Colman.

Which sitcom have you laughed at the most?
Fawlty Towers.

When was the last time you felt scared while watching TV?
The first series of The Fall. Horribly scary. Scarily horrible. The first series of Happy Valley. Brilliantly terrifying. The first time I remember feeling scared watching TV was watching Doctor Who through a buttonhole in my dad's cardigan….which he was wearing.

What's the best TV theme tune ever?
Too many to choose from. All my favourites come from my early years of avid telly watching but there really were lots of great, dynamic, rocky theme tunes in the 70s: Magpie, Angels, Nationwide and Shoestring all instantly come to mind.

Which programme (past or present) would you have loved a part on?
Rock Follies. Hell yeah. They sang, they wore satin jeans, they had hairy armpits and a sofa in the shape of a baseball boot. And there was the utter magic of Julie Covington. I would have been a non-singing, short-lived flatmate or something.

What was the last show you binge-watched?
Fosse/Verdon. I loved everything about it. The writing, the acting, the dancing, the time and the world. Full circle too, as it's very strong on leotards. If you watched the first episode and weren't convinced, keep going: it just gets better and better.

Who is your all-time favourite fictional TV character?
There are two, and both from childhood. Madame Cholet and Amy Turtle. Madame Cholet was a charming French Womble and there's a lovely song about her: 'Madame Cholet, what's cooking with you today?' She cooked for the Wombles. Amy Turtle was a cleaner in the Crossroads Motel. She was my first love. I would imitate her for hours at a time. So, a very distinctive cook and a very distinctive cleaner, both of whom were indispensable and gratifyingly high status in their worlds.

Vienna Blood, BBC Two, Mondays, 9pm, with episodes also available on the BBC iPlayer; Traces airs on Alibi soon.

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