Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What's That Skip? You're Making HOW Much From Merchandising Rights?

It's another hot dog-dangling day on the estate (albeit, one with thunderstorms and flash floods) as Britain verily broils and stews in its own collective juices. So let's have some hot Top Telly News to go along with it. Or, clammy Top Telly News at any rate.

One of the stars of Skippy has lost a court battle over profits from the legendary Australian show. Tony Bonner, who played the helicopter pilot Jerry King in the 1960s series, had been seeking a pay-out of seven hundred and fifty thousand Australian dollars (about three hundred and sixty thousand quid). But a judge in Sydney dismissed the case, saying Bonner had no rights to monies from DVD and merchandise sales. Skippy, of course, followed the exploits of a brave little bush kangaroo, its young owner Sonny and the rangers of the Waratah National Park. The popular children's show aired in Australia from 1965 to 1968 and was shown in more than one hundred other countries. Bonner decided to sue Fauna Productions last year, claiming he had missed out on a reasonable share of the profits. 'When I signed the agreement with them for production in 1967, VHS was not even heard of, let alone DVDs or the Internet,' he said at the time. However, Supreme Court Justice Ian Gzell said the actor, now sixty five, had been paid for his services with the one hundred and forty Australian dollars weekly salary he earned in 1968. When asked to comment, Skippy noted 'ccckkkk, ccckkkk, ccckkkk.' Which is fair enough, frankly.

It is, of course, very wrong to crow about such things I know, but ITV suffered its worst seven days of ratings in its fifty four-year history last week. According to initial ratings figures, ITV pulled in an overnight share of 16.1 percent for the week ending 28 Sunday June. This compares with a previous weekly low of 16.13 percent, recorded three weeks ago. The ITV flagship channel also had its worst ever week for the key upmarket ABC1 demographic, with just a 13.6 percent share of the advertiser-friendly group. Last week's bad ratings have been put down to a largely uninspiring schedule of repeats and cheaper factual shows, with a distinct lack of programming aimed at the key sixteen to thirty four-year-old demographic according to the Guardian. The only first-run dramas outside the continuing series Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Bill were Kingdom and The Royal. Meanwhile, the first week of the BBC's Wimbledon coverage sucked away older viewers, and ITV did not have any sports events of its own to lure people in. BBC1 has beaten ITV in daytime ratings for some years and the commercial channel has relied on its peak time output to prop up its share. However, last week no show pulled in more than four and a half million in the key 9pm hour, while Coronation Street's five editions were the only ITV shows to exceed the six million mark. The ratings lows have quickly followed the highs that ITV had via Britain's Got Talent last month, with its final results programme claiming over seventeen million viewers – the highest-rating TV programme on any channel since England played in the Euro 2004 football tournament. To compound the channel's misery, June is looking to be one of its worst full months ever, just behind August last year – when the BBC's Beijing Olympics coverage steamrollered the opposition.

Former Emmerdale star Matt Healy will make a guest appearance in BBC1's medical drama Casualty according to Digital Spy. Healy, who played Yorkshire businessman Matthew King for four years from 2004 until the character was murdered just before Christmas 2008, will take on the role of an unsympathetic policeman called Callaghan in the third episode of the new series.

The actress Mollie Sugden has died at the age of eighty six at the Royal Surrey Hospital after a long illness. Sugden was best known for playing the pussy-loving Mrs Slocombe in the long-running BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? and its shorter-lived sequel, Grace and Favour. The actress also appeared in The Liver Birds, Coronation Street and, let us never forget, the mind-numbingly dreadful Come Back Mrs Noah among many other roles in a small-screen career spanning nearly fifty years.

And, in another 'we lost one of the greats, today' moments, the Los Angeles Times reports the death of Karl Malden at the age of ninety seven. A versatile and popular actor, Malden built a six-decade Hollywood career playing both heroes and heavies. He won an Oscar for his magnetic supporting performance to Brando in 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire and appeared in classic movies as diverse as On the Waterfront, Baby Doll, I Confess, The Birdman of Alcatraz, How the West Was Won, One-Eyed Jacks and The Cincinnati Kid. On television, he was best known for his role as the hardened and wise-cracking detective Mike Stone in Quinn Martin's The Streets of San Francisco from 1972 to 1977. During the 1980's he was spokesperson for American Express, reminding cardholders 'Don't leave home without it' in a series of well-remembered adverts. Malden's last acting role was in 2000 in the acclaimed Take This Sabbath Day episode of The West Wing. Malden portrayed a Catholic priest opposite his friend Martin Sheen in a key scene set in The Oval Office. He used the same Bible that he had in On the Waterfront fifty years earlier.

Cutting the new series of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood to five episodes from thirteen felt like 'we were being punished,' its star John Barrowman has said. The BBC has stated that it 'wanted to create a powerful sense of event' with Children of Earth, which will start next Monday. Which is fair enough in a sort of 'yes, but that doesn't actually answer the question of why you're making eight less episodes this year than last' kind-of way, I suppose. Barrowman told Radio Times: 'I'm going to get a little political and I'll probably get into trouble for it.' Yep. That's any chance of season four now hanging by a very thin thread I'd've said, John. Nice work, matey! He added that Torchwood's first series had been 'the most successful show on BBC3 ever' and, as a result, had been moved to BBC2 where 'we were beating shows that had been on BBC2 for a long time. The decision was made to go to BBC1 and then we were cut.' Barrowman said the new episodes were 'incredible, I have no doubt about that. But personally, I felt like we were being punished.' The show's creator Russell T Davies told the magazine: 'Part of us thought, "we could do another thirteen episodes, we've learnt how to do that, and the second series was better than the first. But why not change it?"' He added that if the show was made in the US, 'they'd try to keep it going for seven years, doing the same thing every week. It's the British audience we make these for. And I don't think audiences are remotely lost by a change in format.'

Five executive Dawn Airey has warned that if British broadcasters fail to build mutually beneficial partnerships 'the creators and providers of UK content are not so much looking at a perfect storm as staring into the abyss.' Speaking at the IEA Future of Broadcasting Conference, Airey urged the industry to 'co-operate in areas of mutual interest to build new markets in which we are able to compete – and then return to stabbing each other in the back over the broadcast schedules.' She pointed out that if Project Canvas and Marquee have to sit in a 'limbo land' of endless approvals processes and competition tests, the “major beneficiary” is likely to be an American company such as Hulu. Airey continued: 'Hulu is the biggest success story of the web over the past 12 months. And why has it succeeded? Because three ferociously competitive global media players – Fox, NBC Universal and now Disney-ABC – are grown up enough to know that there is a time to compete and fight likes rats in a sack for audience share and there is a time to put aside your differences and form partnerships that are mutually beneficial.'

Having made the suggestion the other day that Davina McCall start looking for another job after the ratings disaster-area that the current series of Big Brother has turned into, it would seem she's taken my advice. But, she faces some stiff competition. Holly Willoughby and Davina are reportedly battling it out to take over from Fern Britton on This Morning. According to the Daily Mail, ITV has narrowed down a long list of potential replacements - which included Fiona Phillips, Mel Sykes and Gabby Roslin - to McCall and Dancing On Ice host Willoughby. A source is quoted as saying: 'There are good reasons for having either one of them - they appeal in different ways. We are in a buyer's market for this job and talent are not dumb. They know it is a very good gig.'

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans will be interested to hear about the forthcoming True Blood, which is promised to be 'a sexy vampire drama in the style of Twilight' from the US starring that divine vision of minxy loveliness Anna Paquin (Almost Famous) and Ryan Kwanten. The series premieres on FX in about a fortnight and Channel 4 have confirmed they've got the terrestrial rights and will start showing the series in October.

And so to this week's thoroughly wretched, cancerous, humourless non-story attack on some aspect of Top Gear at MediaGuardian - a regular topical occurance as long-term blog readers will know. This was, apparently, the work of one Jill Insley. Check it out and see what you think. I reckon it's about as thoroughly substandard a bit of objective journalism as I've read this decade, quite besides being an almost Stalinist-style rewriting of history. Though others may, of course, disagree. It's based on a complete non-issue for a kick-off and the main thrust of the piece was actually addressed within the show itself. It's an article which appears to be entirely designed to appeal to a few hippy scum liberals in Islington (well, it is the Gruniad, I suppose, that could be regarded to 'hitting their target audience') and to give a bit of free publicity to some woman from an insurance company called Hayley. I wonder if she and Comrade Jill are friends outside work? Possibly not. It's lovely to see the Gruniad still happily sharing a bed and giving it some stroky-trombone with the Daily Mail in their mutual loathing of The Gear. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if they are right wing scumbags isn't it guys? That was Stalin's excuse in 1939, anyway. It is nice, however, to see a bit of positive counter-reaction from the readership in the comments section. Jill getting a bit jacked there. Horrorshow.

According to the Mirror today, Channel 4 are now so skint that The Paul O'Grady Show may be going back to ITV when the current contract comes up for renewal at the end of the year.

North One's hidden camera series My Little Soldier has been renamed Tarrant Lets the Kids Loose after securing the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? host for the show. As revealed in Broadcast, UKTV was courting Tarrant to front the eight episode show for Watch, taking over from Bradley Walsh who presented a pilot which was originally made for ITV. Always a popular entry in the 'about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition' column is Tarrant. Rumours that the title Chris Tarrant Touches Kids was considered but then dropped may, or may not, be true. I couldn't possibly comment. The broadcaster has secured Tarrant following the departure of its previous high profile signings Richard and Judy. The series invites children to try out adult jobs such as running a café, a radio station or a hairdressers – unaware that cameras are following them. Only when they sit in the live studio audience with their families will they discover that their unusual day was for a TV show. So, nice to see a bit of child victimisation on the TV schedules there. Albeit, nowhere near as funny as BSB's legendary Kids Court. UKTV director of entertainment commissioning Lisa Perrin, who commissioned the show, described it as 'wonderfully heart-warming and capricious.' She added: 'It takes you from laughter to tears and back in every single episode. You just can’t second guess the reactions of the children as they delight in their new-found Independence.' Tarrant added: 'Kids are funny, magical and always surprising. What parent hasn't told an anecdote about the funny things their children say? This show totally captures the spirit and the inherent comedy of children – it's the kind of family entertainment I love.' The series begins filming in front of a live studio audience in July and will premiere on Watch in October. Just kill me now.

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