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On Saturday morning I received a text message from a friend who is a huge Twin Peaks fan:

“So Dale Cooper first arrives in Twin Peaks at 11:30am.  Yesterday at that exact time both David Lynch and Mark Frost sent the same tweet”:

The text also quoted Dale Cooper “When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention”

The immediate reaction.  Lynch and Frost are going to re-team for a new Twin Peaks series or Movie.  The speculation was ended on Monday when they tweeted their intentions:

The Show Time website confirms the series is set to return in 2016, to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the original run.  Original creators/producers David Lynch and Mark Frost are on board and will write and produce all nine episodes and Lynch will direct them.   No plot details have been released but many original cast members have expressed an interest and I understand Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper) has confirmed he will be reprising his role.

We are long overdue for a serving of cherry pie and some damn fine coffee!

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Have we run out of ideas?  below are the Synopsis for three TV shows.

  1. “When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border, Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish Saga Norén have to share jurisdiction and work together to find the killer.”Bron Broen
  2. “Two detectives work together to take down a serial killer operating on both sides of the Texas-Chihuahua border.”the brigde
  3. “Set primarily in Folkestone and Calais where detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann are called to investigate the death of a French politician. When a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, the pair is forced into an uneasy partnership as they seek out a politically-motivated serial killer who draws them into his own personal agenda.”The Tunnel

Sound familurar, they are all based on the same story.  The first is the Danish/Swedish co production Broen (Danish) , Bron (Swedish) or, The Bridge in UK and US.  Created and written by Hans Rosenfeldt, The Bridge Scandinavian crime drama based on the premise of an unusual murder investigation.  The body is found on the half way point of the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, giving the two countries joint jurisdiction.  The interesting this about the show isn’t the plot or the premise, or the haunting opening music (Hollow Talk by the Copenhagen band Choir of Young Believers) but the characters.  Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) from the Sweden Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) from Demark.  Hugley different characters they make a surprisingly formidable team.  At first there appears to be something a little odd about Saga, her idiosyncrasies are never totally explained but most viewers have come to the conclusion that she has Asperger’s syndrome.Sofia Helin

The second is the American remake, also called The Bridge, made and broadcast by FX.  Set between El Paso and Juarez and taking the same idea of a body found between the two justifications.  Diane Kruger plays the US Detective Sonya Cross and Demián Bichir plays Mexican Detective Marco Ruiz. The Third description is for The Tunnel, a British/French co production.  This time the body is found, you guessed it, in the Channel Tunnel.  Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy play the English and French detectives respectively.

Although I have watched both seasons of the Scandinavian original, I haven’t seen either of the two remakes.  I have heard reasonable reports on them and am sure they are perfectly entertaining programs, as much as I like Diane Kruger, Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy I cannot imagine anyone other than Sofia Helin and Kim Bodniain the parts.  Like a cover version of a song you love, it may be okay but do you really need it?  but it goes further with a TV show.  A singer may bring something new to a song, but is a remake of TV show just a cynical attempt to cash in on a successful idea?  But what of my original question.  Have we run out of ideas?  Yes and No!  The original show demonstrates that there are still original ideas out there.  But cinemas are filled with sequels, reboots and English Language remakes of European and Asian films.  But Television is in danger of going the same way.  I don’t think we have run out of ideas, it is just that in this supposed golden age of television the stakes are so high many have lost their nerve and are afraid of the new and would rather embrace the familiar.  That is why as audiences we owe it to ourselves to support the best and the most original while ignoring the generic and unoriginal.  Kim Bodnia

I am looking forward to next year’s third season of Bron/Broen but will I watch either remake? Probably not.

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The day after my sixth birthday my brother told me about the most amazing television program. I’m not entirely sure how he knew so much about it when I didn’t, I can only assume being two years older than me he had a later bedtime. That evening we sat down to watch what turned out to be the final episode. More than thirty years later I remember nothing of the program other than the final scene that I remember in great detail. It is probably this spoiler that has preventing me from ever looking out the show until now. The program in question is Blakes 7 created by Terry Nation (the man responsible for creating the Daleks for Doctor Who) and made by the BBC.blakes 7

Around 36 years after it first aired I have just watched the first season. A sort of intergalactic Robin Hood. Set in a future reality and following a group of escaped convicts led by Roj Blake, a political dissident fighting against the injustice and corruption of “The Federation”, the totalitarian government of the universe. The group travel on a mysterious alien spaceship known as the Liberator. The Liberator is conveniently faster and better armoured than the ships of the Federation who are always one step behind. The locations are a similar combination of studio interiors and English countryside to early Doctor Who. A reboot has often been muted but never realised, however themes of the show have been seen in other programs such as: Red Dwarf, Farscape, Lexx, Andromeda, Firefly.the liberator blakes 7
As with any program of the day the sets are cheap and effects are terrible at best. However the production design is surprisingly good. This combination of good and bad is the main reason why it could benefit from a reboot.  Hopefully anyone thinking of remaking it will remember to put an apostrophe in the title.

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I have been hearing the term Long-form television a lot recently. It is a term I had never heard of a few years ago. There doesn’t appear to be a single definitive definition of the term, for the purposes of this article I will take it to describe a TV show with a story arc that runs across multiple episodes. In some cases this can run over an whole season, or the run of an entire show.

Although most of the shows I grew up with were made up of single plot episodes there were a few that would fall into what we now call long-form. These days every other show seems to be long-form, they aren’t limited to any particular genre. The Wire and the Danish show The Killing, cover crime drama, Homeland is a spy thriller; House of Cards a political drama, Battlestar Galactica, Sci-Fi, The Walking Dead, Horror; Game of Thrones, fantasy.game-of-thrones

I was initially skeptical about talk of television being better than films. However I am beginning to see the benefit of some of the best examples. It would be impossible make a film with the characters and plot strands seen in Game of Thrones, even if it was a Peter Jackson length film. I am not however a total convert, the limitations of length of feature films can promote creativity and result in the true art. There is also something appealing about watching a complete story, and that is what prompted me to write this. I recently watched all eight episodes of True Detective in two sittings. It struck me that not only was I watching it like a film, but this was the best way to watch it. When I thought about it isn’t the first time I have binged on TV shows, I am actually watching Boardwalk Empire as I write this.true detective

It appears I am not alone, listening to the Rotten Tomatoes podcast, they talk of television as cinemas equal and are as interested in the new shows as they are in new film releases. In the latest episode the main topic of conversation was season two of Orange Is the New Black and how they intended to binge watch it. This is possible thanks to Netflix releasing the whole season in one go and not showing it over three months the way it would be on TV.  We are watching TV shows as (long) films, this is interesting as films are becoming more like TV with franchises and book series adaptations.  Orange Is the New Black

Cinema is still my first love, television is not cinema and will never be cinema, it is a very different beast. I am however happy to enjoy televisions renaissance and the quality shows that it is delivering. But more importantly the way the internet has given us a new, easier and more flexible way of enjoying it.  Whatever happens, I am sure people will look back on this time as a time of change in media, hopefully it will continue to be a change for the better.  

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As I listened to the radio on my drive to work on Monday a news story got me thinking. Reporting on the previous nights Primetime Emmys the main topic of conversation was the lack of British success. Those expecting a Downton Abbey landslide were disappointed, personally I was more disappointed at the lack of recognition for Luther (that received four nominations in 2012) but that’s a different conversation. The thing that interested me was two of the winning programs:Downton Abbey

American political drama House of Cards is based on the BBC miniseries of the same name from the early 90’s famous for introducing the phrase: “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.” Like the original series has been described as examining issues of ambition, power, and corruption in the vein of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Richard III. Unlike the original that was made screened on the BBC, the American version was made by independent production company MRC (Media Rights Capital) and most interestingly premiered on Netflix after outbidding HBO, Showtime and AMC. It is also available via Apple’s iTunes and Apple TV services.House of Cards

It has been reported that Steven Soderbergh and Michael Douglas had first discussed a Liberace Biopic as far back as 2000 during the production of Traffic. When they finally came up with an angle for the story they struggled to secure funding, Soderbergh claiming Hollywood studios found it “too gay.” Eventually they HBO Films stumped up $23million and Behind the Candelabra was made. While it received a UK cinema release in America it premiered on HBO.Behind the Candelabra

These programs may not seem that significant in the greater scheme of film and television, but when you think about it they represent the biggest change in the media’s for a long time. What they boil down to, is a film premiering on TV and a TV show premiering online. Made for television movies are nothing new, but with A list stars and directors it has a different feel to it. As for the online world Amazon/Lovefilm have already got in on the act with their own programs. In future are companies like these going to use TV shows rather than their film content to win customers?

 I would still rather watch movies on the big screen of the cinema and a laptop computer is the only device I have capable of streaming TV and films. This is why I am not the main target audience for either of these changes, but I will still be watching them with interest.

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As I sit watching the second episode of Peaky Blinders I can’t help thinking about the fundamental difference between British and American television drama. On first sight British television is the poor relation. While an American show will run for more than twenty episodes to a season more often than not any British program with high production costs will only get six episodes per season. The best examples of this are The Hour (12 over two seasons), Case Histories (9 episodes over 2 seasons) and Luther (14 episodes over 3 seasons). . What they lack in quantity they more than make up for in quality. I am not saying British shows are better than American ones, clearly they are not in comparison to programs like Justified, Mad Men and The Wire. However the restraint and constraint of the short seasons allow the best shows to remain fresh, original and leave the audiences wanting more. This becomes more evident when you look at shows like CSI, The Sopranos and Lost who all started well but lost their way.4482400-high_res-peaky-blinders.jpg

So how is Peaky Blinders shaping up? Whilst not up to the best of British or American drama mentioned above, it is certainly an enjoyable program that is building and unfolding nicely. Cillian Murphy is very good in the lead role despite his inconsistent Birmingham accent but is overshadowed by the excellent Helen McCrery (who depending on your point of view is best know as either Damian Lewis’ or Narcissa Malfoy). The format is as much an urban western as family dram or gangster show.  The production design excellent giving a believable post World War 1 inner city setting. And that is the interest for me, the setting. While the setting for British film and television has diversified and moved away from just London in recent years one location has been mostly overlooked, my home city Birmingham. An industrial city in the heart of England and at the forefront of the industrial revolution, Birmingham built cars and motorcycles are know all over the world, as the music of Birmingham bands but it is a city that has never made a dent in film and television.Peaky Blinders

And that takes us back to the start, when it comes to film and television, England’s second city has an identity crisis and an inferiority complex, just like British television drama. The BBC or ITV (responsible for Downton Abbey) simply can’t compete with AMC, HBO and Fox for budget this doesn’t stop people comparing British show being compared to or described in relation to bigger American shows and thus, Peaky Blinders is the British Boardwalk Empire. There are certainly similarities, but there are also big differences. Set at a similar time in two very different places, they are actually worth watching together.

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justified-season-4Last week saw the last episode of the season of possibly the best, certainly my favourite American TV show of recent years, Justified. When the show started in 2010 it looked like it was going to be just another American cop show, but then something happened a few episodes in. although each episode is largely self contained, each season has its own over arching story that develops in most of the episode. We can thank Elmore Leonard for the original idea, the show started life as “Fire in the Hole” a 60 page novella he wrote in 2001. As with a lot of Leonard’s writing the story is driven by the dialogue more than the narrative, this found its way into the show especially through Boyd Crowder who will always use a sentence when a word would do. The first episode contains a lot of the ideas from the book and introduces the characters Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins ) and his sister-in-law, Ava (Joelle Carter). Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant ) had already appeared in Pronto and the follow-up Riding the Rap. The driving force behind the show is Graham Yost, creator, show runner, executive producer and some time writer. And this is where the story finds its real strength, the writing. To extend the story from 60 pages to 52 hours of television (to date) is a real achievement.JustifiedTimothyOlyphant

The way it holds the viewers interest is simple, the characters. You expect Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder to be well written characters, but it goes beyond that, and includes the supporting characters. With the best part of another dozen well written characters including other U.S. Marshal’s, low level criminals and The Dixie Mafia the show has a depth and breadth of character that no other show can on TV at the moment can match. This not only helps keep the interest but also gives the show potential longevity. The beauty of the format is the way it allows characters to be promoted from supporting and background characters to more important ones when the story needs it. There is also a wealth of recurring characters who are also we rounded and perfectly cast.JUSTIFIED: Joelle Carter.  CR: Frank Ockenfels III / FX

At the heart of the show is Raylan Givens a cowboy hat wearing Deputy U.S. Marshal, who is described in the source novella as “a man who is born 100 years too late”. A perfect stereotypical character, honest and righteous but always pushing the boundaries of the rules, he is far from “by-the-book”. A quick draw man straight out of the old west, despite his best attempts for a peaceful resolution, he shoots (and kills) a lot of people. But on his own, how good could the character be? Givens and Boyd Crowder are two sides of the same coin. The pair knew each other as kids and “dug coal together” in their teens, they have real if begrudging respect for each other. As Boyd often reminds Raylan they aren’t that different.Boyd Crowder Walton Goggins

The first three seasons all hard a story revolving around a central villain. In season one it was Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey), Boyd’s farther who runs the local drug trade. Season two sees the converging forces of a mining conglomerate and Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her family drug business. In season three it is Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), an exiled lieutenant from Detroit crime family. In season four it all changed as the overriding story involved an investigation into a twenty year old crime and the secret identity of the perpetrator. But two characters held all these stories together, Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder are always there in some way or another, as the stories develop there involvement increases. Don’t underestimate the geniuses and subtlety of the writing that makes this possible.justified_cast

A fifth season has been announced for 2014. There are lots of things that need to fall into place for the show to succeed and remain fresh, I’m not worried.

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It is relatively easy for a main character in a TV show to be a perfectly cast well drawn and rounded character, but the best shows can claim the same in the supporting roles. There are many of them: Katey Sagal in Sons of Anarchy, Peter Dinklage (one of an ensemble rather than a supporting character) in Game of Thrones and Kelly Macdonald in Boardwalk Empire, but there are two that really stand out for me: Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan in Luther and Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in Justified.Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins

We first met Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) in the first episode of Luther back in 2010. Fresh back from seven month suspension, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) returns to investigate a home invasion/double murder. After interviewing Alice, the victims daughter he soon realises that she killed them but can’t prove it. In any normal show that would be the end of it but Luther is far from a normal show. A genius, sociopath, narcissist and serial killer she should be a detestably character but is strangely alluring for both Luther and viewers of the show.Alice Morgan

The great thing about Boyd Crowder is that he is both ambiguous and morally ambiguous. We first meet him as a white supremacist who doesn’t appear to be a racist (unless there is money in it). He reinvents himself as a preacher but appears to atheist. A reluctant war hero, he is highly intelligent and well read but most likely self taught. Every sentence he utters contains about three times more words than needed and often contains quotes from scripture and literature. On top of this he is a childhood friend of the shows main character U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), it is often mentioned the pair dug coal together as teenagers. Originally appearing as favour to his friend, Timothy Olyphant, Boyd was shot in the first episode “Fire in the Hole”. Rumour has it that the character was supposed to die, however after a positive reception from the test audience became a recurring and main character. A career criminal and reprehensible character you just can’t help liking.boyd-crowder

Perfectly written, but it goes deeper than that the two characters are so perfectly cast, it is quite possible that no other actor could play then half as well Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins. If you aren’t familiar with the two shows, go back and watch them from the start, they are worth seeing on their own merits as well as for these tow great characters.

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Recent BBC TV Shows

British TV has been awash with American imports for as long as I can remember. I am currently enjoying The second season of Sons of Anarchy and am looking forward The Walking Dead and the second season of Justified. But what of our own home-grown programming? Since its reboot in 2005, the real success story has been Doctor Who, Downton Abbey also is proving very popular (I have only seen one episode) but what else has there been to watch recently?

Two new series recently debuted on The BBC: Outcasts and Silk. Outcasts is a Sci-Fi show with a fantastic premise and a great cast. Set on the fictional planet Carpathia (named after the ship that came to the rescue of survivors from Titanic) in the year 2040 after Earth has become uninhabitable. Sadly the great premise is wasted on a dull and tedious story. Undergoing numerous rewrites (it shows) before entering production the show lacks focus and direction with episodes having vastly differing tones. What could have been the BBC’s Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 (on a smaller scale/budget) turned out to be an incoherent mess. After a few episodes the show lost its primetime slot and was eventually cancelled. As such it may gain a cult following, it doesn’t deserve one!

Starting around the same time and coming to the end of its six episode run in Silk. A British legal drama set around a London barristers chambers. The story follows two rival barristers who have both recently taken on pupils and who are both in competition to “take silk” (the act of attain the rank of Queen’s Counsel). With interesting characters and believable stories the show makes compelling viewing. The real success of the show is the casting: Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones as the rivals for Silk, Tom Hughes and Natalie Dormer as their respective pupils and Neil Stuke as the wheeler-dealer head clerk. The realism is enhanced by the knowledge that the shows creator and writer Peter Moffat was himself a barrister. Hopefully a second (longer) series will follow.

Another recent show that I would like to see get a second season is Zen. Produced by Left Bank Pictures for the BBC in association with the German ZDF and American WGBH-TV networks the series consisted of just three, ninety minute episodes based on the Aurelio Zen detective novels by Michael Dibdin. Shot and set in Italy the show looked stunning and featured a great cast lead by Rufus Sewell in the title role. Each episode had a standalone main plot but also contained an ongoing story. Containing an interesting mix and a perfect balance between gritty and glossy it offers something a little different to the usual British TV drama. It doesn’t look like the BBC will pick up the show for a second season but it has been suggested that another network may do, I certainly hope they do.

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Dollhouse

  • Fox and Cancelled are two words that seem to appear together in a lot of sentences! Dollhouse was created by Joss Whedon and ran for just two seasons (I have only seen the first one so far). Centred around a secret underground establishment, the Dollhouses of the title. The Dollhouse contains people know as Actives who are programmed to take on temporary personalities and skills; wealthy clients hire these “dolls” to perform various tasks, their minds are then wiped. The episodes work as stand alone stories but have a thread running through them with an ongoing plot that develops most notably an “Active”, Echo (Eliza Dushku) is gradually becoming self aware despite her mind wiping. Given what Joss Whedon did with Firefly/Serenity a movie version would be unlikely but potentially awesome.
  • Cast
  • Eliza Dushku – Echo
  • Will it be made? Doubtful

Jericho

  • Telling the story of the inhabitants of Jericho, a small town in rural Kansas and how they survive after America has been decimated by nuclear attacks on 23 major cities. The show was cancelled after just two seasons with what remains of the united states forming alliances that could result in a second civil war. There is perfect source material for a movie as the series was followed by a six-part comic book series.
  • Cast
  • As many of the original cast as the plot will allow most notably:
  • Skeet Ulrich – Jake Green
  • Lennie James – Robert Hawkins
  • Will it be made? there have been rumours

 

Drive

  • A diverse group of people are invited/coerced into an illegal car race across America with the promise of $32million prize money. In the background there are darker more sinister things going on with the race organisers and sponsors. Despite a great cast, some good action and an interesting premise the show sadly bombed and fox cancelled it with only six episodes and an unaired pilot in existence. The cancellation of the show could be worked into a movie version, the story would be along the lines that the race was cancelled around the time the show was cancelled but a new race is now underway with key members of the original cast returning.
  • Cast
  • The original cast including:
  • Nathan Fillion – Alex Tully
  • Amy Acker – Kathryn Tully
  • Emma Stone – Violet Trimble
  • Kristin Lehman – Corinna Wiles
  • Will it be made? Unfortunately not

 

24

  • Its not a new idea, a film adaptation of 24 was originally talked about in the hiatus between series six and seven. A script was written and rejected last year leaving the movie in limbo. To keep the real-time concept of the show but condense it into a two hour movie needs a device to make it work. In this case it is a simple device, set the movie in a confined space such as a single building, i.e. Jack Baur does Die Hard. It has been rumoured that Tony Scott is going to pitch his idea, a Tony Scott version of 24 is a movie I would like to see.
  • Cast
  • Kiefer Sutherland – Jack Bauer
  • Will it be made? Probably, eventually

 

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

  • To go full circle and base a movie on a TV show that was based on a movie would be a brave decision but one that could really work. Following on from Terminator 2: Judgment Day but taking a different time line and reality to Rise of the Machines and Salvation the premise of the show lets it live alongside the movie franchise. The plot possibilities are endless but I would like to see Shirley Manson’s Catherine Weaver, a T-1001 (similar to the T-1000 from Terminator 2) with an ambiguous agenda. The only issue I had with the original show was that given the name of the show I would like to see more Sarah Connor and less John Connor.
  • The Cast
  • Lena Headey – Sarah Connor
  • Thomas Dekker – John Connor
  • Summer Glau – Cameron Phillips
  • Shirley Manson – Catherine Weaver
  • Will it be made? Extremely unlikely

 Also see my list of TV shows that could make great movies from last year.

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