Posts by Carmen Croghan

'Call the Midwife' Series 4 : Episode 2 Recap

Previously on Call the Midwife: Last week's recap is right this way.

All right, this episode did get my tears flowing. I mean how could I not grab for the tissues? Barbara and Patsy were crying; new Poplar parents, the Bissettes, were crying; for heaven’s sake, Sister Julienne was crying. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to well up a bit. I believe one of the main reasons there was so much blubbering was because this episode had a theme of doubt and the melancholy of what might have been.

‘Wolf Hall’: Get Acquainted with the Court of Henry VIII

Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)

Most of us probably know the basic facts about King Henry VIII – his multiple marriages; his break from the Catholic Church to form the Church of England in order to enable said marriages; his quest for a male heir; and the unfortunate circumstances that befell most of his spouses who couldn’t provide him with one.

However, if you want to dig deeper into this time in Tudor history (and be entertained at the same time) you will probably want to watch Wolf Hall which will premiere on PBS’ Masterpiece beginning this Sunday. This six part series is based on two of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning historical fiction novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Both books are said to be painstakingly researched though no one can know exactly what transpired behind closed doors almost 500 years ago.

I must admit that I attempted to read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall…twice. I knew I was in trouble when I saw a six page list of characters following the table of contents. The intimidation factor may have finished me before I even began. I soldiered on for a while, but found it was difficult to keep the various Thomas’ separate and the Dukes of This or That straight in my mind.

Therefore, before you settle in to watch the first episode of Wolf Hall on April 5th at 10 pm ET (check your local listings) I thought it might be helpful to have a guide to some of the series major characters.

'Call the Midwife' Series 4 : Episode 1 Recap

Welcome back to another series of Call the Midwife! The time has come to return to Poplar to share in the joys and sorrows of this working class community and cheer on their most dedicated altruists, the nuns and nurses of Nonnatus House.

It’s 1960 and just as we’ve come to expect, change is a constant at the convent, especially when it comes to the staffing situation. To refresh your memory, Nurse Miller (Bryony Hannah) has left Poplar for Chichester where she will undergo her postulate training to become a nun. Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) has reassured Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) – and the viewers – that Cynthia will return.

Watch: Highlights From Red Nose Day 2015

This year has been a monumental one for Comic Relief, the British comedy-based charity co-founded by writer/director Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry three decades ago.

Comic Relief grew out of the success of Bob Geldolf’s Live Aid benefit concerts for Africa. Its efforts have united the people of the UK in raising money for aid organizations primarily in Africa and at home.

Retirement Is a Laughing Matter (on British Telly)

Whether you call them senior citizens, retirees or OAPs (old age pensioners), people of advanced age certainly have a sizable presence in British entertainment. Popular series such as Last Tango in Halifax, Vicious, The Old Guys and Boomers feature seniors as main characters, not just someone’s colorful grandfather or an eccentric old auntie to provide a laugh or wise word when called upon.

Think back to 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wherein a group of British retirees make the trek to India to live out their golden years. Their reasons may have varied –the warmer climate, cheaper cost of living, an opportunity to reconnect with the past and as a means for getting a needed operation much sooner – but they all found a sense of community. The success of this film is a prime example of the bankability of stories focused on elderly characters and their concerns.

This showcase of British acting legends was so popular that a follow-up, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was just released. With a cast of respected and award winning veterans who range in age from 62 (Celia Imrie) to 80 (Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), this highly anticipated sequel demonstrates that there is a significant audience for stories that don’t involve perfectly pert bodies, martial arts fighting sequences or pyrotechnics.

That’s not to say that aging is a cozy, gentle process. Ask anyone who’s approaching AARP membership eligibility (that includes me) and they’ll tell you there’s nothing easy about getting old or about adjusting to retirement. Fortunately, British telly strives to makes us laugh at an issue we all have to face sooner or later.

'Broadchurch' Series 2: Meet the New Characters

Think back to August 2013. Besides the fact that the weather was likely much warmer than it is right now, you may recall that was also when the very first episode of Broadchurch aired on BBC America. An eleven-year-old boy’s body was found on the beach and his death was ruled a homicide. And our minds (for the next eight weeks at least) were occupied with the question, “Who killed Danny Latimer?”

In the course of the investigation DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) pursued leads involving friends and neighbors of the Latimer family. Even Danny’s dad, Mark (Andrew Buchan) was considered a suspect at one point.

In the end, however, Ellie Miller’s own husband, Joe (Matthew Gravelle), confessed to and was arrested for the child’s murder. This bombshell shattered both of the families involved and shook all Broadchurch citizens, not to mention the viewing audience, to their core.

In case you weren’t aware, the US premiere of the next installment of Broadchurch is nigh. It’s Wednesday, March 4th at 10 pm on BBC America to be exact.

I’ve not watched any of the new episodes in advance but I as I understand it, old cases will be revisited rather than jumping into a whole new murder investigation. I also gather from the UK ratings that the series two started strong, dropped sharply in the middle and rebounded for the finale. Having read that series creator Chris Chibnall envisioned the story as a trilogy; it’s understandable that the narrative could have gotten bogged down in the middle. Hopefully an exciting conclusion is on the horizon, especially considering that series three has recently been commissioned.

Despite my stringent desire to avoid spoilers, I thought it might be helpful to introduce you to some of the new faces you’ll be getting to know in the weeks to come.

British Actors Excel at Playing Real People: They’ve Got the Oscars to Prove It

British actors aren’t strangers to Academy Award acclaim. Last weekend Eddie Redmayne, star of The Theory of Everything in which he gave a radiant performance as world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, joined the company of almost thirty of his fellow countrymen and women in winning a Best Leading Actor or Actress statuette since the honors were first bestowed 87 years ago.

Vivien Leigh won twice for her portrayal of some very famous fictional characters; in 1940 for Gone with the Wind and in 1952 for A Streetcar Named Desire. Laurence Olivier was recognized in 1949 for his interpretation of one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s characters, Hamlet.

Today, however, I want to focus on those actors, like Mr. Redmayne who have taken on the daunting challenge of playing a person who actually existed and were rewarded with a little bald golden man for their trouble. The biopic trend has been on the increase since the 1980’s but that’s not to say that people weren’t bringing history to life long before that time.

‘Black Mirror’ Reflects a Dark Future: Why You Should Watch It Anyway

If you haven’t yet experienced the newest British sensation from Netflix, Black Mirror, I’m here to make a proper introduction. That and perhaps to forewarn those of you who have heard this techno-thriller series is the new Twilight Zone. Yes, both shows are anthologies of unrelated stories and characters. Both use science fiction as the apparatus for delivering messages about societal issues.

However, for fans of that groundbreaking fantasy horror series of the early 1960’s, please know there are no aliens, dream states, time travel or creepy children in Black Mirror. Instead creator Charlie Brooker speculates about what the dangerous combination of new technologies and the less wholesome side of human nature can spawn. This was post-watershed TV in the UK, not prime-time, family-friendly network fare. Many of the episodes have sexual elements, adult language and violent themes.

That being said, I was fascinated and slightly freaked out by the dystopian scenarios portrayed in these disturbing tales of admonition. Could we be that close to developing technologies that can fully activate the some of the most harmful human instincts we possess? The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

If the description thus far intrigues you, I have prepared a quick guide to all six Black Mirror episodes which can currently be found streaming on Netflix. Since the sequence you watch them in doesn’t really matter, I have ordered them from the episode that I found least compelling to the one that really blew me away.

Telly Romance: Grand Gestures for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

When you think “romance”, the UK probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. (Though they’re obviously moving up in that department since a recent poll found British accents were considered the sexiest in the world.) Admittedly the Brits may not have the same reputation for seduction and passion as the French or Italians, for example. But then I’d take an awkward, heartfelt romantic gesture over a smooth operator who thinks he’s God’s gift to women any day.

I’ve compiled a few romantic telly moments that I believe clearly illustrate my point. While not all of them are appropriate for a Valentine’s Day surprise, each one evokes a sense of putting yourself (or in some situations, your friends) out there without knowing for sure what the reaction will be. Please enjoy the love!

What I’ll Be Watching on Super Bowl Sunday: ‘The Great British Baking Show’

While many Americans are excited about the imminent Super Bowl extravaganza, I dare to suggest that not all of us plan to partake in the annual football classic. In fact, I have an alternative competition that just might have you on the edge of your seat rather than asleep in your recliner (if like me, the background drone of football games tend to lull you into a stupor, that is).

PBS’ latest BBC hit acquisition The Great British Baking Show, a program that pits twelve amateur British bakers against one another for a series of culinary challenges, has become a topic of Monday morning water cooler conversation for many Yanks. I propose it could well be the perfect viewing option for those looking for a compelling championship level event without all the big sweaty men. Well, there was that one episode where it was really hot in the bake-off tent, but I digress.

The following is my argument for watching The Great British Baking Show instead of the Super Bowl…

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