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Spooks/MI-5 vs 24 revisited….again.

May 8, 2014

Unfortunately, I thought we had closed the book on this debate but given the fact that Jack is back and 24 is again part of the television landscape, it bears repeating…again. And, since there will be a Spooks feature film in the not-too-distant future, why not be ahead of the curve and end the debate before it begins.

24 Live Another Dayspooks and harry pearceInstead of creating yet another troubling argument that goes on only in my head, I have to open this debate to everyone since it’s that time again when 24 fans are putting the show on a pedestal while describing MI5 (Spooks in the UK) as the British 24. Must I verbalize the laundry list of reasons as to why there is no comparison between the two? MI5 was, IMHO, one of the best shows on television, if not the best. MI5 out-distances 24 in writing, acting, storyline, believability, editing, use of music and more. AND, it has Harry Pearce.

Jack Bauer won’t (or can’t) die

The fact that you watch every episode of 24 knowing full well that Jack Bauer won’t die no matter what happens is enough to place it well below the realistic nature of MI5. 24‘s only “bit” is that each season takes place in 24 hours. Having seen all 10 seasons of MI5, I’ve often wondered why the writers have never shied away from killing off characters or banishing them to Siberia, both major and minor, during a season. I finally came to the conclusion that as frustrating and as mind-numbing as it is to invest emotional effort into the characters only to have them “disappear” or actually die by an assassin’s bullet or explosion adds the realism that is lacking in 24.

It’s tough enough for any series to last a decade in today’s television landscape as both 24 and MI5 have. With MI5, it has to be a brain rush to write a series of this nature that gives you the freedom to be real, to be fresh and also keep the audience as tense as humanly possible with every explosion or every bullet leaving the chamber because we truly don’t know who is coming back each week. On 24, Jack Bauer always heals by the next week (or next hour since it all takes place in 24 hours).

Someone, talk me down from the ledge

Tell me there are others out there that can’t wait to binge watch MI5 again. Or, if you’re a 24 fan, it’s your turn. I know the newest incarnation of 24: Live Another Day is shot in London so that helps me a bit. But, I’m willing to listen. Well, sort of. You have 23:59:45.

Mark Gatiss goes from Mycroft to Tycho Nestoris in this weeks Game of Thrones

May 7, 2014

Full disclosure up front. I’ve never seen an episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, this goes in the stack of DVD boxed sets of series television gold such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and West Wing that I have never seen in their entirety. Before you get up and leave the room, I have seen every episode of Spooks, Hustle, Doc Martin, House of Cards, the original, Doctor Who, Death in Paradise, Father Brown, New Tricks, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and, of course, Downton Abbey and Sherlock. So, I do have the ability to either binge watch or hang with something weekly from an appointment television standpoint. It’s just that there are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately. That said, I am watching Fargo currently so I’m not a total lost cause.

For the millions of Game of Thrones fans out there, I’m well aware that there are a few spoilers in the upcoming promo which gives us our first look at Sherlock co-creator/writer, Mark Gatiss, who plays Tycho Nestoris in this coming Sundays episode. So, if you’re not up-to-speed with series 4 as of yet, you may not want to watch or read on just yet.

Danaerys’s dragons are back…

In this week’s episode, titled “The Laws of Gods and Men”, Gatiss plays Tycho Nestoris, a representative of the Iron Bank of Bravos who, as you can see, is having a lovely chat with Stannis Baratheon about…money. Also in Sundays episode, there is Yara Greyjoy’s attempted rescue of her brother Theon (Reek) from the Dreadfort and the clutches of Ramsay Snow, the “Bastard of Bolton”, Tyrion’s trial for the murder of King Joffrey and some seriously pretty cool looking dragons.

I may have to rethink putting this on the ‘I’ll get to this someday’ stack. Game of Thrones, series 4 episode 6, airs this Sunday (Mother’s Day) on HBO and Monday at 9p on Sky Atlantic in the UK. Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day like a boxed set of the first three seasons of Game of Thrones…just a thought.

Let the ‘Downton Abbey’ rumor mill games begin…

May 6, 2014

Much like death and taxes, the only thing that anyone can truly count on to happen these days is that right around this time of year, two months into filming of the new series marks that it’s open season on the annual Downton Abbey rumor mill. For the past four years, like clockwork, official production stills and/or video mixed with the customary rampant storyline speculation starts to leak out to viewers via the Internets. The first ‘unofficial’ photo to appear within the last several weeks was from the twitter feed of a beaming Richard E. Grant, which looked like it was taken straight out of his days on another Julian Fellowes project, Gosford Park. As we head into series 5, which will premiere this Autumn on ITV1 in the UK and on Sunday, January 4, 2015 on PBS’Masterpiece series, the rumors are beginning to fly….

The first rumor to step up to the plate involves the free-spirited, jazz-loving Lady Rose, played by Lily James. According to ‘reports’, James will be the latest high-profile departure from the show at the end of the upcoming season, following in the footsteps of Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) and Siobhan Finneran, who played the great Mrs. O’Brien. We won’t even mention last year’s departure of the evil Nanny West after only one episode. On the upside, James will not be killed off in a shocking car accident or die in childbirth according to the ever-popular ‘unnamed Downton source’ but will merely leave the show (maybe she’ll head to America in search of Jack Ross) with the possibility of returning for the Christmas special next series.

As we mentioned last Summer, James will be heading the cast of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. With the Disney film is set to release nationally around Easter 2015, it is being rumored that series 5 of Downton Abbey will be her last given the commitments necessary for her to be available to promote the film during what should be the timeframe for the filming of series 6 of Downton Abbey to begin. Before anyone thinks we’re floating the rumor out there that there will be a series 6, that has NOT been confirmed as to yet so, yes, it is just that…a rumor.

‘Wolf Hall’ headed to PBS/BBC 2 with all-star cast in tow

May 5, 2014

As we reported last Fall, Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, are headed to BBC Two and PBS in 2015. Filming has begun on Wolf Hall, the small screen adaptation of Mantel’s historical Tudor novels which follow the atmospheric rise to power of Cromwell, the powerful minister, within Henry VIII’s court. The eventual chief minister to the King was born to a blacksmith in Putney and initially came to prominence when he served under Cardinal Wolsey before rising through the ranks to become Henry’s most trusted advisor.

In addition to Tony and Olivier award-winning actor, Mark Rylance, who will play Thomas Cromwell, recent additions include Homeland star Damian Lewis who will play the King, Saskia Reeves (Lewis, Page Eight, Wallander, Vera) has been cast as Cromwell’s sister-in-law Johane with Charity Wakefield (Any Human Heart, Agatha Christie’s Marple) starring as Mary Boleyn, the royal mistress and sister to Henry VIII’s second wife Anne, who will be played by Claire Foy (Little Dorrit, Upstairs Downstairs). Joanne Whalley (Jamaica Inn) will play Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, with the powerful, but ill-fated, Cardinal Wolsey to be played by Jonathan Pryce, Sherlock co-creator/writer, Mark Gatiss, playing a civil servant and Game of Thrones’ Anton Lesser will play Thomas More.

Set for a 2015 premiere, Wolf Hall will be directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Kosminsky (White Oleander, Warriors, No Child of Mine, The Promise) and written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

Dad’s Army to get big screen treatment

May 4, 2014

Captain Mainwaring, Sergeant Wilson and Private Pike are going back on patrol some 37 years after they were last on duty protecting the quiet seaside town of Walmington-on-Sea from a Nazi invasion. Dad’s Army, which starred Arthur Lowe, followed the escapades of the Home Guard platoon during World War II and their efforts as the front line in the event of an invasion across the English Channel. Consisting primarily of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, the Home Guard in Dad’s Army were ‘ineligible’ largely due to age.
Dad's Army headed to the big screen starring Bill Nighy and Toby Jones

Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft (Are You Being Served, ‘Allo ‘Allo), it was only a matter of time before the iconic late 60′s BBC2 sitcom was turned into a feature film. The 90-year-old Perry is set to co-produce the new film with BAFTA award winning British producer Damian Jones (History Boys, The Iron Lady) which will star the greatness that is Bill Nighy (Page Eight, Love Actually, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The World’s End) as upper-class bank employee Sergeant Wilson, who always questioned Captain Mainwaring’s judgment, alongside Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor, The Hunger Games, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), who will headline as local bank manager, the exceedingly patriotic Captain Mainwaring.

Dad’s Army, which ran for nine series between 1968 and 1977 on BBC2, finished fourth in the 2004 Britain’s Best Sitcom poll. It will be interesting to see how this translates to the big screen. At first glance, even though it still has legs on the small screen anytime it transmits, I’m not sure this will work, but with Bill Nighy, how can it not. Thoughts?

‘Last Tango in Halifax’ returns June 29 on PBS

May 3, 2014

After seeing series 1 of Sally Wainwright’s Last Tango in Halifax, I’m convinced that if you looked up the words ‘family baggage’ in the dictionary, you’d see a cast photo. A stellar cast, btw. Headed up by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, Last Tango in Halifax also stars Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker star as Caroline and Gillian, the respective daughters of Celia and Alan.

With series 2 getting ready to premiere on PBS beginning June 29, you won’t be able to tell the players without a scorecard so how about a quick series 1 recap. Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) are both widowed and in their seventies. While they were attracted to each other as teenagers, they really never expressed their feelings for one another. Through the magic that is Facebook, Alan and Celia are reunited and pick up right where they left off some 50+ years ago. Wainwright, who also created and wrote the brilliant Scott and Bailey, has said, on numerous occasions, that she based much of the series on her own personal experiences with her mother, Dorothy, actually reconnecting on Friends United with a childhood friend Alec, ultimately marrying. Thankfully, that’s about where the real-life similarities end and the writer’s embellishment family baggage storylines kick in.
Last Tango in Halifax S2

In Season 2, the six-part series returns as Alan and Celia continue to navigate through the inevitable family baggage to plan a life together. Having come so close to losing each other forever thanks to Alan’s near fatal heart attack, he and Celia decide to have a romantic secret wedding as soon as possible.

The uptight Caroline and rebellious Gillian are discovering they actually quite like each other, however Gillian’s need to own up to her night with Caroline’s ex-husband John could jeopardize the soon-to-be stepsisters’ fledgling friendship. As secrets from the past come tumbling out and family members adjust to changing relationships, can Alan and Celia find the long-awaited happiness they deserve?

It’s going to be a great night of telly on PBS on June 29. Following the series 2 premiere of Last Tango in Halifax, it’s the return of Endeavour for a second series and then you can see a whole different side of Derek Jacobi and the premiere of Vicious. More on both of these soon….

Nick Frost is Mr. Sloane….that’s Sloane with an ‘e’, like the Square

May 2, 2014

Unfortunately, the ’60s didn’t swing for everyone…

Television set in the 60′s these days dials up a pretty high coolness quotient given that, for the most part, our frame of reference is Mad Men or BBC’s The Hour. Mr. Sloane, set in Watford in 1969, however, is at the opposite end of the Earth from Sterling Cooper’s Madison Avenue address in New York City. Jeremy Sloane (with an ‘E’, like the square) is no Don Draper. He wears a clip-on tie, for starters. Written and directed by Robert B. Weide, of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, Mr. Sloane pushes all the right romantic comedy buttons with Jeremy Sloane being someone you really want to pull for…
Nick Frost and Olivia Colman star in Mr. Sloane on Sky Atlantic HD

Jeremy is a really nice guy. Unfortunately, a really nice guy not quite ready for the swinging 60′s going through a fairly sizable rough patch in life. He’s a buttoned-down 1960′s man in crisis trying to balance his failed attempts at marriage, career success and even suicide. It’s fair to say that 1969 isn’t shaping up to be the Watford-dweller’s year. Things are looking up, however, with a potential job opportunity on the horizon and the phone number of a prospective new love interest following a chance encounter in his local hardware store.

Having had the opportunity to screen the entire series at the BBC Showcase in Liverpool earlier this year, this is good telly. Make it a point to see this when it transmits. Well worth the effort. Mr. Sloane, which also stars Olivia Colman, Ophelia Lovibond and Peter Serafinowicz, is coming soon to Sky Atlantic HD. Hopefully, this will cross the Atlantic not long after and make its way to public television stations.

Sir Patrick Stewart to tackle American cable news in ‘Blunt Talk’

May 1, 2014

Fresh off of a recent stellar performance on Buzzfeed’s edition of The Newlywed Game with Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart has been cast to star in an upcoming Seth MacFarlane sitcom project for premium channel, Starz. In Blunt Talk, Stewart will star as British journalist Walter Blunt who is on a mission to conquer American cable news by inflicting his unwanted wisdom on his ‘dysfunctional’ staff. As a late night TV talk show host, Blunt is described as possessing equal parts ‘borderline alcoholic’ and ‘mad-genius Brit’. Through his nightly interview show, he attempts to impart his wisdom and guidance to Americans with his only supporter being his British alcoholic butler.

It won’t be the first crossing of brilliance between Stewart and MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and American Dad. As the voice of CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock on American Dad, Stewart knows full well what he’s getting in to. “My career took an abrupt and radical left turn when Seth McFarlane created CIA Deputy Director Avery Bullock on American Dad. This new character, Walter Blunt, is not at all like Avery, thank God, because this is live action and I am a Knight of the Realm. Blunt is, however, much smarter than Avery and has his own TV show, which has to be better than being Deputy Director of the CIA“, said Stewart.

Bored to Death creator, Jonathan Ames, created the idea of will serve as the series showrunner with MacFarlane writing and exec producing. The series is set for a 2015 premiere on Starz. Stewart’s other half on The Newlywed Game, Sir Ian McKellen, is prepping for a second series of Vicious with co-star Sir Derek Jacobi which will transmit this Fall on ITV.

‘Indian Summers’ headed to PBS’ Masterpiece in 2015

April 30, 2014

Coming to a telly near you in 2015, the next PBS Masterpiece will have it all. Created and written by Paul Rutman (Vera), Indian Summers is filled with the stories of promises, secrets, politics, power, sex and love as the British Raj begins to falter, opening its eyes to the possibilities of freedom. Add in a stellar cast and you might just forget that it’s 10 months between series of Downton Abbey and that Sherlock could leave you wanting for up to two years.

Julie Walters (Harry Potter, The Hollow Crown), Henry Lloyd-Hughes (The Inbetweeners, Harry Potter, Madame Bovary), Jemima West (The Borgias, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Nikesh Patel (Bedlam, Honour), Roshan Seth (A Passage to India, Ghandi) and Lillete Dubey (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Monsoon Wedding) will star in Masterpiece‘s ten-part epic drama “Indian Summers” targeted for a 2015 premiere.

Set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, the drama tells the rich and explosive story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India, from both sides of the experience. But at the heart of the story lie the implications and ramifications of the tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes that define the lives of those brought together in this summer which will change everything.

It’s the summer of 1932. India dreams of Independence, but the British are clinging to power. In the foothills of the Himalayas stands Simla, a little England where every summer the British power-brokers of this nation are posted to govern during the summer months.

Also joining the cast are Alexander Cobb (Mr. Selfridge, Call the Midwife), Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty, Misfits), Fiona Glascott (Episodes), Amber Rose Revah (What Remains), Aysha Kala (Shameless), Olivia Grant (Endeavour) and Edward Hogg (The Borgias).

Visually, this series will be stunning. With Julie Walters heading the cast, 2015 can’t get here soon enough.

Familiar faces to head upcoming comedy projects beginning tonight!

April 29, 2014

With so much attention being paid to recent drama greatness such as the Sunday night return of Vera and last nights premiere of Prey starring John Simm, we have been neglecting the strong comedy offerings that are on the horizon starting tonight on BBC One.

Over to Bill – tonight on BBC One’s Comedy Playhouse
Programme Name: Comedy Playhouse: Over to Bill - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Jez (NEIL MORRISSEY), Bill (HUGH DENNIS) - (C) Baby Cow & Three Feet Productions - Photographer: Des Willie

Comedy Playhouse, the comedy incubator series that launched the likes of Steptoe and Son, Till Death Do Us Part, Are You Being Served and Last of the Summer Wine, returns tonight with Over to Bill, a pilot project from Red Dwarf co-creator, Doug Naylor, starring Hugh Dennis as a weatherman who gets fired and then finds getting back on TV is much harder than he expected. From Baby Cow and Three Feet Productions, Over to Bill also stars Neil Morrissey (Me and Mrs. Jones, Line of Duty, Men Behaving Badly) as BFF, Jez.

Darren Boyd goes from Spy to Delivery Man
Darren Boyd in Spy

Darren Boyd (Whites, Dirk Gently, Spy, The Guilty) is trading in his MI5 badge and gun to become a midwife in Delivery Man. Produced by Moniker Pictures of Green Wing fame, Delivery Man also stars Fay Ripley (Reggie Perrin), Alex Macqueen (The Thick Of It), Dominic Coleman (Trollied), Aisling Bea (Dead Boss) and Holli Dempsey (Derek). The pilot episode has already been filmed, but no transmission date set as of yet on ITV1. If commissioned for a full season, most likely the pilot will become the first episode of the series.

Katherine Parkinson is Semi-Detached
Katherine Parkinson is Semi Detached

Another upcoming ITV comedy pilot features Katherine Parkinson (IT Crowd, Old Guys, Doc Martin, Sherlock) in Semi Detached and will follow a group of mature adult housemates who were hoping to have achieved more in life at their age. The group are either single, divorced or separated, and are forced to live in a half-way house together, despite not sharing anything in common. Semi-Detched will also star Ralf Little (The Royle Family) and Stephen Tompkinson (Ballykissangel, DCI Banks) as Parkinson’s half-way house flat mates. Filming will get underway in May with no transmission date set.

The huge ‘duh factor’ in all of this drama/comedy war between ITV and the BBC is that viewers on both sides of the Atlantic are the beneficiary to receive good telly. Stay tuned.