Category Archives: Television

Downton-ish

With the end of Downton Abbey upon us here in the States many of us may find ourselves with a Sunday evening television void. I’ve compiled a list of somewhat similar movies, series and mini serieses that those who loved Downton might also enjoy. Several of these can be found on Netflix, but if you don’t see them there, check the dvd selection at your local library!

This is certainly not an exclusive list of interesting shows, but they are all mostly similar to Downton in style and period. I have come back to many of these time and time again and I hope others enjoy them as much as I do! (I haven’t provided any links to the shows, as many of the sites contain spoilers- and I would never do that to you!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gosford Park– Written by Downton’s creator, Julian Fellowes. It is very similar to Downton in that it deals with the changing times and the Upstairs/Downstairs interactions. This is a feature film with lots of familiar faces and follows a Murder Mystery Weekend format (like Clue).

Lark Rise to Candleford– Beautifully set and filmed series based on a series of novels. Main themes are the push and pull of country vs. town life in a changing era (the onset of the industrial revolution) and the coming of age of a young woman. You’ll love Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) in his sweet and paternal role. Fairly light and has a number of quirky characters.

North & South– Dark, romantic mini series set in a 19th century mill city. You’ll see Mr Bates again in this one, as a rabble rousing union leader, but the main story plays out more in the vein of Pride and Prejudice. Wonderful costumes and withering glances own the day, with a respectable pinch of illness and death. Perfect for a rainy weekend!

Cranford– While based on stories by the same author as North & South, Cranford has a much lighter tone. It follows the stories and interactions of the residents of Cranford. The entire cast is fantastic- look out for Dame Judy Dench, Jim Carter among many other notable actors.

Bleak House (2005)- Long, meaty mini series based on Dicken’s novel of the same name. It is as complicated as it is dark and it’s characters as ridiculously named as you would expect from Dickens. You may want a cheat sheet to keep track of the hundreds of main players, but the effort will be worth it!

Little Dorrit– Another complex Dickens story, this one however, takes a brief holiday in nineteenth century Venice. Debtor’s prison, family secrets, misunderstandings and the flux between poverty and riches keep the story moving along, with a bit of both requited and unrequited love. Of particular note is the visually perfect and mentally infuriating scene in the Circumlocution Office.

Death Comes to Pemberley– If you liked Pride and Prejudice you should love this. Haunting and beautiful, I appreciate the way the characters stay so perfectly in character, despite being penned by a modern author. And as someone who has always loved Lizzie Bennet it is so wonderful to see her grow from an awesome young adult into a confident wife and mother and detective.

The Forsyte Saga– Follow the Forsyte family through several generations of exile, betrayal, love, murder and other intrigue as they negotiate the changing times between the 1870s and the 1920s. Not for the kiddies or the faint of heart, but deep and complex and beautiful. And a nice treat for any other Detective Lestrade fans out there.

When Calls the Heart– This is Canadian, but don’t count it out! It’s a clean cut pioneer story of a wealthy city girl gone to find herself teaching in a wilderness town. The episode plots lean a little towards the saccharine, but they’re a pleasant way to pass the time.

Selfridges– I like to think that maybe Lady Mary (but more likely Lady Sybil) might have popped in for a stroll around the shop while spending the Season in London. In any case, the newest season is coming back to PBS at the end of the month, so it’s a great time to catch up on DVD if you haven’t seen this, based on real life- ish, department store drama.

Murdoch Mysteries– Another, mostly family friendly, Canadian show. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the costumes, sets and storylines are perfectly period in this police, murder mystery series. It took me a few episodes to acclimate to the squeaky clean persona of Murdoch, but I have grown to love him and his Newfie sidekick, Crabtree.

Miss Fisher’s Detective Agency– Fascinating, upbeat murder mystery series straight from 1920s Australia. Amazing costumes, interesting characters and a strong confident female lead. I can’t seem to get enough of Phryne Fisher!

Jordan Collier/Cliff Secord

Maybe you didn’t know, but imdb is one of my favorite websites out there. I often use their search features to find out who’s who in many of my favorite tv shows and movies. Every once and a while I come across something completely unexpected. Today was one of those instances.

Have you seen the TV show The 4400? It is on the USA network and has just finished airing season three. (We watched the first two seasons on DVD from Netflix so you can too!) It is a fantastic science fiction show with the premise that 4400 people were abducted during the 20th century (apparently to the future) and were all returned on one night, many with special powers. I find it fascinating.

Anyhoo. There’s a character named Jordan Collier. He’s somewhat of a Christ figure (JC!) and fairly controversial. Never mind that, though. I just realized who he is…

Cliff Secord! Or for those of you for whom that name doesn’t ring a bell… He was The ROCKETEER! I was shocked. (and I can tell you are too!) I can hardly wait for season 4 to start up next summer so that I can watch Jordan Collier with a whole new perspective.

The Even Biggser Picture

On Saturday morning, I drove up to Claremont, NH to visit Jeremy and Angela. Part of the reason for the trip was to watch the first few episodes of this season of The Shield with Jeremy. We have carried on our tradition of watching the show since the first season… and it’s hard to believe that it is now in its fifth season! It’s certainly not a show for everybody… its “TV MA LSV” rating is certainly well-deserved. But the continuing intrigue of the plot and the development of the characters keeps us watching.

The other reason for my visit was to help them out with some of their website woes. They’d been having a lot of trouble with Blogger, so I moved their blog over to WordPress. I’ve been working on prepping for the transition for the past week or so, and it’s been quite an enjoyable experience. I created a WordPress theme for the Biggses that replicates the overall look and feel of their old website, with a few XHTML and CSS improvements here and there, and some extra additions that come with the WordPress package.

WordPress is a really wonderful blogging system, and this is the first time I’ve really spent a considerable amount of time digging in to it and learning about how it works. I even rewrote one of my Movable Type plugins as a WordPress plugin, just as an exercise. It was actually pretty easy. Will you see World Wide Wood switch over to WordPress soon? I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Anyway, I got them switched over to WordPress, and I also installed a Windows plugin that should make it very easy for them to upload photos to their gallery. I didn’t quite get through all of the items I wanted to cover, but I think I took care of the most important stuff. Overall, they seem to be very happy with the results. You can read Jeremy’s take on it in his latest post.

Here’s to the return of frequent posting on The Biggs Picture!

Update
Corrected the link to Jeremy’s post.

calling all Sweaty Toothed Madmen!!!

So. There I was. Innocently watching VH1’s Best Week Ever when I caught a quick gilmpse of a familiar face.

It was none other than 2001 Gordon Grad: Pete Holmes! I could barely believe it. I called Peter into the room, but it was too late… So we waited around a bit and, POP, there he was again. WOW. A quick google search brought up his blog and his website.

All you Scotties (1997-2001ish) out there will probably remember him from such antics as “Sweaty Toothed Madmen”, when he played Sebastian the Crab in the “Mr Gordon” pagent, and well…many other comedy themed events…

So, catch “Best Week Ever” and look for our very own Pete.

It’s time to put on makeup…

qqq|It’s time to play the music, It’s time to light the lights, It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight,

It’s time to put on makeup, It’s time to dress up right, It’s time to raise the curtian on the Muppet Show tonight,

Waldorf- Why do we always come here? Statler- I guess we’ll never know Waldorf- It’s like a kind of torture Both- To have to watch the show

And now lets get things started Why don’t you get things started It’s time to get things started On the most sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational this is what we call the Muppet Show|qqq

If watching aaa|this|B0009ULBGS|aaa is torture….strap me to the racks and let that water drip!

Please help me relive my childhood by buying me the aformented DVD (it goes on sale tomorrow). Then all I would need is to get my red table and chairs back from my baby cousins…and find a DVD of Solid Gold|http://imdb.com/title/tt0080277/?fr=c2l0ZT1kZnxteD0yMHxsbT01MDB8dHQ9MXxmYj11fHBuPTB8cT1Tb2xpZCBHb2xkfGh0bWw9MXxubT0x;fc=1;ft=21;fm=1 and the time travel would be complete.

Beauties, Geeks, Brats and Fast Food

Over the last few days I’ve seen some interesting things on TV and DVD.

We got Super Size Me|http://www.supersizeme.com/ from Netflix on Tuesday and popped it in the player during dinner… a HEALTHY dinner of tortilini and pesto. I’ve heard great things about this documentary and was looking forward to finally seeing it. I liked it. I have already read Fast Food Nation|http://prwdot.org/archives/002009.html and so I was not surprised at much of the facts laid out in the film. Even still, the effects of all those hamburgers on his liver was shocking! Watch it and make your own decisions about whether or not to visit MickyD’s.

I’ve also been watching, over the last few weeks, the WB’s Beauty and the Geek|http://www.thewb.com/Shows/GenericShow/0,11116,228773,00.html. I wasn’t sure I would make it past episode one (considering that it was the brain child of Ashton Kutcher!) but by the end of the premiere I was hooked. The premise was that they would pair intellectual guys with not so intellectual gals and subject each team to a series of challenges that would test the smarts of the gals and the social skills of the guys. Hopefully, each contestant would learn to appreciate the skills and talents of the others. In any case, I found it terribly entertaining. It was great to see these beautiful girls come off their social high horses and actually enjoy being wiht the geeks…and it ws fun watching the geeks open their eyes to something other than science or medicine or music.

And finally… have you seen the recent commercials for Brat Camp|http://abc.go.com/primetime/bratcamp/? It is a new ‘reality show’ about trouble kids who are sent to boot camp by their parents in a last ditch effort to turn their lives around. Judging by the ads, the kids go camping, hiking, rock climbing and are forced to reevaluated their lives. — Last weekend I saw that commercial with five other family members and five out of six of us declared, “That looks like fun!” It almost make me want to become a problem child just to get to go on that adventure!!

Goodbye, Enterprise.

Tonight, I watched the final two episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise|http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/ENT/index.html. The series debuted, coincidentally, just after September 11, 2001. While I was initially very interested in the concept, my enthusiasm waned after the first two seasons. The writing and acting just weren’t compelling, and of course there was always that hideous theme song. Eventually, Enterprise was moved to a Friday 8 p.m. time slot, which put it opposite a show that Becky and I were much more interested in, Joan of Arcadia (a much more compelling and interesting show, I might add). I kept forgetting to tape Enterprise, and eventually I just lost interest altogether.

I decided that it was probably my duty as a Trekkie to watch the final episodes, so I read the recaps from the episodes I missed this season on Television Without Pity|http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show.cgi?show=71, to help fill in the plot holes caused by me not watching the show (unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about the holes that the writers left). Anyway, it actually sounds like I missed a few decent episodes, so hopefully I can catch them on reruns or in syndication next season.

I won’t bother recapping the episodes I watched – you can do that yourself at Television Without Pity, or on the Star Trek|http://www.startrek.com/ website. The final episode was an amusing, and somewhat successful, attempt to please the disenfranchised Star Trek fans, by giving them a dose of some old favorite characters, and a peek at the creation of the United Federation of Planets.

Overall, I’m a bit sad to see the series go, in the sense that it started with a great idea – a look at the early years of Starfleet and the Federation, through the eyes of the crew of the first Starship Enterprise. But the series was doomed by bad writing, bad direction, bad production, and bad marketing. May it rest in peace.

At least my favorite series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, still lives on in syndication and on DVD (and on episodes taped on VHS off of cable; I’m going to have to start digging those out…).

Aye, Aye Captain!

fff|ppp|Captain Vegetable|ppp|fff

For those of you, like Chad|http://jayseae.cxliv.org/2005/04/08/so_it_isnt_so_cookie.html, who keep up with the goings on over on Sesame Street, I’m sure you’ve already heard the news that their newest season will be focused on helping kids become healthier. Chad writes about Cookie Monster’s new song, “Cookies are a Sometimes Food,” which is only part of their new season-long initiative.

I, for one, am glad that the show is trying to get this message out to kids. I think it can only have positive outcomes. All this talk about teaching kids about health and nutrition makes me think of a classic Sesame Street character… Captain Vegetable!! Now, don’t you think it would be cool if they brought back the Captain? I found a site|http://members.tripod.com/Tiny_Dancer/index2.html where you can get the lyrics to his fantastic song, as well as download it if you haven’t heard it in a while. Peter won’t need to download it, since I sing it at home several times a week already 🙂

Captain Vegetable first graced the small screen in 1982 and had a 13 season run on the show. I think he’d make a nice addition to the new “healthy” theme of the show.


er mcgregor

Today, possibly to brighten my chores, TNT decided to air my very favorite episode of ER (The Long Way Round, 2/13/97). That was very sweet of them 🙂

I have to say that there are many, many episodes of ER that I love. I’m not even sure why I like this one so much, but I just do.

Perhaps it is because it guest stars Ewan McGregor. More likely it is the amazing nursing skills of Carol Hathaway. Ewan and his ‘cousin’ hold up a convenience store with Nurse Hathaway and several others inside. Things turn bad and Ewan ends up killing the store owner. Carol does her best to help the wounded using MacGyver-like skills. She uses duct tape, and the straw from a juice box and the cardboard part of a tampon and KrazyGlue for various medical procedures. Very cool.

It is also interesting to see the progression of McGregor’s character… From a guy just needing a few bucks, to a murderer, to a victim. Although he is the “bad guy” you can’t help feeling sorry for him. He makes a couple bad decisions and they multiply and come back to haunt him.

Thank you TNT for providing a pleasant break in my day of house-cleaning!

Muppet Advertising

There are so many commercials out there that I find to be really horrible, so when I come across one or two that I like I look forward to seeing them over and over again.

Two that have been playing lately have a couple things in common: they are both for soda, and they both feature songs that have been sung by the Muppets. Interesting, no?

I have fallen in love with both commercials. The first is for “Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.” I have yet to try this concoction, so I won’t speak for the flavor, but this one particular commercial is fantastic. The scene opens on a busy restaurant: A couple sits dining. The gentleman is engaged in chattering away on one topic or another. His date takes a sip of her DCVDP and the world seems to slip away as her date’s rambling melds into “mah na mah na”. The rest of the diners chime in with the obligatory “doot do do do do” right on cue! Ha! What better way to drown out someones sports ramblings. I’ll have to try it sometime!

The second commercial begain airing more recently. It is for “Coke with Lime” soda. Basically what they have done is altered the classic lyrics “put the lime in the coconut, drinkem both up” to instead say “you put the lime in the Coke, you nut, drinkem both up.” The idea is formed in a Coke lab and passed on up through management. All the while the song is playing in the background. Just to make sure that the general population got the joke, the Coke people have added a little bouncing ball lyric subtitle at the end. Classic.

Both songs can be found on the album, aaa|Muppet Hits|B00008G2FF|aaa.