Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Dogs & The Horses

So, dear blog reader, for the second day running we start what is - allegedly - a TV blog with a football-related short. It happens. My old mate Mad Mickey Edmondson is currently in the process of writing a book of reminiscences on Newcastle United's decade of mass indifference (that was the 1980s, essentially, if you weren't there). Full details can be found here. Thus, if anyone has any memories of that riot at Oldham when Terry McDermott and Steve Carney got sent-off, almost getting killed in that Hillsbrough-style crush at Barnsley in '82, Kenny Wharton sitting on the ball against Luton, Beardsley's 'will he walk it in?' goal at Portsmouth, actually seeing Frankie Pingel score or watching in horror as kids got sparked and all sorts at the Boro (that last one was an annual occurance, to be honest), then please do give Mick a shout. Hopefully it'll include the story of Mickey himself telling an entire supporters club bus on the way back from Carlisle about how Keegan was 'finished!'

Thank you for your kind indulgence, we now return you to your scheduled programmes.

ITV is set to cement Piers Morgan, Martin Clunes and Joanna Lumley as three key faces of its factual output with a series of travel-themed shows for 2010. Doc Martin star Clunes will follow his A Man And His Dogs by fronting Horsepower, a two-part travelogue exploring the history of man's relationship with horses. The actor, who owns seven horses himself, will journey from Aintree to Outer Mongolia to uncover the social and industrial roles that horses have played. Yeah, that sounds okay. Meanwhile, the Goddess that walks the Earth that is Joanna Lumley will travel the length of the River Nile from its mouth on the beaches of the Mediterranean to its remote reaches in the highlands of Uganda. Tiger Aspect's Jewel of the Nile follows ITV Studios' previously announced two-parter Joanna Lumley: Cat Woman. Sadly, after two promising ideas they went and spoiled it as vile, full of himself egotist Morgan will follow previous shows visiting Dubai, Monaco and Los Angeles by heading to Shanghai, Las Vegas and Marbella. The films will again appear under the banner Piers Morgan On… and will be produced by Splash Media. Any chance we could possibly have Piers Morgan On ... Fire Splash? Pity. The commissions were all made by ITV director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman.

Sky 1 has signed its first golden handcuffs deal with Ross Kemp, who will front twelve hour-long programmes over the next two years. Under the terms of the deal, Kemp will make six programmes each year but will not be tied to Tiger Aspect, which made Ross Kemp on Gangs, Ross Kemp in Afghanistan and Ross Kemp In Search of Pirates. No shows have yet been greenlit or even formally put into development, but a Sky spokesman confirmed that the channel would use Kemp in 'extreme' programming in a similar vein to shows he has fronted in the past. They said: 'The idea [for the golden handcuffs deal] came about once Ross Kemp in Search of Pirates came to an end. The show was a big success but there were no others in the pipeline. Both Sky and Kemp were keen to work together again.' Sky's director of programmes Stuart Murphy said: 'In an era of often bland and stuffy current affairs reporting, Ross brings colour, passion and insight, and opens the stories first to millions of viewers.'

Britain's Got Talent producers were too slow to give Hollie Steel a second chance, and closed in on her crying face in a voyeuristic way, industry figures have claimed according to an article in Broadcast. BBC Children head of news and factual Ream Nouss, who has just completed a year's secondment to BGT producer Talkback Thames, told the Showcomotion conference: 'I found the close-up of the kid crying ... uncomfortable. In live TV, you have to make the quickest, sharpest decision.' Laura Mansfield, creative director of House of Tiny Tearaways producer Outline Productions, added: 'They should have given her another go straight away. All the kerfuffle is what raised questions.' However, Love Productions creative director Richard McKerrow said TV industry culture was to blame. 'Some [in the entertainment sector] don't think they're part of factual television and regard contributors as actors,' he said. BBC Children’s controller Richard Deverell added: 'The Ofcom code is very clear that programmes should never cause a child emotional or physical distress. That child was clearly very distressed.'

On a related note, four leading figures in children's TV drama have rounded on the BBC for 'neglecting' young teens - with a former CBBC drama chief claiming it has 'lost its bottle' for gritty issues. Kindle Entertainment director Anne Brogan, Lime Pictures creative director Tony Wood, former Byker Grove exec Ed Pugh and RDF Media head of children's drama Elaine Sperber all slammed the corporation at the Showcomotion event - arguing it was ducking its duty to serve all audiences. They said twelve to sixteen-year-olds had 'fallen between two stools' ever since the BBC redefined CBBC as a service for six to twelve-year-olds - and that multiplatform teen service Switch was hard to find. Sperber, who spent six years as head of CBBC drama, said: 'All the teen dramas we talk about are on Channel 4. CBBC has lost the bottle for making a big children's [drama] that deals with contemporary issues. Where's the Skins? The BBC just stopped, in the mix of axing Grange Hill and Byker Grove.' Brogan, who is currently producing a 'modern-day Cinderella' drama for CBBC, said: 'The BBC is absolutely neglecting its audience.'

Over to the US now and Fox has delayed the season two premiere of Dollhouse, starring the divine Eliza Dushku, it has been reported. After initially announcing that the second season would premiere on Friday, 18 September, it has now emerged that the show will return the following Friday. Creator and shoerunner Joss Whedon was forced to rewrite the pilot episode after Fox stepped in with 'different ideas' about what the tone of the show should be.

Ofcom has received almost three hundred complaints about Big Brother in the past week, with the majority about an incident broadcast on Friday in which one of the housemates threatened another. This series of the Channel 4 reality show has been the lowest-rating of any of the ten series so far and has been relatively quiet in publicity terms, but Ofcom today said it had received twenty hundred and ninety complaints about a variety of issues connected to the show in the week up to Monday 6 July. The largest proportion of more than two hundred were about an argument between housemates Marcus Akin and Sree Dasari, which occurred on Thursday. Tensions had been building between the two, with the pair erupting into a shouting match in which Akin made a verbal threat to Dasari. He was called to the diary room, where he was given a formal warning about his behaviour.

Big Quiffed movie critic Mark Kermode and 5Live DJ Simon Mayo are to adapt their BBC podcasts for TV as a segment within BBC2's new-look The Culture Show. The Screening Room will be a weekly part of the show that will for the first time bring visuals to the pair's sparring over the movie world. If it's successful, The Culture Show producer Eddie Morgan is eyeing it up as a potential stand-alone show that could air in an extended cut. The TV version will bring their movie discussions to an invited audience - who will be asked to join in the debate - and will also feature film clips. Mayo will chair, giving Kermode free rein to tackle his pet loves and loathes at length. Rather than focusing on the latest cinema and DVD releases, the item, which will run for ten to fifteen minutes, will look at a different genre each episode. The Screening Room launches next week with movies set in schools. The pair have recorded four debates so far at The Roxy in London. Other themes under debate include summer blockbusters and films about musicians.

UKTV will enter a new era this summer after signing a landmark deal giving it access to almost two hundred hours of Channel 4 content. The multimillion-pound, two-year deal will give UKTV's newly rebranded channels access to shows such as Green Wing, cutting their reliance on BBC archive content and strengthening UKTV's position in the pay-TV market. It also illustrates the potential for a formal tie-up between C4 and UKTV's co-owner, BBC Worldwide. The content will air across four of the new-look channels - Watch, G.O.L.D, Dave and Yesterday - giving a major boost to output. Dave, for example, will be able to air comedy shows such as Star Stories and Smack the Pony alongside their popular favourites Top Gear, QI and Have I Got News For You while Yesterday will show Peter Kosminky's drama The Government Inspector.

Where Phileas Fogg and Michael Palin went first, so Frank Skinner, John Barrowman and Mylene Klass are set to follow. They are among six teams of celebrities who are to go around the world in eighty days in a fresh take on the epic voyage. Respecting the heritage of Fogg and Palin, the modern travellers, who will be raising money for Children in Need as part of the challenge, will not be allowed to use planes, although any other means of transport, from camels to Bullet trains, will be acceptable. On Children In Need Night in November the celebrities, who also include Shane Richie, Josie Lawrence, Lee Mack, and Saira Khan and The Apprentice's Nick Hewer, will head for the BBC studios to find out just how much they have raised. Around the World in Eighty Days is just one of the highlights of BBC1's autumn season, which was unveiled today. Children in Need is also the focus of another new programme initiative: to launch the 2009 appeal a concert will be staged at the Royal Hall Albert Hall put together by Gary Barlow, featuring Take That and 'a host of rock and pop's finest.' Full details will be announced in the autumn. There will be more song and dance in Strictly Come Dancing, returning for a seventh series, with Alesha Dixon on the panel replacing the sacked Arlene Phillips in, quite frankly, the worst kept secret in showbusiness history. On the more serious side, there will be a look at some of the most influential artists of our time with a four part series that makes the claim that Picasso, Dali Matisse and Warhol are 'modern masters.' 'I am passionate about ensuring BBC1 reaches the widest possible audience,' said BBC controller Jay Hunt who introduced the new season. 'By taking creative risks that surprise and entertain I believe this autumn's line up of shows will do just that.'

ITV has effectively handed a commissioning tick to its business affairs team by insisting that commissioners prove a programme's business worth as well as its creative merit. Commissioners must now demonstrate the return on investment [ROI] of potential orders to ITV channels commercial director Jonathan Rogers, as well as winning the usual creative seal of approval from director of programmes Peter Fincham. The system has been ramped up since it was introduced by director of corporate development and strategy Carolyn Fairbairn last autumn, and now sits at the heart of the commissioning process. An ITV source said: 'There has always been someone calculating the money spent per bum on seat, but it's only in recent months that it's been used to rule on whether or not something should get commissioned. The ROI conversations are becoming much more pivotal than they ever were.' The source added: 'The [initiative] was driven through by business affairs and by the board who said we were putting too much on the channels that was too high risk, that we needed a different business model. This is a more scientific way of doing things.' However, ITV director of programmes Peter Fincham can still push through commissions he believes in, if he can convince the board they are key to keeping talent or boosting the ITV brand. 'He is the first among equals,' one source said.

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