Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coming Up, Going Down Or Just Hangin' Around

Here's one worth keeping an eye open for that got missed in the latest batch of Top Telly Tips, dear blog reader; Judge Jack Dee's forthcoming appearance on Sunday's episode of Kingdom. 'He is a bit of a local roué that darts between Norfolk and London. He has got a wife but she is more interested in her watercolour painting then she is in him. As a result, [he] has got quite a complicated private life,' says Jack.

A top quality-cast that includes Douggie Henshall, Kate Ashfield, Paul McGann and Phil Davis will star in the ITV drama Collision. Filming has just begun on the five-part serial made by Greenlit, which tells the story of a major road accident and a group of people who have never met, but who all share one single defining moment that will change all of their lives. Amid the tangle of twisted metal and emotional turmoil wrought by the tragedy of a crash of this scale, are the stories of the victims and the impact of the accident on their families, friends and colleagues. Sort of Lost for Citroën drivers, then? As the terrible task of investigating the cause of the carnage begins, a series of revelations emerge: from Government cover-ups and smuggling, to disturbing secrets and murder. Primeval star Henshall and Ashfield (The Children, The Diary of Anne Frank) play the senior police officers in charge of the investigations whose complicated personal lives threaten to collide with the grim job they face. McGann (True Dare Kiss, Doctor Who, Withnail and I) stars as millionaire property dealer Richard Reeves. Dean Lennox Kelly (Shameless, The Invisibles) and his brother Craig Kelly (Hotel Babylon, Queer as Folk) team up for the first time to play brothers Danny and Jeffrey Rampton, whose business dealings are about to be exposed as a result of the crash. Zoe Telford (The Palace) is Jeffrey’s wife Sandra. Claire Rushbrook (Mutual Friends, Whitechapel) plays Karen Donnelly who survives the crash, but has a secret which puts her life in jeopardy again. The great Phil Davis (Bleak House, Whitechapel, The Curse of Steptoe, Quadrophenia) plays Brian Edwards who escapes the carnage which kills his mother-in-law. His wife Christine, played by Jan Francis (Just Good Friends) is devastated by the death of her mother and confused by her husband's reaction to the police questions. David Bamber (Rome) plays Sidney Norris, a piano teacher whose guilty secrets are uncovered during the investigations. Collision has been created by the acclaimed author and screen-writer Anthony Horowitz (Foyle's War) and co-written by Michael Walker. It is directed by Marc Evans (My Little Eye, Snow Cake), marking his first return to TV direction in five years. It is Peter Fincham's first new independent drama commission, with Director of Drama Laura Mackie, since joining ITV. Fincham notes: 'This is a high-octane event drama that combines creative and original thinking with mass appeal. It promises to be both provocative and engaging.' I must admit, all cynicism about most nominal ITV product aside, I do very much like the sound of that one.

Filming has also begun on a new BBC sitcom, Miranda, due for transmission in Autumn 2009 on BBC2. Miranda is based on the semi-autobiographical writing of comedy actress Miranda Hart (Not Going Out, Hyperdrive, Absolutely Fabulous). The show started life as a TV pilot and then moved onto becoming the critically acclaimed, Sony Award nominated radio series, Miranda Hart's Joke Shop, on Radio2. Patricia Hodge (Maxwell, The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil) plays Miranda's mother and is joined by a stellar cast, including Sarah Hadland (Moving Wallpaper, That Mitchell & Webb Look), Sally Phillips (Bridget Jones' Diary, Smack The Pony) and Tom Ellis (Miss Conception, EastEnders) in this farcical, eccentric and affectionate family sitcom.

Fat Friends writer Kay Mellor is penning a new drama for ITV featuring a group of women over the age of fifty, as the broadcaster looks to broaden its output in the genre and enhance its appeal to female audiences. Laura Mackie, the director of drama at ITV, revealed Mellor's new drama was called Women of a Certain Age and added that it featured three roles for older actresses. Mackie said she wanted ITV to move away from crime dramas and do more drama featuring roles that better reflect women's lives. Speaking at Sphinx Theatre Company's conference into the portrayal of women in theatre and television, Mackie said there were 'reasons to be cheerful' about the state of drama on television and its use of older female performers. But she admitted there was still 'a lot of work to do,' and said that a strong drama slate on ITV depended on attracting female audiences. 'The bulk of the audience for drama is female. I know from bitter experience that if we provide dramas that exclude the broad female audience, we will not get the kinds of volume of audience we need on ITV. [It] is a big commercial channel and we are under a lot of pressure at the moment. I want ... as many hours of drama as possible, but I can only achieve that if the quality of drama is really good and attracts a big percentage of the viewing public - and that means women,' she said. Mackie claimed female audiences want to see 'strong, complex and interesting' female roles and urged writers to present her with more ideas featuring these kind of parts. 'We need more and I would love to get more scripts across my desk that don't have a flashing blue light in them. I would love more scripts that have strong varied roles that reflect women's lives - every facet of their lives, and I would say nothing is off-limits,' she said. However, Mackie warned that writers have to think about the long-term sustainability of any idea they present to her, and should consider whether a story could run for multiple episodes or into a second series.

Six weeks of principal photography began on Monday on another major ITV drama, Murderland. Didn't they 'not have any money' a few weeks ago? Robbie Coltrane leads the cast as detective Douglas Hain. Written by acclaimed screenwriter David Pirie (Murder Rooms, Woman in White), directed by Catherine Morshead (Ashes to Ashes, Blackpool) produced by Touchpaper Scotland, part of the RDF Media Group, the three-part drama will be filmed on location around London. Coltrane will star alongside, Sharon Small (Mistresses, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Lucy Cohu (The Queen's Sister), Amanda Hale (Persuasion), David Westhead (Criminal Justice), Andrew Tiernan (Survivors) and Bel Powley (M.I. High). Murderland is described as 'an emotional and passionate thriller' that tells a traumatic murder story through the eyes of three central characters: Carrie the daughter of the murdered woman, Douglas Hain, the detective in charge of the investigation and Sally the murder victim. Murderland is produced by Kate Croft and Dave Edwards for Touchpaper, Scotland. 'Robbie Coltrane heads a marvellous cast and combining the talents of David Pirie and Catherine Morshead on this project is a delicious prospect. Murderland promises to be as much a why-dunit as a whodunit. As much a love story as a murder story,' says Kate Croft.

There's a very think good piece on Broadcast's website this week in which Russell Davies, Scottish Neil Oliver and Jimmy Nesbitt talk about their passion for programmes borne out of their native nations. The feature is based on edited extracts from Made in the UK, a series of essays on the BBC's plans to grow television production from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and English regions. Also well worth checking out is Mark Gatiss's joyous exploration of the world of Target novelisations for the BBC.

The FA have stated that they could yet bring disciplinary charges against those found guilty of alleged wrongdoing in transfer dealings highlighted by the BBC's Panorama programme of September 2006 and the subsequent Quest's reports of December 2006 and June 2007 according to the Guardian. Following the withdrawal of the libel action against the BBC by Kevin Bond, now Harry Redknapp's first-team coach at Tottenham Hotspur, which was due in the high court last week, Panorama stands legally unchallenged by any of the men accused in the Football's Dirty Secrets programme despite much bluster and threats of swift legal action. In nearly three years since the programme aired the FA has brought no charges, yet nor has it publicly cleared anyone, leading to accusations that the governing body has failed to investigate the matter quite as thoroughly as it promised at the time. 'It is wrong to suggest we have not vigorously pursued the issues raised by Panorama and Quest,' an FA spokesman said. 'Our consideration of various matters arising from those investigations remains ongoing and our files remain open.' It is believed that FA officials have, formally, interviewed Sam Allardyce, then the Bolton Wanderers manager, who was accused by the programme of 'having been involved in corrupt transfer deals' (though, to be honest, that's nothing compared to the crimes against football he committed when he signed Joey Barton to my beloved Newcastle) and the agent, Peter Harrison, who was secretly filmed by the BBC saying he did deals with Allardyce by making payments to Allardyce's son, Craig. It is understood that all of the outstanding or suspect transfer deals involving players coming from overseas clubs have been referred to FIFA but there are fears within the game over whether the world governing body is sufficiently equipped to investigate and take action if necessary. The FA is believed to have investigated several deals relating to purely domestic transfers, but to have decided it must wait before announcing its findings, until the conclusion of HM Revenue and Customs' inquiry into transfer dealings. That investigation began in a blaze of publicity with a series of dramatic dawn raids, as part of a City of London police investigation into alleged football 'corruption,' and although the agent Willie McKay has been released from bail, several people remain under investigation, including Mr Redknapp, Portsmouth's chief executive Peter Storrie, the club's former owner Milan Mandaric, and Birmingham City's major shareholder, David Sullivan, and its chief executive, Karren Brady. All of those involved in the investigation and those accused by Panorama it should be noted, deny any wrongdoing whatsoever. With Bond having dropped his claim, Panorama currently faces no outstanding legal actions from any of those against whom it alleged wrongdoing, including Bond, Allardyce and the Chelsea director of youth development, Frank Arnesen, who was filmed allegedly 'tapping up' the young Middlesbrough player Nathan Porritt. It is believed that Arnesen will not be charged with any offence by the FA - nor will Chelsea be deducted three points despite being under a suspended sentence at the time the offence allegedly took place because of their role in the Ashley Cole transfer - because although Middlesbrough's chairman, Steve Gibson, said at the time he was furious, Middlesbrough did not register an official complaint. That was a bit careless, Steve. It should, however, be noted that the Panorama programme itself has been - perhaps deservedly - criticised by many (including myself) for its lack of any hard content and its use of largely circumstantial evidence and much innuendo. Particularly after the BBC's own pre-publicity had suggested it was going to 'lift the lid' on football corruption with 'shocking evidence.' Shocking lack of evidence as it turned out.

Presenter Steve Race, best known as the host of Radio4's long-running quiz show My Music, has died aged eighty eight. The popular programme, which ran from 1967 to 1994, included comedians Frank Muir and Denis Norden on the panel. 'He had a great broadcasting voice - warm, inviting, distinctive. And he knew a lot. He was a class act,' said Radio4 controller Mark Damazer. Race also anchored the station's Home in the Afternoon in the late 1960s and its successor, PM. He also presented Britain's segment of the groundbreaking 1967 pan-continental TV show Our World, introducing The Beatles' debut performance of 'All You Need Is Love' from Studio 2 in Abbey Road. Damazer described Race as 'a terrific foil on My Music to the differing comic talents of Denis Norden and Frank Muir. He pushed and prodded them and held the programme together with good humour and grace' he added. Race's first foray into broadcasting was when he became presenter of groundbreaking children's hour programme Whirligig in 1953.

Some industry news and Alan Brown, who commissioned The Apprentice, produced The Restaurant and revamped Never Mind the Buzzcocks, has joined Diverse Production as creative director. The former BBC senior commissioning executive for entertainment takes over from Roy Ackerman, who recently left after almost twenty years to become chief executive of Jamie Oliver's production company Fresh One. Most recently, Brown was creative director at Silver River, producing BBC2's Grow Your Own Drugs and Sky1's Oops TV. That role continued a working relationship with Silver River head girl Daisy Goodwin, with whom he previously worked at Talkback Thames as a key creative, launching The Apprentice spin-off You're Fired.

Katie Price has been criticised by a leading children's charity over comments she made about her estranged husband, Peter Andre, online. The glamour model posted about Andre on her Twitter profile, writing that he had been 'a true Cnut' to her. Director of Kidscape Claude Knights said: 'Celebrities have a responsibility not to negatively influence young people. Teenagers have a huge presence on Twitter and young girls model themselves on female idols.' Another, nameless, spokesperson added that Jordan was wholly wrong to describe her estranged husband as a 'Cnut', pointing out that Cnut was, actually, an Eleventh Century Viking king of England, Denmark and Norway whose successes as a statesman, politically and militarily, proved him to be one of the great figures of medieval Europe. Something which Andre can't really have any claim to being (nor, indeed, has he done so at any stage let us be very clear about this). They further stated that if Ms Price were inclined to describe Mr Andre as anything then 'a talentless waste of blood and organs, just like me,' would have been far more accurate.

And lastly, here's yet another one from the 'rumours of my death have been great exaggerated' column relating to an ITV show. Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox are set to return for a fourth series of ITV murder mystery drama Lewis. Four new episodes of the Inspector Morse spin-off will go into production next month, with writers Alan Plater, Stephen Churchett and Russell Lewis all returning to pen scripts. Billie Eltringham will direct the first instalment and Morse creator Colin Dexter is again on board as consultant. ITV's controller of drama commissioning Sally Haynes said: 'Lewis is always one of the highlights of the year on ITV and features not only a great partnership between Lewis and Hathaway but some great plot lines and twists that keep the audience gripped. I'm thrilled it's returning and I know our viewers will be too.'

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