November 2012

Britwatch: Benedict Cumberbatch, Also Taking Over Your Radio Apparently

Not content with merely dominating the feature film market in 2013, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch basically wants to ensure that you are incapable of avoiding him on any entertainment platform for the next year. (This is totally okay with most of us, I assume? Thought so.)

Anyway, not content to merely star in Sherlock and make several blockbusters (Star Trek: Into the Darkness, The Hobbit) and likely award-winners (August: Osage County, Twelve Years a Slave, that WikiLeaks movie that doesn’t have a name yet) all set for release next year, Cumberbatch is also busily lending his distinctive voice to multiple radio/audio projects this winter.

The best part? Unlike television shows, American audiences can generally listen in to BBC radio programs with no problems, either on the BBC sites themselves or with an online app such as Tunein Radio.

Will Julian Fellowes Give America Our Own Downton Abbey? And Will Americans Watch It?

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes is currently developing an American period drama for NBC, focused on New York City in the 19th century. Tentatively known as The Gilded Age, it would appear that the drama is set to give Manhattan society in the 1880s the American version of the Downton treatment.

Per the press release, the series is described as “an epic tale of the princes of the American Renaissance, and the vast fortunes they made—and spent—in late nineteenth-century New York.” The Gilded Age will doubtless present the many professional challenges and personal tribulations of America’s first millionaires who helped shaped the city and pioneered innovations in business, transportation and industry.

"This was a vivid time," Fellowes said,"with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king." Per the Daily Mail online (which, as always take with a grain of salt), The Gilded Age could screen as early as Fall 2013. The Mail further speculates that Fellowes’ new drama could include fictionalized versions of famous figures like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie or Cornelius Vanderbilt.

The concept sounds intriguing – but is it something that Americans will watch?

Get Your First Look at Call the Midwife’s Christmas Special

Hit drama Call the Midwife will return with a special holiday episode on Christmas Day in the UK.

The 1950s period drama’s Christmas special will feature a storyline about an abandoned baby left on the steps of the convent and the midwives’ desperate search for the child’s mother. Among other things, obviously – though I must confess I’m most interested in seeing how married life is treating Chummy, simply because she’s my favorite. The trailer looks very sweet and just generally seems perfectly Christmassy (though the BBC appears to be touting the drama as a “grittier” alternative to fluffier holiday fare like Downton Abbey).

No, there’s no hint yet as to when we might see the Christmas installment here in America, though it seems safe to assume that it will probably be packaged in somehow with the import of the drama’s Series 2 run, which starts early next year in the UK. (Though again, that's just a best guess. Keep an eye out for future updates.) Take a look at the trailer for yourselves below.

The Game is Not Yet On: Production Delayed on Sherlock Series 3

Sad news for Sherlock fans everywhere – we’re going to have to wait a bit longer than we originally thought for production on the highly anticipated third series of the hit drama to get started.

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that filming on Series 3 – originally slated to get under way this January – has been pushed back until March. Considering filming was originally supposed to wrap by the end of March, we’re probably now looking at something like June before principal production finishes up.

Since stars Benedict Cumberbatch (who’s apparently starring in every movie ever) and Martin Freeman (who’s now got to make a third Hobbit film) are basically the definition of superbusy, this news isn’t terribly surprising, even if it does make those of us who are waiting for a resolution to the Reichenbach Fall cliffhanger crazy.

Seriously, guys, we’re like the television viewer equivalents of Doctor Who’s Amy Pond: The Fans that Waited.

Merlin to End with a Two-Part Special This Christmas


Sadly, the current series of fantasy drama Merlin is going to be the show’s last. After five series, the BBC’s youthful retelling of the Arthurian legend will wrap things up with what the producers call a “natural and dramatic” ending in a two-part Christmas special finale.

Creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy insist that the plan was always for Merlin’s story to wrap up in five series, but multiple factors – including the drama's ratings success and the fact that we’re four and a half series into it and Arthur still doesn’t know about the stupid magic – made it appear as though there was certainly more life to be had in the franchise. (At one point there were talks about a possible Series 6, as well.) Series 5 of Merlin doesn’t even air here in America until January on Syfy (preview); I hope that the Christmas finale will be tacked on to the end of the US broadcast so we’ll at least get to see everything up to the end in one go.

The News Roundup – Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Hope all of you have had a wonderful long Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

As you begin the trek home from visiting family or just take some time to relax after a blitz of Black Friday shopping, settle in with this week’s holiday edition of the News Roundup.

Click through for the latest tidbits and goodies from around the world of British entertainment, including Downton Abbey, Bedlam, Doctor Who, The Hour, New Tricks, Peep Show, Hunted, Red Dwarf and more!

Confirmed: Downton Abbey Renewed for Series 4!

Great news for fans of British costume dramas, great television generally and the Crawley family particularly: megahit Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fourth series by ITV!

While this news isn’t terribly surprising – Series 3 scored Downton’s highest ratings to date in the UK, and both Series 1 and 2 have done extremely well in America – it’s still nice to have official confirmation of the series renewal only three weeks after the UK finale aired and six weeks prior to its premiere in America.

Filming is expected to begin at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios in early 2013 (likely February), with the new episodes slated to be broadcast on ITV next Fall. The new season will once again be comprised of eight episodes, with an extended Christmas special in 2013. The opening and closing episodes of Series 4 will also once again be feature-length and the saga of the Crawley clan will continue on into the early 1920s.

Watch the First Episode of The Hour Series 2 Online Before It Premieres!

Series 2 of The Hour officially kicks off on BBC America starting November 28 (it’s already airing in the UK, but we’ll only be a couple of weeks behind, woohoo!). However, there’s no reason to wait that long if you’re really dying to see where the story of Hector, Bel and Freddie goes in the new season. (Or just really like Ben Whishaw in suits. I won’t judge.)

BBC America has made the full first episode of Series 2 available online prior to its official broadcast start date, so you can settle down this weekend and dig right in.

Happy Thanksgiving! (Or, Things We're Thankful For)

Happy Thanksgiving, Telly Visions readers! Thanksgiving is one of the few quintessentially American things we acknowledge here around the blog, but it seems important to take the opportunity to say THANK YOU as loudly and proudly as possible, so here we are.

Thank you for reading and commenting and liking and tweeting and being willing to put up with my Benedict Cumberbatch obsession and occasional irritation with costume dramas that don’t live up to my standards. Thank you for watching some really great programming with me and being so darn smart and thoughtful about it and making me think about things I’d have never noticed on my own. Thank you for just being generally awesome people, all around – and here’s to many more long-winded diatribes to come. Stick around. :)

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart,” said educational pioneer Jean Massieu, and, apparently my memory is very long.

This year, I am thankful for:

Watch the Trailer for Restless, Starring Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery

Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery will be stepping off the Crawley estate and into the world of international espionage this December in the new mini-series Restless, which is set to screen on the Sundance Channel here in the States in just a couple weeks.

Dockery plays Ruth, a young woman who discovers that her mother Ruth was once a spy for the British Secret Service in World War II and has been living a double life ever since. The two-part series also stars some other notable British talent, including Charlotte Rampling, Hayley Atwell, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon. It’s based on a novel by William Boyd who, incidentally, will be penning the next James Bond novel.

The trailer looks quite interesting – and the material actually seems rich enough to support the level of talent involved.

The Curious Case of Spy Drama Hunted: Canceled by the BBC, Saved By American Network

Contemporary spy thriller Hunted starring Melissa George was purported to be a replacement for the BBC’s long-running MI-5 before its premiere earlier this Fall. However, despite fairly strong ratings for its first episode, the series lost half of its audience over its six episode UK run. By the time a BBC spokesperson confirmed that the drama would not return for a second series, claiming, “"It hasn't found the mainstream audience it was hoped,” the news didn’t really seem that surprising.

Pretty open and shut case of a fledging drama failing to live up to its expectations, right? Not so fast. Hunted has an American co-producer, which means that the drama is surprisingly going to get a second chance at life. Hunted airs on Cinemax here in the States, and the network is apparently very happy with the show and its performance in the American market – enough to give it a second series in some as yet to be determined form. Talk about a last minute stay of execution!

Martin Freeman: Utterly Perfect in this New TV Spot for The Hobbit

There’s less than a month to go until Peter Jackson’s epic Hobbit trilogy arrives in theaters with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. As the movie marketing machine ramps up, Hobbit mania is surely going to engulf us all – there may be a couple of new arrivals around the office here, as part of the countdown to this mportant day – so there will be no shortage of new promotional footage, interviews and other goodies to flail over in the coming days.

Like this new TV spot, for example. This new scene snippet not only provides a handy window into the film’s plot for those who are unfamiliar with the Hobbit story, but gives us our best look at Sherlock star Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo Baggins to date. Spoiler: He is perfect.

Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special 'The Snowmen' Trailer and Prequel

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, almost. We’re a little bit over a month away from this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special and the “official” introduction of brand-new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman.

Finally, we get our first look at the trailer for this highly anticipated episode, as well as a prequel clip meant to bridge the gap between The Angels Take Manhattan and this year’s holiday installment, titled simply The Snowmen. The new footage premiered during BBC’s annual Children in Need charity telethon and it seems safe to assume that the internet is already rife with speculation and chatter about what this all means for the future of our favorite Time Lord.

Click through for your first look at The Snowmen, and get those holiday countdown calendars ready. BBC America is once again day and dating the Christmas special with the UK, so we’ll only have to wait a mere five hours more than our friends across the pond. Huzzah!

Britwatch: Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch Movies Will Take Over 2013

In case you didn’t think Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch had enough films coming out next year, what with his appearance as the villain in Star Trek: Into the Darkness, his turn as Smaug the dragon in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and his key role in total Oscar bait-y ensemble drama August: Osage County, you’ll be happy to know he’s already signed up for a bunch more projects. Because apparently, he doesn't bother with boring things like sleeping. (Eek, and even in this list I managed to leave one out already, because you’ll also be seeing Cumberbatch all dolled up in period garb next year for Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave.)

Movie theaters of America: Prepare to receive all of my money, thanks very much.

Downton Abbey Behind-the-Scenes Special Coming This November

For everyone who’s marking off days on a countdown calendar until Downton Abbey Series 3 arrives Stateside on January 6, there is a little bright spot coming up over Thanksgiving weekend to give you a bit of a Crawley fix while we wait. (Our countdown stands at 53 days, just in case you were keeping track.)

PBS stations nationwide are set to air Downton Abbey Revisited, a behind-the scenes preview special that will refresh everyone’s memory about the events of the series’ first two seasons, as well as offer some hints at what’s to come for all our favorite characters in the new episodes.

Hosted by Angela Lansbury, the 90-minute special will premiere on November 25. It will feature clips recapping all the major plot points from the first two seasons – but, let’s be honest, us loyal Downtonistas already know all that stuff (hands up if you can recite most episodes?). Don’t worry, there will be goodies includedfor us too, such as behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with creator Julian Fellowes and his Emmy-nominated cast and, most importantly, a few new clips and tidbits about the twists and turns waiting for us all in Series 3.

Click through and watch the promo for this special clip show - and let us know what potential Series 3 storylines you're most interested in finding out more about!

Get Your First Look at Series 2 of The Hour, Premiering on BBC America November 28

The Hour, the series that many called Britain’s answer to Mad Men last year, is back for a second series this month. If you’ve never seen The Hour, well, it’s sort of what would happen if you crossed Mad Men with HBO’s The Newsroom and also you were given the extra bonus present of Ben Whishaw in snazzy 1950s suits as the icing on top. (Yes, newly swoony geek girls everywhere, this is your new Q from the latest Bond film, Skyfall. He’s also quite a good actor. Enjoy.)

Series 1 ran here in America in the summer of 2011 and was one of my surprise favorite dramas last year –extremely well-acted, very suspenseful, and the sort of intelligent television that respects it viewers enough to assume that they’re going to keep up with it.

The news drama returns to BBC Two tomorrow night in the UK, but we won’t have to wait very long to see Series 2 for ourselves here in the States, as The Hour will premiere as part of BBC America’s Dramaville block on November 28, so we’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait! Huzzah!

Click through for all the latest on the return of this fabulous – two trailers, some cast interviews, and a quick way to catch yourself up on Series 1 in 90 seconds.

Upstairs Downstairs Dish: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Season 2 of Upstairs Downstairs (and actually this incarnation of the drama, period) wraps itself up with one of the craziest, most dramatic finales in quite some time – war is imminent, affairs are discovered, relationships are tested, spies are exposed, oh, and someone dies, among lots of other things. This episode is hard to like, but certainly fun to watch – and, in that, is really sort of a microcosm for this season as a whole in a lot of ways.

No introduction is really going to do this justice, so let’s just jump right ahead to dishing everything that went down as we say goodbye to this particular incarnation of 165 Eaton Place. Leave your thoughts on things in the comments - am very curious to hear how people felt about this season.

The News Roundup – Remembrance Sunday Edition

We call today Veterans Day here in the United States, it’s referred to as Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries, some folks still like to call it Armistice Day, or even Poppy Day, but, nevertheless, the sentiment is all the same – when we all take a moment to reflect and to say a heartfelt thank you to all the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve in the armed forces, whatever country they may hail from. We’re grateful for your sacrifice!

Time for our (mostly) weekly News Roundup! Click through for the latest from around the world of British entertainment news, including bits and bobs on Downton Abbey, The Paradise, Sherlock, Luther, Doctor Who, Skins, The Hour and more!

The Complete Sherlock: Coming This November to WETA UK

For those of you in the DC area who are also suffering the indignities of Severe Sherlock Withdrawal –here’s a little bit of news to help with some of that pain. As part of our ongoing series of special Saturday night programming on WETA UK – we’ll be airing the Complete Sherlock this November. That’s right, that means we’ll be broadcasting both Series 1 and 2 over the course of three weekends starting November 17. Mark your calendars and plan accordingly, because as I am sure you all know, there’s never a good reason to not watch Sherlock when it’s on, even if you’ve seen every episode approximately eighteen times. (Not that I speak from experience or anything.)

The BBC’s modern Sherlock Holmes adaptation stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs and Louise Brealey and has garnered a dedicated (rabid?) fanbase all over the world, for a reason: it’s excellent. Personally, it’s the best drama I’ve seen in a very, very long time (yes, including Game of Thrones) and I think it should basically be required viewing for everyone who claims to appreciate quality television. If you’d like to read more specifics on this, just click here.

Bonus, if you still have that one random holdout friend that you’ve been trying to convince to sample the brilliance that is Sherlock or possibly know some Elementary enthusiasts who should also be exposed the superior BBC interpretation of Holmes, well now’s your chance to get them onboard. Plus, watching the complete series to date will give us something to do (and tweet about) while we wait for Series 3 filming to get started early next year.

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi Set to Star in Vicious for ITV

Two of the all-time British acting greats – and two of my personal favorites, generally – are joining forces in a new comedy sitcom for ITV. Legends Sir Ian McKellen (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men) and Sir Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius, Cadfael, Doctor Who) are teaming up to star in gay comedy Vicious, a six-part series written by former Family Guy and Will & Grace producer Gary Janetti.

Formerly titled Vicious Old Queens (a title that I admittedly loved to pieces and wish that they’d kept), the sitcom will feature McKellen and Jacobi as an elderly gay couple who have lived together in the same Covent Garden apartment for nearly fifty years. Long retired, the duo spends most of their time on boring arguments and petty bickering (and, one must assume, just being generally awesome.) Frances De La Tour (Rising Damp, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) will play their best friend Violet. Plot details are fairly sketchy at the moment, but apparently the lives of Freddie (McKellen) and Stuart (Jacobi) will be turned upside down by the arrival of their new upstairs neighbor, Ash.

Just to give you a hint at my excitement level about this: Vicious is now basically my most anticipated series for next year, barring only the third season of Sherlock. There is simply no way that this isn’t going to be brilliant, with this kind of talent attached. Both McKellen and Jacobi are simply fantastic actors and one has to assume that getting them both agree to do a TV series (short a season as it is) is a pretty huge coup for ITV.

The existence of this sitcom at all is also a pretty bold choice for the network, despite the star power attached. While ITV soap operas Coronation Street and Emmerdale have both featured gay characters, greenlighting a show with gay leads is pretty rare. A sitcom such as this isn’t entirely groundbreaking, but it’s certainly uncommon and the network is justifiably proud of it. "ITV is thrilled this exciting and bold sitcom, with stellar performers and writing talent is to join the increasing slate of new look comedy shows on the channel," said Myfanwy Moore, ITV comedy commissioning editor.

Both McKellen and Jacobi are openly gay themselves and both have lived with long-term partners for years. McKellen himself has stated that his orientation has helped him be a better actor, because he spent years “pretending to be someone else.” It will be interesting to see how much the actors own personal stories end up coloring their performances.

There’s little to go on out there that might indicate what sort of comedy Vicious will turn out to be – the press release calls it “wicked,” but will it fall in the dry and biting intellectual camp or lean more toward the campy side? Will it be an average situational comedy or more of a drama hybrid? We simply don’t know yet, but it’s hard to imagine that two actors of this caliber would have signed on if they weren’t confident of its likely quality.

No word on when Vicious will film, but internet rumors suggest an airdate at some point in late 2013. Countdown clock: on.

Andrew Scott Weighs In on the Future of Sherlock’s Moriarty

Apparently I must have been the only person on the internet that wasn’t clamoring for – or creating elaborate conspiracy theories about – the possible return of Andrew Scott’s villainous Moriarty whenever Sherlock Series 3 finally gets around to existing. So, it’s a bit painful to have to break the hearts of all those people and report – straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were – that that’s not going to happen.

In a recent interview with the Sun, Scott finally said straight out that “Moriarty is dead,” claiming “I don’t think there could have been any better exit for a character like that.” So, there you go, Moriarty’s really most sincerely dead. Personally, I’m still fairly certain that he’ll show up again – either in flashbacks or in some sort of figment-of-Sherlock’s-mind capacity – but I do think that Moriarty’s days of crime are over for real. Here’s the thing, though – Scott is a great actor and he certainly has wonderful chemistry with co-star Benedict Cumberbatch – but this news is more likely than not a good thing for the series.

Upstairs Downstairs Dish: "The Last Waltz"

The penultimate episode of Upstairs Downstairs Series 2 (and actually of this version of Upstairs Downstairs, period) decides to go all out with soapy drama this week, including an illicit affair, a sudden engagement, emigration plans, a posh Servants Ball and a seriously shocking – nay, almost unbelievable – plot twist at the end. Who even knows where we’re heading with all this for the finale next week, and while it’s unclear if/how the dangling plot threads will be resolved, it should certainly be quite a ride. (And, seriously, who isn’t counting down to the inevitable showdown between Agnes and Persie? Get the popcorn ready.)

Click through and let’s dish the latest craziness and Hallam’s continuing moral decline and get our speculation on for the finale!

New BBC America Teaser for Ripper Street, Series Set to Premiere January 2013

BBC America has released their first preview for upcoming period thriller Ripper Street starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothberg. Set in the Whitechapel neighborhood in the immediate aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders, Ripper Street will focus on the infamous H Division of the London police department and their attempts to keep the peace in the East End following these grisly crimes.

The first (supertiny) teaser for this highly anticipated series aired following the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics, but this is the first clip in which we can actually see some real footage from the show. Well done, BBC America, for starting the promotional wheels for this series turning earlier rather than later – and not just because the BBC’s tendency to drop trailers two weeks before series premieres is often occasionally frustrating.

Anyway, this clip is well worth a look – Macfadyen is looking predictably dishy in period dress and his performance seems predictably solid, even in these brief snippets. What’s most interesting here, though, is the show’s surprisingly dark and grisly tone. This shouldn’t be a total surprise, given that the series is set right after the Ripper murders, but sense of atmosphere, of place and moment in history, is palpable. I’m intrigued! Hopefully, this won’t doesn’t turn out to be some sort of boring procedural cop drama that happens to feature detectives in period dress, because I quite like the feel of this thing so far. Take a look for yourselves below.