The Boyfriend of the Week

February 3, 2006

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the year 2006 -- believe it or not, the NINTH year this site has been up, running, and attempting in its own lame way to bring a little laughter and levity to the world. Yep, nine years! Nine years of utter insanity! And, even more unbelievable is the fact that seven of those nine years were spent without a Netflix subscription. How did I ever get anything done? Freakin' miracle.

But enough about the amount of time I've wasted in nearly a decade spent writing about trivial stuff and watching an unholy number of movies (most of them bad). Let's jump right into this week's write-up -- the first official Boyfriend of the Week for 2006. Go team!

It all started about a year ago, I'd say. That's about the time I began to get two or three emails a week from various women all over the world insisting that I get my hands on a copy of a BBC miniseries called North and South. The star, they said, was going to make me weak in the knees. He was perfect Boyfriend material. He was the man of my dreams.

The more emails I got about the series, the more intrigued I became. But, alas, there wasn't much I could do about it -- it was a British TV thing that was simply not available here in the States. Finally, however, after months and months of sighing disappointedly every time I got one of those emails (and replying with, "I'd love to, but I'm IN AMERICA! Land of the free, home of the brave, terrain of the people who do not get the BBC"), the movie hit Netflix. Two disks, four hours total, no sweat. I started part one on a Friday evening around 9pm figuring I'd just watch the first two hours and head for the hay. Suffice it to say I was up WAY past my bedtime that night.

The "perfect Boyfriend"? Understatement of the year! (An exclamation that doesn't carry quite as much weight when it's only a month into 2006, I realize, but that's neither here nor there.)

The man's name is. . .Richard Armitage. The miniseries is. . .a lot like Pride and Prejudice. The upshot is. . .I'm ga-ga over a Brit. Again.

Sooooo predictable after nine years of doing this. SO predictable. I don't know how you guys can stand tuning in anymore.

Okay, now, oddly, right around the time North and South hit DVD here in the Grand U.S. of A. (rah rah siss boom bah!), the emails about Richard Armitage completely dried up. Maybe everybody was getting tired of hearing me say, "Sorry, me gots no BBC, you see?" However, the fervor started anew -- and with roughly a gazillion times the intensity (give or take) -- when, a couple of weeks ago in the Dane Cook write-up, I made a passing reference in a single paragraph about a new British guy I was thinking about featuring soon.

From the moment that write-up containing that paragraph was posted -- note: a paragraph that did not contain the man's name, but only a passing reference to a movie he'd been in (a passing reference, for that matter, that did not contain that movie's name, but instead only a sub-passing-reference to an identically-named Patrick Swayze movie) -- I found myself absolutely inundated with emails from savvy readers who had immediately had guessed that I was talking about Richard. I got dozens and dozens and DOZENS of emails, and was even the subject of a bubbly message thread over at a wildly entertaining fan board (hello, C19 readers!), where I promptly got myself an account so I could spend lots of time reading about how great everybody thought I was.

I'm totally kidding.

After all this buzz in the RA community, though, you can only imagine how anxious I've been about this write-up. In my passing-reference-with-sub-passing-reference on the Dane Cook write-up, for example, I had casually referred to Richard's N&S character as "stodgy," and that alone caught me some heat from a die-hard fan totally unwilling to accept that term. And, I mean, if I can generate that much excitement from just a passing-reference-with-sub-passing-reference to the man, imagine what could happen once I finally used his name in a sentence!

Richard Armitage! Richard Armitage! Richard Armitage! KABOOM!

Luckily, even the lady peeved about the use of the term "stodgy" was a total sweetheart, and after spending a few weeks chatting with some of these die-hard fans, I have discovered something about Richard Armitage I never would've known otherwise: the man inspires loyalty. And the ladies that love him? Also inspire loyalty. Some of the women I talked to went way, way out of their way to help with this write-up. One amazing gal, who goes by the handle LuvDemBrooders, even sent me about 30 hours of various Richard Armitage movies and TV shows (more on those in a moment), knowing I'd be unable to track down much of his work up here in Washington State. And another total sweetheart coordinated the effort to pick out some of the best photos of Richard, three of which I selected for use on this site.

Others sent me loads of information on Richard, why they loved him so much, what their favorite shows or movies of his were, stuff like that. And everybody was just SO NICE! Not a single Richard Armitage fan had anything but enthusiasm for me. Honestly, just getting to hang out (virtually) with the C19 women made this one of my favorite write-ups to work on of all time. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. Not a bad way to start off the year, eh?

But enough about them. Even though THEY RULE. Let's talk about Richard, which I know they will appreciate even more. Ladies, brace yourself, I'm gonna get personal now.

The first thing I saw with Richard in it was, of course, the aforementioned North and South. It’s the story of a young London woman, Margaret Hale, whose minister father leaves the church, uprooting the family and moving them to Milton, an industrial town in the North that is about as different from London as you can get. Milton is a town of factories, smog, and poverty, and it takes Margaret and her family a long time to get the hang of the much more frenetic pace. But soon, she has made friends with a few of the locals and, in so doing, becomes wrapped up in the struggles of the working class. Meanwhile, her father has befriended a local factory owner, Mr. Thornton (played by our dashing Boyfriend of the Week), and Margaret and Thornton begin a fairly chilly relationship, each one holding extremely opposite points of view in regards to the world of the working class. And that's the storyline the movie focuses on, of course -- the proud and haughty Mr. Thornton clashing with the equally proud and stubborn Margaret, with them both ultimately succumbing to their much-resisted mutual crushes. Sound familiar to anyone? Yeah, me too, and this one didn't even have a scene featuring a soaking wet Colin Firth emerging from a pond. All sarcasm aside, though, North and South definitely stands on its own merits, not the least of which is that Richard looks fi-i-ine in a top hat and cravat. And even though I found it a little too similar to the hugely successful P&P, I still greatly enjoyed it.

Other than this series, though, I was pretty limited in terms of access to Richard's work. The only other movie I was able to dig up on my own was a PBS "Mystery" production called Malice Aforethought. I'm not going to bother talking about this one, though, because if I did, I'd have to spend at least a paragraph talking about the absolutely hideous mustache Richard was forced to wear in it, and, honestly, that's a mustache that is simply best forgotten. Besides, his part is small, and it was the wrong part (he should've been the main character, who was not at all believable as the heartthrob). Not worth watching if what you're after is some juicy Richard Armitage action.

Luckily, though, as I said earlier, LuvDemBrooders supplied me with plenty of extra material. Within a week of our chatting, I got a package in the mail containing all kinds of awesome stuff. So, here, for your perusing entertainment, is the lowdown on the LuvDem collection, in order of how much I liked each thing, favorites first:

Sparkhouse (2002)

This little miniseries is about two teenagers, Andrew and Carol, who have been madly in love with each other since they were twelve. It's the classic "other side of the tracks" story, as Andrew's upper class parents do everything they can to keep him from seeing the lower class farm girl Carol. Easy to understand, really, given the fact she's an utter lunatic who has a tendency to set their house on fire. But love is blind, and, apparently, it also comes encased in fire retardant asbestos, and so the two decide to run off and elope. The night before their planned nuptials, Carol decides to finally tell Andrew a horrible secret. But the whole thing backfires when it turns out that Andrew is, in short, a total butthead. Aghast and confused, he leaves her at the altar and runs off to college a day later.

Cut to a few years later. Andrew returns to the village, married and with a baby (and having to move in with his parents, apparently -- see, Carol? You were so better off. . .). Carol, in the meantime, has lost her father and is about to lose her farm too. Ever practical, except for when she's attacking cars with axes (long story), she makes a decision -- knowing she can't have Andrew, she decides to marry John (played by Richard), the sweet, shy man who worked for her father and who she knows A) is in love with her and B) has some money she can use to keep the farm afloat. John's ecstatic, but also incredibly jealous of Carol's old feelings for Andrew. And Andrew, despite the fact THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT FOR BEING A TOTAL BASTARD, goes ballistic with jealously himself. Commence torturous misery.

As I was watching this series, I spent half my time yelling at Andrew for being such a pansy, half yelling at Carol for not realizing how much better John is, half yelling at John for marrying Carol who is too stupid to realize that Andrew is essentially Ashley Wilkes in a pimpled disguise, and half wondering where my high school math teacher went wrong when it came time to teach me fractions. 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 equals. . . oops.

However, despite all the yelling, or maybe because of it, I absolutely loved Sparkhouse. It's the classic sweeping romantic tragedy with lots of rain, misery, unrequited love, and passion. Truly a delight -- you know, in that sorta-makes-you-want-to-kill-yourself (or-at-least-go-sit-in-a-dark-room-and-listen-to-the-Smiths-all-night) kinda way.

Things learned about Richard: cute in hats, gorgeous in dirty sweaters, lovely with shaggy hair and stubble, makes an unbearably sexy underdog. Wears well the sweet, fumbling, doofus type. Call me head-over-heels.

The Golden Hour (2005)

This was my second favorite of the Richard Armitage things I watched, primarily because it was one of the few that featured him in a starring role. And, even better, it was a medical drama, and anyone who knows me knows I'm a total sucker for those (I'm still watching ER, after all, even though I have no idea why).

"The golden hour" refers to that critical time period after a trauma -- the hour that can separate life from death for a victim. Here, Richard stars as the head of a fleet of helicopter medics and boy, does he ever look great doin' it. I also watched a couple of episodes of two other medical shows (Doctors and Casualty), where Richard had brief guest spots, and I found all three of these very interesting in terms of how different they were from their American counterparts. It appears that medical dramas in England are less about blood, guts, and cracking open chests right on camera, and more about personal relationships, internal or emotional struggles, and other, somewhat deeper stuff. Radically different. Better? In some ways. Not quite as exciting, I would say. But pause for a moment to ponder the significance of this fact -- what does it say about our respective cultures? Also, I confess I laughed out loud at some of the dialogue. This was my favorite line: [said from a medic to a traumatized victim who's just had part of a building fall on his leg] "Your leg looks a bit of a mess, but we'll get it sorted out." I swear, had she next busted out with the Mary Poppins song "A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down," I would not have been at all surprised. Those crazy Brits.

Things learned about Richard: Gives good mouth-to-mouth, manages to look sexy in an orange jumpsuit (no small feat!). Sounds totally dreamy when he says stuff like, "Get a BP, STAT!"

Between the Sheets (2003)

This was another love-based series (those frisky Brits!) featuring Richard in a solid, supporting role. And wow, here's another one that says a lot about the differences in our cultures. Here, our most popular shows focus on murder, blood spatter, and violence. There, it seems to be less about killing people, and more about SEX. I'm not even sure they could get away with showing this series on the FX channel, and I've seen some wild, wild things on Nip/Tuck, ladies and gentlemen. This show, though, is about (of all scandalous things) a sex therapist. During the day, she's counseling an older couple, the wife of which is the classic prude and the husband, the classic philanderer. The therapist gets the woman to begin exploring her own sexuality more, by reading Lady Chatterly's Lover and looking at her naughty bits in the mirror (a la Fried Green Tomatoes). Meanwhile, she working at convincing the husband to begin exploring his sexuality a little bit less. At home, however, things are not all love and rockets. Her partner, played by a clean-cut Richard Armitage, is in the middle of a scandal involving a young, vulnerable woman who is claming he sexually assaulted her. Does our sex therapist believe Richard is innocent? I ain't tellin'. Which is too bad, as most of you guys are Americans who will probably never get to see this show. Nyah nyah, suckahs!

Things learned about Richard: has a great butt, looks good all cleaned up. Annnnnd, I mentioned the butt thing, right? Because, boy howdy, there are a couple scenes in this one where he isn't wearing any pants. Or anything else for that matter. And not only did I not cover my eyes for those scenes like I probably ought to have, but I confess to actually rewinding a couple of them. More. Than. Once. Don't tell my Mom (hi, Mom!).

Cold Feet (2003)

Richard only had a small part in the fifth season of this romantic comedy show, the British equivalent of Friends. In it, he plays a lifeguard who meets the nanny of one of the main characters at the local club and begins to woo her. But then it turns out he's slept with one of the nanny's pals, and things get all complicated and ugly. He's not in it nearly enough -- clearly the show would've been an even more smashing success had Richard been one of the stars, and I'm not just saying that because he has a great butt (see above, re: no pants). However, the great thing about his role in this is that it's the first time we get to see him play someone who isn't HEAVY. In all his other parts, he's the serious guy, the troubled guy, the complicated guy. As Lee in Cold Feet, he's the complete opposite. Just getting to see him lighten up and play someone fun was a total joy. Plus, he gets to do lots of smooching scenes, and I confess to a particular fondness for those.

Things learned about Richard: Absolutely adorable when sexually frustrated, great kisser, manages to look good even in a Speedo (even harder to pull off than looking good in orange jumpsuits). I was amused to read that he took up water aerobics to prepare for this role. I bet all the grannies in his class were pretty entertained by this as well (or maybe in England, water aerobics isn't as much a granny thing as it is here in the States? I bet I get five hundred emails within the week from 20 year old American women who love water aerobics. I should just shut up now.).

Ultimate Force (2003)

Richard has a role in the second season of this show, which is about a special ops Army unit in England. He doesn't show up until the second episode, when half the unit's men have been killed in a screwed-up operation, and he's brought in to kind of straighten them up. The characters and dynamics of the show reminded me quite a bit of The Shield, as well as TNT's canceled show Wanted (which I loved, by the way). But again, despite the fact this show is inherently about violence (it being about a squad of trained killers), there isn't actually that much violence IN it. It's a very thoughtful, intensely intellectual program, that manages to debate many sides of multiple issues (such as, how much is too much when it comes to dealing with terrorists?) without ever actually attempting to bash you over the head with its own principles. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I haven't seen the last three hours of season two (there are six episodes total), but I'm looking forward to finishing this one up over the weekend. Definitely recommended, and I hope to be able to get my hands on the other seasons at some point as well. Alas, Richard is the heavy, yet again, in this one. But at least he lightens up periodically to play rugby. That's not worth nuthin'.

Things learned about Richard: Looks great in shorts and knee socks, as well as camo paint (not worn at the same time, though). I'm sorry to say, looks utterly ridiculous in those lopsided beret-type Army hats.

So, there you have it! Everything you ever wanted to know about everything I've seen in the last month featuring my favorite long-nosed British actor, Richard Armitage. And if you've enjoyed my synopses, you have only LuvDemBrooder and the gals at C19 to thank for it! Thanks, gals!

Now for a quick biography -- Richard Armitage was born on August 22, 1971 (making him about two years older than me -- poifect). He grew up in Leicester, England, attending Pattison College in Coventry, and then studied at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. His first appearance on-screen was in a small role in a film called This Year's Love, but it wasn't until his part in Sparkhouse, a series voted the most popular of 2002 by BBC web site readers, that he really started to get noticed. After landing a variety of guest roles and supporting parts over the following three years, he finally got a major role in the film Frozen (which sounds great and I'd love to see it someday). It was that part that eventually led to his starring gig in the huge BBC hit, North & South. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Um, except that it mostly hasn't actually happened yet. So, I guess the rest, as they say, is coming soon.

In addition to his film and television work, Richard is also an established stage actor, with parts in productions of Macbeth and Hamlet. I think someone also told me he was in a British staging of Cats as well, but I may have invented that fact for my own amusement. He also, apparently, worked for a circus at some point in his career, though what his act was, I have no idea. Clown? Trapeze artist? Juggler? Fire-eater? The possibilities are endless and one can only imagine the various tight, shiny costumes that may have been involved. Mmmm, spandex. Couldn't be any less flattering than that Army hat, anyway.

But he's not just a drama nerd -- Richard is also an avid musician, who plays the cello, guitar, and flute (hey, I play the flute too -- see? MADE FOR EACH OTHER). His favorite drink is vodka, though I should probably spell that "favourite" since he's British. And, apparently, his favourite television show is Six Feet Under, but I'm sure that's just because MacGyver never made it across the pond. Richard, send me your address and I'll loan you seasons one through four on DVD.

Up next for Richard is another starring role in a British miniseries called The Impressionist about Claude Monet (with Richard as le Claude himself). I wasn't able to quickly find out that much about it, but alas, I suspect it won't be a romantic comedy, and I can't help but wish that he'd land something like that next. I think it would be the perfect thing for him, though I confess that may have more to do with my penchant for smooch scenes than with any actual intellectual assessment of his comedic abilities. See what I mean? Sooooo predictable!

MacGyver Factor Score: 99.294%. To be honest, were it not for the care package of DVDs that LuvDem sent me, Richard would not have netted this high a score. Based on N&S or Malice Aforethought alone, I'm not sure I would've developed as huge a crush on Richard as I have now. You know why? Cuz, STODGY, and I'm not taking that back! So, for the umpteeth time, a big, huge THANK YOU to all my friends at C19! I hope you've enjoyed this write-up and that I didn't say anything that ticked you off too much. Keep in touch! As for the rest of my awesome readers, be sure to tune in for the next write-up -- it's going to be a Boyfriend of the Week first (you may not believe your eyes)!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Richard's IMDB page
The Armitage Army (the best fan site!) (another great fan site!)
C19's message board on Richard
The official North & South site
The official Sparkhouse site

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