Saturday, September 06, 2014

Robot Of Sherwood: See, Robin, I've Been Searching For The Young Soul Rebels!

'Spaceship disguised as a castle. Very neat. You and your robots are plundering the surrounding countryside for all its worth.'
'Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw who robbed from the rich to give to the poor? He's made up. There's no such thing.' Every few months, dear blog reader, almost without exception one of the broadsheets in the UK will publish a rather sniffy article about the results of one of those pointless polls which periodically get taken and appear to suggest that a significant minority of British adults are sub-literate troglodytes with shat for brains. You know the kind of thing: 'Twenty per cent of people questioned thought that Winston Churchill was a fictional character or "that dog off the insurance commercials."' In part, you can understand the journalist's horror - some people are, undeniably, bone-thick scum and probably worthy of being humanely destroyed. Notably this blogger. But, equally, you'll often find this kind of thing is just as interesting for highlighting the fact that the snotty, full-of-their-own-importance Middle Class Hippy bell-end writing such articles in the Gruniad and the Indi and - just to prove that it's not, solely, the province of the left - the Torygraph have their own gaps in knowledge. For instance, you'll invariably get a hideously sneering comment - followed by almost comic snorts of derision - along the lines of 'some people even, seemingly, think that King Arthur and Robin Hood were real people.' Well, yes. Because they were. Probably. Possibly. Maybe. I mean, whether Arthur Pendragon actually was a fifth century Romano-British (most likely Welsh) local chieftain who fought the invading Anglo-Saxons at Camlann and, a couple of hundred years later, found himself, briefly, mentioned in Annales Cambriae and then shoehorned into that narrow crack between history and myth remains a tough question to answer. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and medieval (and Victorian) literary invention and his historical existence is still vigorously debated by modern historians. However, many historians - not just 'some people on the Internet' either - are convinced that the mythical Robin Hood was, indeed, based on a real person. Sir JC Holt (1922-2014) medieval historian and Master of FitzWilliam College, Cambridge, for instance, argued persuasively for a 'historical' Robin Hood whom he placed in the early Thirteenth Century.
Alternatively, the origin of the legend of Robin Hood is claimed by some historians to have stemmed from actual outlaws, or from word-of-mouth tales of real outlaws, such as Hereward The Wake, Eustace The Monk, Fulk FitzWarin and William Wallace. There are a number of theories which attempt to identify a historical Robin Hood. A difficulty with any such historical search, of course, is that Robert was, in medieval England, a very common given name and Robin (or Robyn), especially in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, was its, equally common, diminutive. The surname Hood (or variants like Hoode, Hude or Hode) was also quite common because it referred either to a Hooder - a maker of hoods - or, alternatively, to somebody who regularly wore a hood. A 'hoodie', if you like. Unsurprisingly, therefore, reference is made to a number of people called Robert Hood or similar in medieval records. Some of these individuals are even known to have fallen foul of the law at some point. There was, for example, a chap from Wakefield called Robyn Hode recorded as being employed in the service of Edward II in 1323 during the king's progress through Lancashire.
'Shut it, Hoodie!' Comparing the available records with, especially, the Fifteenth Century ballad A Lyttell Geste of Robyn Hode (child ballad one hundred and seventeen) and also other folk ballads of slightly later dates, a fairly detailed theory has evolved - initially proposed by the Victorian antiquarian Joseph Hunter (1783-1861) - which suggests that the fictional Robin Hood was likely based on a similarly-named adherent of the rebel Earl of Lancaster, defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 by King Edward. According to this theory, Robyn Hode was subsequently pardoned and employed by the king as a forester. A Lyttell Geste Of Robyn Hode, incidentally, is one of the oldest surviving tales containing the - mythical - character of Hood. It was first printed between 1492 and 1534, but shows signs of having been put together from several already existing tales. It is a lengthy ballad, written in Middle English and consisting of eight fyttes. It is also the first text which introduces some of Robin's merrie men - Little John, Will Scarlet (initially called Scatheloke or variants) and Much, the Miller's son. And, of course, Robin's nemesis The Sheriff of Nottingham. In a 2005 episode of Qi, it was revealed that Robin's tights were actually the colour Lincoln Graine, a shade of bright scarlet and not Lincoln Green as generally supposed. In A Lyttell Geste Of Robyn Hode ('is that the New Zealand version?' Clive Anderson asked Stephen Fry), the colour and finery of the merrie men's clothes were mentioned frequently which has led to a recent theory that the stories may have originated in the Midlands clothing guilds as a way of advertising their wares. The first definite reference to 'rhymes of Robin Hood' which has so far been identified is from line five thousand three hundred and ninety six of William Langland's late-Fourteenth Century poem Piers Plowman (circa 1370). In these early accounts, Robin's partisanship of the lower classes, his Marianism and associated courtly regard for women, his outstanding skill as an archer and swordsman, his anti-clericalism and his particular animosity towards the establishment (as represented, usually, by The Sheriff) are already well developed.
'You'll only be disappointed. No damsels in distress. No pretty castles. And no such thing as Robin Hood!' In popular culture, Robin Hood is typically seen as a contemporary and supporter of the Twelfth Century monarch Richard Cœur de Lion (1157-1199), Robin being driven to his naughty-but-nice outlaw ways during the misrule of The Lionheart's usurper brother, Prince John, whilst Good King Richard was away giving the Saracens a damned good shellacking in the Holy Land. The fact that Richard I was extremely French and spent only six months of his ten year reign in England notwithstanding. This view first gained currency in the Sixteenth Century. The oldest surviving ballad is Robyn Hode and the Monk (child ballad one hundred and nineteen) which appears to have been written circa 1450, thus pre-dating A Lyttell Geste Of Robyn Hode by a couple of decades. It features a similar cast of characters - and with similar characteristics - though there is no mention of Maid Marian, Alan-A-Dale, Friar Tuck or any other, more peripheral, characters who would be added to the legend in subsequent retellings. Contrary to a recent assertion that Friar Tuck was a Victorian addition, the character appears in the fragment of a Robin Hood play from around 1475, sometimes called Robin Hood and the Knight. These early ballads are also quite clear on Robin Hood's social status: he is a yeoman (a lower middle class social climber, no less). While the precise meaning of the term has changed over time, including free retainers of an aristocrat and small landholders, it always referred to commoners as opposed to the nobility slumming it in the forest with he peasants. The essence of it in the present context was neither a knight nor a knave but something in between. From the Sixteenth Century on, there were various attempts to elevate Robin to the nobility and in two extremely influential plays the writer Anthony Munday presented him as The Earl of Huntingdon. Thereafter, the title Earl of Loxley (near Sheffield) has become most associated with the legend. It's also notable that in The Canterbury Tales (written circa 1390-95), Geoffrey Chaucer was clearly familiar with the Robin Hood legends. As his description, in The Prologue, of the Knight's yeoman proves ('he was clad in cote and hood of grene, a sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene'). Which proves that even at that early date, the tales were already so well established and widespread that a popular author felt confident enough to parody them in the knowledge that his readership would get the allusion.
'Robin Hood laughs in the face of all.' 'And, do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?' 'Not as yet.' 'Then it's lucky I'm here, isn't it?' From there, the legend has been told and retold down through the years to the present day. Robin Hood. You know, chap in tights. Hangs out with his - not in the slightest bit gay - chums in the woods. 'Fear'd by the bad/loved by the good.' Played by Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, Cornel Wilde, John Derek, Richard Todd, Patrick Troughton (yes, that was an image of him in the spaceship data memory-bank), Don Taylor, Richard Greene, Hugh Paddick, Keith Chegwin (I'm not making this up), Sean Connery, John Cleese, Michael Praed (brilliantly), Jason Connery (really badly), Kevin Costner (even worse that Jason Connery), Patrick Bergin, Cary Elwes, Jonas Armstrong, Jason Braly, Russell Crowe and ... a cartoon fox. And now, Tom Riley.
In an interview with the Doctor Who Magazine, Mark Gatiss stated that his intention with the episode Robot Of Sherwood was 'to do The Doctor and Robin Hood in forty five minutes.' Stop tittering at the back. He went on: 'The premise is, inherently, funny but I didn't think of it as the funnier episode when I was doing it. It's still asking big questions. But it's definitely more frivolous.' Location filming for the episode took place in Fforest Fawr from 15 April 2014 and, later, at Caerphilly Castle. There was considerable media attention at the announcement that the episode would be featuring the great Ben Miller as a successor to Melville Cooper, Alan Rickman, Keith Allen, Roger Rees, Robert Shaw, Tony Robinson, Matthew Macfadyen, Nickolas Grace and ... a cartoon wolf, et al, as The Sheriff. Soon to be seen opposite yer actual David Tennant (and Billy Connolly) in Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin's What We Did On Our Holidays, Ben told Metro that: 'Mark Gatiss has written a proper villain. My sheriff is so much fun to play - no holding back with him. It makes you proud to think our TV industry is capable of making something like that. Despite the size of it, when you're on set it feels very intimate. You feel at home, you could be shooting with some mates. It's not a show where you don't see the stars except for their takes. Peter and Jenna are on-set the whole time.' Given Ben's science background - he studied solid state physics at Cambridge - the star of Death In Paradise, Primeval and That Armstrong and Miller Show believes that Doctor Who is 'very improbability is exciting. We are in thrall of time because it's the only thing we can't do anything about. We're held prisoner by it, so to imagine we can is wonderful. The central message - out there is an alien who wants to help us - [is] like a comfort blanket. Isn't that a fantastically positive idea?' Harsh.
'It’s not a competition to see who can die slower!' 'It would definitely be me, though wouldn't it!' The premise of the episode was simple enough: The Doctor offers Clara a chance to go anywhere in space and time. Clara asks if she can go to Sherwood Forest in the Twelfth Century and meet the real Robin Hood. But, the Doctor is dismissive of the very idea. There was, after all, no such person as Robin Hood. He's a fictional construct based on lots of bits of legend and myth. Or, is he ...? 'In a sun-dappled Sherwood Forest, The Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and strikes up an unlikely alliance with Robin Hood. With all of Nottingham at stake, The Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake. Can impossible heroes really exist?' according to the official BBC synopsis. Production ran smoothly although some last minute editing was required to one particular scene due to some very horrible real-world events which occurred days before transmission. Which, of course, most people entirely understood but some selfish, over-grown children in fandom couldn't help whinging about. To anyone that would listen (and, indeed, anyone that wouldn't).
'You'd have been floating around in tiny little laughing bits in people's goblets ... Guard! He's laughing again! You can't lock me in here with a laughing person.' After two rather dark episodes to open Peter Capaldi's era on Doctor Who, Robot Of Sherwood undeniably has its tongue firmly inserted into its own cheek. Which is good. It works. Gatiss is clever at working pithy notions like this into the seriers' fabric (see, for instance, his Hammer Studios deconstruction The Crimson Horror or his take on the world of Charles Dickens, The Unquiet Dead). Simultaneously taking the piss out of the Hollywood bastardisation of British legends but, also, having something wise to say on the subject of how myths grow in the first place. Besides the obvious influence of previous Doctor Who stories about alien interference with Earth history like The Android Invasion, The Shakespeare Code, The Myth Makers and The Time Meddler, Robot Of Sherwood plays amusing games around the idea of ownership of ones own legacy in history. If Into The Dalek last week questioned whether The Doctor is a good man, Robot Of Sherwood asks an equally important question; is The Doctor a hero? And, if he is, what does that say about his frequently stated wish not to be. 'He's full of surprises, isn't it?'

'This isn't a real sandal!' Clara is responsible for this particular excursion when The Doctor, as is so often his want, gives his companion the choice of all of time and space to visit. Clara asks The Doctor to take her to see the outlaw of folklore whom she loved as a child. This episode is a much more light-hearted affair than its immediate predecessors and, it's probably fair to say, is for the most part played for laughs by the cast. Which will come as a welcome relief to those who've been looking for a shade more levity, but for anyone sold on the 'into darkness' conceit of series eight so far it may seem to be a tonal shift too far. Like I say, for this blogger, it works and works well. We need 'a funny one' every now and then. The new Doctor has, so far, been portrayed as a far colder regeneration. More alien and, as a consequence, seemingly more callous and indifferent to the plight of others. Here, whilst still prickly, he has more fun with the role. From the opening scene, Peter seems to be very much going for a Jon Pertwee vibe, the quick-talking, witty man of action. This is never better illustrated that in The Doctor's first encounter with Robin the Hooded Man which ends in a rousing fight over a river with different weapons of choice. 'I don't have a sword. I don't need a sword. Because I'm The Doctor. And this is my spoon.' A large chunk of the episode sees Robin and The Doctor forced, in an Odd Couple-style(e), to work together, complete with whole scenes of the pair bitchily bickering at each other with Clara a horrified schoolma'am-in-the-middle. Jenna Coleman gets to take charge in a clever little twist, a particular highlight being her 'dinner date' with The Sheriff who, of course, has his wicked eyes set on making her his new consort. Tom Riley brings a suitably thigh-slapping charm to his role, while Ben Miller supplies his usual post-apocalyptic blend of lugubrious cheek, sarcasm and casual style to the role of The Sheriff. There's even an Armstrong & Miller joke for the observant ('kill them all!') There is plenty of action and explosions, a - necessary - archery contest and the anticipated final sword duel. The director, Paul Murphy, displays a keen eye for scene construction and the location work is properly lovely to look at.

'Robot! Now we're getting somewhere!' Continuity: There are dialogue references to, in no particular order, The Ice Warriors ('what about Mars? The Ice Warrior hives'), The Time Warrior ('you bony rascal'), The Crusade (the allusion to Richard the Lionheart), The Mind Robber (Cyrano De Bergerac), Nightmare In Silver ('could be a theme park from the future'), Carnival Of Monsters ('... or, maybe we're inside a miniscope'), The King's Demons (Bad Prince John), The Day Of The Doctor ('Quickest way to find out anybody's plans - get yourself captured'), Rose ('last of the Time Lords'), Deep Breath ('The Promised Land again. Like the Half-Face Man'), The Aztecs ('What you're doing will alter the course of history') and An Unearthly Child ('Is it so hard to credit, that a man born to wealth and privilege should find the plight of the weak and the oppressed too much to bear. Till one night he is moved to steal a TARDIS and fly among the stars to join the good fight'). There are also historical references to the murder of Thomas Beckett in 1170 ('who will rid me of this turbulent Doctor?'), the Peasants' Revolt (1381), Das Kapital ('he's the opiate of the masses') and, for no obvious reason that this blogger can fathom, to the song 'My Way'. Plus, amusingly, a nod in the direction of the truly wretched Prince Of Thieves, and of the actor probably most associated with the role of Robin Hood his very self ('Errol Flynn. Had the most enormous ... ego').

'Are you from beyond the stars?' 'You're the one with the robot army, you tell me!' Gatiss, it hardly needs noting, is a terrific writer of funny dialogue - he started out, after all, as a comedy writer. Robot Of Sherwood is one of his amusing ones. 'The Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light! Those girls can hold their drink. And fracture fifteen different levels of reality simultaneously. I think I've got a Polaroid somewhere.' And: 'All those diseases. If you were real, you'd be dead in six months.' And: 'It is indeed this jackal of the Prince's who aims to oppress us for evermore.' 'Or six months, in your case.' And: 'It's very green hereabouts, though, isn't it? And, like I said, very sunny.' 'So?' 'Have you ever been to Nottingham?' 'Climate change?' 'It's 1190!' Mark gives Ben Miller plenty of opportunity to go so far over the top he's down the other side in an Alan Rickman 'cancel Christmas!' style. As in: 'You will live to regret that. Actually, no. You won't.' This is particularly true of his scenes with Jenna Coleman who is rapidly turning into an actress who can easily hold her own with some of this country's finest comedy talents: 'Your words are strange, fair one. But I like you. You are refreshingly ... direct.' 'You can take the girl out of Blackpool ...' And: 'Shortly, I will become the most powerful man in the realm. King in all but name! For Nottingham is not enough!' 'It isn't?' 'After this ... Derby! Then Lincoln! And after Lincoln ...' 'Worksop?' There's something genuinely heart-warming in the way she bosses The Doctor around, as well. 'Can you explain your plan without using the words "sonic screwdriver"?' for instance. Peter himself, of course, thrives on this kind of angrily logical material: 'I'm totally against bantering!' And: 'When did you stop believing in everything??' 'When did you start believing in impossible heroes?' And: 'Long haired ninny versus killer robot knights? I know where I'd put my money.' And: 'First, a blacksmith's forge.' 'So as to remove our chains?' 'No, so I can knock up an ornamental plant stand.' And: '"Soiled myself?' 'Did you? That's getting into character!' There are in-jokes a-plenty - 'You are as pale as milk. It's the way with the Scots. Strangers to vegetables' - in a script which mixes the stirring - 'What does every oppressed peasant workforce need? The illusion of hope!' - and the thoughtful. 'I'm not a hero,' The Doctor tells Robin. 'Neither am I,' replies the outlaw. 'But if we keep pretending to be, perhaps others will be heroes in our name. Perhaps we will both be stories. And, may those stories, never end.'
'History is a burden.' So, that was Robot Of Sherwood, dear blog reader. Exploring the serious business of who writes the present for the 'entertainment' of the future with some sly wit and knowing glances to its audience. It's an episode very much in the tradition of Doctor Who's previous flirtations with historical fact and historical fiction going right the way back to 1963. It's a pseudo-historical with a smart rationale for the inclusion of various SF clichés within it. It's got clever moments and more than a few beautifully daft ones. Some viewers will love it - they'll admire the in-jokes, the slapstick, the arrow contest and Alan-A-Dale's tediously crappy songs ('Oh, give it a rest, Alan' says a thoroughly cheesed-off Will Scarlet at one point). They'll have fun with the subversion of the text it's based on and the rather old school feel of the whole thing. Robot Of Sherwood is, genuinely, not unlike a mid-1970s Jon Pertwee episode either in concept or execution, only with somewhat better effects and less running up and down corridors to pad it out to six episodes. Which when you think about it, being written by and featuring a lead actor both of whom are self-confessed Pertwee nuts is hardly surprising (check out the bit of quasi-Venusian Aikido, complete with trademark 'Hai!')
Robots Of Sherwood is, it's probably fair to say, the most Doctor Who-like episode of the series so far and a lot of the audience, I suspect, will rather warm to it for exactly that reason. Other people - not many, but a few (the usual suspects, essentially) - will find something in it to whinge about, But then, those are the sort of professional offence-takers who tend to get avoided in the streets and never get invited to the cool parties anyway. So, you know, their loss. 'This is getting silly,' says The Doctor at one point. Yes. Deliciously so.
For the second week running, Doctor Who looks likely to post a timeshift of over two million viewers from its initial overnight 'live' audience. After Deep Breath's overnight 6.9 million audience raised to a final, consolidated figure of 9.17 million, Into The Dalek also looks set for a major increase. With an overnight figure of 5.2 million, after five days, video on demand timeshift figures had already increased the total to 7.19 million. The final 'plus seven' figure will be released by the BARB early next week.
Yer actual Peter Capaldi has been named TV Personality of the year at the 2014 GQ Men Of The Year Awards. The actor was presented with the award by Jenna Coleman, at a special event at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden earlier this week. The awards, presented in association with Hugo Boss, are now now in their seventeenth year. On receiving the award, Peter said: 'I've been very lucky because in the past I've received awards for my acting. This is the first I've received for my personality, which I assume means they've never met me. The reason I've got this award is because I got the chance to play the roll of a lifetime twice. Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It. And I also got to play [The Doctor in] Doctor Who. The real people who know the personality of the year are my family - my mother and my sister and my wife who have put with my personality and endured it to the point that I can get this.' Previous GQ awards have been won by Peter's predecessor Matt Smith who was named Best Actor in 2010 and Most Stylish Man in 2011. Another of this year's winners was yer actual Benny Cumberbatch who won the Actor of the Year award.
A 'special edition' DVD of Sherlock's third series will include never-before-seen footage. The release will be available in November at all good DVD shops. And some bad ones as well. The DVD includes all three ninety minute episodes from the series - The Empty Hearse, The Sign Of Three and His Last Vow - plus a selection of new bonus materials, all of which could easily have been included on the normal release DVD which came out in January but, didn't. Because, you know, why get people to buy something once when you can get them to buy it two or even three times? Let me be clear, this blogger has no objection whatsoever to the BBC's commercial arm seeking to commercially exploit and make money from the programmes which it produces. That's fine. But, this is just taking the piss. They must think we're idiots. And, of course, they're right, we are because we'll all still end up buying the damn thing come November. The extras include: Never-seen-before outtakes from series two and three, an exclusive deleted scene from series three, new audio commentary with Una Stubbs, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue and Mark Gatiss, three forty five minute documentaries made by PBS in America that include behind-the-scene footage, an Unlocking Sherlock documentary and Many Happy Returns, the seven-minute Red Button mini-episode which bridged the gap between series two and three. So, what do you think the chances are of BBC Worldwide doing a part exchange for anybody who bought the first DVD release, then? Zero? Less?

Meanwhile, speaking of BBC Worldwide DVD's - they're not all complete rip-offs. For example, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has this delivered to him on Saturday afternoon (I always thought the Royal Mail knocked-off making deliveries around noon on Saturdays. Seemingly not). So, if anybody wants this blogger for about the next fortnight, I'll probably be busy watching one of the forty seven million extras on these little beauties.
The new ITV drama Chasing Shadows launched with a, not particularly impressive overnight audience on Thursday. The Reece Shearsmith, Alex Kingston and Noel Clarke series opened with  an average of 3.38m at 9pm. Earlier, Paul O'Grady's For the Love Of Dogs returned for a new series with 3.70m at 8.30pm. BBC1's DIY SOS: The Big Build topped the night overall outside soaps with 4.55m at 8pm, followed by Sheridan Smith's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? with 4.06m at 9pm. So You Think You Can Drive? was seen by 1.92m at 10.35pm. On BBC2, Young Vets appealed to 1.45m at 7pm, while Egypt's Lost Queens gathered 1.53m at 8pm. The one-off TV movie Castles In The Sky - a handsome Eddie Izzard vehicle about Robert Watson Watt, the inventor of radar - brought in a highly respectable 1.91m at 9pm. Channel Four's Location, Location, Location interested 1.37m at 8pm, followed by the launch of Educating The East End with 1.80m at 9pm. On Channel Five, Celebrity Big Brother continued with 1.48m at 9pm, while Dallas returned for a new series with six hundred and seven eight thousand at 10pm.

On Friday The ONE Show kicked off the evening for BBC1 with 2.95 million overnight viewers at 7pm. It was followed by 2.57 million for A Question Of Sport at 7.30pm, and 2.62 million for Scrappers at 8.30pm. The channel's steady - and very unspectacular - viewing figures continued with 2.86 million for Boomers at 9pm, followed by 2.64 million for that rubbish Big School. Outnumbered and Live At The Apollo ended the evening with respective viewing figures of 1.83 million and 1.22 million. So, a broadly disappointing night for BBC1 but a truly rotten one for ITV. Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste Of The Sun was watched by 2.62 million at 8pm, while 2.31 million tuned in to watch the new series of That Oily Twat Piers Morgan's Life Stories at 9pm. Full-of-his-own-importance sacked tabloid editor and, more recently sacked US chat show host Morgan's first guest on his horrible exercise in brown-tonguing was the odious greed bucket, horrorshow (and drag) Alesha Dixon. Celebrity Antiques Road Trip kicked the evening off off for BBC2 with 1.12 million at 7pm. It was followed by 1.82 million for Mastermind and 1.51 million for The Hairy Bakers. BBC2's evening peaked with 2.49 million for The Great British Bake Off, An Extra Slice - which, very amusingly, beat Piers Morgan's figure in the slot - while Gardeners' World attracted 2.04 million immediately after. Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown was Channel Four's highest-rated show of the evening, attracting 1.57 million at 9pm. It was sandwiched between eight hundred and ninety thousand for The Million Pound Drop and 1.13 million for The Last Leg at 10pm. The latest Celebrity Big Brother double eviction episode was watched by 1.61 million sad crushed victims of society. In a change from the regularly scheduled programming, it was followed by eight hundred and eleven thousand for an episode of The Joan Rivers Position.

Hermione Norris and Mathew Horne have joined the cast of Agatha Raisin And The Quiche Of Death. They join Ashley Jensen in Sky1's upcoming crime drama, which will be broadcast at Christmas. Hermione - soon to be seen in Doctor Who - will star as long-suffering housewife, Jo Cummings, while Horne will play Agatha's former assistant, Roy. Meanwhile, Robert Bathurst will play Andy Cummings, Katy Wix will star as Gemma and Jamie Glover has joined the cast as James, a love interest for Agatha. Jason Barnett and Matt McCooey will appear as Detective Inspector Wilkes and Detective Constable Bill Wong. The drama is described as 'contemporary and quirky' and is based on the MC Beaton novel series. It follows Agatha, a public relations type person who gives up her life in London to move to the seemingly tranquil village of Carsley, but soon finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery. She inadvertently becomes a suspect in the case when she enters the village's annual quiche-making competition. She sets out to clear her name and solve the murder mystery. As you do.
Bestselling novel The Outcast, by Sadie Jones, is to be made into a television drama, the BBC has announced. Greg Wise and former Downton Abbey actress Jessica Brown Findlay will feature among the cast. Jones' debut won the Costa First Novel Award in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Filming on the dramatisation has begun in Buckinghamshire and the drama is set to screen on BBC1 next year. The story, set in post-war Britain, centres around ten-year-old Lewis, whose mother dies, leaving him with a father he hardly knows following his return from war. Lewis's life begins to spiral out of control as his teenage years loom. The central role will be played by twenty two-year-old actor George Mackay, who has previously appeared in Birdsong and Pride. Earlier this year he won the shooting star award at the Berlin Film Festival, and was nominated for BAFTA's rising star accolade. Wise will play his father, Gilbert, while Brown Findlay will play the woman Gilbert remarries. Christine Langan, head of BBC Films, said: 'The Outcast is a captivating and heart-breaking story of a young man's desperate situation. I'm thrilled that we've been able to work with BBC1 to bring a two-part adaptation to screen to retain the essence of Sadie Jones's award-winning novel.'

Breakfast TV flop, greed bucket (and drag) Susanna Reid's foot firmyl met her mouth not once but twice on Thursday's Good Morning Britain during an interview with former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens. The actor (and most of the GMB studio crew) were left in hysterics when Reid asked Stevens with totaal seriousness if he had to 'beat off a lot of men' to land the role in his latest action film, The Guest. And then, she asked him the same thing again, seemingly unaware that 'beat off' is a - very widely used - euphemism for masturbation. If you missed it, dear blog reader, you weren't alone, it was on Good Morning Britain, so hardly anybody was watching it. 'You play this apparent all-American hero and this is a big opportunity for you in Hollywood,' Reid said. 'You must have had to beat off a lot of American men to get this part?' Which was a cue for Stevens to start sniggering and Reid asking: 'Why does that make you giggle? Did you not have to beat them off?' she asked . A tip, Suzie sweetheart. When you're in a hole it's usually a good idea to stop digging.