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With Towel Day just around the corner, H2G2 – The Game turns 30

April 1, 2014

While longtime H2G2 fans will immediately remember the original Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy radio and TV series, how many actually remember the H2G2 game? First, you have to set the Wayback Machine to 1984. It was then that Steve Meretzky of Infocom got together with H2G2 creator, Douglas Adams, to create a game based around the radio series of the same name. At the time, however, no one recognized the insanity a game like this given the limitations of the day.

As Richard Harris wrote for DouglasAdams.com: “…it’s hard to believe that, some 30 years ago (1984), there was a time when computer games didn’t have graphics. Or at least they couldn’t have graphics and sound at the same time. They certainly couldn’t have graphics, sound and enough content to keep even a human being amused for more than a few minutes. So they had text. This was radical – a computer game you could control by typing in commands!”

Douglas Adams in 1985 on the creation of the H2G2 game

Fortunately, 30 years have passed and we have been blessed with the arrival of HTML5. Now, the game’s personality has started to shine. From the Department of Be Careful What You Ask For, however, comes this initial warning on the ‘Welcome’ screen…The game will kill you frequently. It’s a bit mean like that.
HHGTTG 30th anniversary edition

Fortunately, the brilliant minds over a BBC Radio 4 have supplied you with a tutorial to help you get started. The How to Play tab will help you immensely in limiting the number of times you are killed. If you are still a bit confused, here are a few hints from Douglas Adams, himself.

You may not have your towel yet, but everyone starts at the same place…even Arthur Dent. Remember, DON’T PANIC. You can always hit ‘save’ and then ‘restore’ before you get killed. And, remember Towel Day is just around the corner on May 25!

First pics from the set of ‘Downton Abbey 5′ begin to trickle in

March 31, 2014

Aside from the fact that new seasons of both Call the Midwife and Mr. Selfridge premiered last night on PBS, most telly drama lovers will readily admit to liking this time of the year as behind-the-scenes bits from the set of Downton Abbey start to trickle in. The great Richard E. Grant (Girls, Gosford Park, Doctor Who) has tweeted a first glimpse of his character on Downton Abbey which is highly reminiscent of his Gosford Park days, don’t you think?
Its Downton Abbey duty for Richard E. Grant

Grant will appear in four episodes of the fifth series and play art historian, Simon Bricker, who pays a visit to the Crawley family. The forthcoming series will also see Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings and A Funeral) appear as Lady Anstruther, the woman footman Jimmy (Ed Speleers) previously worked for. In addition to Chancellor, Rade Sherbedgia (Eyes Wide Shut, 24) has been added and will play a Russian refugee.

The bad news is that we’re being kind when we say ‘trickle in’ as there is this one and only pic from Grant’s twitter feed. The good news is this should signal many more in the days to come with filming currently taking place at both Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios.

New seasons of ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘Mr. Selfridge’ the best yet on PBS

March 30, 2014

The most awaited Sunday in the U.S. since January 5, 2014 (Downton Abbey 4) is finally upon us. Tonight, March 30, sees the return of both Call the Midwife and Mr. Selfridge on PBS for new seasons and, definitely, new drama. Cast for both series took time out recently to talk about what’s in store for both series.

Call the Midwife series 3

Not only are the residents of Nonnatus House forced to find a new home as last season saw the original Nonnatus House fall victim to an unexploded WWII bomb, but they are collectively hitting the swinging sixties and all that entails at the beginning of series 3. While Jessica Raine promises romance, romance and more romance, Miranda Hart talks about ‘Chummy-world’ as Chummy has a family and living away from Nonnatus House for the first time.

Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony Hannah, Laura Main and Stephen McGann preview tonight’s season 3 premiere of Call the Midwife on PBS.

Mr. Selfridge series 2

Season 2 of Mr. Selfridge, which airs as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series, hits its stride amid rumors of an impending war. It’s 1914 and the fifth anniversary of Selfridges. There’s lots going on inside the four walls of the Oxford Street store as Lady Mae’s husband arrives in London unexpectedly, their is talk of unions and when war is declared between Britain and Germany, a staff shortage ensues as the men of Selfridges enlist.

Jeremy Piven, a.k.a. Harry Gordon Selfridge previews season 2 of Mr. Selfridge

Series 3 of Call the Midwife premieres tonight at 8pET/7pCT on PBS with series 2 of Mr. Selfridge premiering at 9pET/8pCT on Masterpiece. Sundays are definitely Must See TV on PBS. Good news for faithful followers of each series on both sides of the pond – both series have been commissioned for another series and targeted for a late 2014 premiere in the UK and early 2015 return on PBS in the States.

Bear with…Miranda Hart joins cast of Paul Feig comedy spy feature

March 29, 2014

After conquering both small screen comedy (Miranda) and drama (Call the Midwife) and, now, in the midst of her first comedy concert tour, the My, What I Call, Live Show tour, Miranda Hart has mastered riding a bike so will now set her sights on the big screen.
MIranda Hart masters the bike in Call the Midwife

According to Deadline, the ‘as yet to be titled’ spy comedy film, to be directed by Paul Feig, will also star Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne. Feig, who has directed numerous episodes of The Office, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Weeds, Nurse Jackie and Mad Men will be reunited with McCarthy whom he also directed in Bridesmaids.

Mildly reminiscent of the time Miranda first told Stevie about Gary, Hart said: ”I am beyond excited to work with Paul who I am a huge huge fan of. And it will be nothing less than a hoot to work with Melissa McCarthy. By the end of the film I plan to have married Jude Law and have Melissa as our adopted daughter.”
Miranda and Gary

Equally as effusive, Feig said of adding Miranda Hart to the cast: ”I’ve been a fan of Miranda’s for years and am so excited to bring her to the big screen. I’m also hoping I’ll finally get back that lawnmower I loaned her last summer.

Filming is set to begin in Budapest on Monday and the film has been slated for a Memorial Day weekend 2015 opening nationwide.

Michael Palin returns to TV for BBC One’s ‘Remember Me’

March 28, 2014

For someone that has had an asteroid named after them (Asteroid 9621 Michaelpalin), has not one, but two high-speed Virgin trains named after him in honor of his achievements as a traveller, is past President of the Royal Geographical Society and has been ‘unofficially’ referred to over the years as “Britain’s Nicest Man”, Michael Palin still gets excited about a new challenge. For Palin, Remember Me for BBC One will be his first leading dramatic role in over 20 years.

This is my first lead role in a TV drama series since G.B.H. It’s also a return to Yorkshire, where I was born, brought up and learnt my acting in amateur dramatics, Palin said. “I was attracted to Remember Me not only by the northern setting, but also by a good, strong challenging role, something I could really get what remains of my teeth into… I’ve always loved ghost stories, so playing the lead in one is a very exciting prospect.”
MIchael Palin in Remember Me for BBC One

In the forthcoming Remember Me for BBC One, Palin will play Tom Parfitt, a frail, old Yorkshireman seemingly alone in the world, whose admittance to a nursing home triggers a series of inexplicable events. On the day elderly Tom Parfitt leaves his home to move into residential care, he becomes the sole witness to a violent death. His teenage care assistant Hannah and investigating police detective Rob Fairholme, played by Mark Addy (The Full Monty, Trollied, Atlantis), try to unravel the riddle of his mysterious history and are drawn into an eerie and dangerous world of lost love and betrayal. Remember Me will also star Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous, Lark Rise to Candleford) as Hannah’s troubled mother Jan Ward.
Mark Addy in Remember Me for BBC One

Remember Me will air on BBC One later this year with, hopefully, a transmission on public television in the States not long after.

Lenny Henry to star in stage version of ‘Rudy’s Rare Records’

March 27, 2014

Rudy’s Rare Records is a tiny, on its last breath, reggae and ska record shop in Birmingham. It is one of a dying breed, a place with real soul and stacked with piles of vinyl where the slogan is “If we don’t have it – them don’t mek it.” Unfortunately, much like Championship Vinyl in High Fidelity, Rudy’s is in danger of being the last of its kind. Art imitates life as greedy developers threaten to ruin the livelihoods of both Rudy, the bad-tempered owner, and his son.

Created by Lenny Henry with original scripts by Danny Robins and Dan Tetsell, Rudy’s Rare Records ran for four series and 20 episodes on BBC Radio 4 from 2008-2012. Beginning 1 September 2014, Rudy’s Rare Records will be making the leap to the live stage with performances at the Hackney Empire Theatre in East London. Rudy and his son battle to save their eccentric business by putting aside their differences and joining forces to keep the music alive. The stage version of Rudy’s Rare Records will also feature a live band who will play reggae, ska, funk and hip hop classics.

Since ending his run as Gareth Blackstock, the tyrannical chef/owner of the Le Chateau Anglais, in Chef, Lenny Henry has been no stranger to live stage. He won the Evening Standard Best Newcomer Award for his portrayal of Othello and recently completed a West End season as Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences, for which he is currently nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award.

Rudy’s Rare Records is an idea very close to Lenny Henry’s heart. The idea of doing a ‘father and son’ comedy where young and old can learn things about each other and about their situation. will run for three weeks beginning 1 September 2014 prior to a UK tour.

Frances Urquhart vs. Frank Underwood – It’s the House of Cards March Madness bracket

March 26, 2014

In true March Madness fashion, there’s one bracket that seems to have been neglected in Vegas this year. Forget Florida, Arizona, Iowa State, Virginia, Michigan, Baylor and the rest of the 2014 NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The real bracket final pits Frances Urquhart against Frank Underwood. It’s the BBC’s House of Cards vs. Netflix House of Cards. Michael Dobbs, who wrote the original 1990 BBC version and also served as executive producer on the current Netflix version, believes very strongly that the American remake remained ‘true to the spirit’ and ‘pays wonderful homage’ to the original series. That said, the 13 episodes of series one of the U.S. version doesn’t even get as far as the first series of the UK version which was only 4 episodes.

MARCH MADNESS 2014: BBC House of Cards vs. Netflix House of Cards. Who wins?

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Sir Ian Richardson’s FU

Kevin Spacey’s FU

You might very well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment.

Actually, I can and will comment. While I love Kevin Spacey and will periodically pop in the DVD of Usual Suspects, Sir Ian Richardson’s performance in the original BBC version of House of Cards is drop dead brilliant. After watching the Netflix version and then re-watching the BBC version, there is just a brilliant bit of camp to Sir Ian’s portrayal with Kevin Spacey’s being much, much darker. Both brilliant. My vote? Easy. Camp and dark beats plain dark every time.


Move over Nigel Tufnel, David Brent to film upcoming Foregone Conclusion mini-world tour

March 25, 2014

Taking a page out of the brilliant Rob Reiner film, Spinal Tap, and coming on the heels of his wildly successful Learn Guitar with David Brent series on YouTube, Ricky Gervais will soon hit the road to document his upcoming Foregone Conclusion tour The former head honcho of Slough paper firm Wernham Hogg told The Sunday Times that he is embarking on a series of live gigs in May and will film it in a ‘Spinal Tap meets sad Scorsese meets Canadian heavy metal band, Anvil,‘ sort of way. Those lucky enough to get tickets will enjoy songs from Brent’s back catalog of Foregone Conclusion ‘hits’ including Free Love Freeway, Spaceman Came Down, Slough, Life on The Road and Ain’t No Trouble.
David Brent and Foregone Conclusion

In describing the film, Gervais said: “It’s Brent who thinks he’s making a Scorsese-type thing in the tradition of the classic Jack Kerouac Beat novel, On The Road. But, in reality, it’s much sadder and more poignant. It’s more of the breakdown of this man who thought he was going to be something else.” If you haven’t seen his Learn Guitar with David Brent series on YouTube, there are 21 million people ahead of you.

Brent may take a page out of the Spinal Tap playbook, but lets hope he doesn’t take a page from the Nigel Tufnel school of guitar playing and “turn it up to 11″. After watching the video you’ll understand…

Lady Edith to step it up in series 5 of ‘Downton Abbey’

March 24, 2014

Even under the highest of high security, Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith on Downton Abbey, readily admits that much will be going on in the forthcoming 5th series with her character Lady Edith. Edith, who is quickly becoming the most progressive Crawley sister, has already had an affair with a married man, become pregnant, gives up her baby for a secret adoption in Switzerland and then chooses to go back to get her infant daughter in the season finale, according to Carmichael, is set to embrace a rebellious side in the coming season.

In a subtle hint as to an, as yet, unresolved plot thread, Carmichael says that fans may want to keep their eyes fixed on the furthering results of the Gregson/Edith affair, which may have run over a cooling period as Gregson disappeared in Germany, but has not left the developing character without a certain set of consequences to grapple with in the meantime. “She takes some risks with Gregson; she’s out with this married man and that causes a lot of drama to come, therefore she doesn’t quite get away with it all,” Carmichael says.

While most of Planet Earth just wishes for Lady Edith to catch even a small break in the romance department, Carmichael believes that despite there being way more downs that ups in the relationship department, there has been a steady progression throughout the series with Edith having to step outside of herself and get beyond her comfort zone to find out what it is that makes her truly happy.

As to the conclusion of her relationship with Gregson only the director and cast members of the 5th season know, but it is after all possible that we could see Gregson’s return. Taking part in a recent online chat with Downton fans, Carmichael was asked if Gregson will come back. “I hope so!, said Carmichael. “Only Julian Fellowes knows for sure. Gregson is a great character. I loved working with Charlie Edwards.”

Gregson or no Gregson, series 5 of Downton Abbey will most likely premiere in England this Autumn, with a January 2015 U.S. premiere as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series.