Friday, October 23, 2009

Food For Thought

Yer Keith Telly Topping (and his rapidly sprouting crusty-juggler beard) is, somewhat, 'in recovery' today, ladies and gentlemen. Recovering, that is, from a quite magnificent bit of yer actual spoonerism that he accidentally came up with during the recording of next week's Top Telly Tips in the studio yesterday. On the subject of The Restaurant for next Tuesday's slot, the line 'Raymond Blanc hunts for a couple' got a bit mangled up and came out as ... well, you can probably guess exactly how it came out. The C-bomb was not so much -accidentally - dropped as splattered all over the region. Potentially. Tragically, we did have the time to do a re-take of the offending item. Just one of the wild and wacky things what happens in the crazy world of Keith telly Topping's adventures in local radio, dear blog reader.

Steve Groves won the 2009 Masterchef: The Professionals, in a close-run final against Marianne Lumb and Daniel Graham - the latter of whom Keith Telly Topping was personally backing, on both culinary and geographical grounds. All three produced stunning dishes in the final round - there were points, quite seriously, where it seemed that Gregg Wallace was going to start proposing to one, several or all of the finalists. Or, licking chocolate sauce off their torsos. But, in the end, it was Essex-boy Steve's flair and innovation which won the vote of the judges - Gregg and Michel Roux. Steve's winning menu consisted of a starter of roast quail with scotch egg, morels and asparagus, a main course of venison loin with potato rosti, watercress puree and roasted beetroot. He finished off with a dessert of mille feuille of raspberries and bitter chocolate with lavender and honey ice cream. Daniel, meanwhile, told the Journal that he dreams of returning to the North East and setting up his own restaurant on Newcastle's Quayside. Danny, when you do mate, as I'm sure you will, Keith Telly Topping would like an invite to the opening night. Because, seriously, he thought that trio of tequila-inspired desserts might just be the greatest thing he's ever seen and drooled over in my life!

The stance taken by Peter Hain against the BNP's participation in last night's Question Time is one that is understood but not shared by the majority of his Labour colleagues, according to culture secretary Ben Bradshaw. 'Hain has very strong views and a long history of campaigning against apartheid and fascist organisations. His view [that BNP leader Nick Griffin should not appear on Question Time] are not shared by most of the cabinet,' Bradshaw told The Media Show on Radio 4 on Tuesday. Asked by presenter Steve Hewlett whether the BBC was right to have invited Griffin, Bradshaw replied: 'I've always thought that we have to take the BNP on. I tend to think they condemn themselves as soon as they open their mouths. In a free country - a democracy - where they have elected representatives, not just at local level, but in the European parliament as well, it's very difficult for broadcasting organisations to exclude them.' Barring the party from the airwaves would allow BNP officials and members to portray themselves as victims, Bradshaw believed. 'The issue of whether Question Time is the right forum is one for the BBC, but I certainly agree with the idea that we should not give these people an opportunity to claim they're being gagged. We need to expose their arguments.' On the night, thirty anti-fascist protesters broke through a security cordon in place around BBC Television Centre. Over one hundred people were protesting outside the corporation's television headquarters ahead of the arrival of Griffin. When the show started, Griffin used the opportunity to criticise Islam and defend a past head of the Ku Klux Klan. He also told the - largely hostile - audience that Winston Churchill would be a BNP supporter if he were alive and said he finds two men kissing 'creepy.' One of the panellists, justice secretary Jack Straw, said it had been a 'catastrophic week for the BNP because for the first time the views of the BNP have been properly scrutinised.' And following the programme, other panellists said Mr Griffin had been exposed. Baroness Warsi, the Conservative peer and shadow communities minister, said 'he does not have any political views other than a hatred for certain groups of people.' Straw, Bonnie Greer and, interesting, the show's host David Dimbleby were probably the most effective questioners of Griffin. Straw managed to ride a horribly nasty 'my dad's bigger than your dad' jibe from Griffin to effectively challenge the strutting little would-be dictator on his relationship with the Klan. Bonnie Greer's approach was to treat Griffin like a grumpy schoolboy, giving him a pointed (and very funny) lesson in history on more than one occasion. Perhaps the highlight of the night, however, was when one audience member suggested that Griffin should try campaigning at the South Pole next. Where 'the colourless landscape will suit you.'

ITV's News at Ten is to drop the familiar image of Big Ben's clock face from the programme titles as part of a show revamp, ITN has announced. The well-known bongs, which come from the clock's bell, will remain and be incorporated into the opening soundtrack as part of the re-brand. The decision to drop the Westminster clock tower has been made 'to help engage with viewers who do not live in London.' A spokesman said: 'We didn't want the news to be too London-centric.' About fifty years too late for that, I reckon.

Ant and Dec are poised to sign a new exclusive two-year deal with ITV worth ten million pounds each. The Geordie duo have agreed to take around a ten per cent pay cut. Their current contracts, worth around seventeen million over three years, expire at the end of this year. They will sign their new deals in the next few weeks, keeping them at the channel until at least the end of 2011. Agents for the pair - Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly - have been thrashing out the new deal for the past few months. The Britain's Got Talent hosts had feared they would be forced to lose twenty five per cent as ITV's advertising income has been badly hit by the recession. Ant said earlier this year: 'If we're offered less, so be it. I want to make great shows and money comes after that.' But senior ITV figures agreed the pair shouldn't suffer a painful cut, as all of their shows are successful.

BBC schedulers have decided to move Strictly Come Dancing to an earlier time-slot, reducing the show's overlap with The X Factor on Saturday nights. From 31 October, the BBC1 ballroom contest will clash with its ITV rival for just forty five minutes, the Sun reports. The weekly episode is expected to kick off at 6.50pm and end at 8.45pm, while The X Factor's performance instalment will begin at 8pm as usual. The news comes days after reports that Strictly's ratings were causing concern at the corporation. On Tuesday, an insider was quoted as saying that the programme's battle with The X Factor was 'not doing it any good.' Strictly has so far lost out in each of its weekly clashes with Simon Cowell's singing competition. The most recent round saw The X Factor attracting three million more viewers than the BBC's dance offering. A BBC spokesman denied suggestions that the programme's new slot has anything to do with The X Factor. The representative said that schedulers are merely making way for a new show by impressionist Jon Culshaw.

Strictly star Ali Bastian has been caught up in a swine flu scare, according to a report. The actress woke up with flu-like symptoms on Wednesday and is now taking regular doses of medication, the Sun claims. It is thought that while Bastian currently wishes to continue with her commitment to Saturday's Strictly round, show bosses are willing to let her skip a week if necessary. The star's professional dance partner Brian Fortuna is also said to have been ill recently. Bastian has reportedly joked to friends that she has simply caught 'man-flu' from him. A source said: 'We were petrified Ali had caught swine flu, but she has been downplaying it. She made it to her rehearsal but she fears it getting worse. She is due to perform the American smooth with her very own smooth American - Brian - and she really wants to put in a good show.' Come on, nobody really talks like that! The development is a new blow for the couple after they scored their worst marks of the series last weekend. Saturday's show saw Len Goodman and his fellow judges criticising the pair for making mistakes in their jive.

Evangeline Lilly has said that she would never be able to write a show like Lost. The actress, who has starred as the series' Kate Austen since the beginning of the show, told Stylist that she will pursue writing after the end of Lost's sixth and final season. Lilly said: 'Writing is my first passion. I can't stop it. I write all the time so I want to either publish something I have written or sell a film script.' When asked if she will write something like Lost, she replied: 'Never in a million years! I am so not a sci-fi buff in any way and this show is so beyond me, I couldn't fathom a show like this. But I'll write anything. If one day a TV series comes into my head and that is what I want to write, I'll write it. It just depends what story is in my brain at the time.'

NCIS star Pauley Perrette will cross over to its spin-off series as part of an upcoming storyline. According to Entertainment Weekly, Perrette's extremely popular character, Abby, will appear in NCIS: Los Angeles in an episode due to air in November, when she is mysteriously abducted. Last month, the spin-off series debuted with an impressive 18.3million viewers and was recently handed a full season order by CBS.

In the least unexpected TV development of the year, Dollhouse will go on hiatus in November, it has been confirmed. The remaining episodes of season two of the Joss Whedon sci-fi series, which Fox had previously promised to broadcast in full, will now be aired back-to-back in December. Miracle Laurie, who plays November on the show, wrote on her Twitter: 'Trying not to be depressed ... Upside? When they finally start airing, at least you'll get NEW back to back episodes every Friday for three weeks. Dollhouse think positive?' Last month, the Eliza Dushku-fronted series made a dreadfully poor return to FOX, then dropped to a series low of 2.09m, beaten in its time-slot by SyFy's Stargate Universe. And the irony? It's actually a really rather good little show. What a pity nobody's watching it.

Simon Cowell's mother has revealed that he was a determined and often difficult child. You don't say? Julie Cowell, who raised Simon and his brother Nicolas with her late husband Eric, said that although she is proud of her son's success, she has tried to stop it from going to his head. Talking about when his career took off, the former dancer told Yours magazine: 'I was watching for his feet to come off the ground. And if they did, I would have made sure they came down quickly.' Eighty two-year-old Julie continued: 'It would only upset me if he really was a nasty person. Simon isn't nasty - he's just honest.' She added: 'I'll tell him if I think he's said the wrong thing to a contestant. I've always insisted on politeness, so when people say how pleasant Simon is, I mutter "thank goodness." It means more to me than his television career.'

Actor Stephen Graham has said that British TV should invest in quality drama rather than 'dancing shows.' The Public Enemies star revealed that he was 'gutted' about the demise of Jimmy McGovern's The Street, which aired on the BBC between 2006 and 2009. 'You can't take money away from great drama like that and put it into people dancing,' he told the BBC. 'I don't mean to be disrespectful or anything, it's my job and I'm very passionate about it.' Have you noticed how, more often than not when somebody says 'I don't mean to be disrespectful', it's usually a prelude to them saying something that is, indeed, disrespectful? Curious, isn't it? It's rather like those people who say 'I'm not being funny, right, but ...' when they, clearly, are. Or, at least, think they are. 'You shouldn't take money away from a screen where we make great drama and watch people spinning around in a ballroom,' he added. 'That's why actors like me are going over [to America]. It's a shame. Where are writers like Jimmy [McGovern] going to be able to show their work? Where are we supposed to do our good drama?' 'Stephen is entitled to his own views,' a BBC spokesman said before mouthing let's see how he gets on in America if he thinks that's so great. 'However, the BBC makes more drama than any other channel in the UK and the budget for drama is considerably bigger than that for entertainment.' I think you meant 'considerably larger' there, actually. So, yet again, we have this curiously narrow definition of Public Service Broadcasting as 'stuff I like'. Or, in this case 'stuff I might get a part in.' For most people in the television industry, selfish is just another excuse to be crabby.

Watch will build on the 'success' of Tarrant Lets The Kids Loose with a prime-time Shine Television gameshow that challenges celebrities to break down the communication gap between adults and children. What Do Kids Know? is a ten-part series that takes regular contestants Sara Cox and Joe Swash, plus one celebrity guest, and pairs them with a child. The three teams compete against each other in games that require imagination and ingenuity, as the grown-up tries to guess what their young team member is trying to say.

Children's TV network Nickelodeon has purchased the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. The company paid The Mirage Group and 4Kids Entertainment sixty million dollars to produce a new cartoon series featuring the heroes in a half-shell, the Los Angeles Times reports. Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures also plan to release a full-length feature based on the characters. The television version is scheduled to debut in 2012. Hang on, is this 1990 and we've all time-slipped or something?

UK drama independents need to cast better looking actors if they want to sell to North America, according to several top distributors. ITV Studios director of acquisitions and co-productions Emmanuelle Namiech, who is currently looking to acquire new UK programmes for distribution, said that although gritty characters worked well in the UK, they were a turn-off for international broadcasters. 'The UK has more realistic expectations about what characters should look like, but the majority of overseas networks look for characters who are much more aspirational. Some of the dramas we see will not sell because of the cast.' Distributor E1 Entertainment president Peter Emerson and Shaftesbury Films chairman and chief executive Christina Jennings agreed. Emerson said most of Canada and America's highest-rating shows had at least a few 'very attractive characters. It is an important factor for sales,' he said. Jennings added: 'The story will always be the most important thing, but if the audience doesn't want to watch it, it's not going to sell.' So, in other words, 'all Americans are shallow and narcissistic and prefer to watch Paris Hilton over Sir Derek Jacobi,' is that what you're saying Christina? I mean, you may well be right but isn't that something you should be seeking to change, not merely accept the de facto reality of the situation? Mind you, Stephen Graham's on his way over there, apparently. So, you know, maybe things are changing?

BBC3 is to follow five doctors in their first four months of the job for a six-episode series shot in the style of a glossy medical drama. Billed as 'a real-life Grey's Anatomy,' Newly Meds (working title) will be made by the BBC's in-house entertainment unit and show the doctors' lives on the wards as well as revealing their off-duty lifestyles. 'It is a journey of discovery as they tackle first day nerves, wrestling drunks in A&E, coping with their first experiences of death and delivering their first babies,' said a BBC spokeswoman.

Location, Location, Location presenter Kirstie Allsopp will reveal how to have a DIY Christmas in a three-part series for Channel 4. IWC Media is making Kirstie's Homemade Christmas, which will see the property presenter reveal her take on homemade Christmas decorations, presents, food, drink and general merriment. If she's in the sort of mood she usually is on Location, the answer to the general merriment equation is likely to be 'you can't have any.' The show, a follow-up to Kirstie's Homemade Home, was ordered by Andrew Jackson.

Coronation Street actor Gray O'Brien has revealed that he never receives underwear from fans through the post. Neither does Keith Telly Topping, what are the odds? The Scottish soap star, who plays villainous knicker-factory owner Tony Gordon, admitted that he is surprised by his lack of saucy presents. Again, something Keith Telly Topping can well-understand.

Emmerdale star Lyndon Ogbourne used an interview to insist that Billie Piper was'more of a friend than a girlfriend' when they grew up in Swindon together just weeks after he used another interview to, very clearly, describe Piper as 'my ex-girlfriend.' The twenty six-year-old actor, better known as Nathan Wylde on the ITV drama, recently spoke to the Press Association about how he 'became close' to Piper when they both attended the same drama club as teenagers. Scotching rumours of a full-blown romance, however, Ogbourne has now told the Swindon Advertiser: 'We were very young and we may have shared a young snog at some point, but we were, basically, mates. We used each other almost as support - phoning each other because we were going through the same sorts of things.' How very curious. One does, rather, wonder if Ogbourne hadn't been advised by someone - let's say just for the sake of argument a very famous actress with an international reputation who shall remain nameless - that going around claiming to have been somebody's boyfriend when you, actually, weren't that or anything even remotely like it, in an effort to get a bit of publicity for yourself to boost your own career, isn't really a very nice thing to do. Of course, that probably didn't happen.

Senior BBC staff expect an incoming Tory government to usher in 'a period of radical chang'e and shrink the corporation's income by around thirty per cent a year. The estimate is based on conversations with senior politicians and it is understood director general Mark Thompson has told staff the upheaval will be on a par with that instigated by Margaret Thatcher when she became Prime Minister in 1979. It is Tory policy to shrink all government departments and quangos by thirty per cent and shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he would 'rip up the BBC charter.' However, a Tory spokesman said the party had never stipulated publicly or privately exactly how much the BBC should shrink by. Nonetheless, the thirty per cent figure is on the lips of top BBC executives and has raised alarm. One source said: 'The BBC would just seize up - thirty per cent would be a gigantic cut. It would be like giving a treatment to a patient in one giant dose that causes them to die.' In contrast, the ongoing internal review of the 'size and scope' of BBC activities is believed to be eyeing a cut of just ten per cent. The official position is that the review is a blank sheet of paper and nothing is ruled in or out, but Thompson has already hinted that any changes it recommends will make the BBC smaller.

Bill Nighy has claimed that the announcement about the proposed fourth Pirates Of The Caribbean instalment is 'not reliable.' Producer Jerry Bruckheimer previously stated that the project is a 'priority' for Disney. Star Johnny Depp's participation may be in question though after studio chairman Dick Cook was relieved of his position. The actor admitted that he only agreed to appear in the sequel because of his friendship with Cook. Now Nighy, who plays squid-faced Davy Jones in the franchise, has hinted that the pronouncement of the update might have been premature. He told Sci-Fi Wire: 'I understand that there was an announcement that there was going to be a fourth and now I've been told since that that was not a reliable announcement.' However, the star added that should the fourth movie transpire, he would be keen to reprise his role. He added: 'I would love to be in it, because I had a wonderful time with those. They were great people, and those films are beloved, so it would be great to be in a fourth one.'

EastEnders is to get a younger-skewing online spin-off in what will be the UK's highest profile web drama to date. The thirteen-part EastEnders:E20, described as a 'naughty little brother or sister to the main show,' is about four new characters who move into Albert Square. It will work as a standalone programme but also cross-reference storylines in the main soap and include cameos by its regular actors. EastEnders executive producer Diederick Santer conceived the spin-off as a way of nurturing new, young talent, both on and off-screen, and exploring the stories of the soaps' anonymous bystanders. Santer said: 'There are always other people [in EastEnders] milling round the market and houses that we never go into. There are four or five parallels you could do.'

EastEnders' live Twenty Fifth anniversary episode will feature the reveal of Archie Mitchell's murderer, according to reports. This year's festive Walford plot sees the demise of the Albert Square villain when one resident's temper boils over into a blind rage, resulting in Archie's (Larry Lamb) untimely death. Characters rumoured to be in the frame for his murder will include his co-conspirator Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks), his wife Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor), nephew-come-stepson Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Jack Branning (Scott Maslen). The soap's first ever live screening will broadcast in real time from its set in Elstree, Hertfordshire at 8pm on 19 February and will allegedly revolve around the reveal of Archie's killer.

Peter Kay will host this year's Royal Variety Performance, say reports. That's one damned good reason not to watch it, then. According to the Sun, the Phoenix Nights comedian will be joined by acts including Michael Bublé, Miley Cyrus, singer Katherine Jenkins, comedians Paddy McGuinness and Jason Manford and X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. That's several good reasons not to watch it, then. Got any more? American stars Whoopi Goldberg and Better Midler are on the bill, alongside the cast of West End hit Sister Act. And, Britain's Got Talent champions Diversity will also perform at the event, which is taking place in Blackpool. Yep, that's the clincher.

Ofcom is warning that all children's TV broadcasters and producers that after December this year no product placement will be allowed in any programmes aimed at under-16s, including those imported from the US. The crackdown, which will be written into the Ofcom broadcast code, follows the implementation of the new Europe-wide Audio Visual & Media Services directive, and applies to all new programmes broadcast in the UK that are made and broadcast after 19 December. Ofcom was unable to give any examples of programmes affected, but industry insiders said the main problems could arise from imported dramas and comedies, possibly including The Simpsons, which is broadcast on Sky1 and Channel 4. It has yet to decide on how the new regulation will be administered. It could only apply to programmes explicitly commissioned for children, or be based on the composition of the audience, which could affect programmes that children watch in large numbers, such as EastEnders, Doctor Who and The X Factor. David Kleeman, the president of the American Center for Children and Media, added: 'It's my understanding that product placement is implicitly banned from programmes targeted to children in the US and American producers have steered clear of doing so to be certain of staying on the right side of the regulators. It's dicier in programmes that are prime time initially - dramas or sitcoms - but how often are these acquired by UK children's channels. For shows like The Simpsons or South Park, I'm not aware of them having actual product placement.' Not real products, anyway. Unless there is a Duff Beer. Even of they do, it's going to be hard for anyone to suggest that either are 'programmes aimed at under-16s.'

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