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Downton Abbey Separation Anxiety Society’s Book of the Month Club selection

November 12, 2012

With the U.S. is a mere eight weeks away from the premiere of the next installment of Downton Abbey, to many, it still seems to be a lifetime away. For the millions of fans that are longtime members of the Downton Abbey Separation Anxiety Society, there is hope on the horizon with the release of the newest ‘Downton’ book, Chronicles of Downton Abbey – A New Era. For any Downton fan, this is a must read before January 6, 2013. Matthew Sturgiss and Jessica Fellowes, the niece of series creator/writer, Julian Fellowes, have created the most thorough companion book of the series to date.


Written in period style, not only are there a number of insights from individuals who experienced the 1920′s firsthand, there are some brilliant ads for products that paint a distinct picture of the times such as for the first pop-up toaster, made by Hotpoint, which appeared on the scene in 1919. This is a great read, mainly because it’s more of a character-driven structure rather than a simple chronology of the series from the beginning when the two heirs to Downton died on the Titanic and a distant third cousin, Matthew, suddenly becomes the heir apparent.

According to a recent review in the Telegraph, the book also features a really interesting forward by Julian Fellowes giving devoted fans a bit of the Downton backstory that isn’t widely known. Fellowes explains that many of the characters were based on either family, friends or acquaintances. For example, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), was inspired by great aunt Isie while the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) resembled his dear departed father; the maid of a cousin was the blueprint for ladies’ maid O’Brien and, most amusingly, Carson shares many similarities with his ‘dear friend‘ retired butler Arthur Inch.

The coffee-table sized book also features some brilliant photographs from series 3 detailing the long-awaited encounters between the Dowager Countess and the ‘newest American Dowager’, Shirley MacLaine, along with what look decidedly like ***SPOILER ALERT*** wedding photos.

The book releases tomorrow (Tuesday, 13 November) so if you have a Downton Abbey fan in the family, I think you’ve just solved your Christmas gift dilemma. Happy reading….

From Downton Abbey to Dracula

November 11, 2012

While this may be old news to some, it’s bound to be new and/or odd news to at least a few out there in telly-land. American broadcast network, NBC, announced at this summer’s Television Critics Association gathering that it was green-lighting an adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic, Dracula, for a 10-part series starring The Tudors’ Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Originally described by Deadline as Dangerous Liaisons meets The Tudors, Dracula is set to begin production in the not-too-distant future for 2013 broadcast on NBC in the States and the UK’s Sky Living Channel. Dracula comes from the producers behind the critically acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning ITV/PBS hit, Downton Abbey, Carnival Films & Television (NBC Universal) and the U.K.’s British Sky Broadcasting.

According to NBC press material, the series will introduce Dracula as he arrives in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who maintains that he wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. In reality, (insert surprised look here) he’s seeking revenge on the people who cursed his life centuries earlier. There’s only one circumstance that can potentially thwart his plan: Dracula falls hopelessly in love with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife. Thankfully, no modern day Twilight or True Blood-type treatment for this one but it does sound a bit like one you need to see before passing judgment. Period pieces don’t necessarily have a good track record on American commercial networks. Hopefully, they’ll take one look at Downton Abbey and leave this one to the professionals at Carnival.

From Downton Abbey to Dracula…sounds like a logical progression, don’t you think?

Post Hobbit, it’s now official! Sherlock 3 confirmed for January 2013 filming

November 10, 2012

Anytime Mark Gatiss talks Sherlock, I consider it official.

While it has been the subject of intense speculation ever since Sherlock lept from atop St Barts Hospital, it has now been confirmed by stv Entertainment that the third series of Sherlock will begin filming in January 2013. Co-creator/co-writer (and Sherlock’s elder brother, Mycroft), Mark Gatiss, confirmed for all the world to hear recently, ”We start filming in January. It might be more expensive but they both wanted to do it. It’s very exciting.” Obviously, both meaning Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes) and Martin Freeman (John Watson). I’m guessing expensive because both actors have, perhaps, the tightest schedules on the planet at the moment given the fact that since series 2 ended, Benedict has done The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Star Trek Into Darkness and Parade’s End, not to mention finishing up work on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and War Horse. While the bulk of Martin Freeman’s time was spent on the three Hobbit films, he did kind of have an important role in that of Bilbo Baggins.


While probably not a shock to anyone who watched even one of the previous six episodes, Sherlock has been a huge success for both the BBC and PBS in the States, Martin Freeman previously revealed he was shocked at the amount of viewers it managed to pull in, even beating BBC stalwart EastEnders. Cleaning it up a bit, Freeman couldn’t contain his excitement when he commented that, ”…Some of the viewing figures we got with the second series of Sherlock were outrageous. One week, we beat EastEnders, and I’m so proud – not because we beat EastEnders – but I’m just proud that millions, I mean literally millions of people wanted to watch it then. That night, do you know what I mean?”

While it’s probably a bit early to hang the Sherlock 3 broadcast countdown calendar on the wall, I am going to get it ready to put up at a moments notice. Anyone with me?

From the Friday Vault: Hardware with Martin Freeman

November 9, 2012

Martin Freeman’s stock is going through the roof these days given his brilliant performance in Sherlock and, what I’m already assuming is brilliant in the upcoming Peter Jackson fantasy epic, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as Bilbo Baggins. Many were ‘introduced’ to Martin back in 2001 as Tim in Ricky Gervais’ The Office. Post “Office, Freeman starred in Hardware, a short-lived situation comedy set in Hamway’s Hardware Store in London.

The Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly) creation revolved around the store staff and their daily wisecrack battles with an endless array of DIY-obsessed shoppers. The series also starred Peter Serafinowicz, the English actor, composer, voice-over artist and director that I will forever remember as Pete, the tidy flatmate of Shaun and Ed in Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead. In real life, Serafinowicz is married to Sarah Alexander (Coupling, Me and Mrs. Jones).

Freeman plays Mike, the blunt and grumpy DIY fanatic who works in the shop. His daily mission is to try, mostly unsuccessfully, to avoid the daily behind the counter ‘life chats’ but often gets sucked in. The series also features early Ryan Cartwright, know better in the U.S. for his more recent roles in Bones and Mad Men. Worth checking out. As always, anyone have any suggestions for future Friday Vault profiles, send them my way. Cheers.


DCI Banks set for public television premiere in Jan 2013

November 8, 2012

As with most police procedural programs that come out of the UK (i.e. George Gently, Daziel and Pascoe, Prime Suspect, Inspector Lewis, Endeavour, etc.), brilliant as they are, they all tend to constantly reinforce the thought that there is a definite pecking order within the department between the DCI and everyone else from DI on down. In both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, it was DCI Gene Hunt versus the rest of the planet, but that’s a story unto itself for another day. Accompanying that pecking order, however, is a clear sense of having each other’s back when needed.

The newest addition to an already stellar pipeline of police procedural dramas coming out of the UK is no different. DCI Banks, starring Stephen Tompkinson (Ballykissangel) and Andrea Lowe (Silent Witness, Torchwood, The Tudors), will find a well-deserved home on PBS stations nationwide beginning in January 2013 (tentatively set for the week of 6 January). In DCI Banks, Chief Inspector Alan Banks has been called tenacious and stubborn…and, I’m sure, a lot of other things that you probably ought not put in print. Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot is considered both feisty and headstrong and, yet, the respect and bond between the two is evident from the beginning. They have their bumps along the way, but they have each others back without question.

Set in the Yorkshire countryside, DCI Banks is based on the Inspector Banks novels by Peter Robinson. In the pilot episode, ‘Aftermath’, two police officers stumble across the lair of a serial killer and Inspector Banks finds himself faced with a chilling murder investigation that will test him to the limit. The pilot episode also features an amazingly chilling performance by Charlotte Riley. You think Kurt Wallander has issues, just wait.

***FYI, Major spoilers below for DCI Banks ‘Aftermath’ if you haven’t seen yet. That said, if you can’t wait until January 2013, it’s worth being spoiled***

The Comic Strip Presents…at Victoria Station

November 7, 2012

Just when you thought it was safe…The Comic Strip Presents returns

The Comic Strip Presents series first aired in 1982 with ‘Five Go Mad In Dorset’, a brilliant parody of the original Famous Five books. Cast and crew include Comic Strip founder, Peter Richardson, along with The Young Ones alums, Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer, in addition to Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. All regularly recall the significance of the show and what it was like to make, seemingly with a complete disregard for health and safety. The series, which tended to be more a series of specials, put Channel 4 on the map as a source of comedy in the 80′s. Their most recent comedy efforts came in 2011 with the satirical 50s-style film noir spoof ‘The Hunt For Tony Blair’.


Fast forward to 2012 and you have The Comic Strip Presents ‘Five Go To Rehab’ which airs tonight at 9:00pm on UKTV Gold. The video below, which was filmed in London’s Victoria Station last month to promote tonight’s broadcast on UKTV Gold, saw a brass band expertly painted to blend inanimately into the front cover of a giant book which visually mimicked the nostalgic ‘lashings of ginger beer’ style of the original Enid Blyton tales of The Famous Five. Just imagine. People in Victoria Station actually smiling and interacting! This can’t help but be good.


Election Day – Vote for Britain’s Best Political Sitcom 2012

November 6, 2012

Vote for Britain’s Best Political Sitcom – 2012

Today is the day that most Americans either thought would never get here or couldn’t get here fast enough — Election Day 2012. While America goes to the polls to elect the next President of the United States (POTUS), it’s time to spend about $3 billion less than was spent on this year’s Presidential election and to virtually open up the right to vote to the entire world and determine Britain’s Best Political Sitcom of all-time.

Unlike the U.S. election, the object here is to vote early and vote often as the polls never close. Unlike official polling places, the virtual election poll encourages you to try and influence your fellow registered or un-registered voters through posted comments as to either who they should vote for the first time around or maybe change their vote the second time through. Remember, virtual polls don’t close so feel free to vote today, vote tomorrow and feel free to forward to ensure a 100% turnout.

What is Britain's Best Political Sitcom of all-time?

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Candidate #1 – Yes Minister


Yes Minister, the 80′s British sitcom which is set primarily in the private office of a British Cabinet minister in the fictional Department for Administrative Affairs in Whitehall, follows the ministerial career of The Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP, played by Paul Eddington (Good Neighbors). His various struggles to formulate and enact legislation or effect departmental changes are opposed by the British Home Civil Service, in particular his Permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby, played by Nigel Hawthorne. His Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley, played by Derek Fowlds, is usually caught between the two. Both created and written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, this series is so brilliantly done that it is probably more relevant today than when it premiered some 30+ years ago.

Candidate #2 – The Thick of It


Forever to be described as the 21st century’s answer to its 1980′s predecessor, Yes Minister, The Thick of It is equally a brilliant. Highlighting the struggles and conflicts between politicians, party spin doctors, advisers, civil servants and the media, the series centers on the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship which supposedly came out of the Prime Minister’s desire for a “joined-up government”. Peter Capaldi is perfection as Malcolm Tucker, Number 10′s highly aggressive and domineering enforcer. Many of the episodes featured story lines that not only mirrored reality but, in some cases, actually predicted real-life policies, events and/or scandals. Interestingly, creator/writer/director Armando Iannucci originally conceived of the modern political satire after arguing the case for Yes Minister in BBC Two’s 2004 Best British Sitcom poll.

So, vote early, vote often and, remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome tomorrow….

Sherlock star tapped as the ‘fifth Beatle’

November 5, 2012

Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of the BBC/PBS Sherlock has done the best male imitation of Annie Carnes in Oklahoma. He just can’t say no. I only say selfishly because the more Benedict’s star keeps rising and the more he says yes to projects such as The Hobbit, Star Trek, War Horse, Parades End and Tinker Tailor, the longer we have to wait for the likes of any new Sherlock brilliance.

Both the BBC and The Hollywood Reporter are reporting that Cumberbatch has been cast in the big-screen biography of Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles when they first started out. Often referred to as “the fifth Beatle”, Epstein was instrumental in the birth of the group, their iconic look and style and their emergence as the most popular musical act on the planet. In 1967, at the height of Beatlemania, Epstein died of an overdose, in what many believe was a suicide. Tom Hanks will produce and Paul McGuigan will direct. Cumberbatch should feel right at home with McGuigan given he has directed four of the six episodes of Sherlock. Producers describe the film as the story of “the man who threw the biggest party of the 1960s but ultimately forgot to invite himself.”

Interestingly, the news of the Tom Hanks project surfaces just as another Brian Epstein film, dubbed The Fifth Beatle, is coming together from author Vivek J. Tiwary, who will write and produce a big-screen adaptation of his graphic novel. That project has secured the rights to inlude Beatles songs from Sony/ATV, which controls the John Lennon/Paul McCartney music catalogue.

While it might seem odd at first, only the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hanks and Paul McGuigan might just actually be able to pull of a Fifth Beatle biopic with no Beatles music anywhere in sight….

Fancy a tour of Julian Fellowes’ Historical Houses in 2013?

November 4, 2012

Forget the obligatory countdowns that are beginning to surface with regards to how many shopping days until Christmas, etc. The real countdown is that, in the States on PBS, we are exactly 9 weeks from today away from the premiere of the new season of Downton Abbey – (insert a public thank you to all of our friends across the pond who are, as we speak, coming to the end of the current series and have yet to provide spoilers for those of us who haven’t seen yet. We know how hard this is in the Age of Twitter, etc., so, thank you). Hopefully, by the time Downton Abbey 4 rolls around the amount of time between UK and U.S. broadcast will be diminished dramatically. A same day broadcast in both countries would be kind of great, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime, knowing a bit about the subject like he does, ITV has tapped Downton writer/creator, Julian Fellowes to present a 2-part series, Julian Fellowes’ Historical Houses in 2013. “The great houses of Britain have for centuries been the guardians of much of our history, not just of the families who built and lived in them, but of the people who worked there, of the local area, of all of us,” said Fellowes. “Where they have remained in the hands of the original families, the archives are rich in their stories and I have been on the trail of just a few of these.

The series will be produced by Chocolate Media which is owned by NBCUniversal International Television Production and who also owns Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey.

Time to book another stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

November 3, 2012

With Hollywood studios finally beginning to recognize that older people do go to the movies and that there is, in fact, money to be made with films that actually place more emphasis on script than special effects, the word on the street is that there is a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the works. Cast members including Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Dame Maggie Smith are, ‘in principle’, eager to return for the second film but no mention as to whether or not John Madden will return to direct the film. Based on author Deborah Moggach’s novel, These Foolish Things, news of the possible film sequel is being reported in MovieScope magazine with original screenwriter Ol Parker set to deliver a new script to 20th Century Fox studios in the next couple of months.

If you haven’t seen the gem of a film, this is a must see. Interestingly, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was not a hit with critics when it first premiered in 2011 which does nothing but further my belief that if critics don’t like something, I go see it and vice versa. With a cast that reads like a Who’s Who of British acting, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of a group of retired Brits who move to a newly-restored hotel when they, individually, decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India.

Since the original, both Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith have been busy both on the big and small screen. Judi Dench reprising her role as agent M in the soon to be releases James Bond film, Skyfall while Maggie Smith continued her Dowager Countess brilliance in the newest series of the ITV/PBS mega-hit, Downton Abbey, and will then return to the big screen in late December 2012 with Billy Connolly and Sheridan Smith in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet.

This will be one sequel that I’m willing to put on the calendar as one to go see….anyone with me?

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