Tuned In: ‘Downton Abbey’ actors contemplate a movie
March 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Laura Carmichael who plays Lady Edith in "Downton Abbey" says that if the cast reunited for a movie it would have to be one with substance.
ABC's "Of Kings and Prophets" is filled with sex and violence and little clarity, according to Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen.
Ben Mark Holzberg/A&E
Bradley James stars as the title character in "Damien," a sequel to "The Omen."
By Rob Owen / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — PBS’s “Downton Abbey” wraps its run Sunday (9 p.m., WQED-TV), preceded at 8 p.m. by a one-hour tribute special, “BAFTA Celebrates Downton Abbey.”
The 93-minute finale, which aired in England on Christmas day, features love rekindled, a wedding, retirements, a birth, new jobs for old characters and more. It’s a generally upbeat affair with the exception of the ravages of time taking their toll on some elderly characters.
But for fans who can’t get enough of “Downton,” and in the current reboot-happy media culture (see: “The X-Files,” “Full House,” “Gilmore Girls”), after Sunday the question quickly will become, when will there be more? Because these days many fans don’t accept a favorite program ending, they just want more.
“Downton” producers have acknowledged there has been talk of a “Downton” movie, but it’s just been talk. But what about the show’s cast, who would have to agree to come back? After a PBS press conference last summer, several cast members addressed the notion of revisiting “Downton” in a film.
Actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna, said she’s game for a reunion if there’s a worthwhile story to tell.
“If the planets align, it will happen,” she said. “The difficulty will be people going off to different projects and getting everyone back together at a time when everyone is available.”
Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, agreed.
“It doesn’t fill anyone with dread; we really do love working on the show,” she said. “But we wouldn’t want to do something half-assed.”
Elizabeth McGovern, who plays matriarch Cora Crawley, sounded a note of caution.
“I feel wary of the idea of a movie, but I’m not completely closed to it,” she said. “It works so well in this context as a TV show, I would be very frightened of tainting what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. … You’d have to conceive it in a way that it made sense to be a feature film so it’s not just another episode that you splash on a screen, and I don’t have the imagination to be able to envision what that would be like.”
Some viewers watch prime-time dramas for escapism (see: “Downton Abbey”); others watch dark dramas to be challenged. WGN America’s “Underground” certainly falls in the latter category.
A bleak, often disturbing depiction of human brutality in pre-Civil War America, the 10-episode first season of “Underground” (10 p.m. Wednesday) depicts the experience of slaves and white abolitionists trying to rescue slaves via the Underground Railroad.
With a “Roots” remake coming at Memorial Day and the advent of #BlackLivesMatter, “Underground” arrives at a pointed moment in American racial discourse. In its first hour, “Underground” proves to be the smartest, best series yet from fledgling network WGN America.
With the exception of one pregnant Southern belle, “Underground” shies away from Snidely Whiplash stereotypes in favor of more nuanced characterizations. And the music, by series executive producer John Legend and his partners, is amazing. At one point early in the premiere, the sound of an escaped slave’s breathing is used as the musical beat.
Blacksmith Noah (Aldis Hodge, light years from “Leverage”) organizes a group of slaves and plans an escape from a Southern plantation owned by politically ambitious Tom Macon (Reed Diamond, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”).
Next week’s 56-minute premiere, airing without commercials, was written by series creators Misha Green (“Sons of Anarchy”) and Joe Pokaski (“Daredevil”), and they pull no punches in showing the inhumane conditions faced by slaves of the era.
After two small children — one white, one black — run in front of a carriage, causing it to tip its goods, the driver yells only at the black child. His sister, house slave Rosalee (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, “Friday Night Lights”), intervenes and takes the whipping the driver had intended for the child.
“Underground” is a rough watch, but it offers twists and compelling characters worth watching for viewers up to the challenge.
Biblically tinged dramas
A&E’s “Damien” (10 p.m. Monday), a sequel to “The Omen,” is a logical lead-out for “Bates Motel” (9 p.m. Monday) because both series tell the stories of young men destined for infamy.
“Damien” follows just-turned-30 Damien Thorn (Bradley James), who has limited memory of the events of his childhood but learns in the pilot that he may be the Antichrist, the son of Satan. He also learns he’s being watched by a cryptically inclined protector, played by Barbara Hershey (“The seal’s been broken, the trumpet blown”).
Damien is prone to getting sweaty in church and then vomiting outside, and those he encounters tend to meet unpleasant fates.
The pilot is relatively inert for a thriller as it pretty much tacks in all the expected directions. But “Damien” shows more potential than ABC’s murky “Of Kings and Prophets” (10 p.m. Tuesday, WTAE), a bloody, violent Bible-based drama that’s filmed almost entirely in darkness, making it more difficult than necessary to figure out who’s who and how they’re related.
King Saul (Ray Winstone) fights the Philistines while planning a strategic marriage for his daughter Merav (Jeanine Mason). Saul is on a collision course with shepherd David (Olly Rix), who catches the eye of Saul’s daughter Michal (Maisie Richardson-Sellers).
The whole affair seems like a major miscalculation: “Of Kings and Prophets” seemingly features too much sex and violence for some churchgoers and not enough clarity for anyone else. Even the conservative Parents Television Council expressed concern about the Old Testament-based show’s violent content.
Bounce TV in Pittsburgh
Bounce TV, an African-American digital network, debuts its first scripted drama, the Georgia church-set “Saints and Sinners,” at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Locally, Bounce TV is available on low-power, over-the-air Channel 31, which does not currently have cable carriage. To find the channel, which uses the call letters WIIC (the former call letters for WPXI), viewers likely will need to have their antenna-connected TVs “re-sweep” to look for new channels. WIIC began broadcasting last year and its programming is simulcast on over-the-air Channels 46 and 69.
‘Neighbor Day’ approaches
Four local YMCAs will celebrate “Be My Neighbor Day” on March 19 with Daniel Tiger from PBS’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” in attendance. Get details, including the time of the Daniel meet-and-greets, at www.bemyneighborday.org.
This year instead of sweaters, neighbors are encouraged to donate diapers and wipes for financially struggling families in Western Pennsylvania.
Netflix renewed “Fuller House” for a second season, and CBS renewed “NCIS” through two more seasons, keeping it on the air through 2018.
USA canceled drama “Satisfaction” after two seasons, and Amazon canceled first-season drama “Mad Dogs.”
Disney XD will debut a “Big Hero 6” TV series in 2017. … “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” writer/director Nicholas Meyer has joined the writing staff of the new “Star Trek” series coming to CBS All Access in 2017. … Jonah Hill will host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” this weekend with musical guest Future; Ariana Grande hosts and serves as musical guest on March 12. … Sunday's "60 Minutes" (7 p.m., KDKA-TV) includes a report on the deadly 2010 explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va. ... Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” bows out with its final episode airing at 8 p.m. Saturday followed by a reunion special at 9 p.m. featuring all five hosts from the show’s 13-year history. … WTAE’s “Chronicle” returns at 8 tonight for an episode that sounds like a grab bag of sweeps leftovers as the station investigates hospital nurses hooked on drugs, unsafe goalposts at local youth athletic fields and convicted felons getting public pensions.
Tuned In online
Today’s TV Q&A column responds to questions about reruns, reality TV and local TV news. This week’s Tuned In Journal includes posts on “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” “Outsiders” and the Oscars telecast. Read online-only TV content at http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in.
This week’s podcast includes conversation about the Oscars telecast, Netflix’s “Fuller House” and comic book TV show fatigue. Subscribe or listen to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette podcasts at iTunes or at https://soundcloud.com/pittsburghpg.
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.
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