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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).

‘Happy Valley’ to ‘Grantchester’ was quite a change for James Norton

October 21, 2014

James Norton as Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley

After a recent binge-watching session of Sally Wainwright’s amazing series, Happy Valley, I began to see the inherently evil figure of Tommie Lee Royce on every street corner. Played brilliantly by James Norton, Royce was the stereotypical tormented soul/psychopathic killer (if there is such a thing). Thankfully, to get that image out of my head, all I had to do was quickly fast forward to the premiere of ITV’s Grantchester earlier this month. Norton plays an Anglican priest, Reverend Sidney Chambers, who finds himself involved in solving crimes, assisting the overworked Detective Inspector Keating. Yes, even though Norton’s character in Grantchester chain-smokes, loves women, jazz and booze, it’s still a night and day difference from walking the streets of Happy Valley.
James Norton as Sidney Chambers in Grantchester

Norton recently revealed that he had some difficulties going from sadistic psychopath by day to clergyman-detective by night. “It was quite a gear change,” said Norton. “The two projects were back to back. I did Happy Valley, then I had just a week’s grace before doing Grantchester. So there was a month where I was playing Tommy in the daytime and going home to prepare to play a vicar. I kept desperately trying not to mix the two up. In fact, when I started Grantchester, I was quite tempted to have a few moments where Sidney turns to the camera in a psycho way.”

You inevitably got members of the public watching the filming of Grantchester and occasionally I could see people who were looking at me, thinking, ‘Where have I seen him before?’ Then the penny dropped and they would go, ‘you’re the psychopath!’

While UK viewers have had the good fortune of seeing Norton in both Happy Valley and, now, Grantchester, their American counterparts are a bit late to the James Norton party as of yet. The great news is that American viewers will get a chance to see Norton’s acting range for themselves when Grantchester premieres in early January 2015 on PBS. If you can’t wait until then, Norton can also be seen this coming Sunday in the premiere of Death Comes to Pemberley.

The BBC Genome – 86 years of TV and radio history

October 20, 2014

We’ve all seen those birthday cards that let you know the #1 song on the radio, the price of a gallon of milk or loaf of bread or even the average home price from the year you were born. There are also ways to get the front page of the New York Times for the day you were born. But, how many times have you ever wondered not just what the #1 television show was for the year you were born, but rather what was on telly at the exact moment you were born. Well, thanks to the BBC and Radio Times, you can now easily find out.
BBC Genome Project

The BBC has just launched an unbelievably cool searchable online archive where you can browse the listings from every copy of the Radio Times ever published, from 1923-2009 (in case your wondering, that’s 4,469 separate editions and 350,622 pages covering 4,423,653 individual programs. Imagine, 86 years of TV and radio history at the touch of a button. The BBC Genome Project, which launched on Thursday, takes users to a full plain text TV listing for any given day in the space of just four clicks. There is one qualifier, however. Last minute schedule changes due to sports or breaking news stories are obviously not reflected so what you’ll see is what was ‘scheduled’ for transmission at the time the issue went to print.

Not only will it provide hours of endless ‘I wonder what aired…’ scenarios, it will be a treasure-trove of trivia for that next amaze your friends opportunity at dinner. As this monumental effort is an endless work-in-progress, the BBC Genome welcomes comments from people who worked on the shows or even personal memories from the audience. The project invites also users to contribute their own notes and corrections to the information, which will be added after they are verified.

Isle of Saint Marie to get pretty crowded for ‘Death in Paradise’ 4

October 19, 2014

Returning to the small screen for series 4 in early 2015, Death in Paradise continues to add to and already impressive cast list. Filming has begun with many guest stars already destined for a bit of fun on the crime-ridden island of Saint Marie including Downton Abbey‘s Amy Nuttall, Call the Midwife‘s Leo Staar, Outnumbered‘s Tyger Drew Honey and Broadchurch‘s Will Mellor. Added next to the continually growing cast list were a couple of soap stars, Eastenders‘ Hetti Bywater along with Coronation Street‘s Natalie Gumede. Think that’s it? Not even close. The show’s executive producer Tim Key has just added Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter), Neil Morrissey Men Behaving Badly, Line of Duty, Me & Mrs. Jones), Sally Phillips Miranda, Veep), Jo Absolom (Eastenders, Doc Martin), Nick Moran (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and Downton Abbey‘s James Fox.

The fourth series of Death in Paradise will again follow DI Humphry Goodman (Kris Marshall), Saint Marie’s new detective who arrived following the murder of DI Richard Poole (Ben Miller) at the start of series three. Series 4 will see Goodman begin to struggle with his feelings for Camile (Sara Martins) while Dwayne (Danny John-Jules) is left to hold the fort when Fidel (Gary Carr) gets a job on a neighboring island. Series 4 will transmit on BBC1 in early 2015 with a Spring 2015 broadcast date on public television to follow.

U.S. networks to adapt ‘Moone Boy’, ‘IT Crowd’

October 18, 2014

You might remember NBC’s fatal 2003 attempt at adapting the Steven Moffat/Sue Vertue situation comedy, Coupling. I say fatal because even though there were 11 episodes produced (which is still a miniscule number of episodes for an American sitcom), it was cancelled after only 4 episodes with 7 of them having never seen the light of day to this day. 180 degrees in the other direction, however, was NBC’s re-make of Ricky Gervais’ brilliant series, The Office, which ran for 9 seasons largely due to the talents of Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms.

In yet another ‘bold’ move by U.S. commercial broadcast networks this past week, two series which starred the great Chris O’Dowd, IT Crowd and Moone Boy, will be getting American treatments in the not-too-distant future. The real question is, will this be another Coupling or The Office? Currently airing on a number of public television stations in the U.S., O’Dowd’s semi-autobiographical sitcom, Moone Boy, focuses on 12 year-old Martin Moone and the sarcastic, imaginary friend (O’Dowd) who helps him navigate the challenges of his eccentric childhood. According to Deadline.com, ABC has given the green light for a pilot American version of Moone Boy, which won the International Emmy for best comedy last year. O’Dowd will write the single-camera remake and will executive produce with 3 Arts’ Dave Becky & Nick Frenkel, Sprout Pictures Limited, Baby Cow Productions & Hot Cod Productions Limited for Sony Pictures TV.

Not to be outdone in the endlessly ongoing ‘let’s do an American version of a brilliant British situation comedy sweepstakes‘, NBC has targeted an earlier Chris O’Dowd vehicle to bring to U.S. television, The IT Crowd. While this won’t be the network’s first attempt to bring this series to America, this one at least has a bit of potential given those associated with the upcoming project. Bill Lawrence, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, of Community fame, are no strangers to ‘workplace’ comedies such as IT Crowd. In addition to Community, all three were involved with Scrubs from the beginning as well as Spin City. That said, the jury will forever be out as to if this is a good idea to keep trying to ‘American-ize’ brilliant British telly or if it’s officially time for American television to come up with their own ideas. It can be done, you know. Think recent examples of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock. Not thinking there are any British predecessors to these ideas. Unfortunately, given the greatness of The IT Crowd, they are already starting with two strikes against them…


Illusionist Derren Brown enters Sherlock stars’ mind palace

October 17, 2014

Derren Brown, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington Stand Up 2 Cancer

I’m afraid that one segment in tonight’s Stand Up to Cancer 2014 fundraising marathon to be broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK won’t go very far in satisfying those that are impatiently awaiting the next installment of Sherlock that is headed our way during Christmas 2015, but it is a bit of fun. Mentalist/Illusionist Derren Brown, who should be quite familiar to Sherlock devotees, plays havoc with Martin Freeman’s mind palace as his Sherlock co-star and off-screen partner, Amanda Abbington, looks on, obviously enjoying watching a totally perplexed Freeman. “Martin has quite a skeptical, very rational approach to those sorts of things,” Brown told the Radio Times. “Immediately afterwards he was trying to work it out, really trying to pull it all apart. I could hear him discussing it in their little entourage. Amanda has a less cool minded approach, she was just enjoying it. It’s great because they’re very funny together, talking it through.

Brown, you might remember, appeared in episode one of series three, “The Empty Hearse”, as a fake-out explanation for how Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock survived his apparent death at the end of the series two episode, “The Reichenbach Fall”. After Sherlock executed a beautiful swan dive off the roof of St Bart’s Hospital (that the Russian Olympic judge would have certainly given him a 10.0), Brown rushed up to hypnotize John Watson.

Stand Up 2 Cancer airs tonight on Channel 4 in the UK with Sherlock, unfortunately, still not returning to the small screen for another 14 months!

Foyle’s War creator/writer sets sights on Moriarty and James Bond

October 16, 2014

If David Tennant is the hardest working man in show business, then writer Anthony Horowitz has to be considered the hardest working man in the literary world. Aside from his countless novels written over the years, many will, no doubt, associate Horowitz with his screenwriting telly work on Robin of Sherwood, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Murder Most Horrid, many of the early episodes of Midsomer Murders, a very well-crafted small-screen mini-series, Collision and, obviously, the creator/writer of Foyle’s War, starring Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks. In January of this year, Horowitz was awarded the OBE for his services to literature, joined the board of the Old Vic and continues to contribute to numerous national newspapers and magazines.

With another series of Foyle’s War under his belt and set for a 2015 transmission, Horowitz’s second book delving into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Moriarty, is set to be released on Thursday, 23 October in the UK. The book begins days after Sherlock Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls. Unfortunately, the death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a shadowy figure who has risen to take his place, a criminal mastermind determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.

The #IsawMoriarty carriage tour – yet another reason to live in the UK….

In celebration of next Thursday’s UK release of Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz will be touring London by horse and carriage, traveling past some of London’s most famous landmarks. Horowitz will be stopping at seven branches of Waterstones, ending at Waterstones Piccadilly for his launch event, Murder, Mayhem and Moriarty. Check it out if you are in the area next Thursday!

With Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty already in the horse and carriage’s rear-view mirror, Horowitz is already moving on to tackle another classic hero, James Bond, adapting an unpublished short story by Bond creator Ian Fleming into a full novel, due to be released September 2015 by Orion Books. Said Horowitz, “It’s no secret that Ian Fleming’s extraordinary character has had a profound influence on my life, so when the [Fleming] estate approached me to write a new James Bond novel how could I possibly refuse? It’s a huge challenge – more difficult even than Sherlock Holmes in some ways – but having original, unpublished material by Fleming has been an inspiration. This is a book I had to write.” Personally, sounds like a book I definitely have to read then….right after I finish Moriarty, of course.