Claire Foy, Matt Smith and More Set to Star in Netflix Series ‘The Crown’

Everyone’s getting into the British drama game these days, including powerhouse streaming service Netflix. Best known for buzzy dramas such as House of Cards and Daredevil, the online-only distributor is set to launch a new series called The Crown, an original decades-spanning drama about Queen Elizabeth II and the prime ministers who helped shape post-war Britain.

The Crown tells the inside story of two of the most famous addresses in the world – Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street – and the intrigues, love lives and machinations behind the great events that shaped the second half of the 20th century.

The series is based on Peter Morgan’s award-winning play The Audience – the stage version of which recently netted star Helen Mirren both the Olivier and the Tony for Best Actress for her performance as Her Majesty the Queen.  The play used the weekly meetings (audiences) given by Queen Elizabeth to her prime ministers as a framework to tell the story of her remarkable life and reign.


Benedict Cumberbatch Returns for a New Series of 'Rumpole' Radio Plays

Excellent news for Benedict Cumberbatch fans – a new series of radio plays based on Rumple of the Bailey are slated to air this summer on BBC Radio 4!

This is good news for those of us who feel like we maybe have been going through a bit of Cumberbatch withdrawal of late. Yes, a new Sherlock special is headed our way later this year, Marvel’s Doctor Strange is on the horizon and his West End turn in Hamlet is slated for later this summer, but since the Oscar campaign for The Imitation Game wrapped in February, there’s been much less Cumberbatch to go around. Happily, we seem to be done with that for a bit.

The first installment of this four-part series will be Rumpole and the Portia of Our Chambers and will air on Friday, July 3 at 2:15pm. The series will once again be based on the Rumpole of the Bailey books written John Mortimer, adapted by Richard Stoneman and produced by Marilyn Imrie.  


‘Downton Abbey’s’ Joanne Froggatt Signs on to Play a Victorian Serial Killer

One of the most interesting things about Downton Abbey drawing to a close is seeing what sorts of projects its many fantastic actors are signing up to do next after the doors of Highclere close forever. (Or at least until a prequel or sequel series gets greenlit; let’s all keep that dream alive.)

First out of the gate appears to be star Joanne Frogatt, who plays everyone’s favorite long suffering house-turned-ladies maid Anna Bates. Anna has certainly dealth with more than her fair share of tragedy over the course of Downton’s run – enduring a brutal rape, suffering through her husband’s lengthy trial for murder and eventually ending up arrested herself at the end of last season before having her name cleared. So, after playing such a long-suffering character, it’s no surprise that Frogatt seems to have gone in a completely different direction for her first post-Downton gig.

She’ll be starring in a two-part drama for ITV called Dark Angel, which aims to tell the story of Victorian poisoner Mary Cotton, who used adultery, bigamy, fraud and murder to “better” herself socially and financially before being convicted and hanged for her crimes in 1873.


Period Drama 'The Crimson Field' Begins June 21 on PBS

Heads up for those who love dramatic World War I stories! Period drama The Crimson Field finally comes to America this week on PBS stations nationwide.

The six-part series tells the story of World War I’s frontline medics – their hopes, fears, triumphs and tragedies. In a tented field hospital on the coast of France, a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers works together to heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the trenches. The hospital is a frontier: between the battlefield and home front, but also between the old rules, hierarchies and a new way of thinking.

Game of Thrones Oona Chaplin, MI-5’s Hermoine Morris and Scott & Bailey’s Suranne Jones star as volunteer nurses who must deal daily with injuries, casualties and death. (In some ways it’s a bit like Call the Midwife but set during the Great War.) These women arrived in France in 1915, as part of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (or VADs), who were the first volunteers at the field hospitals there. 


The Funny Side of British Espionage

This week I finally got to see the new comedy, Spy, an amusing espionage romp through Europe starring Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. A modest yet top-notch CIA analyst, Susan transforms into a surprisingly adept field agent. Her first mission is to save the world from a rogue nuclear device currently for sale to the highest bidder.

 Normally, I would have waited until this film made it to DVD; however, I felt I must show my monetary and emotional support for an actress primarily known and loved in this country as Chummy. You’ve got it. Appearing in her first Hollywood film role, Miranda Hart plays Nancy Artingstall, McCarthy’s fellow intelligence analyst and best friend. And contrary to my initial concerns, Hart gets quite a substantial amount of screen time.

If you don’t know or care about Miranda Hart (shame on you!) there are a few other Brits of interest in this rather uproarious spy adventure. Jude Law plays Agent Bradley Fine, Susan’s suave AMERICAN partner who soaks in her adoration, but never takes her affection seriously. Jason Statham is Agent Rick Ford, a loose cannon with a hilarious tendency of exaggerating his spy prowess. Probably best of all is Peter Serafinowicz as lecherous Italian informant Aldo who takes a bit too much of a liking to Ms. Cooper. He’s full of surprises as Aldo.

Anyhow, this movie got me thinking about spy comedy as a genre. I daresay it’s sort of ironic when you consider that one of the tensest and most suspenseful categories in drama has spawned so many parodies. In turn, these spoofs have given us some of the most memorable characters in film and on TV from Austin Powers to Maxwell Smart.


‘Last Tango in Halifax’ Season 3 Comes to PBS Stations This June

Popular romantic drama Last Tango in Halifax is returning to PBS stations this summer.  The third season of the series – which follows the story of an older couple who rediscover their love for each later in life – will begin on Sunday, June 28.

Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid star as Alan and Celia, two childhood sweethearts reunited by the power of Facebook. Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire play Alan and Celia’s adult daughters, who both lead rather drama-filled lives of their own.

Season 3 will once again be comprised of six episodes and runs through the beginning of August, airing as part of a three-hour British programming block on PBS that includes the new adaptation of Poldark and World War I medical drama The Crimson Field

Remembering Sir Christopher Lee: Five Roles You Should Watch

Iconic British actor Sir Christopher Lee has passed away at the age of 93.

It’s hard to know what to even write about that. Lee was the sort of unforgettable actor that if you ever saw him in anything – and you probably saw him in something, he did everything – you remembered it. A lot of times, it was because of that voice – his resonant baritone was the definition of unique – and a lot of times it was because Lee had a knack for playing memorable villains, the complicated sort that stay with you, that you end up feeling kind of sympathetic toward, even and often in spite of yourself.

In truth, Lee appeared in over 250 film and television productions - well beyond any attempt to pigeonhole him into any sort of genre or character - and the sheer volume of his work makes even attempting to summarize his career a challenging prospect. Suffice it to say, he has done everything: from playing a Bond villain, to a Tolkien villain, to Dracula, to FrnHe even played Death himself. In case all that acting wasn’t enough, he also served in both the Royal Air Force and the secretive Special Forces in World War II, was happily married to his wife Birgit Kroencke for over fifty years, and recorded not only an album of Broadway showtunes, but also two gothic heavy metal records.

Lee lived life to the absolute fullest, and even while we mourn his loss, it seemed appropriate to pause and celebrate a small handful of his greatest roles. 


Five Instances Where US Remakes of British Shows Weren’t Such a Bad Idea

In case you haven’t heard the news, fan favorite Doc Martin is being adapted for American television.  Believe me. I can imagine your collective grumbling and indignant protests as I write this post.

I guess we’re supposed to feel hope for this venture because the project is in the hands of Marta Kauffman, one of the co-creators of Friends. We know she can write a phenomenally popular American sitcom. Unfortunately that doesn’t convince me that she can achieve the elusive feat of turning a quintessentially quirky British dramedy into something typical US viewers will embrace. (You and I are not in the aforementioned demographic, by the way.)

Every time I turn on my computer these days it seems that a pilot has been commissioned by Hollywood execs in hopes that it will translate to big ratings just because it’s been successful in the UK. If this scenario sounds familiar it may be because the Showtime series Episodes mocks this very trend.


Period Drama 'Indian Summers' Comes to PBS Stations This Fall

Lavish period drama Indian Summers – which tells the dramatic story of the twilight of British colonial rule in India – has an American airdate!

The nine-part series will begin on Masterpiece this Fall on PBS stations nationwide, starting September 27.

The drama stars Academy Award nominee (and everyone’s favorite Harry Potter parent) Julie Walters as the glamorous doyenne of a group of English socialites living in India in 1932 during the time of the British Raj. The series explores the collision of the high-living English ruling class with the local people agitating for Indian independence. As the drama unfolds, the two sides alternately clash and merge in an intricate game of power, politics and passion. 


An American Version of ‘Doc Martin’ is Apparently Happening

For some reason, American networks can’t seem to get enough of making their own versions of popular British programs. Recent examples include FOX’s Broadchurch remake Gracepoint,  HBO’s Getting On, MTV’s attempts at re-doing The Inbetweeners and Skins, and several others. A US version of The IT Crowd was rumored to be happening for the longest time.  An American Luther is in the works, apparently.

So, it probably shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise that someone’s finally decided to take a swing at one of the most popular Britcoms on-air currently.  But, it’s official: Marta Kauffman, one of the co-creators behind mega-hit US sitcom Friends has decided to have a go at making an American version of Doc Martin, the British hit that chronicles the adventures of a curmudgeonly London doctor who sets up a practice in the quaint and quirky small town of Portwenn.

Yes, really. That wasn’t a typo. An American Doc Martin could legitimately be a thing on our TV screens within the next year or so. 


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