BBC ‘The Paradise’ episode 3

This week’s episode of The Paradise opens with shop girl Denise finding a baby behind one of the screens in the ladieswear department. As you do. The foundling affects everyone at The Paradise. As the baby’s discovery hits the headlines, a collection box is set up in the shop to raise funds for the local foundling home, to which the baby will soon be sent. Pauline takes to the baby immediately, and spends most of her screen time this episode walking around the shop with him, showing him the “birds on the wallpaper” and the “pretty glass in the windows”. Miss Audrey soon gets fed up with her, and dumps the baby on Moray instead. Fair enough.

As shown by the trailer at the end of last week’s episode, Miss Audrey bans Denise from voicing any more of her Big Ideas. Denise struggles to conform to being a conventional Victorian young lady – seen and not heard. Miss Audrey clearly feels threatened by Denise – she reveals partway through the episode that she gave up all thoughts of marriage for her job. So now that someone younger and cleverer has come along, she can’t cope with the idea that she won’t be in the spotlight, the one receiving the praise from Moray. We also find out that Miss Audrey’s erstwhile suitor is none other than Denise’s uncle, Edmund Lovett! Who’d have thought it?!

(Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey.)

So, what does Denise do when Miss Audrey forbids her “ever to think again”? You guessed it – she has a Big Idea. But this time, she suggests it to Katherine who in turn tells Moray. And what is this Big Idea? Well, Denise  Katherine proposes that Moray open a children’s department. I, and Denise, evidently, expected Moray to be just as thrilled/overcome with lust by this Big Idea as he usually is. But no, he is furious, because apparently he had granted Denise “freedom to speak all of her Big Ideas” and voicing it through Katherine was “underhand and sneaky”. The pair later reconcile, when Denise finds Moray sitting on the shop stairs holding the foundling. As you do. He apologises for yelling at her and the two share a ‘moment’ when Denise reaches over to stroke the baby and Moray looks up at her which an expression which can only be interpreted as him vividly imagining Denise as the mother of his many future babies. It kind felt like a “ooh look how good we’d be as parents” moment. All in good time, all in good time…

(Emun Elliott as Moray.)

(Joanna Vanderham as Denise.)

Interestingly, Dudley tells Moray that there are rumours circulating that suggest that Moray is the father of the foundling. Moray replies that it is impossible, as he’s only had “one slip” and that was 18 months ago, so the baby can’t be his. We know that Moray had a minor dalliance with Clara a while back (before he met Future Mother of His Babies), but what we didn’t know is that Clara has a child!! She is paying for the upkeep of her daughter, Grace, in the foundling home, so the subject of the foundling baby is painful for her. Grace looks to be about 3/4 years old, so can’t possibly be the result of Moray’s “slip” 18 months ago. But does that definitely mean he’s not the father? If not, then who is? The plot thickens… Denise helps Clara to steal money from the Foundling Fund for her child and while Clara later tells Denise (when drunk) that she still hates her, Denise is undeterred and comforts Clara as she cries her heart out over her little girl. Is friendship beginning to blossom between them?

(Sonya Cassidy as Clara.)

Another major plotline this week involves Katherine. She decides to make Moray jealous, by giving attentions to Peter Adler (Mark Bonnar), who runs the foundling home. In order to impress him, Katherine goes all out in her support for the cause. She insists on buying all of the children new clothes and makes frequent comments about how adorable the children are and how heartbreaking it is that they have no real home etc etc. And it works: Peter Adler falls for Katherine and asks permission to court her. Katherine nobly tells Moray of Adler’s intentions and that his overtures are not unwelcome, but Moray doesn’t even bat an eyelid. I don’t think he even noticed Katherine’s behaviour – he was too wrapped up in the foundling and FMOHB. Moray declares that he is happy for Katherine and wishes her well. I don’t think Lord Glendenning will take the news quite so well… I hope Katherine and Adler get married – they have much better chemistry than Katherine ever had with Moray, and of course, if they do, then that will leave the way clear for Moray to woo FMOHB. Or would that be too easy? Tune in next week to find out…

(Elaine Cassidy as Katherine.)

Side note: BBC’s The Hour is due to air its second series soon, so stay tuned for that shortly!

(All photos ©BBC 2012.)


BBC ‘The Paradise’ episode 2

Alrighty, the second episode of BBC2’s new period drama, The Paradise, aired last night. This episode features Lark Rise to Candleford’s Olivia Hallinan as Katherine Glendenning’s troubled friend, Jocelin. Jocelin’s erratic spending raises Denise’s suspicions: “a lady doesn’t usually buy the same hat in three different colours.” Katherine insists to Moray that Jocelin is fine, but shop boy Sam (Stephen Wight) is convinced otherwise. When Jocelin comes over faint in the middle of the shop, Sam manages to save her from the embarrassment of being seen publically in a moment of weakness. Jocelin later invites Sam to see her and tearfully confesses that she’s left her husband. She falls hysterically into Sam’s arms and kisses him, only for Lord Glendenning and Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) to walk in. Sam is blamed entirely. Katherine and her father demand of Moray Sam’s dismissal, but Moray is determined to hear the full story before making a decision. Sam is confined to the delivery yard, a fact which Pauline (Ruby Bentall) seems glad about: she clearly has a crush on Sam and is hurt when he slights her at the beginning of the episode. I’d like to think that, if Sam ever gets over his infatuation with Denise (Joanna Vanderham), he and Pauline would make a sweet pair. For the meantime, however, Denise’s uncle is trying to play the matchmaker. Maybe he thinks that if Sam and Denise get married then Sam will come and work in his draper’s shop and thus save him from destitution.

(Olivia Hallinan as Jocelin.)

(Stephen Wight as Sam.)

Eventually, Moray and Katherine learn the truth of Jocelin’s behaviour, and Sam is reinstated to his post. I felt sorry for Jocelin – she is trapped in a marriage to a man who apparently doesn’t know she exists and she cracked under the pressure of keeping up the appearance of domestic bliss. I hope that Katherine can continue to be a friend to her, so that she’ll have at least one person supporting her.

Another plotline running through the episode is Denise’s latest Big Idea. (Maybe I should keep a running tally…) This week she suggests to Moray that they hold a contest to crown the most attractive female customer Miss Paradise Pink. Moray is delighted with the idea, and seems, quite frankly, more than a little bit aroused. He’s very fond of whispering in Denise’s ear. I wish he wouldn’t. I’m not entirely sure why women are so keen on him. Yes, he is quite good-looking (minus the silly beard) but I find that he comes across as a bit sleazy. Perhaps it’s just me… Personally, I prefer Moray’s sidekick, Dudley (Matthew McNulty), and I wish they would give him more screen time. Anyway, as Denise doesn’t want Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) to know that it was her idea, Moray proposes it to Miss Audrey, who unsurprisingly, thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread. (Did they have sliced bread in Victorian times?!) She is always utterly enchanted with any idea that Moray suggests, as she is with the man himself, judging by how she simpers whenever he comes into a room. Like most women in this programme. Miss Audrey does not have a head for innovation so of course relies on Denise to come up with the finer details of the Miss Paradise Pink contest. The lucky women is chosen by Moray at the end of episode, and I like that it is a nameless customer, rather than the corny choices of either Jocelin (to console her), Katherine (to show his devotion) or Denise (to reward the brains behind the operation/to make a public proclamation of his lust). I think Sam must be quite glad that Jocelin’s portrait isn’t going to haunt him for the rest of his career (the winner of MPP got to have a portrait of herself on the wall of the shop).

(Joanna Vanderham as Denise.)

It is evident that Denise is really the only person with a real eye for design and a good business head. Really, Moray should probably just let her run the place. Of course, if he marries her by the end of the series, she’ll get to rule over The Paradise by his side. We shall see.

Overall, another enjoyable episode, again featuring some lovely costumes. By the looks of the trailer for next week’s episode, Miss Audrey is going to clamp down on Denise’s Big Ideas. I look forward to seeing how she intends to manage without Denise’s help…it should be fairly amusing…

(All photos ©BBC 2012.)

BBC ‘The Paradise’ episode 1

Last night, the first episode of the new eight-part series The Paradise aired on BBC1. Word is that the BBC wanted to squeeze in the series before ITV got a chance to air their own shop-related drama, Mr Selfridge, due to be shown in the new year. Anyway, The Paradise is (probably rather loosely) based on the novel Au Bonheur des Dames by the French novelist Emile Zola. One may assume the novel has rather more substance than the BBC adaptation, and The Paradise is undoubtably fluff, but enjoyable fluff nonetheless.

(Joanna Vanderham as Denise Lovett.)

It tells the story of a young, innocent country girl, Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) who comes to work as a salesgirl at England’s very first department store The Paradise (located in some unspecified Northern town in 1875), which has stolen business from her uncle’s haberdashery shop across the street. In the ladieswear department, Denise is under the supervision of stern matriarch, Miss Audrey (Sarah Lancashire) who demands that the young ladies in her care behave with the utmost decorum at all times. Denise soon clashes with a colleague, embittered shopgirl Clara, and catches the eyes of both Sam (who works on the drapery counter) and the owner of the shop himself, charming Moray (Emun Elliott).

(Sarah Lancashire as Miss Audrey.)

(Emun Elliott as Moray.)

If Moray had much common sense at all, he’d steer clear of a dalliance with a shopgirl, especially as he is relying on a hefty loan from businessman, Lord Glendenning (Patrick Malahide), the condition of which being that her marries Glendenning’s daughter, Katherine (Elaine Cassidy). Obviously, various romantic entanglements will soon ensue… And Moray has more than just romance on his mind: he is a modern man who intends for The Paradise to take over the world (almost). He plans a lavish sale to entice more customers and to persuade Lord Glendenning to approve his expansion plan. He is full of big dreams, and often chooses to ignore the more rational advice of his colleague and friend, Dudley (Matthew McNulty). I predict that Moray brushing away his friend’s words of caution may spell trouble later on…

(Elaine Cassidy as Katherine Glendenning.)

(Matthew McNulty as Dudley.)

The Paradise is nicely shot, with lots of pretty shots of the grand store and featuring several gorgeous costumes (lucky Elaine Cassidy!). The drama may not be ground-breaking stuff, but made good light evening entertainment. Will spiteful, and occasional drunk, Clara reveal the apparent secret of Moray’s wife’s death? Probably. Will Moray make advances towards Denise within the next couple of episodes? Most definitely. I look forward to next week’s episode.

(All photos ©BBC 2012.)

Harry Potter Studio Tour Review

(Entrance to the studio tour.)

Last week I went with my family to the much-hyped Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, in Watford. We were met by a decorated shuttle bus at Watford Junction station and were greeted in the entrance foyer by huge photographs of the cast lining the walls. By this point, my sister was practically wetting herself with excitement – she is a die-hard Potter fan and says on a regular basis that she is sick of being a Muggle and she wants to go to Hogwarts.

(My sisters by the shuttle bus.)

(The foyer.)

We had a long wait before our designated tour time (we arrived nearly 2 hours early, anticipating Olympic-related train delays which did not in fact occur), so decided to check out the gift shop first. It was fantastically stocked with all kinds of merchandise relating to the films, including wands, house robes, brooms, jewellery and even chocolate frogs (although these were about £7 in price!!) It has to be said the shop was ridiculously over-priced, almost eye-wateringly so. For example, a beanie hat cost £14.99, a uniform jumper cost £59.95 and a replica of Dumbledore’s robes could be bought for £495 (!!). Still, it was great for window shopping – I had initially planned to buy a Ravenclaw scarf but decided that £23.95 was a bit steep…I think eBay may be a better option…

(From top to bottom: Chocolate Frog, Marauder’s Map, The shop front.)

Once we started queueing for the tour itself, we had a 1/2 hour wait before we could get in. We had the cupboard under the stairs to look at while we were waiting, though. Once inside, we watched a short clip of Emma, Rupert and Daniel welcoming us to the studio, before we progressed to the Great Hall. Unfortunately, the tour guide seemed quite keen to usher us through the Great Hall fairly quickly, doubtless due to the fact that another tour group was waiting to come through. I would have liked longer to look at everything, especially the costumes on display.

(From top to bottom: The cupboard under the stairs, Great Hall doors, the Great Hall, Dumbledore.)

After the Great Hall, we found ourselves on a massive sound stage, containing an Aladdin’s Cave of props, costumes and sets for the 8 films. It contained ice sculptures for the Yule Ball, wigs, the Gryffindor common room, the Burrow, Snape’s classroom and so much more. After that, we walked through to a backlot which featured the Knight bus, the Potters’ cottage, 4 Privet Drive, the Hogwarts Bridge, the Riddle family grave, Hagrid’s motorbike, giant chess pieces and the frame of the Ford Anglia in which people could sit to have their photos taken. You could even buy a cup of Butterbeer if you so wished.


(From top to bottom: Yule Ball costumes, Yule Ball ice sculpture, Yule Ball drinks, Gryffindor dormitory, Dumbledore’s office, Gryffindor common room, Tonks and Lupin, The Burrow, Potions classroom, the Knight Bus, the Potters’ Cottage.)

The next part of the tour showed off some of the models used for visual effects, such as prosthetic goblin masks and the animatronics for Buckbeak and Hagrid’s head.

Following that was the fantastic set for Diagon Alley – I loved walking down the ‘street’ looking at the various shop fronts, the highlight being the Weasleys’ shop.

(From top to bottom: Diagon Alley, Ollivander’s, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.)

Finally, we saw the truly amazing scale model of Hogwarts, used for most of the sweeping exterior shots in the films. It literally took my breath away. The lighting changed as we watched, so we saw the castle go from ‘day’ to ‘night’.

(From top to bottom: Hogwarts ‘day’, Hogwarts ‘night’, me standing by the Hogwarts model.)

I was very impressed by the tour. I found the level of detail that prop, set and costume makers put into every item astounding. You could really tell that the people who worked behind the scenes of the films loved their work, judging by the incredible level of effort put into everything. The only real negative for me was the expense – the tickets cost £28 for an adult and £21 for a child and I have already mentioned the gift shop. Still, I had a wonderful day out and would love to go again…once I’ve saved up…

(Photos ©E. Bell 2012. Do NOT use without my permission.)

‘Flambards Divided’ – Book Review

**NOTE: This review contains spoilers.**

When K.M Peyton wrote a fourth novel for her successful Flambards series, the book caused some controversy among fans of the original trilogy, as the end of the third book, Flambards in Summer (1969), was essentially turned on its head in Flambards Divided (1981). Some reviewers claimed that Peyton seemed merely to be “cashing in” on the success of the 1978 television series based on the trilogy. Others thought that as Mark is apparently Peyton’s favourite character from the series, she wanted to give him his chance at a happy ending with the heroine, Christina.

I grew up reading and watching the Flambards series, and was happy with the ending of the trilogy. Thus I was rather reluctant to read Flambards Divided. However, after finding a second-hand copy recently, I decided to give it a try and make up my own mind about it.

I’ll admit, at first I hated it. It didn’t ‘feel’ the same as the first three books. After being madly in love with Dick Wright at the end of book 3, at the beginning of Divided, Christina “reckoned” that she loved him. Anyone else sense some doubt?! It irritated me when Peyton claimed that Mark was one of Christina’s “great childhood loves”. That was never the impression I got from the other books: it was clear that Christina was attracted to him, but as she refused to marry him twice, I don’t believe she was ever really in love with him. Will was her first love, and Dick her second. She never took Mark’s proposals seriously, especially as they bickered more than anything else.

Whilst I never thought Christina and Mark would be a good couple in the first three book, with Mark coming back from WWI newly vulnerable and (slightly more) mature, I started to see how it could work. I do think, however, that the integrity of Dick’s character was lost in the process. He became cantankerous and utterly unsociable, making Mark look, for the first time, like the better of the two. However, I still think it’s fair to say that Dick was always capable of violence – he did, after all, beat Mark to a pulp in the first book for getting his sister, Violet, pregnant. But, generally he had always seemed to be the sweet, uncomplicated one.

I think this book did give a fairly realistic view of marrying out of your class in that era: the local landowners couldn’t accept Dick as master of Flambards, and instead saw him as a jumped-up servant taking advantage of Christina’s generosity and wealth. Christine found, to her dismay, that her new marriage was far from idyllic: she hoped to enjoy the social scene that matched her status, but Dick seemed to detest anything but hard work. Mark’s presence and Christina’s growing feelings for him was the main cause of strain in their relationship. Mark and Dorothy’s marriage was also doomed to failure. Dorothy was, a heart, an urban girl – a lover of London’s glittering parties and fashionable shops. She could never be truly happy in the countryside, just as Mark would always be a country boy who could never be separated from horses and hounds.

I think in the end, Mark and Christina were well-suited. They understood each other perfectly – both knowing they could never change the other. They both loved Flambards dearly – more than Dorothy or Dick could ever really appreciate – and their chemistry was intense, particularly when they made the mutual decision to keep their relationship chaste until it could be made official. This was big step for Mark, who had always prided himself before on his sexual conquests, yet for Christina he was willing to wait until they could be married. Thankfully, they wouldn’t have had to wait long as the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act was passed in 1921.

In conclusion, although I expected to detest Flambards Divided (and did at first), I found myself enjoying it and was surprisingly satisfied with the outcomes of each of the characters: they all got the endings that best suited them. I recommend reading the whole of the Flambards series – it is brilliantly written with some wonderful characters and lots of interesting plot twists! I also highly recommend Blind Beauty and Blue Skies and Gunfire, also by K.M. Peyton. Blind Beauty especially is wonderful – I borrowed it dozens of times from my local library before I finally bought my own copy.

‘The Artist’ Review.

The 2011 film, The Artist, received a lot of hype. The question is, did it live up to it? I think it did. In a cinematic world of CGI, teen romance and supernatural creatures, the producers of  The Artist chose to make a silent film about 1920s cinema, shot in black and white. How could such a film be successful? The answer, as I see it, is that it is because it is so cleverly and lovingly made, and is wonderfully refreshing.

The first half of the plot is fairly lighthearted: successful silent film star, George Valentin, revels in fame and applause as sassy young Peppy Miller attempts to make it big in Hollywood. However, the tide turns as silent films make way for the new-fangled talkies. Some actors managed to make the transfer to talking pictures, whilst others fell to the wayside as the popularity of silent films dwindled. George Valentin fell into the latter category and his whole career collapsed. Peppy Miller, however became the new darling of the screen. Would George Valentin ever be able to regain his fame in this changed world? Thankfully, with the help of Peppy, he did. It does, however, make me wonder what ever happened to Lina Lamont after she was humiliated at the end of Singin’ in the Rain (1952)…

The Artist was beautifully shot, featuring wonderful costumes and the music was lovely. The lead actors, Jean Dujardin (George) and Bérénice Bejo (Peppy) looked like real 1920s film stars. I also thought that Dujardin bore a likeness to Gene Kelly. The film was very well acted – the actors communicated everything really well and I found the lack of dialogue no hindrance to my understanding of the film. I sympathised with George’s plight as he was cast out into oblivion and kept hoping that he would find his feet again in cinema. In contrast, I enjoyed seeing snippets from Peppy’s films as her star rose.

Three of my favourite scenes were: 1) Waltz for Peppy: George is attempting to shoot a scene from his new film, but keeps getting distracted when the dances with Peppy. 2) Peppy visits George in hospital after the fire and opens the film canister that he was found clutching to his chest to discover that the one film he’d wanted to save was that which contained the aforementioned waltz scene. 3) Peppy steals into George’s dressing room and embraces his tuxedo jacket, pretending it’s him holding her, before George walks in and catches her in the act.

The film had a very satisfying ending with Peppy blackmailing her producer into giving George a chance to prove himself as a talking picture star. The last scene sees George and Peppy shooting a dance scene for this new film, and as they finish triumphantly, sound enters the film and we hear them breathing heavily. The producer declares that it is “wonderful!” and asks if they could manage another take. George replies with a grin, “my pleasure”, revealing his French accent.

Finally, special mention must go to the adorable dog Uggie – he practically stole the film!

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and can’t wait to buy it on DVD so that I can watch it again!

‘Smash’ Pilot review

(The cast of ‘Smash’.)

NBC’s new show Smash is being billed as ‘the anti-Glee‘, ‘Glee for grown-ups’. It is all about the makings of a Broadway show, and in particular the search for the perfect leading lady, in this case, a girl to play Marilyn Monroe.

Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) is a ‘green’ young actress, longing to pursue her dreams of stardom. She catches the attention of the director, Derek (Jack Davenport) for being the only girl to turn up to the audition not dressed as Marilyn. However, the favourite of the music writer Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) is seasoned Broadway actress, Ivy Lynn, played by the super-talented Megan Hilty. Thus, I believe that most of Smash‘s first season will be centred around the battle between Cartwright and Lynn for the role of Marilyn. I liked the characters of writers Tom and Julia (Debra Messing) and I’m intrigued by how producer Eileen Rand’s (Anjelica Huston) divorce will affect the future of the budding musical – will she have sufficient funds to put the show on at all?

(Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn.) 

I have to say that although I really enjoyed the pilot, I already have one major problem with this show. I feel that the audience is meant to be backing Karen, the naïve dreamer with the ‘light’ résumé, as the underdog – Karen is clearly supposed to be the star in the making. However, I found my sympathies lying instead with Ivy: the experienced chorus girl who wants her big break more than anything. Whilst not involved in the professional theatre world myself, I understand that many, many talented actors struggle for years to get decent roles, and many never succeed. I find myself hoping that Ivy will get the lead in ‘Marilyn, The Musical’: I think she deserves it more than Karen, as she’s spent years forging her career. Megan Hilty’s voice is superior to Katharine McPhee’s: although McPhee’s voice is nice enough, she sounds ‘pop-ish’ and I’m not sure her pipes are really cut out for Broadway (even in the context of a TV show). Also, I struggle to picture Karen playing Marilyn as she looks and sounds nothing like her, compared with Ivy who was oozing buxom blonde sex appeal. The only ‘Marilyn-esque’ glimpse I saw in Karen was in her performance of ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’, dressed only in the director’s shirt – I like the way that she let Derek get within inches of seducing her, before saying, “it’s never going to happen” and walking away. I’d like to see more of Karen’s confident attitude, which she definitely have to display a lot of if she’s going to hold her own in the many rounds of the callbacks.

(Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright.)

I look forward to seeing how this show plays out: I just hope it doesn’t fall into clichéd, predictable Glee-like realms, as I think this show has a great premise, and has been pretty well executed so far… though of course it is very early days let…

On a final note, I loved the final song of the episode, ‘Let Me Be Your Star’, sung by Hilty and McPhee. It’s stuck in my head right now, and so I think it should be stuck in yours too. Listen to it here:

(All photos ©NBC.)

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