Monday, July 06, 2009

The Scum Also Rises But, Just Occasionally, Is Satisfyingly Slapped Down

Let's start the week with - for once - some terrific news: The Press Complaints Commission, normally a toothless entity at the best of times, has strongly criticised the Scottish Sunday Express, saying it was guilty of a 'serious error of judgement.' The PCC upheld a complaint against the paper after it published a front page article on 8 March this year, under the headline Anniversary shame of Dunblane, alleging that survivors of the 1996 massacre had 'shamed the memory of their dead friends' by boasting about drunken nights out on social networking websites. This claim was based on pictures and information gleaned wholly from such sites which, according to the paper, portrayed the teenagers as 'foul-mouthed' youths who 'boast about sex, brawls and drink-fuelled antics.' You know, the sort of thing that most normal eighteen year olds spend their time talking about in other words. A journalist working for the paper named Paula Murray seemingly realised that the survivors of the shooting would now be eighteen, meaning that their photos could be legally published. Having, apparently, trawled sites like Facebook and Bebo, she wrote a front page article, slamming them for daring to make comments about sex and binge drinking. The story prompted a huge wave of public indignation and revulsion - with more than ten thousand people signing an online petition attacking the paper's tawdry idea for what constitutes 'news' - and prompted a number of complaints to the press watchdog and other public condemnation. TV writer Graham Linehan, for instance, wrote a particularly heartfelt and thoughtful piece The Express wins the race to the bottom whilst one particular media watch-blog did to Paula Murray exactly what she had done to her unfortunate victims — looked her up on Facebook, swiped some photos of her drinking with friends and found various comments that she had made apparently bragging about boozing, saying she had 'fallen off the wagon' and was feeling 'legless.' The offending article was swiftly removed from the Express website, but despite this has continued to provoke strong reactions, particularly among the blogging community. An online petition was quickly drawn up asking for a front-page apology from the paper, as well as disciplinary action to be taken against the journalist and editor responsible; by the 30 March when it closed, this had attracted 11,186 signatures. Criticism has also attached itself to Elizabeth Smith, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, who was quoted within the article as describing the contents of some blogs as 'in bad taste,' a comment which was implied by the article to apply to those of the Dunblane survivors. Smith has since claimed that her comments were quoted out of context, and were directed at teenage bloggers in general — a claim disputed by the Scottish Sunday Express' editor, Derek Lambie. A complaint to the PCC from the parents of two of the young people named in the article protested that the story was outrageously intrusive, identified their children as survivors and published information about their private lives, including pictures. In the PCC ruling, the Scottish Sunday Express acknowledged that the tone of the article had been ill-judged. 'Bloody disgraceful' might have been a slightly more honest and contrite assessment, frankly. The paper had published a rather limp and sorry excuse for an apology for the 'terrible offence' it had caused to those who survived the Dunblane shooting two weeks after it ran the original article. The Express's defence was, essentially, that the identities of the Dunblane survivors had been published previously and that the information about them had been obtained from publicly accessible websites. In making its ruling, the PCC did not accept that this crass and flimsy argument justified what was 'a serious intrusion,' and said that the apology, while appropriate, was nowhere even close to being a 'sufficient remedy to breaching its code of practice. They were not public figures in any meaningful sense and the newsworthy event that they had been involved in as young children had happened thirteen years previously,' said the PCC in its adjudication. 'Since then they had done nothing to warrant media scrutiny, and the images appeared to have been taken out of context and presented in a way that was designed to humiliate or embarrass them.'

A Doctor Who movie starring David Tennant will be announced at the Comic-Con event later this month, according to various - mostly unsubstantiated - Internet rumours. Speculation is growing that the BBC may confirm the big screen version at the five-day convention, which is held annually in San Diego. Tennant will be attending alongside departing executive producer Russell Davies. Previously, Tennant has revealed that he has signed up for an unidentified 'sci-fi project,' while Davies has hinted that an announcement of a 'special project' would be coming soon, telling Doctor Who Magazine 'News as and when, but I can promise, it's worth waiting for.' Personally, I'll believe it when I see it. But, it'd be really nice if it happened.

Former Royle Family actress Liz Smith has revealed that she is to bow out of acting after suffering a stroke. The eighty seven-year-old actress who played Nana in the cult BBC comedy, said that although she is getting stronger, she accepts further acting roles are likely to be beyond her. 'I do get muddled and sometimes feel I have to reach for words that elude me,' she said. The actress has been recovering since spending two months in hospital earlier this year following the stroke. 'I was getting terribly tired anyway, although I'd like to think I could eventually write again,' she said. 'I've got stories in my head, but I'm nearly ninety, so if I don't do much now at least I've earned a rest.' Smith is featuring in BBC4's Grey Expectations series, which aims to challenge preconceptions about what is possible for the over-sixties. Liz Smith's Summer Cruise, which airs on Sunday coming, sees the star invited to do something she'd never done before - embark on a luxury cruise. Born in Scunthorpe in 1921, Liz didn't even take up acting full-time until she was close to fifty but became a household name in Peter Tinniswood's hit 1970s Northern sitcom I Didn't Know You Cared. She's most recently been seen in Lark Rise to Candleford. I'm sure that all From The North's readers would like to join Keith Telly Topping in wishing dear Liz all the very best for a happy, long and relaxing retirement for all of the pleasure that she's given us over the years in Ripping Yarns, The Life & Loves of a She-Devil, 2point4 children, Tom's Midnight Garden, A Private Function and, especially, The Royle Family.

Jonathan Ross has been cleared of suggestions that comments he made on his Radio2 show were 'homophobic.' During Ross's Saturday morning radio show on 9 May, Ross discussed the prizes for that week's competition with his producer, Andy Davies. Ross said: 'If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, then you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption in later life, when they settle down with their partner.' Ofcom received sixty one complaints from listeners who expressed concern that the comment were 'offensive and derogatory' towards the gay community. Quite why these ludicrous, reactionary, tight-arsed busybodies weren't told go and stuff themselves without wasting time and money on actually investigating such a trivial and pointless matter is unclear. Although, the fact that it was Ross involved in the, wholly manufactured 'controversy' and that a Kangaroo court of pompous tabloid scum was clearly waiting in the wings should there be any suggestion of anybody 'taking the matter lightly' may have had something to do with it. The media regulator has ruled that the comments were not in breach of the Broadcasting Code, taking into account that Ross is a well-known personality who has an 'irreverent, challenging and at times risqué humour' that is familiar to his audience. The Ofcom ruling added: 'The comment was clearly presented as a joke intended to make light of the reactions that some parents may have if their child chooses a toy that is very widely recognised to be designed and marketed for the opposite sex.'

Jennifer Beals and Mekhi Phifer are returning to the cast of the excellent Lie To Me, according to an article in The Hollywood Reporter. Phifer, who appeared in the last two episodes of the drama's first season, has been promoted to a series regular in his role as FBI agent Reynolds. Beals, who guest-starred in the season finale as the ex-wife of Tim Roth's character Cal Lightman, will recur in the latest batch of episodes currently being produced.

The creators of Lost have ruled out any spin-offs into movies or comics once the cult show comes to an end next year. At a BAFTA event, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said they owed it to ABC - and the fans - for the sixth series to tie up as many loose ends as possible. Lindelof said: 'We won't be vague and ambiguous; there will be a lot of answers. We feel that if we hold anything back in the final season, it would be bad. Everyone's come this far and they want a conclusion to the story. We've no plans to continue the story of Lost beyond series six. My wife says "never say never." I say "never."' Talking about the pressures facing them as they prepared to enter production on the sixth and final series, they promised it would not feature the complex time travel elements of series five. Instead, it would feel 'more like series one,' Cuse promised, adding: 'There's a circularity to the show.'

For an English actor whose roles have included the half-Spanish, half-Ukrainian son of Pablo Picasso, a French detective, a Spartan statesman and, most famously, an Irish-American Baltimore cop Dominic West is oddly territorial when it comes to casting. The Wire star has accused Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp and Renée Zellweger of 'stealing our great heroes' by playing British characters in an interview with the Gruniad. West's annoyance flared after he took the role of the Australian scientist Professor Howard Florey in Breaking the Mould, a forthcoming BBC4 drama about the discovery of penicillin. 'Florey got the Nobel Prize with Alexander Fleming but was basically lost to history, except in Australia where he was recently voted the greatest Australian of all time,' West said. 'I'd never heard of this guy. But I was sort of smarting from Russell Crowe coming over here and playing Robin Hood and all these foreigners coming over here and stealing our great heroes. I felt I was striking a blow back by being a Brit playing a foreigner. I'd love to play Robin Hood but I'd particularly like to play all those parts Johnny Depp plays that are English people like the Earl of Rochester.' Although West admitted there might be a smidgeon of hypocrisy in his attitude, there were two renowned British characters who, he felt, really should have been played by UK actors. 'I suppose for someone who made quite a lot of money out of being in an American TV show, I shouldn't moan really, but it does annoy me when Beatrix Potter is played by a Texan. What's wrong with our great Kate Winslet; why wasn't she Bridget Jones?' he asked. To confuse matters further, the actor praised the US for allowing people to break free of their backgrounds. 'I don't think I'd have got a McNulty part in England because I'm an Old Etonian,' he said. Rather ironic, also, that this is the very actor who just a couple of months ago was complaining that all we ever seem to produce in Britain is costume drama. Now, seemingly, he wants in on the action.

According to the News of the World STV bosses have declared it's the end of the grim blue line for The Bill in Scotchland. The papers suggests that at £30,000 an episode the show will be cut from the Scottish schedules on 23 July after a twenty six-year run. The move is said to have enraged ITV bosses, but STV Chief Executive Rob Woodward is quoted defended the decision. 'We're taking greater control of our schedule and are absolutely committed to maintaining a healthy creative industry in Scotland by investing in new, high-quality Scottish productions.' How much longer, one wonders, before - like the smoking ban - England is forced to follow suit.

Holly Willoughby has reportedly been offered a £250,000 deal to replace Fern Britton on This Morning. The presenter was believed to have been reading over the contract this weekend just gone (presumably very slowly and mouthing all of the words as she did so) before being unveiled as the programme's new signing later this week. Last month, it was claimed that Willoughby had the backing of long-running This Morning host Phillip Schofield, who already works with the big-chested blonde starlet on Dancing On Ice. A source told the Mirror: "[Holly] has the contract in her hands and can't stop smiling. She knows Phil well and they work with great chemistry on TV, so choosing her meant there was no need for lots of screen tests." It is understood that Willoughby's new role will not affect her commitment to ITV2's The Xtra Factor, which she will work on for the rest of the year.

Kerry Katona is so upset by her recent weight gain that she cannot bear to look at herself in the mirror, it has been claimed. A source told the News Of The World: 'She ballooned back to her old size. And now she can't look in the mirror, she finds it traumatising.' That isn't, really, telly news per se. But Keith Telly Topping has to admit that he finds it a rather amusing piece of crass tittle-tattle and so is including on this blog it in the hope that his dear blog readers will, also. Particularly anybody who has ever had the misfortune to shop at Iceland.

Sir Terry Wogan has complained about the current state of television, claiming that programmes were better fifty years ago. The broadcaster admitted he is unhappy over the number of talk shows and reality programmes in the schedules - as well as the public appetite for them. Wogan told the Sunday Mirror: 'Television has changed. Light entertainment is no longer the expensive quality that it used to be. It's all quiz games and reality TV. Talk shows these days are just cheap TV. In the same way that reality TV is cheap television that humiliates people. There's no point saying there can't be any humiliation, because the public seem to respond to it, it seems to be something they want. But then again the public liked mass executions as well, but we don't do those any more.' Well, maybe that's where we're going wrong Sir Tel? 'To be honest, I don't know where we go from here,' bemoaned Wogan before singling out celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay for criticism, attacking their use of bad language on screen. Keith Telly Topping agress with Sir Tel and also considers that music 'is all just noise these days', that there's 'too much sex on the wireless' and that, 'things were so much better in olden times before all these new-fangled modern inventions.' Keith Telly Topping cordially invites the Radio2 legend and former Blankety Blank host round to Stately Top Telly Tips Manor for a nice cup of sweet milky cocoa and snooze in the chair before Countdown starts.

Richard McKerrow, creative director of Love Productions, has hit back at critics of his Channel 4 series Boys and Girls Alone for making snap judgements claiming they did not what they were talking about. He singled out the anthropologist Penelope Leach and the psychologist Oliver James, who were among forty leading children's experts to label the show as 'child abuse' in a letter to The Times and questioned how they were able to launch the public attack before having actually seen the production. 'I wouldn't dream of attacking anything I hadn't seen, watched and where I hadn’t interrogated what had happened by speaking to the producers,' he said. McKerrow claimed the controversy over the show, about a group of eight-to eleven-year-old boys and girls living by their own rules in isolated cottages in Cornwall, levelled unfair criticism at the duty of care in place. He said that far from being alone, the children were constantly under the watch of trained child chaperones who were on hand to intervene if the youngsters got out of control, as well as camera men and women, and parents via CCTV. 'It was the safest place it can be – more than any nursery. If there is any criticism, it should be about how real it can be if they're so wrapped up in cotton wool.'

Children's broadcasters must stop relying on nostalgia to save kids TV and try to reposition themselves instead, some of the industry's most senior figures have claimed according to Broadcast. Anthony Lilley, chief executive of Magic Lantern Productions and a member of the Ofcom content board, said the TV industry should stop taking a protective stance and instead lobby on the basis of innovation. 'There is a bridgehead [as a result of the Digital Britain report] and to capitalise on it we have to be very child-centric and we have to cast this as an innovation question, not a protection question,' he said. No, I haven't the faintest buggering clue what that is supposed to mean either. But, never mind. The government's policymakers and treasurers are so focused on the 'pipes' to deliver Digital Britain, rather than the experience of living in digital Britain, that it falls to the children's television industry to come up with innovative resolutions itself, Lilley added. Nah. Still not getting it. I recognise some of the words, but ... Do none of you people in executive positions in the media actually speak English, at all? 'Broadcasters have become like penguins huddling on a melting ice float, but the only way they are going to survive is to jump in the water and learn how to swim,' he said. Right. Penguins. Like Pingu, you mean? That was good. Anne Gilchrist, outgoing controller of CBBC, took a similar stance. 'Relying on nostalgia hasn't worked so far so we've got to go after what children will be missing out on if we are not there to innovate,' she said. Now, see, I actually understood that. The problem with nostalgia, of course, is that is isn't what it used to be.

Dear old Mad Grant Morrison is in the early stages of working on a story that explores Wonder Woman's feminism and bondage roots, it has been reported. In conversation with horror author Clive Barker at Los Angeles comic shop Meltdown, the Batman & Robin writer explained the Wonder Woman story he had briefly touched on in the pages of Final Crisis. Digital Spy quotes the author of such ground-breaking comics as Animal Man, The Doom Patrol, Zenith, The New Adventures of Hitler and The Invisibles saying: 'The basics of Wonder Woman come from William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who created the lie detector. His idea was that a utopia would be achieved if men were placed in subjugation to women. So Wonder Woman is a character where you imagine this very strange mélange of girl power, bondage and a slightly disturbed sexuality. There is this bondage element; these extremely weird dark elements of Wonder Woman haven't been adequately dealt with.' He added: 'Wonder Woman remains a really bizarre, untouchable character. She should represent women in the same way Superman represents men.' DC Comics is yet to confirm whether the project will go ahead. I wouldn't hold you breath if I were you! But, it's always lovely to hear Mad Grant go off on one!

Coronation Street actor Reece Dinsdale has quit the soap over fears of being typecast. According, again, to the News Of The World, the former sitcom star - who plays kitchen fitter Joe McIntyre - allegedly turned down a pay increase of a third to his existing £100,000-a-year deal. His character's exit in the Weatherfield serial is expected to tie in with the climax of his ongoing drug addiction storyline which sees him die after an overdose of prescription painkillers. A Corrie source told the tabloid: 'Reece has been a massive hit and top brass thought they could strike a long-term deal. He was offered a massive pay rise but he turned it down. Executives were surprised.'

A bumper audience of just over eleven millon viewers (55.9% audience share) saw Roger Federer claim his record breaking fifteenth grand-slam tennis title as he won the Wimbledon men's singles in an epic five-set match on BBC1. Yeah. Not interested, really. There was, however, further scheduling chaos caused on BBC2 as Sky's Electronic Programme Guide indicated that coverage of the mixed doubles final (the mixed-doubles fer Christ's sake! Who cares?!) would be extended to 8:30. Bad enough, in and of itself, since it would be cutting into the scheduled start time for BBC2's most popular show, Top Gear. In the event, this didn't happen, the Wimbledon coverage - for once - ended exactly when it should. (Take note please BBC, that's all you have to do - have Sue Barker say 'sadly, we've run out of time' - on the next occasion that some five-setter threatens to go on till midnight and STOP ME WATCHING SUPERSIZERS! Yes, I AM still annoyed about it, thank you very much.) Anyway, this appears to have caused at least a portion of Top Gear's audience to miss part of the episode (viewing figures were down by two or three hundred thousand across the hour from the show's usual average). Expect, therefore, a mass charge of angry petrolheads over to SW15 this morning, looking for somebody to attack in their Porsches.

The BBC has axed Graham Norton's Totally Saturday, according to press reports. Last Saturday's episode pulled in just 2.1m viewers compared to 4.3m for the series launch and a slot average of 5.7m. It was outstripped by an ITV repeat of Stephen Mulhern's Animals Do The Funniest Things which pulled in an audience of 3.7m. A BBC source told the Sun: 'Totally Saturday has been totally disastrous. The BBC hoped it would be their answer to Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway on ITV. But viewers just don't seem to like it and even Graham is unhappy with it. He deserves much better than this turkey. It's got two more shows and then it's being consigned to the dustbin.' The show has attracted some high profile guests including Sir Roger Moore and Lionel Richie but has come in for heavy criticism from other BBC presenters. Jonathan Ross said on his Radio2 show: 'Poor Graham, I feel for him watching that show,' whilst Radio1 breakfast DJ Chris Moyles branded it 'appalling.' Well, he'd certainly know all about that.

David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, said that he would take away Ofcom's policy making powers and cut back the communications regulator 'by a huge amount' if his party wins next year's general election. Cameron told BBC Breakfast he planned to save taxpayers money by slimming down Ofcom and other public bodies if he becomes prime minister next year. 'Give Ofcom, or give a new body, the technical function of handing out the licences and regulating lightly the content that is on the screens,' he said. 'But it shouldn't be making policy, it shouldn't have its own Communications Department, the head of Ofcom [Ed Richards] is paid almost half a million pounds,' Cameron added. Well, that's just shocking. It's nearly as much as the average MP claims in allowances for their second home, isn't it? 'We could slim this body down a huge amount and save a lot of money for the taxpayer,' he concluded. Sadly, he stopped short of saying that this wretched quango - full of unelected nobodies - shouldn't even exist and that it is a waste of taxpayers money interferring in matters of artistic concern that are none of its God damn business. Nice try, sir, but I'm still not voting for you. Or any other Eton Rifle for that matter. Hello, hurray.

Finally, a Devon pensioner who has not paid his television licence for nearly seven years has received a court summons. John Kelly, seventy, a retired engineer from Exmouth, has refused to buy one since 2002 after accusing the BBC of 'biased reporting' and being pro-European. He claims BBC reporting on Britain's membership of the European Union did not comply with the Royal Charter. He is due before magistrates in Exeter on 15 July. He faces a fine of up to one thousand pounds if he pleads or is found guilty. The current cost of the annual licence fee is £142.50. Mr Kelly said: 'I love the BBC - it's a unique public service broadcaster and I listen to and watch it as much as anyone else.' He just, seemingly, doesn't want to pay for it. Keith Telly Topping has come over all Tory when he suggested that you should get all righteous on his sorry ass and slam him up in the pokey, judge. With all of the murderers and the rapists and ... the people who nick stuff from Morrison's. No mercy. Personally I'd also introduce a system of transportation to the colonies for those who incite others to watch Britain's Got Talent and the commissioning of anything related to Katie Price would mean the black cap, the rope and the long drop. It's the only language these people understand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always thought Liz Smith was the real star of The Royle Family. I wish her well in her retirement and health.