Having a job that actually allows you to watch television for a living is tremendous, especially when you run across hidden telly gems here and there. Being able to then acquire broadcast rights to a such a program or series and write about it here on Tellyspotting so that others can see or be introduced to more great telly is priceless. One such series crossed my desk recently that should be making its way to public television stations very soon in the States. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a new 13-part series from ABC Australia, has something that we, unfortunately, haven’t been able to highlight for some time….a female detective. There have been a few, but they have been too few and far between in recent memory.
Phryne (rhymes with briny) Fisher is a fashionably beautiful investigator with some definitively wicked ways befitting her shiny black hair and steel blue/green eyes. Like her male counterpart, she offers private services in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes in 1920s Melbourne. Essie Davis, as Miss Fisher, is the female embodiment of the world’s greatest consulting detective with striking looks that make her both thrilling and dangerous all at the same time. Miss Fisher is perfectly at home in Melbourne’s Parisian-style bistros but has no problem mixing it up in the city’s darkened side streets right around the next corner. Greg Walker’s sound track is equally as brilliant as the series is stunning visually..
Based on the mystery novels of Kerry Greenwood, it was helpful to understand a bit of Miss Fisher’s backstory to get a handle on what makes her get up every morning. As a child, Phryne lived on the streets in Collingwood, scrounging for food with her sister Janey, all the time trying to avoid the heavy hand of her drunken father. Janey was abducted on a trip to the circus, Phryne was devastated. After World War I erased much of her family’s lineage, the dirt-poor Fishers of Collingwood suddenly found themselves in a lofty estate in the English countryside, with Phryne’s parents elevated to the titles of lord and lady. After a few years at boarding school, Phryne decided there was more to life than finishing-school manners and fled to join an all-women ambulance brigade attached to the French army.
As you can only imagine, Miss Fisher leaves a trail of men floundering in her rear view mirror. “Phryne is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers,” says Greenwood. “I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do.”
After screening ‘Cocaine Blues’, I found it to be both witty and elegant with just the right amount of a dark side to keep you on the edge. The first episode begins in 1928 where Phryne will not rest until she solves the mystery of her sister’s disappearance and ensure that Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell), the man thought to be responsible, never gets out of jail. As you watch the storyline unfold, you get the distinct impression that Foyle is Miss Fisher’s version of Holmes’ Moriarty.
For those still rocking in the corner waiting for 2014 and the return of Sherlock 3, check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, coming soon to a public television station near you…hopefully.
The one bright spot (emphasis on ONE) that has emerged from the excruciatingly long hiatus between the conclusion of series 5 of Doc Martin and the upcoming beginning of filming on series 6 is that Martin Clunes fans on both sides of the Atlantic have gotten to experience a bit of pre-Doc Martin, Martin Clunes, and a bit of present day Martin Clunes as a TV presenter, rather than a curmudgeonly Doc with a questionable bedside manner. Let’s stop here and forego the current tabloid headline topic of Clunes being dropped as spokesperson for a car insurance company in favor of Dawn French…
In recent months, public television fans in the U.S. have been re-introduced to his early 90′s comedic side with the Men Behaving Badly series from Simon Nye. More recently, Clunes was seen in Reggie Perrin, a re-make of the classic Leonard Rossiter comedy, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin from the 70′s, and in several TV presenter roles including his travels to exotic places such as Madagascar to find lemurs and a series on one of his favorite topics, horses.
Given that it is still a couple of months away before filming even begins on series 6 of Doc Martin in Port Isaac, let’s try not to think about it and spend some time with this Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) Q&A with Radio Times.
What is your guilty TV pleasure?
I never thought that I would be saying this, but the programs I really enjoy on TV are those I can watch with my wife and daughter. I love sitting down as a family to watch Britain’s Got Talent, Modern Family or Miranda.
Who takes charge of the remote control in your house?
My wife. I don’t even know where it is. I’m not allowed anywhere near it.
What would you delete from your wife or daughter’s watchlist?
I can’t stand my daughter watching America’s Next Top Model – it sends out the most appalling message to young girls.
Which TV program would you like to resurrect?
I used to love Catweazle when I was younger. In fact, I think someone did try to resurrect it and asked me to be part of it, but Geoffrey Bayldon was too good to follow… or did I dream that?
Would you ever bring back Men Behaving Badly?
To be perfectly honest, the others haven’t aged as well as I have so I think it would be a bit unfair. It would all be a bit too seedy.
Have you got a favorite channel?
Horse and Country is the only channel that shows Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer. He’s fantastic.
You have made a few nature documentaries – are you discovering your inner Attenborough?
It wasn’t my idea and I was really nervous about making the first documentary about elephants. It was meant to be a one-off, but then I was asked to do one about dogs, and then horses. I am worried about doing too many, though, because if people see me popping up in Madagascar as myself they might not buy into me pretending to be someone else.
Madagascar – that’s exotic!
Really exotic! It was a life ambition realized because as a child I always said it was my favorite country. I went on two trips out there and in total probably spent a month exploring the island.
Not bad work, if you can get it…
If you can call it that… Madagascar has lost 80 per cent of its rainforest and is struggling environmentally. We went out there to highlight the plight of the lemurs as they have obviously suffered as a consequence and are a good entry point to the issue because they are so cute… the crayfish population has also suffered but they are harder to warm to.
So do you now see yourself as more of a presenter than an actor?
The places I have been to, the people I have met and the things I have seen are incredible – I don’t think I could give that up now. I have just got back from Kenya where we re-homed an orphan lion cub – what an amazing experience! But first and foremost I am an actor.
So when will you be returning as your favorite blood-phobic GP, Doc Martin?
Next year and I can’t wait to go back there. It will be interesting because Louisa and the doctor are finally going to marry, I think. But I don’t want to give too much away!
If all works according to plan, series 6 will transmit this Fall on ITV in the UK and in early 2014 on public television stations in the States. In the meantime, check out Men Behaving Badly, Reggie Perrin, William & Mary to get your Martin Clunes fix until DS6.
You might remember, back in April, we reported on the Lego process for submission of ideas that requires at least 10,000 supporters before an idea will be considered. Needless to say, the concept of a Lego Winchester Pub from the British zombie invasion film, Shaun of the Dead was well received. The ‘Make the Winchester project’ was the brainchild of Pixel Fox, a 3D artist in Cape Town, and Yatkuu, a Data Manager for pharmaceutical company in Belguim, who both proudly shared a long-time common passion for the brick.
Sadly, there will be no Lego version of the Winchester Pub from the brilliant mind palaces of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as, not long after it garnered the necessary support, the ‘official’ Lego statement was that as good as the model was, the film Shaun of the Dead, “…contained content that is not appropriate for our core target audience of children ages 6-11. Pout not, British zombie invasion flick fans. As amazingly cool as it might have been to have the Lego model of everyone’s favorite zombie local, we bring you Shaun of the Dead paper people for your enjoyment.
For those few on the planet not familiar with Shaun of the Dead, Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a salesman whose life has no direction. His younger colleagues show him no respect, he has a rocky relationship with his stepfather, Phillip, a tense relationship with his housemate, Pete, because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s crude best friend who lives on their couch and deals marijuana. His girlfriend, Liz, is dissatisfied with their social life, as it consists primarily of spending every evening at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favorite pub. They never do anything alone together – Shaun always brings Ed, and Liz brings her flatmates, David and Dianne.
The next morning, after a miserable day at work, an uprising of zombies has overwhelmed the town, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his problems and too hungover to notice. He and Ed become aware of what is happening after watching reports on TV, as zombies attack their house. After fighting back with weapons from the shed, they decide they need to go somewhere safe. Shaun and Ed decide that the safest place they know is the Winchester, and they plan to collect Shaun’s mother, Barbara, Phillip, Liz, and her flatmates. Everyone takes refuge inside the pub, and Shaun joins them after giving the zombies the slip.
Six months after the outbreak, the uninfected have returned to daily life, while the remaining zombies, retaining their instincts, are used as cheap labor and entertainment. Liz and Shaun have moved in together in Shaun’s house, and Shaun is keeping Ed, who is now a zombie, tethered in the shed and playing video games.
The paper crafts are designed by ‘sally’ and you can download for hours of endless entertainment. Unfortunately, it won’t bring back the Lego Winchester, but it will pass the time until Sherlock 3 or Downton Abbey 4. Who knows, maybe a little mash-up with your Dowager Countess and Doc Martin paper dolls might be the next great YouTube video waiting to happen.
One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…
Who knew the importance of a simple quote in a 1918 newspaper advertisement for the San Antonio Light in signaling the beginning of one of the most eagerly awaited anniversaries in recent memory? What began as a description for the newspapers pictorial coverage of World War I can now, without question, be used almost 100 years later to refer to this unassuming photo posted on Twitter yesterday by Mark Gatiss.
As shooting begins for the upcoming BBC drama on the creation of Doctor Who, which will be one of the many focal points of the 50th celebration, Mark Gatiss revealed at the recent Radio Times Covers Party that the considerable talents of David Bradley, who played Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films have been secured to play William Hartnell, the First Doctor. More recently, Doctor Who fans will recognize Bradley as the ruthless trader and collector Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. In other casting news, Call the Midwife‘s Jessica Raine (Jenny Lee) will play founding producer Verity Lambert with Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein, who directed the first ever Doctor Who adventure, “An Unearthly Child”.
Gatiss, as you can see from the photo above, has written the special with current series showrunner, Steven Moffat, set to produce. Have to say, Bradley is a brilliant choice to play Hartnell and someone that seems genuinely excited to be a part of the upcoming special. “Mark has written such a wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television’s history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time and as a fan I want to make sure that I do him justice. I’m so looking forward to getting started.”
With shooting just beginning on the special, there’s no transmission date as of yet but I’m guessing you can bank on something close to 23 November 2013 both in the UK and the States. Now, let’s hope that while both Gatiss and Moffat are together, they talk Sherlock 3!
….all the cool aristocrats will be there.
As the U.S. prepares for the ultimate tailgate event of the season that, we call, the Super Bowl, there is so much going on on both sides of the Atlantic from a telly standpoint that one will definitely understand should you switch away during the Puppy Bowl and head on over to PBS for the next installment of Downton Abbey in the States or head to BBC Three for the series 5 premiere of Being Human.
The Dowager Countess, a Giants fan?
There are those, however, that just can’t bear the fact that this years game is being played with no Manning to be found anywhere, even at Downton. They flat out refuse to admit the possibility that the game will be played with neither Peyton or Eli on the field. According to reports, it looks like everyone both above and below the stairs, however, were comfortable with the idea of that Tom Brady is sitting out that game this year. Who knew, but the Dowager Countess is such the Giants fan that no one dares tell her that Super Bowl XLVII would feature the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Thankfully, all is well as Lord Grantham did save last years game on the DVR making it quite simple to convince Violet it’s business as usual in The Big Easy.
Fortunately, Downton is not a Nielsen household.
As I’m sure you are keenly aware, we have talked incessantly in recent months about what it takes in the pop-culture world of the 21st century to ‘have arrived’. There was a much simpler time when if you were the subject of a Weekend Update with Chevy Chase segment on Saturday Night Live then that’s all you would need. In later years, being a part of Seinfeld, the ultimate show about ‘nothing’, was like money in the bank in racking up pop-culture units of good. It’s a bit more difficult these days, unfortunately, in the world of 24/7 media attention.
For a program like Downton Abbey, life has been good with two brilliant Downton Sixbey sketches on Latenight with Jimmy Fallon, a Saturday Night Live spoof, a Downton Abbey paper doll set, a possible Super Nintendo game and, believe it or not, a DIY project on how to make a Downton Abbey of your very own…out of gingerbread.
All that is nice, but now comes the ultimate tribute that would place anyone at the top of the pop-culture world….a place on everyone’s favorite street, Sesame Street. When Sesame Street decides to poke fun at you, you really ‘have arrived’, no question. This cute beyond words Muppet parody of Downton Abbey will air as part of the series’ upcoming season 43, which begins on Monday, February 4 on PBS.
Upside Downton Abbey on sesame Street
Upside Downton Abbey opens with a Muppet version of Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess, in a smashing purple hat btw, requesting a spot of tea from her felt-covered Mr. Carson. Problem is, as the name suggests, the estate and everything in it is upside down, so the tea pours right out of the teapot and onto the ceiling.
Same with the crumpets and the steak-and-kidney pie she requests, until her butler humbly recommends ***SPOILER ALERT*** she rename the estate Rightside Upton Abbey to avoid any further spills. She hands down a royal decree, Carson throws a lever, and everything is right-side up again. If only the current series 3 issues at the real Downton Abbey could be so easily taken care of…
Since we are still in the midst of the Downton Abbey Age here on Planet Earth, it’s only fitting that we continue to talk about ‘all-things Downton’. Partly, so that separation anxiety doesn’t quite have a chance to set in prior to Sunday’s episode and, partly, to keep our minds off the fact that there are only three more episodes in series 3 and it’s a long time until series 4 will come our way.
In an attempt to keep her mind off the emotional roller coaster that, we call, Downton, Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) was able throw in the kitchen towel and sneak past Carson recently for a bit of the ‘bright-lights, big-city’ atmosphere of Chicago, leaving Daisy in charge of the day-to-day below stairs kitchen drama at Downton. In town for a one-night-only Tuesday performance of Admission: One Shilling, Nicol sat down Monday with Chicago Tonight‘s Eddie Arruza on WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago, to talk all-things Downton, reflecting both on the Downton casts’ recent SAG Award and her character’s comparison to the great Gordon Ramsay.
***SPOILER ALERT*** Interview includes BIG episode 4 spoilers so if you haven’t seen it yet, consider yourself warned!
As the host alluded to at the end of the previous video, the conversation continued with Lesley Nicol, Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey, talking about the worldwide appeal of the series, her thoughts on the ‘Mrs. Patmore doll’ and to talk series 4 of Downton Abbey.
As is the case with most British actors, Lesley Nicol is no stranger to the stage having started her musical career in Jesus Christ Superstar, singing her way around the theatres of Great Britain and then finding herself in the West End for 3 years playing Rosie in Mamma Mia and, then, Kath Casey in Our House. Admission: One Shilling tells the extraordinary story of Dame Myra Hess and her famous World War II National Gallery concerts. In Dame Myra’s own words, compiled by her great-nephew, composer Nigel Hess, and with piano music by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann and Chopin, the unique aspect of this work let’s the audience hear how the ‘great adventure’ of these 1600 lunchtime concerts in the National Gallery began, and how it continued on a daily basis for 6 years, even while bombs rained down on London.
Sadly, this was only for one night but, rest assured, Mrs. Patmore has, by this time, found her way back to her place below stairs at Downton before this coming Sunday. Thanks to our friends at WTTW and Chicago Tonight for the clips from the Lesley Nicol interview.
What better way to kick off a much-needed discussion of this past week’s highly emotional episode of Downton Abbey than with their long-awaited, much-anticipated Facebook status update for what happened both upstairs and downstairs at Downton. As we know, electricity isn’t everyone’s friend at Downton so, I’m guessing access to a WiFi hotspot is not as easy as it would be today. Thankfully, spotty as it may be, there appears to be enough signal strength coming from the next Abbey over which allows all to use.
If you haven’t seen episode 4 yet – ***please do not read any further***. If you have, enjoy. And, please let us know what you thought of this week’s episode. To catch up on all series 3 episodes, start here at HappyPlace.com.
And I thought Downton Abbey had achieved the ultimate pop-culture status by virtue of its’ two Jimmy Fallon parody sketches, one Saturday Night Live skit and having it’s own Facebook page. Not so. The program that has taken both sides of the Atlantic by storm through its first three seasons on ITV and PBS has now arrived with the thought that there could be a Downton Abbey Super Nintendo game. Now THAT’s achieving pop-culture status.
As reported by Digital Spy this isn’t reality as of yet, but you have ago start somewhere.
The game’s protagonist is a new footman at the manor, who must complete tasks including collecting missing cigars for a dinner party, fluffing pillows and setting the dinner table.
Mary Crawley asks the lead character to spy on Mrs Patmore, whom she suspects is trying to poison her husband Matthew with her cooking, and butler Mr Carson serves as a means of saving progress.
The graphics were lifted from the 1995 survival-horror game Clock Tower and the SNES version of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. As you can see, while it’s in the early trailer only stage, it could happen. Is it bad to immediately think “I would so play this”? What better way to pass the time between the upcoming series 3 finale and the start of series 4 this Fall in the UK and January 2014 in the States?
As we (im)-patiently await the next Facebook status update from the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, chronicling the devastating events of series 3, episode 4, it time to, yet again, turn our attention to what really sets British actors apart from their American counterparts. As we experienced, first hand, back in 2009 at the Theatre Royal in Bath as part of our interview with Penelope Keith for PBS’ Funny Ladies of British Comedy program.
As has been proven ever since, there isn’t a night somewhere in England that you won’t find a very familiar face from your favorite British comedy series performing in either one of the many strong regional theatre’s or on London’s West End stage. It’s not uncommon to see the likes of Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Patricia Routledge, Judi Dench or any of a number of other British comedy stars on stage. Though many will argue it’s the writing that sets British comedy apart, of which I will whole-heartedly agree, it’s also the incredible talents of the actors and actresses involved that have had years and years of formal training at places such as The Old Vic or the Royal Shakespeare Company. And, not only the London stage. In recent months, theater-goers in New York can see the likes of Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley, Downton Abbey) in the final days of The Heiress with Jessica Chastain. And, remember, it was James Corden (Gavin & Stacey) who won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Actor in an Play with his performance in One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway. Two recent examples from today’s headlines do nothing but reinforce my point.
Dame Judi Dench in Peter and Alice
As Time Goes By Star, Dame Judi Dench, with her 11 BAFTAs, 7 Laurence Olivier Awards, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2 Golden Globes, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award in tow, heads to the London West End stage beginning March 2013 through May 2013 for Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward Theatre. When Alice Liddell Hargreaves met Peter Llewelyn Davies at the opening of a Lewis Carroll exhibition in 1932, the original Alice in Wonderland came face to face with the original Peter Pan. In John Logan’s remarkable new play, enchantment and reality collide as this brief encounter lays bare the lives of these two extraordinary characters. Dame Judi Dench plays Alice, and Ben Whishaw plays Peter in Logan’s first new play since Red, which went on to win six Tony Awards in 2010.
Rowan Atkinson in Quartermaine’s Terms
Rowan Atkinson (Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Thin Blue Line) is currently leading Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms at Wyndham’s Theatre now through April 2013. Set in the 1960s in an English language school for foreigners, the play is so quintessentially English. At the heart of the group is St. John Quartermaine (Atkinson), a kind, pleasant and agreeable, but utterly hopeless as a teacher. An almost permanent feature in the staff room, he’s always available to listen to the problems of his self-obsessed colleagues. But when a new Principal is appointed, Quartermaine’s future looks precarious. In the ‘pictures are worth a thousand words’ category, this looks like a must. Why is it all Rowan Atkinson has to do is sit still and I laugh? More pictures to convince you here.
Next time you find yourself looking for something to do most anywhere in England, take a moment, look up at the marquee of the nearest theatre and I’ll bet you’ll recognize the name in lights. What a great way to see a British comedy ‘friend’ and support regional theatre in the UK.