Thursday, June 18, 2009

This Week's Top Telly Round-Up

Animal rights pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is reported to be rather upset that Barack Obama killed a fly during a live televised interview with CNBC. They are, therefore, sending the president a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device which allows users to trap flies and then release them outside, unharmed, into the wild. Or, you know, into the garden anyway. 'We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals,' PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said on Wednesday. 'We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.' During the interview at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama's conversation with correspondent John Harwood. 'Get out of here,' the president told the insect. When it refused to comply with the presidential edict, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smited it dead. Just like he'll do with any North Koreans what fancy their chances messing with the Big Boys, like. Allegedly. Tough on flies, tough on the causes of flies. I wonder if anyone has yet pointed out to PETA that, actually, flies aren't animals per se, they're insects, and that they should really be changing their name to PETA&I if they wish to have their comments taken even remotely seriously.

Former second-worst-but-still-pretty-damned-good James Bond Timothy Dalton (who was so good in Hot Fuzz a couple of years back) will be appearing in the two-part Doctor Who Christmas Special as a Time Lord, according to various media reports. Rumours abound across fandom as to whether he's playing one that we've previously met (Omega, Rassilon, Lord Borusa, Chancellor Goth, that one out of The War Games played by Philip Madoc that nobody can ever remember the name of) or a new character completely. The episodes will also see the very welcome return of John Simm as the blondest and maddest Master y'ever did see and, of course, the regeneration of David Tennant into Mel Smith. And loads of other stuff that I could tell you about but I'd have to eat myself afterwards.

Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips has been given the boot, the Sun have alleged although the BBC have yet to confirm this. The sixty six-year-old choreographer was 'officially told by BBC bosses last night following top-level talks,' the paper states. Former show-winner Alesha Dixon is allegedly being lined-up in Phillips' place to inject some youthful glamour into the ageing panel. Producers are said to want a "sexier" feel to compete with ITV's The X Factor — a hit with younger viewers. Bosses also hope that signing Alesha will appeal to ethnic viewers.

Two new daytime shows for ITV to keep an eye open for:
The Chase - 29th June - 11th July, hosted by Bradley Walsh and The Fuse - 13th July - 24th July, hosted by Austin Healy. Both look a bit 'blah' and lowest-common-denominator for my tastes from the format descriptions but, as always, dear blog reader, I'd advise you to watch the first episodes and make your own minds up.

Here's a couple of pieces of possible TV scheduling news gleamed from the DVD release schedule - Trevor McDonald's Secret Caribbean is due out on DVD in mid-July. Could that be taking over from Stephen Tompkinson and his beautiful balloon adventures when that finishes next Sunday? As Ian Robinson pointed out on Gallifrey Base, 'Trevor McDonad's Secret Caribbean sounds like a new detective series. I can imagine Sir Trev hanging round the sleazy bars of Kingston, telling us stories of hoods and dames.' Indeed. He reads the news and he solves crime. This stuff just writes itself. BBC Press packs are also out for the next run of The Street, so that's, seemingly, another show which is looking likely for a July return.

In one of the Media Guardian blogs about Robin Hood the blogger states that 'the BBC is understandably reluctant to pull this hugely successful drama.' Has he (or she) any inside info, one wonders? As all of the traditional recomissioning signs point very much otherwise. The blogger mentions that Robin Hood shows 'no sign of dipping in popularity.' They clearly hasn't been watching the ratings for the current season in that case. Don't get me wrong I like the show a lot (possibly for many of the wrong reasons, but still...) but with Jonas Armstrong having already announced he's leaving, I have my doubts about the show's longevity. Particularly as their best two actors (the excellent Joe Armstrong and the brooding Richard Armitage) are already starting to pick up recurring roles elsewhere. But, there are strong rumours that Sally Wainwright has been asked by the BBC for ideas on reformating the franchise so, I guess, anything's possible.

It was a reasonable start for Occupation in terms of ratings on Tuesday though let's not get carried away. It's worth remembering that just four years ago Jane Tranter's 'Oh no, it's a total disaster' figure for Doctor Who's opening night was four million. Four and a half for Occupation at 9:00 on a nice Tuesday evening in the middle of June with not much opposition is ... all right, in the current climate but it's still not great. The fact that a repeat of New Tricks the night before got roughly the same number of viewers speaks volumes.

The BBC Trust has warned it will not 'sit quietly by' whilst the licence fee becomes a general 'slush fund,' in a strongly-worded list of objections to the Digital Britain report. Chairman Sir Michael Lyons stressed the governing body's statutory commitment to represent the interests of licence fee payers – claiming the government would have to 'make a good case for any other use' of the BBC's funding, over and above its return to viewers. He cited Ofcom findings that licence fee payers would prefer to have the money returned to them in the form of a lower licence fee than to have it used for any other purpose – equivalent to more than nine pounds per household by 2012-13. In particular, the Trust raised concerns over government plans to ring fence a portion of the BBC licence fee to pay for a second regional news operation on ITV. The proposal marks a major victory for ITV – but Lyons said there has not been enough debate about how much the operation would cost, and that they 'fail to take into account' other potential sources of commercial and public funding. It's about time somebody at the BBC started showing a bit of backbone about this quite disgraceful fiasco instead of cowering in the corner and saying 'please don't hurt us anymore.'

BBC4's feature-length Comedy Songs: The Pop Years was something of a surprise hit last night at 9pm with 606,000 viewers (3.2% share), the channel's third biggest hit so far this year. The ninety-minute show, which looked at the art of the comedic song with clips from iconic shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Goons, started off with 416,000 and grew to a high of 718,000 at 9.45pm before trailing off in the last fifteen minutes. The show was up on the channel's slot average so far this year of 190,000 (0.9%). Only two shows on BBC4 have gained a higher audience this year: Anne Frank Remembered picked up 756,000 at 7.30pm on 9 January and Calendar Girls on 27 February at 10pm averaged 615,000.

BBC1's Saturday evening gameshow Hole in the Wall - which gained something of a cult following last year in the 'so bad, it's brilliant' arena - is to return for a second series, with production relocating to Scotland, a move that will help boost the corporation's regional programming quota. The show, which is based on a Japanese format and sees shiny lycra-clad celebrities try to squeeze through different-shaped holes in a moving wall, will also get a new presenter, with Dale Winton being replaced by Strictly Come Dancing star Anton du Beke, who was one of the gameshow's team captains last year. Joe Swash, the former EastEnders actor and winner of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, and former England rugby player and Strictly contestant Austin Healey will be the new team captains. The ten-part series plus a one-off compilation show will air on BBC1 on Saturdays later this year.

BBC2's excellent food and lifestyle show Supersizers returned stronger than ever on Monday evening with 2.5m viewers (11.4% share), the show's largest ever audience. The Supersizers Eat… the Eighties, which saw presenters Giles Corren and Sue Perkins sample the culinary delights from the 1980s, was up on the channel's slot average for the year of 1.5m. The show also outperformed its previous highest audience for last year's episode The Supersizers Go… Seventies by 47,000.

Channel 4 will cross a frontier in survival programming by dropping a TV producer into the Canadian wilderness for twelve weeks with just a camera and a backpack. You know, 'for a laugh.' Produced by Tigress, the three-part Alone in the Wild will see Ed Wardle left in isolation, recording his experiences of trying to survive mentally and physically.

The Hoffmeister himself, David Hasselhoff will sleep in a haunted castle, row with the Oxford blues and sail a long-boat down the canals of Britain in a six part series for Living TV. The as yet unnamed series will be produced by Summer Films to air in September and follows the success of Living's Hoff: When Scott Came to Stay. The new programme will see Hasselhoff immerse himself in British life and culture for a summer, while his two daughters pursue their pop careers.

Endemol will pitch the Jerry Seinfeld-devised show The Marriage Ref to UK broadcasters after picking up the global rights to the new format. The show, which will be made by Shed Media US for NBC Universal, will be adapted for local markets including the UK by Endemol's global production network and will be marketed at MIP in October with a stand-up performance by Seinfeld. The format will feature fly-on-the-wall footage of couples airing marital disputes. A panel watch and comment humorously and a referee decides who should win each dispute and awards prizes. It will be executive produced in the US by Seinfeld and Oprah Winfrey Show showrunner Ellen Rakieten.

Actress Scarlett Johansson will invite Fearne Cotton to experience her Hollywood Lifestyle in a shadow-a-celebrity series for ITV2 this autumn. The four-part ITV Studios series will see the presenter spend up to two weeks with Johansson. Other episodes will see Cotton spending quality time with heiress Paris Hilton, singer Alesha Dixon and party girl Peaches Geldof. Christ almighty, who effing CARES?

The BBC is developing a new audience measurement tool that has nailed the 'Holy Grail' of audience metrics by factoring in all timeshifted and online viewing. The Cross Media Insight system takes into account narrative repeats, iPlayer figures, recorded programmes, red-button, mobileaccess and viewings via third-party sites such as YouTube, and aggregates them over a fixed period after a show’s initial broadcast. Crucially, it also records uptake from the point of view of the user rather than the platform - known as single source measurement and dubbed the holy grail of audience monitoring. In its current beta phase, it is based on the weekly media diaries of six hundred and viewers. If they're looking for volunteers for the next phase of development, I'll do it!

Five chief executive Dawn Airey has hit back at critics who suggest the Digital Britain report means a bleak outlook for the broadcaster, insisting: 'Five is not in tatters.' Fair enough. What about 'in chaos'? Is that any better?

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