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TGIF everyone! There’s much in the way of Brit TV news today, not the least of which is a renowned British actor dissing Downton Abbey. Pshaw.

Colin Morgan
Courtesy of IFTN

Fans of Merlin‘s Colin Morgan can look forward to seeing him on screen again later this year, at least in the UK. The Irish Film & Television Network (IFTN) announced that Morgan has joined the cast of Quirke, a three-part miniseries based on the novels by Benjamin Black (pseudonym of Irish writer John Banville) being produced for BBC One.

Morgan plays Jimmy Minor, a reporter who takes an interest in Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe (Aisling Franciosi), and is expected to begin filming a pub scene in Dublin next week for the third installment, “Elegy for April.” This is his first role since filming wrapped on the fifth and final series of Merlin last year, which is currently airing in the U.S. on the SyFy channel.

Quirke stars Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment) as the titular consultant pathologist in 1950s Dublin, and costars Nick Dunning (The Tudors) and Stanley Townsend (Zen).

Call the Midwife
Courtesy of Laurence Cendrowicz © Neal Street Productions

And fans of Jessica Raine will be seeing her in two hit dramas this Spring: as nurse Jenny Lee when Call the Midwife: Season 2 premieres on PBS on 31 March, and as Emma Grayling in Doctor Who: Season 7, Part 2.

In an interview with Radio Times about her role in the Neil Cross Doctor Who episode, “Phantom of the Hex” (described as “a creepy ghost story” on Doctor Who TV), she said:

“[It is] very different from Call the Midwife. On Doctor Who it was all mind machines and strobe lighting… But it was a magical experience and something I was very happy to do. It’s a very different character and genre. You have to throw yourself into it and take it very seriously.

“I hadn’t realized what an institution Doctor Who is. I got offered the part and didn’t think that much about it. Then you go on set and you see this blue police telephone box, and suddenly the weight of what you’re doing hits home.”

Raine added this about the series’ star, Matt Smith: “He’s a brilliant actor… He has a very long career ahead of him. I like the fact that he brings a dark edge to the role of the Doctor – it’s not all fun and games.”

Matt Smith
Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Speaking of Matt Smith (via Radio Times), he will make his directorial debut for the “Cargese” episode of the Sky Arts series, Playhouse Presents. Described by Sky Arts as a “unique piece of poetic realism which mines the tragic seam of adolescent love and loss,” the piece was written by award-winning playwright Simon Stephens and stars Craig Roberts (Submarine), Joe Cole (Skins), and Avigail Tlalim (The Town) as a group of disaffected teenagers in south London.

“Cargese” begins filming next week and is scheduled to air on Sky Arts 1 on 25 April 2013. Smith will not appear in the program himself.

FYI, Idris Elba (Luther) and Marc Warren (Mad Dogs) are also making their directing debuts for the new series of Playhouse Presents, which starts in March and features Anna Friel, Vanessa Redgrave, Ricky Tomlinson, Suranne Jones, David Harewood, Ian Hart, Mathew Horne and Kylie Minogue.

Doctor Who

In other Doctor Who news, Freema Agyeman, who played companion Martha Jones opposite David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor in Season 3, has confirmed that she is not going to be a part of any 50th anniversary episodes. She told Crave Online:

“I’m doing two things for the 50th but nothing to do with being in the drama.

“I got misquoted hideously once saying that there are some rumblings going on about being involved in the 50th in terms of the drama. It’s not. It’s in terms of conventions and interviews and things like that, which we’re all doing stuff to promote the 50th. We have to. It’s the Doctor Who family and we want to. I think in terms of my involvement in the show, that’s a different thing now. It moves on, it changes and that’s a good thing.”

Agyeman is currently starring as Larissa Loughlin in the new drama series, The Carrie Diaries, airing on The CW network in the U.S.

Doctor Who

And David Morrissey, a.k.a. “The Next Doctor,” recently told Den of Geek that he would love to reprise his role as Jackson Lake in a future episode of Doctor Who.

“Ah, I’d love that. I would absolutely love to do it again. I had such a ball doing it. Mark Gatiss says, you know, there’s nothing more blissful for him to write than “Interior TARDIS: Day” or whatever on the top of one of his scripts, it’s living the dream. And for me, when I went down and worked on it, I thought, ‘This is great,’ it’s a really well-run show, people take it very seriously but you have fun on it. And l loved that character, I really loved Jackson Lake, I thought he was a really interesting man, he was in some sort of trauma himself and the Doctor liberates him from that…”

Catch Morrissey as the Governor in the hit zombie series, The Walking Dead, currently airing in the U.S. on AMC.

Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

In Downton Abbey news (caution: spoilers), the program’s executive producer, Gareth Neame, confirmed to TVLine that Maggie Smith will be returning for the drama’s fourth season. Rumors had been swirling since last summer about whether her character would be killed off in Season 3, and now we know that it isn’t Violet who dies, but Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Matthew (Dan Stevens) who do.

Jeremy Irons
Courtesy of Siebbi

What isn’t a rumor are comments made by thespian Jeremy Irons about Downton Abbey while he was promoting another program, Shakespeare Uncovered, which premieres on PBS on 25 January.

Apparently, Irons believes that both the fans and the writers of the mega-hit drama know little to nothing about what “real” television is. To wit:

“Shakespeare Uncovered opens up to this huge American audience this gold dust, and shows them [that] television doesn’t end with Downton Abbey. If you think that’s good… see what real writing, real authors and real characters are about… There’s more to TV than Downton Abbey.”


According to The Washington Post‘s Lisa de Moraes, Irons went on to liken Downton to a compact car model thusly: “A Ford Fiesta will get you there and give you a good time. But an Aston Martin…”

Regarding performing Shakespeare:

“Irons said that it takes projection and ‘practice, practice, practice — you can’t sort of mutter it in a Downton Abbey way.'”

And in his last bit of Downton dissing:

“I’m a terrible television snob… I’ve never seen Downton Abbey, so I don’t know what I’m talking about… I’m sure it’s splendid.”

Um… whiskey tango foxtrot!

Well, I, for one, will be glued to my TV and tweeting away with #DowntonPBS during the third episode of Downton Abbey: Season 3, which airs at 9PM Eastern this Sunday, 20 January, on PBS Masterpiece, and I hope you will be, too.

Have a fab weekend!


In the News: Downton Abbey Gets Dissed & More
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