Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hugh, Sue, Tim, Jo & Dame Judi Too

Interviewed by Radio 4's Front Row earlier this week, Hugh Laurie indicated that those of us longing for he and Stephen Fry to work together again might not, necessarily, be waiting forever and a day. 'We love to do things together, but we're hopeless planners,' Huge said. The pair, of course, made their name in the 1980s and 90s as a - superb - double act on various projects. Including a defintivie adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster for ITV and their award-winning BBC sketch-show A Bit of Fry and Laurie but, haven't actually appeared in anything together since the first episode of Fry's Qi in 2003. Hugh, currently in the UK publicising the British launch of the new series of his hit US medical drama House, said he is seeing a lot of Fry at work. 'Oddly enough, he now plays a role in this show Bones that shoots next door to House, so we wind up eating lunch in the same cafeteria.'

One of my favourite actors, the great Tim Spall is to bulk-up for an ITV comedy drama co-written by Caroline Aherne about a man who is so obese he cannot leave his chair. Scripted by Aherne (The Royle Family, Mrs Merton) and Jeff Pope (Dirty Filthy Love, Pierrepoint), The Fattest Man in Britain will tell the story of Georgie, who is on a mission to beat his rival, Big Barry, to be named the country's biggest chap. Georgie's sole contact with the outside world, apart from his friend Janice who visits, daily, to clean him, are the hoards of curious tourists who turn up at his home, led by his exploitative agent, Morris. The one-off, ninety-minute TV movie will be produced by ITV Studios, with Pope as producer and Adrian Shergold as director. The Fattest Man in Britain is currently in pre-production and shooting will begin later in summer.

Dame Judi Dench reprises her role as Cranford's much cherished Miss Matty Jenkyns on BBC1 this Christmas and heads a cast that boasts some of Britain's top film, TV and stage talent including Jonathan Pryce, Celia Imrie, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Le Prevost, Francesca Annis, Jodie Whittaker, Matthew McNulty, the divine Emma Fielding and Rory Kinnear. A co-production with WGBH, in association with Chestermead Productions, Cranford was created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin, directed by Simon Curtis and written by Heidi Thomas, based on the characters in Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. The Amazons of Cranford are reunited in this two-part special with Imelda Staunton as Miss Pole, Julia McKenzie as Mrs Forrester, Deborah Findlay as Miss Tomkinson and Barbara Flynn as Mrs Jamieson. According to the BBC press briefing, Cranford starts filming this June in Wiltshire and London. Kate Harwood, BBC Controller of Series and Serials, says: 'BBC1 viewers are in for a treat with the return of Cranford this Christmas. Old favourites return as well as exciting new characters in a richly moving story that will once again delight, enthral and entertain our audience.' The publicity material also notes that 'BBC Drama Production is a world leader in producing much-loved and critically-acclaimed dramas including recent productions: All The Small Things, The 39 Steps, A Short Stay In Switzerland, Little Dorrit, Waking The Dead and Silent Witness on BBC1 and House Of Saddam and Moses Jones on BBC2.' Not entirely sure I would have highlighted the bowel-shatteringly dreadful All The Small Things in the same breath as the others, personally. Other forthcoming BBC drama productions mentioned include Desperate Romantics on BBC2, Breaking The Mould on BBC4 and Emma, Survivors series two and Lark Rise To Candleford series three all for BBC1.

ITV1 is set for what may be its biggest-grossing advertising revenue week of the year, with Susan Boyle fuelling massive ratings on Britain's Got Talent and the finals of the Champions League and FA Cup forecast to help bring in more than £30m according to the Gruniad. The bumper revenue haul, which media buying agency sources estimate will be worth £31.5m, will provide a welcome tonic to the broadcaster, which has seen profits take a battering in the economic downturn. Earlier this month ITV admitted ad revenues were down fifteen percent year-on-year in the first three months of 2009. ITV's week of big-rating live TV, which the broadcaster has dubbed A Week of Finals, began on Sunday night with Susan Boyle in the first of five Britain's Got Talent semi-finals with an average of 11.8 million viewers over 90 minutes almost half the total TV audience over that period. Monday night's second Britain's Got Talent semi-final did even better, attracting 13.2 million viewers and a whopping 52% share. Media buying agency sources expect the combination of the Britain's Got Talent semi-finals and final on Saturday to net ITV almost twenty million pounds in ad revenue. ITV's sales operation has been able to command a significant premium for commercial spots around Britain's Got Talent this year, thanks largely to the Susan Boyle effect. The broadcaster said retailers and entertainment companies have taken the majority of the ad spots. Last night's Champions League final, in which The Vile Scum of Humanity were very satisfyingly humbled and given a lesson in control that they won't forget in a hurry by a stunningly classy Barcelona side in Rome, proved an equally big draw for advertisers; Adidas used the big match to launch a global TV ad campaign.

ITV is also to continue its run of celebrity-led factual journeys, with actresses Joanna Lumley and Amanda Holden fronting two documentary series. Joanna Lumley: Cat Woman has been touted in Broadcast as the feline (and feminine, obviously) version of Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs. The divine Lumley - currently with an astonishingly high public-profile after her successful media campaign regarding Gurkhas rights - will travel to Egypt to look at mummified cats and tomb paintings, watch cheetahs in Namibia and meet witches and their familiars. The series is earmarked for transmission in September and was greenlit by ITV's entertainment controller Layla Smith. If Joanna's BBC documentary about the Northern Lights last year is anything to go by, this should be pretty decent. And, I like cats as well so, double bonus. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Britain's Got Talent judge and notorious cry-baby Amanda Holden is currently filming a two-part documentary on midwives and babies, produced by Studio Lambert for ITV. Holden will meet midwives at some of the UK's leading hospitals, before learning how to be one and will attempt to deliver a baby. And then, presumably, burst into tears and blub like a girl. The show will be broadcaster later this year. Filming has also started on the new Poirot series – first up is The Clocks, with guest stars Geoffrey Palmer, Anna Massey, Lesley Sharp, Jaime Winstone and Phil Daniels. Cor! And, Stephen Fry has stated that if a fourth series of his gentle and quirky East Anglian drama Kingdom is commissioned then it will not be filmed this year due to ITV showing the third series later than usual and him being committed to various other projects. The third series of Kingdom is scheduled to begin Sunday 7 June where it will have the final of The Apprentice as its opposition - the BBC having moved the reality show from Wendesday where it would have been up against the England v Andorra World Cup qualifier. There you go, it's official - Andorra is bigger than Sir Alan B'stard!

ITV's Winter/Spring drama schedule will include some or all of the following: The six untransmitted episodes of Law & Order: UK, An Englishman In New York, the six-part Prisoner remake (suggested broadcast dates for this suggest anytime after November), new episodes of both Marple and Poirot (see above), Albert's Memorial, U Be Dead, The Fixer and Blue Murder. Meanwhile, the BBC have scheduled Occupation and the next series of Hotel Babylon during the 13 to 19 June week. The latter is an eight-part series so it appears as though series three Torchwood - which was expected to be strip-sheduled across five-days on BBC1 in July - won't be seen until August at the earliest. Made by Kudo, Occupation - written by Peter Bowker - is what's described as 'a searingly powerful drama that spans the five years following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.' It follows the lives of three soldiers and friends, first during the battle for Basra, then as they struggle to adapt to life back home and, finally, as very different forces draw them back to Iraq. 'Occupation is the BBC's first major drama set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, is described as 'an unforgettable journey into the heart of the darkness that is conflict and its chaotic aftermath' and stars Jimmy Nesbitt, Stephen Graham and Warren Brown.

Having created the kind of northern town that nightmares are made of, The League Of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton return to BBC2 with a 'spine-tingling, jaw-dropping, thrilling' comedy serial, Psychoville. Like the best whodunnits, each episode draws viewers deeper and deeper into the kind of world that only Reece and Steve could dream up (although, I have to be honest, I was never as big a fan of The League of Gentlemen as many of my friends). Joining them will be a rich mix of talent, including Dawn French, Eileen Atkins, Nicholas Le Prevost, David Bamber, Janet McTeer, Christopher Biggins, Daisy Haggard and Adrian Scarborough.

1 comment:

Graeme said...

"Meanwhile, the BBC have scheduled Occupation and the next series of Hotel Babylon during the 13 to 19 June week. The latter is an eight part series so it appears as though series three Torchwood - which was expected to show in July - will now be in August instead."

I was wondering about that when I saw the press office site yesterday, because I wasn't sure whether HB was usually in an 8pm or 9pm slot (it could just be that BBC Scotland show it at 8) and whether "Occupation" was 3 consecutive days or 3 consecutive weeks?