Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of the BBC/PBS Sherlock has done the best male imitation of Annie Carnes in Oklahoma. He just can’t say no. I only say selfishly because the more Benedict’s star keeps rising and the more he says yes to projects such as The Hobbit, Star Trek, War Horse, Parades End and Tinker Tailor, the longer we have to wait for the likes of any new Sherlock brilliance.
Both the BBC and The Hollywood Reporter are reporting that Cumberbatch has been cast in the big-screen biography of Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles when they first started out. Often referred to as “the fifth Beatle”, Epstein was instrumental in the birth of the group, their iconic look and style and their emergence as the most popular musical act on the planet. In 1967, at the height of Beatlemania, Epstein died of an overdose, in what many believe was a suicide. Tom Hanks will produce and Paul McGuigan will direct. Cumberbatch should feel right at home with McGuigan given he has directed four of the six episodes of Sherlock. Producers describe the film as the story of “the man who threw the biggest party of the 1960s but ultimately forgot to invite himself.”
Interestingly, the news of the Tom Hanks project surfaces just as another Brian Epstein film, dubbed The Fifth Beatle, is coming together from author Vivek J. Tiwary, who will write and produce a big-screen adaptation of his graphic novel. That project has secured the rights to inlude Beatles songs from Sony/ATV, which controls the John Lennon/Paul McCartney music catalogue.
While it might seem odd at first, only the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hanks and Paul McGuigan might just actually be able to pull of a Fifth Beatle biopic with no Beatles music anywhere in sight….
Forget the obligatory countdowns that are beginning to surface with regards to how many shopping days until Christmas, etc. The real countdown is that, in the States on PBS, we are exactly 9 weeks from today away from the premiere of the new season of Downton Abbey – (insert a public thank you to all of our friends across the pond who are, as we speak, coming to the end of the current series and have yet to provide spoilers for those of us who haven’t seen yet. We know how hard this is in the Age of Twitter, etc., so, thank you). Hopefully, by the time Downton Abbey 4 rolls around the amount of time between UK and U.S. broadcast will be diminished dramatically. A same day broadcast in both countries would be kind of great, wouldn’t it?
In the meantime, knowing a bit about the subject like he does, ITV has tapped Downton writer/creator, Julian Fellowes to present a 2-part series, Julian Fellowes’ Historical Houses in 2013. “The great houses of Britain have for centuries been the guardians of much of our history, not just of the families who built and lived in them, but of the people who worked there, of the local area, of all of us,” said Fellowes. “Where they have remained in the hands of the original families, the archives are rich in their stories and I have been on the trail of just a few of these.”
The series will be produced by Chocolate Media which is owned by NBCUniversal International Television Production and who also owns Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey.
With Hollywood studios finally beginning to recognize that older people do go to the movies and that there is, in fact, money to be made with films that actually place more emphasis on script than special effects, the word on the street is that there is a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the works. Cast members including Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Dame Maggie Smith are, ‘in principle’, eager to return for the second film but no mention as to whether or not John Madden will return to direct the film. Based on author Deborah Moggach’s novel, These Foolish Things, news of the possible film sequel is being reported in MovieScope magazine with original screenwriter Ol Parker set to deliver a new script to 20th Century Fox studios in the next couple of months.
If you haven’t seen the gem of a film, this is a must see. Interestingly, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was not a hit with critics when it first premiered in 2011 which does nothing but further my belief that if critics don’t like something, I go see it and vice versa. With a cast that reads like a Who’s Who of British acting, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of a group of retired Brits who move to a newly-restored hotel when they, individually, decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India.
Since the original, both Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith have been busy both on the big and small screen. Judi Dench reprising her role as agent M in the soon to be releases James Bond film, Skyfall while Maggie Smith continued her Dowager Countess brilliance in the newest series of the ITV/PBS mega-hit, Downton Abbey, and will then return to the big screen in late December 2012 with Billy Connolly and Sheridan Smith in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet.
This will be one sequel that I’m willing to put on the calendar as one to go see….anyone with me?
Oddly, this weeks From the Friday Vault selection, The Crystal Maze, comes out of the fact that I was watching Rocky Horror Picture Show earlier this week on Halloween. At this point, you’re probably trying to figure out the connection. While it is sometimes pretty scary how my mind works, for those that remember this early 90′s British game show that aired on Channel 4, you’ll immediately remember the host, Richard O’Brien, who was also brilliant as Riff Raff in Rocky Horror.
Initially, the show was intended to be a British remake of the French program, Fort Boyard, whose set was actually a real fort in the middle of the sea. Realizing that this would make it impossible to import, British producer Malcolm Heyworth decided to reinvent the show using four themed zones, representing various periods of time and space, all designed to weave contestants through a myriad of physical and mental challenges. Each week, the team of six contestants took part in a selection of challenges in order to win ‘time crystals’, which were actually, golf ball-sized Swarovski glass crystals. If the contestant failed to complete the stated challenge and exit the chamber in the alloted time, they would be locked in until the team captain opted to buy their teammates freedom at the cost of a previously-earned crystal, which could be done at any time after the lock-in.
With a stated overall goal to collect ‘crystals’ each of which would give the team five seconds of time in the Crystal Dome, the heart of the maze, teams would then enter the dome to take part in their final challenge and, hopefully, win prizes. While the weekly challenges were ‘challenging’, the set was amazing. The maze, itself, cost £250,000 to build and was the size of two football fields. If you get a chance, check it out this weekend when you are desperately searching for something to screen. Anyone out there in Tellyspotting-land remember this from the early 90′s?
The Crystal Maze, series 2, episode 1
I have to say, upfront, I love the civility that surrounds any discussion of British politics. The most recent example occurred 16 October when Rowan Atkinson took issue with a particular clause in the Public Order Act of 1986 in Britain.
As Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 currently reads, Edmund Blackadder would have somewhat of a difficult time formulating a sentence any time Baldrick enters the room. At the center of the controversy is the provision of the Public Order Act of 1986 which considers it illegal to insult people. When you think back to the early days of Rowan Atkinson in Not the Nine O’Clock News, it does seem that, in 2012, life actually does seem to be imitating art.
As brilliantly reported in the Digital Journal, Atkinson, speaking at a reception in the British Houses of Parliament in front of Members of Parliament and Peers (members of the House of Lords) cautioned that criticism, unfavourable comparison or “merely stating an alternative point of view” could, under Section 5 of the Public Order Act as it presently stood, lead to arrest. The star of Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder and Mr. Bean went on to say, ”The clear problem with the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism is easily construed as insult. Ridicule is easily construed as insult. Sarcasm, unfavourable comparison, merely stating an alternative point of view can be interpreted as insult.”
Stephen Fry, often described in Britain as a ‘national treasure’, has also lent his support to the campaign by tweeting “Insults aren’t nice. But should they be illegal? Support my friends in removing ‘insulting’ from public order act.”
According to individuals that are in support of the repeal of Section 5, at issue is whether it is a function of the state to protect individuals from insult and quotes from the legal textbook ‘The Law of Public Order and Protest’: “Section 5 extends the criminal law into areas of annoyance, disturbance and inconvenience. In particular, it covers behaviour which falls short of violence or the threat of violence”. Citing an increased usage of the provision by UK police who are using it as a catch-all provision convenient for silencing those expressing views which others find uncomfortable, or, on occasions, views which the establishment wishes to suppress.
Organizers of reformsection5.org.uk targeting the repeal of a criminal law as it relates to insults and insulting behaviour takes the view that an “inconvenience with no threat of violence is not the sort of situation which should warrant the involvement of the police and the courts.” It does not dispute that laws are necessary to protect against defamation, incitement to violence or threats of violence“.
Support for the repeal of the provision in question also came from leading Conservative back bench Member of Parliament, David Davis, who said, ”The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right.”
Having witnessed Parliament during a Q&A session both on the small screen and in person, I would absolutely love to see how this plays out in the coming weeks. One thing, for sure, it will definitely be a civil and adult discussion.
As we reported to you last Halloween, since 2010, there were but two bits of small screen greatness that were considered ‘must see TV’ during Halloween. The Simpsons Halloween Special and the 2010 ‘newcomer’ on the block from the brilliant minds of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, the Psychoville Halloween Special. While the Simpsons continues to remain a staple of Halloween viewing for over 20 years, unfortunately, there is no joy in Psychoville as after only two short seasons, the series was cut down in its prime by the BBC and there will be no Halloween special again this year except in reruns.
As was the case in the two short-lived series, Mr Jelly is tormented by the success of his rival Mr Jolly, who, to add insult to injury, was the cause of Mr Jelly’s hook hand. Jelly survived the explosion at Ravenhill, Jolly did not, but even from the grave, Jolly has still got a few tricks up his sleeve. As you can see from the clip below, Mr Jelly is not a big fan of the All Hallows Eve tradition of trick or treat.
For the Halloween special, it’s a return to Ravenhill Psychiactric Hospital for Drew where he remembers his first encounter with Edwina Kenchington, Ravenhill’s Nurse Rachett, the true meaning of ‘consequences’ and four scary stories from the Ravenhill patient files. ‘Phil’, not his real name, is a television location manager for Dale Winton’s Overnight Ghost Hunt investigating the abandoned ruins of the hospital for a possible location shoot. Does the ghost of Edwina Kenchington still walk the empty corridors? What other horrors lie within the crumbling walls and will health and safety allow any filming there in the first place?
The Psychoville Halloween Special was a genius Blair Witch Project-type back story bridge between series 1 and series 2 bringing together a serial-killer obsessed man-child, his all-too caring mother, an embittered children’s entertainer with a hook for a hand, a blind recluse with an unusual collection of Beanie Baby-style soft toys, a charming dwarf who plays the part of Blusher in the panto and a deranged but caring midwife who teaches ante-natal classes at the local hospital. Dame Eileen Atkins is brilliant as the evil Nurse Kenchington from Ravenhill.
Hopefully, even in repeats, this will find it’s way to the small screen again this year as does Rocky Horror Picture Show, Psycho and Plan 9 from Outer Space. If not….enjoy.
Psychoville Halloween Special, part 1
Psychoville Halloween Special, part 2
Psychoville Halloween Special, part 3
Psychoville Halloween Special, part 4
ITV1 has announced that Sir Ian McKellen (X-Men, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) will star in a new comedy sitcom, Vicious Old Queens, alongside Sir Derek Jacobi (I Claudius, King’s Speech). In addition, both have been brilliant throughout their respective careers in virtually every Shakespeare play that exists.
The six-part series, already penciled in for Friday nights beginning next April, will feature the two big screen legends as elderly gay men living together in London’s Covent Garden. The series will be written by Gary Janetti, executive producer and writer of the long-running American sitcom Will And Grace.
Openly gay, as is Jacobi, Sir Ian McKellen has often said that there are many gay actors at the top of the profession because “…we spent so long pretending to be straight, to be someone else, that eventually we became very good at it“.
This has brilliance written all over it and it doesn’t even transmit until April 2013. Once again, this ups the ante in the newly competitive world of British comedy between the BBC, ITV and Sky and, ultimately, both UK and U.S. audiences will be the beneficiary.
Who knew that there may actually be a Sherlock Holmes Separation Anxiety Society. Unofficially, they’ve been dealing with the separation for 125 years as opposed to most of us that have been at it for only a little over 2 years now, ever since the premiere of the BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Officially, they are called the Sherlock Holmes Society with a current membership of almost 1,200 people from all over the world and that they recently traveled to Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland.
Many of them spend their free time re-enacting the key moments of the world’s most famous consulting detective’s life. Their most recent travels, in September of this year, took them to Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland. As Sherlock fans worldwide are keenly aware, there is no moment more key than, perhaps, the most famous scene in the Sherlock Holmes stories which occurs in Switzerland, where Holmes fans gather to re-enact the detective’s tussle with his nemesis, Moriarty.
This past September, BBC News followed over 70 ‘fans’ of Sherlock Holmes who went on an annual pilgrimage to Meiringen in Switzerland, home of the Reichenbach Falls, and scene of the final struggle between Sherlock Holmes and his arch enemy, Professor James Moriarty.
“I think they are marvelous, and slightly bonkers,” says British journalist David Leask, who went along on the pilgrimage. “These are serious people who are able to really let their hair down. Essentially, they are playing a game, they’re being silly, they are having fun like children. Yet these are barristers, architects, business people, doing this in their spare time just for the sheer love of silliness. We could all learn something from that.”
The highlight of this love of silliness is the re-enactment of the infamous moment when Sherlock Holmes meets his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, at the Reichenbach waterfalls. After a violent struggle, both men apparently disappear. After the final scene of “The Final Problem” is re-enacted, the pilgrims treat themselves to some Swiss cheese and wine, enjoying the autumn sunshine and the stunning alpine scenery.
For Moriarty character Peter Horrocks, it’s a dream holiday. ”This holiday has everything,” he says. “It has the beauty of the Swiss mountains and, it has the background of the Sherlock Holmes stories.”
Remembering that it was in the BBC’s 21st century Sherlock that Holmes fell from the roof of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the final episode of series 2, “The Reichenbach Fall”, I wonder when the pilgrimage to St Barts will be this year? Although one has to wonder if Sherlock Holmes purists are as accepting of the 21st century version….