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Mark your calendars! It’s the 2013 Shed of the Year competition.

June 13, 2013

Over the past year, we’ve seen TARDIS cat houses, TARDIS refrigerators and TARDIS designed houses. The latest in TARDIS creations is David Lifton’s shed in Little Benton, Newcastle. Now comes the moment you’ve been waiting for. The entries for the Shed of the Year competition are in and your favorite time traveling police box is amongst the finalists.

Each year in the UK, the Shed of the Year contest trumpets the UK’s love of garden hideaways. The shed holds a very special place in the hearts of the British people everywhere. So much so, research shows that the average Brit spends 72 hours a year, or five months of their lives, in their sheds. Loved by writers, musicians, inventors and, in some cases actually, gardeners, it has long been a place with a charge to stimulate the creative juices.

Novelist Philip Pullman, poet Dylan Thomas, and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters are among those indebted to these humble, cobwebbed sanctuaries for producing some of their works. Arthur Miller specifically constructed one in his Connecticut garden just to write Death of a Salesman, his most famous play.

The 2013 winner has a lot to live up to given the 2012 winner. Turned into a fully-functioning pub, ‘Woodhenge’, the 2012 winner, is the creation of John Plumridge, and contains 500 ales and 150 ciders. It beat 2,000 other entries to win the contest.
Woodhenge. 2012 Shed of the Year winner

So you don’t peak too early with anticipation, know that the overall winner will be announced during Shed Week on July 1. Judges include television presenter Sarah Beeny and designer Kevin McCloud, with the overall winner of the title and £1,000 being announced during…where else – ‘national shed week’. You can see all the finalists here. Any thoughts as to who you think should be the 2013 winner?

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to open doors for sequel in 2014

June 12, 2013

In 2011, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel followed a group of British retirees who decide to take their retirement to less the expensive and exotic India at the restored Marigold Hotel that has since fallen apart. With Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel and Celia Imrie, the original cast reads like a who’s who of British acting royalty.

Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel ‘These Foolish Things’, the sleeper hit of 2011 has been tagged for a sequel in late 2013/early 2014 as Fox Searchlight has given the go-ahead to continue renovation on the Marigold. Most of the cast is expected to return, as well as Ol Parker returning to write the sequel and John Madden returning as the director.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Let’s the rumor mill begin. First up, With the news of the sequel, is the rumor that Helen Mirren and Colin Firth have signed on for the sequel although no word as of yet as to their roles. Purely speculative but it’s fun to think about for a bit anyway.

More PG Wodehouse as BBC’s ‘Blandings’ to get second series in 2014

June 11, 2013

On the heels of last week’s announcement that a bit of PG Wodehouse would be hitting the London West End stage with Perfect Nonsense starring Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan comes the announcement by the BBC that Blandings, the period comedy series based on the Blandings Castle novels by the acclaimed English humorist, has been commissioned for a second series.

For those few that may be a bit unfamiliar with Wodehouse’s Blandings series, he wrote the first story in 1915. Fourteen novels and five collections of short stories later, he died in 1978, leaving Sunset At Blandings as his only unfinished work. Set in 1929, Blandings was filmed on location at Crom Castle in Northern Ireland and followed the Blandings family as they struggle to keep itself in order.This bit of writing brilliance has an equally as brilliant cast, headed by Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous, Jam and Jerusalem) and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, The King’s Speech).

In addition to Spall and Saunders, who starred as the amiable, yet befuddled, Lord Emsworth, and his indomitable sister Connie, there are both big names and relative newcomers that have been added. Mark Williams (Father Brown, Harry Potter) will return as Beach, the long-suffering loyal butler to Lord Emsworth while Jack Farthing returns as Lord Emsworth’s financially irresponsible son Freddie. Whether or not David Walliams (Little Britain) or Jessica Hynes (Up the Women, Twenty Twelve, Spaced) will return in their guest roles is unclear at this point but, as with series one, the second series should continue the trend with more one-off characters popping up.

As with the first series, the second will also be filmed on location in Northern Ireland, at Crom Castle in County Fermanagh. Series 2 of Blandings will be shown on BBC One in early 2014. There is every reason to believe that American audiences will be able to see Blandings on a public television station near you in 2014 also.

BBC’S Call Centre proves that ‘Happy People Sell’

June 10, 2013

Let’s see. First it was pink is the new black, then it was 50 is the new 30 and, now, after seeing The Call Centre, which premiered last Monday on BBC Three, many are convinced that The Call Centre is the new real-life Office. Nev Wilshire, chief executive of Swansea’s third biggest call centre, Save Britain Money, is definitely the new David Brent.

The fly-on-the wall-documentary series following the ups and downs of Nev and his staff of extraordinary characters. Real, but right out of the People Like Us and Office playbook. There are definite nods to The Office from a production standpoint, beginning with its name, the interviews to camera and the obligatory cutaways to endlessly running photocopiers.

Meet the staff at The Call Centre

- Nev Wilshire, the chief executive of Swansea’s third biggest call centre, Save Britain Money, bleeds Swansea. Born and bred in Swansea, Nev is a very hands on boss who makes it his business to know the ins and outs of the call centre workers’ professional and private lives. His motto? Happy people sell, of course.

- Hayley Pearce is the call centre tea lady. Hayley is a party girl who you will never catch without her fake tan or false nails. She often organizes trips for her friends to big dance events all across the UK. Now 23, Hayley has worked in call centres since leaving school at 16.
- Craig “Springer” Spring found himself at the Call Centre after having sold loft and cavity wall insulation for the past 16 months. Outside of work Springer is an avid footballer and is still on the look-out for the serious girlfriend he’s never had.
- Dwayne Batchelor has lived in the UK since 2001, originally coming over from his native South Africa to play cricket. Following a stint running a B & B in Scotland, Batchelor settled in at the call centre in Swansea nearly four years ago.
- Kayleigh Davis studied sport science at college but quickly decided that the office environment was more her style. She was cheated on by her last serious boyfriend and call centre boss Nev tried to mend her broken heart by holding a speed dating night in her honor to the tune of £500.
- Stephen ‘Twe’ Williams is the prankster of the call centre. Twe grew up wanting to be a police officer because of his desire ‘to tell people what to do’. But he found out that his forte is in sales and has been at the Call Centre for three years.

Series producer, Jon Connerty, shares his insights as to what it was like to spend 7 months in a call centre in this behind-the-scenes account of the making of The Call Centre.

Drift on over to BBC Three tonight if for nothing else but to cringe at Nev’s next newest one-liner. First week viewers have already been treated to the likes of ‘Swallow that frown’ and ‘Smile as you dial’. The best and/or worst, however, was ‘S.W.S.W.S.W.N – some will, some won’t, so what? Next!’. Laugh if you want, but Nev is laughing all the way to the bank. With over 700 employees making hundreds of thousands of cold calls a year, Save Britain Money is fast becoming a major player in the booming call-centre industry. The is cult telly at its finest. Let’s hope it makes its way to the States soon.

‘The Imitation Game’ to possibly reunite ‘Atonement’ co-stars

June 9, 2013

In what will be a reunion of sorts of former Atonement co-stars, Keira Knightley is close to signing on to co-star in The Imitation Game, a film based on the life of ground-breaking mathematician and Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing. While Benedict Cumberbatch is all set to apply his on-screen brilliance to the role of Turing, Knightley is being touted for the part of Joan Clarke, Turing’s co-worker in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park and good friend to whom he proposed marriage in 1941. Adapted from the book Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Imitation Game will focus more on the ‘complicated relationship’ with the code-breaker as opposed to Turing’s work at Bletchley.

Noted for writing the first blueprint for modern computing, Turing led the team at Bletchley Park that has been credited with shortening World War II by as many as two years by cracking the Nazis’ Enigma code, regarded by the Germans as unbreakable. Because of the Official Secrets Act, it is only six decades after his death that Turing’s contribution is beginning to be fully acknowledged. His code-breaking did not become public knowledge until twenty years after his suicide. His parents and brother never knew of his secret war efforts during his lifetime.

With Cumberbatch’s penchant for playing intellectual yet somewhat tortured souls (i.e. Sherlock Holmes, Steven Hawking and, let’s not forget his brilliant portrayal of the Creature in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre) and after having recently watched the BBC-produced documentary one-off, Codebreakers: Bletchley Park and the recent PBS drama, Bletchley Circle, this low-budget indie will start with a competitive advantage beyond just the two leading stars and will be one that should be classified as a must-see.

Endeavour back for four more in 2014

June 8, 2013

The iconic Inspector Morse series that starred John Thaw not only drew large audiences when it premiered in 1987 on ITV and on PBS as part of the Mystery! series, it was hailed by critics as the definition of intelligent television. In 2006, Inspector Lewis came on the scene in a spin-off series with Kevin Whately reprising his role which began as Morse’s Sergeant. Like the Morse series, Lewis is set primarily in Oxford and finds Robbie Lewis has now been promoted to Detective Inspector and assisted by DS James Hathaway.

So, when it was announced in 2012 that a Morse prequel, Endeavour, would premiere in 2012 with a feature length story to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Morse, it’s completely understandable that viewers (me included) would experience a bit of telly trepidation at first when faced with the thought of a prequel to such classic series. Fortunately, all of the fear went out the window with the 2012 premiere episode of Endeavour, which starred Shaun Evans as a young Endeavour Morse who, after leaving his Oxford college without taking a degree and spending a short time in the Royal Corps of Signals as a cipher clerk, joins the police.

Like its predecessors, the audience numbers and critical acclaim for Endeavour were both something to write home about. So much so that a series of 4, 2-hour specials were commissioned by ITV which premiered this past January in the UK. U.S. fans of Endeavour will get a chance to see what all the fuss is about when the new series premieres as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series on Sunday, July 7, and running for four consecutive weeks. With both Inspector Morse and Lewis firmly in the rear-view mirror, and based on the UK audience numbers for series 1, ITV just announced that a second series of Endeavour has been commissioned for filming later this year. In addition, the brilliant Roger Allam (The Thick of It, Parade’s End, Game of Thrones) will continue his role as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday in series 2 which has tentative transmission target date of 2014.

Not much known at this point about series 2 other than Russell Lewis will return to pen the four new episodes which will be set in 1966. As Lewis points out, “…1966 – the year of Revolver“. That’s all I need to know at this point. I’m setting the DVR now for both Sunday, July 7 and for 2014.

Jeeves and Wooster headed to London’s West End this Fall

June 7, 2013

It only took just shy of 100 years, but the works of PG Wodehouse will finally see the light of day on the London stage with the first theatre adaptation of the books by PG Wodehouse, widely recognized as one of the great humorists of the 20th Century. Perfect Nonsense, based on Wodehouse’s 1938 novel ‘The Code of the Woosters’, will hit the stage this Fall beginning in October at the Richmond Theatre (10 to 19 October) and then the Theatre Royal Brighton (22 to 26 October) before it settles in for a run at the Duke of York’s in London’s West End beginning 30 October.

Jeeves and Wooster 2013Widely known for the early 90′s television adaptation which starred the great Stephen Fry (Jeeves) and equally as great Hugh Laurie (Wooster), this new production will feature the likes of Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks, Pride and Prejudice, Ripper Street) as the brainy valet Jeeves with Stephen Mangan (Dirk Gently, Episodes) as the charmingly incompetent man-about-town and member of the idle rich, Bertie Wooster. With the blessing of the Wodehouse Estate in tow and Macfadyen and Mangan involved, this is going to be must-see theatre this Fall.

Perfect Nonsense, which sees Bertie forced into stealing an item from his uncle’s prized silver collection while the threat of marriage hangs over his head, has been adapted for the stage by Robert and David Goodale and will be directed by Sean Foley (The Ladykillers).

Macfadyen called the play “an absolute hoot – a wonderfully crafted and joyful bit of perfect nonsense“.

Mangan, who confessed that he had never read any PG Wodehouse before he was approached about the role said: “I am ridiculously excited at the prospect of playing the mentally negligible Bertie Wooster on stage and can hardly wait to stagger into the glorious sunshine of Wodehouse’s world. And with Jeeves, in the shape of Matthew Macfadyen by my side, what could possibly go wrong“?

What if Downton Abbey is the final stop on the Rolling Stones: 50 Years and Counting tour?

June 6, 2013

As most of you know, the Rolling Stones are in the middle of their “50 Years and Counting” tour that is currently taking them across North America. You may also might still be trying to wrap your head around the fact that, not too long ago, Ron Wood revealed that the Stones were big fans of Downton Abbey.
The Rolling Stones at Downton Abbey

As the story goes, for those still in denial, Stones guitarist Ron Wood, who became friends with Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham, himself) through some recent charity work, mentioned that the group was a big fan of the series and would sometimes even end Sunday night rehearsals early in order to get back and watch it. It was Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith) who went on a bit further about how Mick Jagger even managed to ruin one of the storylines for Ronnie. She said: “When Sybil passed away, Mick said to Ronnie, ‘Sad to hear about the girl’. Ronnie replied, ‘I haven’t seen it yet — I recorded it.’

Now comes news, according to the Daily Mirror (which can’t help but make it true, right?), that Hugh Bonneville has been lobbying for some sort of walk-on part for his new musical BFF’s. Even though Downton does have electricity making it somewhat easy for the Stones to perform, Bonneville said he saw the band more as a ‘rag-tag bunch of traveling entertainers or even a circus act‘. One can only imagine the Dowager Countess one-liners should Mick, Keith, Ron and Charlie make an appearance at Downton this holiday season. Obviously, being the rock royalty that they are, they’d have to stay upstairs, right?

With a late June stop at the Glastonbury Festival and a couple of early July dates at Hyde Park in London, it makes perfect sense in my individual mind palace that we could see the original bad boys of rock and roll roaming the grounds of Downton in this years Christmas special. There isn’t a snowballs chance in you-know-what of this happening, but it really is fun to speculate, isn’t it?


Hey, the Standells were on The Munsters back in the mid-60′s episode “Far Out Munster” so, it could happen….

Hercule Poirot returns Sunday on ITV! Need we say more?

June 5, 2013

Last Fall, 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 24+ years of his career playing the infamous Belgian detective, David Suchet. With filming long since complete and the first of the final five episodes set to premiere on ITV this coming Sunday at 8:00p, 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 after over 65 episodes. Gutted, yes, but incredibly proud of his association with the character, which begin almost a quarter of a century ago back in 1989. Sundays premiere episode, “Elephants Can Remember”, has Poirot a bit pre-occupied with investigating the strange and gruesome murder of an elderly psychiatrist, while his old friend, the crime writer Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker), deeply involved in a case of her own to solve.

As usual, there are theories abound as memories get muddled and old secrets remain stubbornly hidden. What ensues, however, is classic Poirot as his twitching mind and little grey matter cells kick into high gear when he realizes the murder of his old professor might somehow be connected with Mrs. Oliver’s investigation.

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.

With that, I find myself both gutted and eagerly awaiting Sunday’s premiere. Let’s hope that these make their way to PBS in the States in the not-too-distant future. How about you?