Happy 48th Birthday, Doctor Who!

On November 23, 1963 at 5:16pm, Doctor Who premiered on the BBC, starring William Hartnell as the very first Doctor in “The Unearthly Child.” With nary a Dalek in sight, mind, as those weren’t introduced to the series until a little bit later on. (I actually meant this post to go up right at 5:16. Missed it by that much.)

Forty-eight years later, the series is the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, and arguably is more popular now than it has ever been, on the Eleventh incarnation of the Doctor.

Want more Who trivia today? This list of 48 Facts for the 48th Anniversary over at the Radio Times is pretty fantastic. And if you’re feeling really nostalgic you can watch classic clips and a great many of the Doctor’s regenerations at the official BBC site. How many of you are big Who fans? And who’s “your” Doctor?

 

Reminder: Our Two-Day Inspector Morse Marathon Starts Tomorrow!

What says Happy Thanksgiving more than British mysteries? Nothing, that’s what! So, have some quality sleuthing along with your turkey and stuffing over the next two days!

We’ll be airing full-day marathons of Inspector Morse episodes both tomorrow and Friday, from 8am-6pm, and digging into some classic episodes from early in the series’ run. (And, remember WETA Mystery night will be happening as usual on Thanksgiving night, with Sherlock Holmes, Poirot and Foyle’s War.)

Click through for a full list of all the episodes that will be playing on both days during our Morse Marathon and enjoy the long weekend!

Tune-In Tonight: Sherlock’s “Great Game” is Most Definitely On

We’re wrapping up our rebroadcast of Sherlock tonight at 8pm with “The Great Game,” which is the best and most exciting installment of the three episode lot, and other than the shock of its very last minutes is basically perfect television. Watch it tonight, even if you’ve never seen it – you really can jump right in, even if the extent of your Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knowledge is that you know Sherlock Holmes and John Watson exist. It’s absolutely worth it.

In the spirit of conducting appropriate Sherlockian levels of research I took it upon myself to watch the DVD commentary for this episode to try and come up with some impressive new insights into the way this particular story is put together, rather than just massive amounts of adoration. Alas, the only thing that appears to have stuck in my brain from it is that Benedict Cumberbatch loves clothes, and also the acting process, and does a mean impression of Alan Rickman. So, prepare for the adoration.

Click through for the best things about this particular episode, which are actually far more legion than could possibly have fit in this post, and then feel free to leave me reminders of the things I’ve left out in the comments.

Your Week in British TV on WETA

Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! Hope you are all gearing up for a festival of delicious food and family time, with a splash of excellent British TV thrown in. We’ve got a lot of goodies coming up on-air for you this week!

Monday William and Mary, starring Martin Clunes and Julie Graham, continues tonight at a slightly shifted time of 10:30pm, due to the extended run length of our American Masters Woody Allen documentary.

Tuesday – We wrap up our rebroadcast of Masterpiece Mystery!’s Sherlock at 8pm with the pretty-much-flawless episode “The Great Game” at 8pm. This will also repeat on Wednesday at 2pm, if you happen to be home early in preparation for Turkey Day and need something to watch.

Thursday – Happy Thanksgiving! The first day of our Inspector Morse marathon kicks off at 8AM – we’ll be airing the entire ten-episode second season. Then, if that’s not enough British mystery for you, WETA Mystery night will also continue as usual! Watch Sherlock Holmes' “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” at 8pm, Agatha Christie’s Poirot in “The Chocolate Box” at 9pm, and Foyle’s War’s “The Funk Hole” at 10.

Friday – Welcome to Day Two of our Inspector Morse marathon! We’ll be airing the entirely of Series 3 all day today from 8am-6pm.

Saturday – Catch comedies As Time Goes By and Keeping Up Appearances starting at 7pm. These will be followed by Doc Martin at 8pm, with two episodes from Series 4, “The Departed” and “Midwife Crisis.”

SundayMasterpiece Contemporary returns at 9pm with Framed, starring Trevor Eve and Torchwood’s Eve Myles. Then stick around for back-to-back episodes of con-man drama Hustle, starting a bit earlier than usual this week, at 10:30pm.

ITV Commissions Final Five Poirot Films

Heads-up for our mystery fans! UK network ITV has commissioned adaptations of five new feature-length Poirot films, slated to go into production in 2012.

David Suchet will reprise the role of Hercule Poirot, and achieve his stated “life’s ambition” of filming the entirety of Agatha Christie’s Poirot canon. Suchet has been playing Poirot for over twenty years, so this is a rather impressive achievement, if you ask me.

The five new adaptations will include Labours of Hercules, Dead Man’s Folly, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember, and Poirot’s final mystery, Curtain.

According to the lovely folks at AgathaChristie.com, Curtain is the Belgian detective’s last case, in which an arthritic and immobilized Poirot calls on his old friend Captain Hastings for assistance as they return to the scene of their first case, Styles Court, to try to prevent an imminent murder.

“Poirot is without doubt one of fiction’s finest detectives and we’re thrilled to welcome him back to ITV1 with his refined approach to crime-fighting, “said ITV’s director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie. “We’re equally delighted that David has agreed to play him in the final Poirot films for the ITV1 audience and immensely privileged to be producing Curtain.”

No word yet, obviously, on when we might expect to see these adaptations here in America, especially with filming not happening for some time yet. We’ll keep you posted!

Doctor Who Supports Children in Need and Previews the 2011 Christmas Special

As part of the BBC’s Children in Need annual charity telethon in the UK tonight, Doctor Who offered a special mini-sketch, as well as the first trailer for the series’ upcoming Christmas special, titled “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe.”

Thanks to the lovely folks over at Doctor Who TV, click through to watch the special Children in Need segment that sees the Doctor offering to sell the clothes off his back, then catch the first preview for the Christmas special, which should air on BBC America here in the States sometime in December.

The Friday News Roundup!

Happy Friday! Welcome to this week's edition of our News Roundup, where I attempt to fill you in on all the things of interest that happened this week in British entertainment news. (Emphasis on the "attempt" - if I've missed something excellent, link me!). This week we've got quite a bit of Doctor Who, some Misfits, Sherlock, Poirot, as well as news on a new Pixar film, the Golden Globes, annual charity appeal Children in Need and more. So click right on through to get started.

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!

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