Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hamster Baiting, Drugs And Rock & Roll

Radio dee-jay, chat show host and all round top chap Simon Dee, one of the biggest stars on British TV of the late 1960s, has died at the age of seventy four. He first found fame on pirate station Radio Caroline and, according to Elizabeth Hurley, his dandy-about-town Sixties grooviness made him the inspiration for the character of Austin Powers. Like John Peel and Michael Palin an Old Salopian, in 1967 Dee, real name Cyril Nicholas Henty-Dodd, was seen as a natural successor to David Frost, who had recently deserted the Beeb for London Weekend Television. Dee began his early evening chat show Dee Time and the show became massively popular, with up to eighteen million viewers at one point, and guests that included Sammy Davis Jr, Lee Marvin, Charlton Heston, and John Lennon. Dee Time opened with sports presenter Len Martin announcing 'It's Siiiiimon Dee!', imitating The Johnny Carson Show and would regularly close with a shot of Dee driving off in an E-type Jaguar with blonde model, Lorna McDonald. After himself moving to LWT in 1970 (ironically, to front a show that immediately followed Frost's) Dee's contract was, controversially, terminated six months later. The final edition of the chat show included a bizarre interview with the actor George Lazenby, who had reportedly been smoking cannabis beforehand and who outlined - at some length - his theories about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. The show was dropped soon afterwards and Dee's career never recovered. Dee later claimed that there was an Establishment plot against him because of his open opposition to Harold Wilson's government and their policies in relation to pirate radio. Certainly, recently released government files show that Dee was, indeed, being monitored by the Secret Service during this period. Simon was always synonymous with the spirit of the Swinging Sixties and rubbed shoulders with many of the biggest names of the day. In the 2004 Channel 4 show Dee Construction, fellow broadcaster Tony Blackburn recalled, 'He used to drive up and down the King's Road in an Aston Martin driven by his secretary. To be honest, I thought that was a bit of a waste of money.' He also, famously, had a memorable cameo in The Italian Job (1969), playing Charlie Croker's tailor. His daughter Domino Henty-Dodd noted he her father had bone cancer. 'He was dearly loved by his family,' she said. And by many, many TV viewers of 'a certain age,' too.

Independent trade body PACT has warned that a number of local authorities are rejecting plans to feature children in television shows, on the basis that they do not like the scripts. Speaking at the Edinburgh International TV Festival on 'duty of care,' PACT chief executive John McVay warned that several councils across the UK were becoming more interested in making licence application decisions based on editorial content and, in some cases, had rejected licences because of that content. Local authorities are responsible for granting performance and stage licences to indendent producers. The licences stipulate how many breaks the performers must have, as well as the hours they are allowed to work and rules around appointing a chaperone. McVay said: 'What's become clear in the view of the regulation, is that there are a number of groups including local authorities and a number of child psychologists who are not only interested in all those issues - absolutely important and integral for looking after the care of children - but about the editorial content of a programme. We know of a number of local authorities that refused children appearing in an amateur dramatic scripted programme on the basis of a script - and that's probably not allowed in legislation.' McVay added that local authorities were lobbying to vet the contents of programmes including factual entertainment.

X Factor judge Cheryl Cole's former boyfriend Jason Mack has revealed in a new biography that his drugs problem caused the singer a lot of worry and stress. According to the News of the World, the star began dating Mack aged sixteen when he was already addicted to cocaine. He began taking heroin later in the relationship. Mack recalled Cole, then Cheryl Tweedy, pleading with him to come clean: 'You don't need it, man! Why do you need that when you got me?' He continued: 'She wasn't eating. And she wasn't sleeping from the worry, in case she had to identify me on a slab somewhere. She lost that much weight that people actually thought she was taking heroin with me.' Mack also admitted that he sold five hundred pounds worth of designer clothes Cole had bought him as a Christmas present to pay for drugs. Upon discovering this, Cole said that he had to choose between her and the drugs and Mack walked away. Ah well, never mind mate, who won in the end, eh? ... It was her, wasn't it? Stupid question, really.

Joe Francis has denied all accusations made against him by Brody Jenner. The Girls Gone Wild founder, who was reportedly involved in a brawl with the Hills star and his girlfriend Jayde Nicole on Friday, has dismissed claims that he physically attacked Nicole. Francis told MTV: 'This was an unprovoked attack. The security camera footage pretty much confirms my account of the events entirely... I was talking with a friend of mine. I got punched in the back and then all of a sudden, Jayde poured a drink, and then a glass hits me in the head. I turned around. I reached over. I see it's a girl, the head of the girl. I wanted to turn her head around. I grabbed her hair and the next thing I know, my shirt's being ripped. I'm punched in the face. I go into the submissive ball until the whole thing gets settled down. I remember having a cigarette with Chris, and the next thing, I was on the ground, so I don't remember the punch, but Brody punched me.' The thirty six-year-old entrepreneur is said to be 'pretty angry' with the altercation, reportedly having sustained various injuries, including 'swollen jaw, cuts and bruises,' all over his body.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards believes that it is inevitable the BBC will have to publish the salaries it pays its stars in the future. Asked by ITV's Peter Fincham whether the current 'age of transparency' meant the corporation would have to bow to political and press pressure and reveal what it pays its top talent, Richards said: 'It looks that way to me.' He said: 'Where the public is paying for something they expect to know where that money is going. If millions are being paid to an individual it feels hard to keep it secret.' Richards also insisted that Ofcom is not the regulatory villain that James Murdoch has recently claimed and pointed to the government as the key force in setting the regulation agenda. He said that the suggestion Ofcom should dramatically scale back its regulation was too simplistic. 'It's easy to say, but underneath that it's hard to tell me which bit of regulation you don't want. With the Broadcasting Code we have a legal duty to consider every complaint. When accepted standards are discussed in Parliament, the reaction is not that there’s too much [regulation], but that there's not enough. If we have legal duty to do it, we should do it properly. Does everybody believe there should be less economic regulation? There's a range of broadcasters who say "we'd like more." Sky doesn't want it, but there's a range of others who do. On ad-sales, ITV doesn't want regulation, but Channel 4 and Five do. Which bit of regulation don't you want? The main determinant of the level of intervention is the government. Whether there will be a BBC or whether Channel 4 should be in the public sector are questions for the government.' He added that the accusation of a micro-managed industry where Ofcom was determining the type of content that is being screened was 'not a description that I recognise.'

VH-1 president Tom Calderone has admitted that he is not pleased with the tone of many of the network's shows. The channel recently cancelled Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3, the former after a contestant, Ryan Jenkins, was accused of killing his ex-wife Jasmine Fiore. Jenkins was later found dead in a Canadian hotel room, while questions were raised about how the thirty two-year-old's criminal history was missed in a background check. However, Calderone has revealed that the fallout from the tragic series of events will lead to changes in VH-1's programming. He said that he is 'trying to get together' with 51 Minds Entertainment – the company that produced the now-cancelled shows - in order to reprioritise the content of their series'. He told the Los Angeles Times: 'This is not what I signed up for. We always want 51 Minds to be part of our arsenal and stable of creativity, but the only way VH-1 will survive and be healthy is to have several different voices and production partners.' Calderone cited The T.O. Show as an example of the direction he'd like to take VH-1 in. The programme features American footballer Terrell Owens trying to rehabilitate his career and image, which Calderone said is a more 'redemptive' kind of programme. He explained: 'We don't want our viewers tuning in and feeling like it's the same network all the time, that is not something we want to be famous for.'

ITV is yet to fully commit to a micropayment strategy for some online content and is wrestling with where to pitch charges and agreeing a common payment system with other players. Tony Cohen, chief executive of The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent-owner FremantleMedia, has revealed the production giant believes it can develop a model where it charges as little as fifteen pence for some short-form content. ITV executive chairman Michael Grade and other senior ITV execs have spoken about the potential for tiny payments for full episodes or clips of its shows, such as Britain's Got Talent. But ITV director of online content Ben McOwen Wilson said the company had yet to finalise its plans and added that there were still questions to be asked. 'It's not a slam dunk. Advertising is core for us and where we are focusing our efforts to monetise content,' he concluded.

Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive of Five-owners RTL, has said all free-to-air broadcasters will need a pay strategy to reverse an industry-wide decline in revenues. Speaking at Edinburgh, Zeiler predicted that economic recovery is still a way off and a paid-for model would need to be adopted to generate revenues. 'I simply don't believe that we will see a quick recovery in advertising revenues, nor do I think they will return to previous levels as fast and easily as some of us may think,' he said. 'Every major free-to-air commercial broadcasting group will need a pay strategy. Each of them will have to identify which part of their offer is so exclusive and unique that it would work in a pay environment. On the one hand some programme offers will switch from free-to-air to pay tv, and on the other hand we will see the development of new pay channels from what so far have been pure free-to-air media companies.' Zeiler stated that the consumer – directly or indirectly – will have to 'step up' if the advertising industry can't pay broadcasters bills.

Animated characters Wallace and Gromit are to present a new BBC1 programme about inventions. The popular duo will introduce documentary footage of scientific breakthroughs, drawing on Wallace's own characterisation as an absent-minded inventor in films such as A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers. 'In Wallace and Gromit’s World of Inventions, Wallace will take a light hearted and humorous look at the real-life inventors, contraptions, gadgets and inventions, with the silent help of Gromit,' the BBC said. 'The series will aim to inspire a whole new generation of innovative minds by showing them real, but mind-boggling, machines and inventions from around the world that have influenced his illustrious inventing career.' BBC1 controller Jay Hunt said had she commissioned the show from Aardman Animations, in a bid to find more accessible routes into heavyweight factual topics. 'We've got to be creative about how we take difficult subjects and bring them to a mass-market audience. It's got to be done in a way that doesn't say, "Sit up straight and eat your bran and here's a bit about the Nazi's,"' she said. She also called for more mainstream history shows, to sit alongside the channel's successful genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?

Big Brother has been 'complianced to within an inch of its life' following restrictions introduced after the 2007 race row, presenter Davina McCall has said. The reality show host also claimed she was disappointed the programme was being axed – and suggested that she had thought of going into the house for the final Celebrity Big Brother series next year. Channel 4 confirmed it would drop Big Brother in 2010 following final summer and celebrity series after a dip in ratings. McCall, speaking at Edinburgh, said the show had become harder to make, with new rules put in place after the racial bullying row involving Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty. 'I mustn't talk about compliance because I will say something I will regret,' she said. 'Don't get me started on compliance. We were the programme where the naughty things happened and we are not allowed naughty things anymore. But even now when we are complicanced to an inch of our lives. It is one of the best series ever. We are so restricted but it is the tasks that provide the comedy and humour. I do feel compliance has been an issue and it has made the programme harder to make but we have still provided one of the best.' McCall said she believed compliance issues had been one of the reasons why the live daytime streaming of the show on E4 had been axed – although the broadcaster has insisted it was because of declining ratings. 'I think streaming is harder,' she said. 'There has been a lot of complaints about streaming not being on during the day, and I think that is harder because of the compliance.' McCall also said she thought the show would stay on air forever. 'It didn't overstay its welcome,' she said. 'If you hate it, you will be really glad it will be off the screens. I will be grieving a lot. I have already started my greiving process, but I am trying to stay chipper because we have got another year. I thought it would go on forever. I seriously did. I thought it could run forever with amazing casting and great housemates.'

Comedian Stewart Lee is alleged to have launched a strongly-worded attack on the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, saying that he wished Hammond had been 'decapitated' in the high-speed crash that almost cost the popular presenter his life. In a performance of his current Edinburgh fringe stage-show last week, the forty one-year-old Lee, star of BBC2's critically acclaimed Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, reportedly accused Hammond and his Top Gear colleagues of being 'bullies' and joked about the crash which left Hammond suffering from brain damage. Lee, interestingly, went to the same school as Hammond in Solihull - although he was two years ahead of the presenter. When he was confronted about his onstage comments by a reporter, Lee told the Daily Mail on Friday: 'I don't want to talk about it. They do jokes on Top Gear don't they? Treat it as a joke.' Fair comment, I suppose - humour comes in many different shapes and forms, and some of it is not for the faint-heatred or the thin-skinned. Still, it's a bit nasty, though, particularly as Lee is alleged by the paper to have stated, during his act, 'I wish ... that his head had rolled off in front of his wife.' Lee's spokeswoman played the incident down, adding: 'I don't think they knew each other at school.' The Hamster's thoughts on the matter have yet to appear in public. Actually, to be honest, if he's wise it might be an idea for Richard to maintain a dignified silence. He's a witty chap, but I'd hate to get into a public slanging-match with Stewie Lee, who is very good at dishing out the insults.

Sky1 controller Stuart Murphy has revealed plans for a fifty per cent boost in scripted content and a 3D interview series hosted by 'a famous footballer.' The broadcaster will film two episodes of the forthcoming eight-part series, which will air next year on the Sky's HD service, alongside the previously announced 3D episode of Twofour Broadcast's Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year Old? 'It's a bit like Cribs,' he told delegates at Edinburgh. 'It’s a bit like when television was in black and white and people thought, "Well, you need snooker in colour but everything else can be black and white." Actually, I think 3D will be the norm if Sky has its way.' He also called for more UK dramas with 'idiosyncratic' protagonist, to make sure they are 'tonally consistent' with Sky's US imports like Lost and House. The broadcaster currently airs around three big single dramas and two six-part series each year, but Murphy said he plans 'to do a lot more than that. I hope to do half as much again. The skew of Sky1 is going to be a lot more scripted,' he said. He previously told Broadcast that he has thirteen comedy projects in development and aims to pilot around eight of them when Lucy Lumsden joins as controller of comedy at the end of October – with a view of launching three to four new comedy series next year. Murphy also used the platform to publicly disagree with his boss James Murdoch's claim that the BBC is 'throttling' creativity. Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and Asia, made the allegation in his MacTaggart lecture, but Murphy – who is a previous BBC3 controller – today took a different line. 'I don't [agree], actually. The BBC's a creative place and Sky's also a creative place,' he said. Quite right Stuart. Now, let's see if you're still in a job come next week. Cos normally when you disagree with a Murdoch you wake up in the morning with a horses head in your bed.

Michael MacIntyre's Live at the Apollo is the fifth most watched show on BBC iPlayer over the last twelve months as comedy proves one of the best performing genres in on-demand content. The top four shows were, somewhat predictably, EastEnders, Top Gear, Doctor Who and The Apprentice, but Nelson said the appearance of Apollo at number five was partly due to the genre being well-suited to online viewing. BBC Vision controller of multiplatform and portfolio Simon Nelson said: 'Comedy is really punching above its weight as people are looking online for something funny. They're after good snackable content.' He also pointed to BBC1 comedy Outnumbered, which attracts over four per cent of its audience on iPlayer, as 'finding new audiences' online. Nelson admitted factual shows were 'finding it harder' suggesting a longer window than seven-day catch-up might help the genre but said entertainment was 'cutting through' and didn't work only as linear events on live TV. He added that drama performed well, 'arguably better than linear' when it comes to sustaining an audience over a series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG Once again Joe the scumbag loser is trying to intimidate a woman. He beat Jayde to a pulp and now, in a pathetic attempt to intimidate her, he is spreading lies to anyone who will listen! Give it up Joe cause YOU KNOW what those tapes really show!