Miss Marple with Julia McKenzie
Yet more drama brilliance to look forward to in 2013 on both sides of the pond. ITV, the home of Downton Abbey and Poirot, has announced three classic Agatha Christie story adaptations are in the works. Acclaimed actress, Julia McKenzie, will reprise her role as Miss Marple along with Robert Webb, Montserrat Lombard, Daniel Rigby, Hermione Norris, MyAnna Buring, Warren Brown and Antony Sher in supporting roles. The three adaptations will be “A Caribbean Mystery”, “Endless Night” and “The Seven Dials Mystery” and are currently in production for a 2013 broadcast with the likelihood of making it to the States around the same time as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series.
In A Caribbean Mystery, we find Miss Marple far from St Mary Mead, staying in a luxurious hotel on the tropical island of St Honore. When fellow guest Major Palgrave dies rather suspiciously, shortly after arrival, Miss Marple must find his killer. A Caribbean Mystery has been adapted twice for television. First in 1983 with Helen Hayes as Miss Marple and then again in 1989 with Joan Hickson in the title role.
Charlie Higson (The Fast Show) has adapted the Miss Marple adventure and will also have a cameo role as an unassuming American ornithologist, James Bond. It’s only fitting that, given last Friday was Global James Bond Day, we learn that in real life, Bond was an expert on the birds of the Caribbean and had his name appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his famous fictional spy.
Julia McKenzie took over the role in 2009 from longtime Miss Marple favorite, Geraldine McEwan, with A Pocketful of Rye. With so many brilliant Miss Marple portrayals behind her, McKenzie talks here about her thoughts what she will be bringing to the table and how she attempted to make the character her own, with the utmost respect for wonderful past performances from the likes of Joan Hickson and Geraldine McEwan.
There’s a brilliant drama battle going on in the UK as we speak. On the BBC side, there’s the obvious greatness of Call the Midwife and Sherlock along with Upstairs Downstairs, Great Expectations, Birdsong, The Paradise, Case Histories, and the upcoming War of the Roses and Ripper Street. In the ITV corner, there’s Downton Abbey, Whitechapel, DCI Banks, Endeavour and the final installments of Poirot with David Suchet.
The great thing about this battle is that, in the end, you, the telly watcher, are going to be the winner hands down when the dust settles. Cheers.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
With every passing day, the world of British telly just keeps getting better and better. In addition to our recent mentions of new comedies that are hitting the telly as we speak such as Me & Mrs Jones, Moone Boy and Red Dwarf X, along with the commissioning of new series of established brilliance such as Miranda and Spy, there is pipeline greatness from a comedy/drama standpoint that will find its way onto the small screen in late 2012, early 2013 on both sides of the pond. One, in particular, is currently being filmed in the Caribbean, Death in Paradise.
Death in Paradise II
Its been a tough year (ok, just kidding) for Danny John-Jules in 2012. Not only has he survived the long-awaited return of Red Dwarf this past Thursday, he’s now being forced to spend time on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe filming the second series of Death in Paradise. The first series of the crime drama saw DI Richard Poole, played by Ben Miller, arrive on an idyllic island and become its new police detective. While trying to solve mysterious murders on the Caribbean island, DI Poole made it his lot in life to try not to get burned while in constant search for a proper British cup of tea.
The second set of programs will see the return of Ben Miller, John-Jules returning as the ultimate laid-back police officer, Dwayne Myers and Sarah Martins as Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey. Series 2 will see a host of new cast members that will be quite recognizable to both British and American audiences. Lucy Davis, Dawn Tinsley in The Office, Mathew Horne, Gavin from Gavin and Stacey and Primeval star Hannah Spearritt are the latest stars to be joining the quirky crime drama. In addition, James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley) will also guest star.
For a detective who can’t stand sand, even paradise can be hell
According to reports, DI Richard Poole is still ‘trapped’ on the stunning Caribbean island paradise of Saint-Marie – and for him the sun, sea and sand still continue to irritate, just as he irritates his long-suffering colleagues. Series 2 will see DI Poole, Sergeant Bordey, Dwayne and Fidel tackle a baffling array of unique murders, from pirate curses to nuns killed in locked rooms.
Death in Paradise had a rough go of it early on during the first series with critics not warming up to Miller’s character or the script after the first episode. While I tended to agree given the same running gag seemed to dominate the premiere, it settled in and has become a really enjoyable hour of telly that was rewarded with a second series. Let’s hope it continues to grow as it did in series one.
A Touch of Cloth, Charlie Brooker’s brilliant comedy spoof of virtually every police procedural drama ever written, will return for more brilliance on SkyOne in 2012. The second set of programs, starring John Hannah as DCI Jack Cloth, a maverick, heavy drinking loner who has thrown himself into his work following the mysterious death of his wife and Suranne Jones, his no-nonsense sidekick DC Anne Oldman. While no time frame has been set yet for the premiere of the second installment of brilliance, the producers are already teasing us with clips from the second set under the guise of ‘tiding us over’ until it premieres….
The series, which was commissioned by Lucy Lumsden, head of comedy for Sky Entertainment, is another in a long line of recent successes for Sky1 including Moone Boy with Chris O’Dowd, Trollied starring Jane Horrocks, Spy with Darren Boyd, Stella starring Ruth Jones and The Cafe.
Brooker’s A Touch of Cloth, while in a class by itself, does have a brilliant American counterpart from the 80′s that starred Leslie Nielsen as Sergeant Frank Drebin. Sadly, Police Squad never quite took off on the small screen like their big screen cousins, Airplane and Naked Gun.
Police Squad actually cancelled because ABC said viewers had to pay attention
Cancelled after only six episodes, then-ABC entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos defended his decision by saying “…the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.” He went on to say that what he meant was that the viewer had to actually pay close attention to the show in order to get much of the humor, while most other TV shows did not demand as much effort from the viewer. Has to do down as one of the worst cancellation defenses since television was invented.
Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, has said about the series, “If Police Squad! had been made twenty years later, it would have been a smash. It was before its time. In 1982 your average viewer was unable to cope with its pace, its quick-fire jokes. But these days they’d have no problems keeping up, I think we’ve proved that.” I guess after over 500 episodes of The Simpsons, Groening does has a point.
I can see the Dowager Countess at dinner saying What is ‘folk-rock’ music? Hey, it could happen.
Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern’s band Sadie & the Hotheads will release their second album, “How Not to Lose Things”, at the end of October. McGovern, who plays Lady Grantham in, perhaps, the greatest thing to hit both ITV1 and PBS in recent memory, sings lead vocals in the group, which formed in 2005. As the story goes, McGovern responded to an advertisement for guitar lessons placed in a local newspaper by Steve Nelson, the lessons turned into writing sessions and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Troubadour on Tuesdays
If you are in the general vicinity, Sadie & the Hotheads will take up residency at the Troubadour in London on Tuesday evenings throughout November to promote the album, which was inspired by Leonard Cohen so it has to be brilliant, which will be released on Monday 29 October. Thankfully, they play on Tuesdays. If it was a weekend, the Dowager Countess would never know when to go see them…
So what if she’s 6 feet 1 inch tall and gets called ‘Sir’ once too often…
It’s been a busy Fall already for Miranda Hart. Not only is she releasing ‘what she calls’ a book, but she is wrapping up filming for her long-awaited third installment of her brilliant comedy series, Miranda. Miranda: Is It Just Me?, which is due out next week, offers her fans and readers an opportunity to learn from her wealth of awkward experiences – from school days to life as an office temp. In the book, Miranda offers her 18-year-old self some much needed caution and guidance on ‘how to navigate life’s rocky path’. In addition, for those PBS viewers in the States, beginning Sunday, October 7, you will begin to see Miranda in the series, Call the Midwife, as part of the Masterpiece series as Chummy Browne. Oh, and there is her continued work in support of Comic Relief and Sport Relief too to add to those few minutes of spare time in her schedule.
From her comedy series standpoint, more time than the law allows has passed since the end of the second series of the ridiculously brilliant Miranda (2011 to be exact), which also stars Sally Phillips, Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and Tom Ellis. Studio tapings, which gave the series much more of that old school Are You Being Served look of getting back into the studio before a live audience, ended in September. From a location standpoint, Miranda and cast were recently seen filming in Chiswick on Devonshire Road, which has frequently been the setting for much of the exterior scenes of her joke shop along with the restaurant that Gary chefs at. Obviously, the key to the series successes have been the comedic talent of not only Miranda Hart, but the ensemble cast
Award-winning Miranda returns in late Fall on BBC One
The 2010 winner of the Best New TV Comedy, Best TV Comedy Actress at the British Comedy Awards along with her 2011 awards for Best Scripted Comedy at the Royal Television Society Awards and another British Comedy Award in 2011 for Best TV Comedy Actress, Miranda was also nominated for a BAFTA in 2011 for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Role. Because of this success, the third series of Miranda will transmit on BBC One late Fall 2012, finally making the adult leap from BBC Two.
Starring Sarah Alexander (Coupling, People Like Us, Green Wing) and Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly), Nathanial Parker (Merlin) and Robert Sheehan (Misfits), the new BBC comedy, Me and Mrs. Jones, produced by Hartswood Films (Sherlock, Coupling, Jekyll, Men Behaving Badly), is one to definitely keep an eye on when it premieres on 12 October on BBC One.
A bit more of a romantic comedy role for Alexander when you think back on her characters in Coupling, Green Wing and Smack the Pony. She explains her attraction to the role of ‘Mrs. Jones’: “…For me, this is really what I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. It’s working with people that I really respect, and making a comedy show that I love and would want to watch. It’s quite rare to be in something that you would love to watch as well. I think it’s the mix of being real and having an emotional truth. You really do believe that she’s between making this decision to be with Tom (Nathaniel Parker) or Billy (Robert Sheehan) and it’s a real dilemma.”
Morrisey, in addition to his greatness on Men Behaving Badly with Martin Clunes, was the voice of Bob, Lofty and Farmer Pickles in Bob the Builder so how can this not be something to tune in for.
Remembering back on our interviews for the PBS program, Behind the Britcom: From Script to Screen, which focused on the writer’s of British situation comedy, with Carla Lane (The Liver Birds, Butterflies, Solo and Mistress), I see a lot of similarities between Carla’s comments and the comments of Dawn French with respect to the need for more women writers that write intelligent roles for female actors.
Much of Lane’s distinctive writing explored sexual and personal relationships from a woman’s experience and point of view. The writing of Me and Mrs. Jones by Oriane Messina and Fay Rusling, who also collaborated on the brilliant Green Wing comedy series, remind me a great deal of a 21st century Carla Lane….which is a good thing.
***DOCTOR WHO FALL SEASON FINALE SPOILER ALERT***
For those that made it through the Fall season finale of Doctor Who before they ran out of tissue, the irrevocable departure of Amy & Rory Pond, the longest-serving companions of the new Doctor Who era, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, was every bit the tearful goodbye that has been promised since day one. Say what you will about whether or not Amy & Rory were your favorite companions, their departure ranked right up there to where you almost wished they would live to see another adventure with the Doctor. And, the Weeping Angels certainly lived up to their description of being ‘the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely’, allowing the Ponds to live out their lives in the past somewhere rather than no longer existing. Aren’t they nice….
Photograph: BBC/Adrian Rogers
Interestingly, Steven Moffat faced a unique difficulty that no other Doctor Who series showrunner has had to confront — that of how to handle the fact that companions usually just go back to their normal lives – but Amy & Rory had already done that. During the last series, in “The God Complex”, The Doctor had decided that his life was too dangerous and he’d put them through enough. He deposited them in suburbia, and has been dropping by at intervals ever since. Why irrevocable? Well, it seemed pretty clear that to go back to 1930′s Manhattan and get Amy and Rory wasn’t possible as their departure was a fixed event in time. Even the Time Lord can’t create the proverbial temporal paradox without ripping New York apart and eliminate his ability to time travel to save Amy and Rory…well, you get the idea.
Wipe those tears away, little camper. Amy and Rory may be gone, but the Doctor will return just in time for Christmas with a new companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman and new adventures. What did everyone think of the departure of Amy & Rory?
Proving once and for all that there was, indeed, life Before Downton Abbey for both Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, we ran across this 2008 British comedy series, Freezing, thanks to JT, a long-time Tellyspotting reader. Unfortunately, there were only 3 episodes ever produced. Sounding a bit like a 21st century Downton Abbey, Freezing starred Elizabeth McGovern as an American actress with Hugh Bonneville as her British book publishing husband. Previously successful, they are now both struggling to find jobs. Their old friend Leon (Tom Hollander), a somewhat un-hinged talent agent, seems more interested in promoting the latest teenage reality TV star rather than helping them out.
In addition to Hollander (Rev), the ensemble cast was amazing with Ben Miles (Coupling, Lark Rise to Candleford), Richard E. Grant (Posh Nosh, Withnail and I) and Tim McInnerny (Blackadder). Equally as impressive behind the camera, Freezing was directed by Simon Curtis, the real-life spouse of Elizabeth McGovern, who also recently directed My Week with Marilyn and brilliantly written by James Wood (Rev)
Happy 3rd Anniversary, Tellyspotting!
On a slightly more personal note, today marks the three-year anniversary and/or birthday of Tellyspotting. It was October 1, 2009 that we decided the world needed as much British comedy and/or drama knowledge as the law allows in their lives and set out to provide you with non-stop witty banter to use to the fullest degree to amaze your friends at parties. Hopefully, we have done that at some point over the last three years. Of course, with the likes of Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Spooks and the rest of the greatest television produced on the planet at our disposal, it’s been pretty easy task. It sounds cliché to say, but we would not be here without each and every reader, commenter and devotee of British television that has come our way and contributed to this effort over the past three years. So, thank you. It seems like only yesterday that we started this little experiment. Hope you have enjoyed reading and discovering the world of British television as much as we have had writing about it. Here’s to another three years and beyond and that you’ll come along with us for the ride. Cheers.
Thanks to little 11 yr-old Tellyspotting reader, Sybil, for making us a birthday cake. While the concept of using powdered sugar to spell out ‘Happy 3rd, Tellyspotting’ using a hand-cut stencil proved rather challenging, it’s definitely the thought that counts. Thanks, Sybil.
When Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) first arrives in London’s East End, she knows nothing about hardship, poverty or indeed, life itself. Raised in the wealthy English countryside, she’s previously spent time in Paris and could have chosen any career. But she chose to become a nurse and now, as a newly qualified midwife, Jenny has come to work in the poorest area of the city. Jenny comes to Nonnatus House to work as a midwife under the watchful guidance of Jenny Agutter along with Pam Ferris, Miranda Hart and Judy Parfitt.
Call the Midwife is a moving, intimate, funny and, above all, true-to-life look at the colorful stories of midwifery and families in East London in the 1950s, based on the best-selling memoirs of the late Jennifer Worth. Worth worked closely with Heidi Thomas (Cranford, Upstairs Downstairs) to develop the series right up until her untimely death in 2011.
Having had the opportunity to screen several of the episodes of series one back in February at the BBC Showcase in Liverpool, at that time, a number of us felt that the series was a brilliant portrayal of birth, life, death and a community on the brink of huge social change. What seems to have immediately attracted both male and female audiences of all ages is how the series provides such an insightful, gripping insight into a world that is so drastically different from how we live today. Now after having seen the entire first series, all I can say is Call the Midwife is appointment television at its finest. Be there or set your DVR!
Looking ahead to episode 2, which will air on Sunday, October 7 on PBS’ Masterpiece, you’ll see either the comedic side of Call the Midwife or the serious side of Miranda Hart (Miranda), depending on how you look at it. The part where Hart’s character, Chummy Browne learns to ride a bike is priceless. Cheers.