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Proud vs. Outrage: All in a days work for ‘Downton Abbey’

October 11, 2013

It’s been what can easily be described as a roller coaster week for Downton Abbey. Still riding the incredible 3+ year pop-culture high in the States as viewers try to avoid all forms of social media and eagerly await the series 4 PBS premiere on January 5, 2014, some UK viewers are bordering on outrage and have threatened a future boycott over events that unfolded during last Sunday’s broadcast of episode 3.

UK television critics indirectly received a heads up last week when advance screening copies were not made available for last Sundays episode that something bad was about to happen. The last time that occurred was the final episode of series 3…and we all know what happened at the end of that episode, which aired on Christmas Day in the UK. While the Twitter universe exploded following the broadcast with complaints ranging from ‘you’ve spoiled this for me’ to ‘I’m never watching again, you’ve jumped the shark’ to writer/creator Julian Fellowes being accused of merely trying to ‘spice things up’, the actors involved in the controversial episode felt ‘proud’, described it as ‘bold and risky’ and denied any complaint of sensationalism or being of the lowest common denominator. Having just seen the episode in question and given the fact that most of the outrage continues to be reported daily in the Daily Mail, I’m completely on the side of the writer of and the actors involved in the episode as opposed to those who have ‘officially’ complained to UK television watchdog/regulator, Ofcom.

Part of the outrage can’t help but be a result, partially, of just how popular the series is and how viewers get attached to certain inhabitants of Downton whether it be above or below the stairs. After 3+ years, viewers are more than emotionally attached. Fortunately, with the exception of Dame Maggie Smith, a majority of the cast were signed up for two series leading up to the current series we can surmise that there won’t be any shocking exits this time around and we won’t experience the same sort of angst that was felt last 25 December and February 17.

UK viewers feel free to talk amongst yourselves and, if possible, please share your thoughts of the episode in question without revealing any spoilers. It’s a long way until January 2014 to have to avoid facebook and Twitter.

The 5 Things You Don’t Know About ‘Downton Abbey’

October 10, 2013

You know who you are. You’ve seen every episode of the first three series of the mega-hit British period drama, Downton Abbey. You own a ‘Free Bates’ t-shirt. You’re feeling pretty good about the fact that you know that the labrador dogs of Downton Abbey go by the name of Pharaoh and Isis. Well, there just might be a few things you don’t know about the series even though you’ve seen each episode more times than the law allows.

Definitely no spoilers here, we’ll leave that to other sites. Just some cool bits of behind-the-scenes/how the sausage is made cocktail party trivia as the U.S. tirelessly counts down the days until series 4 of Downton Abbey premieres on PBS’ Masterpiece.

The 5 Things You Don’t Know About Downton Abbey

  • How many bedrooms are used in filming?
  • How did Mary’s baby get its name?
  • Wigs have names, too!
  • Who went from Little Orphan Annie to scullery maid?
  • Who inspired the character of Bates?


Call the Midwife Christmas Special set for Dec 29 on PBS – CD to be released in November

October 9, 2013

In a yet another ‘Christmas comes early’ moment for British telly lovers, the Call the Midwife Christmas Special will be coming stateside to PBS on Sunday, December 29, shortly after BBC One viewers experience the joy of the inhabitants of Nonnatus House. During a break from filming, Chummy is being…Chummy, or Miranda Hart, hard to tell.
Chummy being…Chummy, or Miranda Hart during filming of Call the Midwife 3


Currently finishing up production on both the 2013 Christmas special and series 3, it’s almost beyond belief that when originally pitched to the BBC, Call the Midwife was initially dismissed. Thankfully, Danny Cohen took over as Controller of BBC One and the rest is history. To coincide with the Christmas premiere, Call the Midwife fans can add to their seasonal excitement a very special new CD and Digital release. CALL THE MIDWIFE – THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM, which is packaged in a specially designed pop up gift pack for the festive season, is set for release by Demon Music Group on 25 November 2013.

Comprising 30 tracks, including music from the 2012 and forthcoming 2013 Christmas specials, CALL THE MIDWIFE – THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM features a very special bonus cast recording of the Nat ‘King’ Cole classic “When I Fall in Love”. Also included included on this crazy phenomenal holiday album are Bing Crosby (White Christmas), Judy Garland (Have Yourself A Merry Christmas), Harry Belafonte (Mary’s Boy Child), Elvis Presley (Santa, Bring My Baby Back (To Me) and Blue Christmas), Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio (The Christmas Song), Perry Como (Frosty The Snowman), Brenda Lee (Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree) and Johnny Mathis with Percy Faith and His Orchestra (The First Noel).

Following this years Christmas Special, the eight-part series 3 will transmit in very early 2014 in the UK, with a PBS airing following soon afterwards tentatively set for a Sunday, March 30, 2014 premiere.

‘Open All Hours’ to re-open this Christmas

October 8, 2013

Christmas has, once again, arrived in October. Arkwright’s Grocery may have closed in 1985, but, word is, it will re-open this Christmas. Titled Still Open All HoursI am sure there is an audience out there who would like to see what Granville has been getting up to in the corner shop. It will be a great family show for Christmas and a fitting tribute to the legacy of Arkwright.

Creator Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances) has written the special which will star Sir David Jason will reprise his role as South Yorkshire shop worker Granville. According to the Radio Times, the story will pick up with Granville having inherited the business previously run by Ronnie Barker’s Albert Arkwright with his son as his, hopefully, hapless assistant.

Having premiered in 1976 and running for 4 series, it’s been nearly thirty years on since the last episode of Open All Hours was shown on BBC One in 1985. Still a perennial favorite in the U.S. on public television stations, the series ranked eighth overall in Britain’s Best Sitcom, a poll taken in 2004 in the UK.

We were extremely fortunate to interview Roy Clarke back in 2010 as part of PBS’ Behind the Britcom: From Script to Screen to talk the final days of Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances and Open All Hours. Besides giving us a bit of insight as to how he was able to write LOTSW for some 38 years and 295 episodes, he also let us in on how the shop in Open All Hours was based on a shop called L E Riddiford in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire.
Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances, Open All Hours writer Roy Clarke

He mentioned that most writers of British situation comedy, if possible, base characters or situations on something they are familiar with or have experienced. It was common knowledge that Are You Being Served writer, Jeremy Lloyd, based much of his writing of the series on his early days at Simpson’s Department Store. In writing Open All Hours, Roy Clarke visited Thornbury while traveling, ran across the small shop and loved the shop layout and the store owner, Mr Len Riddiford. As a result, the store was referenced in numerous Open All Hours episodes by Barker’s Arkwright character.

Is it Christmas yet?

Missing ‘Hebburn’ Christmas script found…and returned spoiler free!

October 7, 2013

Christmas has came early for Hebburn creator Jason Cook recently when 11-year-old twins Serena and Lauren Short and their pal Katie Luke, 13, found a top secret stack of papers lying on the ground near Hebburn Cricket Club this past week. The top secret script included storylines for the eagerly-awaited Hebburn holiday special.
Cast of BBC Two hit comedy Hebburn

In todays age of internet spoilers coupled with a ‘can’t wait to post on Twitter or Facebook mentality’, Cook has hailed the honesty of the three St Joseph’s Catholic Academy pupils and pledged to meet them in person to offer his thanks. Parents of the twin girls, Janine and Colin Short, who live in Hebburn, said: “My daughters were out taking the dog for a walk when they saw the papers lying on the ground at Hebburn Cricket Club.

The Hebburn teens seemed more excited about the fact that a the BBC Two comedy was set and filmed in their home town and the possibility of meeting some of the cast more so than wanting to spread the news of what they found. Serena said: “We were out with the dog and looking to see if the film crew were still around when we noticed the pieces of paper on the ground. When we picked it up we realized it was the script.” Lauren said: “When we saw it was the script we were really excited. It’s been hard not to tell anyone what’s in it.” Katie added: “It’s great to have a TV show about our town and we got some photos of the cast when they were down during the week.” The Shields Gazette interviewed the three St Joseph’s Catholic Academy pupils following their recent find.

If you are not familiar with the BBC Two hit comedy, you need to be. Not only did it prove to be a ratings hit but it was nominated for best comedy in the National TV awards and was voted the Best New TV Sitcom in the Comedy.co.uk Awards held by the British Comedy Guide.

The first series of Hebburn tells the story of Jack, played by South Shields comic Chris Ramsey, who comes back to South Tyneside from Manchester. He has secretly married middle-class Jewish girl Sarah, played by Kimberley Nixon, and brought her back home to meet his family, which includes parents played by Gina McKee and Jim Moir (Vic Reeves).

Public television fans of British comedy in the U.S. can look forward to seeing Hebburn in early 2014. UK audiences can look for the Christmas special this holiday season with a second series set to premiere in 2014.

‘Broadchurch’ U.S. remake to star “American” David Tennant

October 6, 2013

I guess when the track record of remaking British telly brilliance by American television networks is what it is for as far as the eye can see, nothing surprises you with regards to what gets remade and what lengths producers will go to to trick it up to try and attract an audience.

The newest addition to the American television landscape has the Fox television network trying to recreate British dominance with Broadchurch, the Chris Chibnall drama starring David Tennant that centered around the discovery of a young boy found dead on a beach under a cliff-face. While Chibnall will executive produce and write the opening episode, the ‘trick it up’ part of the equation is that David Tennant will also star in the U.S. version as the drama’s lead investigator on the case…but, with an American accent. That said, if anyone can pull this off, I have faith in the immense talents of both Chris Chibnall and David Tennant. But, I would only like the answer to one question. Why, grandfather, why?

Filming is expected to begin in January with the series set to air at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 on Fox in the U.S.

The Paradise – PBS’ newest ‘Masterpiece’ premieres Sunday

October 5, 2013

Unfortunately, the newest addition to the PBS Masterpiece line-up will be forever linked and/or compared to ITV’s brilliant period drama, Mr. Selfridge. Both are set in a department store, and that’s where the comparisons end. While Mr. Selfridge tells the true life adventures of Harry Gordon Selfridge and his London department store, Selfridge & Co, The Paradise fictitiously profiles Britain’s glamorous first department store in the 1870′s, which dominates the high street in the North of England.

As the series begins, Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) arrives wide-eyed and penniless on the front steps of The Paradise. She may be penniless but, it’s clear from the outset that while her inspired eye focuses on the store’s ladieswear department, it’s the shop’s dashing, yet reckless, owner, John Moray (Emun Elliott), who has his own ‘inspired eye’ turned on her. Much to the annoyance of head of ladies fashion Miss Audrey, shopgirl Clara and Lord Glendenning’s daughter Katherine, who is determined to marry Moray, Lovett’s stock begins to rise.

Based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by Émile Zola, series 2 of The Paradise is set to premiere on BBC One this Autumn and series 1 of writer/creator Bill Gallagher’s The Paradise premieres tomorrow (Oct 6) at 8pm CT/9pm ET on PBS’ MASTERPIECE series. And, it is just that, a masterpiece.

November 23 – The Day of the Doctor and the plan to turn NY Blue

October 4, 2013

With most of Planet Earth having in their possession a calendar with November 23 circled for obvious reasons, plans are coming together for fans worldwide to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who fans attempt to alter the NY skyline…

In particular, Doctor Who fans in Manhatten have their set their sights on turning the Empire State Building ‘Tardis blue’ to honor the show’s fiftieth birthday. NY Sci Fi & Fantasy launched the Change.org petition to help mark the 50th anniversary stateside. Calling it, both appropriately and very wordy, the “Petition to light up the Empire State Building TARDIS blue on November 23rd to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who!,” the fan club “…wants to bring NYC to The Doctor to celebrate his anniversary.

We are attempting to partner with the Empire State Building to make this happen, said the fan club website. Organizers are asking fans to help show just how popular this show is by signing the petition, sharing the link and to spread the word via facebook, Twitter, or any way you can. With over 17,000 signatures collected so far against an original goal of 10K, the Empire State Building will decide by November 9 whether or not to turn Tardis blue. Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it?

Finally, two teaser trailers for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special were released by the BBC which did little more than reveal the official hashtag of the celebratory episode to be #SaveTheDay. They may be only :05-:08 seconds in length, but they are SO worth waiting for. The Day of the Doctor, starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, Billie Piper and John Hurt, will air worldwide on November 23.


And, there is life ‘during’ Downton Abbey for Lady Edith

October 3, 2013

Not to be outdone by yesterdays announcement that former Downton Abbey alumni Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) had been cast in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, comes news from Variety that current Downton Abbey star, Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, the Crawley family’s resentful middle sister who seems destined to shed that moniker this season, has joined the cast of Madame Bovary as Henrietta, a character thought to be based on that of Heloise, the first wife of Madame Bovary’s husband Charles.
Downton Abbeys Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith

Carmichael joins fellow Downton cast member, Paul Giamatti, who will portray pharmacist Monsieur Homais. Giamatti, who will grace the halls of Downton as Lady Edith’s playboy uncle in series 4, joins Mia Wasikowska, star of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, who will play the title role of Emma Bovary, a country girl whose idealistic notions of romance, and her disillusionment with her husband, lead her to ill-fated infidelity and financial trouble.

French director Sophie Barthes will adapt and direct the classic Gustave Flaubert novel which is set to begin filming in Normandy, France this week. So, while there may not be life for many of the millions of Downton Abbey fans worldwide after the final episode transmits each season, it’s clear that there is both life during and after the series for the actors involved.

10 October – The day the UK will be ‘Breathless’

October 2, 2013

Call the Midwife meets Downton Abbey?

Ok, so Breathless, admittedly, is a period drama set in a hospital but that’s like describing Red Green as Monty Python meets This Old House. I guess it partly makes sense given there are a couple of Kevin Bacon connections between the newest addition to the ITV drama line-up and Downton Abbey. Breathless will have two former Downton Abbey alumni walking the hospital halls in Zoe Boyle, who played Lavinia, Matthew Crawley’s sickly fiance, in the second series of Downton Abbey and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), who played Mary’s one-time fiance, newspaper mogul Sir Richard Carlisle.

Breathless, which stars Jack Davenport (Coupling, Pirates of the Caribbean), follows the lives of a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital, a world in which everything and everyone has their place. Like all good telly dramas, Breathless is full of lies, deception and guilty secrets, all conveniently driven by love, ambition and sex.

The series opens in 1961, a time when Britain was on the brink of the Sixties revolution. Abortion is illegal and the pill is only just becoming available to married women. Set in and around a busy gynaecology unit, medicine becomes the perfect backdrop to play out the shifting and complex moral codes of early 1960s society.

A co-production between ITV Studios and PBS’ Masterpiece in the U.S., Breathless premieres Thursday, 10 October on ITV and tentatively set for a Fall 2014 premiere in the States on PBS.

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