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Sue Johnston to trade the Royle’s for the Crawley’s in Downton Abbey 5

August 25, 2014

In a bit of a different role than viewers are used to seeing her in, Sue Johnston trades in her matriarch status in The Royle Family and Coronation Street for the role of Denker, lady’s maid to Dame Maggie Smith’s Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, in the just-around-the-corner series 5 premiere of Downton Abbey. In her new role, the 70-year-old actress will mercifully take over from poor Mr. Molesley, who had the unfortunate task of looking after Lady Grantham in the absence of a maid in series 4.
The Royle Family's Sue Johnston joins the cast of Downton Abbey for series 5

The former Waking the Dead star will not be alone when it comes to new inhabitants of Downton. Johnston will also be joined by Richard E. Grant and Anna Chancellor in the upcoming trials and tribulations of the Crawley family. Chancellor, known for her roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Hour and Fortysomething, will play the Dowager Lady Anstruther while Grant will leave Minty behind and attempt to dial up his best Simon Marchmont when he joins Downton as house guest, Simon Bricker. Series five will also feature 24 star, Rade Sherbedgia, as a Russian refugee who has fled the revolution after World War 1.

While American audiences will have to wait just a bit to see if the Dowager Countess has met her acerbic match in Denker given the PBS broadcast has been set for some time with a Sunday, January 4, 2015 premiere, the rumor is the new series of Downton Abbey will hit UK telly’s this Autumn on Sunday, 14 September.

‘Downton Abbey’ meets ‘Mad Men’ in ‘Queen of the Earth’

August 24, 2014

Ok, technically, it’s not actually Downton Abbey meets Mad Men. It’s actually not even Lady Mary meets Peggy Olson, but it is Michelle Dockery meets Elisabeth Moss in an upcoming film, Queen of Earth, written and directed by Alex Ross Perry. Most recently, Perry directed Listen Up Philip which premiered at Sundance this year and also starred Moss alongside Jason Schwartzman. For the few non-Mad Men fans that may be in the house, you might recognize Moss from the BBC2 drama, Top of the Lake, and the film, Girl, Interrupted.

Lady Mary leaves the manor house for the beach house

The independent psychological thriller centers around two women (Dockery and Moss) who grew up together but drifted apart. They take a trip to a remote beach house in hopes of escaping the daily grind and other pressures in their busy lives. Though they’re lifelong best friends, the pair eventually acknowledge the growing disconnect between each other, allowing their suspicions about one another to cross over into reality.

No word yet as to when production will begin but it may be some time as Moss is tagged to star in HBO’s anthology series, True Detective 2 which starts shooting in September.

Judi Dench joins Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Richard III’ as part of Hollow Crown sequels

August 23, 2014

From the Department of When it Rains, it Pours…

As if the three forthcoming Shakespeare adaptations under the title The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses couldn’t have gotten any better given the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Bonneville and Sophie Okonedo already signed up to star. Now comes the official announcement that Dame Judi Dench will join the cast of Richard III as part of the sequel to last years successful run of The Hollow Crown.

You might remember their close encounter earlier this summer at the Hay Festival where the Sherlock star positioned himself in the audience during her Q&A session with Sir Richard Eyre. “Would you like to be in Richard III with me?” he asked. “Yeah,” Dame Judi replied after a theatrical pause, prompting cheers from the crowd.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Dame Judi Dench at the Hay Festival

Hugh Bonneville, known for portraying Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey, will play Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in the first part of a two-part adaptation of Henry VI. Benedict Cumberbatch will play Richard III with Dame Dench playing Cecily, Duchess of York.

Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, After Earth) will portray Queen Margaret across all three films with Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs, Ashes to Ashes, Spooks) signing on to play Queen Elizabeth in Henry VI part 2 and Richard III. Tom Sturridge (On the Road) has been cast as Henry VI in both parts of that production.

The first go-round of the BBC Shakespeare adaptations under The Hollow Crown title, which included Richard II and a two-part Henry IV, was not only a hit in both the UK and the U.S. on PBS, it sported an equally as impressive cast with Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Ben Whishaw starring.

Look for The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses on BBC Two and PBS, hopefully in 2015.

50 Things Every ‘Doctor Who’ Fan Should Know before Saturday night

August 22, 2014

Are you ready for some Doctor Who? The beginning of the Peter Capaldi era is just around the corner! Actually, it’s not even ‘just around the corner’. It’s TOMORROW NIGHT people. By now, there is precious little time to binge watch enough past series of Doctor Who to catch you up before the series 8 premiere so here’s a quick infographic from the Horror Channel that will make you the life of any impromptu gathering or Doctor Who Watching Party that you might just happen by tomorrow night. Check out the bit of Tom Baker trivia. That will definitely be a hit at any party.

50 Things Every Doctor Who Fan Should Know

50 Things Every Doctor Who Fan Should Know [Infographic] by the team at HorrorChannel

PBS’ Masterpiece will leave you ‘Breathless’ this August

August 21, 2014

Call the Midwife meets Downton Abbey?

Ok, so Breathless IS a period drama set in a hospital but that’s probably where the similarities end. I guess it partly makes sense given there are a couple of Kevin Bacon connections between the newest addition to the PBS drama line-up and Downton Abbey. Breathless will have two former Downton Abbey alumni walking the hospital halls in Zoe Boyle, who played Lavinia, Matthew Crawley’s sickly fiance, in the second series of Downton Abbey and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), who played Lady Mary’s one-time fiance, newspaper mogul Sir Richard Carlisle.

Breathless, which stars Jack Davenport (Coupling, Pirates of the Caribbean), follows the lives of a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital, a world in which everything and everyone has their place. The series opens in 1961, a time when Britain was on the brink of the Sixties revolution. Abortion is illegal and the pill is only just becoming available to married women. Set in and around a busy gynaecology unit, medicine becomes the perfect backdrop to play out the shifting and complex moral codes of early 1960s society.

Like all good telly dramas, Breathless is full of lies, deception and guilty secrets, all conveniently driven by love, ambition and sex. Breathless premieres on a number of PBS stations this coming Sunday as part of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series. With the August fundraising campaign winding down, a number of stations will be premiering on Sunday, August 31. As they say, check local listings for the station in your area.

Ever wondered what the Oxford Circus tube station tastes like?

August 20, 2014

From the Telegraph:

The latest and, perhaps, greatest  Tube map spin-off is a particularly tasty little number. James Wannerton, a 54-year-old systems analyst from Blackpool with synaesthesia (a neurological condition in which your senses get mixed up) has recreated the iconic map with how he thinks each of the Tube stops taste. Mr. Wannerton, who is also president of the UK Synaesthesia Association, has been coming down with his mother to London for school since the tender age of 4 and has spent virtually his entire life creating the Tastes of London map. For a larger version, click here for the Telegraph story and then click on the accompanying map.
The Taste of the London Tube

In what seems like somewhat of a gross understatement given this project has been 49 years in the making, Mr. Wannerton said: “This actually became a bit of an obsession – not unlike standing on breezy railway platforms collecting train numbers.

From now on, I’ll try to think about the Notting Hill Gate Station (sausage, potato and bacon) in the AM, the Charing Cross Station for apple pie in the afternoon and, finally, Highbury and Islington Station for Dr. Pepper. Think I’ll stay away from any thoughts about Bond Street, Kilburn, Arsenal and Bermondsey. When you look at the map, you’ll understand why. FYI, if anyone can find a tube station that tastes like Guinness, let me know ASAP.

BTW, the Oxford Circus Tube Station tastes like….Oxtail Soup.

Could the Doctor’s first year be his Companion’s last?

August 19, 2014

One can only imagine the rumors that are circulating the globe days prior to the premiere of Doctor Who on Saturday. The ushering in of the Peter Capaldi era has already suffered from script leaks followed by the unfathomable leak of what now seems to be the first three episodes of series 8 on video pirate sites.

Now, just days before the premiere, comes the massively unsubstantiated rumor of the demise of the Doctor’s current companion, Clara Oswald, at series end. According to the Mirror, Jenna-Louise Coleman will vacate her role in a ‘sensational Christmas storyline’. The oft-quoted ‘unnamed source’ told the paper, “The conversations about Jenna’s exit have started, and a plan is in place which is being ironed out. By the time she leaves she will be one of the longest-standing companions ever. She has been absolutely brilliant in the role, but everyone agrees it is a part that should change after a period.

While it’s quite possible that there might just be a bit of Mark Twain (as in, “The report of my death was an exaggeration”) in the Clara Oswald story, the BBC is being understandably quiet on the subject, as is series showrunner Steven Moffat. Quite frankly, rumors of this nature do nothing more than sell papers.

If Jenna-Louise Coleman leaves, it won’t be the first time a companion leaves and definitely won’t be the last. Click here and check out this amazing infographic that was created at the time of the last companion to vacate the TARDIS (Amy Pond) which gives a brilliant history of the Doctor’s companions since the series premiere over a half-century ago.

‘Big School’ 2nd term opens 29 August on BBC One

August 18, 2014

Greybridge Secondary School (a.k.a Big School) is back. Returning staff at Greybridge for series 2 are David Walliams as Deputy Head of Science, Mr. Church, Catherine Tate, Greybridge School’s new French teacher Miss Postern, Philip Glenister, PE teacher and the alpha male of the Greybridge staff room and Frances de La Tour as Head Teacher Ms Baron, who sees both staff and pupils at Greybridge as hindrances to her life.

Written by Walliams and ‘The Dawson Brothers’ (Steve Dawson, Andrew Dawson and their childhood friend Tim Inman), Big School was filmed at Bishopshalt School, Hillingdon, West London with real pupils giving up their school holidays to come to the school during filming and be extras. Series 2 will continue to see the socially inept Mr. Church try to impress Miss Postern who humbly says, “ I can’t help it if every male member of staff and one female member of staff finds me attractive” while the pupils remain mainly interested in social networking, texting, partying and being bored by the attempts of Mr Church and Miss Postern to engage with them.

Series 2 is set to premiere on BBC One on Friday, 29 August. With two series in essentially in the books, it shouldn’t be long before it hits the States.

Water Bottle-Gate continues at ‘Downton Abbey’

August 17, 2014

Where’s Sherlock when you need him?

It’s day two of Water Bottle-Gate and still no clear sign that points to which resident of Downton brought their 21st century water bottle to the 1920′s photo shoot. The cast of Downton Abbey has further clouded the situation by sticking together so as to not ‘grass’ on the guilty party. Where’s O’Brien when you need her? Why does Thomas all of of a sudden have tight lips? If you haven’t picked up a paper or watched any telly for the past several days, Water Bottle-Gate revolves around a Downton Abbey series 5 publicity photo that mysteriously featured a 21st century water bottle behind the Earl of Grantham and Lady Edith. Who could have possibly left it there and, was it on purpose?
Downton-Abbey water bottle in the 20s?

The cast, sans Dame Maggie Smith, took a break from series 5 filming to grab their favorite water bottle in response to the now famous ‘water bottle photo’ in support of the international charity, WaterAid, whose work highlights the need in the world’s poorest communities to have access to safe, clean water and sanitation.
Stars of Downton Abbey show their support for WaterAid - News - WaterAid UK

Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAid, was understandably beside herself at the unplanned attention, “It brought a really big smile to my face when the cast of Downton Abbey said that they wanted to support WaterAid’s work. How fantastic that the attention created over one water bottle ends up benefiting some of the world’s poorest communities through access to safe, clean water today. Thank you so much to the cast and the producers of Downton Abbey.”

An ITV spokesperson said, “After seeing the reaction the picture caused earlier this week, the cast and crew came up with the idea of turning some of this attention towards an issue around water that really matters. They hope that by posing for this picture they will be able to raise awareness and amplify the work of international charity – WaterAid.”