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The Daily Beast: "The Brits' Surprising Emmy Hit" and "Inside Downton Abbey Season Two"

Yes, Downton Abbey adherents, I've got a bit of a treat for you: not just one, but TWO, features about the hit British period drama today. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "The Brits' Surprising Emmy Hit," Part One of Two of my Downton Abbey features today, this time an Emmys feature on the British drama, recognized with 11 nominations this year, including Outstanding Made-for-TV-Movie or Miniseries. I talk with creator Julian Fellowes and the cast about Emmy nominations, the show’s insane popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and what’s coming up on Season Two. If that's not enough period goodness for you, there's my second feature, entitled "Inside Downton Abbey Season Two," in which Julian Fellowes and the cast of Downton Abbey (including Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, and Siobhan Finneran) provide me with some clues about what's coming up on the second season of the period drama, begin

Downton Abbey: Odds and Ends from PBS' TCA Session (Plus, the Uptown Downstairs Comic Relief Sketch)

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know I spent yesterday in a lovely Downton Abbey dream, as PBS presented their session for Masterpiece (which included several announcements) and a 45-minute panel for Downton Abbey which returns to our shores in January. (I also spent the morning doing one-on-one interviews with cast members Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, and Elizabeth McGovern, but you'll have to wait a bit to read the feature.) The session--the most lavishly fannish of any TCA session possibly ever (we critics are huge Downton fans)--began with a hilarious sizzle reel from Season One of Downton Abbey set to the strains of "Downtown," (adorable) before executive producer Rebecca Eaton took to the stage to introduce the panel and get through some housekeeping issues. "To our audience, Anglophilia is not a dirty word," said Eaton. (It certainly isn't, this Anglophile thought, nodding sagely.) Season Two of Downton Abbe

The Daily Beast: "Upstairs Downstairs Returns to PBS’ Masterpiece"

After 36 years, beloved period drama Upstairs Downstairs returns to American television on Sunday with new characters and the original co-creators checking into 165 Eaton Place. Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, entitled " Upstairs Downstairs Returns to PBS’ Masterpiece ," in which I speak to Upstairs Downstairs ' Dame Eileen Atkins, Jean Marsh, Keeley Hawes, and Ed Stoppard about the new series, set in 1936 and launching on Sunday evening. Among the topics under discussion: how the period drama relates to today's viewing audience, the character of Lady Maud (complete with monkey Solomon) played by Dame Eileen Atkins, the rivalry with ITV's Downton Abbey , and the broad-sweeping political and social themes of the three-episode season. Upstairs Downstairs launches Sunday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on PBS' Masterpiece . Check your local listings for details.

Coming Home Again: An Advance Review of Upstairs Downstairs on PBS' Masterpiece

"Home is not where you live, but where they understand you." - Christian Morganstern My, how time flies: It's been more than three decades since Rose Buck (Jean Marsh) walked out of the front door of 165 Eaton Place and into the future. For those of us who grew up on Upstairs, Downstairs (created by Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins) watching the repeats on PBS or on DVD later, the show--which depicted the lives of the wealthy Bellamy clan and their servants below stairs--defined the period drama, transforming the stuffy recreations of aristos into a soap opera teeming with the hopes and dreams (and failures and foibles) of both the masters and the servants of a great London house. While there have been countless adaptations of period-set literature over the years (Austen and Dickens remain always in style), recently viewers have seen a resurgence in open-ended, serialized period dramas. Lark Rise to Candleford may have perhaps started the trend in earnest, but it was th

The Daily Beast: "15 Reasons to Watch TV This Spring"

Yes, spring is finally here (or thereabouts, anyway), and that brings warmer weather and, very fortunately, a slew of new and returning television series. Over at The Daily Beast, you can check out my latest feature, "15 Reasons to Watch TV This Spring," which includes a look at such series as Mildred Pierce, Game of Thrones, The Borgias, The Kennedys, Camelot, The Killing, Body of Proof, Upstairs Downstairs, and returning series such as Nurse Jackie, The United States of Tara, Treme, Doctor Who, Top Chef: Masters, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and the NBC premiere of the final season of Friday Night Lights . What are you most excited about that arrives on the airwaves between now and May? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Our Lives, Our Selves: An Advance Review of Any Human Heart on PBS' Masterpiece Classic

"Never say you know the last word about any human heart." - Henry James Logan Mountstuart, the central character of Any Human Heart , which begins this Sunday on PBS' Masterpiece Classic , has experienced the sort of life that is overflowing with love and loss. It's a portrait of not just a life lived, but also of England in the 20th century. The three-part drama (which aired last year in the UK on Channel 4) is adapted from William Boyd's 2002 novel, "Any Human Heart: The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart," and recounts the extraordinary life of the central character, played throughout his life by Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, and Jim Broadbent. Told in a non-linear fashion, we witness key moments in Logan's life: his Oxford collegiate days, the blush of first love and fatherhood, wartime encounters, romance and death, success and failure. It's the elderly Logan (Broadbent) who is sorting through the detritus of his life and, it seem

The Daily Beast: "Masterpiece, Icon of PBS, Turns 40 Today"

PBS' venerable anthology series Masterpiece celebrates its 40th birthday today. Over at The Daily Beast, in my latest feature ( " Masterpiece , Icon of PBS, Turns 40 Today" ), I talk with Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton, who has been in the top job since 1985, about the 40th anniversary, the 2008 rebrand, and looking toward the future of this franchise. I also pick 12 of the best shows from the last four decades of Masterpiece , no small feat given the thousands of hours produced, co-produced, and acquired by the PBS series. (I could easily pick 50 of my favorites, so, yes, there are quite a few worthy ones that didn't get selected.) I am curious to know: what are your memories of Masterpiece (and Masterpiece Theatre )? What does the franchise mean to you? And what are your favorite Masterpiece programs from the last four decades?

The Daily Beast: "Downton Abbey Comes to Masterpiece"

In the U.K.'s smash hit Downton Abbey , coming to PBS Sunday, the period drama is reinvented for a new generation. After all of the scrapes with The Daily Mail , the praise from yours truly , and huge ratings in the UK, Julian Fellowes' sumptuous costume drama Downton Abbey finally reaches American shores this weekend. Over at The Daily Beast, I spoke with creator Lord Fellowes and stars Dan Stevens and Hugh Bonneville about Downton Abbey for my latest feature, entitled " Downton Abbey Comes to Masterpiece " , in which I also look at the drama series as a condition-of-England piece and its relationship to another British import, the return of Upstairs, Downstairs . Downton Abbey premieres Sunday evening at 9 pm ET/PT as part of PBS' Masterpiece Classic . Check your local listings for details.

In Defense of Downton Abbey (Or, Don't Believe Everything You Read)

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Which means, if I can get on my soapbox for a minute, that in order to judge something, one ought to experience it first hand. One can't know how the pudding has turned out until one actually tastes it. I was asked last week--while I was on vacation with my wife--for an interview by a journalist from The Daily Mail, who got in touch to talk to me about PBS' upcoming launch of ITV's period drama Downton Abbey , which stars Hugh Bonneville, Dame Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, Elizabeth McGovern, and a host of others. (It launches on Sunday evening as part of PBS' Masterpiece Classic ; my advance review of the first season can be read here , while my interview with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and stars Dan Stevens and Hugh Bonneville can be read here .) Normally, I would have refused, just based on the fact that I was traveling and wasn't working, but I love Downton Abbey and am so enchanted with the p

A House Divided: An Advance Review of Masterpiece's Extraordinary Downton Abbey

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” - Ambrose Bierce A house might be a home, but it can also serve as an apt metaphor for an entire country. Numerous writers have offered portraits of the changing face of their nation in such condition-of-England novels as Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited," and Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cranford" and "North and South." In the case of Julian Fellowes' extraordinary period drama Downton Abbey , launching January 9th on PBS' Masterpiece Classic , the titular country estate, home to the well-heeled Crawley family, is in turmoil. Great houses such as these are both relics of bygone eras as well as living, breathing organisms of their own right, humming along as they employ a staff of hundreds. Everyone--from the lord and lady to the humblest footman and scullery maid--has their function and their duty to maintain. That holdover

Talk Back: Sherlock's "The Great Game"

Well, that's it. For now, anyway. Last night brought the season finale of PBS' addictive Sherlock ("The Great Game") and what an installment it was. For a season composed of just three installments, it delivered quite the requisite bangs and thrills, particularly in this final act, which I rate as strong as the first episode ("A Study in Pink") in the series. (I reviewed the first three episodes of Sherlock here , and spoke with Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Martin Freeman in a feature over here at The Daily Beast .) It contained all of the elements that make Sherlock just gleeful fun: Mark Gatiss' Mycroft, the banter between Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman), creepy criminals like the Golem, a fantastically deranged performance from Andrew Scott as the terrifying Moriarty, and one hell of an intricate mystery. Or in this case, no less than five interconnected mysteries designed to test Holmes' met

Talk Back: Sherlock's "A Study in Pink"

Now that Sherlock has premiered Stateside on Masterpiece Mystery , I'm curious to know what you thought of the modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes, from creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. I reviewed the first three episodes of Sherlock here , and spoke with Moffat, Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Martin Freeman in a feature over here at The Daily Beast . But now that the series premiere--"A Study in Pink" (so clearly an allusion to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet")--has aired last night, I want to hear what you thought of the mystery series. What did you think of the partnership of Cumberbatch's Holmes and Freeman's John Watson? Did you like the way that Mssrs Moffat and Gatiss updated elements of both characters and included such technological advances such as iPhones, text messaging, and blogging? Did you love the way that director Paul McGuigan visually translated these elements to the screen with thought bubbles and the

The Daily Beast: "Sherlock Comes to the U.S."

Sherlock Holmes has an iPhone, Watson blogs: The 21st-century version of Sherlock , a BBC phenomenon, begins Sunday on Masterpiece Mystery . Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, " Sherlock Comes to the U.S.," in which I talk to Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman about Sherlock and Watson, the similarities and differences between Holmes and Doctor Who 's The Doctor, The Hobbit , and more. Meanwhile, you can read my glowing advance review of the three Sherlock installments here . Sherlock begins tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery . Check your local listings for details.

When You Have Eliminated the Impossible: An Advance Review of Sherlock on Masterpiece

Mention Sherlock Holmes and there are a great many things that immediately come to mind for most: that dearstalker hat (which the great detective never actually wore) and a magnifying glass, 221B Baker Street, "Elementary, my dear Watson" (a conflation of two separate quotes, actually), and that damned hound running around on the moors. Of the seemingly infinite literary characters ever created, the human imagination has latched onto Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a way that very few other creations have. Scores of adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's consulting detective have been launched in the years since Holmes was first created. We've see young Sherlock, Nazi-fighting Sherlock, and bare-knuckle brawler Sherlock, courtesy of Guy Ritchie. We also now have a truly modern-day Sherlock Holmes (and I'm not counting House 's Gregory House here, though the comparison is apt and the homage intentional) in Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' sophisticated

Faceless Killers: Wallander Returns to Masterpiece Mystery

Every now and then a series comes along that features the perfect actor, the perfect character, the perfect scripts, and the perfect setting. Right now, that series is none other than PBS/BBC's haunting and existential mystery drama Wallander , which returns for its second season on Sunday as part of PBS' Masterpiece Mystery (check your local listings). The series stars Kenneth Branagh as Ystad detective Kurt Wallander, a man gripped by his own concerns as he investigates the grisly and brutal crimes inflicted on the inhabitants of his Swedish port town. (For more on Branagh's take on the character, you can read my interview with him over at The Daily Beast .) But Wallander's purview isn't just finding the perpetrators of these crimes--which include, in the first installment, the brutal murder of an elderly farmer and his wife--but in examining both the damage that such crimes cause and the fractured psyche that carries them out in the first place. So strong is h

The Daily Beast: "Kenneth Branagh's Twists and Turns"

Kenneth Branagh has temporarily traded Shakespeare for serial killers in Masterpiece Mystery ’s new Wallander installments and superheroes in his highly anticipated directing effort, Thor . Over at The Daily Beast, you can check out my latest feature, "Kenneth Branagh's Twists and Turns," in which I talk to Branagh about Season Two of Wallander and its existential hero, directing Thor (and its connections to Shakespearean drama), and whether he'll play Sir Laurence Olivier in Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn . Season Two of Wallander begins this Sunday on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery . Check your local listings for details.

The Daily Beast: "Nine Shows to Watch, Six Shows to Shun"

My fall TV preview--or at least part of it, anyway--is finally up. Head over to The Daily Beast, where you can read my latest feature, "Nine Shows to Watch, Six Shows to Shun," where I offer up nine new series to watch this fall and six shows to avoid like the plague. Just which ended up on which list? Hint, The Event ended up on my worst-of list, while things like Boardwalk Empire, Terriers, Nikita, Sherlock, Luther, Undercovers and others ended up on my watch list. (While The Walking Dead is on there, I still--like every other critic--have not seen a full episode, so there's that to consider.) But while this is my list, I'm also extremely curious to find out what you're looking forward to this autumn. What are you most excited about watching this fall? Head to the comments section to discuss, debate, and tear into my list.

Telly News From Blighty: Doctor Who, Sherlock, Luther, Case Histories

Yes, I'm back from my holiday-slash-birthday-weekend-extravaganza and catching up on what I missed while I was gone, including news about three of my favorite series, all of which happen to hail from the other side of the pond, and a fourth that is likely to become a new favorite when it launches next year. (Hint: it involves the creators of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes and novelist Kate Atkinson.) Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has indicated that Season Six of the time-travel drama series will be split into two separate segments, with seven episodes to air in the first half of 2011 and six episodes to air in fall 2011. What comes between? Well, a "game-changing cliffhanger," according to Moffat, speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival . (You can watch video of the session over at The Guardian as well.) "Looking at the next series I thought what this show needs is a big event in the middle," said Moffat. "I kept referring to a

Channel Surfing: Jane Lynch to Host SNL, Good Guys Gets Retooled, CW Plans Crossover, More Sherlock on Tap, and More

Welcome to your Tuesday morning television briefing. Sue Sylvester, SNL host? Moveline is reporting that Glee 's Jane Lynch will be hosting the October 9th episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live . No word yet on whether Lynch--who is nominated for an Emmy Award in the Supporting Actress in a Comedy category--will be packing Sue's ubiquitous track suits for the hosting gig. What is certain, however, is that Lynch will be bringing her acute comic timing to the host role for SNL 's 36th season. ( Movieline ) Entertainment Weekly 's Michael Ausiello is reporting that the CW is planning to launch a crossover between One Tree Hill and Life Unexpected this fall, with One Tree Hill 's Haley (Bethany Joy Galeotti) and Mia (Kate Voegele) dropping by the October 12th installment of Life Unexpected , where they will perform at a Portland music festival that's sponsored by the radio station where Shiri Appleby's Kate works. "Haley and Cate are surprised to le

Trailer Park: BBC One and PBS' Modern-Day Sherlock Trailer

"My name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221b Baker Street..." The details might be the same but this is most definitely not your great-grandfather's Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective is given a modern-day makeover courtesy of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss with the new Sherlock , which launches on Sunday in the UK on BBC One and Stateside at the end of October on PBS as part of Masterpiece Mystery . Starring Benedict Cumberbatch ( The Last Enemy ), Martin Freeman ( The Office ), and Rupert Graves ( Death at a Funeral ), Sherlock deposits the titular master sleuth and his trusted companion Dr. John Watson to contemporary London, where they will use their deductive skills to solve all manner of bizarre, surprising, and just plain weird cases. "Conan Doyle's stories were never about frock coats and gas light," said Moffat. "They're about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes... and, frankly, to