Tuesday, 31 August 2010


Sunday ain't what it used to be. Two days ago the BBC and Steven Moffat announced that the transmission of the next series of Doctor Who, in 2011, will be split into two blocks of episodes, transmitting in spring and autumn.

Speaking at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, Doctor Who supremo Steven Moffat announced that next year's 13-part series will run for seven episodes at Easter "building to an earth-shattering climax" at Episode 7, an "enormous game-changing cliffhanger that will change everything". And then return in the autumn for another six. « Looking at the next series I thought what this show needs is a big event in the middle, » said Moffat.

« The wrong expression would be to say we are splitting it in two. We are making it two separate series, » as he explained, referring to the second block as supposedly "series seven". Steven Moffat regenerated Doctor Who in a spirit of invention and tradition with an overall entertaining fifth series which revealed the talent of Matt Smith. But also shown blatantly the weight of budget constraints and some signs of fatigue for the mandatory story arc stretched over 13 episodes.

In June we wrote: « Perhaps Doctor Who should consider a return to the serial formula and drop the contrived high concept story arcs. » And following the unconvincing and deliberately partial "crack" arc resolution - indicating a continuation with series six - we asked if Moffat would have a budget decent enough to fulfill his narrative ambitions past the lavish Christmas 2010 special. « Budget cuts are tough: I don't like them, but they force you to be creative, » as he told BBC News in April.

Steven Moffat considers that thirteen episodes of Doctor Who are, by the standards of any other drama series, "two series' worth". We'll see how the split affects a budget arbitration already delicate in a context of cuts for BBC dramas. And of course, while Steven Moffat is committed to Doctor Who for nine months of the year, three new 90-minute episodes of Sherlock - his other BBC hit - have been commissioned.

Doctor Who remains one of the biggest money maker brands of BBC Worldwide, sold to more than 50 territories. Preparation work for the French-speaking dubbing of series five has started this month.


Saturday, 28 August 2010


[20.00 - French Time] ITV today announced three new drama commissions for 2011: Injustice, Scott and Bailey and The Jury.

- Injustice stars James Purefoy (The Philanthropist, Diamonds) as a criminal barrister who is recovering from a traumatic series of events that have shaken his belief in the legal system. This five-part series is screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz’s new project for ITV1 following the huge critical and rating success of the superb event drama Collision. Injustice will be produced by Injustice Films Limited.

Given the talent of Horowitz, the man behind Foyle's War, Crime Traveller or the Alex Rider novels, the project is a most welcome announcement. Not to mention the fact that Collision was one of the best things aired by ITV last year.

- Scott and Bailey (6 X 60-minute) will star Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp in the title roles of two homicide detectives from Greater Manchester Police’s Major Incident Team. The series is written by Sally Wainwright (Unforgiven), who has co-created it with ex-Detective Inspector Diane Taylor.

Scott and Bailey is produced by Red Production Company. Let's hope that this is not another Murder in Suburbia.

- Written by BAFTA winner and Oscar nominated Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen), The Jury focuses on the everyday people who find themselves at the centre of one of the most controversial criminal re-trials of their time. Morgan created the original namesake five-part miniseries produced by ITV Studios in 2002.

The Jury (5 X 60-minute) will be produced once again by ITV Studios and it sounds like an answer from ITV to Criminal Justice, Peter Moffat's creation for the BBC (even if the first Criminal Justice is from 2008).



[14.47 - French Time] BBC One Controller Jay Hunt officially confirmed today the recommissions of Sherlock and Luther.

As expected, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss's modern take on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle will return for three new 90-minute episodes in Autumn 2011. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, Sherlock was a rating hit over the summer, averaging 6.83m viewers on BBC One and 332000 on BBC HD over three weeks.

Luther, the crime drama starring Idris Elba (The Wire), will also return for two hour-long specials following the six-episode series which ran from May to June. In July Broadcast reported that the BBC was holding talks with Elba's agent in the US about a second series of Luther, but that the busy actor would be back only in two specials if not available for a full series.


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Friday, 27 August 2010


It's not a franchise, BBC Worldwide doesn't license the characters for action figures. There's no media frenzy around the actors and no "trendy" showrunner or writer. But New Tricks is one of the BBC's biggest hits and the show returns for a seventh series on September 10 (BBC One).

Launched in 2003 with a pilot episode and shown since 2004, New Tricks is a "cold case" comedy/drama show with a difference. Headed by Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman, played by Amanda Redman, UCOS (Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad) is a very special unit composed of retired and burnout aged police officers.

Jack Halford (James Bolam, of the Likely Lads fame) is haunted by the death of his beloved wife. Brian "Memory" Lane (the fabulous Alun Armstrong) is a recovering alcoholic with OCD. And Gerry Standing is a gambler and a ladies man, with three ex-wives and three daughters. Standing is played by the legendary Dennis Waterman (The Sweeney, the original Minder).

Faithful to his own myth, Waterman sings It's alright, "da feem toon" (as his parody by comedian David Walliams would say in Little Britain) of the show. Unfortunately French viewers were deprived of the song when pubcaster France 3 started to air New Tricks in 2008. Someone had the bad idea to replace it by Rien n'est écrit, a song in French performed by... Murray Head. Anyway, Flics toujours is a flop in France!

Both the humour and the sensibility of the show come from the simple idea of these men dealing with their personal demons but proving you "can't teach old dogs new tricks" when they're back on the job. And they are with virtuosity in spite of a total lack of discipline and professional orthodoxy. Plus the weaknesses of age but the strength of experience.

In 2009 the BBC commissioned series seven (with an extended 10-episode run) and eight simultaneously, allowing the comedy/drama to go on at least until 2011. Produced by Wall to Wall and distributed by BBC Worldwide, New Tricks is an enjoyable, funny and intelligent crime series with a splendid ensemble cast.


Thursday, 26 August 2010


[10.35 - French Time] Broadcast reports that Impossible Pictures has closed a deal with Canadian indie Omni Film Productions (Defying Gravity) in order to co-produce a potential local version of British sci-fi drama Primeval.

The Canadian Primeval (yet to be named) will not be a remake but an extension of the original format, with new characters, locations and storylines. Apparently the idea is to build a franchise complementing the British version and Impossible Pictures is already in early discussions with some UK, US and German broadcasters and distributors to evaluate interest.

Shooting of the original Primeval's new episodes began on March 22nd in Ireland and will continue until November 2010. Axed by ITV after series three for financial motives, Primeval was resurrected by an unexpected funding deal last year, for thirteen new episodes split into series four and series five. The new series are produced by Jim Bradley for Impossible Pictures and Rob Walpole for the Irish based Treasure Entertainment, with BBC America, German private channel ProSieben and UKTV as co-production partners.


Saturday, 14 August 2010


Website Beans On Toast, (http://www.doctor-who.fr/), the first French-speaking information source about the Whoniverse, has launched an online petition to get a DVD release of the fourth series of Doctor Who.

France has a very complicated relationship with Doctor Who. French viewers know only a small portion of the classic series: some Tom Baker episodes aired at the end of the 1980s. Until now the modern Doctor Who is aired by France 4, a digital terrestrial channel operated by pubcaster group France Télévisions, in a country where DTT is still far from being received everywhere.

Nevertheless, Nu Who's notoriety is quite established in France, thanks to the internet and particularly to the Beans on Toast team. Last year the website announced that France Télévisions Distribution, the subsidiary of France Télévisions holding the show's DVD rights, suspended the release of series four DVDs in France. The impact of the French-only series 3 DVD release on the sales was certainly a parameter in FTD's evaluation of its title. Beans on Toast noted then that the sale number of the first three series went from 700 to a little more than 1000 copies.

The economic argument would have been fully acceptable if the treatment of Doctor Who by FTD was not so minimalist since the beginning: no extra features, which would be understandable regarding the ratio between costs engaged and the market segment targeted, but - maybe more embarassing - no special episodes. Worse, the DVDs of Torchwood (Doctor Who's spin-off series), published in France by Koba Films Vidéo, are always mentioned as a counterexample. As Koba manages to get extra features for a reasonable sale price of their DVD box sets - considering their quality.

We can only be amazed by the situation and by the idea that French-speaking Who fans should ask for the DVD release of their favourite show.


Thursday, 12 August 2010


[21.07 - French Time] Deadline.com's Nellie Andreeva reports exclusively that American network ABC wants an US adaptation of Kudos's hit television series Spooks, known as MI-5 in America.

According to Andreeva, ABC Studios has closed a deal for the rights to Spooks with Kudos Rights Ltd, a division of the Shine Group-owned British company Kudos Film and Television which produces the original series for the BBC.

Created by David Wolstencroft, Spooks follows the agents of the MI-5 Section D (counter-terrorism), based at the service's Thames House headquarters in highly secure offices known as The Grid. Launched in 2002, the BAFTA-winning spy drama is among the BBC's top hits and is one of the most known British TV series in the United States.

ABC already remade a Kudos/BBC hit drama with its unnecessary and forgettable US version of Life on Mars, aired between 2008 and 2009.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

BRUNO CREMER (1929-2010)

[21.16 - French Time] French movie and television actor Bruno Cremer has died this week, report several French media outlets. He was 80.

Brilliant lead or character actor, Bruno Cremer worked for movie directors like Pierre Schoendoerffer (La 317ème section), René Clément (Is Paris Burning?), Luchino Visconti (Lo Straniero) Patrice Chéreau (Flesh of the Orchid), Costa-Gravas, Philippe Labro, etc. Television offered him two of his best roles: mafia mastermind Antonio Espinosa in Italian crime drama La Piovra 4 (1989) plus two of its sequels and, above all, Georges Simenon's commissaire Jules Maigret.

From 1991 to 2005 Cremer played commissaire Maigret in 54 episodes adapted from Simenon's novels. Unfortunately, because of health issues, he had to be dubbed by Belgian actor and dubbing artist Vincent Grass (Doctor Cornelius in Prince Caspian and French-speaking voice of Peter Firth or Stephen Fry) for his final episode.

Set in the fifties, unlike the previous French TV adaptation (which starred Jean Richard between 1967 and 1990), the Maigret starring Bruno Cremer is an enduring favourite among reruns of French pubcaster France 2 - co-producer of the series. France 2 is actually airing it again this summer.

Cremer will remain the most credible titular of the role. The French movie and television industries lose a familiar and popular face.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


[17.14 - French Time] Actor Philip Glenister has made comments about Ashes to Ashes series three budget to Digital Spy, while promoting Sky1's Mad Dogs.

Glenister, who played DCI Gene Hunt in Ashes to Ashes and before in Life on Mars, admitted that he was annoyed by the BBC's decision to reduce the money spent on the production.

Budget cuts impacted recent BBC dramas like Hustle series six or the fifth series of Doctor Who. And it was apparent that the final series of a high concept drama like Ashes to Ashes was affected too.


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[6.49 - French Time] The crew of a research submarine explores the deep of the Arctic ocean to investigate what happened to a previous mission.

The pre-credits sequence shows you what it really means to have a bad day at work: Catherine Donnelly (Orla Brady), a marine biologist, is 2000 feet below the Arctic ice doing her job in a mini-sub while she's monitored by the crew of the Hermes submarine. Then she loses all contact with the team and is left alone in the darkness.

Six months later, Catherine's husband, engineer Clem Donnelly (James Nesbitt), embarks with marine biologist Samson Ungliss (Goran Visnjic) for an expedition commanded by Frances Kelly (Minnie Driver). With them come computational physicist Svetlana, volcanologist Vincent and marine biology student Maddy. Raymond Hopkins (Tobias Menzies), an admiralty salvage investigator, join them at the last minute.

Something starring James Nesbitt (Occupation, Jekyll, Murphy's Law) surely worths a try. Regrettably, this premiere does not survive the claustrophobic pre-credits opener and the effective theme music by Samuel Sim. Maybe the Hermes crew discovered there's no life, even life aquatic, into The Deep.

The five-part thriller is written by Simon Donald and directed by Jim O'Hanlon (Emma) and Colm McCarthy (Murphy's Law). It's a Tiger Aspect Scotland production for BBC Wales, filmed at BBC Scotland's Dumbarton Studios in Glasgow. The cinematography is by the talented Adam Suschitzky.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010


[17.49 - French Time] Deadline.com's Nellie Andreeva reports that NBC sticks both to its project of a new version of The Rockford Files and to the idea of an American remake of Prime Suspect.

We thought that the Peacock would spare us another remake of a television classic when it passed the 2010 Rockford, starring Dermot Mulroney in the role popularized by James Garner between 1974 and 1980. But another pilot is due to be filmed with David Shore (House) still on board as writer/exec producer.

The pilot for a US remake of British classic series Prime Suspect, delayed by NBC because of casting difficulties for the main character (played by Helen Mirren in the original), is apparently also active. But Alexandra Cunningham replaces Hank Steinberg (Without a Trace) as scriptwriter. Actor/director Peter Berg's production company Film 44, which is behind this US Prime Suspect is now also involved in The Rockford Files.


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[11.20 - French Time] Rupert Murdoch's Sky ambitions to be a major player on the British drama front with shows like Chris Ryan's Strike Back or commissions like Mad Dogs or The Runaway, its second Martina Cole adaptation. And now Sky clearly wants a franchise equivalent to BBC's Doctor Who.

Sky1 has commissioned Sinbad, a modern take on Sinbad the Sailor, to Impossible Pictures - the company behind Primeval. The 13-episode series has an estimated budget of £17 million and will feature a 21-year-old Sinbad fleeing from his home in Basra, Iraq (the role has yet to be cast). Principal photography is due to start in Malta in February 2011.

Commissioned by Elaine Pyke, Head of Drama, Sky 1 HD, the series is exec produced by Sophie Gardiner and Tim Haines for Impossible Pictures and Annie Harrison-Baxter, Drama Commissioning Editor, Sky1 HD, for Sky. Grainne Marmion is the producer and BBC Worldwide is the international distributor.

Writers include Jack Lothian (Ashes To Ashes, Shameless) and Neil Biswas (Skins, Martina Cole’s The Take). Elaine Pyke promises "the ambition of Lost and the pace of 24".


Monday, 2 August 2010


[16.59 - French Time] The Guardian reports that Sky1 has ordered a second series of Chris Ryan's Strike Back.

Richard Armitage (Spooks, Robin Hood) will return as former SAS operative John Porter. Strike Back is adapted from the novel by Chris Ryan, former SAS Soldier, best-selling author and co-creator of ITV's hit action/drama series Ultimate Force.

Chris Ryan's Strike Back is produced by Left Bank Pictures (Wallander, Zen) for Sky1 HD and Sky1. Left Bank also produces Mad Dogs, a 4 x 60-minute murder drama commissioned by Sky and starring John Simm and Philip Glenister (Life on Mars).


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