Wednesday, October 07, 2009

American Dreams

A sudden bout of influenza - or, at least, something very like it - appears to have halted production on the new season of FOX's Bones. The set was reportedly shut-down recently after David Boreanaz was taken ill with 'flu-like symptoms. 'First time in Bones [sic] history we are shut-down from production,' creator Hart Hanson tweeted. Which is, apparently, something young 'with it' people do on their iPodules. Or something. 'Damn swine flu!' Hanson continued. 'That's gonna cut into Christmas hiatus.' A spokesperson for FOX later confirmed: 'David is out with the 'flu and the show shut-down today since he was in every scene. We hope to resume production tomorrow.' However, Hanson later added via Twitter: 'Oops! There is no indication that Boreanaz has swine 'flu. We expect him back tomorrow. I'm now going out to get swine 'flu myself in atonement.'

And, so to the latest batch of Top Telly News. Keith Telly Topping is delighted to report, dear blog reader, that there have been some cracking new episodes of some of your favourites on American TV over the last few days. In the latest House episode - The Tyrant - we got a quite brilliant deconstructive script which drew together the show's classic medical line-up once again and then presented then with a significant moral dilemma and with a scorpion-like sting in the tail. It reminded the viewer that, whatever may have gone on over the last couple of years (and, more importantly, what may be about to happen in the coming weeks), the team of Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Jesse Spencer and Jennifer Morrison is, pretty much, as good as it gets when it comes to ensemble casts. And that's even before you get to Lisa Edelstein's sly-yet-empathic brilliance and Robert Sean Leonard's much put-upon wit.

Similarly, the second episode of the new season of Lie To Me (Truth or Consequences), had the bonus of a guest appearance by all the girls' favourite vampire James Marsters in a rather clever tale of sexual conflict. The race-debate that formed part of the episode's drama was a little out of place and the subplot about a wacky religious sect was needlessly convoluted but, over all, it was another tremendous reminder of what a very fine series this is. And, of course, how good an actor Tim Roth is. And, Keith Telly Topping must mention once again, how much he admires Kelli Williams in a difficult - yet ultimately essential - role. This is a really good little show and one that has got better and better over the last year.

Meanwhile, the pilot of the much-anticipated Stargate Universe was, actually, really rather good too. As a very big (and vocal) fan of the first seven or so series of SG-1 but, as someone who never really understood the supposed popularity of the first Stargate spin-off series, Atlantis, it was nice to see something of a back-to-basics approach (aided by some nice continuity and cameos by Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping and Michael Shanks). Most of the characters are going to take a bit of time to gain the audience's interest, although Robert Carlyle's effortlessly solid (and far more nuanced than expected) performance promised that sticking with this one might well be a decision that will be rewarded in the future. The only slight drawback I sense is that the series Universe most reminds me of in terms of its basic concept is Star Trek: Voyager. And, we all know what a chore that show turned into remarkably quickly. Hopefully, this one will have more air miles in its bag.

Meanwhile, in other US TV news, Showtime has renewed Californication for a fourth season, according to Variety. The Tom Kapinos-produced series, which stars David Duchovny as a writer who is a sex addict, will return for a new twelve-episode run in 2010.

Hat Trick Productions is adapting an Israeli news panel show format, The Bubble, for BBC2. In a twist on the UK independent producer's Have I Got News For You, The Bubble asks three celebrity contestants to separate true news stories from fakes after spending four days locked away in a country house with no telephone, TV or Internet access. So, sort of Have I Got News For You meets Big Brother meets Call My Bluff. Sounds suitably intriguing. Host David Mitchell will present them with a mix of news reports, headlines and images from TV, newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines. Mitchell, who has guest hosted HIGNFY, fronted a non-broadcast pilot earlier this year featuring Katy Brand and Frank Skinner. The format was devised by Israeli company Armoza Formats, which has previously sold it to Israel's Channel 10, Denmark's DR1 and Poland's TVP2. Hat Trick managing director Jimmy Mulville said: 'Its originality, comic approach to current affairs and exploration of our culture's obsession with staying in touch make it a unique and appealing game show.'

BBC2 has ordered a second thirty-part run of Endemol daytime quiz show Pointless. The order comes four weeks into the first six-week daily run of the show, which is produced by Endemol division Remarkable Pictures. It is hosted by Alexander Armstrong with Richard Osman. The format celebrates obscure knowledge, taking a reverse approach to Family Fortunes by asking a panel of one hundred people a question before the show and asking contestants to come up with the least obvious answers. The holy grail is to find an answer that none of the one hundred gave. So far, the show has averaged about one million viewers, with a peak of 1.7m.

The divine Karen Gillan is to star in a new BBC Switch teen drama series, The Well, it has been announced. The twenty one-year-old actress, who will soon appear as the new companion opposite Matt Smith in Doctor Who, stars as Coll in the four-part television series, which also has accompanying online content. Gillan will play a 'brainy beauty' who is 'not a hit with the boys' in The Well, which follows a brother and sister and their friends after they disturb something dark at the bottom of an ancient well.

Keo Films has won its first US commission with an adaptation of Meet the Natives for the Travel Channel and National Geographical Channels International. Meet the Natives USA sends five ambassadors from the South Pacific island Tanna across the US to stay with five families with the aim of delivering a message of peace to America's leaders in Washington. Though they come from the same island, the series will feature a different group of travellers from the original UK-based Channel 4 series, which aired in 2007. Throughout the five-part series, the group will meet cowboys in Montana, stockbrokers and society belles in New York, and travel to Illionois, California and Georgia's Fort Stewart Army Base. Among the new experiences they will enjoy are snowball fights and skateboarding. Travel Channel will show the series from next month in the US, with NGCI screen it across its international stable of channels to territories including the UK. One very much hopes that it will be both as fascinating and culturally unpatronising as the original UK version was.

In 2010 the BBC will be celebrating the power of the British novel with a major four-part documentary series presented by best selling novelist Sebastian Faulks (The Girl At The L'ion Dor, Birdsong, Devil May Care). The Secret Life Of The Novel will look at the history of the novel through its characters – each episode focusing on a different archetype and looking at how they have developed over the centuries: The Hero, The Lover, The Snob, The Villain. Journeying around the country, with the occasional foray abroad, Sebastian will use his unique personal knowledge of characterisation to get under the skin of some familiar and not-so-familiar characters of British literature. From Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to Martin Amis's John Self; Jane Austen's Emma to Monica Ali's Chanu; Sebastian will put them all on the psychiatrist's couch. Mark Bell, Arts Commissioning Editor, commented: 'Sebastian is an insider, a novelist with a real understanding of the craft. Booking him to front a four-part series on BBC2 about how characterisation works is really exciting. It demonstrates the type of bold arts programming the BBC is committed to delivering.'

Sky and Discovery Europe have called a truce on their year-long advertising sales legal battle by signing a new four year deal starting in January 2010. The deal will see Sky Media, Sky's ad-sales arm, extend its role as the sole airtime sales agent across Discovery's thirteen UK channels, including DMAX and Animal Planet. Executives at Sky and Discovery had been locked in a legal battle over a disagreement in the terms of the existing contract, which expires at the end of December. The US network had argued that a clause in the deal guaranteed it extra revenue if its channels reached certain viewing targets and as a result believed it was owed millions of pounds. The case was due to be heard at the high court next month, but has now been abandoned after the companies reached an agreement. The move will surprise the market and Channel 4 and Five had been jostling to pick up the sales contract.

Sky Real Lives is to 'bring into sharp focus' the dedication, danger and loneliness of those serving in the British Armed Forces in a major series hosted by Fiona Phillips. Forces Reunited [working title] is a ten part series by Leopard Films that will look at all the emotional aspects of war, such as fathers returning from the conflict to be introduced to their baby for the first time, or reuniting World War II buddies after many decades. The series was ordered by head of Sky Real Lives Barbara Gibbon.

Media group Perform turned down a six-figure sum from ITV to show the highlights of the England World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on a terrestrial station. Broadcast magazine claims that the deal would have allowed the commercial broadcaster to show the highlights of the match following The X Factor this Saturday, but the sum was refused. The amount requested for the highlights package by Perform was deemed 'commercially unviable' according to an ITV source. The stand-off means that only one in twenty football fans will see Saturday's match with the Ukraine, and they will have to pay up to twelve pounds to watch it online. The away game will not be shown in pubs although it will be screened in some Odeon cinemas. ITV has not ruled out acquiring the highlights after the match, but because the result will not affect England's chances of playing in the World Cup next year, the source said it was 'unlikely.'

Some sad news, now. The former partner of the Little Britain star Matt Lucas has been found dead in his Edinburgh flat after leaving a tragic message on the social networking site Facebook. Police discovered the body of Kevin McGee after they broke in to the Bruntsfield Gardens property at 8am on Monday. He had posted a message on Facebook three hours earlier saying: 'Kevin McGee thinks that death is much better than life.' The thirty two-year-old TV producer had wed Lucas in a civil ceremony in December 2006. A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

Strictly Come Dancing star Laila Rouass was reportedly comforted by Simon Cowell on Saturday night after hearing that Anton Du Beke's racist comment was about to hit the headlines. According to the Mirror, the Primeval actress had been invited to the music mogul's fiftieth birthday party, but wanted to avoid the celebrations after learning that she would soon become the subject of unwanted front page news. It is thought that Rouass phoned Cowell to apologise for her absence before being convinced to forget the row and attend the party as planned. A source said: 'Laila was distraught at first, but Simon was brilliant. He was just what she needed.' Meanwhile, Laila has reportedly said that she wants to 'move on' from the race-row surrounding her dance partner Anton Du Beke. The BBC has been criticised for not firing Du Beke after it emerged that he used a racist term during an off-air meeting with the actress. When asked whether Du Beke should be axed, Rouass said: 'Absolutely not. Anton has apologised and I've accepted it. This happened a couple of weeks ago now and we are just having a really good time. We just want to move on from it.' Quite apart from anything else, of course, if Du Beke were to be fired then it would necessitate Rouass herself having to be given another dance partner after several weeks of training with her current one thus, perhaps, jeopardising her chances in the competition. For that reason, as much as any, it would appear that Du Beke's immediate apology has gone a long way to defusing the situation. Not enough, sadly, to prevent big-gobbed (in fact big everything) Vanessa Feltz sticking her vastly unwanted oar into already troubled waters. Writing in her Daily Express column, she commented: 'His fulsome, some might say rambling, apology implies that the phrase was part of an atmosphere of affectionate joshing and badinage that had sprung up between the pair as their working relationship developed' before going on to suggest that Rouass should 'call Du Beke a pretentious fool for adopting so showy a name when he was christened plain Tony Beak. She could suggest that his jet black hair owes more to the hairdresser's artistry than to nature. She could even call his presenting style hackneyed and hammy.' Yeah, thanks for all that Vanessa. That's very helpful.

Ali Bastian has insisted that she is just good friends with her dance partner Brian Fortuna. The ex-Hollyoaks and The Bill actress admitted that she 'clicked' with the American performer immediately, but denied tabloid rumours that they are in a relationship. 'We're just really good friends. Honestly!' she told Now magazine. 'I can see how it's easy to fall for someone when you're dancing with them because you spend so much time together and you have to trust them.' Bastian also claimed that she is enjoying wearing extravagant outfits on the series. 'I love my wardrobe. I feel like a princess! If I could walk around in a tutu all day I would,' she said. 'I've done the odd bikini shoot when I was in Hollyoaks, but on Strictly I put my faith in the costume department because they know how to dress a body.'

Amy Winehouse is to appear on Strictly this weekend - as a backing singer for her goddaughter. Dionne Bromfield, who is thirteen years old, is the first signing to the Back to Black star's new record label, Lioness. The pair will perform Bromfield's first single 'Mama Said', originally a hit for The Shirelles in 1961. Bromfield said: 'Amy and I both love Strictly... so it was brilliant to find out I'll be on TV for the first time singing on one of my favourite shows.'

EastEnders star Danniella Westbrook has signed up for the next series of Dancing On Ice, a report claims. The thirty five-year-old actress has already started practising her skating skills in preparation for her new TV project, according to the Daily Star. A source told the newspaper: 'She's training and is getting better each day. She is determined to do her best.' Westbrook will bow out from her role as Walford's Sam Mitchell in December. Dancing On Ice traditionally runs from January to March each year.

Bingo outlet Tombola was yesterday announced as Emmerdale's new sponsor amid claims that home shopping retailer Littlewoods unexpectedly withdrew from a similar deal. Tombola's agreement will see the company's branding on ITV, ITV2 and ITV3, as well as online and mobile portals, from the beginning of next month until the end of January 2011. Tombola's chief executive Phil Cronin said of the deal: 'Sponsoring Emmerdale, one of ITV's leading brands, is a significant opportunity for Tombola. The show's reach, the affection in which it's held and its values of drama, fun and community make it the ideal partner for the Tombola brand. Tombola is the biggest online bingo site in the country and with this sponsorship we hope to continue to build our community of players.' ITV's sponsorship manager Bhavit Chandrani added: 'Emmerdale is one of ITV's leading brands and one of the nation's favourite soaps. We are delighted to have secured Tombola as sponsors until January 2011.' On 14 July, it was reported that Littlewoods had signed a two-year deal with ITV, similar to that which has now been signed by Tombola. The home shopping giant was expected to begin its on-air endorsement from 31 August, running through to August 2011, replacing the soap's former sponsor Reckitt Benckiser. At the time, Littlewoods's then-marketing director David Inglis said that the company was 'very happy to have signed this major deal.' However, an ITV spokesperson tonight confirmed to Digital Spy website that Littlewoods 'unexpectedly withdrew from their contract' and that the Emmerdale opportunity was 'put straight back out to market.'

Diana Vickers has stated that she kissed fellow X Factor contestant Eoghan Quigg during their time on the show. It had been claimed that the two singers had romanced, but Vickers said at the time that she would never cheat on her then-boyfriend Chris Jones. Quigg later denied any reports of a fling. Vickers told London Lite: 'There was something between us, I'm not going to deny that. What's the point? He lives in Ireland and I'm over here. He's got a little tattoo on his arm, it's Quiggy in Arabic.'

A man accused of secretly filming nude videos of a US TV sports reporter also put clips of other women online, prosecutors have claimed. Michael Barrett has been released on bail but ordered to stay away from the Interweb and mobile phones and wear an electronic monitoring tag on his ankle. The forty seven-year-old is accused of filming ESPN's Erin Andrews through peepholes in hotel doors and trying to sell the videos to celebrity gossip website TMZ. FBI papers revealed that Barrett specifically asked for a room next to Miss Andrews at a Tennessee hotel where seven nude videos were recorded. An eighth video may have been shot at a Milwaukee hotel. Assistant US Attorney Steven Grimes told a court in Los Angeles that Barrett continues to be a threat to Miss Andrews and 'a danger to other women.'

Derren Brown wants to meet up with X Factor's Ethan Boroian, say tabloid reports. According to the Mirror, the illusionist has requested guestlist tickets to Boroian's upcoming live show at London's Wandsworth Palais. Brown has posted Twitter messages about his disappointment that the American singer was dumped out of the ITV show by Cheryl Cole on Sunday. 'Oh dear, my yearly love/hate infatuation with X Factor has kicked off. Poor Ethan Boroian, was rooting for him,' he wrote. 'Will hold off on X Factor tweets but forgive me the odd one. I get very emotionally involved.' Borian thanked the thirty eight-year-old for his comments, tweeting in response: 'Thank you so much for the support Derren! Maybe you could do a mind trick and have Cheryl bring me back!'

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