Thursday, February 18, 2010

There We Were, Now Here We Are

We start today's Top Telly News with my mate Abie bringing me the tragic confirmation that Suzi Perry is to leave the BBC's Moto GP coverage. Damn. Let us have a moment of silent contemplation before we continue. And, now we're done.

The thrills, spills and compound fractures in the women's downhill helped BBC2 to post a strong early evening performance last night. Between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, The Winter Olympics coverage pulled an ice-cool 2.8m viewers, a huge increase on the normal slot average, peaking with over 3.7m at 8.05pm. I wonder how many of those viewers, like yer Keith Telly Topping, were mainly watching because of the gloriously skin-tight outfits that the likes of gold medallist Lindsey Vonn and our own Chemmy Aclott were wearing. Gosh, they're certainly fit those ladies. Meanwhile, a leading Olympic official has lambasted sections of the British media for their overall coverage of the Vancouver Games. Organisers have been criticised for the way they have run the Games and also came under fire in the wake of the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. Games chief John Furlong told BBC Sport: 'To read caustic and finger-pointing comments, you have to wonder what event they are really watching. They don't appear to be attending the same Olympic Games as everyone else.' The death of Georgian Kumaritashvili, who crashed into a steel pole at the Whistler Sliding Centre just hours before the opening ceremony, sent shockwaves around Canada and the world. Although organisers immediately changed the starting position of the track, while the International Luge Federation will make adjustments to slow the track down, certain British newspapers believed the hosts were partly to blame for the tragedy, an accusation that is said to have hugely upset many Canadians. Commenting on the 'Own The Podium' campaign to make Canada the top sporting nation in the world by the 2010 Games, the Daily Mail said it 'should not mean placing competitors in jeopardy, particularly in a sport in which fatalities have occurred, albeit infrequently.' Meanwhile, the Guardian said that the Games were in danger of being remembered as 'the worst in Olympic history.' Yet again, Keith Telly Topping can only apologise to all Canadians and note - as he does with regard to Top Gear and the BBC in general on an almost daily basis - that anyone or anything which manages to piss off the offal-rooting stinking crud-scum that is the Mail and the ludicrous Communist hippies at the Gruniad simultaneously must be doing something right.

Sir Paul McCartney has told the BBC he hopes the famous Abbey Road Studios can be saved, after reports that it has been put up for sale by owner EMI. Selling the studios, best known for being the place where the Beatles recorded almost all of their output, could raise thirty million pounds for the debt-stricken record company. Or, in other words, slightly more than the total cost to Macca of getting Heather Mills off his hands. Surely you've got another thirty million quid lying around the gaff, Paul? That must be small change to you? Sir Paul told the Newsnight programme that some people associated with the studio may be 'mounting some bid to save it.' EMI, and its private equity owner Terra Firma, have so far declined to comment. It is not known if any sale would see the site continue as a record studios or be converted for another use. 'There are a few people who have been associated with the studio for a long time who were talking about mounting some bid to save it,' said Sir Paul. 'I sympathise with them. I hope they can do something, it'd be great.' Get your hand in your pocket, y'tight Scouse git!

Liam Gallagher has labelled Peter Kay a 'fat fuck' for making fun of him at last night's Brit Awards. Hard to argue with that, really. The singer was mocked by Kay after he threw his award and microphone into the audience following Oasis' victory in the 'Brits Album of Thirty Years' category. The alleged stand-up comic, who was hosting the event at Earls Court, said: 'What a knobhead.' Also difficult to argue with, it should be noted. As Harry Hill might say, 'there's only one way to sort this out ... FIGHT.' Responding on Twitter to Kay's jibe, Gallagher wrote: 'Listen up, fat fuck as a real Northerner I was brought up 2 [sic] say shit 2 [sic] people's faces not behind their back. Live forever LG." Ouch! Burn. Errr... but, it's spelled 'to', Liam. Just thought I'd clue you up on that. Meanwhile, Liam's brother and former bandmate Noel (you know, 'the talented one') mocked his controversial sibling's acceptance speech at an afterparty. Kay and Liam had previously clashed at the NME Awards in 2001, when the Oasis frontman refused to collect his award from the stage. The Phoenix Nights actor later brought the singer his trophy and teased him about his attire. 'Me mam's been looking for that coat,' said Kay. On his official website today, Kay wrote: 'Congratulations to all the winners, including Noel Gallagher, who sadly didn't get a mention (and who, thankfully, isn't a knobhead).'

The BBC has reportedly forbidden its journalists from appearing on BBC2's new comedy quiz The Bubble. The corporation has decided to censor its own topical show, fronted by David Mitchell, amid apparent fears of bad publicity. The extraordinary situation is reported to have caused a major split among BBC management figures, and comes ahead of tomorrow's filming of the new BBC2 news-based game show, which is aimed at a high-brow audience and is due to make its debut at 10pm on Friday. The premise of the entertainment format centres around three comedians, who have been isolated from public life for a few days, having to distinguish between real and fake news stories. According to reports, Sky News and ITV have both agreed to supply pretend news clips for the purpose of the show. An insider from the BBC allegedly told the Independent: '[BBC Management] saw the words "fake clips" and hit the panic button. There is a climate of fear and they are running scared in case they make a mistake. But there has been a total sense of humour failure.' The series, made by Hat Trick Productions, is intended to appeal to viewers who enjoy Have I Got News For You and Qi. Sources supportive of the show say it is absurd to think that the BBC2 audience will be confused into thinking they are watching genuine news items when the clips appear with an on-screen logo for The Bubble and are accompanied by the laughter of a three hundred and fifty-strong studio audience. It has now been claimed that BBC news director, Helen Boaden, has informed presenters such as Huw Edwards and Nick Robinson that they must not take part in the show. She has been tipped as a possible first female director general of the corporation and has the backing of Mark Byford, the deputy director general and head of BBC Journalism. Some of the BBC's most senior figures, based on the executive sixth floor of Television Centre in London, are reported to be utterly bemused by the stance of the journalists. There is speculation that Boaden and Byford are concerned that the pretend news clips from its journalists, which were allowed in the unseen pilot, could be mistaken for real news items by, how can we put this politely, 'stupid' viewers. Initially it seemed that BBC News would be happy to co-operate with the project. For the pilot show, which also featured Skinner along with comedians Miranda Hart and Katy Brand, the panellists watched a clip of Nick Robinson reporting from College Green, outside Parliament, on Sir Fred Goodwin's willingness to hand back one and a half million pounds in his controversial bonus payments. Skinner correctly identified the clip as a fake by spotting that Big Ben was showing the time as 3.40pm. Robinson – who apparently thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the ruse – has been told he cannot have any further involvement with the show, in which he was shown 'throwing back' to news anchor George Alagiah. The programme's supporters are said to be dismayed by apparent double standards from BBC News. They point out that the corporation broadcasts realistic shows which are more likely to cause alarm to casual viewers - such as the spy drama [Spooks]. And they note that BBC News figures have been routinely allowed in the past to take part in fictional productions. Both Sophie Raworth and Alagiah appeared as newsreaders in the BBC satirical comedy Taking the Flak last year. Louise Minchin has played a newsreader in such shows as [Spooks], Torchwood and Silent Witness whilst both Andrew Marr and Huw Edwards played themselves making live broadcasts in episodes of Doctor Who. Natasha Kaplinsky, during her time at the BBC, frequently appeared as a newsreader in the sitcom My Hero and in the drama Dalziel & Pascoe. A BBC spokesman said: 'We are sure The Bubble on BBC2 will be extremely funny but BBC journalists will leave it to the comedians to do the comedy.' Of course, having done this, the Beeb have now, effectively undermined their own format as anyone scheduled to appear on the show in future will know that any BBC clips featured have to be genuine. Congratulations. It takes a lot of talent to be that much of a plank.

Brooding bad-boy Sean Slater is now the odds-on favourite to be revealed as Archie Mitchell's killer in tomorrow's climactic edition of EastEnders. Bookmaker William Hill has slashed its odds on the character being the murderer to four-to-seven on, following a flurry of bets from punters. The troubled character's strong showing in the betting comes despite the fact that he has been off-screen since January 2009 following Rob Kazinsky's decision to quit the role. Meanwhile, Janine Butcher's love interest, Ryan Malloy - played by Neil McDermott - remains second favourite in the betting at eleven to two. In a statement, William Hill spokesman, Rupert Adams, said that over five thousand bets have been received in the past twenty four hours and that a total of one million pounds could be gambled on the outcome by the time the market closes. He added: 'The BBC have done a brilliant job keeping everyone guessing as we have taken bets on twenty four different members of the cast, but the absent Sean Slater has been today's big gamble.'

The BBC has denied that it dropped Denise Van Outen from the new reality show Over The Rainbow because she is pregnant. None of the previous judges on Andrew Lloyd Webber's talent shows such as How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do will return for the Wizard Of Oz-themed series. John Barrowman, Barry Humphries and Van Outen were on the panel for Webber's last musical-based show I'd Do Anything. Singer Charlotte Church, has been tipped to appear on the new panel. However, the broadcaster has insisted that their decision to not bring back the thirty five-year-old has nothing to do with her pregnancy. Pointing out, not unreasonably, that as far as they know, neither Barry Humphreys or John Barrowman are pregnant. Although, Barrowman would probably quite enjoy the experience. The former Big Breakfast host Van Outen is expecting a baby girl with husband Lee Mead in May.

Taggart's twenty six-year run on ITV is to continue after the broadcaster agreed an innovative co-funding deal with STV and UKTV's Alibi channel. The drama had faced an uncertain future because of the pressure on drama budgets and the fractious relationship which developed between ITV and STV last year, but the latter will make a new six part series to air exclusively on its own network in the autumn, before ITV1 gets the show in 2011. UKTV has also put in a slice of the funding for the secondary broadcast rights, and crime channel Alibi will air the series from 2013. Filming on the latest series will begin in the spring. The deal, negotiated by STV commercial director Paul Sheehan, marks the end of a two-year battle between ITV and STV over the show. Last year, STV took the unprecedented step of declaring it would make the series regardless of whether ITV commissioned it, with chief executive Rob Woodward indicating that STV would opt out of more network programmes to fund any deficit. The Taggart dispute has now been resolved, and ITV director of drama Laura Mackie said: 'With the cost of drama under pressure, the competitive deal that STV has put together makes Taggart an attractive and highly cost-effective proposition. The creative team have some exciting ideas to take the new series further and we look forward to working on this with them.'

Former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has criticised Family Guy for 'mocking' her son who has Down's syndrome. Palin said on Facebook that an episode in which a character with Down's said she was daughter of the ex-governor of Alaska was 'a kick in the teeth.' A metaphorical presumably. As sadly, as far as this blogger knows, Ms Palin has never experienced an actual kick in the teeth. The politician's daughter, Bristol (insert own joke here), went on to say that the 'insults hurt too much for us to remain silent.' The animation's creator said the show was 'an equal opportunity offender. From its inception, Family Guy has used biting satire as the foundation of its humour,' Seth McFarlane said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. Bristol Palin went on to say: 'If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they're heartless jerks.' Her mother, who stepped down as governor of Alaska last year, said that her daughter's reaction was 'a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make.' She added that the issue 'begs the question, when is enough enough?' The episode of the animation featured Chris - the Griffin family's son, voiced by Seth Green - bringing home a girlfriend with Down's syndrome. When quizzed by his parents about her family, the girl says that her father was an accountant and her mother 'used to be Alaskan governor.' The Palin family say that they have received many messages of support however some fans of Family Guy appear to have gone on the offensive and stated that the show is all about mocking people. 'It's their job to make fun of everyone. Get over it,' one Twitter writer told the Palins.

Kay Burley has been forced to make yet another grovelling on-air apology - following her reducing Peter Andre to tears - after she apparently mistook the Ash Wednesday mark on US Vice President Joe Biden's forehead for 'a large bruise.' Burley made her remark during a discussion with Sky News' US correspondent Greg Milam following a televised address from Biden on the state of the US economy. Wondering aloud about the mark on Biden's forehead, Burley suggests that Biden might 'have walked into a door,' while her colleague said that he may have had an accident at the Winter Olympics in Canada. 'He's probably been having a go on those tea trays down the luge or something... It certainly looks like quite a bruise, doesn't it?' she adds, digging the hole she was in that bit deeper. When she was informed of her error during the next commercial break, she offered an apology. 'I know I'm a very bad Catholic. I should know that today is Ash Wednesday and that's why he'd got ash across his forehead,' she said. 'I've said three Hail Marys, everything is going to be fine.' I'm sure some in the Catholic church will have a somewhat stronger punishment in mind, Kay.

John Prescott has claimed that he has been told his cameo in Gavin & Stacey will win him votes at the next general election. The former deputy Prime Minister appeared in the final episode of the BBC1 sitcom as a guest at the wedding of his supposed former lover Nessa (Ruth Jones) and Dave Coaches (Steffan Rhodri). Speaking about the boost the show has given his profile, the Hull East MP said: 'I was up in Headingley, in Leeds, campaigning. I knocked on a door, and two students came to the door. They said: "Don't worry we're going to vote Labour." So I said, "These are our economic policies, our health policies, education, what do you think lads?" And they said, "No, it's because you were on Gavin and Stacey."' Tragically, that says so much about the state of education in this country.

British production company Working Title Films has launched a new television subdivision in a joint venture with its parent company, NBC Universal. Based in London and Los Angeles, Working Title Television will aim to replicate the film unit's success, which includes titles such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz on the small screen. Juliette Howell, a former BBC executive producer and head of development at Film4, will lead the London office as the UK head of television. She will report to Shelley McCrory, the former NBC Universal executive who is now president of WTTV. 'We've had our sights set on television for some time because creating dramas, comedies and episodic programming for an international audience is an obvious extension of what we do,' a spokesman for the company said. 'For us, it was about finding the right executive to help us maximise the potential of the talent we've worked with on our films and migrate that into TV. Shelley has a terrific track record and we're delighted to have her on board. The creation of this new company, after our most recent expansion into theatre with Billy Elliot will allow us to also develop the Working Title brand for TV.' NBC Universal will distribute all WTTV's television content to US and international markets, starting with romantic comedy Love Bites, which has been created by Sex And The City writer and executive producer Cindy Chupack. 'It is NBC Universal's goal to build an international pipeline of high-end scripted drama and we couldn't have partnered with a more respected and successful team,' said NBC Universal president Peter Smith. Since it launched in 1983, Working Title has become one of the most successful British film production companies. The firm's ninety general releases, including Fargo, High Fidelity, United 93 and Atonement, have pulled in around £2.8billion at the worldwide box office.

Meanwhile, Ant & Dec's production company, Gallowgate, has reportedly hired Strictly Come Dancing's executive producer, Sam Donnelly, to develop new formats.

The BBC's size and scope review has yet to be published, but the word coming from the corporation's staff is 'distinctiveness.' Speculation that the BBC will drop BBC3 or BBC4 has died away and executives now expect some niche digital-radio stations to be the review's only victims among key services. Prime candidates are 6 Music and BBC Asian Network. But the main thrust of the strategic review, ordered by the BBC Trust last September, is expected to be a shift in the BBC's general remit. One aspect will be a renewed emphasis on distinctiveness, which director general Mark Thompson is increasingly talking about as one of the BBC's primary functions. Director of Vision Jana Bennett has also renounced overnight ratings as the key measure of a programme's success. But there are already concerns from some staff who claim that the term is too elastic and can be manipulated to justify virtually all of the BBC's current output. 'We know what it is getting at, but you can imagine it being bent to anyone's needs, whether it is defending a shiny-floor show or another quiz,' a BBC News insider whinged to Broadcast magazine. Another source in the BBC Comedy department added: 'It's just bollocks.' It might well be but then, so are Big Top and The Persuasionists, kidda. What's your excuse?

Primal Scream have announced that they are set to play their seminal 1991 LP Screamadelica live in its entirety in November.The band, who have never played the entire LP live before, will perform it at the London Olympia on 27 November. Screamadelica, considered a genuine dance/rock crossover masterpiece - and a particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping as it happens - was produced mostly by Andrew Weatherall (although Jimmy Miller handled a couple of the songs) and features hits like 'Movin' On Up', 'Damaged', the epic 'Loaded', 'Higher Than The Sun' and the ten-minute anthem 'Come Together'. It also helped to turn Bobbie and the boys from a dodgy squad of long-haired hippy scum into Love Gods from the Planet Sexy. With guitars.

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