Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Read Dickens When I Went To School

Yer Keith Telly Topping had occasion to be down at the Sunderland Empire today. Along with the legend that is Alfie Joey he was doing some interviews with those involved in this year's panto (Peter Pan, in case you were wondering). Oh, yes he did. Anyway, on the way back from Mackemville towards God's Own Country, we drove through the Tyne Tunnel and were slightly startled to see all of those flashing electronic hazard signs that usually tell you what miles per hour you should be going in fog with 'X Factor - Good Luck Joe' displayed on them! Which is all well and good, like. But, what if there's an accident?!

Chocolate brand Ferrero Rocher®™ has signed up the presenter and (alleged) actress Amanda Holden for its Christmas campaign. As part of the deal, Holden has held a Christmas carol evening at Westfield shopping centre beneath the brand's giant Christmas tree. Holden said: 'In my house, Christmas wouldn't be the same without Ferrero. I am thrilled to be getting in the festive spirit this year by leading their Christmas sing-a-long celebrations.' And, dear blog reader, because I know you enjoy them so much, here's a fourth photographic representation of Amanda's arse which she talks out of so freely.

Hugh Laurie will direct an upcoming episode of House, FOX has announced. The fifty-year-old British actor, who plays the titular role on the popular medical drama, will step behind the camera for the first time for an episode scheduled for broadcast this Spring. 'I am thrilled, daunted and honoured - with a "u" - by this new responsibility,' said Laurie. 'House scripts are Fabergé eggs and I will try my very hardest not to drop this one on a stone floor.' Executive producer Katie Jacobs added: 'I've wanted him to direct since season one. In fact, I can't believe he's actually doing it. There is no one more qualified to direct the show than Hugh Laurie. I'm sure this is evident to anyone who's seen the show, but he is simply the most versatile, talented, funny actor on TV today. Add to that an impeccable feeling for the visual storytelling and you have the makings of a great director. I don't know how he's going to be in two places at once, but that part we'll just have to figure out.'

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott is to make a cameo appearance in a forthcoming episode of the BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey. The character of Nessa Jenkins - played by co-creator Ruth Jones - has often referred to the politician in previous episodes as one of her old flames. Now he is set to appear at the wedding of Nessa and her current love, Dave Coaches, in the last episode of the show's third and final series which will be broadcast on New Year's Day. Confirming the news on Twitter, good old Two-Jags, whom yer Keith Telly Topping has heard speak and who he has a rather sneaking admiration for, said: 'Now you know what's occurin' on Jan 1!' Nice.

Meanwhile, the BBC has confirmed previous reports that it has put a second series of Horne & Corden 'on hold.' However, a BBC3 spokeswoman denied that the sketch show starring Gavin & Stacey actors James Corden and Mathew Horne had been permanently axed. So, the obvious next question is, is this a 'like Doctor Who in 1989 "on hold"'? Because, if it is then I think I could quite happily live with the idea of the next series of Horne & Corden being in 2026.

A freelance photographer who claims that he was assaulted by the former pop star Mr Shakin' Stevens has been giving evidence at Ballymena Magistrates Court. Hugo McNeice said the singer, whose real name is Michael Barrett, pushed his microphone stand into his camera as he took pictures of him performing. Mr McNeice said his camera was broken and he was left shocked and stunned by the incident which occurred at the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena last December. Cardiff-born Stevens, who denies assault, is due to give evidence later.

Mariah Carey has revealed that she used to suffer from low self-esteem. Fortunately, her people 'had a word' with Kate Garraway and she, eventually, stopped with the loo-roll propaganda. So, everybody's happy now.

The BBC Trust should be scrapped and the organisation wholly regulated by Ofcom, ex-director general Greg Dyke has told the Royal Television Society. The trust structure was 'unduly slow and bureaucratic, expensive to run and created in-built conflict' in the BBC, he told the RTS Christmas lecture. But he praised the BBC as a 'guarantor of journalistic independence.' Which, of course, it will no longer be if those unelected nobodies get their hands on the corporation.

Adverts featuring Tiger Woods are reported to have been pulled from prime time television broadcasts in the US following allegations about the golfer's complicated private life. The married sports billionaire has been linked to relationships with a number of women in recent weeks following that widely reported domestic incident outside his home in the early hours of the morning. He has publicly apologised to his family for his 'transgressions.' According to the Mirror, Nielsen has published a study which reveals that Woods has not appeared in a prime time TV commercial in America since 29 November when one of those crappy Gillette advert he does with - another disgraced sportsman - Thierry Henry and ... some tennis bloke or other, was shown.

Naomi Campbell is apparently in talks to follow in the footsteps of Tyra Banks and front her own reality TV modelling competition. Campbell is said to have been offered a role hosting a new UK show similar to America's Next Top Model, which is presented by model-turned-host Banks. A representative for Campbell confirmed that she is currently considering the position but has yet to sign up to the project. The spokesperson told the Daily Mail: 'Naomi has been approached with an offer, which we are talking about and discussing... but nothing has been set in stone yet.'

PACT is reported to be 'hailing' a breakthrough in copyright ownership after the launch of a pilot scheme that aims to help producers control the rights to content made for digital public sector projects. Apparently. Great. Glad about that.

ITV has ordered a cold-weather alternative to I'm A Celebrity ... in which two groups of alleged celebrities will be sent on a two thousand-mile trek through the wilderness of Norway to the edge of the Arctic Circle. 71 Degrees North will air weekly on ITV in a 9pm slot later next year, and will be made by Dragons' Den producers Fever Media in a co-production with Norwegian format owner Nordisk Film TV. The run is yet to be finalised and it is understood that an ITV2 spin-off is also being discussed, according to Broadcast. Filmed on location in Norway, the format will see two teams of 'celebrities' trek from the south of the country to Nordkapp in the far north-east, where temperatures can plummet to minus fifty one degrees Celsius. Those taking part will work in their teams to overcome a challenge, with one contestant being sent home each episode. Presumably the one with frostbite. Challenges will include parachuting in the mountains, kayaking in the midnight sun, climbing ancient glaciers and swimming in frozen fjords. Sounds hilariously painful. Fever Media's David Mortimer said he hadn't been so excited by an international format since watching the Japanese show which became Dragons' Den. 'We'll be helping to supersize the show for ITV, giving it a scale it hasn't had in the past,' he said. Nordisk Film TV chief operating officer Karoline Spodsberg said the time was ripe for a 'pure' reality format that takes place in a harsh but stunning landscape. 'We've seen a lot of half-naked celebrities on beaches and a lot of manipulative reality shows in recent years, but this will be tough and truly challenging,' she said. For which, read, 'you'll have to be really desperate to get yer boat-race on TV to sign up for this one.' The UK series will be executive produced by Mortimer and David Tibballs and was commissioned for ITV by Layla Smith and director of entertainment and comedy Elaine Bedell. The show has aired for eleven seasons in Norway, and has previously been remade in Holland and Belgium.

Big fat cuddly Liza Tarbuck and Huey Morgan have signed up to present a new Sky1 series, it has been announced. The series, titled Liza & Huey's Pet Nation, is described as an 'animal celebration' that combines home videos with studio-based strands. So, Wild on the Wild Side meets Animals Do The Funniest Things in other words. How vastly, staggeringly, mind-bogglingly original, Sky. Thank you so much for giving this to us. Sky1's commissioning editor Claire Hollywood commented: 'Liza and Huey share an intellect, sharp wit, unique and genuine passion for both people and animals. The show promises to entertain audiences with a perfect blend of laughter and the extraordinary.'

Alexander Moen has mentioned in a recent interview with SFX magazine that Hotel Babylon has been axed.

BBC4 will attempt to combat negative stereotypes about German culture in a two-part factual series fronted by the comedian Al Murray. Interesting choice. No, not interesting, what's the word? Insane. That's it. Liberty Bell has just started production on Al Murray's Germany (working title), with Anna Thomson as producer/director and managing director Diane Nelmes as executive producer for the Newcastle-based independent producer. Each sixty-minute episode will follow Murray on a 'high culture' tour of the country, taking in the musical, artistic and literary highlights from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ah. So, it's a 'don't mention the war' sort of affair, yes? 'It's a real journey that will dispel cultural prejudice and show how wrong the stereotypes are,' said Thomson. German-born BBC4 controller Richard Klein commissioned the programmes alongside controller of entertainment commissioning Mark Linsey, and will oversee them as executive producer. The series is planned for early summer 2010. The order is one of a number of new commissions by Linsey from the north of England and Scotland, in line with BBC targets to secure fifty per cent of network production from outside London by 2016. Also on the slate is a commission from Glasgow company Crocodile Media. Sidekick Story will be a sixty-minute documentary about TV classic sidekicks, ranging from Paul Daniels' assistant, Debbie McGee, to Andrew Sachs, whose character Manuel played second fiddle to Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. The show is likely to air in the first quarter of 2010. Meanwhile, BBC2 is to air a one-off, The Story Of ... Slapstick, executive produced by Gavin Smith for The Comedy Unit in Scotland. It traces shows such as Hole In The Wall back to early silent comedy stars like Charlie Chaplin, and will broadcast at the end of the year.

The BBC has unveiled a new weekly Football League magazine show tailored to each individual region around the UK. Entitled Late Kick Off, the BBC1 programme will have different versions for each of the UK's seven main regions - the North West, North East and Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, West and East Midlands, the East, London and South East, and the South West. Each region will have its own presentation team. Starting on 18 January 2010, at 11.15pm, the show will feature match highlights and also give fans 'in-depth coverage' from behind-the-scenes of clubs in the league. BBC controller of English regions David Holdsworth said: 'Late Kick Off is good news for Football League fans who'll get to see more of their local teams on television but in a way they may not have seen before. They'll get to see the goal action but we'll also examine stories and issues of the day from a different perspective, providing high-quality sports journalism. Added to that we will be going behind the scenes at the clubs giving an insight in to what really goes on, with access to players, managers and backroom staff.' Having seen at first hand the quality of the Championship this season, please allow Keith Telly Topping to hope that Late Kick Off is, you know, a bit better than that. In August, coverage from the Football League returned to the BBC for the first time since 1988. Late Kick Off will run in conjunction with The Football League Show and live coverage of the League Cup semi-finals and final.

CBBC is to revive the classic children's show We Are The Champions for next year's Sport Relief, with Phoenix Nights comic Paddy McGuinness replacing the late Ron Pickering as host. The show, which originally aired during the 1970s and 1980s, will be stripped across a week next spring as a five-part series. Like the original, Sport Relief Does We Are The Champions will pitch teams of schoolchildren against each other in a 'maelstrom of fun' designed to test their physical agility, tactics and teamwork. Or, more usually, make the fat kids look stupid. Over the course of the week, twelve teams from different schools will battle it out for one of three places in the Friday final. Two of the five challenges will take place in the pool in each episode, with the remainder in the sports arena. Each team will have its own sporting celebrity as coach, who will help push them to victory. Annette Williams, who will executive produce the series for BBC Vision Productions, said: 'We Are The Champions was the must-see sports programme for children growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. It's been revamped for the Twenty First century; the navy knickers and bean bags have gone, but this series will have all the adrenaline and excitement you need.' The series was ordered by former CBBC controller Anne Gilchrist and will be made in-house, with Hugh Lawton as series producer. It will air ahead of Sport Relief, which will run between 19 and 21 March 2010 to raise money for Comic Relief.

ITV has slashed Vernon Kay's pay by ten per cent to nine hundred thousand pounds, a tabloid report has claimed. What is most shocking about this is the revelation that Vernon Kaye was earning a million quid a year. For, essentially, being the world's best known professional Vernon Kay impersonator. According to the Sun, Kay's salary is being cut when his current deal ends in February. It is reported that he may be offered another two-year contract as host of Sunday night show Family Fortunes, but with a significantly reduced pay packet. He is quoted as saying: 'I am happy where I am. ITV has all the big hitters and seems the natural home for light entertainment shows.' For which, read 'the BBC can't afford me and Sky don't want me.' Kay's previous presenting credits include T4, Gameshow Marathon and Just The Two Of Us, on which he was joined by wife Tess Daily. Otherwise known as 'the talented one in that partnership.'

Channel 4 is lining up a UK version of Japanese gladiatorial 'cook-off' format Iron Chef (described earlier in the year by Charlie Brooker as 'Ready Steady Cook directed by Michael Bay!') as a stripped weekday show. The series, due to air next spring, is the first major project for former ITV controller of daytime Adam MacDonald since joining RDF Media's Scottish subsidiary IWC Media this summer. From Monday to Thursday, four professional 'iron chefs' will take on four amateurs in a high-pressured contest. The fifth episode each week will see the best chef and best amateur go head-to-head, with one thousand smackers up for grabs. A yet-to-be-named host will act as a roving reporter and commentator, and the chefs will be aiming to please a Japanese chairman and set of demanding judges. The format is already a big-budget prime time show in the US for Food Network, attracting the likes of that wretched Jamie Oliver fellow. But Channel 4's head of daytime Helen Warner promised the UK version would be tongue-in-cheek. 'They all take it very seriously, but it's a giant piss-take really - like cooking in a stadium with a commentator,' she said. MacDonald, who commissioned Deal Or No Deal and Come Dine With Me before moving to ITV, will executive-produce the Iron Chef series, which is set for a twenty five episode run at 5pm over five weeks. Warner also confirmed that Olga TV will continue to produce a 5pm chat show despite Paul O'Grady's departure from the channel. The show, which may be called The 5 O'Clock Show, will change its host for each week of the initial eight-week run. 'People like Peter Andre, Fern Britton, Joanna Page and Jo Brand did well as guest hosts when Paul was away,' said Warner. 'They felt comfortable, and that gave us the confidence to go for it - we can get a different buzz each week.' O'Grady will stay on as executive producer alongside Robert Gray, and is hoped to make the occasional appearance.

Yer Keith Telly Topping must report a little snippet of a conversation which was overheard this morning in the BBC offices, on the subject Leona Lewis. It ended with the comment that 'well, at least she's making money' and the reply 'So was Hitler!'

Natalka Znak, the co-creator of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, is to leave ITV after seventeen years to take up a new post at RDF Media in the US. Seventeen tears, Natalka love? You'd've got less for murder. Znak, who is currently controller of factual entertainment at ITV Studios, will relocate to Los Angeles in April 2010 to take on a newly created role of executive vice-president at RDF Media USA. Since joining ITV in 1992, she has helped to develop various successful formats for the broadcaster, including Hell's Kitchen and Love Island. Major restructure plans were recently revealed at ITV Studios to transform the business into four main departments - Factual, Entertainment, Daytime and Scripted. Following Znak's departure, ITV will not directly replace her but will rather hire a new creative director for its Entertainment division. 'I would like to thank Natalka for her dedicated and unique contribution to ITV's production success for more than a decade,' managing director Lee Bartlett told C21 Media. 'The US TV industry will be very lucky to have another superb British talent on their turf and she will always remain a personal friend of mine and ITV Studios.' In a statement, Znak added: 'I've had the best job in the world at ITV Studios and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with some of the most talented and dynamic people in British television. Together we created some fantastic shows. I am now ready for a fresh challenge and look forward to a new life in LA.' And, hell who wouldn't be? It's a lot warmer over there than here at the moment. On all sorts of levels.

Louise Redknapp has been unveiled as the new host for the BBC's Something For The Weekend. According to the Sun, the former Eternal singer will replace nutritionalist Amanda Hamilton, who leaves the show at the end of the year. It is reported that Redknapp impressed bosses with her three-week guest stint over the summer, and will now join Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer as a regular host. 'I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to interview some great guests,' Redknapp said. 'Working with Tim and Simon and presenting live is an exciting prospect.'

The BBC's eighty million pounds Digital Media Initiative is floundering so severely that the corporation has ditched technology partner Siemens, according to a report. Tens of millions of pounds have already been spent on the tapeless production project over the past two years - with some staff putting the cost as high as forty million pounds - but little progress is said to have been made. It is understood that any money spent that does not contribute directly to the aims of DMI will be covered by Siemens rather than the BBC. The Digital Media Initiative was launched to enable the BBC to make better use of the assets it creates. It encompasses tapeless workflows and tagging, and was intended to give BBC staff desktop access to the entire BBC archive. Earlier in the year, it was estimated that DMI could save two and a half per cent in TV production costs per hour, worth one hundred million pounds to the BBC by 2015. The corporation has now brought DMI in-house and Future Media and Technology director Erik Huggers has tasked BBC chief technical architect Dirk-Willem van Gulik and former LazyTown executive producer Raymond Le Gué with rescuing the project. Siemens won a five-year contract to build the technology and run the project in 2007. It was hailed at the time by former FM&T director Ashley Highfield as 'the single most important initiative we are working on.' But the project has failed to get close to expectations for this stage and is now widely viewed as a disaster. It has been dubbed 'Don't Mention It' by some BBC staff and one senior FM&T figure told Broadcast that it was a 'steaming pile of shit.' The BBC and Siemens said in a joint statement: 'The media environment has changed a great deal since the DMI project began, and both organisations have been in discussions about the way forward. The BBC and Siemens have reached an agreement that allows the BBC to complete the project in-house. We both believe this represents the most appropriate way to take forward the BBC's digital production ambitions.' A BBC spokesman added: 'This project has been subject to delays but we are pleased with the progress we are making. We do not expect to use any additional public money, beyond that originally approved.' It is understood that chief technology officer John Linwood, who was appointed in February, was one of the key figures in taking the decision to end the relationship with Siemens.

There's a really fascinating piece by Shaun Ley on three of the great lost episodes of 1970s British TV, Shada, Klansman and What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? on the BBC website which you can read here. It's a taster for a Radio 4 documentary, Shelved, which will be broadcast on Saturday coming. 'Thirty years ago, with only three channels to choose from, Doctor Who and Secret Army on BBC1 and The Professionals on ITV routinely delivered audiences bigger than even the most successful programmes do today. Yet between 1978 and 1979, the producers of all three programmes shelved a story from each. The explanation has much to do with that period: economic decline, political inertia and industrial unrest creating a combustible combination.'

Children's favourite Thomas the Tank Engine has been attacked by a Canadian academic for being sexist. Shauna Wilton, a professor of political sciences at the University of Alberta, also highlighted the class divide which sees Thomas and his friends at the bottom of the social ladder and the wealthy Fat Controller at the top. She launched her study after watching the animated programme, which is shown in over one hundred and thirty countries, with her three-year-old daughter. She then analysed the plots, characters and other aspects of twenty three different episodes to draw her conclusions, which she then presented at a conference of political science in Canada. She was critical of the fact the show only has eight female characters out of the forty nine who feature. 'The female characters weren't necessarily portrayed any more negatively than the male characters or the male trains, but they did tend to play more secondary roles and they're often portrayed as being bossy or know-it-alls,' she said. Any attempt to break out of this controlled hierarchy to gain individual power, show initiative or dissent is met with punishment, usually because it goes wrong, she said. But Professor Wilton insisted the show was not all bad, and featured some positive political values like contributing to the community, tolerance of others and good communication. Congratulation, Shauna. I'm sure you had an excellent, probably world class education. So, it's jolly nice to see you putting all of that time and expense to such good use. Don't you sometimes wonder, dear blog reader, whether some people just simply think too much.

Sir Paul McCartney has admitted that his acrimonious marriage to Heather Mills was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Asked whether the wedding was one of his worst decisions in the last decade, the music legend said that it was 'a prime contender.' Well, so was 'The Frog Chrous', like, but then that's really not saying much, is it? Sir Paul, who has a six-year-old daughter Beatrice with the ex-model, told Q magazine: "Okay, yeah. I suppose that has to be the prime contender. But I don't wanna down anyone. These things happen, y'know? But I tend to look at the positive side, which is that I have another beautiful daughter out of it.' The ex-Beatle did not mention Mills, who he wed in 2002 and divorced last year with a £24.3 million settlement, by name. Despite the bitter marriage, the music legend told the magazine that he had 'managed to feel quite fulfilled this decade.' He said that having 'a new girlfriend' - the wealthy US divorcee Nancy Shevell - was one of the best things about this century, as well as being with his children. Sir Paul, sixty seven, dismissed reports that he may be going to retire, saying: 'I have too much fun. Why would I retire? Sit at home and watch telly? No thanks. I'd rather be out playing.' Keith Telly Topping would like to assure Sir Paul that there is something to be said for sitting at home and watching the telly. But, anyway. Asked whether he lost sixty million pounds million in the credit crunch, he replied: 'I've no idea man. The thing is ... they make it up.'

Camp interior designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan have been hired by their former I'm A Celebrity ... junglemate Katie Price to makeover her house. According to the Sun, the pair hope to use the project to kick-off a new celebrity home redesign show. McAllister said of their plans for Price's seven-bedroom home in Woldingham, Surrey: 'It'll be gallons of pink paint and Swarovski Crystals all the way! It would be amazing to do Justin and Colin's Homes of the Rich And Famous.' Hands up, dear blog readers, who thinks it really wouldn't? Okay, you can all put your hands down now, thanks. Ryan added: 'Katie first discussed with us working on her house when we were in camp and was in touch this week to finalise a deal after we returned from Australia. We grew really close on the show - I think she has a natural affinity with gay men because we don't have an agenda. We've been planning the project in the last few days. Her priorities are her bedroom and the hallway, then hopefully we'll move on to the rest of the house.'

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