Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Tale Of Steady Eddie, Mad Frankie, Lonely Pete And Formerly-Employed Kerry

A fine bit of news to start off with; CBBC has ordered a flagship Christmas family drama starring one of Keith Telly Topping's long-time favourites, the great Eddie Izzard as a mysterious man with the ability to 'recover the lost.' Los Angeles-based feature specialist Impact Film & Television will make ninety-minute The Lost Christmas, in which Izzard plays the strange, enigmatic Anthony. He wakes up in a Manchester street on Christmas Eve not knowing where he is or what he is there to do and the drama follows him for the subsequent twenty four hours as he 'transforms the lives of five ordinary people whose lives have been shattered by decisions of their past.' The characters he helps include a young boy who has lost his parents in a car crash, a couple whose child has recently died and a man - played by Primeval's Jason Flemyng - who has lost the book he used to read to his daughter. John Hay, who wrote the drama with Dave Logar, will also direct. Hay told Broadcast: 'Eddie and I always wanted to do something that happens in a single day and we both love Christmas films. It’s going to be a very emotional piece. He is not going to do 'funny Eddie.' It is structured like Crash, in that a string of apparently unconnected episodes piece together at the end, and has the feelgood factor of It's A Wonderful Life.' Sounds rather good, actually - sort of 24-meets-Quantum Leap. Now, my Christmas will be complete, what with David Tennant dying and all that ...

RDF Scotland has won a raft of new commissions, including a thirty-minute Channel 4 pilot fronted by Mock The Week comedian - and quite possibly the funniest man on the planet at the moment - Frankie Boyle. The Frankie Boyle Show - imaginative title lads. I'd've gone for Mad Frankie's Aboot, if you'd only asked my opinion - will offer a mixture of sketches and stand-up and will be filmed before a studio audience later this year. It was ordered from RDF Scotland subsidiary The Comedy Unit by C4 commissioning editor Shane Allen and will be produced by Derek McLean (8 Out Of 10 Cats, Screenwipe). Allen said: 'Frankie's a fearlessly inventive comic and no one can carve a joke to the bone like he does. It's very timely for him to do his own show.' RDF Scotland stablemate IWC Media is making a sixty-minute BBC4 documentary about the film Cabaret, and the 'fascinating and often shocking' stories of the people who made it. Presented by actor Alan Cumming, The Real Cabaret will be part of BBC4's forthcoming Glamour's Golden Age season and was ordered by controller Richard Klein and BBC arts commissioner Mark Bell. IWC Media has also secured an order from BBC Scotland, for the three part Scots Who Made The Modern World. The series will 'plot the influence of Scottish ingenuity' through a catalogue of Scottish inventions. You know, all the ones that Americans are currently boycotting?

Peter Andre has consulted his lawyers after growing concerned about Alex Reid's relationship with his children, according to a press report. The pop star is believed to be upset over the friendship developing between Katie Price's new boyfriend and his children - Junior, and Princess. An 'emergency meeting' between Andre and his legal advisers yesterday was allegedly sparked by reports that the cage-fighter has filmed a rape scene for his new gangster movie which delights in the title Killer Bitch. The singer - pictured left as part of his 'I'm an ideal father figure' publicity shoot - is reported to feel that Reid, himself, is not an 'ideal father figure,' according to the Daily Mirror. 'Pete's number one concern is the welfare of his kids.' The source went on to say that Andrew 'has nothing against Alex' (well, apart from the fact that he's shacked up with his wife, that is), but that 'Peter has been rocked by the ongoing sordid revelations about Alex's private life and now, his career,' the source told the newspaper. 'The crux of the matter is that he and Kate only split up three months ago and she's been dating Alex for a matter of weeks. The kids are going through a hard enough time as it is, trying to get to grips with why mummy and daddy no longer live under one roof.'

Kerry Katona's much-reported arrest on Wednesday came after she allegedly attacked her accountant, it has emerged. Press reports suggest that the reality TV star is being investigated by police over allegations of assault, criminal damage and a public order offence. It has now been claimed that the incident in question saw Katona punching her financial adviser David McHugh after visiting his office at Hawthorne Business Park in Warrington. A 'source' told the Sun: 'She had been through her accounts and was raging. She went to his office to speak to him and was screaming and kicking off. Then she punched him in the face. David started yelling back so she grabbed a cup of tea and threw it in his face - and punched him in the chops again for good measure.' From The North sincerely hopes that the tea was, like most office tea, cold. The alleged incident came just two days after Katona received an official police caution for possession of cocaine. It also followed reports that her bankruptcy status will remain for the foreseeable future. The - seemingly very talkative - insider added: 'Kerry's whole world is imploding. She was in pieces after the police grilled her for almost two hours on Monday and this is the last thing she needs.' Speaking earlier today, a representative for Cheshire Police confirmed that 'a twenty eight-year-old woman was arrested and has been released and granted police bail until 12 October pending further investigation.'

Justin Lee Collins has signed a two-year deal to front a series of shows on Five, it has been announced. Collins - whose recent television credits include Channel 4's The Sunday Night Project, ITV2's The Justin Lee Collins Show and his current series for Sky in which he tries his hand at different occupations - will launch the broadcaster's autumn season with a new prime time gameshow called Heads Or Tails. He is also expected to front a raft of new entertainment and factual shows over the coming months. 'Justin is undoubtedly a unique TV phenomenon who is equally at home in a big studio, out on location or being around the public or celebrities,' said Five's channel controller Richard Woolfe. 'He exudes warmth, passion and guarantees to put a smile on everyone's face. He is indeed the new face of Five. I'm delighted to have secured Justin at such a pivotal point for Five. We have just celebrated fourteen weeks of continued growth - the only terrestrial to do so. Five continues to attract big names and Justin is a key player in our great autumn lineup.' Collins added: 'I am thrilled to bits to be working exclusively with Five and to be making shows that I'm really passionate about.' Only, you know, in a Bristol accent, boy.

The BBC has dismissed reports that Hollyoaks star Ricky Whittle will have an unfair advantage on Strictly Come Dancing this year. Whittle, already has previous dance experience after appearing on BBC1's Let's Dance For Comic Relief alongside fellow Hollyoaks castmembers in February. The charity show saw the soap stars being trained by Strictly's choreographer Richard Marcel. An insider told the Daily Mirror: 'Not only has the Beeb failed to mention that Ricky is already a very good dancer, but they've kept quiet that he's even worked with Strictly's choreographer in the past.' Clearly, not that quietly, since ten million people wacthed him perform in the previous show. Nevertheless, 'Under Marcel's guidance, he put in a stunning performance. It's really unfair as all the contestants are supposed to be total novices.' However, the corporation has insisted that Whittle's performance of 'Footloose' on the programme required different skills to those needed for Strictly's dances. It's the same argument used in regard to Rachel Stevens last year, essentially. Different sort of dancing. A spokesman explained: 'Ricky took part in Let's Dance but it was not Latin or ballroom and he trained for just fifteen hours. Some of Strictly's contestants have some limited dance experience but none of them are professional dancers.' Meanwhile Whittle has vowed to strip down to his thong on the show. The actor, who plays Calvin Valentine in the Chester-based soap, admitted that his body could prove to be his secret weapon in the competition when it kicks off next month. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he revealed: 'I love all the sexy Latin stuff but I get flustered in suits. If it gets me to the final I'll dance in my thong!' Put it away, Ricky.

Still on the subject of Strictly Come Dancing, Arlene Phillips is said to have been being lined up for Sky1's new reality show Just Dance, a report has claimed. The nine-part series, which aims to find the best dancer in Britain, was announced yesterday and is expected to be one of the highlights of the broadcaster's early 2010 schedule. Phillips was axed from Strictly's panel last month in a blaze of controversial publicity but has since been tipped for a new choreography role on the programme, as well as a commentary spot on The ONE Show. A Sky source told the Daily Mail: 'Nothing is agreed with Arlene at the moment, but she is one of a number of people we are talking to. She is in Grease: The School Musical which launches this weekend on Sky1 so we have a relationship with her already and she is very good on that show. She is one of many we are in discussions with.' Big Brother host Davina McCall has already been confirmed as the presenter of Just Dance.

And, former Strictly Come Dancing performer Quentin Willson has encouraged the show to return to its roots this series. The ex-Top Gear host (you know, when it was crap), who took part in the second second of Strictly in 2004, claimed that a humourless attitude from the judges and competitive celebrities has ruined the contest in recent years. Writing in The Spectator, Willson explained: 'Those early programmes had a wholesome amateurism that gave the sequins, American Tan tights and Bruce's toe-curling jokes a context of charming irony. No high seriousness, no hand-wringing about declining dancing standards and no gossip about which A-list celebrity is slated to be signing up next.' He continued: 'An edgy rivalry now stalks the dance floor. There's too much competition, too much vaulting ambition, too much self-obsession. Predictable really. Because like with all big-rating TV formats, a creeping and inevitable metamorphosis has corroded that original simplicity. Strictly is slowly being strangled by its sheer success.' Willson added that Arlene Phillips deserved to be axed from the judging panel due to her treatment of John Sergeant last year. 'She famously insisted that Strictly was purely a dancing show and didn't understand why John should be allowed to stay in week after week,' he commented. 'Arlene didn't get the whole point of the format. In the end she turned quite shirty.'

Cheryl Taylor has landed the role of BBC controller of comedy commissioning, and will remain in Manchester where she currently works as an executive editor. Taylor, whose credits include Gavin And Stacey, Life Of Riley and Black Books, was a popular choice within the BBC to replace Lucy Lumsden, whose maternity leave she covered. The latter left the corporation in June to join Sky as its first comedy commissioner. Taylor's appointment is the first time the corporation has located a genre commissioning tick outside London and marks a major step in the BBC's plans to devolve more decision-making power to the nations and regions. It is also likely to be welcomed by comedy producers, who think Taylor has her own distinctive ideas and will usher in a new era for BBC comedy. According to sources, Taylor was initially reluctant to apply for the role because she did not want to move to its historical London base, but she was courted by BBC management and changed her mind as the application deadline loomed.

BBC4 is to expand its Walks format into a global travel strand with twelve half-hour episodes split into three series. Each will focus on a different country, with presenter the divine and scrummy Julia Bradbury visiting South Africa, Germany and as yet undetermined little-discovered territories. In each episode, she will explore the landscape in a number of walks. The series were commissioned by BBC4 controller Richard Klein and will be executive produced by Eric Harwood and series produced by Owen Rodd for Skyworks.

Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning writer of Gosford Park, is writing a seven-part Edwardian country house drama for ITV. Whitechapel producers Carnival Films has been commissioned to make the 1912-set Downton Abbey and the script will move into pre-production this autumn. The show's concept has echoes of the 1970s cult ITV drama Upstairs, Downstairs, and will focus on the relationship between the Crawley family, who own the Downton estate, and their staff, who live and work at the house. While some are loyal and committed to the family, others try to improve their status, find love and follow adventure. The series, which was commissioned by director of drama Laura Mackie and director of television, channels and online Peter Fincham, will begin with a ninety-minute first episode, with the subsequent six episodes running for an hour. Fellowes, a well known face on TV for many years as an actor, recently wrote the critically acclaimed film, The Young Victoria, and won an Oscar for best original screenplay for Gosford Park in 2001. He said: 'There is no narrative base that can provide members of every level of society, sleeping under a single roof, more believably than a great house before the First War.'

ITV has tasked The X Factor producer Talkback Thames with making the successor to Blind Date - the speed-dating format Take Me Out. The glossy prime time show is director of entertainment and comedy Elaine Bedell's most significant commission since joining ITV and has been ordered for an initial eight episode run. It is in pre-production now and will be broadcast next year. Comedian Paddy McGuinness will host the show, which aims to match a single man with one of thirty women from across the UK, who remain on the show until picked. The man enters the studio and announces just his name, age and where he is from. Each of the girls has a light in front of them, and if they decide the guy is not for them, they switch it off. The women continue to rule themselves in or out as the suitor reveals more of his personality, before one is eventually chosen to go on a date. Up to four matches will be made per show. Take Me Out was originally piloted last year for Channel 4, which called it the 'cattle market of dating shows.' It has now transferred to ITV, which has not had a hit dating show since Cilla Black quit Blind Date in 2003, despite numerous - increasingly desperate - attempts.

Helen Mirren is to star in a 1960s period adaptation of Graham Greene's classic novel Brighton Rock, produced by Kudos Pictures. The feature is being part-funded by BBC Films and will air on the BBC after its initial cinema release. Alongside Mirren, who won an Oscar for her role in The Queen, the adaptation stars fellow Oscar-winner Pete Postlethwaite (The Usual Suspects, In the Name of the Father), Sam Riley (Control) as Pinkie, the 'razor-wielding' teenager at the heart of the story - played by Richard Attenborough in the 1940s movie adaptation - and Andrea Riseborough as Rose. It will be adapted by Rowen Joffe and produced by Paul Webster, who was also behind Atonement and Pride and Prejudice. The 1939 novel centres on anti-hero Pinkie's relationship with Rose, an apparently innocent young waitress who stumbles across evidence linking Pinkie to a murder. After the killing, Pinkie seduces Rose in a bid to find out how much she knows and, later, to ensure she won't turn him over to the police – but as his feelings for her develop, he is caught in a dilemma over whether he can trust her, or if he should kill her before she talks. The new adaptation will be set in 1964, at the same time as the South Coast riots between the emerging teenage Mods and the older Rockers. 'It contextualises Pinkie's "youth rebellion" perfectly,' the BBC said. '1964 also brings the story as close as possible to our own times without corrupting the innocence upon which some constituents of the plot and characterisation depend.' Excellent. Quadrophenia with flick-knives. Looking forward to that one.

NBC Universal has hired Hat Trick Productions co-founder Denise O'Donoghue to spearhead its international strategy and forge fresh partnerships with the independent sector. O'Donoghue, who left Hat Trick in 2006, will take up her new role as president of international television productions on 14 September, reporting to Peter Smith, president of NBC Universal International. She effectively replaces the previously London-based Angela Bromstad, who has moved from head of international TV production to become president of prime time entertainment for NBC and Universal in LA. O'Donoghue's appointment signals a renewed push for NBCU into television production outside the US. It plans to build an international multi-genre business on the scale of Endemol, generating between two hundred and four hundred million dollars in revenues from the UK alone. She will lead television production and forge content partnerships across all territories outside the US, building on deals such as the acquisition of Hotel Babylon-producer Carnival Films in August 2008. The job also includes expanding NBC Universal's international formats licensing business, which recently brokered a second season of Law & Order: UK with ITV and Kudos.

Tiger Aspect Productions has teamed up with The Muppet Show creator The Jim Henson Company for a new drama about a group of friendly monsters. CBBC has greenlit the twenty six episode series Me And My Monsters, subject to a twenty five per cent financing gap, which Tiger expects to fill 'within weeks.' The show was created and written by former cartoonist Mark Grant and centres on an American family who rent the house of their dreams in London for a knock-down price. Initially, they cannot understand why the rent is so low - but soon discover three friendly monsters in the basement, whose presence they desperately try to conceal from their neighbours. Tiger developed the show with Grant and then approached the Henson Company, which came on board. 'At the heart of the story are three monsters, which are loveable yet scary. The Hensons were the obvious people to go to,' said Tiger managing director Andrew Zein. Drawing parallels with Alf, the classic 1980s sitcom that ran for four years in the US, he added: 'It has that element of disbelief, but is set in a family with all the usual traits, such as siblings growing up and trying to fit in. We are hoping to make it a prime time half-hour family comedy.'

Sky1 will stop airing The Simpsons at 8pm from January as director of programmes Stuart Murphy opens up the slot for external pitches. Sky has had The Simpsons at the heart of its early evening schedule for twenty years. The show runs from 7pm to 8pm each weeknight and often through to 9pm, with four episodes screened back-to-back. The broadcaster will only show new episodes at 7pm from January, which Sky1 gets four years before the terrestrials, 'so viewers aren’t left bemused as to which are exclusive and which aren't,' Murphy said. 'From next year, we'll be miles clearer about where to find new episodes and where to find classic ones,' he added. Because, of course, none of the audience for The Simpsons knows how to read a listings magazine, do they? Are all people working in television such sanners, or what?

The BBC is trailling a web service which highlights its most talked about programmes by monitoring the Internet buzz around them. Shownar.com will track 'inbound' links to BBC shows from third-party sites such as Twitter and Jaiku and rank shows according to how many mentions – or 'buzz votes' – they get. The service, which is currently in beta testing, aims to showcase the 'hidden gems' in the schedule that are a low priority in terms of traditional marketing. Programmes will have a graph illustrating when and how much they are being talked about and there will be links back to the external sites so that users can see exactly what people are saying – regardless of whether their comments are positive or negative. BBC Vision controller of multiplatform and portfolio Simon Nelson said: 'This is an experimental prototype that aims to track online activity around our programmes and reflect it back in useful and interesting ways.' Well, they could just read things like this blog of course - bit of a radical suggestion, I know. But that's Keith Telly Topping you see, always one for radical suggestions, he.

And finally, dear blog reader, Keith Telly Topping wishes to thank, most sincerely, the vast majority of the British public who, in their droves, avoided The Duchess On The Estate like the very plague itself and gave the entire production the big fat raspberry that it thoroughly deserved. The second episode of TV's equivalent on Bear-Baiting was watched by just two million viewers. Which is still two million too many, frankly. But, to the other fifty nine odd million of you, jolly well done. Restores a bit of my faith in humanity, that.

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