Thursday, May 07, 2009

An Entry That Includes The Word "Coccyx"

So, any-road-up dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had another twinge of sciatica last night - nothing too serious, just a little ache in my coccyx and a few shooting pains like daggers of molton fire down the back of my thighs. Nowt, really. (Reminds me of one of my favourite exchanges in The Young Ones: 'I've got "war" tattooed on this hand, and "peace" tattooed on that hand, and "The Brothers Karamazov" tattooed down me spine. But you can't see that because I've got me shirt on.' 'Doesn't it hurt?' 'Nah. It's polyester and cotton!') Thus, not wishing to aggravate it any further, I ended up in bed quite early after having a nice roasting hot bath. I trust all of this isn't getting a bit too much information for y'all, dear blog reader. I feel that we've probably reached that stage in our relationship, now, where we can both open up and tell it like it really is.
Anyway, cut to the chase, Telly Topping, you verbose blogger. I took with me a DVD of the previous night's Ashes to Ashes (not as good a soundtrack as last week's, I felt - and, at least two quite blatant whopping great anachronisms for 1982: Who else spotted a Duran Duran song being played in an episode set at least six months before it was recorded let alone released?) And, also, the latest episodes of 24 (mad-as-toast, as usual - though a very definite note of considerable displeasure is being sent today to the producers for making Chloe cry when she found out that Jack has The Plague!) and House. The latter brought to a close (I think, unless they've got a big surprise in store next week) the extraordinary three-episode House & Amber (Deceased) storyline which they've been running. It ended, after quite a clever tale about addiction and denial, with Hughie and Lisa Edelstein lip-locked and about to, seemingly, GET IT ON, big-style. About time too, frankly. After about two seasons (at least) of flirting with the idea of House and Cuddy surrending to the obvious sexual tension a'tween 'em, it seems that the producers have finally decided to celebrate their inner 'shipper and just go for it. Hopefully, unlike Moonlighting in the 80s, this won't 'completely and utterly kill the show stone dead!' I trust you, guys.

And so to this week's TV news. We begin with the Irish pay-TV broadcaster Setanta who are reported to be trying to renegotiate their contracts to screen live sporting events, as the company tries to 'deal with cash-flow problems.' For which read, it is total-dead-skint, right, and thus needs to off-load a bunch of its commitments, like, pretty damn sharpish. Setanta, according to the BBC, is due to pay the Football Association thirty five million quid on 15 May for the rights to continue to broadcast its games. There has already been concern among investors after the company managed to secure future rights for only around half of the number of live Premier League games that it currently broadcasts. (Sky, of course, with far deeper pockets, got the rest.) If Setanta do have to pull the plug and the European Commission continues to insist that someone else other then Sky must show at least some live matches - to prevent a monopoly which is against European Union laws - then, the obvious question must be asked, will the BBC throw their hat into the ring? The problem, of course, as most media pundits will freely tell you is that the free-marketeers tend to get very uppity when the BBC attempts to bid for sporting rights to events that have previously been shown on commercial and/or pay-per-view channels. Even given the circumstances of the Formula 1 rights becoming available, there are still critics of the BBC willing to moan, on queue, about this kind of nonsense. Personally, I think it's far more likely that the EU Commission will be prevailed upon to 'overlook' their 'set-in-stone' rights-splitting rules if Setanta does have to give up the rights so Sky can take them over until the end of the existing contract period.

The BBC's new surprise Sunday early evening hit is Countryfile, a gentle little thing presented, with considerable enthusiasm, by the divine Julia Bradbury and the ... marginally less-divine Matt Baker, which is getting audiences of around five million and, over recent weeks, has slaughted not only (and, very satisfyingly) Vernon Kay's Beat the Star but, also, and much more impressively, Heartbeat as well. Moving this off-beat, visually pleasing little show to the edge of primetime has to go down as one of the BBC's best scheduling decisions of recent years.

Meanwhile, ITV's much trumpeted decision not to pay ridiculously over-the-top 'golden handcuffs' deals to secure their 'talent' apparently doesn't extend to pretty-but-vacuous bimbos from Waalsend. Good on yersel, Wor geet canny Chezza. I'm sure yer mam and yer dad are pure dead geet proud of how well you've done for yerself whilst having no obvious talent. Oh, and can I have fries with that burger, please? Ta.

Virgin Media's TV viewers can now watch content from the BBC's HD channel on BBC iPlayer. Programmes available in HD and on-demand include Robin Hood, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Later with Jools Holland. Virgin is the first TV platform to make BBC iPlayer, available in full-screen picture quality, directly to its TV customers. Demand for the service has been strong, with more than one hundred million views since iPlayer launched on Virgin Media in May 2008 and almost fifteen million views in March alone. Rahul Chakkara, 'BBC controller, TV platforms' (what a great job-title) said: 'There's a real appetite for BBC iPlayer on TV screens and the addition of the BBC HD programmes further adds to its appeal. HD allows viewers enjoy their favourite programmes in exceptionally vivid colours and crisp pictures, perfect for the screen.' All cynicism aside, I have to say that in my limited experience of HD, that's absolutely true. It's like someone's just spring-cleaned your eyeballs. Forthcoming highlights which will be available on the new service will include the three remaining 2009 Doctor Who specials, the new series of Dragons' Den and popular children's show Kerwhizz.

And now for this week's live-televised 'stoppy, spoiled foot-stamping by someone whom you used to think was vaguely okay but now realise is, actually, a bit of a pillock.' Alistair McGowan has claimed that BBC chiefs are 'blocking his hopes for a TV comeback.' Oh, the tragedy. If that's true then all this blogger can say is 'nice one BBC chiefs, it's about time you did something worthwhile to justify your existence.' The impressionist had planned to resurrect his 'comedy' show (and I do realise I'm using that word in the loosest possible sense) The Big Impression following the programme's four-year break. However, corporation executives are said to be 'showing little interest' in a possible comeback for the series, which also starred Ronni Ancona. 'We'd like to go back to Big Impression if the door was open,' McGowan told the Daily Mirror. Well, if money gets tight you can always sell that bit of land you bought near Heathrow, Alistair. I'll take it off your hands if you're desperate. Twenty quid? Twenty five, my final offer?

Truly shocking news, dear blog reader! Jackie Brambles has reportedly quit her role as the anchor of ITV's daytime talkshow Loose Women. All right, all right, I know it's a stupendously Earth-shattering story but please do try to remain calm. Deep breaths. Okay ... Brambles, forty two (allegedly), who used to work for GMTV, announced that she would be leaving the programme while on-air earlier this week. 'I initially wanted to cut down my workload on Loose Women but the anchor role requires a full commitment, which I no longer felt able to make,' she said. Sorry ... Did I say 'shocking news'? Ah, I mean't 'who the hell gives a damn about trivial bollocks nonsense as this'? I'm such a silly billy, I'm always getting them two mixed up.

West Wing star Martin Sheen has said that he has been put off running for political office by all the meetings he would have to attend if he was elected. Martin, who played President Jed Bartlet in the critically acclaimed series, told students at Oxford University he did not have the 'character' to make it in politics. Sheen said he had been approached by the Democrats to run for the US Senate in 2004 but had turned the offer down. 'I couldn't bear sitting in meetings all day,' he said. Sheen continued that the offer to run for office was tempting but he would not have been suited to the daily routine of governing. Asked about his own political ambitions, he made an apparent reference to Ronald Reagan, who made the real-life transition from Hollywood to the White House. 'We already had one old actor in national politics and it did not work out so well,' he said.

Meanwhile, the BBC have announced that Kenneth Branagh will return as Inspector Kurt Wallander for three further feature-length episodes, to be filmed in Ystad, Sweden, during summer 2009. The drama, from Left Bank Pictures, Yellow Bird and TKBC, won Best Drama Series at the BAFTA Television Awards and also won Kenneth Branagh Best Actor at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards. Wallander was watched by more than six million viewers on BBC1 in December 2008.

An old friend from Life On Mars is making a very welcome reappearance in Ashes To Ashes in next Monday's episode - Gene Hunt's legendary camel coat. However Phil Glenister clearly isn't that impressed - he's already planning a new look for his character in the final series, due to hit screens next year according to the Daily Mirror whom he told: 'I have seen a new coat for series three.'

Tony Ball, the former chief executive of the satellite group BSkyB, has reportedly been 'sounded out' by shareholders in ITV to lead a turn around at the home of Coronation Street and Britain's Got Talent. Overtures to encourage Ball to put his name forward for the job of chief executive are reported to have included conversations with Legal & General Investment Management, one of the investors whom, the BBC claim, are keen for executive chairman Michael Grade to plot a handover. Grade said last month that he would become non-executive chairman by the end of the year. ITV is expected to appoint headhunters to find a new chief executive this week.

Are we about to see the end of the arts strand on ITV? Melvyn Bragg has quit as series editor and presenter of The South Bank Show, it has been confirmed. Bragg, who has been with ITV for thirty three years, will also retire as Controller of Arts for ITV studios. The three-year contract signed with The South Bank Show in 2007 expires at the end of this year. It is not yet known whether it will be recommissioned, or who will replace Bragg as presenter if it is. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting, either.

The Wire's Dominic West will star in a new BBC Four drama, it has been announced. The actor has been cast as an Australian scientist, Professor Howard Florey in Breaking The Mould, a new ninety-minute one-off factual drama set during World War II and telling the story of those who first discovered penicillin. The excellent Joe Armstrong, most recently seen in Robin Hood, will star alongside West as Norman Heatley, the most junior member of Florey's team.

'It's great to be working with BBC Drama on such a brilliant script,' said West. 'The story of Florey seems little known in the UK but in Australia, he is considered one of their greatest heroes and therefore it is wonderful to be playing him.'

Now, you've probably noticed this week that the Fawlty Towers cast have been back together for a documentary to celebrate, I'm presuming, the thirteith anniversary of the show ending (it's either that, or the thirty fourth anniversary of it beginning). However, John Cleese has confirmed that they will never make another episode because they are 'too old and tired.' I mean, that's got to rank right up there with 'Proof Of The Existence Of God - Or Otherwise - Still Up For Debate' as the single least surprising bit of news of the decade so far. If there was any remote chance of more Fawlty Towers, like Blackadder and Monty Python they'd've long done it by now. The sixty nine-year-old Cleese said 'everyone would be excited if we did' but that 'the bar has moved so high' that a remake would be 'good - not very good.' Nice one, John. Appreciate that. Comebacks are seldom much cop and sometimes it really is best just to draw a line under something good and walk away. That way, the memories don't get tarnished. Cleese was speaking as he, Prunella Scales, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs reunited for the first time in thirty years to promote a documentary about the show for TV channel G.O.L.D.

Lastly, Jade Goody's publicist, the odious Max Clifford, has admitted that the reality 'star' had 'no talent.' In other news, the Pope remains comfortingly Catholic.

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