Last Fall, when ITV announced the go-ahead on production of the final five small screen adaptations of the Hercule Poirot stories written by the late Agatha Christie, it was not only met with mixed feelings by Poirot fans worldwide, but also from the actor who has invested 24+ years of his career playing the infamous Belgian detective, David Suchet. With filming long since complete and the first of the final five episodes set to premiere on ITV this coming Sunday at 8:00p, Suchet will have played Poirot in every Agatha Christie story every written for the title character.
As you can imagine, Suchet is, understandably, a bit ‘gutted’ at the thought of bringing Hercule Poirot to a close after over 65 episodes. Gutted, yes, but incredibly proud of his association with the character, which begin almost a quarter of a century ago back in 1989. Sundays premiere episode, “Elephants Can Remember”, has Poirot a bit pre-occupied with investigating the strange and gruesome murder of an elderly psychiatrist, while his old friend, the crime writer Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker), deeply involved in a case of her own to solve.
As usual, there are theories abound as memories get muddled and old secrets remain stubbornly hidden. What ensues, however, is classic Poirot as his twitching mind and little grey matter cells kick into high gear when he realizes the murder of his old professor might somehow be connected with Mrs. Oliver’s investigation.
ITV’s producer, Michele Buck, said: “We can promise the final five Poirot films will be a fitting tribute to a much-loved literary character. When the ending comes it’ll be very dramatic and incredibly emotional. We’ve been on a remarkable journey with Poirot.”
With that, I find myself both gutted and eagerly awaiting Sunday’s premiere. Let’s hope that these make their way to PBS in the States in the not-too-distant future. How about you?
Time, once again, to top off that iTunes gift card you’ve been holding on to just waiting for the right playlist to come along…trust me. Enter, Case Histories 2.
The bad news, unfortunately, is that the current set of Case Histories with Jason Isaacs has come to a close with Sundays transmission of the final episode of series 2 on BBC One. The good news, however, is that it was again abundantly clear on Sunday night that the same importance of music was been placed on series 2 as it was in series 1. As with the first two episodes, we are immediately sucked into a brilliant soundtrack as Jackson Brodie, the ex-cop from Yorkshire, jogs across the hills overlooking Edinburgh, listening to mournful American country singers and mulling over his tangled life.
For those asking about the playlist for Sundays final episode, once again, a huge tip of the hat to Michael Winter, Production Executive with Ruby Films and TV, the producers of Case Histories, for supplying us with the commercial tracks for each episode in the series.
Of note, to me, was the use of “Three Chords and the Truth” by Canadian singer/songwriter Lynn Miles towards the end of Sundays episode. Brilliant. For those not familiar with the song, here it is performed by Miles at Threadgills in Austin, TX during the 2010 SXSW Festival. Enjoy.
For those with a loaded iTunes card, here again is the playlist for the first two episodes from series 2 of Case Histories.
Next to filling out the annual March Madness brackets and selecting squares on the office Super Bowl pool, speculating and picking the next Doctor may rank right up there as one of the most anticipated events that are affiliated with odds list across Planet Earth.
While the news was both expected and feared, there was no joy in Mudville on Saturday as the BBC confirmed that Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, would not be returning as the traveling Time Lord in 2014 for series 8, which will begin production this Fall. His last appearances will be the 50th anniversary episode in November and the Christmas special. Smith first stepped into the TARDIS in 2010.
Personally, it had to be one of the hardest regenerations given the fact that Smith was replacing, perhaps, the most popular Doctor of all-time in David Tennant. At 26, Smith was the youngest person ever to play the Time Lord…I think he more than handled the pressure. Even though he is bowing out after the 50th special and annual Christmas blockbuster, I also think had he stayed another year or so, he could have solidified his place in history as the most popular Doctor ever.
In a statement released Saturday, Smith commented on his time as The Doctor: “Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show. I’m incredibly grateful to all the cast and crew who work tirelessly every day to realize all the elements of the show and deliver Doctor Who to the audience. Many of them have become good friends and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last four years.
As you could imagine, Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat, ended his thoughts on both the Doctor and Matt Smith with a simple but brilliant, “Thank you Matt – bow ties were never cooler.”
Let the games begin as the regeneration to the Twelfth Doctor will take place during the Christmas special, which will begin filming this summer. Names are swirling around the Internets as Vegas bookies begin to lay odds on the next person at the controls of the TARDIS. Stephen Mangan? Olivia Colman? Ben Whishaw? Helen Mirren?
Personally, I’m starting the campaign for Sherlock star, Lara Pulver. This would probably send Who-purists into orbit, but maybe it’s time to push a few boundaries and go for a Time Lady. What do you think?
The hidden telly gem known as The Bletchley Circle will return for a second series in 2014 on ITV in the UK and PBS in the States. I say hidden ONLY because of the embarrassment of drama riches that 2013 brought to both sides of the pond that garnered most all the press such as Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Call the Midwife, Endeavour and Mr. Selfridge. Given the critical acclaim and rave reviews for the initial series, ITV has commissioned four new episodes for series 2 which will consist of 4, 1-hour, programs played out as two self-contained storylines.
Based on the lives of four extraordinary and brilliant women who worked at the top-secret HQ Bletchley Park during World War II, The Bletchley Circle stars Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle and Julie Graham. Set in 1953, series 2 will see the ladies reunite once again when a former Bletchley Park colleague is accused of murder.
In the first 2-part story, Hattie Morahan (Outnumbered, Sense and Sensibility) joins the cast as Alice Merren who finds herself on the wrong end of a murder investigation with the surface evidence stacked heavily against her. Unfortunately, for Alice, a distinguished scientist is discovered shot through the heart in the study of his home and Alice is found, gun in hand, standing over him.
“What on earth can be so important that you’re still keeping it a secret?”
In true ‘adhering to Open Secrets Act fashion’, Alice offers no defense and refuses to talk, but Jean (Julie Graham) methodically sets out to work examining the evidence and is intent on helping her former colleague. Being that series 2 is only just a year removed from series 1, the women of Bletchley Park are still understandably shaken by the traumatic outcome of last year’s ‘case’. Not only will it be necessary to overcome fears, but they now have burgeoning careers that could be at risk if they attempt to save Alice’s life as the days to her hanging count down. Oh, and then there’s the unknown danger that could ensue if they uncover not only Alice’s secret, but also a much darker one at the heart of the British Army.
Series one creator/writer Guy Burt will again pen the scripts for the second series, which will film at Bletchley Park and in and around London. Jamie Payne, who has brilliant directed episodes of The Hour, Dr. Who, White Queen, Ashes to Ashes and Call the Midwife, will be lead director on the first two-part story with Sarah Harding directing the second installment of series 2.
Look for series 2 of The Bletchley Circle in 2014 on ITV and PBS. This is definitely telly worth watching.
While the world waits patiently (ha!) for the return of Downton Abbey, the LA Times’ Glenn Whipp caught up with Michelle Dockery on the set where they are filming the upcoming fourth series to talk about what’s in store for Lady Mary now that Matthew is, sadly, out of the picture.
As you’ll see, not much has been divulged as of yet as to the storyline for Downton Abbey 4 but we do know that there will be a number of new faces both above and below the stairs when the series returns this Fall on ITV1 and January 2014 on PBS in the States. We know that Lady Mary continues to grieve at the loss of Matthew but life does go on at Downton with the series beginning some six months after her husband died in the car crash. Shirley MacLaine returns as Martha Levinson (Lady Cora’s mother). While upstairs will be without Matthew (Dan Stevens), the downstairs will be down one also as Siobhan Finneran will not be returning as lady’s maid, Sarah O’Brien.
LA Times: So how far along are you in shooting the new season?
Michelle Dockery: We’re almost halfway through. We’re filming episodes 5 and 6.
LA Times: Lady Mary’s wedding …
MD: Oh, no, not yet! She hasn’t moved on that quickly!
LAT: Some worry she will move on too quickly. She must mourn Matthew! Properly!
MD: And she will. There’s no way she’ll fall for someone that quickly. Matthew was the love of her life. But …
LAT: I knew there was going to be a “but …”
MD: Well, the predicament that Mary’s in now is that she does need to find someone eventually. She has the heir to Downton, she has baby George and she is under pressure to find someone. In that world, women had to find someone. It was all about marriage and who you’d spend the rest of your life with.
LAT: Judging from what I’ve read, potential suitors are making a beeline to Downton.
MD: Oh, they are! Yes! She’s an eligible bachelorette. It’s exciting. We’ve got some great actors joining the show.
LAT: Were you surprised when Dan decided to leave “Downton”?
MD: Initially, I was very sad to hear he was going. It has been strange not having him around because we had become very good friends and had done pretty much every scene together for three years. But the positive is that it’s opened a huge door of opportunity for storytelling. How is Mary going to survive without her Matthew? Her world is completely turned upside down.
LAT: Which gives you more drama to play than, say, Mary not getting enough sleep because baby George has been crying all night.
MD: Yes! There’s more drama in misery, though I suppose not getting enough sleep would be miserable too.
LAT: In England, the “Downton” finale, which ended with that close-up on Matthew’s lifeless eyes and bleeding skull, aired on Christmas. Nothing quite says “happy holidays” like a shocking death.
MD: I was watching it with my family, and none of them knew. My mom was in tears. She couldn’t believe it. It slightly ruined the day for a lot of people.
LAT: Did Matthew’s death need to be that graphic?
MD: It had to seem final! We couldn’t leave it open because it would be brutal if people were wondering if he was still alive. I remember when I first read it, I was just in a flood of tears. It was the finality of mine and Dan’s time together on the show. But then I thought, “Wow! The audience will really be shocked!” And because the rumor got out that Dan was leaving, people were prepared for it.
LAT: And now even midway through filming the upcoming season, you have no idea where writer Julian Fellowes is taking Mary?
MD: I haven’t a clue. And that’s what’s brilliant about the show. Julian writes as he goes along, and the story develops from each set of rushes he watches. The thing about Mary is that she’s incredibly strong and has already been through quite a lot. Before Matthew died, she lost a sister and went through the whole scandal with Pamuk and Richard Carlisle. She’s really been through the mill. And what’s wonderful to play is the whole British, stiff-upper-lip thing. You keep calm and carry on. She’s not weak. She’s a survivor. So she will come through it.
LAT: Just not too quickly …
MD: It will take a long time. I promise.
While it’s definitely a bit of a polar opposite from the recent Mr. Selfridge episode and the quandary that Harry Gordon Selfridge found himself in when his largest benefactor wanted to hold a women’s suffrage meeting at the store, the goal of BBC 4′s Up the Women is to poke a bit of fun at the women’s suffrage movement. During the course of creating the series, however, Jessica Hynes (Spaced, Twenty Twelve) became acutely aware of what women in the early 1900′s were going through and of the need and importance of the movement as reported in the Radio Times. “It changed my view on so many things. It affected me in a way I hadn’t expected. I began to understand things about our current society and the way I fit into it, or don’t. I began to understand that the roots to sexual inequality are economic. Without any political power, women would be free or cheap labor. They were totally unpaid, unrecognized cogs in those wheels of commerce“, said Hynes during her research phase of the project.
In last nights premiere episode, Margaret (Jessica Hynes) has just returned from London where she discovers the women’s suffrage movement. She convinces her fellow sewing group members that they should campaign for women to get the vote and to rename their group ‘The Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Request Women’s Suffrage,’ which, unfortunately, gives viewers a pretty good idea of how successful they are going to be over the course of the series.
Inspired, she wants the ladies of the newly named group to support the cause and suggests they begin a suffrage league of their own. Margaret’s enthusiasm is contagious and it’s not long before Banbury has its own band of hilariously ineffectual suffragettes.
Transmitting Thursdays at 8:30pm on BBC 4, Hynes has rounded up an impressive who’s who of comedy co–stars. The Thick Of It‘s Rebecca Front plays frosty group president Helen; Getting On‘s Vicki Pepperdine is dim–witted spinster Gwen; Hotel Babylon‘s Emma Pierson is mother–of–14 Eva, and Call the Midwife‘s Judy Parfitt is Helen’s lascivious mother, Myrtle.
Like the infamous dead parrot in one of the most famous of Monty Python sketches, the BBC Television Centre in London is no more; it has ceased to be. That said, UK viewers were able to relive its final days last night with the premiere of Jessica Hynes’ Up The Women, the last series to be filmed at BBC Television Centre. During the taping, Hynes said: “We kept getting lost because everyone was stealing the signs for posterity“.
For those who may have seen last night’s premiere, is this something that we need to be on the lookout for on the other side of the pond?
Perhaps the coolest show on the planet is BBC Radio 4′s Desert Island Discs, which premiered on BBC radio in 1942. Created by Roy Plomley, the format is about as simple as you can get. A guest ‘castaway’ is invited to choose the eight records they would take with them to a desert island. In addition to the 8 records, guests are also asked to choose both a book and a ‘luxury’ item on the outside chance that would be marooned indefinitely.
Amazingly, the British Library discovered a number of editions of Desert Island Discs in their archive last year including 67 episodes that were missing in whole or in part from the BBC’s own archive. As they set about the herculean task of digitizing the lost tapes, unfortunately, in some cases, only the speech could been saved. Working with the BBC’s Desert Island Discs team, the BBC Gramophone Library and the BBC’s written archives at Caversham, where transcripts of each program have been preserved, the restoration process began. Salvaged were some amazing programs featuring Princess Grace of Monaco, Sir Alec Guinness and screenwriter, Dennis Potter.
Here are a couple of quick gems I found digging through the archives…
Book – musical arrangements by Dave Brubeck; Luxury item – piano
Book – Mrs Beeton’s Household Management; Luxury item – Continental railway timetable
Paul McCartney appeared on the 40th anniversary edition of BBC Radio 4′s Desert Island Discs, filmed as part of an Arena Documentary. He discussed how he’d cope with loneliness on a desert island and his poignant choice of Desert island Disc. His book? Linda’s Pictures by Linda McCartney. His luxury item? A guitar, of course.
As you can imagine, there have been some pretty interesting ‘luxury’ items named over the years, many from some very familiar names in the British television world. Not surprisingly, Benny Hill wanted to bring a film camera, Eric Clapton, a guitar, and Rolling Stones’ drummer, Charlie Watts, had to have drumsticks. Peter Sellers wanted snorkeling equipment while everyone’s favorite Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) would bring along the Encyclopedia Britannica and some sun-barrier cream and a straw hat. In 2006, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, wanted to bring a crate of scotch whiskey and David Tennant admitted that he couldn’t do without a solar DVD player loaded with the seven series of The West Wing. Like Eric Clapton, Martin Clunes’ (Doc Martin) must have was an electric guitar.
Some familiar ‘castaways’ from the world of British comedy…
Patricia Routledge – varieties of tea and a tea-making outfit
John Cleese – a life-sized model of Margaret Thatcher and a baseball bat
Felicity Kendal – Plays and Prefaces by George Bernard Shaw and Perfume
Terry Jones – The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer and a pencil and paper
Rowan Atkinson – Uncle Fred in Springtime by P. G. Wodehouse and a car
Lenny Henry – Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and graphic novels (comics)
Geoffrey Palmer – a fly fishing rod (having interviewed him twice, this was no surprise)
Dawn French – Her daughter’s teddy bear (Awww….)
If you have more than a few hours of spare time, do yourself a favor and peruse the 70+ years of Desert Island Discs archives.
As most UK readers are acutely (and sadly) aware, David Tennant playing Richard II is one of the hottest tickets in town with every performance of the new Shakespeare production sold out. That’s the bad news. Not to worry, there’s good news to follow…
The most recent production of Richard II, which was announced back in January, will run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 10 October to 16 November where it will then transfer to the Barbican Theatre in London beginning 9 December, 2013 through 25 January, 2014. Richard II will be directed by Gregory Doran, the Artistic Director of the RSC who last collaborated with Tennant in 2008 for the equally as successful run of Hamlet.
The good news for the whole of Planet Earth is that The Royal Shakespeare Company announced yesterday that the play will be streamed from Stratford-upon-Avon this coming November to cinemas around the world. On 13 November, Richard II will become the first RSC production in history to be shown live in cinemas in North America, Australia, Japan and Northern Europe.
In addition to the special cinema screenings, 1,000 UK schools will have the chance to watch when the production is made available for them to stream for free two days later on 15 November. In addition to the five-act play, the estimated 60,000 lucky students will also have access to a live studio link-up hosted by Konnie Huq, featuring members of the creative team, including both Gregory Doran and David Tennant, who will take part in the live online Q&A.
The show’s producer, John Wyver, added: “Richard II promises to be as thrilling and engrossing an experience on cinema screens as I have no doubt it will be in the theatre“. Unfortunately, no word yet as to what cinemas will participate, but as soon as we can get the information, we’ll post. Having seen the National Theatre presentation of Frankenstein both live and in the cinema a couple of years ago, it really is something to mark your calendars for 13 November right now.
It is with extreme sadness, that we must admit we missed Saturday’s National Towel Day.
While we can’t do anything about our egregious error with National Towel Day, which annually celebrates the greatness of Douglas Adams and, of course, the towel, which any good hitchhiker knows is “the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have“, National Fish and Chips Day has a bit more history to it as ITICA chairman, Peter Borza, explains “National Fish and Chips Day is a hectic and fun-filled day that gives us the opportunity to celebrate 128 years of the ‘one and one’ and most importantly to thank our local communities for their on-going support”.
We would be remiss to let National Fish and Chips Day pass us by so let’s get right to it a day ahead of time. Last month, the Irish Traditional Italian Chippers Association (ITICA) announced the date for the fourth annual ITICA National Fish and Chips Day – Wednesday, 29 May, 2013. That’s tomorrow for those keeping score at home.
While this time-honored classic originated in Great Britain in the 19th century, the dish of battered fish and deep-fried chips, mostly accompanied by mushy peas and tarter sauce, is still traditional pub and late-night 24-hour takeaway fare throughout the United Kingdom.
Unfortunately, the question on everyone’s mind, at this point, is what local chippers will be offering the tasty treats for half price on May 29. Unfortunately, we don’t have a list at this point, but don’t be afraid to ask if you head out to Bardsley’s or Bankers in Brighton, The Bay Fish and Chip Shop – Stonehaven, winner of the 2013 National Fish & Chip Award for Independent Fish and Chip Shop of the Year, Simpsons Fish & Chips in Cheltenham or any other establishment with fish and chips on the menu. It couldn’t hurt. But, you might hold off ordering like Smithy just to be safe and increase your chances. Send photos if you head out Wednesday for fish and chips and we’ll post…