Friday, November 06, 2009

The Time Is Now

Here were are, finding ourselves at the very beginning of the latest batch of Top Telly News, dear blog reader. You have been warned. When asked, during a recent convention appearance in the UK, which reality TV show he would most like to take part in, the former Buffy and Angel actor James Marsters noted 'any one, in which I get to shoot Simon Cowell in the face.' Good answer, that. Knew there was some reason that I really admired the chap apart from his fine acting and occasional Clash-influenced CDs.

That master of prestidigitation and mesmerism, the great Derren Brown has heavily criticised Derek Acorah who will be attempting a 'live séance' with the late Michael Jackson. Last month, Sky1 announced plans to screen Acorah's show, which will see the alleged medium - who was, of course, infamously 'asked to leave' Most Haunted after parapsychologist Ciarán O'Keeffe fed him misinformation to which he later responded during an investigation - attempt to 'contact' the deceased singer. Will Michael tell Derek to 'Beat It', we wonder? Writing on his blog Brown, who has spent much time in the past devoted to exposing fake mediums as charlatans, asked: 'Can you honestly imagine anything - anything - more anus-invertingly unpalatable than this? I hate myself for drawing attention to it. So proud to be in telly.' Nice one, Sky - another moment on television where dignity waves a little white flag and buggers off into the sunset. Acorah, himself, claims that the late pop star 'will enjoy' tonight's live séance. The alleged medium also states he is hoping that Jackson will be able to tell his family and fans - through Acorah - that he is happy. Asked, by Digital Spy website, what he will ask the pop star if a connection is made, he replied: "Firstly, how is he? How is he feeling?' Well, he's dead, Derek. So, I'm imagining, he's not feeling all that great.

Detective Superintendent Mark Lacey, who is the head of Northamptonshire Police's standards department apparently, has told his fellow officers that the public had increasingly unrealistic expectations of the police. He referred to American television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which characters use cutting-edge forensic technology at crime scenes to catch criminals. His comments came at a Northamptonshire Police Authority meeting on Tuesday while discussing a rise of forty four per cent in allegations of neglect by police officers this year. Lacey said: 'Often people have been watching programmes like CSI and they have expectations which are, perhaps, disproportionately high. In terms of neglect, this usually relates to a complaint that an officer has not followed up with victims and informed them of any progress.' Which your officers should be doing anyway as a matter of common courtesy, Mark. So, why the hell are you blaming a television series for your own force's failings? The police officer's crass, cowardly and insensitive comments were, themselves, subsequently criticised by Northamptonshire residents on an online forum. One, Jed Wilde said: 'This embarrassing statement just shows how out of touch with reality this police force has become. Why is it that no one in today's society will take responsibility for anything?" A very good question, Jed. Maybe we should all be tuning in to Crimewatch to find out? After all, they seem to be the only policemen and women in the country who are actually doing anything to justify their own existence.

Jesse Spencer will not be leaving House, despite his co-star and on-screen wife Jennifer Morrison's impending departure. According to Entertainment Weekly, the thirty-year old Australian actor, who was previously engaged to Morrison in real-life, is happy to stay on the FOX series and see Chase attempt to cope with the departure of his wife. A House insider is quoted as saying: 'Chase is very clearly off his game and struggling with the loss of Cameron.' In an upcoming episode, Chase will apparently punch House in the face after the head of diagnostics makes derogatory remarks about Chase in Cameron's absence.

Smallville producer Kelly Souders has hinted that the great Michael Rosenbaum could be making a return to the show. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Souders said that she 'would love to have him back. He came by the writers office a couple weeks ago,' she said. 'We all love him. The crew and the cast love him. We would love to have him back. We're constantly talking to him trying to figure out if there's a way. And believe me, we will keep fighting that fight until the final episode. And I know he'd love to come back too.' Souders went on to reveal that the only thing currently preventing a Lex return is Rosenbaum's hectic scheduling. 'He's doing other projects, so the timing of things is always a little tricky. Things have to get planned way in advance. And if he's locked into something, even if at the end of the day the schedule works out, you often don't know until you're already shooting.'

Former 24 actress Sarah Wynter has secured a role on FX's Damages, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The thirty six-year-old actress, who played Kate Warner in the second season of FOX's real-time drama, has reportedly been cast in the recurring role of a mysterious 'security specialist' who helps an assistant district attorney unravel a financial scam. The story arc will see her reunited with another fellow 24 veteran Reiko Aylesworth, who was recently cast in Damages' third season.

The alleged blackmail scheme against David Letterman has inspired an upcoming episode of Law & Order. The long-running NBC show will, reportedly, offer a different rationale for its fictionalised account of the US chat show host's recent on-air admission. Letterman confessed that he had sexual relationships with female members of his staff and claims to have been the target of an extortion plot because of the affairs. The episode will switch the talk show presenter from male to female and utilise elements of series The View as well, The Wrap reports. According to a casting call released earlier this week, Law & Order producers are seeking an actress to portray Vanessa Carville, a 'well-known celebrity talk show host, married with children, [who presents] along with a panel of other women.'

Mad Frankie Boyle's 'humiliating' comments about the Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington on Mock the Week represented 'a failure of editorial control,' according to Richard Tait of the BBC Trust. Speaking on The Media Show, Tait claimed that the commissioning editor of the BBC2 show had wanted some of the remarks, which included some sexual innuendo, taken out of the finished episode but that this hadn't happened. 'It was an editorial mistake… a failure of editorial control,' said the chairman of the Trust's editorial standards committee. He admitted that judgements on the subject of humour on the satirical panel show – 'usually well produced and edited,' Tait said – were sometimes difficult: 'On this occasion, Dara O'Briain, who is a very good chairman, put in half an apology and slightly chided Frankie Boyle.' The show was broadcast in August 2008, when Lucy Lumsden, now head of comedy at Sky, was the BBC controller of comedy commissioning. Since then, thirteen subsequent episodes of the panel show have been broadcast without any major incidents or significant complaints. Despite the Daily Mail pretty much declaring open war on the show. Responding to Tait's comments subsequently, the BBC 'took issue' with the idea that the version of the show which aired was not the one that had been cleared up the chain of command. A spokeswoman told Ariel: 'The BBC commissioning editor had lengthy and robust discussions with the producers on a number of issues within this programme and her changes were incorporated into the final edit. She felt that with Dara's comments added into the programme there was more balance within the material and ultimately signed it off editorially.' I must say, that bit of the Trust's judgement (which, as discussed in this blog at the time, Keith Telly Topping considered was a reasonably fair and honest one given the circumstances) rather baffled me. If the Trust and, indeed Lucy Lumsden herself, are saying that she wanted to remove certain elements from the show and then this didn't happen then what, exactly, was stopping her? She was the person with whom, ultimately, the buck stopped. Either she approved the episode as it went out - in which case, why is she attempting to shift the blame onto someone else? - or, alternatively it went out without her approval. In which case, someone else, somewhere, should be sacked for exceeding their own authority. After broadcast, the BBC and the programme's production company, Angst, accepted that Mad Frankie's comments had 'gone a tad too far' but did not consider that they breached editorial guidelines. The Trust disagreed, supporting the approximately seventy viewers who complained that Boyle's remarks - particularly a 'nasty' sexual reference – were humiliating, offensive and editorially unjustified. And, again with the benefit of hindsight, that's probably true. That number of complaints was, the Trust noted, 'exceptional' for the cult BBC panel show which seldom receives any: 'Viewers expect gritty humour and don't usually complain,' Tait noted. It is important to note at this point that Miss Adlington herself has not complained about the show although her agent, Rob Woodhouse, has written to the BBC Trust complaining that its rebuke to Boyle was an inadequate response. Given that the guy has now left the production and will be working for another broadcaster - Channel 4 - for the foreseeable future, it's really hard to see what Woodhouse expected them to do. The Trust says it will reply in due course. I must say, Rebecca Adlington (or, at least, those advising her) went down somewhat in my estimation over that. What's the easiest way in the world for a person to go from being an admired victim to surrendering just about every smidgen of sympathy that they'd, previously, deserved? Trying to lose someone their job. Classy, Rob - that's called 'revenge', it's vindictive and it makes you look small.

Jimmy Carr has said that he is 'not a rock and roll person.' For which, I think it's fair to say, rock and roll is somewhat grateful, Jimmy. We can do without the likes of you, matey!

Channel 4 head Julian Bellamy has criticised rival broadcasters for 'a lack of ambition' and 'cultural provocation,' and a dependence on reviving shows such as Doctor Who, Gladiators and Minder. Bellamy, speaking at a Royal Television Society dinner on Wednesday evening, argued that British television is becoming homogeneous, and losing 'alternative, provocative voices. I believe the range and ambition of television in this country continues to narrow. Broadcasters look sideways and backwards for inspiration, anywhere but forwards,' he said. Bellamy cited Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and remakes of Minder, The Fall & Rise Of Reginald Perrin, Gladiators, Day of the Triffids, Upstairs Downstairs, Blake's 7 and Name that Tune as examples of UK television looking to the past for inspiration. Now, given that the first two of those mentioned, at least, are more successful commerically and critically than just about anything Channel 4 has produced this decade, do we detect the stale odeur of sour grapes attached to those comments? Bellamy conceded - seemingly rather grudgingly - there were quality shows on British TV but added that 'as an overall body of work there is less surprise and variety than there should be.' Coming from the broadcaster that's spent the last ten years giving the public an undiluted diet of Big Brother, that's a bit effing rich, frankly. 'Television as a whole is becoming more averse to deliberate acts of cultural provocation, at confronting the consensus with new, non-conformist ideas,' he added. Bellamy offered a critique of its rivals' business models to explain why he believes Channel 4 is pivotal to 'intelligent provocation' in programming – despite uncertainty over its future funding. He questioned BSkyB's claim to be different because it relies on subscription rather than advertising for most of its revenue, saying its record on UK original production was poor considering its commercial success. 'A Martina Cole adaption [The Take] and two Terry Pratchett films is a poor return from two decades dominance of the pay-TV market,' Bellamy said. 'Where Sky does have some commissioning scope, it simply doesn't connect with the mainstream. The average audience for Sky Arts puts it on a par with Kidderminster Harriers in the Blue Square Premier League. The truth is the British pay-TV market can't support the HBO model.' Bellamy argued that ITV was required to focus on ratings and revenues and would not benefit from challenging viewers, because 'mass audiences switch off if they are uncomfortable with what they see.' This, ladies and gentlemen, is a 'TV executive' telling you what to think. 'The same holds for other commercial TV rivals that rely on ad revenues,' he said. He added that the BBC had moved to 'mirror the creative narrowing within commercial TV' because it had opted to compete for ratings to 'justify the universal licence fee.' Or, maybe it just makes shows that people want to watch, Jules. The BBC should be expected to take up the 'shortfall in creative risk-taking,' he said, but instead 'seems to be increasingly conservative in its editorial decision making. After a string of scandals about taste and decency it seems to avoid disruptive, potentially controversial ideas like the plague,' he said. 'This is an unintended consequence of the BBC's method of funding.' Bellamy added that the broadcasting landscape he described left Channel 4 as the 'sole guardian of non-conformism and provocation on Britain's most powerful cultural medium.' Do, please try to remember that when you're watching Deal Or No Deal or a repeat of Friends tomorrow on C4, dear blog reader. 'The compliance spiral that our industry finds itself in threatens to bland out the medium to no one's benefit. I believe passionately that we still go further than any other broadcaster to support creative risk.' Bellamy admitted that the parlous state of advertising meant that Channel 4 had been forced to run more repeats and foreign acquisitions. However, he said that decisions such as ditching Big Brother had generated creative opportunities for the broadcaster. 'Putting a premium on intelligent provocation, irrespective of financial circumstance, is our best hope of staying afloat,' he said, pointing out that the end of Big Brother had freed tens of millions of pounds for new commissions and two hundred and thirty hours of peak TV airtime. 'We must spurn any temptation to relive past glories, as so many in television now do,' he concluded. Where to start ...? Well, quite apart from the very obvious targets of Big Brother and Deal Or No Deal, the major disappointment over Channel 4's output these days is the sheer amount of prime time that they have decided to dedicate to banal 'personality'-fronted lifestyle shows. Gordon Ramsay, Kirstie and Phil, Gok Wan, Hugh Fearnley-Whatshisface, the vile Jamie Oliver, Kevin McCloud, Sarah Beeny etc. etc. Not much innovation and creativity going down there, Jules, except 'how can we make the title of this Jamie Oliver show different from the last one (because the content sure as shite won't be).' This is what Channel 4 stands for today, dear blog reader: Half-inching Ruth Watson from Five, and then half-inching her old format as well. They're really not in any position to start dishing out lectures on originality - particularly when it comes to areas like drama. It was, genuinely, cheering to see the tired old F Word finishing fifth in the ratings on Tuesday night.

Just to further illustrate the point, Peter Andre has been hotly tipped to take over from Paul O'Grady on Channel 4's tea-time slot next year. According to the Daily Star, the singer has entered 'advance talks' with the broadcaster over plans to launch his own chat show in 2010. A source said: 'Peter is seriously hot property at the moment and producers are really impressed with his relaxed charm. Viewers both young and old can relate to him and that is exactly what a tea time show needs.' Julian Bellamy, hang your ruddy head in shame. Shame, I say...

And, the good news just keep on coming for Channel 4 who could lose Deal Or No Deal to a rival broadcaster after warning producers about planned cuts to the gameshow, a report has claimed. According to the Daily Mail, the programme's production company, Endemol, has been told that the current one hundred thousand pound-per-show budget would be slashed under a new contract. It is thought that the BBC and Sky have now expressed interest in taking over the daytime show after its Channel 4 deal runs out at the end of next year. A source close to host Noel Edmonds said: '[He] has been told about budget cuts. What he is most worried about is how this will affect the actual format of the show.' No, actually, I think what he'll be most worried about is how this will affect his own bank balance. Maybe, the effects on the show come in at a point after that. 'They are talking about lowering the cash prize and other changes, which would completely change the tone of the show. But at the very least, he has said that he will be on the show for another eighteen months.'

Former Coronation Street actor Johnny Briggs has revealed that he would be willing to sign up for a permanent role in Doctors. The seventy one-year-old, best known for his role as Weatherfield's knicker-king Mike Baldwin, will be seen making a rare guest appearance as convicted criminal John Cotham on the BBC's daytime medical drama next week. Discussing his time with the soap in an interview with What's On TV?, Briggs commented: 'It's been absolutely wonderful. When I stopped and semi-retired I thought I wouldn't do much, but it was absolutely great - what a nice bunch they are as well!' Asked whether he would accept a full-time part, he replied: 'Oh yes! It's a good show, I really enjoyed doing it.' In other words, please, please, please somebody give me a job, I'm getting desperate.

Meanwhile, one of Johnny's old castmates, Kevin Kennedy has announced that he is 'in talks' to reprise his role as Curly Watts in Coronation Street. The forty eight-year-old actor claimed that producers want him to make a temporary comeback in the part for the soap's fifieth anniversary next year. Kennedy, whose was originally part of the show from 1983 to 2003, also suggested that a number of other former cast members have been approached by producers in recent months. Speaking to the Evening Herald, he explained: 'I have actually discussed it with them and I'm hoping it will happen next year. They're hoping to bring back a lot of old faces. But at the moment, who knows? I would be absolutely delighted to walk down those cobblestone streets again. I'm very proud of what I've done, there's over twenty years of work there and I think all of it is a good standard.'

Joe McElderry has reportedly broken a rib following a prank devised by fellow X Factor hopeful Stacey Solomon. McElderry was apparently left in pain after slipping on a can of deodorant inside the contestants' house and falling awkwardly. Solomon revealed that the incident occurred after she and Lucie Jones 'decided to play a prank' on Olly Murs. In a video posted on the official X Factor website, Solomon explained: 'This week me and Lucie decided to prank Olly but Olly was in a bad mood. We went downstairs with a bottle of water and the plan was that Lucie would open his pants and I would pour the water, but Lucie chickened out last minute because Olly was getting angry saying, "Get out of my room." So we went up to his bedroom and because he hates mess we moved his blanket, we put his shoes on his bed, toothpaste, hair gel and hair spray and then he started running up the stairs so we ran and ran and I fell up the stairs and Joe slipped on a can of deodorant on the floor and broke his rib.' Let this be a lesson to you, young lady, cans of deodorant can be dangerous if used without superivsion.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK has praised The X Factor for giving young people the chance of success. Her Excellency Madam Fu Ying wrote a letter to the Sun after the tabloid claimed that the location of the X Factor house in Golders Green had upset the Chinese Embassy. Fu said: 'It was fun finding myself caught up in X Factor fever and reading about the "diplomatic row" involving my Embassy. I learnt about The X Factor in the neighbourhood from embassy colleagues who complained about the noise made by the young fans outside the X Factor house.' She added: 'My daughter e-mailed me wondering if she could fly in and join the screaming fans! I have to admit that I also enjoy watching The X Factor when there is time and have my favourite contestants. The beauty of such shows is that they give young people a chance to realise their dreams.' While refusing to name her particular favourites, Madam Fu took time to praise John and Edward for their 'determination and spirit' in the face of criticism, Stacey for her bravery and Danyl and Olly for their showmanship. And Simon Cowell, of course, for his brutal suppression of any dissent. He's also very popular in Russia, apparently. All the old Stalinists think he's great.

Dannii Minogue will remain in her new seat in The Naughty Girls Corner on The X Factor for the rest of the series, a report has claimed. The singer was ordered to swap positions with Louis Walsh on the panel shortly before Saturday night's episode, moving her away from fellow female judge Cheryl Cole and show boss Simon Cowell. See what I mean about brutal suppression?

Ant and Dec and ITV are planning a family challenge gameshow as the long-term replacement for Saturday Night Takeaway. Push The Button (working title) is on the brink of being commissioned from the presenters' production company, Gallowgate, as a six part series, and could debut early next year. The duo will present the show and kick-off each episode by surprising two families in their homes. That's a bit mean if the families in question were just settling down to watch Strictly. The format is still evolving but will see the families, which comprise the same number of members, go head-to-head in a series of challenges. Each family begins the show with a prize fund, which is reduced according to how long they spend on each challenge. The contestants must conserve their winnings by completing the tasks quickly and in some games will 'push the button' to stop the clock. At the end of the show, the family with the highest remaining prize fund goes forward to take part in a jackpot game. Push The Button will also be interspersed with variety elements, which could include comedy sketches and celebrity guests. An ITV spokesman said: 'We're looking at a range of exciting programme ideas for 2010 with Ant and Dec. Takeaway is a firm favourite with ITV viewers and a part of the mix.' Broadcast magazine states that McPartlin and Donnelly are keen to put the long-running show on ice in favour of the new format. A source said: 'The boys want to try something fresh. While ITV has said the door is still open for a new series, all parties have high hopes for the new format and don’t have any plans to bring Takeaway back at the moment.' Meanwhile the pair have also signed a new exclusive two-year deal with ITV, which will last until December 2011. They first joined the broadcaster in 1998, when they helmed the cult Saturday morning shows SM:TV Live and CD:UK. 'They have a unique appeal and a very special quality which means that they are loved by young and old alike,' said ITV director of television Peter Fincham. 'After more than a decade on ITV, I'm delighted that they will continue to exclusively work with us on our hit shows and in developing new programmes and formats.' The deal will also involve the duo working on content for ITV.com. 'We are delighted to sign with ITV for another two years to continue to make the programmes we love like Saturday Night Takeaway, Britain's Got Talent and I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! - there is no better home for our shows,' stated Ant. Or was it Dec? Listen, they're hard to tell apart even for us oop North so how them doon South manage it, I know not. Dec (or, was it Ant?) added: 'We're particularly excited about the new media opportunities which will allow us to make fresh and exciting content for online, and also launching our brand new entertainment show Push The Button in 2010.'

Royle Family star Sue Johnston collected an OBE from the Queen today. Now Suec only needs to be made an Earl and she'll be an earlobe. Anyway ... The sixty five-year-old actress, a particula favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping, has claimed that she is 'delighted' and 'honoured' by the title, which she received for her services to drama and charity. Johnston, who was born in Warrington, found mainstream fame in the 1980s when she starred alongside Ricky Tomlinson as Sheila Grant in Brookside. Arguably her most famous role came as Barbara Royle in Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash's BBC1 sitcom. Her other TV credits include Inspector Morse, Goodbye Cruel World and Waking The Dead. She also starred in the big screen comedy Brassed Off.

Jane Tranter has reportedly turned to writers Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham to try to kick-start BBC Worldwide Productions' US drama ambitions. The duo, who run Monastic Productions, have been commissioned to write a script for the ABC network, which would be made by BBCW's Los Angeles production base. The Life On Mars creators will deliver the script - pitched as a Californian cop show with a British twist - by Christmas. ABC is expected to decide whether to make a pilot in the spring. BBCW's Julie Gardner is lined-up to be executive producer. Graham and Pharoah would be heavily involved in the production process if the show is picked up, in contrast with ABC's remake of Life On Mars which was cancelled after seventeen episodes and on which Pharoah and Graham had only limited creative input. Tranter has been working as BBCW executive vice president of programming and production for almost a year but with limited success. Recently, a planned remake of Absolutely Fabulous was rejected by FOX.

Ofcom is poised to make economist Lord Terry Burns Channel 4's new chairman in a surprise appointment – in contrast to ITV's difficulties in appointing a chairman. Ofcom is yet to confirm Burns in the role, but there is speculation it could do so as early as the end of this week. Burns had not been mooted as a possible candidate for the chair, with far higher profile media figures such as Greg Dyke and Richard Eyre being widely touted. A rumour doing the industry rounds earlier this week was that Ofcom were keen to appoint a woman to the role. Instead, the regulator is believed to have settled on an experienced, establishment figure who has chaired the likes of Marks & Spencer, Abbey and the National Lottery Commission. Before that he was the Conservative government's chief economic adviser between 1980 and 1991, and permanent secretary of the Treasury from 1991 until 1998, as well as serving on the House of Lords' economic affairs select committee.

James Corden has said that he would appear on I'm A Celebrity... 'as a last resort.' That'll be next season, then yeah?

The Choir presenter Gareth Malone is to turn from music to education in a TwentyTwenty Television series for BBC2. Dangerous School For Boys will explore why many boys underachieve in education by following Malone as he sets up his own school for eleven-year-olds. He will use seemingly traditional techniques such as competition, risk and adventure to appeal to everyone from 'sporty jocks to secret swots.' Malone's plan is to harness the boys' boisterous behaviour and get around their natural aversion to standing out from the crowd. The show is part of a wider education season on the channel in 2010. It will sit alongside The Perfect School, an in-house series in which educational expert Dylan Wiliam tests 'forward-thinking and innovative education techniques in an experimental classroom.' The season will also look at the nationwide fight for school places, and the decision-making process behind a child's move to secondary school from the viewpoints of the children, parents, schools and local education authorities, in Catchment from Blast Films. Separately, BBC2 has also ordered a three part documentary series about the decision-making processes used by doctors at Great Ormond Street children's hospital, to be made by Films of Record. All the series were ordered by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow and documentaries commissioner Charlotte Moore. Moore has also ordered a season of shows about motherhood for BBC1. It will include a one-off look at families torn apart by aggressive teens and another single documentary about older women having children.

ITV chief operating officer John Cresswell has launched yet another stinging attack on STV, saying that the Scottish subsidiary is 'dragging down the whole performance of the ITV network.' Speaking at the company's interim results yesterday, Cresswell said that while the performance of the ITV schedule had been 'fantastic,' STV's decision to opt out of key shows including Doc Martin, The Bill and Benidorm had been 'extremely damaging and disappointing.' ITV is currently gathering evidence for its legal case against STV, in which it hopes to reclaim between fifteen and twenty million pounds for unpaid programme costs. 'They are contributing less an hour for drama. Doc Martin is getting nine million viewers on Sunday night - probably the highest rating drama of this year by a country mile and of most other years and [STV has] chosen not to show it. They would normally contribute about six per cent of the cost of that and that we are having to bear ourselves,' Cresswell said.

Wall to Wall productions have won forty hours of BBC commissions, thought to be worth around eighteen million pounds, including a six-part series about the cleaning of a National Trust property. BBC4 has ordered The Big Spring Clean, presented by art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. Every autumn the National Trust spruces up its three hundred houses using everyone from conventional cleaners to conservation science specialists. Graham-Dixon will 'roll up his sleeves' to help get Petworth House in Sussex ready to reopen to the public in March 2010. The series was executive produced by Leanne Klein and was ordered by commissioning editor for documentaries Charlotte Moore and commissioning executive producer Emma Willis. The commission is a bonus for the Shed Media-owned Wall to Wall, which has also won major double orders for its two biggest shows, Who Do You Think You Are? and New Tricks. BBC1 has ordered two ten episode series of the genealogy show and two eight part runs of the drama. Both will air in 2010 and 2011. Wall to Wall chief executive Alex Graham declined to comment on the value of the commissions, but said it provided the independent 'with a bedrock' through to 2011. 'Nobody knows how long this recession will continue and we are fortunate to have two core returning shows,' he said. 'We can use this money to invest in other areas of the business, such as development and US projects. When there is an upturn, we will be in a great position.'

Former ITV Studios executives Mark Wells and Glen Middelham have secured the first commission from their old employer for their new independent producer Rain, teaming up with Spun Gold to produce a country walks series with Alan Titchmarsh. The three-part Alan Titchmarsh Walks Of Fame is a prime time series set to debut on ITV next spring, and was commissioned by Diana Howie and director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman. Each episode will see Titchmarsh meet with a well-known celebrity, who nominates a five-mile walk somewhere in Britain that has personal significance for them. Titchmarsh will then accompany the celebrity on that walk, asking questions about their career and life along the way.

Sir Trevor McDonald will send Christmas messages to soldiers in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in a one-hour special for ITV. Christmas Eve with the Troops (working title) will be produced by Back2back and is ITV's Christmas act of worship. It has been earmarked for a 10pm slot on Christmas Eve. The programme will be filmed at St Clement Danes Church in London. It will feature a prayer for the troops before classical singers such as Faryl Smith and The Priests sing carols. It will be intercut with families sending messages to loved ones on the front-line, with soldiers returning them via two big screens. Executive producer David Notman-Watt said the show would 'keep the mood light' by interviewing the head chef at the base to find out how a traditional turkey lunch for the troops is prepared.

Patsy Kensit's Mini Cooper was reportedly stolen from outside her home last month. The Holby City star was apparently on holiday when burglars raided the property in North London and took her vehicle. Police suspect that the intruders obtained the car keys from inside the house by reaching through the letterbox, the Evening Standard reports. However, the vehicle was recovered three days later, fitted with false registration plates.

The BBC is set to bring iPlayer to Freesat, with closed beta-testing to begin on the platform before the end of the month. The trial will be a a major step towards making iPlayer available on TV sets - one of the key aims of the proposed Project Canvas. BBC future media and technology controller Rahul Chakkara said the broadcaster was keen to bring the catch-up service to 'other platforms and devices. Our success with BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media has shown that there is an appetite among our audience for BBC iPlayer on the television,' he said. The iPlayer service on Virgin Media now accounts for two hundred million programme views - more than a quarter of all iPlayer viewing. Freesat will be the first free-to-air TV platform to host the iPlayer, and Chakkara said: 'This is a fast-changing and evolving industry. Many of our assumptions will be challenged with time. We will keep coming back to the products and update them where appropriate.' There is, as yet, no fixed timescale for launching a full version of Freesat iPlayer, but a spokesman for the platform said users would not need to modify their boxes once it was available. The service is likely to have a similar look and feel to Virgin's iPlayer and will operate using red-button technology. Chakkara added that a beta web version of the iPlayer which could work with any standard HTML browser would be available later this month. A version to enable access to programmes via mobile phones is also in development.

The Digital Switchover has led to a seventy per cent increase in television sets being dumped at landfill sites, Cumbria County Council has revealed. According to figures for the past year released by the council, fifty thousand analogue TVs were thrown out by households in the region, despite thirty thousand of those being easily upgraded by simply adding a digital set top box, reports the Guardian. Earlier in the year, European Recycling Platform general manager Scott Butler warned that the switchover would trigger an increase in wastage of consumer electronics. Devon County Council, which made the switch to digital back in spring, reported almost a doubling of abandoned TVs in the period between April and September. Fears of a further increase in TV wastage are growing as the switchover yesterday commenced in the North West, with over seven million homes in the Granada TV region making the transition from analogue to digital TV. Simon Birch, who is investigating the environmental cost of the switchover for Ethical Consumer magazine, said: 'Digital UK is currently failing to tell the public of the environmental cost of throwing away their televisions. If your existing television can be adapted to getting digital TV then don't chuck it out but buy a digital set top box - you'll be doing the planet a favour as well as saving yourself money.'

Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Minnillo will guest star on CBS's CSI: NY next month. Minnillo's former Total Request Live co-star LaLa Vasquez and the band Train are to join the two on the programme, reports People. Kardashian and Minnillo will reportedly play a pair of dangerous schemers. 'The ladies play two women who've managed to concoct a very interesting scheme that ends in murder,' executive producer Pam Veasey said. Kardashian added: 'I'm having such a good time expanding my roles. I truly love branching out into different characters.'

A cross-party group of MPs has criticised More4 for picking up next year's Crufts in a report prompted by BBC1 documentary Pedigree Dogs: Exposed. The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare found there was a 'serious welfare problem' in pedigree dogs and said it was 'disappointed' More4 would be airing the event. 'Until the problems of health and welfare are dealt with, the showing of certain dogs with problems associated with inappropriate breed standards is wrong,' the report said. Oh, what a bitch.

Miss England has been arrested over claims that she assaulted another beauty queen during a fight over her Gladiators boyfriend. Rachel Christie, twenty one, allegedly punched Miss Manchester Sara Beverley Jones, twenty four, in the face at the Mansion nightclub in Manchester. The incident happened during a party which Miss Christie attended with TV star Tornado, otherwise known as David McIntosh. Trouble reportedly flared between the two women after they argued over the fifteen-stone former Royal Marine, believed to be an ex-boyfriend of the Miss Manchester winner. Jones then wrote on her Twitter page on Monday morning: 'Bad time last night, assaulted in a nightclub.' The comment has since been removed. A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: 'At about 12.55am on Monday 2 November, police received a report of an assault at a club on Deansgate Court, Manchester City Centre. It is believed that, earlier that night, a twenty four-year-old woman got into an altercation with another woman in the club and was hit in the face several times.'

Sharon Osbourne has claimed that Susan Boyle looks like 'a slapped arse.' Funny, but a bit rich coming from somebody whose face looks like it's been squeezed in a vice. The America's Got Talent judge made the remark in a US radio interview along with a number of other insults about Boyle's appearance. Speaking about Boyle's success on Sirius XM Radio, Osbourne commented: 'I like everybody to do well. Even somebody that looks like a slapped arse. God bless her. It's like, "You go girl." She does look like a hairy arseehole.' Osbourne went on to describe the overnight sensation as a 'lovely lady' who 'needs a Gillette razor.' She continued: '[God] gave her the talent. Yes he did. [And] he hit her with a fucking ugly stick.' Footage of Osbourne's interview has since been uploaded onto YouTube, where it has attracted a largely negative response.

Britain's Got Talent star Hollie Steel is hoping to release her own Christmas single, a report has claimed today. The eleven-year-old singer, best remembered for breaking down in tears after forgetting her words on the show, is reportedly keen to compete against The X Factor winner in the festive chart. According to the Sun, Steel has used the money she earned on the Britain's Got Talent tour to record a CD. It is expected to be released online before the end of the year, while her mother is also looking for a sponsor to help get the project into shops. Nina Steel told the newspaper: 'We're doing this for her because it's what she wants to do and she's got all these songs she wants everybody to hear.' But, mainly for the money, yes?

Mel B has said that she would 'love' to live on council estate again ... but that seemingly hasn't stopped her from buying a new one-and-three-quarter-million-pound home in Los Angeles. The former Spice Girl claimed that 'roughing it' in public housing in Leeds for the ITV show Seven Days On The Breadline had given her a hankering to 'keep it real.' Which is interesting as industry rumours suggest that she became something of a laughing stock whilst filming the series swanning around one of the roughest estates in Leeds in her velour designer tracksuit which made her look not unlike Jimmy Saville. Can you say 'now then, now then, as it 'appens, here are Sho-waddy-waddy' and run marathons, Mel? Cos I've got to say the resemblece is pretty uncanny.

Katie Price has criticsed her former best friend Michelle Clack. The reality TV personality has admitted that she is unhappy with various comments that Clack made about her in a tabloid newspaper interview recently. Writing in her OK magazine column, Price complained: 'I read the story by my bridesmaid Michelle Clack saying how I am, apparently, a monster. A year and a half ago she was saying in another paper what a great friend and mum I am. And how would she know about my sex life?' Same as how everybody else knows about it, chuck. They read one of your numerous press interviews on that very subject.

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