Saturday, 25 April 2009


Saturday is the day of Britain's Got Talent on ITV1, the show where Britain's ordinary people unite to annoy or enchant producer Simon Cowell.

And sometimes, for the highest enjoyment of the three judges, Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan, true artists show the best of the best. Like Diversity, a dance group:

Please see also:


Special thanks to Laura Wootton and Eric Salou

You don't have necessarily to be a Football fan to have the notion that legendary manager Brian Clough (1935-2004) is a part of British culture (1). The Damned United, a movie about the 44 days of Clough in charge of Leeds United - adapted from a controversial book by David Peace - was recently there to remind it (

Clough, a magnificent documentary from ITV Sport (produced and directed by Gabriel Clarke, John McKenna and James Williams), is a conterpoint to the biopic starring Michael Sheen. A superb tribute to the legacy of the man, with quality interviews of those who really knew him: family, friends and former colleagues (Geoffrey Boycott OBE, Martin O’Neill, Roy McFarland, John McGovern, Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles or Gordon McQueen). « This is Clough, the afterlife of Brian » says narrator Pete Postlethwaite OBE.

« The unfulfilled player made for the brilliant manager »: as a player Brian Clough scored 251 goals in 274 games (a post-war record), most at Second Division level. He played for England twice in a career cut short by injury. In 1965, he became the the youngest manager in the Football League at 30, with Fourth Division Hartlepool ( « So many think they can go into management at a high level straight away. At Hartlepool he thought he should learn his new job » explains Barbara Clough, his wife, in the doc. Then started his management duo with Peter Taylor as assistant manager.


« He took his Football very very seriously and really was grateful he had the chance to play Football. » (Barbara Clough)

With the loyal Taylor at his side, Clough began to really display his magic with Derby County, Second Division champion two years after his arrival, and gradually shaped his persona: a combination of shrewd management with charisma, wit, an hyperbolic self-confidence and a zest of eccentricity. « Conceit and arrogance are part of a man's make-up. Maybe I got too much » confessed Brian Clough with a great intellectual honesty. « Football had its first tv evangelist » . Well, rather a cross between a purist philosopher and a brilliant general with shades of a boxing champion, a perfect "client" for television.

Precisely. One of the forces of the documentary of ITV Sport is the use of their formidable archives. Brian Clough regularly contributed to the The Big Match the LWT's programme (a prototype of the contemporary Football talk shows, and a classic revisited on ITV4). « There are certain players in the game who couldn't take the ball from my wife. And Bob is one of them ». The quips of the master Football strategist, added to his brilliance as a manager, made him so popular (« The number of people who said to me 'I don't like Football but I never miss Brian on television » explains Barbara Clough) that Clough earned a nickname, "Old Big'Ead", and the interest from television and radio comedians and impressionists. Eric Idle's impression in a Monty Python's Flying Circus episode remains particularly famous: « Well, I don't agree with that, Malcolm, quite frankly the only bit I liked was this bit with me in it now ».

« How do you react though when someone of your playing staff says 'Boss, I think you're doing wrongly'?
- I ask him which way he thinks it should be done. We get down to it. We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right. »

Peter Taylor once said to player and manager Roy McFarland: « We've got to win Football matches because of the things that Brian says ». And with Taylor, Clough lead Derby on the road to League Championship in 1972 (for the first time in the club History) but his outspoken style and his habit to upset his bosses or the Football Association burned the bridge between him and Derby County chairman Sam Longson. Until Brian Clough and Peter Taylor had to sign resignation letters, accepted by the board of directors much to the surprise of Clough.


« I don't think it will take them long to realize that I'm a very very honest manager. »

The pair was at Third Division Brighton & Hove Albion when in July 1974, "The Don of Elland Road", Don Revie - Brian Clough's arch enemy - left his position as revered Leeds United manager for the job of England national Football manager. And the impossible happened: in spite of his immense contempt for a club at odds with his principles and his conception of the game (« I would put leeds in Division 2 »), Clough was appointed manager of what people called "Dirty Leeds".

44 days in Hell, without Peter Taylor - significantly remaining in Brighton - and an infamous meeting with the players where "Cloughie" told them that they should throw all their medals in the bin, since they'd won them cheating. Which was probably not the best way to develop a confidence relationship, and under Brian Clough Leeds made their worst season start in 15 years.

« We were rats to Brian Clough. He couldn't stand us . » (Peter Lorimer)

« Have you read a novel with a real person's name in it? » asks Barbara Clough. The transformation of what the excellent Scotsman review of the ITV documentary calls "the Leeds circus" ( into David Peace's The Damned United (2006), came as a wound for Clough's family, friends and even unexpected ally with Football legend Johnny Giles. Giles successfully sued the author of the "faction" book ( « The betrayal of Brian Clough in that book is absolutely outrageous. It's dreadful, it's mean, it's mean-spirited and it's wrong » tells Giles for the doc.


« Have you ever considered you'd never return to Football.
- Oh, many many times. I had such a good time, and always having such a good time, making a success in my mariage and family life. It was utopia for me. »

The book has been turned into a biopic directed by Tom Hooper, thanks to the writer of Frost/Nixon. The film, with the chameleon king of biopics Michael Sheen (The Deal, Frost/Nixon), as Brian Clough, has been praised for Sheen's performance (2). The trailer does not justice neither to its star nor to the movie as Michael Sheen's Clough seems to act more like John Lennon than like "Old Big'Ead" in it. « But you can't beat the real thing » writes Patrick Barclay in The Times ( One of the greatest moments of the documentary is a sequence of the Yorkshire Television Calendar special presented by journalist Austin Mitchell (since, a Labour MP), with a bright Brian Clough facing a Don Revie out for revenge with a wonderful and so "cloughian" « I wanted to do something you hadn't done ».

Four months after being sacked by Leeds United, Brian Clough became the manager of Nottingham Forest, a club struggling to stay in the Second Division. And with Peter Taylor back at his side. Three years after his arrival, Clough became only the second manager to win the League Championship with two different clubs. Then he signed Trevor Francis, the first £ 1 million player. More reclusive, less in the limelight, focused on running "his" club, Clough allowed Nottingham Forrest to win the European Cup twice in 1979 and 1980.

« The six-week circus at Leeds, for all its obvious fascination, was little more than a perplexing interlude between the two great acts of the manager's career. So, too, was the Football Association's decision not to appoint him as England manager » writes The Scotsman. Clough really benefits of the implication of the Clough family: Barbara Clough and their sons bring a moving and warm presence. Nigel Clough has followed the footsteps of his father as manager of Derby County.

This sincere ITV documentary is not an hagiography, it's not only the answer to The Damned United. Clough is like this statue on Old Market Square in Nottingham city centre (, an act of gratitude, a tribute to the achievement of a larger than life figure and what he has brought to his sport. On a wider note, documentaries are, with current affairs and news programmes, one of the many valuable assets of ITV. Clough is now available on DVD ( and deserves to be watched, even if you don't like Football.

« He wanted to fashion a team that people would enjoy going to see. » (Barbara Clough)

(1) Just for the anecdote, there's a bit of Brian Clough in Philip Glenister's Gene Hunt (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes).
(2) Who will be the next? Marco Pierre White? Russell T. Davies? Please have a look at this article on the incredible Michael Sheen:

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Britain, Britain, [imagine Tom Baker's voice] Britain, birthplace of America's Got Talent, Jason Statham, Little Britain USA... and State of Play. Someone, I don't remember who (may this person please excuse my failing memory), once wrote that BBC America was the home of future US tv series - or something like that. But this works for movies too.

The US remake of State of Play, the classic BBC series with John Simm, starring the always reliable Russell Crowe, opens this weekend. Many thanks to our Canadian friend Furious D and to his great blog ( for attracting our attention on this article of the Los Angeles Times titled Dismal fate may await 'State of Play' (,0,395527.story).

Well, readers of the French version of this blog already know our prevention about the movie remake. Since my review of DVD region 2 set of Life on Mars, actually - Brad Pitt was then attached to the project. John Horn writes: « While some of "State of Play's" likely lackluster performance will be blamed on Crowe, the 45-year-old Australian -- who is overweight and disheveled in the film's lead role as an investigative newspaper reporter -- is hardly the sole issue. Equally problematic is "State of Play's" genre: the highbrow adult drama, which is quickly becoming a big-studio relic ».

Furious D politely objects that « it's hard to be a thriller when you're more predictable than the tides ». There's fortunately no rule which commands that the character must look like a Calvin Klein model so the shape of Russell Crowe is indifferent. But my perplexity is growing when I read here and there that the chief problem of State of Play is that complex thrillers is a trend not performing at the box office. « Ye but no, but ye... » would answer Vicky Pollard of Little Britain. Hollywoodland is an industry where Franchise is perceived as the Golden Ticket but the studios cyclicly deliver the worse and the better in many genres, from Blockbusters to indies or faux indies.

Take the year 2006, for instance: Big Momma's House 2, Nanny McPhee, Scary Movie 4, but also the excellent V for Vendetta, Lucky Number Slevin or the sophisticated Inside Man - with a production budget of $45 million and $184,376,254 earned worldwide ( for Universal, the studio behind State of Play. If the idea is that there's no room today for another Inside Man, I hope not but we're in recession times, comedies fare more than well, and production companies are scanning every comic books to find the new Dark Knight.

But maybe the karma of State of Play US could be summarized in three words: Life on Mars. The movie, directed by the talented Kevin McDonald (The last King of Scotland) coincidentally arrives after the cancellation of ABC's US version of Life on Mars - the Kudos/BBC series starring... John Simm and Philip Glenister (who played a copper in the original State of Play!) American attempts to remake Brit shows could have been considered commercially relevant at a time when these shows were exclusively on syndication or on PBS but with BBC America, DVDs and the internet, every American viewer interested by what UK television can offer has seen Life on Mars.

And why bother to adapt stateside entries so deeply British like Blackpool, the series with David Morrissey - who played so brilliantly the polititician in State of Play - or State of Play, with its Whitehall intrigues and the specificities of the UK press. Particularly when there's Simm and Morrissey, two of the finest British actors of this century, in the latest.

I understand through reviews that the "Plus" product of the movie is Newspaper journalism vs Blogging but hey, folks, The Times They Are A-Changin. And what could a US political thriller treatment could add? We've seen all of the genre, from All the President's men to the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate. « Because it's almost always a sinister defense contractor. If not, it's a CIA/FBI cabal. Or it's the military. Or it's some other corporate baddy up to no good. (pharmaceutical and chemical companies are popular choices) » writes Furious D.

According to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, State Of Play debuted on Friday 17 to #2 but with only $4.5 million from 2,803 venues for probably an underperforming $14M weekend ( We'll see what its total gross (domestic + foreign) will be but « Would original leading man Brad Pitt have made a difference in the film's box office? » asks Nikki, before answering herself to that question.

Amazingly, the interest of Hollywood for British television series doesn't seem to fade after Life on Mars and State of Play. Warner Brothers considers a big screen remake of Primeval ( If series three of this once very good show goes on reinventing US syndication products of the nineties, two episodes back to back would certainly be less expensive.

Update (April 20): It seems that some observers are at the moment rather satisfied with State of Play's box office so be prepared for House of Cards - The movie, The State within redux and Best of Masterpiece Theatre - The Musical!

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Britain's Got Talent, the UK edition of the Got Talent franchise conceived by producer Simon Cowell, and adapted in more than 20 countries, justified its title in beauty last saturday on ITV1, when a Scottish lady named Susan Boyle, 47 (and unemployed), came in front of the panel of judges: the journalist Piers Morgan - supposed villain of the show (and your humble servant's favourite GT judge), actress Amanda Holden (Wild at Heart, one of ITV's worst tv series even if Primeval will probably beat Wild soon), and Cowell.

The public and the judges were at first skeptical, if not cynical, when Susan Boyle said she would like to be another Elaine Paige. But she mesmerized the audience and the trio with her wonderful rendition of I dreamed a dream, from the musical Les Miserables. After the song, Morgan aptly summed up the general atmosphere: « When you stood there with that cheeky grin and said, 'I want to be like Elaine Paige', everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now ».

Now Susan Boyle is a global sensation, and the video of her performance is a hit for ITV website ( and You Tube. When you give up cynicism a single minute it's easy to understand why Susan Boyle moves this troubled world with her angel voice. You can find the video here: - should the clip disappear for a reason or another search "Susan Boyle + Britain's Got Talent".

Thank you, Susan Boyle.

Please see also:


Hello, I'm currently preparing reviews for the English and French versions of this blog. Maybe I should ask Helen Cutter or Victor Blenkinsop to clone me...

Thanks for your trust and your fidelity.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


«The musical is back ». Hugh Jackman dressed as Mandrake The Magician and duetting with Beyoncé in the giant musical piece of the evening, created by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), was so Night of the 100 Stars or The Monte Carlo Show... Regarding what British comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders has done with Mamma Mia! for Comic Relief 2009 just dream of what they could do with such material.

Don't get your humble servant wrong, the number was great and I love musicals but is Top Hat what we expect of an event celebrating the movie industry of the 21st century? As Nikki Finke remarked in her now legendary "Live-snarking" (Nikki dixit) of the ceremony: « Where are the special effects, eye-popping visuals, and other high-tech gizmos? » ( And let's pray that Jackman's line about Doubt - The musical was no psychic.

Talking about musicals, Mr Joel Grey, the living god of the genre (Cabaret), was with Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Cuba Gooding Jr and Kevin Kline for the Best actor in a supporting role category. Gooding Jr joked that the next Robert Downey Jr movie was Shaft because of his role in Tropic Thunder with a black face (« The brothers need to work! »). Did the authors ignore the 2000 remake of Shaft by John Singleton? The late Heath Ledger won for The Dark Knight.

Best documentary feature, introduced by Bill Maher, went to James Marsh and Simon Chinn for Man on Wire - about tightrope walker Philippe Petit. This inspired Nikki Finke her snarky « You know the Kodak Theatre audience is starved for entertainment when a Frenchman balancing an Oscar on his chin gets the night's biggest applause », already noticed on this blog ( What we'd do to amuse America, hey?

The Action 2008 "yearbook" with its vis-a-vis of car chases from Quantum of Solace and Speed Racer illustrated by Tick Tick Boom, sung by The Hives, left the impression that the Hollywoodland actioner factory is déjà vu all over again. And Iron Man worths far more than that. I know the idea was to put all the post production categories together but the transition between the yearbook and the introduction by Will Smith of the Outstanding visual effects category sounded strange. I didn't know Benjamin Button was an action movie, but the movie won this one.

« Yes they still have me here. I believe Hugh is napping » said Smith after Outstanding sound editing (for The Dark Knight) and Best sound mixing (for Slumdog Millionaire). Chris Dickens won the Best Film editing for Slumdog Millionaire. Next time we'll try to terminate one of the most enduring cultural clichés about France (Have a guess).

PS: Hear the voice of She Who Must be Read. My attention missed this Oscar Preview on the Aussie ABC Radio National (February 23 2009) with Nikki Finke (

(To be followed)

Part One:
Part Two:

Saturday, 4 April 2009


It's time to wonder if ITV is beginning to regret the advanced run of Primeval series 3 in Spain or Germany (through free tv satellite network ProSieben) around one week ahead of ITV1. And it's time to wonder if ITV and the production of the high budget family entertainment show remember one of the golden rules of television: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Of course, a programme such as Primeval (like Doctor Who) is shot months before diffusion but in this credit crunch economy where ITV needs a good tv series lineup more than ever (after Demons and as we read that they consider axing Lewis - maybe Clue parodies like Midsomer Murders or Marple sell better abroad?) to toy with the format of Primeval and with its ensemble cast will retrospectively seem a bad idea.

The extended 10 episode series 3 (versus 7 episodes for series 2) started last week on ITV1 with a premiere introducing two new cast members, Captain Becker (Ben Mansfield) - the military minder of the ARC team, and Sarah Page (Laila Rouass) - the Vanessa Marcil/Nicole Scherzinger look-alike expert in anger management of crocodile gods. Now with this second episode, Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall) being too busy sleeping under a 3-D modelization of the anomalies there's a new Alpha Male in town: DCI Danny Quinn (Jason Flemyng).

A haunted house with a gremlin-like creature (or is it a refugee from Demons?) is the playground of Abby (Hannah Spearritt), Connor (Andrew-Lee Potts) and Jenny (Lucy Brown) - who recalls that she has privileged access to some government resources only in the middle of the story. Meanwhile, Helen Cutter (Juliet Aubrey) sends the clone into the ARC with a stolen pass (was there an anomaly strike?) Honestly, the episode doesn't jump the shark... it kisses the shark warmly on the mouth with the enthusiasm of Captain Jack Harkness. Where was Torchwood anyway?

The production cost of a 10 episode series for this expensive show certainly justifies quasi-stand alone episodes like that one but Primeval made its reputation by delivering spectacular CGI sequences wrapped in entertaining stories, and this riveting Helen Cutter conspiracy (maybe a divorce request would be less complicated, after all). An absent-minded Cutter, a new would-be action hero... Just for the anecdote, the French title of Primeval is Nick Cutter et les portes du temps (Nick Cutter and the Gates of Time). Will NRJ12, the digital channel which runs the show in France, have to call it [Fill in the blank] et les portes du temps?

If it ain't broke, don't break it.

Update (April 7): Well, it was so obvious... [Spoiler Alert!] (

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Thanks to Frank Collins and what I consider the quintessence of British Pop culture blogs, Cathode Ray Tube (, for spotting this trailer of Ashes to Ashes Series 2.

Also this week on Cathode Ray Tube, a brilliant review of the film The Damned United ( Note that Frank is an erudite specialist of Doctor Who (, and that you'll find many interesting things about the Who specials on his blog.