Posts by Carmen Croghan

British Telly Families I’d Like to Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner

I don’t have to tell you that Thanksgiving is not a holiday in the UK; however, as a British entertainment and culture blogger, a great deal of my attention is dedicated to how I might merge the traditions of my homeland and the island country with which I am quite honestly infatuated. Besides we’d all like a few British accents present at our family gathering, wouldn’t we?

Therefore I actually took the time to consider the following proposition – if I could invite a British TV family for a big holiday dinner (like Thanksgiving) who would I choose? Let me clarify – I’ve never cooked a Thanksgiving meal in my life so I obviously wouldn’t be hosting, but inviting myself to their gaff instead.

I’ve narrowed my picks narrowed it down to a short list and here are my top five.

Johnny Worricker Returns: Is He the Consummate British Spy?

After a considerable break, PBS’ Masterpiece Contemporary is bringing British intelligence officer Johnny Worricker back to finish his story. You may remember the 2011 political thriller Page Eight from a few years back. If not, let me refresh your memory.

Bill Nighty starred as Johnny Worricker, an MI-5 agent, now retired from the field and working as intelligence analyst. As the story begins, he is given a file by his boss and best friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon). This dossier contains very damning information regarding Prime Minister Beasley (Ralph Fiennes) and his collusion with the American government’s operation of secret torture camps. Dear old Ben dies and Worricker spends the rest of this adventure falling back into spy mode, staying one step ahead of the British intelligence community until he has proof that the source of the aforementioned report can be trusted. In the end his refusal to return the file and keep quiet means Johnny’s career is over and he is forced to flee the country.

And this is where the story picks up this next installment of the Johnny Worricker Trilogy entitled Turks & Caicos (which just so happens to be the group of British islands where our hero has chosen to hide out).

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.

Dead Funny Films: British Horror with a Playful Side

Halloween is just around the corner, that time of year when it’s fun to be scared. Or so they say. I’m not a big fan of traditional horror films, but I’ve found that those with a decidedly pronounced sense of humor can be quite entertaining indeed. At the very least a light, funny moment here and there can make all the blood and gore a little easier to take. Shaun of the Dead is probably the best example of a horror flick with an equal amount of comedy.

However, ten years after its release Shaun is a classic of this blended genre and you, my dear thrill seekers, are perhaps looking for something a bit more under the radar. The following is a list of horror comedies you can find on-line to satisfy your craving for a “dead funny” film.

First Look: 'Death Comes to Pemberley' (and PBS)

Do you ever love a book and its characters so much that you continue the story in your mind? What happens after the happily ever after? Imagine it is 1803, six years after Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have married and started their family together at their lavish Derbyshire estate. The happy couple is busy planning their annual Lady Anne Ball when Lizzie’s spoiled flibbertigibbet of a sister, Lydia, bursts in the night before the festivities to announce her husband George Wickham might have been murdered in Pemberley Wood. An investigation ensues which spells mayhem and the potential undoing of the entire Darcy family.

This may not be the fan fiction in your head, but it is the premise of famed crime writer P.D. James’ sequel (of sorts) to Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Released in 2011 and entitled Death Comes to Pemberley, the book received good reviews though most I read lamented the toning down of Lizzy’s much admired outspokenness and complained that the Darcys’ love had been cooled by boring domestic routine.

I’ve not read the aforementioned novel, so I can’t reliably comment on those claims. However, as one might expect in an industry eager to provide viewers with remakes and sequels featuring cherished characters that feel like family, Death Comes to Pemberley was adapted for the small screen and broadcast in the UK last Christmas. Masterpiece Mystery has picked up the series and will be airing it in two parts – Sunday, October 26th and November 2nd from 9:00 – 10:30 pm ET. Check your local listings for exact times and details.

Want an early look at this upcoming drama? Read on.

British Actors You Should Know: Hugh Bonneville

I’d wager a majority of Americans first became acquainted with this week’s featured British Actor You Should Know thanks to his role as Robert Crawley, The Earl of Grantham, in PBS’ monster hit period drama, Downton Abbey.

However, before he became the patriarch of our favorite English country estate, Hugh Bonneville had already built up a successful and varied acting career.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights.

Need a Pick Me Up? Try These Inspiring British Feel-Good, Underdog Films

For all their famous cynicism, the British are extremely adept at making feel-good movies. You know, the ones where a longshot protagonist is inspired to go up against the Establishment, the more acclaimed competitor or his or her own physical or societal limitations? Think Billy Elliot or The Full Monty and you know exactly the kind of story I’m talking about.

Two such films are coming out in limited release the weekend of October 10th. One Chance starring James Corden dramatizes the real life struggles and triumphs of unlikely Britain’s Got Talent winner and opera singer, Paul Potts. The film has a superb supporting cast which includes Julie Walters, Colm Meaney and Mackenzie Crook.

The other film coming out (pardon the pun) is Pride, the true story of a group of gay activists who set out to support a Welsh community at the height of the Thatcher years mining strikes. Boasting a stellar cast headed up by Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West, this film is destined to join the canon of fun, yet inspiring, British underdog films.

However if you’re like me and don’t live in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago where limited release films are often shown, or getting to your regional art house theater is a logistical nightmare, we sometimes just have to be patient and wait for these little gems to make it to DVD or streaming services. I reckon many of us are in that boat so I’ve compiled a small collection of humorous, heart-warming films you may not have heard of that can be watched on-line as we speak. My hope is that this list might hold you over for a little while, at least.

Get Ready: 'Inspector Lewis' Returns!

Who remembers this scene back in the summer of 2013?

DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) and DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) with pints in hand and a picturesque view of the water ahead reveal their plans for the future; Lewis is retiring and Hathaway is leaving the police force. That was supposed to be it, ces’t fini. Inspector Lewis was drawing to a close so its actors could move on to other projects – Fox and his bride Billie Piper were going to try their luck in Hollywood and Whately was on the record saying he was getting too old to play a police inspector anymore.

Fast forward a little more than a year - Lewis and Hathaway are reunited and trying their best to keep Oxford’s streets safe, mostly from their own eccentric and educated residents. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining since Lewis is one of my very favorite detective dramas. It was just the speed of the about face that’s left me a bit confused.

That being said, let’s get on to the details of the new series of Inspector Lewis which will be premiering on Sunday, October 5th at 9 pm ET. It features three new murder mysteries entitled “Entry Wounds”, “The Lions of Nemea” and “Beyond Good and Evil”.

Watch a trailer for the new season below:

Miss Marple and the Lady Sleuths Who Have Followed in Her Footsteps

This weekend, fan favorite series Miss Marple returns to Masterpiece Mystery with two back-to-back episodes - A Caribbean Mystery premieres at 9pm EST, followed by Greenshaw’s Folly. In these new installments, Julia McKenzie reassumes her role as Agatha Christie’s beloved spinster who just so happens to be more adept at solving murders than the police.

(If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch a preview of the new episodes here.)

An astute and intelligent woman of independent means, Miss Marple first appeared in a Christie short story in 1926. Since then her sleuthing skills have been on display in books as well as on the radio and stage. In addition, Jane Marple has been portrayed on the big and small screens by no fewer than seven different actresses, including Dame Angela Lansbury in a film version of The Mirror Crack’d.

No doubt Agatha Christie’s creation has inspired other non-law enforcement related detective characters of the female persuasion. Let’s look at few who carry on the proud Miss Marple tradition.

Yes Scotland or Better Together: Trying to Make Sense of the Scottish Independence Referendum

In less than one week, the Scottish public will be going to the polls to make a very important decision about the future of their country; whether to remain a part of the United Kingdom or leave to become an independent country.

If you haven’t heard about the impending Scottish Referendum, here’s a short informational video the BBC put together last year which covers the basics, in less than sixty seconds, followed by our attempt to break down what’s going on.

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