Monday, February 22, 2010

Half-A-World Away

Had the credit crunch not crunched quite as hard as it has, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping would, in all likelihood, at some obscure hour of tomorrow morning have been flying off from Newcastle Airport (via Schipol, or Heathrow, or Charles de Gaule) to sunny California. Where, on Friday, the annual Gallifrey One multi-media convention begins. Given the snowbound nature of the UK at the moment, that would've been nice. Mind you, at one point, when I knew for certain that I wasn't going to be making Gally for the second year running - having done ten straight years as a guest - I did, briefly consider a long weekend break as an alternative. And, one of the places I was looking at was Madeira, a holiday destination I know well from two previous trips. So, I'm quite glad I didn't take that route given the horrendous flooding the island's been battered with these last few days. It's an ill wind that does nobody any good.

A peak audience of 16.6 million viewers tuned in to Friday's EastEnders episode to see who is was what done the murdering of Archie Mitchell. The killer was finally revealed in the thirty-minute episode, which was filmed and broadcast live to mark the BBC1 soap's twenty fifth anniversary. It featured fifty one members of the cast, who had been rehearsing for three days. In the finale, Stacey Slater, played by Lacey Turner, admitted to max Branning that she was Archie's killer - the culmination of a plotline that's been running since Christmas Day. Archie - a right bad'un, who had amassed a vast string of enemies during his time on the show - and had raped Stacey, was bludgeoned to death with a bust of Queen Victoria in the Queen Vic pub on Christmas Day. Turner said that did not know she would be unmasked as the killer until twenty minutes before the live transmission. The episode also featured the departure of Stacey's screen husband, Bradley Branning (played by Charlie Clements) who fell to his death from the roof a building in Albert Square whilst trying to evade the police who believed he was the killer. Speaking after the show, Turner said she was surprised to hear about her character's role in the big drama. 'It's funny as usually you are told when you get such a big storyline but this really must be the best kept secret in EastEnders history as we have all been trying to guess for weeks now. To be honest it still hasn't sunk in and I can't believe that I was the one.' Turner lost her voice ahead of filming, prompting speculation in tabloid newspapers earlier in the week that she might not even be well enough to appear in the episode. But, despite having no knowledge of her pivotal role, Turner was determined to appear. 'I just made sure that I rested my voice throughout the day so I could save it,' she said. The viewing figures for the live episode peaked at 16.6 million and averaged over fifteen and a half million throughout the thirty minutes (with an audience share of over sixty percent - a figure most TV insiders never expected to see again in their lifetimes). A further one million four hundred thousand people tuned in to watch the repeat on BBC3 later in the evening. The BBC also said that a quite mind-numbingly astonishing 4.3 million viewers had turned over to BBC3 after the live show to see EastEnders Live: The Aftermath, which featured interviews with the cast and crew. This is the largest ever audience for a multi-channel show and was the most watched programme in its time slot - beating BBC1's Qi and Masterchef and, even more amazingly, the final of ITV's Popstar to Operastar which was watched by three hundred thousand less viewers. During the show, Larry Lamb, who played Archie, admitted that he had thought the murderer would be revealed as his on-screen daughter Ronnie, played by Samantha Womack.

Police detectives, meanwhile, have criticised EastEnders for the way police were portrayed in the recent Who Killed Archie? storyline. Over the past few weeks, the show's viewers have seen DCI Jill Marsden (the excellent Sophie Stanton) and DC Wayne Hughes (Jamie Treacher) chatting to locals while investigating the murder case. Meanwhile, Hughes was also seen accepting a bribe from Jack Branning (Scott Maslen). Real-life detectives have claimed that the scenes were 'damaging' to their profession and 'irritatingly inaccurate,' the Daily Telegraph reports. Alan Kalbfell, a Detective Inspector with the City of London Police who speaks on behalf of the National Detectives Forum, commented: 'It is frustrating to see our trade portrayed in such a bad manner. EastEnders is watched by a broad range of people, from young to old, and they will think this is how detectives operate. It's not. There is no doubt this is damaging to our profession. There is no way that 99.9 per cent of people doing our job would dream of discussing an ongoing case with people on the street if it could prove detrimental to the case. Yet EastEnders have no problem showing this. It makes us look unprofessional.' Christ, don't you people have, you know, some criminals to try and catch, or something? A spokeswoman for the Police Federation added: 'We just hope that EastEnders viewers realise the show is completely fictional because real detectives do not act like this.' Yeah, I think most television viewer have a little bit more basic bloody common sense than many glakes give them credit for and can, actually, manage to differentiate fiction (you know, 'made up stuff') from fact quite nicely without any help from you chaps. Speaking in response to the crass and idiotic criticism, an EastEnders spokeswoman confirmed that the soap uses a police consultant for crime plots. She added: 'I'm sorry if we have offended real-life detectives but this is heightened fiction and all the things that we show might not always represent real life.' Is it any wonder, dear blog reader, that house burglary rates in this country are so distressingly high? It would appear that many members of the police service don't have enough time to catch any of them as they're all too busy sitting in their gaffs watching EastEnders to point out the technical errors. Bloody criminal so it is.

Former EastEnders actor Ray Brooks has claimed that he did not enjoy his time on the soap. The Cathy Come Home and Big Deal veteran joined the show in 2005 as Joe Macer but filmed his final scenes in 2006. Speaking to the People, he explained that he had been looking forward to being part of the soap. 'The cast greeted me with tremendous enthusiasm and I thought it was going to be glorious,' he said. 'But gradually all that subsided as they got back into the old routine and I quickly noticed how tired everyone looked.' Brooks complained that the show had 'shabby sets and poor scripts' and criticised the short amount of rehearsal time. He also admitted that his relationship with his late co-star Wendy Richard deteriorated after the pair's characters got married. 'It was a good lesson, though admittedly one that I didn't need at my time of life,' he concluded. 'If I'd done it a little earlier I would have probably been more confident and been given better stuff.'

And now, some dreadful news. James Corden has landed a role in Doctor Who, according to tabloid reports. The Sun says that the Gavin & Stacey actor was spotted on a train learning lines for the show while en route to the set in Cardiff. A show insider is quoted as saying: 'We normally keep our guest stars under wraps but you can't hide a bloke like James.' Oh Christ. Just when yer Keith Telly Topping was starting to think The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat could do no wrong...

Hugh Laurie has admitted that he expected House to fail. In an interview with The Times, Laurie revealed that he lived in a hotel when he first moved to Los Angeles because he didn't think it was worth buying a house. 'I was so convinced the whole thing was going to fail, I couldn't contemplate committing to any long-term arrangement,' he said. 'I thought a hotel was a safe bet.' Laurie also revealed that shooting House was difficult at first, saying: 'Those first years, that was tough going. It was hard to keep morale up and keep concentrating, keep forging ahead.' He explained that he is still shocked by the success of the show but admitted that he has now started to relax. 'I used to worry much more about the prospect of failure,' he said. 'That two hundred people were going to be out of a job. That shame and disgrace would attach, and I would have my acting uniform stripped from me.' Laurie added that he is still fond of his character and continued: 'I know he has problems, and he is not necessarily a good man. But I realised long ago that one doesn't only like good people. Sometimes one doesn't even like good people.'

Channel 4 has apologised after Vinnie Jones used the word 'retard' on Celebrity Big Brother's Big Mouth. According to Little White Lies, the broadcaster took two weeks to say sorry for the use of language on the show. The comments during the episode, which first aired on 29 January, have now also been removed from Channel 4's on-demand service. During the live broadcast, Jones claimed that host Davina McCall was 'walking like a retard,' while McCall replied: 'I don't walk like a retard.' In an apology to disabilities campaigner Nicky Clark, Channel 4's viewers' editor Paula Carter said: 'I have spoken to the commissioning team responsible for Big Brother who regret that, in the heat of the moment during a live programme, Vinnie Jones's comment that Davina "walked like a retard" was allowed to go unchecked. We would normally respond to an inappropriate comment of that nature by asking the presenter to admonish the person responsible and apologise to the audience but on this occasion, at the very end of an intensive day, this did not happen.' She added: 'We have removed their comments from the VOD version of the programme. Please accept my apologies on behalf of Channel 4, Endemol and Davina and our best wishes for your campaigning work, which is very much in the spirit of Channel 4's founding principles.' McCall apologised verbally to Clark while Jones' publicist, Jonathan Hackford said: 'On behalf of Vinnie Jones I'd like to apologise for any offence caused by comments made on Big Brother's Big Mouth on 29 January 2010. While the show was live and the conversation was unscripted and off the cuff, Vinnie in no way meant to upset anyone and fully appreciates the choice of word was inappropriate.' However, Clark argued that 'racism wouldn't be excused this way' and added: 'Disability abuse happens every day. When a national broadcaster allows this behaviour to go unchallenged they are saying it's acceptable.'

David Cameron will appear on an upcoming edition of The Alan Titchmarsh Show. The news comes a week after Piers Morgan interviewed Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his Life Stories programme. However, Cameron is reported to have turned down the opportunity to also appear on Morgan's show, telling Radio 4's Woman's Hour: 'I am just not a great fan of the Piers Morgan format. I would rather do something a bit more substantial.' Hang on ... Alan Titchmarsh is 'substantial'? Blimey, that's a slap in the face for Piers Morgan is ever there was one!

The Government could this week order television chiefs to include more references to condoms and sexually transmitted diseases in their story lines. What, on all television programmes? I'm having trouble visualising how they'd work those kind of conversations into Tracey Beaker. Officials will reveal that they have analysed popular TV shows and concluded that not enough sex scenes feature the characters discussing contraception. They will say that 'careful' analysis of three hundred and fifty episodes of soap operas and comedies show that only seven per cent of sex scenes include a discussion between the characters about safe sex. A report, called Mis-selling Sex, to be launched by the Department of Health, will call on television writers to include more dialogue about condoms and plot lines featuring the consequences of unsafe sex such as unwanted pregnancies and disease. It will also call for more slang words to be used in order to connect with teenagers. Gillian Merron, the Public Health Minister, said: 'Young people relate to the programmes they watch on TV, so it's important that they see both realistic and responsible portrayals of sex and contraception. It's not for Government to say what happens on TV, but we can have conversations with broadcasters to help them have a more positive impact on attitudes to sex.' Sorry, can we just go back to the assertion that 'it's not for Government to say what happens on TV' for a second? Could you please, kindly, remember that the next time Hatty Harman or Ben Bradshaw or Jeremy Hunt or any number of rent-a-quote gobshite backbenchers goes off on some ludicrous diatribe about aspects of artistic freedom that are, frankly, none of their buggering concern? As previously noted, coppers, politicians, they all want my job. Trust me, guys, the pay's rubbish. 'I'm encouraged that some broadcasters are working to address these issues,' she continued 'and hope others will follow suit.' Her report analysed programmes popular with sixteen-to-twenty four year olds including EastEnders, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Holby City, Home & Away and Neighbours. Though not, seemingly, Doctor Who! American favourites such as CSI, My Name is Earl, Grey's Anatomy, Lost and Desperate Housewives were also studied. Mercifully, they appear not to have checked out Saturday's Qi: XL and it's lengthy discussion on the Reverse Cowgirl position. Researchers found that only seven per cent of sexual content featured discussion of safe sex. Of the one hundred and two encounters of actual sex, only three couples used condoms. Just thirteen per cent of sexual encounters where contraception was not featured dealt with any kind of consequence, such as pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Of the ninety nine instances of unsafe sex, just nine characters regretted their behaviour, the report said. It contrasted that with polling that suggests forty one per cent of people who have had unprotected sex worried about the consequences. The report claims that more than a third of young people turn to television for guidance on sex and relationships and almost half of young adults say they would feel more confident about using condoms if they were discussed more openly in the media. Large numbers of young people find themselves too embarrassed to have open and honest conversations about sex and one in four wish they could talk more openly about it, it says. The report was commissioned as part of the Government's Sex. Worth Talking About campaign which has also seen a major television advertising campaign calling on teenagers to use contraception. It sets out a five point plan, calling on the actors who play popular characters to promote issues around unsafe sex by working with charities in real life. Most controversially, it calls on scriptwriters to 'liven' the language used to describe safer sex in order to give credibility to storylines.

Channel 4 documentaries commissioning editor Sarah Mulvey has died. The circumstances of her death are unclear. It is understood a coroner’s inquiry has been opened. Mulvey, a former Brat Camp producer, was appointed by Angus Macqueen in 2006. Her commissioning credits include the acclaimed Cutting Edge documentary My Wall Street, A Very British Storm Junkie, Dangerous Jobs for Girls and series four and five of The Secret Millionaire. Her other production credits include A Place in the Sun, Ten Years Younger and Who Rules the Roost? She had previously executive produced How to Look Good Naked and was the launch editor of First Cut, the documentary strand that offered emerging directors the chance to air their work. Its success under her leadership saw it moved to a later, more prominent slot in the schedule. A statement from Channel 4 said: 'Sarah was a respected and well-liked colleague and everyone who knew her at Channel 4 is shocked and saddened by her death. Our thoughts are with her friends and family at this time.'

Former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies has become the latest celebrity to be voted off ITV's Dancing On Ice. The forty seven-year-old went up against Inbetweeners Emily Atack in the skate-off but the judges unanimously chose to save her younger rival. After hearing that she was to leave the show, Davies said she would not be saying goodbye to the ice. 'I shall carry on going down to the Swindon ice rink and doing my skating,' she said. Davies, who scored sixteen points out of a possible thirty, had battled to stay in the competition after appearing in the skate-off twice before. During the series she also struggled to overcome problems with her lower back, shoulders and knees and took a considerable amount of criticism from several the judges, notably Jason Gardiner. Earlier in the show, viewers saw former Emmerdale actress Hayley Tamaddon finish at the top of the leaderboard for the second week running. Gardiner subsequently branded Davies as a 'rude brat.' Writing on his Twitter page, Gardiner noted: 'Finally Sharron's true colours came thru. I am appalled at her disrespect towards Jayne [Torvill] & Chris [Dean]. Bad sport diva brat. She's got to go!' He later added: 'Basically the miserable cow didn't like the music or her routine, had a strop and changed it without their approval.' Another show insider to join in the fun was Dancing On Ice host Phillip Schofield, also using Twitter to stick the boot in: 'My God, it was as frosty off the ice as it was on tonight!' he wrote. 'Never known a show like it - sensational. With regards to the frostiness, it's never good to tell Olympic Gold medallists and international skating legends that you know better!'

Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff has landed a role in a new drama pilot from ABC. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the twenty nine-year-old actress will play the lead role. The untitled Richard Hatem project centres around Sackhoff's character, a female detective who teams with a disgraced ex-cop to solve crimes. Sackhoff is currently appearing in 24.

And finally, the Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole has dumped husband, Ashley, after three years of marriage, according to a report today. The Sun claim that the X Factor judge broke the news in a text message from Los Angeles early yesterday, telling him 'Move out. It's over.' Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

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