Friday, 14 December 2007
In his first television role since Harry Potter, Radcliffe stars alongside Sex and the City’s Cattrall in the wartime drama, My Boy Jack. The 95-minute production, an Ecosse Films/WGBH Boston/Ingenious Broadcasting co-production for ITV in association with Octagon Films and Granada International, is based on the true story of Jack Kipling (played by Radcliffe), the son of British author Rudyard Kipling. After Jack becomes a soldier in WWI and goes missing, Rudyard and his wife Carre (played by Cattrall) begin their search to find their son.
David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Thin Blue Line) stars as Rudyard Kipling, and wrote the drama, which is directed by Brian Kirk (The Tudors, Middletown) and also stars Carey Mulligan (Bleak House, Northanger Abbey). My Boy Jack recently aired in the U.K. on ITV1, and achieved a 25-percent share of viewers in a prime-time Sunday-night slot.
Other drama offerings include the 13x48-minute series Murdoch Mysteries, which is set in Toronto, Canada in the 1980s. Yannick Bisson stars as William Murdoch, a young detective who solves challenging murders using emerging and progressive forensic techniques. The series is a Shaftesbury Films production in association with CHUM Television, Granada International and UKTV. BAFTA Award-winner Victoria Wood (Housewife 49) and Emma Watson (Hermione in Harry Potter) star in the drama Ballet Shoes, from Granada for the BBC.
Other titles in Granada’s catalogue for NATPE include entertainment programming like Corteo, which features circus skills and avant-garde theatrical techniques presented by Cirque du Soleil, along with its backstage counterpart Through The Curtain. On the music and celebrity programming front, Granada will offer up The Kylie Show, Divas and Audience With Celine Dion, among others.
Additional highlights include the comedic entertainment series The Friday Night Project, which is also available as a format. Other formats from Granada’s catalogue include the cooking competition reality show Best Dish… and the game show format Born Winners. Also available from Granada at NATPE are the wildlife series Nick Baker’s Weird Creatures, the HD animated series Supernormal, the children’s series Boowa & Kwala, Hollywood TV movies like Matters of Life And Dating, the series Old Skool with Terry and Gita, as well as the popular Hell’s Kitchen series from both the U.S. and the U.K.
By Kristin Brzoznowski
The Chapel at Wellington College will be the venue tomorrow (Thursday) for Thames Hospicecare’s annual fundraiser.
Ms Mulligan, who has shot to fame starring in the ITV series My Boy Jack and alongside Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, will give a reading, while the Windsor Boys’ School Wind Band will be among the musical performers.
Friday, 23 November 2007
For those who are unaware of Austen’s novel (it might be helpful to consider that The Lion King is to Hamlet as Bridget Jones’ Diary is to Pride & Prejudice), Pride & Prejudice is the story of the Bennet sisters, and particularly, second eldest child Elizabeth (Keira Knightley). These desperate housewives-to-be are in dire pursuit of a man. For the younger girls, and Elizabeth’s squawking mother (a superbly erratic Brenda Blethyn), a man’s greatest endowment is his wallet. However, for Elizabeth and oldest sister Jane (Rosamund Pike) love is the only currency in which they wish to deal. Convenient then that the objects of their affections, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) for Jane, and the infamously standoffish Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) for Elizabeth, are moneyed up to the kilt when they ride into town to stir trouble and steal hearts. Elizabeth’s very cinematic blindness to Darcy’s very British advance is the centerpiece of both novel and film, with all suspense drawn from the “will they or won’t they” dilemma.
The film opens gloriously and sails solidly for sometime thereafter, compelled by a freshness in its handling of the period. The camera is relaxed but never stagnant. An early shot following Elizabeth through the Bennet household (echoed later at a dance) has an Altman-esque charm, paying mild attention to sisterly passers-by, eavesdropping, before moving on and regaining focus. The dialogue is snappy (“Believe me, men are either eaten up with arrogance or stupidity”) and full of the fruity and literary language one would expect from an Austen adaptation. As if we were on tour, Wright’s schedule is full, Austen’s agenda dictates that it must be, and in its first half, Pride & Prejudice delights in entertaining us at balls, in fields, in parlors and giggling with teenage girls under bed sheets. The Bennets are charming company, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan as the youngest sisters offer an amazing energy to the production as a pair of mawkish desperados. Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet delivers a fine performance, and is given the film’s best line and most poignant moment seconds before the credits roll.
However, when Wright moves away from the Bennet household Pride & Prejudice loses much of its charm and flow. The tour becomes plodding as Elizabeth takes center stage and we are dragged with her to various uninspiring locations across England in a doggedly inevitable march to Darcy. Part of the flaw, dare I say it, is a structural problem inherited from the novel. Darcy and Elizabeth are never given the opportunity to fall in love, so that when their confessions come (and it is not giving much away to say that they do), one wonders when they possibly had the time or inclination to fall for each other so deeply. The only evidence Wright offers is in the unspoken chemistry between his leads, MacFadyen and Knightley, at times almost scorching enough to justify their inevitable union. This pause in the film, away from the Bennet home, pulls from under it the emotional investment achieved in its earlier stages. And unfortunately, the casting of Knightley as the iconic Elizabeth does not help.
Knightley is an intelligent and photogenic actor and for much of the film, particularly when lit by the blue hues of dawn, is a more than adequate protagonist. Yet when the rain comes, the film delves deeper, and more than a wry smile is required, Knightley is lacking. Her shrill hurt and played realization ring false and only confirm the growing feeling that Pride & Prejudice is a fairly superficial exercise. Elizabeth Bennet is a complex character, a contradiction between youth, femininity, wisdom and sass, and Knightley’s admirable attempt does Austen’s character only infrequent justice.
Joe Wright’s adaptation is diligent, faithful, sweeping, full of witty retorts, generally well cast, and yet emotionally unpersuasive. The audience is offered a glance through the looking glass into the lives of the Bennets and their dark and handsome pursuits, but never are we allowed off the bus to fully engage. Sumptuous and diverting, this Pride & Prejudice is delightful, but only hints at being anything more.
By Robert Hayes
Thursday November 22 2007
She was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, acted opposite Orlando Bloom and Keith Richards in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and this week Atonement star Keira Knightley was crowned film actress of the year at the Variety Club Showbiz Awards in London.
The Oscar buzz is intensifying around 22-year-old Keira, who is currently filming Tony Scott's period drama The Duchess, but has taken some time out to answer our questions about life as a child actress, body fascism and working with Johnny Depp.
NATALIE PORTMAN SAID ALL THE YOUNG ACTORS WHO ARE GETTING ROLES BEGAN WORKING AS CHILDREN. IT SEEMS TO BE SUCH A HARD BUSINESS. ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW EASY IT HAS BEEN OR HAS IT BEEN A TOUGH ROAD?
No, not particularly. I'd love to say it was that dramatic. I think that this is an industry of smoke and mirrors. I think everybody thinks they know what the entertainment industry is and very few people actually do.
I think the wonderful thing about having been a child actor is that I've seen the truth of it from a very, very early age. I've never come into it with this idea of what it was going to be.
I always saw a kind of reality and I think that's very helpful. It is hard. If you don't have the support there, it's very easy to crumble under the strain of that.
YOU'RE CURRENTLY SHOOTING 'THE DUCHESS'. WHAT ROLE DO YOU PLAY?
I'm the Duchess, and it's set in the 1780s. It's about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was a political hostess for the weaker party in the 1780s. It's about her marriage and various relationships along the way.
I've done a lot of modern-day pieces though such as Bend It Like Beckman, Love Actually and The Jacket. But I do like period films. I think if you're working in England, then more often than not, you're going to be working in period pieces because I think that's what sells abroad the most. I've always loved them from a very early age.
For me, film is about escapism. What excites me about my job is trying to find realities that are impossible to find today, so therefore going back in time is definitely one of them. I love trying to find the way these people thought in such different societies.
In a funny way, I find it more liberating, because we don't actually know what it was like, so you can play around with it.
THERE'S DEFINITE OSCAR BUZZ AROUND 'ATONEMENT', AND YOU'VE EXPERIENCED THIS BEFORE WITH 'PRIDE & PREJUDICE' SO DO YOU LIKE THE 'BEST ACTRESS' RACE?
I don't make films in order to get awards. I obviously don't make films for an audience of one. You want as many people to see films as possible. You want them to enjoy or get moved by films that you're in. I think if it got nominations, if it got awards, then that would be the icing on the cake.
If it doesn't, that does not devalue the piece of the work. It must never turn into 'I'm doing this to get...' and so it doesn't. But, yes, how lovely that people are actually mentioning this film in the same sentence as the Oscars.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU'VE PICKED UP FROM THE GREAT GROUP OF ACTORS YOU'VE WORKED WITH?
I'd watch Johnny [Depp], I'd go right, you're a genius, you're a legend, I'm going to understand how that works, and I'm going to be better, and you watch it and you have no idea how that happens. I don't know what they're doing, I don't know where it comes from.
So I don't think you can actually pick up something or I haven't been able to steal anything. I think what I've learned -- actually from working with everyone -- but mostly from Donald Sutherland and Judi Dench. They're both living legends, and they were both really nervous when we started [filming Pride & Prejudice], and both so excited by it.
They were watching Carey Mulligan and Talulah Riley, who were playing two of my sisters, and they were so excited about how good they were.
For people who've made hundreds of films, to still be that excited, and still be that nervous, and you're kind of [amazed]. As a 20-year-old actress, you go yeah, they're sitting there, they're still learning, nothing's ever good enough, they're still hungry for it, and you think that's brilliant.
And it's the same with Johnny Depp, you watch him playing Jack Sparrow, and he's loving it, he's excited by it, and sometimes he goes 'oh, was that all right; was that okay?'
And you say, 'you're Johnny Depp, man! You know that's okay! You know that's okay!' But he doesn't. He's still going, 'Gore [Verbinski], help!' I mean, that's amazing, it's cool. It just is a privilege to see the human side of it, it's really exciting.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR TIME OFF?
I really don't have any time off, but I've got a couple of weeks holidays over Christmas, I'm going to go home to London and sit in my flat and not move.
- Robert Hayes
Sunday, 18 November 2007
One man who can empathise with all these points is Rudyard Kipling. The man who wrote The Jungle Book and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907 couldn't do any wrong. He was married, had a big house in the country, was loved everywhere and mates with the King. Like many fathers up and down the land, his life was about to change when Britain declared war on Germany in 1914.
I'd already watched an excellent Jeremy Paxman documentary earlier in the evening on BBC1, about the inspirational World War I poet Wilfred Owen, so I was looking forward to watching My Boy Jack. All I knew about it was that David Haig was reprising his role as Rudyard Kipling from the West End play, and the cast was strong – Daniel Radcliffe, Kim Cattrell and the always-excellent Carey Mulligan (who's becoming a bit of costume drama Queen these days).
The opening sequence saw Rudyard Kipling race to some big, posh house to meet his mate the King, no less, where they had a whiskey, said pip-pip to each other and discussed the state of things, what-ho. The King asked Rudyard to go easy on his public speaking – Rud had been whipping up a fervour recently by shouting that the British Army simply wasn't ready for war, and that recruits were needed, and needed fast... so come on, what are you waiting for? It's your time to serve King and country!
The King wanted him to calm down, but Rud, patriotic veins bulging in his temples, refused and said he bally well wouldn't (or something along those posh, early 20th century language lines). We then cut to Rud's son John, or Jack, failing a medical at the Navy because of his myopia and fears from Army people that wearing spectacles may endanger himself and his fellow men.
When the family all got home to their beautiful, rural pile we were introduced to the rest of the Kipling family – Rud's wife Cassie (Cattrell) and mischievous daughter Elsie (Mulligan). Their idyllic lifestyle was laid out in front of us in all its glory – rose gardens, motorcycles in the shed, smoking rooms... the whole nine yards. Just below this surface of tranquility Rud was seething at his son's rejection and vowed to help him out by talking to a few of his influential friends down at the war office. You got the impression that he – another spectacle wearer – wanted his son to live out what he always wanted to.
Thanks to his dad's political wheeling and dealing, Jack finally got into the Army, and the fresh-faced young man (or “old man” as his dad insisted on calling him) was off to boot camp quicker than you can say, "Mr Kipling bakes exceedingly good cakes". This is when the drama started to pick up – after a slowish start I did wonder if I could feel enough for Rud to feel sorry for him. It was obvious what was going to happen – rabidly patriotic and pro-war dad (who likened Empire to 'Britain's family of nations' and the need for war as, 'the parents looking after the nation of children') tries his best to get his son into the army, son goes to war, son dies, dad feels awful.
This is pretty much what happened of course, but not before we saw Jack become a man at boot camp, return home with a 'tache and an officer's badge. There was a very moving moment when mother and son said their goodbyes before his journey to France (and impending doom). This is what these war stories are all about for me – the family relationships, how the dynamic between the mother/father and son changes, and the way, however old and mature these young men think they are, they are reduced to babies when they're forced to say goodbye. Kim Cattrell played this moment very well.
Jack Kilping was 17 years old when he went off to the front line in France. His mother and father were left at home, a once lively and colourful country paradise, now empty and foreboding. We got a glimpse of the horrors of trench warfare, but before you knew it, Jack was to go over the top... the day after his 18th birthday.
The day (and time) of the big push saw the drama produce one of its most powerful scenes. While Jack rallied his troops in the trenches – who were shaking and vomiting with fear – Rud and Cassie got out of bed and went into the garden to sit quietly in their pyjamas. Two different calms before the storm.
You just knew what was going to happen, and the next hugely powerful scene saw Rud receive a telegram at the home. The walk from his front door to the reading room, unopened telegram in his pocket, was the sort of scene where time stood still – every parent's nightmare.
Jack was pronounced missing in action, but Rud and Cassie doggedly clung to hope. While Rud slowly came to terms with his part in his son's death, Cassie was stoic and searched for answers. But the writing was on the wall – a moving testimony from a wounded soldier, who went over the top with Jack, confirmed that he did indeed die behind enemy lines.
Having read a bit more about Rudyard Kipling, commentators say that his post-war work was severely affected by what happened to his son (not least his poem, My Boy Jack). You’re not kidding! I think it would severely affect any parent who has lost a son at war, no matter what they did for a living.
So what did I think of all this? It was a fascinating story, but not up there in the top drawer of dramas, I have to admit.
The performances were all terrific, it looked lavish and the war scenes were Saving Private Ryan-esque (or as much as a TV drama can), but there was just something missing. Perhaps I didn't warm to Rud's character, perhaps both the pacing and plotting were a bit choppy and, perhaps, the story wasn’t quite as gripping as other WWI stories I’ve read.
I also have to say that there's just something different and wrong about ITV dramas. Something undefinable and slightly odd – maybe it's the commercial breaks, but I've never seen an ITV drama that's well-paced or well edited. Maybe a Cracker or a Prime Suspect, but that's about it.
But what can you do when you review a WWI drama? Criticise the plot? Have a go at a mother and father coming to terms with the loss of their son? Pour scorn on one young man's coming-of-age that, tragically, wasn't completed? Of course not. It's another hugely worthy, human story that serves to remind us how different things were then – the British stiff upper lip was in full-effect, boys and men from across the land were willing to lay down their lives unconditionally for King and country, and the glamour of war (if there is such a thing) was in stark contrast to the sickening reality.
In that respect, My Boy Jack was a moving reminder why we should all never, ever forget.
Our daily hit count is around 30 to 50 hits, but in the week surrounding the ITV Showing of My Boy Jack, we got over 500 hits altogether. Before this our rating peaks of around 88 and 92 hits on the tranmission date of Doctor Who's 'Blink' in the US. So far in the past month, this site has gained 1,454 Page Views since it's launchwith around 340 people being regular vistors to this site
Top Visiting Countries
01. United Kingdom - 468
02. United States - 293
03. Canada - 044
04. New Zealand - 025
05. Australia - 021
06. Spain - 007
07. Germany - 005
08. Japan - 005
09. Sweden - 004
10. Ireland - 004
11. South Korea - 003
12. Chile - 002
13. Netherlands - 002
14. Taiwan - 002
15. Argentina - 002
16. Italy - 002
17. Singapore - 001
18. Hong Kong - 001
19. Norway - 001
20. Israel - 001
Reasons For Visiting This Blog
This is an interesting chart showing the Top Keywords and Search results that has led people to visiting this blog all about Carey Mulligan. The results may just surprise you very much.
01 - Carey Mulligan Herself - 365
02 - "Doctor Who" - 262
03 - "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard" - 175
04 - Nude Pictures/Video of Carey Mulligan - 130
05 - "When Did You Last See Your Father" - 103
06 - "My Boy Jack" - 101
07 - Carey's Theatre Work - 101
08 - "Bleak House" - 088
09 - "Pride and Prejudice" - 060
10 - "Northanger Abbey - 043
11 - Pictures of Carey Mulligan - 040
12 - Who is Carey's Agent/ Send Fanmail - 018
13 - "Waking The Dead" - 005
14 - "Marple: The Sittaford Mystery" - 005
15 - "Trial & Retribution X" - 004
Thats the results until next time
The showcase remembrance drama was My Boy Jack(Sunday, ITV1), a fictive version of the death of Rudyard Kipling’s only son at Loos just as he turned 18, and of the guilt and remorse felt by his jingoistic father. Daniel Radcliffe was rather touching as Jack, the shortsighted son of a shortsighted dad, given that he had little by way of motivation in an underwritten part in a woefully underwritten script by the actor David Haig, who himself played Kipling as a simple, childlike old duffer, awash with wholesome romance and naive patriotism – which is far less than a fraction of the truth about this complicated, immensely energetic, accomplished and inspiring man. His wife (played by Kim Cattrall) and daughter (Carey Mulligan) were written as completely modern figures who had modern feelings and put them in modern terms. It was altogether an annoyingly glib and shallow portrayal, seen with perfect hindsight. The truth was far more poignant and would have made a much better, if more complex, drama.
We were shown Jack Kipling’s heroic death, storming a machinegun that looked like something from the Thunderdome. This gave a cheap, saccharine neatness to the story, the sort of thing Kipling would have loathed. Actually, they never did find out how Jack died. There was one dubious report that he had been seen with a wounded jaw, weeping. The Kiplings spent years trying to find his grave, but never did. And that is a much more typical, tragic and universally unresolved ending. It is only with the smugness of looking back that you can see Jack Kipling’s death as ironic comeuppance for the patriotism of Rudyard. Nobody in 1914 foresaw the breadth and depth of the calamity, or the fathomless lake of grief the war would dig.
Jack was the second child Kipling lost prematurely. His adored first daughter died of pneumonia; the Just So stories were told for her. He wrote them down and published them in her memory. For Jack, he wrote his longest and least read book, a regimental history of the Irish Guards (the “Wild Geese”) in the first world war. In all its hundreds of grindingly detailed pages, Jack’s death merits only one bleakly factual line. Kipling wouldn’t give his son any special treatment in death, or single him out above anyone else’s son.
JUST a reminder not to miss one of the TV dramas of the year tonight.
My Boy Jack will certainly be in the running when the awards are handed out.
In particular, David Haig as Rudyard Kipling and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe as his son John – known as Jack.
“I certainly felt a lot in common with my character,” said Daniel at the Imperial War Museum screening this week.
David not only gives a superb performance as Kipling, he also wrote the drama.
“I’m more interested in the individual devastation a single loss in a war creates,” he explained.
“And the collateral damage to families, friends, relations, for generations to come.
“One single loss does that.
“On the morning of John’s death, 7,500 soldiers set off equal chain reactions, destruction within families.”
Kim Cattrall, who plays Jack’s mother Carrie, is a revelation for those who only know her through Sex And The City.
She says the story in the ITV1 drama, screened at 9pm, is just as relevant today as it was in 1915.
“I think the only thing that’s changed is that now young women are dying. It’s the sons and daughters.
“Unfortunately, we’ll never truly be rid of war.
“I think the most we can hope for is to continue to try and educate generations.”
Off screen, Kim has been trying to persuade an 18-year-old nephew not to sign up and serve in Iraq.
“And I have been anything but silent about it.”
Carey Mulligan, who plays Jack’s sister Elsie, says no acting was required for her scenes with Daniel.
“I had the exact same arguments with my brother about going to serve in Iraq last year.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to realise if someone is going to do something regardless, you’ve just got to love and support them as much as you can.
“Every time I switched the television on over the six months and saw images of Iraq, my heart stopped.
“The fear and the waiting, that’s what people can relate to.
“When I read the script, I could see exactly what David was getting at.
"I had been through it myself.
“The poems and the writing enhanced and articulated it in a different way, but the sentiment was the same.”
My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling:
"HAVE you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
Sunday, 11 November 2007
For me, personally, it's the second world war, the war my dad served in and was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in, for three and a half years, in Burma, Bridge Over The River Kwai territory with none of the cinematography. Mum took her gas mask to school for years.
Her brother, meanwhile, the uncle I never knew, was killed on duty in the Black Watch, aged 21. As bald facts go, these unleash lifetimes of profound effect, and in the Imperial War Museum you can see, touch, imagine and hear the most minuscule echo of what some of that might have felt like: from original letters home from the PoWs of the Japanese to wandering the mocked-up ravines of the terrifying trenches; from shuffling through the reconstruction of a 1940s house to the sight of a ballistic missile, standing on end, as colossal and imposing as a rocket ship off to the moon.
You know it was all real, of course, but suddenly, it's really real. This week a press conference was held in the Imperial War Museum for the ITV drama My Boy Jack, which airs tonight, starring Daniel Radcliffe in the true story of Rudyard Kipling's teenage son, who was killed in the first world war, aged 18, in 1915.
Perched up on stage in the museum's cinema, Radcliffe sat alongside the scriptwriter and actor David Haig (Rudyard Kipling), Sex And The City's Kim Cattrall (Jack's mum, Carrie) and Bleak House actress Carey Mulligan (Jack's sister, Elsie). Here, then, as some kind of Remembrance Day tribute, are the selected conference highlights from the year in which, as an introductory big-wig from ITV had it, "there are 18-year-olds going to Iraq and still not coming back".
On the parallels between the troops in the first world war and the troops in Iraq today: Radcliffe: "I think it would be kind of arrogant of me to comment."
Haig: "I was especially interested in the individual devastation that a single loss in a war creates. The peripheral damage to families and friends, for generations to come. One single loss. On the morning of Jack's death, 7500 soldiers set off equal chain reactions of destruction."
Cattrall: "All of us, in some ways, have a connection. My grandfather served, he was gassed and I wish my father had known his father. And that maybe would've made him a different kind of dad."
On Radcliffe's great-uncle Ernie, who served at Loos, which means theoretically that Jack Kipling and great-uncle Ernie could have passed each other in the trenches: Radcliffe: "Yes, and that would be a rather remarkable coincidence. But he was one of three talismans that I had during filming. A picture of Uncle Ernie, two medals I was given as a present and a copy of Kipling's study of the Irish Guards The Irish Guards In The Great War.
"It was a pretty bizarre moment when I was told the medals had been presented to a William French, and then looked in the index in the back of Kipling's book and his name was there. You think: This man died then, at war, I don't know anything about him but he's entered my consciousness in 2007 and he entered Rudyard's 90 years ago'. And I thought that moment of shared experience was quite important."
On having a brother serve in Iraq while the character you're playing is the main family voice of dissent: Mulligan: "Yes, my brother was in the Territorial Army in Iraq for seven months, so I wasn't really acting. Funnily enough, there was a man on the news this morning, a lance-corporal, and he said he'd just come back and it was very hard because everyone was talking about The X Factor. And Emmerdale. Not that I'm blaming ITV "
On Radcliffe's interesting moustache: Radcliffe: "We filmed out of sequence, so I would've had to grow it back overnight, so it wasn't real, no. Another week and it would never have survived, it was seriously disintegrating "
As, indeed, did the rest of the press conference, which ended with The Sun wondering if Radcliffe was a Sex And The City fan (he'd never seen it) and the phenomenally successful weekly gossip bugle Grazia magazine wondering if Cattrall preferred her saucy Sex And The City outfits to the rather more austere garb of 1915. "Well," she said, "I've never been a big fan of the corset." Then the cast left, leaving us to contemplate exactly where we are nearly 100 years after the outbreak of the first world war.
"We are living in fast times," trumpets the official Grazia website, helpfully. "Life-changing news stories can gallop past us, delicious gossip can flutter and die, and fashion trends that are hot today are gone tomorrow.
"We will investigate the big issues of the week. You want to read the kind of interviews and reports that make you think seriously about your own life. There is no spin, no fluff, just straight-shooting information. Grazia: A Lot Can Happen In A Week!"
9:17pm Saturday 10th November 2007
Saturday, 10 November 2007
Carey Mulligan has wanted to be an actress since she was a child. She wouldn't let her family's doubts get in the way, and now she is a shining light in the classiest of British productions. By Chloe Fox. Photograph by Poppy de Villeneuve
'As I read the script, over and over again, every time I cried,' Carey Mulligan says of the story of My Boy Jack, which documents a heartbreaking episode in Rudyard Kipling's life when his son Jack went missing during the First World War. Written by David Haig (who also stars as Kipling), the television film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Jack and Kim Cattrall as his mother, Caroline. For Mulligan, who plays Jack's beloved sister Elsie, it was an offer she couldn't refuse. 'The minute I heard I had got the part, I went to my room and highlighted all my lines, like an excited schoolgirl,' she admits.
Having been acting for only three years, Mulligan is already one of our brightest stars. 'It's like a dream come true,' says the girl who, when she was six years old, was so inconsolable at not being allowed to join her elder brother in a school production of The King and I that she was eventually let into the chorus.
It was only the beginning of a determined battle to get her way. Ten years later, while at Woldingham School in Surrey, she went to see Kenneth Branagh play Henry V. So inspired was she by his performance that she wrote asking him to be her mentor. 'I explained that my parents didn't want me to act, but that I felt it was my vocation in life,' she says. She still has the letter she got back from Branagh's sister saying, 'Kenneth says that if you feel such a strong need to be an actress, you must be an actress.'
Two years later Mulligan was on her gap year, waiting, at the insistence of her parents (her father is a hotel management consultant, her mother a lecturer), to start at Reading University. 'It was as if I had got into an arranged marriage and the clock was ticking away,' she says. 'The only actor I had ever met in my life was Julian Fellowes, who came to do a talk at my school. I wrote to my headmistress explaining that I didn't want to go to university and wanted to get in touch with him. I knew it was a bit of a long shot, but I was desperate.'
A few weeks later Mulligan received a phone call from Fellowes's wife, Emma, asking her to a dinner they were having for young hopefuls at Le Caprice. Shortly afterwards, her new mentors told her that the director Joe Wright was looking for unknown young actresses to play Elizabeth Bennet's sisters in his production of Pride & Prejudice. Mulligan landed the role of Kitty. Her elder brother, she has since discovered, sent a text to their mother on hearing the news that read, 'Looks like we will have to eat our words.'
Since that happy summer three years ago, Mulligan, who has the added advantage of looking like the most delicate of English roses, has been working solidly on some of the classiest British television, film and theatre productions. Her television credits include Northanger Abbey, The Amazing Mrs Pritchard and most notably Bleak House, the award-winning BBC series in which she played Ada Clare. On film she recently gave a confident turn in And When Did You Last See Your Father? But it is on stage that she has most excelled, notably in this year's sell-out Royal Court production of The Seagull, in which she played Nina to Kristin Scott Thomas's Arkadina and Chiwetel Ejiofor's Trigorin. Her reviews were certainly the stuff that careers are built on. The Daily Telegraph said she was 'quite extraordinarily radiating'; the Observer described her as 'almost unbearably affecting'; 'exquisite' was the Independent's view.
'The time I spent doing The Seagull was everything to me,' Mulligan, now 22, remembers. 'It was like falling in love with life.' In the middle of the run she was struck down with appendicitis. Having been told the recovery period was three to six weeks, she was back on stage in one, although she couldn't wear a corset because of the stitches.
Her agent had sent her the script of My Boy Jack before she finished the run but it wasn't until several weeks later that Mulligan could bring herself to think about anything else. When she did read the script she knew she had to play Elsie. 'I could relate to her in every way,' Mulligan says of her character, who is vociferously opposed to her brother going to war.
After graduating from Oxford University, Mulligan's own brother volunteered to serve with the Territorial Army in Iraq. He is now back home but, perhaps as a result of her empathy, Mulligan's presence in the film is as affecting as its subject matter. Her Elsie veers from youthful optimism to profound sadness without drawing attention to the process. It is a very accomplished performance, especially from one who has had no real training. 'I consider it a great advantage,' she smiles, 'that every job I do is like going to drama school.'
# 'My Boy Jack' is on ITV1 tomorrow
EVERY NEW GENERATION HAS ITS wars but there's something about the lost generation of 1914-18 which seems to resurface again and again as the ultimate symbol of the horror of military conflict. By all logic of selective human memory and the incredible changes in how wars have been fought since, it shouldn't still mean as much as it does - it's a remarkable tribute, in a shallow world, to the fierce determination of its survivors that we never forget.
And those iconic images of doomed youth swarming hopelessly over the top of the trenches keep recurring: in the 1960s, there was Oh! What a Lovely War; in the 1970s, the TV adaptation of Testament of Youth; in the 1980s, the final moments of Blackadder Goes Forth; in the 1990s, the novel Birdsong and now, perhaps, My Boy Jack.
The war scenes themselves are obviously shot on a small budget, though they do evoke the terror of the moments before an offensive. But really the power of this moving drama is in its portrayal of the home front, where families watch and wait. Those waiting for soldier Jack are not just any family but Rudyard Kipling's: hugely successful writer, friend of the king, jovial storyteller adored by children - and warmonger, whipping up national fervour to fight Germany and send Britain's boys off to the front.
Unlike today's warmongers, he put his son where his mouth was, pulling strings to get 17-year-old Jack into the army despite the boy's desperately poor eyesight. There are no happy First World War stories, so it's no spoiler to say this is something that Kipling comes to regret horribly.
I haven't mentioned so far what will be the biggest draw of My Boy Jack for most - that Daniel Radcliffe plays the son in his first TV role since appearing in the highest grossing movie series of all time. It's tempting to bill it as Harry Potter and the Trenches of Death (especially as Jack Kipling wears little round glasses), but unfair: Radcliffe's involvement may have helped to get the film a primetime slot, but he gives an excellent performance as a young man struggling in his father's shadow until, ironically, being sent to command troops in France. Radcliffe's many young fans may freak out at the sight of him smoking, drinking and wearing a dodgy moustache, but it may also bring them to an understanding of the First World War in a way school lessons never could.
It is, though, really David Haig's show. Having written and starred in the original play, then adapted it for TV, he is so steeped in the role that he is note-perfect as Kipling, by turns kind, blind, gung-ho and idealistic. Kim Cattrall as his elegant American wife (also slipping off her usual Sexpot and the City image) and rising star Carey Mulligan as his cynical, overlooked daughter are very good too.
But it's easy to get sentimental about the gallant men of a long-ago war: you can feel both sorry and superior about how they rushed off to volunteer, thinking they'd be back by Christmas having saved the jolly old Empire. It might be harder to empathise with the more recent veterans of conflicts we might disapprove of, or haven't been able to fit into a neat historical narrative. Poet Simon Armitage marks this Armistice Week with an attempt to give voice to those less familiar war stories.
While the Great War poems are about those who perished, Armitage focuses on The Not Dead who didn't return as they left. Damaged, traumatised men, trying to forget what they saw, what they did, are harder to glorify than tragic martyrs. The poems represent three (real) soldiers from three conflicts, from 78-year-old Cliff who fought in Malaya to 23-year-old Rob, recently back from Iraq. But their stories are similar and it's an affecting and troubling film.
Like Daniel Radcliffe, Kris Marshall is attempting to reinvent himself in Sold, as more than just a dopey teenage son (My Family and variations on the same role) or a dopey but techno-savvy TV advert stepdad. But he's less successful: this alleged comedy drama series about estate agents is neither funny nor believable. Marshall makes manic efforts as the amoral boss who'll commit any dirty tricks to get his commission, and makes frequent declarations like: "As from today, you're already tomorrow's yesterday's man".
But the script is flaccid and the dramatic elements just silly. The hero, Danny (Bryan Dick), is keener on solving his clients' personal problems than finding them a house, but nevertheless pulls big sales just by being so gosh-darned nice. The tone is wildly messy and the show is at least twice as long as it should be - although really I'd rather they hadn't bothered at all.
Oh, these last three years have been gold for us long-time fans of BBC TV's Doctor Who. For starters, we finally get to come out of the closet and display our Dalek toys proudly because this newly regenerated incarnation of TV's longest-serving science fiction series has become not just a national institution in the UK; it's a U.S. and international hit, and has picked up more serious, non-fanboyish awards than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at. These last three years have been hit or miss (a Doctor Who tradition since 1963), but when it hits it's some of the best sci-fi on TV (at times some of the best TV on TV).
With David Tennant returning for his second year as the wayfaring Time Lord (redefining "the DTs" for swoony fans worldwide), Season 3 starts strong with the arrival of the Doctor's new companion, Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), in a good old-fashioned monster romp that transports a London hospital to the moon, where we find blood-sucking aliens, rhino-headed galactic stormtroopers, and the revelation of interstellar Magic Markers.
Other adventures pit the Doctor and Martha against ancient witches in Shakespeare's Globe Theater, a super-traffic jam billions of years in the future, and a malevolent force plunging a starship crew into a sun. The low points here are the "Daleks in Manhattan" two-parter, which does everything wrong, and (I can hear the fan forums gnashing now) the three-part season finale that resurrects the Doctor's arch-nemesis, the Master. While there's much to enjoy in John Simm's energetic turn as the evil Time Lord, those three episodes prove once again that series' creator Russell T. Davies really shouldn't be the one writing the season cappers.
However, some of the best stories the series has seen, ever, come from its two best writers -- Paul Cornell's chilling, moving two-parter "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" drives home both the Doctor's alienness and his humanity, and Steven Moffat's scary, enthralling "Blink" is worth the DVD set all by itself (and has us scouring the TV listings for more from young guest star Carey Mulligan, who's going to around for a long, long time).
All 13 eps are here, along with the feature-length Christmas special "The Runaway Bride," in 1.78:1 widescreen and DD 5.1 sound. They're of course uncut, which shouldn't need to be mentioned unless you've seen these only in their whittled-down Sci Fi Channel airings, in which case it's a bonus. This series' DVD sets have been generous with the extras, and this time we get episode commentaries from the cast, producers, writers, directors and others; selections from David Tennant's Video Diary; this season's thirteen "Doctor Who Confidential" episodes (totaling 2 1/2 hours); "Music And Monsters" (one hour) connects the "Doctor Who Confidential" entry for "The Runaway Bride" to the live "Children in Need Concert" of music from the show (joined on stage by David Tennant and assorted alien hordes); trailers and previews.
For devotees of old-school Doctor Who, this week also sees BBC Warner DVD releases of two lesser serials from 1982 with Peter Davison playing the Doctor: Doctor Who: Time-Flight and Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity. Although these are by no means the best of the Peter Davison years, the DVD releases of "classic" Doctor Who are always superbly produced with painstaking restorations and quality extras.http://www.film.com/dvds/story/newdvdspindrwhoflightoftheconchordscolbertreport/11597476/17228828
He takes on a very different role in My Boy Jack (ITV1, Sunday, 9pm), his first major TV drama since achieving global fame in the Potter films.
Set during the First World War, it tells the true story of how Rudyard Kipling used his influence to get his 17-year-old son Jack a commission with the Irish Guards, despite his son's poor eyesight.
Jack, caught up in the euphoria of the time, was every bit as keen to do his duty in northern France, and made the ultimate sacrifice.
He went missing in action during the Battle of Loos in Sept 1915. It was eventually learned that he had been killed in the pouring rain, unable to see a thing, shot down the day after his 18th birthday.
Daniel, also 18, says he hopes Potter fans will be watching when the moving two-hour film is screened on Remembrance Sunday.
Sitting at the Imperial War Museum, in London, I asked him what he thought they might take away from watching it. "I just hope that they're moved and that it sticks with them. To me the thought of forgetting all the people that fought is terrible. It is quite upsetting.
"I feel that we need to make the effort to remember them and realise how lucky we are to not ever have to endure those conditions again. And, if people watch it, who might not have watched it otherwise, then fantastic."
The film is written by David Haig, who also plays celebrated author and poet Kipling, a superstar of his day, author of The Jungle Books and Just So stories, as well as poems, including If. Sex And The City actress Kim Cattrall is Kipling's wife, Caroline, with Carey Mulligan as Jack's sister Elsie. The TV drama is based on David's own stage play version of the story.
It has been a labour of love for him, ever since a co-star on stage mentioned his striking resemblance to Kipling. "It's a dream that has taken 22 years to realise," explains David.
"Ultimately, what I find most moving about war is not necessarily the rights and wrongs, but the fact that every single casualty is an entire family devastated forever.
"The chain reaction of a single death in Iraq is huge, and yet in this particular war we're talking about sometimes 20,000 men in one day.
"Rudyard never lost his faith in the rightness of the war but what he couldn't bear was the thought that the country let those boys who fought down. After the war, he wrote a two-line phrase, through the eyes of the sons who died, which is, `If any question why we died, tell them our fathers lied.'"
Daniel says: "I don't think you can help but feel parallels when you realise that boys of Jack's age are still going to war. I think the film will have resonance for that reason.
"But the tragedy isn't just about the war, it's the idea of the parents outliving the children, which is the greatest tragedy imaginable.
"The story was the first thing that attracted me to this project. It's beautifully written. I've also had a relatively long-running fascination with the First World War.
"All war is, to a certain extent, beyond anyone's imagination, but particularly what it must have felt like to be in the trenches. These were probably some of the worst conditions any human has had to deal with. You feel compelled to learn about it so that the people who went through it don't just fade away into the past."
Daniel has been making Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, the sixth movie, to be released next year.
He's also "incredibly excited" about reprising his West End role in Equus on the Broadway stage next September. And My Boy Jack certainly shows there's life after the boy wizard for Daniel.
On the last day of the production, he filmed the scene where Jack leaves home to go to war. It was shot at Kipling's former home - Bateman's in Sussex - on what would have been Jack's 110th birthday.
"To be filming that scene on the day he was born was amazing. What was more significant was to do what would have been the same walk Jack did up the same pathway to leave for war.
"In the archway of the door of the house, Jack had inscribed his initials and every time I walked out of the door to do a take, I walked right past them. That was a particularly moving moment for me. To see those initials was so sad and poignant, especially knowing what we know now. It was incredibly moving."
A summary of Series Three: The third series was a tragic year for the Doctor. Not only is he still trying to cope with the loss of Rose, but the Doctor is starting to feel alone in the world. True, he picks up a new companion (Martha Jones) to fill that void, but it doesn't seem to be enough for him. He misses his home. On top of that, the Doctor winds up losing a close friend, and meets two of his biggest foes (the Daleks and The Master).
Series Three consists of 13 episodes plus the Christmas Special "The Runaway Bride." Here's a rundown of each ep:
"The Runaway Bride"- Aside from a gripping Tardis chase and a nifty scene involving planet Earth's creation, the story about the Empress Of Racnoss trying to bring back her species treads familiar ground. Additionally, the inclusion of Catherine Tate as Donna, who will be the main companion in series 4, was a bit mixed. Tate starts out obnoxious by screaming non-stop, but she eventually mellows down and becomes more likeable as the story progressed. It will be interesting to see how she fares in an entire series.
"Smith And Jones"- The story about a fugitive blood sucking Plasmavore is by no means brilliant, but I felt this was a perfect opening to the season. The story superbly introduces Martha Jones and her family to viewers while also presenting a new alien species (The Judoon). In my humble opinion, the Rhino headed Judoon are the best realized aliens of the new series alongside the Ood.
"The Shakespeare Code"- The plot: A group of witches named the Carrionites are using William Shakespeare to bring back their sisters from another dimension. Naturally, the Doctor plans to stop them from carrying out their plan. This is simply put my favorite historical episode of the new series thus far. David Tennant is at the top of his game here with his hilarious dialogue about "Harry Potter," "Back To The Future," and Shakespeare play references. Freema Agyeman's chemistry with Tennant begins to grow here as well.
"Gridlock" sees the Doctor returning to New Earth and discovering a massive traffic jam, the Macra, and other mysteries that he must uncover. Much like fine wine, this episode gets better with age. Not only does the episode contain stunning imagery (the Macra, the motorway), but "Gridlock" also has some of the most touching scenes in "Doctor Who" history (notably the death of reoccurring character, the Doctor's determination to save Martha/the city, and the hymn).
"Daleks In Manhattan" and "Evolution Of The Daleks"- This 2 parter about the Daleks showing up in 1930's New York to create a new army starts out promising enough with astonishingly detailed sets, f/x, and costumes, but the story quickly becomes a tiresome routine tale of the daleks killing and escaping. Flaws aside, however, I was intrigued by the inclusion of the Human/Dalek Hybrid. It's a shame this story idea fizzled out because it would have made for an original story arc for the Daleks.
"The Lazarus Experiment" - The plot: A scientist named Professor Lazarus creates a machine that makes humans become young again. He tests it on himself and it appears to go according to plan until he transforms into a giant, grotesque monster. There's no bones about it, this is a good-old-fashioned "Doctor Who" monster story complete with corridor chases and peril a plenty. In addition to the action, we actually get to see (and learn) A LOT more of Martha's family here. True, they aren't as charismatic as Rose's family and friends, but it's hard to top Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith.
"42"- The Doctor materializes aboard a ship that is about to crash into the sun. Additionally, an unwelcome alien visitor slowly begins to kill off the crew one by one. "42" is easily the weakest of the season. The story is too much like "24," "Sunshine," and last year's "Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit." The script is also dumbed down by a eye-rolling subplot about trivia questions. The only redeeming element is seeing the Doctor become possessed by an alien.
"Human Nature" and "The Family Of Blood" sees the Doctor hiding out as a human schoolteacher in 1913 England to avoid a nasty group of aliens. When the aliens eventually land in England, only Martha knows how to bring the Doctor back to his normal self. This 2 parter is a nice departure from the usual adventure, but there's simply not enough material here to warrant two parts. Granted, it's nice to see a greater emphasis on character, but most of it feels like filler. My favorite moment of this 2 parter was seeing the Doctor's darker side during the montage in which he "deals" with the Family Of Blood.
"Blink"- The plot: After an encounter with the Weeping Angels (alien statues), the Doctor finds himself trapped in time. His only hope is to reach out to a young woman named Sally Sparrow. Writer Steven Moffat is arguably the show's best scribe. "The Empty Child," "The Doctor Dances," "The Girl In The Fireplace," and now "Blink" are all brilliant episodes. "Blink" is a tour-de-force horror tale with plenty of clever plot devices (DVD Easter Eggs!) that will keep the viewer enthralled. Also, the character of Sally Sparrow is absolutely charming. The GORGEOUS actress Carey Mulligan lights up every scene she is in. She puts Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman to shame. Hopefully Sally Sparrow will become a future companion.
"Utopia" sees the return of Captain Jack Harkness (finally!). The story: Jack, Martha, and the Doctor travel to the end of the world where they meet a Professor Yana (played by the exquisite Derek Jacobi) who turns out to be the Master. "Utopia" is hands down my favorite episode of the season. From the opening of Captain Jack grabbing hold of the Tardis to the shocking regeneration scene, this adventure yarn was a non stop thrill ride.
"The Sound Of Drums" and "Last Of The Time Lords" find the Doctor returning to present day England (AKA Martha's home) to find that political candidate Harold Saxon IS the Master. Even worse, he has just been elected Prime Minister. With this power, the Master's plan of world domination begins to take effect. Will the Doctor be powerless to stop him? Of all of the finales of the new series, this 2 parter is by far the weakest. True, we do get a geektastic flashback of Gallifrey, a revelation about Captain Jack, and two other surprises at the end, but the story is rather ho-hum. "The Sound Of Drums" merely re-states all that has happened up to this point and sets up the second part. "Last Of The Time Lords" doesn't deliver on the promise of the set-up and wraps up way too quickly and predictably. The finale also boasts some frightfully bad moments (the psychic energy resurrecting the Doctor, the Master musical number). As for John Simm's Master, while he may be a tad over the top at times, his scenes with Tennant made for some good drama.
Overall, series three is on par with the last two seasons of the new series. All three seasons have their ups and downs, but the good far outweighs the bad. For my money, "Doctor Who" is the most exciting and fulfilling show on television today. Bring on series 4!
Since I reviewed a promo copy, the 1.78:1 widescreen picture quality may not appear as clear as the finished version. I did notice some lines during darker scenes, but overall the transfers were very sharp. This may be considered blasphemous, but I love seeing non-video tape/widescreen Who episodes. It makes the adventures appear more epic.
* Previews for "Torchwood" DVD and a BBC America channel.
* 2 teasers and 4 launch promos.
* A self-explanatory 18 minute Freema Agyeman Studio Tour. She guides us through the production offices, stages, prop offices, etc.
* 5 1/2 minutes of outtakes mainly showing David Tennant messing up.
* A 9 minute David Tennant Video Diary on "The Runaway Bride" set. He interviews Catherine Tate and Sarah Parish about their roles.
* Julie Garland and David Tennant give us a commentary track on "The Runaway Bride." The two chat up a storm about green screen work, scenes that were cut, and Catherine Tate.
* 18 mins. of deleted footage (mostly short extended scenes). I'm sad to report there isn't anything really notable here aside from scenes with Doctor packed into a small car in "The Runaway Bride," and the Doctor singing in "Human Nature."
* "Music And Monsters" (58 1/2 minutes) is the "Doctor Who Confidential" episode for "The Runaway Bride" and the "Children In Need Concert." The concert consists entirely of music from the show with various actors (David Tennant) and creatures (Dalek, Cybermen, Ood) appearing on stage. I wish I could have been there!
* Trailers for "Jekyll," "The Shakespeare Code," and "Gridlock."
* A 29 minute David Tennant's Video Diary featurette on "Smith And Jones," "The Shakespeare Code," and "Gridlock." David shows off his new suit and talks to Freema about her first day on set.
* Commentary- "Smith And Jones"- Russell T. Davies and David Tennant seem to be having fun as they talk back and forth about costumes, the focus on panicking citizens, and the Sontaran/Judoon comparisons.
* Commentary- "The Shakespeare Code"-Christina Cole and David Tennant give some insight into shooting at the Globe theater. The highlight includes Tennant talking about a cut scene between the Doctor (in his underwear) and Martha in bed. That would have been awkward.
* Commentary- "Gridlock"- Julie Gardner, Travis Oliver and Marie Jones mainly blabber about the F/X and catsuits.
* Trailers for "Daleks In Manhattan," "The Lazarus Experiment," and "42."
* Commentary- "Daleks In Manhattan"- Miranda Raison, Louise Paige, Helen Raynor comment on the horrendous weather plaguing production and the superb New York sets.
* Commentary- "Evolution Of The Daleks"- David Tennant, Nicholas Briggs, and Barney Curnow give my favorite commentary track of this set. Briggs is an absolute hoot to listen to as he introduces himself as Tom Baker, talks in Dalek voices, etc. I hope he will do voice acting in series 4.
* Commentary- "The Lazarus Experiment"- David Tennant and Mark Gattis ramble on about prosthetics, old man makeup, RTD's love of anagrams, and much more.
* Commentary- "42"- Russell T. Davies and Chris Chibnall talk VERY fast in this track. The highlight includes RTD comparing "Sunshine" to this episode and stating how the ship in this episode was originally called Icarus (the name of the ship in "Sunshine").
* "The State Within" preview.
* David Tennant's Video Diary on set of "Daleks In Manhattan," "The Lazarus Experiment," "Evolution Of The Daleks," "42," "Family Of Blood," "Human Nature" and his stint on "The Weakest Link: Doctor Who Special" (40 minutes).
* Charles Palmer, Paul Cornell and Murray Gold provide commentary for "Human Nature." Cornell is overly excited about everything little thing and questions Gold and Palmer frequently. Cornell does offer a few tidbits about comparisons to his "Doctor Who" book of the same name.
* On "Family Of Blood," Suzie Liggat, Tracie Simpson, and Arwel Wyn Jones provide commentary. The three mainly discuss technical aspects such as the costume designs, locations that the crew shot at, character roles, etc.
* Commentary- Murray Gold and Steven Moffat chat about "Blink's" intricate time travel story, music, and classic Who episodes.
* Trailers for "MI-5" Volume 1, "Utopia," "Sound Of Drums," "Vote Saxon," and "Last Of The Time Lords."
* A 27 minute David Tennant's Video Diary from the sets of "Utopia," "The Sound Of Drums," and "Last Of The Time Lords." Highlights: A tour of John Barrowman's trailer, Tennant dancing in the old man costume, and Barrowman getting a Dalek cake for his birthday.
* Commentary by Russell T. Davies and David Tennant on "Utopia." The two talk about the crazy filming schedule, continuity, the Master and how John Barrowman was going to do the commentary track.
* "The Sound Of Drums" commentary features Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson. Highlights include discussions of the celebrity cameos and a reference to the superb "Sea Devils" episode.
* Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson show up on the "Last Of The Time Lords" commentary track. In between fits of laughter, the 3 chat about the big "revelation" at the end of the episode, and how the Master won't be returning in season 4. RTD does state that he purposely set it up so that he could return in some form down the road.
* "Doctor Who" Series 2 preview.
* 13 "Dr. Who Confidential" episodes running 2 1/2 hours in length. The most notable bits include writer Helen Raynor and crew members visiting New York for research and plate shots for the Dalek episodes, behind the scenes shots, early memories of the show with various writers/actors, interviews, etc.
My only complaint with the bonus features is the absence of the animated "Doctor Who: Infinite Quest" series.
"Doctor Who" series 3 is a must buy. I am proud to give this set my first DVD TALK COLLECTOR SERIES rating.
Now that the nights are getting colder and darker, the TV networks are bringing out their winter heavyweights, which traditionally have included literary adaptations. On Monday night, BBC4 welcomed John Cleland’s saucy Fanny Hill while tonight will see ITV1 strive to reinvent Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for a modern audience. And so to celebrate these new interpretations of classic novels, TV Scoop brings you our top ten literary adaptations.
Note how keen I am to stress that the source of these television gems must be those heavy things that fill libraries: books. A period drama, such as Rome or Band of Brothers, is keen to set the piece in a bygone era, but is not bound (ho!) to a plot by the work of a novelist. Other conditions of the list include no long-running serials (Jeeves and Wooster), no collective works of an author (Marple) and no, repeat no Catherine Cookson. The adherence to the author’s original work is all too often not what it should be, but any attempts to introduce the likes of Elizabeth Bennet, Rochester and Flora Poste to a mass audience must always be a good thing. And so on to the top ten
1. Bleak House
2005’s 15-part dramatisation of Dickens’ 1852/3 classic assumed an unconventional approach, being packaged in 30 minute instalments rather than the genre’s traditional 60 minutes, with two shown per week (at 8pm on Thursdays and 8.30pm on Fridays). This allowed it to follow Eastenders in the scheduling and like the Walford show, was promoted almost as a soap opera. This risk paid off with strong viewing figures, as it went on to BAFTAs and creative Emmys. The cast included respected British actors such as Charles Dance and international star Gillian Anderson alongside less expected figures such as Johnny Vegas and Matthew Kelly. But at the heart of the story featured three virtual unknowns: Anna Maxwell Martin, Patrick Kennedy and Carey Mulligan. The plot might be that of a long-running legal dispute, but Bleak House’s eccentric supporting characters, touching love stories and spiky humour resulted in another Andrew Davies triumph.
2. Brideshead Revisited
Bleak House might have packed some impressive names, but the 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s self-proclaimed ‘magnum opus’ carried probably the biggest on this list – Sir Lawrence Olivier. Of course, Sir Larry did not enjoy either of the starring roles of Charles Ryder or Lord Sebastian Flyte, these being handed to Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, but his presence testifies to the ambition, scope and quality of the 11-part mini-series. The show enjoyed impressive production values, beautiful location work and had everyone talking about the homosexual subtext between the two leading males. In 2000 the British Film Institute placed the programme as its tenth best British programme ever.
3. Pride and Prejudice
What is there left to say about P&P? The show gave us Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in his wet shirt, a heroine in Elizabeth Bennet to root for and many laughs courtesy of the hysterical Mrs. Bennet and her droll hubby. P&P had people watching a literary adaptation who would never think to do so and its widespread appeal transferred to fashion, interior design and launched the phenomenally successful Bridget Jones. Amazingly, the 1995 six hour production is rated on entertainment review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% quality rating. Every girl’s favourite.
4. The Forsyte Saga
So good they made it twice in 1967 and 2002. John Galsworthy’s three novel set follows generations of Forsytes, with the materialistic and cold Soames at the heart of the action. The 2002 Granada version was presented in two parts and starred top British talent such as Damian Lewis, Rupert Graves and Ioan Grufford, while the original was such a hit for the BBC that 18 million tuned in for the grand finale.
5. David Copperfield
This Dickens two-parter was screened over Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 1999 and saw an ickle Daniel Radcliffe appear as a young David Copperfield. The starry cast also featured fellow Harry Potter stars Maggie Smith and Imelda Staunton with cockney hard man Bob Hoskins. This semi-autobiographical tale of a boy overcoming terrible adversities earned the BBC more BAFTAs and interestingly starred Harry Lloyd, the great-great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens as Young Steerforth.
6. Lady Chatterley
Director Ken Russell introduced a slight change to the name, snipping off the word ‘lover’ but remained loyal to Lawrence's bawdy plot of a young woman’s affair with gruff groundskeeper Mellors. The sexy shenanigans of stars Joely Richardson and Sean Bean caused a media uproar when broadcast in 1993, but helped rocket them both to stardom.
7. Jane Eyre
The most recent adaptation on the list, 2006’s four-part version of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 classic romance cast unknown Ruth Wilson as our steely heroine with Toby Stephens on moody-mode as Rochester. The programme earned plaudits both here and in the US, and despite a few, very slight discrepancies maintained the haunting quality of the novel.
8. Cold Comfort Farm
Twice adapted for television, the 1995 interpretation of Flora Poste’s comic struggles with the bizarre Starkadder clan at Cold Comfort Farm came with many names (Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley) but provided a terrific platform for star-on-the-rise Kate Beckinsale. This entry is unusual, both as a product of the twentieth century (author Stella Gibbons penned it in 1932) and especially since it parodies the grim realities in books by authors such as Dickens.
9. Tipping the Velvet
Written by Sarah Waters in 1998, this Victorian saga of lesbian love was her debut novel and earned this adaptation in 2002. Telling the story of Nancy Astley’s (Rachael Stirling) love affair with male impersonator stage performer Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes), the three-part drama refused to shy away from the graphic lesbian sex and provided an unusual spin on the conventional period drama romance.
10. Crime and Punishment
A philosophical examination of the moral dilemmas of committing crime, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel is a world away from bonnets, picnics and chaste kisses. With TV Scoop darling John Simm in the lead role as tortured soul Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, we witness the mental anguish of the individual in what Simm has revealed is his favourite book. As expected, 2002’s version is a heavy, intense and darkly challenging piece of television.
Saturday, 20 October 2007
The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard: "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries. Starring Jane Horrocks, Janet McTeer. 9 p.m. Sunday, with subsequent episodes 9 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 18, and encore broadcasts, on KQED.
Back in 1923, F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to maintain the early momentum of his literary success with his play "The Vegetable," which was subtitled "From Postman to President." Later on, Frank Capra's "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" appeared, and remains perhaps the best-known American treatment of the ancient fantasy that the average Joe can make it to the higher echelons of power and change the world.
The latest treatment of the subject comes with the new "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," starring the equally amazing Jane Horrocks, who plays a supermarket manager who gets fed up with the antics of politicians during one of Britain's national elections and suddenly finds herself running for Parliament. Ros Pritchard is a thoroughly modern woman who balances a career and being wife to her bean-counter husband, Ian (Steven Macintosh) and their two daughters, Emily (Carey Mulligan) and Georgina (Jemma McKenzie-Brown). One day, while breaking up a brawl between two competing politicians in front of her market, Ros is caught on TV camera expressing exasperation at the prevarication and deceptiveness of most politicians and offering that she could do a much better job in Parliament than either of the clowns she's just sent packing.
Soon enough, Ros finds herself running for Parliament. And quicker than you can say, well, "Gordon Brown," she's managed some major defections from the Tory and Labor parties and has succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister. On taking office, she vows to the British people that she will never lie to them and, with the support of her Purple Alliance party, she tries to bring a populist program to government. Most of her ministers, for example, are women, a point that is subtly but effectively made in Sally Wainwright's exquisitely detailed, character-driven script.
Soon enough, she begins to understand both Lord Acton's observation that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" and Kissinger's view that "power is the greatest aphrodisiac." Who is out to get her? Someone on the inside, it seems. Could it be formidable Catherine Walker (Janet McTeer), a defector from the former dominant party who's become the chancellor of the exchequer and is viewed by Pritchard detractors as the real power behind the front bench? Or the home secretary, Hilary Rees Benson (Geraldine James), whose altruism may have driven her to betray the boss? Maybe it's Kitty Porter (Frances Tomelty), the reptilian owner of the supermarket chain, who's dumped a frightening amount of money into Ros' campaign.
What gives "Mrs. Pritchard" a good deal of verisimilitude is that writer-creator Wainwright has freighted the series with a good many real-world details, including Ros' distrust of George Bush's influence on British foreign policy, her belief that Blair erred in getting the United Kingdom involved in the Iraq war, and the very real threat of terrorist attacks on Britain.
Meanwhile, very human dramas are playing out all around her. Ros' elder daughter is enticed to pose nude for a racy magazine, a member of Parliament from Ros' party goes out drinking when her marriage falls apart and is caught by a photographer from a sleazy tabloid, Ros' husband has a secret in his past that, if known by his wife, could topple her government, and, to top it all off, Catherine begins bedding down with her much younger speechwriter and finds herself both in love and preggers.
The performances are extraordinary, from the starring roles on down. Horrocks, best known for playing the addle-headed Bubble in "Absolutely Fabulous" and the lead character in the wonderfully quirky film "Little Voice," is so good in the role, you'll wish she'd been born in the United States and could toss her hat into the American presidential race. Wisely, she never plays Ros in an over-the-top way. The same decisiveness and capability she shows when Ros is "only" managing the supermarket characterizes her style of running the country. McTeer, another actress we'd watch in virtually anything, is superb as Catherine - tough as nails, but then, in the face of real love, not so much. The rest of the cast is equally great, in part because of the performances, of course, but also because of the care Wainwright has put into the details of their characters.
The three directors on the series - Simon Curtis, Declan Lowney, Catherine Morshead - clearly share a unanimity of vision. And there's no doubt that vision comes primarily from Wainwright's script and concept of the story. In the end, the action comes down to certain choices that, depending on their resolution, will have inevitable consequences for some of the major characters. My one quibble with the series is that the resolution is not played out, but rather comes in a printed afterword. Regardless of how we might have wanted things to turn out at that point, Wainwright undervalues her audience a bit here by not giving it the satisfaction of seeing the finale dramatized.
No matter. "Mrs. Pritchard" is still amazing and great fun. Of course, something like it could never happen in real life. And that makes it rather wistful as well.
Masterpiece Theatre (8 p.m., Ch. 7): In Part 1 of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a supermarket manager (Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous") is unexpectedly elected prime minister.From HeraldNet
She's a caring, efficient supermarket manager: How does she rise to the position of her country's prime minister? That's the saga of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries about a frustrated British subject who runs for Parliament to make a point: The people in power are a lousy lot.From Star Tribune
A political neophyte, Ros Pritchard finds herself at the forefront of a feminist revolution -- the new Purple Democratic Alliance -- which wins in a landslide. But once in office, she must learn fast while holding on to the qualities that got her there.
By turns funny, touching and inspiring, this series will speak to any viewer who ever scoffed at government and thought: I wouldn't do a bit worse if I were in charge. Starring Jane Horrocks, it premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on PBS.
See Jane run
Jane Horrocks stars in "Masterpiece Theatre: The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (8 p.m. Sunday, KTCA, Ch. 2), a five-part miniseries about an English superstore manager who finds herself running for Parliament. We'd find this premise entirely inplausible if we didn't remember a pro wrestler who wound up as our governor. Now when is "Masterpiece Theatre" going to get to that tale?
FROM GROCERY TO GOVERNMENT. Jane Horrocks of "Absolutely Fabulous" (wifty Bubble) stars in a very contemporary new "Masterpiece Theatre" (tomorrow 9-11 p.m., WNET/13). As "The Amazing Mrs Pritchard," airing through Nov. 18, she's a supermarket manager turned political sensation, running a grassroots race for Britain's Parliament and suddenly serving as prime minister. All you need to know at pbs.org/wgbh /masterpiece/mrspritchard.
The viewing polls are open. And lovers of witty Brits just might want to vote for "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a sly fable about a plucky supermarket manager (Jane Horrocks, "Little Voice," "Absolutely Fabulous") who shocks the establishment to become Britain's newest prime minister when "Masterpiece Theatre" kicks off its 37th season with the lively five-part miniseries at 9 p.m. Sunday on PBS. Working mother of two Ros Pritchard (Horrocks) captures the fancy of a disillusioned electorate and is swept into office, sparking a feminist political uprising that thoroughly shakes up Parliament. Move England's capital, demote the queen and actually do something about global warming? Those are just a few of Prime Minister Pritchard's bold moves. Amazing indeed... as well as lots of fun. "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" has my vote.
The great comic actress Jane Horrocks has made a career of playing mousey little women who roar. She channeled the fire and passion of singers like Judy Garland and Eartha Kitt in the 1998 film "Little Voice" and became an integral part of the cast of "Absolutely Fabulous," arguably the best and most influential sitcom of the past 20 years.
Now she stars in "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (9 p.m. Sunday, PBS) a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" presentation from Britain. A perky, advice-dispensing supermarket manager in a West Yorkshire suburb, Mrs. Ros Pritchard is inspired to run for Parliament when she has to break up a fistfight between male Tory and Labor candidates outside of her store.
As the police converge, the press captures her exasperation at the arrogance of politics as usual. Her slogan, "I could do better than you," captures the public imagination. Soon, she's not only running but also heading a Purple coalition of fed-up citizens, almost exclusively women. The resulting tidal wave washes Pritchard and her coalition to a majority, turning the former store manager into the most unlikely and admittedly unprepared prime minister.
"Pritchard" has the feel-good optimism and inspirational faith in the common man (and woman) found in Frank Capra movies of old. But like the best fairy tales, "Mrs. Pritchard" has its nightmare elements, particularly for her husband, Ian (Steven Mackintosh), and fetching teenage daughter, Emily (Carey Mulligan). The miniseries does a good job of balancing the personal and the political, exploring the furious multitasking required for a woman to put together a Cabinet, face a foreign-policy crisis and find a new school for her youngest daughter — all on her first day on the job.
It doesn't help that her husband may have some dark secrets to hide, or that the press will stop at nothing to find photos of Emily in the nude, or that some of Ros' new allies may have less than pure motives. It may seem beyond incredible that a major democracy would choose a perfectly ordinary stranger to head their government, but viewers will have no problem casting their vote and falling a little bit in love with Horrocks and "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard."
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
October 20, 2007
At some point, almost everyone thinks he or she could do a better job running the country than those pesky politicians, making the conceit of an ordinary citizen suddenly propelled into the halls of power an evergreen. From "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to "Dave," Americans love to believe that there's nothing wrong with the system that a little real-people common sense and integrity couldn't put right.
And now, it seems, the Brits agree. In "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," debuting Sunday night on PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre," a brightly brisk grocery store manager, played winningly by Jane Horrocks, watches in horror as Tory and Labor candidates come to blows outside her shop. She decides she could certainly do a better job than "that lot" and, after a well-timed display of televised outrage, gathers enough public support to form a third party, the Purple Alliance. With the deep-pocket support of the grocery chain owner and the insightful murmur of a top political advisor in her ear, Ros Pritchard gains key defections from both Tory and Labor, the Purple Alliance sweeps the nation and next thing we know, Ros is settling in at 10 Downing Street as prime minister.
There, she spends the next four episodes learning that there's a bit more to running a country than she once thought; that no one, including herself, is quite what they seem; and that power is a complicated and mercurial suitor.
As an argument for the citizen-politician, "Mrs. Pritchard" is not terribly persuasive -- the innovations she introduces, the stands she takes, are not earth-shattering by any means, particularly to an American audience. The personal conflict she finds herself embroiled in is not terribly believable and, as far as plot lines dealing with inter-party power plays and the price a world leader's family pays, there's nothing here that wasn't already done much better on "The West Wing."
What "Mrs. Pritchard" does have going for it, what makes it worth watching, is terrific acting from its rather astonishing ensemble. Horrocks, best known here for her title role in the film "Little Voice," as well as a turn as Bubble, the ditzy secretary in the British television cult classic "Absolutely Fabulous," goes completely against type. Yes, there are times when the voice gets high enough, and the Lancashire accent broad enough, to remind us that she also gave voice to a particularly dim-witted hen in "Chicken Run," but she manages, without fanfare, to portray the metamorphosis of perky grocery store manager to prime minister in an organic, very physical way.
The wonderful Janet McTeer appears as Catherine Walker, the former Tory representative who becomes Ros' deputy prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer. Catherine gives "Mrs. Pritchard" whatever grounding in actual politics it may have. Smart, tough, unblinking and unapologetic, she is the sort of woman you would like to have as prime minister, or president, for that matter. Even when given a fairly ridiculous romantic story line to sort out, McTeer, who was also just seen in the amazing "Five Days," manages to lend the whole thing a complexity and maturity it might not actually deserve.
Likewise, Jodhi May creates, rather than plays, Miranda Lennox, the political advisor who steers Ros through her campaign and into the treacherous waters of politics. With her soft, fair face and enormous dark eyes, May is an actress who moves easily through time, showing up in costume dramas and modern narratives with an almost archetypal presence.
As Ros' elder daughter, Emily, Carey Mulligan (Ada in "Bleak House") is a caldron of adolescent emotions, and Frances Tomelty makes a powerful and inscrutable Kitty Porter, the millionaire who smooths Ros' way.
It's difficult to imagine a similar ensemble of American actresses, mainly because in the U.S., even on television, only a relatively few get enough work to achieve this level of craft. Those who do find themselves corseted, sometimes literally, by our narrow standards of beauty, which too often involve Botox, plastic surgery and eating disorders.
Perhaps in deference to the queen, Britain is kinder and wiser with its women -- there has already been a female prime minister, after all -- allowing all manner of womanhood their personal beauty. On British television, you don't have to have legs that go on forever or visibly toned arms or a face that miraculously never ages to land a significant role. Down to the wardrobe -- most of the politicos wear a few outfits over and over, just like real women do -- "Mrs. Pritchard" takes American television to task. It may not be the most revealing portrait of political leadership available, but it is a reminder of how important real people are. Not just to politics, but to the cultural tapestry as well.
Friday, 19 October 2007
TV Highlights – from freep.com
"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (9 p.m., WTVS-TV, Channel 56, PBS). Jane Horrocks ("Little Voice," "Absolutely Fabulous") stars as a West Yorkshire working mother who brashly takes on the political pros and shocks a nation to become Britain's most unlikely new prime minister as "Masterpiece Theatre" launches its 37th season with a lively, entertaining five-part miniseries fable. Say yes to PBS with a vote for Mrs. Pritchard.
In The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, Ros Pritchard (Jane Horrocks) uses her power as prime minister to institute a one-day-a-week car ban and to propose moving the seat of power from London to the suburbs. She even suggests the British royalty is archaic and no longer needed.
Peppered with salty language, this light-hearted five-part BBC miniseries, airing as part of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, follows Ros' political rise, beginning with her "Purple Party" candidacy and her surprise victory.
Aided by her all-woman cabinet, Ros works quickly to get up to speed on issues. She meets with heads of state while juggling the demands of her husband, Ian (Steven Mackintosh), and two daughters. Her family is ambivalent about Ros' newfound ambition, and a secret of Ian's could derail her career.
Writer Sally Wainwright said she created Ros out of her own dissatisfaction with England's political choices in the 2005 national election.
"Ros reminded me of a very bright but ordinary woman," she said. "People go into that situation with ideals and optimism, then are shocked by the reality of dealing with people who don't think like they do."
The miniseries airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on WXEL-Ch. 42, at 10 p.m. on WPBT-Ch. 2.
TV and Radio Writer
October 20, 2007
Tiny Jane Horrocks -- or at least she seems tiny compared with everyone else in the cast -- turns in a bravura performance in "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a five-part "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries beginning Sunday.
What's amazing about this Mrs. Prit-chard (accent on the second syllable)?
One day, she's the every-vegetable-in-its-place manager of a supermarket in small-town England. Months later, she's prime minister of Britain. And that's the only implausible note in the entire miniseries.
"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" made its British debut last year, just weeks after Tony Blair announced he would be stepping down as prime minister. It airs here as various presidential campaigns heat up with a possible female front-runner.
Ros Pritchard has nothing in common with these professional politicians. She's a not-so-average wife and mother fed up with the usual candidates for Parliament.
"I can do better than that," she thinks, and suddenly has a groundswell of support. Her newly formed Purple Democratic Alliance party wins the majority, and she finds herself leading the country -- or, as the opposition claims, being led by members of her Cabinet.
As a newcomer to 10 Downing Street, Mrs. Pritchard has much to get used to. A personal secretary joined at the hip. A schedule that keeps her shuffling from one very important meeting to another in 15-minute increments. Scant time to spend with her husband, played by Steven Mackintosh, and two daughters.
And the international crises never end. Within minutes of becoming prime minister, Mrs. Pritchard must contend with a military emergency in the Middle East. (She's anti-Bush, by the way; also anti-monarchy.)
Mrs. Pritchard is an empathetic, caring leader. She can afford to be, because her Cabinet members, almost all female, are professional politicians who know how to work the system. This is especially true of Janet McTeer as Catherine Walker, a high-ranking member of another party who defects to the Purple Alliance.
Walker is the opposite of Pritchard: tall, single, painfully career-minded. Her affair with a much younger speechwriter is one of several soap opera elements that spice up the drama.
This is a miniseries that gets better with each episode and every crisis.
Mrs. Pritchard may be perfect, but not the people around her. Her older daughter hates not having an identity of her own. Her husband has a secret that could harm her politically. Her party members, many of them political newcomers too, aren't immune from scandal or bad judgment.
Watching Mrs. Pritchard evolve from naive do-gooder to savvy head of state, with salty language to match, will test the viewer's political beliefs as well.
Will you see her as becoming corrupted or learning how to best navigate political waters?
One warning: As an outsider from West Yorkshire, Mrs. Pritchard doesn't speak in easy-to-understand BBC English. Be prepared not to understand everything she says, although her intent will always be clear.
then 9 to 10 p.m. on subsequent Sundays through Nov. 18
"After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching," Colbert said on his Tuesday night Comedy Central show "The Colbert Report," "I have heard the call. I am doing it."
Truth or truthiness? I think we all know the answer to that question. Yet it didn't stop TV and print news outlets across the country reporting it. Chalk it up to a slow news day, or the fact that even Colbert looked better than some of the candidates out there.
We know this makes great television for "The Colbert Report," but what if the political joker actually got on the ticket and people voted him into office?
That far-fetched idea of disenfranchised voters going for the nontraditional candidate forms the basis of "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard," a miniseries that aired last year in Britain to poor ratings before PBS imported it here.
Despite the tepid British response, we think this is a grand series for anyone who has ever been dumbfounded by the antics of our elected officials, anyone who has ever said a howler monkey makes more sense than our president and especially for anyone who has ever shaken a fist at the tube
and said they could do a better job than these yahoos.
"The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" answers the question: What would happen if an ordinary person of reasonable intelligence and a good helping of common sense ever made it into a high elected office?
Mrs. Ros Pritchard — played by the engaging Jane Horrocks ("Little Voice") — decides to make a point by running for Parliament. She is spurred after witnessing the two candidates acting like bullies in a schoolyard brawl.
She makes the life-altering statement that she could "do better than this lot." So she plunks down 500 pounds, gets a few fliers together and runs for office.
"I will never lie to you," she tells her supporters. "I will never mislead you."
Suddenly, both powerful and powerless women are joining her on her independent Purple Alliance platform, and the British people have found a new hero. In this fantasy, Ros not only wins a place in Parliament, she earns enough votes to become Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, her loving but less-than-perfect family is bearing the brunt of suddenly being pushed into the spotlight. To quote a cliche older than "This isn't my first rodeo," be careful of what you wish for.
Husband Ian (Steven Mackintosh) hides a horrible secret that could topple Ros' rise to power, and worse, destroy his family. Rebellious beauty Emily (Carey Mulligan) revels in being the daughter of the Prime Minister, but quickly becomes emotionally crippled by the association.
The series is billed as a comedy, and though it has a somewhat comic tone at the beginning, "Mrs. Pritchard" changes dramatically through the course of the five installments starting with the two-hour premiere and subsequent one-hour episodes thereafter.
After a giddy beginning, in which Ros transitions from an efficient, well-meaning grocery store manager, wife and mum to a powerful world leader, things turn decidedly darker.
The script by Sally Wainwright takes plenty of shots at the inefficiencies of British government, but even more at President George Bush. There's no denying where Wainwright stands as her characters rail against supporting Bush's foray into Iraq, the lack of movement by world leaders to stop global warming and the government inefficiencies that result in poor school funding and soft safety policies.
The anti-Ros is career-obsessed Catherine Walker, a high-ranking member of the Conservative Party who defects to Ros' campaign in a rare spontaneous moment. She's rewarded with the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Janet McTeer steals the show with her intense portrait of a woman who stumbles in her private life, but never in her public one.
Harsh reality keeps pounding on Ros' door until she must finally decide if staying in office is worth tossing her moral compass. In the final scene, we may be left wondering what decision she makes. In the British version, there was an epilogue that told you how it all ends. That piece of information was lacking in the review copy sent out. If it doesn't come on, you can go to my blog at http://www.ibabuzz.com/unscripted on the final night, Nov. 18, where I'll reveal it.
by Susan Young