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Posts Tagged ‘Reece Shearsmith’

Twitter UK logo

Twitter UK logo

It’s been five years and a few months since I started my Twitter account.   A slow and frustrating process, I’ve learned by trial and error what and how to tweet. I like to think I’ve got a handle on this social media medium by now despite the fact I’ve only amassed 328 followers thus far. It’s definitely a two steps forward one step back sort of proposition.  I don’t know if being on Twitter has driven previously unreachable readers to my blogs, but I have found it to be rewarding as means of communication with all sorts of people.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to published authors about their books. I found @LissaKEvans to be particularly gracious and approachable.

I was sent movie stills for a library screening of Tell Them of Us (@ww1Film) though Twitter contact.

I have voted to rescue talented young people from being eliminated from TV singing competitions. (#VoiceSaveOwen)

Mostly I can discuss British telly and culture in instantaneous and verbally economical exchanges with a subset of people who know who and what I’m talking about. They’re my witty, supportive virtual friends and they include bloggers such as @FrivolousMonsta and @LukeCustardtv.

But if the fan girl in me is honest, I have to admit the possibility of celebrity contact is what brings me back to check my feed time and again. I follow mostly British comedians and other creative types because, above all, I want my Twitter life to be more sparkling and clever than my real one. While one can never be certain, it’s painfully obvious in some cases that the feed isn’t maintained by the actual celebrity. Some like the tweets of Noel Fielding (@noelfielding11) are obviously being generated by the man himself. Besides all the photos he’s sharing from his North American tour, who else would say something like this?

In a way, Twitter has become, for me, a sort of metaphysical autograph book if you will. What follows are examples of some of my close encounters with luminaries across the sea.

Chris O’Dowd aka @BigBoyler – Mr. O’Dowd follows me on Twitter which, in my universe anyhow, is a huge deal. I’m not sure how it happened, but my best explanation is that I was reading a tweet by Chris followed by the resulting replies when I came upon a spoiler for a movie O’Dowd was featured in called Calvary. I called the guy out for ruining the ending before people in the US had seen it and next thing I know, I get notified that Chris is following me! I like to think he liked my chutzpah, but he probably was trying to make up for the rogue tweeter’s faux pas. No matter, since then I’ve had no interactions with the lanky Irishman whatsoever, but at least he’s stayed around silently in the shadows, reading my tweets and smiling.

Chris O'Dowd twitter

 

Brenda Blethyn aka @BrendaBlethyn – More exciting than having this amazing actress follow me on Twitter (which she does) is the fact that I got to conduct a phone interview with her last year. When I tweeted about my experience, she kindly acknowledged our meeting. A classy lady and a judging by her tweets, an avid theater and arts supporter to boot.

Brenda Blethyn twitter

Count Arthur Strong aka @Arthur_Strong – I’ve had the great fortune to have several exchanges with Arthur (or the actor who created him, Steve Delaney). His tweets make and his sitcom make me laugh like nothing else. We’ve discussed trouser fires, show rankings and his  aversion to Game of Thrones. But my favorite was the very Arthurian answer he came up with below.

Count Arthur Strong twitter

Miranda Hart aka @mermhart- I never could have imagined I’d ever achieve Twitter communion with one of my British comedy idols, but it finally happened about a year ago. And just so you know, I kept my promise and went to see Spy in the theater. No lie, Miranda was in it quite a lot.

Miranda Hart twitter

 

Chetna Makan aka @chetnamakan- I have had likes and brief replies from several GBBO contestants including Richard Burr, Iain Watters and Luis Troyano. But I’ve found Chetna to be the most responsive of the former TV baking show contestants. She responds promptly and her appreciation of your interest and support feels so genuine.

Chetna Twitter

Reece Shearsmith aka @ReeceShearsmith- Now with Mr. Shearsmith I had to work a bit harder. I’d been tweeting complimentary remarks about his work in hopes of getting him to acknowledge my presence. Finally I pestered him for info about the upcoming series of Inside No. 9…and he took the bait!

Reece Shearsmith twitter

Others have retweeted and liked some of my input, most recently the two fine gentlemen you see pictured below. Each notification brings with it a little thrill that someone whose work I value has taken a moment to affirm my wish to connect with them.                                                        

Eddie Marsan @eddiemarsan

Eddie Marsan @eddiemarsan

     

Greg McHugh @gregjmchugh

 

In fact my very first celebrity “favorite” (now designated as “likes”) came from Russell Tovey aka @russelltovey. At that time I thanked him for his small but meaningful gesture which he then proceeded to “like” as well.

Russell Tovey twitter

 

I still have others in my sights including the aforementioned Noel Fielding, Richard Ayoade, David Mitchell and Sarah Millican to name a few. Just to clarify, I will not resort to the out and out plea for them to follow me because it’s my birthday or something. It’s annoying and requires no real thought. I will earn my tweets the hard way – with ingenuity, perseverance and maybe just a bit of old fashioned flattery. I can only imagine those hard earned tweets will be the sweetest of them all.

I’d really enjoy hearing who is in your Twitter “autograph book” or about your experiences in general. If you don’t follow me currently and would like to, you can remedy that by clicking the Follow button to your right under Telly Quotes and Other Tweetables!

 

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Noel Clarke, Alex Kingston and Reece Shearsmith crack missing persons' cases in Chasing Shadows image credit ITV Studios

Noel Clarke, Alex Kingston and Reece Shearsmith crack missing persons’ cases in Chasing Shadows
image credit ITV Studios

 

The best thing I watched this past week is an ITV-produced crime drama called Chasing Shadows.  You and I both know shows of this genre are a dime a dozen. A good and proper mystery must have compelling cases, a red herring or two and the resolution must be surprising, but not entirely out of the blue either.

For me Chasing Shadows hit all those marks very well. But what makes this type of series really stand out are unique characters who solve the crimes and/or the relationships between crime solving partners.

Which brings me to the very quirky DS Sean Stone played by Reece Shearsmith. Those of you with a sharp memory will recall that Reece also starred in my previous pick of the week, Inside No. 9. In Chasing Shadows, Shearsmith calls on the slightly creepy, outsider qualities he’s perfected in past roles in order to portray a brilliant but socially inept detective. Stone has been demoted from the murder squad for embarrassing his superiors at a police press conference for very simply and bluntly telling the truth.

Once installed in his new position, we learn why CS Drayton (Don Warrington) might have been so eager to be shot of DS Stone. With his new Missing Persons Bureau liaison partner Ruth Hattersley (Alex Kingston) and their frequent police contact DCI Pryor (Noel Clarke), we see first hand how dysfunctional Sean truly is.

He is candid to the point of being rude with witnesses, suspects and co-workers alike. He quickly loses patience with those who aren’t honest with him. A problem when a major part of your job includes interrogating people. Sean is prone to walking out of rooms when people are still speaking to him. Finally, one of Stone’s most unusual habits is making his co-workers take separate cars even though they’re all driving to the same location. Bad for the environment and communication.

On the other hand, DS Stone has phenomenal focus which allows him to see patterns no one else seems to detect. Despite his impaired inability to function in social situations, he is acutely observant of his surroundings. Only his housekeeper Adele (Myriam Acharki) seems supportive of his situation and accepts Sean for who he is. She also offers him advice on how to interact with people which unfortunately has a tendency to backfire when put into practice.

Neither the autism spectrum nor Asperger’s is ever mentioned, but it’s implied. DS Stone is basically a less charismatic Sherlock and far less funny than Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper. Perhaps you’re asking why should we care about this character. It’s the moments when Sean does make the effort to connect that tug at your heart just a bit. They make you hope he can improve for his own sake even though we know that will never happen.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s a veritable Doctor Who reunion. River Song, Mickey Smith, Martha Jones’ mother Francine and the President from the Rise of the Cybermen episode all sitting around one table discussing a missing persons’ case! In all seriousness, Alex Kingston is always a pleasure to watch, but don’t expect the brassy Melody Pond.  She’s very sympathetic as a single mom trying to help families whose loved ones have disappeared.

The series features two 2-part mysteries – one about a group of missing teens who have apparently committed suicide and the other concerning a string of murders all tied to one schizophrenic mental hospital inmate. Chasing Shadows was broadcast in the UK back in September of 2014, but it is coming to the States on Acorn TV. The first episode airs starting tomorrow (July 27) and a new installment will be added each Monday through August 17th.

If you’ve already seen it, how did it go over in the UK? If not, does Chasing Shadows strike you as intriguing or just like all the others?

Alas I couldn’t find many YouTube clips, but here’s the briefest of sneak peeks…

 

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This is a new feature I hope to be continuing, as the name suggests, on a weekly basis. It will give me the opportunity to write about my personal pleasure viewing rather than about the hot show of the moment on PBS, Netflix or the BBC. Over the past five years since I started this little enterprise, I’ve been given the opportunity to write for other blogs as well; some for pay and some for the exposure. I’ve tried to position myself as an American who is knowledgeable about British TV. But mostly, I’m just a fan – of dramas, mysteries, comedy of all descriptions and even the occasional documentary. So please join me as I share my favorite finds of the week.

This week I watched a series that has everything I look for in a British TV show; innovation, an element of the unexpected and something that is just plain well written. That is  Inside No. 9 in a nutshell.

If you’ve never heard of the show’s writing/acting duo Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, you’ve definitely been missing out. They are one half of the dark comedy sketch troupe, The League of Gentlemen, and the creators of and performers in the horror sitcom called Psychoville.  They never fail to surprise and entertain me with their off-center, sometimes abhorrent, characters and comic misdirection.

So what is Inside No. 9 then? It is a series of vignettes that all take place in a number 9 of some description – a house, a flat, a cubicle, etc. The address is all these episodes have in common, that and the brilliant storytelling of Pemberton and Shearsmith. Like The Twilight Zone, or more recently Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, each episode is a stand alone narrative, but unlike the aforementioned shows the time frame is shortened from an hour to thirty minutes. Also most of the No. 9 episodes have comic moments, but that doesn’t preclude the random violent act or tragedy. It’s as if an idea for a sketch has been drawn out to a fuller more satisfying story without being a sketch that goes on too long, if you know what I mean. Saturday Night Live, anyone?

As you can see I’m not having the easiest time explaining the concept, so let me share a few examples from each of the two series that have been produced so far:

In series one’s episode “Tom & Gerri”, Tom (Shearsmith) does a good turn for Migg, a homeless man played by Pemberton, who has selflessly returned his lost wallet. However, their blossoming friendship interferes with the domestic bliss Tom shares with his actress girlfriend Gerri, played by Gemma Arterton.

 

Also from series one is a brilliant dialogue-free installment called “A Quiet Night In” wherein Steve and Reece play inept burglars trying to steal a priceless painting while the owners are still in the house.

 

In series two, there are a pair of particularly outstanding stories. The first one is entitled “Cold Comfort” which is shown from the perspective of security cameras at a support line call center. New volunteer Andy (Pemberton) is settling in for his training, but nothing prepares him for what’s to come.

 

The other episode, one which literally brought me to tears, was “The 12 Days of Christine.” We follow the title character, played flawlessly by Sheridan Smith, in what appears to be a decade long fast-forward view of her life, seen in order from New Year’s to Christmas. But what is actually happening is something much more psychologically significant than a jaunt through time.

 

There’s something for everyone Inside No. 9 – a witch trial, a train journey, a children’s game at a country house and a back stage look at a Shakespeare production just to name a few. And if you’re like me you’ll love seeing all the familiar actors who make guest appearances. For British residents this series is not new and for Americans you may have to dig around YouTube or as I call them “cheat channels” to find it. But if you can, I recommend giving it a go, especially for fans of dark humor.

 

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I know I’ve mentioned more than once my strange fascination with men in drag  I’m not referring to men who want to dress as women for their own personal reasons, the Jared Leto/Dallas Buyers Club kind of thing. I mean more power to them and all that, but that’s not amusing. I’m talking about men who are obviously men, dressing and behaving like women for comic effect.

In my opinion, Monty Python’s Flying Circus always did this shtick the best. I never fail to laugh at John Cleese wearing a wig and a dress while employing a high screechy voice. The Little Britain guys have their moments as well. But after finally watching all three series of the comedy/horror sketch show, The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002), I have come to the conclusion that the females of Royston Vasey surpass the Python ladies.

Reenie and Vinnie, charity shop workers who love carrier bags, won't work Thursdays and can't stand that Merrill image credit BBC

Reenie and Vinnie, charity shop workers who love carrier bags, won’t work Thursdays and can’t stand that Merrill
image credit BBC

 

I think this is because they actually develop many of these “women” bringing them back in multiple episodes and letting their stories evolve, often to ghastly ends.

For example, let’s begin with Tubbs Tattysyrup who is brilliantly played by Steve Pemberton. Tubbs and her husband Edward are shopkeepers on the outskirts of Royston Vasey.  Murderously xenophobic, the couple strenuously defend their bizarre way of life and the precious things of the shop. Tubbs is unquestionably loyal and obedient to her husband and for that reason has the mind of a slightly deranged child.

 

Pauline Campbell-Jones (also portrayed by Pemberton) is a restart officer for the local government employment services. Your very first impression might be that she is a compassionate public servant, but you will quickly learn that Pauline is in this job for the sense of superiority it affords her. She slags off her clients on a regular basis and if anyone challenges her, she strikes back quite ferociously.

Which is why Pauline is in the predicament of being out of a job and having to be a participant in the restart course she used to teach.

 

Reece Shearsmith plays Reverend Bernice Woodall, a bitter,chain smoking clergywoman with a ubiquitous smear of lipstick on her teeth. Her sermons tend to have a bit of a fire and brimstone feel about them as well.

We later learn the source of her acrimony and resentment has to do with a childhood trauma that has scarred her, but an even more sinister fate awaits the reverend at Christmas.

The tall and willowy Val Denton is portrayed by the equally lanky Mark Gatiss. Mrs. Denton genially but enthusiastically enforces her husband’s strict cleanliness rules. She gleefully recites the color code for household items and thinks nothing of her husband’s obsessive assumptions about self-pleasuring.

The family is oblivious to the degree of their freakishness until their nephew Ben arrives in Royston Vaysey for what’s meant to be an overnight stay. Apparently this is the first time their weird ways have been questioned.

 

Homely cleaning lady Iris Krell (Gatiss) is employed by Mrs. Judee Levinson (Shearsmith) a wealthy housewife who has a workaholic husband – or does she? Judee tries to feel good about her empty life by bragging to her working class cleaner about her lavish holidays and expensive clothes. Iris knows that she has a better home life than her employer and isn’t shy about sharing the spicy intimate details of her marriage.

 

A majority of the female population of Royston Vasey belongs to a mysterious sisterhood called Solutions.  Stella Hull  (Shearsmith) constantly rows with her husband Charlie and wants to stomp on his happiness by preventing him from pursuing his most recent passion, line dancing. Stella appeals to the group to help her find a “solution” to her problem.

 

If you’ve never visited the absurd village of Royston Vasey, you can pay a visit  through Hulu or Netflix. Watch with an open mind, get used to the humor and rhythms of this show and you will be richly rewarded with series three – the crowning glory of The League of Gentlemen.

If you are already familiar with this extraordinarily bizarre troupe of characters, please tell us about your favorites.  Bonus points to anyone who can tell me which character said this, ” SKEWED BEEF, HAVE ANY BODY GOT ANY BOKKLE AV ARAN DOOVE?”

 

 

 

 

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