Friday, October 02, 2009

A Collection Of Relics

It was really jolly nice to stumble across two of Keith Telly Topping's favourite actresses - Tracy-Ann Oberman and India Fisher (whom most readers will know as the husky-voiced narrator on the various Masterchef series) - appearing in the same episode of Doctors the other day. Fair made a boring, wet Wednesday afternoon almost pleasurable, that did.

A vast and eclectic collection of early technology is on sale at Bonhams auction house. The seven fifty eight lots comprise half a million individual items, of which many are 'world firsts.' It has all been amassed by antiques dealer Michael Bennett-Levy. At the heart of the auction are twenty four pre-war television sets - the largest collection ever assembled for sale - with the oldest dating back to 1930. He has one of John Logie Baird's 'Televisors' from that year, along with the window display model used to market it. There's even a do-it-yourself kit to build a similar, mechanical TV from 1934 - available to Daily Express readers at the time for a little over five pounds. All of it will be sold, along with one hundred and two post-war models that together make up a complete history of TV. 'The first of everything in every field of technology is by definition important and it suddenly occurred to me in 1991 that no-one seemed to be collecting the world's first televisions,' Mr Bennett-Levy said. 'The rest of this collection I thought I ought to do something with television design. But I had no idea, so I just collected everything and what you see is what I think is the best of what I found.' That includes an array of collectibles around the television industry - including a massive TV camera from the early 1950s, and the producer's notes from the first-ever BBC television transmission in 1936 from Alexandra Palace. Although it is the evident pride of the collection, the auction doesn't stop at television history. It also comprises a vast and unfeasibly diverse collection of scientific instruments, gramophones, early looms, computers - even a medieval set of thumbscrews. Aside from what he calls 'curio pieces' that range from the simply incongruous to the bizarre, what has driven Mr Bennett-Levy to amass the collection is an unabashed passion for early technology. 'In a nutshell they're boys' toys,' he said. 'It's great fun getting musical boxes, mechanical antiques of every sort, early scientific instruments, pulling them apart and getting them working again. I like to see how people did things in earlier times. I just bought them and sold them and that's how the business grew. I buy things I couldn't possibly afford to have because I don't own them - they're stock.'

Six pairs of celebrities race against the clock in an ambitious global relay, re-enacting the epic odysseys of Phileas Fogg and Michael Palin for a Twenty First Century audience. Around The World In Eighty Days is a new six-part series narrated by multi-award-winning comic Frank Skinner, who also takes the first leg of the journey with fellow comedian Lee Mack. It will follow the celebrities as they circumnavigate the globe in eighty days to raise money for this year's BBC Children in Need appeal. All money raised by the programme will go towards helping disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. Other celebrities picking up the baton in the six-leg relay race against the clock are: The Apprentice stars Nick Hewer and Saira Khan (leg two), Countryfile presenters Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker (leg three), BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull and BBC News anchor Louise Minchin (leg four), Torchwood star John Barrowman and TV and radio presenter Myleene Klass (leg five) and actor Shane Richie together with actress and comedienne Josie Lawrence (leg six). Beginning and ending at The Reform Club in London – the starting point for the real Michael Palin and the fictional Phileas Fogg's Around The World In Eighty Days – each duo must complete the required part of their voyage and then pass on the baton in the form of a carpet bag containing the Twenty First century requirements for this challenging journey, including a GPS phone and satellite tracker. Respecting the heritage of Fogg and Palin, the Around The World In Eighty Days travellers shouldn't fly, although any other means of transport, from camels to bullet trains, is acceptable to make their relay deadline. Each celebrity will be raising money for Children in Need as part of the challenge through private fundraising, sponsorship and by collecting souvenirs and curiosities along the way, which will be auctioned off online after each episode in aid of the charity. The original Around The World In Eighty Days voyager, Michael Palin, said: 'I'm delighted that this time someone else is doing all the work – and for such a great cause.' Frank Skinner, who travelled through Europe, said: 'It nearly killed me. And our leg was supposed to be the easiest. I'll always treasure my four minutes in Slovakia.'

The BBC has unveiled a special day of events and broadcasts planned to commemorate the Seventy Fifth anniversary of Maida Vale Studios. On 30 October, all of the BBC's radio networks will broadcast programmes from the historic venue, including a special edition of Radio 4's Front Row and a performance by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for Radio 2. Along with seventy five classic Maida Vale session songs being played over the day, Radio 1 will also broadcast a Live Lounge with Snow Patrol from the building. BBC 6 Music's Craig Charles and 1Xtra's Max will deliver sets from the venue and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will give a session for Radio 3. The BBC started using Maida Vale in 1934 when the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra moved into the building. During the Second World War, the venue was used to broadcast news throughout Europe. It then became home to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop from 1958 to 1996, where Delia Derbyshire and co. came up with all of those weird and wonderful sound collages for Doctor Who amongst others. It was also where the vast majority of Radio 1's Peel Sessions were recorded from 1967 until John's death in 2004. Over the years, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and David Bowie have given performances at Maida Vale. BBC audio & music director Tim Davie said: 'Maida Vale has played a unique role in British music and arts for seventy five years. The thousands of people who have passed through its doors have created some of BBC Radio's most memorable moments. Our celebrations promise to offer listeners some exceptional live performances which are a fitting tribute to this legendary venue.'

ITV will launch a Friday night primetime Dancing On Ice spin-off when the celebrity skating show returns in the new year. Dancing On Ice producer ITV Studios will also make the as-yet-untitled show, which is already in pre-production and is scheduled to begin shooting in December. Each episode will be thirty minutes long. It is thought the series was ordered by the team headed by ITV controller of entertainment Layla Smith, which also commissioned the original Dancing On Ice format. It is designed to build on the success of the hit in-house show, but unlike ITV2 spin-off show The Xtra Factor, it will air on ITV. A source described it as a 'massive Friday night show' and said ITV had high hopes for it, but a spokesman told Broadcast: 'We have not decided on the format for this year.'

Discovery's new Freeview channel, Quest, made a slow but steady start on its launch on Wednesday, with a peak of eighty two thousand tuning in to a documentary on the search for Noah’s Arc. According to unofficial overnight figures from Attentional, between 12noon and midnight, the channel averaged thirty three thousand viewers.

ITV has announced a second run of its Phillip Schofield-fronted gameshow The Cube. A show insider confirmed via Twitter: 'ITV has recommissioned new hit gameshow format The Cube for a second series. The programme will be broadcast in 2010.'

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has opened up about his experiences with yobs. The professional choreographer revealed that his home had been targeted by thugs during a discussion on Five's The Wright Stuff earlier in the week, the Sun reports. Horwood commented: 'I've had people poo on my doorstep. They throw eggs. I get very angry about this because you can't prove anything. I do feel for people who are being harassed.' Police are said to be searching for several disgruntled dancers to help them with their enquiries. He added: 'My suggestion to anyone who is living with this kind of problem is to film them doing something. It's the only way you can really get at them.' The Australian-born TV star returned to the Strictly judging panel last month alongside Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and new recruit Alesha Dixon.

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan will return to This Morning for a one-off appearance to celebrate the Twenty First birthday of the ITV programme, it has been claimed. According to the Mirror, the former hosts will appear on next Monday's show alongside current presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

Sinitta has accused Dannii Minogue of using 'dirty tricks' after the X Factor judge got her pop superstar sister, Kylie, to help her in the judges' homes segment of this year's show. The 'So Macho' singer told London Lite that Kylie's involvement in the show would give Dannii's acts an unfair advantage in the competition. Sinitta said: 'Hasn't Dannii played dirty tricks by bringing Kylie on? Everyone thought there might be a chance that she would, but she never said a word until the last moment to any of the judges. Everyone is so in awe of Kylie, this will definitely work in her favour.' Fellow judge Cheryl Cole will have singer Will Young assisting her in the next phase of the reality talent contest, while Louis Walsh is rumoured to be filming with supermodel Kate Moss.

Graham Norton has said that the details of BBC salaries should remain private. The presenter told London Lite that he expects to be given a reduction in wages should he stay with the broadcaster. Norton said: 'Unless the BBC finds oil, I fully expect my pay to be cut. Either I refuse to work for less and they tell me to bog off or I go, "Okay" and work. When it comes to specifically how much I earn, I prefer that to stay private.' Regarding the general issue of BBC pay, he added: 'There is one Jonathan Ross and however much they paid him he was worth that to the corporation in that moment.' Earlier this year, BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said that the interests of confidentiality should apply in the matter of presenter wages. Graham also said that he is happy to take the blame for the poor ratings of Totally Saturday. The presenter admitted that he got it 'very wrong' when he presumed that viewers would enjoy the BBC1 entertainment series. 'If it was easy to make a hit Saturday night show, there would be loads of them,' Norton told Digital Spy website. 'They are really, really hard to make. We all take the blame [for Totally Saturday] - me, the controller of BBC1 who commissioned it, the production team - because we all took a punt on it and thought people would like it. We were wrong! Very, very wrong! People didn't.'

As a cost-cutting measure NBC is cutting its order on mid-season sci-fi thriller Day One, opting to air the show as a four-hour miniseries instead. Day One will still air early in the new year following the Winter Olympics, but will no longer run as a thirteen-episode series, as originally announced.

Kiefer Sutherland has said that 24 could survive without its lead character Jack Bauer. The actor, who has played the chief protagonist since the programme first aired in 2001, told ShortList that he is afraid that the drama could continue without him. Sutherland said: 'I'm not the real star of the show, not at all. All of us, from the actors to the writers on 24, have always understood from day one that we are not, and never will be, the heartbeat of the show. You only have to look at the casualty list of major characters that have died over the years to know you can be killed off, and the show will only get better without you. The real star of 24 has always been the concept of doing this show in "real time." You involve a running clock and inherently it makes the viewer sit forward and feel on edge. That changed TV forever, I think.' Asked who he wanted to replace his character should he die, he added: 'Nobody. Fuck. I'll switch into Jack Bauer mode and do whatever I have to do to kill that bastard. It's my job man, and people should know when I go, I'll be going kicking and screaming. Let's say, even if Jack were to die, there are a lot of great actors that could do it, and be successful at it, but that doesn't mean I’d be happy about it.'

Kiefer's former 24 co-star Reiko Aylesworth has landed a role on the upcoming third season of Damages, reports Entertainment Weekly. The thirty six-year-old actress, who also previously starred Lost, has been booked for a recurring part on the FX drama. No details have yet emerged on her character. Earlier this month, it was announced that Campbell Scott and Martin Short have been recruited as series regulars, while Lily Tomlin and Keith Carradine have been handed guest roles on the third season.

ABC and NBC are reportedly engaged in battle to acquire a new drama by Lost producer JJ Abrams. According to The Hollywood Reporter, both networks are interested in the project, which sparked a bidding war when it hit the marketplace last week. CBS is also said to be in pursuit of the drama. The show, which revolves around a husband and wife working alongside each other as two spies, sees Abrams team up with Josh Reims, who recently worked on ABC's Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Money.

Five is said to be considering taking its main terrestrial channel into the pay-TV market as it investigates radical survival strategies. Sources close to the broadcaster have revealed the plan is part of a potential strategy to shift its entire channel portfolio (Five, Fiver, Five US) to pay. It is one of several options open to Five as it looks to embrace the pay market, as acknowledged by Five chairman and chief executive Dawn Airey at the recent RTS Cambridge Conference. At the event, Airey admitted the 'pure broadcasting business is pretty much a loss leader. We are looking to consolidate or potentially go pay,' she said. 'We won't be able to be the same as we are now in terms of structure, in terms of platforms we are on, and in terms of partnerships we have. It will change - and I suspect it will change quite quickly.' Another option understood to be under consideration is introducing paid-for pull VoD services. This would mean using Project Canvas or services such as the Arqiva-owned Kangaroo platform to charge consumers directly for content. 'Capturing consumer loyalty through a monthly payment doesn't have to only be on Sky,' said one industry executive.

The BBC's in-house entertainment unit is under fire from the corporation's own staff for failing to come up with enough new hits. A number of very senior executives have snitched to Broadcast magazine that the unit's performance - particularly in generating new ideas and executing new shows - was not good enough to justify its guaranteed hours of output. One controller said: 'There is a lot of worry about the level of provision. It is a big issue - especially since people were bruised by [The Wizard Of Oz] going to Talkback Thames.' Andrew Lloyd Webber's show was handed to the independent after his failed attempt to take the show to ITV - a move in-house staff described as a 'kick in the teeth.' But the BBC defended the department. It pointed to in-house entertainment hits such as Strictly Come Dancing, The Restaurant, Top Gear and Walk On The Wild Side and said: 'BBC in-house entertainment production is a dynamic division filled with and led by some of the best entertainment producers in the country. To suggest the department is failing is utter nonsense.' However, Broadcast alleged that BBC executives were disappointed by the poor performance of Graham Norton's vehicle, Totally Saturday, and the perceived 'creative mishmash' of Wildest Dreams, which was a collaboration between entertainment and the Natural History Unit. There has been tension between the unit and BBC1 controller Jay Hunt, who has been critical of the gap between the ideas BBC entertainment pitches and the quality of the end result. A senior source said BBC Vision director Jana Bennett is aware of the issue and is 'actively' trying to resolve it. Earlier this year, the corporation approached Jim Allen, former entertainment chief at ITV Studios, for a job alongside its current head Jon Beazley. External critics have also blamed BBC Entertainment's failures on a 'sausage factory' approach to development and a steady exodus of creative talent to independent production companies, such as Karen Smith joining Shine Television and Bea Ballard setting up 10 Star Entertainment.

STV director of content Alan Clements has admitted that costs were a major consideration in its decision to drop ITV's drama slate - which is understood to have saved the broadcaster four and a half million pounds this year. It is understood that the saving compares with just three hundred and seventy five thousand pounds worth of opt-outs in 2008, but an STV spokeswoman refused to comment on the figure to Broadcast. Clements said the company would not apologise for 'cutting its cloth sensibly' and making a profit while ITV had been posting losses. STV's commissioning team chose to axe most of the network autumn dramas by a 'process of elimination,' he said, factoring in the cost, slot and local cultural tastes. He said dropping the likes of I'm A Celebrity, The X Factor and the soaps was out of the question and that budgets of factual shows were too low to be worth dropping them. STV receives a rebate of six per cent of the budget of any show it drops. 'We know what our audience likes - crime and football.' Is that, perhaps, the most unintentionally hilarious comment you've ever heard from either a TV executive or a Scotsman? Anyway ... 'I regret that people are disappointed about the Doc Martins and the Marples, but we have to create a relevant and affordable and informative schedule for Scottish viewers,' he said. Clements conceded that some repeats and movies were rating poorly, but said STV-produced factual shows such as Scotland Revealed were performing above network averages. 'When you see what's happened to ITV in Plymouth, Leeds, Norwich and Birmingham, you realise what we are doing is good for us and good for Scotland. We're proud to be in the network, but we don't want to just be ITV Scotland.'

Bagpuss, Ivor The Engine and The Clangers could all be returning to TV after Coolabi struck a deal with the creators of the classic childrens programmes' to allow it to make new series. Coolabi already owned the distribution and merchandising rights to the brands, through its acquisitions of the companies Indie Kids and Licensing By Design in 2007 and 2008, respectively, but was not able to produce new television shows. In late summer, however, Coolabi struck a deal with Peter Firmin and Dan Postgate, the son of Firmin's creative partner the great Oliver Postgate, to acquire the rights to remake the programmes. Since then it has promoted Michael Dee - who oversaw Chorion's CGI reinventions of Noddy and The Mr Men - to director of content. Dee will 'play a leading role' in the development of the new shows. Chief executive Jeremy Banks said: 'We are going to work closely with the [Firmin and Postgate] families because they are the brand custodians and know so much more about what went into Bagpuss than we ever could. They have embraced the concept of developing new content.' He stressed that development is at a very early stage, and the company has not yet decided the animation style or approached a broadcaster.

The new series of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! is facing credit crunch cutbacks, a report claims. According to the Daily Star, the current financial crisis means that producers do not have enough funds to sign up big-name stars, in contrast to last year when Star Trek's George Takei was said to be on a two hundred thousand pound contract. Bosses are also reportedly planning to scrap expensive bushtucker trials and helicopter stunts which were seen in previous years. Additionally, it is thought that the contestants will no longer fly out to Australia in first-class seats. ITV's director of television Peter Fincham commented: 'I'm A Celebrity... will be as rich as ever but there is pressure on our budgets.' So, not so much 'rich' and ... 'impoverished' then?

The BBC is to extend the length of its Wonderland documentaries from forty minutes to an hour and open the strand to independent producers for the first time. Series editor Nick Mirsky plans to make Wonderland programmes more 'relevant' to ordinary people as part of the change, which will also see the strand move to an earlier slot in the BBC2 schedule, possibly 9pm. Before now, all eight Wonderland documentaries - commissioned annually - have been produced in-house. However, around two of the longer-length programmes, launching in 2011, will now be sourced from independent producers. There is some flexibility in the balance between external and in-house productions, and it is understood the BBC has boosted funding for Wonderland by around fifty per cent in line with the extra time acquired. The change will also see the strand move away from the eccentrics, such as the star of BAFTA-winning The Man Who Eats Badgers and towards programmes that highlight the 'magical' in ordinary people's lives. Mirsky said: 'You could imagine any of the characters in the first run at the Mad Hatter's tea party, whereas this autumn we have moved towards worlds that are much closer to the audience. We have found something magical and wonderful. This is about your world, but not as you have noticed it before.' The second run of Wonderland will air this autumn and will be made in-house. Leading the slate are Pippa Robinson's The British In Bed, which will quiz seven couples of all backgrounds and sexual orientations about their bedroom habits and relationships and Joseph Bullman's untitled film about a singing group that suffers from Alzheimer's. Documentaries commissioner Charlotte Moore said that the hour-long Wonderland would be easier to place 'at the heart of the schedule' on BBC2 and signalled confidence in the strand. Okay. Keith Telly Topping was a very vocal supporter of the first series of Wonderland and did, rather, enjoy the 'genuine British eccentric' concept at the series' core. But, he's encouraged that the BBC seem very positive about the strand even if they are changing the focus, somewhat.

Comedian Paul Merton is to front his first factual show on BBC2 in one of two commissions drawing on his love of cinema. The three-part The Birth Of Hollywood will air in 2011 in-line with the Hollywood film industry's one hundredth anniversary and is expected to focus on the influence of early US cinema on today's films. 'It is about how the DNA of silent cinema originated in Hollywood and how that laid down the blueprint for comedy,' said producer Kate Broome. Broome is also producing BBC4 one-off doc Paul Merton's Lost Silence (working title), which will examine early European cinema and is lined up to air in late 2009 or early 2010. She is part of the BBC Bristol team behind the shows, with Michael Poole as executive producer. Merton will direct and Suki Webster will script both shows. BBC4 controller Richard Klein ordered its documentary with arts commissioner Mark Bell. BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow commissioned the Hollywood series. Merton's previous film shows include Paul Merton Looks At Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns both for BBC4.

Mammoth Screen has been commissioned to make its first factual show - a three-episode documentary for ITV called Amanda Holden: Fantasy Lives - in conjunction with ITV Studios. The programme is currently in production and sees the Britain's Got Talent judge trying to become a country and western singer in Nashville, a stunt woman in Los Angeles and a Parisian showgirl. The show was commissioned by ITV controller of popular factual Jo Clinton-Davis and director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman. Mammoth Screen joint managing directors Michele Buck and Damien Timmer will executive produce the series, which will broadcast around the turn of the year. Mammoth has only produced drama to date, including the, as yet unseen, remake of The Prisoner and Wuthering Heights, but Buck said the move would help the company expand into new fields. Meanwhile, ITV factual commissioning editor Diana Howie has ordered a sixty-minute tribute documentary Touched By Frost from ITV Studios' Leeds independent Shiver, which will air in the lead up to the final episode of David Jason's detective drama, A Touch Of Frost. Howie, Clinton-Davis and Zai Bennett, director of digital channels and acquisitions, have also acquired Animal Planet fishing series River Monsters from Icon Films. ITV will show a condensed six-part thirty minute version of the series in a pre-watershed slot and the full series will subsequently air on ITV4.

Five has commissioned Ant and Dec's Gallowgate Productions to revive the classic gameshow Name That Tune. The eight-part series, set to air early next year, will be co-produced by Group M Entertainment, the media investment company which has also put the funding package together for forthcoming gameshow Britain's Best Brain. Each episode will test the musical knowledge of contestants and promises a 'celebrity element and live band.' Name That Tune has aired in various guises over the past twenty years. It ran from 1983-87 on ITV, hosted by Tom O'Connor and then Lionel Blair. It returned for a short-lived remake on Five in the 1990s, fronted by Jools Holland and ITV revived it briefly for Vernon Kay's Gameshow Marathon in 2007. When it was crap. Much like everything else Vernon Kay touches. Group M managing director Richard Foster said: 'We acquired the international rights with Gallowgate in mind for the UK and thought our combined approach would be an ideal fit with Richard Woolfe's entertainment ambitions.' Woolfe, channel controller at Five, is building a talent-led portfolio of entertainment shows in a bid to boost audiences at the terrestrial broadcaster. Bearing in mind, however, that the first plank of this building was Live At Studio Five Wor Ant and Wor Dec might be advised to approach with caution. Other incoming gameshows include the previously mentioned Britain's Best Brain, fronted by Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball, and Heads Or Tails, hosted by Justin Lee Collins.

CBS Reality, CBS Action and CBS Drama channels will launch in the UK on 16 November via the US network giant's recent deal with Chellomedia. The joint venture will signal the first time CBS-branded channels have operated outside of the US and comprises six EPG slots: Zone Reality and +1 will become CBS Reality and +1; Zone Romantica will become CBS Drama; and Zone Thriller will become CBS Action. The Zone Horror channel and its +1 will remain as it is for now. Programming, sourced from CBS's seventy thousand-hour library, includes Judge Judy and Dr Phil on CBS Reality, Dynasty on CBS Drama, air military thriller JAG and the remastered original Star Trek series on CBS Action. CBS Studios International president Armando Nunez said it was already considering other channel launches around the world, but that the immediate focus was on getting the UK project right. He indicated that further genre channels could replace the +1 slots in the future. 'Chello has a bouquet of channels that are doing well but have never really had access to higher-tier content. We have the content, but are not really in the international channels business. It's a natural fit.' Chellomedia chief executive Shane O'Neill said the company had been attracted by a long-term content commitment, rather than 'heading to MIP each year' to source shows. 'We felt a little strategically vulnerable in the UK and felt having clear access to a content pipeline or partner was even more important in a fragmented environment.' Executive Vice President of international channels, Reed Manville, will lead the UK initiative for CBS and said he expected the core demographic to be thirty five-year-olds and over, who have affection for the library shows. Manville said: 'There's latent awareness of the CBS brand and that it stands for quality US entertainment, but people associate it with things such as DVDs, motion pictures and news. Our job is to build that out.' Sister company CBS Outdoor will launch a billboard campaign to kickstart the consumer push. Chello will also acquire some third-party content for the channels and CBS will continue to licence contemporary shows to other UK broadcasters.

Meanwhile, back in the US, CBS itself has been criticised by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for its lack of gay characters in its dramas and comedies. During its Fourteenth annual survey, the GLAAD noted that eighteen lesbian or gay regular series characters will appear on broadcast this season, representing three per cent of characters on TV. However, it has been pointed out that while ABC continues to lead in scripting gay characters - currently at a total of eight - CBS had none, out of one hundred and thirty two series regulars. GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said that NBC and FOX have made significant progress, with three and four gay characters respectively. The CW currently has two. 'CBS alone is a network that continues to weed out gay and lesbian programming, they're really out of step with network television,' Barrios said.

The BBC has appointed Robert Webb QC as the non-executive chairman of Worldwide. He succeeds Etienne de Villiers, who steps down this month. Webb will continue as a BBC non-executive director, but will no longer sit on the fair trading committee, of which he has, until now, been chairman. Mark Thompson, director-general, said: 'Robert Webb has been an extremely effective non-executive director of the BBC. His extensive corporate experience combined with his passion for the BBC make him ideally placed to work with John Smith and the BBC Worldwide board in steering BBC Worldwide through the next stage of its development as a company.' John Smith, chief executive of Worldwide, said: 'Robert's experience at plc board level will be invaluable to BBC Worldwide. He is widely respected and a leader in his field. I am certain his commercial acumen will provide us with the necessary levels of support and challenge as we enter the next phase of our business strategy.' Webb said he was looking forward to working with the team: 'BBC Worldwide has at its heart a mission to maximise the value of BBC intellectual property.'

CITV has struck a deal with supermarket Morrisons to produce a new fully-funded ten-part factual series called Farm Camp. The series will take a group of city-based children to a farm where they will learn more about where their food comes from and features them mucking in to take it from the field to the table. It will be made by Handle and Spout, and has been fully funded by Morrisons Let's Grow campaign. The campaign has provided five million school children with free gardening equipment in its first year. ITV controller of digital channels Emma Tennant, who commissioned the series, said: 'These days with so much more emphasis on healthy eating and where your food comes from it is great to find a format that can inform as well as entertain children on these issues.' Handle and Spout creative director Paul Shuttleworth said: 'The biggest challenge in the children’s sector is to find new ways of funding. As a company, our passion is to continue the long tradition of home grown production for the UK kids audience. To find a new way of bringing fully funded factual kids programmes to the audience is a huge breakthrough for the genre.'

Living has acquired US comedy Cougar Town, featuring Courtney Cox as a newly single woman on the prowl for younger men. The thirteen episode series, co-created by Scrubs writer Bill Lawrence, will launch on the Virgin Media Television-owned channel in a peak time slot next year. VMTV head of acquisitions Amy Barham picked up the rights from Disney-ABC-ESPN Television, stating that the show would 'sit perfectly' in Living's schedule and would 'really resonate' with its audience. Cox plays Jules, a recently divorced single mother in her forties who is encouraged to re-enter the dating scene by best friend Elle (Christa Miller) and her assistant Laurie (Busy Philipps). The action takes place in a small town in Florida, home to the Cougars high school football team. The term 'cougar' has become known to describe an older woman who targets younger men.

Shakira is to guest star on an upcoming episode of Ugly Betty, creator Silvia Horta has confirmed. Horta told People that the cast and crew are big fans of the 'She Wolf' singer and were keen for her to appear on the show as herself. 'We had a very memorable moment in the third episode where Betty has a makeover that goes wrong and she struts down the street to 'Hips Don't Lie',' said Horta. 'We've mentioned her several times over the course of the series and have always wanted to work with her. She's an enormous Latina icon, as is Betty, and we thought it was a perfect fit.' The story will reportedly see Shakira help a Mode photoshoot get back on track when something goes wrong in an episode titled The Bahamas Triangle.

Former Friends star Lisa Kudrow has resurrected her character's signature song 'Smelly Cat' at a charity event, according to reports. She had been appearing at the Feeding America's Rock A Little, Feed A Lot charity concert with co-star Courteney Cox to introduce singer Sheryl Crow when the audience requested the famous song. The forty six-year-old, who played Phoebe Buffay in the long-running sitcom, was then handed a guitar by stagehands. She jokingly asked the audience if the request was a 'set up' before launching into a few lines of the song.

Mad Crazy Dennis Hopper has been taken to hospital with flu-like symptoms, according to his publicist. The seventy three-year-old was examined at a New York clinic after complaining of stomach ailments associated with influenza. The Hollywood star was forced to pull out of a number of interviews to promote his new US TV serial Crash. Hopper plays music producer Ben Cendars in the drama, an adaptation of the film which was the winner of the best picture Oscar in 2006. No further details of Dennis' condition have been given to the press. The Oscar-nominated actor is also an accomplished writer, director and artist and, indeed, all-round icon. His best-known films include some of Keith Telly Topping's particular favourites - Blue Velvet, Speed, Out of the Blue, his maddest and craziest performance of all in Apocalypse Now and Easy Rider, for which he gained an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. He also appeared as the villain in the first series of 24. Keith Telly Topping wishes Dennis a speedy and full recovery.

EastEnders stars Nina Toussaint-White and John Partridge have claimed that the soap needs to work harder to reflect life in London. Toussaint-White, who plays Syd Chambers in the drama, told the Sun that she would like to see producers introducing more ethnic minority characters and mixed race relationships. Viewers have already seen Walford newcomer Syd striking up a romance with Bradley Branning (Charlie Clements) in recent months. Reflecting on the plotline, she commented: 'You never got mixed-race relationships before and I'd like to see more of them. It's getting better but it's under-represented. EastEnders is set in London and there are a lot of black people, Asian families and other cultures there and it doesn't show that.' Discussing the show's rivals, she added: 'The other soaps are Northern so the diverse culture we have in London doesn't always apply up there.' Yeah, what with all the flat caps and the whippets and that, innit? Jesus, save us all from armchair Cockneys with a CSE Grade Five in geography. Meanwhile, Partridge has suggested that the show's writers should create more gay plotlines in the years ahead. His character Christian Clarke has fallen for Muslim businessman Syed Masood (Marc Elliott) this year. He said: 'There still need to be more gay storylines because gay is mainstream now. You've only got to turn on your TV to see gay presenters, journalists - it's all out there. As much as I say it's not a big deal there's still a taboo about it. While some people say it's difficult to show a gay relationship at 7.30pm, what's so offensive about two men together really? So I think "Bring it on - the more kissing the better!"' A spokeswoman for the programme insisted: 'EastEnders has always reflected the diversity of London's East End. The Masood and Fox families are among our most loved characters with some of the most topical and groundbreaking stories.'

EastEnders producers have been accused of political bias following the decision to recruit Mayor of London Boris Johnson for a cameo appearance. Johnson filmed a short scene with Walford legend Barbara Windsor (Peggy Mitchell) at the Queen Vic in July. Their meeting was show in last night's episode. The Conservative politician's predecessor Ken Livingstone, who held the mayoral post from 2000 before being defeated by Johnson in 2008, has told The Times that he was once rejected by the soap when he asked its bosses to highlight a Labour recycling campaign. It is thought that he wanted promotional posters to appear in the background during scenes. Livingstone said: 'They said it wouldn't be appropriate, that it was political. They've obviously changed their tune, but then they have always been quite keen on Boris. They were relentlessly hostile to me in the eighteen months before the election but never gave Boris a push.' Murad Quereshi, a London Assembly member for the Labour Party, added: 'The BBC need to be even-handed when they are dealing with the mayor's office, no matter who is in there.' The show's surprise storyline sees Peggy meeting Johnson unexpectedly when he decides to pay a visit to Walford. A spokesperson for the BBC described the office of mayor as 'politically neutral' and insisted that Johnson was approached because his presence fitted in with Peggy's recent local election plotline.

The Time Traveler's Wife author Audrey Niffenegger has revealed that she will not be watching the movie based on her best-selling novel. The romantic drama was recently adapted into a big screen film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Speaking to the Associated Press, she said: 'Once I signed away the rights I had just had to let go. The advice of everyone who ever had this experience or been near was to just let go. Once you sign on the dotted line, you have no control... I decided it would probably be best if I just did that.' Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, was published this week.

Johnny Depp will appear on the upcoming sixth studio CD by Sheffield group Babybird. Depp was also reportedly instrumental in hiring the producers for Ex-Maniac, which is due for release by the Stephen Jones-fronted band in February 2010. A group spokesman told MTV: 'Grammy nominated producers Bruce Witkin and Ryan Dorn were introduced to Jones by long-time Babybird fan Johnny Depp, who makes a cameo appearance on the new recording.' Depp is also rumoured to be directing the video for Babybird's comeback single. In 1997, Depp played slide guitar on 'Fade In-Out' for Oasis's Be Here Now LP after earlier performing on his friend Noel Gallagher’s re-recording of 'Fade Away' for the Help! charity project.

Paul Daniels has criticised the town of Blackpool, describing it as 'tasteless, bawdy and scruffy.' The veteran magician made his comments online, where he was discussing the decision to host the 2012 FISM international magic convention in the North-West seaside resort. Keith Telly Topping is sure that the people of Blackpool are absolutely gutted to have been criticised by a man who is to magic what Wee Jimmie Krankie is to nuclear physics. Not a lot.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog, I had not noticed earlier during my searches!
Keep up the superb work!

Anonymous said...

Nice work, regards