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More ‘drama’ than the law allows in New Orleans at BBC Syndication Showcase 2014

October 11, 2014

It was drama overload this past week in New Orleans at the BBC’s annual Syndication Showcase (insert how much you feel sorry for me being in New Orleans for three days screening brilliant telly here). I say drama overload in the nicest possible sense. Seems as though ever since that fateful day in January 2011 when that little series we know as Downton Abbey premiered on PBS’ Masterpiece series, the drama output from the UK, whether it be from the BBC or ITV has been beyond description. This past week was no exception. Programs screened this week will begin to show up on your local public television station in early 2015, some a bit later with a target transmission date in the Spring of 2015.

Some of these will be very familiar titles that Tellyspotting readers have been asking for for some time along with some new titles you may or may not remember. If you’re in the States, we’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts as to what you’d like to see in the coming months. If you’re in the UK and have already seen some of these series, what did you think?

Case Histories 2 – set amidst the iconic landscapes of modern Edinburgh, Case Histories brings to life the jigsaw puzzles of Kate Atkinson’s books. Jackson Brodie (played by Jason Isaacs), a former soldier and policemen, combines a tough-guy exterior with a compulsion for resolution and an innate inability to ignore the suffering of others. When series 1 was broadcast on PBS, one of the most hauntingly amazing things about this series is the soundtrack. Look for more of the same with series 2.

Doctor Blake Mysteries – many years have passed since Dr. Blake first returned home from war to run his father’s old practice. Unfortunately, there’s a new chief superintendent who doesn’t approve of Blake’s unorthodox methods and, despite the pathologist solving the crimes which continue to confound the police, he is determined to get rid of Blake for good.

The Fixer – Outside the law, there are no rules. That’s the world that John Mercer finds himself in. A modern-day gun for hire, Mercer lives in the shadowy world between right and wrong beholden to his sinister master but not the boundaries of the law. Unexpectedly released from prison early, Mercer soon learns that freedom comes at a price.

Quirke – adapted from the award-winning books by novelist John Banville, Quirke is set against the whiskey-soaked bars and elegant Dublin houses. Starring Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon, the series follows the path of a consultant pathologist in the Dublin city morgue in the 1950′s as he attempts to unlock the secrets to each cadavers’ death. The mystery and intrigue begins when a body vanishes one night from the mortuary.

Red Cap – Special Investigation Bureau (SIB) is the elite plain-clothes detective unit of the Royal Military Police charged with investigating serious crimes connected to members of the British Army. Tamzin Outhwaite (The Fixer, Paradox, New Tricks) stars as Sergeant Jo McDanagh, who has recently been promoted to SIB from Close Protection. With proven detective skills, Sgt McDanagh is thrown into the murky underworld of drug and gun related crime, human trafficking, espionage, political cover-up and terrorism.

Other can’t miss offerings coming soon to public television include the 4th season of DCI Banks, starring Stephen Tompkinson, series 4 of Death in Paradise, series 3 of everyone’s favorite priest (sorry, Geraldine) Father Brown, series 11 of New Tricks with Tamzin Outhwaite and Nicholas Lyndhurst and series 4 of the brilliant Scott & Bailey.

Now do you believe me that there was a lot of drama (the good kind, of course) in New Orleans. Not to worry, comedy fans, there were some great comedy offerings too!

Sherlock’s Martin Freeman in BBC2′s ‘The Eichmann Show’

October 10, 2014

Adolf Eichmann, one of the Second World War’s most notorious figures and chief architect of the Nazis’ ‘final solution’ plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews, will be the subject of a new BBC2 film, The Eichmann Show, which will focus on the 1961 trial of one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. The original trial was broadcast to 37 countries over four months and marked the first worldwide television event, captivating the world with its first-hand testimonies from survivors recounting the evils of the death camps. An estimated 80% of the German population watched at least one hour a week with some reported to have fainted when they saw it.
1389.9 Holocaust A

Freeman, who was most recently seen in the brilliant FX series, Fargo, and who also stars as Dr. John Watson in the BBC1/PBS series, Sherlock, will play TV producer Milton Fruchtman in the 90-minute drama with Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) cast as TV director Leo Hurwitz.

Eichmann was captured by Israeli secret agents in Buenos Aires and transported to Israel in 1960 where he was tried a year later and subsequently hanged in 1962. The Eichmann Show centers around the broadcast of Eichmann’s trial and will be the centerpiece of a series of BBC1 and BBC2 programs marking Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945.

W1A’s rebranding effort of the BBC to continue in 2015

October 9, 2014

Ian Fletcher, the Beeb’s Head of Values and chair of its Way Ahead Task Force, will roam the halls of the BBC for a bit longer as a second series of W1A has been commissioned but the BBC. “I am very happy to have the cameras back,” said the fictional Fletcher (played by Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville), in a release. “Being Head of Values is all about resetting the dial for the BBC and perhaps about shining a new light on that dial, or at least shining the old light but with a new bulb, so none of us can be in any doubt where the dial is or can have any excuse for not being able to read what it says.”
W1A wth Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville set for series 2 return in 2015

Set inside the glass-pannelled walls of BBC’s New Broadcasting House, W1A will continue to follow the efforts of the Way Ahead Task Force as they position the BBC as they attempt to clarify and define (or re-define) the core purpose of the BBC across all its functions and to position it confidently for the future as they inch closer to a critical 2016 charter renewal and license fee negotiation. Series 2 presents a new set of challenges as there are rumors that Sky is set to bid for Wimbledon 2017 transmission rights. Cue Perfect Curve and Siobhan Sharpe as they take on the task of rebranding and/or improving the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon, which has long been saddled with the criticism of being ‘too white’.

Set to return for series 2 alongside Bonneville are Jessica Hynes (Siobhan Sharpe, Brand Consultant), Jason Watkins (Simon Harwood, Director of Strategic Governance), Sarah Parish (Anna Rampton, Head of Output), Monica Dolan (Tracey Pritchard, Senior Communications Officer), David Westhead (Neil Reid, Current Controller of News and Current Affairs) and Nina Sosanya (Lucy Freeman, Producer).

Say what you will about the mockumentary style of W1A, this is brilliant telly. Series 2 will consist of one, one-hour special, followed by three, 30-minutes programs. Between this and Twenty Twelve, these two series are two of the smartest comedies to come out of the UK in some time. Well worth the two-hour commitment to binge watch series 1 in the next few months before the series 2 return.

Big screen treatment of Dad’s Army drawing top-notch talent

October 8, 2014

The big-screen adaptation of the classic BBC wartime comedy, Dad’s Army, is drawing some of the biggest names (outside of Benedict Cumberbatch) together as they begin to assemble the cast. The feature film treatment of the Jimmy Perry, David Croft iconic British comedy has landed one of the greats with the announcement that Bill Nighy, who will soon been seen in America in the next two chapters of the Worricker trilogy on PBS’ Masterpiece series, as upper-class bank employee turned officer in the British Home Guard, The Honourable Sergeant Arthur Wilson. As I’ve always been one to say that I would listen to Nighy read the phone book, I cannot wait to hear him utter the phrase, “Do you think that’s wise, Sir?”.
Bill Nighy to star as Sergeant Arthur Wilson in big screen adaptation of Dad's Army

In other casting news, Toby Jones (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter) will take on the role of the self-appointed leader of the town’s contingent of Local Defence Volunteers, Captain Mainwaring, played brilliantly in the original series by Arthur Lowe with another Harry Potter alum, Michael Gambon, putting on the Home Guard uniform to star as Private Charles Godfrey, the Home Guard’s medical orderly. With a primary purpose of not being taken too seriously and just being yelled at a lot, Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners) stars as Pike with Bill Paterson (Doctor Who) taking on the doom and gloom role of Scottish Private James Frazer. Danny Mays, whom I will never forget from his dual role as Discipline and Complaints Officer, DCI Jim Keats, and The Devil in the final series of Ashes to Ashes, will star as the lovable but shifty Private Joe Walker, who will be responsible for getting supplies to be rationed.

If that wasn’t enough to get you in line to buy tickets, in as-yet-to-be-named roles, Sarah Lancashire will bring her brilliant work in Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax) to the film along with Sherlock co-creator/writer, Mark Gatiss, Gavin & Stacey star, Alison Steadman, and Annette Crosbie, who can most recently be seen alongside David Tennant and Rosamund Pike in What We Did on Our Holiday. Catherine Zeta-Jones will attempt to keep the Home Guard in check as journalist Rose Winters.

While this won’t be the first attempt at bringing the classic late 60′s, early 70′s comedy to the big-screen, it will certainly be one worth checking out, if nothing else for this incredible ensemble cast.

Time to access your inner Carson…Her Majesty The Queen is hiring!

October 7, 2014

Her Majesty The Queen wants to bring on-board a new Back-of-House manager at Windsor Castle. The position was advertised on the Royal Household website and candidates who have experience in operational management and hospitality are wanted. The successful job seeker also needs to be a good problem solver and be able to ensure that everything below stairs runs smoothly and efficiently. As part of a 1,200 member staff, the 40-hour a week vacancy is open to anyone with the right qualifications. The Back-of-House Manager and their team provide operational support principally delivered through event planning and set-up, cleaning and porter services.

Like Mr. Carson, the successful applicant will be in charge of a team of staff and ensure that standards are maintained. They will work closely with the Monarchy’s answer to housekeeper Mrs Hughes and will be paid a salary of up to £30,000. The successful candidate will also have the option to live on site in staff accommodation and have lunch provided. Better hurry, applications close October 12. Hopefully, you won’t have Thomas to deal with, won’t have to listen to Mr. Molesley whine on an hourly basis and definitely won’t have to forever hide any song-and-dance past as one of ‘The Cheerful Charlies’.

Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston return to small screen in John le Carre’s ‘The Night Manager’

October 6, 2014

Three years removed from his brilliant portrayal of a pain medication-dependent, unconventional, misanthropic medical genius, Dr. Gregory House, Hugh Laurie is returning to the small screen to star in the BBC adaptation of the John le Carre novel, The Night Manager. Laurie’s co-star, Tom Hiddleston, is coming off his portrayal of country western singer Hank Williams in I Saw the Light.

The Night Manager, published in 1993, is the author’s most recent work to be adapted for television. It follows Jonathan Pine, a British soldier turned luxurious hotel night auditor. Pine crosses paths with a French-Arab woman named Sophie with ties to Richard Onslow Roper, an English black marketer who specializes in weapons. The woman provides Pine with incriminating documents, which he forwards to a friend in British intelligence. After Sophie winds up dead, Pine works with intelligence operatives and goes undercover as part of a sting against Roper to avenge Sophie’s death. No newcomer to the small screen, le Carre’s earlier works that have brilliantly found their way to tell have included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People, A Perfect Spy and A Murder of Quality.

David Farr, who wrote a number of episodes for Kudos’ Spooks series, will write The Night Manager. Thankfully, no True Detective 2 casting dance involved with their weekly rumors of this duo or that duo as this looks like a signed, sealed and delivered deal according to The Hollywood Reporter. Although a BBC broadcast is assured in the UK, there currently is no American broadcast outlet as of yet. One can only hope PBS is in the mix. A series of this nature with commercial breaks would be a serious buzz-killer.

Nearly 100-year-old Sherlock Holmes film discovered in Paris

October 5, 2014

While it won’t erase the daily reminder that we still have 14 months (plus or minus a few days) until Benedict Cumberbatch returns to the small screen in Sherlock, the recent discovery of a long thought to be lost Sherlock Holmes film will delight even the most casual fan of the world’s most famous consulting detective. The 1916 silent movie about Sherlock Holmes has been discovered by the Cinematheque Francaise, which has joined with the San Francisco Film Festival to create a digital restoration. Cinematheque Francaise is a Paris-based archive that houses one of the largest film collections, movie documents and film-related objects in the world.

Titled Sherlock Holmes, the film stars American actor and playwright, William Gillette, who was one of the earliest actors to bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation to life on stage, and is credited with helping to popularize both the deerstalker-and-cape image of the detective along with one of Holmes’ signature lines by saying to Holmes’ sidekick Dr. Watson, “Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow.” Produced by Essanay Studios in Chicago, which is best known for a number of Charlie Chaplin short films produced in 1915, the film is the only surviving example of Gillette’s performance as Holmes and is also the only film Gillette ever made. Gillette’s play, and presumably the film, is a compendium of Holmes’s “best bits”, weaving scenes from a number of Arthur Conan Doyle stories into a single narrative ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem”.

At last we get to see for ourselves the actor who kept the first generation of Sherlockians spellbound. We can also see where the future Holmeses— (Basil) Rathbone, (Jeremy) Brett, (Benedict) Cumberbatch and the rest—come from. As far as Holmes is concerned, there’s not an actor dead or alive who hasn’t consciously or intuitively played off Gillette,” Russell Merritt, the supervising editor of the restoration project and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, said.

The restored film will be unveiled in Europe at the Cinematheque Francais’ festival of film restoration in Paris in January as part of the Toute la Mémoire du Monde festival, and will have its American premiere at the San Francisco Silent Film festival in May 2015.

The Imitation Game – a first look

October 4, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

The long-awaited first lengthy video look at The Imitation Game is here. Based on the real life story of Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who is credited with cracking the German Enigma code. THE IMITATION GAME portrays the ultimate real-life reality show race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking center, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. This ‘team of misfits’ was made up of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers with one powerful ally in their back pocket…Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British Establishment, but his work and legacy live on.

Opening in UK cinemas on 14 November with the U.S. premiere one week later on November 21, THE IMITATION GAME stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, Tinker Tailor) as Turing and Keira Knightley (Atonement) as close friend and fellow code breaker Joan Clarke, alongside a brilliant cast that includes Matthew Goode (A Single Man), Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Charles Dance (Gosford Park, Game of Thrones) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey).

The real story behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s photobomb of U2

October 3, 2014


As if anyone needed yet another reason to put Benedict Cumberbatch on a pedestal…now comes the real story behind the now famous photobomb by the Sherlock star of U2 on the red carpet at the 2014 Oscar ceremony. Now that a safe distance has passed since that fateful night in March 2014, Cumberbatch has come clean about what induced him to photobomb the unsuspecting Bono & band. “Yes, I photobombed U2!” he told Time Out magazine while throwing an unnamed Oscar host under the bus.

Cumberbatch went on to explain, “…that was all Ellen DeGeneres’ fault because she plied everyone with vodka on the red carpet. Her team was handing out these miniatures. A friend really wanted me to get a photo with U2. So I just saw the opportunity and I’ve never felt an impulse like it. I spotted them all standing around and I thought, ‘Perfect!’ It wasn’t preordained or anything. I just did it.”

Special thanks to ShortsHD for their stellar work in capturing this little bit of video gold on tape in the midst of the film industry’s biggest night of the year.

‘Endeavour’ back for third series in 2015

October 2, 2014

As we dive head first into our 6th year of Tellyspotting, why not start things off with more great news from the world of British telly — it was announced late last week that the brilliant Inspector Morse prequel, Endeavour, will return for a third series on ITV. The series will, most likely, find its way to the shores of the United States in Summer of 2015 on PBS as part of the Sunday night Masterpiece Mystery! series.

Given how series two ended, it would have been pretty much unthinkable that commissioners would not have handed the keys to Lewis creator and Inspector Morse writer Russell Lewis for a third trip around the racetrack. The new series of Endeavour will be set in 1967, picking up from the dramatic second series finale that saw Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) placed in police custody, framed for a murder he didn’t commit, and DI Fred Thursday’s (Roger Allam) life hanging in the balance after being shot in the chest. Creator Lewis added: “Endeavour ’67… Pepper – Piper – Purple Haze…as ‘Oxford’s finest’ encounter friends and foes both old and new, our next quartet of mysteries will take the audience on a psychedelic Summer of Love fairground ride, filled with twists and turns, shrieks and scares. For something wicked this way comes…

Actually, you had me at Endeavour ’67. How about you?