Apparently, there is very little that Hugh Laurie cannot do. From his brilliant comedy work in Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster to playing everyone’s favorite TV curmudgeon, Dr. Gregory House, to his best selling author effort with The Gun Seller (1996), it’s time for Laurie, yet again, to conquer the musical world.
Hugh Laurie: Didn’t it Rain, the follow-up to his 2011 collection of blues standards, ‘Let Them Talk’, follows a similar format of blues and jazz arrangements with numerous high caliber guest musicians, including Taj Mahal, who have lent their talents to support Laurie’s blues piano.
After listening to both ‘Let Them Talk’ and ‘Didn’t it Rain’, which will be released on Monday, it’s crystal clear that Laurie isn’t anywhere near that long line of television or movie stars who, for whatever reason, believe they have an birthright entitlement to record a CD and tour regardless of talent. Laurie has been a student of music history for much of his life. At a recent Queen Mary party to celebrate the release of his upcoming CD, Laurie explained that in 1975 a personal hero, the late New Orleans singer and pianist Professor Longhair, played in the very room he was performing in at a party thrown by Paul McCartney and Wings. The resulting album, ‘Live on the Queen Mary’, had a profound impact on the 19-year-old Laurie. “…It changed everything for me“, Laurie said.
Laurie’s first exposure to the blues came when he was aged 11 or 12. According to Laurie, Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby ‘made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up’. The first album he bought was Muddy Waters’s Live At Mr Kelly’s. He was hooked. With ‘Let Them Talk’ and now Didn’t it Rain’, it’s clear that Laurie is dedicated to making music that is alive and that could stand on its own.
Didn’t It Rain will be released on Warner Music on Monday, 6 May. Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band will tour throughout the UK beginning 13 June. Let’s hope he finds his way to this side of the pond in the not-too-distant future.
For years, there has been endless talk and wishful thinking about the possible merging and/or mashups of both Doctor Who and Star Trek and also Sherlock and Doctor Who. Even Red Nose Day got into the game this past year with a spoof that merged the likes of Doctor Who and Call the Midwife.
When two formidable series collide like this it’s almost too much for anyone’s mind palace to imagine so, virtually 100% of the time, merges like this are better left for the imagination. There are some, however, that you wish could happen just for fun. Given the photo below, while the U.S.S. Enterprise won’t officially be ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’, it would be pretty classic to see Captain Kirk at Downton. Stranger things have happened…
With Star Trek Into Darkness director, JJ Abrams’ recent visit to the Crawley household during the filming of series 4, temporarily, the worlds of futuristic spaceships, intergalactic battles and a murderous terrorist played by Benedict Cumberbatch met the Downton world of British social hierarchy, polished silverware and endless Dowager Countess’ classic one-liners. Unfortunately, before too much time elapsed, Abrams was caught whipping up some eggs in the kitchen by a very stern-looking Mrs Hughes. Thank goodness Mrs. Patmore wasn’t around.
Abrams was in the UK as part of the publicity tour for one of the most anticipated films of 2013, Star Trek Into Darkness, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch. Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters worldwide on May 16.
While it’s often been said by those involved both in front of and behind the camera, whether it be comedy or drama, the strength of a supporting or ensemble cast is right up there in setting British television output apart from the rest of the world of telly. Besides the writing, casting is spot on virtually 110% of the time in British drama and comedy. All you have to do is resurrect visions of the Dibley Town Council in the Vicar of Dibley and it’s case closed.
Perhaps the two most-anticipated series on both side of the Atlantic, BBC’s Sherlock and ITV’s Downton Abbey have announced cast additions for their upcoming 2013-2014 series. Equally as anticipated in the States given that both series have early 2014 tentative target dates for broadcast on PBS, news of the additional cast means only one thing….both series are deep into principal filming meaning every day is closer to broadcast.
Downton Abbey adds Death in Paradise’s Gary Carr
As most of you know, there will be lots of new faces along with a number of familiar faces both above and below the stairs for Downton Abbey 4. Series regulars Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter will have more than enough to deal just with the return of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson. Joining Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Nigel Harman, Joanna David and Dame Harriet Walter will be Gary Carr (Fidel, Death in Paradise) as ‘charming and charismatic’ young jazz singer, Jack Ross.
Sherlock adds My Mad Fat Diary’s Sharon Rooney
A name and face probably more known to UK viewers given her time on My Mad Fat Diary, Sharon Rooney is to join the cast of Sherlock – most likely for the series three finale according to reports. In keeping with the necessary tight-lipped security around the series, Rooney will play a character named Laura, but that is all that is known.
My Mad Fat Diary is a six-part drama that aired on Britain’s digital channel, E4, which looks at life from the perspective of funny, music-mad 16-year-old Rae, based on My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary, the real-life diaries of Rae Earl.
While Alan Partridge fans eagerly await the premiere of Alpha Papa, the Die Hard-like hostage thriller that has North Norfolk Digital’s finest facing off against a fellow DJ gone postal, Steve Coogan fans can rejoice in the fact that The Trip, with Coogan and fellow British comedian Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves, will return for a second series in 2013-2014. This time, they have set their sights on Italy.
While the BBC hasn’t ‘officially’ confirmed the commissioning of a second series, Coogan did confirm by saying: “We are going to Italy. I went there three weeks ago to meet Rob and Michael to go for dinner and talk about what we were going to do. We’re supposed to be retracing the footsteps of the Romantics, of Shelley and Byron and Keats, and I don’t know enough about it. I’m damned if Rob’s going to come across as an authority on it. It’ll be a great motivation for me to read up on it so that when we improvise, I can drop some information on him.”
In the original 2010 series The Trip, which was released as a feature film in the States, Coogan stars as, well, Steve Coogan. Alongside co-star Rob Brydon, Coogan does his best Larry David and/or Rick Spleen imitation in a multitude of never-ending phone conversations with his agent turning down roles in second-rate movies while giving serious consideration to an HBO drama series. In, perhaps, the most ironic line ever uttered in a movie that I can remember, Coogan emphatically tells his agent, “I don’t want to do British TV“.
Lest you think this is just an extended length Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld, the actual storyline of The Trip has Coogan and Brydon, playing themselves, sort of, traveling across the north of England on a food and wine, fine-dining, tour of country inns. It is brilliant, and well worth the time.
Throughout ‘the trip’, Coogan and Brydon provide some brilliant interchanges, one of them, in particular, discussing how to rally the troops for their impending battle….
Look out Italy. You’ve been warned…
With both DCI Banks and Scott & Bailey as brilliant examples of ITV’s gripping drama output, one can’t help but have high hopes for their newest entry in the police procedural genre, Life of Crime. With Life of Crime, the twist of the 3-part storyline is what takes it up a notch.
Life of Crime spans three decades in the life and career of risk-taking policewoman Denise Woods. Through each decade, Denise progresses through the Metropolitan Police Force showing how choices that she makes as a rookie officer have long lasting repercussions on both her professional and personal life.
The series begins when Denise, played by Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Any Human Heart, Pillars of the Earth, Captain America) starts her career as an idealistic WPC, fighting sexism and ignoring her mother’s clear disappointment at her career choice.
She’s seconded to work with handsome young plain clothes Detective Sergeant Ray Deans, played by Richard Coyle (Coupling, Strange, Covert Affairs). One September morning she accompanies him to a crime scene in a narrow lane behind a Brixton nightclub where the battered and strangled body of teenager Amy has been discovered.
Having just had a previous encounter with the teenager, Denise is determined to bring Amy’s killer to justice. She works against the clear instruction and advice of her senior officers and follows her own lines of enquiry. As the investigation progresses Denise’s fervor for the case leads her to fall foul of her senior officer, DCI Ferguson (Con O’Neill). But Denise stays single-minded in her pursuit of the killer and at that point makes her fateful decision.
In what is probably a nightmare for the series’ Continuity Department, becomes the cool factor for the audience. Life of Crime is set against the backdrop of iconic moments in British history, with the drama unfolding over the three decades. Viewers will first meet Denise against the backdrop of the Brixton riots in 1985, and then in 1997 as she rises through the ranks and again in 2013 when she is a senior officer with everything to lose.
The three-part Life of Crime will transmit on ITV1 beginning 10 May at 9:00pm. With the recent success of the likes of DCI Banks, Scott & Bailey and The Bletchley Circle, let’s hope for a U.S. broadcast on PBS in the not too distant future….
The Metropolitan Police Service’s Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS) is made up of retired police officers who have been recruited to reinvestigate unsolved crimes – or ‘Cold Case’. While the upcoming series of New Tricks will, sadly, be the last for long time regular ‘old dogs’, Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong, there’s a new ‘old dog in town’ for series ten. Nicholas Lyndhurst (Only Fools and Horses, Goodnight Sweetheart, After You’ve Gone, Rock & Chips) joins the UCOS for the tenth series as former copper, Dan Griffin. Word is that Lyndhurst will join the cast about half-way through the new series replacing Alun Armstrong (DI Brian Lane). Amanda Redman (DS Sarah Pullman) will also exit towards the end of the upcoming series to be replaced by a new female boss.
While nothing has been leaked as of yet with regards to a storyline for series ten, P1 New Tricks fans will no doubt remember the original ‘final’ episode of series nine where Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) and Steve McAndrew (Denis Lawson), who replaced James Bolam last year, head to Glasgow, where a new UCOS section is being set up. Seems as though police in Scotland want to set up their own version of UCOS and Gerry is just the man to tell them all about it. While in Scotland, the pair of ‘old dogs’ end up unofficially investigating the 1993 murder of a bookie which leads to the discovery of a child abuse scandal in a care home spanning two decades. The episode ends with Gerry admitting, “Scotland is beginning to grow on me.” UK viewers will remember the episode as being the one that was postponed a week from its original transmission in the wake of the Jimmy Savile investigation.
Principle filming began last Fall in Gibraltar where the series will kick off with a special two-part opening episode this Summer when BBC One begins transmitting, tentatively. Look for series ten to air in the States on public television stations in early 2014.
Throw all the genius of the Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Red Nose Day and Downton Arbys parodies out the window. What better way to put a bright spot on the Crawley’s world and begin to heal a tearful Downton Abbey nation than a Downton musical! Yes, it’s time for Downton Abbey: The Musical.
Filmed at 54 Below, the legendary Studio 54′s secret VIP room in New York, actor and comedian Colin Andrew Mochrie (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) is brilliant as Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who explains his decision to create a Downton musical in between cuts of songs that would fit perfectly into Edwardian England.
Clear a space on the shelf, this has ‘Tony’ written all over it. After all, Carson sings about tea, Mrs. Hughes tries to get him to embrace a newfangled way of making his favorite drink and Mary and Tom sing sad songs while they hold their babies. if that’s not award worthy, Mary Stout, who portrays Mrs. Patmore, reveals it’s been a lifelong dream of hers to play Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd. FYI, Mrs. Hughes is Randy Graff, who won a Tony Award for her performance in City of Angels.
Given that there are still a few episodes left in the first series of Mr. Selfridge for U.S. audiences, there may be more spoilers than the law allows in today’s post so read on at your own peril if you are in the U.S.
It’s safe to say that in both the U.S. and the UK, Mr. Selfridge can be considered an audience hit even with several episodes to go as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series. Given the response, ITV was fairly quick to commission a second series, which began filming this past week in London. The ten new episodes, based upon the life of flamboyant American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, played by Jeremy Piven, picks up the story in 1914 as the store celebrates its 5th anniversary of trading.
While Harry is understandably proud of the success of Selfridges, there is no time to rest on his laurels. I say understandable because, personally, I’m not sure Harry Gordon Selfridge ever ‘rested on his laurels’. Ever. With rumors rampant and talk of war in Europe imminent, Harry prepares his staff for challenging times ahead. The store must play its own part in the war effort and help keep morale high on the home front. As with Downton Abbey, the war plays an integral part in the storyline as it will, obviously, affect the lives of everyone in the store.
Lots of characters returning to Mr. Selfridge with several new characters to be added to the mix for series 2. Stirring the pot will be the flamboyant new Head of Fashion, Mr Thackeray, played by Cal Macaninch (Downton Abbey, Wild at Heart) and Polly Walker (John Carter, Clash of the Titans), who plays Delphine Day. Day is a Bohemian novelist and owner of the infamous Delphine’s Club in Soho and, now, Rose’s new best friend whom she met on the boat home from New York. Lord Loxley also unexpectedly returns creating tension and animosity throughout Selfridges with his unsettling presence that threatens to drive a wedge between Harry and Lady Mae.
Series 2 of Mr. Selfridge is set to transmit this Fall on ITV1 and beginning late March 2014 on PBS in the States. If you’re keeping score at home for series 2 potential, you have a beleaguered Harry, an empowered Rose, a returning Lord Loxley and a flamboyant new Head of Fashion and that’s just episode 1!. Oh, yeah, there’s World War I that’s getting ready to begin too. I’m liking this already….