Holiday Cheer: Have Yourself a British Little Christmas

This is a slightly updated version of a post from Christmas 2011. But, since Christmas crackers and mince pies are always awesome in my opinion, it seemed worth sharing again. Hope all of you are having a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Most of the biggest – well at least most important and/or most popular – Christmas traditions in Great Britain are…shall we say very well established, with many having been around in some form or other for hundreds of years. There are certainly more great British Christmas activities that didn't make this list - for example, the Top of the Pops Christmas Number 1 is something that's always fun to speculate about at this time of year, but these are some of the most prominent.

Sherlock and Downton Abbey Collide: Dan Stevens Joins the Cast of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Wikileaks Movie

 

Sherlock and Downton Abbey fans have something to celebrate this holiday season – the news that their favorite leading men are going to be in a film together!

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed to star as the infamous Julian Assange in a biopic about the whistleblower’s life earlier this fall, and now it looks like Downton’s Dan Stevens will be joining the film’s all-star cast as well. Hip hip hooray!

Tentatively titled The Man Who Sold the World, the film will be directed by Bill Condon and written by West Wing alum Josh Singer, based on the books Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website and Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy. It will dramatize the tumultuous years in Assange’s life following the launch of the notorious Wikileaks site in 2006. The site went on to leak anonymous corporate and government documents from around the world to the public and, as a result, Assange is currently seeking asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Want more details? Read on.

Amazing Internet Things: This Guy Made a Downton Abbey House Out of Gingerbread

Welp, let’s just add this to the long list of Amazing Internet Things that make me feel like a talentless hack.

A super creative and talented guy named Curtis Jensen has made an extremely detailed gingerbread replica of the house in Downton Abbey. The time lapse video below shows all the work that went into creating an edible Yorkshire country estate – cutting and baking the dough, creating candy window panes, frosting the windows and trim, putting the pieces together, hooking up lighting and more. Truly, a massive project!

The End of an (Arthurian) Era: Preview the Merlin Series Finale

Welp, the end is indeed nigh. For many fans of fantasy drama Merlin, the holiday season will be a bit bittersweet this year, as the popular series wraps up its five year run this Christmas with a two-part special called The Diamond of the Day.

It was a somewhat unexpected cancellation, from what I’ve been given to understand – and it seems fans are still processing it a bit (or at least it does from my quick glance around the internet at any rate). However, this just-released trailer for the series finale looks pretty fantastic, so it’s a bit comforting that it appears as though the series will at least go out on a high note. Not a lot, but, you know, some.

The clip features Morgana preparing for war on Camelot - again, apparently? – bolstered by a vengeful looking Mordred and some sort of magical-looking sword. We’ve also got Gaius sounding dire, Arthur riding with the knights whilst looking exceptionally somber and kingly, a Merlin who may have lost his magic and the Great Dragon swooping in to light something or other (that may or may not actually be the aforementioned pack of knights) on fire.

Benedict Cumberbatch Weighs in on the Future of Sherlock

Finally – a bit of good news for Sherlock fans in the wake of the announcement that Series 3 filming has been delayed! Earlier this fall there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth online thanks to an unfounded news report that claimed the drama’s third season was likely to be its last, citing the packed professional schedules of stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Despite the fact that this initial report came from “unnamed sources” and featured more than a few inaccuracies, Sherlock fans understandably freaked out because, well, it wouldn’t be the first time that a television series has lost out because stardom came calling for its leads. Cumberbatch is busy starring in what appears to be every other movie slated for release next year and Freeman’s professional dance card is about to get a lot more crowded, now that he’s playing Bilbo Baggins in this little trilogy whose first installment broke global records at the box office last weekend.

However, there appears to be little to worry about where the future of Sherlock is concerned – and that’s news straight from the star himself. In a recent interview with Yahoo UK, ostensibly to talk about his role in the upcoming Star Trek sequel, the actor did have one particularly interesting thing to say about Sherlock. Asked whether his current big screen success means that he might “get too big for Sherlock” in the future, Cumberbatch seems adamant that that will never be the case.

[Spoilers!] The First Trailer for the Downton Abbey Christmas Special is Here

SPOILER WARNING: While this trailer does not directly reveal any spoilers for things that happen during Downton Abbey Series 3, eagle eyed viewers will certainly be able to draw their own conclusions about a couple of key plot twists, just based on some of the things featured in this trailer. If you’re attempting to stay completely spoiler-free until the third series gets under way on January 6, I would strongly advise you to skip this post!

There, with that messy bit out of warning out of the way – let’s talk about the Downton Abbey Christmas special a bit! The special holiday installment is set to screen on December 25 in the UK – though apparently not against the BBC’s Call the Midwife, as many TV talking heads had initially theorized. Here in America, this episode will air as our Series 3 finale (on February 17 if my math is correct), so we’ll still be able to see everything that there is to see by way of new Downton episodes, we’re just going to take a little bit longer to get there. Read on for further details (which are going to live under this handy cut, for safety’s sake.)

Doc Martin Willing to Make a House Call at Downton Abbey?

Since what feels like good seventy percent of actors working today have admitted that they’re secretly dying to get the chance to appear on megahit costume drama Downton Abbey, perhaps this moment was inevitable.

Doc Martin star Martin Clunes apparently recently told the Sun that he’d love to be part of Julian Fellowes’ Edwardian epic and revealed that he’s pestered Fellowes about writing him a role, though obviously his powers of persuasion have yet to be effective.

“Julian is my neighbour. He lives just around the corner and I keep lobbying him but he won’t,” Clunes said. “He knows where I am and what my measurements are, so it wouldn’t be difficult.”

Clunes’ most recent TV role has been as a troubled mayor on ITV’s three-part drama The Town alongside Sherlock’s Andrew Scott. (A project I wish someone would find a way to import to the States!) Filming on the next series of Doc Martin gets underway this spring, so it’s unlikely he’d have time to fit something like Downton Abbey in his schedule anyway – but it’s the sort of wishful thinking/stunt casting that is always fun for fans to speculate about.

In that vein – if you could cast Clunes (or any other popular Brit you prefer) in Downton, where would you put them? If we’re talking about a role for Clunes, specifically, it might be nice to see Mrs. Padmore or Mrs. Hughes finally get themselves a romance in Series 4. As most of you all are probably already tired of hearing deeply aware, I’m avowedly partisan toward Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch, but given his somewhat crowded professional schedule and the media kerfuffle surrounding his comments about Downton Series 2 earlier this year, I doubt I’ll be experiencing that sort of wish fulfillment any time soon (even if he would be the best posh neighbor ever).

Who would be your dream addition to the Downton Abbey cast? And what sort of character would you cast them as?

Amazing Internet Things: The Downton Abbey Meets Breaking Bad Parody You Never Knew You Needed

Downton Abbey is a megahit around the world and, as such, has seeped into our general popular culture in a way that few series from recent years can match. Luckily for us, this generally means that we get a lot of great Downton-themed videos and other bits of fun to enjoy, which can take some of the sting out of the wait between seasons. We’ve had two Downton spoofs from late night host Jimmy Fallon, we’ve taken a trip to Downton Arby’s and rapped about the Dowager Countess. But this incredible mash-up courtesy of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report might actually take the cake as Best Downton Parody of the Year.

Featuring several of the men of Downton Abbey – namely Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, and Rob James-Collier – this clip re-imagines the cast of Downton Abbey in the world of AMC’s critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad. (Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White, a high school science teacher turned meth dealer and his subsequent spiral into a life of crime.)

In Breaking Abbey, Lord Grantham is now the “tea kingpin of Yorkshire,” having resorted to some apparently quite illicit and shocking activities in order to acquire the money to keep Downton afloat. All handdled with the proper etiquette of course.

WARNING: There is some strong language (even if the worst of it is bleeped) and some potential content issues due to the general themes involved with Breaking Bad. Proceed with serious caution if talk about drugs, drug use or drug running is not exactly your cup of tea.

Roll Up for the Mystery Tour

This is a guest post from Nick Scalera, resident music enthusiast and part-time history buff here on WETA's digital team. He writes more regularly over at Boundary Stones, our local history blog focused on the Washington, DC area.

Magical Mystery Tour, the surrealistic 1967 Beatles TV special shown only in the U.K., will finally premiere on TV in the States — 45 years later, newly restored, in December on PBS stations. The film was originally broadcast in black and white on BBC One on Boxing Day 1967 to a family audience expecting a frothy entertainment in the style of A Hard Day’s Night and Help!. It followed a Petula Clark special and preceded a Norman Wisdom feature film.

While the music itself had been rapturously received in the form of a double EP already high in the U.K. charts, the response to the “film” from TV critics and the majority of the 15 million adult viewers was negative to the point of downright vitriolic. As a result, the film was never nationally broadcast in the U.S. and had only limited distribution elsewhere.

The U.S. telecast will premiere on WETA TV26 & HD, on Dec. 21, at 9:00 pm and will be part of an exclusive double feature, accompanied by a new documentary, Magical Mystery Tour Revisited, featuring the history of the bizarre project, as well as snippets of outtakes.

So, why it this big deal? Read on.

Full Video: Watch the Downton Abbey Cast Dish Series 3 During Their NYC Q&A Panel!

Last night a lot of lucky people in New York City got to attend a special discussion and Q&A panel with the Downton Abbey cast and basically hear all about the drama’s upcoming third series straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. (No, I am certainly not dying of jealousy or anything. At all.)

Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton sat down with Downton Abbey stars Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Rob James-Collier, Joanne Froggatt, Sophie McShera, as well as producer Gareth Neame and moderated a panel featuring many questions from a (very excited) audience on a variety of topics. There are a few tidbits here and there about things we can expect to see in Series 3, as well as some very interesting insights into several beloved characters.

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