Meryl Streep is "The Iron Lady"

Is anyone else looking forward to upcoming Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady with the always amazing Meryl Streep in the title role? I'm actually not sure how accurately I think this film is going to portray the Thatcher era, but I still cannot wait to see it, even if it does have one of the weirdest promotional posters I've ever seen (Why is Westminster growing out of her head?).

Apparently I'm not the only person not quite sure how to feel about this film, as it's already sparking many mixed reactions and some controversy, even when it's a month away from release. The Guardian's Xan Brooks calls Streep's performance "astonishing and all but flawless," but labels the film itself "silly and suspect." The Daily Mail also has many complimentary things to say, one of which being that all those naysayers who were worried about the film "villifying" Baronness Thatcher can calm down. On the flip side, one-time Conservative party chairman and trade and industry secretary Norman Tebbit wrote a fairly blistering dismissal of the film in the Telegraph, claiming that this film version "is not the Margaret Thatcher [he] knew." Other Thatcher allies are similarly upset. I suppose this is what happens when we make biographical films about subjects who are both this recent and this polarizing. I'm willing to see for myself though, if only because I would probably watch Streep read the phone book with no complaints.

The full trailer came out on Monday - take a look below. The Iron Lady will open December 30 in New York and Los Angeles - I presume to make sure Streep is eligible for this year's Academy Awards, as she's probably a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. The rest of us Yanks will have to wait unti the film's wide release on January 13.

 

Tune In Tonight: The Best Things About Sherlock's "The Blind Banker"

Our rebroadcast of Masterpiece Mystery’s Sherlock continues tonight with the second episode, “The Blind Banker” at 8pm. Loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Dancing Men,” the premise involves a mysterious break-in at a major London bank, possible suicides that turn out to be murders, an unintelligible code left in graffiti, a Chinese traveling circus, and an underground smuggling ring. Just go with it – it ends up being a pretty great ride. This episode also really cements the wonderfulness that is this new Holmes-Watson partnership; Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are just gangbusters together onscreen and I would like to applaud the casting director who was genius enough to come up with this pair.

But, to be fair, “The Blind Banker” is my least favorite of the three episodes of Sherlock’s first series. That statement is also kind of like saying, Oh, yes, that’s the Van Gogh painting I enjoy the least, but nevertheless. Whether it’s because its lacking the really great villain of the other two episodes, whether the mystery is just a teensy bit less compelling and more convoluted than the other two offerings, whether it’s the absence of Lestrade, Mycroft or the other interesting supporting characters from “A Study in Pink” while we’re stuck with the truly dreadful Sebastian, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that “Pink” is a really hard act to follow. All that said, there’s not a lot that’s truly “wrong” with this episode – most of its problems really are more missteps than outright failures – and while it may not reach the heights of the pilot, it’s still loads better than pretty much anything else you could be watching on a Tuesday night.

Click on through for some of my favorite things about this episode – mostly a lot of small moments that add up to a pretty great whole. One thing this episode does do very well is character moments and relationship development – and these are so strong and well done that the centerpiece mystery matters less.

Your Week in British TV on WETA

Happy Monday! Here’s a look at what we’ve got coming up this week on WETA for our British TV fans.

But first – a save the date for next week! We’ve got a two-day Inspector Morse marathon coming up over the Thanksgiving long weekend (Thursday and Friday). So, make plans now to save some time for sleuthing along with your turkey.

Monday – Tonight William and Mary with Martin Clunes and Julie Graham is on at 10pm with two back-to-back episodes.

Tuesday – Our rebroadcast of Masterpiece Mystery’s Sherlock continues at 8pm with “The Blind Banker.” One of my all time favorite Benedict Cumberbatch moments is in this episode! (Any guesses?)

Thursday – Time for WETA Mystery night! This week, we’ve got Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventures of Shoscombe Old Place” at 8pm. Agatha Christie’s Poirot in “The Case of the Missing Will” at 9pm and Foyle’s War’s “War Games” at 10pm.

Friday. We’re airing a special four episode block of Eastenders from 4-6pm to compensate for last Friday’s preemption. (Note: The first two episodes aired last Saturday AM, however.)

Saturday – Watch As Time Goes By at 7 followed by Keeping Up Appearances at 7:30pm. Then visit Portwenn with Doc Martin in “Perish Together as Fools” and “Driving Mr. McLynn” from Series 4.

Sunday – There’s no new Masterpiece Contemporary this week, but it will return on Sunday, November 27, with Framed. You can still catch con-man drama Hustle at 11pm, though!

Preview The Song of Lunch

Let’s spend a Sunday night watching a film dramatization of a narrative poem! You’re forgiven if an eyebrow went up at reading that sentence –it’s almost a little too painfully highbrow, even for me, and I live for stuff like this. But The Song of Lunch is a unique, occasionally painful depiction of a lunch date between two ex-lovers over a decade after their relationship ended is definitely worth a look. It’s rare that something on television nowadays is willing to take a risk and be original – and this has that in spades.

Take a minute to watch a scene from the film, then click through for a few of my (spoiler-free) thoughts!

It's Friday - Must Be News Roundup Time!

Happy Friday, everyone! That means it’s time for our weekly News Roundup post, where we fill you in on all things interesting in British entertainment. It’s also 11/11/11, so let’s just pretend that there’s a creative Doctor Who joke inserted here somewhere. (I was trying to come up with puns on “The Eleventh Hour” that were actually funny all morning, with no luck. Alas.)

But, before we jump into that, a quick heads-up for our Eastenders fans. Every week we repeat Friday’s Eastenders episodes on Saturday mornings. Due to the special programming marathon airing for Veterans Day today, we won’t be visiting Albert Square this afternoon. However, the Saturday repeats tomorrow will go on as scheduled. So, if you must have your Eastenders fix as soon as possible, we’ve got you covered! However, we’ll also be airing a four-episode block next Friday, to make up for the preemption today. Let us know if you’ve got any questions on this programming shift, and we’ll sort you.

Now, go ahead and click through for news on Remembrance Day observations, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, The Only Way is Essex, Absolutely Fabulous and more!

Remembrance Day

 

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!

Remembrance Day is observed on November 11 to recall the official end of World War I; hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” when Germany signed the Armistice agreement.

The use of a red poppy is a popular symbol for Remembrance Day in the UK and other Commonwealth nations. Paper poppies are sold by as part of the Royal British Legion’s annual fundraising appeal (and they look like the image above.)

The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by Colonel John McCrae (quoted below), which describes the fields of flowers that were the first to grow over soldiers’ graves on battlefields in Belgium and France.

If you’d like to read more on the history of the Remembrance Day poppies, this site is a great resource. If you’re in the DC area and you’d like to go get yourself one, and donate to a worthy cause at the same time, you can get one at the British Embassy’s main security gate, according to their Twitter account. (If you’re not in the DC area, check the British Embassy's full site, it’s likely that you can get one where you are, as well.)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Great Sherlock Debate: Holmes in the 21st Century

Something exceptionally cool is going on in the UK right about now – the start of the Great Sherlock Holmes Debate! This event features leading Holmes experts from the UK, USA, and Australia facing off in an attempt to answer the question – Which Sherlock Holmes adaptation makes the best contribution to Holmes in the 21st century? These experts have been split into teams – originally this event was supposed to only feature supporters of BBC’s Sherlock adaptation versus loyalists of Guy Ritchie’s recent Sherlock Holmes film, but a third team has been added for the “Traditionalists”, who feel that the traditional adaptations (Jeremy Brett’s series, especially) still have an important impact on modern audiences. How awesome is this? I’m intensely jealous of all the folks who get to sit in the audience (apparently fans from 23 countries scored tickets) and watch this all go down. If you’re really interested in the particulars, you can learn more about the folks representing each team here and the debate on Facebook as well.

As, I’m sure most of you have probably guessed by now, I’m firmly on Team Cumberbatch BBC Sherlock personally. Not that I would disparage any of these other fine adaptations, as they both have strong merits of their own, and, really, I’m generally of the opinion that the world can’t have too many versions of Sherlock Holmes running ‘round it. (Hey, I watch House too. Or at least I did, until that whole weird Cuddy storyline happened. But that’s another blog post.)

There’s plenty to like and debate about with each team though, so click through for a run-down on each.

 

The Song of Lunch This Sunday on Masterpiece Contemporary

Coming this Sunday night to Masterpiece Contemporary, The Song of Lunch is an innovatively presented drama starring the always awesome duo of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. While writing about Bill Nighy’s role in Page Eight last weekend, I was reminded of how very much I adore the film Love Actually and apparently all roads lead back to that film for me this week, because it’s the Rickman/Thompson storyline that’s my favorite bit there. They’re just incredible together. (It’s also the only storyline that I wish they’d continued a few minutes further on at the end of that film, but that’s a rant for another day.) So, I am especially looking forward to watching this, if only because it’s always a pleasure to see two people who are such excellent actors on their own work together.

The interesting thing is that The Song of Lunch is a narrative poem. Written by Christopher Reid, it’s the story of ex-lovers who meet for lunch at an old favorite restaurant. The film is largely a dramatic reenactment of the poem and uses minimal dialogue other than the text itself being read. I think this is a tremendously intriguing concept, so watch this space for an early review towards the end of the week. For now, take a look at the preview to get a feel for it, and marvel how both of these actors just keep aging so darn well.

Obvious: Five Reasons You Should Watch Sherlock’s “A Study in Pink” Tonight

For those who’ve yet to experience the excellence that is the BBC's modern re-imagining of Holmes, you’re in luck, because we’re re-broadcasting all three episodes from the brilliant first series of Masterpiece Mystery's Sherlock on WETA over the next three weeks. The first installment, “A Study in Pink,” airs tonight at 8pm, and its two subsequent episodes will air on November 15 and 22, respectively.

So do click through to read the rest of this article, and I’ll try my best to convince you why it will be of an ultimate benefit to your life to park yourself in front of the TV this evening.

Relevant to Our Interests: British TV Highlights on WETA This Week!

Thought it might be useful to start providing everyone with a handy reference guide to our upcoming must-see British programming of the week here on WETA, to make sure that no one ends up accidentally missing anything important. Let us know if this feature is helpful, or if I accidentally end up leaving off anything you'd particularly like to see covered!

Happy Monday, and hope you’ll find something you’re excited to watch this week!

Monday – Tonight William & Mary returns to its regular 10pm timeslot with two back-to-back episodes. Polish off Series 1 and get started on Series 2!

TuesdaySherlock’s “A Study in Pink” airs at 8pm. We’ll be airing all three episodes of the Masterpiece Mystery! hit on Tuesdays in November, so mark those calendars accordingly.

Thursday – WETA Mystery night means loads of British sleuthing going on. Watch Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett edition) in “The Problem of Thor Bridge” at 8pm, Agatha Christie’s Poirot in “The Underdog” at 9pm, and the two parts of Foyle’s War’s “Among the Few” start at 9:52pm.

Friday – An important note for our Eastenders fans: Due to special programming for Veterans’ Day, we won’t be visiting Albert Square this week. But not to fret – next Friday, November 18, will feature a four-episode block to make up for it.

Saturday – We’ve got Doc Martin at 8pm. Catch “Better the Devil” and “Uneasy Lies the Head” from Series IV.

Sunday – The amazing duo of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson star in The Song of Lunch on Masterpiece Contemporary at 9pm. We’ll also wrap the first series of Hustle with back to back episodes starting at 10pm.

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