Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Doctor Who - Let's Kill Hitler (Series Six, Episode Eight). Still looking for their daughter Melody, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) land up with the Doctor (Matt Smith) in Adolf Hitler's Berlin office in 1938. Thanks to Mels (Nina Toussaint-White), a childhood friend of the couple, who hijacked the TARDIS. But the future River Song (Alex Kingston) could be closer than they can imagine.

« More guilt! Come on. There must be someone left in the universe I haven't screwed up yet.»

Doctor Who is more popular than ever under showrunner Steven Moffat's tenure. The programme has healthy ratings, conquered America and is commercially at the top worldwide (1). Moffat even gave the BBC another global hit: Sherlock, "re-imagined" with Mark Gatiss. So no matter some old and loyal fans may choose to leave in the process. His narrative approach is supported by a majority of Whovians, seduced by the Grand Moff's high concept soap story arc conundrum.

One year ago, Who's supremo announced at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh TV Festival that the current 13-episode series would run for seven episodes "building to an Earth-shattering climax" at Episode 7, an "enormous game-changing cliffhanger that will change everything". And then would come back in the autumn after a hiatus for another six. « 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 « what would be in fact Series Seven. » (2)

Too bad but Earth survived A Good Man goes to War, Steven Moffat's space operetta mid-series finale and its Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger. Series Six (not Seven finally) of Doctor Who returned on BBC One and BBC America last saturday from its two-month hiatus with Let's Kill Hitler, written by the man himself and directed by Richard Senior. Given that when it comes to dramas genius is an overrated notion since Torchwood: Miracle Day, and that the expectations of a minority of us have been seriously lowered with this sixth series, this premiere is surprisingly enjoyable.

« Thank you. Whoever you are. I think you have just saved my life.
- Believe me. It was an accident. »

« You've got a time machine, I've got a gun. What the hell? Let's kill Hitler. » Of course the Doctor didn't stop Hitler (Albert Welling). Moffat warned from the very title, the famous sci-fi cliché is intended only as a fuse for the firework material which relaunches his machinery. Too much material, worthy of a 90-minute special but reduced to 48 minutes, the way the tiny bureaucrat folks are compressed in the Meet Dave walking death sentence. « We're in a hurry. We're not trying to win an award. » No Writer's Tale necessary for Steven Moffat, the anecdotes are IN the episode.

The Moff has a knack for fast-paced adult comedy and a taste for superbly crafted lines (« I'm trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I'm really trying not to see this as a metaphor. ») Let's Kill Hitler offers both generously, provided that you forget its flaws. « Then why don't I know you? I danced with everyone at their wedding. The women were all brilliant. The men were a bit shy. » One of these flaws is Mels, the never seen before "childhood" pal, in spite of a fine but de facto frustrating performance by Nina Toussaint-White. "Mels" is another narrative trick in Moffat's big timey-wimey scheme. Like the continuing devaluation of regeneration, a trend initiated by Russell T. Davies (who has devalued more than that since).

« Well. I was on my way to this gay gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled, when I suddenly thought, "Gosh. The Third Reich's a bit rubbish. I think I'll kill the Fuehrer." Who's with me? »

On a scale where the quality level has been raised sky high by Neil Gaiman's The Doctor's Wife, Let's Kill Hitler is an absurd but absolutely fun escapism and the best opener since The Eleventh Hour. « I love it! I'm all sort of... mature. Hello Benjamin. » Steven Moffat pleasantly revisits The Curse of The Fatal Death with Alex "Mrs Robinson" Kingston as Jonathan Pryce. Matt Smith (nice coat, by the way) and the cast serve the script brilliantly, and it's nice to see Caitlin Blackwood again as young Amelia - but also as the no-nonsense Amelia voice interface (« You will not die now. You will die in thirty-two minutes. ») The production values look more than decent, the direction is excellent, and Cardiff's Temple of Peace is smartly used.

« Rory, take Hitler and put him in that cupboard over there. Now. Do it. » Why would we deny ourselves such a treat? Torchwood: Miracle Day surely delivers a worse "tingling sensation" than the Antibodies of the Teselecta. « Right. Putting Hitler in the cupboard. Cupboard. Hitler. Hitler. Cupboard. »

« Glücklich zu sehen, je suis enchanté. Happy to see you. Bleibe, reste, stay. »


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

REZA BADIYI (1930-2011)

Legendary television director Reza S. Badiyi died saturday, aged 81. He directed more than 400 hours of series and TV movies, holding the Directors Guild of America record for helming more television episodes than anybody in the history of this medium.

Badiyi was also a reputed main title sequence designer, whose work in this field includes Get Smart, That Girl, the memorable main title sequence for the original Hawaii Five-O, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Iranian-born Reza Badiyi started his long and prolific career in his native country as a documentarist and won an award for Flood in Khuzestan, a documentary which attracted a lot of attention and led to his arrival in the US as a student during the 1950s. After studying filmmaking at Syracuse University, Badiyi moved to Kansas City to work for The Calvin Company - a major educational and industrial film production company (1). There he met director Robert Altman and became his protégé and friend.

An experienced director and producer in the 1960s, Badiyi also developed a reputation as a designer of TV series main titles: « You have to capture the audience and keep them from going to another channel, » he explained. « It's like doing a wonderful commercial without showing what the product is. » (2) His work for the title visualization of Hawaii Five-O epitomizes this spirit and his approach was ideal for writer/producer Bruce Geller, who hired him on Mission: Impossible to direct season three's The Interrogator (1969). Reza Badiyi directed 17 episodes of the show, including its most ambitious episode in terms of production: Mission's only three-parter, The Falcon (Season four, 1970).

As a director he worked on series like The Mod Squad, Mannix, The Magician (starring Bill Bixby), The Six Million Dollar Man, The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, Cagney & Lacey, Falcon Crest, and many more. His last credit was The Way Back Home (2006), one of the four feature films he directed.

(2) Patrick J. White, The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier (Avon Books, 1991),0,7589597.story

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Peter Lindburg, a German TV star who plays a cop in a long-running "Krimiserie", learns his show is axed while watching television. He returns to his hometown to work on his own script and finds out it's not so easy to be a detective when he witnesses a real murder.

The local police doesn't take him seriously, so he decides to investigate with the actor who played his assistant.

Munich-born actor Fritz Wepper is known all over the world for his character of Harry Klein, who first appeared in the crime drama hit Der Kommissar from 1969 to 1974. Then Klein became the assistant of Oberinspektor Stephan Derrick (Horst Tappert) in 281 episodes of Derrick, between 1974 and 1998. But his resume includes Cabaret (1972), Luc Besson's Le Dernier combat (1983) and several other dramas, like Zweï Brüder (1994-2001), Mord im bester Gesellschaft (since 2007), and Um Himmels Willen (since 2002).

And now Fritz Wepper is Peter Lindburg in Lindsburgs Fall, an excellent TV movie aired by the ARD network on friday, the week of his 70th birthday. Lindburg plays Kommissar Kämpfer in the popular crime series Blaulicht. Kämpfer's catch-phrase: "Conny, hier stimmt was nicht!" ("Conny, there's something wrong!"). Bernd Michael Lade - who played a Hauptkommissar in one of the series of the venerable Tatort - is Mike Häusl, the actor who plays Kämpfer's assistant Conny.

Lindburg learns incidentally that his series is axed, and the best offer of his agent is a pilot for a show with dogs called Colliewood! Depressed, he decides to work on his own crime script (Ein Mann, Ein Mord) in his hometown. But one night he witnesses a real murder and local police finds the idea of TV's super sleuth as a witness of a true homicide hard to swallow. Especially when it bothers the Staatsanwalt - the State public prosecutor - Dr. Eugen von Wangenheim (Francis Fulton-Smith). And Peter must ask his former assistant Mike/Conny to help him on his first non-fiction case.

Written by Marie Reiners and Sylke Lorenz and directed by Franziska Meyer Price, Lindburgs Fall is a well-crafted and pleasant crime comedy with a nice touch of satire: Peter learns Blaulicht is axed while watching a Boulevard-Magazin (an entertainment news programme). When he arrives in his agent's office, the man (hilarious Hannes Hellman) tries to convince by phone an actress named "Veronica" to accept the role of a talking sausage in the last "Tim Schreiner" movie. And there are of course some funny and elegant nods to Derrick.

Lindburgs Fall is produced by ndF: Berlin for ARD Degeto. We would like to see more of Peter Lindburg. (In German) (In German) (In German)

Friday, 19 August 2011


Fancy some train wreck fest on your flat screen but bored by this catastrophe called Torchwood: Miracle Day? Don't worry, Celebrity Big Brother is back thanks to Channel 5. Frantic press speculation is now over after yesterday's launch night, which unveiled its line-up of well, err... "celebrities".

The reality programme was axed by Channel 4 in 2010. Channel 5, bought by press baron Richard Desmond one year ago, reached an agreement with producer Endemol to revive the show. Big Brother 2001 edition and Ultimate Big Brother winner Brian Dowling replaces Davina McCall as the host. And Marcus Bentley remains the BB narrator.

Amongst the gazillion usual rumours, the mother of all was certainly the possible presence of Charlie Sheen in the new Big Brother compound (based in Elstree Studios). But unfortunately this year's "winners" will not endure the antics of Charlie Harper:

- Former Atomic Kitten band member and reality TV personality Kerry Katona.

- American starlet Tara Reid.

- Paddy Doherty, from Channel 4's hit reality series My Big Fat Gipsy Wedding.

- "Vajazzle" queen Amy Childs (The Only Way is Essex). Don't ask.

- Australian punk paparazzo (!) Darryn Lyons.

- Sally Bercow, controversial wife of John Bercow (the Speaker of another house, the House of Commons). It's amazing how Brit telly can mix Reality TV and politics, in 2010 former Conservative Party politician Ann Widdecombe was a contestant in Strictly Come Dancing. With her participation, Mrs Bercow will raise £100,000 for charity Ambitious About Autism.

- Actor Lucien Laviscount (Corrie, Waterloo Road).

- American actress Pamela Bach, ex-wife of David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff.

- British model Bobby Sabel.

- Twin Irish X Factor duo Jedward.

Celebrity Big Brother premiered with 5.16m (22.3%) between 9pm and 10.30pm and peaked with 5.6m (26.1%) at 10pm.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Torchwood: Miracle Day - Episode Five (The Categories of Life). The world population is now divided into three "categories of life". Gwen (Eve Myles) is in Wales with her husband Rhys (Kai Owen) to rescue her father from one of the overflow camps set up globally by Pharma giant Phicorp for the first two categories.

Rex (Mekhi Phifer), Vera (Arlene Tur) and Esther (Alexa Havins) go undercover in the San Diego camp. And Jack (John Barrowman) aims to convince Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) to switch side.

« It's... It's a cookbook! » (The Twilight Zone, To Serve Man)

« Look, Torchwood's gone, okay? It's just a name these days. » It means something when even the characters of Miracle Day look like they know things don't fit. « Do you think I'm useless? » asks Little Miss "Yeah, but I'm CIA" Sunshine to the officially former Captain Jack (« He likes to call himself Captain Jack, but I'm not buying that. ») Dr. Vera would be entitled to ask the same question after weeks attending Washington D.C. medical panels and no one bothered to email her that it was finished. But Vera's embarassment is all for a bit of exposition, like those irritating news bulletins. Is it Baa Baa Black Sheep or what?

Talking of embarassment, how can fugitive Gwen Cooper fly with a passport and an alias already used for the Phicorp raid? How can one of the gang even take a plane without being noticed by the CIA or by their presumed nemesis Phicorp, a global contractor with infinite resources. Are Keystone agents Esther and Rex contagious? Gwen is unrecognizable, below her own standards. « Andy, don't be so thick, » she says to her former colleague Sergeant Andy (Tom Price). But who acts a Parker and Penelope fantasy with her hubby at the airport and makes fool of herself in front of a military until she admits a break-in will do better? Hey, it's about her dad! Who ignores that at the end of the episode?

Apparently Torchwood: Miracle Day is a "political thriller" (1) says respected American writer and producer Jane Espenson, who penned The Categories of Life. The "thrill" is widely discussed but in this "new age of care and compassion" we do have politics from both sides of the pond: « No NHS. Who's paying for all this? Phicorp. You've got healthcare being run by private business. And believe me, just the start of your problems. » Stateside, it's poor Dr. Vera - the gang's former D.C. political correspondent - who deals with caricature, once formally accepted amongst the "Freedom Fighters" (« That makes you sound like terrorists. »)

And the Ellis Monroe of the week is Colin Maloney (Marc Vann, who deserves better), the misogynist, racist, Hilary Duffist, Phil Collinsist and insensible camp administrator. Maloney has his own cart with a General Lee horn! But even a low-level nazi-type bureaucrat (he does an explicit "Jawohl" in case you hadn't noticed) must have his self-esteem and Vera should have thought twice before calling him a "stupid little man" during a hard day at work. Full-time member of Clue Club and she already gets what is obviously intended as her Ianto Jones moment, as looms the awful truth: the forces behind Phicorp are familiar with Godwin's Law.

And Jack? He plays hide and seek with Oswald and tries to convince him to "become a hero". Why not? The man is a pedophile and murderer who lost his ticket to Hell and was offered a spokesperson job from a big corporation, nice hotel rooms, a limo, cohorts of fans and his own groupie Jilly Drescher Flekman (Lauren Ambrose). Esther and Rex are indeed contagious after all. And we're looking forward to Bill Pullman's next project to erase the trauma of the rally speech.

The Categories of Life is directed by Guy Ferland. Now two aspirins, please.

Next Time: Big Brother?


Sunday, 14 August 2011


France's National Treasure actor, comedian and dubbing artist Roger Carel is 84 today.

Revered by generations, the talented and versatile Mr Carel is the French-speaking voice of Peter Sellers, Asterix, Kermit the Frog, Benny Hill, C-3PO, Winnie The Pooh, David Suchet in Poirot, and so many (many) more.

You can find some very recent news of Roger Carel here: (In French)

Monday, 8 August 2011


Torchwood: Miracle Day - Episode Four (Escape to L.A.) While the world is coping with the miracle, CIA renegades Esther (Alexa Havins) and Rex (Mekhi Phifer) are in L.A. with Torchwood's Gwen (Eve Myles) and Jack (John Barrowman) to learn more about the involvement of pharmaceutical firm Phicorp. Oswald (Bill Pullman) and Jilly (Lauren Ambrose) face a rival: right-wing politician Ellis Hartley Monroe (Mare Winningham).

« And you all get the power.
You all get the best.
When everyone gets everything.
And every song everybody sings. » (Opus, Life is Life)

Miracle Day is almost halfway through its 10-episode run and not only the fourth iteration of Torchwood definitely doesn't live up to its 2009 miniseries predecessor Children of Earth. But moreover this co-production between US cable channel Starz and BBC Worldwide Productions may well be remembered by many as a major disappointment. The search for the truth leads the gang and director Billy Gierhart to Los Angeles. Because we well know "the truth is out there", and so does co-writer X-Files veteran John Shiban (with Jim Gray).

« Look at that horizon! We've reached the edge of America, » marvels Gwen Cooper when they arrive at Venice Beach, because it's the coolest place to prepare a raid on a corporate HQ in L.A. It's lucky the pharma company is not based in Boston. There's cholera in Boston, helpfully explains Esther sister's Sarah (Candace Brown). And every now and then someone pulls a Basil Exposition, like Dr. Vera (Arlene Tur) when she develops to Rex what is Ellis Hartley Monroe's Dead is Dead [Nanananana]. Ellis Monroe is "the darling of the Tea Party", a right-wing politico whose movement asks for segregation of those "who should have perished" and by persisting "are draining ressources of healthy living citizens".

With an actress like Mare Winningham you could expect the character to be the match of Lynne Warner, the Secretary of Defense played by Sharon Gless in The State Within. A worthy rival to Danes, a source of trouble for Fred, Shaggy, Daphne and Velma, not the caricature she is. Monroe is just the last step to Danes's access to messiah status and in the end the triangle (John de Lancie? Beldar Conehead?) tells it all: « But we already have Oswald Danes. We don't need another. » Before disposing of her in a clumsy nod to Goldfinger. This foray of Torchwood into American politics really makes things worse, whatever the subtext of Miracle Day is.

How reassuring, by the way, that in such troubled times the new prophet is a pedophile and murderer who missed the bus to Hell. Bill Pullman has a great scene when Oswald opens the bottles and enjoys his hotel room. That's before he does his Second Venue speech and the surreal Lion King thing with the baby in the "plague ship" hospital. « Dead is not dead. No, not anymore. Life is life. » [Nanananana]. « This is disgusting, » comments Dr. Vera. « I know! » squeaks Ozzie's fangirl Bobbi Flekman Jr. (YOU said it, ladies). No wonder why Ellis Hartley Sarah Palin Monroe desperately needs a coffee after that.

« I don't want to live forever. Especially like this. »

The Mystery Machine "Travelling circus folks" are no better treated as they go IMF (Improbable Missions Force) to steal a data server and switch it with another. Fortunately Rex has seen Sneakers. Jack quotes George Eliot and shows less life than 007 in A View to a Kill, until he remembers good old Captain Jack during the assault. And what did Esther expect when she phoned child protection? Gwen shares her time between her family matters and impersonating Hustle's Stacie. Rhys (Kai Owen) provides some sort of comic relief - at least he spared us the Risky Business scene, and remote Vera is the voice on healthcare.

You almost wish the polite assassin and old school artisan, played exquisitely by C. Thomas Howell, could do his job properly: « They are everywhere. They are always. They are no one. » Unless his job is to hold our attention long enough for Rex to shoot him in the throat (no more sound of C.) Do the Torchwood US newbies come from the Keystone Cops branch of the CIA? « And soon, the families will rise. ». Esther and Rex wish it's not theirs.

« Don't worry. No one dies. »

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


ITV has announced today the casting of English actor Shaun Evans as the young Endeavour Morse in a prequel to Inspector Morse.

Endeavour, a one-off drama, stars Shaun Evans (Teachers, Martina Cole's The Take) as the character created by novelist Colin Dexter and played with absolute talent by the late John Thaw in the long-running Inspector Morse series (thirty-three episodes from 1987 to 2000). Kevin Whately, who co-starred as Morse's sidekick Robbie Lewis, has his own spin-off since 2006 with the highly successful Lewis (known as Inspector Lewis in the US).

Written by Russell Lewis (Cadfael, Kavanagh QC, Lewis), the story follows Detective Constable Endeavour Morse in 1965. The single film, made by Mammoth Screen for ITV1, will mark the 25th anniversary of the very first episode of Morse. It will be shot in Oxford this autumn and will air early next year. Michele Buck and Damien Timmer are executive producers for Mammoth Screen, Rebecca Eaton is exec producer for Masterpiece and Dan McCulloch is the producer. Endeavour is directed by Colm McCarthy (Injustice).

Shaun Evans will have to fight the shadow of the great John Thaw and judging from the photo he looks more like the Doctor than like a younger version of the beloved DCI Morse. But ITV has the golden touch for dramas, with eight of the ten most watched new dramas of 2011 and four of those new dramas recommissioned by ITV1 last month: Vera, Scott & Bailey, Monroe and Case Sensitive. Also in the pipeline are a second series of Kidnap and Ransom and another case of Victorian detective Inspector Jack Whicher (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher).

What's next? Young Kavanagh QC? Young Regan? (with Dennis Waterman as the "Guv") Or even Young Jane Tennison?

Endeavour will be distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Torchwood: Miracle Day continues on BBC One with its third episode aired last thursday. One week behind US cable premium channel Starz, which co-produces this fourth iteration of Torchwood with BBC Worldwide Productions. Dead Of Night is written by American writer and producer Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13).

« And the next, and the next, and the next... »

Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) asks his boss Brian Friedkin (Wayne Knight) why he was set up and by whom. The investigation leads the CIA agent, his analyst colleague Esther Drummond (Alexa Havins), Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) and Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) to a warehouse where they find a massive stockpile of pain killers from pharmaceutical company Phicorp. Oswald Danes (Bill Pullman) does the media circuit and accepts the offer of Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose). The PR guru also invites Dr.Vera Juarez (Arlene Tur) at Phicorp. And a cult called The Soulless has emerged following the miracle.

« Corporation corridors, help me find an open door.
Believe in me, I'll play your game.
Please don't ignore me or my name. » (Murray Head)

Jane Espenson's Dead Of Night is an aknowledgement that anything right after Rendition would pass for the quintessence of sobriety (« That woman in the airport. ») Original Torchwood characters and American newbies begin to act as a team and Rex puts his Axel Foley mode on pause to behave like the disavowed CIA agent he's meant to be (« Don't go deaf. ») Gwen is the leader of the gang, as there's no trace of the dashing Captain Jack from past Torchwood series - or even Doctor Who - in the fourth series of Russell T. Davies's creation. Jack even abandons field work to satisfy a "mortal need". And "Miss Translation" Esther shows signs of fragility, which is always better than inconsequence in term of narration.

Miracle Day borrows from the Great Book of US television conspiracies. After the CIA in the previous episode, it's now the big corporations and Torchwood's Virtucon is called Phicorp. The forces behind the pharma firm have been "there for decades", they're "everywhere", they know "everything" and they were ready for the miracle (the truth is out there, etc...) They own Warehouse 14, bigger on the inside, and now they own Oswald Danes too. Because we all know a pedophile and murderer is the ideal choice for a spokesperson in those Twitter days. His perception by the public is quite confused, like the treatment of the character by the writers. How are we supposed to react when the man is beaten up by uniformed cops?

« But you see. Beauty of this miracle is... If I shoot you just right maybe you might live an agony for, who knows how long? Maybe a thousand years. »

Well, it's all part of the big baddie and RTD's joint 10-episode masterplan. Only The Lady in Red, aka Jilly Drescher, seems to know the nature of the game but it is unclear if she's a "woman of wealth and taste" or just a lackey. If Dead Of Night doesn't bring the wonders expected by many, at least it's a proper patch to the Shark's Week blooper compilation preceding it. If only Miracle Day didn't abuse of news bulletins or medical panel scenes as ellipsis and if only the talents of Wayne Knight and Bill Pullman were better used. Speaking of talent, the preacher on TV is played by wonderful American veteran actor George Murdock.

Torchwood's first two series were about bizarre alien things happening, the way the flamboyant Jack Harkness and his team dealt with them, and how it affected the characters and their relationships. Children of Earth, was the brilliant encounter of Quatermass with Spooks. For the moment Torchwood: Miracle Day looks less like its sci-fi predecessors and more like the tale of a very long agony. But thank Heaven this one will not last a thousand years. Three down, seven to go...

Dead Of Night is directed by Billy Gierhart.