Tuesday, 30 December 2008

STATE OF PLAY (US)

http://stateofplaymovie.net/

Remake of the British miniseries with John Simm and David Morrissey. But seriously...

Monday, 22 December 2008

TA2 ADVISORY: HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Advisory, er... sounds like Nikki Finke, hey? (laughs) Your humble French servant wishes all of you, faithful readers or new visitors, the best holidays possible. Let me also thank you for your fidelity and your interest.

Not only this blog has an increasing number of visitors each month, not only the English and French versions of this blog have regular visitors from a lot of different countries (which is a real pleasure, to write in two versions takes time), but the number of visitors bookmarking this blog is also increasing and - to my highest astonishment - some of you signal this blog by mail to their contacts. Not to mention players of the industry who visit us from time to time when they're concerned by our humble work of the moment.

We keep on working during the holidays. So much to do... FYI information,my review about the French edition of Sir Roger Moore's wonderful book: My word is my Bond, is available on the French version of this blog (http://thierryattard.blogspot.com/2008/12/les-memoires-de-roger-moore-amicalement.html + http://thierryattard.blogspot.com/2008/12/les-memoires-de-roger-moore-amicalement_12.html). I know some non French speaking readers sometimes use translators on our French blog.

Coming attractions: Russell T. Davies, Lonesome Dove (Region 2 French DVD), Lee Goldberg's new Monk novel... May the year 2009 be better than this finishing one. Thanks again to you, O loyal and fragrant readers. Er... Sounds like Furious D, hey?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

HORST TAPPERT (1923-2008)

Special thanks to Nathalie ATTARD and David GENTIAL

German actor Horst Tappert died on December 13 in Munich. He was 85. He will remain, although he would probably not have wished it, the symbol of a longtime institution of the pre-Hermann Joha or pre-CSI German television: the Freitag-Krimi, the typical German cop show of Friday evenings, with one single tv series: Derrick (1974-1998).


ROBBERS AND COPS

Like most German actors seen on television, Horst Tappert has his formation years on stage. His first notable role is the character of the criminal mastermind in The Great Train Robbery (Die Gentlemen bitten zur Kasse, 1966), a three-part miniseries considered as a milestone in the History of German tv. The same year he appears in the fourth movie adapted from the popular Jerry Cotton crime novels (with US actor George Nader as G-Man Jerry Cotton), Tip not included (Die Rechnung - eiskalt serviert).

In 1968 he plays a guest part in the first Krimiserie ever, Das Kriminalmuseum (1963-1970), an anthology produced by a man who invents popular tv fiction of the 20th century in Germany: Helmut Ringelmann. Tappert will work for Ringelmann again in two episodes of one of the most popular shows of this producer: Der Kommissar (1969-1976), with Erik Ode as Kommissar Herbert Keller - conceived originally as a German Maigret.

Horst Tappert is also a familiar figure in the Edgar Wallace movie series, even playing twice the same inspector, in Gorilla Gang (Der Gorilla von Soho, 1968) and The Man with the glass eye (Der Man mit dem Glassauge, 1969). In 1972 he's back as the criminal mastermind of Die Gentlemen bitten zur Kasse in Hoopers letzte Jagd.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

In 1974, Horst Tappert becomes Oberinspektor Stephan Derrick in Helmut Ringelmann's new Krimiserie, Derrick. To ensure a certain continuity with his hit Der Kommissar, Ringelmann wisely decides that Kriminalhauptmeister Harry Klein (Fritz Wepper), one of the characters, will leave Kommissar Keller to work with Derrick (and two men of the new team appear in the previous show). Derrick is the brainchild of Ringelmann and writer Herbert Reinecker, and is influenced naturally by Der Kommissar, but also by Maigret and in some respects by Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

The premiere of the first season (three episodes), Waldweg, and Season 2's first, Mitternachtbus, are two of the best episodes of the show and set its ambiance, with dark and pessimistic stories. The scripts of Derrick, all written by only one man, Reinecker, are imprinted by his own vision of life and his experiences. The pattern of the show is simple: a sordid crime is commited in the small bourgeoisie or high society of Munich and Derrick investigates with his assistant, Harry Klein. Stephan Derrick acts in most episodes as a sort of misanthropic observer without a single oz of concession but with a solid sense of Justice, and occasional expression of his own feelings - when he's appalled by the situation in spite of the fact that this hardened cop has seen them all.

The formula of Derrick, a counterpoint to the US cop shows of the seventies as the series relies more on psychology than action, makes its success to the point that the series will last 25 seasons until 1998 (a longevity common to many German shows, especially those devised by Helmut Ringelmann) and will see the character naturally evolve.

DERRICK IN FRANCE: THE CASE OF THE "MALENTENDU"

There's a die hard cliché in France about the so-called "slowness" of the show and the fact that only senior citizens are meant to watch it (1). Derrick arrives in France in 1986 on Silvio Berlusconi owned La Cinq, in the middle of a train of illustrious US shows, and the Krimiserie suffers the comparison, not unlike the damages done by CSI and its clones on German fiction production today. Derrick is mocked as a "slow", quasi-grabataire cop show, whereas it's more a psychological (and often philosophical) study about the weakness of the Human soul through the prism of two notions: Guilt and Justification.

In fact, Derrick owes more to the first Claude Chabrol movies (particularly in its first seasons) than to Starsky & Hutch or other Aaron Spelling ventures. And the show is often filmed like a stage representation of Brecht or Tchekhov. Action is required only when necessary as Stephan Derrick is, after all, a Kripo (Kriminal Polizeï) cop: take for instance Episode 5 of Season 2, Zeichen der Gewalt, with the late Raimund Harstorf (in one of his appearances alongside erotic icon Sybil Danning), as a runaway killer chased (literally) by Derrick and killed by the Oberinspektor after several gunshots. This episode has the flavor of a "film noir" a la Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Deray or José Giovanni (who wrote and directed the third episode of Der Alte, Ringelmann's replacement of Der Kommissar).

More, Derrick explores wide narrative areas, from stories that seem borrowed from Der Kommissar to "chabrolian" portraits of the bourgeoisie, with sometimes detours to Nietszche or Kafka. The 75-minute long Ein Kongreß in Berlin (Season 6, Episode 9), is a cross between Mabuse and The Spy who came from the cold. Edgar Wallace is not far of some episodes and there's even a bank robbery narrated in voice-over by Derrick. Herbert Reinecker and Helmut Ringelmann manage to maintain high stories standards through the years: Das Lächeln des Dr. Bloch (Season 18, Episode 11), with a duel between two fantastic actors, Peter Sattmann and the great Hans-Michael Rehberg, and Isoldes tote Freunde (Season 18, Episode 12) - with a magnificent and delicate performance of Juliane Rautenberg (2) - are amongst classics of the series.

ABSCHIEDSGESCHENK

Derrick has two weaknesses, one retrospective, the other real. The retrospective is the choice, for the soundtrack, of songs that were hits at their times but are sometimes now more than dated (to put it nicely). The second weakness is the use by Ringelmann of an almost "Repertory company" of recurrent faces (but somehow excellent guest actors), such as Sky du Mont (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/sky-du-mont.html), Evelyn Opela (Helmut Ringelmann's wife), Klausjürgen Wussow, Wolf Roth, Christian Kohlund, Jacques Breuer, Dirk Galuba and many others... But reruns in disorder (3) add to this "Mercury Theatre" or Scene of the Crime (4) effect, the impression that the same guests are regularly coming back.

Horst Tappert makes his exit from Derrick with class and dignity in Episode 281, Das Abschiedsgeschenk, where he leaves Munich for a promotion at Europol. The intrigue of this finale is rather weak but the actors of Der Alte make uncredited cameos (like Helmut Ringelmann) and Tappert's final scene with the song Hey, Mr Gentleman, performed by Helen Schneider, is a great and moving moment of Television.

The death of Horst Tappert marks the end of an era in the History of German television fiction. Although devised by Reinecker and Ringelmann, Siska (1998-2007) - the successor of Derrick, is well crafted and well played but not as subtle. Derrick was the unique combination of the clever psychological scripts of Herbert Reinecker, the producing skills of Helmut Ringelmann and, above all, the quality of the interpretation of both Fritz Wepper (a talented actor - remember Cabaret - but overshadowed by the star of the show) and Horst Tappert.

Farewell, Mr Gentleman... Derrick is not an average cop show. It's a novel for television in 281 chapters, a play in 281 acts, a journey in the darkest alleys of subconscience. It's Night Gallery in Munich.

(1) Which is of course false. And since several years there's even new Derrick fans amongst twenty or thirtysomethings.
(2) Juliane Rautenberg's Homepage (in German): http://home.arcor.de/juliane.rautenberg/ + Her blog (Idem): http://julianerautenberg.wordpress.com/
(3) A French speciality, for a series unfortunately terribly adapted and dubbed in French language.
(4) An excellent but short-lived anthology mystery tv series (1991) from Stephen J. Cannell, where a small group of actors played a different part each week.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

ITV WINTER SPRING SEASON: BBC OR BUST?

Rupert Penry-Jones, Philip Glenister, Freema Agyeman, and even David Morrissey [Message to the Beeb: Make him Doctor 11 for God sake!] Where have we seen all these faces before?

TREAT OR TRICK

ITV 1 offers us a first look at the "treats" it has in store for the Winter/Spring Season 2008-2009 on its New Season New Horizons website (http://www.newseasonnewhorizons.com/). Amongst the exciting stuffs: Demons, from the dynamic Shine production company, with Philip Glenister (Ashes to Ashes), Richard Wilson (One foot in the Grave, Merlin) and Mackenzie Crook (Popetown) in a contemporary version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Your humble servant will also wait eagerly for the third series of Primeval (« Oh, don't ask why... » sung the Bard).

The nomination for the "Suicide Squad Award" goes to Law & Order: UK, a joint venture between Kudos (Spooks), American iconic producer Dick Wolf and NBC Universal. It is of course the British version of Wolf's monument, Law & Order. Without presuming of the qualities of the show but remembering what happened in France with Paris Enquêtes criminelles (The French remake of Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and to the Italian R.I.S., to carbon copy a format is always risky. And is there a UK show where Freema Agyeman is not? The female D.A. part is always ungrateful... See what happened to the characters played by Elizabeth Röhm (the most terrible exit in the History of Television) or Annie Parisse. At least if it bombs Ben Silverman can always shows it on NBC's Prime Time in case of SAG strike.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS (?)

Anyway, it seems that there are really, really good things on ITV 1's menu to make us forget conventional ITV products like Agatha Christie's Marple, Wild at Heart or Midsomer Murders (is there still someone to kill in Badger's Drift and its surroundings?) : a second series of The Fixer - the very good surprise of last year, a new Wuthering Heights, John Hurt back as Quentin Crisp (The Naked Civil Servant) in An Englishman in New York, Whitechapel - a thriller with Rupert Penry-Jones and Steve Pemberton, an adaptation of Affinity (the novel written by Sarah Waters) by Andrew Davies, or Albert's Memorial (with David Jason, David Warner and Michael Jayston)... Did we mention new episodes of the classy Lewis and the great Mr Stephen Fry back in a third series of Kingdom?

Allow us some reserve if not apprehensions about the remake of The Prisoner shot in South Africa, with Jim Caviezel as Number 6 and Sir Ian McKellen as Number 2 (smart choice), and due to arrive in 2009 (1). The miniseries is co-produced by ITV and American cable channel AMC (http://www.amctv.com/originals/the-prisoner/), already actively present in BBC's Hustle. Remakes of classic ITC Entertainment shows are trendy, Guillermo Del Toro prepares a movie remake of The Champions for United Artists (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2008/11/they-are-the-champions.html), which is a rather strange idea as it was one of the weakest entry of the company (X-Men, anyone?) Someone should think of a remake of Department S, with Stephen Fry as Jason King, in a CSI way. THAT would be interesting. And our Canadian friend Furious D (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/) is absolutely right: Stephen Fry should be Q in Bond 23 as well. And King of France too...

A tip for ITV: split that Season showreel, pu-leaaaase! But the brochure is excellent.

(1) And as the wonderful wife of your humble French scribe says: « There can be only one » !

Friday, 5 December 2008

KNIGHT RIDER ONLINE

I'm currently working on some reviews for the English and French editions of this blog (Coming attractions: Roger Moore, Russell T. Davies, Lonesome Dove...), but - as you, faithful readers, know - I'm an addict of Nikki Finke's DHD, and I fell on one of the rare pro comments on NBC's new Knight Rider series, under the announcement by Nikki that the Network was "pulling the plug" (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/nbc-now-pulling-plug-on-knight-rider). The comment was from "Sue":

« The show was doing rather well in the ratings until it was forced to take a break for political advertising. It still has the capability to gain back that loss with its upcoming retooling. I for one enjoy the show and I’m not going to give up hope just yet. I can’t really blame Ben Silverman, ratings are down on shows across the board. Rosie’s show faired no better in its attempts at Knight’s timeslot. »

Your humble servant keeps thinking that the efforts of Gary Scott Thompson, showrunner of Knight Rider, and his team, are imperiled for reasons external to the quality of the series itself, and that the show is one of the victims of a much wider problem (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/11/la-cabeza-de-alfredo-garcia.html).

I don't share the optimism of Sue, as I know for watching tv series for more than 30 years, that midseason retooling is in most cases a first class ticket to cancellation. Anyway, her comment was linked to this excellent website that will please the fans of both the classic and 2008 Knight Rider: http://knightrideronline.com/

And by the way, a small hello from France to Mr Thompson...

Update: An interview of Gary Scott Thompson on www.mrmedia.com: http://www.mrmedia.com/2008/11/gary-scott-thompson-knight-rider.html

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

LA CABEZA DE ALFREDO GARCIA

The interview of Ben Silverman by interviewer and broadcast journalist Charlie Rose on his show (http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9554) has been the occasion for Nikki Finke to write a most striking and moving piece on her blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/transcript-of-ben-silverman-on-charlie-rose/).

WAKE UP CALL

Ben Silverman is co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio since 2007 and founder of Reveille Productions, a company which brought successfully to the United States foreign formats, like UK's The Office, as remakes.

But it seems that NBC's Prime Time needs far more than a "reveille" ("wake up" in French), if not a résurrection, after the cancellation of the hyped My Own Worst Enemy (with Christian Slater) and of Lipstick Jungle, and the poor reception of Kath & Kim - the remake of an Australian hit sitcom. Silverman's praise of the advantages of a co-production like Crusoe achieved to raise skepticism (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/09/hollywood-babble-on-on-166-nbc-world.html) after the lack of enthusiasm caused by the network's fall schedule.

My Own Worst Enemy is a waste of the talent of Christian Slater, who deserve an equivalent of what 24 has been for Kiefer Sutherland. Watching the promos left the strange impression of a "Jekyll meets Jason Bourne" (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/09/things-to-watch-in-hollywoodland-when_1016.html) - everybody xerox Bourne these days... (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/11/fistful-of-solace.html) and from this side of the ocean it seems that US Network Television buys its weekly fiction only on pitches, whereas UK television builds shows from and around scripts (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/11/boob-tube-how-long-should-series-last.html).

In one case you got Spooks, the best spy show of the History of Television (with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), and in the other you got a long string of grotesque unsold pilots (http://www.leegoldberg.com/non_unsold.html), Fortune Hunter, Secret Agent Man and My Own Worst Enemy. Even if Fortune Hunter was very pleasant to watch, thanks to the late Mark Frankel and shades of Search (1972-1973, a wrongfully forgotten spy/adventure show). Only distance can save this type of series, in its golden age NBC was the network of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but this was 43 years ago.... if Mr Solo should go to Paris today, at least let's hope production would avoid ridicule.

THE GHOST OF BRANDON TARTIKOFF

This is not the first time Nikki aims her flamethrower at Ben Silverman (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/major-nbc-shakeup-ahead-network-wants-to-ax-teri-weinberg-hopes-ben-silverman-quits/) but her reaction to the evocation, in Silverman's interview, of the name of Brandon Tartikoff - the legendary executive who brought NBC to the highest summits with some of the most popular shows of the eighties (Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, L.A. Law and many others) - is rather moving for those for whom such a name really means something: « Also, I do wish Silverman would stop trying to channel Brandon Tartikoff's ghost [...] Yes, Silverman worked for Tartikoff once upon a time. But Ben, I knew Brandon. Tartikoff was a friend of mine. And, you sir, are no Brandon Tartikoff ».

After the cancellation of My Own Worst Enemy and Lipstick Jungle the blame apparently fell on Katherine Pope, Universal Media Studio President (http://www.nypost.com/seven/11142008/gossip/pagesix/black_widow_effect_at_nbc_138573.htm), behind the development of the two shows as well as of the terrible Bionic Woman revival and the overestimated Heroes (http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20070604nuts01).

According to New York Post, Ben Silverman has been able to cut costs at the network and seems to be satisfying his bosses, particularly NBC chairman Jeff Zucker. And TV analysts say ratings have become less important as the viewing audience has scattered to proliferating cable channels. Silverman told The Post last summer: « We're managing for margins and not for ratings ».

IN A WORLD...

The Entertainment industry has deeply changed since the era of the great Brandon Tartikoff, Networks must compete against multitude of offers from cable, satellite and the internet. To be fair NBC is not the only network to have bad seasons since a couple of years. And the true problem for the "Big Four" (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox) is the relevance of continuing to order and show weekly series in an environment where viewers are accustomed to US quality fiction from Showtime, AMC or HBO or to la crème of British television through BBC America or The Sci-Fi Channel.

The best illustration of this dilemma is NBC's new Knight Rider, a show run by a man, Gary Scott Thompson, who has a true sense of what popular light entertainment should be on Network television (remember Las Vegas). The series is a target on the internet since its start, with reproaches going from the comparison to the original, or the casting, to the quality of scripts and the sfx. Which is truly amazing when you remember that the original, launched under the reign of Brandon Tartikoff, was produced by Glen A. Larson (no offence intended, his shows are magnificent childhood memories) and was basically My mother the car done straight with the production values of the Universal Television of the time and stunts.

Now the new version is revamped due to yo-yo ratings and three cast members are out, amongst them Bruce Davison, one of the finest American contemporary actors. Really a pity, 25 years ago (when the "Big Three" Networks were unrivaled) this show would have been the toast of the moment, but viewers seem to wish that the networks show them series like Dexter or Californication or perhaps no series at all - America's got talent or Deal or no Deal are a great fun to watch.

To adapt foreign formats will certainly not be the solution to the troubles of this Fall's schedules or of the whole season. See ABC's Life on Mars US... What's the point of adapting series American viewers already know through BBC America or the internet? Do programing execs believe Brit shows are still ghettoized on PBS or relegated to cheapo syndication deals? What will NBC offer us in the future? A US remake of Hotel Babylon in Las Vegas? Seriously...

The real challenge for Ben Silverman and his colleagues or counterparts is to answer to this sole question: what kind of Entertainment for the networks in the 21th century?

Update: Lee Goldberg on Tim Kring and Heroes (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2008/11/how-not-to-get-people-to-watch-your-show.html).

Friday, 14 November 2008

LATEST NEWS FROM STEPHEN TOBOLOWSKY

Should you pick only one reason to like this business, it would be Mr Stephen Tobolowsky (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/stephen-tobolowsky.html), one of these consumed professional actors who give sense to a movie with his single presence at the service of a character, a script and a director. Not to mention the fact that only his name can make your humble servant watch Heroes.

More, the man is one of the nicest persons in Hollywoodland and always have a generous anecdote about his career or about his life to offer to you like if it was a gift in your birthday party (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/stephen-tobolowskys-birthday-party.html). And to have the privilege to discuss with him of Bob Darnell or Joseph Ruskin recalls you that movies mean not only B.O. or "franchises".

« I was in a big movie that should be released soon... The Time Traveller's Wife, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. It was a lot of fun to shoot. It is a very interesting combination of a love story and science fiction... I hope it works » Stephen told us yesterday.

« I just shot a TV pilot called Glee, from Ryan Murphy, the creator of Nip/Tuck. If that show is successful it will be premiered after American Idol in January. Again it was a tremondously fun script and shoot and the cast is very talented... but I have learned that one can never take anything for granted. When I was shooting the movie Hero I thought it was a slam dunk. It was directed by Stephen Frears (one of the finest directors working today), it starred Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia, and Geena Davis, and it was written by David Webb Peoples (nominated for the Academy awards with Unforgiven)... But the movie really never quite worked as it should have. It's good, but it had the pieces to be great... You never know. »

Hollywood should do a TV series about Stephen Tobolowsky. He's a character in his own respect and adventure is never far when he's around, especially when he's on holidays. « Also this was the year I broke my neck in five places and have lived to tell the tale!!! » he adds. « Feeling better everyday! »

Thanks for all, Mr Tobolowsky.

(C) Thierry Attard

CHILDREN IN NEED ON BBC ONE


Each year since 1980 Children in Need, the British Charity appeal, offers great moments of Television for a great cause. Tonight on BBC One, it will be the occasion to have a look to a preview of the Doctor Who Christmas special and Ashes to Ashes will meet Top Gear!

Fire up the Quattro!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey/

Thursday, 6 November 2008

THE FRENCH SPEAKING DUBBING VOICE OF SETH ROGEN IN QUEBEC

Yep, I know... Who speaks French these days... But the guy is talented and he's a friend: there's a very interesting interview of Tristan Harvey (http://www.tristanharvey.com/), the French-speaking dubbing voice of Seth Rogen (Zack and Miri make a porno) in Quebec since The 40 year-old Virgin, on the excellent http://www.cinoche.com/ website (http://www.cinoche.com/dossiers/189).

I had the opportunity to interview Tristan in 2004 when I was deputy editor of La Gazette du doublage (http://www.objectif-cinema.com/spip.php?article2454). The quality of French speaking dubbing in Quebec is always top-notch and deserve to be recognized as a reference.

These interviews are in French.

The trailer of Zack and Miri make a porno in French speaking dubbing from Quebec: http://www.cinoche.com/trailers/5283/5562

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

MICHAEL CRICHTON (1942-2008)

I've just learned on tv the news of the death of my favorite novelist, Michael Crichton. He was 66.

Author of The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun, Jurassic Park, or Disclosure, amongst many masterpieces of modern litterature, he doubled as a talented film director during the 70s and 80s with great movies like Westworld or Looker.

He was a brilliant mind and a visionary. To be deprived in the future of the pleasure to read "the latest Michael Crichton" is really a very sad perspective.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A FISTFUL OF SOLACE (ABOUT JAMES BOND AND QUANTUM OF SOLACE)

Special thanks to François JUSTAMAND

« It's a new world, with new enemies, and new threats. But you can still depend on one man... » Well, at least his producers can: Quantum of Solace, the new 007 flick - which opened on October 31 - breaks records for its first weekend in Europe: 1,3 million tickets in France (on 3 days) and £ 15 384 217 for its United Kingdom release, as UK is by nature the test market for the franchise. The movie opens on November 14 in the US.

With a $261 million price tag for a 105-minute movie, maybe the costliest film ever made minute by minute (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/new-bond-wannasee-double-casino-royale-questions-about-quantum-of-solace-cost/), failure was not an option for Sony, MGM and Eon Productions, the forces behind Quantum. The explanations to the first weekend lucky numbers are multiple: pertinent release opening date plan, no real concurrence, the commercial success of Casino Royale - the previous entry, and the prestige of one of the most solid myths of pop culture: James Bond.

But which one exactly? The character created by Ian Fleming for his novels? Sean Connery in Dr No (1962) and From Russia with love (1963)? Or the epitome of big screen escapist extravaganza established in Goldfinger (1964): the suave womanizing superspy fighting megalomaniac villains, with the little help of gadgetry, licensed to kill sportscars fully equiped, and girls right out of Hugh Hefner's dreams. All with this typical Brit ingenuity and wit, shaken not stirred.

Books rarely remain intact when adapted as movies. Honestly and with all the respect due to the work of Ian Fleming, the only proper way to be faithful to his novels today would be miniseries set in the time of the books with the quality standards of a Poirot with David Suchet. Without the alchemy that made Sean Connery the immortal star of the dyptic Dr No/From Russia with love (long before the producers decided that Quantum of Solace would be a sequel) Fleming's creation would only have been transposed for comic books (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/james-bond-is-back-in-action-again.html) and a forgotten anthology episode from the Prehistory of Television.

Goldfinger made modern commercial cinema and imposed the canons of a genre in its own respect for generations going every couple of years to see A JAMES BOND, « Hallmark of today's greatest entertainment »: elegance, action, adventure, exotic locations, classy cars, gadgets, gigantic villain's lair designed by Ken Adam, quips, fabulous title songs, the talent of John Barry and THAT theme. The world's famous film theme: The James Bond theme.

And this Bond lived on during forty years with flamboyance, many ups, some downs, sometimes trying awkwardly to emulate BO phenoms of their times, like Shaft for Live and Let Die (1973), the Shaw Brothers pictures for The Man with Golden Gun (1975), or even Star Wars - prototype of "franchises" as we know them today, for Moonraker in 1979. But always with one if not more moments to build its eternal glory and always true to the soul of Bond on film: escapism galore. In these days Bond meant an explosion of cinematic sensations sold by publicity geniuses devising the greatest taglines, and ordering magnificent painted posters. We knew the name, we knew the number.

Then came Die Another Day (2002) and its excesses and misses under the weight of audience demographics and against the reflection of a deforming mirror called Austin Powers. At the time your humble French servant, a longtime Bond devotee, thought it was about time to help the Bond franchise not to become a perpetual laughing stock for Mad Magazine. And he theorized pompously for his unfortunate friends about the so-called lack of credibility of 007 in the 21st century - insisting on the fact that his favorite screen spies were Harry Palmer and George Smiley (which is still the case, by the way...)

James Bond peaked his popularity as one « the Three Bs », the Holy Trinity of the Swinging sixties: Beatles, Bond and Batman. In the dark ages of a post-September 11 world, the Batman underwent a "reboot", and a 4 year gap between Die Another Day and Casino Royale (2006) saw the emergence of no-nonsense nor wit brutal fiction super agents: 24/7 tormented saviour Jack Bauer and the revamped Jason Bourne with Matt Damon. Mission: Impossible III, one of the best action thriller ever, did the rest and achieved to convince producers of James Bond that a reboot was the only way to make 007 one of the Bs of the high octane action genre, with Bourne and Bauer (Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt being the fourth musketeer).

« It's a new world, with new enemies, and new threats. But you can still depend on one man... » The trouble with Casino Royale is that this man is gone AWOL with what made the character a modern myth of popular culture. And we had to wait 4 long years of the usual rumors and speculations (worsen in the internet era), buy the idea of substantial changes, and accept Daniel Craig as the new James Bond (why not? He was excellent in Layer Cake) with the best feelings and intentions... for a rather despairing result (1). Box Office plebiscited the choices of Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, helmers of the series launched by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in 1962, but to this date pros and cons of the « James Bourne » reformat are still discussing if the movie is pure Bond or not (2).

Retrospectively, Die Another Day has been the trigger if not the scapegoat of this reboot. DAD is not better or worse than another installment of the franchise. It tried to live up to the title of « Hallmark of today's greatest entertainment » inherited from the golden years of 007 in a world (a thought for the late Don LaFontaine here...) where there's one blockbuster from the Hollywoodland factory once a week, and where the Germans of action concept produce more spectacular action packed sequences in an episode of Alarm für Cobra 11 than the movie industry in 144 minutes of Casino Royale. Hollywood knows that, rent one of the recent movies of the great Bruce Willis.

Die Another Day is the « Old School Bond » Ultimatum. With Quantum of Solace the Bond Supremacy stays undisputed from a Box Office point of view but there's practically nothing left today of the Bond Identity: a logo on posters, the James Bond theme on trailers. Why not after all? Really. Everything changes, perhaps now there's a Bond for each generation: a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, relic of the Cold War or a blunt instrument. Your humble over-the-hill servant will not see Quantum of Solace, a botched regeneration in Doctor Who is enough disappointment for this year. No hard feelings, Mr Bond...

« The coffin - it has your initials: J.B.
- At the moment, rather him than me. »
(Thunderball, 1965)


(1) We'll develop on Casino Royale in a later article.

(2) More generally, Furious D on the « Bond, James Bond » issue: http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/11/cinemaniacal-bond-james-bond.html (see also http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/02/cinemaniacal-1-shaken-not-stirred.html).

Thursday, 30 October 2008

24 SEASON 7 TRAILER (THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER)


http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/index.jsp

IT'S ONLY A MOVIE, INGRID (EPISODE 4)

In which Ingrid is asking herself if she should regenerate as the great Nikki Finke and call this notebook It's only a movie, Nikki...

STRICTLY COME DANCING... AT 30 ROCK

Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily scoops again and as usual with a most interesting news for those who follow the business of Television in America and in United Kingdom: Paul Telegdy, one of the top execs of BBC Worldwide America (Executive Vice-President of TV sales, content and production) is unexpectedly leaving the US commercial arm of the Corporation, and NBC wants him to become EVP in charge of unscripted and scripted entertainment (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/is-this-craig-plestis-replacement-at-nbc/). This would suffice to do sensation from our personal standards but Nikki adds that « the negotiations call for Telegdy to be given a bigger job like NBC Entertainment President in a year or to get paid off ». Which means he could then be in position to replace Ben Silverman (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/09/things-to-watch-in-hollywoodland-when_1016.html), co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio.

At BBC Worldwide America, Paul Telegdy has overseen the American adaptation of Strictly come dancing, Dancing with the Stars, (http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117985135.html?categoryid=3070&cs=1) and Viva Laughlin, the short-lived US remake of Blackpool (is « short-lived US remake » a pleonasm?) On previous Ingrid episodes we talked about the departure of Jane Tranter (the BBC controller responsible of fiction) to Los Angeles, where she's now Executive vice-president of programming and production at BBC Worldwide's North American production branch (alongside with Paul Telegdy, at the time of her appointment to the job).

If the arrival of Telegdy at NBC is confirmed, and with Jane Tranter in LA, the perspective of a US co-producer for Doctor Who will become yet more precise.

THE DOCTOR IS OUT

« Darling you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go ». It was really about time for Doctor Who to escape of one of its most weighing incertainties: the fantastic David Tennant has announced he won't return as the Doctor in 2010 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7698539.stm). Remember that the fact that Tennant, one of the most popular Doctors of the History of the series, has been on on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company is one of the reasons for the delay of Season 5 of the Hit show.

Remember also the infamous botched regeneration at the end of the first half of the finale of Season 4. And remember (« Remember, remember...») that there's a Next Doctor played by the excellent David Morrissey in the Christmas special this year. Well, when the Doctor will regenerate for good let's hope it will be as Morrissey. New face, new showrunners, nu-Who definitely needs a true regeneration. By the way, please read the reactions to this announcement on Behind the Sofa (http://www.behindthesofa.org.uk/2008/10/im-sorry-im-so.html#comments), the blog every Doctor Who fan must read once a day (at least...)

QUANTUM OF SOLACE: BUT HOW MUCH?

Ah, Nikki... Back to DHD again: Nikki Finke asks the $261 million Question about Quantum of Solace, the new 007 (really?): the ratio between the price tag of the movie and its 105 minute duration. $2.5 million per minute! Maybe the costliest film ever made minute by minute (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/new-bond-wannasee-double-casino-royale-questions-about-quantum-of-solace-cost/).

WAITING FOR D-DAY

Canadian D.R. MacMaster (a.k.a. Furious D), author, writer, and Entertainment industry expert extraordinaire, has announced on his blog, The Fantastic Adventures of Furious D (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/), that he's working on a book that will contain his impressive comprehension of the business of Cinema and Television and of its History, his sharp sense of analysis and his humor. All the ingredients that make us loving his blog (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/08/its-only-movie-ingrid-notebook.html).

Saturday, 25 October 2008

BACK TO MEMORY LANE...

We don't do politics here and viral videos either. But this great video with Ron Howard, Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler, is a wonderful moment for those who grew up watching The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. Thanks to Nikki Finke and her blog for attracting my attention on this jewel(http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/opie-andy-richie-the-fonz-for-obama/).

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE... LITERALLY?

Quantum of Solace, the new 007 installment directed by Marc Forster, arrives in France and in the United Kingdom on October 31, and has been shown to the Press. This direct follow-up to 2006 commercially succesful « James Bourne » reboot, Casino Royale, has inspired mixed first reactions from critics who bona fide enjoyed the first entry with Daniel Craig as James Bond.

DIE ANOTHER DAY

Lizo Mzimba, of BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7676637.stm
), appreciates the characterization of Bond, as « the real interest lies in how Bond deals with the individuals and situations he meets along the way », and also the intentions of the helmers of the 007 franchise: « it's a brave step to push even further a lot of the themes developed in Casino Royale, especially the rediscovery of who Bond is, and why he is the way he is ». Two years after Casino he warns Bond rebooted adversaries that « The raw nature of the film may put off some who yearn for the days of gizmos, gadgets and Bond quips as he dispenses with faceless opponents ».

Kim Newman, of Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=134523
), praises « a pacy, visually imaginative follow-up to the series relaunch » [...] « In an era marked by franchise bloat, it’s entirely admirable that Quantum of Solace is the shortest Bond movie to date – it drops a great many of the long-running series mannerisms (callous quips, expository lectures, travelogue padding, Q and Moneypenny) ».

David Edwards, film critic of The Daily Mirror (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2008/10/18/first-review-of-new-james-bond-movie-007-115875-20815336/
): is not disappointed but « just don't expect the brilliance of Casino Royale ». An opinion shared by Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/oct/18/jamesbond1): « Quantum of Solace isn't as good as Casino Royale: the smart elegance of Craig's Bond debut has been toned down in favour of conventional action ». Bradshaw is impressed by Craig: « he carries the film: it's an indefinably difficult task for an actor. Craig measures up ».

Mark Monahan in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/10/18/bfquantum118.xml
) wonders « if director Marc Forster and screenwriters Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis haven't tried a little too hard to distance the film from traditional Bond plots » but agrees that « Craig inhabits the character with a ruthless charisma that never lets up. And he, above all, keeps you watching ».

LICENCE TO KILL

Daniel Craig is the subject of a quasi-consensus: « Craig, it must be said, is excellent », writes Ali for The Shiznit (http://www.theshiznit.co.uk/review/quantum-of-solace.php
), on the contrary of Marc Forster as director, « completely out of his depth handling a franchise this large. High-tempo sequences, like the opening car chase and an extremely Bournian rooftop pursuit, are disorientating in the extreme: too fast, too sloppy and too ruthlessly edited ». Obvious reference of the producers since Casino Royale, Jason Bourne becomes a problem... « perhaps former Paul Greengrass protege Dan Bradley (1) should be held responsible... »

Richard Brooks, Arts Editor of The Sunday Times, does his own Gunbarrel sequence (« It’s the audience who will need solace, 007 »): « It's James Bond, licence to bore. Quantum of Solace may be a sequel to Casino Royale but it lacks that movie’s panache and brio » (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article4969426.ece
).
The movie « lacks any wit, ironic or otherwise, which has been a strength of so many 007 films » and the title song by Alicia Keys and Jack White is « tuneless ». « At around one hour 40 minutes, this Bond is shorter than most. Somehow it felt longer ».

BONS BAISERS DE PARIS

Two years ago, Casino Royale, left traces amongst French 007 aficionados after a raging debate between advocates of the relaunch and the fans of « Old School Bond ». François Justamand, editor of website La Gazette du doublage (http://www.objectif-cinema.com/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=0168), contributor for http://www.jamesbond-fr.com/
(2), and one of the top experts about James Bond in France gives us his first impressions: « Action sequences suffer from an editing too rough, the movie lacks of familiars Bond "trademarks", some characters are not sufficiently developed (Fields, Greene), idem for the Quantum organization (perhaps further developed on next movies?), a bleak script, and an expeditive ending ». On the Plus side, François Justamand admits some intimate scenes, good dialogue from time to time, and some good ideas from the writers, like the coded conference of Quantum during La Tosca.

La Tosca retains the attention of Kevin Collette, journalist and Bond specialist, who considers the whole sequence is wasted by its « speedy editing a la Jason Bourne » (http://www.jamesbond-fr.com/news-1224530966-36-Un-Bond-post-moderne-.html
). Bourne again, shall we like it or not we always go back to Bourne...

Update: Please have a look at this interesting and sometimes harsh discussion in the Comments section of a post on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily where Nikki develops on the Opening Box Office weekend of Quantum of Solace in Europe: http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/bond-shatters-uk-box-office-record/.


(1) Stunt coordinator on the Bourne movies, second unit director on Quantum of Solace.

(2) François Justamand is also an eminent member of Sérialement Vôtre (http://www.serialement-votre.fr/
).

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

IT'S ONLY A MOVIE, INGRID (EPISODE 3)

Ingrid is asking herself if the expression « Bear Market » means that at the end we have the right to eat the bear if it doesn't eat us first.

LADY JANE GOES WEST

The Guardian has confirmed what the always excellent British newspaper calls « the worst kept secret in broadcasting »: Jane Tranter, the BBC controller of fiction, leaves her post to become Executive vice-president of programming and production at BBC Worldwide's North American production branch (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/sep/22/janetranter.bbc). Jane Tranter has more than contributed to make fictions from the Beeb the main export product of the Corporation, with shows such as the new Doctor Who, Life on Mars or Spooks/MI-5 (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/08/its-only-movie-ingrid-episode-2.html). Now Ben Dowell asks the £ 100 000 question: How will Jane Tranter's departure affect BBC Drama, particularly with a lower-than-expected licence fee settlement? (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/organgrinder/2008/sep/22/bbc.television)

Jane Tranter will be replaced by head of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson. There have been rumors that the BBC tried to tempt Jane Featherstone, co-founder of the Kudos production company (Spooks, Hustle...), to take the job. But we learn from Tara Conlan, one of our favourite signatures, that Featherstone has been appointed creative director of Kudos, while Stephen Garrett, co-founder of the company, becomes executive chairman - focusing on strategic and international development (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/oct/08/independentproductioncompanies.television).

ABSOLUTELY... NOT?

We will see within two or three weeks what the US remake of Life on Mars will become, but now Fox Network is working on a remake of the mythical British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2005) by the team behind the enjoyable Two and a Half men. This is the third attempt to remake Ab Fab, with the French movie of 2001 and a failed ABC project helmed by comedienne Roseanne Barr with Carrie Fisher involved.

Your humble French Nestle milk addict being too young for senility (40 next week), please see http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/08/young-barnaby-jones-chronicles.html to get his unasked opinion about remakes. Amusingly, I see that this Fox version has catched the attention of multi-talented Lee Goldberg (http://www.leegoldberg.com/about.html), author, writer, producer, TV Historian and expert, teacher, etc - a man often mentioned here (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2008/10/absolutely-scary.html). We recommend you A Writer's Life (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/), his blog, and his official site (http://www.leegoldberg.com/index.html).

15 MINUTES OF FAME...

Well, er, how to put it... the very nice folks of Beans on Toast, the French Doctor Who website, have published last month an interview of your servant - consultant for the French dubbing of season 3 of Nu-Who: http://www.doctor-who.fr/d_itw_attard.php. This interview is in French.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

COME ON ALONG...



See: http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/09/things-to-watch-in-hollywoodland-when_1016.html

THINGS TO WATCH IN HOLLYWOODLAND WHEN YOU'RE DEAD

US Networks Fall schedules already give a pretty neat idea of what will be the scale of the bodycount at the end of this 2008-2009 season.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER

Those who thought that previous season dug so low, WGA strike or not, will reach a Nirvana of oil with the chronicles of the shape of things to come on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, starting with NBC (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/major-nbc-shakeup-ahead-network-wants-to-ax-teri-weinberg-hopes-ben-silverman-quits/). Home of the US version of The Office, the Peacock remakes an Australian sitcom Hit, Kath & Kim http://www.nbc.com/Kath_and_Kim/), due to arrive on October 9. « The art of adapting a programme from another country is a fraught with difficulty. For every hit: Ugly Betty, The Office, Queer as Folk, there is a miss along the lines of Chateau Snavely, the 1978 attempt to remake Fawlty Towers for an American audience, which was thankfully cancelled after the pilot », wrote Sarah Hughes on Viva Laughlin, the remake of BBC's Blackpool(http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/organgrinder/2007/oct/23/post53). What's next after ABC's remake of Life on Mars? An US remake of ITV's Lost in Austen? « Amanda Price hates her life, but she loves Gone in the Wind [Imagine the voice of the late Don LaFontaine] ... Lost in Mitchell, coming soon! »

Of NBC's October Coming Attractions, My Own Worst Enemy, with Christian Slater, is one of the most awaited. Watching the promos on the NBC Website (http://www.nbc.com/My_Own_Worst_Enemy/) leaves the impression of a Jekyll meets Jason Bourne but Christian Slater worths a look.

Other Networks seem to fare no better (
http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/double-trouble-inside-network-fall-skeds/) and, reading Deadline Hollywood Daily, ABC's Dirty Sexy Money looks neither « dirty » nor « sexy ». Anyway is Money sexy these days? After the Hell of a week in Wall Street, Nikki evaluates the impact of the Bloody Monday on the Entertainment Industry (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/yes-bloody-monday-will-affect-hollywood/). Note some wonderful pieces of Finkisms, like « And I hope there's a special hell reserved for "naked" short-sellers, and eventually a perp walk » or « They weren't ignoring Sarbanes-Oxley by lying, were they? »

LOOKING FOR BRANDON


The lucid, wise and corrosive Furious D, reacts on the views of Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio, about the advantages of co-productions like the Network's Crusoe (
http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/09/hollywood-babble-on-on-166-nbc-world.html): « One of the facets of this cubic zirconium of managerial brilliance is the use of international co-production to supposedly make NBC shows "bomb-proof," by making them profitable, even if they don't attract many viewers ».

« Lost in a Roman Wilderness of Pain » sung the Bard... When your humble servant
was a kid we were mesmerized by a clip shown on Le club des télévisions du monde (Televisions of the World Club, a summer show on French TV) and called Come on along with ABC, one of the most brilliant ad campaign ever for a US TV network. US Networks made the world dream then, US television made top-notch Entertainment for US audiences with US standards and sold it to the planet. What networks need most now is the Glen A. Larson, Stephen J. Cannell, Quinn Martin, Aaron Spelling, Harve Bennett, Doug Cramer, Kenneth Johnson or Lee Goldberg of the next 20 years. Plus new Fred Silverman and Brandon Tartikoff. Maybe US Networks should awake or leave Television fiction to Showtime or HBO. After all, Deal or no Deal is well done and fun to watch.

A propos of HBO, Nikki Finke expressed her disapproval of the early renewal of True Blood (started on September 7) for a season 2 (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/hbo-quickly-renews-true-blood/), qualifying the series of « nothing more than a contemporary version of Interview With The Vampire ». « And its pisspoor writing demonstrates that either Oscar and Emmy winner Alan Ball (American Beauty and Six Feet Under) is phoning it in or else he's got a talent-less nephew with the same name » (ouch!) Think about it, vampires are nothing new on TV but the move is rather smart for HBO, back to basics of The Hitchhiker after the Sopranos era. The original Hitchhiker series (not the USA-La Cinq No Sex-No gore Europudding sequel) - not precisely Shakespeare - contributed to put the cable channel on the map in the Eighties. Creative dynamic is clearly with Showtime but maybe it's too soon to bury HBO.

And a remake of The Hitchhiker would be a great idea, by the way...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

ALFRED IN THE MIDDLE (EPISODE 1)

For you, dear visitors, a new series called Alfred in the Middle. A salute to elegant or funny (or both) cameos or references in movies or television series.

ALARM FÜR JOHA 1

Let's begin with our German friends of action concept and this episode of their mega-cult series (if not an institution) Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï (Alarm for Cobra 11). In the first episode of season 17 (Comeback, 2005), the villain neutralizes three employees of a maintenance company in order to switch places with him and his henchmen.

And the name of the employee in the middle is Hermann Joha, played by... Hermann Joha, stunt artist, professional pilot, producer, director, writer and boss of action concept (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/06/hermann-joha.html) - company which as invented an action style so innovative and popular that it's even frequently ripped off by Hollywood blockbusters.

SLIDERS MEETS ACTION CONCEPT

Mr Joha is the creative and producing force behind the show and behind the hit series Der Clown and its high octane feature film spin-off (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/clown.html). Interestingly, the director of this episode of Cobra is the excellent Sebastian Vigg, director of the Clown movie.

In a sequence of Comeback, Semir and Tom (Erdogan Atalay and René Steinke) must defuse a bomb in a movie theater playing the feature version of The Clown. But the oldest fans of action concept certainly remember that Semir made a cameo in the Clown tv movie of 1996. You can see him holding the clown mask of Max Zander in our last photo. Was it in an alternate reality?

Edit: The always professional and nice Petra Keller, of action concept, informs us that the two others employees with theirs mouths taped are, on the left: Roland Busch, one of ac's "Taurus World Stunt Award" winners and action director and, on the right: Stefan Retzbach, the producer of Cobra 11. Shall we understand that the staff of action concept moonlights as maintenance employees? Thanks, Petra.

(C) THIERRY ATTARD

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

DON LaFONTAINE (1940-2008)

Just read the sad news on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/rip-don-lafontaine/) and it's a personal shock for your humble host: Don LaFontaine, nicknamed « The voice of God », the great voice-over artist behind 5000 movie trailers, has died.

Three years ago he made me the honor to accept an interview (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/don-lafontaine.html). He was a gentleman, a man with class, and the inventor of the modern trailer.

« When you die, the voice you hear in Heaven is not Don's. It's God trying to sound like Don. » (Ashton Smith)

Don LaFontaine gives now Masterclasses in Heaven.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

IT'S ONLY A MOVIE, INGRID (EPISODE 2)

In which Emma, er... Ingrid sees green and reads that Life on Mars could not be the only British jewel to move to the US, remembering the immortal words of Sir Alan Parker: « I mean what is the British Film Industry anyway? Just a bunch of people in London who can't get Green Cards » (Will Write and Direct for Food, Page 85 - Cf. http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/will-write-and-direct-for-food.html)

IT'S NOT THAT EASY, SEING GREEN

« ... and I've seen it before.. and I'll see it again... yes I've seen it before... just little bits of history repeating » sung Dame Shirley Bassey (Bless her name till the end of times and beyond). Almost as an echo of our previous post about new dogs with old tricks come now new frog with new tricks, as Disney announces a new movie starring Jim Henson's beloved children: Kermit the Frog and The Muppets (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2636106/Muppet-Show-to-return-to-TV-after-27-years.html).

This is of course not the first Muppet movie but this one will be written by Jason Segel, writer and star of the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), and if it does well at the B.O. it could bring back The Muppet Show on television with Segel helming the program. Most amusingly, unlike what is written everywhere, this is not the first attempt to revive The Muppet Show (1976-1981) for tv. But everybody seems to forget the short-lived Muppets Tonight, shown from 1996 to 1998 on ABC.

In 2006 France even had its own local version, by radio and television presenter/producer Sébastien Cauet for TF1. The original series, green-lighted in its time by UK media baron extraordinary Sir Lew Grade (http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/lewgrade.htm) for his ITC Entertainment company, is very popular in this country, because of its first french-speaking dubbing voices (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10309340742&refurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fs.php%3Fq%3Dgroupe%2Broger%2Bcarel%26init%3Dq). The first Muppet show was the addition of Jim Henson's Folie douce to the generous spirit of Lord Grade, and to capture the essence of that magic is mission: impossible.

WHAT? WHAT?

According to several websites, Jane Tranter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/biographies/biogs/controllers/janetranter.shtml), the BBC controller responsible of fiction, the woman whose influence on television series in UK equals the legacies of Verity Lambert and Lew Grade, is in talks to move next year to the Mecqua of global Entertainment industry: Los Angeles (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i22e2d720f4d22efde882e4a61e56b79b).

« One source said: "Unsurprisingly, Jane has quite a few offers to consider. People within the BBC are being told she will make an announcement about her future before the end of the year " » writes Tara Conlan in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/28/janetranter.bbc?gusrc=rss&feed=media). To understand why the Kingdom awaits this announcement, suffice to say that Jane Tranter's flair and instinct brought such gems as the new Doctor Who, Life on Mars or Spooks to the Corporation.

She once said: « Can anyone remember what BBC drama was like in 2000? How bare and depressing the BBC drama cupboard was? » (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jul/01/bbc.television1). One of the options would be for her to stay within the noble house to work for what is said to be BBC Worldwide's new US drama production unit, but her departure from its UK public service would not be without consequences as fiction is the jewel of the BBC's crown. Add what Mimi Turner wrote in Hollywood Reporter: « ...though there also is a chance that [Julie] Gardner may move to the U.S to work with Tranter in Los Angeles », take a look at http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/08/killer-memorandum.html, and take the TARDIS to the troubled times of Bugs (1995-1999).

According to Digital Spy, quoting News of the World, two of the 2009 Doctor Who specials could be shot in the US (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/cult/a126698/dr-who-specials-to-film-in-america.html). Should this information be confirmed could we imagine that a possible move of Ms Tranter to Los Angeles (provided it's confirmed too) could be useful in some way or another to manage to get additional funding or co-production from a US partner (?), like Hustle - co-produced by American cable channel AMC. Note that the show is already co-funded by canadian CBC.

Hopefully, Survivors, the re-imagining of Terry Nation's classic (1975-1977) by Adrian Hodges (The Lady in the Smoke, Primeval), is coming... (http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2008/05_may/30/survivors.shtml).

Friday, 29 August 2008

THE YOUNG BARNABY JONES CHRONICLES

To Michael SLOAN

Everybody knows that Hollywoodland can't keep an old tv show dead... in peace. Like Bernie Lomax (remember the fabulous Terry Kiser) in Weekend at Bernie's and its follow up, remakes of cult tv series regularly take a ride from where pigeons go to die to the schedules of the US networks or, more frequently, to their dusty shelves.

STOP ME IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE, BUT...

Without remakes the only on-screen Batman ever would be Lewis Wilson in the 1943 serial (cf. Heroes & Villains Movie serial classics by Michael Bifulco, Bifulco Books, Woodland Hills, California, 1989). Remakes allow new generations to discover a character or a concept. The contemporary Doctor Who is probably the best show in the History of Television (at least for its first three seasons). But each season, tv executives seem to compete for the award of the most unnecessary remake of an old cult show, think of the 2003 Dragnet version by Dick Wolf (Law & Order), with Ed O'Neill as Joe Friday.

Don't get your humble french servant wrong, Dick Wolf is one of the most brilliant producer in the Pantheon of US television, and Ed O'Neill is a magnificent actor whose talent go far beyond Al Bundy in Married with children. But Dragnet and Friday are so anchored in their times (the fifties and sixties) and so linked to the personality of one man, actor-producer Jack Webb, that the only proper way to remake this classic was to make fun of it (Dragnet, 1987, with Dan Aykroyd).

As the always wise and excellent Furious D remarks in his blog: « [Since] the remakes of old hits usually sink into oblivion faster than you can say "Bionic Woman" » (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2008/08/hollywood-babble-on-on-155-everything.html) but the fact that the concept got cremated with the syndicated 1989 New Dragnet should have drawn the network's attention.

NEW DOGS WITH OLD TRICKS

The demises of Dick Wolf's Dragnet or of Kojak (2005, with Ving Rhames) apparently don't discourage CBS-Paramount, as the studio announced this summer new versions of The Streets of San Francisco and... Hawaii Five-O. The second, based of course on the 1968-1980 mega hit with Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett (1968-1980), is particularly astonishing, as an unaired previous revival attempt, shot in 1997 with Mr Gary Busey (your french fans salute you) in the main role, didn't leave the shelf.

« Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it » wrote George Santayana. In 1992, tv czar Aaron Spelling tried to revive The Streets of a Francisco (1972-1977), the Quinn Martin cop show starring Karl Malden and a pre-Basic Instinct Michael Douglas, with Back to the Streets of San Francisco, a tv movie with Malden but of course sans Douglas.

The success of Streets was totally the result of the alchemy between Malden and Douglas to the point that when Douglas left the show for a movie career, his replacement by Richard Hatch, a rather honourable actor, led to cancellation. In both cases (Five-O and Streets), remaking series so characterized by the charisma and the talent of their stars is more than a risqué venture. And McGarrett, the hawaiian Joe Friday, the quintessential conservative with a badge (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/03/opinion/03fri3.html), would now probably look pale compared to Jack Bauer. What about a new version of The F.B.I. (1965-1974)? But who will be the next Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. ?

MUST KILL TV

Writer, author and producer Lee Goldberg, perhaps one of the last men in Hollywood able to make a television series entertaining, and one of the finest connaisseur of tv business, co-wrote in 1997 an hilarious episode of his Diagnosis Murder show (1993-2001), a wonderful piece of wit and causticity called Must Kill TV (season 5, episode 9), with Doug E. Doug (Cosby), Reginald VelJohnson and Jaleel White (Family Matters), Erik Estrada, Jane Seymour and Peter Graves appearing as themselves.

In this Kind Hearts and Coronets meets TV Guide (http://www.twiztv.com/scripts/diagnosismurder/season5/diagnosismurder-509.txt) where a female tv exec, Rachel Woodrall, is killed by a pilot, the great Stephen J. Cannell plays Jackson Burleigh, a television producer: « But Rachel wouldn't let Burley out of his exclusive contract to write the last three episodes of "The Young Barnaby Jones Chronicles"... And when he was done, she canceled it ».

Police procedural is not the only genre to benefit of the attention of US television networks: a new 90210 is coming from CW, with Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth (http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20221152_20221173_20221579,00.html) but without Tori Spelling (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/tori-spelling-furious-at-90210-for-unequal-pay-show-is-key-to-cws-future/). And ABC launches a resuscitation of Cupid, the romantic comedy with Jeremy Piven (Entourage) cancelled after only one season in 1998-1999. Somewhere in the Spelling catalog there's a forgotten show called Finder of Lost loves (1984), with Tony Franciosa and Deborah Adair. Maybe someone remembers an old show from Rick Rosner, the man behind CHiPs, called Lottery! (1983). The possibilities are infinite.

« I'm waiting for the revival of My Mother The Car, as a police drama » writes Furious D. No, D, My Mother the Car - The Movie. The movie...

Monday, 18 August 2008

KUDOS TO...

Kudos to the genius who got the idea of the french title of You don't mess with the Zohan, the Adam Sandler vehicle where the comedian is the myeresque character of a former Mossad secret agent retired in New York as an hairdresser.

In France, You don't mess with the Zohan becomes... Rien que pour vos cheveux: For Your Hair only, excellent and hilarious reference to For your Eyes Only, the James Bond.

In a country where Der Schuh des Manitu (Manitou's shoe) has been translated Qui peut sauver le Far West? (Who can save the Far West?), such an effort of creativity and humour must be saluted with at least a Golden Kudos. The guy who found that is not enough paid...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

THE KILLER MEMORANDUM

For those who came in late... In July Uber Infotainment journalist and Movie business blogger goddess Nikki Finke published a memorandum from one of the ABC network executive vice-president leaked to her by one of her sources. She described the document as a « Blatant Blueprint To Rip Off Foreign TV Series » (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/bombshell-abc-studios-memo-a-blueprint-to-rip-off-foreign-tv-series/).

COME ON ALONG WITH ABC...

Yesterday, Nikki offered us the sequel (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/uk-tv-producers-slam-abc-studios-memo/): according to the excellent Guardian newspaper, Pact - UK Producers'organisation (http://www.pact.co.uk/) - is aware of the memo and « looking into it » (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/11/television.usa?gusrc=rss&feed=media). The Guardian underlines that leading british producers, such as BBC Worldwide Limited (the Beeb's commercial arm) and RDF Media Group, do a lot of business with ABC on shows such as Supernanny, Wife Swap and Dancing with the Stars, all aired on the US network.

UK Television is a huge exporter of Real TV formats, but, as Nikki Finke remarked with sagacity : « Obviously, ABC Studios doesn't want to repeat what happened with a show like Ugly Betty, which is the American version of the Latin telenovela ». And every TV series aficionado knows that an american remake of the BBC/Kudos cult-classic Life on Mars is due to arrive on ABC's fall schedule for the 2008-2009 season (http://abc.go.com/primetime/lifeonmars/index?pn=index) - not without some difficulties in its production.

Readers of the french version of this blog know our advocacy of the quality of contemporary british television shows: Doctor Who, Jekyll, Primeval, The Fixer, Spooks, Lewis, etc all these products that don’t go beyond BBC America or PBS in the US (sometimes Sci-Fi, with luck...), which - as we pointed in a comment on Nikki's blog, probably leaves some field to more network adaptations in the future.

TERROR ON THE BRITANNIC

The Beeb gains a substantial amount of its revenues from its Worldwide subsidiary. So we can easily imagine their reaction after the leak of the ABC memo. Past year, the Doctor Who franchise and the Top Gear motor show helped BBC Worldwide to reach record profits (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/2273329/Doctor-Who-and-Jeremy-Clarkson-help-BBC-Worldwide-to-andpound118million-profit.html) in a rather uneasy context. Ofcom, the british communications regulator recently rejected BBC license fee claims and went even further by suggesting a reduction afer the switchover to digital (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1036077/TV-licence-GO-DOWN-2013-digital-switchover-says-Ofcom-chairman.html).

In this perspective, the decision of BBC Worldwide to take a stake in the company of Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter and executive producer (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/08/jeremyclarkson.bbc), to keep the man in the venerable house, has raised some eyebrows... « Would Top Gear lose its drive without Jeremy Clarkson? » asks Tara Conlan in The Guardian [Personal note: er, yes...]

Worse, after the decision of the BBC to postpone the fifth season of Doctor Who until 2010 and to reduce the season 3 of Torchwood to 5 episodes, the reception of the corporation summer lineup of fictions is rather mitigated if not negative. Bonekickers, the archeology-adventure drama didn't fare up to the legitimate expectations provoked by such a project, particularly with the names of Matthew Graham & Ashley Pharoah (creators of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes - its sequel) and Adrian Lester (Hustle) involved in it.

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

Spooks: Code 9, the awaited and heavily promoted spin-off of Kudos' hit Spooks (MI-5 in the US) is slaughtered by critics: « With a cast of fresh-faces and a budget of several pounds, it fancies itself as gritty and hip, combining state torture with a boozy, flirty This Life house-share for the torturers, yet it lacks the balls to link the “code-9” attack with either the Olympics or al-Qaeda » (The Times, August 11, 2008).

But the justified prestige of British television series remains intact enough to inspire eminent protagonists of the US television industry bridges between both sides of the ocean, rather than filling the shelves with ill-fated remakes (remember Viva Blackpool). Dick Wolf is preparing a London version of his Law and Order franchise with Kudos for the ITV network(http://www.itv.com/Drama/copsandcrime/LawandOrder/default.html), and Fox made a deal with ITV to share formats and develop new series together, with local versions for the United States and United Kingdom.

Interestingly, one of the most dynamic UK production companies, Shine (Hex, Sugar Rush...), was founded by the daughter of Rupert Murdoch and owns Kudos, a company that can be considered definitely as the ITC Entertainment of the 21st century.