Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rhythm Of Life

EastEnders was brilliant last night, yet again. Mouthy Zainab got one of the great sequences in the show's entire twenty five year history as she delivered her latest baby whilst - between the screams of labour - getting to shoot off a stream of quite extraordinary, pain-induced one-liners. 'I'll see if I can talk her down' noted Christian at one point as he got on his mobile to the local hospital when her waters broke. 'Talk me down? I'm not a bloody plane!' she quipped through gritted teeth.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Lost was concentrating this week on Boring Old Jack Sheppard and his seemingly never-ending 'mission.' Not forgetting his alternate-universe relationship with a son whom we'd never ever heard mention of previously. Of course, that sequence with him discovering his appendix scar should have given the audience something of a hint of revelation. That, presumably because of the bomb going off in 1977, a whole hell of a lot of things may be very different indeed about the world in which Flight 815 didn't crash. Not only lives regained but lives actually changes. Desmond on the plane. Ben working as a teacher. The Japanese man crossing Jack's path. Etc. Fortunately, there was some Hurley humour to ease the bum-aching tension of a Jack-centric episode and a great subplot about the only Lost regular who, categorically, had never killed anyone before now becoming a completely cold-blooded psycho-murderess. Good old Lost, if there's a totally mental story path to follow, they'll ruddy well go for it! No sawyer this week, though. Not cool.

24, on the other hand, is getting very bogged down in it's traditional 'mid-series blues' - if you notice, it always seems to happen around episodes seven, eight or nine, usually because that's about as far as the initial block of plotting goes. The writers never plot in advance of that because recurring actors can suddenly need to leave to take another job. So, we've got the pointless her-off-Battlestar Galactica-being-blackmailed plot (now, thankfully, coming towards a climax) and the Renee-getting-set-up plot (dealt with Big Hard Jack in a couple of scenes). And, as ever, sudden changes of character motivation are something of an occupational hazard when it comes to Jack Bauer's world so, suddenly, some of the baddies are growing convenient consciences. Hopefully, things should start to pick up again next week now that Jack's leading a team into potential mayhem with the blood and the snots and horror. Yer Keith Telly Topping is rather looking forward to that.

The Thick of It actor Chris Addison has revealed that he is nothing like his on-screen character. Well, no. That's because he's 'an actor' and, as such, is 'playing a part.' What a frigging revelation. Next ... Addison, who plays the feckless and often arrogant Oli in the BBC political comedy, added that many people are surprised by his real personality. That's, presumably, because they're bone-thick. He told the Nottingham Evening Post: 'A lot of people who come along don't have any idea what my stand-up's going to be like but come because they've seen me on The Thick of It. They come up to me and say, "You're not at all how I imagined." And I say, "Well, what was that, then?" and they say, "You know, like Oli." I think, 'That's because he's a character in a fictional television programme."' See what I mean? Addison, seen right shortly after a hamster ran up his trouser leg, is also a - very highly-regarded - stand-up having appeared regularly on Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, as well as presenting a weekend current affairs debate show on Radio 5Live. The thirty eight-year-old concluded: 'I've always thought of myself as a stand-up but nowadays in interviews I'm always introduced as, "The actor Chris Addison." It's kind of strange because I've acted very little in my life, but have done fifteen years as a stand-up.'

John Barrowman has revealed details of his upcoming stint on Desperate Housewives. The Torchwood star told the Digital Spy website that he will be playing a villain who changes the lives of 'every one of the women' on Wisteria Lane. 'I haven't met any of them - the only person I know is [creator] Marc Cherry. The reason that I am going over to do Desperate Housewives is because Marc is a fan of Torchwood and he said, "I'd love to bring you out here to do something." I'm doing five episodes and I'm gonna be a villain. I will be involved in the mystery storyline that they're doing at the moment with [Drea de Matteo]. I've been told by Marc that I will affect every one of the women in some way.' Barrowman added that he 'can't wait' to read the scripts and hopes that Doctor Who and Torchwood fans will tune in. Meanwhile, on last night's The ONE Show he noted that, in fact, he will be in six episodes rather than five.

And, Barrowman's former cast-mate, David Tennant, (remember him?) along with The West Wing's Jason Isaacs and Thandie Newton will head the cast of psychological thriller Retreat. The Magent Films production finds a holidaying couple (Isaacs and Newton) having their break ruined when Tennant turns up on their doorstep and tells them that a deadly virus is killing people on the mainland. Magnet producer Gary Sinyor told Screen Daily: 'It reminded me of Dead Calm when I first read it. Only better. It's got a similar sexual tension but the battle of wits between the characters and plot twists are constantly surprising. We're delighted to have secured three of the UK's most powerful actors.' Carl Tibbetts will make his feature directing debut on the film from a script he co-wrote with Janice Hallett. Shooting is scheduled to take place in Canada in May.

The season five finale of Bones is called The Beginning in the End, the show's executive producer has revealed. The title alludes to the fourth season's closing episode, which was, of course, The End in the Beginning. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Hart Hanson teased: 'Isn't the meaning just as crystal clear as [last season's finale] The End in the Beginning?' Not if viewers keep watching the show, I'm guessing.

Damon Lindelof has admitted that he was not prepared for fans to scrutinise Lost's final season. You weren't? Well, what the hell did you think they were going to do? And, furthermore, what the hell programme have you been making for the last five years, then?! There has never been a series that's been as 'scrutinised' and theorised over' as Lost! Not even The X-Files, and that really is saying something. The show's executive producer recently responded to some fans' criticism via Twitter, also having a go at NCIS: Los Angeles in the process. 'For those of you complaining of "filler." Seriously. PLEASE WATCH NCIS: LOS ANGELES,' he wrote. 'I promise not to hold it against you.' Oh, what a wonderful idea - piss-off a significant proportion of your fanbase, that's sure to win friends and influence people. Better yet, whilst you're doing so, have a chat to the guys over at Heroes and see how the same policy worked out for them? Lindelof later told Entertainment Weekly: 'I have to be better about not being reactive that way. I certainly was not prepared for the level of scrutiny that the show is being held to this season. It's like if you actually had to have your Christmas televised as the Super Bowl half-time show and America was going to watch what you bought for your family as presents then pass judgement on them.' But, that's always been the way with TV and some shows get more of it than others. You know that by now. And if you don't, seriously, what have you been doing the last five years? Living on an island? If you don't want attention, you're in the wrong game, pal.

The BBC’s contemporary re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes has secured its first international sale with Australia’s Nine Network. The three part series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the eponymous role and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, will air on the commercial broadcaster later this year. Michael Healy, of the Nine Network, said Australian audiences traditionally embrace BBC drama, adding that Sherlock will be 'a valuable addition to our schedule later this year.' Set in modern day London, Holmes is portrayed as an analytical deduction fanatic who helps the police with their enquiries for fun. Watson, fresh from serving in Afghanistan, puts aside initial scepticism to form an alliance with Holmes. The new version was co-created and written by the recently appointed showrunner on Doctor Who, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat and The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss. It is being produced by Hartswood Films.

Former Emmerdale acrtess Linda Lusardi has revealed that she would consider returning to the soap in the future. The former Page Three model played Carrie Nicholls on the Yorkshire-based drama for a year, but quit the role in late 2007 because she wanted to spend more time with her family. However, in a new interview with the North Wales Chronicle, Lusardi hinted that she would be willing to return to the role when her children Lucy and Jack, are older. Lusardi commented: 'I loved Emmerdale. I did it for over a year, and it was a really good grounding for an actress because you are getting new scripts every day. I had to leave because of the children, we live too far away and it was not fair on them. Emmerdale has left the door open - who knows, I could go back.' The star added that taking on acting and reality show roles over the past few years has helped her to become known as more than just a model. She said: 'There are the under twenties who know me because of Dancing On Ice, Emmerdale and The Bill. People do recognise me, and ask me for autographs. That is part of being in the business.' Yeah. But still, the North Wales Chronicle? It's a bit of a come down from the Sun, isn't it?

The Conservative Party has backed an England and Wales Cricket Board campaign to block The Ashes from joining a list of protected events for free-to-air television. The shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, described the government's proposed move as 'brave if not very foolish' at a time when revenue streams in sport are under growing pressure. His comments come after a review panel recommended last year that the list of protected FTA events should be expanded to include The Ashes, the rugby union World Cup, the whole of Wimbledon and all home nation international football qualifiers. Led by the ECB, various sporting bodies have criticised the plan, mostly in regards to the money that would be taken away from UK grassroots sport development. In 1998, the ECB successfully lobbied for Test matches to be removed from the protected list, which enabled it to agree a two hundred and twenty million pounds TV rights deal with Sky. A further three hundred million pound deal with the satcaster will come into force next year, which includes the 2013 Ashes tournament. However, supporters point to the fact that 7.4 million people tuned-in to watch the final Ashes Test at the Oval in 2005 when it was screened on Channel 4, compared to two million who watched the climax of the 2009 tournament on Sky. Of course, they don't mention that two million was, roughly, the figure that Channel 4 were getting for none-Ashes test cricket just a year or two earlier. Speaking at a debate with sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe and Liberal Democrat sports spokesman Don Foster, Robertson said that the Tories would not support the Ashes being included on the FTA-protected list. 'When the review was launched the calculation was made that there were an awful lot of votes in returning cricket to free-to-air,' said Robertson. 'Now people are just waking up to the fact that eighty per cent of the ECB's income comes from broadcast income and if you take that away you are going to decimate quite a lot of investment that has gone in to women's cricket and the grassroots. At a time when the public purse is under greater pressure than ever before that's a brave if not a very foolish call to make.' The review panel's recommendations are currently in a consultation period, before culture secretary Ben Bradshaw makes a final decision on the proposal. As the consultation comes to a close in early March and the general election must take place before 3 June, Bradshaw will have a tight three-month window to reach his decision, meaning the policy could fall under a Tory administration. Robertson said that he would rather see sporting bodies take the initiative in offering a mixture of pay-TV and FTA broadcast rights for key events. 'I do feel listing events is an artificial interference in the freedom of a sport's governing body. I would much rather have a smaller than a longer list,' he said. 'If we are going to allow a sport's governing bodies that freedom I would look for them to guarantee in return that a set proportion of their income is invested in the grassroots.'

And now, some truly glorious news: The BBC has axed Amanda Holden's circus sitcom Big Top, according to tabloid reports. Following a bout of truly disastrous ratings, it has been announced that the series, which also stars John Thomson and Tony Robinson, will not be returning for a second run. The Stage said the jokes were 'limp and lumbered with punchlines Nostradamus probably saw coming,' while the Observer called it 'unashamedly lame.' The Times' Caitlin Moran added: 'Were the awfulness of Big Top rendered into miles, we could use it as a bridge to the Moon.' The Sun also claims that the Britain's Got Talent judge's ITV show Fantasy Lives may also be 'pulled' after it failed to perform even remotely in the ratings. An insider claims that 'Amanda had high hopes that the other two shows could become long-running series.' Hopes which have now, seemingly, been satisfyingly dashed although ITV is yet to make an announcement over the future of Fantasy Lives. Recently, the thirty nine-year-old actress revealed that she would love to team up with Britain's Got More Talent host Stephen Mulhern, joking that they could be the next Richard and Judy. Run Stephen. Run now. Run for your life, if you want your career to survive.

Piers Morgan has criticised Fern Britton after the ex-This Morning presenter scorned his recent interview with Gordon Brown. Writing in his weekly Daily Mail column, the objectionable Britain's Got Talent judge brushed aside Britton's comments on Andrew Neil's This Week. Morgan said: 'On and on she droned, in a weird undertaker-style monotone, professing her outraged shock and horror at my "tabloid" line of questioning. This is, of course, the same Fern Britton who spent a decade on This Morning asking vacuous celebrities questions so "tabloid" in their content that most tabloids would reject them as being too dumb. And the same Fern Britton who was caught lying to her faithful viewers about her dramatic weight loss - claiming it was all down to eating healthier and cycling, when in fact it was down to gastric band surgery.' He added: 'I used to like Fern. She was kind to me once when I co-hosted This Morning with her for a week (in between telling me quite hair-raising stories about Frank Bough during commercial breaks). But there really is nothing that sticks in my gullet more than turncoats like her sticking the boot in, while affecting pseudo-intellectual snobbery. Especially when they are shameless little fibbers.' Keith Telly Topping must add that he, too, loathes 'shameless little fibbers,' Piers. Especially ones who publish faked photographs in the newspapers that they edit.

The BBC Trust has ordered an on-air apology from the BBC after en episode of Panorama 'distorted known facts' and breached its own impartiality rules. Panorama: What's Next for Craig, broadcast on BBC1 in November 2007, and examined scientific research into treatments for children with Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder. The programme examined the findings of a major, three-year American study – known as the 'Multimodel Treatment Study of Children' – but it 'relied solely' on the views of one of the scientists involved whose views differed from the others. 'Panorama did not accurately report the findings of a follow-up scientific study comparing the treatment of children with ADHD [and] the programme makers should not have relied solely on the views of one scientist,' the Trust said. 'The audience should have been informed that there was a wide range of views on the subject,' it added. It also rapped the corporation for failing to recognise there had been a serious editorial breach and has called a meeting with deputy director general Mark Byford to discuss 'the steps to be taken' to ensure the breaches do not happen again. No date has been set for the on-air apology, but it will be broadcast during a future edition of Panorama.

The second series of Survivors bowed out with an overnight audience of 3.67m on BBC1 last night. The series two finale managed to better last week's performance, but it failed to beat the first episode of the year, which was watching by four and a half million on 12 January. Across its six-week run, the series has managed an average of 3.81m. Whether that will be enough to secure a third series, I wouldn't like to speculate although, in terms to the actual show itself, I've quite enjoyed it and it's been getting decent audience appreciation feedback. Ultimately, however, it's a pretty expensive drama to make and it will come down to whether the BBC feel that its expense is justified by a - decidedly average - drama audience of under four million. Once upon a time that would have been a no-brainer and it would have been cancelled without a second thought. But, these days, you simply never know.

UKTV's factual channel Yesterday has commissioned a one-off documentary to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Dunkirk. The World War II documentary Dunkirk: The Forgotten Heroes will be broadcast around the anniversary weekend in May. It will recount the story of the one hundred thousand Allied soldiers - including yer Keith Telly Topping's dear old dad, as it happens - left as a last-stand to guard those troops who were evacuated across the Channel from France in 1940. The hour-long documentary has been produced by Testimony Films following a commission by UKTV's director of commissioning Jane Rogerson. It was ordered by Yesterday channel head Richard Kingsbury and UKTV's director of factual and lifestyle Jane Mote. Kingsbury said the channel, which attracts ten million viewers each month, was tapping into demand from viewers ahead of the anniversary. 'This year we have seen a surge in interest in the events of seventy years ago and we will be feeding that interest with a series of original programmes that mark the biggest anniversaries of 1940,' Kingsbury said.

London's Abbey Road studios, where The Beatles recorded the vast majority of their output, has been made a listed building, protecting it from plans to radically alter it. The venue has been given Grade II status - the third-highest category - for its role in shaping British music. Culture Minister Margaret Hodge listed the studios on the advice of English Heritage saying it had 'produced some of the very best music in the world.' Its owners, EMI, recently denied reports that it was to be sold off to ease debts. Listing for the property, whose official address is No. 3 Abbey Road, was granted due to its historic, rather than any specific architectural, merit. It means that any future owners must be careful to make sure the character of the property is treated with respect, but it does not prohibit some limited internal changes. The Beatles used Abbey Road for ninety per cent of their recordings, naming the last LP they recorded as a group after the studios in 1969. Other notable recordings there included Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. The Department for Culture Media and Sport said the listing acknowledged the studios' 'outstanding cultural interest' and was to ensure recording artists for generations to come could continue to make and record music in the same rooms as musical icons. Last week industry figures such as Sir Paul McCartney voiced their concern that EMI was reported to be hoping to sell the studios, while Andrew Lloyd Webber expressed an interest in buying the complex. However, EMI later said it did not want to put the property up for sale.

Paul Daniels has claimed that TV bosses should start freeing up slots for professional performers. The terminally unfunny magician, who fronted The Paul Daniels Magic Show on the BBC between 1979 and 1994 before he was sacked, claimed that reality competitions are currently giving too much exposure to untrained acts. Well, if it means keeping your talentless gnomish fizzog off the goggle-box in perpetuity, Daniels me auld pal, more power to Simon Cowell's elbow.

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