Friday, October 09, 2009

Appeasment ... And Other Items On The Conveyor Belt

For those of you, dear blog reader, who've been following the quasi-epic BBC Newcastle shenanigans of Octobeard, please note that we have reached Day 8 (which I should really say in a Big Brother/Marcus Bentley-style voice, I guess). And, it's starting to itch, by the way. How many days are there left in the month until I can get my razor out of storage?

Meanwhile, on a marginally-related theme, if you wish to experience the - singular - most excellent laugh you'll have had in a good long while, dear blog reader, you are advised to check out the great Dazzling Dezza Brown's epic impersonation of Baby Stewie from Family Guy here. Uncannily accurate (and very funny)! It will make you fair chortle, my disciples, trust me on this one.

Sky1 has signed Jekyll actor (and professional Scumchester United supporter) Jimmy Nesbitt, Australian cricketing legend (and rapidly-going-baldie) Shane Warne, former footballer (and shampoo advertiser) Daveeeed Ginola and socialite (and very fast in a reasonably priced car on Top Gear) Jodie Kidd to star in a new sports quiz. The show, It's Going To Penalties, will test the sporting knowledge of three teams captained by Warne, Ginola and Kidd, while Nesbitt will act as the referee. And this is different from They Think It's All Over how, exactly? Each thirty-minute show will see the teams compete over four rounds, which include quizzes involving lip reading and viewing clips. The show has been devised Peep Show producer Objective Productions and will air in November.

The UK still leads the world in format exports, according to the latest report from the Format Recognition and Protection Association. In total, four hundred and forty five global original formats were exported from 2006 to 2008, with British formats accounting for one hundred and forty six of these. The performance puts the UK ahead of the US, the Netherlands and Argentina.

Eddie Izzard and Big Fat Roseanne Barr have signed up to star on Showtime's new comedy series Behind The Green Door. The six-part series, which is executive produced by comedian Paul Provenza, will see four comedians joining him each episode for a free-wheeling discussion. Comics including Jonathan Winters, Drew Carey, Robert Klein, Penn Jillette, Martin Mull, Tommy Smothers, Bob Saget, Sandra Bernhard and Andy Dick are also scheduled to appear.

Channel 4 has ordered a second series of RDF Television's series How
The Other Half Live
. Extending this year's three episode run, the company will produce a further eight episodes of the quite gobsmackingly patronising series, in which 'poor families' get 'help' from other families who are considerably richer than they. It was re-ordered by documentaries commissioning editor Mark Raphael - so, remember the name when writing your letters of outrage when this wretched excuse for a show infects your TV again - and will be executive produced by Tayte Simpson and Ros Ponder. RDF Rights has also sold the format to Australia.

Wide-Eyed Entertainment, the CGI-specialist production independent set up by Impossible Pictures founder Jasper James, has secured two million pounds worth of co-pro funding from international broadcasters for its forthcoming documentary March of the Dinosaurs. The ninety-minute special is being backed by History Television Canada, National Geographic US, Super RTL, France 5 and Canadian graphics company Modus, and is being made in partnership with Toronto-based Yap Films. March of the Dinosaurs will be executive produced by James, one of the creators of the BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs. Wide-Eyed Entertainment has yet to secure a UK partner, but managing director Parule Basu-Barua told Broadcast magazine that talks were 'at an advanced stage. It's just a case of us waiting for them [the broadcasters] to come back to us,' she added. 'We hope to be able to announce a deal soon.'

Sky1 is poised to commission a complex police drama, starring David Morrissey and based on the novels of Mark Billingham. Billingham and the State Of Play actor have launched a new company, Sleepyhead, to house the project, and will produce it in collaboration with Gub Neal's writer-centric company, Artists' Studio, which is helping to secure gap funding. The as yet un-named six-episode series will be based on the first two novels in the Inspector Tom Thorne series, Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat. If successful, the show could be lined-up for cinema release in other territories and developed into a longer-running series drawing from material in the rest of the Thorne novels.

Sky's talks with Paul O'Grady to take his eponymous daily chat-show to the satellite channel have seemingly broken down. O'Grady is reported to have asked for a considerably lower fee than had been reported in the press, but is said to have upped his price tag in mid-September, the day before negotiations were due to close. An insider told Broadcast: 'Paul's company hadn't accounted for HD until the very last minute and this was a cost which ultimately priced him out of the deal.' O'Grady has previously said that he expects his Channel 4 show to end this year as he is not prepared to accept a fifty per cent budget cut proposed by the network. It is understood that his representative, Waheed Alli, has also been in talk with both the BBC and ITV.

The BBC Trust has said that stringent parental controls should always be included on BBC iPlayer to ensure children do not watch inappropriate content. According to the Trust's latest review of BBC Editorial Guidelines, clearer labelling must be placed on the catch-up service to highlight any 'strong or challenging content.' Since its launch in 2007, BBC iPlayer has become a major success and now accounts for around five per dent of all UK Internet traffic. However, the BBC's governing body expressed concern this week that 'there is no direct equivalent of the watershed online. When we make audio or visual content available on demand on BBC platforms, and where appropriate, we must provide information to enable users to understand its context and to make informed choices about its suitability, both for themselves and for children, before they access,' the organisation said. The new editorial standards stipulate that any post-watershed programming should be flagged with a G For Guidance rating to highlight its potential unsuitability for younger audiences, with a 'system of content labels' indicating the relative strength. More stringent parental controls must also be included on BBC iPlayer, involving a 'lock' function for challenging content which can then only be accessed by inputting a password.

Channel 4 has given the first hints over what it will be looking for in 2011 to fill about two hundred and fifty hours of its prime-time schedule previously occupied by Big Brother. Commissioners rallied behind Channel 4 head Julian Bellamy and director of content Kevin Lygo's 'creative renewal' strategy at a recent producers' meeting with PACT, spelling out their wish-lists. Entertainment and factual content are the key genres up for grabs, with Channel 4's comedy head Andrew Newman describing opportunities as 'limitless.' Live events, comedy, reality shows and authored clip-shows all have a chance, though Newman warned that a 'fair bit' of studio entertainment had already been commissioned. Factual entertainment head Andrew Mackenzie said 9pm will be home to provocative programmes that 'tap into our passions and anxieties.'

CBS has handed full season orders to both NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife. The two first year dramas - which both debuted on 22 September after a lead-in from the season seven premiere of NCIS - have each pulled-in consistently strong ratings figures for the network since. The Chris O'Donnell-fronted NCIS: LA has been averaging 17.27m viewers over its three-week run, while The Good Wife, which stars Julianna Margulies, has achieved around 13.49m.

Dominic Monaghan has revealed that he will 'definitely be tuning-in' for the final season of Lost. The actor, who played Charlie Pace on the ABC cult series, also said that he knows a few details on how the series ends (presumably from reading girlfriend Evangeline Lilly's scripts!) 'I know little bits and pieces about the final season, but I'm still going to watch it,' he said. 'It's event television.' Asked about the comparisons between Lost and his new series FlashForward, Monaghan claimed that there are 'distinct differences' between the shows. 'Well, there are obvious similarities because both Lost and FlashForward include a large ensemble cast, a very ambitious storyline and a very easy way to sell the show internationally because it's based on an event that happens worldwide,' he said. 'Both include mystery, drama and suspense - but at the same time, I think there are distinct differences. FlashForward is a show that is probably not as sophisticated in that deeply-rich mythology as Lost is. However, I would not like to call FlashForward "simplistic" in any way.'

Sony Pictures Entertainment's twenty one per cent stake in the burgeoning Shine Group is up for grabs. The two companies have reached an 'amicable' agreement that Sony should sell its share because Shine's strategy and model has evolved to become increasingly similar to Sony's. When Sony invested in Shine in 2005 it was a moderately sized, UK-centric independent production company. Since then it has grown into a major producer/distributor with global ambitions. It now competes directly against Sony for market share, talent and acquisitions and, according to Broadcast, Shine's start-ups in Germany and France and its sixty million pounds acquisition of the Scandinavian Metronome Film and Television in April have been particular sticking points. Shine has reportedly appointed JP Morgan to sell an unspecified portion of Sony's twenty one per cent stake. The other shareholders are BSkyB, reported to own about eleven per cent and members of the management team who hold minor stakes. Sony's stake has previously been reported as fifteen per cent. It is thought there have been a number of unsolicited approaches for the stake, but Shine has only just instructed Morgan to begin the sales process. It will begin talks with 'selected' potential partners immediately and has also been handed an ongoing brief.

BBC1 has unveiled plans for an 'emotionally charged' natural history series about the attempts to save some of the rarest animals on earth. Errr... haven't they already got one of them? It's called Last Chance To See. I've been watching it on Sundays. Director General Mark Thompson and veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough announced the commission yesterday afternoon, when they also revealed a three-year 'city partnership' between the BBC and Bristol City Council, committing the corporation to working with local agencies. The five part Nature's Miracle Babies will follow Autumnwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games on a trip around the world to visit the 'pioneering projects that protect some of the world's most threatened animals.' One of the programmes will explore how Chinese panda breeders have employed human fertility treatment techniques and another will show the birth of a pied tamarind in the UK. 'This will be a highly-charged personal journey for me,' said Hughes-Games. 'Many of the animals are just a hairs' breadth from extinction and sometimes the hopes of an entire species is concentrated in a few tiny, vulnerable babies.' Kim Shillinglaw, commissioning editor for science and natural history, added: 'This series demonstrates our commitment to the Natural History Unit and its ability to make distinctive and original programmes. Stable investment through the licence fee gives us the ability to take risks, innovate and take years if needed to deliver programmes viewers will love and remember. Now, more than ever, the BBC wants to strengthen its focus on distinctive content and genres that could be endangered in a tougher financial world.' The BBC's city partnership with Bristol is the corporation’s first deal of this sort, and commits the corporation to work with local television and film-making outfits, 'tackling the digital divide and the digital skills divide.' It will include a 'microbudget feature film initiative,' a focus on training in deprived communities, a 'new drive' in local schools and a 'school for DJs,' which will see the BBC open up its studios to would-be presenters of producers.

The second Hey Hey It's Saturday reunion show sparked a race-row after a sketch featured Jackson Jive - singers with black-painted faces performing a Michael Jackson tribute. Harry Connick Jr, who appeared as a guest judge, led a barrage of criticism over the sketch and demanded an apology from the Australian variety show. According to the Herald Sun, the singer gave the performance a score of zero and said that he needed to 'speak up as an American' to say that the face-painting was inappropriate. 'I just want to say, on behalf of my country, I know it was done humorously, but we've spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart.' Host Daryl Somers apologised to Connick at the end of the live show. 'I know that to your countrymen, that's an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologise to you,' Somers said. Dr Anand Deva, who dressed as Jackson in the segment, said: 'All six of us discussed this at length whether or not we should put this on because we realised it may be controversial. It certainly was not meant to be racist in any way at all.' Deva himself is of Indian descent and several other members of the group are from multi-ethnic, Aborigional backgrounds. Hey Hey It's Saturday originally ran for twenty seven years, starting in 1971 and was one of Australia's most popular light entertainment shows. The Jackson Jive group first appeared on the show twenty years ago. They were invited back to reprise their roles during the second of two reunion shows. I guess the equivalent to this for UK readers might be if the BBC decided to do a one-off revival of The Black and White Minstral Show and then invited somebody like Diana Ross to appear on it. Mammy.

Bruce Forsyth has, staggeringly, suggested that people should adopt a 'sense of humour' about the Strictly Come Dancing racism-row. There have been widespread calls for professional dancer Anton Du Beke to be sacked after he admitted to calling his show partner, the actress Laila Rouass, 'a Paki' during training. This is a demand that Keith Telly Topping does not agree with, mainly because this course of action would also 'punish' Laila herself for something over which she was the victim. But Forsyth used a radio interview on Wednesday to suggest that in the past the 'slip up' would have been treated in a more light-hearted way. He told TalkSport: 'You go back twenty five, thirty, forty years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing.' Indeed, there's was - Bernard Manning was cracking jokes about 'them thick paddies' on The Comedians and getting paid for it, for a kick-off. And two hundred years before that, bear-baiting and cock-fighting were perfectly acceptable forms of Saturday evening light entertainment for all the family. These days, we know better, Bruce. Some would sugggest we've actually progressed as a society when it is no longer acceptable for anyone to use blatantly racist phrases and get away with it without censure. Forsyth added: 'Americans used to call us "limeys" which doesn't sound very nice, but we used to laugh about it. Everybody has a nickname.' Again, that's very probably true. And some of them remain what they always have been, bloody offensive and shouldn't be used by anyone with half-a-brain in their head under any circumstances. This is one of them - why is that so difficult for you to understand, old chap? I mean, fair play to the guy, Anton has apologised - seemingly genuinely and unreservedly - and the victim of his racist comments has accepted that apology. But don't - please - try to justify what he said in any way with this 'it was all just a joke' bollocks. It was vile and he's a very, very lucky boy indeed that Laila is such a class act she's forgiven him. Following the broadcast of the interview - and a predictably strong reaction to it from many quarters - Forsyth subsequently moved to head off the growing row that his own crass, borderline apologist, comments has caused with a statement on Thursday in which he said: 'To be absolutely clear, the use of racially offensive language is never either funny or acceptable.' If he'd stopped talking at that point, fine. But even then he couldn't resist adding 'However, there is a major difference between this and racist comments which are malicious in intent and whilst I accept that we live in a world of extraordinary political correctness, we should keep things in perspective.' No, Brucie, we really shouldn't. And how nice it is, again, to see a variant that old standby 'political correctness gone mad' rearing its ugly head as a blatant - and quite thuggish - attempt to excuse crass, boorish behaviour. Once more, to quote Jerry Dammers on this most vexed of subjects, 'if you have a racist friend, now is the time for that friendship to end.'

Cilla Black broke down in tears during her interview on Piers Morgan's Life Stories. Yeah, he has that effect on me as well, chuck. The former Blind Date host wept when asked about the death of her premature baby, Ellen, in 1975. Black's daughter was born when the singer and presenter was only twenty seven weeks pregnant and died after two hours. 'It was awful. I could hear in the next room two women talking about their babies and I had none,' said Cilla. 'You blame yourself and think, "Maybe if I didn't work, maybe if I rested." But I worked through my other pregnancies, so why should this be different?'

Rockin' Ronnie wood has been sending vicious text messages to his estranged wife, Jo, over her role on Strictly according to tabloid reports. The Rolling Stone has accused his ex-wife of 'cheapening' herself on the show in a series of late-night messages. Now former model Jo - who has been battling with the 'flu in rehearsals this week - is said to be 'struggling to cope.' A source told the Sun: 'Ron has been getting on Jo's case for agreeing to appear in Strictly. He reckons she has done it to win a popularity contest and get people on her side. He thinks it's cheap to be involved in what he sees as a silly dancing show with fame-hungry wannabes.' Hang on, the guy who's going out with a twenty year old bird he met in a bar has a problem with fame-hungry wannabes? Surely some mistake, here? 'The messages have been persistent and Jo managed to ignore them for a while,' the source continued. 'But they have started getting her upset now and it has all been a bit too much this week. Ron can be a hurtful devil when he wants to be.'

Hughie Cornwell has said that his former band The Stranglers appealed to the late TV chef Keith Floyd because of his rebellious nature. Floyd was known to be a huge fan of the group and versions of their songs 'Waltzinblack', 'Peaches' and 'Viva Vlad!' often featured on his various cookery programmes. Cornwell told The Quietus: 'The Stranglers probably appealed to Keith because he was a bit of a rebel. I hadn't really been in touch with Keith recently. But for a few years we were quite close. I got news of him through a friend who is a food writer. But even he said he found it difficult to see him, because he'd been so ill, he cut himself off from people, which was a shame. He probably didn't want people to see himself in that way, in pain. But he was a lovely bloke and we go back a long, long way.' Hugh added: 'Back in the early Seventues he was opening a new restaurant in Bristol. And he asked me if I could play at the opening party. I said, "Well, Keith, I've got my finals the next day, it's going to be tough." So he said, "I'll really make it worth your while." So I'm playing away and down the steps comes my biochemistry professor. Not with his wife - but with his secretary! He clocked me, I clocked him, and neither of us said anything. You're here but I didn't see you, and you're here and I didn't see you!'

TS Eliot, author of one of Keith Telly Topping's favourite works, The Hollow Men, has been voted the Nation's favourite poet, beating the likes of John Donne, Benjamin Zephaniah, Sylvia Plath, Christina Rossetti and many more in a BBC poll, the results of which were released yesterday to celebrate National Poetry Day. The votes were cast in an online poll, launched as part of the BBC Poetry Season. An in-depth poetry website - - featured thirty great poets with gems from the BBC Archive, full text of key works and biographical information. It also featured celebrities championing their poet of choice. Audiences were invited to discover or rediscover these poets and vote for their favourite. TS Eliot won the poll in a tight final, narrowly pipping John Donne at the post. The top ten poets in order were: Eliot, Donne, Benjamin Zephaniah, Wilfred Owen, Philip Larkin, William Blake, WB Yeats, John Betjeman, John Keats and Dylan Thomas. Some top scribblers in there but, wot, no Percy Bysche? Dear me, you bloody philistines! I mean, for The Mask of Anarchy alone! Keith Telly Topping actually did some work on a piece for yesterday's Afternoon Show on National Poetry Day. BBC Newcastle listeners were challenged to send in words which Jamie Wilko was going to give to Scunthorpe Steve to weaved into a poem. But Scunthorpe went - mysteriously - sick on the morning so I got given the gig instead (on the grounds, Jamie said, that 'you write a blog, dont' you?!'). These words included 'torture', 'cyrosure' and 'antidisestablishmentarianism. (In homage to Spike, I also stuck 'beauty, effulgent' in there.) if you want to hear the resulting six-line cadenza, go to BBC Newcastle from the link in the side-bar, click on Listen Again, find The Jamie Wilkinson Show for Thursday 8 October and it's on approximately one hour and ten minutes in.

Kerry Katona's husband Mark Croft has launched a new career as a car dealer, according to a report. The former cab driver is believed to have purchased a stake in a garage close to the couple's home in Wilmslow. Croft is currently selling off cars priced between one and five grand, but hopes to expand his new business, the Daily Star claims. A source said: 'Kerry has had enough of Mark sponging off her and has told him to pull his finger out and get a job. He has a few lads running it but is on hand to keep an eye on them. Mark hopes he will eventually have prestige cars there and people will flock to the showroom because of who he is.' What, an ex-cabbie? It could happen, I suppose. Katona was declared bankrupt by London's High Court in August 2008. This status is expected to remain for the foreseeable future.

Alex Reid has reportedly told an ex-girlfriend that Katie Price is lying about him to make it easier to end their relationship. According to the Sun, the cage fighter told Danielle Sims of his fears in a telephone conversation. Reid reportedly said: 'Katie's stitching me up. She told the papers I'm a cross-dresser to make me look like a freak. I'm sure she did it so that when she dumps me people won't blame her.' Reid is said to be 'frustrated' by allegations that Price has accused him of being a cross-dresser who calls himself Roxanne when in women's clothing. Meanwhile, Price is also reported to have attacked a group of paparazzi photographers with an umbrella earlier in the week. The glamour model 'went berserk' and branded the snappers as 'perverts' as they followed her on a shopping trip in Brighton, the Daily Star has claimed. As she lashed out at the photographers, Price reportedly asked: 'Why don't you all just get a real job and fuck off?' Oh, the irony.

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