Tag Archives: BBC America

New <7>Musketeers<8> refreshes the swashbuckler genre

The Musketeers

From left, Athos (Tom Burke), Porthos (Howard Charles), D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) and Aramis (Santiago Cabrera) set off for new adventures in ‘The Musketeers,’ premiering Sunday on BBC America.

The Musketeers, a new period adventure series premiering Sunday on BBC America, opens as D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino, The Borgias) and his father are on the road to Paris from their farm in Gascony when they are set upon by a band of masked highwaymen dressed as Musketeers. One of the group, who introduces himself as Athos, murders the older man in cold blood.
Bent on revenge, D’Artagnan continues on his journey and seeks out the Musketeers, determined to kill Athos. Eventually, however, the truth becomes evident: The attackers were impostors, and D’Artagnan teams up with Aramis (Santiago Cabrera, Heroes) and Porthos (newcomer Howard Charles) to bring the real killer to justice and clear the name of the real Athos (Tom Burke, The Hour).
The trio soon realizes they have been drawn into another crafty plot by the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu (the great Peter Capaldi, Doctor Who), who hopes to use them as pawns in his scheme. Much wisecracking and swordplay ensue.
Reduced to bare-bones synopsis, the episode may sound like standard-issue swashbuckler fare, but that’s exactly what series creator and head writer Adrian Hodges (My Week With Marilyn) doesn’t want The Musketeers to be.
“Too often, swashbuckling has become a kind of code word for insubstantial characterization, endless swordfights which have little or no consequences, and (an) old-fashioned approach to storytelling which is dull and encrusted with period trappings and lame jokes,” Hodges writes in a lengthy introduction to the series included in the BBC America press materials.
Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel The Three Musketeers has been adapted for both film and television many times, so Hodges started out with a decision not to remake the same story, but to send the well-known characters – which also include the treacherous Milady de Winter (Maimie McCoy) and the delightful Constance Bonacieux (Tami Kari) – on a series of new adventures inspired in some cases by events in the novel, in others by the historical context of the story.
This creative approach is reflected in the costumes for the Musketeers, which jettison most of the frou-frou from earlier Musketeers entries in favor of dark, leathery outfits that have eye appeal while also being action-friendly. And speaking of action, it’s very well choreographed and filmed (and, by the way, not all swordplay – the Musketeers, after all, got their name from the handguns they carry).
Also contributing to what Hodges calls “a swashbuckler with teeth” is a gallery of really excellent performances. Pasqualino is right on the money as the hot-headed D’Artagnan, while Cabrera is all sly seductiveness as the ladykiller Aramis. Burke is a thoroughly charismatic Athos, while Charles, who comes to the series from a theater background, makes an amusing, affable Porthos.
For all the merits of the men in the cast, though, I have to give huge props to Kari, whose charm and spectacular comic timing help Constance steal pretty much every scene in which she appears. This actress is a real keeper.
The wintry Czech Republic, which stands in for 17th-century France, provides one breathtaking natural backdrop after another, and the episodes I’ve previewed all move at a breakneck pace, propelled by some genuinely witty wisecracking between the Musketeers. It’s easy to see why The Musketeers, a co-production of BBC America and BBC Worldwide, already has been given the greenlight for its second season even before the first one starts airing here in the States. It’s that good.
D'Artagnan and Constance

To evade arrest, D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino) stuns Constance (Tamia Kari) with an unexpected lip-lock just minutes after their first meeting.

Zombie drama In the Flesh shambles back for Season 2

'In the Flesh' star Luke Newberry.

Luke Newberry returns as Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer Kieren Walker as ‘In the Flesh’ returns tonight for a new season on BBC America.

Zombie-centric films and TV shows are hot commodities these days, but BBC America scored a cult hit last season with the premiere of In the Flesh, a decidedly offbeat miniseries that, like The Walking Dead, took place in the aftermath of a zombie resurrection. Unlike AMC’s super-hit, however, the inexplicably resurrected departed of In the Flesh are able to live somewhat normal lives, thanks to medical research that has developed a serum that, if administered on a regular basis, disables the homicidal rage to which Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) sufferers otherwise succumb.
The series takes place primarily in Roarton, Lancashire, a rural British community where teenage central character Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) initially struggled to reconnect with the family he left via suicide. His hometown was sharply divided between tolerant residents who were happy to have their loved ones back for any reason and a virulent anti-zombie faction led by the unhinged Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), who believed the resurrected PDS patients were godless abominations who needed to be put down.
Last season, Kieren found welcome support from his “best dead friend forever,” Amy (Emily Bevan), an improbably sunny soul who, sadly, was last seen catching a train out of Roarton after being assaulted by thugs.
Tonight, Season 2 of In the Flesh opens nine months later. In many respects, things have improved for Kieren, especially within his own family. As locals start to adjust to the presence of the PDS persons in their midst, the mad vicar’s flock has dwindled to a mere handful, but nevertheless Kieren yearns to leave Roarton for Paris, where he hopes to make a new start as an art student. He knows that the peace between the living and semi-dead is a tenuous one, especially as reports emerge of a PDS splinter group, the Undead Liberation Army, a radical faction opposed to mainstreaming. Most horrifyingly, some ULA terrorists have begun to wilfully take a drug that causes them to revert to their slavering psychotic zombie state.
Kieren’s resolve to leave is shaken somewhat by the unexpected return of Amy, who has fallen in love. What Kieren doesn’t know is that her charismatic beau, Simon (Emmett J. Scanlan), is a ULA radical himself.
Also joining this new six-part season is Wunmi Mosaku (Philomena) as Maxine Martin, Roarton’s new right-wing Member of Parliament, who sees the zombies as a useful wedge issue she can exploit for political gain.
BBC America only made the first new episode of In the Flesh available for preview, but it suggests that this new season ups the horror quotient significantly over last season. That doesn’t mean that the series has lost its offbeat identity, however. Creator Dominic Mitchell scored a BAFTA nomination for his writing in Season 1, and In the Flesh still resonates with political, social and religious allegory. Check it out if you’re in the mood for something unconventional, but if you missed Season 1, try to catch that via one of several on-demand platforms before diving into these new episodes.
Wunmi Mosaku of 'In the Flesh.'

Wunmi Mosaku joins ‘In the Flesh’ this season as a newly minted Member of Parliament with a sinister personal agenda.

Orphan Black returns with more head-spinning twists

'Orphan Black' returns to BBC America starting tonight.

Tatiana Maslany stars in multiple roles, including Sarah Manning, and Jordan Gavaris plays her madcap gay friend and foster brother, Felix, in ‘Orphan Black,’ which begins Season 2 tonight on BBC America.

Single mom Sarah Manning and her “sister clones” continue their desperate search for answers as the critically acclaimed thriller Orphan Black returns for its second season, tonight on BBC America.
Produced in Canada, the series moves at a breathless pace as it chronicles Sarah’s (Tatiana Maslany) dangerous adventures, which began the night she watched in horror on a nearly deserted subway platform as Beth Childs, a woman who looked just like Sarah, calmly threw herself in front of a speeding train.
Destitute, Sarah decided to steal the dead woman’s identity, not knowing that Beth was a local police detective. Worse, and far more puzzling, Sarah eventually discovered that there were many more women out there with her face, laboratory-engineered clones produced for an unknown purpose by unknown persons.
By the end of Season 1, Sarah had befriended two of these clones: Cosima Niehaus, a graduate student doing medical research in a bid to identify and cure the mystery malady that has hit her and many other clones, and Alison Hendrix, a very uptight suburban soccer mom. Their joint investigations eventually led Sarah to the Dyad Institute, the company that created them, which is partly run by icy “pro-clone” Rachel Duncan, the only one of their number who was raised self-aware of her genetic identity as a clone.
Tonight’s season premiere picks up where last season’s finale ended, with Sarah’s terrifying discovery that her young daughter, Kira (Skyler Wexler), and Sarah’s foster mother, Mrs. S. (Maria Doyle Kennedy), are missing from the home they were sharing. Sarah jumps to the conclusion that they’ve been kidnapped by the ruthless Rachel as part of her strategy to force Sarah to cooperate with the ongoing research at her institute.
Cosima, meanwhile, experiences failing health as she studies more and more medical data concerning the condition that killed the other clones. Elsewhere, Alison is struggling to keep her fragile emotions in check since realizing that she let a close friend die last season, thinking that the woman had some sinister connection to the Dyad Institute.
As if all this didn’t provide enough jeopardy for these primary female characters, Season 2 also introduces a bizarre group of religious extremists under the leadership of a charismatic rancher (Peter Outerbridge), who is utilizing yet another clone in some bizarre ritual. Other newcomers this season include Michelle Forbes as a formidable new power player at the Dyad Institute, Dutch actor Michiel Huisman (Nashville, Game of Thrones) as a man from Sarah’s past and Patrick J. Adams (Suits) as a gutsy, good-natured guy.
But can Sarah, Alison and Cosima trust any of these people? That’s one of the most pressing questions that keeps popping up in every episode. Certainly Sarah had grown to trust Paul Dierden (Dylan Bruce, Arrow), her confidant and sometime lover last season, only to discover that he works for her Dyad nemesis Rachel. Cosima badly wants to trust Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu), who has taken a very personal interest in Cosima’s case. While Delphine is looking fairly trustworthy at the moment, her boss, Dr. Aldous Leekie (Matt Frewer) definitely seems to be working his own secret agenda, which may or may not be helpful to the clone trio.
Clearly, Orphan Black doesn’t skimp on story, but for fans, the real kick of the show is watching the stunning Maslany so convincingly embody all the very disparate clone characters. It’s a true tour-de-force, since the actress has come up with distinctive looks, accents, physical tics and personal styles for each of these characters. Orphan Black also utilizes state-of-the-art computer techniques allowing Maslany to occupy the screen as several different characters simultaneously, even appearing to physically touch and otherwise interact with one another. Even as part of your brain is nudging you, demanding to know how Maslany is pulling it off, another part is fully accepting the fact that you are seeing multiple females instead of just a single incredibly gifted actress.
If you missed Season 1, it’s probably not a good idea to try to jump into this new season of Orphan Black cold, but Season 1 currently is available via a number of On Demand services, as well as free streaming to Amazon Prime members. But I do wholeheartedly recommend this audaciously original series. It’s like nothing else on television right now.
Dylan Bruce stars as Paul in 'Orphan Black.'

Paul (Dylan Bruce), Sarah’s former lover, may still have her back, but he’s also working for someone who definitely does not have Sarah’s best interests at heart in ‘Orphan Black.’

BBC America’s ‘Atlantis’ far from all wet

Jack Donnelly, Mark Addy and Robert Emms star in 'Atlantis,' premiering tonight on BBC America.

Jason (Jack Donnelly), Hercules (Mark Addy) and Pythagoras (Robert Emms, from left) find themselves in a bind in BBC America’s new fantasy series ‘Atlantis.’

Hardline classicists probably will want to give a wide berth to BBC America’s Atlantis, a new fantasy series premiering tonight. For the rest of us, however, this lavishly produced and imaginatively written riff on well-known yarns from mythology adds up to some first-rate and generally family-friendly entertainment.
Tonight’s premiere opens in the modern world, where a young man named Jason (Jack Donelly) is preparing to make a dive in a mini-sub in search of some clues to what happened to his father, who vanished from this particular stretch of ocean without a trace. Jason has had only a glimpse of what may be some related underwater wreckage when his craft is rocked by mysterious turbulence and bathed in eerie lights.
The next thing Jason knows, he is regaining consciousness, naked and disoriented, on a beach. Grabbing some conveniently abandoned clothing, he makes his way to a nearby city that looks to be the stuff of legends, where he inadvertently sets off a ruckus in the marketplace before being rescued by a bookish math geek named Pythagoras (Robert Emms, War Horse). Jason learns he is in Atlantis, where he feels an uncanny sense of familiarity. This impression of déjà vu is only heightened after he meets the revered Oracle (Juliet Stevenson, The Hour), an enigmatic seeress who offers Jason guidance and her personal protection.
He’ll find use for the latter almost immediately, too, because Jason has appeared in Atlantis on the day when all local citizens are required to draw stones in an annual lottery ordered by King Minos (Alexander Siddig, 24) to determine which of them will be sacrificed to the town’s fearsome monster, the Minotaur. Offering further help in this quest, however reluctantly, is none other than Hercules (Mark Addy, Game of Thrones), a formerly great hero now gone to seed.
Sharing the nearby palace with Minos is his beautiful but cruel queen, Pasiphae (Sarah Parish), who may well have a secret command of the dark arts, and their daughter, the princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart), who takes an immediate liking to Jason.
Created and written by Howard Overman, who did likewise on the British cult hit Misfits, Atlantis has top-notch production values and zippy dialogue that mingles pseudo-classical speech with contemporary, self-aware irony (Jason tells Pythagoras at one point that his triangles and theorems “are destined to bore children for centuries!”), while the extended sequence inside the dimly lit maze of the Minotaur is satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful.
“It is both a privilege and a delight to have the opportunity to take audiences on a journey into the fantastical world of Atlantis,” Overman says. “Drawing on the Greek myths for inspiration, we aim to tell classic action adventure stories in unexpected and exciting ways.”
'Atlantis' is ruled by Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart).

Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) make up the royal family of ‘Atlantis’ on BBC America.

Sore ‘Luther’

Idris Elba and Warren Brown
Fans of quality television get a welcome respite from the recent programming doldrums as BBC America’s award-winning crime drama Luther returns tonight as a “four-night television event” airing through Friday. Idris Elba is back in his Golden Globe Award-winning role as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, the iconoclastic London police sleuth who’s getting hammered on several fronts in these new episodes.
For starters, he’s investigating an eerie murder scene that bears the earmarks of a potential serial killer (spoiler alert: He’s right), so he’s annoyed and baffled when his superior, Detective Superintendent Schenk (Dermot Crowley), tries to pull him off the case to investigate the far more prosaic killing of an online provocateur who had been tormenting a grieving father.
What Luther doesn’t realize, at least at first, is that this second case is a trap laid by his nemesis DCI Erin Gray (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and her former boss, Detective Superintendent Stark (David O’Hara), whose outrage at Luther’s frequent forays outside the law has driven him into an Ahab-like hatred and an obsessive hunger to destroy the detective.
To that end, Gray and Stark enlist the very reluctant assistance of poor Detective Sgt. Ripley (Warren Brown), Luther’s steadfast sidekick, who faces the end of his own career if he doesn’t help the pair gather evidence to be used against his boss. It’s not long before Ripley is on the verge of a breakdown, as Gray and Stark play head games with him that start to make him doubt Luther’s innocence.
Meanwhile, a minor fender-bender introduces Luther to Mary Day (Sienna Guillory), a wistful blonde who feels an immediate attraction to the charismatic detective. Their budding romance, however, is sorely tested by Luther’s professional trials.
This love story, as well as the covert investigation into Luther’s rule-breaking procedures, stretches over all four nights, but otherwise, the miniseries is divided into two main storylines. Nights one and two are given over to the serial killer story, a genuinely chilling narrative that may have you debating whether you really want to watch this show shortly before going to bed. It’s intense and almost unbearably creepy.
On nights three and four, Luther pursues gentleman vigilante Tom Marwood (Elliott Cowan, Da Vinci’s Demons), a grieving widower who feels compelled to execute criminals who, for whatever reason, the justice systems has released back onto the streets. As his crusade escalates and claims a heartbreaking victim, Luther is startled but relieved by the return of Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), the vivacious and ingenious sociopath who feels an inexplicable connection to the tortured and world-weary detective. Their odd-couple relationship is far and away the most fascinating thing about Luther, and Wilson is, as always, absolutely delightful.
Sienna Guillory and Idris Elba

Hardcore thrill-seekers will love ‘Dangerman’

If you suffer from a fear of heights to any great degree, you can expect to watch a lot of Dangerman: The Incredible Mr. Goodwin through your trembling fingers.
This new BBC America summer series, which premieres tonight, is built around the gasp-inducing exploits of Jonathan Goodwin, a Welsh escapologist who became fascinated with Harry Houdini as a child and has since turned that obsession into a career.
Each hour-long episode features several segments – some filmed in America, others in the United Kingdom – in which Goodwin takes already-tough challenges and makes them even harder. His opening stunt in the premiere, for example, finds him hanging upside-down by his feet from a trapeze suspended under a helicopter that is slowly ascending from a parking lot. His hands are cuffed behind his back, but the real danger comes from the 200-foot rope attached to his belt, connected at the other end to a car below. If Goodwin can’t free his hands and release the rope from his belt before the helicopter reaches a height of 200 feet, the rope will jerk him from the trapeze and send him splatting to the ground far below.
Later in the episode, Goodwin dangles by his hands without any artificial support from the roof of a skyscraper, then has his assistant/witness roll a dice. The number that comes up will determine how many fingers of each hand he can use to sustain his grip. I won’t spoil the answer, but suffice it to say it is well short of five, trust me.
Goodwin also seems to enjoy incorporating the odd deadly critter into his stunts, like the one where he has his mouth duct-taped shut with a live scorpion inside it, then tries to free himself from handcuffs while a lovely blonde assistant slaps him in the face every 10 seconds with increasing force. For the finale, he takes a “buried alive” stunt that Houdini himself abandoned after three unsuccessful attempts, lying in a coffin that is sealed and then buried under five tons of dirt, but only after submitting to a rattlesnake’s venomous bite, which gives Goodwin 20 minutes to escape and reach the antidote he requires.
Needless to say, Dangerman comes with a prominent disclaimer urging viewers not to try any of Goodwin’s stunts at home. Some of them come with such a technical degree of difficulty that I don’t think amateurs would be able to attempt them, but in the case of other feats, yes, gentle reader, do not smash a wine bottle with a hammer, then chew it up and swallow it, as Goodwin does in tonight’s episode.

A zombie miniseries with bra-i-i-i-i-ins

In The Flesh
Luke Newberry
As U.S. moviegoers await the theatrical premiere of Brad Pitt’s new World War Z later this month, BBC America tonight rolls out In the Flesh, a three-night “zombie miniseries event” continuing through Saturday night.
Set in England, the unconventional drama follows teenager Kieren “Ren” Walker (Luke Newberry, Anna Karenina), who died in 2009, but was one of thousands who unaccountably rose from their graves not long after that as members of the walking dead. Eventually, government researchers discovered that many of the “rotters,” as humans called them, responded to a medical treatment that, if administered on a regular basis, turned off the “zombie switch” and allowed sufferers of the newly diagnosed Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) to manage their condition and lead comparatively normal lives, although they can’t digest food or liquids.
Now, after many months of medication and rehabilitation, Kieren is among the latest group being released from a government facility and returned to his small rural hometown of Roarton, wearing special makeup and contact lenses to conceal his zombie-like features. While his parents are nervously overjoyed to have their son back, however, the rest of Roarton is a hotbed of anti-zombie sentiment. Even Kieren’s once-adoring kid sister, Jemima (Harriet Cains), has joined the Human Volunteer Force (HVF), a grassroots militia that sprang up when the zombie resurrection overtaxed government security forces in the metropolitan areas, leaving outlying villages to their own defenses. The HVF is led by Bill Macy (Steve Evets), a working-class army veteran who co-founded the group with Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), a zealot who sees a chance to exploit the situation to his own ends.
Macy’s unwavering hatred of zombies compels him to continue hunting down and killing “rotters” regardless of whether they have been rehabilitated, even after his golden-boy son, Rick (David Walmsley) – who also was Kieren’s best friend in high school – returns from Afghanistan as a PDS sufferer himself.
Beyond that set-up, it’s really difficult to say much more about In the Flesh without spoiling the many surprises and twists that series creator Dominic Mitchell has waiting for viewers. For one thing, as Kieren soon discovers to his dismay, his “cure” leaves him with still-vivid memories of the bloody acts he was driven to commit while he was rabid, as well as the horror of suddenly awakening in his coffin underground when “the Rising” took place. But it’s not all dark – Friday’s episode gets a blast of fresh comic air as Kieren is reunited with fellow PDS sufferer Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan), whose life was cut short by leukemia and is so grateful to get another shot at life in the fresh air and sunshine that she goes through her days with a ferociously unapologetic gusto.
Beyond that, you’ll have to watch In the Flesh to discover important revelations such as the poignant truth about how Kieren died and why. You may notice that some plot threads, including one involving a mysterious Internet website, are left dangling; the BBC already has commissioned Mitchell to write additional episodes, which will premiere next year in the United Kingdom (no word, yet, on whether BBC America will pick those up, but the odds are good if viewers respond favorably to this initial miniseries).
In The Flesh
Emily Bevan