With the 100th anniversary of World War I just around the corner on 28 July, news comes out of the UK that there actually was a real-life Captain Blackadder and Private Baldrick. According to military genealogy company, Forces War Records, not only that but just by doing a bit of Sherlockian research they quickly discovered a Captain Darling and Lieutenant George also giving rise to the phrase ‘art imitates life’ or vice-versa.
Their ‘fictional’ counterparts rose to fame in the fourth and final series of the brilliant Richard Curtis comedy series, Blackadder, which was set in World War I and followed life in the trenches of Captain Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), Private Baldrick (Tony Robinson), Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny) and Lieutenant George (Hugh Laurie). According to company CEO, Dominic Hayhoe, there has been a fairly significant uptick in website inquiries tracing family members dating back to the beginning of WWI. “We were uploading new information onto our database when we came across a Captain Blackadder”, said Hayhoe. “As fans of the television show, we wondered if we could find the military records of the other fictional characters’ namesakes. So we challenged our team of professional researchers and military experts, who are all based in the UK so are familiar with the Blackadder series, to find them; which they did. The only person we haven’t been able to track down, so far, from World War 1 is a General Melchett (Stephen Fry). According to the military records we have, he makes an appearance in World War 2“.
The real-life military service records of Acting Captain Robert John Blackadder, MC., RGA, Private James Baldrick, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Captain John Clive Darling, DSO., 20th Hussars and Lieutenant Athelstan Key Durance George, Dorsetshire Regimen can all be found on the site. If you look close, there are way more than a comfortable number of similarities between fact and fiction. While both the real and fictional Private Baldrick both came from humble backgrounds and from illiterate families, sadly, it also reveals that both the fictional Private Baldrick and his real-life counterpart, Private J. Baldrick, tragically met their end fighting in the trenches.
In addition, both Lt. Georges went to Cambridge, rowed for their college, were unmarried and joined the Army as commissioned officers, both pilots who could draw extremely well. Sadly, both met their respective ends in the trenches. The two Captain Blackadders rose up the ranks and served in the British Army before the outbreak of the First World War, completing their service overseas. Both were bachelors who fought at the Somme in 1916. One extremely notable and important difference between the two is that Captain Robert John Blackadder survived the war unlike his fictional counterpart, played by Rowan Atkinson.
No sign or word as of yet if there is a real-life Lord Flashheart. Not sure I could handle that…
As part of his current Force Majeure U.S. Tour, he put a call out for individuals on his various tour stops to send in and/or post some ‘somewhat interesting and hopefully accurate Historical Facts from Your Hometown’.
As you see above, Wednesday was Dallas’ day to shine. Huge tip of the hat to the greatness that is Eddie Izzard, first of all, but also to Samantha W. who posted on Facebook the true origin of the German Chocolate Cake and its relationship to Dallas.
Up next was Sara on Instagram who has, obviously, listened to far more than her fair share of KERA fundraising drives over the years and was able to verify to Eddie that KERA, the PBS station in Dallas, was the first station in the U.S. to ever broadcast Monty Python’s Flying Circus! FYI, it was back in October 1974 that public television viewers in the U.S. were first introduced to Python.
The third and final factoid came from Tami on Facebook and was also something that seemed to be known to the great Mr. Izzard. Tami’s historical fact referenced the invention of the computer microchip, or integrated circuit, by Jack Kilby when he was at Texas Instruments in Dallas. FYI, Kilby is also credited with inventing the handheld calculator and thermal printer.
In case you haven’t seen the great work of producers Linda Stogner and Tom Pribyl about Kilby’s invention, we bring you The Chip That Jack Built for your viewing pleasure.
One of the greatest things about British television AND one of the most maddening for viewers is the fact that the number of episodes in a series is limited. Unlike their American television counterparts, most British drama and/or comedy series are anywhere between 6-10 episodes max. In some cases like Sherlock or DCI Banks there are only three episodes each season. Three brilliant films but still only three. On the upside, this allows viewers to see their favorite actors in other roles, many times crossing over from drama to comedy or vice versa. I”m guessing there are very few folks that haven’t enjoyed seeing Miranda Hart jump from her hit comedy series, Miranda, to the role of Chummy Browne on Call the Midwife. Or, being able to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman in the recently completed greatness that is Fargo on FX.
Early on, it seemed like you had to leave Downton Abbey to break out and get other roles as was the case with Jessica Brown-Findlay (Lady Sybil) in Jamaica Inn and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) in The Fifth Estate and Night at the Museum both of whom found that there was life after Downton Abbey. In recent months, however, current actors who remain employed both upstairs and downstairs at Downton are finding their down time between series filming to be fairly lucrative also. Hugh Bonneville has probably never seen a day off what with the filming in recent years of Twenty Twelve, Mr. Stink and W1A. Then it was Lily James (Lady Rose) who used her ‘free’ time to star in Kenneth Branagh’s live-action Cinderella. More recently, Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley) actually got to ‘give orders’ rather than be on the receiving end of Mr. Carson’s firm hand as Colonel Roland Brett in the BBC World War I drama, Crimson Field.
Now, following in their footsteps is Brendan Coyle, who plays Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey. The English-born Irish actor has joined the cast of Spotless, a 10-part drama from French channel Canal Plus that starts filming in London next month. With filming of the fifth series of Downton Abbey winding down at some point later in the summer, Coyle will join Silk actress Miranda Raison, Marc-Andre Grondin and Denis Menochet in what is being billed as an “irreverent, dark, funny, sexy and dangerous” drama, which will follows brothers Jean and Martin as they become entangled in the “deadly dynamics of organized crime.”
Coyle should be ready to step in to his new found role given his prison stint early on in the series. Remember, it was Mr. Bates, the valet turned prison inmate turned valet, who said with a smile, “It’s amazing what you can learn in prison“.
The work of Codebreakers living in Bletchley Park huts and blocks that were built to last only a few years have routinely been credited with shortening World War II by at least two years. What started out in 1938 as a relatively innocent in appearance gathering of members of MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) became a secret team of individuals including a number of scholars turned ‘codebreakers’. Their mission was to crack the Nazi codes and ciphers with the most famous of the cipher systems to be broken at Bletchley Park was the Enigma.
Timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of their efforts will be the release of a much-anticipated, Oscar-worthy film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the mathematician and computer scientist who had a major role in the Bletchley Park team that cracked the German Enigma code during the Second World War. Knightley stars as Turing’s close friend and one-time fiancé Joan Clarke with Mark Strong as Stewart Menzies, chief of MI6 and the British Secret Intelligence Service. Downton Abbey‘s Alan Leech also stars as a Scottish spy who worked with the Soviets to plot against Turing
Set for a November 2014 release, the film will deal with Turing’s struggle with homophobia which eventually led him to take his own life in 1954. Because of this, Turing’s ideas and contributions were kept secret and he was never given credit for his incredibly important work during the war. Long considered a mathematical genius, Turing posthumously received a royal pardon from the Queen this past year, nearly 60 years after he committed suicide.
While is has been 75 years, this year, since that original gathering, Bletchley Park was the world’s best kept secret. Up until wartime information was declassified in the mid-1970s, no-one who worked at the home of the GC&CS was allowed to talk about it, not even to each other. Even with this declassification, it was still shrouded in mystery. Sadly, the knowledge of the incredible work done at Bletchley Park has only became much more mainstream over the last couple of years with the broadcast of the brilliant BBC/PBS series, Bletchley Circle and the upcoming release of The Imitation Game.
The Bletchley Park Trust was formed some years back with a mission to preserve and develop Bletchley Park as a world-class museum, heritage site and education center. Designed to enhance the understanding of the critical contribution of Codebreaking and intelligence in World War Two, the birth of computing and electronic security, and how these unique achievements remain relevant today, the museum is now open for all the world to see and hear the incredible story of the inhabitants of Bletchley Park.
Saturday, 21 June, marked the ‘official’ beginning of Summer. The Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year if you reside in the Northern hemisphere. That may very well be, but every day this week will seem like the longest day of the year given what PBS has in store for fans of great British telly on Sunday. Six long days away, but well worth it. This coming Sunday, 29 June, will see the return of two long-awaited series and the premiere of a new one that features two ‘Sirs” and one ‘Misfit’.
Last Tango in Halifax, starring Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid
At 8pm ET/7pm CT, Sir Derek Jacobi (Alan) and Anne Reid (Celia) return for the second series of Last Tango in Halifax. Also starring Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) and Nicola Walker (Spooks) star as Caroline and Gillian, the respective daughters of Celia and Alan, Last Tango in Halifax gives new meaning to the phrase “family baggage”. Written by Sally Wainwright, who also penned Scott and Bailey, Last Tango… has already been commissioned for a third series, which is great news to fans on both side of the pond.
Endeavour, starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam
A 9pm ET/8pm CT, Shaun Evans returns in the lead role as young Endeavour Morse, with Roger Allam (The Thick of It, Parade’s End) as his senior Detective Inspector Fred Thursday, in the second series of Endeavour, the successful crime drama prequel to Inspector Morse. In Sunday’s first episode, “Trove”, Morse returns from sick leave to investigate a suspicious suicide, a missing girl, and the theft of a Trove (ancient artifacts)…and, that’s only the first of four episodes.
Vicious, starring Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen and Iwan Rheon
At 10:30pm ET/9:30pm CT, Vicious tells the story of long-time partners, Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi). Their 50+ year relationship underscores a deep love for each other even though it is many times masked by vicious, co-dependent fighting and nitpicking.
Freddie (McKellen) was a budding actor and Stuart (Jacobi) a barman when they first met but their careers are now pretty much over and their lives now consist of reading books, walking their dog and bickering. Today, Freddie is an over-the-hill actor whose career consisted mainly of bit parts. Although his career never really took off, he insists on behaving as if it did and still does. Stuart is a former bar manager with an aged mother named Mildred who remains clueless as to her son’s relationship with Freddie.
Look up Must See TV in the dictionary and you’ll see all three of these series listed.
Almost completely overlooked amidst all the Doctor Who 50th anniversary hoopla was a brilliant little feature called The Five (ish) Doctors Reboot. The special, which originally aired around the 50th celebration last November, followed Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as they attempted to land a role in the ‘official’ feature-length 50th episode.
In addition to the three aforementioned Doctors, Eighth Doctor Paul McGann had a cameo in the comedy short alongside a number of familiar faces that have been an integral part of Who history, both past and present, including current show runner, Steven Moffat, along with Russell T Davies, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Olivia Colman and Sean Pertwee.
It was McGann who, in speaking at the Cambridge Union Society, announced that work had already begun on a follow-up to the wildly successful spoof. Sadly, as with most Doctor Who, Sherlock or Downton Abbey stories these days, you get no details, just a tantalizing hint that something will be coming our way soon.
Just in case you have been completely without power since last November, here’s the full version of the Day of the Doctor: Five (ish) Doctors Special Reboot for your viewing pleasure…
In keeping with the tradition of the entire cast of Sherlock actors making maximum use of their downtime during the maddening but understandable hiatus between series, Louise Brealey will soon be following in the footsteps of series stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss, Una Stubbs and Rupert Graves by taking on other projects. While Cumberbatch has either appeared in or has been rumored to be starring in virtually every film that is set to be released between now and 2015 and Martin Freeman just finished a stellar performance as Lester Nygard in the FX series, Fargo, other cast members have taken the opportunity to enjoy the ability to stretch out and showcase their brilliance both in film and on the live stage.
Louise Brealey, best known as timid pathologist Molly Hooper in the BBC/PBS 21st century adaptation of Sherlock, will step back in time and join the cast of Ripper Street for series three, which is currently being filmed in Ireland. Not a bad gig for Brealey who will temporarily trade in her back and forth with Benedict Cumberbatch for a role opposite Ripper Street star, Matthew Macfadyen. The Sherlock star will play Dr. Amelia Frayn who runs the Obsidian Clinic in Whitechapel, caring for those who cannot look after themselves.
“I’m playing one of the first women doctors,” Brealey told RadioTimes.com recently. “I’m really excited because I did history at university and I love a bit of research. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson blazed the trail in the 1870s and in the intervening decade or so a few extremely intrepid and unusual women started learning to be doctors themselves.”
The Victorian detective drama, which originally had a home on BBC1 and BBC America was revived from the back alleys of Whitechapel by Amazon Prime Instant Video where it will premiere with a not-long-after run on BBC1 in the UK.
What do you get that hard-to-buy-for individual on your shopping list? If you are Prime Minister David Cameron and you find yourself on the way to meet up with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his first official visit to the UK, there’s only one option…you play the Downton Abbey card. Seems as though the PM secured a copy of the script for the show’s first episode signed by creator/writer Julian Fellowes to give to the Chinese Premier as a gift recently.
Evidently, as with the rest of Planet Earth, the British period drama has been a huge hit in China. Last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter, a study from Beijing-based entertainment research firm Entgroup has revealed that China’s urban wealthy and educated are increasingly buzzing about Britain’s lavishly produced TV dramas, including shows such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock. It seems as thought social media sites that draw an exclusive white-collar and college-educated user base are seeing a significant increase in the discussion of British shows when they air. Just so you don’t think the PM got off easy, he also gave Keqiang a special £10 gold coin designed by artist Wuon-Gean Ho which celebrates the Chinese year of the horse and a DVD box set of works by Charles Dickens.
Wonder what you get him next year?
According to the BBC, not one, but two iconic children’s television series are set to return to the small screen. Danger Mouse AND Teletubbies will resume production with new episodes airing on CBeebies in 2015.
Danger Mouse, the English mouse/Secret Agent who wore a patch over one eye was voiced by Sir David Jason, and his bespectacled hamster sidekick, Penfold, played by the late Terry Scott, originally ran in the UK from 1981 to 1992. For the 21st century version, Danger Mouse and Penfold’s HQ will continue to be in a red postbox, although it will now be packed with cutting-edge technology as befitting any modern action mouse. DM’s iconic eye patch will be replaced by an “i-patch” equipped with multiple state-of-the art functions. The BBC has ordered 52 episodes with Danger Mouse and Penrod continuing their battles with the evil toad, Baron Silas Greenback.
New episodes of the BBC children’s favorite Teletubbies are to be made for the first time in more than a decade. The series, which originally premiered in 1997, will return in 2015 with 60 new episodes. Like Danger Mouse, the new Teletubbies will incorporate more CGI special effects and other updated elements to reflect technological advances designed to ‘reinvigorate the show for future generations’.
The iconic Teletubby-land hill that was home to Dipsy, Laa-laa, Tinky Winky and Po was turned into a pond a couple of years back because its owner was sick of tourists visiting the vacated site in Warwickshire following the shutdown of production in 2001. The new episodes will be a filmed on a replica of the show’s distinctive original outdoor set. No word yet as to whether or not Noo-Noo and the baby in the sun will sign up for the newest incarnation.