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Get ready for the new Foyle’s War with a 6 in 6 recap

September 14, 2013

It’s Saturday. You’ve sadly come to the realization that with Foyle’s War returning to PBS on Sunday, there’s no time remaining for a marathon crash viewing session of the first 6 seasons before Sundays premiere of series 7 on Masterpiece.

Not to worry. Acorn TV, one of the driving forces behind its return, is looking out for you with a classic “6 in 6″ look back at the first 6 seasons of the exploits of Christopher Foyle and Honeysuckle Weeks.

Michael Kitchen and Samantha Stewart brilliantly reprise their roles when Foyle’s War returns to PBS Sunday at 8p CT/9p ET on Masterpiece. In season 7, the enigmatic Foyle is now working for British Secret Intelligence. World War II has ended but just over the horizon has a different war looming as the iron curtain falls across Europe. MI5 suspects British atomic research has been infiltrated, and ask Foyle to investigate whether a Russian spy network could be at work in the heart of London.

Season 7 will air over the next three Sundays on PBS’ Masterpiece series with “The Eternity Ring” on Sept 15, “The Cage” on Sept 22 and concluding on Sept 29 with “Sunflower”.


Friday Funny: An Oscar-worthy remix for Monty Python & the Holy Grail?

September 13, 2013

Given that there are times it seems like Oscar consideration can materialize overnight for a movie with nothing more than a good trailer, Monty Python & the Holy Grail might just need a second look from the Oscar judges based on a new trailer that has surfaced some 38 years after the cult classic premiered in 1975.

While the soon-to-be limbless Black Knight would be pleased to see he’s finally getting the respect he so deserves, I do find it rather difficult to believe that I would have camped out overnight that fateful evening at the Wilshire Theater in Dallas for one of the world premiere screenings had this trailer played leading up to that night.

The fact that we were handed two coconut halves upon entering the theater would have been even more bizarre had we seen nothing but the seriousness of King Arthur and his quest for the Grail.

The ‘Day of the Doctor’ is nearly upon us!

September 12, 2013

No, it’s not 23 November just yet, but we’re getting close! For the one person on Planet Earth that isn’t aware, we are referring to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, which began 23 November, 1963. It’s only September but the BBC is releasing more and more information daily about their forthcoming plans for the 50th celebration. The most recent bit of greatness was this brilliant poster…


The countdown has begun as the BBC has revealed a fairly comprehensive plan to take over both TV and radio to mark the Doctor’s 50th anniversary. Call me crazy, but I’m going to go out on a limb and call this a bit more than fairly comprehensive…

  • As one could probably guess, the celebration will peak on 23 November with the anniversary episode, which has now been revealed as ‘The Day Of The Doctor’. Starring Matt Smith, David Tennant and Jenna Coleman with Billie Piper and John Hurt, the BBC One special is now confirmed as feature-length adventure.
  • BBC Two will broadcast a number of new commissions, with a specific focus of telling the story behind the show. Professor Brian Cox will take an audience of celebrity guests and members of the public on a journey into the wonderful universe of the Doctor, from the lecture hall of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Drawing on the latest theories, as well as 200 years of scientific discoveries and the genius of Einstein, Cox tries to answer the classic questions raised by the Doctor: Can you really travel in time? Does extra-terrestrial life exist in our galaxy? And how do you build something as fantastical as the TARDIS?
  • BBC Two’s flagship arts program, The Culture Show, presents “Me, You And Doctor Who”. Lifelong fan Matthew Sweet explores the cultural significance of the BBC’s longest running TV drama, arguing that it’s one of the most important cultural artifacts of modern Britain.
  • Finally, last but certainly not least, BBC Two wraps up its coverage with the previously announced “An Adventure In Space And Time”, written by Mark Gatiss, which will tell the story of the genesis of Doctor Who and the many personalities involved.
  • Not to be left out, CBBC, Blue Peter and BBC Three intend to air programs celebrating the 50th. And, BBC Radio 2 gets into the game as Graham Norton will be broadcasting his weekly Radio 2 show live (Saturday 23 November, 10am) from the Doctor Who Celebration in London. In a special three-hour show, Graham will take a ride in the TARDIS and will also be chatting with some of the series’ stars and fans.
  • Finally, Radio 1 will look at the genre of music inspired by the Doctor and his journeys through space and time while Radio 4 Extra will travel back to 1963 with a three-hour special program, Who Made Who?, to look at the world that inspired the television series. Doctor Who may have come from other times, but his roots were very much in the present of 1960s Britain.

It’s a good thing anniversaries like this only come around only every 50 years. I don’t think I could take another one of these any time soon. I’m spent…and it’s only September.

Could an etiquette war be brewing between Highclere Castle and Downton Abbey?

September 11, 2013

As if the Crawleys don’t already have enough to worry about having to deal with the untimely death of Matthew at the end series 3, now it seems that when Violet Crawley and Lord Grantham sit down to dine at Downton, their table isn’t set correctly, as the Radio Times‘ Ellie Walker-Arnott found out recently.

Pulling a page right out of Hyacinth Bucket’s playbook, well, actually, her Book of Etiquette for the Socially Less Fortunate and the chapter on candlelight suppers, the Countess Fiona Carnarvon, the real-life lady of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, seems to be taking issue with series producers when it comes to Downton Abbey’s silverware and crockery. Aside from the fact that the tables are set wrong, they don’t have a sufficient number of servants to cater to their needs either.

It’s the little details,” she said. “Glasses are back to front and things are set wrong. Setting up the table is an art. Knives, forks and spoons are set from the outside in, beginning with the bread knife and working through each course to cheese… The wine glasses and water tumblers are arranged to the top right of each setting.”

Downton prefers this different arrangement and, after three series, Lady Carnarvon has given up telling them that this ‘different’ arrangement is, in fact, just wrong.

I don’t want to step on people’s toes so I’ve tried a few times to say, ‘do you know you’re setting the table wrong?’” she told the Sunday Times. “I do feel, after all, it’s my dining table and obviously we wouldn’t set it like that. They look at me blankly and I sort of try once more and then I give up and I try not to look because its easier.”

Dining at Downton – Behind the scenes

After all is said and done, Lady Fiona should know what she is talking about, She is the eighth countess of Carnarvon, after all, and lives in the Berkshire stately home with her husband. Her book, Lady Catherine and the real Downton Abbey, is being released in the UK later this week. I’m guessing Carson didn’t write the foreward, what do you think?

ITV and BBC 2013: Let the Drama Games begin

September 10, 2013

ITV: Where Drama Lives 2013

Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of trailers as, in many cases, they contain all the good bits. Admittedly, in most cases, this is directly related to movie trailers more so than television series promos. However, a promo comes along once in awhile that is just plain brilliant that just has to be shared. Such is the case with the newest ITV campaign, Where Drama Lives, for their always stellar drama line-up. After last weeks BBC Original Drama promo, it’s plain to see that it’s going to be an all-out war in 2013-2014 between the drama heavyweights and the winner is going to be the viewer every time.

As you can see, an incredible amount of creative effort and thought went into the production of this spot. Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham, Downton Abbey), Paddy Considine (Mr Whicher, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher), Katherine Kelly (Lady Mae Loxley, Mr Selfridge), Martin Clunes (Dr Martin Ellingham, Doc Martin), Jeremy Piven (Mr Selfridge), Anna Maxwell Martin (Susan Gray, The Bletchley Circle), Jim Carter (Carson, Downton Abbey), Shaun Evans (Detective Constable Endeavour Morse, Endeavour), Rupert Penry-Jones (DI Chandler, Whitechapel), Phil Davis (DS Miles, Whitechapel) Brenda Blethyn (DCI Vera Stanhope, Vera), David Leon (DS Joe Ashworth, Vera) Aisling Loftus (Agnes Towler, Mr Selfridge) and Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates, Downton Abbey) were filmed for these specially shot scenes for the new Where Drama Lives campaign. Viewers will also see Sebastian’s beloved teddy bear, Aloysius, from Brideshead Revisited, although as, quite possibly, the subject of the next episode of Whitechapel.
ITV Drama

As you can see, there’s an incredible history to ITV drama. Current series cast members are joined by Inspector Morse (John Thaw, Morse), DCI Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren, Prime Suspect), Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews, Brideshead Revisited) and Hercule Poirot (David Suchet, Poirot) all of whom were added through post production techniques and all representing some of the channel’s defining, iconic characters.

BBC: Original British Drama 2013

Last weeks release of the annual BBC Original Drama campaign pieced together some amazing scenes (and sometimes a first glimpse of more brilliant drama such as The Musketeers, Sherlock, The Great Train Robbery, Quirke, The Escape Artist, Ripper Street, What Remains and By Any Means. Consider the fact, too, that there was no Doctor Who or Call the Midwife anywhere to be see just yet and imagine yet another stellar year from the BBC.

With the brilliant drama output from both BBC and ITV, 2013-2014 is shaping up to be a great year for all of us.

Michael Palin in ‘The Wipers Times’ on BBC2

September 9, 2013

Michael Palin, Monty Python legend and longtime TV adventurer, returns to the small screen and his comedy acting roots in the World War One drama The Wipers Times this Wednesday on BBC2. The one-off special tells the uplifting and true tale of a group of British soldiers who stumble across an abandoned printing press in 1916 and decide to have a little fun in the misery of war by publishing their own satirical newspaper using both black humor and satirical swipes at allies and enemies.

For some reason, I fully expect Baldrick to turn up at some point and can’t help but think of the never to be equaled final scene in Blackadder Goes Forth.

The Wipers Times was named after a general inability to pronounce Ypres, the Belgian town where the British soldiers were stationed. The drama of the same name comes to the small screen courtesy of Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye who also made a radio documentary some 10 years ago after first discovering an original Wipers Times manuscript, and scriptwriter Nick Newman. While Palin is no stranger to the small screen given his endlessly brilliant travel adventures, it is his first comedy role in 22 years. Lets hope it makes its way to the States soon. Until then, maybe a few UK readers will give us a review. Hint, hint.

Downton Abbey fashion exhibit to hit U.S. in 2014

September 8, 2013

According to USA Today, U.S. fans of the highest rated drama series in the history of PBS, will be able to keep the magic alive and extend their viewing experience following the end of series 4 by getting a first hand look at the likes of Edith’s wedding gown, the scarlet dress that Lady Mary wore when Matthew proposed (the second time) and one of the highly recognizable purple gowns donned by the Dowager Countess, herself.

In all, 40 costumes will be on display at the Winterthur Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del., from March 1, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015 as part of the ‘Costumes of Downton Abbey’ exhibition. While much of the exhibit will feature the fashion from the first three series, rumor has it that there will be costumes from the forthcoming series 4 also.
The Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit at the Winterthur Museum on Wilmington Delaware

Winterthur historian Maggie Lidz combs through racks of clothing looking for specific dresses from Downton Abbey. (Photo: Gannett/The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal)
The museum, which is home to the estate of stylemaker Henry Francis du Pont, planned the exhibit to put the historically accurate outfits in the context of British and American country homes such as the fictional Downton Abbey and real-life Winterthur.

Winterthur’s director of collections and senior textile curator, Linda Eaton, points to the historical accuracy of the series’ fashions as being one of the reasons the outfits connect so well to Winterthur and duPont’s taste. “He was living in Downton Abbey clothing, and he was a real dandy, a very snappy dresser,” Eaton says. “He would have recognized the clothing in the Downton Abbey show and judged it according to his criteria of beauty. That is what he would have been interested in, and he would have been aware of all the nuance of status and fashion.”

And you were wondering what on Earth you were going to do to pass the time for the 10 months between the end of series 4 and the beginning of series 5…

Sir Ian McKellen next up to play Sherlock Holmes

September 7, 2013

Ever since 2010 when Benedict Cumberbatch entered the world of Sherlock Holmes, if anyone would have dared mention to me that there was to be even a hint of another small screen adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation, I would have immediately written it off as a wasted effort. I am softening a bit with Jonny Lee Miller’s portrayal in CBS’ Elementary series, but not much.

One such name, however, that has surfaced as entering the world of Sherlock has me getting ready to change my admittedly closed-minded Sherlock outlook. None other than Sir Ian McKellen is set to become the latest in a long line of celebrated British actors to portray the world’s most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Ian_McKellen to play Sherlock Holmes

According to reports, The Hobbit star will play a retired Holmes, haunted by an unsolved case, in a new British film, “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, from BBC Films and AI, the production arm of Icon Films in the UK.

Directed by Bill Condon, who recently directed Benedict Cumberbatch in the WikiLeaks movie, “The Fifth Estate”, the movie is adapted from Mitch Cullin’s novel of the same name, which sees a retired and aged Holmes spending his remaining years in a remote Sussex farmhouse, keeping bees and grappling with his waning mental powers, until a 50-year-old unsolved case returns to haunt him.

Friday Funnies – Ripping Yarns

September 6, 2013

In keeping with our new Friday tradition of getting you ready for the weekend…it’s time for the Tellyspotting Friday Funnies. This week, Ripping Yarns. Happy weekend!

After Monty Python’s Flying Circus ended in 1974, it seemed like a no-brainer that the BBC was eager to find new projects for the now ex-Pythons. Turning first to the brilliance of Terry Jones and Michael Palin, ‘Tomkinson’s Schooldays’, a spoof of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, where young Tomkinson’s attempts to escape a school where pupils are shot for disobedience and regularly nailed to the walls for fun, was a huge success when it premiered in 1976.

Within a week of it being aired Palin and Jones were at the BBC being quizzed about prospects for more shows along the same lines. At that point, Ripping Yarns was ‘officially’ born. Heavy on the satire and overall outright silliness, the series lasted for two short seasons, ending in 1979.

In “Escape from Stalag Luft 112B”, Major Errol Phipps, played by Michael Palin, is a legend among prisoners of war, having attempted over five hundred escapes, two hundred of them before he left England. One day, he is transferred to the most infamous prison camp: Stalag Luft 112B. He tries eleven escapes en route and one just after arriving, but is stopped by fellow British officers. They are comfortable where they are, bossing the Germans around. One of the officers is called “Attenborough”, alluding to Richard Attenborough’s role in the film The Great Escape, which the episode parodies very successfully given that escape attempts have to be organized by a special committee which only meets very irregularly…