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Thursday 27 September 2018

As the summer sun sets the drama rises: Made in Chelsea's back

The Croatian sun may have set but the drama is rising and things are hotting-up in SW3, as the Made in Chelsea boys and girls reunite on their home turf for an unforgettable series this autumn. Expect scandalous secrets, rocky romances, frosty friendships and…an engagement (or three) from the Chelsea favourites, with the 11x60’ series bursting onto screens on Monday 8th October at 9pm on E4.

Can old relationships be resuscitated? Will broken friendships be repaired? Are seemingly solid couples strong enough to weather the Chelsea storm? This series will chart the highs and lows of the cast as they quaff champagne in the Royal Borough’s most sought after hot spots.

Returning for series 16 will be MIC favourites Jamie Laing, Ollie Locke, newly engaged Louise Thompson and her fiancĂ© Ryan Libbey, Mark Francis, Victoria Baker Harber, Sam Thompson, Olivia Bentley, Oliver Proudlock, Sophie Herman, Alex Mytton, Harry Baron, Melissa Tattam, , Digby Edgley, Sophie Habboo (Habbs), Miles Nazaire, James Taylor, and Emily Blackwell. Ollie Locke’s fiancĂ©, Gareth Locke, will also be make an appearance.

There may also be a surprise appearance or two along the way….

The series is produced by Monkey and commissioned by Controller of E4, Karl Warner and Commissioning Editor for Factual Entertainment, Lee McMurray. The series is executive produced by Monkey’s Kelly Lynn and David Granger.

Lee McMurray said: “We’re as delighted as ever to be welcoming Made in Chelsea back to E4, deploying its trademark fun and flair to delve into the complex love lives and friendships of the cast. Not one, but three marriage proposals are among the many high points of romance and drama viewers can expect, in what promises to be an exciting and eventful new series.”

Kelly Lynn, Executive Producer at Monkey comments: “What happens in Croatia certainly doesn’t stay in Croatia and with the full cast back together, the drama is at an all-time high. I’m excited for viewers to tune in and catch-up with the gang on familiar territory, and with three Chelsea engagements, there is even more reason to celebrate.”

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Butterfly - October on ITV

International Emmy award winning actress Anna Friel (Marcella, Broken), is joined by Emmett J. Scanlan (Harlan Coben’s Safe, The Fall), Alison Steadman (Orphan Black, Gavin and Stacey), Sean McGinley (Paula, On a Clear Day) and child actor Callum Booth-Ford in the new ITV mini-series Butterfly, produced by RED Production Company. 

Created and penned by BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Tony Marchant, Butterfly is a heartfelt and sensitive drama about the complex relationship between separated parents, Vicky (Anna Friel) and Stephen (Emmett J. Scanlan), and their division in opinion over how to support their youngest child, Max (Callum Booth-Ford). From a young age, Max has identified as a girl but has tried to suppress these feelings in an attempt to earn Stephen’s approval.

When Max’s feelings become increasingly distressing, Stephen seizes the opportunity to return to live at the family home, hoping to encourage male bonding and prove himself to Vicky. What unfolds is the greatest challenge and test of love and understanding imaginable. The social transitioning of Max to Maxine is initially thwarted because of the clear division of opinion between Vicky and Stephen.

Despite puberty looming over her, as Maxine grows in confidence she becomes increasingly certain that she’s in the right skin – will this be enough to get everyone else on board? Both parents want to protect Maxine but are completely split on the best way to do that. Stephen is still clinging to the idea that it’s still a passing ‘phase’ and doesn’t want to take such a leap with the ensuing emotional upheaval, if it isn’t ultimately going to be followed through.

Whilst for Vicky, it’s about making sure that Maxine’s mental health is kept intact at all costs. Butterfly embraces the story of a three-generational family and exposes the truly extraordinary demands made by everyone in the family. Across three episodes viewers will see how they all prosper or fall as the string of challenges unfold over time.

Nicola Shindler established the multi award winning RED Production Company in Manchester in 1998 to work with the best writers producing modern and innovative programming, and has executive produced Butterfly with Tony Marchant. Caroline Hollick, Creative Director at RED, is also an executive producer. Adam Kemp is executive producer and his boutique indie company AENON (Our Zoo) a co-producer.

ITV’s Senior Commissioner, Victoria Fea, has overseen the drama from the broadcaster’s perspective.

RED Production Company is part of  STUDIOCANAL’S  international production network of companies. 

Emmerdale’s original bad girl is back for a cheeky cameo

Emmerdale’s original bad girl is back for a cheeky cameo

Kim Tate is back and she wants revenge.

It’s been almost 20 years since iconic super bitch Kim left the Emmerdale village in a dramatic exit which saw her escape in a helicopter after attempting to kill her stepson, Chris Tate. In all her glory, Kim is set to make an explosive surprise comeback in a week of high drama at a Home Farm masquerade ball airing this October.

Kim still has unfinished business in the village and there are several characters who will find themselves at the receiving end of her vindictive ways. 

On her character’s return Claire King said:  

“As a Yorkshire lass myself, I’m absolutely thrilled to be back in Yorkshire for a fun-filled cameo, once again reaping havoc in the Dales! As there are still some familiar faces from 20 years ago it’s felt like coming home and I couldn’t have had a more lovely welcome from such a talented cast and crew, so thank you everyone! It’s literally been a blast!”

Producer, Kate Brooks said:

“Kim Tate is such a hurricane of a character, notorious for wreaking havoc wherever she goes. Kim's explosive return shakes the very foundations of the village as she swaggers back into Home Farm, leaving a devastating trail of destruction in her wake.

We are delighted to welcome Claire back to the show; an actor exuding charisma and ebullience. It is testament to Claire's immense talent that her portrayal of such an iconic soap villain is so convincing. We are all absolutely thrilled that she's filling Kim Tate's designer shoes once again.”

Kim played by Claire King first arrived in the village in 1989 and soon earned her name as a ruthless gold-digger. She attempted murder, faked her own death and stood by while her husband died. It seemed Kim didn’t have many redeeming qualities but her love affair with Dave Glover brought out her softer side, until he tragically died saving Kim’s baby in a fire at Home Farm.

The Apprentice - Meet the candidates

Alex Finn
Age: 21
Occupation: IT Analyst
Lives: The Wirral

Alex believes his ‘gift of the gab’ is his best skill but admits that he can sometimes be too headstrong. Alongside his granddad, who invented the ‘Finn Chocolate Coater’ (a machine mould to coat chocolate bars and biscuits), Alex credits Elon Musk amongst his role models because ‘in business, he reaches for the stars, rather than everyone else who just aims to conquer the earth’.

He says: “I know everything. Call me ‘Google’... it's my middle name.”

Camilla Ainsworth
Age: 22
Occupation: Owner, Nut Milk Brand
Lives: Lancashire

Camilla admits to being an adrenaline junkie and loves to try anything new and exciting; from skydiving to swimming with sharks. She believes her people skills are her biggest strength, although feels her openness and willingness to overshare can sometimes work against her. She says she will be ‘keeping her cards close to her chest’ in the process.

She says: “I’m a bundle of energy and creativity and certainly a one off… ain’t no Vanilla Camilla”

Daniel Elahi
Age: 28
Occupation: Owner, Lifestyle Brand
Lives: London

Daniel set up his business in 2017 and likens himself to Jordan Belfort, the main character in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, because of his entrepreneurial skills and lavish, party lifestyle.

He says: “I have the beauty and the brains, typically people only have one. I was blessed with both in abundance.”

David Alden
Age: 32
Occupation: Tax Advisor
Lives: East Yorkshire

David claims that he can speak to anyone about anything, though he gets frustrated when others don’t share his unwavering positivity.  He also admits that being too trusting has been his downfall in the past.

He says: “My friends and family call me the Duracell bunny as I take on so much and never stop. I just keep going.”

Frank Brooks
Age: 27
Occupation: Senior Marketing Manager
Lives: London

Frank is a self-proclaimed ‘trendsetter’ who says he likes to push boundaries with his humour. He claims to use charisma and charm for both negotiating and building morale within a group. Frank admits he can sometimes play people off against each other to get what he wants. He says he can be brutal when he needs to be and does not stand for people who are lazy or shirk responsibility.

He says: “There’s no need to watch your back when I’m already two steps in front.”

Jackie Fast
Age: 34
Occupation: Sponsorship Consultant
Lives: London

Having sold her company in 2016 and published a business book in 2017, Jackie says she is a trailblazer within the sponsorship industry and wider business community and credits her success to her positive attitude. She admits she can be very opinionated and isn’t good at taking criticism, but hopes her commercial mind will see her through the process.

She says: “I'm not intimidated by anybody, or anything.”

Jasmine Kundra
Age: 34
Occupation: Learning and Development Manager
Lives: West Midlands

Jasmine has built her career on training others to better themselves and develop their skills and says that she loves enabling and empowering people. She credits American philanthropist and life coach Tony Robbins as her role model and admires how he has built a global empire and success whilst also improving people’s lives. Jasmine admits to being very stubborn and says she likes to get her own way, however aims to use her charm and charisma to see her through the process.

She says: “All is fair in love and war… and business is war.”

Kayode Damali
Age: 26
Occupation: Professional Speaker
Lives: Cheshire

Professional speaker Kayode delivers talks to inspire young people all over the country. Brimming with ideas, Kayode throws himself into new ventures. With his name meaning ‘he brings us joy’, he believes his positive personality and natural likeability will lead to success in the boardroom.

He says: “I’m not here to razzle dazzle and hit you with buzzwords like ‘I’m so motivated, passionate’… anyone can say those things and I’m not anyone, I’m Kayode Damali. If you’re not your own biggest fan, who do you expect to be it for you?”

Khadija Kalifa
Age: 28
Occupation: Owner, Eco Cleaning Company
Lives: Lincolnshire

Having run her own eco-friendly cleaning business for the past three years, Khadija considers her people skills to be her best business asset. She says her friends would describe her as being quick-witted, motivational and genuinely wanting to help others but she can have a bit of a ‘hot head’. Khadija looks up to Richard Branson in business for ‘his success and willingness to assist others’ and plans to be likeable but focused, though says she can be cut-throat when required.

She says: “Whatever I say I’m going to make happen happens. I’m a serious Mumpreneur who doesn’t have time for timewasters and idiocy.”

Kurran Pooni
Age: 22
Occupation: Law Graduate
Lives: London

Kurran believes he has a keen creative eye and is confident that he’ll cope well with ‘managing egos’. He is inspired in business by his father who started his own airline. Kurran gets irked by people who are out for themselves rather than working collectively for the team and gets especially rattled by people who lie. He says that simply being himself will help him to breeze through the process.

He says: “I’ll be honest, I don’t eat, sleep, breathe business but I do eat, sleep and breathe success.” 

Rick Monk
Age: 33
Occupation: Quality Controller
Lives: Lancashire

Rick says that one of his best qualities is his confidence and assertiveness and that being able to separate business from pleasure means he is good at getting the best from others. Rick believes befriending all the contestants will set him in good stead to get their backing in a task but warns he is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and will use this to his advantage.

He says: “I won't pussyfoot and waste time, as time is of the essence in everything. People will have to like it or lump it.”

Sabrina Stocker
Age: 22
Occupation: Owner, Tennis Events Company
Lives: Middlesex

Sabrina has had her eye on making money from the age of 14, when she set up a business selling retro sweets as part of a Young Enterprise Scheme. She cites Emma Watson as one of her role models because she’s ‘always clear-headed and makes good decisions, whilst still having elements of fun’. Sabrina says she can walk into a room and capture an audience but admits to sometimes making ‘silly comments’ before thinking. She plans to throw herself feet first into the process and use her positive energy to get involved in everything.

She says: “I am a mix of Willy Wonka drinking an espresso martini… classy and sophisticated on the outside; inside, a little bit crazy and wacky but full of brilliant ideas.”

Sarah Byrne
Age: 29
Occupation: Owner, Children’s Acting Academy
Lives: Manchester

Sarah owns and runs an acting academy for children. Sarah says she wants to be a role model to her young daughter and hopes her hard work and life experience will aid her in the process. She admits she’s not good with business terminology and is angered by people in business who turn their noses up at the working-class demographic. Sarah hopes her charm and persuasive skills will see her through to the end and believes her creativity will be her biggest strength.

She says: “I am me, I don’t have a posh accent or pretend to be anyone else. My personality sells me, my passion to succeed and work ethic.”

Sarah Ann Magson
Age: 37
Occupation: Solicitor
Lives: Teesside

Alongside her role as Director at a law firm, Sarah Ann has also run her own nursery furniture business since 2016. Although she says timekeeping and organisation aren’t her greatest strengths, Sarah Ann believes her loyalty, commitment and ability to remain calm under pressure are her best qualities and thinks that her skills and charm will outwit any of her competitors.

She says: “I am used to laying down the law in the courtroom, but now I’m going to lay down the law in the boardroom.”

Sian Gabbidon
Age: 25
Occupation: Owner, Swimwear Brand
Lives: Leeds

Sian owns and runs a swimwear fashion brand, with clients including celebrities and celebrity stylists. She identifies with Coco Chanel as a role model in business, as she ‘came from nothing and worked her way to the top’. She believes she has been brought up to win and every task will see her being calculated, collaborative and ruthless where necessary.

She says: “I bring both the passion and the fire - in the boardroom, I will be merciless.”

Tom Bunday
Age: 28
Occupation: Owner, Tree Surgery Firm
Lives: Southampton

Having struggled at school, Tom now runs a successful arboricultural (tree care) business. He says he’s drawn to situations that intimidate him and believes he can rise to any challenge. Tom believes his loyalty is one of his best qualities along with the fact he loves not knowing what is around the corner but admits he finds it difficult to ‘switch off’.

He says: “There are very few people that can genuinely say they’re going to make it - but I know that I’m going to.”

The Bisexual: Interview with Brian Gleeson who plays Gabe

Explain a little bit about The Bisexual – what’s the story about?

It’s about Leila (played by co-writer and director Desiree Akhavan), a woman from New York who ends up in London. The show starts with her breaking up with her girlfriend and business partner after a long-term relationship. As a result, she moves out of their house and moves in with a guy called Gabe, who I play. The two of them get to know each other, and we follow her journey as she navigates the dating scene in London. That’s the basis of the show.

Tell us about Gabe – how do you see him?

Gabe is a novelist who, when we meet him in the story, hasn’t had anything published for about 10 years. He kind of became quite successful in his 20s, and it’s been a few years since that. He’s teaching in a college, and getting by, but he’s on the wane a little bit. He’s quite neurotic. What’s great about the show is that your understanding of him deepens as episodes go on and you kind of get to learn more about his background and why he’s in London, and his relationship with his sister (played by Eva Birtwhistle). You get an understanding of a different kind of trauma that he’s experienced in the past.

Is it fair to say he thinks Leila is quite exotic because she’s bisexual?

Yeah, yeah! Gabe is very intelligent, but he wouldn’t be exactly up-to-date or ‘woke’ in the sense that most people are these days. He puts his foot in it a lot! But he learns a lot from Leila about her life, and her thoughts about identity and being bisexual. And what’s great about the show is also that she learns a lot, about him as well.

Do you think he and Leila are just friends because of circumstance, or do you think they would actually like each other anyway?

They definitely don’t seem compatible. Leila moved out of the flat with her girlfriend and had to find somewhere quickly. I’m sure if she’d had more time to think about it, she’d have chosen someone different to live with. But that’s kind of the point of the idea of their friendship – the idea that you learn more from being around different types of people.

Do you like Gabe?

Yeah, I’m very fond of him. I think he was written with such care and love, and there’s nothing but empathy for him in the writing. He was a joy to play.

Why do you think he was written as an author on the wane?

I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to get into big themes too much, I think that’s for Desiree (co-writer-/director/star) [Akhavan] to answer. But for me it was a great dissection of modern masculinity, I suppose. Just in terms of a certain type of man who’s in the world now, who’s trying to adjust and trying to change. What’s great about it is that we don’t let him off the hook – he puts his foot in it a lot and is admonished, but what’s different about him is that he tries to learn.

Was he written as Irish, or did he just become that because you came along?

As far as I know, he wasn’t written as Irish.

Does the fact that he is Irish nevertheless add an element of him and Leila both being outsiders?

Maybe. There’s a lot of Irish in London, and have been for years – they’re very much a part of the city. But when you get to know Gabe’s background – that he left Ireland with his sister for a particular reason – I think him being Irish adds pathos to that.

He’s in something of a dysfunctional relationship, isn’t he?

Yeah. He’s dating a girl called Francisca, who’s one of the students in the college where he teaches. She’s quite formidable, she’s wise beyond her years, and is definitely a handful for him. You get the sense that maybe they’re not entirely compatible, and maybe they’re not together for the right reasons. It’s definitely an unorthodox set-up they have.

You’ve done some big Hollywood films of late – what drew you to a comedy on Channel 4?

Channel 4 always do really great stuff, they do great comedies. And when I met Desi I’d read two episodes and thought they were great. I found them funny and acerbic, but also full of humanity and love for fellow man. And then I went to the read-through two-weeks before, and the rest of the episodes had been written, and it got better and better. And Gabe was such a good character, so well written.

What are the main differences between working on something like Mother or Phantom Thread and working on The Bisexual? Does it feel like a different profession, or just the same stuff in a slightly smaller trailer?

I think it depends on who’s in charge. You can do a big blockbuster, but if there’s a very particular vision behind it, then it’s exactly the same as working on a TV series. You have a director and a writer with a particular vision, there are producers to help realise that particular vision, and that’s your job as well, but if the director and writer behind a project are in it for the right reasons, and it’s not a committee-driven movie, then it’s exactly the same as a TV show.

Desiree is combining writing, directing and starring in the series. What was it like to watch her work?

She had so much to do all the time, and never lost her cool once, which I thought was quite amazing. She’s writing it, acting it, directing it and she kept her sh*t. And more than that, she gave great notes, and was always there for the actors. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about her. There were two producers, Naomi de Pear and Katie Carpenter, who were great on set – they helped guide it as well. I’m sure Desiree would say it takes a lot of people to get the job done, and we had a really good team.

The Bisexual: Interview with Maxine Peake who plays Sadie

Explain a bit about The Bisexual – what’s the story?

The story is about Leila (Desiree Akhavan), who’s a young woman who’s living in East London, right in the centre of Hipsterville. She’s running a company with her long-term girlfriend. And then she starts to have feelings that she’s maybe not ready to settle down, and also that she might want to start dating men as well. It’s about her coming- of-age journey, and how the lesbian community responds to that, and how Leila and those close to her respond to that. And it’s about a group of friends who she meets along the way. Desiree says it’s seen as sort of the last taboo, a lesbian coming out as bisexual.

What was it that attracted you to the role of Sadie?

I think it was Desiree, if I’m honest. I read it, and I’d seen her film Appropriate Behaviour, and I just thought she was extraordinary. And then she’s over here, writing, directing and starring in something, and I thought “I want to be a part of this.” They approached and asked if I’d be interested, and Desiree wrote me a lovely letter saying “I really don’t know your work, but people keep saying you should be playing Sadie.” And we did a little Skype interview, and I thought she was amazing. And we just clicked, and I thought “I really want to be part of this.” It felt like nothing else I’d seen on British telly when I read it. And I felt like it was very different to stuff I’d done previously.

Sadie isn’t the most straightforward of characters – how do you see her?

There’s quite a bit of an age gap between Leila and Sadie, so I think that’s part of the complication. Sadie got a lot of things out of her system before she settled down with Leila. Leila says to Sadie: “I gave you my 20s,” but Sadie says to her “Well, I gave you my 30s,” and that’s quite interesting. As a woman, the 20s are when you're having fun, and 30s are the time when you’re thinking about family and settling down. That’s what we’re led to believe is what we should be thinking, as women.

Sadie hasn’t necessarily had the easiest life. She alludes to what it was like growing up as gay in Burnley in the 1980s. Yeah, she’s not had it easy. She’s come from a working-class background, from the north, and Burnley’s a small town in the northwest of England. It was difficult for her. At school she had to hide it. And then she’s come to London, catapulted into a very high-flying middle class world, where she’s trying to battle and fit in and keep her head above water. And I think she’s shut herself off quite a bit to survive, just got her head down and got on with it, and maybe lost a little bit of herself along the way. So it’s a bit of a catalyst for both of them, I think, when Leila says to her “Look, I’m off to explore.” I think it opens up a lot of what Sadie’s been doing for the last 20 years. You fight to get to where you want to be, but you never really arrive, you just dock for a bit. So she’s just trying to take in what she’s got, and what she’s looking for.

Do you think it’s worse for Sadie because Leila is dating a man?

Oh yeah. I think it makes her think about herself as a woman – was she not able to give her what she wanted? Was Leila ever really in love with her? Now she’s looking at the opposite sex for satisfaction and love. I think whether you’re straight or gay or whatever your sexual preference, it’s about rejection. When someone says “I don’t actually know if you’re enough for me at the moment, so I’m just going to go and find out,” that’s quite a hard thing to deal with.

The Mine! office that Sadie and Leila co-own looks like an achingly trendy media company where nothing ever quite seems to happen. Is that fair?

Yeah, and I think it’s very reminiscent of a lot of media places I’ve encountered. It’s like it was created by Chris Morris – it feels straight out of Nathan Barley. He [Morris] is such a soothsayer, isn’t he? When it came out, everyone was like “What is this?” And then it all ends up actually happening. Our company is a sort of pastiche of that East London, Hoxton, Old Street media circus. It’s a bit like a fashion Disneyland when you go down there. I think the humour comes from the fact that Desiree has really captured the essence of those places and those people.

Desiree writes, directs and stars. That’s something you can relate to, from the theatre. How did it feel watching her work?

It was amazing, because she was always a team player. It never felt like she was going “This is my show! I have many different roles to play on this show and I am the most important person here.” And it was so interesting watching her switch heads, which she did seamlessly. She kept her cool all the time. And it was interesting watching her, she’d go off every now and again and make little changes to the script. And she was really open and collaborative, and she’d let us try different things, and do bits of improvisation. There was absolutely no dictatorship going on.

Having done something similar in the theatre, would you like to write and direct and star in your own TV series at some point?

I’m not sure. I’ve written plays, but I’ve never been in a play that I’ve written, and I haven’t wanted to be. I get a lot of pleasure watching other people create the characters that I’ve written. And I have directed stuff, but I didn’t write that, so it’s all a bit different. I’ve not done the multiple roles thing. I think maybe writing and directing. But then, if I wrote a good enough part, maybe I’d want to be in it! But I do enjoy bringing other people’s words to life. But definitely I’d be interested in writing/directing. That has a lot of pull to me. But it’s so hard to juggle all those disciplines at once. Desiree’s calmness and professionalism all the way through was a real lesson.

Looking at your CV, you have the most incredibly varied body of work, encompassing Twinkle, Hamlet and almost everything in between. Do you consciously change the type of work you do in order to avoid being pigeon-holed, or is it more just a case of following what interests you?

I think it’s a little bit of both. I work on what interests me, but I think it’s a little bit of a hangover from being at drama school, being Northern, and people telling you you’d only ever play certain roles. People think if you’ve got a northern accent, that’s it. Like there’s only one character type that comes out of the North. Like we’re all one and the same person, in a way. So I think I’m always keen to show that I can do something else. I like doing different and interesting projects, and it’s about stretching yourself as an actor.

The Bisexual: Interview with writer, director and star Desiree Akhavan

The Bisexual is your new comedy for Channel 4 – can you explain a little bit about the show?

The show is a bisexual dating comedy about a woman who has identified as a lesbian for her whole life then comes out as bisexual and starts seeing men for the first time in her 30’s.

Inevitably, there are more than a few echoes of your own experiences in there. How autobiographical is it?

It’s not autobiographical in its plot- I’ve never identified as a lesbian and came out as bisexual from the start, but the characters in it are inspired by the people Cecilia and I know and love, so it comes from a very personal place. It’s a look at London and particularly Hackney as we know it.

You describe ‘bisexuality’ as the last taboo. Do you think that’s the case?

It sure feels like it. There are worse taboos out there, but this one’s tricky because by the very nature of it being bisexual is invisible: if I’m walking down the street holding a woman’s hand I’m gay, if it’s a man’s I’m straight. That’s how a lot of people side-step the label. It has a lot of stigma to it.

At one point, Leila says the word “bisexual” makes her f*cking skin crawl. Is that how you feel?

For sure. That’s the genesis of the whole series for me- that discomfort with the truth. Saying the words, “I’m bisexual,” makes me deeply uncomfortable and I want to explore why.

Your film Appropriate Behaviour also begins with a break-up, as does The Bisexual. What is it about that situation that interests you?

When I was writing Appropriate Behaviour, I was coming out of a relationship, and managing that, and that’s where it came from. I was trying to figure out how it went wrong, still living in it. For this, it was more about what Leila would have to sacrifice and establishing everything she was leaving behind.

I’m told it was a predominantly female crew. Was that a conscious decision, and if so, what does it mean for the atmosphere on set?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision, I think I just gravitate towards the right people for the jobs and who knew how to build this world of Hackney through a queer lens. Many of the crew members were openly gay, which brought a lot of attention to detail. Set can be a very macho, male-dominated space and this was predominantly female, which was much more conducive to the kind of show we were making.

What brought you to London? Do you consider yourself a Londoner now?

I don’t know whether you can officially give yourself that title. I would love to consider myself a Londoner. I consider myself a little bit of a nomad. That was how I felt in New York as well, an outsider. That said, London feels like home and I’ve been really happy here. I think it’s a good city for outsiders.

How different do you think the series would have been if you’d made it in the US?

Oh God! I don’t think I would have had any of the freedom I had. I was given such a long leash. Between Sister Pictures and [Executive Producer] Naomi de Pear and Channel 4, it was incredible. They were constantly saying: “We want you to take it further.” They were my enablers. I just feel like I’d never have been able to take the risks that I took if I’d made this show anywhere else.

You wrote the show with your longtime collaborator Cecilia. What is it about writing as a pair that appeals to you?

We share a shorthand, a shared sense of comedy, a shared perspective on what matters and deep mutual adoration. She is my partner in all things except the romantic. I adore her and her taste. She makes me better and braver and smarter. Sometimes it’s seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes that helps you understand who you are.

You began writing aged 10. That’s not a particularly common thing for that age – why did you want to do that?

A lot of kids write stories but I wrote scripts, which I think is what’s uncommon. I specifically wrote them so that I had people to play with at lunch. I could assign roles to people and put them in my play, and I think it was just because I was very lonely and I wanted to play. I wasn’t very good at making friends.

You’ve said that TV was your third parent, and taught you about US culture. What shows do you think shaped you?

The Brady Bunch – I watched a lot of The Brady Bunch. And I watched Saved By the Bell, Full House, really saccharine, melodramatic shows about families, which was so strange, because my family didn’t look like anything I saw on television. Tracy Ullman and Mel Brooks were two of my comedy heroes. His movies and her television series – those were shows that I watched with my family, all of us together, and we all laughed. It was very rare that we could agree what channel to put on, and what programme was good, but those shows could make us all laugh, and that was exciting and special.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Channel 4 Daytime commissions second series of The £100k Drop

Remarkable Television, part of Endemol Shine Group, today announced that Channel 4 Daytime has commissioned a second series of The £100k Drop.

Davina McCall will be back as a host of new contestants will step up and attempt to win a jackpot of £100,000.

Host Davina McCall says “I couldn’t be more ecstatic that we are back for a second series! The first series was such a thrill ride, and we had the biggest win of the series with £75,000 so l can’t wait to see if a lucky pair will get to take home the full £100,000 this time round! It’s all for the taking in series 2!”

At the top of every game, a pair of contestants start with £100,000. Just seven questions stand between them and the money. To take it home, they must hold their nerve by placing their money on the trap doors containing the correct answers. Give a wrong answer and they will see thousands of pounds of cash drop through the floor before their very eyes.

The 100K Drop Series One averaged at a 5.2% share of individuals and the series attracted a 6.9% share of 16-34 audiences which was +72% up on the weekday 4pm slot average.

A huge amount of money has been won across the first series, and it was best friends David and Jonathan managed to scoop an incredible £75,000, the biggest win of the series. But there is still a chance for players to beat that big win in the new series...

Syeda Irtizaali, Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, Entertainment said: “We’re thrilled that Davina is back for another series of the nail-bitingly tense £100K Drop. Last series saw big life changing wins and I’m hoping this is the series we see at least one pair walk away with the whole jackpot.

Richard Hague, Head of Entertainment at Remarkable Television said: “It’s a testament to the brilliance of Davina and such a compelling format that we are returning for another rollercoaster ride on Channel 4.”

The format made its international debut on Channel 4 in the UK in May 2010. Since then, it has become a runaway hit selling to an impressive 55 territories including the USA, Germany, Russia, Australia and Mongolia.

The £100K Drop will air on Channel 4 in 2019. It was commissioned by Syeda Irtizaali, Commissioning Editor, Entertainment for Channel 4 and will be executive produced by Richard Hague at Remarkable Television.

If you are brave enough to take on The 100k Drop then apply here: http://www.channel4.com/4viewers/viewers-voice/take-part

Channel 4 opens up the phone lines to the Celebrity Call Centre

Channel 4 is set to open the phone lines at a call centre like no other - staffed entirely by celebrities, it’s a helpline for the nation, where a team of all-star agony aunts will come together in aid of Stand Up to Cancer to advise the great British public on dilemmas, large and small.

Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh, Made in Chelsea’s Georgia “Toff” Toffolo, comedians Mo Gilligan, and Joel Dommett, TV’s Queen of Clean Kim Woodburn, Pineapple Dance Studios’ Louie Spence, Countdown maths whizz Rachel Riley and Cuckoo actor Tyger Drew-Honey will be manning the lines at the Celebrity Call Centre, never knowing who’ll be at the other end of the phone or what problem they’ll be faced with.

They’ll be advising on everything from how to get through a break up, to extra-marital affairs, and the perils of online dating. In the process they’ll be opening up about their own life experiences and the challenges and heartache they’ve faced.

Celebrity Call Centre was commissioned by Channel 4 Formats Commissioning Editor Lee McMurray and Head of Formats Dom Bird. The one-off Stand Up to Cancer special will be made by Kerfuffle TV, with Steven D Wright as Executive Producer.

Lee McMurray said: “As well as serving up a fascinating, funny and often moving snap shot of the modern-day dilemmas that trouble the nation, the beauty of the format is that it also encourages the celebrity agony aunts to open up, talking to members of the public in a way they never have before, and providing Channel 4 viewers with surprising revelations and touching insights into their real lives and personalities.”

Steven D Wright added: “We’re delighted to be producing Celebrity Call Centre as part of Channel 4’s Stand Up to Cancer season this year. As well as contributing to a worthy cause, the format entertainingly gets under the skin of what’s vexing Britain, and cleverly brings some of our favourite stars down from their pedestals. Expect shocks, surprises and revelations as the celebrities open up to tackle the Great British public’s problems and predicaments.”

The Big Audition - ITV

Fri 05 Oct 2018
9.00pm - 10.00pm

Series overview
The Big Audition is a brand new factual entertainment series goes behind the scenes of the casting world.

We will witness real people being cast for real jobs, which have the potential to be life-changing. The casting panels will be searching to fill all sorts of roles and anyone can audition, from seasoned professionals to first-timers. This fixed rig programme will uncover the decision-making process of the panels and will transport us through each audition to reveal what really goes on in the casting studio.

Through intimate interviews, we’ll hear heart-warming, funny and touching backstories. There will be highs and lows along the way, but who will have what it takes to land the job of their dreams?

Episode 1
This brand new series uncovers the secret world of real auditions and each week three jobs are up for grabs. From West End lead to stunt double and everything in between, the series celebrates the highs and lows as real people give their all to impress the panel and land their dream job.

The Big Audition Studios opens its doors for the very first time with three very different jobs on offer: dog model, tv shopping presenter and King Henry VIII.

The waiting room is filled with barking, as a pack of pooches compete for a contract worth £12,000 and the chance to be the cover star of leading dog magazines Dogs Today and Dogs Monthly. The wannabe dog models include a Chihuahua with a wardrobe to die for, a Mexican hairless often mistaken for a hyena, a rescue dog with one eye and a sausage dog who can balance a jaw-dropping array of objects on his head.

TV shopping channel ‘Ideal World’ are looking for a new fitness presenter. A panel from the company are searching for someone engaging, unflappable and skilled at selling. Olympic bobsledder Toby, nervous Liverpudlian Holly and Wigan window cleaner Barry are amongst the hopefuls out to prove they’ve got what it takes.

The final king-sized casting is for the prestigious role of playing Henry VIII at Hampton Court. Several of the potential Henrys arrive in full royal regalia, from the bling to the tights. But who will be crowned King? Will it be historical novelist Tony? Or perhaps bus driver James, who believes he’s destined to succeed because his route takes him past Hampton Court every day?

As each panel gathers to make their decision and with tension mounting in the waiting room, the decisions are finally revealed. Meet best dog, new TV talent and your King.

Monday 24 September 2018

COMPETITION: Win Designated Survivor -The Complete Second Season on DVD

Designated Survivor -The Complete Second Season is out on DVD on 1st October 2018.
And to celebrate we have a great competition for you and 2 copies to give away.

The inimitable Kiefer Sutherland returns as the all-powerful, accidental Commander-in-Chief, Tom Kirkman, for the enthralling Second Season of the award-winning hit series Designated Survivor, from renowned US network ABC.

Following on from the thrilling first season – where lower-level cabinet minister and ‘Designated Survivor’ Tom Kirkman (Sutherland – 24), is suddenly appointed President of the United States, when a devastating attack on the US Capitol wipes out most of the government – we join the new leader one year into his presidency.

With the support of his devoted wife First Lady Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone – Californication), President Kirkman is starting to find his feet  as the most powerful man in the world. The terrorists who took down the Capitol are still at large and the President will stop at nothing to bring justice to the people they killed, even if it means making personal sacrifices.

Click here to buy from Amazon (Opens in a new window)

For your chance to win just answer the question below.


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 08-10-18
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.

Friday 21 September 2018

Celebs set to patrol streets in Famous & Fighting Crime

A group of famous faces are set to take on the challenge of their lives, as they work on the front line of British policing with one of the country’s busiest police forces in Channel 4’s Famous and Fighting Crime.

TV presenter Katie Piper, Loose Women panellist Penny Lancaster, Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing, Gogglebox star Sandi Bogle and comedian Marcus Brigstocke are the five well-known rookies being given the chance to see what it’s really like to be at the sharp end of policing.

Our famous crime fighters will be with Cambridgeshire Constabulary, responding to real 999 calls, working in custody, and even CID, as well as taking part in high risk drugs raids and keeping order in rowdy city centres at the weekend.

After years of budget cuts, police forces are under more pressure than ever and the five will be joining an army of 12,000 volunteer officers who police towns and cities all across the UK. Volunteers known as ‘Special Constables’ have all the powers of a warranted police officer and work alongside their regular colleagues on the frontline but do so in their spare time, often working around their own careers and personal lives.

Lee McMurray, Commissioning Editor for Formats at Channel 4 said, “We’re delighted to have secured such a smart, diverse cast of famous faces for this once in a lifetime opportunity, which will not only provide Channel 4 viewers with fascinating insights into the realities of modern policing, but also allow them to see some of their favourite household names in a new and surprising light.”

Edmund Coulthard, Executive Producer from Blast! Films adds, “As police budgets go down, and the pressures on police forces go up, our celebrities are joining the thousands of volunteers risking everything on the frontline of policing today. It’s certain to be a life changing experience – no one can predict the criminals or the crimes they’ll encounter”.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Dan Vajzovic says “This is a great opportunity to showcase the valuable work of the Special Constabulary and give viewers a chance to see some of the excellent work our officers do day in day out, but which often remains hidden. The series promises to be entertaining and impactful, offering the viewer a unique view of the role volunteers play in policing their own communities, and I hope it will inspire many others to volunteer for their police force.”

Jennifer Hudson, Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones and will.i.am all to return for new series of The Voice UK

The Voice UK’s stellar panel of coaches – Jennifer Hudson, Olly Murs, Sir Tom Jones and will.i.am -are all confirmed to return to their iconic red chairs for the new series. They will be seeking the very best solo singers, duos and, in a competition first this year, trios. The four music superstars will commence filming the Blind Auditions next month with the series launching on ITV early next year.

Grammy, Oscar and BAFTA winning singer and actress, Jennifer Hudson was recently cast in the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash musical Cats and is set to star as the young Aretha Franklin in the upcoming biopic about the Queen of Soul. Continuing as a coach on The Voice on both sides of the Atlantic, Jennifer also recently performed the title anthem ‘I’ll Fight’ by Diane Warren on documentary feature, RBG. Returning to the UK, Jennifer said: “I'm so happy to be re-joining my coaches at The Voice UK. I’m ready and excited to discover some beautiful voices.”

With five multi-platinum albums and countless sold out arena tours, Olly Murs made his debut as a coach earlier this year.  Since then, he has been putting the finishing touches to his hotly anticipated sixth studio album. His new music set to be released later this year, Olly said: “Now I’ve got one season under my belt, I can’t wait to see what my second season has in store for me. Last year I managed to get seduced and picked some entertaining performers. The other coaches might think they have worked me out but I’m coming back with a bang, just you wait!”

The legendary Sir Tom Jones, with a phenomenal 6 decades in showbusiness, will be back following a tour of the UK and Europe this summer. Sir Tom said: “I’m raring to go on the search for some talented new singers.  Bringing in the trio element will present a new sound that could shake everything up.  We’ll have to see of course, but whether it’s a solo singer, a duo or a trio, I’m hoping to find someone with that special spark. I’m so proud and excited about my winner, Ruti, who is in the studio doing some very impressive work, she’s developing into a true artist and I can’t wait for you all to hear her!”

Entertainer, innovator and seven-time Grammy award winner, will.i.am returns as Black Eyed Peas celebrate 20 years together and are prepping to perform across Europe with their Masters of The Sun Tour this autumn.  will said: "The UK always surprises me with some of the freshest artists and this keeps me coming back for more. By adding trios, we’re raising the bar, so bring it on UK!”

Alongside the powerhouse coaching panel, Emma Willis is also back to present, she said: “I’m so happy we’re about to get going all over again. I’ve learnt to expect the unexpected with performances, some make me wanna bust a move, some give me goosebumps, and some make me cry like a baby! No day is the same, I’m forever wondering ‘where have YOU been?’ and with trios signing up this year, it gives us an added layer.”

The winner will be set on the road to realising their artistic ambitions with the ultimate prize of a recording contract with music giants Polydor Records.

The Voice UK is an ITV Studios production of a Talpa format and the new series will air on ITV early next year.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

I Feel Bad (NBC) First Look Preview HD - Sarayu Blue comedy series

Emet is the perfect mom, boss, wife, friend and daughter. OK, she’s not perfect. In fact, she’s just figuring it out like the rest of us. Sure, she feels bad when she has a sexy dream about someone other than her husband, or when she pretends not to know her kids when they misbehave in public, or when she uses her staff to help solve personal problems. But that’s OK, right? Nobody can have it all and do it perfectly. From executive producer Amy Poehler comes a modern comedy about being perfectly OK with being imperfect.

The Great British Bake Off: No baker leaves the tent in Ep 4

In Tuesday night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Dan was named Star Baker and none of the bakers left the tent.

Dessert Week saw the bakers tackle a meringue roulade signature challenge, Prue’s blancmange and langues du chat technical and a large melting chocolate ball showstopper.

As Sandi revealed Dan was Star Baker, Noel said: “The person who is going home this week is nobody. The judges felt it wouldn’t be fair to send someone home with Terry not being here… but the downside to that means that next week there is a strong possibility two people might be going home”.

Noel followed up by sending himself home: “And on that note… it feels weird sending no one home so I’m gonna go. See you later guys.”

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Bad Move - Episode 2 Preview

Series overview
In this second series of Bad Move, the rose-tinted fantasy of an idyllic country lifestyle proves to be further away than ever from Nicky (Kerry Godliman) and Steve (Jack Dee). Their crumbling wreck of a house continues to throw problems at them - they have to deal with everything from an infestation of moths to a septic tank that's 'backing up' as Ken charmingly puts it.

Episode 2
Steve is about to land a big contract for his web design business. It would provide Nicky and Steve with a much needed financial lifeline.

Imelda, the potential client, is a highly successful interior designer. A meeting at her  office goes well – but in an attempt to impress her, Steve foolishly brags about the amazing renovation job that he and Nicky have done to their idyllic country cottage. It's a lie that comes back to haunt him when Imelda announces that she wants to come out and see it. The chances of landing the contract seem slim – especially as Nicky has just discovered that the drain smell in the house is being caused by a septic tank that's 'backing up' as her father Ken charmingly puts it.

Football Genius - West Bromwich Albion v Wimbledon

Series overview
Stand up comedian Tim Vine hosts the comedy quiz in which two teams of football supporters, managed by The Chase’s Paul Sinha and Olympic Gold medallist Sam Quek, play against each other in a game of virtual football by answering football related questions. 

Episode 1 - West Bromwich Albion v Wimbledon
In this week’s big match, Paul Sinha’s team of AFC Wimbledon supporters take on Sam Quek’s side of West Bromwich Albion fans but which team manager will be lifting the Football Genius trophy at full time?

Tue 25 Sep 2018
10.00pm - 10.30pm
Channel: ITV4

Take The Tower - Starring Dolph Lundgren

Series overview
Hollywood action hero Dolph Lundgren of Rocky, Universal Soldier and The Expendables blockbusters as well as upcoming films Aquaman and Creed 2, will challenge members of the public to a combination of physical challenges and quiz questions. Contestants who manage to make their way to the top of the ‘tower’ will whisk their mates off on holiday.

Episode 1
Iconic Hollywood villain Dolph Lundgren challenges team captain Jake, along with his dad Ron, brother Levi and boyfriend Tomas, to a series of games based on classic action movies. The boys from Caerphilly must fight their way up 53 storeys and make it all the way to the Penthouse… alive. But fail a task and there’s only one way down. Through the window.

There’s a luxury holiday to New York city and a bundle of cash on the line but only if they can beat Dolph and Take the Tower.

Tue 25 Sep 2018
9.00pm - 10.00pm
Channel: ITV4

Monday 17 September 2018

Black Lightning Season 2 "Guess Who's Back" Promo (HD)

As a father and principal of a high school that also serves as a safe haven in a neighborhood overrun by violence, Jefferson Pierce is a hero to his community. He’s also a hero of a different sort. Gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, he keeps his hometown safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning.

Buy Season 1 from Amazon by Clicking Here (Link opens in a new window)

Saturday 15 September 2018

The Flash Season 5 "Shadows" Promo (HD)

The fifth season of the American television series The Flash, which is based on the DC Comics character Barry Allen / Flash, is set to debut on The CW on October 9, 2018 and will consist of 22 episodes.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Manifest (NBC) First Look Preview HD - Josh Dallas Mystery Thriller

When Montego Air Flight 828 landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers were relieved. Yet in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues, after mourning their loss, had given up hope and moved on. Now, faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance. But as their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds and some of the returned passengers soon realize they may be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible. From Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke comes an emotionally rich, unexpected journey into a world grounded in hope, heart and destiny.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Bad Move - Episode 1 Preview

Series overview
In this second series of Bad Move, the rose-tinted fantasy of an idyllic country lifestyle proves to be further away than ever from Nicky (Kerry Godliman) and Steve (Jack Dee). Their crumbling wreck of a house continues to throw problems at them - they have to deal with everything from an infestation of moths to a septic tank that's 'backing up' as Ken charmingly puts it.

Episode 1: Country Pile
Nicky and Steve's dream of an idyllic country life is proving further away than ever as they struggle to find a builder willing to fix the gaping hole in their roof.

Wed 19 Sep 2018
8.00pm - 8.30pm
Channel:  ITV

The Great British Bake Off: The third baker leaves the tent

In Tuesday’s night’s episode of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4, Rahul was named Star Baker for the second week and Antony, 29, was the third baker to leave the tent.

Banker Antony’s first Bread Week challenge of Chelsea Buns caught him out on numbers, he struggled to rise to the Technical of Garlic Naan, and the Tiered Korovai finished him off.

“Bread has never been my strongest baking strength. The first bread that I baked was only this January, so I am a relative newcomer to it. I went into that tent pretty nervous knowing this, and without enough practice. So I was fully aware this could be the week that I was going to go.

“Although I knew bread week might be my doomsday, I wouldn’t change the experience for the world. To have met the most amazing bakers and made new best friends has been incredible for me. Also the whole production team behind the programme helped make this an amazing three weeks of my life.

“Putting the sign of the cross on a Chelsea bun as a prayer didn’t work, there was no saving grace for me! The stress of the tent changes you completely as a person, you are so concentrating on the bake in hand, that I couldn’t think of the maths when counting the Chelsea buns, it’s madness I know! But you forget you are being filmed, and I forgot about the day job.

“The judges were great and I really wanted to impress them both the same. Paul prowling around the tent made me stupidly nervous as he is the Bread King, so that wrecked my nerves as I wanted to try my best in bread week.

“The region I am from in India we make rotis, which are simple flat breads, and not naan breads. So where I am from nobody would make naan bread, so it was all new to me.

“My best bit was biscuit week when Paul said it was a melt in the mouth regional biscuit (Chilli Jam Goosnargh Cookies) and Prue came back for second helpings. My worst bit was leaving, I was really sad to go as I knew it was the end of my baking in the tent with all the other bakers.

“My bond with all the other bakers was superb, and we gelled from the start. More often than not it would be at the bar after a long day of filming - there was definitely a bit of unity at the bar!

“The Himalayas featured a lot in my bakes, as I love the mountains. I love climbing them, and the peace it gives you. Next month I am attempting to climb Mount Elbrus, Europe’s tallest mountain, I am just doing it for myself with a group of friends. It’s something I have really wanted to do, from when I first fell in love with the mountains when I climbed the Himalayas for the first time as a young man.

“The reaction has been wonderful at work, lots of bankers who I didn’t think would be interested in baking have really got involved in the show. I have turned them from football watchers into bake off watchers, so I am pretty chuffed with that.

“It’s unexpected to think that bankers make good bakers, but maybe because it’s something we do to relax and unwind at the end of a busy working day. To be at home in your own kitchen, where you don’t have the time constraints of the tent or Paul and Prue judging you, it’s stress free and pure enjoyment!

“My family in India are pretty elated about the whole experience. They are so proud of me, and the support and love that I have had from India through family and even social media has been immense, a huge ego boost.

“Each week while the show has been airing I have made a challenge from each week - biscuits, wagon wheels, and a cake - and I will continue to bake along with the show each week.

“I will carry on baking, I am not sure what the future holds for me, but I know it will include baking.

The smile doesn’t go away, it just gets bigger, I can’t believe I was still smiling as I finished the bake as I felt an emotional wreck.

Antony will join Jo Brand on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice on Friday 14 September Channel 4 at 8.00 pm.


Describing himself as a “Bollywood baker, Antony grew up in India, where he learned to bake with his father. It is his father who remains his inspiration – it’s thanks to him that Antony got serious about baking. Antony’s adventurous attitude to flavour profiling is the result of a willingness to try new foods, his determination to ask probing questions of established bakers, and – in particular – his cultural roots and his travels around the world. His bold, inquisitive nature has enabled him to collect ideas and techniques that he is unafraid to use in his own creations, making his bakes at times unconventional and always interesting. He takes his research very seriously: he once tasted 50 choux buns during a single trip to Paris.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Kevin McCloud Interview

How do you think the houses we are building have evolved since Grand Designs first aired?
We started making Grand Designs 21 years ago. We were still at the end of the 20th Century and we were still in a little bit of an insecure relationship with that century in many ways. It was the century of modernism, of international architecture, of functionalism, of brutalism, of trying to design for modern use. And actually, back then we were still building houses with dining rooms in them. It seemed at odds with the way that we had been living for 30 or 40 years, I think we’ve moved on.

If you went back and watched the first episode of Grand Designs, would you notice significant differences from today’s format?
I refuse to watch myself on television, so I wouldn’t know! I think it has changed. We talk about this quite a lot, about the identity of the programme which is determined by a number of people who all collaborate. One of the things you can detect now is that TV was much slower back then, editing speeds have since increased.

Has what you’re looking for changed? Is sustainability more important, for example?
It was a more unusual thing back then. Sustainability and the ecological performance of buildings was a fringe interest back then. We’d have our token eco-home in each series. Now, all of them are super-insulated, all of them are way beyond building regulations, because if you’re going to build a house for yourself why would you not want a zero-energy build. All of them have some form of managed ventilation or innovative heating source or solar panels. It’s become less of a fringe benefit and more of a core value to what we film. In terms of what I’m looking for, I’m hoping they’re not going to be grotesque consumers of resource, but actually quite efficient. I’m always looking for great stories and projects that deliver something unusual, that we haven’t seen before. If a project comes in and it’s so similar in story and design to something we’ve done, then we probably won’t do it. And I think that’s helped with the longevity of the series.

Is the build selection process extremely stringent?
We do a lot of due diligence and research and we always tell a story which is the truth. Of course, there are many projects that don’t come our way, we have people say - I really wanted to do it but my architect said, “No way!” or vice versa. I visit lots of wonderful buildings where I think; “I’d have loved to have filmed this!”

What is the most common mistake self-builders make?
Of the people we’ve filmed, I think the most common mistake is one which is so bound up with human nature and over-confidence. Those of us who are blessed with a degree of normal self-doubt are hugely nervous of the idea of embarking on a project like this. And so those that do, tend to be pretty well-empowered individuals. The majority of people we film have a degree of self-belief, that’s what’s got them there in the first place. That brings with it a belief that I hear again and again, which is; “This project is going to come in on time and on budget.” And my answer is; “I’ve never really seen a project do that.”

Would you ever do a Grand Design for your own home?
I have done, but I don’t talk about it. Firstly, because talking about your own build is a very different thing from guiding the viewer through someone else’s project. Secondly, I value a degree of privacy. Filming can be stressful and personal, so hats off to all the people who let us into their homes and into their lives. I think they do it because they recognise the significance of the process and they want to have it recorded for them, for their family and for posterity.

This series seems to contain some genuinely remarkable builds. One of them will resonate with people of a certain age because there’s a Ferris Bueller link…
So many people know that movie. This project is in Padstow and draws its inspiration from the house featured in the film, a real house in Illinois. Our couple, originally from London had never gone to Illinois to visit it, so this programme ends up as an interesting lesson on what happens when you pursue an idea on a whim.

Can you tell us more about Grand Designs’ first ever ‘healthy house’ that will be featured in this series?
It’s a really interesting case where two of the children are very allergic and have to be regularly treated at hospital. I’m interested in this personally because I’m an asthmatic, so I’m very careful about the air quality where I live and anywhere where I like to stay. But for these guys it’s a totally different ball game. For example, the majority of domestic carpets in the UK use glue that lets off gases. What these owners have built for their boys is a house using carpet with no solvent-based glue on the back. They’ve used solvent-free, low-VOC paint, they’ve used a minimum number of glues, the MDF in the building only contains trace elements of formaldehyde and no varnishes. What they’ve done is produce a house that’s beautiful – glorious – it just also happens to have been built with health in mind. It’s a house where the fresh air is filtered coming into the building due to a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system. Tests were undertaken that showed the building was performing up to 70% better than a new build in terms of VOC emissions. The mother said that the kids had only experienced one or two mild allergic reactions in the last six months since living in the house, compared to every other week (minimum) before they moved in. The family believe that the building acts as a respite for the children, helping them to live a normal life.

This series also features identical twins with identical lives?
Nik and Jon are interesting guys, they drive identical cars, work in business together, in a design practice and they also run an event space in Sheffield. They’re very design-conscious, it’s what they do for a living. And they’ve built two very similar houses next to each other. But there are some key differences. It’s an exercise in getting stuff right, having two tries instead of one. Two minds are better than one, a joint creative strategy, and trying to get the best out of a pretty low budget that they both have. I like that very much.

Lastly, chefs often say that people never like cooking for them. Do you find that people are terrified of having you over in case you don’t like the curve of their bannisters?
I’m such a pussycat. People are immensely self-conscious about their homes. A mate of mine isn’t a Dad, but he’s got about 15 god-children. I asked him what that was like, and he said it’s great, because every time he sees them, they’re on their best behaviour. That’s kind of how I feel about houses, I really like it when I go round to someone’s house and they have bothered to tidy up!

Monday 10 September 2018

Tall Story Pictures and ITV announce further casting details for The Man

Tall Story Pictures and ITV today announced further casting on The Man as principle photography commences on Mike Bartlett’s (Press, Trauma, Doctor Foster) new three-part drama.

Already confirmed to star is Ken Nwosu (Christopher Robin, Killing Eve) in the lead role of Thomas Benson. Joining Nwosu are Ben Miller (Johnny English Strikes Back, Paddington 2), Sean Sagar (Our Girl, Top Boy), Susannah Fielding (This Time With Alan Partridge, Black Mirror), Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody, Jamestown), Phoebe Nicholls (Downton Abbey, Fortitude), Ritu Ayra (Humans, The Good Karma Hospital), Alexandra Roach (Black Mirror, No Offence), Michael Cochrane (The Archers) and Debbie Chazen (Sherlock, Doctor Who). This contemporary workplace drama will be directed by Julia Ford (Safe) and produced by Colin Wratten (The Witness for the Prosecution, Killing Eve).

The three-part psychological drama explores the corrosive effects of bullying. Set against the backdrop of the competitive world of middle management in a business park in Reading, The Man centers on the personal and professional life of Thomas Benson; a hard-working father and husband. Reliant on bonuses and winning pitches, Benson often finds himself leading the team when trying to win new business.  When he freezes during a pitch the fall out is monumental.

Determined to win back the client Thomas goes to increasingly desperate lengths to remain successful. But as he does, he begins to feel undermined, under attack and out of control. Has he lost his confidence or is his own team, and maybe the wider world, now out to get him?

Executive Producer, Catherine Oldfield, said, "Mike has created a fantastically taut, contemporary thriller about bullying and Julia (Ford) has assembled a hugely talented cast headed up by Ken Nwosu. Given the current climate, it feels exactly the right time to explore something that affects so many people.”

ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill said, “The Man is another gripping story by Mike, that explores the complex subject of workplace bullying. It brilliantly moves between being very funny to very painful, and will have viewers hooked. I am also delighted that the very talented Ken Nwosu is playing Thomas and that Julia Ford is directing. Together with Tall Story Pictures, this is a fantastic team that promises to make an unmissable drama.”

The Man is a Tall Story Pictures production for ITV. Catherine Oldfield (Trauma, Tutankhamun) will executive produce the new series alongside Mike Bartlett. The Man has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama, Polly Hill. ITV Studios Global Entertainment is handling international distribution. Tall Story Pictures is part of ITV Studios.

Channel 4 commissions Escape to the Manor Hotel

Channel 4 has commissioned ‘Escape to the Manor Hotel’ from Freeform Productions.

The series (20x60’) will follow hoteliers and Googlebox stars Steph and Dom Parker, as they meet brave families who have taken the plunge as they plan to open, or already run, their own historic hotels in some of Britain’s most beautiful locations.

Each episode will go behind the scenes of some of Britain’s most stunning historic hotels to meet the couples and families who have put everything on the line to run their own hotel, with Steph and Dom on hand to help them try to turn their dream into a successful reality.

From twin brothers on the brink of renovating a 19th Century relic into an Italian inspired B&B, to a couple who are opening the doors to their 18th century boutique hotel for the very first time. Across the series, we’ll see a whole host of stunning, interesting and quirky buildings as Steph and Dom get their hands dirty helping the owners make a go of their business.

Michelle Heeley, Executive Producer, Freeform Production says “We are thrilled to be making this series for C4. The hoteliers we are meeting are awe inspiring - they are determined to make their dream of running a hotel work. And Steph and Dom are the perfect hosts - of course they are great company but they also have masses of experience from running their own hotel.”

Steph and Dom say “Let’s hope we can inspire some of these new hoteliers! Quick sticks and chin chin!”

David Sayer, Head of Daytime, Channel 4, says “This series will explore the realities of running a hotel in some of the most beautiful locations in the UK. We’re thrilled to be working with Steph and Dom on the series and excited to see the outcome of their journey across the country.”

Escape to the Manor Hotel (w/t) (20x60’) was commissioned by Channel 4 Head of Daytime, David Sayer. It is a Freeform Production and is being Executive Produced by Michelle Heeley.

Friday 7 September 2018

C4 commissions a series exploring the life and times of Jade Goody

A former dental nurse, Jade sprang to overnight fame on Big Brother in 2002. A regular in the tabloids, she went on to become a million pound brand. But Jade's success provoked intense debate. While some saw her rise as evidence of a new crassness in public life, millions more identified with her as an emblem of triumph and escape.

Ten years on from her death from cancer at the age of 27 this series will explore the Jade Goody phenomenon to tell a bigger story of social and cultural change in Britain, at a time when reality TV became the biggest and most polarising form of entertainment in the country. Featuring exclusive interviews and never-before-seen footage, encompassing everything from the rise of celebrity culture and social media to the battlegrounds of class, race and sexual politics, the series will offer a fresh and compelling insight into the story of our recent past.

The series will be directed by award winning film maker and former C4 commissioner Rob Coldstream whose credits include The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair and Last Days of Anne Boleyn. Rob said; “Jade was a hugely charismatic personality. She made an indelible impact on our culture - and her incredible life story holds up a mirror to many of the big themes and preoccupations of our time - from fame and celebrity to race and gender politics.”

Alisa Pomeroy, Commissioning Editor Documentaries added: "Jade is a figure who couldn't have existed at any other moment in history. Her story is the story of the noughties and I'm very excited about what will essentially be a popular history series, told through the prism of an electric, much-loved personality."

The series, which will comprise of 3 hour-long films, is due to be transmitted on Channel 4 in 2019.

Series Director: Rob Coldstream
Series Producer: Clare Cameron
Executive Producer: Ed Coulthard
Production Company: Blast! Films

Casting announced for new C4 crime thriller Baghdad Central

Waleed Zuaiter, Bertie Carvel, Clara Khoury, Leem Lubany, Neil Maskell and Corey Stoll join an international cast for Channel 4’s new six-part crime series, Baghdad Central, written and created by BAFTA-nominated writer Stephen Butchard (The Last Kingdom, House of Saddam) based on the novel by Elliott Colla. Production has begun in Morocco.

Charlotte Spencer, July Namir, Tawfeek Barhom, Youssef Kerkour, Hisham Suleiman, Nora El Koussour and Maisa Abd Elhadi round out the cast

October 2003 and Baghdad has been occupied by American forces for six months; but the disbandment of the Iraqi army, the police and civil leadership in the aftermath of the invasion means there is no one in charge and no effective rule of law.

In the midst of this chaos, crime and paranoia, Iraqi ex-policeman Muhsin al-Khafaji (Waleed Zuaiter; Omar, Altered Carbon) has lost everything and is battling daily to keep himself and his sick daughter, Mrouj (July Namir ; Homeland, Collateral), safe. But when he learns that his estranged elder daughter Sawsan (Leem Lubany; Omar, Condor) is missing Khafaji is forced into a desperate search to find her. He soon finds himself up against her enigmatic university tutor, Professor Zubeida Rashid (Clara Khoury, Homeland) and discovers that Sawsan and her two close friends Sanaa (Nora El Koussour; Layla M) and Zahra ( Maisa Abd Elhadi; Tel Aviv on Fire, The State) have been leading a hidden life that’s led them into great danger.

Khafaji feels powerless until he meets Frank Temple, an ex Police Officer played by double Olivier Award-winner Bertie Carvel (Dr Foster, Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell) who has arrived from Britain on a mission to rebuild the Iraqi Police Force from the ground up.

Temple recruits ex-cop Khafaji to give his operation some much-needed local credibility. But unbeknown to both Temple and his nemesis, upstanding American Military Police Captain John Parodi, played by Golden Globe-nominated Corey Stoll (House of Cards, First Man), Khafaji is compelled by his own, secret reasons to risk everything by collaborating with the occupying forces. Meanwhile a new threat represented by security op Douglas Evans (Neil Maskell; Humans, Utopia) provides a terrifying and sinister counterforce to his efforts.

Khafaji quickly discovers that Sawsan’s disappearance is linked to the murder of an American employee and so entwines himself in that investigation to uncover the truth about what has happened to his daughter and her friends. But, as the addictive, thrilling world of Baghdad Central unfolds, he soon finds himself embarking on a wider quest for justice in a society that’s become truly lawless.

Baghdad Central (6x60) was commissioned for Channel 4 by Beth Willis, Head of Drama with Commissioning Editor Manpreet Dosanjh and Commissioning Executive Jonny Richards. The series is produced by Euston Films (part of FremantleMedia UK).

Executive Producers Kate Harwood, Stephen Butchard and Alice Troughton.

Producer is Jonathan Curling (The Secret). FremantleMedia International will act as the global distributor for the series.

Alice Troughton (Doctor Who, Tin Star, A Discovery of Witches) is lead director and BAFTA-nominated Ben A. Williams (Humans, The Pass) will direct the second block of filming.