Friday, June 26, 2009

Blame It On The Boogie

I suppose this blogger really should say something about the untimely death of poor Michael Jackson, announced late yesterday evening. Do you know the first thing I thought when I heard the news? I know somebody who had tickets to go and see him in London next February and I thought 'I'll bet those'll be collector's items, now.' I'm genuinely sorry Michael. I've actually got 'I'll Be There' on my PC as I type this. That astonishing voice - a little boy who'd seen so much so young - it just melts yer heart to slush. And that's how I intend to try and remember him - not as the rather tragic figure of much of his last two decades but as an eleven year old pocket James Brown with all the right moves. And, with a voice that sang lyrics about emotions which he probably didn't even understand at that age but still conveyed with complete sincerity. 'Stop! The love you save may be your own.' I'm actually really cut up about it, the more it sinks in (and I never thought I'd say that).

Anyway, sadly (as the late John Peel once said) the beat goes on and we, however reluctantly, must go on with it. I have to say, on reflection, that when I go I don't wanna sneak out the back door of this life, flat on my back with tube up my nose thinking 'is that it?' I want to go like John Entwhistle - in bed, in Vegas, with a couple of hookers, a bottle of brandy and nose full of charlie. That's rock and roll, baby.

Here's some Top Telly News and we'll start with one for all Freema fans (or, indeed, for all Bradley fans). ITV have commissioned a second full series of the crime drama Law & Order: UK, which will return with the same cast. A new run of thirteen episodes will go into production later this year, with broadcast expected next year, after the ITV director of television, Peter Fincham, and the director of drama, Laura Mackie, gave it the green light. A first batch of seven episodes launched in February on ITV and averaged six million viewers. Six further episodes from the first production block will air soon. The series will be, again, co-produced by Kudos Films, Wolf Films and NBC Universal.

Five will kick-off its move into entertainment under Richard Woolfe with a Krypton Factor-style gameshow. Britain's Best Brain - thoroughly rotten title, notwithstanding - will be made by Tiger Aspect Productions and media investment company Group M Entertainment, which is co-financing the series and will bring a sponsorship deal for the show. The eight episode, studio-based series is scheduled for a primetime slot and will put contestants through a series of tasks designed to push them to their mental and physical limits. Contestants' performance on the tasks will generate a unique 'brain score,' with the top players from each show returning for the final where the eventual winner will be named 'Britain's Best Brain.' I have to say, guys, sounds rather a good little concept and all that but the title is really putting me off!

In an interview in the latest issue of Filmstar Magazine, Hustle/Life on Mars creator Tony Jordan talks about a new BBC1 Saturday night adventure show currently in the works and awaiting a vacant slot. The Ministry is about a Government agency investigating mysterious goings-on. Jordan describes it as a sort of cross between The X Files, Ghostbusters and Men in Black and will depict an Avengers-type stylised London. The show appears to be well into pre-production as Gareth Roberts is said to be writing episode three and another Doctor Who veteran Stephen Greenhorn is working on another. Sounds great although, it should be noted that television's record of finding 'the new Avengers' is spotty at best. Bugs, for instance.

BBC2 has commissioned a new daytime series titled Antiques Road Trip. The show will pair eight of Britain's best-loved antique experts and send them on a road trip across the UK in a selection of beautiful classic cars. They will then compete with each other to make the most money by buying and selling antiques, each with a starting budget of two hundred pounds. BBC daytime controller Liam Keelan said of the series: 'Antiques Road Trip is a very feel-good format, with some of our best-known antiques experts pitting their wits against each other from the top to the bottom of Britain.' Additionally, Restoration Roadshow, in which members of the public are invited to bring along items from damaged heirlooms to attic treasures which they hope can be restored, has been given a twenty-episode order.

It has been reported, in Broadcast, that Impossible Pictures offered to make a fourth series of ITV's Primeval for less than £600,000 an episode - but even that was not enough of a bargain to convince the broadcaster to reorder the show. Under the deal, the Sci Fi Channel in the UK would have aired the show first, ahead of ITV. But ITV turned the offer down and a spokesman confirmed that the decision was made to help the commercial broadcaster protect its 9pm drama slate. Impossible founder Tim Haines said: 'There was a lot of talk when Primeval was cancelled that it must have been because it is a big show, with lots of CGI and special effects. That's not the case. ITV wasn't paying the whole costs anyway but we offered to lower the price further and bring in fifty percent of the funding with co-production deals. It would still have been getting a show worth more than £1m for less than £600,000.' Haines said he 'completely understood' ITV's position, which was 'not unique. Drama producers are going to have to become a lot more adept at financing their productions,' he said. Impossible is now negotiating with a US broadcaster to adapt Primeval. Haines said it was likely that the series would 'start from scratch' with a slightly edgier feel. He added that he was hopeful Primeval could eventually come back to the UK, but as a US acquisition rather than a commission. Don't hold your breath.

Comedian Alexander Armstrong is to present a BBC2 daytime quiz that puts a twist on the Family Fortunes formula of polling the public. Pointless will pose a series of open questions that have been answered by a panel of one hundred people. But rather than guessing the most popular answer, contestants will be rewarded if they reply with answers that occurred to few or none of the panel. So a contestant would be likely to win more points if, say, when asked to name a Charles Dickens novel, they answer Barnaby Rudge rather than Oliver Twist. Okay, I like the idea of that. The show is the first BBC2 daytime quiz from the Endemol subsidiary Brighter Pictures. As well as being one half of a comedy duo with Ben Miller, Armstrong has been a regular guest presenter of Have I Got News for You and also presents its web spin-off. He was also in the running to host Countdown after Des O'Connor left. Pointless will air later this summer. It was commissioned by BBC daytime controller Liam Keelan, who described it as 'wonderfully irreverent.'

Bolivian TV channel PAT broadcast a series of extraordinary images of the last moments of Air France flight 447, lost over the Atlantic on 1 June. According to the report, the snaps were retrieved from a recovered Casio Z750, which was subsequently traced via the serial number to its owner - 'Paulo G Muller, an actor from a well-known children's theatre on the outskirts of Porto Alegre.' In fact, the camera can be traced to ABC Studios as sharp-eyed viewers soon noticed. The photographs featured well-known actress Evangeline Lilly, aka Kate Austen from TV series Lost. PAT had, seemingly, fallen for a hoax e-mail, and to add to its embarrassment, has failed to appreciate that while the flight 447 disaster occurred at night, the images shown represented the very daytime fictional break-up of Oceanic Flight 815 in the first episode of the cult US TV show. PAT aired one still showing panicked passengers using oxygen masks, and another showing someone being sucked out of the back of the aircraft as the tail broke away. The Bolivian newsreader claimed the exclusive images were photos 'taken by one of the passengers on the airliner' and had been recovered from the memory of a digital camera. On discovering that the photos had been e-mailed by a prankster, the TV station issued a public apology for their blunder. The news director for PAT, Eddy Luis Franco, said: 'On Thursday, two photographs were aired on our prime time news report and on Friday we apologised.'

Town House TV and Distraction Formats have joined Setanta as the latest victims of the financial crisis in TV. Town House, which used to make Five’s axed chatshow Trisha, will officially cease trading on 30 June after failing to win any new commissions. Five dropped Trisha at the start of the year - because it was crap and no one was watching it - and the indie began shedding jobs, going from around eighty five six months ago to just a handful today. Town House head of production Mike Molloy said the indie had continued to pitch ideas to broadcasters in the hope of clinching a company-saving commission, but that it had failed to do so. However, managing director Malcolm Allsop contradicted this, stating that Town House had not been looking for new commissions since Trisha was cancelled earlier this year. 'All indies are operating under very difficult conditions,' Molloy told Broadcast. 'Being a regional indie has made it even harder. We've been pushing hard to get commissions off the ground but broadcasters haven't bitten and that's down to shrinking budgets.' Distraction went into liquidation on 24 June after trading for twelve years. It was best known for selling formats such as The Next Great Leader and Dirty Rotten Cheater to the BBC. Chief executive Michel Rodrigue blamed its demise on the recession and tough competition within the industry.

And, lastly. For God's sake will somebody at the BBC please give that poor girl continuity announcer on BBC2 a throat pastel, she sounds like she's about to choke on her own tonsils.

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