With sadness, it’s my unwritten obligation to alert Downton Abbey fans across Planet Earth that when series 4 begins in September in the UK and in January 2014 on PBS in the States, you won’t have the greatness of O’Brien to talk about each week. Following in the footsteps of fellow actors Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), who both asked to leave the highly successful series after series 3, Siobhan Finneran, who played Lady Grantham’s maid, Sarah O’Brien, will not return for series 4 at her request.
“I’m not doing any more,” she revealed. “O’Brien is a thoroughly despicable human being – that was great to play.” Her love/hate relationship with the audience stems from her lengthy and bitter feud with under-butler Thomas Barrow, as well as causing Cora Crawley to miscarry. The most ‘love to hate’ piece of work on telly since J.R. Ewing
Finneran fans can hold out hope of the possibility of an O’Brien return to Downton but that seems unlikely at this point. In the interim, she is in the cast of the second series of BBC1′s The Syndicate, playing a nurse who wins millions on the lottery with her colleagues.
I wonder what the over/under was on the thought that O’Brien would leave Downton Abbey before Thomas the under-butler….Who knows, maybe she’s just off to India with Shrimpy given his head maid doesn’t want to leave Scotland. Hey, it could happen…and she’d be back and nastier than ever for series 5.
Our last report from the 2013 BBC Showcase saw a simple one-time-only special with a big name cast grab the hearts of most of the cynical television program executives remaining in Liverpool. Although it had already aired on BBC One this past Christmas Day, the hope amongst all attendees was that this would become the perennial holiday classic along the lines of It’s A Wonderful Life in the U.S.
David Walliams’ best-selling children’s novel Mr Stink tells the touching, twisted and hilarious tales of Mr Stink, who is befriended by a local girl Chloe. Chloe sees Mr Stink every day, but she’s never spoken to him, which isn’t surprising, because he’s a tramp, and he stinks.
When it looks like Mr Stink might be driven out of town, Chloe hides her unusual friend in her garden shed. As she struggles to make sure no one sniffs out Mr Stink, her dad tries to hide a secret of his own, and the stage is set for an epic family confrontation. There is also one other person with an extraordinary secret: it turns out that there is more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or nose.
David Walliams, who will play the role of the Prime Minister in the show, says: “I am beyond thrilled that BBC One is adapting my children’s book ‘Mr Stink’ into a family film. I have written the script, and can’t wait to see actors bring it to life.” Equally as effusive, BBC One Controller Danny Cohen added: “Mr Stink is a heart-warming, nose-clenching and funny tale which will appeal to viewers of all ages. It’s brilliant to be working with David to bring his magical tale to BBC One.”
Adapted by Walliams himself with Simon Nye of Men Behaving Badly fame, this 60-minute family comedy tells the story of lonely 12-year-old Chloe (Nell Tiger Free), who invites local tramp Mr Stink (Hugh Bonneville) and his dog Duchess (Pudsey) to hide out in her family’s garden shed.
Chloe also has to cope with an overbearing mum (Sheridan Smith) who is more interested in her own political ambitions and her infatuation with the Prime Minister (Walliams), than her daughter. ‘Perfect’ younger sister Annabelle (Isabella Blake-Thomas) and nasty girls at school also make Chloe’s life miserable. Chloe’s only allies are her put-upon dad (Johnny Vegas) who is harbouring a secret of his own, and newsagent Raj (Harish Patel).
What transpires over the course of the 60-minutes is as magical as the Jimmy Stewart film, It’s A Wonderful Life. All you have to do is believe…
There are things in this world that defy logic. In the case of the British comedy, Spy, we have two opportunities to defy logic on both sides of the pond. East of the Atlantic in the UK, the Darren Boyd version of Spy was great telly. For two seasons, Boyd brilliantly played Tim, a single father trying to win back the respect and affections of his horribly precocious nine year old son, Marcus. In the hope of proving that he is not a complete loser, Tim quits his dead-end job but his life changes forever when he is accidentally recruited as a trainee spy for MI5. Enter…The Examiner. The Examiner teaches the recruits his own unorthodox approach to the espionage game. If that wasn’t enough, the chaos of Tim’s life are his acidic ex-wife, Judith, her enthusiastic new boyfriend Philip and his anti-social friend Chris.
Sadly, that has all come to an end with the announcement by Sky1 that, inexplicably, there will not be a third season of Spy. Oddly, the announcement comes on the heels of Boyd winning Best TV Comedy Actor at the 2011 British Comedy Awards and in 2012, the series was awarded a BAFTA for Best TV Comedy Series.
Sad face aside, it’s time to defy logic west of the Atlantic and admit that, for the first time, I’m really holding high hopes for an American remake of a British comedy with the U.S. pilot version of Spy from ABC. UK series creator, Simeon Goulden, is currently working on translating the comedy for American audiences. It was recently announced that Rob Corddry, perhaps best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show, will be taking on the role of Tim for the US pilot. Mason Cook will play Marcus and Ken Jeong, a star of Community and The Hangover, will take on Lindsay’s role as The Examiner.
While the UK version of Spy has had very limited exposure in the U.S through Hulu, look for the full two series of 17 episodes to broadcast on a public television station near you in 2014. And, hopefully, the ABC pilot version will be picked up and you can do your own side by side comparisons.
One of the hidden gems of this years BBC Showcase was the upcoming Easter special, “The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb”, from the world of Jonathan Creek. The series (there were four of them), starring Alan Davies, was a fixture in BBC households from its’ premiere in 1997 through 2004, receiving the BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 1998. There were several one-off specials between then and now, but never anything that gave viewers a sense that it would return on a regular basis. With the specials, including the new one being broadcast on Easter in the UK, the great Sheridan Smith returns as Creeks’ fellow investigator. Smith was most recently seen in the soon-to-be Christmas classic, Mr. Stink, which also stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Twenty Twelve) and introduced the telly world to Nell Tiger Free.
Now, comes word from Davies himself through Twitter that there will be three additional Jonathan Creek specials produced later this year. Thankfully, it looks like Davies has agreed to be separated from his following of Arsenal FC long enough to give long-time followers of the cult classic what they want…more Creek!
Speaking to RadioTimes.com earlier this year at the National Televison Awards, Davies cryptically said: “I don’t know about more episodes of Jonathan Creek – there may be. David Renwick’s got a bit of a twinkle in his eye and I think he’s enjoyed getting back to it and while BBC1 are keen on it, maybe we will do more…” Renwick is also well-known for creating and writing the classic comedy, One Foot in the Grave.
Now, if only the chef’s coat would follow the dufflecoat and Davies fans could see the return of Whites alongside Creek, telly life would be where it needs to be.
As we finally are being drug kicking and screaming from the UK and 10 days of amazing telly, Tellyspotting takes one final look back at the hits of this years BBC Showcase in Liverpool. If our daytime screenings weren’t enough, at night it was brilliant to be able to watch great telly live such as Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeover, Heading Out, the next-to-last ever episode of Being Human, the premiere of Broadchurch with David Tennant and, admittedly, a somewhat bizarre episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy
From a Showcase standpoint, one of the early leaders in the comedy clubhouse to potentially appear on public television in 2014 is Moone Boy, written by and starring Chris O’Dowd (IT Crowd).
The Irish comedy, which was commissioned for a second series before series one had even premiered, tells the story of the relationship between Seán (O’Dowd) and 12-year-old Martin Moone (David Rawle), the youngest child of a family living in a small town in the rural Ireland. Martin, aided by his imaginary friend, has a unique perspective on life. His imagination comes into play both in his childish drawings, which come alive through animation, and in the ridiculous schemes he comes up with, against Seán’s better judgement. With Seán’s help, Martin negotiates life as the youngest in a chaotic, scatter-brained family.
Last Tango in Halifax
From a drama perspective, we’ve already paid more attention than the law allows to Father Brown, but another high on the list to make its way to public television as soon as possible was Last Tango in Halifax, starring Sir Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Nicola Walker. With six episodes having already aired in the UK and a second series already commissioned, looks like Last Tango… will be around for awhile. Well, I guess you never know. Just ask the producers of The Hour.
Jacobi and Reid star as would-be childhood sweethearts Alan and Celia who are reunited after 60 years. As their lives collide for a second time, Alan and Celia lament over what might have been as they take us on a life-affirming journey of what can still happen.
While the storyline may be a bit familiar to longtime fans of the British comedy series, As Time Goes By, the Sally Wainwright script is brilliant. Wainwright, who is also responsible for Scott & Bailey, has said that Celia’s story was also that of her own mother, who married an old friend she’d met via Friends Reunited. “Every time I told anyone that story, their face would light up in utter joy that two people had found something so special so late in life. It was just so obvious that I should write about it.”
It’s been a great 10 days of watching television on your behalf to see what might make its way to your telly in the coming year. Before you line-up to take my job, however, remember I also watch bad television so you don’t have to. See you back on the other side of the pond.
Downton Abbey producers, Carnival Films and PBS’ Masterpiece announced yesterday that six new cast names will be joining the series when production begins later this month on series 4. The newest installment will also see the return of Shirley MacLaine, who reprises her role as Martha Levinson. Unfortunately, Downton fans will have to wait until the season finale before getting a chance to see the fur fly between Martha and the Dowager Countess.
Managing Director Carnival Films and Executive Producer Gareth Neame says: “Downton Abbey has seen many great characters visit the house over the years and we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome the new faces that will be joining the regular cast of Downton in series 4. We hope audiences will be as excited about them as we are.” Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton added: “The addition of these characters can only mean more delicious drama — which is what Downton Abbey is all about.”
The new cast and characters will ‘officially’ include:
UK and PBS viewers will likely remember Ovenden as having played Andrew Foyle, DCS Foyle’s son in <em>Foyle’s War</em>. Tom Cullen’s character may be ‘an old family friend of the Crawleys’ but be prepared for the fact that he’s also a potential suitor for Lady Mary Crawley .
Joanna David’s television credits have included The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Foyle’s War, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse and an episode of Rosemary & Thyme. Harman, best known for his role as Dennis Rickman in the UK soap, Eastenders.
Grab your Downton Abbey countdown calendar, as of today, there are only a mere 307 days until the January 5, 2014 premiere of series 4 on PBS’ Masterpiece. I’ll be there, will you?
One of the major dramatic highlights of BBC Showcase in Liverpool this year was Father Brown. Based on the short stories by G.K. Chesterton, series one will see the light of day in the States on public television in 2014. The highly successful first series of 10 programs, starring Mark Williams (Harry Potter, Doctor Who, centers around a very kindly Catholic priest who solves crimes in his rural little village where more goes on that anyone can ever imagine. It’s Jessica Fletcher with a clerical collar.
Interestingly, it’s years of hearing parishioners’ confessions htat have given Father Brown an uncanny ability to grasp teh origins of evil and understanding the the workings of the criminal mind. Couple that with a his penchant for using intuition and psychology, there isn’t a crime that goes unsolved.
As the 2013 BBC Showcase came to a close on Thursday, the BBC announced the brilliant news that Father Brown had been commissioned for a second series of 10 programs that will begin filming in late May in the Cotswolds. Both Mark Williams and Sorcha Cusack will return for series two. Look for Father Brown to come to a public television station near you in 2014. Like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, it will be well worth the wait.
As Call the Midwife comes closer to its series 2 conclusion on BBC One, the second series of the increasingly popular series is set to premiere on PBS at 8:00p ET / 7:00p CT on Sunday, March 31. While series 2 continues to increase its audience numbers each week on BBC One, P1 fans in the U.S. of series one since it premiered in 2012 patiently awaiting the premiere of series 2 ar now being treated to their first look at the trailer released by PBS recently.
While all is happy in Call the Midwife-land from an audience perspective, there may be trouble in paradise as producers get ready for production on series 3. As usual, this is so much a rumor and has only been reported in one UK newspaper, I hesitate to bring it up but it’s to good to now have others help me track it down. So, after you read this, head to the Internets…
Seems as though Nonnatus House may be searching for a new home when series 3 production begins filming. Word is, bosses at the BBC and series producer, Neal Street Productions, have been told that developers want to start work on converting St Joseph’s College in London into flats.
Sounds innocent enough until you find out that St. Joseph’s College doubles as the filming home of the Nonnatus House convent where Jennifer Worth worked. There is hope that the new owners will follow through with their plans to further develop the surrounding area of the former college of priests which could delay development long enough to remain for series 3.
One senior show insider did reveal a possible solution. “We’ve written a potential demolition into the plot so that if we have to leave, the nuns and nurses will get a new home for the next run. It would be far simpler, and less costly, than trying to recreate the whole thing somewhere else.”
3, 2, 1…go! You have 30 days to let us know if this is true.
Blue Peter, the world’s longest running childrens television program (first broadcast in 1958), traveled to Cupertino and One Infinite Loop recently to pay a special visit to London-born Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design for Apple. While most inhabitants of Planet Earth have probably used something that was designed by Ive, most probably didn’t know that he is also a life-long Blue Peter fan. The cool thing about the video is that it also shows the CNC machining and talks about Apple Design and naming Apple Products.
The BBC One (now CBBC) show is historically famous for its presenter challenges, as well as the famous arts and crafts ‘makes’. When interviewed by presenter Barney Harwood, Ive fondly remembers the makes from the show, and loved that they reused products that you thought were no longer useful. In this very special episode, Sir Jonathan reviews several product designs sent in by Blue Peter viewers through a series of video messages from the children behind the designs. On receiving his gold badge, he called the honor “..absolutely incredible”. As a mark of honor for the program, Sir Jonathan and his team made ‘something very special‘, a unique Blue Peter badge crafted from solid aluminium through a 10-hour process, and presented it to series host, Barney Harwood, in true Blue Peter style saying, “Here’s one that we made earlier.”
Several years ago, while in London during one of our productions for PBS, we had the great good fortune of getting a behind the scenes tour of Blue Peter and were able to watch several studio segments in production. At the end of the tour, we were presented with our very own Blue Peter badge. While we didn’t immediately understand the incredible magnitude of our gift, having talked to a number of UK residents since then, I think I need to find a safe deposit box soon.
As we bid a fond and tearful farewell to Liverpool and the 2013 BBC Showcase, we’ll have more sneak peaks in the coming days of the 2013-2014 program pipeline that were screened over the past week. But, we must shift gears for a moment and talk about everyone’s telly obsession, Downton Abbey, which airs on ITV in the UK and PBS in the U.S.
Even though we are still months away from an Autumn broadcast on ITV1 and a January 2014 broadcast on PBS for series 4, the cast is assembling as we speak and production is set to begin on 23 March. Broadcast may be a long way off, but won’t prevent us from talking about ‘everything Downton’ at every waking moment to stave off any separation anxiety that may set in over the next few months.
According to an article we saw in The Sun this week while in Liverpool, the show is currently rounding out it’s cast for series 4. The three most recent cast additions are as follows:
So, let the games begin. No word yet on the possibility of seeing some more Martha Levinson greatness in season 4. Any thoughts as to who you’d like to see in any of these three roles? Taalk amongst yourselves.