Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Nation Under A Groove

James May's Toy Stories ended its four-episode run with nearly four million viewers and a magnificent - and genuinely touching - tribute to Scalextric®™, breaking an official world record in the process. James' attempt to re-create the Brooklands motorsport track with Scalextric®™ aided by four hundred local volunteers and Scalextric®™ enthusiasts was one of the TV highlights of the week. If not, indeed, the year. The original circuit at Brooklands, the birthplace of British motorsport, was recreated in Scalextric®™ with James and his helpers using over twenty thousand separate sections to create the two-and-three-quarter mile track. Museum director Allan Winn said: 'The James May record attempt clearly captured the public imagination. We hadn't quite expected how much interest it would create. It took longer than predicted for the cars to complete it. The winning car took two hours to get around and we kept the museum open well beyond the end of the event.' The winning car was the red Aston Martin DB9 controlled by the community group. Just shows what can be achieved if people are enthusiastic about something and work together. The two remaining episodes of Toy Stories (which will celebrate Hornby model railways and Lego®™) will be broadcast nearer to Christmas.

Almost a month after he vowed to make a complaint to the BBC about his controversial appearance on Question Time, stuffed owl fast tracked into a management position in Gregg's (and, co-incidentally, BNP leader) Nick Griffin has still to make any official objection. Despite Griffin promising to lodge a complaint at what he claimed was the 'unfair' way in which the Question Time programme was produced, the BBC has not received a formal complaint. After he appeared on the BBC's flagship current affairs show in October, Griffin claimed he was treated unfairly by the panel and the audience and complained that the show, filmed at Television Centre in London, was broadcast from a city which had changed beyond all recognition because of what he called uncontrolled immigration. 'That was not a genuine Question Time, that was a lynch mob,' he told Sky News. A BNP spokesman also said at the time that it planned to put in 'a freedom of information request to the BBC and programme-makers to ask about the process of changing the format of the whole programme. [We want to know] why they felt they had to break with the usual format,' the spokesman added. However, BBC sources confirmed that the corporation has still not received an official objection from Griffin or from his party. What's keeping you, lads?

The BBC's Comedy College has won its first commission – a sitcom pilot by John Warburton for BBC3. Warburton's show, The Inn Mates, is set in and around the pub, The King's Ransom, where a motley crew of friends and strangers regularly gather for Sunday lunch. The characters include a son 'trying to forge a relationship with his sperm donor dad,' a 'free and easy young woman' in search of true love, a pair of community support officers 'whose dramatic fantasies will never be matched by reality' and two couples – one happily married and the other deeply unhappy. The Inn Mates was developed during Warburton's year at the Comedy College, a BBC initiative for new writers which launched in spring 2008. It was commissioned by BBC3 controller Danny Cohen and controller of comedy commissioning Cheryl Taylor, and will be made by BBC Comedy North in Manchester. The executive producers are BBC Comedy North's Jon Mountague and Micheál Jacob, creative director of the college. Jacob said: 'This is great news, both for the college, and particularly for John, whose writing is funny, warm and very much the product of a unique voice. I hope that we'll see more original work from the first year's college writers on screen, and this year's group are well on the way to creating exciting new projects.' Warburton added: 'I am incredibly chuffed the BBC have decided to pilot this. Over the last twenty years I have spent a great deal of time drinking in pubs in the name of research and this means I can now claim the whole lot back against tax. The College of Comedy is a superlative scheme, it has been invaluable to me as a writer in terms of learning and support.'

Comedy Central has picked up a new stand-up comedy show starring British comedian John Oliver. The Daily Show regular will host John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, says The Hollywood Reporter. The programme will feature performances by Oliver's favourite acts, including Janeane Garofalo, Brian Posehn and Paul F Tompkins. Each hour-long episode will include four stand-up performers. 'It's the most worthwhile way you could spend an hour each week that doesn't involve getting Mount Rushmore gradually tattooed across your stomach,' Oliver said.

The BBC has welcomed the government's announcement that it has delayed a decision over 'top-slicing' the licence fee to fund a replacement ITV regional news service, but warned that 'the war is not over yet.' BBC insiders told the Guardian the delay in a final decision on licence fee top-slicing until at least 2012 is 'good news,' but that there is 'not a sense of relief.' The decision by ministers to kick top-slicing into the long grass until after next year's general election was revealed yesterday in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's response to the consultation on 'Sustainable independent and impartial news in the nations, locally and in the regions.' Independent consortiums will still be invited to bid to run pilot schemes to take over supplying ITV regional news bulletins in Scotland, Wales and one English region, which will be funded from the BBC licence fee digital switchover surplus and could launch as early as April. However, the full replacement ITV regional news service is not due to roll out nationally until 2013 and if (or, indeed, when) the Conservatives win next year's general election the party has already vowed to scrap the scheme. One BBC source said the DCMS's decision was good news because it allows the director general, Mark Thompson, to complete his strategic review of all the BBC's services without having to worry about top-slicing. Details of Thompson's review are due to emerge in the new year. The source said: 'From our perspective it is good news but it should not detract from the fact the BBC still has a lot of work to do. What it does do is give us time to come up with a long-term strategic review and something more profound.'

Jason Lee has signed up to appear in the George Clooney-produced TNT pilot Delta Blues. The former My Name Is Earl and Almost Famous actor will play Dwight Hendricks, a Memphis police officer who lives with his mother and moonlights as an Elvis impersonator, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sounds suitably intriguing. TNT is describing the show as 'an offbeat drama' in their press release. Clark Johnson, whose directing credits include The Shield and The Wire, will helm the pilot.

Strictly Come Dancing is to return to its old two-show-per-week format for the final three rounds of the series, it has emerged. According to the Mirror, BBC schedulers have decided to make room for a separate results instalment which will air on Saturday nights after ITV's The X Factor from next month. Fans currently see the ballroom performances, results announcement, dance-off and elimination all in the same episode. This arrangement was introduced for the first time this year. Insiders have claimed that the latest change is being made so that viewers have more time to vote as the competition reaches its final stages. A source said: 'The current fifteen-minute window doesn't give enough time for the calls to get through as the contest hots up.'

Jon Culshaw has said that The X Factor has nothing to do with music. The impressionist told Metro that he mourned the loss of the build-up to the Christmas number one since the show's winners have dominated the seasonal top spot. Culshaw said: 'The fact we don't have a proper Christmas number one anymore is irritating, it's just whatever wins The X Factor. Noel Gallagher was right when he said X Factor was everything to do with television and nothing to do with music.' When asked if he would ever do a celebrity reality show, Culshaw added: 'No, there are far too many and they're too spun out. The Apprentice is interesting as there's something going on, but the rest are full of desperately irritating people who just want to build their profiles, little celebrity cockroaches who crawl out from under their rocks.'

Danyl Johnson has reportedly threatened to quit The X Factor unless Simon Cowell changes his song choice. According to the Mirror, Johnson 'stormed out of a rehearsal' with vocal coach Yvie Burnett because he does not want to sing George Michael's 'Praying for Time'. An insider said: 'He literally burst out the door and ran off down Battersea High Street. A few production staff chased after him to try to calm him down and make him come back but he was having none of it. They even sent a car to follow him and try to make him see sense and return but he refused. He seems very angry and upset and is demanding a different song. It'll be interesting to see if Simon backs down or makes him stick with it.' Another insider added: 'He's not doing himself any favours with stunts like this which just make him look like a spoilt brat. Even if the song choice is wrong there's no need to storm out, he should talk about it first.' Johnson reportedly went missing for nearly five hours before turning up at the Sony BMG offices to talk to Cowell. According to a show source, Cowell may be prepared to change the song if Johnson makes an apology to the production crew because 'Simon will never tolerate rudeness.' Unless it's coming from himself, of course.

Camilla Dallerup has walked out of I'm A Celebrity... after suffering from illness. The Strictly Come Dancing star will be replaced in the jungle by former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Bugner. Dallerup broke down in tears during her third day on the show, telling the other celebrities that she could not sleep or think properly. 'I'm scared because I don't want to put my health in danger and I can't think straight. I'm just so scared,' she said. Wimp. On last night's programme, she was comforted by Katie Price after she complained about feeling feverish. She claimed that the lack of food in the camp was causing her problems, blaming her 'high metabolism' for her ill-health. 'I've never felt this weak. I'm thinking what a hard job it is to get to the shower,' she said. 'It's not eating. Heat, I can deal with. I've got the highest metabolism of anyone I know. I feel useless being here, so tired. You can't help anyone.' Yeah, yeah, we believe you, darlin'. Thousands wouldn't.

Meanwhile, Big Nicola McLean has claimed that Katie Price is 'putting on an act' in I'm A Celebrity... McLean, who took part in the reality show last year, said that Price's panic attacks during her Swamped challenge were fake. 'To have a panic attack and then dunk under - come on, it isn't a panic attack,' McLean told This Morning. 'It is an act because she then went in and done it.' McLean also criticised the mother-of-three for the small swimsuit she wore during the task, commenting: 'Has she helped herself by wearing that swimming costume? Is she not going on to make the public like her again? For all the people who've done the show she should be honest about why she's going in.' McLean also hit out at TV cleaner Kim Woodburn for not wearing suitable underwear, adding: 'She needs to get a proper bra. It's really annoying seeing them there down by her knees.' As you can see Big Nicola demonstrating here during her 'Christ almighty, look at the size of them' phase. Meanwhile, sad, deluded has-been Kerry Katona has said that she doesn't understand why Katie Price has returned to I'm A Celebrity... You don't? Probably pretty much the same reason why there's a new Internet rumour about which TV show you're going to be appearing in soon started near-enough every week, love. A very desperate attempt to keep oneself in the public eye despite being past ones sell-by date. However, Ms Katona also confessed in the same interview that she would consider a second stint on the show herself if she needed to 'pay the bills.' Insert your own punchline here, dear blog reader.

Ultimo boss Michelle Mone has reportedly accused Katie Price of being rude and disrespectful during a short stint as a model for the bra firm. According to the Daily Record, the Scottish businesswoman and Apprentice judge revealed details of her experiences with Price on her Facebook page after the glamour girl joined the I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! jungle this week. Mone is quoted as saying: 'Hope the public won't get taken in by Jordan this time. Her contract with Ultimo was for a year, it lasted five hours. No matter who you are, you should have respect and never speak down to people.' Mone later continued: 'I haven't spoken about this, but she makes me sick. Four years ago, one of my junior marketing girls was fitting her, she was so nervous and she made a mistake. Jordan turned round and called her the "C" word. That's why she lasted five hours. No respect, not a nice person, stay in the jungle and do us all a favour. That's why I have spoken out this time.'

Everybody's got it in for Katie, it would seem. Good. Can't have too much of that. Kim Woodburn has criticised Price for being a 'publicity seeker.' Yeah. And...? The How Clean Is Your House? star confronted Price about her behaviour, after the glamour model asked her follow I'm A Celebrity ... (ahem) 'celebrities' how she compared to their preconceptions of her. Because, as we all know, Katie clearly feels that the show is about 'me, me, me, me, me, me, me. And me.' 'You are what I thought you'd be,' said Woodburn, tartly. 'You're a publicity seeker. You live and die for publicity and you do it well. As Shakespeare once said, "We fear you protesteth too much."' Actually, he didn't quite say that. Common misconception. But, never mind let's hear the rest of Ms Woodburn's rant because it's very funny. 'You said you escaped to come in here but you've got twelve million people watching you every night.' Again, if we're being factually accurate, it was eight million. And dropping by a few hundred thousand each night, by the look of things. 'What I'm saying is you do publicity very well and you protest all the time but love it. You live it and dream it.' Price refuted the cleaner's comments, arguing that she 'used to love it.' However, Woodburn then accused the former model of putting on an act. 'You've come into the jungle twice and you're escaping and you've got twelve million people [that] watch you every night and you know, you've been down a couple of times there (points to the shower). Katie, please, I'm too old for this. You've been standing there because you've got a gorgeous body. You complain but you wouldn't have it any other way. I don't mind that, darling, but don't pretend. Make as much money as you can. You've got a lovely body but don't pretend that you hate it. You love it dear. You came from the shower the other day and, as a woman of sixty seven, I thought, "Grow up."'

Five nominations for this year’s British Comedy Awards has put the BBC's excellent family comedy Outnumbered high on the list of top TV shows. Hailed for its groundbreaking partly-improvised style, Outnumbered has earned newcomer nominations for all three of its child actors. Claire Skinner, who plays their mother, Sue Brockman, is up for best comedy actress, while the show competes with Channel 4's Peep Show and The IT Crowd for best sitcom. Peep Show's Robert Webb is in line for best comedy actor as well as being in the running with That Mitchell and Webb Look for best sketch show. Meanwhile, Michael McIntyre and Alan Carr go head-to-head alongside Harry Hill in both the best comedy entertainment personality and entertainment programme categories. There's only one way to sort the latter out. FIIIIGHT!

Abigail Spencer has signed up to appear in the NBC pilot Rex Is Not Your Lawyer. The Mad Men actress will join David Tennant and Jeffrey Tambor in the quirky legal comedy-drama. Spencer is scheduled to play Lindsey Steers, an ambitious lawyer and fiancee to Tennant's titular character, Rex, according to The Hollywood Reporter. My Own Worst Enemy producer David Semel is directing the pilot, which has been scripted by Andrew Leeds and David Lampson.

Former Asda chief executive Archie Norman is to replace Michael Grade as the chairman of ITV in January. Norman will be paid an annual salary of three hundred grand a year and given 1.2 million shares in the company, currently worth almost sixty pence each, over the next three years. The former Conservative MP is known for reviving the fortunes of Asda in the 1990s, before it was sold to Wal-Mart, and growing B&Q-owner Kingfisher in the 1980s. Oddly enough, none of Norman's former parliamentary colleagues have lined-up to tell their chums in the press how utterly disgraceful it is that he's going to be earning one hundred thousand pounds more a year than the Prime Minister. Unlike one or two BBC employees that we could all probably name. Politicians, eh? A load of hypocritical scum? Surely not? Norman said: 'There are few opportunities that would have tempted me back into the public company arena, but ITV is definitely one of them. It is an irresistible challenge, a great brand, a people business with enormous talent, but facing an imperative for change: the challenge of adapting to compete in a fragmented digital media world.'

TV hospital dramas are filled with poor conduct from staff and breaches of patient confidentiality, it has been claimed. Yeah, sounds about right. Antony Sumara, who has taken over at the scandal-plagued Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Hospital Trust, said that while shows like Holby City and Casualty are entertaining, they do not reflect what really goes on in hospitals. They're not supposed to, mate. They 'drama.' You know, 'made up stuff.' Jesus, why the hell is everybody so ruddy stupid these days? Is it something in the water? You must be a reasonably intelligent man, Antony, you're running an NHS Trust. Not very well by the sound of things, but still ... Try using that intelligence at sorting out the different between 'Fact' and 'Fiction.' Sumara urged programme makers to show a more realistic view of hospital life and warned that young people may be put off having a medical career by watching the programmes. He told the BBC: 'The drama isn't limited to medical emergencies. There is a very serious side to these programmes and the influence they can have on the viewing public. For example, what impression of a career in the NHS is set in the minds of young people aspiring to be the future generation of nurses, doctors or chief executives when they watch programmes filled with unprofessionalism and poor conduct?' A BBC spokesman said: 'Although both programmes are set against the backdrop of a hospital it's important to point out that they are fictional dramas where much of action comes from the social interaction and sometimes the human error of the characters involved in the shows.' She went on to tell a suprised Sumara that David Tennant, actually, isn't a Time Lord with two hearts who travels through time and space in a dimensionally trascendent craft that looks like a 1950s police box but is, in fact, 'an actor.' Earlier this year a report found 'appalling standards of care' at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Hospital Trust, with patients describing 'Third World conditions' on the wards. Which would seem to suggest that current medical dramas reflect very accurately what goes on. In Staffordshire's hospital at least.

Chris Addison has confirmed that he has recorded a small part in the upcoming fourth series of the teen-drama Skins. The Thick Of It star told the Guardian that he will play a headmaster in the show and admitted to feeling old among the young cast. Addison said: '[I play a] Cameronian control freak - an uptight, smug bully who, it seems to me, is less interested in teaching than in "fixing" youth. I think Skins makes anyone above the age of twenty three feel old, and that's one of its great strengths. It's energetic, colourful and full of life in a way that not much drama is on TV these days.' He added: 'It's a combination of fun and terrifying to watch if you're out of its immediate demographic - particularly terrifying if you're a parent of teenagers, I should think. You are always aware when watching it that it's Not Meant For You.'

Coronation Street star Kym Marsh has admitted that her character's recent semi-nude bath scene impressed her son's friends. The actresses alter-ego, Michelle Connor, got the shock of her life last month when builder Jake Harman (Kenny Doughty) interrupted her bath-time by falling through a window at her home. Marsh, who is mother to fourteen-year-old David and eleven-year-old Emily, told the Press Association: 'It's quite funny - my son does get quite a few boys going up to him at school saying things like, "I saw your mum the other night in the bath." After confirming that she wore a stick-on bra and flesh-coloured knickers for the scene, the thirty three-year-old added: '[My kids] thought it was really funny. They knew how I'd filmed it, I'd explained it properly to them. My son rang me and said, "That's really funny, mum." They really get it and appreciate it. To them, I'm just their mum so it's no biggie. But people go up to them at school and say, "Your mum's fit."'

A line delivered by Philip Glenister in Marks & Spencer's new Christmas advert - you know the one - has been accused of being sexist. The Advertising Standards Authority has reportedly received eight complaints over the Ashes To Ashes star's contribution to the retailer's festive commercial, BBC News reports. M&S's advert sees a number of famous faces commenting on how 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without' various M&S treats. In Glenister's sequence, his chosen benefit is 'that girl prancing around in her underwear.' Model Noemie Lenoir is then shown wearing only a skimpy bra and knickers. And, very nice she is too. A spokesman for M&S insisted that the moment was intended to be 'a light-hearted reference to the chauvinistic views' of Glenister's Ashes To Ashes character Gene Hunt. The representative said: 'We're surprised by the ASA complaints regarding Philip Glenister's appearance in our TV advert. Our research shows that his on-screen character in Ashes to Ashes is extremely popular with our customers and his lines in the ad are in keeping with that role.' Maybe, just maybe, the answer is that people like watching Gene Hunt in Ashes to Ashes because they know he's a fictional character but they take a rather dim view of money-grabbing chainstores milking that public affection whilst trying to flog their nasty navy-blue St Michael's undies? Just something to pop into your toaster and see if it pops up brown, M&S.

Nestor Carbonell has been linked with the role of villain Khan in the forthcoming Star Trek sequel. The actor, who stars in Trek director JJ Abrams's TV shows Lost (as Richard Alpert) and Fringe, is being talked about for the part of genetically engineered superhuman Khan Noonien Singh, according to website Coming Soon. Khan, portrayed by Ricardo Montalban, first appeared in the 1967 Star Trek episode Space Seed. The character later returned for the second franchise feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. You know, the one with Shatner shouting 'Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!' You know, where Spock dies at the end. It was pretty good, that one. Much better than the sequel.

Rockin' Roger Daltrey has said that he is planning to pen his autobiography. The Who singer, who is currently performing in America on his Use It Or Lose It solo tour, spoke to The Rock Radio about the possibility of penning his memoirs. 'I'm thinking about a biography now,' Daltrey stated. 'It's probably time. Just the story of my life and the things I've done, you know, it's kind of interesting. And when I look at the juxtapositions of things - like being the singer in The Who to being a fish farmer, and being a film star to being a beef farmer... there's all these swings and roundabouts in my life that are so juxtapositioned.' He added: 'There were interesting times, they were interesting times. And it wasn't all fun, but there was an awful lot of fun. The only trouble is, the people usually want the salacious crap and I don't know if I'm prepared to dig that, you know?'

Ofcom has pledged to investigate potential consumer uses for unoccupied radio waves between TV channels known as 'white spaces.' Unused spaces in the spectrum traditionally used by TV services - which can travel further and pass more easily through walls as compared to other frequencies - are being evaluated by Ofcom for possible use by other applications. The watchdog believes that unused capacity on these frequencies could be utilised to provide enhanced mobile broadband in remote rural areas where coverage has previously been patchy. In addition, the frequencies could further free up a range of white space devices, including digital cameras able to transmit photos to a PC the moment they are taken or remote controlled home utilities, such as ovens or central heating, able to be activated from great distances. However, the regulator first wants to make sure that these applications and devices would not interfere with existing TV broadcasts or other wireless devices, such as wireless microphones, before green-lighting their development. Towards this aim, a 'geolocation database' could be established containing live information about which frequencies are available for use and where. 'White space devices have the potential to enable a vast range of new and innovative applications - from broadband access for rural communities, to innovative personal consumer applications - each benefiting from improved signal reliability, capacity, and range offered by unused TV frequencies,' said Ofcom head of research and development professor William Webb.

BBC1 has revealed details of The Silence, a new four-part drama about a deaf girl who witnesses a violent murder. The plot details involve eighteen-year-old Amelia Edwards, who has been fitted with a cochlear implant. The device is a success and finally enables her to hear, but she finds herself struggling to accept her new place in the hearing world. This is the first major role for severely deaf actress Genevieve Barr, who won the role of Amelia while she was on the Teach First scheme.

ITV has commissioned The Nolans - In the Mood for Dancing, featuring interviews with the Nolan sisters and behind the scenes footage of their comeback tour. The programme follows the singing family from their early performances in working men's clubs, when the whole family with eight children lived in a three bedroom house, to selling twenty five million LPs. It also features exclusive interviews with the two Nolan brothers, who talk about growing up with the most famous sisters in the country and with celebrity fans, including Cliff Richard, who reveals that his programme gave The Nolans their first television performance. With archive footage and family photographs, The Nolans - In the Mood for Dancing takes the sisters on a voyage of memories, even taking them back to the house in Blackpool where they grew up. The sisters talk about the tragedies that they've faced since they last took to the stage together and look ahead to their comeback. ITV's Controller of Entertainment Layla Smith says: 'The Nolans were the British Von Trapp family and one of the best loved bands of the last few decades.' No they weren't. The Clash were one of the best loved bands of the last few decades, The Nolans were a rather tacky showbiz sister-act well suited to Seaside Special and end-of-the-pier variety nonsense like that and who had a couple of medium-sized hit singles with crappy disco songs thirty years ago. Some people like them, and that's fine. But please ITV don't try to make out they're something that they're not. You'll only end up embarrassing them. And yourselves.

Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez has been improving his English skills thanks to Coronation Street. The Argentinean footballer, who moved to the UK three years ago, reportedly started watching the soap following encouragement from his City team-mates. It is thought that City's Brazilian striker Robinho also picked up some English by watching the Manchester-based drama. Additionally, defender Pablo Zabaleta, who is also from Argentina, apparently wants Tevez to eventually stop needing a translator for team talks. Speaking to Football Punk magazine about Corrie, Tevez confirmed: 'I like it. I don't understand some things because of the language, but it seems very good.' Meanwhile, a source told the Sun: 'Carlos finds it difficult learning English. But he's coming on in leaps and bounds now he's watching Corrie, although he doesn't quite get the dialect yet. By the end of the season we're hoping he'll be able to do away with the translator and speak English for himself.' Something that one or two of the Corrie cast still haven't mastered, it should be noted.

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