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There is joy in Mudville – Downton Abbey to return for 6th series

November 7, 2014

Fresh on the heels of the BBC announcement that there will be a 5th series of Call the Midwife comes the brilliant news from PBS and ITV that there will, indeed, be a 6th series of Downton Abbey. As the finale of series 5 is set for this Sunday on ITV in the UK (rest assured, there will still be a Christmas special this year), American audiences can go to bed tonight with the full knowledge that come January 4, 2015 (the premiere of series 5 on PBS) there will be another series to look forward to in 2016!
Highclere Castle in Berkshire

As per shooting schedules for past series, principle filming will begin around February 2015. If one had to guess, UK audiences can look forward to a series 6 premiere sometime in September 2015 with a January 2016 start on PBS in America. Obviously, more questions than answers at this point, but it has been confirmed that Sir Julian Fellowes will again pen the forthcoming series but no word yet given the finale of series 5 has yet to air as to who will return both upstairs and downstairs to Downton.

While the Dowager Countess make still be asking “What is a weekend?, the worldwide audience for Downton Abbey can easily answer that with the fact that this ‘weekend’ is for celebrating that their favorite British period drama will return in 2016!

Benedict Cumberbatch engaged; Internet in tears; Film at 11p

November 6, 2014

First Clooney, now Cumberbatch….

Yes, the news heard ’round the world yesterday that everyone’s favorite Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, is engaged to be married has rocked the Internets. Twitter wasn’t too happy either with an endless stream of tearful tweets, outpourings of grief and overall mourning across Planet Earth. In the era of 24/7 social media, it was kind of brilliantly ‘old school’ with the Sherlock actor simply placing a classified ad under ‘forthcoming marriages’ on page 57 of Wednesday’s Times announcing his engagement to theatre director Sophie Hunter. No PR person to alert the press with a press release, just a simple gentlemanly act that has long since passed.
Forthcoming marriage between B.T. Cumberbatch and S.I. Hunter

The fact that they have been able to avoid being photographed together is not unusual when you stop to consider the fact that Benedict’s schedule is so packed he probably had to schedule a play date for when they were first seen publicly in June at the French Open. In addition to being a theatre director, Hunter has also appeared as an actress on stage and screen, including episodes of Midsomer Murders, Torchwood and Vanity Fair.

Tears aside, on the upside, Benedict won’t have himself at the wedding to give the Best Man speech when the time comes. We all know how that turned out…
Sherlock's best man speech

Dining upstairs at ‘Downton Abbey’ isn’t all that…

November 5, 2014

Dining upstairs at DowntonWhile we all see the work on screen of the Dame Maggie Smith’s and Hugh Bonneville’s of the world in Downton Abbey, the hard work is the behind-the-scenes never-ending work of Lisa Heathcote. As the food stylist for Downton Abbey, Heathcote sums up her efforts by acknowledging the biggest challenge, “OK, this food has got to stand there all day, it has got to look good, it has got to taste good, and it has also got to be something that you want to nibble at all day. Otherwise you’re just going to feel not so good after about the third or fourth take, because they’re doing take after take after take. We have the added problem with Downton that the food has to be what we call butler service, so the actors have got to struggle with it themselves off the platter that is presented to them.

In this interview with Splendid Table, host Lynne Rossetto Kasper talks with Heathcote who says her job as series food stylist is like preparing food for 80-90 people because, “…It’s a bit like running a restaurant. It’s like mass catering because you imagine there are 20 around the table. We’ll refresh the plates every two or three takes. It’s like catering for about 80 or 90 people.” Here, the cast and producer talk about Heathcote’s no shortcuts and sometimes smelly approach to getting the dinner scenes just right.

Not to be left out of the equation, downstairs actors Rob James-Collier (Thomas), Jim Carter (Carson), Joanne Froggatt (Anna) and Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) explain how the other half eats in discussing dining ‘downstairs’ at Downton Abbey

So, next time you visit Downton Abbey you might not be quite as envious of those getting to eat ‘upstairs’ when you realize the cream cheese salmon mousse actually has no salmon in it. As Heathcote explains, “We don’t use real fish because it just gets a little smelly and it’s also not great for the actors. I put gelatin in it, set it in a mold and, if you put cottage cheese in as well, then it looks like flakes of fish. Yum!

‘Call the Midwife’ tagged for a fifth series as series 4 set to deliver!

November 4, 2014

The BBC commissioning process is on that we have all have collectively gotten to know too well over the years. In most cases, viewers have to wait until after a season has ended before word comes down from on high as to whether or not there will be another series. For loyal followers of a series such as Spooks, Sherlock, Downton Abbey or even Mr. Selfridge, these can be a difficult couple of weeks. In the case of Lewis, the series was actually cancelled only to be given life months later. With BBC One’s Call the Midwife, fans of the series can breathe a collective sigh of relief before the newest series even begins.

As filming of series 4 of Call the Midwife came to an end on Friday, the Beeb has announced that Trixie, Chummy and the rest of Nonnatus House will return for a fifth series in 2016. With a Christmas special set to premiere on Christmas Day on both BBC1 and PBS, series 4 will transmit beginning in January 2015 in the UK and beginning March 29, 2015 on PBS in the States. As has been reported earlier, series 4 will see the nuns and bicycle-riding midwives make the transition to the swinging sixties. Series 5, according to Executive Producer, Pippa Harris, and series writer, Heidi Thomas, will be set in 1961.

So, when series 4 comes your way, sit back and enjoy with the knowledge of another series coming to a telly near you in 2016!

A Hitchhikers Guide to the Daleks

November 3, 2014

Now that we finally know the true identity of Missy, we turn our attention to the Daleks. Do we really know who they are?
Hitchhikers Guide to the Daleks

To the casual observer, little is known about the mutated remains of the Kaled people of the planet Skaro. They travel around in tank-like mechanical casings and are a race bent on universal conquest and destruction. While they have officially crossed paths with The Doctor in 1963 in the second serial of the show, appropriately titled “The Daleks”, this extraterrestrial race of cyborgs created by the scientist Davros during the final years of a thousand-year war against the Thals. I know, there are those that thought the Daleks were created by Terry Nation but it was, indeed, Davros.

Once their ability to feel pity, compassion, or remorse was removed, the Daleks soon came to view themselves as the supreme race in the universe and began a conquest of universal domination and extermination. As usual, leave it to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to offer the best advice when it comes to how to handle a Dalek.

Now, isn’t it a bit easier to understand why, in 2010, readers of science fiction magazine SFX voted the Dalek as the all-time greatest monster, beating out competition including Japanese movie monster Godzilla and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gollum, of The Lord of the Rings. Thanks to YouTuber, Andrew Orton, for some brilliant Douglas Adams style work in putting this together.

PBS getting more ‘Vicious’ in 2015

November 2, 2014


Following a new Christmas Day special this coming December on PBS, Freddie Thornhill and Stuart Bixby are headed back to PBS in Summer 2015 for the second series of Vicious, the story of two aging partners who have lived together in their Covent Garden flat for 48 years. Vicious first premiered on PBS this past Summer bringing together two of the finest actors on Planet Earth, both very familiar to public television audiences, Sir’s Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. As series one ended, Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) were having a party to celebrate their 49th anniversary. Their neighbor, Ash, accidentally tells Stuart’s mother Mildred (Hazel Douglas) about the party so Stuart decides that it is time he told her the truth about his relationship with Freddie. He does and she promptly faints, but who knows if she will actually remember Stuart’s “news”. In the meantime, Freddie has invited none other than Dame Judi Dench to the anniversary party, whom he knows thanks to a Smarties commercial they both did decades ago.

France de la Tour and Iwan Rheon are set to return for the second series as Violet and Ash, respectively, along with two old friends of Freddie and Stuart, Penelope (Marcia Warren) and Mason (Philip Voss). Vicious creator and executive producer, Gary Janetti, was EP for Will & Grace and has written for Family Guy. His desire to create a British sitcom stemmed from growing up watching “Britcom’s” on PBS. Prior to the series one premiere, Janetti spoke with Slate.com.

Look for the Vicious Christmas special on PBS, Christmas Day, and then follow the further adventures of Freddie and Stuart in Summer 2015 on PBS (and on ITV in the UK).

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Buffy meets Jane Austen?

November 1, 2014

With the recent Death Comes to Pemberley, BBC and PBS viewers were reacquainted with Jane Austen…sort of. Now, going 180 degrees in the opposite direction, comes the latest ‘revisit’ with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies starring Downton Abbey‘s Lily James, Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith and Game of Thrones‘ Lena Headey. Yes, James has been a bit preoccupied with finding a husband in 1920s society then Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, but she now turns her attention to battling zombies, complete with period costume bonnets, swords and knives as shown from this first glimpse pic exclusive from Entertainment Weekly.
Downton Abbeys Lily James in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sees Jane Austen’s Bennet sisters transformed into zombie-fighting martial artists. The film, which is based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestseller, sees Austen’s match-making tale set in an alternative regency era where the English countryside is plagued by the undead. Before Jane Austen traditionalists turn up their collective noses at the new take on the Bennet sisters, James told Entertainment Weekly that she doesn’t see much of a difference in Elizabeth Bennet. “Even in the original story, Elizabeth’s a fighter and beyond her contemporaries in her ambitions and her ideas of women. She’s a badass warrior. She’s a ninja“, said James. Ok, that may be more than just a bit of a stretch thought, but it definitely will be fun, even though it looks like it is nothing more than a way to capitalize on the current zombie apocalypse phase with a Jane Austen twist. Hey, I can’t make this stuff up. Filming began in September with a 2015 premiere date on the books. Enjoy?

In need of a pint after seeing a ghost in the Underground? Try a haunted pub!

October 31, 2014

Seems rather appropriate, it being Halloween and all, to give folks a few options tonight that go beyond the traditional trick-or-treat phenomenon where you can possibly cross paths with those that have yet to ‘cross-over’. Special thanks to London Paranormal which is where your Halloween tour begins. Kudos to London Paranormal, who have mapped out your tour below with their well-research and brilliant back story on a few tube stops that may be worth checking out tonight if you’re in the area. Need more than just haunted underground stations? Go to London Paranormal for the full list of pubs, haunted walks, underground stations, hotels, theatres and landmarks that you should check out.

The London Underground is now over 150 years old and stretches over 250 miles of track underneath the city of London. One of the greatest places to experience a bit of haunted London just might be right under your nose…or feet. According to London Paranormal, while the rail network was being built, there were countless bodies, graves and even plague pits discovered. Laying the groundwork and upping the ghost potential, there have been thousands of people who have died in and around the London Underground network. Deaths on the underground have been as a result of construction accidents, war time bomb blasts, acts of terrorism and, unfortunately, more often than not, suicides.

Liverpool Street tube stationWhere: Liverpool Street Underground Station. More specifically the eastbound central line platform.
Who: A man in white overalls standing on the platform as if waiting for a train.
When: In 2000 the man was spotted by Liverpool Street Station staff on CCTV after the station was closed to the public. A station worker went down to make sure that there was nobody on the platform, while being watched on CCTV. The station worker who watched his colleague conduct the search on CCTV saw that the man in white overalls was standing right next to his work mate, unbeknown to him. The colleague returned from the search saying he saw nothing. After the worker monitoring the CCTV told him what he saw, the searcher went back down to the platform and still saw nothing. As he was about to go back upstairs, he saw a pair of white paper overalls on a bench.
Why: Liverpool Street is built on mass burial site. When development work was carried out on the tube, around eight bodies per cubic meter were discovered in an area of the station.

Kings Cross stationWhere: Kings Cross Underground Station
Who: A modern young woman with long brown hair wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The woman is heard screaming and crying, with her arms outstretched. However when passers by come to comfort her, she disappears
When: in 1998 a man spotted the distressed lady and went to comfort her. On approaching her, he said he passed through her. Since then others have reported spotting the distressed girl whilst others have reported smelling smoke in the underground tunnels in the spot where the girl was first seen.
Why: in 1987 there was a horrific and devastating fire in the Kings Cross underground that killed 31 people. It is possible that the young lady was one of the victims who tried to escape from the fire.

Bethnal Green tube stationWhere: Bethnal Green Station, mostly around the ticket hall area.
Who: The sounds of women and children crying and screaming
When: Heard on several occasions by the public and station staff.
Why: During World War II, Bethnal Green Tube station was one of the few stations that were the obvious choice for shelter when air raids were being carried out. The station has 5,000 bunks and at times it can hold 7,000 people. The station saved many lives during the Blitz; however, it also became the site of one of the worst civilian disasters of the war. 173 people died in a crush (126 women and children) at the station during an air raid test in the Second World War. On hearing air raid sirens, people rushed into the station. As somebody tripped on the stairs into the underground, people began to panic and a crush began to happen.

Once you’re done with the Underground, I’m guessing you might be in need of a pint. Why not check out The Grenadier in Wilton Mews, long considered London’s most haunted pub, if you’re in the neighborhood. Still in need of another pint or two? Check out these other haunted options before you head home. Me? I’m going to either The Lamb & Flag (it may not be haunted but it was known as the Bucket of Blood in the 1800′s), the  Blind Beggar (totally due to its association with the Kray Brothers) in Whitechapel or Ten Bells, in Spitalfields, partly for its Jack the Ripper ties and, partly, because I really like this pub AND its Dallas counterpart, Ten Bells Tavern.

First Lady Sybil, then Matthew. Could Isis be next?

October 30, 2014

***Downton Abbey series 5 SPOILER ALERT***
Downton Abbey's favorite - Isis

The rumor mill is in overdrive this week in the UK as we are down to the last few episodes in the 5th series of Downton Abbey. With only 3 episodes left (2 plus the Christmas special), what could Downton Abbey creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, possibly be thinking? As if the death of Lady Sybil wasn’t almost too much to take during series 2, he provided the ultimate kick to the stomach on Christmas Day in the series 3 finale by ending Matthew Crawley’s time at Downton. For those that are not quite up to speed on the series as it has played out so far, I’m sorry to report that Lord Grantham’s pride and joy, Isis, was looking a little peaked and a bit listless this past week.

That leaves the great unanswered question…will Isis make it to Christmas? Certainly, even Sir Julian wouldn’t ruin the holidays by having the Grim Reaper visit the only stable member of the Crawley family on Christmas Day, would he? Viewers are still not over that fateful day in 2012 when the heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley, met his untimely death in a tragic car accident.

While we may not want to hear this, it may be the only explainable event to be associated with the series. When you think about it, Robert’s faithful companion, Isis, has been around since the beginning of series 1 in 1912. Most likely, she would have been around two of years of age at that point. With series 5 taking place approximately 12 years later in 1924, Isis would then be in the general vicinity of 13 or 14 years of age by the end of series 5.

So, while this is plausible, let’s hold out a few positive thoughts for Isis, Planet Earth’s favorite labrador.