Thursday, 27 September 2012


Midsomer Murders - Series 15, Episode 3. An amateur astronomer is killed by a blow to the head with a meteorite during a total eclipse over Midsomer Stanton.

Written by Steve Trafford and directed by Renny Rye, Written in the Stars brings back Midsomer Murders into familiar territories after the weak and endless Murder of Innocence - aired in march. DCI John Barnaby (the excellent Neil Dudgeon) and DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) investigate among the star-seeking community.

The victim, Jeremy Harper (Tim Wallers), had a row with university observatory director Lawrence Janson (Harry Hadden-Patton) before the eclipse. Harper was passionate about preserving Moonstone Ridge, a heritage site housing a 1930s observatory. But local mystic Mags Dormer (Maureen Lipman), who found the body, believes this site is cursed. Sexual tension, academic rivalry, a protective father who's also a yogi, a javelin, a masked killer, and Jones's star chart are some of the other elements of this case... or not.

Produced by Bentley Productions, part of the All3Media Group, Midsomer Murders is aired by ITV since 1997 and is sold to more than 230 territories. It survived the departure of John Nettles, who starred until 2011 as DCI Tom Barnaby (the actual Chief Inspector Barnaby is his cousin), thanks to a cautious transition. It even survived some uninspired words of its longtime producer Brian True-May (1), now replaced by Jo Wright (Lovejoy, 55 Degrees North) for this fifteenth series which started in february on ITV1.

Overall Written in the Stars meets the requirements of Midsomer Murders' more than proven formula. And the temptation to alter this formula from time to time should be resisted as showed a couple of previous episodes. It's precisely that formulaic aspect which makes Midsomer a global hit. The cast is perfect even if Fiona Dolman, who plays Sarah Barnaby, gets the worst scenes. And it's always a pleasure to see Maureen Lipman or Ace Bhatti (The Shadow Line, The Sarah Jane Adventures).


Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Today starts the filming of Doc meets Dorf - Ausgerechnet Kanada (working title), a new romantic comedy series intended by German private channel RTL as the successor of its hit Doctor's Diary - Männer sind die beste Medizin (2008-2011).

Inez Björg David (Männerherzen, Sturm der Liebe) plays Dr. Fritzi Frühling, a Berlin top-notch surgeon, who lands up in a village called Kanada - in the middle of the Brandenburg countryside - and  must share a medical practice with her ex-boyfriend Falk (Bert Tischendorf), a vet. She must also adjust to this new environment.

Written by Miriam Rechel, Doc meets Dorf is a teamWorx Television & Film GmbH production (Donna Leon) for RTL. Steffi Ackermann, who produced Doctor's Diary for Polyphon and joined teamWorx in 2011, is the producer. And it is directed by Franziska Meyer Price, who worked on Doctor's Diary and directed the excellent ARD crime comedy TV movie Lindburgs Fall (2011).

In German:

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


Series three of TF1's Danse avec les Stars, the French Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, starts on Saturday 6 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 third series are singer Amel Bent, singer Chimène Badi, former model Estelle Lefébure, olympic champion fencer Laura Flessel, singer/actress Lorie Pester, Swiss singer Bastian Baker, former international rugby player Christophe Dominici, singer Emmanuel Moire, roller champ Taïg Khris, and Gerard Vives. Vives is an actor who got fame with in the 1990s as gym gay employee Gérard in French sitcom Les Filles d'à côté and its sequel. Until recently he was the sidekick of host Vincent Lagaf' in the French The Price is right.

They will team up with dance pros Christophe Licata, Julien Brugel, Maxime Dereymez, Grégoire Lyonnet, Katrina Patchett, Candice Pascal, Fauve Hautot and Silvia Notargiacomo. Plus newcomers in the show, Denitsa Ikonomova and Christian Millette - both seen in the fourth series of the Canadian So You Think You Can Dance. Like the previous two series, Danse avec les Stars is hosted by Sandrine Quétier and Vincent Cerutti.

Salsa world champion Chris Marques and Canadian dancer and choreographer Jean-Marc Généreux - who was a judge on the Canadian edition of So You Think You Can Dance - remain aboard as judges but Alessandra Martines, pregnant, cannot participate this year. Judges will be four for this series as Marques and Généreux are joined by dancer and choreographer Marie-Claude Pietragalla and singer Shy'm, winner of DALS 2. Danse avec les Stars is co-produced by BBC Worldwide and TF1 Production.

In French:

Monday, 17 September 2012


Belgian? No... French. Imagine that Hercule Poirot, the detective created by Agatha Christie, is an epicurian cop and a womanizer living in the 1930s north of France. Imagine also that his assistant is gay and interested in modern investigation techniques.

Aired by pubcaster France 2, Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders") is a French adaptation of Christie's books with two local sleuths, Commissaire Jean Larosière and Inspecteur Emile Lampion, instead of her detectives.

Larosière (Antoine Duléry) and Lampion (Marius Colucci, son of comedian and actor Michel "Coluche" Colucci) first appeared during Autumn 2006 in Petits meurtres en famille (A family murder party), a mini-series produced by Sophie Révil's Escazal Films, AT-Production and Belgian television RTBF, with TV5Monde and France 2. It was adapted from Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot's Christmas by scriptwriters Anne Giafferi and Murielle Magellan, and directed by Edwin Baily.

Set in Brittany in 1939, and filmed there thanks to the support of Région Bretagne, the 4X90-minute episodes were centered on the murder of the rich Simon Le Tescou (played by movie and stage veteran Robert Hossein). They caught an average of 7.3m viewers, which was tempting then to give the detective duo of the case its own collection of TV movies. Even if events in the mini-series actually prevented it.

And so the detectives created by Giafferi and Magellan came back in January 2009 for Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie, starting with an adaptation of The ABC Murders set in the north of France prior to Petits meurtres en famille. The series is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films, with France 2, TV5 Monde and CRRAV Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Centre régional de ressources audiovisuelles) and the support of Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais. 10 more episodes followed until now, each attracting between 4m and above 5m viewers.

The stories of Agatha Christie (Ordeal by Innocence, The Moving Finger, Peril at End House, etc...) are cleverly transported in France as a period crime comedy/drama. The ambiance evokes Christie's classics, of course, but also Midsomer Murders and Maigret with Bruno Cremer (1991-2005). Duléry is flamboyant as Larosière, the very French authoritarian, charmer and gourmet supersleuth with some secret emotional cracks. And Colucci is absolutely perfect as his young assistant, the shy and clumsy Emile, amazed by modern policing and gay.

Those two engaging, complex and subtle characters form a fun and effective pair in one of the best French television fiction since the already mentioned Maigret and Nestor Burma (1991-2003). Most regrettably, the two actors announced their departure in january and last week France 2 aired their final episode, adapted from Lord Edgware Dies, in its friday crime drama slot. An adaptation of They Do It With Mirrors will introduce a new duo, Commissaire Laurence (Samuel Labarthe) and reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir), in the 1950s.

It will be very hard for them to top Larosière and Lampion, whose era is already a classic. Abroad Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is aired in Finland, Hungary and Japan. The music is by film and TV composer Stéphane Moucha (Das Leben der Anderen) and Romain Segaud designed the great title sequence. Petits meurtres mais grande série.

In French:

See also: (Title sequence)

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Doctor Who - Asylum of the Daleks (Series Seven, Episode One). It's a day like any other day in Albert Square. Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) have a problem, the Daleks have a problem and the new girl in the block has a problem. The Doctor (Matt Smith) has a problem too: the Daleks wants him to solve their problem.

After eight months since The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe (the 2011 Christmas special) and almost one year since the last regular episode, Doctor Who is finally back for its seventh series on BBC One and BBC America. Five episodes in september, this year's Christmas special, and the remaining eight episodes in 2013.

Series six was uneven and often talkative, looking overinvested in terms of production values at some points and the reverse at some others. And sorry but its high concept soap story arc was painful (1). But who cares anyway? As Doctor Who's 50th birthday approaches, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are more popular than ever. Fans majoritarily adore the work of showrunner Steven Moffat and his writing team. The ratings are great and the brand is commercially at the top globally. It's so global that viewers outside the U.K. get a pre-title sequence with Mrs Pond reassuring us just in case we'd think this is Strictly Come Dancing.

« Hang on a minute, lads, I've got a great idea! »
(Charlie Croker, The Italian Job)

No Doctor at the London Olympics opening ceremony? Don't panic. We've been promised "a blockbuster every single week" for this series (2). Each episode is meant to be written like a "movie poster" and have one, which is amusing given the brouhaha around a the possibility of a jump to the big screen. The title sequence has been given a (terrible) makeover and the logo changes according to the theme of the episode. This is the "year of the blockbuster" and it starts with an Asylum of the Daleks packed, we're told, with "every Dalek ever!"

The Doctor is thought dead but the Daleks manage to bring him in front of their parliament, where he's reunited with the future ex-Pond couple because the time lord's deadliest enemies have a most unusual demand. Yes, the rigid pepper pots do have a parliament and even a Prime minister! - Question Time must worth a look. « What do you know of the Dalek asylum? » asks M to 007. The Daleks have a planet where they dump their broken ones (the battle-scarred, the insane, Spike Milligan's "Pakistani Dalek", etc...) (3)

« It never made any sense to me, » comments a lucid Doctor. « Because you'd just kill them. » But they have not only a parliament and a PM, they have also cafés philo where they discuss the beauty of the "divine hatred"(« Perhaps that is why we have never been able to kill you. ») This sudden state of enlightenment doesn't include Georges Bizet apparently. Somewhere on the asylum planet a young woman is listening to Carmen and making soufflés while the crème de la crème of nutter Daleks is about to escape.

« How much trouble, Mr. Pond? Out of ten? Eleven. »

The real divine element of Asylum of the Daleks, written by Steven Moffat himself, is the early arrival of Jenna-Louise Coleman, due to appear as the Doctor's new companion at Christmas. There will be no two-parter but we cannot bet for no arc as her introduction augurs another contrived storyline - the "twist" was no Keyser Söze - to replace the Pond soap opera. Moffat's recycling of his own previous ideas has been widely noticed and the episode displays a formidable sense of self-awareness, which culminates with the « Run, you clever boy. And remember » scene.

The Daleks won't remember (oh, lucky them). « Doctor who? » Precisely... On the plus side, director Nick Hurran gives a true cinematic feel to this Asylum of the Daleks and a return of Anamaria Marinca (The Last Enemy) as Darla Von Karlsen, the "Dalek puppet" (surely they have no word for "action figure"), would be interesting. Matt Smith's portrayal of the Doctor remains amazing and Nicholas Briggs does a superb job as the voice of the Daleks.

(3) (In French)

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï, the German private channel RTL's long-running action/crime drama, started its new fall season on thursday night with its traditional 90-minute "Pilotfilm".

Although the show was launched in 1996, Engel des Todes opens its 32nd series (it is aired in "blocks") and has what you can expect from a series produced by action concept : a lot of destruction, car stunts and explosions. But this one also has Bruce Willis in The Jackal... Well, sort of.

Semir Gerkhan (Erdogan Atalay) has taken a desk job at LKA to spend more time with his family. Ben Jäger (Tom Beck) must patrol with a new partner, Claudia (Nadine Wrietz), when Andri Vladic (Ralf Moeller) - brother of war criminal Djavo Vladic (Manfred Lehmann) - and his men sow mayhem and devastation on the motorway. The wrong time for stratospheric pain in the a** conspiracy theorist Oliver "Sturmi" Sturm (Oliver Pocher) to phone Ben. Semir rapidly works again with Jäger but doesn't tell his wife Andrea (Carina Wiese).

It's a tradition since Das Ende der Welt (the brilliant 200th episode), German comedian Oliver Pocher appears each year as "Sturmi" in the premiere. But this once hilarious local version of Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon franchise or The Lone Gunmen (The X-Files), managed to become cringy in the tiresome 72 Stunden Angst (2011). Not only for his cop friends Semir and Ben but also for the viewers. Thankfully it's up to the supper baddie played by Ralf Moeller to end his agony (and ours) by offering him one of the worst character exits in the history of Alarm für Cobra 11.

Moeller seems to have a good time playing in Engel des Todes, which also guest stars Bruce Willis... Or at least the very talented Berlin-born actor Manfred Lehmann, who happens to be the German dubbing voice of Bruce Willis (amongst others). This can help when your plot borrows to The Jackal (1997). Oliver Sturm too busy being dead, most of the comic relief of the episode is meant to be provided by actress Nadine Wrietz - who deserves better material.

Written by Ralf Ruland and directed by Franco Tozza, this special of Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï leaves the impression of a lavish rerun. Its ratings are lavish too so Cobra 11 could possibly last forever. Engel des Todes looks like it does already.

In German:

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


The Last Weekend (ITV1) [Spoiler-free review]. From Carnival Films (Downton Abbey, Whitechapel) comes this compelling and well-paced 3 X 60-minute psychological thriller adapted from Blake Morrison's novel by Mick Ford (Single Father) and directed by Jon East.

« The owls are not what they seem. » (Twin Peaks)
« Everybody lies. » (Gregory House)

Two unlikely friends, Ian (Shaun Evans) and Ollie (Rupert Penry-Jones), spend a bank holiday weekend at a lovely Suffolk cottage with their respective partners, Em (Claire Keelan) and Daisy (Genevieve O'Reilly). The former is a disillusioned primary school teacher, the latter a successful barrister. « Every year, or at least when we can, Ollie and I have a three event triathlon for money. Which... which matters. » What should be a relaxing four-day break turns bad when competition between the two university buddies and hidden feelings resurface with tragic consequences.

« I don't want you to feel like I'm hiding things from you, but I don't want you missing out either. Because each piece of information matters. » Three months later Ian narrates and comments what happened in and around the country house, but also his student days when the two men met Daisy for the first time. « All truth is subjective. » Ollie has a secret. Why did he tell Ian that he "could murder someone tomorrow"? And who is Milo (Swedish actor Alexander Karim) who joins the couples with his two daughters?

« You shouldn't be driving.
- It's my last weekend. »

The Last Weekend is a twisted tale of friendship, "love", jealousy and manipulation with welcome shakespearean accents. Facing the always excellent Rupert Penry-Jones as another upper-class lawyer (he's Clive Reader in Silk), Shaun Evans (Endeavour, Martina Cole's The Take) delivers a stunning performance as our guide to this round trip from confusion to tragedy. « Everything's connected, you see. Everything. » The elements spread throughout the three parts lead you to a red colored conclusion but first look who's talking.

The smart cinematography is by the talented Adam Suschitzky. The atmospheric score is by Rob Lane (Hidden, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher). Carnival's Sally Woodward Gentle (Whitechapel) exec produces The Last Weekend, which is distributed globally by NBCUniversal. Christopher Hall (Hidden) is the producer.

« Daisy, Daisy.
Give me your answer, do.
I'm half crazy.
All for the love of you. »
(Harry Dacre, Daisy Bell)

Monday, 3 September 2012


Dallas, the 2012 version of the landmark 80s primetime soap, aired from June to August on American cable channel TNT. It is announced in France for January 2013 on private channel TF1 (after a release this summer on its VoD service in English with subs) and arrives in the U.K. on Channel 5 this Wednesday September 5th.

« Blood may be thicker than water but oil is thicker than both. »

Created by David Jacobs, the original Dallas ran for 356 episodes from 1978 to 1991 on US network CBS. It centered on the Ewings, a wealthy Texas family who owned the 340-acre Southfork ranch and the Ewing Oil company. Its eldest son, the scheming J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), rapidly became the most popular character. He was constantly feuding with his younger and nicer brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and was married to the long-suffering alcoholic Sue Ellen (Linda Gray). Dallas made television history in 1980 with one of its trademark cliffhangers when someone shot J.R. - but he survived. Later a whole season was made a "dream" to allow the return of Bobby from the dead... in his shower.

Finally the devil himself (the great Joel Grey) seemed to succeed in doing what even J.R.'s worst enemy, Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), couldn't do as the show bowed out at the end of its fourteenth season - Dallas's spinoff Knots Landing had a similar long run from 1979 to 1993. J.R. and the Ewings, however, came back for two reunion TV movies in 1996 and 1998 before cable channel TNT decided in 2010 to bring back Dallas for a filming the following year. Developed by writer and producer Cynthia Cidre (Cane, The Mambo Kings), the new series is a continuation of its predecessor - although events of the movies are ignored - and stars a new regular cast alongside Dallas nobilities Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman.

Desperate Housewives alumni Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson play Christopher and John Ross, respectively Bobby's adopted son and J.R.'s son. The family is about to gather at Southfork for Christopher's wedding with Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo) when John Ross and Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster) discover a gusher under the ranch. But Bobby, happily married to Ann (Desperate Housewives regular Brenda Strong) and retired from the oil business to raise cattle, wants no drilling on the 150-year old property. So John Ross complains to daddy, who's silent in a cozy nursing home for clinical depression. Finding the spark he needed to regenerate, J.R. mutters that « Bobby was always a fool ». The Master... Reborn!

« It's better to be old than to be the devil. »

Larry Hagman, 80, is in top shape. J.R. Ewing is more dangerous than ever, the cross between a Shakesperean patriarch, a mafia don (the pre-credit sequence of the third episode) and an alligator. Ken Kercheval, 76, appears in 3 episodes as J.R.'s arch-nemesis Cliff Barnes - now in the casino business - who has a pivotal role in the new series (1). The 2012 Dallas has some of the defects of contemporary American dramas but captures brilliantly the spirit of the original, towards which it shows a lot of respect through a multitude of details (« Nobody gives you power, real power is something you take. ») Viewers need time to get interest for the young generation but their patience is rewarded and Josh Henderson conquers his legitimacy as J.R.'s heir with style.

The new Dallas is entirely and superbly filmed in Texas and of course at the legendary Southfork Ranch. Though shortened the fabulous theme intro by Jerrold Immel is there in a great soundtrack by Rob Cairns. TV buffs will enjoy the presence of Carlos Bernard (24) as ruthless Venezualian businessman Vicente Cano and Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files) as Harris Ryland, Ann Ewing's sneaky ex-husband. This 10-episode series - it is renewed for a second season in 2013 - is a masterclass on how a television classic must be revived, a family saga equivalent of the modern Doctor Who in terms of TV resurrection: a gift to the fans and a classy invitation for a new public. The "new" Dallas? No, Dallas.

Dallas is produced by Cynthia Cidre's prodco Cyntax in association with Warner Horizon Television.

« We've got some catching up to do, son. »

(1) Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing) and Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) also appear.