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First Lady Sybil, then Matthew. Could Isis be next?

October 30, 2014

***Downton Abbey series 5 SPOILER ALERT***
Downton Abbey's favorite - Isis

The rumor mill is in overdrive this week in the UK as we are down to the last few episodes in the 5th series of Downton Abbey. With only 3 episodes left (2 plus the Christmas special), what could Downton Abbey creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, possibly be thinking? As if the death of Lady Sybil wasn’t almost too much to take during series 2, he provided the ultimate kick to the stomach on Christmas Day in the series 3 finale by ending Matthew Crawley’s time at Downton. For those that are not quite up to speed on the series as it has played out so far, I’m sorry to report that Lord Grantham’s pride and joy, Isis, was looking a little peaked and a bit listless this past week.

That leaves the great unanswered question…will Isis make it to Christmas? Certainly, even Sir Julian wouldn’t ruin the holidays by having the Grim Reaper visit the only stable member of the Crawley family on Christmas Day, would he? Viewers are still not over that fateful day in 2012 when the heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley, met his untimely death in a tragic car accident.

While we may not want to hear this, it may be the only explainable event to be associated with the series. When you think about it, Robert’s faithful companion, Isis, has been around since the beginning of series 1 in 1912. Most likely, she would have been around two of years of age at that point. With series 5 taking place approximately 12 years later in 1924, Isis would then be in the general vicinity of 13 or 14 years of age by the end of series 5.

So, while this is plausible, let’s hold out a few positive thoughts for Isis, Planet Earth’s favorite labrador.

“All the World’s a Stage…” as Benedict Cumberbatch celebrates a lifetime of British drama

October 29, 2014

This was definitely worth the wait. UK audiences have been teased recently on the BBC’s Facebook page that there was a new Benedict Cumberbatch project in the works. With the simple phrase of “Benedict Cumberbatch filming something special for BBC One and BBC Two” much of the UK went into orbit. Last night, the ‘project’ was unveiled just before the premiere broadcast of The Missing, which stars James Nesbitt and Frances O’Conner in the story of a couple whose lives fall apart after their five-year-old son Oliver is abducted on a family holiday to France in 2006. The ‘project’ was…a trailer. But, oh what a trailer it was! A brilliant celebration of powerful storytelling from the past, present and future.

As you can see, the ‘trailer’ turned out to be Benedict at his finest, as he celebrated a lifetime of Original British Drama by reading William Shakespeare’s famous monologue from As You Like It. It was filled with trailer gold from a throwback to some of the BBC’s classic drama series from the past, with footage from The Singing Detective, House of Cards, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, This Life, Pride and Prejudice, Criminal Justice, Small Island, Spooks and Life on Mars to an advance look at Wolf Hall, one of the first video glimpses of a major new seven-part series Poldark, starring Aidan Turner, along with brief reminders of some of the BBC’s best-loved drama series of our time such as Doctor Who, Luther, Call The Midwife, Line of Duty, The Fall and, of course, Sherlock.

For those keeping score at home, most of the dramas highlighted in the trailer have been broadcast on public television in the States, the American home of the best drama on television. Both Wolf Hall and Poldark are headed to PBS in 2015 as well as new Sherlock‘s…he said, hopefully.

Bear with…Miranda Hart pulling the plug on ‘Miranda’

October 28, 2014

Aside from John Cleese and Ricky Gervais, you can probably count on one hand when the star of a British sitcom knows when enough is enough and gets to be the one that actually pulls the plug on their own show. Unfortunately, for show creators, writers and stars, in most cases, they usually find out at the end of a season that their show was not commissioned for another. When that happens, the faithful viewer is left hanging out to dry with a lot of loose ends as those involved in the creation of the series didn’t know the end was coming faster than they had anticipated. All one has to do is look at the early 90′s British sitcom, Mulberry, which ran for two brilliant series and ended without anything even close to a series finale.

Personally, I am, what I call, depressed. Here’s why…
Miranda ending 'Miranda'

While it’s always sad when a quality series ends for any reason, Miranda viewers should feel a bit of satisfaction (along with being depressed) armed with the knowledge that their favorite series is going out as did Fawlty Towers and The Office…on top. Following a wildly successful premiere on BBC2, it was Miranda Hart’s extremely busy schedule that led to it being a couple of years before we returned to Miranda’s and Stevie’s joke shop to see if she and Gary would ever get together in series 2. Given Hart’s continued commitment to the hit BBC drama, Call the Midwife, production of series three was pushed back even further causing fans to have to “bear with” much longer that usual for a third series. While the most recent series of the brilliantly funny, and what many saw as a throwback to ‘old-school’ British comedy, series aired almost two years ago in the UK, fans have been (im)-patiently waiting for more Miranda. Unfortunately, according to Miranda herself, there will not be a fourth series, only two Christmas specials, which will be filmed next month, and then that will be the end of Miranda, Stevie and Gary.

Hart’s schedule isn’t expected to get any easier as she is set to star in the next series of Call the Midwife, Paul Feig’s upcoming comedy film Spy and potentially a new BBC1 entertainment format not dissimilar to The Generation Game. Look for the next, and last, installment of Miranda to find its way to the small screen at Christmas…hopefully, Christmas 2014 but, I’m guessing 2015!


Sans powdered wigs, BBC’s Silk headed for U.S. remake on ABC

October 27, 2014

This just in…a U.S. television broadcast network will try, yet again, to re-invent the wheel and adapt a British drama for American television. Surprise! ABC will re-make Peter Moffat’s British legal drama, Silk, the Bafta-nominated BBC drama which revolved around the lives of barristers at Shoe Lane chambers, and the lengths they went to to attain one of the most prestigious accomplishments in an English lawyer’s career, the rank of Queen’s Counsel (QC), a.k.a. “taking silk”. Silk ran for three series from 2011-2014 on BBC1 and starred Maxine Peake (dinnerladies, Shameless, The Village) and Rupert Penry-Jones ( Spooks, Whitechapel). With Martha Costello (Peake), the unorthodox and uncompromising attorney, and ruthless rival Clive Reader (Penry-Jones), Moffat wanted to show life at the bar and all that entails focusing on the extreme pressure, the hard choices, the ethical dilemmas, the overlap between the personal and the professional, principles fought for and principles sacrificed, the Machiavellian politics, the sex and the drinking. In other words, the whole story.
BBC One series, Silk, starring Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones coming to America

According to Hollywood Reporter, Silk creator Peter Moffat will team up with Marty Scott (Drop Dead Diva) to adapt the legal drama for American audiences, with Scott writing the script and executive producing alongside Moffat. The first series of Silk ran as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery series in 2013. The final two series will make their way to public television stations beginning in early 2015. As hard as I try, I’m not seeing Silk as an American drama unless they lose the powdered wigs and call it L.A. Law. You?


Fancy a bit of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ catch-up before tonight’s premiere of ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’?

October 26, 2014

Remember when you HAD to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in high school? I’m guessing a number of you have re-read several times as an adult because you actually WANTED to. Whatever the case, it’s probably been awhile since read it or seen one of the numerous big or small screen adaptations. So, courtesy of PBS and Masterpiece, here’s a quick Cliff Notes Pride and Prejudice refresher course before we return to the land of Jane Austen and tonight’s premiere of Death Comes to Pemberley on PBS.

The Bennets: In Three Words

Jane: Generous, beautiful, serene
Elizabeth: Spirited, intelligent, witty
Mary: Bookish, plain, overlooked
Kitty: Flirty, idle, sidekick
Lydia: Impulsive, vain, spoiled
Mrs. Bennet: Superficial, gossipy, melodramatic
Mr. Bennet: Sarcastic, weary, apathetic

The Fitzwilliams: A Rundown

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Our prideful and prickly hero, the sexy Fitzwilliam, Mr. Darcy, was given his mother’s surname (Lady Anne Darcy, née Fitzwilliam) according to the custom of the time among prominent families. He’s big brother to Georgiana, antagonist turned admirer of Elizabeth, and master of Pemberley.

Colonel Fitzwilliam: Darcy’s cousin and co-guardian of Georgiana, as the younger son of an Earl, is unable to marry freely and is obligated to unite with a woman in possession of a significant fortune. His father is brother to Darcy’s mother Lady Anne and Lady Catherine de Bourgh; hence his surname.

Wherefore Wickham

As the charming, handsome son of the elder Mr. Darcy’s steward, Wickham grew up as a brother to Darcy and with the support of Mr. Darcy, who even provided him with a gentleman’s education, intending for him to enter the clergy. But not long after both fathers had died, he abandoned the goal and asked Darcy for more money on the pretext of studying law. Wickham then squandered the large sum given him by Darcy, indulging his idle and dissolute ways. Cut off from more money and convinced that Darcy had cheated him out of an inheritance, he intended to seduce Georgiana Darcy and secure her fortune

Scandal: Georgiana

Wickham nearly seduced the kind-hearted and naïve Georgiana Darcy when she was only 15, with the help of her dodgy then-governess, Mrs. Younge. Darcy learned of her plans to elope in time to bring her back from the edge of ruin.

Wickham & Lydia: A Match Made in Brighton

Two people couldn’t deserve each other more than Lydia Bennet and George Wickham. The caddish Wickham seduced flirtatious, impulsive Lydia in Brighton and they ran off together, as he fled his considerable gambling debts. Then, in exchange for payment of those debts, he opportunistically agreed to marry her.

Now that you’re all caught up and can match wits with any Austenite you may encounter today, don’t miss Elizabeth and Darcy’s hard-earned, albiet brief, (oops!, sorry, spoiler alert) happiness at Pemberley and Lydia and Wickham’s persona non grata status there; Wickham’s latest scandal-inducing imbroglio; Lydia and Mrs. Bennet’s dueling histrionics; Georgiana’s prospective suitors; Mr. Bennet’s attempt to find a library to disappear into, and…murder!

The two-part Death Comes to Pemberley series, airs tonight and Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 9:00pm ET/8:00pm CT on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series and stars Matthew Rhys (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Americans), Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House, South Riding, Bletchley Circle), Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) and Matthew Goode (Match Point, A Single Man, The Good Wife).

‘Downton 221bey’ anyone? Hey, it could happen….

October 25, 2014

Now THIS is what makes the Internets interesting. Since 2010, the desire and hope there would be a Sherlock/Downton Abbey crossover has been an on-again, off-again trending topic on Twitter. I recognize most of Planet Earth would rather see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock step out of the TARDIS but, somehow, seeing Sherlock match wits with the Dowager Countess ranks right up there for me. Imagine if Sherlock had been called in from the beginning, Mr. Bates would have never spent the entire series 3 in prison for the murder of his ex-wife! Given that both Sherlock creators and writer, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, have sizable ties to the Traveling Time Lord, a Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover was always more likely to happen “someday” but still…

Thanks to YouTubber, Jasmin Holmes, we don’t have to wonder what it would be like. At least how the opening of Sherlock would look if done in the style of Downton Abbey. Enjoy!


And Now for Something Completely Different – Lost episodes of ‘At Last the 1948 Show’ discovered!

October 24, 2014

At Last the 1948 Show with John Cleese and Graham Chapman

The British Film Institute has found two lost episodes of the ITV comedy sketch classic, At Last the 1948 Show which starred comedy legends, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman. The find was made by Missing Believed Wiped coordinator, Dick Fiddy, when he was invited by family members to explore the personal archive collections of the late Sir David Frost who was executive producer on the show. Former Python John Cleese will present the two episodes, the first and last ever of the series, on loan from the Frost family, as part of Missing Believed Wiped, the BFI‘s annual celebration of recovered TV programs, on 7 December in London. The programs have not been seen since their original broadcast in 1967 on 15th February and 7th November and were contained on two reels of 16mm film which were filmed directly from a television screen.

The latest discovery of “lost” tapes is being dubbed a major find for fans of the early incarnations of surreal British television comedy which was hugely influential in the creation of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. At Last the 1948 Show is famous for containing the first use of the phrase “And now for something completely different” which became a Python catchphrase and for showcasing the first outing of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch.

Re-watching the material after some 47 years “…made me laugh a great deal“, admitted former Goodie member, Tim Brooke-Taylor. “I think the sketches would be shorter now, but I’m rather pleased with it. It was ground-breaking in a sense in that it was very silly. We were thinking, will we get away with it basically?

Sadly, these sentiments were echoed by former Python members Terry Jones and Michael Palin last year when we asked both if anything resembling the likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus could find its way to the small screen today. The universal answer was very doubtful. Like At Last the 1948 Show, Python was ground-breaking telly where all involved were just handed the keys to the comedy closet and told to make a funny show with no ‘suit’ looking over their shoulders.

More Foyle’s War on the way in 2015

October 23, 2014

“My name’s Foyle and I’m a police officer…”

It’s always been a series about a good man in evil times and I felt, particularly as we’re moving towards the end of the series, that I really wanted to confront Foyle with the ultimate evil“, says series creator, Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is also promising faithful followers of the first seven series of Foyle’s War that the upcoming eighth series of the ITV drama will be more ambitious than those that have come before and will contain a shock for viewers. “For this season, we’ve built a concentration camp because Foyle visits Monowitz. Monowitz has been razed, so we couldn’t film there. And you’re not allowed to film in concentration camps anyway. Quite correctly, in my view. So we had to build it ourselves.“, said Horowitz, speaking to Radio Times. Horowitz is prepping for his #IsawMoriarty carriage tour which winds its’ way through the streets of London promoting today’s release of his newest print effort, Moriarty.
Michael Kitchen as Christopher Foyle in Foyle's War

Last series saw Christopher Foyle, who has retired more often than Brett Favre, join MI-5 after World War II with longtime driver Samantha Stewart, played brilliantly by Honeysuckle Weeks, returning as his junior clerk on the grid. According to Horowitz, who has hinted that viewers might soon see an end to the series, the forthcoming episodes will continue to be set in a post-WWII/Cold War period and pick up where the last episode left off. Horowitz explained, “It’s now 1947 and we move directly on from where we were at the end of the last season. The first story (“High Castle”) will be concerned with the Nuremberg Trials, not of the Nazis, but of the industrialists who supported Hitler and who built the furnaces and the bombs. The second episode (“Trespass”) will look at Palestine, which is very ambitious because it’s a complicated and divisive field. And the third one (“Elise”) looks at a scandal within the Special Operations Executive, which has only recently come to light. It’s one of the most horrendous stories of the Second World War, which seems inexplicable even now.

For PBS viewers, 2015 is already shaping up to be another brilliant year for British drama. You can now add Foyle’s War to the mix that already includes new seasons of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge, Endeavour, Scott and Bailey, DCI Banks, Case Histories, Father Brown, Death in Paradise and New Tricks not to mention the new series premieres of Grantchester and Wolf Hall. To be honest, you had me at Foyle’s War!


Order of the Companions of Honour all in a days work for Dame Maggie Smith

October 22, 2014

As if 2014 wasn’t already a busy year for Dame Maggie Smith, on Friday, October 17, the Dowager Countess was made a member of the Order of Companion of Honour in a ceremony at Windsor Castle. Ok, technically, it was actually Dame Maggie Smith that received this well-deserved honor, but it was fun to think about the concept of Queen Elizabeth II meeting the Downton Abbey matriarch even if it was just for a brief moment. Given for outstanding achievement in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry, or religion, the honor recognized Smith for her six decades in theater, cinema and television and puts her in some pretty prestigious company. The award is limited to 65 living people ‘of distinction’. Other members include physicist Stephen Hawking, actors Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench along with artist David Hockney.
The Queen meets the Dowager Countess herself at Windsor Castle

Photo By Dominic Lipinski/AP

Doesn’t look like there will be much in the way of breathing room in the cards for Smith in 2015 as she joins her fellow Dame and CH member, Judi Dench, along with Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tamsin Greig and Celia Imrie for a return trip to the Marigold Hotel in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is headed to theaters in March 2015. As the newly installed co-manager of the hotel, Muriel (Dame Maggie Smith) is the keeper of everyone’s secrets as they welcome a new guest to the hotel played by Richard Gere.

Not one to sit on her awards or relish the thought of having to deal with downtime or a weekend, for that matter, Smith is currently filming “The Lady in the Van” for the big screen, where she will reprise her 1999 stage role as a homeless eccentric who lived in a battered car for 15 years on the driveway of playwright Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (Silk, The Queen).