Monday, 26 September 2011


Doctor Who - Closing Time (Series Six, Episode Twelve). In which the Doctor meets an old friend, takes a job, and faces old foes.

« Take my shoes off and throw them in the lake.
And I'll be 2 steps on the water. » (Kate Bush, Hounds Of Love)

Doctor Who is more popular than ever with Matt Smith and under Steven Moffat's tenure. Its ratings stay healthy in an environment where TV consumption has evolved beyond overnights. Its brand is commercially at the top worldwide and the programme managed to conquer the US market. Moffat's narrative approach is supported by a majority of Whovians, seduced by his multi-series high concept soap story arc conundrum. And the work of his fellow writers is unreservedly hailed as genius. Never mind if some old fans, unmesmerized by the big timey-wimey scheme, may choose to leave.

As the sixth series's second half is about to conclude, Closing Time writer Gareth Roberts brings back Craig Owens from The Lodger - the episode he wrote for the previous series. Comedian and TV personality James Corden is a better actor than funnyman, even if his contribution to the 2011 edition of Red Nose Day was undoubtedly the best thing of the charity evening. He succeeds in portraying Craig as an engaging chap in full paternity angst mode when the Doctor returns in his life. His friend Sophie (Daisy Haggard) has left the young man with their baby, Alfie, for the weekend.

Kudos to Gareth Roberts for launching an instant internet sensation when we learn from the Doctor, who pretends he can speak baby, that young Alfie prefers to be called "Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All". Good dialogues between Matt Smith and James Corden serve quite well a genuine chemistry between the two. But despite nice comedic moments the story is just a pretext for their reunion: the Doctor takes a job in a department store to investigate on strange power fluctuations and the disappearance of a clerk.

« You're here for a reason, aren't you? You've noticed something and you're investigating. And because it's you it's going to be dangerous and alien. » A "silver rat" and an out of order lift lead the pair to troubles in the form of a Cybermen crashed spaceship beneath the shop. Maybe it's time to give the Cybermen "a rest" since they are reduced to nothing but a walking trivia under Steven Moffat's reign. And who really thought Craig could become Cybersmithy in the clumsy conversion sequence? He can still buy a Cyberman to Stormageddon for Christmas, our children will preserve us from the next invasion.

A department store, really... What's next? A movie/TV studio like in the days of Monty Berman? And of course the penultimate episode of the current series ends with the Manchurian Candidate and the return of the queen of panto villains, Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber). Too bad they couldn't get Joan Collins for the role of this eye-patched Ellie Shaw. Closing Time, what an aptly chosen title for this episode directed by Steve Hughes.

Next Time: The Astronaut's Husband.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Series two of TF1's Danse avec les Stars, the French Strictly come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, starts on Saturday, 8 October.

Called Strictly come Dancing in the UK and Dancing with the Stars in the US, the BBC Worldwide format features celebrities with professional dance partners competing in Ballroom and Latin dances in front of three judges. Danse avec les Stars arrived in France on TF1 in February 2011, six years after the private channel tried a similar concept called Celebrity Dancing.

The contestants of DALS's second series are singer, actor and media personality Francis Lalanne, former figure skater and olympic champion Philippe Candeloro, singer Nâdiya, singer Shy'm, former Miss France Valérie Bègue, model Baptiste Giabiconi, actress Véronique Jannot, French variétés singer legend Sheila, and former tennis pro Cédric Pioline.

They will team up with dance pros Fauve Hautot, Katrina Patchett, Grégoire Lyonnet, Julien Brugel, Silvia Notargiacomo, Candice Pascal, Maxime Dereymez, Christophe Licata and Grégory Guichard (who's new in the programme).

Danse avec les Stars is still hosted by Sandrine Quétier and Vincent Cerutti. Chris Marques, Alessandra Martines, and Jean-Marc Généreux remain the Gaullic counterparts of judges Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Alesha Dixon (In French) (In French)!/DanseStars_TF1 (In French)

Monday, 19 September 2011


It was supposed to be a "battle": the return of ITV1's lavish period drama Downton Abbey against the tenth and final series of BBC One's spy drama Spooks. But who seriously thought MI-5 could resist to Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham?

The second series of Downton started with 9 million viewers yesterday night (34,6%), vs 4.62 million (17%) for Spooks (1).

« It's my lucky charm. I've had it always. So you must promise to bring it back, without a scratch. »

1916, the world is in war. The Crawley family and their servants at Downton Abbey, their Edwardian country house, must "keep up standards". Because, to quote Mr Carson (Jim Carter), it's « the only way to show the Germans that they will not beat us in the end ». Some men are away in the trenches, like heir apparent Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens). Robert (Hugh Bonneville) would like to fight but the Earl of Grantham is given other responsibilities. John Bates (Brendan Coyle) sees his efforts to build a future with Anna (Joanne Froggatt) threatened by the arrival of his wife Vera (Maria Doyle Kennedy).

Written by its creator Julian Fellowes and produced by Carnival Films, ITV1's rating hit Downton Abbey is back in all its magnificence. Love, war, honour, intrigue, drama and even humour are there within a classy supersoap in costume. Some chats in the trenches may recall Blackadder Goes Forth but this premiere, directed by Ashley Pearce, remains at the top of its game. E.g. the superb scene when Mary (Michelle Dockery) sees Matthew and his new love, Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle), while the orchestra is playing. And God bless Maggie Smith as Violet.

« Buzzards are circling. »

In Spooks, it's another war which comes to haunt back Sir Harry (Peter Firth). One of his contacts of the past is executed after he tried to warn the boss of MI-5's Section D that a British "asset" - code name: Tourmeline - is in danger. Elena Gavrik (Alice Krige) is the wife of Ilya Gavrik (Jonathan Hyde), a senior Russian cabinet minister, and someone is "running" her using Harry Pearce's codes. Ilya is a former adversary of Harry and he's the target of an assassination plot intended to damage the beginning of a new Anglo-Russian "special relationship".

The hit spy drama from Kudos Film and Television exploded its expiry date some time ago and the ninth series was simply laughable. The premiere of this six-episode final run could well be the first step to an exit with all the dignity Spooks should deserve given its past sophisticated quality. A dignified exit Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) and Harry deserve too, as the possibility they retire in the countryside is thin. The rest of the team deserve nothing, they look like they were refused at a CTU job interview (hello, booby-trapped laptop!) One could even easily pull a Nina Myers.

The Ferrero advert reception seems escaped from a Mission:Impossible movie and Harry has unsurprisingly an heir working for the FSB. But overall this old-school spy thriller is almost reassuring with its Russians, the CIA, etc. In the end of Harry's game, they all become white and grey.


Friday, 16 September 2011


Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï, action concept's flagship series, started its fall season yesterday night on German channel RTL with its traditional 90-minute premiere.

72 Stunden Angst opens the 30th season of Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï, launched in 1996. Semir Gerkhan (Erdogan Atalay) and Ben Jäger (Tom Beck) are in a professional purgatory as bicycle cops before quickly jumping back into their demolition business. They chase the Hummer baddies aboard nothing less than KITT from the original Knight Rider, for the greatest enjoyment of Semir and some perplexity of his partner. Gerkhan is not Michael Knight and there's soon nothing left of the legendary car. So the duo goes on their ride in a bus full of pensioners and devastate the show's usual quota of vehicles before ruining the mood of their Chefin, Polizeioberrätin Kim Krüger (Katja Woywood).

Semir has a bigger problem than the wrath of his boss when the case of the day leads Ben and him to a woman of his past. She has a 9-year old daughter and he's her true father. Alarm für Cobra 11 never pretended to be a fly-on-the-wall documentary about German motorway cop patrols and suspension of disbelief is not even relevant here. Drug mastermind Seytan, uber-villain of yesterday's 90-minütiger Pilotfilm (as the specials are called), is a cross between Keyser Söze and Roger Rabbit's Judge Doom. Conspiracy theorist Oliver "Sturmi" Sturm, played by comedian Oliver Pocher, returns for the third time and manages to be cringy not only for his cop buddies but for the poor viewers too.

At its very best, Cobra 11 was smartly mixing blockbuster high-octane action with good cop stories. Written by Ralf Ruland and directed by Heinz Dietz, 72 Stunden Angst remains watchable if you just wish to forget your daily troubles for 90 minutes but the formula has definitely become tiresome. In spite of the destruction of the police station, the moving death of a beloved character, and a trip to Istanbul.

Too bad you can't retire early anymore these days. (In German)

Thursday, 15 September 2011


[9.45 - French Time] Broadcast reports that Impossible Pictures has secured an order from Canadian channel Space for a spin-off of Primeval.

Primeval: New World, a 13 x 60-minute series, will be produced by the UK prodco along with Canadian indie Omni Film Productions Limited (Defying Gravity). It will be centered on a North American team of animal experts and scientists as they investigate the arrival of prehistoric but also futuristic creatures.

Each episode will cost around £1.6m and production will start in Vancouver in the winter (for a transmission in autumn 2012), with sfx handled by Impossible Pictures in London. According to Broadcast, which reported the deal between Impossible Pictures and Omni Films in August 2010, the extension of Primeval will feature a "younger, sexier cast", and " gorier special effects".

Axed by ITV after its third series, the original Primeval was resurrected by a 2009 deal for thirteen new episodes, split into series four and series five. Impossible Pictures, Prosieben, Ingenious Broadcasting, UKTV's channel Watch, and BBC America co-produced those two "series" for ITV and BBC Worldwide.

The fourth series (seven episodes) aired on ITV1 in 2011 with series five continuing on Watch, as UKTV got a first-run of the last six episodes in the 13-episode batch. Series five has yet to air on ITV1.

As long as they don't change the title of this spin-off for Primeval: Miracle Day.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


There are dramas you must really deserve. Doc Martin came back yesterday night on ITV1 after a two-year hiatus, with the beginning of its highly awaited Series Five.

« They'd manage without you. They'd manage if you died. »

Martin Clunes is back as Dr Martin Ellingham, the grumpy GP of the picturesque village of Portwenn, after a two-year break to allow him to pursue other factual and drama projects (including Reggie Perrin for BBC One). Series Four of the ITV1 hit dramedy left the doc as he was about to take on a consultant's position in London but Louisa (Caroline Catz) gave birth to their son.

In the start of the fifth series, social disaster Martin adapts to fatherhood by dealing with it through its medical aspects. PC Joe Penhale (John Marquez) has a problem he's hesitating to reveal to the new GP, Dr Di Dibbs (Joanna Scanlan). But she and her husband Gavin (Robert Daws), the practice manager, have problems of their own and some may affect the Portwenn community. The still unnamed baby, Dr Di's incompetence and a personal tragedy force Martin Ellingham to stay in the village a little longer.

« She wants to be here. You want to be there.
- That's none of your business. »

A superb return written and directed by Ben Bolt, with all the necessary subtle balance between comedy and emotion, and also this stunning ability to relaunch Doc Martin after the interruption. Episode One of the 8 X 60-minute new series averaged an impressive and deserved 8.43m (32.4%) for ITV1 in the 9pm hour. Meanwhile, the French adaptation of the show's format ends filming its second series this week for TF1.
Lien (In French)

Friday, 9 September 2011


Doctor Who - Night Terrors (Series Six, Episode Nine). « Please save me from the monsters. » Amy and Rory (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) follow the Doctor (Matt Smith) when he receives a distress call from a scared little boy named George (Jamie Oram).

Written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Richard Clark, Night Terrors was moved from the first half of the sixth series to the current second half. Hence the strange lack of preoccupation of Amy and her husband for their missing child Melody/River Song. To swap episodes within a heavy story arc structure can have unexpected side effects. « Today we're answering a cry for help from the scariest place in the universe. » Leadworth under budget cuts? No... "a child's bedroom", says the Doctor.

Little George's bedroom is in a council estate flat where he lives with his parents, Claire and Alex (Emma Cunniffe and Daniel Mays). This council block has barely more inhabitants than Aylesbury Estate in The Fixer and some have escaped from the Overlook Hotel. It has bin issues of an unusual kind. There's also a nasty elevator and a landlord (the always reliable Andy Tiernan) with a big mean dog. Anyway the real problems of George are the mess in his cupboard and some folks in doll suits .

Let's Kill Hitler was the best opener since The Eleventh Hour. Unfortunately Night Terrors doesn't match The Beast Below, with which it shares a couple of elements. Gatiss's episode is an innocuous filler where nothing has a real effect or consequence. No one dies, nobody stays a Peg doll, the surrogate parents can love the alien, and the old lady (Leila Hoffman) awakes in the bins. Genius is so overrated since Torchwood: Miracle Day, two or three classic Twilight Zone episodes as a crash course will suffice for a reminder of what genius is.

« Well I suppose it can't all be planets and history and stuff, Rory. » The production accountant will not beg to differ. Daniel Mays's performance is superb, the supporting cast is excellent and Jamie Oram is very good as George.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Broadcast reports that BBC One has commissioned Ripper Street, an 8 x 60-minute detective drama set in London during the Jack the Ripper era.

Created by Richard Warlow (Mistresses, Waking the Dead), Ripper Street follows Inspector Reid, a character based on a real detective, and the officers of Whitechapel in London’s East End in 1889. Reid is assisted by fictional forensics expert Homer Jackson.

Ripper Street is co-produced by Tiger Aspect and Lookout Point. Filming will begin next spring.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Launched on Irish pubcaster RTÉ last May, Punky is a pre-school animated series about the adventures of a little girl with Down Syndrome. Punky, the title character, lives in the moment and works to solve problems encountered by her friends and family.

Created by Lindsay Jane Sedgwick (1), Punky is the first ever animated TV series in which the main character has Down syndrome. Punky is a six-year-old girl who loves her family, music, dancing and hugs. She enjoys playing with her big brother, Con, and jumping around with her dog Rufus. She also likes helping around the house with her mum and trying to make Cranky, her grandmother, just a little less... cranky.

Punky is voiced by Aimee Richardson (29), who has Down syndrome herself and is a spokesperson and advocate for disability rights (2). Other voice talents are Maureen Ward (Mum), Brad Burke (Con), Paul Tylak (Cranky), Roisin Curran (Mairhead). The 20 x 7-minute series is produced by Gerard O'Rourke for Dublin based Monster Animation & Design in association with RTÉjr. It is written by Andrew Brenner (Humf) and Jason Tammemägi (Fluffy Gardens) is the creative director.

Down Syndrome Ireland provided support and reviewed material during production. Target Entertainment will distribute Punky globally and will donate half their sales commissions to Down Syndrome Education International. Target CEO Alison Rayson's own son has Down Syndrome.

This charming animated series will be launched on the international market at MIP Junior next month.


About Punky:

See also: