Over the course of the normal commissioning of series in the UK, it’s common practice for a new series to be given the go-ahead for a certain number of episodes, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-8 episodes. In the case of series that have been on for several years, the addition of a Christmas episode is added to the mix (i.e. Call the Midwife, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, etc).
With Christmas Day being one of the most important days of the year in the UK from a telly watching standpoint, this is generally a sign that a broadcast/commissioning entity such as the BBC or ITV is very high on a series. Normal course of action has Christmas specials only reserved for those series with a built in track record from an audience standpoint after having several series under their belt.
Vicious starring Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian Mckellen
In the case of Vicious, ITV1′s new studio-based situation comedy series starring Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi, the bar is raised so high after completion of filming earlier this month that ITV commissioned an extra episode to run at Christmas before the series had even premiered. Written by Gary Janetti (Will and Grace, Family Guy), Vicious tells the story of Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi), aging partners who have lived together in their Covent Garden flat for nearly 50 years. In their prime, budding actor Freddie met bartender Stuart but both careers are now pretty much over and their lives now consist of reading books, walking their dog and bickering. While there is a good chance for this new special to premiere on Christmas Day, the series will air in the not-too-distant future on ITV1 in the UK.
The series was originally titled Vicious Old Queens but was later re-titled Vicious after the 73 year-old McKellen jokingly took offense to the fact that he was being referred to as “old”.
Vicious also stars Frances de la Tour as the duo’s best friend, Violet, who entertains the pair with her outlandish love affairs, and Iwan Rheon (Misfits) as Ash, the young man who moves in upstairs.
I so can’t wait for this….
As UK viewers found out last night, the Year of Endeavour is upon us. With last nights UK premiere of the first of four new episodes that follow the highly successful ITV1 2012 ‘pilot’ episode, fans of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series have a telly treat in store for them when the series premieres on Sunday, July 7.
Shaun Evans, who was brilliant as the young ‘Endeavor’ Morse in the pilot episode, returns for the new films written by Inspector Lewis creator and Morse writer Russell Lewis. Roger Allam returns as Endeavour’s senior partner, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. In addition, author Colin Dexter served as consultant for the series ensuring four weeks of greatness on both sides of the pond.
As they have for Sherlock, Spooks and Downton Abbey, the always brilliant Radio Times staff have created a not-to-be-missed walking tour of Oxford featuring all the favorite stops along the way of Endeavour Morse and Inspector Lewis.
Illustration for Radio Times courtesy of Katherine Baxter.
Word to the wise: While I would normally advise readers that ‘these are professionals, do noy try this at home’, I leave you with just a warning. The entire walking tour is about 7 miles long and will take about 3 hours. Don’t spend too much time at The Trout Inn, the favorite watering hole of CS Lewis, Lewis Carroll and Colin Dexter. That said, if you make it all the way, you can deservedly spend the remainder of your time at either the King’s Arms, the oldest pub in Oxford, or White Horse pubs, both of which were favorite Morse watering holes.
It’s Game On for Sherlock 3!
As we mentioned awhile back, principal filming began on Sherlock 3 on Monday, March 18. With that announcement came the official reveal of the first episode to go before the cameras, “The Empty Hearse”. Written by Mark Gatiss (who also plays a brilliant Mycroft in earlier Sherlock series), the premise of the first episode is said to be based on the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story “The Adventure Of The Empty House”, in which villain Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s chief of staff and ‘the second most dangerous man in London’, is introduced.
Obviously, the first order of the day is to deal with how Sherlock faked his own death. Sherlock‘s co-conspirator, Gatiss, confirmed recently: “There’s certain things about “The Adventure of the Empty House” which feel set in stone because that’s how Sherlock comes back, but at the same time we feel free to invent and to introduce new stuff to it.”
The first new member of the cast for Sherlock is Tomi May, a British actor of Serbian descent, who has most recently been seen in BBC One’s Line of Duty.
On the heels of the title of episode 1 being revealed, comes the news of an episode 2 title! Written by Steve Thompson, who also wrote the brilliant season two finale, ‘The Reichenbach Fall’, the second episode will be titled ‘The Sign of Three’, based on Sir Athur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Sign of Four’”. Fans of Sherlock will immediately remember that in ‘Sign of Four’, this is where John Watson meets future wife Mary Morstan. Could this be where we see Amanda Abbington, perhaps? According to the Radio Times, Abbington does portray a character that “significantly impacts upon the lives of John and Sherlock“.
And, pure speculation on my part or just wishful thinking, with Moran being introduced in the first episode, lets hope for the return of Moriarty (Andrew Scott) in series 3. Flashbacks are ok…
Anyone fancy a guess as to a title for episode three?
If you’re in the market for a new home and you’re not interested in downsizing, have I got a deal for you. Maybe the TARDIS is a bit out of your price range at a mere $25 billion and Fawlty Towers is not top of mind given you’re looking for a house, not a job, have you ever thought about buying Downton Abbey? Even though Matthew decided to free up funds from a previous ‘relationship’ to secure the future of Downton, that’s not to say if the right offer came the Grantham’s way, they wouldn’t listen. FYI, looks like it’s been on the market since February 2013 so they might entertain a counter-offer….
As with both their TARDIS and Fawlty Towers listings, those crazy real estate bloggers over at Movoto have decided to speculate on just what Downton would look like from a listing standpoint had Matthew’s generosity not happened and Lord Grantham would have been forced to sell. Of particular note, even though it was built in 1878, it has been updated since with both telephones and electricity so it’s well worth giving it a look.
Even paradise can be hell
For two series of BBC One’s Death in Paradise, Ben Miller (Worst Week of My Life, Primeval) was in heaven. Unfortunately, DI Richard Poole, the character that Miller portrays, is in hell. ‘Heaven’ for Miller because the series is filmed on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. “Hell’ for DI Poole because he is trapped on the stunning beautiful but fictional Caribbean island paradise of Saint-Marie battling sun, sea and sand while solving murders and just trying to find a proper British cup of tea.
For UK viewers on BBC One, principal production filming begins on series three this month with both new and returning faces. As with series two, which saw guest stars the likes of Lucy Davis (Dawn Tinsley, The Office, Mathew Horne (Gavin from Gavin and Stacey, James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley) and Primeval star Hannah Spearritt, series three will see a number of familiar guest stars visiting the island. Out, sadly, is Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole. Miller said of his departure: “I have absolutely loved my time on Death in Paradise and am sad to be leaving such a successful show, however DI Poole has made no secret of his struggle with the Caribbean heat, so I felt now was a good time to put him out of his misery!“.
In, however, and replacing Miller will be Kris Marshall (My Family, Love Actually, Citizen Khan) starring as DI Humphrey Goodman. Described as bright, but rather disorganised and gawky, Goodman is stuck in a mid-life rut and is looking to find a new life and fresh start. Returning will be Sara Martins (DS Camille Bordey), Danny John-Jules (police chief, Dwayne Myers), Gary Carr (young investigator, Fidel Best) and Don Warrington (police commissioner. Selwyn Patterson).
Belinda Campbell, EP for Red Planet Pictures, had high praise for both the outgoing and incoming DI’s: “Ben Miller is an excellent actor and has played the part of DI Richard Poole magnificently for two series, and we’re very sad to be saying goodbye. However we’re thrilled to be welcoming Kris Marshall on board who we know will be brilliant in the role of Humphrey. He will bring with him disheveled charm, sparkle, quick wit, and a razor-sharp intelligence in solving crimes.”
Series one and two have attracted sizable audience figures in the UK. Sizable enough to warrant the commissioning of a third series. In the U.S., a number of public television stations have begun running the series with more set to come on in the not-too-distant future. Check it out if you haven’t yet. Well worth your time.
If you been with Tellyspotting as a P1 since day one or if you have joined the conversation at any point over the course of the last three years you are probably acutely aware of my lack of tolerance for poorly done American television remakes of British television output. This holds true mostly in the comedy and drama genres as one can’t really argue with the American versions of the likes of Antiques Roadshow or any of the unscripted reality re-makes such as Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, etc. They are what they are…
That said, it never dawned on me that when the tables are turned, the track record is not much different when you look at UK attempts to re-make American situation comedies that were considered quite popular from an audience standpoint. Here are a four examples I found to easily illustrate my point….
Days Like These (That 70′s Show in the U.S.)
The Fosters (Good Times in the U.S.) with a young Lenny Henry!
Married for Life (Married with Children) with Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville!
The Brighton Belles (Golden Girls in the U.S.) with Wendy Craig from Butterflies!
I rest my case. I’m sure there have been exceptions to the rule just as there have been with American re-makes of British television but other than Law and Order UK, I haven’t found any.
After spending the day on Monday filming at the Tower of London, cast and crew of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, including the TARDIS, moved to another historic London landmark on Tuesday, Trafalgar Square. Even though storylines are being kept close to the vest, large crowds gathered to watch the stars of the longest running science fiction in history in action as they filmed alongside a group of actors dressed as armed police officers and a crane which lowered the Doctor’s trusty police box to the ground. Sontaran commander Strax explains…
Already dangerously close to being intrigued beyond belief, those in attendance watched as the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, was hoisted into the air by a crane alongside Nelson’s Column with companion Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) standing in the doorway of the TARDIS as her traveling companion clings on beneath her.
Photo copyright 2012 News Group Newspapers Ltd
In addition to Tenth Doctor David Tennant and his companion Billie Piper, Joanna Page (Stacey, Gavin and Stacey) and Jemma Redgrave (Frankie) have been added to the growing cast list for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special. According to bleedingcool.com, seen amongst the characters on the ground were Ingrid Oliver, of Watson and Oliver fame wearing the fourth Doctor’s scarf. Oliver’s character can also be seen scanning the eleventh Doctor with something. Kate Stewart of UNIT (the daughter of The Brigadier in ‘The Power of Three’) is present also, with some of her UNIT back-up, and in one sequence she appeared to be handing The Doctor a sealed letter from Queen Elizabeth the First (Joanna Page).
T-minus 227 days. Are you ready for some Doctor Who greatness?
With yesterday’s passing of Margaret Thatcher, at the age of 87, I remembered reading a number of years ago that both Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were favorite programs of the former Prime Minister. On more than one occasion, she praised Yes, Minister for “…its clearly-observed portrayal of what goes on in the corridors of power has given me hours of pure joy“.
While the thought of Margaret Thatcher and comedy probably wasn’t widely used in the same sentence too often during her 11.5 years as Prime Minister, unless you remember her Spitting Image puppet, the ‘Iron Lady’ did once write a comedy sketch herself for her favorite series.
Thatcher wrote the sketch in honor of the show being presented with an award from Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers’ And Listeners’ Association at an event commemorated on the cover of the satirical magazine Private Eye. Being the PM at the time and writing the sketch, of course she made sure that it co-starred herself…as herself.
Over the years, authorship of the sketch remains unclear. In Britain’s Best Sitcom, Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s chief press secretary, said that he wrote it while other sources give Thatcher sole credit. British broadcaster and longtime political documentary producer, Michael Cockerell, says that he wrote it with Ingham’s help. Another source gives credit to Charles Powell, key foreign policy advisor to PM Thatcher.
Eddington and Hawthorne, who were both starring in separate West End plays at the time, were not overly enthusiastic at the idea and, according to reports, had asked series co-creator/writer Jonathan Lynn to “get them out” of it. Neither Lynn nor Antony Jay were consulted about both the sketch or the invite so, obviously, it was not up to him to take action.
Hawthorne said on more than one occasion that he and Eddington resented Thatcher’s attempts to ‘make capital’ from their popularity. Upon accepting the award, Lynn commented: “I’d like to thank Mrs. Mary Whitehouse for this award“. Lynn, being the quick-thinking brilliant writer he is, added: “I’d also like to thank Mrs. Thatcher for finally taking her rightful place in the field of situation comedy.” After a bit of an gasp from the press, the room erupted in laughter with the exception of one person in attendance…guess which one.
Whatever the case and no matter who wrote it, here is Paul Eddington, Sir Nigel Hawthorne and PM Margaret Thatcher in Yes Prime Minister from 20 January, 1984.
When ITV announced the go-ahead on production of the final five small screen adaptations of the Hercule Poirot stories written by the late Agatha Christie, it was not only met with mixed feelings by Poirot fans worldwide, but also from the actor who has invested 22+ years of his career playing the infamous Belgian detective, David Suchet. When filming is completed this summer, Suchet will have played Poirot in every Agatha Christie story every written for the title character. As you can imagine, Suchet is, understandably, a bit ‘gutted’ at the thought of bringing Hercule Poirot to a close. Gutted, yes, but incredibly proud of his association with the character, which begin almost a quarter of a century ago back in 1989.
As we reported in 2012 when ITV announced production would begin in October, the titles of the final five adaptations of the 13th and final series were to include Labours of Hercules, Dead Man’s Folly, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. With production set to wrap up in the next couple of months, we’ve learned that with Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, even though it was the final chapter for Poirot written by Christie in 1940 but not released until 1975, it was to be the first targeted for completion in the production cycle.
In Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, Poirot (David Suchet) and Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) are together again for the first time since 2001 where they will return to Styles Court, the scene of their first case together, where Poirot declares that one of the guests is in fact a serial killer. ‘Guests’ included Helen Baxendale (Friends, Cold Feet, Dirk Gently, Inspector George Gently), Anne Reid (Coronation Street, Ladies of Letters, Last Tango in Halifax) and Alice Orr-Ewing (Blandings).
In The Big Four, Poirot, sidekick Captain Hastings, secretary Miss Lemon and Scotland Yard’s Inspector Japp will return for the Mark Gatiss / Ian Hallard adaptation set in the world of global espionage which sees Poirot investigate murder against the backdrop of the impending Second World War.
While the world will, collectively, be ‘gutted when currently tentative UK transmission plans call for a Fall premiere on ITV1 and a 2014 premiere on PBS in the States, ITV’s producer, Michele Buck, said: “We can promise the final five Poirot films will be a fitting tribute to a much-loved literary character. When the ending comes it’ll be very dramatic and incredibly emotional. We’ve been on a remarkable journey with Poirot.”
Remarkable, indeed. But, I’ll still be gutted.
While it was 25 years ago that Inspector Morse hit the telly in the UK, it was just over a year ago that PBS Mystery series fans of Inspector Morse were treated to Endeavour, a prequel to the long-running television adaptation of the Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter. Endeavour starred Shaun Evans, who you will also see in Silk beginning in September on PBS, as the police detective in the early throws of his career. Interestingly, Abigail Thaw, daughter of John Thaw, who brilliantly played Inspector Morse, plays the part of Dorothea Frazil in the scene at the Oxford Mail local newspaper.
Set in 1965, the series one-off centered around the early career of Endeavour Morse who, after leaving his Oxford college without taking a degree, spent a short time in the Royal Corps of Signals, and then joined the police.
Based on the strong audience response to the pilot, Christmas will be coming early on both sides of the pond as four new films written by Lewis creator and Morse writer Russell Lewis have been filmed with the first premiering next Sunday (14 April) at 8:00p on ITV1. The series will have its U.S. premiere on PBS’ Masterpiece series beginning July 7 t 8:00p CT/9:00p ET. Also returning will be Roger Allam (The Jury, Parade’s End, The Thick of It) as Endeavour’s senior partner, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday.
ITV Studios has just released the first trailer from the four-feature length films showcasing the talents of Mark Davis and Barnaby Robson. Episode 1, “Girl” will air next Sunday on ITV1 and premiere July 7 on PBS in the States. Set. DVR. Now.
What do you think? Are you ready for some Endeavour?