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Tellyspotting is 5! Can you believe it?

October 1, 2014

I know there are those of you out there that will immediately say “Gee, you don’t look a day over four!“. Hard to believe it has been five years already. Seems just like yesterday that the first post of our brief existence announced on October 1, 2009 that it was Time for Tellyspotting!. And now, over 2000 posts later (2,003 to be exact), here we are better than ever because of one thing — YOU! Your love of all-things British, our shared recognition that British comedy and drama is the best telly on telly and your comments/feedback over the last five years make it really easy to look forward to the next five. And, thanks so much to the folks over at the London Underground for this really special greeting!
 
Tellyspotting London Tube sign

A lot has changed since that fateful day of 10.01.09 when you think about it. Here’s where I could launch into how much a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread cost back then but there are a just a few more important things to understand how our lives have changed. Just imagine a 2009 world where it was BD (Before Downton Abbey), BS (Before Sherlock) BRDX (Before Red Dwarf X) and we were coming to the end of the David Tennant era on Doctor Who. There was no Scott and Bailey, no Endeavour, no Call the Midwife or even Miranda for that matter. At the time, we only knew of Miranda Hart from a brief guest shot in Lead Balloon and a leading role in Hyperdrive with Nick Frost. And, one of the best series ever to grace the small screen, Spooks or MI-5 if you’re in the States, still had three seasons to go!

In the last five years, we have had the great good fortune to sit down and interview a number of amazing individuals for Tellyspotting. Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) immediately comes to mind as does Michael Palin (Monty Python, Brazil with Michael Palin), Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby (George Gently), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and Jonathan Lynn (Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister). And, there’s more to come in the not-too-distant future (hint: think New Tricks!) so stick around and join us for the next five and beyond. It’s going to be a great ride but it won’t be the same without you!

A special thanks to everyone that has written to us, commented on or even read just one post in the last five years. Thanks, also, to BBC Worldwide for their overwhelming support from Day One, to John Manthorpe over at ITV for all the advance press material, to Acorn Media for constantly thinking of us when actors are made available for interviews and to Mark over at the British Comedy Guide for warning me in the beginning stages back in 2009 as to what I was getting ready to get myself into.

Thinking back, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I wouldn’t trade anything in the last five years for anything. So, here’s to the next 2,003 posts. Are you with me?

Inspector Lewis returns to PBS with Hathaway in-tow

September 30, 2014

There was no joy in Mudville back in the Fall of 2013 when news came out of the UK that Inspector Robert ‘Robbie’ Lewis and Detective Sergeant James Hathaway were pulling a Brett Favre and were going to ‘retire’ after seven series. As you can imagine, when ITV announced that both Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox were ‘un-retiring’ and were set to reprise their roles as the ‘perfect’ detective team solving murders against the backdrop of the beautiful university spires of Oxford, it was more than welcome news. Things have changed just a bit, however, since we last left the duo.

After an extended break from the Police, Hathaway has been promoted to Inspector. When the chemistry that was so much a part of his relationship with Lewis eludes Hathaway, a retired Lewis is drafted back to renew their partnership. It will be interesting to see how both Lewis and Hathaway will come to grips with their new found dynamic in order to achieve results. Clare Holman, who was introduced to viewers as forensic pathologist Laura Hobson in the 1995 Morse film, “The Way through the Woods”, and has continued to appear in Lewis in recent years. Rebecca Front will also return to the series as Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent who is frequently at odds with Lewis over his investigative style.
 

 
The first installment, ‘Entry Wounds’, which will premiere on PBS’ Masterpiece series this Sunday, October 5 at 9:00p ET/8:00p CT followed by “The Lions of Nenea” on October 12 and then, closing out the new season, “Beyond Good and Evil” on October 19.

Could Leonardo da Vinci ever have imagined ‘Mona Lisa Bean’?

September 29, 2014

Something that most British comedy fans knew from day one has come to life thanks to Southern Louisiana artist, Rodney Pike. Mr. Bean, the classic Richard Curtis comedy series which starred the rubber-faced Rowan Atkinson, is…Art, in the truest sense of the word. Pike, who lived in the UK for several years back in the 90′s, felt his love of classic art and Atkinson’s Bean character was about as good of a match as when bacon collided with chocolate in recent years. “Rowan Atkinson can make any situation funny no matter how absurd,” he explained.

Up first was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa which probably sent chills throughout the art world as Pike gave the iconic portrait an unlikely makeover by adding in Rowan Atkinson’s face instead.
 
Mona Bean?

(PICTURED: Mona Lisa Bean by Rodney Pike/Caters) Created by photoshopping Rowan Atkinsons comedic characters on to some of the most iconic artworks through history. Other pieces given the Blackadder and Mr Bean treatment, include Holbein the Youngers portrait of Henry VIII and Rembrandts self-portrait. For more works of greatness by Rodney Pike, click here.

‘The Paradise’ set to re-open tonight on PBS’ Masterpiece

September 28, 2014

At long last, The Paradise is set for a series 2 return tonight on PBS’ Masterpiece Classic series. While the doors have been shuttered since series 1 came to a close almost a year ago in November 2013, fans of the BBC drama series have been wondering whether or not the second series would make its way to the US given it ended in the UK last December. Beginning tonight, Sundays will once again be Must See TV leading viewers up to the next long-awaited series return of Downton Abbey on January 4, 2015.

During series 1, viewers of The Paradise, the BBC’s answer to ITV’s Mr. Selfridge, lived vicariously through the life of a bright-eyed country girl, Denise Lovett, played brilliantly by Joanna Vanderham. You know her, the girl with endless new ideas on how to promote business, who found more than just shop-girl work when she brought those clever ideas and endless ambition to Britain’s glamorous first department store, The Paradise. It wasn’t all that easy as Lovett came to know first hand the power struggles, intrigues and romance of retail catching the attention of the store’s dashing and enigmatic owner, John Moray. The Paradise revolves around the lives of the people who live and work in the store, each bound in their own way by the power of the world they live in, and the pasts that follow them there. It’s a love story, a mystery, a lavish costume drama and a social comedy all in one.
 

 
As you can see, series 2 takes place a year after the dramatic events (and all that that entails) which occurred in the series 1 finale. Unfortunately, no spoilers here so you’ll have to wait until tonights premiere to find out what’s in store (sorry) for Lord Glendenning, Katherine, Denise and Moray. It promises to be more of the same…power struggles, intrigues and romance. Can’t wait.

We heard from a number of you asking where The Paradise is filmed. The series was filmed at Lambton Castle in County Durham in England, which was converted into an 1870s bustling upmarket department store, complete with a Victorian street with shops and a tavern. Ah, the magic of telly.

Series 2 will premiere tonight and air each Sunday at 8p ET/7p CT on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Classic series through November 16.

Ranking the best of ‘Sherlock’ as we (patiently) wait for 2016

September 27, 2014

The Sherlock Nation is already painfully aware that it’s a very, very long time until anyone will see new episodes. A long, long time as in 15 months to be exact when a Christmas special rolls around in 2015, followed by three new episodes in 2016 for series 4.

Thankfully, the folks over at DigitalSpy have created just the thing for those suffering from separation anxiety that will keep everyone talking until 2016. It’s hard to believe that as much as <em>Sherlock</em>, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have been a part of our collective mind palaces for almost 5 years now, there are only a total of nine episodes that exists. That’s almost as hard to believe as the fact that there are only 12 episodes that exists in the most brilliant of comedies of all-time, <em>Fawlty Towers</em>.  Of course, it makes the wait even more excruciating when you hear co-creator/writer, Steven Moffat, refer to the forthcoming series as devastating and series star, Benedict Cumberbatch, say that from what he’s read so far of the proposed storyline, series 4 will be ‘phenomenal‘.
 
Sherlock-John-Watson-BBC

So, what better way to pass the time than to binge watch the 9 episodes over and over while ranking them from 1-9. It’s impossible to rank them from best to worst because even the use of the word ‘worst’ should never be uttered in the same sentence as <em>Sherlock</em>. How about just rank order them 1-9 as far as which ones are your most favorite. According to Digital Spy, their 1-9 rankings are as follows with a bit of their explanations as to why. How about you?

  • 9. ‘The Blind Banker’ (Series 1, Episode 2) – citing the fact that the episode “centers as it does on a hokey and politically dubious yarn about a band of Chinese smugglers on a murderous treasure hunt”, makes this their obvious choice for #9.
  • 8. ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ (Series 2, Episode 2) – it may be the best known and best loved of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, according to Digital Spy, “The Hound of the Baskervilles remains a bitch to adapt”.
  • 7. ‘The Empty Hearse’ (Series 3, Episode 1) – as they say, following “The Reichenbach Fall” is unfair to any episode that follows. “…the hypothetical ‘How Sherlock did it’ sequences and nods towards the show’s ballooning fandom are breathlessly entertaining flourishes but don’t have much re-watch value”.
  • 6. ‘His Last Vow’ (Series 3, Episode 3) – the episode was “…convoluted, an ambitious emotional powerhouse and disturbing” all in one. It’s easy to see why it took home a couple of Emmys this year. Let’s see…Sherlock has killed a man and is going into exile, John is about to become a father, and Moriarty is back from the dead (maybe). It neatly gave us a series ender that will something to think about for the next 15 months.
  • 5. ‘The Great Game’ (Series 1, Episode 3) – this dark and strangely compelling series one finale has everything. A climactic poolside confrontation, the beginning of a very deranged portrayal of Moriarty by Andrew Scott thus establishing the key idea that Moriarty is a dark mirror image of Sherlock and provides the first real test of Sherlock’s and John’s relationship that in its’ early stages.
  • 4. ‘The Sign of Three’ (Series 3, Episode 2) – Considered the show’s most character-centric and comedic to date, which means as a fan you either hated it or loved it. There was no in-between. The highlight of the episode is Sherlock delivering a perfect, characteristically tone-deaf yet ultimately moving best man’s speech at John’s wedding, which weaves together flashbacks, character comedy, emotional revelation and a present-day mystery.
  • 3. ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ (Series 2, Episode 1) – Laura Pulver stars as Irene Adler, he first person we’ve ever seen Sherlock unable to “read”.
  • 2. ‘A Study in Pink’ (Series 1, Episode 1) – Quite simply, a masterclass in economical character introduction.
  • 1. ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ (Series 2, Episode 3) – No explanation needed here.

 
The Reichenbach Fall

For my money, there is no arguing about the #1 spot. “The Reichenbach Fall” is a good as television gets. I might have to bump up “A Scandal in Belgravia” to the #2 slot. It does feature the great Laura Pulver as Irene Adler after all. It’s a tough call, however, as “A Study in Pink” does have the greatness of Phil Davis as a serial killer who forces his victims to commit suicide.

That’s the great thing about a series like Sherlock. I’m betting you could binge watch them over and over and every time you finish, you would come out with a different 1-9 order. What do you think?

2015 set to be a busy year for Ben Whishaw

September 26, 2014

Already signed to play Freddie Mercury in the forthcoming film chronicling the life of Queen frontman, Ben Whishaw will also be returning to the small screen for a BBC2 espionage thriller, London Spy. Whishaw will also reprise his role as Q in the next Bond film, Bond 24 in 2015.
 
Ben Whishaw as Q in Skyfall

The as-yet-to-be-titled Freddie Mercury film, to be penned by Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan, will tell the coming of age story of the band, culminating in Queen’s headline performance at Live Aid in 1985. In London Spy, Whishaw will play Danny in Tom Rob Smith’s first television drama series, where he will immediately get sucked into the world of British espionage. The five-part drama is set to begin filming next month.

If his 2015 calendar isn’t quite maxed out yet, the former star of the BBC drama, The Hour will also star as Herman Melville in The Heart of the Sea, a Warner Bros film about the whale attack that spawned Moby Dick.

For those that have been in the witness protection program for the past couple of years and who may not be aware of the world of Ben Whishaw, check out The Hour which, without explanation, went to BBC series heaven last year after only two brilliant series.
 

 

Grantchester headed to ITV/PBS

September 25, 2014

Grantchester, set against the backdrop of the real hamlet of Grantchester, is the newest addition to an already stellar drama lineup over at ITV and could soon be a part of the PBS drama line-up. The six-part drama focuses upon the life of Sidney Chambers, played by James Norton (Death Comes to Pemberley, Happy Valley), a charismatic, charming clergyman who turns investigative vicar when one of his parishioners dies in suspicious circumstances. Based on the James Runcie novel, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the series also stars Robson Green (Strike Back, Being Human, Reckless) as police inspector Geordie Keating. Public Television fans will no doubt also remember Green’s brilliant performance in the late 90′s series, Touching Evil.
 

 
Much like Father Brown, another brilliantly done series that comes to public television from the BBC, the relationship between Sidney Chambers and Geordie Keating is a bit of an unlikely partnership which quickly becomes a true friendship as each offers a different insight into the crimes they begin to unravel. One could easily draw the same conclusions about the early days of Father Brown and Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer). Then, when Valentine was promoted and went to London, his successor, Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers), quickly became exasperated by Father Brown’s meddling and contradicting his findings, Eventually, however, he was won over as he began to recognize Father Brown’s efforts as being more helpful than meddlesome.

In the case of both Father Brown and Grantchester, intuitive crime solving meets the methodical police approach which makes for great telly.

First look: Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in BBC2′s Hollow Crown: War of the Roses

September 24, 2014

Filming for the second cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays airing on BBC2 and PBS in America under the Hollow Crown is now underway. As with the first set of programs, this years follow-up sports quite the line-up that plays out like a who’s who of British actors who will lend their talents and star in the series’ four-part adaptation of both Henry VI (in three parts) and Richard III. Dame Judi Dench (Duchess of York), Benedict Cumberbatch (King Richard III), Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret), Tom Strurridge (Henry VI) and Keeley Hawes (Elizabeth Woodville) will star in Richard III with Cumberbatch cast in the lead as Shakespeare’s hunch-backed monarch.

For Cumberbatch, this will be a perfect transition into Shakespeare and his theatre role as Hamlet in 2015 from his more recent roles as the world’s most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, and more movies that anyone can legally count. Here, Cumberbatch shows off his horse-riding skills and looking very un-Sherlock like…
 
Benedict Cumberbatch on a horse for Richard III

For the multi-part Henry VI, Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville stars as Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester with Sally Hawkins as Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester and Tom Sturridge in the title role as King Henry VI. Look for the second set of Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses in 2015 on BBC2 and on PBS as part of the Great Performances series in the States.

A bit of ‘Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014′ casting news for you

September 23, 2014

Nick Frost (Mr. Sloane, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End and Cuban Fury) and Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street) will star in this years Doctor Who Christmas Special it was announced by the BBC on Friday. Michael Troughton (Breathless, The New Statesman), who has recently returned to acting, will also appear in the special following in his father Patrick Troughton’s footsteps, who played the second incarnation of the Doctor.
 
doctor_christmas_3044688b

Following the announcement that Frost would be joining the cast, the star of Mr. Sloane sounded a bit like a what I can only imagine the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, sounded when he learned of his new role as the Traveling Time Lord saying, “I’m so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas special, I’m such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream ‘No spoilers!’. Every day on set I’ve had to silence my internal fan-boy squeals!” Executive producer Steven Moffat added: “Frost at Christmas – it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it’s a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.”

In true Doctor Who fashion, even though filming has begun in Cardiff, story and plot lines are under wraps on a level that rivals Downton Abbey and Sherlock filming. Depending on who you talk to or what you read, “departing” companion Jenna Coleman (Death Comes to Pemberley) also promises some big surprises this holiday season. “We do see Clara beginning to fall for Danny,” Coleman hints. “There’s a big surprise we’ve got coming. It’s much better that nobody knows which way it’s going to go, so that’s where we’re trying to keep it at the moment.

I know you never really need a reason to look forward to Christmas, but this might be reason enough for those that want to put it off as long as possible…Look for the Doctor Who Christmas Special this 25 December.

Groundskeeper Willie speaks out on Scottish independence vote

September 22, 2014

When a program or series across the pond gets the parody treatment, it usually means you’ve arrived. With countless spoofs and parodies behind them, the leader in the clubhouse for the past several years has been Downton Abbey. From Jimmy Fallon to Saturday Night Live to Funny or Die, the British period drama has been the target of some top-notch brilliance in recent years. Prior to last weeks referendum vote on Scottish independence, there were countless celebrities putting in their two cents for both sides trying to swing the vote for either ‘Yes Scotland’ or ‘Better Together’.

One celebrity, however, stood out from the rest in throwing his support for Scottish independence. None other than Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons took to the airwaves to not only voice his strong support for independence but to also declare his intention to lead the ‘New Scotland’ onto the world stage. With his slogan of ‘Aye or Die, how can you argue? Here, Groundskeeper Willie lets everyone know his thoughts on the vote.
 

 
Now that the vote has come and gone with approximately 54% of Scotland voting to remain part of the United Kingdom and 46% believing a independent Scotland was the way to go, Groundskeeper Willie seems to have taken the final vote kind of hard with all indications being that he has been drowning his sorrows since last Friday morning.
 
Groundskeeper Willie

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