In just a few short weeks, the Downton Abbey Christmas Special lands on ITV1. Never mind that most are in a panic at the moment when they hear there are only 16 days until Christmas. The glass is half full of water folks are also accessing their collective mind palace and calculating that there are only 16 days until a new Downton special.
With full knowledge that U.S. Downton fans have not had the good fortune to see season 4 as of yet (except those that magically found it on the Internets moments after its UK broadcast this Fall), we’ll limit the amount of information for the moment. What we can say is that it is, again, the summer season at Downton. Unlike last years Christmas special which saw the Crawley clan head north to Scotland, this year it is Rose’s ‘coming out’ so she is to be presented at Buckingham Palace. Only at Downton. The family and servants are at Grantham House, their London residence, preparing for the busy social program.
What will be worth waiting for for those unfortunate Downton fans Stateside who have to wait until Sunday, February 23, 2014 (as it will air as the final episode of series 4) on PBS, is the return of Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) as she makes the journey from New York with her playboy son (and Cora’s brother) Harold (Paul Giamatti), fresh from his recent brush with the law. According to reports, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is getting ready to unfold for the Crawleys.
Oh to hear what the Dowager Countess must be thinking at this very moment…
We must have all been good this year given the fact that we are in for some good telly in the coming weeks. If the news of the Downton Abbey Christmas Special, the Christmas Day Sherlock mini-episode broadcast or the New Years Day premiere of Sherlock 3 on BBC One wasn’t enough, we now get confirmation that Jenny, Trixie, Chummy and the ladies of Nonnatus House will return to BBC One on Christmas Day in the UK and on Sunday, December 29 on PBS in the States. The festive episode will air at 6:15pm on Christmas Day on BBC One and at 8:00pm CT/9:00pm ET on PBS.
While both sides of the pond ready themselves for the coming season of Call the Midwife as they leave the 50′s in their bike’s rear view mirror and get ready for the swinging 60′s, the Christmas special promises to be festive on one end, poignant on the other and all things in-between. Without giving away too much, we can divulge that the drama this year revolves around an unexploded WW2 bomb. Nothing screams Christmas like the presence of a UXB in London’s East End.
Call the Midwife – The Christmas Album
If you’re looking to bring a bit of Call the Midwife into your home for the holidays before Christmas Day, check out the just released CTM Christmas album.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Or is it?
To further showcase the incredible versatility of British actors, I bring you this. Jim Carter. a.k.a. Carson from Downton Abbey, appears in this special Greenpeace advert as a dishevelled Father Christmas threatening to cancel Xmas due to global warming and to raise awareness of the melting Arctic. The stark warning is part of Greenpeace’s Save The Arctic campaign, which is supported by Jude Law, Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna.
A Very Carson Christmas
For those of you who remember Ghosts of Christmas’ past, you’ll recall that Christmas is nothing new to Carson. He took to the airwaves last year on the Jonathan Ross show to bring everyone A Very Carson Christmas. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the latenight commercials for the Ronco Inside the Shell Electric Egg Scrambler, Ron Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman or the Ginsu knives that could cut a metal can in half and still be sharp enough to slice a tomato to perfection. We’ve all seen the music compilation CD’s or DVD’s by that classic group, The Original Artists.
Finally, after endless years of infomercials, all advertising things you don’t really need, here’s something for the ultimate Downton Abbey fan, as compiled by Mr. Carson, the butler. We all know Carson. He is in charge of the pantry, wine cellar and dining room, and the male staff report to him. He has worked at Downton Abbey since he was a boy. He is also endlessly nostalgic for the way things were. so, what better qualifies him to bring you A Very Carson Christmas.
Don’t forget to call before 12midnight tonight to be the first on your block to get your very own copy to pop into the CD player and pass the time until the Sunday, January 5, 2014 premiere of the new series of Downton Abbey on PBS.
As head of the 2012 Olympic Deliverance Commission, it’s pretty much a given that you will find yourself sacked after the London Olympics came to a close when Rowan Atkinson participated in the Closing Ceremonies. Fortunately, the now former head of the Commission has landed a new position as the BBC’s new Head of Values. Ian Fletcher, played brilliantly by Lord Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville, is set to return in W1A, the postcode of Broadcasting House, the BBC’s central London headquarters.
As Head of Values, Bonneville’s Ian Fletcher character is now charged with the task of defining the core purpose of the BBC as it gears up for its’ charter renewal and a new license fee settlement in 2016. Besides Bonneville, also returning will be Jessica Hynes as PR guru Siobhan Sharpe.
Twenty Twelve writer John Morton, trying to curb fears that the new series will be one giant in-joke, fully grasps the concept and dangers of creating a BBC comedy about the BBC saying that W1A “…will highlight the absurdities of modern corporate life itself. The key principle is to operate at a level of reality just to the left or the right of fact, to create stories that haven’t actually happened but that could happen or might have happened.”
Mark Freeland, head of BBC in-house comedy, said: “This is a kind of love letter to the BBC. But a letter that gets mislaid, because the remote computer system is not working and head of recovery, BBC, is stuck in a blue sky brainstorming session in a meeting room that’s been double booked and anyway, the bean bags have gone missing.”
For those coming a bit late to the Twenty Twelve party, check out a bit of its brilliance, which is set to premiere on a number of public television stations across the U.S. beginning in February 2014 (including KERA in North Texas).
As for the forthcoming four-part W1A, I already have space reserved on my DVR. How about you?
Unfortunately, most telly watchers who reside in the U.S. today know House of Cards as the more recent, critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated, Netflix original series. Good as it was in season one, I’m still over-the-top more of a fan of the 1990 political thriller by the BBC which was set after the end of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The original story was adapted by Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Mr. Selfridge, War & Peace) from a novel written by Michael Dobbs who was a former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters. You be the judge…
1990 House of Cards with Ian Richardson
Francis Urquhart, the fictional Chief Whip of the Conservative Party, played by Ian Richardson, lacks, shall we say, some of the traditional heroic qualities that would be expected of a leading character in a drama. The plot follows his amoral and manipulative scheme to become leader of the governing party following the resignation of Margaret Thatcher which leads the way to becoming the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
2013 House of Cards with Kevin Spacey
Season 1 of the 2013 Netflix adaptation is set in present day Washington, D.C. and begins to tell the story of Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, a Democrat from South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and House Majority Whip who, after getting passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, decides to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him.
Netflix just announced that season two of the 2013 reboot will premiere on Friday, February 14, 2014. Nothing screams Valentines Day like a series that involves scheming, deception and cheating. Here’s a just released really cool film noir-style promo for season 2, coming in February 2014.
The original BBC version will return to public television stations nationwide beginning in February. Might be a great time for those that only remember the original to check out the new one and vice versa. Would love to know what you think. While I will continue to believe the original BBC version will forever be superior, what makes them both worth your telly time is that they examine the issues of power, ambition and corruption to the nth degree.
Two major Christmas presents coming your way if you’re in the UK…
#SherlockLives. #Sherlock is Not Dead. “Sherlock Holmes has been gone for two years. But someone isn’t quite convinced that he’s dead…“, so says the cryptic synopsis. Many Happy Returns, a mini-episode of Sherlock has been scheduled to become available via the BBC’s interactive Red Button service beginning Christmas Day. According to the BBC, Many Happy Returns will be available to watch at various intervals between 25 of December and New Year’s Day, when the long-awaited return of the Sherlock S3 proper begins.
According to ITV, the air date and time for Downton Abbey’s Christmas Special has been confirmed. The Crawleys will be back on our TV screens on Christmas Day at 8:30pm on ITV1. The traditional Christmas episode will be broadcast on PBS in the U.S. as the final episode of series 4 on Sunday, February 23 at 9:00p ET/8:00p CT. Word is, that unlike last years Christmas episode, which had the Crawleys leaving Downton on holiday to Scotland, this years episode will focus on Lady Rose’s coming out ball. Rumors that viewers will see the return of Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine) and the arrival of Cora’s playboy brother (Paul Giamatti). I so can’t wait for this…
Reason #50 (yes, I’m up to 50 and counting) why I absolutely love British television and think it is the best television on Planet Earth. Ok, # 1 & #2 have to be the writing and the acting (or acting and writing depending on the day), but when it comes to the actual production, besides being the absolute best, they just have fun with it. Case in point. Ripper Street, the BBC crime drama series set in the Whitechapel area of London’s East End in the post-Jack the Ripper late 1800′s and starring Matthew MacFadyen (Spooks, Pride & Prejudice), added their own bit of fun to their stellar series.
In the current series, the three fictitious street names, Hartnell Street, Troughton Street and Cushing Road, appear on a list of UK Incorporated Companies being pored over by Matthew Macfadyen’s Detective Inspector Edmund Reid in episode four, and are a nano-second tribute to Doctor Who for its 50th anniversary celebration. #TOH to Radio Times reader Colin Mcneil who spotted them in a recent episode of Ripper Street. Needless to say, if you wander aimlessly around London, you aren’t going to come across a Hartnell Street, Troughton Street or Cushing Road on a tour of London. There is a Troughton Road but that’s another issue for another day.
A spokesman for Tiger Aspect productions, producers of Ripper Street for the BBC, confirmed the sighting. “From this week’s episode, our little tribute for the eagle-eyed viewers… HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY DOCTOR WHO!! To you, we doff our bowlers – all at Ripper Street.”
Now, off to find reason #51…
How do you pass the time between when the broadcast of Sherlock 3 is in our rearview mirror and preliminary production filming begins on Sherlock 4? If you’re Sherlock director, Paul McGuigan, you take on the newest adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, obviously. McGuigan directed four episodes during the first two series of the runaway BBC/PBS hit series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
The most recent adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic was the 2011 National Theatre presentation that starred future dueling Sherlocks, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who alternated roles of Victor Frankenstein and The Creature during the stage run. For the forthcoming adaptation, which began principal filming this past week in the UK, James McAvoy (State of Play, Atonement, Shameless and X-Men: First Class) will portray Victor Von Frankenstein while Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, in what is being reported as taking a ‘new twist’ on the classic story, will tell the story through the eyes of his shuffling helper, Igor.
Just added to the cast, although no word yet on what role he’ll play, is the brilliant Andrew Scott, whom many of us were introduced to with his stellar portrayal of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty in the BBC/PBS Sherlock ‘masterpiece’. While we’ll have to wait a bit to see what’s in store for Scott in Frankenstein, here’s hoping that come January, we’ll see a bit more of Scott as he is rumored to be featured in the resolution to ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ mystery when Sherlock returns.
While the jury is still out on this one and it’s way too early to even begin to formulate any thoughts on the production, you certainly can’t argue with the cast and crew assembled in front of and behind the camera.
As UK viewers will soon find out, Sir David Jason is set to return to the small screen and revive his character Granville in the revival of the classic sitcom Open All Hours. The one-off special, Still Open All Hours, is set to air this Christmas on BBC One. Jason originally starred with the late comic Ronnie Barker – who played stammering Albert Arkwright – in the much-loved show which ran from 1973 to 1985 and was set in a corner shop.
Sir David will be reunited with actress Lynda Baron, who played unlikely sex symbol nurse Gladys Emmanuel, in the half-hour Christmas special. Viewers will see Granville has taken over from his uncle Albert when Still Open All Hours is screened. Granville now runs the business with his son Leroy (James Baxter), a cheerful and good-looking lad who attracts many female admirers.
The special has been written by Roy Clarke, who also penned the original series. Remembering back to our 2010 PBS special, Behind the Britcom: From Script to Screen, and traveling to Yorkshire to interview a then 80-year old Roy Clarke to get his thoughts on writing, we were in awe of one of most accommodating individuals on the planet who just happened to have written every episode of not only Open All Hours but also Last of the Summer Wine AND Keeping Up Appearances. Here, he gives his thoughts on how he approaches a sitcom from character to story arc. It’s easy to see why LOTSW, KUA and OAH were so successful.
According to producer Gareth Edwards, there are plans to follow the one-off special with a full series. He said: “I can’t say too much about the plot, but it does involve anchovy paste – that’s all I’m saying.”
Sherlock 3 – One mystery solved!
The BBC confirmed Friday the premiere airdate for Sherlock 3 on the BBC in the form of a hearse driving through the streets of London. Along for the ride were the appropriate flowers for the occasion announcing the date that the world’s most famous consulting detective will return to life on 1 January 2014. Happy 2014 to the UK from the BBC and Hartswood Films. Can’t think of a better way to ring in the new year! And, can’t think of a more appropriate place to stop along the route as THE place to pay your #r3spects…
While the BBC did also confirm the airdates for the complete series, in the ‘be careful what you ask for department‘, even the untrained detective eye could count up the hours and rejoice or lament that UK viewers will see two episodes within 4 days. In less than two weeks, the the entire series 3 will be history with the countdown calendar set to begin for 2016 and, I’m guessing, series 4 of Sherlock.
Almost immediately following, one week after the conclusion of series 3 in the UK, PBS in the States will premiere episode 1 of series 3 on Sunday, January 19. While a three week wait seems like light years in the Age of the Internet, beats the heck out of a 5 month delay that we all had to deal with for series 2.
Sherlock 3 trailer
I know there are those of you out there that will immediately say “Gee, you don’t look a day over four!“. Hard to believe it has been five years already. Seems just like yesterday that the first post of our brief existence announced on October 1, 2009 that it was Time for Tellyspotting!. And now, over 2000 posts later (2,003 to be exact), here we are better than ever because of one thing — YOU! Your love of all-things British, our shared recognition that British comedy and drama is the best telly on telly and your comments/feedback over the last five years make it really easy to look forward to the next five. And, thanks so much to the folks over at the London Underground for this really special greeting!
A lot has changed since that fateful day of 10.01.09 when you think about it. Here’s where I could launch into how much a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread cost back then but there are a just a few more important things to understand how our lives have changed. Just imagine a 2009 world where it was BD (Before Downton Abbey), BS (Before Sherlock) BRDX (Before Red Dwarf X) and we were coming to the end of the David Tennant era on Doctor Who. There was no Scott and Bailey, no Endeavour, no Call the Midwife or even Miranda for that matter. At the time, we only knew of Miranda Hart from a brief guest shot in Lead Balloon and a leading role in Hyperdrive with Nick Frost. And, one of the best series ever to grace the small screen, Spooks or MI-5 if you’re in the States, still had three seasons to go!
In the last five years, we have had the great good fortune to sit down and interview a number of amazing individuals for Tellyspotting. Essie Davis (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) immediately comes to mind as does Michael Palin (Monty Python, Brazil with Michael Palin), Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby (George Gently), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and Jonathan Lynn (Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister). And, there’s more to come in the not-too-distant future (hint: think New Tricks!) so stick around and join us for the next five and beyond. It’s going to be a great ride but it won’t be the same without you!
A special thanks to everyone that has written to us, commented on or even read just one post in the last five years. Thanks, also, to BBC Worldwide for their overwhelming support from Day One, to John Manthorpe over at ITV for all the advance press material, to Acorn Media for constantly thinking of us when actors are made available for interviews and to Mark over at the British Comedy Guide for warning me in the beginning stages back in 2009 as to what I was getting ready to get myself into.
Thinking back, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into but I wouldn’t trade anything in the last five years for anything. So, here’s to the next 2,003 posts. Are you with me?