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‘The Paradise’ set to re-open tonight on PBS’ Masterpiece

September 28, 2014

At long last, The Paradise is set for a series 2 return tonight on PBS’ Masterpiece Classic series. While the doors have been shuttered since series 1 came to a close almost a year ago in November 2013, fans of the BBC drama series have been wondering whether or not the second series would make its way to the US given it ended in the UK last December. Beginning tonight, Sundays will once again be Must See TV leading viewers up to the next long-awaited series return of Downton Abbey on January 4, 2015.

During series 1, viewers of The Paradise, the BBC’s answer to ITV’s Mr. Selfridge, lived vicariously through the life of a bright-eyed country girl, Denise Lovett, played brilliantly by Joanna Vanderham. You know her, the girl with endless new ideas on how to promote business, who found more than just shop-girl work when she brought those clever ideas and endless ambition to Britain’s glamorous first department store, The Paradise. It wasn’t all that easy as Lovett came to know first hand the power struggles, intrigues and romance of retail catching the attention of the store’s dashing and enigmatic owner, John Moray. The Paradise revolves around the lives of the people who live and work in the store, each bound in their own way by the power of the world they live in, and the pasts that follow them there. It’s a love story, a mystery, a lavish costume drama and a social comedy all in one.

As you can see, series 2 takes place a year after the dramatic events (and all that that entails) which occurred in the series 1 finale. Unfortunately, no spoilers here so you’ll have to wait until tonights premiere to find out what’s in store (sorry) for Lord Glendenning, Katherine, Denise and Moray. It promises to be more of the same…power struggles, intrigues and romance. Can’t wait.

We heard from a number of you asking where The Paradise is filmed. The series was filmed at Lambton Castle in County Durham in England, which was converted into an 1870s bustling upmarket department store, complete with a Victorian street with shops and a tavern. Ah, the magic of telly.

Series 2 will premiere tonight and air each Sunday at 8p ET/7p CT on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Classic series through November 16.

Ranking the best of ‘Sherlock’ as we (patiently) wait for 2016

September 27, 2014

The Sherlock Nation is already painfully aware that it’s a very, very long time until anyone will see new episodes. A long, long time as in 15 months to be exact when a Christmas special rolls around in 2015, followed by three new episodes in 2016 for series 4.

Thankfully, the folks over at DigitalSpy have created just the thing for those suffering from separation anxiety that will keep everyone talking until 2016. It’s hard to believe that as much as <em>Sherlock</em>, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have been a part of our collective mind palaces for almost 5 years now, there are only a total of nine episodes that exists. That’s almost as hard to believe as the fact that there are only 12 episodes that exists in the most brilliant of comedies of all-time, <em>Fawlty Towers</em>.  Of course, it makes the wait even more excruciating when you hear co-creator/writer, Steven Moffat, refer to the forthcoming series as devastating and series star, Benedict Cumberbatch, say that from what he’s read so far of the proposed storyline, series 4 will be ‘phenomenal‘.

So, what better way to pass the time than to binge watch the 9 episodes over and over while ranking them from 1-9. It’s impossible to rank them from best to worst because even the use of the word ‘worst’ should never be uttered in the same sentence as <em>Sherlock</em>. How about just rank order them 1-9 as far as which ones are your most favorite. According to Digital Spy, their 1-9 rankings are as follows with a bit of their explanations as to why. How about you?

  • 9. ‘The Blind Banker’ (Series 1, Episode 2) – citing the fact that the episode “centers as it does on a hokey and politically dubious yarn about a band of Chinese smugglers on a murderous treasure hunt”, makes this their obvious choice for #9.
  • 8. ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ (Series 2, Episode 2) – it may be the best known and best loved of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, according to Digital Spy, “The Hound of the Baskervilles remains a bitch to adapt”.
  • 7. ‘The Empty Hearse’ (Series 3, Episode 1) – as they say, following “The Reichenbach Fall” is unfair to any episode that follows. “…the hypothetical ‘How Sherlock did it’ sequences and nods towards the show’s ballooning fandom are breathlessly entertaining flourishes but don’t have much re-watch value”.
  • 6. ‘His Last Vow’ (Series 3, Episode 3) – the episode was “…convoluted, an ambitious emotional powerhouse and disturbing” all in one. It’s easy to see why it took home a couple of Emmys this year. Let’s see…Sherlock has killed a man and is going into exile, John is about to become a father, and Moriarty is back from the dead (maybe). It neatly gave us a series ender that will something to think about for the next 15 months.
  • 5. ‘The Great Game’ (Series 1, Episode 3) – this dark and strangely compelling series one finale has everything. A climactic poolside confrontation, the beginning of a very deranged portrayal of Moriarty by Andrew Scott thus establishing the key idea that Moriarty is a dark mirror image of Sherlock and provides the first real test of Sherlock’s and John’s relationship that in its’ early stages.
  • 4. ‘The Sign of Three’ (Series 3, Episode 2) – Considered the show’s most character-centric and comedic to date, which means as a fan you either hated it or loved it. There was no in-between. The highlight of the episode is Sherlock delivering a perfect, characteristically tone-deaf yet ultimately moving best man’s speech at John’s wedding, which weaves together flashbacks, character comedy, emotional revelation and a present-day mystery.
  • 3. ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ (Series 2, Episode 1) – Laura Pulver stars as Irene Adler, he first person we’ve ever seen Sherlock unable to “read”.
  • 2. ‘A Study in Pink’ (Series 1, Episode 1) – Quite simply, a masterclass in economical character introduction.
  • 1. ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ (Series 2, Episode 3) – No explanation needed here.

The Reichenbach Fall

For my money, there is no arguing about the #1 spot. “The Reichenbach Fall” is a good as television gets. I might have to bump up “A Scandal in Belgravia” to the #2 slot. It does feature the great Laura Pulver as Irene Adler after all. It’s a tough call, however, as “A Study in Pink” does have the greatness of Phil Davis as a serial killer who forces his victims to commit suicide.

That’s the great thing about a series like Sherlock. I’m betting you could binge watch them over and over and every time you finish, you would come out with a different 1-9 order. What do you think?

2015 set to be a busy year for Ben Whishaw

September 26, 2014

Already signed to play Freddie Mercury in the forthcoming film chronicling the life of Queen frontman, Ben Whishaw will also be returning to the small screen for a BBC2 espionage thriller, London Spy. Whishaw will also reprise his role as Q in the next Bond film, Bond 24 in 2015.
Ben Whishaw as Q in Skyfall

The as-yet-to-be-titled Freddie Mercury film, to be penned by Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan, will tell the coming of age story of the band, culminating in Queen’s headline performance at Live Aid in 1985. In London Spy, Whishaw will play Danny in Tom Rob Smith’s first television drama series, where he will immediately get sucked into the world of British espionage. The five-part drama is set to begin filming next month.

If his 2015 calendar isn’t quite maxed out yet, the former star of the BBC drama, The Hour will also star as Herman Melville in The Heart of the Sea, a Warner Bros film about the whale attack that spawned Moby Dick.

For those that have been in the witness protection program for the past couple of years and who may not be aware of the world of Ben Whishaw, check out The Hour which, without explanation, went to BBC series heaven last year after only two brilliant series.


Grantchester headed to ITV/PBS

September 25, 2014

Grantchester, set against the backdrop of the real hamlet of Grantchester, is the newest addition to an already stellar drama lineup over at ITV and could soon be a part of the PBS drama line-up. The six-part drama focuses upon the life of Sidney Chambers, played by James Norton (Death Comes to Pemberley, Happy Valley), a charismatic, charming clergyman who turns investigative vicar when one of his parishioners dies in suspicious circumstances. Based on the James Runcie novel, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the series also stars Robson Green (Strike Back, Being Human, Reckless) as police inspector Geordie Keating. Public Television fans will no doubt also remember Green’s brilliant performance in the late 90′s series, Touching Evil.

Much like Father Brown, another brilliantly done series that comes to public television from the BBC, the relationship between Sidney Chambers and Geordie Keating is a bit of an unlikely partnership which quickly becomes a true friendship as each offers a different insight into the crimes they begin to unravel. One could easily draw the same conclusions about the early days of Father Brown and Inspector Valentine (Hugo Speer). Then, when Valentine was promoted and went to London, his successor, Inspector Sullivan (Tom Chambers), quickly became exasperated by Father Brown’s meddling and contradicting his findings, Eventually, however, he was won over as he began to recognize Father Brown’s efforts as being more helpful than meddlesome.

In the case of both Father Brown and Grantchester, intuitive crime solving meets the methodical police approach which makes for great telly.

First look: Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in BBC2′s Hollow Crown: War of the Roses

September 24, 2014

Filming for the second cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays airing on BBC2 and PBS in America under the Hollow Crown is now underway. As with the first set of programs, this years follow-up sports quite the line-up that plays out like a who’s who of British actors who will lend their talents and star in the series’ four-part adaptation of both Henry VI (in three parts) and Richard III. Dame Judi Dench (Duchess of York), Benedict Cumberbatch (King Richard III), Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret), Tom Strurridge (Henry VI) and Keeley Hawes (Elizabeth Woodville) will star in Richard III with Cumberbatch cast in the lead as Shakespeare’s hunch-backed monarch.

For Cumberbatch, this will be a perfect transition into Shakespeare and his theatre role as Hamlet in 2015 from his more recent roles as the world’s most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, and more movies that anyone can legally count. Here, Cumberbatch shows off his horse-riding skills and looking very un-Sherlock like…
Benedict Cumberbatch on a horse for Richard III

For the multi-part Henry VI, Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville stars as Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester with Sally Hawkins as Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester and Tom Sturridge in the title role as King Henry VI. Look for the second set of Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses in 2015 on BBC2 and on PBS as part of the Great Performances series in the States.

A bit of ‘Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014′ casting news for you

September 23, 2014

Nick Frost (Mr. Sloane, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End and Cuban Fury) and Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street) will star in this years Doctor Who Christmas Special it was announced by the BBC on Friday. Michael Troughton (Breathless, The New Statesman), who has recently returned to acting, will also appear in the special following in his father Patrick Troughton’s footsteps, who played the second incarnation of the Doctor.

Following the announcement that Frost would be joining the cast, the star of Mr. Sloane sounded a bit like a what I can only imagine the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, sounded when he learned of his new role as the Traveling Time Lord saying, “I’m so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas special, I’m such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream ‘No spoilers!’. Every day on set I’ve had to silence my internal fan-boy squeals!” Executive producer Steven Moffat added: “Frost at Christmas – it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it’s a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.”

In true Doctor Who fashion, even though filming has begun in Cardiff, story and plot lines are under wraps on a level that rivals Downton Abbey and Sherlock filming. Depending on who you talk to or what you read, “departing” companion Jenna Coleman (Death Comes to Pemberley) also promises some big surprises this holiday season. “We do see Clara beginning to fall for Danny,” Coleman hints. “There’s a big surprise we’ve got coming. It’s much better that nobody knows which way it’s going to go, so that’s where we’re trying to keep it at the moment.

I know you never really need a reason to look forward to Christmas, but this might be reason enough for those that want to put it off as long as possible…Look for the Doctor Who Christmas Special this 25 December.

Groundskeeper Willie speaks out on Scottish independence vote

September 22, 2014

When a program or series across the pond gets the parody treatment, it usually means you’ve arrived. With countless spoofs and parodies behind them, the leader in the clubhouse for the past several years has been Downton Abbey. From Jimmy Fallon to Saturday Night Live to Funny or Die, the British period drama has been the target of some top-notch brilliance in recent years. Prior to last weeks referendum vote on Scottish independence, there were countless celebrities putting in their two cents for both sides trying to swing the vote for either ‘Yes Scotland’ or ‘Better Together’.

One celebrity, however, stood out from the rest in throwing his support for Scottish independence. None other than Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons took to the airwaves to not only voice his strong support for independence but to also declare his intention to lead the ‘New Scotland’ onto the world stage. With his slogan of ‘Aye or Die, how can you argue? Here, Groundskeeper Willie lets everyone know his thoughts on the vote.

Now that the vote has come and gone with approximately 54% of Scotland voting to remain part of the United Kingdom and 46% believing a independent Scotland was the way to go, Groundskeeper Willie seems to have taken the final vote kind of hard with all indications being that he has been drowning his sorrows since last Friday morning.
Groundskeeper Willie

What’s the ultimate wedding venue for the ultimate ‘Downton Abbey’ fan?

September 21, 2014

As the UK readies itself for tonight’s return of Downton Abbey, we have one question. Are you a Downton Abbey fan of the highest quality and find yourself in need to a wedding venue in the not-too-distant future? At Tellyspotting, we have the answer…and, it’s not Highclere Castle.
A Downton Abbey courtroom wedding in your plans

Couples looking for an entirely different way to tie the knot can now book the infamous Surrey-based courtroom, featured in Downton Abbey and scenes from other iconic British dramas, including Lewis, Endeavour, The Bill, EastEnders, Holby City, Call the Midwife and Midsomer Murders. The Surrey County Council has announced that the former Crown Court now has a license to conduct weddings. While it’s no longer a working courtroom, it still has all the original deep wood paneling and other than the fact you would be on trial, it must have been a pretty atmospheric place to have your fate decided by the courts. Now, if they so desire, happy couples can say their vows on the same stand that Bates was tried for murder while 100 of their relatives sit in the jury box or public gallery.
Bates on trial in Downton Abbey

Even though it has ceased to be a ‘working courtroom’, the historic court, located in the council’s Kingston-upon-Thames headquarters, brought in £145,000 of revenue in 2013 as a film location rental. It’s hoped that the wedding market will prove just as lucrative as weddings can be booked for between £3,000-£3,250 which includes a ceremony in the courtroom and a reception in one of the building’s grand chambers.

Denise Le Gal, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for business services, said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the more avid Downton fans decide to exchange vows in the same courtroom that witnessed Mr Bates’ trial.” Even though it’s hard to put a $$ amount on a lifetime of happiness, it might seem a little steep for you pocketbook but, if it helps, it’s VAT free!

Last original ‘old dog’ to leave ‘New Tricks’ in 2015

September 20, 2014

Dennis Waterman, a.k.a. Gerry Standing, will leave the British comedy/drama New Tricks part way through the long-running series’ 12th season, which will begin filming in November. As the last original member of the fictional Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad (UCOS) of the Metropolitan Police Service, Waterman has appeared in every episode of the series’ first 11 seasons and will bow out after appearing in two episodes of the upcoming series which will transmit in 2015. The original line-up of Amanda Redman as DS Sandra Pullman, James Bolam and Alun Armstrong left the series over the course of the 9th and 10th series leaving Waterman as the only original member while Denis Lawson, Nicholas Lyndhurst and, now, Tamzin Outhwaite were added to the cast as the “new” old dogs.
Dennis Waterman exits as the last old dog on New Tricks

Looking back on the time frame when Amanda Redman and others left the series, one had to begin to wonder just how long Waterman would want to hang out with the new kids on the UCOS block. The original cast had been together since the BBC series premiered in 2003 having developed an amazing chemistry over the years which accounts for the fact that the series has been a favorite with viewers not only on BBC1 in the UK and public television in America but in over 25 countries around the world. The newest cast incarnation of New Tricks has continued to keep the series fresh and has held on to the series’ strong audience numbers resulting in it being commissioned for a 12th series. Let’s hope producers will continue to allow Waterman’s singing of the opening theme as it’s a classic.


‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ with Downton’s Lily James up next for a post-Doctor Who, Matt Smith

September 19, 2014

What’s next after you just spent three seasons as the Eleventh Traveling Time Lord? A bit of Jane Austen and Zombies, obviously. The adaptation of the Seth Grahame-Smith novel of the same name has been in the works since 2009, long before Matt Smith became a household face and name as The Doctor, and was originally rumored to be a 6-part television series. Smith has joined the cast as a ‘Mr. Collins’, alongside girlfriend Lily James (Downton Abbey) who is playing the lead.
P&P&Z with Matt Smith and Downton's Lily James

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, affectionately known as P&P&J, is a horror-comedy twist on Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice and follows Liz Bennet (James) as she is pressured by her mother into marrying into the wealthy upper classes. But, thanks to martial arts training from her father, Liz and her sisters are far better suited to defending the English countryside from the grips of a horrifying zombie plague. Sounds more like Downton Abbey meets Buffy, the Vampire Slayer if you ask me.

In addition to Smith and James, Sam Riley (On the Road) will star as Fitzwilliam Darcy, the obligatory pompous, but well-intentioned monster hunter, with Douglas Booth (em>Romeo and Juliet) playing the eligible Mr Bingley and Jack Huston (em>American Hustle, Boardwalk Empire) as the devious Wickham. Booth will be most recognizable to BBC and PBS viewers for his role as Pip in the 2011 BBC remake of Great Expectations.

James is putting together quite the career since she took the residents of Downton Abbey by storm at the end of series 3. She has quietly filled her CV during her off-months filming Downton by taking on the lead role in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and is rumored to be considering the lead in the upcoming BBC epic production of War and Peace. Smith has been busy, himself, having just finished filming a major role in Terminator: Genisys opposite Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger followed next year by a part in Ryan Gosling’s film directorial debut, Lost River. Filming for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is set to begin on September 24