Wednesday, April 22, 2009

All The News That's Fit To See (And Swim)

Yer Keith Telly Topping is currently in the process of mopping up after suffering a relatively minor - and completely self-inflicted - flood-related mishap in the kitchen of Stately Telly Topping Manor, dear blog reader. This was, it should be pointed out in the strict interests of balance and crass blame-apportioning, occasioned by him trying to multi-task. (Doing the washing up, cleaning out the deep-fat fryer, reading some e-mail, listening to the radio AND looking for a book he knows that he's got somewhere but still hasn't found.) So, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping believes that there may be a valuable lesson to be learned from this devastating chain of circumstances and kefufflement for, perhaps, all of us.
     Whatever anybody else might say, do ONE THING AT A TIME, you'll find that life is far easier to cope with that way.
    Keith Telly Topping is also, as a direct consequence of all this outrageous malarkey and daft-bugger shenanigans, totally bastard-well knackered. He may now go and have a little lie down to recover after he's finished blogging his rank displeasure at the general shite state of affairs in the modern world.

... I'll tell you what, mind - it might've been unintentional (and it was) and it might have been a right bleeding pain in the arse at the time (and it definitely was) but that's - by a considerable distance - the cleanest my kitchen floor's been in, ooo, five years at least. You win some, you lose some, I guess.
    Oh and if you're wondering, fortunately, my neighbours in the flat below were mercifully unaffected by any leakage, I got to the mopping up before any of that happened.

Anyway, let's have some Top Telly News. Final ratings figures for Planet Of The Dead were 9.54 million. The Doctor Who Easter special gained over a million extra viewers from time-shifts putting it comfortably into the Top Ten Most Watched shows on TV thus far in 2009 at number seven:
01 - 11.90m - Britain's Got Talent (18/04/09) - ITV*
02 - 11.46m - Coronation Street (02/02/09) - ITV
03 - 11.46m - EastEnders (02/04/09) - BBC1
04 - 11.31m - Dancing On Ice (22/03/09) - ITV
05 - 9.91m - Jonathan Creek (01/01/09) - BBC1
06 - 9.84m - Comic Relief (13/03/09) - BBC1
07 - 9.54m - Doctor Who (11/04/09) - BBC1
08 - 9.26m - Whitechapel (02/02/09) - ITV
09 - 9.20m - Kilimanjaro: The Big Red-Nose Climb (12/03/09) - BBC1
10 - 8.92m - Dancing On Ice: The Skate Off (08/03/09) - ITV
* = overnights only, final figure to be confirmed.

That top figure was, of course, achieved by the - now completely legendary and 'seen by more people than the Moon Landings via YouTube' - Susan-sings-and-Simon-actually-smiles-(well-sort-of) episodes of BGT. Inevitable, really. And, as I said when appearing on Mike Parr's Breakfast Show on Tuesday (available to you on Listen Again for the next few days, if you like being bored senseless), not entirely undeserved either. Kind of restores onces faith in the inherent decency of people. Or something.

Elsewhere, the BBC is reported to be slashing its marketing budget by twenty five percent which will, of course, affect the glossy advertising campaigns that it has run - quite impressively - for things like Ashes to Ashes recently. Thankfully, however, they're going to be spending the money saved wisely as Jonathan Creek will be back for another ninety minute special. Hurrah. This one will be shown at Easter 2010 and not at Christmas. I think that's probably, largely, because there is likely to be no space for it in the Christmas schedules and publicity would be limited. The two-part Doctor Who which sees David Tennant leaving the role will, most probably, be overshadowing pretty much everything else that the BBC's drama department makes between now and then. Meanwhile, a two-part Cranford special is said to be pencilled in for a key 9pm slot over the festive period.

The Culture Show will be extended back to fifty minutes and moved to a 7pm weekday slot in a complete revamp of BBC2's arts schedule. In addition to the weekly programme, six hour-long documentaries will be made under the show's banner in the same style as last year's excellent Motown homage Culture Show Special made by Martin Freeman. Controller of BBC2, Janice Hadlow, said the revamped strand would 'offer more authority and sometimes, too, more surprise in its coverage.' Glad to hear that. The team responsible for The Culture Show will also produce Newsnight Review after its planned 2010 move to Glasgow. Speaking at the launch of BBC2's spring and summer schedule, Hadlow confirmed that current Newsnight Review presenters Kirsty Wark and Martha Kearney would stay with the programme. The discussion show will be called on to 'extend its current remit beyond pure review' although the exact details of the new format are still being worked out.

The Culture Show was, of course, originally launched in a 7pm weekday slot in 2004 before being moved - for no particular reason - to Saturday nights and then - for even less particular reason - to Tuesdays at 10pm and having its running time cut to thirty minutes per episode. Hadlow said the programme, presented by one of the best double-acts on TV, Wor Luscious Lovely Lauren Laverne and Big-Quiffed Marky Kermode, 'had done a wonderful job in attracting the interest of younger viewers; now I hope it can expand its appeal.' With you all the way on that one, Janice.

A poetry season will also form part of BBC Two's new arts coverage. Among the planned programmes, Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci will present a documentary about John Milton, while historian Simon Schama will look at the life and work of John Donne. Is now the time to mention that I actually got to ask Armando a couple of questions on the radio on Tuesday about The Day Today? Probably not, but I feel like bragging having talked to one of my TV heroes, however briefly. Goldie, who took second place in the BBC's Maestro competition last year and gained something of a cult following has been commissioned to write a seven-minute musical piece for the Proms on the theme of evolution, while Charles Hazlewood will front a major new series on British classical music.

Several programmes will have a space theme to tie in with the fortieth anniversary of the moon landings - including a James May fronted documentary and a SF new drama, Defying Gravity, about astronauts on a mysterious mission. The channel also announced several new comedy programmes including a comedy serial, Psychoville, made by The League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Sean Maguire and Matt Lucas face off against each other in a fantasy series called Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire, while war reporters will be the butt of the jokes in Taking the Flak.

Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson's spoof phone-in host Gary Bellamy will transfer to television after a successful run on Radio 4 and sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look - which I think is hilarious but which has a reputation with many other reviewers somewhat lower than rattlesnakes piss - will return for a third run.

In far less savoury news, Emmerdale actor Luke Tittensor has been sacked from the ITV show after he pleaded guilty to attacking a teenager. The nineteen-year-old, who played Daz Eden in the soap, appeared in court in March and admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm on a sixteen-year-old. An ITV spokeswoman said the actor had been told his contract was being terminated because 'we cannot condone criminal behaviour.'

More ratings news: Ashes to Ashes returned for a second series with an audience of seven million, according to overnight figures - which is near enough exactly what the first episode last year got. So again, consistency. On opposite it, ITV's cooking show Hell's Kitchen drew a disappointing four million viewers.

Now, here's some really terrific news - former CSI star William Petersen, best known for playing Gil Grissom in the hit US drama series, has confirmed that it is hoped a film based on the show will be made. Petersen, who remains an executive producer on the franchise, says he understands fans are 'a little trepidatious' about a movie version. But speaking to the Radio Times, he said: 'It's about finding the right story, there has got to be a real reason to do it.' Petersen's character, of course, has left the series recently but both he and, screen-girlfriend Sara (Jorja Fox) may return next year to film a special two-parter, possibly set in Europe. On the subject of the proposed film, Petersen noted 'Usually people leave it till a series has finished - they did that with The X-Files and Sex And The City. You don't just do it because you want to make money; you do it because there's a story that can't be told on TV and needs to be told from CSI's perspective and the audience wants it. And we can't wait for CSI to end or Grissom will be about ninety!'

And, in further CSI news, apparently producers and executives from the franchise have been forced to cancel a proposed new spin-off series, CSI: Sunderland, after they discovered that nobody in the town has any dental records and that they all share the exact same DNA.

BBC Worldwide has received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of its contribution to international trade. The BBC’s commercial arm is one of around only one hundred businesses to receive the accolade, which is awarded on the Queen’s official birthday every year. The International Trade Award recognises 'substantial growth in overseas earnings and commercial success at outstanding levels', based on three years trading results. Worldwide had increased overseas revenues by some 33% and had returned over £1 billion from overseas activity back into the UK’s creative industries.

John Smith, Worldwide’s CEO said: 'It's an enormous honour to receive this award and testimony to the hard work and commitment of all at Worldwide, its partners and customers. Content created by the BBC and the UK creative industries are the lifeblood of our company, whether in television or publishing, and we are proud to represent this wealth of British talent across the world. We pride ourselves not just in generating export income for the UK generally, but also in building international partnerships that benefit the creative industries and ultimately the licence fee payer.'

Recent sales successes include Planet Earth, which has been sold to ninety seven broadcasters across forty nine countries, while the DVD of the series sold more than three million copies around the world. Impossible Pictures' Primeval, which airs in the UK on ITV, is distributed internationally by Worldwide, and has sold to sixty seven broadcasters in forty six territories. While Dancing with the Stars, which was named as the world's most watched programme by industry magazine Television Business International, can be seen in over forty countries around the world and has been licensed as a local version to a further thirty. Other big merchanidisng earners for Worldwide include Top Gear and Doctor Who.

It is the second time that Worldwide has won the accolade, first collecting the Award for Enterprise in 2002, while 2Entertain, Worldwide's joint venture video distribution with Woolworths, received the award for International Trade in 2008.

And, here's a funny story; Two of the British television industry's most outspoken figures look set to face each other in court. Michael Grade, the executive chairman of ITV, has issued a libel writ against the former BBC director general Greg Dyke. Grade is suing his old rival over comments Dyke made in a column published by The Times newspaper last month, two days after ITV announced that it was shedding six hundred jobs and cutting its budget by £135m after recording a £2.7bn pre-tax loss for the financial year.

Dyke's column, printed on 7 March under the headline "Grade's ITV is in a classic lose-lose situation", made a series of allegations about Grade's professional conduct while he was chairman of the BBC's board of governors immediately before he resigned to take over at ITV at the end of 2006. The piece also criticised Grade's role in managing the commercial broadcaster's finances. Shortly after the column was published, Grade's lawyers wrote to The Times accusing it of, 'serious defamation' and requesting that it print an apology, which has so far failed to appear. As a result, Grade is said to be suing both Times Newspapers as well as Dyke personally. The online version of the article is still available on the newspaper's website, but has since been edited.

After Grade's initial letter, the newspaper's lawyer issued a statement that said: 'The Times has no wish to be involved in any sort of dispute with Michael Grade. There is no bad feeling, or any history we are aware of. We very much wish to resolve this without litigation – but we will also defend our position, if we feel we should.' Several thousand Doctor Who fans have already offered to appear as character witnesses for the defence. Both Dyke and Grade resigned separately from the BBC under controversial circumstances and have a long-held rivalry. Both have also been quick to rebuff criticism of their editorial practices in the past, so if the case does reach court it is likely to produce some verbal fireworks.

Dyke, who also - like Grade - had a long career in commercial television, resigned as the BBC's director general after the Hutton report into the death of the weapons scientist David Kelly. It said that the corporation – and specifically one of its journalists, Andrew Gilligan – had made grievous editorial errors in reporting claims that the Government's case for going to war with Iraq had been 'sexed up.' Three months later, Grade took over as chairman of the BBC from Gavyn Davies, who had quit the day before Dyke. Big fight, little people.

Lastly today, is it just me or does anyone else think it was high time somebody told Alesha Dixon that the word 'composure' has only three syllables in it and not seven as her song 'Breath Slow' appears to suggest? Just me then? Okay ...

Fine lookin' lady that Alesha, mind. Not ower-hot in the pronunciation department, maybe, but still a fine lookin' lady.

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