Thursday, 31 March 2011


Midsomer Murders - Series 14, Episode 2 (ITV1). The murder of an obnoxious jobsworth from Causton Social Services leads DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones to a colony of freethinking artists and to the darkest secrets of the Bingham family. And Barnaby's wife, Sarah, rejoins John in Midsomer.

It's business back as usual in Midsomer County after the "race row" initiated by the controversial and uninspired words of Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May (1), and last week's departure from the series format for the series premiere with Neil Dudgeon as the new DCI Barnaby. Michael Aitkens, who wrote The Sword of Guillaume (introducing John Barnaby in Series 13) and Death in the Slow Lane, concludes the cautious and astute transition process from a Barnaby to the other with Dark Secrets. And John's wife Sarah (played by Fiona Dolman) rejoins her husband, and the cute dog Sykes, as the new head of Causton comprehensive school.

With a more urban setting and no panto, Death in the Slow Lane made Midsomer Murders look like Lewis minus the Oxfordian intellectual refinements, but this week's episode is a return to something more "traditional" for DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). The guest cast is stunning, with Edward Fox (in a brilliant performance) and Phyllida Law as the eccentric and reclusive old Bingham couple, Beth Goddard, Nick Brimble, Abigail McKern, Simon Dutton, and an informal Drop the Dead Donkey reunion with Neil Pearson, Jeff Rawle and Haydn Gwynne.

Given the nature of the Bingham family's terrible secrets and the way some deal with them, to not be part of the Midsomer County population is actually a favour done to those who live elsewhere. Midsomer is not "the last bastion of Englishness" or England should sue the producer for the comparison. It's a television fantasy, the most murderous place in the world, the postcard idea of an English village where the hobby of the locals is to experiment on each other 1001 ways to die. One of the two murders of the episode even recalls an episode of The Persuaders called A Death in the Family.

In the Barnabyverse, people who didn't exist previously can die in a fictional beautiful countryside. DCI Barnaby catches the murderer and Jones saves the day from evil characters plotting mayhem sitting on huge piles of newspapers. This is not your humble servant's cup of tea but viewers in more than 230 countries find that fun and that's why Midsomer Murders is among ITV's most popular dramas - like Poirot. Unless the suits get suicidal and decide to alter the globally successful formula, you have more chance to find social realism in Scooby Doo.

This episode is directed by Simon Langton. Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company).


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Tuesday, 29 March 2011


ITV has just announced that Martin Clunes will start filming the fifth series of Doc Martin in Cornwall this week. His French counterpart, Thierry Lhermitte, will begin filming the second series of TF1's Doc Martin in May.

After a two-year break to allow him to pursue other projects, Martin Clunes is back as Dr. Martin Ellingham, the grumpy GP of the picturesque (and fictional) village of Portwenn, in the ITV1 hit dramedy. 8 X 60-minute episodes will be filmed around the magnificent settings of the North Cornwall coast.

The French Doc Martin, Docteur Martin Le Foll (Thierry Lhermitte), will start filming the second series of the excellent Gaullic adaptation in the equally magnificent South Finistère from May to June and from August to September - with studio sequences filmed in between.

TF1's Doc Martin is the third adaptation of the format sold by Digital Rights Group (distributor of the original with Clunes) and is produced by Ego Productions. A German version, Doktor Martin, ran in 2007 and 2009 on pubcaster ZDF. And Spanish viewers have their own version, Doctor Mateo, since 2009. (In French)

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Thursday, 24 March 2011


Midsomer Murders - Series 14, Episode 1 (Death in the Slow Lane). A charity car show must take place at Darnley Park Girls School, where the remains of famous racing car driver Duncan Palmer were found 40 years after he was thought to have drowned in the Lake District. Headmistress Harriet Wingate asks new DCI Barnaby, John, to keep an "eye on things". For the enjoyment of DS Jones, who's a car enthusiast.

After the uninspired and controversial words of Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May on "the last bastion of Englishness" (1) comes the first episode of a new era for the ITV1 crime drama, with Neil Dudgeon as DCI John Barnaby. The successor to John Nettles was cleverly introduced at the beginning of the previous series in The Sword of Guillaume, where Nettles's DCI Tom Barnaby teamed up with his cousin John in Brighton. Then Dudgeon appeared during Tom's birthday/retirement exit scene. Directed by Richard Holthouse, Death in the Slow Lane is written by Michael Aitkens - who wrote The Sword of Guillaume.

DCI John Barnaby has a guided tour of his new playground thanks to DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes). Jones appears to be a living encyclopedia about evey citizen in murder county and is a little frustrated he wasn't offered the job of his boss after years of enduring "the other Barnaby". The tour is the occasion for an odd involuntary echo to the recent race debate ignited by Brian True-May when a lady says the previous Barnaby "wasn't really one of us". Maybe producer True-May, who will step down at the end of the current series, knows his show too well. Then we get a bizarro crossover with St Trinian and, yes, shades of the real world!

Apparently there's a whole universe outside Barnabyverse, and a bloke in an estate watching something on telly where a sharp eye can spot a cute black newborn. The first certified victim is a local DJ (the ubiquitous Luke Allen-Gale) who tries hard to impersonate Jody Latham - or is it BGT's DJ Talent? Don't expect the usual gruesome pantocrime in this episode and nobody really cares about the endless story, which is just a pretext to make the new Barnaby familiar. Anyway the true star of this episode is John's dog, Sykes, who even appears in the Thinkbox ad aired during the many (many) breaks of the evening (2).

The legendary David Warner - who does what you expect him to do - and Samantha Bond guest star. With a more urban setting and less panto, Midsomer Murders looks like Lewis minus the Oxfordian intellectual refinements but fans can suspect (hope?) next week's episode will be more "traditional". Death in the Slow Lane, and probably the next one, are part of a cautious transition process for Midsomer. The global hit series, produced by Bentley Productions (an All3Media company) for ITV, is sold in over 230 countries and it's certainly not social realism which made its international success since 1997.


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Monday, 21 March 2011


Every second year since 1989, Comic Relief organizes Red Nose Day. This charity event is always the occasion of great television moments for great causes. Red Nose Day 2011 took place on Friday 18th March from 7.00pm till 1.00am, on BBC One and BBC Two.

Lenny Henry attended the King's Speech and Outnumbered ruined Andy Murray's day. The awaited (and absolutely brilliant) Doctor Who two-part minisode, written by the great Steven Moffat, gave us Amy Pond flirting with herself - no one will dare to label the series "kid material" after that (« Pond, put some trousers on. ») Ruby Wax, Claudia Winkleman and Miranda Hart cooked for Prime Minister David Cameron in a Masterchef special. Comic genius Peter Kay as Geraldine McQueen (his character from Britain's Got the Pop Factor...) and Susan Boyle covered I know him so well in a subtly hilarious parody of the 1985 Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige duet video - "him" being now... Sir Trevor McDonald.

Take That sung Happy now and met their "clones", a band called Fake That: Alan Carr, James Corden, David Walliams, John Bishop and... Catherine Tate. Corden came back as Gavin & Stacey's Smithy in what was certainly the summit of the evening, one of funniest things in the genre seen in years. In Smithy saves Red Nose Day 2011, Lenny Henry asked the plumber for help and Smithy left his friend George Michael waiting in the car to chair a meeting with Lord Coe, Dermot O'Leary, Rupert Grint, JLS, Sir Paul McCartney, Justin Bieber, etc. Regrettably nobody thought to call Smithy to save the Autumnwatch sequence hosted by Harry Hill, or the Downton Abbey spoof directed by Adrian Edmonson and starring Jennifer Saunders, Kim Cattrall, Joanna Lumley, Harry Enfield and Simon Callow (as Julian Fellowes!) among others.

There were also some truly moving stories and the powerful ten-minute conclusion of an EastEnders storyline about the issue of sexual exploitation. Producers and writers of EastEnders ensured the story reflected the reality of young people caught up in sexual exploitation. They worked with advice from charities funded by Comic Relief and consulted with teenage girls who have experienced this form of abuse (1). David Tennant going to Africa, Helen Skelton walking on a wire across Battersea Power Station and Lenny Henry walking on fire (literally) were some of the many actions for this formidable star-studded night which raised more than £74 million.

Red Nose Day 2011 was hosted by Claudia Winkleman, Michael McIntyre, Graham Norton, Davina McCall, Lenny Henry, Dermot O'Leary, Fearne Cotton and Jonathan Ross (with a guest appearance by Matt Smith as The Doctor).

(1) (Official site) (Donate)

Saturday, 19 March 2011


[23.32 - French Time] Singer Matt Pokora (aka M Pokora) has won the finale of Danse avec les Stars with his dance pro partner Katrina Patchett.

French private channel TF1 aired tonight the finale of Danse avec les Stars, a French adaptation of BBC Worldwide's global hit format Dancing with the Stars/Strictly come Dancing co-produced by BBC Worldwide and TF1 Production. This format, licensed to more than 30 countries, teams up celebrities with professional dance partners competing in Ballroom and Latin dances in front of three judges. And viewers can vote.

Matt Pokora and Katrina Patchett were facing singer Sofia Essaïdi and her dance pro partner Maxime Dereymez, after former football player David Ginola and his partner Silvia Notargiacomo were eliminated sooner in the evening. Danse avec les Stars is hosted by Sandrine Quétier and Vincent Cerutti. And the judges are dancer and actress Alessandra Martines, Salsa world champion Chris Marques, and Canadian dancer and choreographer Jean-Marc Généreux - judge on the Canadian edition of So You Think You Can Dance.

Who could have guessed (beyond the circle of his loyal fans) that RnB singer Pokora would be so impressive during all the competition to the point of this deserved victory versus a rival who can be considered as DALS's equivalent of Strictly's Alesha Dixon (in 2005 Sofia Essaïdi was in Celebrity Dancing, a similar format tried by TF1). The other contestants of the six-week primetime dance extravaganza were former model Adriana Karembeu, stage actress Marthe Mercadier (82 years), Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, composer and former French Pop Idol judge André Manoukian, and comedian Jean-Marie Bigard.

The other pros were Fauve Hautot, Grégoire Lyonnet, Julien Brugel, Candice Pascal, and Christophe Licata. The pros were fantastic, the contestants were aptly chosen and most of them amazed by their efforts. The programme was pleasant and entertaining even if it needs some adjustments, should a second series be ordered by TF1. (In French) (M Pokora's Official site - In French)

Friday, 18 March 2011


Every second year since 1989, Comic Relief organizes Red Nose Day. This charity event is the occasion of great funny television moments for great causes. Red Nose Day 2011 will happen tonight on BBC One and BBC Two from 7.00pm till 1.00am.

Everybody remembers highlights of previous years such as Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death with Rowan Atkinson (1999), the great Dennis Waterman with Little Britain in 2007, or the last ever French & Saunders film parody. Tonight the event will include a mini episode of Doctor Who and a Downton Abbey spoof. (Official site) (Sponsor/Donate) (Event details)

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


[6.40 - French Time] French private channel M6 launched yesterday the local version of Simon Cowell's juggernaut talent show The X Factor (aired in the UK on ITV1).

M6, home of the French Got Talent (La France a un incroyable talent) now airs X Factor, thanks to FremantleMedia France, after a 2009 stint on M6's DTT sister channel W9. M6 previously aired Nouvelle Star, the French adaptation of Pop Idol (presently on hiatus), and displays a lot of ambition for the transferred programme. Its X Factor is closer to the original, is produced on a much bigger scale and, above all, has a much effective jury than the W9 edition. Because we all know that in Reality TV the judges are the true stars.

And FremantleMedia did a really good job with their 2011 French X Factor jury: Henry Padovani (musician and co-founder of The Police), Christophe Willem (Singer and winner of Nouvelle Star in 2006), Canadian singer and impersonator Véronic DiCaire and musician and lyricist Olivier Schultheis (who was the orchestra conductor on Nouvelle Star). The most amazing with Schultheis is his resemblance with original X Factor judge Louis Walsh. The hosts are French Got Talent's Sandrine Corman and Jérôme Anthony. Anthony also hosts the French adaptation of Cash in the Attic (on M6 too) and the French Got Talent After show.

The rest is the same as the original: theme intro, incidental music, dramatization, camera effects, etc. Two contestants actually even tried the original X Factor before this one: the twins from Twem. Is there a "second market" for constestants of Cowell's programmes? (a BGT contestant called "Mr Methane" went to Germany's Das Supertalent). In some respects, and at this stage of the show, the French X Factor is also the perfect replica of Got Talent minus the buzzers (1).

It seems so formulaic that you have the impression to watch Peter Kay's Britain's Got the Pop Factor... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice (couldn't resist to give the full title of this monument of parody) but that's precisely where the genius of such a programme is: it delivers the goods with style, glitter and more drama than in a US network weekly series. Its audiences find precisely what they look for with the (quite) good, the bad and the ugly auditions, "feuds" between jury members, the viral video moments and the final " That's why this show exists" sequence.

To quote the great Rod Serling, People Are Alike All Over. France has now its own Strictly come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, give us Dancing on Ice and we'll be fully civilized... sort of.

Update [9.19 - French Time]: Private channel TF1 naturally wins the night with almost 6.5 million viewers (24.7%). Pubcaster France 3 is in second position with lovejoyesque drama Louis la Brocante (launched in 1998!) And X Factor is only third with 3.347.000 viewers and 13.3% ( - In French).

(1) As the lovely wife of your humble servant pointed out.

Friday, 11 March 2011


No further comment is necessary, don't you think?


Gabriel Monroe is a genius neurosurgeon, a falsely arrogant virtuoso whose flamboyance hides a true interest for his patients but also pains from the past. He sure knows how to deal with the case of a woman with a brain tumour but has no idea that his family life is a mess. And his wife is going to give him a crash course.

Award-winning writer Peter Bowker (Wuthering Heights, Occupation) certainly didn't do a favour to Monroe, his latest creation, when he told that he hoped it would achieve a similar dramatic intensity to that found in House (1). In some circles The Wire is the wildest dream of what Brit dramas should be and maybe House is its medical equivalent in this perspective. But med dramas existed long before Gregory House's antics and there was a time when The Wire was not the fantasy island of some TV execs or critics.

James Nesbitt stars as Gabriel Monroe, a brilliant, witty and unconventional neurosurgeon who suffered a personal tragedy and in this respect he's more Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, the character played by Mandy Patinkin in Chicago Hope (1994-2000), than House. He has a Wilson too but it's a woman trainee (Michelle Asante) with a propension to fainting, and his bedside manners are better than those of the Princeton-Plainsboro maverick doc. Nesbitt, served by Bowker's sharp script, is at his best in Monroe and he needed to after the bonekickeresque The Deep.

When it comes to dramatic intensity the scenes between Gabriel and his wife Anna (Susan Lynch), right out of the pages from the Eddie Fitzgerald great book of marriage counseling, are the most interesting aspect of this premiere. On the minus side, the annoying visual effects and the clichéed use of songs. We'll give the character played by Sarah Parish, cardiac surgeon Jenny Bremner, benefit of the doubt even if she shouts "Huddy" every time she faces Monroe. And we're interested in how Springer (Luke Allen-Gale) will evolve.

We recently got dramas far (far!) less watchable than this first episode of Monroe (2), seen by 6.0 million viewers (average). The 6 x 60-minute series is produced by Mammoth Screen and co-produced by Ingenious Broadcasting and Capico Productions. It is executive produced by Peter Bowker, Michele Buck and Damien Timmer. Jennie Scanlon is the producer and Howard Ella is co-producer. The first three episodes are directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and episodes four, five and six are directed by David Moore (Merlin, The Forsyte Saga).

(2) You know what we're talking about.

Friday, 4 March 2011


French private channel TF1 aired yesterday episode 2 of La Loi selon Bartoli, its Mentalist/House/Monk clone. Episode 2? Well, not quite.

TF1 knows how much French viewers adore eccentric, falsely annoying but genius American sleuths like House and The Mentalist. The channel should know, it airs them and they are primetime rating bonanzas. In La Loi selon Bartoli, Parisian actor Stéphane Freiss is Paul Lawrence Bartoli (Lawrence!) an iconoclast Juge d'instruction - an investigating judge in French criminal law system - whose oddball behaviour hides a razor-sharp mind and a sincere empathy.

Bartoli teams up with a charming young single mother named Nadia Martinez (Alexia Barlier), his new temp archivist who has a degree in psychology and doubles as a singer in a band. He has a Moneypenniesque assistant (Sophie Le Tellier) and hires a disgraced cop as a PI (Lionnel Astier). His contact in the police force, Cappa (Philippe Bas), has the custody of his young son in spite of the fact that he's a poker addict, thanks to an intervention of the judge.

Paul Bartoli is snarky disrespectful, ignores the concept of hierarchy, lives in a hotel room, loves good restaurants, has a soft spot for his lovely new temp and he has a mysterious past. The premiere aired one year ago captured 6.7 million viewers (27.4%), which prompted TF1 to order more episodes. But the channel raised interrogation when they chose to air the third episode in production order instead of the second.

Star Stéphane Freiss (who physically recalls Hugh Laurie) expressed his perplexity regarding a decision taken by TF1's programming execs (1). The main issue with this reversal is the story arc about Bartoli's past. And it was blatant yesterday night that viewers didn't have some elements to understand the new developments concerning the person who spies the judge and sent him toy soldiers in the premiere episode.

Bartoli won yesterday's night with 5.995.000 viewers (23.7%) but with pubcaster France 3 in second position with 3.954.000 (15.3%) for a movie starring the venerated Louis de Funès (2) - always a rating hit even with a gazillion reruns - and popular actress Annie Girardot, who died recently. Will it be satisfying enough for TF1 and will they ever air episode 2, which apparently was more comedic than the episode aired yesterday.

(1) (In French)
(2) (In French)

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