Tuesday, June 23, 2009

They Predict A Riot

The Iranian foreign ministry has accused the BBC and the Voice of America of being mouthpieces of their respective governments (as if!) and seeking to engineer the ongoing riots that have followed the recent - exceptionally dodgy - Iranian presidential election. (Won, of course, by that Ahmadinejad chap who looks a dead-ringer for Roy Keane.) Another Iranian ministry also threatened to take 'more stern action' against British radio and television networks if they 'continued to interfere' in the country's domestic affairs. The tough talking from the Iranian authorities comes after Jon Leyne, the BBC's permanent correspondent in Iran, was expelled from the country earlier in the week and reports circulated that more Western and local journalists had been arrested. According to the Los Angeles Times, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders released the names of twenty four journalists and bloggers arrested since the disputed Iranian presidential election earlier this month. This, dear blog reader, is one of the reasons why I'm so insistant that - for all its many faults - this country remains a place where freedom of speech is a given. Because there are plenty of other places in the world where such a right cannot be taken for granted and where doing something as simple as telling some other people what's happening outside your house can get you banging up in pokey for your troubles. In this country, we are currently having a debate about whether an inquiry into the circumstances that led to a war we have recently been engaged in should be held in public or private. That's right Iran, a debate, not 'you vill do as you're told or ve vill shoot you.'

Actor Colin Bean, who played the portly Private Sponge in Dad's Army for many years, has died aged eighty two in Wigan Infirmary. Colin spent his last years at Wickham Hall Care Home in Springfield and died, peacefully, on Saturday. After many years in repertory, he was spotted in 1968 by his friend Jimmy Perry, co-creator of Dad's Army, and was given a small part in the series which subsequently became a regular recurring role. He last appeared in public at a reunion of the surviving cast of Dad's Army last year. His death now means that only three of the original Warmington-on-Sea ensemble cast - Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn and Bill Pertwee - are left.

In a country ravaged by strife, swine 'flu and financial meltdown, Dara Ó Briain and his four fellow Gagmen of the Aporkalypse are preparing to ride to the rescue this summer with the seventh series of hit topical panel show Mock The Week. Returning on 9 July, the BBC2 comedy maintains its unique mixture of quiz show, stand-up comedy improv and semi-serious topical discussion that saw the last series regularly pulling in viewing figures of more than three million as well as becoming a huge - and controversial - hit on YouTube and the BBC's iPlayer. Fresh from their sell-out nationwide tours, the Ó Briain and the other regulars - Mad Frankie Boyle, Russell Howard, Andy Parsons and Outnumbered's Hugh Dennis - will be joined by the very best talent from the stand-up circuit to supply the required satire. Now a household name, Mock the Week has, over the years, proved an extremely effective career springboard for the likes of Michael McIntyre, Davey Mitchell, John Oliver, Mark Watson, Lucy Porter and Rhod Gilbert as well as a platform for established names such as Ed Byrne, Greg Proops and Fred MacAulay to flex their topical muscles. There may be no Olympics this year for Mad Frankie to get angry (and very surreal) about but the team will be able to decide on their approach to Barack Obama, for example, and the current state of British politics as well as commenting on the usual tabloid scare stories, reality TV controversies and multiple British sporting embarrassments that occupy our summer months. And, presumably, to get that bloody daft Emily Maitlis woman all hot under the collar again and whinging on about 'her pussy' to anybody that'll listen. In a frankly Mrs Slocombe stylee. No, darling, nobody's forgotten that piece of TV comedy gold and nor will they for the forseeable future. Remember that the next time you're interrogating some hapless politician on Newsnight and you see the trace of a smile forming on their lips.

Some rather sad news now. West Wing actor Bradley Whitford and his wife, Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek are to divorce. Whitford's publicist, Melissa Kates, confirmed the news about the couple, who were married in 1992 and have three children, on Sunday. Whitford played Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman in the hit political drama The West Wing and went on to star in creator Aaron Sorkin's next big TV project, the hugely under-rated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Kaczmarek is currently starring as a judge in the US legal-drama Raising the Bar. Whitford has just finished filming a horror movie, The Cabin in the Woods, which is set for release next year. The movie is written by Buffy the Vampire Slayer writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. He also starred in a Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing last year.

Filmed entirely on location in the majestic region of Connemara in the West of Ireland, ITV's new three-part drama reflects one policeman's quest to serve a rural community - Single-Handed. Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell), a Sergeant with the Irish police, is completely at home in his new patch; he ought to be as he was born and brought up there. He knows the people, he knows the West of Ireland and, more importantly, he knows how the two fit together. But this is no cushy posting; Jack’s 'patch' stretches from the Atlantic coast in the West to the glacial lakes in the East, from Galway City in the South to Killary harbour in the North - he's on call twenty four hours a day and, more often than not, he's, as the title suggests, single-handed. From the team that produced ITV's award winning drama The Vice, Single-Handed explores how policing a rural community differs from city policing. Your precinct is vast, the terrain extreme and the community lives on the edge. You are always on duty. And there is, as Martha and the Vandellas once noted nowhere to hide. Single-Handed - which sounds not unlike an Irish version of Hamish MacBeth to be honest - also stars Ian McElhinney and will see guest appearances from Charlene McKenna and Doc Martin's sexy-voiced Caroline Catz. Who, I notice, has also being doing voice-overs on The Conspiracy Files for the BBC. Careful, Caroline, you'll get yourself targeted by nutters as 'a government apologist and a stooge of the establishment'!

ESPN has bought the rights to show forty six games in next season's English Premier League that were to have been shown by struggling broadcaster Setanta. Disney-owned ESPN has won the two packages of games shown on Saturday teatimes and Monday evenings. Both will be sold to customers through BSkyB. It has also won the twenty three games per season Setanta was due to show from 2010-13. The league took the broadcasting rights back from Setanta on Friday after it missed a payment deadline. It is not clear how much ESPN has paid for the rights. But, it's probably a hell of a lot less than Setanta did.

ITV may be planning to levy 'small charges' to view on-demand content beyond the standard seven-day catch-up window in a bid to boost revenues. The broadcaster is looking to introduce 'micropayments' to watch shows on all platforms, including Project Canvas, its proposed joint IPTV venture with the BBC and BT. It is the first time that a mainstream broadcaster has attempted to charge for viewing since Channel 4 dropped its 99p fee for thirty-day catch-up on 4oD two years ago. ITV's service would include flagship shows such as Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor, but is unlikely to feature any archive content. Group Strategy and Development director Carolyn Fairbairn said the success of premium content fees and video downloads on Apple's iTunes had proved viewers would pay for on-demand content. ITV has yet to determine a pricing model, but Fairbairn said it would be less than iTunes' standard 99p. The service is expected to be unveiled this autumn.

The Alan Titchmarsh Show, The Paul O'Grady Show and Five News at 7 have all been found to be in breach of Ofcom's codes on product placement. The broadcast watchdog ruled that Five News at 7 had promoted a GPS running watch and was found in breach of a rule which states products and services must not be promoted in programmes and another which rules that no undue prominence may be given to any programme to any product or service. The Five News programme on 5 February included in a pre-recorded report and a live studio discussion included comments about the GPS device such as: 'small but genius invention', 'as easy to charge as a mobile phone' and 'you get what you pay for with these.' The Titchmarsh and O'Grady vehicles were both found to have promoted and given undue prominence to two different skincare products. Unlike the US, product placement is strictly prohibited in the UK. Quite why the producers of all three shows didn't simply tell Ofcom - a notoriously hyporcitical bunch of unelected nobodies - to go and take a running jump into the nearest cesspit and drown themselves is, at the time of writing, unknown. Probably, because like most people in television, they have a backbone like jelly.

BBC2 ratings juggernaut Top Gear was back with a huge bang on Sunday night as over seven million viewers tuned-in to see Ferrari-legend Michael Schumacher 'unveiled' as The Stig - you might, possibly, have head about it, it was in one or two newspapers, apparently. I missed it myself. This was an audience share of thirty percent, an almost unprecedented number for BBC2, which helped to give the channel a daily share that was actually higher than ITV's (that usually happens about once a decade). Whilst Jezza, Hamster and Cap'n Slow state they will keep their driver's real identity a secret, the cleverly-managed stunt did nothing to damage their ratings - as anybody with half-a-brain in their head would have known well in advance. Of the 7.1m who tuned in from 8-9pm, 3.6m viewers were in the lucrative ABC1 demographic and 2.3m were aged 16-34 - the only age group the most TV executives give a monkeys about. Proving its appeal to both sexes, only fifty three percent of the total audience were male - another one in the eye for all of those boring Communist hippies who claim that the only people who watch Top Gear are fortysomething chaps. Like me. What's the betting now that, like Qi, Have I Got News For You and Masterchef before it, BBC1 are planning to try a bit of bully-boy poaching from their little brother? Stay just exactly where you are, lads - as I suspect you know, you'd never get away with anywhere near as much on the Big Boys network as you do on BBC2.

Bryan Fuller has quit his role as lead writer on Heroes, it has been confirmed. The thirty nine year old was a key part of the show's production team during its first season but left in 2007 to create his own series, Pushing Daisies. When that show was - tragically - axed at the end of last year, Fuller returned to the fold at Heroes to help turn around the superhero series' flagging fortunes. Fans lauded Fuller for his part in the show's creative reinvigoration and, in recent months, the writer has been masterminding storylines for the upcoming fourth season. According to reports, Fuller decided to depart Heroes last week in order to concentrate on developing new projects for NBC. He has previously expressed an interest in creating a new Star Trek TV series.

Kylie Minogue is reportedly helping her younger sister, the divine Dannii, prepare for the upcoming series of The X Factor. The superstar singer, notorious gold hot-pants wearer and (much more importantly) former Doctor Who companion is reported to have given Dannii access to her personal team of choreographers in order to make her future performers stand out from the crowd. '[She wants] Dannii's contestants to perform to their peak during the finals. The crew will be able to give her fresh ideas and hopefully keep her ahead of the competition,' an insider told This Is London. 'Kylie is a perfectionist and is giving Dannii her best pointers on how to smile, how best to bat off criticism and how to make her personality shine through.' The insider also claimed that Dannii is 'feeling a little diminished' because of the alleged difference in her pay from that of fellow judge Cheryl Cole. It is thought that Cole is being paid £750,000 more than the Australian star for the series, which will air later this year. Can I suggest a big wrestling match to sort all this malarkey out, ITV? Possibly involving oils of some description ... I mean, that, I'd watch.

And, finally, some breaking non-news: The BBC have flatly denied speculation of an 'all-Doctor reunion' for this year's Children In Need night. The Daily Mirror - whom, older blog readers may just remember used to be 'a newspaper' once upon a time - claimed that all ten incarnations of the Doctor would appear together in a fifteen-minute episode to be shown as part of the annual telethon in November. The special, they claimed, would see David Tennant's Doctor calling on his nine predecessors to help him find a missing piece of Time Lord apparatus. The actors who portrayed the first three Doctors - William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee - are all deceased but would be represented by archive footage, they stated. The report also claimed that the special would mark the first appearance of Matt Smith as the Doctor, although Smith is not due to take over from Tennant in the titular role until early 2010. A BBC spokesman told the newspaper: 'Nothing has been finalised yet, although there is discussion of a Children in Need Doctor Who special. It is too early to say what it will contain.' If this story sounds suspiciously familiar to you, dear blog reader, then that's probably because this is the second year running that a variant of it have done the rounds. For goodness sake, Mirror boys and girls, can't you think up some original lies, I'm getting sick of rehashed ones.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

The Lasting Tribute website has updated its memorial pages to include Colin Bean, who played Private Sponge.


It's a respectful memorial to Colin and somewhere to pay tribute to his work.

Today is also the anniversary of John Laurie's death.

Pay tribute and add your memories:

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