It’s Labor Day here in the States, the American holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. While it also signals the end of summer and, thankfully, considered the last day of the year when it is considered fashionable to wear white, we can’t let the long weekend pass by without paying a bit of a tribute to our hard working friends across the pond…the employees of the ladies’ and gentlemen’s clothing departments of Grace Brothers.
During our 2003 PBS production of The Funny Ladies of British Comedy, we had the great good fortune to pay tribute to both Mollie Sugden and her creation of Mrs. Slocombe in Are You Being Served?. Here Penelope Keith introduces us to Mary Elizabeth Jennifer Rachel Yiddell Abergavenny Slocombe (Betty, for short) , the head of ladies intimate apparel at Grace Brothers Department Store.
More good fortune several years later, in 2005, as our PBS production of The Funny Blokes of British Comedy went to the other side of the floor at Grace Brothers to pay tribute to John Inman and his alter ego, Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries. Here, host Lenny Henry, shows us why Mr. Humphries is the senior assistant in menswear.
Aside from Mr. Humphries and Mrs. Slocombe, let us not forget to pay tribute this Labor Day to the entire workforce from both ladies and menswear at Grace Brothers including Captain Stephen Peacock, Shirley Brahms, Ernest Grainger, Cuthbert Rumbold, Dick Lucas and Bert Spooner. Both Young and Old Mr. Grace were lucky to have you as employees.
In the UK and looking for something to do in a couple of weeks? Gotcha covered.
The Prisoner, the series about a spy who resigns his top secret government position only to wake up in a mysterious village from which there is no escape, has intrigued viewers the world over and has managed to turn “I am not a number, I am a free man!” into one of the most known ‘insider’ catchphrases of all time. In addition, no British television program or series has inspired as many musicians as The Prisoner.
Head to north Wales on 14-16 September as cult telly and musician inspiration collide for Festival No. 6 (self described as a festival like no other in a place like no other). In addition, Six of One, the official Prisoner Appreciation Society, will be on hand to help festival-goers re-enact classic scenes from the series, including the human chess game and the processions. and help solidify the rich history of the Patrick McGoohan creations hold over British rock and pop. In addition to an amazing line-up of music, festival-goers will get the chance to take part in cinema screenings, street theatre, prose and poetry readings, midnight masquerades, cliff-top comedy stages, secret parties, impromptu interactive moments and even participate in cultural lectures and debates.
The Times, a British independent band featuring Ed Ball, with ‘I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape’
“McGoohan was a forerunner of punk. Like the very best works of art, The Prisoner has its own fatalism built into it. You can never escape. McGoohan seemed to have the compass right with his ideas about love, hate, good and evil. We wanted to deify him. ‘I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape’ was the ballad of The Prisoner in a three-minute pop song, short and sweet, and to the point. We knew how private he was but we heard whispers through Six of One. He seemed to benignly acknowledge the record’s existence,” recalls Ball. “Pre-internet, we were lucky that the Scala, the cinema in London’s King’s Cross, started screening episodes of The Prisoner and Danger Man. They used to play our record in between.”
“The Prisoner is a force of nature which touches people. Once you have watched the whole series, you are never the same again. If you are a spiritual person, it becomes part of your belief system,” stresses Ball who is currently overseeing a 12″ vinyl reissue of the I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape album – credited to The Times – “incorporating a Monopoly board based on Portmeirion.”
Ball went on to further solidify the link between the series and music by revealing that even The Beatles recognized the genius of The Prisoner as not only did Beatles manager Brian Epstein go to ‘the Village’ in Portmeirion to relax, but the mad fanfare of “All You Need Is Love” was used to astounding effect during the cryptic “Fall Out” conclusion of the series, the only time a Beatles song was licensed to a TV show.
Festival No.6 with Richard Hawley, Jessie Ware, New Order, Primal Scream and Spiritualized is at Portmeirion, north Wales, 14-16 September. If you go, let your eyes be like cameras and send back photos for us to post. #jealous
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes video pieces. Yes, there have been times that I secretly enjoy the DVD extras far more than the feature presentation. The brilliance of television production is that, if done well, the end result is a vivid suspension of reality. The behind the camera craft of hundreds of crew members coming together can put viewers at home in the front row at Wembley, in the TARDIS with the Doctor or ‘in the kitchen’ at Downton Abbey. Watching how the crew painstakingly recreates the kitchen makes you appreciate what the Mrs. Patmore’s of the time went through to cook a meal for the upstairs families such as the Crawley’s.
When it comes to either Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey, when anyone ever asks if I’d like to be ‘upstairs’ or ‘downstairs’, I must confess that I want to live ‘below-stairs’ with upstairs money. While it would be nice to experience a daily dose of the Dowager Countess, how can you not want to hang out with Carson, Bates, Anna and Daisy. That said, it would be only a question of time before Mrs. Patmore yelled at me, so when that day came, I could just walk.
Pond Life, yet more BBC promotional brilliance that leads up to tomorrow’s long-awaited premiere on BBC One and BBC America of Doctor Who 7.1 follows the nothing to write home about home life of the soon to be departing companions, Amy and Rory Pond (Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill). Premiering this past Monday, it has been met with mixed reviews but, essentially, this 5-part online only mini-adventure is just a bit of comic fun from Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Law & Order UK) providing a perfect send up to the series premiere on Saturday evening so there’s no need to get all worked up about this. Just enjoy and wait for Saturday.
Pond Life, part 1:The Doctor checks in
Pond Life, part 2: The Doctor warns of impending doom
Pond Life, part 3: Guess Ood’s coming to dinner?
Pond Life, part 4: Amy and Rory get a new butler
Pond Life, part 5: The Doctor arrives but where are Amy and Rory?
That should give you enough to do prior to Saturday nights series premiere.
For just a few minutes, forget that Downton Abbey 3 returns in September in the UK (January in the States), Sherlock 3 won’t even begin filming until January 2013, Doctor Who 7.1 is a mere 3 days away and it will be another year, at least, before we’ll see any new Rev programs. While it seems like an eternity since those thrilling days of yesteryear back in December 2011 when the crew from ‘the small rouge one’ descended on Shepperton Studios for a bit of fun…
…the real news the we’ve all been waiting for is –
Red Dwarf X launches 4 October 2012 on Dave!
Like most everyone else, I don’t really count Red Dwarf: Back to Earth as an official return of the series so this is something true fans have been waiting for since 1993. Fro those who were in attendance back in December/January for the taping of the audience portions of RDX, this is old Red Dwarf…meaning potential brilliance.
After revealing the titles for the upcoming series, someone with probably a bit more knowledge about the series than the law allows, Robert Llewellyn (Kryten), commented: “I could try and be all self-deprecating and depressed because I don’t want to raise your hopes too much, but I just can’t do that. Red Dwarf X is way better than I ever dared hope.” Word is that yesterday, the cast met with reporters who had seen episode 1 and there was excitement all around.
RDX episode titles:
1 – Trojan
2 – Fathers and Suns
3 – Lemons
4 – Entangled
5 – Dear Dave
6 – The Beginning
In preparation for the launch, while perusing the Dave website, I ran across a somewhat lengthy Which Red Dwarf character are you? quiz. Should I be worried or proud that I’m most like Lister?
And, speaking of Red Dwarf, it may only be 30 August, but it’s never too early to make plans to attend Dimension Jump XVII, the official Red Dwarf Convention. Register between now and 23:59:59 on Monday, 3rd September to get a reduced rate.
Don’t forget. Red Dwarf X, 4 October 2012 on Dave. The universe will never be the same.
Here’s wishing a coveted third Michelin star to Le Chateau Anglais and Chef Gareth Blackstock for his alter ego, Lenny Henry’s 54th birthday today. Given that Chef Blackstock’s restaurant was one of the few in the United Kingdom to receive a two-star rating from Michelin we felt it the only fitting gift we could give on this occasion.
Back in 2004, we caught up with a bit younger Lenny Henry for our PBS special, The Funny Blokes of British Comedy. Lenny talked about his culinary preparation prior to becoming the talented, arrogant, tyrannical and obsessed chef that British comedy fans came to know and ‘love’ during the three seasons of Chef. Henry’s brilliant portrayal of Blackstock’s scorched Earth way of operating a kitchen and his endless array of inventive insults for his staff, unknowing customers and anyone else that gets in the way created one of the most realistic British comedy characters of all time.
Lenny’s co-star in Chef, Caroline Lee-Johnson, said it all back in 2004 when she remembered her time as Janice, Gareth’s wife and manager of Le Chateau Anglais.
When you think of classic British situation comedy, the theme of social entrapment seems to be a key element. It has always been curious to witness audience empathy for characters such as Gareth Blackstock, Basil Fawlty and Edmund Blackadder when they are so difficult to like. Again, from our 2004 program, The Funny Blokes of British Comedy, Lenny Henry talks about his idea for the original concept for Chef.
Fortunately, the third star is given to a restaurant that features exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. Often extremely expensive, and with an extensive wine list. Thankfully, no mention of quality of service, especially when asking for salt, so we felt pretty confident in giving the gift of that third Michelin star this year to Gareth Blackstock.
So…a very happy 54th to Lenny Henry from British comedy fans worldwide. You have given everyone the gift of laughter for years the least we can do is give you that elusive third Michelin star. Cheers.
While Suranne Jones may not be a name you recognize, I’m guessing most are quite familiar with her work. If not, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do soon as you’re going to be seeing much more of her stellar work on both sides of the pond in the days to come. Since her early days on Coronation Street, Jones has guest starred opposite a current Doctor (Matt Smith, Doctor Who) a former Doctor (David Tennant, Single Father) and a Doctor’s companion (Elisabeth Sladen, The Sarah Jane Adventures) while sprinkling in numerous stage performances throughout the UK. Over the past couple of years, life has gotten quite busy for the actress which is all the better for us on the other side of the telly.
Following rave reviews for the just concluded A Touch of Cloth, the Charlie Brooker created spoof of every British police procedural drama made in the last decade, where she offered up a brilliant performance of the no-nonsense sidekick DC Anne Oldman to John Hannah’s DCI Jack Cloth, Jones will now pack her bags and head off to begin work on series three of Scott and Bailey. As she announced on The Jonathan Ross Show this past weekend, S&B3 is set to begin production in November with a target UK transmission of March 2013 on ITV 1. If all the planets align in the coming months, Scott & Bailey should also be hitting the States for the first time in early 2013 on public television stations nationwide.
Suranne Jones, A Touch of Cloth
Suranne Jones, Scott & Bailey
After seeing both series, I can’t decide which will tax her considerable acting talents more….not laughing while saying her lines during A Touch of Cloth or not laughing while saying her lines during Scott & Bailey….either way, can’t wait for the next installment of both series.
Thankfully, if I get a bit discouraged at the thought of yet another British telly classic getting an American re-boot, I’ll have plenty of company this time around. The news that Terry Nation’s brilliant sci-fi drama Blake’s 7 will get a 21st century update courtesy of American cable outlet, Syfy, has not set well with fans of the original late-70′s science fiction series.
However it plays out, good or bad, Blake’s 7, once described by Nation as “the Dirty Dozen in space”, will be in good company. Those that cringe at the thought of an American re-make need only point to the dreadful AMC update of perhaps the best piece of television of all-time, The Prisoner. Those willing to give the new Blake’s 7 a chance have visions of another Battlestar Galactica dancing in their heads. You know which side I’m on as my American re-boot streets are littered with not only thoughts of The Prisoner, but Being Human and Top Gear also.
That said, it appears that Syfy is making every attempt to get it right this time around by securing the services of Casino Royale director Martin Campbell and Heroes screenwriter Joe Pokaski for the pilot episode.
One has to wonder what creator/writer, Terry Nation, the man who also created the greatest and most-feared enemy of the Traveling Time Lord, the Dalek, would think of this attempt…Me? I’ll take the 70′s classic anytime, wobbly sets and all. You?
Downton Abbey cast has fun with Twitter
When Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of the BBC’s brilliant Sherlock series, offered up his rather uncomplimentary thoughts to Reader’s Digest on the biggest phenomenon since sliced bread, Downton Abbey, taken out of context or not, the initial inclination might have been to fire off a response that you might regret moments after you hit ‘send’. The interview, which was promoting the actor’s upcoming role in Parade’s End, had the Sherlock star criticizing the wildly popular ITV drama for “trading a lot on the sentiment in the last series”.
Thankfully, Downton Abbey stars, Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens and Brendan Coyle, decided to take the funny side high road with Benedict by changing their Twitter profile pictures to the front cover of Reader’s Digest, which featured the tagline, Move over, Downton.
While fans of the series were not easily as forgiving, Downton creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, went one step further by suggesting that he would welcome Benedict as part of a future Downton storyline and then added that, “…the popularity of Downton and Ben’s series Sherlock, and, hopefully, Parade’s End are all part of a surge of interest in television drama which can only be good news for all of us”.
Photo source: Radio Times
On the outside chance you missed the three most important words for 2013 from yesterday….
RAT. WEDDING. BOW.
Thanks to stellar reporting from @digitalspy, we bring you highlights from yesterdays Sherlock Master Class in Edinburgh. In attendance were producer, Sue Vertue, co-writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and Andrew Scott (Moriarty) Even though neither Benedict Cumberbatch nor Martin Freeman were in attendance, as originally announced, it was a Sherlock fan’s dream panel with a behind the scenes look at not only the creation of the series, casting and production, but those in the audience were hanging on every word knowing that what they came for, those three words, were mere moments away.
On the creation of Sherlock….
- Right out of the chute, Steven Moffat admits that originally he and Mark were just “gossiping” about the idea of updating Sherlock Holmes – it was his wife and producer Sue Vertue who encouraged them to make it a reality.
- “We thought it was going to be smaller,” Sue says of Sherlock – adding that the series was originally devised for a 60-minute format. Mark Gatiss added that the success of Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh contributed to making the show in 90-minute chunks.
On the casting of Sherlock….
- While Benedict Cumberbatch was the only choice to play Sherlock Holmes after seeing him in Atonement, a few different actors were considered for Watson – including Doctor Who star Matt Smith – but Martin Freeman had the best chemistry with Cumberbatch. “He’s also short enough,” Mark Gatiss quips.
- Andrew Scott (Moriarty) revealed that he was “absolutely terrified” about messing up his part, after noting the early affection for Sherlock from the UK public.
- Mark Gatiss called it “an enormous privilege” to both write and star in the show – he revealed that it was fellow writer Steve Thompson’s idea for him to play Mycroft, whom he compares to Peter Mandelson.
On the production of Sherlock….
- Steven Moffat talked about the show’s unique visual style and admits that he thought the ‘texts on screen’ effect originally sounded like an “awful” idea, but was won over when he saw it on screen.
- Regarding ending on a cliffhanger, Moffat admited that they didn’t know that Sherlock would return when the series one finale was written, adding that it was “cheeky” to end on a cliffhanger. “Had we never come back, they’d still be at that pool.”
On the future of Sherlock….
- Moriarty really is dead says Mark Gatiss. “We couldn’t show the back of his head blowing up because it’s 9.30pm on BBC One” (insert sad sigh here)
- Series three will shoot in January – that much we already know – and will probably air in the autumn of 2013 on BBC One, Sue Vertue confirms. (FYI, no word as of yet as to PBS broadcast dates in the States)
- Sue Vertue admits that airing Sherlock in the US five months after UK transmission is a problem – most viewers in America have already seen the show through illicit means by the time it actually airs. She’s determined to close that gap. (The noise you just heard was the applause from American audiences).
In the end, do we need to even ask why Sherlock is the runaway hit it that it is for BBC and PBS? Easy. Producer passion. When Steven Moffat said yesterday, “We love Sherlock Holmes so much – this is fan fiction!. It’s an exercise in love. We wouldn’t have minded if nobody had watched it and we’d have been able to keep making it for each other“, that said it all.