When Richard Hammond first attempted to drive an Abrams tank, he couldn’t tell the back from the front or even find the door. The impish 42-year-old Brit has tested almost every high-performance vehicle on the planet as co-host of the outrageously popular motor-head show “Top Gear.”
He commutes to work flying a helicopter and has a garage full of motorcycles, but that résumé was only “kind of useful,” he said, for “Richard Hammond’s Crash Course,” a new BBC America program premiering Monday at 10 p.m. that casts him as a wayward novice, felling trees, wielding wrecking balls and attempting to operate other highly specialized pieces of heavy equipment that take workers months, if not years, to master.
“When I was a kid, my name in my family was Richard Get-away-from-the-edge, all one word,” said Hammond, who was attracted to “Crash Course” because it appeals to “the little boy inside of me. Every little kid loves big machinery.”
And BBC America is betting some big kids will love it too. Hammond is a British TV icon who co-hosts several programs in his native U.K., the most popular being “Top Gear,” the world’s biggest car show, sold to 198 territories globally and costarring Jeremy Clarkson and James May. “Crash Course,” which premieres Monday, is Hammond’s first show filmed in the United States for a U.S. audience.
Conceptually, “Crash Course” is significantly different from the program that has made Hammond a household name among gear heads, though it shares some DNA. Instead of playing the vehicular expert, Hammond is a fish out of water who’s reeled into challenging scenarios of the American workplace.
In each of the series’ six episodes, Hammond has three days to learn how to operate some of the world’s most complicated machines, including a trash compactor at the Denver Regional Landfill, a fire engine capable of firing 1,200 gallons of water per minute at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and something called a dangle head processor in the Oregon forest that cuts, strips and slices wood in seconds that Hammond said “was the most complicated thing I’ve ever used. It was fiendish.”
"Doctor Who" is currently shooting the seventh season of its current run, but lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat is already looking ahead to next year, which marks the Doctor's 50th anniversary. And as part of the celebration, the Doctor is getting a new companion, actress Jenna-Louise Coleman.
Coleman is no stranger to the BBC; she's previously appeared on the series "Emmerdale" and "Waterloo Road." And for those who don't have a penchant for British soap operas, she was on the big screen last summer in "Captain America: The First Avenger."
Moffat is promising big things with Coleman, while simultaneously playing it close to the vest. "It's not often the Doctor meets someone who can talk even faster than he does, but it's about to happen. Jenna is going to lead him on his merriest dance yet. And that's all you're getting for now. Who she's playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor's standards, this isn't your usual boy meets girl."
But what about Amy Pond (Karen Gillen) and her husband, Rory (Arthur Darvill)? They're in the current season (their third with the Doctor) but the end is looming large and the BBC is describing their departure as "heartbreaking."
Meanwhile, the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith will be returning for the show's eighth season, which will mark the character's 50th year on TV. It all began as a black-and-white series in England in 1963 and is now listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running science fiction series on TV.
In addition to the TV series, director David Yates has stated that he's working on a "Doctor Who" movie, though Moffat has said it would have nothing to do with the TV version of the Doctor.
This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
Idris Elba of "Luther" won the Golden Globe award for actor in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television. Elba beat out Hugh Bonneville of "Downton Abbey," William Hurt of "Too Big to Fail," Bill Nighy of "Page Eight" and Dominic West of "The Hour" for the award.
Elba plays antihero detective John Luther in the series on BBC America. His "Luther" character is able to identify a killer at 10 paces but has suffered a mental breakdown, which resulted from the flawed decision of chasing down a pedophile. Elba has also appeared in "The Wire, " "The Office" and the film "Thor."
The Golden Globes are being held at the Beverly Hilton on Sunday and are being televised on NBC. We'll carry all the breaking TV news and reaction here on Show Tracker.
Kate Winslet, who stars in HBO's "Mildred Pierce," won the Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a mini-series or motion picture made for television, beating out "Diane Lane" in "Cinema Verite," Emily Watson in "Appropriate Adult," Romola Garai in "The Hour" and Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey."
Winslet plays the title role in the period melodrama about an independent woman at odds with her strong-willed, backstabbing daughter. The Oscar-winning actress will be able to place the Golden Globe beside the Emmy she won last year for the role. In 2009, she had the distinction of winning two Golden Globes in the same year -- for best actress in a motion picture drama for "The Reader" and for best supporting actress in a motion picture for "Revolutionary Road." Winslet received another Golden Globe nomination this year for best actress in a motion picture comedy or musical, for "Carnage."
The 69th Golden Globes are being handed out at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The ceremony is being broadcast live on NBC.
"Downton Abbey," the drama about an aristocratic family in pre-World War I England, won the Golden Globe for best miniseries or motion picture made for television. The PBS "Masterpiece" miniseries beat BBC America's "The Hour" and three HBO films: "Mildred Pierce," "Too Big to Fail" and "Cinema Verite."
The highly acclaimed "Downton Abbey" has already turned into an American favorite. It scored an upset in last year's Emmys by beating HBO, which had a long-standing domination in the prestigious TV movie or mini-series category. The production also won Emmys for writing (Julian Fellowes), director (Brian Percival) and supporting actress (Maggie Smith). The British production, which had already been broadcast in England, became an unexpected phenomena. A new season premiered last week to huge ratings and critical acclaim.
The 69th Golden Globes are being handed out at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The show is being broadcast live on NBC.
Nerds, it seems, are taking over the world. And comedian Chris Hardwick is their de facto leader -- or “Nerd Overlord,” as he prefers to call himself.
“They’re not taking over, they already have,” Hardwick insists, racing through the maze-like halls of E!’s studios on Wilshire Boulevard. He’s chit-chatting rapidly, repeatedly glancing at his watch and taking corners quickly, his deep, mellifluous voice rising and falling with unbridled enthusiasm for all things techy and pop-cultural.
Hardwick is creator and host of the popular “Nerdist Podcast,” a twice-weekly Web radio show on which he and comics Jonah Ray and Matt Mira wax about superheroes, sci fi, gaming systems, girlfriends and whatever else is on their minds. Guests have included Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Neil Gaiman, the Muppets and Weird Al Yankovic; the show consistently holds a top 10 spot on iTunes, with up to 200,000 downloads per episode.
If you’re someone who puts off meals to play “Call of Duty,” you probably already know of Hardwick. He’s aiming for an increasingly broad audience, however, with a copious array of new projects, including his new book “The Nerdist Way.” Already the host of G4’s “Web Soup” and AMC’s “Walking Dead” aftershow, “Talking Dead,” Hardwick will soon launch a nerd-dedicated YouTube channel. It’s scheduled to go live in April in partnership with the Jim Henson Co. and Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Entertainment (creators of “Saturday Night Live”). They’re developing programming that will include scripted shows and sketch comedy, Hardwick says.
BBC America also signed him up for a string of five “The Nerdist” TV specials, the second of which airs Saturday. They are meant to be visual incarnations of Hardwick’s podcast. It’s not unlike “The View” for dudes -– a roundtable-like discussion about nerd/pop culture with British and American celebrities, comedians and the general technorati. The shows were conceived to coincide with like-minded programming on BBC America. “The Nerdist” pilot, for example, aired last September after the mid-season premiere of “Doctor Who” and featured the current doctor himself, Matt Smith, as a guest.
The Hardwick-BBC pairing was so sympatico, and the pilot created so much buzz online, says BBC America General Manager Perry Simon, that greenlighting more was a no-brainer.
BBC America announced details of its original scripted series Wednesday. "Coppers," a historical crime drama, is set in 1860s New York City's crime-ridden Five Points neighborhood, notorious from "Gangs of New York."
Tom Weston-Jones of "MI-5" will star as an Irish-immigrant cop in the aftermath of the Civil War. He's trying to keep the peace in Five Points as well as search for information about the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter. Also in the cast are Anastasia Griffith ("Royal Pains," "Damages") and Franka Potente ("The Bourne Supremacy," "Run Lola Run") as a madam.
Scheduled to premiere on BBC America in summer 2012, "Copper" was created by Tom Fontana, whose pedigree includes "Oz" and "Homicide," and Will Rokos ("Monster’s Ball," "Southland"). Co-executive producers include Fontana, Rokos, Barry Levinson ("Rain Man," "You Don't Know Jack") and Christina Wayne of Cineflix Studios (executive in charge of "Mad Men" at AMC).
Tonight, seven years after it first brought the series to these shores, BBC America will begin replaying the 2003 conspiracy-thriller miniseries "State of Play." It is a terrific work of television, with what seems now a superstar cast and crew, nearly all of whom have gone on to greater fame and bigger if not always better things. ("State of Play" did set the bar high.) Actors include Kelly McDonald, the best thing about "Boardwalk Empire"; John Simm, later the star of "Life on Mars"; David Morrissey ("Blackpool," "Red Riding"); Bill Nighy, already a little bit famous then for "Love, Actually," but not yet for "Pirates of the Caribbean"; Polly Walker ("Rome," "Caprica"); Philip Glenister (also later of "Life on Mars" and its sequel, "Ashes to Ashes"); and James McAvoy, who is now a full-blown movie star ("The Last King of Scotland," the lead in "Arthur Christmas" -- opposite Nighy, as it happens). Writer Paul Abbott would create "Shameless"; director David Yates made the the last four "Harry Potter" films.
I reviewed "State of Play" at the time of its American premiere in tandem with "Prime Suspect 6." Here are excerpts:
There are many points in common between the series. Each richly employs London locations, venturing into the reaches of the city that Hugh Grant movies never show. Each is scored by the constant ring of the cellphone. Each is fairly but not fatally "stylish" ....
In both shows, the plots point toward bad actions in high places. It's in some ways a cliche of fiction that the higher up the ladder you go, the more corrupt, cynical and arrogant are the people you find, but it is a cliche not without merit. (And as such people are so rarely held to account in real life, it's always nice to see them get their comeuppance in the moving pictures.) And despite their heroes' nominal victories, each ends somberly -- the case is closed but the damage is done. Real closure is chimerical.
And most crucially, both benefit from length, which allows for the complexity and the sprawl commonly called "Dickensian" but also allows for silence, the long look, the apparently extraneous conversation that builds texture and reveals character rather than just advancing the plot ....
A continually surprising thriller that maintains an air of imminent danger through its five or so hours "State of Play" is a grander, more romantic creation [than "Prime Suspect 6"]. Written by Paul Abbott ("Cracker," "Touching Evil"), it is at once harrowing and funny and involves friendship and betrayal, love and adultery, government conspiracies and personal jealousy and the overlapping business of the police and the press, each of whom has its own view of the proceedings: "It's a case, not a story," cop chastens journalist.
The main focus is upon a not-too-motley Scooby Gang of young adrenalized reporters -- the policemen are not quite so good-looking or energetic -- on a breaking story that keeps breaking into different stories. (Some of their information-gathering tactics seem marginally legal to me, or at least not very nice.) They are led by Cal McCaffrey (John Simm, Raskolnikov in last year's "Crime and Punishment"), who is somewhat dissolute, in the familiar dissolute-reporter mode, and trying to help former best friend Stephen Collins (David Morrissey, "Girl With the Pearl Earring"), an ambitious politician whose life begins to unravel when his assistant and mistress goes under a subway train.
Cal's also sleeping with Collins' estranged wife (Polly Walker), while ... well, you'll really have to watch it. We could be here all day summarizing, and it would just spoil the fun. But mention should be made of Kelly Macdonald, in a slightly more knowing version of the Nancy Drew figure she played in "Gosford Park"; and especially Bill Nighy (the aging rock star in "Love Actually") as a newspaper editor with a dry wit and ironic eyebrows, who emerges slowly as the series' comic relief and shadow hero and whose character loudly cries: Sequel!
Sequel came there none, though a big-screen remake, from different hands, starring Russell Crowe was released in 2009. (And Nighy's recent "Page Eight," which showed here on PBS' "Masterpiece Contemporary," gamboled in a similar field.) But here is the original, back again and unbeatable.
The McDonald's Channel, the digital network offering exclusive programming for dine-in customers at the global fast-food chain, is not fully up and running yet in Southern and Central California, but the Taiwanese animators who have parodied Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen already have a few satirical ideas about what the channel should show "if it were being honest."
McDonald's honchos may not find the short computer-animated video by Next Media Animation very amusing -- one scene shows a man munching a hamburger in a hospital bed, and he suddenly suffers a heart attack.
The channel, which will officially launch early next year, is scheduled to show a variety of programming provided by several producers, including Mark Burnett ("Survivor"), BBC America and KABC Eyewitness News.
"Doctor Who" fans, think you know the truth about River? Think again.
"You don't know it yet," said head writer and executive producer Steve Moffat. There is "loads more" to come for the character, played by Alex Kingston.
Moffat, along with fellow executive producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis and stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillian, appeared Thursday during the "Doctor Who" panel at the TCA media tour, and his comment wasn't the only tease offered.
The other, though, was slightly more personal: Smith, the latest in a string of actors who have assumed the role of the time-traveling humanoid alien, said he is not adverse to taking baths as the Doctor. Though, if he were sticking to the character, a talking duck might have to be incorporated, he admitted.
The 48-year-old international cult series returns Aug. 27 with "Let's Kill Hitler" as the search for Melody Pond begins with the TARDIS landing in 1930s Berlin. The episode has sparked some controversy concerning a moment where the time traveler and his team have to decide whether to "save" Hitler's life.
"We are against Hitler," Moffat said emphatically. "I'm glad he's gone. Don't worry, we're not really going to save Hitler. He's dead already, so we cant."
Instead, fans can expect some "twists and turns" with the next phase of the season, according to Wenger.
"The second half explores the emotional impact that the big plot twists have had on the characters," he said.
The nominations for the 2011 Emmy Awards were announced early this morning, with plenty of surprises mixed in with the evergreens. (See the full list here.)
The Los Angeles Times spoke to a number of nominees about the Emmys and the roles that nabbed them a chance at an award.
Some nominees -- like "Justified's" Walton Goggins -- didn't even try to downplay their excitement: "I feel like I’m floating in a vat of liquid gratitude," he said. "It’s surreal. This may never happen again in my lifetime but to go through this experience now, it doesn’t get better than this."
Idris Elba, who was nominated both for his role in "Luther" and a guest role on "The Big C," was doubly knocked out : "It’s incredible. You wait for one bus and two come along. They’re both great surprises."
Matthew Weiner is no Emmy newbie, but he still seemed thrilled: "There’s something extra sweet about it because, four years into it, you just don’t expect to be in it." He also revealed that he already had an ending in mind for the series, three seasons down the line. "I do. I do. I do. I do have an ending in mind." So what is it? We'll have to wait, apparently. Said Weiner, "I’m keeping it close to the vest in case I change my mind."
"Mad Men's" John Slattery -- who has received a supporting actor nomination for every season "Mad Men" has been on the air -- spoke eloquently about inhabiting the role of Roger: "On TV, the most challenging thing is not to assume you know how your character would react just because you’ve played it for years. You want to deliver the joke, but you don’t want your character to be a joke. Also, people wonder about the clothes and the cigarettes and the drinks -- but you don’t play the period, you play the scene. You play each moment as it comes."
Michael C. Hall, who is nominated once again for his role on "Dexter," talked about the particular challenges this past season: "In the fifth season we sort of had to take responsibility for the mess in Dexter’s world. He had a big share in Rita’s death. It was difficult to try to play this guy who maintains some sort of disconnect from his emotions and still process all of that."
And Johnny Galecki of "Big Bang Theory" spoke about playing a character smarter than he is: "I’d say he’s much more intelligent than I am. I can only pretend to think like this guy. I can understand how he feels as [if he's] the underdog outcast. That is something I can relate to. I wasn’t the most popular kid growing up."
Matt LeBlanc knows all about awards: "I’m familiar with not winning," he joked. Asked if he'd spoken to any of his costars from "Episodes," he quipped, "They’re probably bitter and angry. I’ll call them and rub it in. They’re all in London."
For Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of "Friday Night Lights," the nominations are a lovely complement to the end of the series. Said Britton, "After five seasons, it just feels incredible to have the show recognized. It was long deserved, I think." Chandler talked about hearing the news: "My wife came out and said, 'Guess what, you just got nominated!' I immediately asked, 'What about Connie?' She told me that she got one too. Then she shoved me in the swimming pool."
Mireille Enos of "The Killing" talked about the backlash to the show's finale. "I loved the reaction," she said. "It's evidence of how attached people had gotten to the show. My hunch is that the people who are screaming loudest are the ones who are going to be the first to watch the next season."
Who was overlooked? Slattery mentioned "Mad Men's" Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell.
And what about the stiffest competition among fellow nominees? "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara pointed to certain popular octogenarian: "Betty White is on the list, that can’t be good for anyone."
Michael C. Hall couldn't choose one name. "Oh, gosh, I don’t know. It’s strange," he said. "We’re not running a 100-yard dash. We’re all doing very different things. It’s a strange thing deciding whose is best. Good luck to the voters doing that."
Photo: Top: Michael C. Hall at The Los Angeles Times' 3rd Annual The Envelope: Primetime Emmy Screening Series panel in Los Angeles. Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images. Bottom: Sofia Vergara in "Modern Family." Credit: ABC.