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New Agatha Christie mysteries headed to BBC One

March 3, 2014

Following up Fridays announcement from Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, that Call the Midwife had been commissioned for a 4th series, comes some equally as brilliant news regarding new Agatha Christie adaptations. Historically, Christie’s two greatest creations, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, have transmitted on ITV in the UK. In announcing the details for the two new productions, Stephenson revealed that BBC One has entered into a deal with Agatha Christie Limited to become the exclusive UK home for new Christie projects. Headlining the 2014-2015 drama slate will be two new Agatha Christie projects, An Then There Were None and Partners in Crime. Transmission of both productions will coincide with the upcoming 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth in 2015.

And Then There Were None
 
Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None

Based on Agatha Christie’s most-read novel, selling more than 100 million copies, And Then There Were None is described as “timeless, dark and gripping”. The story follows 10 strangers marooned on an island who, one by one, start to die. The drama is being adapted by Sarah Phelps, whose recent TV adaptations of the Charles Dickens novels, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, aired on both the BBC and PBS. Mammoth Screen are producing in partnership with Acorn Productions Ltd.

Partners In Crime
 
David Walliams headlines upcoming Agatha Christie adaptation of Partners in Crime

Based on the Tommy and Tuppence characters created by Agatha Christie, Partners In Crime follows the husband and wife sleuths in 1950s England as they stumble into a world of undercover agents, mysterious evil masterminds and diabolical political conspiracy. The project has received a six episode order, with the first three episodes being adapted from the Christie novel ‘The Secret Adversary’ and the remaining three episodes being adapted from ‘N Or M?’. David Walliams (Little Britain, Big School, Mr. Stink) has been cast as Tommy in this new series, which is being produced by Endor Productions in partnership with Acorn Productions Ltd.

Don’t know about you, but I’m starting to love these drama wars between BBC and ITV. With PBS and public television stations in the States listed as beneficiary on all the necessary forms, 2014-2015 is already shaping up to be the best yet.

BBC commissions new series of ‘Call the Midwife’ as PBS set to begin series 3 on March 30

March 2, 2014

The BBC confirmed Friday that the nuns of Nonnatus House will return for another series in 2015. This is brilliant news as the sun sets on Poplar with the final episode of series 3 airing Sunday, 9 March on BBC One. The hit period drama series which is set in London’s East End will dive head first into the ‘swinging 60′s’ for series which will go into production later this year for a 2015 premiere. The popular period drama, which was created by Heidi Thomas, stars Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Pam Ferris, Jenny Agutter and Helen George. No word yet as to who will return for series 4.
 
Jenny Lee, played by Jessica Raine, looks ahead to series 4 of Call the Midwife

In America, however, it’s time to play catch up with the premiere of series 3 beginning Sunday, March 30 on PBS’ Masterpiece series. For U.S. fans readying themselves for the new set of programs following the Christmas special this past December, you’ll remember that the nuns have now left Nonnatus House, which had been tragically reduced to a pile of rubble given its unfortunate proximity to an unexploded WWII bomb.
 

 
No matter which side of series 3 you find yourself on, the commissioning of series 4 is another indication that the Beeb is coming out swinging in the UK drama war.

BBC1 to adapt ‘Poldark’ for 2015

March 1, 2014

Longtime BBC and PBS viewers will no doubt remember Robin Ellis in the title role as British officer Captain Ross Poldark, who returns to his native Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. Based on the novels written by Winston Graham, Poldark aired on BBC1 and PBS in the mid-70′s. Considered to be one of the most successful British television adaptations of all time in addition to being voted on in a 2007 poll as one of the ten best British series ever broadcast on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre series, Poldark ran for 29 episodes and 2 series from 1975-1977.
 

 
The BBC announced Friday that there will be a new Poldark in 2015 with Being Human and THe Hobbit star, Aidan Turner, taking on the title role. According to reports, the six-hour initial series will remain true to the original romantic saga, focusing on Poldark’s return to a much changed home life with his father now dead and his wife engaged to his cousin.
 
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In addition to Poldark, I will always remember a leather-jacketed Robin Ellis guest starring on Fawlty Towers as policeman, Danny Brown, driving Basil crazy, charming Sybil, communicating in Spanish with Manuel and chasing down and, ultimately, arresting confidence trickster, Lord Melbury.

Whovians unite! It’s time for a bit of ‘Doctor Who’…in Lego

February 28, 2014

First it was the Winchester Pub, then it was Downton Abbey (created by New Yorker, Eric Stevens) and, finally. , it was the greatness of 221b Baker Street with a Sherlock Lego set.

While that might have just been a pig that flew by my window, it’s time to grab your bricks and build a TARDIS. Lego Cuusoo, which previously banned fans from submitting ideas based on licensed properties, recently posted in the License Conflicts and Resolutions section of its website that there’s no longer a conflict with the Doctor Who license. Simply stated, “We now welcome projects based on the following licenses that used to have conflicts: Doctor Who – February 2014.”
 
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Commenting on why the sudden coming to their senses decision, Lego Cuusoo said, “Sometimes we have to turn down project submissions that refer to specific brands or licensed properties. We do this to avoid getting your hopes up for something we know we aren’t able to make. In these cases, we already know the Lego Group can’t secure licensing rights to produce construction toys based on a particular brand or property, due to a conflicting interest with a third party. If such a conflict goes away, we’ll then be able to accept projects based on a particular brand or license.

Looks like the conflict has gone away so what are you waiting for? Create a set, submit it, then vote!

Minnie Driver auditions for ‘Downton Abbey’ on ‘Ellen’

February 27, 2014

Before we take a final look at the 2014 BBC Showcase, we pause for a bit of Downton Abbey fun…

With the help of Ellen Degeneres, Minnie Driver is one step closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream (ok, at least a dream that she’s had for the last four years since Downton Abbey began in 2011.

With the help of the writers of Ellen, Driver was able to put together a top-notch audition tape recently with DeGeneres as Lady Gwendymere of West Bedford Applebees and Driver as Countess Penelope of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttersworth.
 

 
One final BBC Showcase update tomorrow before it’s time to head home. Lots more drama, comedy, factual, natural history and documentaries to talk about and, hopefully, bring to public television. Stay tuned!

Drama takes center stage at BBC Showcase 2014

February 26, 2014

After a healthy dose of comedy the last couple of days with Rev, Wrong Mans, Uncle, Inside No. 9 and Mr. Sloane, the focus was on drama as we are at the halfway point of the BBC Showcase screenings in Liverpool.

Already armed with the knowledge that there will be new seasons of Death in Paradise, DCI Banks, Scott and Bailey, Inspector George Gently, Foyle’s War, New Tricks, Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge and Father Brown coming public television’s way in 2014 alone, today was more drama heaven from an offer standpoint.

By Any Means, stars Warren Brown (Luther), Shelley Conn (Terra Nova), Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval) and Gina McKee (Secret State) as a clandestine group of individuals who play the criminal elite at their own game. Their job? To bring these criminals that are too clever to get caught to justice. Sound like Hustle or Leverage? It should, for good reason, but that’s not a bad thing given how brilliant both of those series were.
 

 
What Remains comes from the writer of Inside Men and stars Russell Tovey (Being Human, Sherlock, Him & Her) and Stephen Mackintosh (Inside Men). Detective Inspector Len Harper, less than a week away from retirement, is called to the scene of the discovery of the body of Melissa Young, a 30-year old single woman, who is found in the loft above her flat two years after her death. Oddly, in two years, no one missed her and noticed she was gone. DI Harper begins to uncover some interesting secrets amongst the other neighbors in the building refusing to let the victim disappear without a trace.
 

 
Silk is entering it’s third season on BBC One. Starring Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones (MI5) return in this gripping legal drama from writer, Peter Moffat. The first two series aired in the States as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series. With both Martha Costello (Peake) and Clive Reader (Penry-Jones) both elevated to QC, they often find themselves opposite each other in court. In series 3, there’s an opening for a new head of chambers that both are in the running for. Let the games begin…
 

 
As if this wasn’t enough, in addition to the above, other offerings include Prey with John Simm (Mad Dogs, Life on Mars, Doctor Who), Quirke with Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon, The Guilty with Tamsin Greig and Darren Boyd and Castles in the Sky starring Eddie Izzard.

Now do you believe me about drama heaven?

Rev and Mr. Sloane highlight comedy presentation at BBC Showcase 2014

February 25, 2014

It’s like being a kid in a candy store attending the BBC Comedy presentation Monday in Liverpool. Showing a number of clips for shows that are coming up in the not-too-distant future, you get the sense that Shane Allen, Controller for Comedy at the BBC, is keen on maintaining the channel’s dominance in the comedy genre. As head of comedy commissioning, Allen is responsible for the commissioning of all comedy programs to the BBC channels.

Key elements that contribute to each commissioning decision are to ensure that all developing programs appeal to the varied audiences of all BBC channels and attract the best comic writers, producers and performers to the BBC to broadcast their talent. He works closely with the each individual channel controllers to ensure that the content he develops is consistent with the genre strategy and editorial policy.

Also a part of the genre presentation were Rev co-creator/writer, James Wood, and series co-creator/star, Tom Hollander. Both were there to hype the 24 March premiere of series 3 on BBC Two.
 
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It’s been some time since Rev has aired with their being almost two years since series 2. Both Wood and Hollander spoke of the differences between Rev and earlier comedies that centered around the church as an institution in Father Ted and Vicar of Dibley feeling that Rev is steeped more in reality with Father Adam Smallbone being more of an ‘everyman’ with crazy characters surrounding him. Evidently, it’s working as Hollander mentioned how he had recently been mistaken for a real vicar on the street with the individual asking to be blessed. Not wanting to disappoint the man, he went ahead as opposed to trying to explain that he wasn’t a vicar, but just an actor.

Also appearing on behalf of Mr. Sloane, a new comedy series we screened yesterday that will command your attention in May 2014, were creator/writer, Robert Weide (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Nick Frost, who stars as Jeremy Sloane (with an ‘e’, like Sloane Square).
 
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Up tomorrow, more drama and on to factual/non-fiction offerings.

It’s Comedy/Drama time at BBC Showcase 2014

February 24, 2014

It’s always brilliant to enter into screening overload on the first day of the BBC Showcase in Liverpool.

Already in 2014, from a drama standpoint, public television viewers have been treated to new seasons of Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge, Doc Martin, Father Brown and Death in Paradise. The good news is that the drama tank is still full for the foreseeable future. Comedy has been no different with Moone Boy, Spy, Twenty Twelve, Rev, Hebburn and Miranda finding their way to public television. Like drama, comedy is looking good for 2014-2015.

Sunday began with the comedy/drama presentations from the 2014 BBC Showcase. Here are a few of the highlights…

The Fixer

  • This series follows the life of ex-British Special Forces soldier, John Mercer, who is arrested by police for killing his aunt and uncle following his discovery of their abuse of his sister, Jess Mercer. Fairly tense from the outset.

    John Mercer finds himself released early from prison in order to serve in a covert state security squad as a government-backed assassin. His main job? No big deal. He’s just responsible for eliminating criminals and renegade police officers that the law cannot apprehend.

Mr. Sloane

  • This new comedy series stars Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Cuban Fury) as a man in crisis. It’s December 1969 and Jerry Sloane is at the end of his rope. He’s lost his accounting job, his wife has left him to ‘find herself’ and he spends evenings alone in a pub feeling sorry for himself. He life just might be about to change following, not only, a potential job opportunity but securing the phone number of Robin, a free-spirited American girl. The series also stars Olivia Colman (Rev, Broadchurch)

Inside No. 9

  • Written by the brilliant minds of Steve Pemberton and Reece Sheersmith, Inside No. 9 presents an anthology of unexpected and quirky tales that each revolve around No. 9′s. While it’s not as macabre as previous efforts such as League of Gentlemen and Psychoville, the only question remains is ‘do you dare knock on the door’?

Ambassadors

  • The comedy genius of Mitchell and Webb come together in this comedy/drama about the British Embassy. The series centers around Keith Davis, the British Ambassador to the fictional Central Asian Republic of Tazbekistan. The country is ruled by The Prez, a dictator with a penchant for vodka fueled hunting parties.

That’s it for now. There’s more to come over the next couple of days. Would love to hear from some UK readers who’ve seen Inside No. 9 and give readers stateside some quick thoughts.

Will Ferrell skates to Olympic Gold with Downton Abbey themed performance

February 23, 2014

An Olympic performance that deserves to be seen…

There are some things that either need no explanation…or defy explanation, depending on the side of the fence you’re on when it comes to Will Ferrell. As most know, Jimmy Fallon and Downton Abbey go way back. We all remember his brilliant Downton Sixby parodies, right? If you do, then it’s no surprise that within the first week of the Jimmy Fallon latenight takeover era, the British drama would, somehow, be featured prominently.

Add in the fact that the world stage is focused on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and that Will Ferrell is involved you have a Downton Abbey parody of Olympic proportion.
 

 
Aside from the gut-wrenching effort under some very trying circumstances for Ferrell, many of which we will never understand, and given that he wasn’t even offered a tryout for the current Olympic team, it shows a great deal of skill and grace to be able to put forth the commitment and conditioning effort to make himself ready should he get the call for 2018.

Let’s hope that Downton Abbey will be around in 2018 so that Olympic viewers will remember the theme…

Jason Isaacs returns to American telly

February 22, 2014

Unfortunately, the first bit of news out of Liverpool and the BBC Showcase happened before it has even begun. Like most meetings some of the greatest information can be obtained via hallway conversations and side meetings. On the upside, American fans of Case Histories and Harry Potter soon will be able to get a weekly, albiet short, dose of Jason Isaacs in the forthcoming USA Networks 6-part series, Dig, from Heroes creator Tim Kring and Homeland producer Gideon Raff.
 
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Isaacs, who starred as the haunting Jackson Brodie in Case Histories, will play FBI agent Peter, who is investigating a murder of a young archaeologist in Jerusalem. This will be Isaacs’second effort for the American small screen as he also starred in NBC’s short-lived supernatural series, Awake.

While the unfortunate news is that this, most likely, means no new Case Histories in the foreseeable future, fans should be able to see the second series, which ran in the UK back in Autumn 2013, sometime soon on public television stations in the States, which is the best news of all.

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