Stuff You Should Watch

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.

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.

Telly Binge – British Political Series You Can Stream Online

As you may or may not be aware, the UK General Election is nigh. In just under three weeks’ time (May 7th to be exact) the British public will go to the polls to vote for the local MPs who will represent them in Parliament. The party who gains the most seats in the election wins the right to send its leader to 10 Downing Street to be the Prime Minister.

There he or she will remain for five years unless, according to the Parliament.UK website, “a motion of no confidence is passed in Her Majesty's Government by a simple majority and 14 days elapses without the House passing a confidence motion in any new Government formed or a motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons including vacant seats (currently 434 out of 650).”

Enjoy ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’? Five Jane Austen Works You Can Stream Online

The period mystery Death Comes to Pemberley, which recently aired on Masterpiece on PBS stations around the country, imagines what life might have held in store for two of beloved author Jane Austen’s most famous literary creations, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, after they found their happily ever after together. However you feel about this sequel series – and there are certainly differing opinions about the existence of sequels such as this – the drama has served as a timely reminder of just how incredibly awesome Austen’s work is. If Death Comes to Pemberley has reignited your love for all things Austen, we’re here to help.

Let’s take a quick look at five Austen adaptations that you can watch online – from the classic to the contemporary.

Saying Goodbye to 'Miranda': A Look Back

It’s official. Miranda Hart has announced that after a three series run, her what- I –call successful sitcom Miranda will be coming to a close. The comedienne revealed her plans on BBC Radio 2 with this statement. "So I'm doing two Christmas specials, but they are going to be the finale of the show, full stop."

It’s hard to believe that this sitcom debuted in the UK five years ago since it seems only yesterday I found my first Miranda episodes on YouTube. I’ve been a fan ever since. Here was a woman who could make fun of herself on so many levels including her size, her social awkwardness, and her upper middle class upbringing. I immediately identified with her humor - so much so that I bought the entire series on DVD even though it was only available on Region 2 which means I had to invest in a “multi-region” DVD player. I’ve even had Miranda viewing parties with my friends. Éclairs and wine were served. I think Ms. Hart would approve.

From the moment she invited us into the joke shop she bought with her sizeable inheritance, we knew that Miranda was a woman who marched to a different drummer. Her kooky sense of fun made us want to join right in.

Miranda’s supporting cast of memorable characters deserves their fair share of the kudos too of course. Let’s face it, without Miranda’s overbearing mother, Penny (Patricia Hodge); Stevie (Sarah Hadland), Miranda’s childhood friend and store manager; Tilly (Sally Phillips), Miranda’s boarding school chum and friendly nemesis; and the lovely Gary (Tom Ellis), Miranda’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, our heroine would just be a rather tall woman who loves to gallop and falls down a lot.

There will be so many things to miss when Miranda and company say their goodbyes at Christmas. Let’s revisit a few of the elements that make this sitcom so enjoyable.

Celebrate Father’s Day with British Film Dads

Father’s Day is an opportunity to honor the men who have supported, raised and loved us every day of our lives. Up until recently, the standard fathering duties were those of bread winner, disciplinarian and purveyor of wise advice.

However, we all know there’s no such thing as a typical dad and I plan to illustrate that fact by introducing you to a number of British celluloid patriarchs who demonstrate the range of fatherly love and emotion.

A Look at British Road Trip Films

Summer’s unofficially here, the snow is but a memory (fingers crossed) and it’s a great time to think about planning a cross-country excursion.

Road trip movies are basically a genre all their own in America – we are known for our car culture and love of the open highway. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t made use of this plot device in British films as well. After all it’s not the distance travelled but the purpose behind the journey and what the characters learn about themselves along the way that’s most important.

So if you’re looking for a little of inspiration for your next holiday, perhaps you’d like to check out a few of these…

Missing 'Downton Abbey'? Here's What You Should Watch Instead

Welcome to the next installment in our new series here at Telly Visions where we try and ease the (occasionally absurdly long) hiatus-es of some of our favorite British shows by offering alternative suggestions of things you should watch while you're waiting for new episodes to return. Got a suggestion for another show for the Watch-a-like series? Let us know in the comments!

One of the darkest times of the year is upon us – the wait for the next new season of megahit costume drama Downton Abbey. It’s already been an eternity more than a few months since Series 3 concluded and we’re all getting a little impatient for the return of the Crawley clan. Plus, the show’s US premiere won’t take place until January 2014, so we’ve still got a ways to go on in our marathon wait.

So, what better time to try out a new drama to help you through the Downton doldrums? Here are a few suggestions to ease your Crawley separation anxiety, based on several of the factors that make that popular drama so addicting. (If you just can’t get enough period costumes in your life, this list is for you.)

Take a read through these – and leave your thoughts in the comments!

Missing 'Doc Martin'? Here's What You Should Watch Instead

Welcome to another new series here at Telly Visions where we try and ease the (occasionally absurdly long) hiatus-es of some of our favorite British shows by offering alternative suggestions of things you should watch while you're waiting for new episodes to return. Carmen’s up first, but you guys just wait till I get to the Sherlock section….

Being a British telly addict in the States can be difficult at times. Never mind there are fewer episodes per series than Americans are used to – I’ve learned to accept the fact and concede that I prefer quality over quantity. But we also have to wait our turn until all our eagerly anticipated programs debut in their homeland first. Fair enough maybe, but it is hard to be patient so much of the time. (I’m sure you heard the whine in your head as you read the preceding sentences.)

Take for example, the newest series of the fan favorite, Doc Martin. It’s set to air in the UK sometime during ITV’s autumn schedule - which probably means no Doctor Ellingham for the Yanks until the spring of 2014 at least. So rather than whinge about it, I’m here to offer some alternative viewing suggestions, just to hold you over until the real Doc Martin comes along.