Sunday was the first full day of screening at the 2013 BBC Showcase in Liverpool. For your Tellyspotting reading planning, the entire day focused on BBC drama output for 2013-2014. Comedy on Monday and Doctor Who on Tuesday, which culminates with the 50th anniversary celebration dinner on Tuesday evening. Hard to believe that having just had a year of brilliant drama on PBS such as Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey and with the likes of Mr. Selfridge, Endeavour and the final series episodes of Inspector Lewis just around the corner, it seems impossible to believe that it can get any better. In a nutshell, it is.
Father Brown Mysteries
Set in the 1950′s and based on short stories by G.K. Chesterton, Father Brown stars Mark Williams (Harry Potter) as the kindly Catholic priest who solves crimes on the side. After screening a couple of episodes, the storyline seems plausible enough given that after years of hearing parishioners’ confessions, giving Father Brown an uncanny ability to investigate a crime using intuition, psychology and insight into the inner workings of the criminal mind. Currently airing on the BBC in the UK, look for Father Brown on public television stations in the States the beginning of 2014.
BBC One’s answer to ITV1′s Mr. Selfridge, The Paradise is set amidst the Victorian splendor of Britain’s first department store. It’s the rags-to-riches story of a young girl who falls in love with the modern world starting out as a ‘lowly shopgirl’ and, ultimately, navigating her way to the top dodging power struggles, intrigue and affairs. Look for The Paradise later this year as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series.
Others definitely worth mentioning but, unfortunately, still too early in production stages to have video available are Quirke, written by Andrew Davies and adapted from the books of novelist John Banville, stars Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon. Quirke is a consulting pathologist in the Dublin city morgue in the 50′s. Set against the Dublin backdrop of whiskey-soaked bars and ‘houses brimming with sexual tension’, Quirke is fascinated by the thought of unlocking the secret of cadavers’ deaths and turns to a life of part pathologist, part accidental detective. And, Last Tango in Halifax starring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as childhood sweethearts, Alan and Celia, who are reunited some 60 years later when both are widowed and in their 70′s. From seeing the first episode, the Sally Wainwright (Scott & Bailey story is nothing but an uplifting tale about romance and second chances.
More tomorrow with a look behind-the-scenes at comedy coming your way in 2013-2014. For UK readers, let me know what to check out while here. At this point, I have 3 more days and 30 hours in which to screen the best of the best to bring back to the States.
Unfortunately, Tellyspotting arrived in London about a week late on Friday. But, then again, given who would have been there to meet me, maybe it’s a good thing. Seems as though an army of Daleks could be seen crossing Westminster Bridge during the filming of the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special, ‘An Adventure of Time and Space’. BBC crews were on hand for the recreation of scenes from the second episode of series two of Doctor Who, entitled ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, filmed in 1964 where the Daleks stormed through London.
The filming was the first time that a production team had attempted to faithfully replicate the 1964 shoot using Daleks that were unique to that single adventure. Leave it to Mark Gatiss, who co-wrote the brilliant Sherlock with Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat, to tackle such a project. Gatiss headed to Westminster Bridge early last Sunday morning to film the sequence which will be seen on BBC 2 as part of the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration. Here, he reports from the bridge giving fans an incredible behind-the-scenes look at what promises to be true greatness.
Mark Gatiss reports on Daleks invading London!
Showing youthful exuberance, Gatiss ‘calmly’ said: “…I’ve wanted to tell this story this for more years than I can remember. To make it happen for Doctor Who’s 50th birthday is quite simply a dream come true.”
Off to the safe confines of the Liverpool Convention Centre for the first day of screening at the BBC Showcase 2013. Fortunately, I don’t think the Daleks are credentialed until at least Tuesday nights Doctor Who dinner. Will let you know….
Having made the journey north to Fab Four Land getting geared up to work extremely hard on your behalf, just a brief update before we begin the 2013 BBC Showcase in Liverpool.
First up were several announcements coming from the BBC with regards to upcoming drama commissioning one, in particular, of great interest. Andrew Davies, known to telly viewers on both sides of the pond for his brilliant writing of House Of Cards, Pride And Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Bleak House and Brideshead Revisited, has signed on to write a six-part serialized version of Leo Tolstoy’s epic War And Peace set to air on BBC One in 2015.
War and Peace tells the story of five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I beginning in 1805 Russia. Davies called the book, “…a thrilling, funny and heartbreaking story of love, war and family life. The characters are so natural and human and easy to identify with and Natasha Rostova just beats Lizzy Bennet as the most lovable heroine in literature.” Word on the street is that Davies is hoping to cast an unknown in the lead role of Natasha with two more established actors as the male leads Pierre and Andrei. ITV1 viewers are currently enjoying Davies’ work on the Jeremy Piven series Mr. Selfridge. PBS viewers in the States will get a chance to see Davies’ current handiwork when the period drama based on the book Shopping, Seduction And Mr Selfridge premieres Sunday, March 31 at 8:00pm CT / 9:00pm ET as part of the Masterpiece series.
More tomorrow with a few announcements before we begin our 10-hour a day screening fest of the best television on television. One series that ‘must be reviewed’ after seeing clips is Father Brown. If you’re in the UK and have seen, would love to know what you think.
As you lay comfortably in your bed this evening, Tellyspotting is off to Liverpool for the BBC Showcase 2013. For those that have been with us for awhile, you’ll remember that the BBC Showcase is the annual gathering of television program executives from around the world who ‘lock themselves in a convention center’ for 5 days and screen the best television on television from the BBC. In recent years, series such as MI5, Hustle, Sherlock, The Office and others have been ‘discovered’ at this meeting and we were able to bring back to the States for broadcast on public television.
‘BT’ (before Tellyspotting), the BBC Showcase was held in Brighton for some 20+ years. We left Brighton last years and headed north to Liverpool and the land of the Beatles. In those early years, convention attendees had the advance opportunity to see the early days of the likes of Keeping Up Appearances, Vicar of Dibley and Coupling to name a few.
So…as we make the trek across the pond this week, Tellyspotting will report back all week on what is new and what’s coming your way on both sides of the pond in the not too distant future. Highlight of the week will be the dinner that centers around the Doctor Who 50th anniversary plans. Will definitely let my eyes be like a camera and take pictures to post for everyone.
See everyone on the other side!
How will the cast of Downton Abbey pass the time between Sunday’s series 3 finale and the premiere of series 4 later this year? Besides filming series 4, some of the cast will turn to music. While Michelle Dockery (Mary Crawley) is an accomplished jazz singer who occasionally sings with Sadie and the Hotheads, a band formed by Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora), who knew that many in the cast have formed a One Direction cover band to pass the time this summer.
One Direction, comprised of Niall Horan, Zayne Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, made history when they became the first U.K. group to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2011 with ‘Up All Night’. ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ was the lead single from the album. If you’re already going through Downton Abbey withdrawal after Sunday’s season finale, this is the perfect pick-me up. Check out Mr. Carson!
The video was made for Richard Sandling’s Perfect Movie, a monthly live comedy show at The Leicester Square Theatre, and featured on his website. Great editing and great mash-up.
Still reeling over Sunday’s series 3 finale of Downton Abbey and have the word WHY on the tip of your tongue? Thanks to Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times who sat down recently with series creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, all of your questions will be answered. You may not like the answers, but you’ll have answers nonetheless and, hopefully, a bit more understanding as to the reasoning behind the series 3 conclusion and enough to tide you over until this Fall in the UK on ITV1 and January 5, 2014 in the U.S. on PBS when series 4 premieres.
***If you haven’t seen the series 3 finale, as this interviews reveals some early storylines of series 4, do not read until you have seen all of series 3. There are more spoilers than the law allows below.***
From the New York Times interview of Julian Fellowes by Dave Itzkoff
These have been dark days for the Crawleys and their household staff at Downton Abbey. After the popular period drama returned this year with the arrival of Cora’s mother, Martha Levinson (played by Shirley MacLaine) and her outspoken ways, the family lost Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), who died after giving birth, and confronted deep prejudices when they learned Thomas (Rob James-Collier) was gay.
Then, in the closing moments of Sunday’s season finale, broadcast in Britain at Christmastime, after Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) celebrated the birth of their first child, Matthew was killed in a car accident.
These developments are all the handiwork of Julian Fellowes, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter who created and writes Downton Abbey. But some were twists that he chose for his characters, and others were made necessary by circumstances beyond his control. In these edited excerpts, Mr. Fellowes spoke by phone recently from his home in London about a season of comings and goings at Downton, and how he is thinking about his own exit from the show.
NYT: Was it your decision to dispense with Sybil and Matthew in the same season?
Julian Fellowes: No. You see, in America, it’s quite standard for an actor to sign, at the beginning of a series, for five or seven years. The maximum any British agent will allow you to have over an actor is three years. And Jessica and Dan wanted to go. The show had been very, very successful, tremendously so, and they were being offered great opportunities. Don’t think I’m saying it critically – I don’t blame them at all. I can remember when I was a young actor, and I just had this feeling it was time to go to London. I was doing repertory theater in the country, and I resigned halfway through the season. Of course, all my friends and my parents thought I was completely mad. I went up to London and I got a job in a West End show with Hayley Mills. I reminded myself of that when Jessica and Dan said they wanted to go. I thought, “Well, you can’t be that snippy because on a scaled-down version, that’s exactly what you did.”
NYT: Did you try to persuade these actors to stay on?
Julian Fellowes: We wanted them to stay and said, “Would you just do two or three episodes? And then you’re living in America or in Dublin.” But they both felt they wanted to make a clean break. When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn’t really a problem – [that character gets] another job. With members of the family, once they’re not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. Because how believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? And was never seen again at the estate that he was the heir to? So we didn’t have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else.
NYT: Once you’d made your peace with their departures, how did you decide to handle them narratively?
Julian Fellowes: With Jessica, it seemed right to give her a whole episode that was about her death. With Dan, I had hoped that we would have one episode of this fourth season that I’m writing now, so we could have ended the Christmas episode on a happy note – the baby, everything lovely. And then kill him in the first episode of the next series. But he didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want his death to dominate the Christmas special, so that’s why we killed him at the very, very end. In a way I think it works quite well because we begin Series 4 six months later. We don’t have to do funerals and all that stuff. That’s all in the past by then.
NYT: Another story line from this season dealt with the household learning that the servant Thomas is gay. Had you decided that about him from the time you created the character?
Julian Fellowes: He was always going to be gay. I don’t know about in America, but here, there are so many people under 40 who were hardly aware of the fact that it was actually illegal until the 1960s. Perfectly normal men and women were risking prison by making a pass at someone. Their whole life was lived in fear, and ruin and humiliation and career after career would be smacked down. I think it’s useful to remind people that many things that they take for granted, are, in terms of our history, comparatively new. But I also felt it was believable that someone living under that pressure would be quite snippy and ungenerous and untrusting. But once you understood what he was up against, you’d forgive quite a lot of that. I like to write characters where you change your mind, without them becoming different people.
NYT: The reactions from the others in the house, particularly those who disapprove so vehemently, make you see them in a new light, too.
Julian Fellowes: Well, I think it’s a mistake to give people modern attitudes if you want them to remain sympathetic, because I think the audience picks up on that. If Carson had said, “Oh, yes, I think it’s absolutely fine,” that’s a 2013 response. My parents didn’t have any prejudice about this at all, actually. In fact, my brother’s godfather was gay, quite publicly, which in the 50s was pretty wild. This was a good friend of my father’s. He was liberal. It didn’t bother him if people were homosexual. But we can forget how we were ringed in with these prejudices until really quite recently.
NYT: This season, in particular, it felt like American viewers were much more aware that “Downton” was showing first in Britain, and were having plot details spoiled months in advance. You may not be able to control this, but would you like the series be shown simultaneously in both regions?
Julian Fellowes: Well, I would love them to be simultaneous. And my own feeling is that the thinking behind different screenings belongs to a different era. The Internet has shrunk the world. We’re the two English-speaking countries that enjoy each other’s entertainment, it seems to me, as much as any linked countries in the world. I would vastly prefer that we all saw it together. The world is much more global. And so I look forward to the day when it changes, as I’m sure it will.
NYT: You’re also writing a new period drama for NBC called “The Gilded Age.”
Julian Fellowes: I’m not yet. I’m going to, when “Downton” finishes. But there are many hurdles that have to be cleared. You have to write the pilot, they have to decide they’re going to make it, they have to decide whether they want to pick it up. So it’s a line of ditches that lies between me and the series. But if it goes, and if I’m doing a series at NBC, I would not be able to write all of “Downton” and all of that series at the same time. I would hope that by the time all the hurdles have been cleared, the timing makes it so I can then concentrate on the new series. And if “Downton” goes on – of course that’s not my decision – then it would be with other writers. Perhaps with me supervising, but with other writers.
NYT: Could you imagine a scenario where “Downton” continues without you?
Julian Fellowes: I think it would be funny. But in life, you no sooner say “Oh, I’d never do such and such” than you find yourself strapped into a chair, doing it. There’s no point, really, in making pronouncements of absolutes. The only thing is, I know I would not be able to write 11 hours of “Downton” and 10 hours of “The Gilded Age,” or whatever it is, side by side.
NYT: Wouldn’t you prefer to end the series on your own terms?
Julian Fellowes: I’d prefer to do everything on my terms. The business of life is learning that you can’t lay down the terms. My own belief is that these things have a life. And one of the tricks is to recognize when it’s time to come to an end. But we haven’t made a decision when that will be. Some things go on for 20 years, don’t they, but I just don’t see “Downton” being one of them.
NYT: Can you say yet what the themes of this new season will be?
Julian Fellowes: I’m not giving anything away by saying that one of the main themes is the rebuilding of Mary, that Mary has to rebuild her life in a society which is changing. We would see women’s roles in the ’20s as being very much behind women today. But it was a big advance on what it had been 30 years before. And that’s all explored in the show.
A panoramic view of the set of 221B Baker Street, currently under construction, courtesy of the show’s production designer Arwel Wyn Jones is enough to make me forget that it’s been a little over a year since Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have been a part of our collective mind palaces. This is like behind-the-scenes production gold for those that have been (im)-patiently waiting since last year for the next installment of Sherlock.
As we speak, the set team is busy preparing Sherlock and John’s flat for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the next series in this unbelievably brilliant BBC/PBS series is set to being filming next month with three new 90-minute episodes. And, as the band is getting back together, co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have been hard at work under significant pressure to top what many already consider to be the best telly on telly.
Gatiss talked to Radio Times recently about Sherlock’s series three return following his death-defying plunge at the end of the last season off the rooftop of St Barts Hospital. In ‘The Empty House’, the original story in which the detective comes back from the dead, he reveals himself to his friend Dr Watson after being disguised as a stooped, elderly book seller, but Gatiss suggested Sherlock’s disguise might be somewhat more subtle.
“We made a decision right from the get-go that he would not do disguise in the traditional sense,” said Gatiss. “He actually has a line in [series one finale] ‘The Great Game’ which is ‘The art of disguise is knowing how to hide in plain sight’ and that was because, right from the start, I thought modern day Sherlock Holmes would not put putty noses on, he would basically be standing behind you now and you wouldn’t know he was there.”
Now that we’re ever so close to getting the entire band back together, time to remember those all important three words:
Rat; Wedding; Bow
Now, go talk amongst yourselves and determine what these might mean and try not to think about what happened Sunday night at the conclusion of series 3 of Downton Abbey. Happy thoughts…happy thoughts.
Sadly, another longtime ‘friend’ to public broadcasting in the States whom most of us feel like we’ve spent every weekend with over the past 30+ years has died. Richard Briers, a.k.a. Tom Good from Good Neighbors, Martin Bryce in Ever Decreasing Circles and Hector MacDonald in Monarch of the Glen passed away Sunday evening at the age of 79. A number of us had the great good fortune of spending time with Richard over the years during our PBS productions about British comedy, Funny Ladies of British Comedy, Funny Blokes of British Comedy and, most recently, From Script to Screen: Behind the Britcom. Richard Briers was always the consummate professional and an absolutely genuine delight to sit and talk with at great length about comedy, both the history of and where it’s going, and life in general.
As with so many British actors that we are familiar with from our favorite situation comedies, Briers was an accomplished stage actor who appeared in numerous Shakespeare plays after joining Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987. But most of us knew him for his role as Tom Good in The Good Life (retitled Good Neighbors when broadcast in the U.S.). Here, Briers shares some insight into the casting of The Good Life and how important it was to the success of the series to have the quality of cast they had as part of our tribute to the writers of British comedy program.
In 2005, as part of our Funny Blokes of British Comedy, host Lenny Henry ‘introduced’ to Tom Good. We also heard from Good Life co-stars Penelope Keith and Felicity Kendal who shared their thoughts on working with Richard Briers followed by some brilliant insights from Richard about comedy, his approach to comedy acting, his thoughts on Tom Good and the series was probably more applicable to today times than when it originally premiered in 1975.
R.I.P. Richard Briers. Thanks for all the laughs over the past 30+ years and for the endless laughs you no doubt will provide us with in the years to come. We will all miss you.
Leave it to the greatness of Jimmy Fallon to turn to humor when the entire U.S. is still reeling from Sunday nights mind-numbing series 3 finale of Downton Abbey. While a collective ‘WHY’ was heard from Los Angeles to New York and all points in-between last night, the residents of Downton Sixbey are dealing with their own issues including the realization of that hard times are ahead due to the mis-management of Downton and then hearing the news that Questlove is back as the heir to Downton Abbey.
Downton Sixbey episode 3
In the next installment of Downton Sixbey, as everyone prepares for a wedding, Higgins is forced to dispel rumors that are running rampant through Downton Sixbey and reveal his complicated past to the family. While Higgens is brilliant, Brooke Shields as Lady Nora is priceless. Hopefully, with these 14+ minutes of greatness from Jimmy Fallon, you have forgotten for at least a few moments last nights ending to series 3 of Downton Abbey. Watch as often as you see fit. Unfortunately, it’s a long time until January 5, 2014 and the premiere of series 4 on PBS.
Downton Sixbey episode 4
As the Crawley family and those below the stairs that live to serve them bring series 3 to a close on tonight’s 2-hour finale of Downton Abbey on PBS’ Masterpiece series, rumors are already flying around the Internets as the cast begins filming this month on series 4 which is tentatively set for a Fall premiere on ITV1 and a 5 January, 2014 premiere on PBS.
More Shirley MacLaine and maybe Dame Judi Dench and/or Billy Connolly?
So far, creator/writer Julian Fellowes has hinted that he’d love to see the return of Shirley MacLaine as Lady Grantham’s mother, Martha Levinson, for another head-to-head matching of wits with the Dowager Countess. Early on, Dame Judi Dench admitted she was hooked on the series that stars friend and fellow Dame, Maggie Smith. There’s now even a Facebook campaign to try and convince producers to give her a guest role at Downton for series 4. Even Scottish comedian Billy Connolly has said he would be open to the idea of working on the show after having worked with Dame Maggie Smith in “Quartet”. “I’d love to work with her again, I’m not sure how I’d fit into the Downton world, it’s maybe not quite right but it would be a laugh I guess“, Connolly said.
Miranda heartthrob moving to Downton?
Now comes the most recent and intriguing product of the rumor mill. Tom Ellis, fresh off his 3 series role as Miranda’s dream hunk, Gary on Miranda, has auditioned and on the short list for a recurring role in series 4. Unfortunately, to even think about reporting on the role that Downton producers have in mind for him would require spilling some series spoilers for tonight’s series 3 finale so if you want to know, you’re going to have to search on your own. If you have to know quickly after you’ve seen tonight’s episode, you can click here to find out. Seriously, however, as great at this would be, I can only find this particular rumor from one source so it’s going to need just a bit more concrete substantiation before we should consider this to be a real possibility.
Whatever becomes fact or remains a rumor, I’m already getting the countdown calendar ready with a big red circle around Sunday, January 5, 2014 for the return of Downton Abbey 4 on PBS. Those lucky enough to live east of the Atlantic only have to wait until September. In the meantime, enjoy tonights series 3 finale and let us know what you think.