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Brenda Blethyn set for ‘Vera’ return in 2015

June 16, 2014

As series 4 begins on public television in America, filming has begun in the North East of England for series 5 of Vera. Academy Award nominee Brenda Blethyn reprises her role as the brilliantly perceptive DC Vera Stanhope alongside her new partner, DS Aiden Healy, played by Kenny Doughty. Gone from the forthcoming series is DS Joe Ashworth, played by David Leon, finally getting his long-awaited promotion.
Brenda Blethyn as Vera

Even though we can all pretty much guess that DS Healy will quickly be on the receiving end of the biting wit of DCI Stanhope, Doughty seemed pretty chuffed about his addition to the popular British crime drama saying, “I’m really thrilled to be joining Vera. It’s such a fantastic show and I’m especially excited to be working alongside the lovely and brilliant Brenda Blethyn.

Based on the characters created by novelist Ann Cleeves, series 5 of Vera will have four new episodes with the first episode written by Martha Hillier and will follow Vera and Aiden as they investigate a mysterious death at a caravan park. Series 5 will also see the return of Jon Morrison as DC Kenny Lockhart, Cush Jumbo as DC Bethany Whelan, Kingsley Ben-Adir as pathologist, Dr. Marcus Summer and Riley Jones as DC Mark Edwards.

Prior to filming Blethyn said: “I am so happy to be embarking on series 5 of Vera and whilst I’ll miss David Leon. I’m very glad to be reunited with Jon Morrison, Riley Jones, Cush Jumbo and our new member of the team Kenny Doughty. Northumberland here we come!”

Filming will continue in the North East until Autumn 2014 and will be onscreen in 2015 in the UK and an American broadcast on public television not too long after. For American audiences wanting a head start as to what’s coming your way on Vera, series 4…enjoy.


A ‘CBeebies Bedtime Story’ with David Tennant

June 15, 2014

Even though I will forever be of the mindset that Benedict Cumberbatch has the insane ability to do anything, I now think he has company. David Tennant just may be challenging him for the top spot with his most endearing role of reading a bedtime story on CBeebies. Imagine the ability to ‘drift off’ to the sound of the Doctor reading a bedtime story!

With the overall CBeebies channel mission to encourage “learning through play in a consistently safe environment for children aged 6 or under”, the final show of each day, the Bedtime Story, is read by a guest storyteller, including well known actors, comedians, and past presenters of BBC children’s television. Over the years, a number of incredibly talented folks have lent their time and efforts to the show with some of the most notable names being Tennant, Simon Pegg (World’s End), Jon Simm (Life on Mars), New Tricks‘ James Bolam, Peter Serafinowicz (Mr. Sloane) and Brian Cox.

Back in 2009, Tennant read three stories the week before Christmas to the delight of everyone in the UK, not just those 6 and under. Don’t know about you but I think I felt myself yawn there for just minute.

Miki by Stephen Mackey

How High is the Sky by Anna Milbourne and Serena Riglietti

Small Mouse, Big City by Simon Prescott

Tom Hiddleston to star as Hank Williams in “I Saw the Light”

June 14, 2014

Tom Hiddleston has been tagged for the title role in the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light. The Westminster-born star of The Avengers, Thor, War Horse, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and the BBC’s Hollow Crown series, will portray the “King of the Hillbillies” in a film about the country music star’s life. Williams was one of the major country music stars of the late 1940s and early 1950s, with eight No. 1 country singles to his name. Williams died on New Year’s Day in 1953 in the back seat of a Cadillac at a gas station in West Virginia, on his way to a concert at the young age of 29, a victim of his alcoholism and drug abuse.
Tom Hiddleston to star as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light

Photo by Todd Plitt, USA TODAY
AP Photo/Country Music Hall of Fame

Set to begin shooting in Louisiana in October, the film will not only feature Hiddleston with Williams’s trademark Alabama accent but his music too, with Hiddleston set to sing classics such as “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Hey, Good Lookin’” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. The film, which will be directed by Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius), who adapted the script from Colin Escott’s biography of Williams, will tell the story of Williams’ meteoric rise, how he created one of the greatest bodies of work in American music, and the tragic effect of fame on his health and personal life. While I’ve always marveled at British actors who are able to speak with an American accent (you’ve got to see Martin Freeman in Fargo), Hiddleston should have no problem given the fact he played F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. I can’t wait to hear him sing! It will, no doubt, erase the memories of a 1964 George Hamilton as Hank Williams.

Early pics from Downton Abbey series 5 begin to surface

June 13, 2014

To the mild displeasure of series creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, bits and bobs from the set of Downton Abbey series 5 are beginning to leak out for all the world to see. You might remember it was Fellowes who playfully, but sternly, admonished series 5 guest star Richard E. Grant as to the dangers of revealing spoilers via social networking sites after he tweeted out a very dapper photo of himself during filming earlier this year. Grant will play Simon Bricker, an art historian who is a house guest of the Crawley family. Fellowes simply said of Grant: “He’s very naughty. We had to explain to the cast about the dangers of tweeting as no one realizes how interested everybody is in the show. You’re in a bubble when you’re filming. You’re just tweeting these nice things and you don’t realize there are millions of people worldwide trying to pick up the plot.”

Perhaps Lesley Nicol wasn’t at that cast gathering as she tweeted out this photo of an obviously tickled to be back on the set, Mrs. Beryl Patmore.
Beryl Patmore in Downton Abbey, series 5

Recent filming has the cast returning to Horsted Keynes railway station in Sussex. The cast should feel right at home as the station was officially closed by British Railways in 1963. It has been restored under a 1930s theme with period newspaper headlines on boards by the buffet and ads of the period. With five platforms it is the largest preserved Heritage Railway station in the UK.
Next stop – Downton
Downton railroad stopin Christmas special

It is rumored that the Downton Abbey Christmas special for 2014 is partially being filmed at the rail station. While not much can be discerned from the photos from a storyline standpoint, it’s great to get even a minute look at what’s in store for UK audiences in September and American audiences in January 2015. Personally, I don’t think Sir Julian will be too upset with these latest photos showing some of the new cast members along with a train conductor. What do you think?
Downton Abbey Christmas special rumours

The 2014 World Cup is here! Vote for your ‘unofficial’ official England Football Anthem…

June 12, 2014

The 2014 World Cup kicks off TODAY with Brazil vs Croatia!

Just days after Rik Mayall’s untimely and massively unfortunate death at the age of 56, fans have organized a campaign to get the Young Ones actor’s overlooked World Cup anthem, Noble England, to number one in the music charts. Film at Leeds Castle and originally released in 2010 for the South Africa World Cup, Mayall performs the iconic speech from Shakespeare’s Henry VII over rousing chants. While there is no official song for the 2014 World Cup, there have been several worthy contenders with Mayall’s efforts closing the gap on X Factor’s Ella Henderson, who is currently on course to take the top spot. Noted “chart-hijacker” Jon Morter has taken it upon himself to do just that. “A lot of people have fond memories of Rik and they’re showing it in the way they know. I think that the chart hijacking thing is a way of people coming together to show how they feel. With Rage Against The Machine in 2009, it was a protest. With this, it’s an outpouring, but not of grief, more of a celebration. And that’s what I wanted. It’s a celebration of this crazy guy that many of us grew up watching. I think it’s what he would have wanted“, said Morter.

Rik Mayall’s Noble England


Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Another just released contender for the designation of ‘unofficial’ official World Cup 2014 England Football Anthem comes from the boys of Monty Python and their updated rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from The Life of Brian. FYI, know that a wee bit of a language issue lies ahead before you hit play.


What should England's unofficial official Football Anthem be for 2014 World Cup?

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Matt Smith goes from Time Lord to Terminator for reboot

June 11, 2014

What could possibly be better training for Matt Smith in his upcoming role in the new Terminator feature than being a Time Lord? Nothing, actually. Think about it. Both sci-fi franchises are built around the premise of man vs. robot. Admittedly, the Terminator versions are just a bit scarier but I might be willing to throw the Weeping Angels up against anything the Terminator brings to the table.
Matt Smith cast in Terminator reboot

The new film, Terminator: Genesis, stars Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jason Clarke as John Connor, the leader of the anti-machine resistance. Smith, who spent three series as the Traveling Time Lord , will play an as-yet-to-be-named character with a strong connection to Connor. According to reports, the role will be significant enough to keep Smith busy on the next two installments of the final Terminator trilogy.

Game of Thrones‘ Alan Taylor will direct the fifth Terminator movie, which features Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the role of the relentless killer cyborg, the T-800. Joining Smith in what will be the fifth movie in the Terminator franchise will be Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard) and JK Simmons (The Closer, Spiderman, Juno). Clarke will play John Connor’s mother Sarah, the character played by Linda Hamilton in the original films. Courtney will play the time-travelling, Kyle Reese. Now do you kind of see the connection with Doctor Who? I thought so.

Terminator: Genesis is currently filming with a target release date set for July 1, 2015.

R.I.P. – Rik Mayall

June 10, 2014

More sad news from the world of comedy. Rik Mayall (pictured at left below), the co-creator/writer and star of The Young Ones has passed away at the age of 56.
Rik Mayall (left) with Adrian Edmondson (right) in Bottom

Not long after I was introduced to the likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers on public television, along came this somewhat indescribable British sketch comedy series, The Young Ones. As a viewer of British comedy back in the early 80′s, it wasn’t hard to recognize the comedic talents of Rik Mayall as being very pioneering in the alternative comedy scene. Reading the comments that have flooded social media from comedy colleagues all state the obvious about what a shock this was. But, what might have gone unnoticed was how many people Mayall influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, over the years during his years of The Young Ones, Bottom and Blackadder.

David Walliams (Little Britain, Blandings, Old School said, “I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up Rik Mayall has died. He made me want to be a comedian.”

Growing up there was no one funnier,” said The Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding. “We will really miss you Rik Mayall you genius.”

The BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen called Mayall a “truly brilliant comedian. His comic timing was outstanding and his screen presence unique. For a generation of viewers he was a true comedy hero,” said Cohen.

In the early 80′s, Mayall played the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in the cult sitcom classic, The Young Ones, alongside his friend Adrian Edmondson. Edmondson, who later went on to co-star with Mayall in the sitcom Bottom, said: “There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.”

What many who watched Mayall on the small screen probably didn’t realize was what a good actor he was. From the smooth, scheming Conservative politician Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman to his more recent guest roles in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders and Jonathan Creek, Rick Mayall was much more than a comedic genius. His on-screen persona of the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick, in The Young Ones was 180 degrees in the opposite direction from real life. Writer Laurence Marks, who created The New Statesman, summed it up by describing Mayall as “a quiet, polite, caring gentleman“. You will be missed.

Get ready for ‘Doctor Who 8′ with a brilliant “previously on…” trailer

June 9, 2014

Ok, stay with me here. Doctor Who is like reading a Robert Ludlum book. Averaging about 900 pages per book, I always found his writing brilliant, but incredibly complex where it was quite easy to miss something. I would often have to re-read chapters if I had put the book down for awhile in order to do a bit of a quick memory refresh. With sometimes up to 12 months between series, the same holds true with Doctor Who.

Ever since the series returned in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor right up through the Matt Smith era, I have always felt the need to binge watch the previous series prior to the premiere of the newest installment. I’m afraid it’s not going to be any different when it comes time this August for the beginning of the Peter Capaldi era as the Twelfth Doctor.

Thankfully, a YouTuber going by the name of VeritaserumUK has created a Game Of Thrones style trailer for the upcoming eighth series of Doctor Who. With all companions from Rose to Clara, all regenerations from Eccleston to Capaldi, this 13-minute trailer might just save me the 13-hour catch up needed to re-watch series 7. 13 minutes versus 13 hours. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Don’t know about you, but I’ll be ready by lunch today for series 8. Of course, I’ll have to watch again in August.

Belgian detective’s final days documented in ‘Being Poirot’

June 8, 2014

One of the most poignant ‘behind-the-scenes’ docs is coming to public television stations this August from Acorn Media. Being Poirot, which recounts Sir David Suchet’s last days as that ‘funny little man’ born in the mind of Agatha Christie, will leave long-time viewers of the Poirot series just as gutted as David Suchet was during the final days of filming. Having invested a quarter of a century of his acting career in his portrayal of Hercule Poirot, the doc gives brilliant insight into how the consummate actor transforms into his ‘imaginary friend’ for the final time and how playing Poirot during those final scenes was the ‘hardest of his career’.

Being Poirot will, at long last, make its way to public television stations in August along with the final five episodes which will complete the entire Agatha Christie collection of stories ever written for her creation. The Big Four and Dead Man’s Folly will air on PBS on Sunday, July 27 and August 3 while the final three episodes, Labours of Hercules, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case will head to public television stations beginning in November 2014.

As part of the Being Poirot broadcast, viewers will be treated to some really amazing insights from Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard. We had the great good fortune to spend time in Albany, NY last week at WMHT, the PBS station in upstate New York, with Prichard, who also handles his grandmother’s estate and ‘all-things Agatha Christie‘, during taping.
Interview with Mathew Prichard

During our interview, Prichard shared insights as to how Hercule Poirot came to be in the brilliant writings of Agatha Christie, the incredible level of detail in which Sir David Suchet prepared when creating his impeccable on-screen version of the famous Belgian detective and speculated on what his grandmother might have actually thought had she ever met the man who spent 25 years of his acting life bringing her creation to life on the small screen.

Look for Being Poirot, from Acorn Media, on a public television station near you beginning in August with the first of the final five episodes beginning Sunday, July 27 on PBS.

Trooping the Colour for The Queen’s Birthday – 14 June

June 7, 2014

As everyone east of the Atlantic is acutely aware, London celebrates The Queen’s official birthday in June each year with Trooping the Colour, a brilliant military parade that has taken place in London since 1820 when the Colours of a regiment where used as a rallying point in battle.

The annual event takes place on Horse Guards Parade in London’s St James’s Park, marking The Queen’s official birthday. This year, the parade takes place a week from today on Saturday 14 June. To get you ready, here’s the full 2013 version if you have a spare 2.5 hours.

The ceremony of Trooping the Colour is full of military pomp and pageantry as The Queen carries out an inspection of the troops from the Household Division. The Queen then leads the troops down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, one of London’s most famous landmarks.

The Queen salutes and guns are fired in Green Park and at the Tower of London. Finally she joins other members of the Royal Family on the balcony to watch the RAF flypast. It’s well worth the effort to go see if possible with over 1400 officers and men on parade, 200 horses and over 400 musicians.O