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Downton Abbey 4 – No wagering, please!

September 22, 2013

Being at the Venetian in Las Vegas several years ago prior to the Super Bowl and seeing that I could place a wager on the first person to fumble in the great game, I came to the realization that, in America, you could pretty much bet on anything. Apparently, this mentality has finally crept across the pond as bookies in the UK have set their sites on everyone’s favorite period drama, Downton Abbey, offering odds on who has a target on their back to become the next Lady Sybil or Matthew Crawley.
 
Downton Abbey's Bates

At 3:1, Bates may have left prison, but conventional wisdom/speculation says that life for the big guy isn’t going to be that safe at Downton in the coming weeks. Everyone’s favorite/not-so-favorite under butler Thomas Barrow, is next in line at 7:1 with the Dowager Countess running a close third at 8:1 according to William Hill, the UK’s top betting site and world’s biggest bookmaker.
 
Dowager Countess

Downton Abbey fans may be beside themselves with the unthinkable thought of a possible series 5 without Lady Violet, but creator/writer Julian Fellowes may have no choice (let’s not forget Dan Stevens, a.k.a. Matthew Crawley). Before anyone runs out of the room intent on spreading that rumor around, it’s not even a rumor at this point so not to worry. Lady Violet’s son, The Earl of Grantham is next in line for the kill at 10:1, while Downton’s cook Mrs Patmore is a bit safer with 12:1 odds.
 
Lady Mary and Branson on Downton Abbey

Lady Edith, who seems ready to abandon her resentful middle sister mindset, can breathe a sigh of relief. With odds of 33:1 and a new outlook on life, there seems to be very little chance that she’ll meet a grisly end in series four. At 25:1 odds, Branson and Lady Mary both seem fairly safe, too, which seems only fair as it would be a bit cruel to kill off baby Sybil and baby George’s remaining parents. Curiously, there’s no mention of Carson…

How about you. Who do you think will not see the light of day in Downton Abbey 5?

Who won't be coming back for Downton Abbey 5?

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London streets transported to early 1900′s for Mr. Selfridge 2 filming

September 21, 2013

Overshadowed just a bit by that little series getting ready to premiere this Sunday we know as Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven and Katherine Kelly, which airs on ITV1 in the UK and PBS in the States as part of the Masterpiece series, will return in 2014 with 10 new episodes. Based upon the life of flamboyant American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the world-renowned store on London’s Oxford Street in 1909, the second series jumps ahead four years from the series 1 finale picking up the story in 1914 as the store celebrates its 5th anniversary of trading. With filming for series 2 continuing, cast and crew got back to work this week transporting the London streets back to Edwardian times.
 
Mr Selridge transforms Lond streets into Edwardian era

Series star Aisling Loftus (Agnes Towler) was back in costume and looked every inch the turn of the century girl. Agnes has been working in Paris and returns to London in episode one to work for Harry as Selfridge’s new Head of Display. With the fashion and style influence of the Parisians, Agnes turns heads with her sophisticated new look.
 
Series star Aisling Loftus (Agnes Towler) was back in costume and looked every inch the turn of the century girl

***Mr. Selfridge 2 plot spoiler alert below!***

Following the departure of his wife Rose (Frances O’Connor) for America at the end of series one, Harry has become accustomed to the life of a single man in London as the couple become increasingly estranged. But when she returns to British shores to celebrate Selfridges’ fifth anniversary of trading, Harry is determined to win back her affection. Getting in the way of Harry’s plan is Rose’s new friendship with bohemian novelist and businesswoman, Delphine Day, played by Polly Walker (Rome, Waking the Dead, State of Play), whom she meets on the boat back from New York.

Adding to Harry’s woes is his increasingly troubled relationship with business partner, Lady Mae Loxley (Katherine Kelly) as Aidan McArdle (Garrow’s Law joins the cast as Lord Loxley, returning from ‘the countryside’. Another cast addition sees Cal Macaninch (Downton Abbey) cast is newly appointed head of fashion, Mr Thackeray.

While Harry is proud of the store’s success, there is no time to rest on his laurels. With rumors rife and talk of war in Europe, he prepares staff for challenges times ahead. With World War One imminent and set to be the greatest and most devastating in history, it will inevitably affect the lives of everyone in the store. Throughout these troubled times, Harry will turn to his family and friends and try and heal the rifts of the past.

According to ITV, series 2 will transmit in early 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. U.S. broadcast as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series is tentatively set to begin not long after on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

John Cleese’s Romance with a Double Bass

September 20, 2013

Nearly 40 years ago, in 1974, in the early post-Monty Python’s Flying Circus era, a charming little one-off special, Romance with a Double Bass was written by John Cleese, Connie Booth and Bill Owen. Unfortunately, it is light years apart from the previous Cleese/Booth collaboration of Fawlty Towers opting for a steady diet of physical humor over dialogue. That said, the fact that it’s based on the short story of the same name by Anton Chekhov, it’s charming, quaint and quintessentially British.

Smychkov (Cleese), a bassist, shows up too early for the betrothal ball of a beautiful princess (Booth), and decides to spend his extra time skinny dipping in the nearby lake. The princess, unbeknownst to the bass player, has gone fishing at the lake. She later decides to go skinny dipping as well. However, things change when a thief absconds with both Smychkov’s and the Princess’s clothes, and while the Princess is wandering around, she meets Smychkov. After their initially embarrassing encounter, Smychkov helps the princess to preserve her dignity by transporting her back to the castle in his bass case. All is not for naught, however, as along the way they discover they have feelings for each other.
 

 
So, that’s your Friday Funny for this week with heavier emphasis on ‘Friday’ than ‘Funny’. Either way, it’s worth a look.

The Downton Abbey Effect

September 19, 2013

You can already drink wine like the Crawleys. Thanks to Marks and Spencer, everyone can now have lips as red and hands as soft as Lady Mary.

Could Grey be the new Black?

And, now, you can decorate your house to look just like the imposing stately home, too. Two shades of grey paint, Empire Grey and Amber Grey, courtesy of Mylands of London, have been specifically developed and are now on sale to the public, so all of us ‘downstairs folk’ can paint our kitchen cabinets to look just like Mrs Patmore’s territory. Who knows…

Downton Abbey makes for strange bedfellows

As the Downton Abbey-nation in the UK awaits the return of the ITV period drama this Sunday at 9:00pm, the online marketplace eBay has noticed a surge in sales of Downton Abbey style decor as the countdown to the show’s fourth series continues with purchases of four-poster beds having doubled in a month.
 
Downton Abbey inspires surge in sales of four poster beds

It’s not just beds fit for the Dowager Countess, however, that fans are desperate to get your hands on. According to the eBay, chandeliers and candelabras have been 20% more popular since the build up to the new series began at the beginning of August, while sales of ornate serving platters are up by 30% and the number of dressing screens sold has risen 35%.

Finally, for your listening pleasure, the Downton Abbey official soundtrack includes the theme song WITH WORDS…
 

 
Gloucester-born Mary-Jess Leaverland, who first came to public attention in 2009 after winning the Chinese singing contest Min Xing Chang Fan Tian (or in English: I Want to Sing to the Stars), sings the theme to Downton Abbey, which was written by John Lunn with lyrics by Don Black.

Now, is everyone ready for the premiere on Sunday night on ITV? How about January 5 in the U.S.?

The Full Sherlock…at Comic-Con 2013

September 18, 2013

Unfortunately, this won’t make life any easier given that Sherlock still probably won’t premiere on the BBC and PBS until 2014, but thanks to the generous folks over at PBS’ Masterpiece series, it’s just about the next best thing unless you happen to re-watch series one and two anytime between now and then. Many have seen the brilliant on location taped bits from both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that originally played at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 this past July.

As most know, series stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were unable to attend with Martin putting the finishing touches on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy while Benedict was involved in virtually every other movie that was filming at the time (or so it seemed). However, Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss along with Executuve Producer, Sue Vertue, were in attendance and did the utmost to bring the standing room only crowd to a fevered pitch talking about their favorite consulting detective.
 

 
Grab some lunch and have a look. It’s well worth it. Especially about 10 minutes in when Steven Moffat revisits the series two ending and then reveals his most favorite show-stopping Sherlock moment so far. Me? I’m on the way to the video store to get Billy Wilder’s Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Stephens and Christopher Lee, which Mark Gatiss speaks of as being a big inspiration to them when researching the relationship between Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft.

More Endeavour set for 2014

September 17, 2013

Just when you thought television drama couldn’t possibly get any better, it does…and actually did with Monday’s announcement by ITV that Endeavour, the crime drama prequel to the Inspector Morse series, has begun production on series 2.

Shaun Evans returns in the lead role of young Morse, with Roger Allam (The Thick of It, Parade’s End) as his superior, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. Also returning will be regulars Anton Lesser, James Bradshaw, Jack Laskey, Shaun Rigby and Abigail Thaw (John Thaw’s daughter).
 
Endeavour

The new series will again be written by acclaimed screenwriter and Morse contributor Russell Lewis. Colin Dexter, whose first Morse story was published in 1975, will continue his association with the drama, acting as a consultant.

The first film in the series, “Trove”, directed by Kristoffer Nyholm (The Killing), begins when an unknown man plummets to his death. The ensuing investigation brings Detective Constable Endeavour Morse back into action where he unearths secrets both in the deep recesses of the university and far beyond the city. Unfortunately, the body count continues to rise and doomsday beckons…

Faced with the challenge of creating a prequel to such an iconic series such as Morse, it was clear from the outset to ‘get it right’. Judging from the UK and U.S. audience figures, that’s exactly what they did.
 

 
Look for the new set of Endeavour programs to hit the small screen on ITV and PBS in 2014.

The making of ‘The Wrong Mans’….the trailer

September 16, 2013

On Thursday, 24 September, when danger calls…they happened to answer. Sam and Phil are two well-meaning idiots, a.k.a. The Wrong Mans, and they’re entangled in a world of crime, conspiracy and corruption. Co-creators/writers/stars James Corden (Gavin & Stacey, One Man Two Guvnors) and Mathew Baynton (Spy, Horrible Histories, Peep Show) start the day out as Phil and Sam, two low end of the food chain Berkshire Council employees.

The Wrong Mans official trailer
 

 
When Sam finds a mobile phone and receives some menacing messages intended for the owner, he tells Phil, who decides that this is the chance for them to escape from their tedious suburban dreariness and have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Unfortunately, that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ adventure consists of a world of unexpected international conspiracy and intrigue so it might just be their last ‘adventure’.

Since all mankind knows I’m a geek when it comes to behind-the-scenes footage and DVD extras, this just had to get airplay. Essentially, I love knowing how the sausage is made, except when we’re talking about…sausage. Here, producers show us how the above trailer for the series was made.

The making of The Wrong Mans trailer
 

 
The Wrong Mans premieres Tuesday, 24 September at 9p on BBC Two.

‘Downton Abbey’ ready to meet the Roaring 20′s head on

September 15, 2013

Downton Abbey 4 spoilers…kind of

With creator/writer Lord Julian Fellowes promising a significant change for the fourth season of Downton Abbey, the old-fashioned “world in which Downton began” will be transformed into the modern era of motor cars, movies, and music.

As most of the planet is aware, next Sunday’s long-awaited series 4 UK premiere begins six months after the still shocking death of the heir to Downton and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) in mourning for her late husband Matthew. Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) seems to be finding herself this series abandoning her resentful middle sister mindset and venturing into a more “bohemian lifestyle” and experiencing the “thrill of rebellion”.
 
DOWNTON-LADY-EDITH_2668529c

Lady Edith not afraid of Virginia Woolf

The first episode of the show can be seen embracing lover Michael Gregson, in the hopes he will divorce his wife and allow her to hang out with artists and write. Trying to escape the Downton stuffiness, Lady Edith attends a party with the ‘Bloomsbury Set’, meeting real-life literary figure, Virginia Woolf, played by actress Christina Carty.

While the first three series of Downton played out amidst historical events like the sinking of the Titanic, World War I and the influenza epidemic of 1919, the introduction of real individuals fits within the framework of the new series and its focus on the vibrant culture of the era. Creator Julian Fellows told the Telegraph, “The fourth season is more about getting into the ’20s: what young people wanted, the changes in music, the arrival of the movies, cars, transport and all of that stuff.

UK, it’s time to start your Downton Abbey 4 countdown calendar for next Sundays series 4 premiere on ITV. Don’t be afraid to tell everyone stateside what’s in store for us beginning January 5, 2014 on PBS. We’ll be waiting.

Get ready for the new Foyle’s War with a 6 in 6 recap

September 14, 2013

It’s Saturday. You’ve sadly come to the realization that with Foyle’s War returning to PBS on Sunday, there’s no time remaining for a marathon crash viewing session of the first 6 seasons before Sundays premiere of series 7 on Masterpiece.

Not to worry. Acorn TV, one of the driving forces behind its return, is looking out for you with a classic “6 in 6″ look back at the first 6 seasons of the exploits of Christopher Foyle and Honeysuckle Weeks.
 

 
Michael Kitchen and Samantha Stewart brilliantly reprise their roles when Foyle’s War returns to PBS Sunday at 8p CT/9p ET on Masterpiece. In season 7, the enigmatic Foyle is now working for British Secret Intelligence. World War II has ended but just over the horizon has a different war looming as the iron curtain falls across Europe. MI5 suspects British atomic research has been infiltrated, and ask Foyle to investigate whether a Russian spy network could be at work in the heart of London.

Season 7 will air over the next three Sundays on PBS’ Masterpiece series with “The Eternity Ring” on Sept 15, “The Cage” on Sept 22 and concluding on Sept 29 with “Sunflower”.

Cheers.

Friday Funny: An Oscar-worthy remix for Monty Python & the Holy Grail?

September 13, 2013

Given that there are times it seems like Oscar consideration can materialize overnight for a movie with nothing more than a good trailer, Monty Python & the Holy Grail might just need a second look from the Oscar judges based on a new trailer that has surfaced some 38 years after the cult classic premiered in 1975.

While the soon-to-be limbless Black Knight would be pleased to see he’s finally getting the respect he so deserves, I do find it rather difficult to believe that I would have camped out overnight that fateful evening at the Wilshire Theater in Dallas for one of the world premiere screenings had this trailer played leading up to that night.
 

 
The fact that we were handed two coconut halves upon entering the theater would have been even more bizarre had we seen nothing but the seriousness of King Arthur and his quest for the Grail.

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