Interview Online TV

Young James Herriot week on ReelScotland

As well as covering a large amount Scottish films on ReelScotland, I also try to feature as much new television as I can.

Following articles on BBC Scotland’s The Field of Blood and Burnistoun, I was on the set of All Creatures Great and Small prequel, Young James Herriot, in July.

Starring Iain De Caestecker, Amy Manson and Ben Lloyd-Hughes, the series is set in the 1930s and follows a young James Herriot as he becomes the accomplished vet we know from the books and original TV series.

I’ve decided to run interviews with the three leads and their co-star, Tony Curran, from Tuesday until Friday, with episode one showing on BBC One on Sunday evening.

I’m also dropping in some audio clips from the interviews alongside the text, making the interviews more interesting for fans. I’ll add links to the interviews on here during the week and also embed the audio below:

‘It’s about James Herriot becoming the character everyone knows’: Iain De Caestecker on Young James Herriot

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‘She just breezes through life’: Amy Manson on Young James Herriot

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Celebrating The Persuaders and Sir Roger Moore

Roger Moore and Barry Norman on stage
Roger Moore and Barry Norman on stage

I was in London over the weekend celebrating the 40th anniversary Blu-ray release of The Persuaders!, the 1971 ITC adventure series starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.

Hosted by DVD distribution company Network, the event took place in Knightsbridge on Saturday evening, with Lord Brett Sinclair’s Aston Martin parked outside, complete with the interior of the boot signed by Moore and Curtis.

The Persuaders' Aston Martin, with signed boot
The Persuaders' Aston Martin, with signed boot

Around 150 fans were then offered the opportunity to meet and greet Sir Roger, have their Blu-ray boxset signed, watch a few episodes of the series and hear the actor in conversation with veteran film critic, Barry Norman.

Barry Norman introducing the event
Barry Norman introducing the event

The first episode of the series, Overture, was shown after the signing and looked impressive on the big screen, looking fresher than it ever has and still a huge amount of fun, as Lord Sinclair (Moore) and Danny Wilde (Curtis) are brought together to fight crime by wily Judge Fulton (Laurence Naismith).

After the episode Barry Norman returned to introduce Moore, who may not be quite as dashing as he was 40 years ago but who still has the self-deprecating sense of humour he’s known for.

The pair discussed the genesis of the show (Lord Lew Grade signed Moore up to the series without asking him, then paid him a hefty salary he couldn’t refuse) and took in topics such as Tony Curtis’ doubts about acting in a TV series after being a movie star and how he was known to smoke a spliff before a take. It’s worth noting that Moore does a mean Tony Curtis impression and it was heartening to hear how the pair bonded and remained friends long after the end of the series, Moore comforting Curtis when the latter’s son died in tragic circumstances.

Roger Moore and Barry Norman
Roger Moore and Barry Norman

There was also a second episode shown on the big screen but as Moore had left by this point so did a large part of the audience, including me – I headed to the pub to celebrate the series with fellow Persuaders fans for the rest of the night.

An opportunity to meet a childhood hero, thanks must go to Network for taking the time to treat a small audience to a night to remember. Although I’ve not had a chance to get stuck in to the Blu-rays, I’m looking forward to it; I need as many distractions from modern TV as possible and a few hours in the company of the Persuaders seems a perfect way to do so.

Find out more about the Blu-ray release over on the Network DVD website and watch some clips from the event below:


Online TV

The Avengers 50th anniversary celebration

Leonard White, original Avengers producer, interviewed on stage
Leonard White, original Avengers producer, interviewed on stage

I’m just back from a weekend in glorious Chichester, where the town’s University was celebrating the 50 anniversary of one of my favourite TV shows, The Avengers.

Around 350 of us sat in the audience while over 40 members of the cast and crew of the 1960s series discussed the creation and development of one of the most unusual series to come out of the studios of ABC television.

Highlights included an appearance by Avengers stuntman and director, Ray Austin, who worked on the show before making it big in Hollywood, and Avengers girl, Linda Thorson, who played Tara King in the programme’s final years.

Ms Thorson was a revelation, full of energy and love for the show, and her double act with her good friend, and celebrity Avengers fan, Paul O’Grady, was a delight to witness.

Though I was off duty for the weekend, there as a fan rather than press, I couldn’t resist taking a few photos, tweeting from the audience and catching up with one of the organisers, Dr Adam Locks, for a short audioboo.

The Avengers celebration was one of the finest TV-related events I’ve had the pleasure of attending, a fitting tribute to the many people who worked to bring such an iconic series to our screens.

Sadly, as O’Grady mentioned a few times, ITV, the original home of the series, now wants nothing to do with the programme and won’t stump up the cash, or the air time, to transmit their own tribute. A real shame, and another reason why this weekend was so important, as I tweeted last night:

For more on the event, head over to the official blog or see Frank Collins’ live blog (well, it was live over the weekend). There’s also this short clip from BBC News:


Interview Talk TV

Interview with Martin G Baker at Filmhouse

Martin Baker at Edinburgh's Filmhouse

The music has faded, the lights have dimmed and the audiences have gone home with smiles on their faces as Edinburgh Filmhouse’s weekend of Jim Henson-themed events comes to a close.

Having written about the event for the Edinburgh Evening News I was looking forward to interviewing Muppet producer Martin G Baker in a couple of on-stage Q&As following screenings of two collections of Muppet archive material.

Baker was the perfect guest for the weekend, someone with a long association with Jim Henson (he started working with him on The Muppet Show in 1976) and the Muppets themselves. He’s also a producer on the next Muppet movie, out in November in the US but not out in the UK until February 2012.

As well as our short interviews he introduced a sold out screening of Henson’s Labyrinth on Saturday night, one of the best cinema going experiences I’ve had in a while.

Thanks to Filmhouse for the chance to be a part of the weekend and to Martin Baker for being such an excellent interviewee.

Film Talk TV

Talking TV history at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse

Same and Friends

I felt honoured this week to be asked along to introduce an upcoming event at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse as part of the cinema’s mini-festival celebrating the life and work of Jim Henson, Muppets, Music and Magic.

Between Monday 18 and Thursday 28 April, fans of Henson and the Muppets will be able to see eight films and nine compilations of Henson’s work, from his earliest attempts at making commercials right up to the productions he was working on before he passed away in 1990.

I’m a huge fan of Henson and think he created some of the most innovative television ever made, leaving the entertainment industry a much duller place when he died at an early age. His legacy is continued by his friends and colleagues, including Muppet producer, Martin Baker, whom I interviewed for both the Edinburgh Evening News and ReelScotland ahead of his appearance at Filmhouse over the Easter weekend.

I’ll be doing a Q&A with Martin at the screening of Muppet History 101, an impressive 100 minutes look through the Henson vaults at how his brand of humour became a global success. The talk takes place on Saturday 23 April at 18.15.

Here’s a clip from an early Henson production, Sam and Friends:


© Photography courtesy of The Jim Henson Company, The Muppets Studio, LLC, and Sesame Workshop

Broadcasting Online TV Writing

Bringing Charles Endell, Esquire back

Charles Endell

I wrote on this blog, about a month ago, about a project I’ve been working on with Scottish broadcaster STV to bring their television archive to a new audience on YouTube. The last fortnight has seen my first major piece of work come to fruition with the release of 1979’s Charles Endell, Esquire.

Now a footnote in TV history, there’s very little information out there about the creation of the programme or the reasons for its demise, something I wanted to remedy when I joined the team at STV. We knew that the series had only lasted six episodes, but it wasn’t clear whether all episodes were actually screened on UK television – a 1979 ITV union strike took Endell off the air after only two episodes had aired and rumours suggested they remaining four had never been transmitted.

In 1979, Endell was something of a prestige programme for STV, winning a Saturday night slot and a TV Times front cover, so we wanted to treat it with the respect it deserved. I began looking around for members of the cast and crew who might be willing to discuss it, using online discussion forums, Spotlight and personal contacts for information.

In the end I managed to track down series creator, Robert Banks Stewart, actors Tony Osoba and Rohan McCullough and director David Andrews. As Andrews lived locally to the STV studios, we invited him in to be filmed for an hour or so, and he kindly gave us enough material for three new videos, the first of which is now online:


We also decided to create some other new videos to promote the series, with a one minute trailer added to YouTube in October, and a longer compilation, The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Endell, Esquire, joining it shortly after (if you think these are good, you should hear some of the stuff I had to leave out):


Using material gathered from the interviews and other sources, I’ve written a pretty comprehensive overview of the series for the STV website, which touches on the rise and fall of Endell, and, with help from fellow blogger Frank Collins, we’ve also added coverage from the TV Times from 1979.

In fact, Frank has been a huge help in the promotion of the series, not only supplying some details hidden away in old copies of the TV Times, but agreeing to write a comprehensive review of the series for his excellent site, Cathode Ray Tube. Knowing that it’s not enough to simply add six episodes of a series to YouTube and hope for the best, by approaching Frank I hoped he’d be able to add some perspective to the show, the only stipulation being that he didn’t feel pressurised into writing a positive review – he was free to say what he wanted.

Another blogger who accepted the challenge to write something new about an ageing series was Walter Dunlop (who also provided some archive clippings from The Times), owner of the superb Lady Don’t Fall Backwards, while writer and one-time podcaster, William Gallagher, kindly alluded to the release of the series on his now ex-podcast, UK DVD Review. We’ve also been engaging with TV fans on forums such as The Mausoleum Club and Roobarb’s Forum, where we’re getting some great suggestions for other series which could be released from the vaults.

Finally, we were also lucky to have some interest from a Scottish newspaper, The Sunday Mail, journalist Maggie Barry coming into the STV offices a few weeks ago to find out more about this obscure series, before writing about it in last Sunday’s paper.

As of today, we’ve had just over 4,500 views of Endell-related video content, 1,177 for the first episode alone, which went online one week ago today: not bad for a programme forgotten about by most.

It’s been a challenging and exciting few months: being involved in editing videos, interviewing cast and crew, writing the articles and promoting the series has been hugely rewarding. Speaking to Tony Osoba recently, he noted how sad he was in 1980 when he learned the programme wouldn’t be recommissioned: I hope we’ve done him and his colleagues justice with how we’ve treated his show 30 years on.

Watch more Charles Endell, Esquire on YouTube or visit the Charles Endell section of the STV website for more background to the series.

Broadcasting Online TV

From Scotland to the world: bringing the STV archive to YouTube

STV Player

I thought it was time I blogged about a new project I’m working on with STV, the broadcaster which produces programming to over three and a half million viewers across Scotland each week.

It was in June that STV announced their deal with YouTube which would initally bring 2,500 hours of their programming to the site, and I covered the story for ReelScotland in August when David Tennant’s first TV appearance and a little-known Alfred Hitchcock documentary arrived on the channel. That’s alongside various brand new series which are still making a name for themselves with audiences.

After meeting with STV Head of Digital, Alistair Brown, to discuss the project in more detail, it became clear that the work which has been going on behind the scenes at the broadcaster for the last few months is not only going to be of interest to existing fans of archive TV, but to those who haven’t even heard of older dramas, documentaries and news items, either because they’re too young or because STV programmes weren’t transmitted in their region or country.

As Alistair noted in a recent interview with The Drum, the future broadcast schedule for many viewers will be heavily influenced by online. It seems likely that as we put together our own schedules, pulling in programmes from various sources which appeal to us, classic TV broadcasts will sit alongside the latest drama and entertainment on our computer/iPad/iPhone screens:

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My role in all this is to take a look at the bigger picture of what’s available in the STV archives and to see how the most can be made out of it online. As I try to do with much of my writing/reviewing, I want to put some context to these series, explaining how they came to be made and highlighting aspects which may otherwise go unnoticed.

We’ll be creating new content around old, involving production teams from the past wherever possible rather than simply lifting quotes from Wikipedia. In fact, in at least one case, we’ll be creating a Wikipedia page from scratch for a show which to my mind should have been one of Scotland’s longest running series but which tragically ended after just six episodes.

With this project STV wants to make Scottish programmes appeal to a wider audience, backing up the the channel’s motto of “From Scotland to the world” – in this new online era that’s perhaps more apt, and achievable, than ever.

I’ll write more about the project in the coming weeks, but in the meantime keep an eye on my Twitter feed and the STV YouTube channel for more announcements.