Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

Red Nose Day draws near and the excitement is palpable.  However, as it is with most of my telly experiences, this special event will happen second hand for me. I won’t be able to watch any of the sketches, challenges or donation appeals live.

For example, I won’t learn what has horrified the midwives so…

image credit radiotimes.com

image credit radiotimes.com


Or discover what this man has been up to for the past ten years on the actual Red Nose night…


Much of the telethon’s content is eventually made available thanks to the BBC and other YouTube contributors who share clips of the evening’s highlights.

But in the end, what’s important about Red Nose Day is that it inspires people to get involved and do their share.  From school children…


To fundraising suggestions for grannies…


What I admire about Comic Relief’s efforts is the attempt to unite a country through laughter and, in so doing, inspiring them to engage their humanity locally and globally. This is the true meaning of Red Nose Day!


You don’t have to live in the UK to participate, so if you’d like to make a donation, click here for more details.

I wish a Happy Red Nose Day to everyone and hope you find yourself doing something funny for money on March 15th…and beyond!


Read Full Post »

I just spent my lunch hour watching a BBC documentary about the music and career of this woman:


Before stumbling upon this program, I had never heard of Mrs. (Gladys) Mills.  She was famous for playing timeless standards and show tunes in stride piano style which, according to thefreedictionary.com, is a “style of jazz piano playing in which the right hand plays the melody and the left hand alternates between the bass notes on the strong beats and chords on the weak ones”. (I threw that in for my music major, piano playing daughter.)

You may think Mrs. Mills was at the height of her popularity in the 40’s or 50’s, but she was actually a pop chart contemporary of the Beatles.  Her albums were recorded at the Abbey Road studios and Paul McCartney played Mrs. Mills’ own specially outfitted piano on songs like “Penny Lane” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.”  She continued to record and perform her musical act on tv with comedians like Morecambe and Wise into the mid-1970’s.

What seems so English about this is the whole quintessential pub sing-along aspect.  I can imagine songs like this are now only cherished by people of a certain age, but in my British telly skewed mind, there are pubs all up and down the country where English folk are gathered around a piano, belting out these enduring tunes.  Just the fact that Mrs. Mills was sharing the charts with the Rolling Stones and the Fab Four is a wonderful, eccentric dichotomy.

Let’s Have a Party! The Piano Genius of Mrs. Mills is currently available on YouTube.  It features footage of the late Mrs. Mills as well as commentary by music historians, colleagues and fans of, by all accounts,  this very ordinary lady with extraordinary talents and personality.

Read Full Post »

Green Wing is a television show that is difficult to pin down.  It’s primarily a comedy but was produced in hour-long episodes more like a drama series.  While there are ongoing storylines, the show is composed mostly of sketch-like scenes that feel as if they stand alone.  The focus of the show revolves around the soap operatic relationships between various hospital staff members such as the bittersweet love story of Caroline and Mac. And yet indescribable things like this happen:


After watching all eighteen episodes of this absurd, camera-tricky, melodramatic, sweet, edgy ball of contradiction called Green Wing, I believe I’ve gleaned some lessons about medical matters in the UK and the full extent of adult content programming.

First off, they call their doctors different things than we do in the States.

Consultants are senior specialist physicians who’ve completed all necessary training in their field. (In America, we tend to call them attending physicians.) For example, Doctor Alan Statham is a radiology consultant.

Dr. Statham is rubbish at teaching, social interaction and physical coordination. We can only assume his ability to read X-rays is top-notch.

Registrars are doctors who are undergoing advanced training towards becoming a specialist.  Caroline Todd is a surgical registrar.

Starting on the left: Dr. Todd (registrar) is joined by Guy Secretan (anesthesiologist) and Dr. Macartney (surgeon) for on-the-job experience and, more likely, shenanigans in the surgery theatre.

Finally we have House Officers (similar to interns in the US).  Boyce is under the direct supervision of consultants and other senior staff and primarily lives to torment Dr. Statham.


Martin Dear, on the other hand, never seems to be able to pass the exams that will allow him to progress in his medical career:


Don’t let all the medical titles and jargon above fool you.  The second thing I’ve learned from Green Wing is that medical procedures rarely take place in hospitals.  In the UK, hospitals are venues for practical jokes, deviant sexual behaviors and parking space feuds.  They are receptacles where strange people gather and pretend to work, but spend a majority of their time in the canteen or making up games like the Spoon of Destiny. Patients are almost non-existent and when they are present, they’re basically scattered about like furniture or serve as props for the doctors’ amusement.


In addition, I have gathered that Human Resources departments are surprisingly short of humans.  Meet Green Wing‘s prickly, eccentric staff liaison officer, Sue White and her nemesis, Head of Human Resources, Joanna Clore.

Neither woman is particularly tolerant, let alone compassionate.  Sue is dangerously obsessed with a staff doctor and basically treats everyone else who comes to her for assistance with disdain.  Joanna hasn’t a kind word for anyone, particularly her son, and is deathly afraid of getting old.  Not really anyone you’d want in charge of your workday or private concerns.  Given these examples, one can only extrapolate that all hospital support personnel are nasty pieces of work.

My final observation is that what is allowed on UK television during the watershed period (9 pm and after) is basically…anything.  I’ve watched a lot of British programs so I like to think I’m immune to anything they throw at me.  But on Green Wing – maybe because the tone is so all over the place – I sometimes found myself surprised. Most swear words aside, the characteristic inappropriateness of Guy’s sexual comments actually offended me, as was intended.  Any nudity, of course, was always for comic effect, but Sue White’s painting of Martin’s frontal nudity was a bit of a graphic shock.  In fact, any artistic medium Sue took an interest in tended towards a phallic representation.

However, there is always something to pull the show back from the edge of total depravity.  Notice how skillfully the crassness of Guy is juxtaposed against the sweet quirkiness of Mac.


If you wish to venture into the mind-altering world that is Green Wing, the entire series is available on Hulu and Netflix.  If you wish to check into a hospital across the pond, just make sure it’s more like the hospital from something like Casuality and less like East Hampton Hospital, home of Green Wing… unless of course it’s true that laughter is the best medicine.

Read Full Post »

This is by no means breaking news ( I’ve never claimed to be an investigative journalist after all); however, a few days ago I discovered that The IT Crowd will not be coming back for a fifth series.

Moss, Jen and Roy, you will be missed.

You see, I follow series creator Graham Linehan, who happens to be quite a prolific tweeter, and sometime in the past 18 months, he announced he was working on the scripts for series 5.  Time passed, as it is wont to do, and the other day, I saw a Linehan tweet that read:

” Should I be tweeting that the IT Crowd is on? Because it is”

I tried to embed the tweet but to no avail. Instead I resorted to this cartoon avatar of Linehan. I just felt I should put some sort of graphic here.

Hurrah, I assumed this meant the new episodes were now being broadcast!  I immediately began to search the web for info on the series only to find that last October it had been announced that The IT Crowd was calling it a day. On the website Reddit, Mr. Linehan explained that he hadn’t been looking forward to making this new series as much as he had in the past and felt series 4 was a strong ending point for the show.

Maybe so, but I suspect that the main factor in ending the adventures of those loveable social misfits at Reynholm Industries was that the actors were getting too busy and, in some cases, too famous to be bothered continuing with the “Crowd” any longer.

Let’s begin with Katherine Parkinson:

She’s everywhere! That ginger woman with the distinctive voice can shift from giddy outburst to breathy drawl to gruff growl in a matter of moments

Over the past few years, she’s appeared in a great number of other projects interwoven within her run as Jen Barber, IT relationship manager.  She’s played Pauline Lamb, surgery receptionist, phlebotomist and compulsive gambler on Doc Martin; Amber, the neurotic daughter of Old Guys geezer, Tom; and more  recently, no-nonsense restaurant manager, Caroline in the egotistical chef sitcom, Whites.

I enjoy her every time she pops up on my screen, including her guest appearance as Kitty Riley in the very wonderful Sherlock episode, “The Reichenbach Fall”.  She seems to have no shortage of work and I can imagine her availability is getting difficult to schedule around.

On to Richard Ayoade:

Who knew that behind the ultra-nerdy persona of Maurice Moss was a budding filmmaker?

With his unusual looks and eccentric delivery, Ayoade has been primarily relegated to surreal roles.  Basically when not playing the King of the Geeks, IT technician Maurice Moss, Richard has worked on the  The Mighty Boosh and off-shoot projects of its cast and creators.  However in 2010, I was intrigued to hear that Ayoade had written and directed a little film getting a lot of festival buzz.  A coming-of-age dramedy, Submarine is witty and quirky but exhibits a lot of heart.  After a while, I forgot “Moss” was involved in this in any way.

In addition, Ayoade came across the pond to make a Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn 2012 sci-fi comedy called The Watch.  Intended to be one of those sort of raunchy summer movies, it was little more than average.  And while Ayoade’s role was pivotal, he didn’t have nearly enough screen time or punch lines. Nonetheless, I foresee him getting more screen time in front of and behind the camera in the future.

Richard Ayoade – unfortunately, his comedic strengths went underutilized in this Seth Rogen-penned comedy.


Finally we come to Chris O’Dowd, the main reason, I believe, behind  The IT Crowd is not continuing as a series:

This is where most Americans became acquainted with Chris O’Dowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame Mr. O’Dowd.  I’m sure that making it in Hollywood is the ultimate goal for a majority of actors…and I’ve seen it coming for quite some time.  From supporting roles in British films and tv, Chris started quietly making an impact with small parts in mainstream American films like Dinner for Schmucks and Gulliver’s Travels.  Then came that sweet policeman from Bridesmaids and all of a sudden he’s entered the awareness of people who would have never understood, never mind appreciated, The IT Crowd.  Whenever this happens I start to worry that my favorite British actors will go “totally Hollywood” and stop taking the sort of roles that made me appreciate their work in the first place, i.e. they’ll move to America and accept only roles in action blockbusters.

A generalization to be sure, but look at his recent string of films – Dark Knight, Taken and Titan franchises, Unknown, The Grey and Battleship. I rest my case.


As we speak, O’Dowd has a Judd Apatow comedy set for release this holiday season and a US tv series on the horizon so I’m hoping for the best. I am encouraged however that he has co-written and is currently starring in a British- based series called Moone Boy wherein he plays a boy’s imaginary friend.


Alas, the one small consolation is that we’ve been promised an extended IT Crowd special sometime later this year – Christmas, I’m guessing.  Maybe this will allow me closure and the time to accept that all good things must end.

As I’ve demonstrated above, there will be no shortage of screen time for these three actors( or probably for Graham Linehan either).  But whatever Katherine, Richard and Chris go on to do, I’ll always think back to where I first got to know them, in the manky, techie basement of Reynholm Industries.

Read Full Post »

During my morning browse of the IMDB website I discovered that today is the anniversary of the birth of two very different British actors.  They are:

Stephen Fry – someone I’d love to invite to a fantasy dinner party.

Fifty-five year old Stephen Fry is among many other things ” an author, actor, comedian, doer of good works, excellent good friend to the famous and not”. He is a Cambridge graduate, ex-con, presenter of documentaries and a comedy panel show and best friend of Hugh Laurie, aka House.  He happens to be openly gay, bipolar and a techie gadget aficionado.

Rupert Grint – someone I’d invite along to the dinner party so my kids would have someone their own age to hang out with

Twenty-four year old Rupert Grint is most famous for his portrayal of Ron Weasley. You know, from that charming kids’ movie series Harry Potter? His appearance on the movie scene (along with the entire red-headed Weasley clan) introduced me to a heretofore unfamiliar term, “ginger”.  He has appeared in a number of other lower profile films.  Most notably for me, his lead role in Driving Lessons showed a flicker of promise that he might successfully escape the HP sidekick stereotype. Time will tell, I suppose.  Rupert has not attended university, acknowledging he “really didn’t like school that much”.

So what do these two men have in common besides the day of their birth?  Not much. In fact, it would seem they are quite opposite.  Fry has acheived many impressive accolades while enduring some very serious personal problems as well.  Rupert, while obviously not setting the world on fire, appears to have found a way to sidestep some of the traps of fame that ensnare so many other young celebrities.  There may be something to be said for being of average talent and intelligence.

The one time the paths of these two birthday boys have intersected was in the filming of Thunderpants, that cinematic masterpiece about a boy with extraordinary flatulance and a dream to be a spaceman.

Please note: Rupert did not play the title role

Unfortunately I could not find a YouTube clip that featured both of them in the same scene.  Pity.

So this advert for UK Holidays at Home will have to suffice:


Many happy returns of the day, Stephen and Rupert!  Your dinner party invites are in the post.

Read Full Post »

Awhile back I used to write posts now and then entitled “Getting to Know…” wherein I would introduce my readers to a British tv performer who may be unfamiliar to an American audience.  I stopped doing that mainly because I wanted to focus on the lessons I had learned about British society but recently fate and Hulu have conspired to present me with repeated exposure to an actor named Darren Boyd. So I decided to revive the format and share Mr. Boyd’s talents with you.

Darren Boyd with his first BAFTA

I watch ALOT of British television so to find an established actor who hasn’t been on my radar is quite unusual.  My first chance encounter was a guest spot on the sitcom Rev.  In one episode, Boyd portrayed popular charismatic evangelist, Darren Betts (eerily similar names always make me wonder if the actor in question has difficulty remembering their character’s moniker). He attempts to take over Rev. Smallbone’s St. Saviour’s Church with his much larger congregation and sizable donation cash flow.

Next, I stumbled upon a sitcom called Whites starring Alan Davies about an ambitious but uninspired hotel chef named Roland White.  Lo and behold, there was Darren Boyd co-starring as Roland’s dutiful friend and sous chef, Bib. Poor Bib has a lot on his plate, as it were, running the kitchen from which Roland often goes AWOL, attempting to gain the respect of  new trainee, Skoose, and meeting his husbandly obligations by attempting to get his wife pregnant.

In spending a few blissful moments on YouTube browsing through Monty Python clips, I found something called Holy Flying Circus. This appears to be a dramatic, yet surreal, portrayal of the controversy that surrounded the Python’s 1979 feature film, The Life of Brian.  I’m watching a few scenes, noting the great casting they have done for Michael Palin when I realize…it’s that guy again, that Darren Boyd playing a very convincing John Cleese. So far I haven’t been able to find the entire tv movie on-line and it’s only available in Region 2 dvd.

And finally, after all this I find that Darren Boyd won the BAFTA last month for Best Male Performance in a Comedy for the role of Tim in Spy.  Tim is trying to retain custody of his brilliant yet manipulative son, Marcus.  Fed-up with his dead-end job, Tim decides a new career could only help his chances on the legal front.  He applies for a civil service position, but on the day of the interview, gets lost and ends up taking the exam for MI-5 agent trainees. To his surprise, he actually does quite well.  Now he’s living a double life, trying to hold on to his son and his new job as a spy.

If you enjoyed these snippets, I’d recommend sampling more of this actor’s work. Except for the Python film, all these programs are available to view on Hulu.   Wait a minute…do you think it’s possible Darren Boyd might be a part of Hulu’s eviler plot to destroy the world?  If so, I’m already doomed, I’m afraid.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts