Thursday, February 11, 2010

It All Looks Fine To The Naked Eye (But It Don't Really Happen That Way At All)

Let's kick-off today's Top Telly News with some cautiously good tidings relating to one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite non-fiction shows on TV anyway. Channel 4 has moved production of the long-running archeology series Time Team to Wales and guaranteed that the series will broadcast until at least 2013 - but it has also cut the budget by about fifteen per cent. The broadcaster has this week reportedly signed a new three-year deal with co-producers Videotext Communications and Picture House TV, which will start moving the show's twenty-strong production staff out of West London to a new Cardiff office from April. Some redundancies are expected once the move is completed in November. Presenter, and executive producer, Tony Robinson will stay with the project though, in line with most TV presenters signing new deals at the moment, Tony is understood to have taken a pay cut. The series will continue to have thirteen episodes each year, but two of these will now revisit the sites of earlier shows as a cost-cutting exercise which should enable the remaining eleven annual episodes to be made for roughly the same budget as previously. Channel 4 will also continue to air four prime time Time Team specials each year. Executive producer Philip Clarke said that the move was essentially 'a trade-off' to enable the team to take the show into its twentieth year of production. 'We haven't emerged unscathed,' he noted, 'and we didn't expect to. But we've emerged in much better shape than many other shows. There's a good body of labour and a tradition of specialist factual, near Cardiff. Hopefully we can bring something to Cardiff as well as being able to benefit from the talent and good facilities already there.' Plus, of course, if Mick, Phil, Stewart and the gang ever get stuck on a tricky historical problem, they can always pop over to Upper Boat and borrow the Doctor's TARDIS if necessary. The crew are now beginning production on Time Team's eighteenth series, which will be filmed this summer and autumn and will broadcast next year. Ten episodes (including some of the specials) will be produced in London, with the remaining seven produced out of Cardiff. The popular series, which started in 1994, is generally broadcast in an early evening Sunday slot. The seventeenth series, which was filmed last year, is due to be broadcast from next month - probably in the 7:00pm slot once The Bible: A History ends its run.

Some sad news, now. Phil Harris, the fishing boat captain on Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch, has died. Harris suffered a stroke in late January while off-loading his boat the Cornelia Marie in port at St Paul Island. He died late on Tuesday. 'Dad has always been a fighter and continued to be until the end,' his sons Josh and Jake Harris, who were deckhands on the boat, said in a statement. 'For us and the crew, he was someone who never backed down. We will remember and celebrate that strength.' Harris was known for being an extremely vocal fisherman on the series, which began in 2005 and chronicled crab fishing off the coast of Alaska - said to be one of the most dangerous professions in the world. 'He was more than someone on our television screen. Phil was a devoted father and loyal friend to all who knew him. We will miss his straightforward honesty, wicked sense of humour and enormous heart,' the Discovery Channel said. It added: 'We share our tremendous sadness over this loss with the millions of viewers who followed Phil's every move.'

David Boreanaz's character, Booth, will reportedly be getting a new love interest on Bones. According to Entertainment Weekly, Rena Sofer has joined the cast of the FOX series. The former General Hospital actress will play Dr Catherine Klein, a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who has been called into the Jeffersonian after finding human remains inside a dead tiger shark. She apparently will take a romantic interest in Booth and the two begin dating.

Debut author Katie Davies has won the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize for her tale The Great Hamster Massacre. Davies based the book - about a girl's relentless quest for a pet hamster - on aspects of her own childhood. Children's Laureate Anthony Browne described the book as 'a funny and touching story told very convincingly and honestly.' Davies, who lives in London with her husband, the comedian and actor Alan Davies, won five thousand pounds at a ceremony in London. She beat eight other authors to take the prestigious prize. Davies, who previously worked as an assistant to a literary agent, told the BBC: 'I'm really thrilled. I think it will make a massive difference. It's a big deal to me. I was very surprised to even be on the shortlist, so I was thrilled to find out that I'd actually won.' Davies based the idea for the book on her own childhood, when her pet hamsters killed their two litters. 'Apparently it's quite common. It was traumatising for the girl in my book, but I think, in reality, my brother and I were a bit harder. We thought it was disappointing partly because we were going to sell them on to the local pet shop. We were going to convert them into sweets!' Davies started writing full time after being encouraged by her husband, the star of Jonathan Creek and Qi.

Hollyoaks showrunner Paul Marquess has replaced three of the soap's producers in a Night Of The Long Knives style 'bid to streamline the programme's creative process,' according to the Digital Spy website. Marquess, who joined the show last month as Lucy Allan's successor, took the decision to restructure the hierarchy at the soap in an effort to 'create a more effective production team.' Henry Swindell, Caroline Roby and Rachel Hall have all been released from their contracts with show-makers Lime Pictures in Liverpool as the position of 'producer' has now been made redundant. Instead, what is described as 'a more streamlined approach' has been adopted. Former head of Hollyoaks' production and ex-Coronation Street producer Trina Fraser returns to the soap as line producer, whilst ex-EastEnders and The Bill story editor Claire Fryer assumes the role of Hollyoaks' series editor. Speaking to Digital Spy, Marquess stated: 'I'm delighted that Claire has joined the team as series editor and that Trina has returned to Hollyoaks as my line producer. The editorial changes to the team mark the beginning of the show's reinvigoration and I'm confident that the three of us will form a focused team that can drive Hollyoaks to new heights.' Someone described as 'a Hollyoaks source' added 'There really is a buzz about the place now. We've a fresh direction and Paul's certainly the man for the job. He's a breath of fresh air and we've every confidence in him.'

A twenty four-hour 'vomiting bug' is threatening rehearsals for the next Dancing On Ice live show, a tabloid report has claimed. Gary Lucy and his professional partner Maria Filippov were forced to miss a day of training on Monday due to the virus, according to the Sun. It is suggested that the bug was first spread among the programme's production staff earlier in the month and that Lucy's co-stars now fear 'they could be next to fall ill.' A source said: 'Just skipping one day of practising their new routine could really damage Gary and Maria's chances on Sunday. The competition is hotting up and everything is at stake. Gary said he felt like he was in quarantine from the rest of the gang when the illness was in full force. Producers have tried to keep him and Maria away from the others.' The insider added: 'This could really ruin the weekend's show. [Producers] are doing everything they can to keep the celebs up to full strength. But they know it will be disastrous if any of the stars are too sick to perform.'

Chris Evans will reportedly replace Adrian Chiles on Friday night editions of The One Show. Again, according to the ever reliable Sun, who never get anything wrong - except Zoe Lucker being cast as the Rani on Doctor Who, of course - producers have proposed the move in an attempt to increase Evans' television presence. However, Chiles, who is currently renegotiating his contract with the BBC, is said to be 'unhappy' about the suggestion. A source said: 'Adrian loves the show and is unlikely to leave, but he's not a happy bunny.' What's the matter, mate? West Brom's top of the Championship, you should be turning cartwheels. Meanwhile, a BBC spokesperson told the Daily Star: 'Adrian is part of our plans for the future of The One Show.' Just not necessarily, the only part...

A watered down proposal urging broadcasters to 'demonstrate a greater commitment to religious content' has been passed by the Church of England General Synod. Rather than back a private member's motion - put forward by uppity former BBC producer Nigel Holmes - which would have called the BBC and Ofcom to account over the 'marginalisation' of religious broadcasting, Synod members sided with Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester by two hundred and sixty seven votes to four. His amendment asked Synod to express its appreciation 'of the vital role played by those engaged in communicating religious belief,' as well as 'deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting.' It asks that mainstream broadcasters 'create and commission high quality religious content across the full range of their output, particularly material that imaginatively marks major festivals and portrays acts of worship.' In his original motion, Holmes claimed that in 2009 television 'completely ignored the Christian significance of Good Friday.' Unlike Holmes, however, many of those who took part in the debate on religious content were reluctant to point the finger directly at the corporation. 'As far as I'm concerned, the BBC fulfils its remit better than anyone else,' said Christina Rees of St Albans diocese. 'You can't expect the BBC to do the church's job. There's little point in pillorying individuals or organisations just because they don't do what we think they should do.' There isn't? But, hasn't the Christian church been doing that, or something similar, for ooh I dunno, the last couple of thousand years? Synod member Philip Giddings put the opposing - and satisfyingly minority – view stated 'The BBC is the prime public service broadcaster and we should [make it accountable].' But, if it's the prime public service broadcaster, then doesn't its accountability extend to all of its licence fee payers and not just The God Squad? Once again, it would seem, we have a curiously narrow definition of public service broadcasting as 'stuff I want to see.' Selfish, vicar. Look it up. And, it's not what Leviticus tells you that you can't eat, either. 'The BBC isn't composed of people who are afraid of a bit of criticism,' Giddings continued. 'We should stick to our guns.' That's a nice conflict-based metaphor for a supposed Christian to be using. Others thought differently and that the Bishop of Manchester's more considered - and, perhaps, less provocative - approach was the right one to take. The Venerable Jan McFarlane, the Archdeacon of Norwich, said 'putting the BBC on the naughty step' would do little to improve relations or programming. The Right Reverend McCulloch, added that the Church of England needed to recognise 'and cherish' what was already on offer, highlighting BBC programmes such as A History Of Christianity and Songs of Praise. 'Religious programming has a proper place across all the public service broadcasters; don't let them off the hook by naming only the BBC in the motion,' he pleaded. Meanwhile, The National Secular Society said that research suggested religious programmes were neither popular or particularly valued by viewers. 'It is important the BBC is not bullied into becoming an evangelical tool for the Church of England while ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of the licence-payer,' said the society's president, Terry Sanderson. Yer Keith Telly Topping, from his position as a militant Agnostic, really doesn't mind having some of his licence fee money spent on religious programming. But he's buggered if he's going to sit by and let some holier-than-thou prick suggest that because they go to church once a week that gives them a greater right to demand what programmes the BBC should and shouldn't be making. To Hell with that argument. Quite literally.

Sky 1 is to test a Price Is Right-style format jointly developed with Noel Edmonds. The Beard of Despair will front Bank It Or Bin It, which has been created by Feel Good Factor. The latter is a new joint venture between Edmonds' Bucket Management and Crystal Entertainment - an entertainment and management company run by former Nineteen Entertainment executive Charles Garland - that will develop formats created by Edmonds. Garland said: 'Noel is a creative powerhouse and talent have never been better placed to control their future and benefit from their own intellectual property.' Bank It Or Bin It will challenge contestants to guess how much different items - such as pieces of jewellery - are worth, and 'bank them or bin them.' Sky head of entertainment Duncan Gray has ordered a sixty-minute pilot that will broadcast in the summer. Bank It Or Bin It was originally devised by Edmonds' long-time producer, Michael Leggo, who will executive produce with Crystal's Gideon Joseph.

ITV has drawn up a top ten list of programmes that are ripe for product placement which includes Coronation Street and Emmerdale - but not The X Factor. ITV commercial director Rupert Howell told Broadcast magazine there had been an 'overwhelming demand' for product placement from key advertisers and that he hoped to have the first deals on screen by the end of the year. 'The soaps are a natural home. Characters do things like drive their cars, walk into banks and shop for clothes in almost every episode,' Howell said. But shiny-floor entertainment shows such as The X Factor are not on the list, and deals similar to the American Idol 'Coke cans on desks' will not be struck. 'First, we are restricted from giving products undue prominence, and second, I am yet to meet a client who thinks that having their brand displayed like that is a good thing,' he said. ITV's plans follow the government's announcement that it will legislate to allow product placement in the UK, albeit with restrictions. The changes will allow all commercial broadcasters to place paid-for products into programmes, apart from news, current affairs and children's programmes. A blanket ban will apply on food high in fat, sugar and salt, alcohol, over-the-counter and prescription medications, tobacco, gambling and baby formulas. PACT said the shift could inject seventy five million pounds into UK production. The plans will now go to Ofcom for consultation. Howell, who also flagged up placement opportunities in daytime shows, drew parallels to the introduction of programme sponsorship. He added that the restrictions set out by the government, including banning placement of alcohol and HFSS food, were 'over fussy' and that he hoped they would be relaxed in future. 'When sponsorship launched, people said it would have clients pull out of TV and upset viewers, but that never happened. Instead, we now have a market that nets around one hundred million pounds in extra revenue a year, of which fifty to fifty five million goes to ITV. There is no reason why product placement won't also be pulling in that sort of money within five years.'

Executives, in-house staff and independent producers - along with this blogger - have urged the BBC to stand firm on its refusal to reveal talent pay deals in the face of mounting media and political pressure. This week, the corporation revealed it spent two hundred and twenty nine million pounds on three hundred thousand contracts with on-air talent in the last financial year, excluding indirect payments via indie producers. It broke the figure down into broad salary bands, revealing it spent fifty four million pounds on talent whose contracts were worth more than one hundred and fifty thousand pounds per year, but did not publish individual pay details. The refusal sparked accusations of a 'cover up,' with MPs from all sides weighing in on the 'culture of secrecy.' Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the 'issue won't be settled until we have full transparency.' Quite why anyone would take noticed of the views of Jeremy Hunt, a man who has already broken the spirit - if not the actual letter - of UK employment law by suggesting to the BBC that they should be employing more people who support his political party is, perhaps, a question best left for another time. However, in-house and independent producers have backed the BBC's resistance to making further revelations. One very senior figure told Broadcast: 'There is a strong consensual view in the BBC that it would be a mistake [to reveal further details]. It could only add upward inflationary pressure. The revelations we have already made have just left people banging the drum for more. I hope the BBC stands firm.' Another insider added: 'Publishing doesn't work if we are the only ones in the market doing it. It feels a bit punitive.' Their views were echoed in the independent sector. Graham Stuart, co-founder of So Television with Graham Norton, said: 'A level of accountability is good - it's public money after all - but I don't see the purpose of breaking down the precise details of individual deals. What Graham earns is between him and his accountant.' Bea Ballard, chief executive of Ten Star Entertainment, added: 'I feel for the BBC. It wants to be competitive in the talent market rather than having to take the also-rans, but at the same time it doesn't want to inflate the market.'

The new star of Midsomer Murders, Neil Dudgeon, introduced himself to six and a half million viewers last night. According to overnight figures, Midsomer Murders averaged an audience of 6.5m between 8pm and 10pm, making it the most watched programme of the evening. And as DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) solved the crime with his soon-be-replacement cousin, the size of the audience made it the most watched episode of Midsomer since 17 August 2008. BBC1 was well behind the Barnabys, with a one-off Rogue Traders special attracting 4.1m between 8pm and 9pm, and Cars, Cops and Criminals nicking 3.7m between 9pm and 10pm.

The original Public Image Ltd bassist - the great Jah Wobble - has explained why he turned down the chance to rejoin John Lydon on the band's current reunion tour. Wobble, who played on the group's first two - extraordinary - LPs, said that Lydon was using the comeback to make money and was not playing at the right venues. But the bassist stressed that he had 'no axe to grind.' Original guitarist Keith Levene was also absent when the group returned. Lydon took to the stage alongside two later PiL members for the group's first live dates in seventeen years in December and they will play at a string of festivals this summer. Wobble says the original line-up could have reconvened under the right circumstances, but that will now never happen. 'I was asked last July and I definitely did think about it and talk about it to an extent, but it just wasn't the right move for me,' he says. 'It just wasn't the way I would do it. I don't care, I think it's great and I'm not bothered at all.' Lydon formed PiL in the immediate aftermath of the Sex Pistols split in 1978, and their early releases - particularly 1979's Metal Box - are considered seminal examples of post-punk, having influenced bands as diverse as Primal Scream, Massive Attack and Radiohead. Wobble, born John Wardle, says he wanted to record a new CD and discussed that prospect with Lydon. 'I suspect with John it's about two things - raising money efficiently and quickly and reactivating the PiL brand as his vehicle,' Wobble says of the comeback. 'That's just business.'

Noel Gallagher won't be attending the sentencing in Toronto next month for a man who attacked him onstage during a 2008 Oasis concert. Daniel Sullivan's sentencing for assault causing bodily harm was adjourned earlier this month because Gallagher had indicated that he wished to deliver a victim impact statement in person. But Crown attorney Ruth Kleinhenz-Neilson says Gallagher's schedule won't permit him to attend the 23 March sentencing. 'Noel has commitments in March that are culminating in a charity concert for teen cancer that he's headlining,"'she said, referring to the Teenage Cancer Trust in London. 'He tried to alter his schedule but others were going to be inconvenienced by that as well.' Instead of attending in person, Gallagher will provide a written victim impact statement that will be read at Sullivan's sentencing. 'Something had to give and Noel's decided to co-operate and say "that's fine,"' Kleinhenz-Neilson said. 'He's going to provide a victim impact statement and I guess I'll be reading it.' Sullivan pleaded guilty to rushing onstage at the Virgin Music Festival in Toronto in September 2008 and pushing Noel, violently, into some speakers. The guitarist suffered three broken ribs.

Police were reportedly called to George Michael's home earlier this week after the singer appeared to wander off without closing his front door. The Mirror claims that a 999 call was made by a private security guard who informed police that the door to the North London property had been left open. It is suggested that the alleged incident, which occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning, came to an end when Michael was found safe and well in a nearby property following a brief search by police. However, one neighbour commented: 'You'd be utterly mad to leave your door open in the middle of the night. This is London.' The newspaper reports that the incident has sparked fresh concern over the singer's drug use. Two months ago, he admitted that he was still smoking cannabis seven or eight times per day.

The South Bank Show, the long-running arts strand that was controversially cancelled by ITV, is set for a last hurrah with a ten-part series mixing new interviews with archive footage. The South Bank Show Revisited will be produced by Melvyn Bragg's in-house specialist arts and factual team, and former producer Gillian Greenwood will return as a freelancer to produce the final episode of the series - a look at the history of art film-making, including The South Bank Show itself. Other episodes will see Bragg interview some of his most famous previous subjects, including Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Billy Connolly and Andrew Lloyd Webber, intercut with their earlier South Bank Show interviews. The series will be broadcast from the end of March in a late Sunday night slot and will coincide with a series of famous South Bank Show episodes at the British Film Institute, and the publication of a book, called Final Cut, based on twenty five interviews. The series was commissioned by ITV director of television, channels and online Peter Fincham, and director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman.

The BBC is preparing for its partial relocation to the new North West headquarters by launching a season of programming celebrating northern culture. BBC director general Mark Thompson was today at Teesside University in Middlesbrough discussing the programming season, and also showcasing the expected economic boost from certain BBC departments transferring to the MediaCityUK complex at Salford. Airing on BBC4, the season includes The Road to Wigan Pie Shop, in which historian Andrew Hussey will give a culinary tour of the North and two-part documentary The Golden Age of Civic Architecture, fronted by Jonathan Foyle. Eddie Waring and the Story of Rugby League will profile the late BBC commentator and the sport he covered, along with discussing his experience of class, power and money. 'The move to MediaCityUK will help us better reflect the life, culture and stories of the North. These programmes are a great celebration of how the traditions and history of our northern cities have helped shaped the region and the country,' said Thompson. 'Along with favourites like Tracy Beaker and George Gently, it shows our dedication to content and stories from the North that can be enjoyed by audiences across the UK.' BBC4 controller Richard Klein added: 'This season will be an eclectic and witty collection of films that explore some forgotten histories, some interesting by-ways and some major cultural influences of one of Britain's most colourful, historic and important regions. It isn't a set of films that seeks to position North against South, or tries to determine what is and what isn't North. Nor is it a season that seeks to define 'Northerness' by its otherness from the South. In the best tradition of BBC4, it will be an intelligent and witty collection of programmes that aim to shine a light on the best of British culture.'

1 comment:

"Greg" said...

why I am reading an account ofTV in the UK is beyond me, better yet I enjoy your writing style. BTW I live in Raleigh, NC. (USA)