Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Twin Dilemma

X Factor big-cheese Simon Cowell was yesterday facing what was widely described as 'a growing backlash' as some fans of his popular show threatened to boycott it following Cowell's decision to save the twins John and Edward - whom he has previously described as 'appalling' - from a humiliating exit. The senior judge was left with the final decision after fellow judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue voted to keep Welsh song-thrush Lucie Jones in the competition. The eighteen-year-old had found herself in the bottom two alongside Louis Walsh's act - dubbed 'Jedward' by ... you know, the sort of people who like putting two names together to make one. For the second week running Cowell refused to cast his deciding vote, leaving it instead up to the public. Lucie, therefore, left the competition in tears after receiving the fewest votes from the punters. Cowell later admitted on ITV2's Xtra Factor that he had expected John and Edward to go. According to the tabloids, fans have 'slammed' Cowell's decision, or rather lack of it, (which seems to be tabloid shorthand for 'a few people have got rather upset about this'). Some are also reported to have branded Cowell 'a hypocrite' and have been inundating the X Factor website vowing to boycott the programme. One concerned viewer wrote: 'I am definitely never watching X Factor again ... Simon's noticed the huge publicity John and Edward are getting and therefore kept them in the competition to keep ratings up.' Another added: 'I don't know if I can watch the X Factor anymore. It is becoming a huge joke!' Becoming? Okay. Well, moving on Cowell recently claimed that he would 'leave the country' if John and Edward won The X Factor this year. The twins appear to be loved and loathed in equal measure by sections of the show's audience although they have clearly amassed a large and devoted following - mainly of teenage girls, it would seem - over the past few weeks. This, despite heavy criticism of their singing. 'Disgruntled fans' have questioned whether the show can still be called a 'talent competition.' Or, indeed, whether it ever had been. 'This is clearly no longer about the quality of the singing,' wrote one viewer. Another whinged: 'Simon said he was going to save the person who does the best in the sing-off and clearly Lucie was the better vocalist.' Other viewers have said that Cowell has 'sealed the fate of the doomed "talent" show,' branding the series as The Fake Factor and 'as dead as Big Brother!' Among the Internet groups created in the immediate aftermath of the fiasco were 'Protest - STOP WATCHING X FACTOR' and 'Simon Cowell is a Wanker for Saving Jedward!' Of course, not a single one of these people actually will boycott the show. As a general rule of thumb, anybody that takes the trouble to go onto the Internet after a TV show has aired to complain that vigorously about it is so far gone in the 'he or she has no life' stakes that the chances of them not being there the next week to complain again is so remote as to be be virtually impossible. Trust me, dear blog reader, I know about these things. Cowell has accepted that he will inevitably be the target of public upset, telling the Sun: 'I'm going to get a lot of flak for my decision. I'll be public enemy number one. People always like to disagree with me but I know this will be more controversial than usual. There will be people who are Lucie fans and think she should have been given a chance.' ITV revealed on Tuesday that they had received three thousand complaints since Sunday night. Which is fair enough of course but, given that the audience for The X Factor topped sixteen million on Sunday, Keith Telly Topping is reasonably certain that ITV are not, exactly, quaking in their boots over any threatened boycott by a few sour-faced malcontents on the Internet. An Ofcom spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that some viewers had registered objections with them, saying: 'We will assess the complaints against the Broadcasting Code.' But not, seemingly, crimes against music. Later, however, Ofcom announced that it wouldn't be launching an official investigation into complaints. According to BBC News, Ofcom indicated that while it considers complaints about flawed voting processes and treatment of contestants, it does not investigate the actual outcome of programmes which is what the majority of of people who contacted them appeared to be moaning about. Cowell's publicist, meanwhile, the legend-in-his-own-lunchtime that is Max Clifford, has reportedly claimed that the music mogul is starting to regret his decision. Yeah, I'll bet he is. Front page headlines in just about every national newspaper for two days running, I'll bet he's mortified. What is it they say, 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'? Clifford said that Cowell now believes he should have booted off John and Edward, the Daily Record reports. Simon Cowell second guessing himself? We truly are living in The End Of Days.

Dannii Minogue reportedly 'stood up' to Simon Cowell by moving back to her old seat on The X Factor desk without his permission. According to the Mirror, the Australian singer - and least talented of the Minogue sisters, though marginally the prettiest - informed Cowell that she was returning to her old place 'whether he liked it or not' shortly before Saturday's show went on air. Claiming that producers were then forced to change camera angles and scripts at short noticed, a source told the paper: 'It caused a real headache. She only told them about ten minutes before she was due to go on - just like they didn't give her any notice last week. Dannii is not afraid of Simon and was prepared to stand up for herself.' Minogue was reportedly ordered to swap positions with Louis Walsh and go and sit in The Naughty Girl's Seat on the panel before the 31 October live episode.

Jamie Archer - the only one of The X Factor contestants left in the show that yer Keith Telly Topping can stand - has said that he will do things in his own way for the rest of his time on the series. The singer has reportedly had a number of disagreements with his mentor, Simon Cowell, over his song-choices on this year's show and allegedly threatened to leave the programme. Well, Simon's done that too so, why be left out, Jamie? Archer told the Sun: 'I've had a few problems with my confidence - I think everyone has seen that. I really thought I was a goner on Sunday when I was in the last three. I looked over at Lucie and the twins and thought, "There's no way I'm not in the final two." But, when Dermot told me I was through I just punched the air and thought, "That's it - I mean business." I'm doing things my way from now on.'

Professional dancer Flavia Cacace has said that the Strictly Come Dancing judges' criticism of Craig Kelly this week was 'unnecessary.' Possibly. It's was funny, though. On Saturday's show, Craig Revel Horwood described Kelly as 'dancing like a Thunderbird,' while Bruno Tonioli claimed that the couple's cha cha was 'a nightmare.' Meanwhile, Alesha Dixon complained that Kelly should not have made it further in the BBC reality series than the actress Zöe Lucker who was voted off the show a week earlier. 'I'm really pleased you got to Blackpool, Craig, but I can't believe that Zöe's gone and I had to endure that,' said Dixon in a moment worthy of The Bitch Queen herself, Arlene Phillips. Speaking about the judges' comments, Cacace told It Takes Two: 'I think we'd got used to it by Saturday, but I think some of it was a little bit unnecessary. In a way, we feel a little bit relieved, because if they'd got any worse, next week or the following week - I think it would have been a bit too much to take. But that's part of the game.' She added: 'No one wants to be the couple that nobody wants to be there. You want to be there, because you deserve to be there. I think we got the point, where if we carried on, it would have been hard.' The Coronation Street actor, meanwhile, added: 'It was tough because it was the first time. I'd smiled throughout a dance and had clearly enjoyed it. But you just never know what to expect.'

Twenty-five years after his death, the great Eric Morecambe is coming back for one more Christmas special. A one-man stage-show based on the life of the much-loved comic has proven such a hit in Edinburgh that it is transferring to London and a segment will also feature in this year's Royal Variety Performance. The man filling those mammoth shoes is Bob Golding, a comic actor who says that he is all too aware of how dangerous it is to portray the tall one with the glasses. 'Originally I didn't really think about that,' Bob noted. 'But people would approach me and say "Bob you're playing Eric Morecombe, that's pretty intimidating" and then I was thinking, "yes it is!" We're dealing with a national treasure, we've got to do him justice.' The play traces Eric's career from his early days treating the boards, to those memorable Christmas specials with long-time partner and friend Ernie Wise. 'It was probably the slowest rise to fame in showbiz history,' said Golding. 'They struggled for a long time. But fans like Jimmy Carr, Marcus Brigstock and Frank Skinner - they've all come to see the show because they know the roots of their comedy started off with Eric and Ernie.' Ronnie Corbett was reportedly moved to tears by Golding's recreation of Morecambe's famous vocal mannerisms and catchphrases. Another fan is Barry Cryer who, of course, wrote for Morecambe and Wise during their later days at ITV. He is not surprised the routines are proving as popular as ever. 'Eric had an instinct,' said Cryer. 'They weren't topical and they weren't political. They just did comedy and clowning, and it can't date.' Golding said Morecambe's family had given the production their full blessing. He is even in talks to invite along Des O'Connor, who as always bears the brunt of a number of Morecambe jokes in the play. 'I feel like the luckiest guy in the business really,' Golding added. 'The research for the play has been watching hours and hours of Morecambe And Wise. My poor wife is having to run around with kids while I'm just sitting there saying I've got to watch one more series!'

The BBC's director general Mark Thompson has claimed that the corporation remains 'free to take creative risks,' despite a series of recent media-fueled scandals. Speaking to a private audience of around one hundred BBC personnel at Television Centre, Thompson said that the BNP leader's recent appearance on Question Time demonstrated that the BBC is still 'unafraid to court controversy.' Describing the BBC's editorial guidelines as 'just guidelines,' Thompson stressed that 'there is freedom at the BBC to take risks.' The corporation has recently been accused of creating 'a climate of fear' around anything with the potential to offend some members of the public, now matter how small a minority of a show's audience they are. Thompson reassured the informal gathering that he wants programmes like Mock The Week to remain 'on the edge, in terms of creativity and in terms of risk-taking.' Despite the serious issues being discussed, one source told Broadcast magazine that the session was 'more like a big love-in. There was a sense that the BBC is a bit embattled, but really we were all just pleased to be there being told how important it is that we go on making good telly,' the source added. That's all good to hear and all that but it might be an idea if Mr Thompson actually came out and said some of that in public. And, at the same time, if he told a few of the right-wing boot-boy scum in the press whose agenda-based nonsense is at the bottom of most of this malarkey exactly where to go and what to do with the horse they rode in on. It's about time the BBC collectively started standing up for itself and confronting those bullies - in the media and in the House of Commons - who would do it down.

Actress Melissa George is to guest star on forthcoming episodes of FOX's Lie to Me. The actress will play 'an Anna Nicole Smith-type character named Clara who takes over her murdered husband's business empire, reports Entertainment Weekly. George recently guest-starred on Grey's Anatomy and earned a Golden Globe nomination for her work on HBO's In Treatment. She joins Mekhi Phifer, Jennifer Beals, Sean Patrick, James Marsters and Garret Dillahunt, who have all signed up to appear in season two of Lie to Me.

Dave's 'about-as-funny-a-good-hard-kick-in-the-gonads' panel show Argumental is to make its terrestrial debut on BBC2 - the first occasion that the broadcaster has picked up an (alleged) 'entertainment' format from UKTV. BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow has acquired four episodes from the current, second, series for broadcast on terrestrial later this year. The series, made by Tiger Aspect, has been viewed by more than eight million viewers on Dave to date, making it UKTV's most successful original commission in terms of reach. The improvised comedy panel game features two teams captained by Marcus Brigstocke and Rufus Hound debating and arguing on various subjects. The show is hosted by John Sergeant. This marks the third show the BBC has taken from UKTV, which is fifty per cent owned by the corporation's commercial arm BBC Worldwide. Last year, BBC1 showed six episodes of Rachel Allen: Bake! after Saturday Kitchen and BBC2 broadcast twenty shows of daily seasonal food series, Market Kitchen. Both shows came from UKTV's Good Food.

Ben Elton has criticised panel show comedy series for encouraging 'mean' humour. Not enough Thatcher gags for your liking, Ben? The Young Ones and Blackadder writer said that programmes such as Mock The Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats are damaging to traditional stand-ups. 'Nobody's allowed to do a proper routine any more. It's all down to these damn game shows. Comics are brought on and have to quip,' he told the Daily Mail. Well, didn't they always? Hang on though, what the hell is Ben Elton doing even talking to the Daily Mail? There is only one Ben Elton, right? He hasn't cloned himself and one of them came out of the cloning machine Tory? 'They have to be mean to each other and about absolutely everything. They all have to desperately compete to say something mean - so you get a culture doing just that.' Well, at least most of the guests on those shows have said something that's vaguely amusing in the last twenty years, Ben. Unlike some people we could mention who used to be funny and now aren't.

Meanwhile, another noisy old red, Stephen Poliakoff, has criticised the BBC's 'Kafkaesque committees' and claimed that the corporation is now diminishing creativity to the detriment of viewers. Or, in other words, the corporation is 'not producing stuff I like and/or make.' Tragedy, eh? Despite producing various programmes for the BBC, the BAFTA award-winning writer and director told the Radio Times that content-makers are now being given 'strange lectures about how to make factually based drama.' He further said that a series of recent viewer-deception scandals have caused the BBC to overreact to the 'ludicrous opposite extreme.' Following a well-publicised misrepresentation of the Queen in a 2007 programme trailer, the BBC introduced its Safeguarding Trust scheme to apply to all BBC staff and third-party content producers. In response, Poliakoff said that 'a crisis of confidence' in television standards caused by the scandals has been most acutely felt in drama output. 'The Safeguarding Trust policy that was instigated to help to restore the BBC's reputation has resulted in writers and producers having to receive strange lectures about how to make factually based drama,' he said. 'It's difficult enough writing drama without being given suggestions and rules devised by Kafkaesque committees and what's more it's completely unnecessary. I've always felt audiences are far more intelligent than they're given credit for, and are quite capable of realising that when real events are compressed for drama, certain liberties have to be taken.' The writer revealed his doubts over whether BBC drama The Lost Prince would get made today due to the poetic licence he had to take with many of its historical facts. 'There was virtually nothing in the public domain about Prince John, youngest child of George V and Queen Mary and I had to make many educated guesses to reclaim his life from obscurity. Since this was a drama about the Queen's uncle, I felt I ought to explain to a senior figure at the BBC what I'd had to invent. He was uninterested and batted away my notes as if accuracy were irrelevant,' he remarked. 'Now the world has gone to the ludicrous opposite extreme, where the BBC is concerned they may be accused of deceiving the audience if liberties with history are taken. There is no such thing as a single, correct version of history, and if dramatists are honestly trying to achieve a deeper poetic truth about their subject, that should be the guiding light.' Last month, the BBC Trust pledged to introduce tougher guidelines on the use of profanities and the depiction of violence in the BBC's radio, TV and online content. However, the corporation has been accused of overreacting to cases of potential offense. Poliakoff warned of a danger that television will gradually 'regress into a much safer world' when audiences may not actually want it to. 'The amount of sex and bad language on TV has been debated for decades, but I never feel we hear the true view of the majority of the audience,' he said. 'One current idea, that a spooky Orwellian panel is to be selected from the general public and allowed to set standards is, to me, deeply offensive.'

And now, Keith Telly Topping's absolutely favourite TV-related headline on the Digital Spy website this week; 1.2 Million See Gary Glitter 'Hanged'. Makes you think, doesn't it?

The great Pam Grier will guest-star on forthcoming episodes of The CW's Smallville. The L Word actress will play DC Comics villainess and Suicide Squad leader Amanda Waller in several instalments of the superhero series, according to Entertainment Weekly. Grier first came to prominance as a 1970s blaxploitation superstar in movies like Foxy Brown and Coffy. She also starred in Quentin Tarantino's 1997 film as the eponymous Jackie Brown and has appeared in a number of TV shows, including Ghosts of Mars and Law & Order. The sixty-year-old will make her Smallville debut in January in the second-half of the two-part episode Legends, penned by comic book writer Geoff Johns.

TV interior designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan have signed up for I'm A Celebrity..., according to tabloid reports. The duo, who host Colin and Justin's Home Heist on UKTV Style, will earn sixty five thousand pounds each for their stint in the jungle, claims the Sun. McAllister and Ryan, who presented the second series of Five reality show The Farm, have been a couple for twenty two years.

Jennie McAlpine has revealed that Coronation Street fans can expect a mix of dramatic moments and humour in the Manchester soap's Christmas episodes. The twenty five-year-old actress, who plays newlywed Fiz Stape in the drama, told RTÉ that the cast are 'in the middle' of filming the festive instalments at the moment. She continued: 'What can I say? It is dramatic, really dramatic, but I think it's going to be really, really traditional Corrie, in that there's real high drama over the Christmas, but then real farcical comedy as well. Christmas Eve is very funny.' McAlpine added that she is proud of how the programme's plotline concerning Tony Gordon (Gray O'Brien) reaches its conclusion over the coming weeks.

The sixth series of Alan Sugar's The Apprentice has been rescheduled to take place in the summer. Lord Sugar's show will clash with Channel 4 reality series Big Brother, which traditionally airs in late May or early June, according to the Guardian. The moves comes after the BBC was criticised for political impartiality by allowing Sugar to continue with the show following his appointment to the House of Lords as an Enterprise Tsar. The BBC ruled that Sugar could remain on the reality series, but said that it would reconsider the scheduling if it clashed with the run-up to a general election. The business reality show normally begins in March and runs for three months. Spin-off show Junior Apprentice will also be pushed back. 'The Apprentice and Junior Apprentice have been moved back to the summer in order to avoid having a break in the run of either show should a general election be called,' confirmed a BBC spokesperson.

Stefan Dennis has admitted that he had unrealistic job expectations when he quit Neighbours in the Nineties. The fifty one-year-old left his part as Paul Robinson on the Australian soap in 1992 because he wanted to pursue other acting roles. Reflecting on the decision, Dennis told TV Week: 'I was stupid. I thought I was going to go to Hollywood and conquer the world, and I didn't. Fortunately, I worked constantly in the UK for the twelve years I was gone.' The actor also confirmed that he wants the soap's producers to retain Paul's 'evil streak' in future plotlines. He commented: 'I hated [being good]. It was nothing like playing evil-Paul. The fans like Paul to be bad too.' Dennis made a return to Ramsay Street in 2004, when Paul arrived back in Erinsborough with a bang by setting fire to Lassiter's.

The Government has refused to comment on suggestions that test cricket could soon make a return to terrestrial television. Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he did not want to pre-empt the Davies review on sporting events, due for publication in the coming weeks. He was urged by Labour MP John Grogan to 'view favourably the rumoured recommendations to bring back onto the A-list, Ashes cricket, the entire Wimbledon tennis tournament, the football qualifying matches of the home nations and Welsh international rugby,' adding this would put the 'views of ordinary viewers and sports fans ahead of those of the Murdoch family.' But shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson said that as a result of 'de-listing cricket we now have the best women's cricket team anywhere in the world' and an enormous amount of money had been poured into cricket at the grassroots level.

During a Sky News Australia interview, Rupert Murdoch was asked how he will be able to make his plan work to charge for all News Corporation-owned news websites when the likes of the BBC and others provided free news content on their sites. 'But we are better,' the meglomaniac news baron replied. 'If you look at them, most of their stuff is stolen from the newspapers now, and we'll be suing them for copyright.' Really? This, I have to see. 'They will have to spend a lot more money on a lot more reporters to cover the world when they can't steal from newspapers.' Murdoch went on to say that it was a scandal that everyone in Britain with a television was compelled to pay a licence fee, providing the BBC with annual revenue of £4.6bn revenue. Yeah, terrible. We're all appalled. No, really.

Technical problems dominated Channel 4's complaints log last month, with three hundred viewers contacting the broadcaster over disruption to Hollywood movie America's Sweethearts and HBO import True Blood. The broadcast of America's Sweethearts, starring John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was Channel 4's most criticised broadcast in October, angering viewers when one hundred minutes in - building to its climax - it went back to the very beginning of the movie. A total of two hundred and sixteden viewers contacted Channel 4 to complain. Meanwhile True Blood drew seventy four complaints, not for the expected kerfuffle over the series' frank sex scenes, bloody violence and strong language, but for an episode that cut out a few minutes before the end. The broadcaster told viewers at the time that there was a technical fault, but when it returned it went straight to the end titles, cutting out the cliffhanger.

Douglas Henshall has predicted that Primeval will have a bright future following its recent revival. The forty three-year-old actor, who left his role as palaeontology expert Nick Cutter in the last series, told the Chester Chronicle that he can understand why the dinosaur drama has proved so popular with fans. 'I thought that the writing was good enough and the premise was good enough, [and] if people liked it, it could go pretty much as long as it liked,' Henshall explained. 'As long as people had faith in it who were making it, then I thought it would be fine. It taps into an eternal thing in young people, dinosaurs, monsters and myths and legends.' He continued: 'I went to the Natural History Museum the other week with my niece, she's in her twenties, she's not a kid, but we had to go down there because I thought she should see it. Me and my partner, the three of us were walking through the dinosaur exhibit and kids, boys and girls were queuing and queuing to see this big Tyrannosaurus Rex and you think, "What is it about dinosaurs?."'

Elis Owen, former national director of ITV Wales, is to be the BBC's first commissioner in Cardiff of all English language output for Welsh audiences. One of the most influential figures in Welsh broadcasting, Owen will commission across all genres on BBC1 Wales and BBC2 Wales and all related online content, building on recent multiplatform successes like the Coal House series. Owen takes up the job at the end of this month. During his time as managing director and director of programmes for HTV Wales, his portfolio included award-winning current affairs series Wales This Week and documentary programmes like Your Century, as well as Welsh language ITV Wales programmes for S4C. Owen will report to BBC Wales head of English language programmes Clare Hudson. She said that 'his track record as a programme-maker, commissioner and champion of English language television in Wales is second to none.' Owen commented: 'It is important that there is strong English language programming on BBC Wales at a time of great change and challenge for broadcasting.'

Sesame Street celebrated its fortieth anniversary on television earlier this week. The PBS children's series, which has amassed one hundred and twenty two Emmy Awards, has aired for a total of more than twenty one million minutes since its debut on 10 November 1969, E! reports. US First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand for the milestone episode, appearing in a segment which encouraged children to eat healthier and showed residents of the fictional street how to grow their own vegetables. Mrs Obama was asked by Big Bird if she was 'part bird' after he noted on the show that 'you and I are both really tall.' Actress Cameron Diaz also stopped by to teach Muppet Grover the importance of trees 'cleaning the air that we breathe' after he mistakenly thought she was there to help him learn about mailboxes.

Journalist (or, mouthy big fat horror slob, take your pick) Vanessa Feltz has hinted that she believes rumours of a new marriage crisis for Cheryl Cole. Feltz suggested that Cole's decision not to wear her wedding ring on recent episodes of The X Factor provided a clear sign about the state of her relationship with her husband, Ashley. Writing in the Daily Express, Feltz commented: 'Women don't whip off their wedding rings at the drop of a hat. They're far too symbolic. We wear them through thick, thin and weight gain and illness. Our fingers fatten or swell, our rings become embedded in our flesh, yet still we never consider removing them. Our husbands stray, leave or even die and still we wear those circles of gold which bound us forever to them "in the eyes of God and this congregation." Stylists may tamper with your shoe height or eyebrow thickness, they'd never wrench off your wedding ring. So, what do you make of Cheryl Cole judging The X Factor in front of sixteen million people with a bare wedding ring finger?' Sources close to Cole have insisted that she merely removed her ring because it clashed with her outfits in the latest X Factor live shows.

Peter Andre is said to be angry at ex-wife Katie Price for reportedly returning to I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! without consulting him about childcare arrangements. According to the Mirror, Andre believes that Price's decision to return to the show where the couple got together 'seems desperate.' Pay's good, though.

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