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R.I.P. – Roger Lloyd Pack

January 17, 2014

Maybe not a household name, but to those that have been long time or recent fans of British comedy, Roger Lloyd Pack was a friend. The accomplished actor passed away yesterday, losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. Lloyd Pack was known to millions of fans as Trigger on Only Fools and Horses, local farmer and a parish council member, Owen, in Vicar of Dibley and a more recent co-starring role with Keeping Up Appearances star, Clive Swift, in The Old Guys.

In Only Fools and Horses, Lloyd-Pack’s tenure of the long-running character of Trigger was surpassed in number of episodes appeared in by only Sir David Jason (Del Boy) and Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney).

In remembering their time together on OFAH, Sir David Jason commented: “Although he played the simple soul of Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, he was a very intelligent man and a very fine actor capable of many roles. I shall remember him with fondness and for all the good times we had together.” Nicholas Lyndhurst also commented: “I’m so saddened to hear about Roger. He was the most accomplished actor and loved by millions, I will miss him greatly.”
Rodger Lloyd Pack in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Though he will forever be known for his role as Trigger, Lloyd-Pack’s first television appearance was in an episode of The Avengers in 1965. His acting career wasn’t limited to the small screen with frequent appearances at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and also appearing in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and, more recently, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Roger-Lloyd-Pack2-300x225On a personal note, we had the great good fortune to be able to interview Roger for our PBS production of Behind the Britcom: From Script to Screen back in 2010. I will forever remember his welcoming us into his home in Kentish Town in North London and actually being most worried that we had not been able to eat breakfast while we took over his home and set up as opposed to wanting to know more about the interview. His house was filled wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with art and memorabilia from a lifetime of acting…and living. He was also quite interested and amused at the possibility of a The Vicar of Dibley return as The Bishop of Dibley as was referenced in the local newspaper the morning we were there. Finally, all of us remember his words of encouragement for keeping public television going. He was a big believer in public media and the importance it played in educating the world. I will forever be grateful for the chance to meet him that day and say thank you.

Roger Lloyd Pack will be terribly missed, but never forgotten for giving millions a lifetime of laughter. In this clip from our 2010 interview, Roger talks about what it meant to him, personally, to be a part of something that has made the world laugh.

‘Call the Midwife’ returns Sunday to BBC One, March 30 to PBS

January 16, 2014

While the U.S. counts down the hours until the return of Sherlock on Sunday, January 19, the UK has its own reasons to settle in for some great telly following this week’s traditional Sunday roast.

Call the Midwife, series 3, returns Sunday following the mega-popular Christmas Day special which saw Shelagh marry Doc Turner and, in a brilliant script move by series creator and writer, Heidi Thomas, Nonnatus House demolished after a UXB was discovered and, ultimately, detonated in Poplar. St. Joseph’s, the former missionary college, the real-life structure used as the primary set for the filming of Call the Midwife, was sold ‘in real life’ and is being redeveloped as a luxury housing estate.

Come Sunday, the ladies of Nonnatus House will face some monumental changes in their own lives. Besides having to adapt to the onslaught of the Swinging Sixties, the first episode will see the midwives moving into their new home. The new series will be particularly challenging for one, Camilla Cholmeley-Browne, a.k.a. Chummy, a.k.a. Miranda Hart. Hart spoke recently with the LA Times regarding the changes coming to Poplar and Chummy, especially given that she is now a mother.

Call the Midwife begins Sunday on BBC One and March 30 on PBS.

First pics from FX’s ‘Fargo’ starring Martin Freeman

January 15, 2014

Unfortunately, the initial thought of the possibility of a small-screen remake of the classic Coen Brothers film, Fargo, gave me the same chill I experienced at the age of 10 when I first tried semi-warm, boiled Brussels sprouts. Fortunately, both chills have since passed after discovering the taste sensation of roasting Brussell sprouts with pine nuts and red pepper flakes AND hearing that Martin Freeman (Hobbit, Sherlock, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) was to join the cast of FX’s Fargo.

While there are a few subtle cosmetic differences between the Coen Bros’ film and the FX version, the basic brilliant storyline remains the same. The original film was set in Brainerd, MN and was set around a character named Jerry Lundegaard, played by William H. Macy, who, in an attempt to get money from his father-in-law, hires a couple of less than desirable characters (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife. From there, things don’t go very well and they involve a woodchipper. For starters, in the TV series, the Jerry Lundegaard character’s name will be changed to Lester Nygaard.

And, one more reason for the chill to go away is laundry list of those involved in front of and behind the camera. In addition to Martin Freeman, the cast also includes Bob Odenkirk, Colin Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, Glenn Howerton, Kate Walsh and Oliver Platt. Joel and Ethan Coen will executive produce the 10-part series. Noah Hawley will write the series as well as executive produce and the pilot will be directed by Emmy-winning director Adam Bernstein (30 Rock, Breaking Bad) who will also executive produce.

The series is set for a Spring 2014 premiere on FX.

‘DCI Banks’ set for UK & U.S. return with new episodes

January 14, 2014

Perhaps the most intense individual on the small screen, DCI Alan Banks, is set for a return in the not-too-distant future. The third series of DCI Banks, starring Stephen Tompkinson, Andrea Lowe and Caroline Catz, will transmit soon on ITV and then follow with a public television broadcast in the States beginning in April 2014. As with the previous two series, the new set of programs are based on the internationally successful novels from the mind palace of author and Banks creator Peter Robinson. The first story, “Wednesday’s Child”, which revolves around a strange and sinister child abduction apparently undertaken by a man and a woman claiming to be social workers, is written by lead writer Robert Murphy.

The series sees the return from maternity leave of DS Annie Cabbot, played by Andrea Lowe, who is immediately thrown into an unbelievably intense case for a new single mother. Having acknowledged their feelings for one another in the last series, the new episodes introduce the added tension as to whether a romantic relationship between Banks and Annie can ever be a reality. However, there are inevitable complications as the pair come to acknowledge their own unique and challenging roles as colleagues and parents.

Caroline Catz, who seemingly takes a page out of the Doctor Martin Ellingham playbook, returns to the series playing DI Helen Morton, the disarmingly blunt and often socially inept (sound famliar?) detective who joined Banks’ team when Annie left for maternity.

The upcoming series 3 will also sees the surprise introduction of Banks’ university dropout daughter, Tracy. Although on the surface, Banks and Tracy have a good relationship, it becomes clear that neither father nor daughter really know each other as well as they pretend. The distance between the pair means Banks cannot see the real danger Tracy soon throws herself into until it is too late.

Episode 2 will be “Piece of My Heart”, where the body of a journalist in a remote village connects Banks to a death in the 1980s revolving around the surviving members of a pop band. Having read this particular Robinson novel, I cannot wait to see how they pull this off and I’m already in on buying the soundtrack. In the final story “Bad Boy”, which is adapted by Catherine Tregenna (Lewis, Law & Order: UK), a terrible chain of events is set in motion by the discovery of a loaded gun in a young girl’s bedroom, that ultimately puts Banks’ daughter in mortal danger.

‘Sherlock’ producers hint at quick series 4 turnaround…

January 13, 2014

Much like the feeling that engulfs America the day after the 7th game of the World Series, the UK will wake up Monday morning struggling with the knowledge that Sherlock 3 has come to a close. In the U.S., no matter who wins the final game of the October classic, the only thing that is assured is that the following day, there will be no baseball game that night. Last night on BBC One when the final credits faded to black on ‘His Last Vow’, the final episode in series 3 of Sherlock, the only thing that was abundantly clear is that tonight, there was to be no new episode featuring the world’s greatest consulting detective.
Sherlock 3

Following last night’s series finale on BBC One, co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, along with producer Sue Vertue were in the BBC studios answering questions before a live studio audience. Predictably, one of the first questions that was probably on the minds of all UK fans and, most likely, every fan in the U.S. come the morning of February 3, was: “Should we expect a similar sort of wait for the next series or are you tempted to try and get it done in a year this time?

As Moffat toyed with the audience referencing the crazy insane feature film work schedules of stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, not to mention that series co-creator, Mark Gatiss, splits his time between writing and acting while Moffat, himself, is also current Doctor Who show runner, it was producer Sue Vertue that stepped in and tamed the crowd with, “We’re working on it. We’re working on dates“. New to series 3 star, Amanda Abbington, in referencing the previous scheduling nightmares, let it be known that should producers be keen on starting up series 4 soon, now would be ok in the Freeman/Abbington household by proclaiming, “Martin’s free for now.”

Unfortunately, ‘quick’ would still mean 12 months before any new episodes, but better than the excruciatingly long 24 months between series 2 and 3. Good news for those not knowing what to do today in the UK and those in the U.S. that know what lies ahead for them on February 3.

Must See TV: PBS to ‘Unlock Sherlock’ tonight after ‘Downton Abbey’

January 12, 2014

As PBS ‘unlocks Sherlock’ at 10pET, following the second episode of Downton Abbey, we move inside of one week until the long, long, long-awaited return of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The one-hour special explores how writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss created the BBC/PBS series. In addition, the special goes behind-the-scenes on the set and includes interviews with actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Lara Pulver, who talk about the reinvention of their fictional characters.

When we last left Sherlock, he was executing a ‘perfect 10′ Olympic dive off the roof of St. Barts in order to ‘save’ all those close to him from Moriarty’s assassins. Next weeks series 3 premiere picks up approximately two years later. 221b Baker Street is vacant and Watson has moved on.

Thinking about a move to 221b Baker Street? Better get out your checkbook.

With the most famous address except maybe for 10 Downing Street or 165 Eaton Place ‘on the market’, the folks over at Sherlockology and Confused.com got together and put pen to paper to see just what it might be listed for. Might as well put away your checkbook…Sherlock is moving back in on Sunday, January 19 at 10pET on PBS.
The cost of 221B Baker Street infographic

Downton Abbey, S4, Ep 1 Facebook re-cap

January 11, 2014

Going virtually unnoticed what with the entire U.S. eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey this past Sunday on PBS, was the realization that what was to also return were the drop-dead funny Facebook recaps of each episode over at happy place.com. Aside from actually watching the episode to frantically catch up before the next installment on Sunday, this is a perfect way to power download the highlights of everything that happened in the 2-hour premiere episode. Here are some quick bits and bobs from everyone’s timeline.


Downton Abbey S4, Ep1 – O’Brien bails out of Downton

Downton Abbey Facebook Recap - S4, Ep1

Downton Abbey S4, Ep1 – Edith gets a Valentine, Mary not so lucky

Downton Abbey Facebook Recap - S4, Ep1.2

Downton Abbey S4, Ep1 – Mary can only vote once

Downton Abbey Facebook Recap - S4, Ep1.3

Downton Abbey S4, Ep1 – Nanny West updates her timeline

Downton Abbey Facebook Recap - S4, Ep1.4

Downton Abbey S4, Ep1 – Lady Mary is a college freshman

Downton Abbey Facebook Recap - S4, Ep1.5

Click through for a full Downton Abbey series 4, episode 1 Facebook recap and get ready for Sunday. Thank goodness electricity has come to Downton. First the electric mixer, the toaster and now, the ability for everyone upstairs and down to post on Facebook. How great is this series!

‘AbFab’ movie gets go-ahead…maybe

January 10, 2014

Eddy and Pats headed to the big screen?

It’s official. Well, about as official as any announcement on The Jonathan Ross Show can make something anyway. AbFab creator, Jennifer Saunders, revealed to Ross recently that an Absolutely Fabulous big screen version is on the way. ‘On the way’ is a bit relative, however, as pen has yet to hit paper but, according to close friend and AbFab co-star, Joanna Lumley, “Jennifer tends to work to deadlines,” she said, “…so we’ve got to create a deadline and then get her there. I think with a little bit of not-too-painful pressure, a little bit of vice-like grip and a Chinese burn on the arm, it’ll happen.
AbFab - The Movie

Long-time friend and former comedy duo partner, Dawn French, added a bit of fuel to the fire as Saunders told Ross, “Yes, well I have to do it now because I’ve threatened it a lot. And then Joanna Lumley kept announcing it and saying, ‘Yes, she’s going to do it, she’s going to do it’ and then Dawn French on our radio show at Christmas said, ‘I bet £100,000 that you don’t write it.’ So now I have to write it, otherwise I have to pay her £100,000.”

A full-length big-screen feature has been rumored for some time so this might fall into the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category, but it sounds like there is enough desire now on all sides to make it happen that this time it may actually see the light of day. Thoughts?

‘Downton Abbey’ gets the Lego treatment…

January 9, 2014

Downton Abbey… in Lego?

Hey, if it’s good enough for the Winchester Pub and 221b Baker Street, it has to be good enough for Downton Abbey, right? After all, with last Sunday’s series 4 premiere topping 10 million viewers, making it the biggest drama series premiere in the history of PBS, it was only a matter of time.

Here’s how things got to where we are. Apparently, a weekly visit to Downton isn’t enough for one fan who is so fixated with the upstairs/downstairs lives of the Crawleys and their downstairs support staff. Enter, one Eric Stevens of Rochester, New York. Stevens has painstakingly recreated the British Edwardian drama out of thousands of Lego bricks. You see, Stevens loves Downton Abbey. So much so that when he found there was no existing Downton Abbey Lego set, he built one for his girlfriend as a Christmas present. You know what they say, nothing says Christmas like a custom-made Lego replica of Downton.
Downton Abbey in Lego

Besides Downton, everyone who is anyone is there…well, almost. There’s the Earl and Countess of Grantham, Bates, Branson, Mr. Carson, Lady Mary and, of course, the imposing Dowager Countess are all brought to life in brick form in his truly one-of-a-kind Lego set. Surprisingly, no Anna. What’s Downton without Anna? Heck, even Matthew and Lady Sybil are included so there should be an Anna, don’t you think?
Downton Abbey Lego family photo

The design took about 15 hours, altogether, and about four hours to actually put it together,” Stevens told the UK’s Daily Mail. “All of the characters are Lego-designed parts, rather than custom printed pieces,” he continued.

According to Stevens, he built the set using a digital designer, basing it on ground and aerial photos of the real Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, as well as floor plans of the building he found online. The detail is pretty amazing right down to the barely-perceptible sneer on Lego Thomas’s face. If only Nanny West could have hung around for a few more episodes….
Lego Thomas