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PBS’ Masterpiece makes telly thrilling as Mr. Selfridge premieres March 31

February 12, 2013

In 1909, Harry Selfridge had one goal in life and that was to make shopping thrilling. Now, just a bit over 100 years later, Mr. Selfridge continues the efforts of PBS’ Masterpiece series to make telly equally as thrilling. With Downton Abbey only one 2-hour episode away from concluding their third series on PBS (for UK readers, you know what we’re all in for as this weeks finale is your Christmas episode from 2012), fortunately, there’s between little and no time for any post-Downton Abbey separation anxiety as the 10-part Mr. Selfridge series starring Jeremy Piven premieres on PBS’ Masterpiece series beginning Sunday, March 31.

Watch Mr. Selfridge Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

For those not familiar with H. Gordon Selfridge, you might want to know a bit about the individual you are getting ready to spend some telly time with over the next couple of months. Selfridge was a Wisconsin born entrepreneur who started his path to the creation of Selfridges when he first joined Field, Leiter and Company, which later became Marshall Field & Company in Chicago in 1879. He then married into the prominent Buckingham family and amassed the fortune with which he built his new London store.

Known for architectural excellence, Selfridge also felt the store and are tourist destinations in their own right. The original London store was designed by Daniel Burnham, who also crafted Marshall Field’s main store in his home town of Chicago. Selfridges is the only store to be twice awarded the accolade of the Best Department Store in the World

It was some early turn of the century innovative marketing strategies that led to his success where he vowed to make shopping a fun adventure instead of a chore. Radical decisions such as putting merchandise on display so customers could actually examine it, placing the highly profitable perfume counter front-and-center on the ground floor and also established a number of policies that made it both safe and easy for customers to shop. Either Selfridge or Marshall Field is popularly held to have coined the phrase “the customer is always right”, and he did use it regularly in his extensive advertising.

Selfridge also used in-store displays to attract shoppers. He believed that the displays would introduce potential new customers to Selfridges and, therefore, generate both immediate and long-term sales. Two such examples of his idea for bringing people to the store were to exhibit Louis Blériot’s monoplane at Selfridges after the first cross-Channel flight, where it was seen by 12,000 people and then the first public demonstration of television was by John Logie Baird from the first floor of Selfridges from 1–27 April 1925.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the roof of the store hosted terraced gardens, cafes, a mini golf course and an all-girl gun club. The roof, with its spectacular views across London, was a popular place for strolling after a shopping trip and was often used for fashion shows. During the Second World War the store was bombed in 1940, 1941 and 1944 causing catastrophic damage. After the devastating bombing of the department store in 1940 owner H. Gordon Selfridge vowed never to open the rooftop gardens again.

So, wondering what to do post-Downton Abbey? Check out the 2-hour premiere of Mr. Selfridge, written by Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bleak House and starring Entourage’s Jeremy Piven, on PBS’ Masterpiece series beginning Sunday, March 31 at 9:00p ET/8:00p CT. For UK readers who are just now coming to the end of series 1, it has been renewed for a second series so there’s more great telly coming your way soon.

Celebrating the 11 Doctors of Doctor Who…if they were female

February 11, 2013

The idea of a female Doctor has been tossed about for some time over the years but never really gained any sort of traction until recent years, especially with the regeneration following the David Tennant era as the Tenth Doctor. When the time came to cast the Eleventh Doctor, had the time actually come for the Doctor to become female? It seemed closer than ever as even the great Dame Helen Mirren went on record as saying she’d love to play the Doctor.

While the thought of a single regeneration being female still seems to be a far-off possibility at this point, the thought of what it would be like if Planet Earth was celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who as being entirely female was debated recently on Twitter the other night by AlasdairStuart of Scifind. With eerily similar looks and descriptions to the current eleven male Doctors, this is a great journey through a very different time and space continuum well worth discussion and debate. Personally, while I could see all of these as possibilities and I know Miranda Hart can do no wrong in my book, I found the choice of Honor Blackman, Penelope Keith and Suranne Jones brilliant.

The Third Doctor – Honor Blackman

  • Fresh off her success with the Avengers, Blackman took the show in a very different, far more physical direction than Jacques. Her Doctor was an action heroine, the stories filled with car chases, explosions and fist fights. Many fans welcomed this with open arms, whilst many more felt the show had become The Avengers with occasional aliens. Despite this, her run was extremely successful and is notable for a series of appearances by Vanessa Redgrave as the Mistress.

The Fourth Doctor – Penelope Keith

  • The show returned to the controversy that had defined it’s casting of Joyce Grenfell with Blackman’s replacement. Penelope Keith was best known as a comic actress, and to make matters worse was in line for a leading role in The Good Life, a highly favoured sitcom being put together for the following year. In an immensely controversial move, Keith was awarded both roles and, in doing so, became the
    face of BBC TV for close to a decade. Her run as the Doctor was, and still is, regarded as the definitive version of the character by many fans, mixing her naturally arch, upper class comic timing with a tremendous flamboyance, laconic wit and theatricality. She attacked the role with a gusto not seen since the Grenfell years and proved such a success that jokes were dropped into The Good Life, hinting, strongly, that Margo and the Doctor were one and the same. However, behind the scenes, Keith freely admitted that the double duty and newfound celebrity was taking its toll and, ultimately, she asked to leave both shows. By the time she regenerated at the end of Logopolis (And a cheeky final line was dropped into The Good Life about Jerry and Margo popping out to Joddrell Bank for a picnic), she had played the role far longer than any of her predecessors. That record remains intact today and Keith was recently attracted back to the role for a new range of audio dramas.

The Ninth Doctor – Suranne Jones

  • The 9th Doctor had everything to prove and the first trailers for the show demonstrated the exact level of bravado needed. Footage of Jones, in jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket, sprinting away from an explosion were intercut with a monologue in the TARDIS control room where she not only trailed the show but made it clear just how dangerous things would be. Despite being around for just one season, Jones’ take on the Doctor is regarded by many new fans as the definitive one; her combination of Northern flamboyance and desperate, desperate need to atone for the sins of the Time War make it an electrifying season, with her chemistry with Rose and Captain Jack pushing these 13 episodes into contention for one of the greatest seasons in the show’s history.

A complete list of all eleven female doctors can be found over at Scifind. Time to discuss amongst yourselves. Would love to hear thoughts on these eleven and maybe suggestions of your own.

Nothing screams Valentine’s Day like a bit of Downton Abbey “I love you’….

February 10, 2013

Thanks to the Internets, we’ve been able to see the extent to which Downton Abbey fans will go on a worldwide basis to showcase their creativity and shout from the rooftops their fondness for ‘all-things Downton’. We’ve seen a DIY video on making your very own Downton Abbey gingerbread house, more parody sketches than the law allows and instruction on how to own your own Dowager Countess paper doll set (with several different expressions). Now, appropriately, given the time of year, comes an opportunity to get your very own Valentines-Day themed Downton Abbey cards. After the last couple of episodes, I’m would have bet money that Lord Grantham wouldn’t be getting one of these from Lady Cora any time soon, but time heals all wounds this time of year.

Valentine Abbey

Cartoonist Chad Thomas has created the perfect set of Valentines cards for the Downton Abbey fan in your life to show just how much they mean to you. As Chad tells the story on his website, he and his wife are big fans of the Masterpiece series and they just couldn’t get enough of the series like most of the U.S. at this point.

As is the case with most of the Internets, all four of these brilliant cards are available for download for free on Chad’s site but you do have the opportunity to donate to the cause should you feel so inclined to do so to say thank you and encourage more creativity. You can see more of Chad’s creativity at his website. In case you haven’t found that perfect Valentine’s Day card yet, how about this as a possibility….

Benedict Cumberbatch as both Alan Rickman and the Prime Minister tomorrow on The Simpsons

February 9, 2013

Two examples of ‘appointment television’ as there will ever be on Sunday….

Sunday telly in the States are all about Downton Abbey, at least for two more Sundays anyway. But, tomorrow we are granting unofficial papal dispensation here at Tellyspotting to those loyal Downton Abbey watchers to switch over to Fox for just a short period of time to see the British invasion of American telly at its finest. The great thing is you will be able to watch The Simpsons with Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) voicing not one, but TWO characters and still have time for a quick dinner before the action heats up over at Downton on PBS. The Simpsons will air a 8pET/7pCT and Downton Abbey is at 9pET/8pCT so easily watched in real-time or by setting the DVR for both.

In its 24th season on Fox, The Simpsons is showing no signs of slowing down. In addition to both Zooey Deschanel and Benedict Cumberbatch’s efforts on Sunday, guest voices this year will include Steve Carell, Jeff Gordon, Marvin Hamlish, Joe Mantegna and John Lovitz. In Sunday’s episode, Bart’s heart strings are pulled once again when Mary Spuckler (Zooey Deschanel) returns to Springfield. Unfortunately, his failure to pay her enough attention strains their relationship. Marge, too, puts Homer in the dog house in this Valentines-Day themed episode. Cumberbatch plays both Alan Rickman and the Prime Minister.

So, just this once, over to Fox you go but come back to your rightful home by the time Downton begins on your local PBS station.

Downton Abbey 3, episode 5 Facebook recap

February 8, 2013

Believe it or not, it has been almost a full 24 hours since we last visited the Crawley family and those beneath the stairs that serve them. Given the fact that, most likely, the traumatic events of episode 4 took quite a toll on the worldwide fanbase, I thought it best to wait a bit to offer any re-cap of last weeks episode 5. We’re starting to come to the end of series 3 so I thought it would be best to catch you up quickly rather than have you read any spoilers in the tabloid racks in the supermarket checkout line.

If you HAVE NOT seen episode 4 yet and find yourself unaware of the tragic events that occurred at Downton, DO NOT read Lord Granthams status update. You’ll thank me later after you see the episode.

For those needing a quick series 3 recap prior to this coming Sunday’s next to last bit of drama greatness, you can find an episode 4 recap here, then episode 3, episode 2 and, finally, the first episode from series 3 of Downton Abbey.

If you’re a Sherlock fan, check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

February 7, 2013

Having a job that actually allows you to watch television for a living is tremendous, especially when you run across hidden telly gems here and there. Being able to then acquire broadcast rights to a such a program or series and write about it here on Tellyspotting so that others can see or be introduced to more great telly is priceless. One such series crossed my desk recently that should be making its way to public television stations very soon in the States. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a new 13-part series from ABC Australia, has something that we, unfortunately, haven’t been able to highlight for some time….a female detective. There have been a few, but they have been too few and far between in recent memory.

Phryne (rhymes with briny) Fisher is a fashionably beautiful investigator with some definitively wicked ways befitting her shiny black hair and steel blue/green eyes. Like her male counterpart, she offers private services in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes in 1920s Melbourne. Essie Davis, as Miss Fisher, is the female embodiment of the world’s greatest consulting detective with striking looks that make her both thrilling and dangerous all at the same time. Miss Fisher is perfectly at home in Melbourne’s Parisian-style bistros but has no problem mixing it up in the city’s darkened side streets right around the next corner. Greg Walker’s sound track is equally as brilliant as the series is stunning visually..

Based on the mystery novels of Kerry Greenwood, it was helpful to understand a bit of Miss Fisher’s backstory to get a handle on what makes her get up every morning. As a child, Phryne lived on the streets in Collingwood, scrounging for food with her sister Janey, all the time trying to avoid the heavy hand of her drunken father. Janey was abducted on a trip to the circus, Phryne was devastated. After World War I erased much of her family’s lineage, the dirt-poor Fishers of Collingwood suddenly found themselves in a lofty estate in the English countryside, with Phryne’s parents elevated to the titles of lord and lady. After a few years at boarding school, Phryne decided there was more to life than finishing-school manners and fled to join an all-women ambulance brigade attached to the French army.

As you can only imagine, Miss Fisher leaves a trail of men floundering in her rear view mirror. “Phryne is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers,” says Greenwood. “I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do.

After screening ‘Cocaine Blues’, I found it to be both witty and elegant with just the right amount of a dark side to keep you on the edge. The first episode begins in 1928 where Phryne will not rest until she solves the mystery of her sister’s disappearance and ensure that Murdoch Foyle (Nicholas Bell), the man thought to be responsible, never gets out of jail. As you watch the storyline unfold, you get the distinct impression that Foyle is Miss Fisher’s version of Holmes’ Moriarty.

For those still rocking in the corner waiting for 2014 and the return of Sherlock 3, check out Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, coming soon to a public television station near you…hopefully.

Our ‘favorite’ Doc talks Doc Martin 6, resurrecting Men Behaving Badly and his ‘soft spot’ for lemurs…

February 6, 2013

The one bright spot (emphasis on ONE) that has emerged from the excruciatingly long hiatus between the conclusion of series 5 of Doc Martin and the upcoming beginning of filming on series 6 is that Martin Clunes fans on both sides of the Atlantic have gotten to experience a bit of pre-Doc Martin, Martin Clunes, and a bit of present day Martin Clunes as a TV presenter, rather than a curmudgeonly Doc with a questionable bedside manner. Let’s stop here and forego the current tabloid headline topic of Clunes being dropped as spokesperson for a car insurance company in favor of Dawn French…

In recent months, public television fans in the U.S. have been re-introduced to his early 90′s comedic side with the Men Behaving Badly series from Simon Nye. More recently, Clunes was seen in Reggie Perrin, a re-make of the classic Leonard Rossiter comedy, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin from the 70′s, and in several TV presenter roles including his travels to exotic places such as Madagascar to find lemurs and a series on one of his favorite topics, horses.

Given that it is still a couple of months away before filming even begins on series 6 of Doc Martin in Port Isaac, let’s try not to think about it and spend some time with this Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) Q&A with Radio Times.

What is your guilty TV pleasure?

I never thought that I would be saying this, but the programs I really enjoy on TV are those I can watch with my wife and daughter. I love sitting down as a family to watch Britain’s Got Talent, Modern Family or Miranda.

Who takes charge of the remote control in your house?

My wife. I don’t even know where it is. I’m not allowed anywhere near it.

What would you delete from your wife or daughter’s watchlist?

I can’t stand my daughter watching America’s Next Top Model – it sends out the most appalling message to young girls.

Which TV program would you like to resurrect?

I used to love Catweazle when I was younger. In fact, I think someone did try to resurrect it and asked me to be part of it, but Geoffrey Bayldon was too good to follow… or did I dream that?

Would you ever bring back Men Behaving Badly?

To be perfectly honest, the others haven’t aged as well as I have so I think it would be a bit unfair. It would all be a bit too seedy.

Have you got a favorite channel?

Horse and Country is the only channel that shows Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer. He’s fantastic.

You have made a few nature documentaries – are you discovering your inner Attenborough?

It wasn’t my idea and I was really nervous about making the first documentary about elephants. It was meant to be a one-off, but then I was asked to do one about dogs, and then horses. I am worried about doing too many, though, because if people see me popping up in Madagascar as myself they might not buy into me pretending to be someone else.

Madagascar – that’s exotic!

Really exotic! It was a life ambition realized because as a child I always said it was my favorite country. I went on two trips out there and in total probably spent a month exploring the island.

Not bad work, if you can get it…

If you can call it that… Madagascar has lost 80 per cent of its rainforest and is struggling environmentally. We went out there to highlight the plight of the lemurs as they have obviously suffered as a consequence and are a good entry point to the issue because they are so cute… the crayfish population has also suffered but they are harder to warm to.

So do you now see yourself as more of a presenter than an actor?

The places I have been to, the people I have met and the things I have seen are incredible – I don’t think I could give that up now. I have just got back from Kenya where we re-homed an orphan lion cub – what an amazing experience! But first and foremost I am an actor.

So when will you be returning as your favorite blood-phobic GP, Doc Martin?

Next year and I can’t wait to go back there. It will be interesting because Louisa and the doctor are finally going to marry, I think. But I don’t want to give too much away!

If all works according to plan, series 6 will transmit this Fall on ITV in the UK and in early 2014 on public television stations in the States. In the meantime, check out Men Behaving Badly, Reggie Perrin, William & Mary to get your Martin Clunes fix until DS6.

Sadly, no Legos in Shaun of the Dead’s future, but we do have Paper People!

February 5, 2013

You might remember, back in April, we reported on the Lego process for submission of ideas that requires at least 10,000 supporters before an idea will be considered. Needless to say, the concept of a Lego Winchester Pub from the British zombie invasion film, Shaun of the Dead was well received. The ‘Make the Winchester project’ was the brainchild of Pixel Fox, a 3D artist in Cape Town, and Yatkuu, a Data Manager for pharmaceutical company in Belguim, who both proudly shared a long-time common passion for the brick.

Sadly, there will be no Lego version of the Winchester Pub from the brilliant mind palaces of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as, not long after it garnered the necessary support, the ‘official’ Lego statement was that as good as the model was, the film Shaun of the Dead, “…contained content that is not appropriate for our core target audience of children ages 6-11. Pout not, British zombie invasion flick fans. As amazingly cool as it might have been to have the Lego model of everyone’s favorite zombie local, we bring you Shaun of the Dead paper people for your enjoyment.

For those few on the planet not familiar with Shaun of the Dead, Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a salesman whose life has no direction. His younger colleagues show him no respect, he has a rocky relationship with his stepfather, Phillip, a tense relationship with his housemate, Pete, because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s crude best friend who lives on their couch and deals marijuana. His girlfriend, Liz, is dissatisfied with their social life, as it consists primarily of spending every evening at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favorite pub. They never do anything alone together – Shaun always brings Ed, and Liz brings her flatmates, David and Dianne.

The next morning, after a miserable day at work, an uprising of zombies has overwhelmed the town, but Shaun is too busy dealing with his problems and too hungover to notice. He and Ed become aware of what is happening after watching reports on TV, as zombies attack their house. After fighting back with weapons from the shed, they decide they need to go somewhere safe. Shaun and Ed decide that the safest place they know is the Winchester, and they plan to collect Shaun’s mother, Barbara, Phillip, Liz, and her flatmates. Everyone takes refuge inside the pub, and Shaun joins them after giving the zombies the slip.

Six months after the outbreak, the uninfected have returned to daily life, while the remaining zombies, retaining their instincts, are used as cheap labor and entertainment. Liz and Shaun have moved in together in Shaun’s house, and Shaun is keeping Ed, who is now a zombie, tethered in the shed and playing video games.

The paper crafts are designed by ‘sally’ and you can download for hours of endless entertainment. Unfortunately, it won’t bring back the Lego Winchester, but it will pass the time until Sherlock 3 or Downton Abbey 4. Who knows, maybe a little mash-up with your Dowager Countess and Doc Martin paper dolls might be the next great YouTube video waiting to happen.

Doctor Who 50th: An Adventure in Time and Space begins to take shape

February 4, 2013

One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

Who knew the importance of a simple quote in a 1918 newspaper advertisement for the San Antonio Light in signaling the beginning of one of the most eagerly awaited anniversaries in recent memory? What began as a description for the newspapers pictorial coverage of World War I can now, without question, be used almost 100 years later to refer to this unassuming photo posted on Twitter yesterday by Mark Gatiss.

As shooting begins for the upcoming BBC drama on the creation of Doctor Who, which will be one of the many focal points of the 50th celebration, Mark Gatiss revealed at the recent Radio Times Covers Party that the considerable talents of David Bradley, who played Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films have been secured to play William Hartnell, the First Doctor. More recently, Doctor Who fans will recognize Bradley as the ruthless trader and collector Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. In other casting news, Call the Midwife‘s Jessica Raine (Jenny Lee) will play founding producer Verity Lambert with Sacha Dhawan as Waris Hussein, who directed the first ever Doctor Who adventure, “An Unearthly Child”.

Gatiss, as you can see from the photo above, has written the special with current series showrunner, Steven Moffat, set to produce. Have to say, Bradley is a brilliant choice to play Hartnell and someone that seems genuinely excited to be a part of the upcoming special. “Mark has written such a wonderful script not only about the birth of a cultural phenomenon, but a moment in television’s history. William Hartnell was one of the finest character actors of our time and as a fan I want to make sure that I do him justice. I’m so looking forward to getting started.”

With shooting just beginning on the special, there’s no transmission date as of yet but I’m guessing you can bank on something close to 23 November 2013 both in the UK and the States. Now, let’s hope that while both Gatiss and Moffat are together, they talk Sherlock 3!

The ultimate Super Bowl watching party this year is at Downton…

February 3, 2013

….all the cool aristocrats will be there.

As the U.S. prepares for the ultimate tailgate event of the season that, we call, the Super Bowl, there is so much going on on both sides of the Atlantic from a telly standpoint that one will definitely understand should you switch away during the Puppy Bowl and head on over to PBS for the next installment of Downton Abbey in the States or head to BBC Three for the series 5 premiere of Being Human.

The Dowager Countess, a Giants fan?

There are those, however, that just can’t bear the fact that this years game is being played with no Manning to be found anywhere, even at Downton. They flat out refuse to admit the possibility that the game will be played with neither Peyton or Eli on the field. According to reports, it looks like everyone both above and below the stairs, however, were comfortable with the idea of that Tom Brady is sitting out that game this year. Who knew, but the Dowager Countess is such the Giants fan that no one dares tell her that Super Bowl XLVII would feature the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Thankfully, all is well as Lord Grantham did save last years game on the DVR making it quite simple to convince Violet it’s business as usual in The Big Easy.

Fortunately, Downton is not a Nielsen household.