Category Archives: TV

“Remain Indoors” — Mitchell and Webb Saw It Coming

From the British Emergency Broadcasting System’s highest-rated (and only remaining) show, here’s “The Quiz Broadcast”.

Remain Indoors

Remain Indoors

Way back in 2008 – 2009, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, of the BAFTA-winning British comedy team called, uh, Mitchell and Webb, saw the dark clouds on the horizon. To prepare their TV audience for the worst, they began to run these short segments from the post-apocalyptic “The Quiz Broadcast” on their weekly show.

Now the Quiz Broadcast has become unexpectedly relevant again, ever since The Event made it  critical for many of us to

Remain Indoors


More David Mitchell

You may have seen David Mitchell on panel shows like Would I Lie to You? where he plays a posh urban sophisticate opposite Lee Mack’s Northern lout. I’ll post some clips when I get around to it.

He’s also currently starring as William Shakespeare in Upstart Crow, the cheerful and hilarious debunking of Shakespeare’s life and works by Ben Elton, who gave the world the infamous saga of the Blackadder dynasty. Here’s a look at the real Shakespeare:

The Great — Two Trailers and a Teaser

Opening today on Hulu is The Great, a not-at-all serious look at the rise of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. And I suppose that means I’m going to have to add yet another streaming service.

The trailers for The Great are amusing and the script is by Tony McNamara, who wrote last year’s delicious The Favourite. Elle Fanning plays Catherine and Nicholas Hoult plays Peter III, Emperor of All Russia, who had no idea what he was getting into when he wed his 2nd cousin Catherine, née Sophia Augusta Frederica. It was not a happy marriage. In her memoirs, Catherine called Peter “an idiot” and “a good-for-nothing” and several other names that don’t translate very well,

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult have both been actors since their pre-teens and have gone on to successful careers as adults, avoiding the pitfalls that ensnare so many young actors along the way. It’s reassuring to know that not every teen star is doomed to drunkenness, drug addiction, or turning into Corey Feldman.


Meanwhile, over at HBO, you can find another, somewhat more realistic portrayal of Catherine in the four-episode miniseries , with Helen Mirren as the Empress. While Mirrin herself was not a teen star, she’s still managed to have a reasonably successful career.

Stream Both Versions of Frankenstein from the National Theatre (UK)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Theatre (UK) has made selections from its magnificent collection of live-on-film productions available online, free of charge. Each show is posted to YouTube on Thursday at 7 PM UK time. That’s 2 PM on the US East Coast. Each show will be accessible for a full one-week run on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.

The current program is a special treat. It’s the 2011 production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, in which Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated playing Frankenstein and the creature. Both actors won the Olivier Award for their performances.

National Theatre’s NT at Home series lets you compare the performances.


Watch Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available


Watch Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature here.

Video No Longer Available


Starting on Thursday: Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are Shakespeare’s fated lovers in Antony & Cleopatra.

Upload —- Official Trailer

This looks like fun.

Combine the setting for The Good Place with the last episode of Years and Years, and what do you get? Well, probably not anything as wonderful as those two shows, but something that looks like an enjoyable way to spend some time during this decidedly less-than-wonderful Spring.

Upload is a new sci-fi comedy set in the near future, when people can be “uploaded” into virtual reality environments. The series was created by Greg Daniels, who is known for his work on The Office, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation, and King of the Hill.*

The show has a number of things going for it: A clever idea, some neat special effects, and Robbie Amell, who is one of the most likable actors working today.

Upload is set to premiere on Friday, 1 May 2020, on Amazon’s Prime Video.


*As I listed those shows, it occurred to me that I’d either given up on them long ago (Saturday Night LiveThe Simpsons) or never got into them in the first place (everything else). I can’t really blame the more recent shows themselves—the original three seasons of Arrested Development were so fantastic that they spoiled every other American sitcom for me in the 10 years that followed. I should really give Parks and Recreation another shot.

This Year’s BBC Agatha Christie Adaptation — The Pale Horse

Under terms originally set forth in the Magna Carta, the BBC is required by law to broadcast at least one big new Agatha Christie dramatization every year. Since they can only remake And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Death on the Nile two or three times a decade, BBC management occasionally looks to Christie’s lesser-known works for inspiration.

This year, they’re giving us Christie’s witchy 1961 novel, The Pale Horse. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are absent from this one, but Ariadne Oliver—friend of Poirot, mystery novelist, and frequent stand-in for the author herself—plays a prominent role.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the cast:

The Pale Horse is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK, and starting this weekend, on Amazon Prime in the US.

Better Call Saul — Season Five Starts Tonight

Looks who’s back!

It’s Saul Goodman, a shyster so corrupt, so morally bankrupt, so totally devoid of ethics, honesty, and scruples that it’s surprising he didn’t pop up advising the Republican senators during the recent impeachment trial.

And look who else is back!

Gus Fring!

Héctor  Salamanca!

Mike Ehrmantraut!

And even DEA agent Hank Schrader!

All brought back from the dead for this prequel to Breaking Bad, probably the finest television achievement of the still-very-young 21st century.

There’s a never-ending debate on line—one of those Kirk-vs-Picard things—about exactly when Walter White broke bad and went over to the dark side. (I admired the Redditor who answered the question by posting sonogram of a fetus.)

With Jimmy McGill, the question is pretty much resolved: It was when Jimmy McGill became “Saul Goodman”. That’s where we are at the start of Series Five.

After tonight’s episode, Better Call Saul will return with a second episode on Monday night in its regular time slot. This is the show’s next-to-last season, but, hey, s’all good, man.

High Fidelity — The Remix

My earlier post about High Fidelity (the book) was by way of leading up to this posting about High Fidelity (the TV series). But before we get to that, have a look at the trailer for High Fidelity (the movie).

High Fidelity (the movie) was released back in 2000. It’s a pretty good film. The setting was switched from London to Chicago, but the script otherwise stays close to the novel, breaking the fourth wall to incorporate direct quotations from Rob’s internal musings. That great “What came first, the music or the misery?” passage made it into the movie intact, for instance.

Now Hulu is bringing High Fidelity to what used to be called “the small screen”. (With today’s wall-size monitors, that name no longer seems appropriate). The gimmick this time is that the 10-episode series flips the sex and race of most of the characters from the original novel. Rob Gordon, played by John Cusack in the movie, is now played by Zoë Kravitz.

Should be fun, and it’s bound to have a great soundtrack.

The series begins on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2020. While you’re waiting, read the book!

If You Missed Seth Meyers’ Talk with the Cast of The Good Place

Here it is:

At the end of its fourth season, The Good Place came to a sad/happy conclusion last Thursday night. The best American comedy series since those first three seasons of Arrested Development has passed through the archway into who knows what.

After the final fade-out, the (perfect) cast of The Good Place talked with Seth Meyers about the show.


Chidi”s “The Wave”, from the Finale

Fargo Returns This Spring

Well, look who’s coming back!

It’s been almost three years since the last episode of Season Three was broadcast.

The show is still called Fargo, but the new series takes place in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1950s. (Fargo has never cared much about following a  linear timeline. The first season was set in 2006, the second in 1979, and the third in 2010.)

Here’s what FX has revealed so far:

“In 1950, at the end of two great American migrations — that of Southern Europeans from countries like Italy, who came to the US at the turn of the last century and settled in northern cities like New York, Chicago — and African Americans who left the south in great numbers to escape Jim Crow and moved to those same cities — you saw a collision of outsiders, all fighting for a piece of the American dream. In Kansas City, Missouri, two criminal syndicates have struck an uneasy peace. One Italian, one African American. Together they control an alternate economy — that of exploitation, graft and drugs. This too is the history of America. To cement their peace, the heads of both families have traded their eldest sons.”

Chris Rock, in his first lead dramatic role on a television series, plays Loy Cannon, the head of an African-American crime family. Timothy Olyphant co-stars, which should give Judge Gen in The Good Place all kinds of shivers.

Fargo has been nominated for more than 200 television awards, and its Tomatometer rating has never fallen below 93%.

The fourth season will premiere on 19 April 2020.

Little Women — Official Trailer

The 8th? 15th? 147th? film version of Little Women is headed right at us on Christmas Day, and can there be any doubt that this will be a hugely successful movie? From the trailer, it sounds as if Greta Gerwig has brought this staging of Louisa May Alcott’s mid-19th century novel into the 21st century, for better or worse. Probably for better.

Like (almost) all the previous film versions of Little Women, this one benefits from the talents of its superlative female cast, including Florence Pugh (English) as Amy, Saoirse Ronan (Irish) as Jo,  Eliza Scanlen (Australian) as Beth and Emma Watson (English, but born in Paris) as Meg. Laura Dern plays and Marmee and Meryl Streep plays Aunt March, because of course she does.

The male cast is equally impressive, with James Norton (English) as John Brooke,  and Louis Garrel (French) as Professor Bhaer, and Timothée Chalamet  (USA! USA!) as Laurie. It will be interesting to see what Bob Odenkirk, Saul Goodman himself, does with the role of Mr. March.


Out of the Past  —  Some Earlier Versions


Many people consider the 1933 version of Little Women the best.

The Little Women

Joan Bennett as Amy
Katharine Hepburn as Jo
Jean Parker as Beth
Frances Dee as Meg

Notes

Aunt March was played by the great Edna May Oliver who steals every scene she’s in, as she inevitably did in all her movies.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Paul Lukas, who was Hungarian.
Joan Bennet was 23 and pregnant when she signed on to play 12-year-old Amy.


The next version came out in 1949, 16 years and one World War later.

The Little Women

Elizabeth Taylor (in a blonde wig) as Amy
June Allyson as Jo
Margaret O’Brien as Beth
Janet Leigh as Meg

Notes

Peter Lawford was Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Rossano Brazzi, who was Italian.
Mary Astor played Marmee, but she’ll always be Brigid O’Shaughnessy to me.
June Allyson, 31 and pregnant, played 15-year-old Jo.


The 1978 miniseries was bad beyond belief. Oh, was it awful!

The Little Women

Ann Dusenberry as Amy
Susan Dey as Jo
Eve Plumb as Beth
Meredith Baxter as Meg

Notes

The senior roles were played by movie stars from the 1940s: Dorothy McGuire as Marmee, Greer Garson as “Aunt Kathryn March”, and Robert Young as “Grandpa James Laurence”.
None of the actresses playing the March girls was known to be pregnant while production was underway.
The sisters were played by television actresses who were TV-famous at the time, but are now largely forgotten. Their line readings were pure 1978 California-contemporary and their acting would have been just fine in a community theatre production, if the community was home to fewer than 500 people.
It’s impossible to ignore the cast’s ridiculous wigs.
The whole miniseries looked cheap. The sets, the costumes, and the mediocre performances all but shouted out “Low Budget”.

But there’s really only one thing you need to know to comprehend what a disaster this production was:
The German Professor Bhaer was played by—wait for it—William Shatner.
He’s Canadian, I think.


With its first-rate cast, the 1994 remake is right up there with the version made 61 years earlier, in 1933.


The Little Women

Kirsten Dunst as Younger Amy
Samantha Mathis as Older Amy
Winona Ryder as Jo
Claire Danes as Beth
Trini Alvarado as Meg

Notes

Susan Sarandon played Mrs. March and Christian Bale played Laurie.
The German Professor Bhaer was played by Gabriel Byrne, who is Irish.