Tuesday, 31 March 2009

TONIGHT: KEVIN WHATELY ON DEMENTIA (ITV1)

Kevin Whately is one of the most appreciated actors of British television for his roles in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Inspector Morse, Peak Practice and of course, Lewis. But with this episode of ITV1's current affairs programme Tonight produced and directed by Linsey Wynton, Whately shares with us a personal concern in an inspired documentary about dementia. A subject the actor knows too well: his mother, Mary (aged 83) was diagnosed with the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, eight years ago.

The term "dementia" is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, stroke and many other rarer conditions (http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents.php?categoryID=200131). Kevin Whately believes passionately that it is important to raise awareness about dementia and its potential effects on society. But also to ensure that people suffering with dementia get much better treatment and care. In the UK 700 000 people live with dementia. Probably about 400 000 to 450 000 of these people have Alzheimer's disease. One in three people over the age of 65 will die with the disease and by 2025 more than a million will have dementia.

Alzheimer's disease results from a build-up of toxic proteines on the brain that causes nerve cells to die and the brain to shrink. Stroke related dementia - sometimes called vascular dementia, the second most common cause of dementia, occurs when nerve cells die because of the lack of oxygen. It is often following a stroke. Both provoke memory loss, particularly of the short-term memory, and confusion.

Three years ago, Kevin Whately's mother became very ill and, after a stay in hospital, the family had to move her to a nursing home because she was no longer able to cope with living on her own. Sadly she's now in an advanced condition and could not take part in the ITV programme. For the Tonight doc, Kevin Whately's brother Frank remembers when he first noticed that their mother was losing her memory, and the brothers discuss how they had to face the progression of her condition on a daily basis.

It took a few years to get Mary Whately diagnosed but about two-thirds of those having dementia have no diagnosis. British Government has launched in February a National Dementia Strategy backed by £150 million over the first two years, and wants to set up a Memory Clinic in every town. Kevin Whately visits one of these clinics, Newbury Memory Service in Berkshire, where a woman has her memory tested with a series of 19 questions after evaluation by a doctor and a clinical psychologist. Unfortunately, she's diagnosed with both Alzheimer's and Lewy Bodies dementia - the third most common form of Dementia, which bears some similarities to Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosis is primordial. There's no cure for dementia but anti-dementia drugs Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl can improve or stabilize the symptoms of the disease in about 50% of cases. But since November 2006 NHS doctors have been banned from prescribing these drugs to thousands of patients newly diagnosed with Alzheimer's by the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) because "benefits don't justify costs". Kevin Whately meets a patient with Alzheimer's, Keith Turner, who got prescribed Aricept prior to the ban and so receives it free on the NHS (£900 a year/£2,50 a day). His wife and him are now campaigning for others to have the same access (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/transcripts_2006_23_mon_02.shtml). Later this year NICE will review its cost calculations and consider whether to review its guidance.

During the filming of the Tonight programme, Whately discovered that there is a therapy called SPECAL (Specialised Early Care for Alzheimer's) which carers can use to make communication easier with patients with dementia (http://www.specal.co.uk/). Admiral Nurses, specialist dementia nurses, can also be of a great source of help and support (http://www.fordementia.org.uk/admiral.htm). Journalist and broadcaster John Suchet (David Suchet's brother) tells Kevin Whately about the precious help he has from Ian Weatherhead, an Admiral Nurse, in caring for his wife Bonnie for dementia. There's only 60 Admiral Nurses in the UK, funded by the NHS and local councils.

The documentary also introduces us to Music therapy, which calls to the part of the brain not yet deteriorated, and the work of Singing for the Brain (http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/singingforthebrain). Reminiscence Therapy, recalling memories ("the good old days") can have therapeutic benefits for people with dementia. And Kevin Whately talks about the importance of finding a decent care home when comes the time, and the illogism that people with dementia has to pay themselves for their care.

Kevin Whately on Dementia is a programme which is the honour of every person involved in its conception, or interviewed, for its clarity and its constructive approach of one of the main health issues of the century. Kevin Whately, who is ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, shares his concerns and his experience with humility, generosity, and empathy. The programme and its production team deserve to be awarded and it is not unreasonable to believe that Mr Whately should have his own current affairs series.

http://www.itv.com/News/tonight/episodes/KevinWhatelyondementia/default.html
http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1163677/KEVIN-WHATELY-I-wouldnt-worst-enemy-care-homes-looked-Mum.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4684841/John-Suchet-in-tears-as-he-describes-wifes-Alzheimerss-Disease.html

Sunday, 29 March 2009

BOW DOWN BEFORE THE CROC

"The Great British public" deserves absolute respect for its patience. Primeval Series 3 started in Spain last sunday and in Germany one day later. Whereas viewers in the UK had to wait March 28 to watch the premiere on ITV1, right after Harry Hill's TV Burp (patience? Let's rather say holiness). But they had to coin toss first, Robin Hood Series 3 starting 30 minutes ahead on BBC1.

CROCODILE ROCK

So, the Anomalies Research Center's finest fierce creatures hunters are back minus Stephen but with a new military minder, Captain Becker. Nick Cutter tries to cope with Stephen's death when business as usual rings at the ARC with troubles in the British Museum. There, the team meets an egyptologist named Sarah Page (who must have attented the Samantha Jane Marquez University), and the monster of the week: a giant croc - no, not Gustave - with a serious ego problem, because the pet believes it's an Egyptian God.

James Lester deals with another giant source of problems for him and the ARC: Christine Johnson, a Home Office high ranking official with intelligence connections. Johnson is the assigned supervisor of Lester's operations but has an agenda of her own: to find a mysterious artefact. But her military operative is the sole survivor of his squad after a close encounter of the unkind kind under the form of the hideous predators seen in previous seasons.

In the meantime, the Egyptian reptile plays a sick joke on a London traffic warden, goes on a shopping spree much to the disapproval of Cutter, Abby and Becker, and is kind enough to return to the museum. Then newbie Sarah, who's expert in megalo croc psychology, hints that the crocodile only needs a little respect and that they'll not be eaten if they bow down. This expertise in Egyptian gods anger management brings her aboard ARC, as Nick Cutter offers her the task to establish a "pattern" of anomalies from the bestiary of mythological creatures.

JAWS 5, PRIMEVAL 3

The first series of Primeval was a big budget pleasant surprise, a sort of fictional spin-off of the previous entries from Impossible Pictures (Walking with Dinosaurs, Prehistoric Park). The second series had a better format (introduced by the cliffhanger twist of series 1), a better construction (a 7 episode story-arc), a better characterization, and a wonderful casting addition with formidable English comedian Karl Theobald as Oliver Leek. That's why we expected a lot of the premiere of this third series.

But the script of this episode is swimming with sharks. We don't buy the magnanimity of the crocodile, the mythological stuff, or Connor as the comic relief after a road from a couple of years to maturity. And the introduction of four new cast members (Jason Flemyng arrives next week) recalls us that British television loves to kill regular characters.

Ben Miller as Lester, and Juliet Aubrey as super wacko Helen Cutter (super villainess outfit included), literally steal Series 3 Episode 1 by their astounding presence. The climax with Helen, her army of clones, and the artefact in the ruins of a modern city left on a prehistoric landscape (Planet of the Apes? London after a re-development program gone awry?) allow us to hope for interesting twists and turns. Tip to the Beeb: Juliet Aubrey would be magnificent as The Rani in Doctor Who.

See also:

http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/primeval-series-3-on-prosieben-no.html
http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/04/kiss-shark-primeval-3-no-spoiler.html

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

PRIMEVAL SERIES 3 ON PROSIEBEN (NO SPOILER)

The series 3 of Primeval had its premiere in Germany on Monday, March 23, five days before ITV1.

A new series of the show created by Tim Haines and Adrian Hodges is an event not only for sci-fi fans because it's a high-profile show with production costs we can imagine up to the spectacular sequences Impossible Pictures, which produces for ITV and satellite "Free tv" German Network ProSieben (which runs Primeval - Rückkehr der Urzeitmonster), delivers since 2007. Remember that the estimated budget of Series 1 was of £ 6 million (with French private channel M6 co-producer at the time).

Professor Nick Cutter (the excellent Douglas Henshall) and his team investigates on "anomalies" in time which allow prehistoric creatures to move into modern England. They operate for the ARC (Anomalies Research Centre) under the direction of James Lester (versatile and talented Ben Miller), a cynical elegant government official. Cutter's wife Helen (Juliet Aubrey) is no stranger to some of the events leading to the intrusion of creatures of the past and the future.

Riveting Series 2 cliffhanger concluded an incredible seven episode story-arc, with the dramatic demise of Stephen Hart (James Murray) and the revelation that Helen Cutter- who makes The John Simm version of The Master look like a sane and well-balanced person - lead an army of clones of her "Cleaner" paramilitary.

ITV expects a lot from Primeval 3, after the costly Demons and Philip Glenister minus the Quattro but with "that accent". The prestige of Primeval is the perfect ticket to rating redemption as the show is a global hit and even impressed US viewers (thanks to BBC America). The third series is one of the most awaited UK shows of the Spring season with Ashes to Ashes Series 2 and a Doctor Who special. ITV/AMC remake of The Prisoner being lost in South African sands until november.

The masterminds behind Primeval are the champions of the radical format surprise (see what happened after Series 1 cliffhanger) but the Series 3 opener, with its mythological if not esoterical orientation, leaves the mixed feeling that we're watching a certain well-known North American tv sci-fi franchise. The monster of the week is linked to an Egyptian monument in the British Museum and Sarah Page, an egyptologist (Laila Rouass), earns a job at the ARC with a scene which could easily get the Shark Jump Award - ex aequo with the sequence with the elevator (sorry).

Other casting newbies are Captain Becker (Ben Mansfield), who will certainly not replace Stephen Hart (is he really dead, anyway?) and ex-MI6 Christine Johnson (Belinda Stewart-Wilson, Ben Miller's wife), the new boss of James Lester with the usual hidden agenda a la Spooks. And Helen Cutter has something she's desperately seeking but for what purpose? The ending with Helen is really impressive and is the sole reason in this episode to keep hope that the show will not completely morph into "Primeval SG1".

Till now Primeval is a great television series, we'll see in the next episodes if Series 3 has jumped the shark, should that shark be from the future or the past.

Post-scriptum: Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts) is, er... "connoresque" at a gratuitous level, and Abby (Hannah Spearritt) suffers from the Sarah Page introduction.

See also:

http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/bow-down-before-croc.html
http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/04/kiss-shark-primeval-3-no-spoiler.html

FEAR HER

On Sunday March 22, venerable Variety wrote three articles on the industry bloggers and particularly on the deity of Entertainment journalism, She Who Must Be Read, Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood Daily (1).

The same day Nikki announced on her newly launched Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/NikkiFinke), a "mini-version" of her blog with first run news, that she would answer (http://twitter.com/NikkiFinke/status/1373073475).

Well, here it is: http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/was-it-sour-grapes-peter-bart-not-consulted-when-reed-businessvariety-group-called-me-to-buy-dhd/. Nikki Finke explains freely (I love the « Since I did not sign a non-disclosure agreement »!) and with her unimitable style that Variety tried recently to buy DHD.

On The Daily Beast, Kim Masters calls DHD Hollywood's Most Threatening Blog (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-03-23/hollywoods-most-threatening-blog/2/). All bets are off... Nikki Finke is not "alternative journalism", she's a journalist doing her job. But watch out, Nikki. Someday Hollywoodland will have its revenge: they'll make a film out of the ascension of Deadline Hollywood Daily and Meryl Streep will play your part.

(1) http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118001495.html?categoryid=1&cs=1
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118001494.html?categoryid=1019&cs=1
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118001493.html?categoryid=1019&cs=1

Friday, 20 March 2009

DUB'CLUB: DUBBING THE WORLD IN STYLE

The French dubbing industry is at the parting of the ways these days, with the N° 2 company of the sector going through hard times and smaller structures faring not better. And since a couple of years listening to a movie or a television series in French language can often be a very painful exercise.

But in the middle of this gloomy environment where the economy and a lack of prospective and evolution weight on a dubbing industry once considered as the best of the world, there's a company which keeps chasing excellence while satisfaying the demands of their clients. Dub'Club Post Production has been founded in 1991 by Marianne Dubos. Born in Switzerland, Mrs Dubos worked in France for one of the most active and prestigious French dubbing company of the sixties: Jean-Paul Blondeau Productions, on French-speaking versions of milestones like Mission: Impossible and The Avengers (in fact she found the French title of this classic: Chapeau melon et bottes de cuir). In Quebec she directed the French dubbing of Star Trek (the original series), with her husband Régis Dubos as the French-speaking dubbing voice of Mr Spock.

Amongst the latest works of Dub'Club: the ABC television series Women's Murder Club, BBC's adaptation of The Wind in the willows with Matt Lucas, Mark Gatiss and Bob Hoskins, Thief with Andre Braugher, Monroe'Class of 76 with Robert Carlyle, or feature films like Paparazzi (produced by Mel Gibson).

The daughter of Marianne and Régis Dubos, freelance dubbing artist Mélody Dubos (Agnes and her twin sister in the French dubbing of German soap Verliebt in Berlin, and one of the voices of Fith Gear), is also the talented resident dubbing director of the company. French adaptations of the works dubbed at Dub'Club are brilliantly made by independent dubbing author Xavier Varaillon.

Dub'Club Post Production works with the best technicians and the best dubbing artists, most of them regularly working on stage and for film and television. Clients of this company, the public and dubbing aficionados (numerous in France), recognize the quality of their dubbing versions. Women's Murder Club is shown this month in France on M6.

http://www.dubclub.fr/
http://melodyd.free.fr/
http://xvaraillon.free.fr/

ARCHIE DALEY'S PEARLS OF WISDOM AND OTHER MINDER QUOTES

Minder 2009 is now on DVD (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/minder-on-dvd-fremantle_18.html)

« Some of us are born for greatness, the rest shift the heavy stuff. » (Archie)

« This is one of London's oldest watering holes. Charles Dickens even drank here.
- Oh, yeah?
- No one can prove he didn't. » (Jamie and Petra)

« Relax, gringo. There's no such thing as a crisis only opportunity yet to be ravished. » (Archie)

« Bought this place off plan for me and the girlfriend. That fell apart, just like the economy. Now I can't shift it. Or the wife. Don't know which is the biggest liability. » (Dickie Mint)

« I'm no Miss Marple but he's definitely hiding something. » (Archie)

« Even in the valley of shadow of Death, there are openings for a man of enterprise. » (Archie)

« The wise man know not to chose the wrong enemy. » (Chan Donovan)

« I shared a plane with Cliff Richard. Doesn't mean I can sing Mistletoe and Wine » (Archie)

« She was like a French pig sniffing for truffles. » (Archie)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

MINDER ON DVD (FREMANTLE)

Starring Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel, the reinvention of the cult classic Minder by Talkback Thames for Five is now available on DVD. This is an excellent occasion to watch and watch again a show which deserves to be considered as one of the best pieces of contemporary UK television, and as a future classic in its own right.

REMINDING MINDER

« I don't mind paying for good old British service with a smile. » (Archie Daley)

Created by Leon Griffiths, the original Minder ran from 1979 to 1994. It starred Dennis Waterman (right after The Sweeney) as Terry McCann, a sympathetic former boxer who served time in prison because of his loyalty, and becomes the "minder" (i.e. bodyguard) of Arthur Daley - played by George Cole - a lovable rogue "entrepreneur". In 1989, Gary Webster replaced Waterman, as Arthur's nephew, Ray Daley. The show, produced by Verity Lambert for Euston Films (a subsidiary of Thames Television), is considered in the United Kingdom as a monument. As is its theme song, I could be so good for you, performed by Dennis himself .

In 2008, Jay Hunt, then head of programmes at Five, asks producer Sean O'Connor and Irish actor-director-writer Tim Loane (Teachers) to devise a series that would be brand defining for the fifth and final British terrestrial anologue tv channel. O'Connor digs into the valuable Talkback Thames back catalogue and has the idea to revive the format of Minder. Hunt is enthusiastic and suggests that Shane Richie (Alfie Moon in EastEnders), could star in the new version (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/a137666/2009-tv-preview-minder-remade.html).

Richie becomes Archie Daley, Arthur's nephew, and the RSC actor Lex Shrapnel (the Thunderbirds movie) is cast as the new minder, Jamie Cartwright. With this Minder 2009, Five shows an unusual and real quality ambition. The channel gambles high on the new series, with a national advertising campaign (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/20/minder-campaign-to-hit-streets), and signs up Scottish band Attic Lights to perform the 2009 version of the theme (http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/tv-showbiz-news/music-news/2008/11/02/attic-lights-win-deal-to-record-new-theme-tune-for-minder-comeback-78057-20862115/).

In the first episode, Better the Devil you know, Jamie Cartwright, a former boxer turned cabbie, is signing off near the Gherkin (like in Hustle, the building seems to be the totem of London under credit crunch) when sharp-suited, fast-talking Archie Daley hops into the back of his black cab, trying to escape from "Gorillas in Armani suits" (« Just bleedin'floor it, will ya? ») Jamie teaches the "neolithical" a lesson but losts the cab in the operation (« Haven't had so much fun since I had my prostate check. ») An amending Archie offers him a job: to deliver a briefcase with "fifty grand of Her Majesty's finest" to Petra Bennett (Jenna Russell), the owner of a 300 year old pub.

« Nothing dodgy, straight up. Trust me. » But nothing is as simple with Arthur Daley's nephew and the adventure begins for Archie, Jamie and Petra. Their adversaries: nefarious property developers Mark and Nick Gold, crooked councillor Conway, a couple of cockroaches ready to mate, and DI Murray, a tenacious female copper who keeps an eye on Daley's deals (« No I'm here because word on the street says that your import exploits aren't quite kosher. »)

THE PERSUADERS

« What business are you in?
- You name it, I deal in it. Everything to nearly new to spanking new. Personal services to personal protection. I can offer any enterprise I can muster. But always with a smile. » (Jamie and Archie)


New people, new time but the same location... with a difference. Minder is reimaginated with absolute brilliance by Tim Loane, series consultant, and writer of the six episodes of the new Minder series (with Jeff Povey for Episode 5). He captures the essential of the original show: the relationship between the lovable wheeler dealer and his minder (« We make a great team, James. The possibilities are infinite »), and its atmosphere, recreated in the 2008 London where History meets modern architecture (1).

« Hang on a minute. Why are you helping me out like this?
- Someone did the same for me once. » (Jamie and Archie)


The new tandem played by Shane Richie and Lex Shrapnel evoke with subtlety the duo of George Cole and Dennis Waterman without trying a second to impersonate their legendary predecessors. The two stars being closer in age than the originals, the unlikely friendship between Archie Daley and Jamie Cartwright rather recalls the partnership between Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde in The Persuaders.

But the legacy of the original Minder is assumed with elegance through many references: the Winchester, Daley's malapropisms (« Is that what they said to Michelangelo the bloke who cut his ear off? » or « You should now that's his modi operandus » ), and nods to the past like the iconic shake hands across the front of the cab in Episode 1, or « If my uncle Arthur could see me now. »

The sensibility remains the same but the tone and the pace are different. There's some Richard Curtis type of comedy in the superb Episode 2, In Vino Veritas: Tim Loane is at his best with one-liners like « She's reached that stage in every woman's life where nothing's a surprise and everything's a disappointment », and scenes with the photographer (« More of a film maker, really. ») or Charlie Cupid, the depressive wedding singer. There are also many "Guy Ritchiesque" moments or figures, especially in Matter of Life and Debt (Episode 4) - with would-be martial artist Chan Donovan (« The future is just a new-laid egg fragile in our fingers. »)

« In case you forgot I'm the brains in this partnership. Remember, give and take.
- Yeah, I give and you take. » (Archie and Jamie)


The creme de la creme of British acting guest stars in Minder: Rik Mayall, Meera Syal (Jekyll) Nickolas Grace, Rory Kinnear, Clare Higgins, Steve Pemberton as Vlad the Imposter (!) - a psychic (« Did you say he was psychic or psychotic? »), Clive Wood, and many others. And recurrent characters are well served too, with Josette Simon (Blake's 7) as DI Murray and Paul Brooke as Dickie Mint - Archie's lawyer.

NEVER MIND THE BOLLARDS

« It's a deft balance of power and elegance. » (The name's Daley, Archie Daley)

The antics of the Daley family have been updated for the 21st century: Arthur Daley's nephew gets into contemporary art in The Art of the Matter (Episode 3), when he discovers on a wallpaper a work he believes from a "guerilla artist" called Banksy. He transforms his warehouse into the Daley Gallery (2) and exposes the picture in the middle of other works made of... out of date chickens (« His poultry sculptures break new ground. »), sweets and action figures! But Jamie discovers that the Banksy is a fake and Archie is mistaken for a mysterious art fraudster known only as "Picasso" by a frustrated investigator (« You practically fed me to Inspector Lecter, Jamie. »)

In Thank your Lucky Stars (Episode 5), "Bermondsey snap champion" Archie Daley and Jamie Cartwright gamble their fingers against a control freak poker player who collects « things you can live without but can bear to lose ». The episode, which reveals one of the many talents of Jamie, has shades of Man from the South (the story by Roald Dahl) and Maverick. Finally, in Till Debt do us Part (Episode 6), Jamie is back in the ring to help Archie settle the score against She Who Must Be Paid, aka Daley's estranged wife Delilah (« Why, why, why?») by beating her protégé, boxer Carlos Rocks (« You don't want David Beckham for his wit and repartee. »)

« You had anyone famous in the cab lately?
- I have, actually. Drove Big Boris home after a night out. At least I think it was home. » (Archie and Jamie)


Minder 2009 is cleverly written and beautifully filmed (cf. the "Shadow over Bermondsey" sequence in Episode 5). Fun, fast-paced and anchored in its time (« I'm talking about this unnatural disaster that is our economy ») . The actors are impressive, particularly Shane Richie, who delivers a wide range of emotions far beyond the appearances of the fast-talking opportunistic "man of enterprise". And Lex Shrapnel is the perfect successor to Dennis Waterman even if he doesn't sing "the feem toon" (the rendition by Attic Lights is excellent).

To be perfectly honest, the show did certainly not reach Five's rating expectations regarding their investment. And the future of this channel probably weights on the future of the series. BUT Minder deserves a second series (3), no matter who commissions it: Five absorbed by ITV, or the BBC. Talkback Thames produces QI for the Beeb and the new Minder would be at ease amongst entries like Hustle or Ashes to Ashes. The first season of this masterpiece that is Minder is now on DVD thanks to Fremantle Home Entertainment in a 2 disc set with the 6 episodes of the series. Plus extras including a jovial behind the scenes feature shot during Episode 6, bloopers, deleted scenes and the promotional trailer for the show.

See also: http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/archie-daleys-pearls-of-wisdom-and.html

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001QV6JCK?tag=virtuallinse1

Minder on the Five website: http://www2.five.tv/minder/ (with a funny video of the theme song by Attic Lights).

(1) For details about the locations of the new Minder series, please see:
http://www.minder.org/locations/index.htm and http://www.london-se1.co.uk/minder/
(2) These scenes are illustrated by the theme from the Vision On gallery!
(3) We'd like to see, for instance, more of Felix Cornell (Clive Wood), the villain of Episode 5. And could Maria Grant (Jayne Wisener), who leaves Jamie Cartwright at the end of A Matter of Life and Debt, become his Philippa Vale?

STOP THE PRESS! NIKKI FINKE IS ON TWITTER!

Good God! She Who Must Be Read, aka eminent journalist Nikki Finke, of Deadline Hollywood Daily (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/) - the first thing I read when I get up - is now on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/NikkiFinke

Consider cloning, Nikki, or you'll never sleep again...

Monday, 16 March 2009

RON SILVER (1946-2009)

Ron Silver was one of these actors whose incredible on-screen presence made you have the smile you have when you see a familiar and appreciated face. A class act with a long string of film and television credits, and recurring roles in series like Chicago Hope or The West Wing.

Actioner fans remember him as the "unsympathetic senator type" in the both excellent Lime Wire (1992) and Timecop (1994) but most of us particularly remember Ron Silver as David Sternberg in this 1988-1989 story-arc of the Wiseguy tv series which gave Jerry Lewis the best role of his career and revealed the talent of Stanley Tucci as mobster Rick Pinzolo. We're talking here about a Golden era of US television.

Lifelong Democrat activist, his support of George W. Bush in 2004 came as a surprise if not a shock. And Silver said that his career paid the price for that(http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/rip-ron-silver/). We sincerely hope this was not true.

Ron Silver was 62 years old. He will really be missed.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

IS ANYBODY THERE?

Seaside England in the 80's, a young boy living in the retirement home run by his parents discovers that Clarence, the latest resident, is a retired magician.

Sir Michael Caine is Clarence, and there's David Morrissey. The story of Is Anybody there? (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1130088/) sounds wonderful, the film itself looks great. We need this kind of movies more than ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pTMPnJR53w (Trailer)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

RED NOSE DAY 09

Every second year since 1989, Comic Relief (http://www.comicrelief.com/) organizes Red Nose Day. This charity event is the occasion of great funny television moments for good causes. Red Nose Day 2009 will happen on Friday March 13th, on BBC One and BBC Two from 7.00pm till 1.30am.

« Comic Relief: Funny for Money is all set to be one hell of a TV extravaganza on Red Nose Night. Featuring the best in British entertainment and comedy, including the last ever French & Saunders film parody; a bespoke sketch from the team behind Gavin & Stacey; special Red Nose treats from The Royle Family; the cast of Outnumbered; Ricky Gervais and Little Britain. David Tennant will be a guest presenter and there will be a special Top of the Pops show.»

Comic Relief does Top of the Pops will be on BBC Two at 10.00pm. Note that Comic Relief: Funny for Money (starting on BBC One from 7pm) will also show a one-off special Red Nose Day mini adventure of The Sarah Jane Adventures guest starring comedy legend Ronnie Corbett (http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/news/latest/090213_news_02).

Everybody remembers highlights of previous years such as Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death (1999), with Rowan Atkinson, and the great Dennis Waterman with Little Britain in 2007 - one of your humble servant's favourite moments, as I'm a huge fan of Mr Waterman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J26xfIFEKsU).

http://www.rednoseday.com/

Sunday, 8 March 2009

TWO AND A HALF D

Our Canadian friend Furious D (http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/) has spotted two parodies of The Watchmen. The first one is an animated theme intro Filmation style, and the second - my favorite - is titled Two and a Half Watchmen! I particularly enjoyed the Lady Gaga line, in fact I'm still laughing while writing.

http://dknowsall.blogspot.com/2009/03/saturday-silliness-cinema-watching.html

Saturday, 7 March 2009

IS PARIS BURNING? (ABOUT PARIS 16ème)

Looking for the new Plus belle la vie - the French Coronation Street or EastEnders - since France's public tv channel France 3 struck gold with this Soap Opera, private rival TF1 launched Seconde chance last september. But TF1's feuilleton quotidien, a 28 million euro daily Ugly Betty (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/seconde-chance-road-to-eldorado.html), never reached the channel's rating expectations and its 180 episode run is about to end.

ESCAPE FROM ELDORADO?

Private channel M6, TF1's arch rival, entered on the road to Eldorado before TF1 last summer with Pas de secrets entre nous, a Marathon production (a company which had a certain expertise with St Tropez, sold in more than 100 countries), but the effort bombed. Now M6 strategically takes advantage of the demise of Seconde chance, to courageously offer its new effort: Paris 16ème.

An estimated budget of 17 million euros, 180 shooting days for an initial deal of 80 episodes (shot simultaneously by two production units), 9 sets created by a team of 70 crew members under the direction of Production designer Jacques Houdin, 26 writers, 7 directors. These are the key numbers for this CALT production by Jean-Yves Robin. This company is known for having revolutionized French television fiction with two short format series, Caméra Café (a global hit through numerous adaptations) and Kaamelott.

Lorène Maréchal (Alexandra Naoum), a young woman from province, arrives in Paris with Antoine (Richard Gotainer), her uncle, for the funerals of her parents. She's invited by socialite Catherine Cipriani (Alexandra Kazan) at her luxurious condo in the 16ème arrondissement of Paris (one of the richest districts of the capital city). Catherine is the wife of Philippe Cipriani (Didier Menin), shadowy owner of Carialis - a prosperous shipping company. Lorène must discover an hostile world and a face a secret her uncle feels obliged to reveal to her.

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL

French channel M6 boldly shows the very first episode of Paris 16ème on its website before the premiere of the daily soap on March 9 (http://www.m6.fr/html/series/paris-16/). The mini-website about the show is very well done with videos, character presentation, the soap's premise, a feature about the sets and some stats. M6 seems very proud of the theme song, Paris is burning, from electro pop phenom Ladyhawke (New Zealander singer Pip Brown) composed in fact two years ago. You can watch the video on the site.

Since Plus belle la vie started slowly before becoming a hit after a complete and hard retooling, every observer of this "Soap Wars" takes care of not burying the new player too soon. But you can already sense some weaknesses in this first episode, beginning with a "subconscious americanization": the theme song is in English and some of the characters are named Ethan, Tara or Chris. But we're in Paris and we have the usual shots of the Eiffel Tower and the Parisian subway.

Another problem is terrible dialogue lines, like: « My phone is exploding. I'm your communication officer. I must communicate. - Then, communicate » or « The real problem is that you're poor». And of course Paris 16ème cannot avoid the clichés of the genre like the cultural clash between the poor heroine and her hosts, Philippe's henchman, the wisecracking café owner confident, or the young and brave attorney who wants to make Philippe fall a on high-scale pollution case. There's even some attitudes reminding of Le coeur a ses raisons, a Soap Opera parody by Quebequer humorist Marc Labrèche (well-known in France).

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW

The border between codes and clichés is slim in the world of Soaps and clichés can be strength if well handled. We'll watch half a dozen episodes to see if we're convinced, your humble servant being - like Master Chiun - an aficionado of "Beautiful dramas". On the contrary of Seconde chance, the cast of Paris 16ème is one of the positive points of this new daily Soap: Philippe is played by respectable character actor Didier Menin (remarked in Plus belle la vie), who has the challenge to escape from the stereotype of the unscrupulous businessman stuck to this cell phone. Paris 16ème may hold its Charles Frémont, played by the excellent Alexandre Fabre in Plus belle la vie.

Alexandra Kazan (Catherine) has an international résumé which includes appearances in the 1989 adaptation of The Saint (with Simon Dutton) or Dracula: The series , and regular roles in some French tv shows. The career of Wadeck Stanczak (Alfred Saint-Faye) is an impressive list of film and television credits, but the real good surprise of the casting is Richard Gotainer, better known in France as a popular singer, as Lorène's nice working class uncle. Paris 16ème relies also on a group of fresh faces and remember that young new talents put Y&R on the map in the seventies.

But the longevity of Y&R maybe the producers' wildest dreams. One of the cardinal rules of Soap Opera is the identification factor and to bet that viewers want to watch a show about residents of the 16ème arrondissement of Paris (« You want it as usual: Bling Bling » (1)) is a risked gamble at the height of the recession. The era of the Supersoaps and the fascination for their "filthy rich" is long gone (ask the producers of Dirty Sexy Money). The next gamblers in the quest for the new PBLV could consult the producers of EastEnders, or of Germany's GZSZ (Gute Zeiten Schlechte Zeiten) but perhaps Plus belle la vie or Verliebt in Berlin were flukes or pure magic. If there's any next gambler, should Paris 16ème bomb right after the costly Seconde chance.

(1) For an explanation of the reference in this line, see: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1697098,00.html

En Français: http://thierryattard.blogspot.com/2009/03/paris-brule-t-il-propos-de-paris-16eme.html

Friday, 6 March 2009

81st ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS (PART TWO)

Jennifer Aniston («Talking squirrels, romantic robots and super-powered dogs... ») and Jack Black (« ... These are just a few of the ways producers describe actors behind their backs») introduced the Best Animation category.

A "yearbook" reminded us that maybe it's time for the animation industry to move on: a robot, a panda, chimps, a whole zoo, an elephant, penguins and a mouse. All creatures great and small... except for The clone wars and Wall-E, this animated year looked like Noah's Ark! Jack Black was fantastic: « Each year I do one Dreamworks project, then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar» - even Jeffrey Katzenberg seemed to sincerely enjoy the line. Wall-E won, how much won Mr Black this evening? Fortunately, the beautiful La maison en petits cubes, won the Best Animated Shortfilm.

Then came the unlikely tandem of Sarah Jessica Parker and Daniel Craig... for the Best Art Direction category and Best Costume design. Why can't I help thinking that the fact that Parker and Craig presented the latter is revelatory. « We don't have to tell you what the makeup artist does » SJP went on, « Just look at us », added Craig. I'm a James Bourne quitter since I fell asleep during Casino Royale, but Daniel Craig, who is a fine actor (Layer Cake) deserves better. You can't imagine Chris Noth saying that... The curious case of Benjamin Button won Best Art Direction and Best Achievement in Makeup, The Duchess won Best Costume design.

Best cinematography was introduced by Natalie Portman and Ben Stiller. Sorry Nikki (Finke), but I found Ben Stiller hilarious as Joaquin Phoenix (« I heard that Slumdog Millionaire was shot entirely on a cell phone »). For our readers who may ignore it, Phoenix announced in October 2008 his retirement from film to focus on a career as a rapper. And since then he wears a long beard and dark glasses. Stiller will certainly not "retire from being a funny guy" with this one but Nikki Finke is right: "Christian Bale" as Batman (with an Adam West costume) and "Joquin Phoenix" at the IFC Spirit Awards, with Brit comic genius Steve Coogan and director Frank Coraci (1), were by far much better (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPLs6v_52GQ&hl=fr). Anyway, Anthony Dod Mantle won for Slumdog Millionaire, which is amazing for a movie shot entirely on a cell phone.

Actually the funniest part of the show was James Franco and Seth Rogen watching DVDs and laughing loud watching The Reader, even if I don't get the stapler stuff a la Jackass. But the "intrusion" of Janusz Kaminski (director of photography on Saving Private Ryan or the last Indiana Jones) and a film crew in their apartment saved the segment. « If you liked that piece, I helped write it. If you didn't, then it was all Judd Apatow » said Seth Rogen - allow me here to salute one of my friends, the great Tristan Harvey, who's the French-speaking dubbing voice of Rogen in Quebec.

Franco, Kaminski and Rogen introduced the Best live action short film, won by Spielzeugland (Toyland). One of the commenters under Deadline Hollywood Daily's Live blogging of the Oscars (http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/live-snarking-the-2009-academy-awards/) wrote: « I’m totally enjoying the Oscars this year. So much better than last year. Vicodin really makes everything better ». Even Gregory House reads Nikki Finke!

(To be followed)

(1) http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/06/frank-coraci.html

Part One: http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/02/81st-annual-academy-awards-part-one.html
Part Three: http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/04/81st-annual-academy-awards-part-three.html

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

AIN'T NECESSARILY SO...

ABC pulls the plug on the American version of Life on Mars. A finale will explain how Sam Tyler got transported back in time and will (maybe) bring him back to his own time (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/ustv/a148359/abc-axes-life-on-mars-after-one-season.html).

In november 2008 your humble servant wrote: « 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? » (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/11/la-cabeza-de-alfredo-garcia.html). But ABC has not lost faith in foreign formats, Argentinian shows are the flavor of next season (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/03/things-to-watch-in-hollywoodland-you.html), and the network will adapt ITV's No heroics.

To guess the fate of Life on Mars US was no psychic: two pilots (think of it, Life on Mars' premise has been remade twice!), renowned producer David Kelley leaving the adaptation, major cast changes with Colm Meaney being replaced by Harvey Keitel as the American Gene Hunt, and mistakes, with Michael Imperioli not casted as Hunt. A move from Los Angeles to New York, and a new production team. But most of all, Jason O'Mara (Sam Tyler) and Harvey Keitel had the impossible mission to reprise roles played by John Simm (imagine poor Russell Crowe in the State of Play movie) and Philip Glenister.

British production companies should rent their shooting facilities - like what the producers of the Fort Boyard game do, in order to help US Networks to try to devise proper adaptations of their shows. More seriously, La Chica de ayer, the Spanish Life on Mars, looks far more interesting with its local cultural and historical input (http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2009/02/la-chica-de-ayer-spanish-life-on-mars.html). You must bring something more than the concept and American actors or locations.

Thank God, Harvey Keitel, one of the most talented American actors, didn't try British accent. Perhaps on Demons US?

SECONDE CHANCE: THE ROAD TO ELDORADO

2700 m2 of sets at Bry sur Marne (one of the most prestigious French studio facilities) with 450 professionals rotating on this one site (150 alternating on the sets), 15 writers working there for a 22 minute format shot in HD, a title song performed by a former candidate of Star Academy – a musical talent Real tv contest, a viral marketing campaign, catchy promos and a much talked about 28 million euro budget. TF1’s Seconde chance, a daily soap launched on September 29 2008, had all to be considered as one of the most ambitious gambles of the History of French television.

PLUS BELLE LA VIE WITH 28 MILLION EUROS?

Why would Europe’s first TV channel (and leader in France) believe a soap opera could be the ticket to restore its leadership on a time slot conquered by hertzian rivals and Digital terrestrial television (5.40pm initially) in a country where viewers have not the slightest notion of who Luke & Laura can be? The answer is simple: Plus belle la vie, the French equivalent of the UK’s Coronation Street or Eastenders, or of Germany's Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten (aka GZSZ). Launched in 2004 by public France 3 at the most strategic 8.20pm slot, right versus these institutions that are the 8.00pm news sessions of TF1 and France 2. PBLV began with lacklustre ratings but France 3 believed in its investment, and after hard retooling, le feuilleton quotidien became one of the most watched programmes in this country, and raised appetites.

Then TF1 had the flair to buy Sat.1’s Verliebt in Berlin (2005-2007) the German adaptation of Columbian global phenom format Yo soy Betty la fea. And viewers made a triumph to the romance between Lisa Plenske and David Seidel, which became the N°1 guilty pleasure of 2007. Public channel France 2 and private TF1’s rival M6 tried to launch their own daily soaps in 2008. But both Cinq soeurs and Pas de secrets entre nous, conceived by the same production company (Marathon, producer of St Tropez or Totally Spies!), failed to attract the public.

In such a context and with a budget twice the production cost of Plus belle la vie, TF1 had to be careful and tested 10 episodes of Seconde chance with panels before an order of 180 episodes to Alma Productions, the TF1 subsidiary behind RIS (adapted from an Italian format), and the French version of Law & Order Criminal Intent, but also L’Hôpital, involuntary laughing stock of the previous season, which even won a Gérard (the French Razzies).

LE DESTIN D'ALICE

Alice Lerois, 35 years (Caroline Veyt, a Belgian actress), two children, is dumped by her hubby, and needs to get a job but her résumé is a catastrophy. When she goes to her last chance interview, for advertising agency Broman & Barow, she is engaged by female exec Laetitia (Isabelle Vitari), a former high school friend. But Laetitia has an hidden agenda and scores she wants to settle. So what? Seconde chance borrows the codes (clichés?) of Ugly Betty and Verliebt in Berlin reunited, from the Über bitch figure to the fiftysomething boss a la Alan Dale, plus tics from RIS and L’Hôpital (a voice-over, split screens, incidental songs in English, etc...). Add surreal sequences inherited from Ally McBeal and an annoying incidental “Elfmanian” music right from Wisteria Lane. Not to mention terrible lines such as « I'm an ordinary woman ».

TF1 cancelled the second season of Verliebt in Berlin (Le Destin de Bruno, centered on Lisa’s brother) halfway because of the lack of interest of viewers after the departure of Lisa Plenske. Could it mean that TF1 and Alma's executives thought that the recipe is tasty only with an heroine? The prime target of TF1 is the mythical Ménagère de moins de 50 ans (50- housewife) and teenagers. But teenagers watch Alles was zählt (Le rêve de Diana), a German soap from Grundy UFA, on M6. The first two back to back episodes of Seconde chance did rather well in Belgium (where the soap is aired some days in advance because TF1 is received in this country) and France. Words of mouth were at first favorable amongst the core audiences and the network seemed satisfied of the beginning of its daily show.

Six months later, ratings have never reached what you can expect with such a budget and logistics but no one wanted to bury the soap too soon because of the Plus belle la vie precedent. Plus TF1 had to cope with the pregnancy of its star and therefore replaced Caroline Veyt by Pascale Michaud as Emilie Marceau - starting on episode 100 (and with a revamped theme intro). Now, approaching the end of the season, Seconde chance will likely rejoin the memorial of hazardous soap opera experiences, with campy gems like Riviera (1991, a costly USA-France venture), Foreign Affairs (1992, a co-production between The Netherlands, Canada and... Argentina!), Secrets (1992) (1) or the infamous Eldorado (1992-1993).

The keys to a good soap opera are strong characterization, virtuosic actors (2), identification factor but larger than life, if not exaggerated intrigues contained inside the environment of the show... for a reasonable cost. TF1 should stick to the formulas of their hit dramedies: the uneven Joséphine Ange gardien and the lighthearted, funny and effective Père et maire (ABC or NBC should consider the idea of buying the format of this show), rather than trying to duplicate Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy or CSI one way or another.

(1) Sky du Mont on Secrets: http://tattard2.blogspot.com/2008/05/sky-du-mont.html.
(2) In the universe of French soaps, the charismatic Alexandre Fabre - Charles Frémont in Plus belle la vie - is the incarnation of the virtuoso. Physical considerations apart, he's the French equivalent of Joseph Mascolo.

Monday, 2 March 2009

THINGS TO WATCH IN HOLLYWOODLAND (YOU KNOW THE REST)

Every season, Hollywood works hard in order to urge Lee Goldberg to write a new edition of his great Unsold Television Pilots (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0595189644/ref=ase_adventuresintele/103-7358193-8705413?v=glance&s=books). Den of Geek has published a list of 36 pilots which may or may not become regular series. Strictly on paper this is the less attractive pilot lineup of the decade (http://www.denofgeek.com/television/207248/36_upcoming_us_tv_pilots.html).

Sommersby 9/11 style? Mark Pellington (Arlington Road) directs Back, where a victim of the attack on the WTC reappears after 8 years presumed dead. The pitch is one of the most exciting of the year (by the standards of network television), but the problem of US contemporary television is that it never goes beyond pitches. Should CBS pick it, let's hope that they'll have a whole season written before shooting.

Since Yo soy Betty la fea went global bonanza through worldwide adaptations, latin shows are on the radars of every television exec of the planet. Hermanos y detectives (2006), an Argentinian tv series about a cop and his 11 year-old brother, a genius super-sleuth child, has already been remade in Spain as Hermanos & detectives (2007) for Telecinco, the channel of Spanish RIS (http://www.telecinco.es/hermanosydetectives/). Now ABC is doing it as Brothers & Detectives, and it is directed by Gregory Hoblit (Hill Street Blues). Well done, it could be ABC's Monk or Psych. On the contrary, it could hurt your humble servant's teeth badly. Remember Ugly Betty...

Has the success of the BBC's revival of Survivors, the monument imagined by Terry Nation, inspired NBC? Day One describes a small group of... survivors, after a mysterious event destroys the world as we know it. « You can't copyright the end of the world », wisely writes Martin Anderson in his Den of Geek article. And you can't copyright a group of con artists acting as Robin Hood. NBC Universal's courage is admirable, remember Jericho. By the way, is Freema Agyeman in it?

After courage, bravery: two failed attempts in 1992 and 2002 (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2008/08/maybe-the-third-time-will-be-the-charmor-rather-charmed.html) did not discourage ABC to order a pilot based on John Updike's book The Witches of Eastwick, and the namesake movie. It's called Eastwick and it is directed by the talented David Nutter. I expect Desperate Housewives meets Charmed, or is it the reverse? NBC wants to remake Parenthood, the 1989 movie... Trying to make weekly series out of films is so nineties.

Please cry for me, Argentina. Fox adapts Lalola (2007), an Argentinian comedy about a playboy transformed into a blonde, as Eva Adams. The show, like Hermanos y detectives, has already been remade in Spain. So you can copyright the old trick of the gender switch? ITV has a very similar concept called Boy meets girl, starring Martin Freeman (1).

Looking for the next Lost... (not me) FlashForward, from a novel written in 1999 by Robert J. Sawyer: a glitch during a scientific experiment accidentally allows everybody to have glimpses of their lives in the future. I had a glimpse of the 2009-2010 television season, and I'm in a quasi-trauma, so imagine. David Goyer (co-writer of The Dark Knight) directs for ABC.

What else? The new project from Paul Scheuring (Prison Break) for Fox: Masterwork is sold as « A thriller about a race against time to recover the world's most sought-after artefacts ». Martin Anderson calls it The Da Vinci code - weekly. I'm not a fan of neither Prison Break nor of Dan Brown.

There's also a Mentalist wannabe with a twist, a bunch of political dramas and legal dramas, the new candidate to the Don't tell them Supersoaps died in the nineties Award: after Cane or Dirty Sexy Money, Empire State, described as « Romeo and Juliet in modern Manhattan » (ABC). A new version of Human Target (Fox), from a DC comic book by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino, with the excellent Mark Valley as a freelance bodyguard who literally impersonates his clients to protect them. It's directed by Simon West (Con Air) and produced by McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation) so it has potential for a good action/adventure show. Rick Springfield starred in a 1992 entertaining but short-lived adaptation. Trying to make weekly series out of comic books is so... (you know the rest) but I don't care. If picked for a series I just hope it will not have the fate of Knight Rider 2008.

At least it seems we will be spared of new Hawaii Five-O, Lost in Space or The Streets of San Francisco, but ABC has ordered a remake of V (http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2009/02/rehashes-reworkings-and-reimaginings.html). Someday fascist lizards in orange mechanic suits will eat us... again. Groundhog Day with reptiles, and we are Phil Connors.

(1) As Corinne Auffret-Nguyên, of the essential Beans on Toast - the French-speaking Doctor Who website (http://www.doctor-who.fr/), recalls me after some research.