Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bloody Tennis!

As expected, poor little Robin Hood's third series ended on Saturday with the show's lowest ever overnight audience. The series finale - which saw Jonas Armstrong's titular character killed off in a suitably dramatic style - was shunted onto BBC2 to make way for Wimbledon coverage on BBC1. The episode drew just 2.19m (a twelve percent audience share). The scheduling chaos, of course, continued last night when Andy Murray's latest 'exciting five-setter' went on and on and on until nearly eleven o'clock causing most of BBC1's shows to be moved over to BBC2 (including EastEnders, something which I'll bet didn't go down well with The Walford Massive) and sending a wrecking ball through the latter's schedule. I was upset, personally. All I wanted to see was Sue Perkins dressed as Betty Page on The Supersizers, is that so very wrong? Yeah, okay, don't answer that. Anyway, live coverage of Murray's victory on Monday night pulled in an average audience of 8.6 million (38.8 percent share) with a peak at 10.30pm of 11.8m viewers, (53.9 percent). In the first match to be played in its entirety with the roof closed over Centre Court, Murray - the third seed - finally defeated Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka at 10.38pm, the latest ever Wimbledon finish. Coverage of the fourth round match started on BBC Two at 6.40pm before moving to BBC1 at shortly before seven o'clock and completely buggering up the schedules on both sides thereafter for the rest of the night.

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is to deliver a lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival in August. Jezza's session will see him and Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman exploring the reasons why the show is consistently BBC2's highest-rated programme. Cos it's brilliant, or is that too simplistic? Jeez, that's the Gruniad for you, they'll go to the far of a fart to find an obvious answer. In other sessions, Internet entrepreneurs including Kristian Segerstråle, chief executive and co-founder of Playfish, Patrick Walker, director of video partnerships at Google, and Peter Bazalgette, the former Endemol executive who is now a non-executive director of My Video Rights, will offer their insight into building commercial businesses on the web and explain how the TV industry needs to change to create a successful online business. Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, the writer/producers of the critically acclaimed BBC sitcom Outnumbered, will reflect on thirty years in British comedy, from their early careers writing sketch comedy on shows like Not The Nine O'Clock News and Who Dares Wins to their groundbreaking newsroom satire Drop The Dead Donkey. The prospect of the BBC becoming the UK's only public service TV news provider will be examined in That Was the News That Was, chaired by ITV newsreader Julie Etchingham, with panellists including Chris Birkett, executive editor at Sky News, and John Hardie, chief executive at ITN. Britain's complaining culture over issues of taste and decency will also be examined by comedians Frank Skinner and Lucy Porter in a lighthearted session entitled Whose Whine Is It Anyway? Using the Ofcom complaints list as a guide, the panellists will work as an 'alternative Ofcom committee' to uphold or reject the complaints. The festival takes places between 29 and 31 August.

It's been revealed that the upcoming final season of Lost will run to eighteen episodes. ABC confirmed the news, meaning that the show's sixth season will have one hour more than was originally planned. According to Entertainment Weekly, the final season will include a two-hour premiere and a two-hour finale. Keith Telly Topping likes this news greatly. These things are important to him.

Keo Films is to bring five Amish youths to Britain in a follow-up to Channel 4's 'reverse anthropology' series, Meet the Natives which proved to be such an unexpected hit with viewers last year. The four-part series, conceived as 'When the Amish met the English,' will take youths from different Amish communities in the US who are at the point in their lives known as 'Rumspringa,' when they are supposed to gain worldly experience. As with the Pacific islanders in Meet the Natives, the young people will spend four weeks in various British households that include people of the same age, including an Essex beauty therapist. Meet the Amish (still a working title at this stage) aims to throw up as many cultural observations about the hosts as it does about their foreign visitors. Channel 4 deputy head of documentaries Simon Dickson, who commissioned the series, said: 'The Amish are a notoriously private community and to have been granted this sort of access - where we will be able to understand more about who they are - is really exciting. The series will explore their perceptions of British life and look at how their values and lifestyle differ from our own.'

Sky has strongly hit back against fresh BT criticism about the way in which it operates in the UK's pay TV and broadband markets. The dispute between the two media companies started on Tuesday night when BT linked the failure of Setanta Sports with what its director of strategy Sean Williams told DS was 'market failure' in the UK's pay TV arena. 'Competition in pay-TV in the UK is not working effectively. This gives rise to significant harm to consumers in the form of higher prices, restricted choice and diminished innovation.' Sky's chief operating officer Mike Darcey immediately hit back, accusing BT - and Virgin Media, which made similar comments - of 'cheap opportunism.' He added that both companies were 'hooked on regulation as a substitute for competition and have done nothing to support UK sport,' and that 'they prefer to try to get our channels on the cheap while showing no interest in bidding for rights themselves.' Ooo, get her. Another Sky spokesperson told the Digital Spy website: 'BT needs to get its facts straight before it starts handing out lectures about access to its network ... If ever the day arrives that BT decides to stop whingeing and start competing, it can bid for sports or movie rights with the certainty of a guaranteed reach of nine million potential customers.' Okay, put your claws away girls and back away from the curling tongs.

ITV is to suspend carrying news supplied by ITN on its website from next month after ending its contract, resulting in the loss of five journalists from the content supplier. ITN On, the division of the TV news producer that supplies video and text to websites and mobile internet services, will stop supplying content to the ITV website on 22 July.

Kerry Katona and MTV have 'no plans' for any further TV projects, according to various tabloid reports. Katona has appeared in a number of fly-on-the-wall documentaries for the broadcaster since 2007. Her most recent series - Kerry Katona: What's The Problem? - finished in July. However, according to the Daily Star and MTV themselves, the former Atomic Kitten and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here winner do not currently have any plans to work together again.

The 1980s battle between the ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro will be played out in a forthcoming BBC4 comedy drama starring two of Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Martin Freeman and Alexander Armstrong. Syntax Era is a ninety-minute drama from Darlow Smithson that tells the story of the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair (played by Armstrong) and his former colleague Chris Curry (Freeman). Written by Tony Saint, the film uses archive footage to help illustrate the buzz around Sinclair and Curry's inventions. Classic clips from programmes including John Craven's Newsround showcase the likes of Sinclair's ZX Spectrum, the infamous Sinclair C5 and Curry's triumphant BBC Micro computer demonstrating the influence these men had on Eighties' life. BBC4 controller Richard Klein said: 'Those of us that lived through the Eighties will remember the sense of excitement when gadgets and technology started to appear in our homes, but not many of us will know the fascinating stories behind their arrival.'

Here's one definitely worth keeping an eye open for later - a one-off TV movie called Moonshot about the historic Apollo 11 flight in July 1969. It's an adventurous co-production between ITV and The History Channel and was filmed (in Lithuania) earlier in the year with a top-notch international cast that includes another particular favourite actor of mine (and, of half the women on the planet, it would seem) Buffy the Vampire Slayer's James Marsters playing Buzz Aldrin. This Life's Andrew Lincoln also appears, as Michael Collins, with the Aussie actor Daniel Lapaine as Neil Armstrong. The fabulous Anna Maxwell-Martin also features. I'm looking forward to that one already.

UKTV channel Dave will broadcast live for the first time for the climax of the second series of the Red Bull X-Fighters motorcross world tour. The two-hour finale will come from Battersea Power Station, where seventeen thousand fans are expected to watch twelve riders perform daring stunts as they battle for the world title. The preceding four sixty-minute episodes will show highlights from the tour from Mexico, Canada, Texas and Spain. The five shows will again be hosted by former Ski Sunday presenter Ed Leigh and retired professional mountain biker, Rob Warner.

And, lastly, a couple for the 'miserable old moaners' column: Sean Connery - pictured, right, with his weapon. Put it was will you Sean, eh? - has criticised the BBC for sending more than four hundred staff to the Glastonbury festival (presumably, they all wanted to see Broooooce and E Street band on saturday night and, having witnessed Miami Steve's snakeskin boots myself in close-up I can only say 'decent choice, chaps') but 'not one' to cover the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Speaking to The Scotsman newspaper Connery said: 'Hoots mon, it's a braw och aye, th'nooo... It's oor oil, y'ken, Jimmy?' No, he didn't say that at all, that was a complete lie. Keith Telly Topping wholeheartedly apologises for such crass stereotyping of a national icon. Mr Connery actually said 'Do y'exchpect me to taaaak?' ... Sorry. I'll be serious. He said 'It's supposed to be the British Broadcasting Corporation but it's not, when you look at how many people it sends to Glastonbury. The BBC forgets it is representing four different countries. All I am asking for is equality.' But hang on, Sean, I thought you were a noted and very vocal supporter of Scottish Independence? So, therefore, shouldn't you be wanting less not more English cultural interference in the bonny land of the haggis and the deep fried Mars Bar? Surely some mistake? Or, in your particular case, shurely shome mishtake?

Meanwhile, another bloody malcontent ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has rubbished the BBC's partnership proposals and criticised the corporation's efforts to avoid top-slicing the licence fee. Speaking to the Institute of Economic Affairs, Grade praised the speed with which the Digital Britain report had been put together and backed its proposal to take money from the licence fee to fund regional news coverage that will be broadcast on ITV. Grade said the Ofcom solution was a matter of public policy, but that it was 'the most sensible and practical approach.' He added: 'The BBC Trust and management have set themselves against Ofcom and the Government's proposals, even describing them as "ideologically focused." The Trust and the management seem to have temporarily abandoned their separation, joining together to fight a concerted and, dare one say, ideological campaign to protect the BBC's monopoly over the licence fee.' Which was, of course, exactly what Michael was saying when he had a managerial position at the Beeb just a few years ago, wasn't it? It wasn't? So, that would, therefore, appear to be rather hypocritical and self-serving of him to voice such views now that he's working for the other side, wouldn't it? Self-interest? From a high ranking television executive? I repeat, shurely shome mishtake... Cynical? Moi...?!

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