Friday, March 19, 2010

Let's Go Round Again

In just about the worst-kept secret in the history of television, ever, it was announced yesterday that Doctor Who will return for a sixth series in 2011. As if there was any doubt about that happening. Especially after Neil Gaiman gave the game away by announcing he'd been commissioned to write an episode for it. Executive producer Piers Wenger also announced that the show's annual Christmas special for this year will be written by showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat. Matt Smith will be returning for his second full series as The Doctor. Shooting on the special - and the thirteen-episode sixth series - will begin in Cardiff in July. Filming on the forthcoming fifth series wraps this week - I think Saturday is the last day of shooting - ahead of the beginning of transmission on BBC1 at Easter. Still no news on the exact scheduling although 18:25 on Easter Saturday is looking increasingly likely. And, speaking on series five, BBC Wales' Matthew Richards interviewed Matt and Karen at yesterday evening's press launch. You can see the results here. There's also a nice report on the night and a partial preview of Matt's first episode in the Gruniad. Thought I'm not entirely sure who these people 'Steven Moffatt' and 'Karen Gillian' people are.

And, a couple of further clips for your Doctor Who delight, dear blog reader. Lovely Lizo Mzimba interviews Matt for the BBC here. Beware, there are one or two - minor - spoilers in both the interview itself and the text of the article, if you're bothered about such things. Also, check out The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat's BBC Breakfast Time interview from this morning over at the thoroughly excellent BlogtorWho. It takes a while to load but, stick with it, it's well worth it.

Now, for the non-Doctor Who news: According to a story which appeared on the Digital Spy website yesterday, new Hollyoaks producer Paul Marquess allegedly wants the former Brookside actress Claire Sweeney to 'head up the soap's "glitzy" new family.' Marquess, who took over at the Channel 4 serial's home in Liverpool at the beginning of the year, apparently has Sweeney's casting photo pinned to the centre of his notice board with the remaining cast surrounding her. It is believed that she will become the matriarchal figurehead of a raft of new characters expected to be announced in the coming months.

TV legend June Whitfield has revealed that she has no intention of retiring from acting. June, who has recently filmed scenes for Coronation Street, said that she is still enjoying the pace of her career. She told This Morning: 'I don't want to slow down a bit. It's very nice to have a reason to get up in the morning. But as long as I'm asked and as long as I can still remember my lines, I'll be there.' However, the eighty four-year-old did concede that appearing as a regular on the ITV soap would probably be too much to ask. 'I really don't want to work with the fast-paced schedule that they work.'

Tom Selleck is reportedly in talks to star in CBS drama Reagan's Law. According to Deadline, the project would mark Selleck's first TV drama role since Magnum P.I. in the 1980s. Reagan's Law centres on three generations of a family of police officers from New York. Len Cariou will play the part of family patriarch. Selleck is being touted for the role of son Michael, an NYPD police chief. Donnie Wahlberg has, apparently, been cast as Michael's son.

A disturbing French TV documentary has tried to demonstrate how well-meaning people can be manipulated into becoming torturers or even executioners. The hugely controversial Game of Death was broadcast in prime-time on a major terrestrial channel, France 2, on Wednesday. It showed eighty people taking part in what they believed was a game show pilot. As it was only a trial, they were told they wouldn't win anything, but they were given a nominal forty euro fee. Before the show, they signed contracts agreeing to inflict electric shocks on other contestants. One by one, they were put in a studio resembling the sets of popular game shows. They were then asked to electrocute a man they believed was another contestant whenever he failed to answer a question correctly - with increasingly powerful shocks of up to three hundred and eighty volts. Egged on by a glamorous presenter, cries of 'punishment' from a studio audience and dramatic music, the overwhelming majority of the participants obeyed orders to continue delivering the shocks - despite the man's screams of agony and pleas for them to stop. Which, frankly, should've given the game away as you have to pay good money for that sort of thing normally. The man was, of course, an actor and no actual shocks were delivered. Programme makers say they wanted to expose the dangers of reality TV shows. They say the documentary shows how many participants in the setting of a TV show will agree to act against their own principles or moral codes when ordered to do something extreme. Christophe Nick, the maker of the documentary, said they were 'amazed' that so many participants obeyed the sadistic orders of the game show presenter. 'They are not equipped to disobey,' he told the Association Press. 'They don't want to do it, they try to convince the authority figure that they should stop, but they don't manage to.' The results reflect those of a similar experiment carried out almost fifty years ago at Yale University by social psychologist Stanley Milgram. Participants took the role of a teacher, delivering what they believed were shocks to an actor every time they answered a question incorrectly.

Miquita Oliver was reportedly suspended from T4 after insulting Ke$ha - who is a singer, apparently - backstage at the NME Awards. According to the Mirror, Oliver used a four-letter word to describe the singer but was overheard by Ke$ha's management team. Un-lucky! A source said: 'Miquita was having a really bad day. She blurted out the angry words and thought no-one had heard her. She didn't mean anything personally, it was a spur of the moment thing. But Ke$ha's team caught it and were outraged. They complained to Miquita's bosses who dealt with her straight away. She was given a serious telling off, and told to take some time off.' A Channel 4 spokesperson: 'Miquita Oliver was involved in an issue at the NME Awards that she now regrets. The matter has been dealt with swiftly by T4, and Miquita has also sent an apology to those concerned and it has been noted. She will remain a key part of our T4 presenting team and viewers will see her on air as normal over the coming weeks.' Oh, that's classy. Snitching to somebody's boss and getting them into trouble because they were rude about your client? Are you guys twelve or something? Grow up.

Magazine headline of the week - from Closer. Vanessa Feltz: "I want the fat sucked out of my bum!" Horrorshow.

Kirsty Gallacher has said that she is upset over - seemingly erroneous - Internet rumours linking her to the golfer and self-confessed serial philanderer Tiger Woods. The pair have been friends since childhood and Gallacher told the Evening Times that legal action had been taken over online conjecture over the nature of their relationship. Blimey. I imagine there's one or two guys on forums somewhere who are plopping in their own pants in case a writ arrives in their grubby little mitts. Gallacher added: 'It was all speculation and it was incorrect. It was very upsetting. I knew I was being talked about and that's why lawyers were involved. But what you do in this job is you get quite strong because you know things will come at you. And I've always had the support of family and friends. We've all had the rubbish thrown at us but you deal with it.'

Stephen Mulhern has landed a prime time ITV show called Magic Numbers, according to the Sun. The gameshow will see viewers win up to two hundred and fifty thousand from their homes by matching numbers produced by games with digits from their phones. The series is reportedly due to begin over the summer and is said to feature a number of celebrity guests. Mulhern, who will return to host Britain's Got More Talent later this year, was recently tipped to team up with Amanda Holden for a new TV project after she suggested they 'could be the next Richard and Judy.' Yes, because what telly really needs right now is a new mother and son double act.

Gregg Wallace has claimed that he is 'amazed' by the improved standard of contestants on MasterChef series six. The judge on the BBC cookery show, revealed that he is staggered by the quality of food served up in the current run. 'Phwoar!' he noted. 'The standard change is huge. What used to get you through the quarter-final, will now barely get through the heat,' he told GMTV. 'It's just incredible. This is the last week of the heats. We've got the comeback contestants and then it's the semi-finals.' He added: '[The show does] highlight the main difference between cooking at home and cooking in a professional kitchen. It's the difference to paddling and swimming in the Channel.' Meanwhile, the MasterChef Comeback Week will start next Wednesday. Sixteen contestants from the 2009 series will return after spending a year fine-tuning their culinary skills for a second opportunity to impress Wallace and John Torode. The hopefuls will take part in a Skills Test followed by a Palate Test, where they must 'identify ingredients and flavours from an especially complex dish.' Comeback Week will feature two episodes, culminating on Thursday night when the best two cooks will go head-to-head competing for the final semi-final berth. The Comeback Week winner will join quarter final winners Matt, Terry, Stacey, Tim, Dhruv and this week's quarter-final victor in the next stage of the competition, which begins on 26 March.

In last night's episode of the show, meanwhile, was one of the single greatest ever butt-clenchingly embarrassing moments of Masterchef. The lady who, tragically, made her cheesecake desert with salt instead of sugar. Watching her face crumble as John and Gregg forced her to taste her own abomination and then saying afterwards 'one little mistake has cost me everything.' As excuses go, it was genius! Little? That's not a little mistake, darling, that's about as big as the Empire State Building!

Radio 3 and World Service presenter Charlie Gillett has died after a long illness, aged sixty eight. Known as a great champion of world music, the Lancashire-born broadcaster died in a London hospital on Wednesday, his family has confirmed. He contracted an autoimmune disease, and last week suffered a heart attack. Gillett is credited with discovering Dire Straits in 1976 after playing 'Sultans of Swing' from their demo tape on his legendary Radio London show Honky Tonk. He was also an important figure in the early careers of Ian Dury and Elvis Costello among others and wrote an acclaimed history of rock 'n' roll, The Sound of the City, in the 1970s. Fellow broadcaster Mark Lamarr, a friend of Gillett, said: 'He championed so many bands. I've spoken to him at great length about so many different musical styles and he will always pinpoint the exact great moment that you should know about.' Born in Morecambe and brought up in Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, Charlie brought stars of world music such as Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita, and Portuguese singer Mariza to a wider audience. In the mid-1970s, he managed Ian Dury while he was in his first band, Kilburn and the High Roads. Notable successes with his label and publishing company, Oval Music, were Lene Lovich's 'Lucky Number' and, later, Paul Hardcastle's number one hit '19.' The DJ also turned down an offer to present BBC2's live music show The Old Grey Whistle Test. In 1979, he moved to commercial station Capital Radio, where he began to feature music from around the world. More recently he appeared on BBC London. He was known to millions of listeners for his World Service programme Charlie Gillett's World of Music. He is survived by his wife Buffy, their daughters Suzy and Jody, their son Ivan, and two grandchildren.

And, in further sad news from the world of rock and roll, Alex Chilton, who enjoyed a cult following with the band Big Star, has died aged fifty nine. Chilton died in hospital in New Orleans after experiencing what appeared to be heart problems, a friend said. A hugely talented singer, guitarist and songwriter, Chilton also enjoyed a solo career spanning many genres of music. He had been due to perform with Big Star at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas, on Saturday. Many successful 1980s and 90s bands, including R.E.M., Wilco, Teenage Fanclub and Primal Scream, credited Big Star as a significant influence. Alex first came to public attention as a seventeen year old with the pop-soul outfit The Box Tops. Their 1967 single 'The Letter' was an American number one. Other hits included 'Soul Deep' and 'Cry Like a Baby.' Big Star, which Chilton formed in 1971 with guitarist and co-songwriter Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel, had less mainstream success but made him a cult hero. The band's three 1970s LPs - 1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers - all earned places on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the five hundred greatest LPs of all time. In an interview with the Associated Press in 1987, Chilton said he did not mind the lack of commercial success with Big Star and later as a solo artist. 'What would be ideal would be to make a ton of money and have nobody know about you,' he said. 'Fame has a lot of baggage to carry around. I wouldn't want to be like Bruce Springsteen. I don't need that much money and wouldn't want to have twenty bodyguards following me.' The group reformed in 1993 and released a fourth studio CD, In Space, in 2005.

A group of sailors from a Cornish fishing village are to release a CD of sea shanties after catching the ear of a holidaying music mogul. The Fisherman's Friends, from Port Isaac, netted a deal with Universal after being spotted singing in a pub. The ten men, who are or were fishermen, coastguards or lifeboat men, have sung together for more than fifteen years. As well as releasing an LP next month, they are also due to perform at Glastonbury Festival in the summer. Sea shanties were originally sung by the crews of ships while they worked on deck. The Fisherman's Friends have already released two a-cappella CDs themselves and their new record has been recorded in a fifteenth-century church in St Kew, Cornwall. Jeremy Brown, a fisherman and founding member of the Fisherman's Friends, said: 'In Cornish pubs there is a tradition of singing. We just all got together with the intention of learning all the words instead of just knowing the first verse and the last verse and making up the bit in the middle.' Brown, who sings baritone and who has two brothers in the group, said that most of the band had grown up together and the only person who had not lived there as a youngster had been in the village for about twenty five years - so was regarded as almost one of them. 'We get together each Friday night on this area of concrete by the harbour which is a lovely setting - unless it is raining and blowing and then we just retire to the pub,' he added.

Sian Williams has threatened to appear on air nude. Well, that'll certainly put the ratings up. The BBC newsreader is angry that she is not allowed to claim tax relief on her work clothes, the Daily Mail reports. She reportedly said that she would be happy to 'read the news naked' and explained that she is forced to spend four thousand five hundred pounds a year on her appearance because of her job. Williams has allegedly been fighting Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for five years over the issue, but the organisation has denied her claims because it is 'impossible to divide the business and private benefit of such expenditure.' They're got a point, I suppose. I can't imagine, for a second, that Sian buys a frock purely to wear on telly. There has to be more mileage in it than that. However, Williams said that wearing the same outfits could mean she loses her job and added that the money she spends on her appearance - including nine hundred and seventy five pounds on haircare, three thousand two hundred pounds on clothing and three hundred and twenty five pounds on laundry - should qualify for tax relief. Her representative said: 'It is part of the appellant's job, like an actor, to "appear" and to be "seen" on screen. If the appellant wore the same clothes frequently when appearing on television, she would lose her job. The appellant would be prepared to wear no clothing when performing her job but is required to do so by her employer.' In a statement HMRC said: 'The clothing in this case is everyday clothing, there is nothing about the clothing that restricts the use of any particular outfit only to work, and the appellant has not established that there is any contractual requirement for the expenditure.' It is unknown at this time whether they added, 'mind you, if Sian does want to read the news naked, we'll certainly be watching.' A spokesperson for Williams downplayed the claims that the star had said she would read the news naked. 'This was a comment by Sian's representative, who was trying to explain the case,' the spokesperson explained. 'There is no danger of her actually presenting naked.' Bugger.

Joanna Lumley has criticised the X Factor culture. The Absolutely Fabulous star claimed that young people now focus on being famous, the Daily Telegraph reports. But, didn't they always? It's just that the method has changed - once upon a time it was through football or rock and roll or modelling, now it's appearing on a reality TV show. Same end, different route, surely? 'We've stopped having an interest in things,' she said. No, again, that's simply not true at all. We've, I think it's fair to say, all of us still have interests in the same things we've always had interest in - the acquisition of wealth, fame, power, glamour and influence and how to achieved them. You've got all of these things, Joanna. You got them through hrad work, fair play to you, but it's a bit hypocritical of you to suggest that other people shouldn't have the desire to be exactly where you are, in life, right now. 'We just sit there watching other people's lives on TV. It's not pitiful - it would be snotty and stupid to say that - but it's dull. Teeth-rottingly dull. I simply can't bear lethargy.' She continued: 'And when children here want to be on The X Factor, I think, "Why? Don't just want to be famous, do something that's really fascinating. The world is crammed with opportunities."' Yeah. But it's much easier to get yourself on a reality TV show. If anything's worth criticising it's that reality TV has narrowed ambitions - that, I'd agree with. Ultimately, perhaps, we are all prostitutes now. Joanna also suggested that it is important to keep young people excited about their options. 'All children are boiling with excitement,' she said. 'But if you crush it, then feed them filth, dullness, repetitive nothing, tell them they'll be paid for doing nothing, tell them a job will be created for them, how can that child ever know there are horizons to see or to follow?' Well, that was my life growing up on a council estate in Newcastle in the 1970s perfectly described and I didn't even have the chance of going on Britain's Got Talent. Some might regard this as 'progress'!

BBC2 has secured comedian and actress Sandi Toksvig to front a prime time series touted as 'MasterChef for antique lovers.' Antiques Master will see heirloom lovers from around the country compete in a string of challenges designed to test their knowledge of different collections, periods and the value of antiques. The twelve part series will be produced by BBC's in-house team at Manchester and is expected to debut in a weekday slot over the summer. The programme is the latest antiques show being trialled by BBC2, including the prime time Cracking Antiques from Silver River and new daytime series Antiques Road Trip and Restoration Roadshow. BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow said: 'We know antiques is a hugely popular subject. We'll be exploring this territory for peaktime by taking very different approaches in Antiques Master and Cracking Antiques.'

The US version of Who Do You Think You Are? has been picked up by UKTV-owned Watch. The family entertainment channel has acquired the exclusive UK multichannel and non-linear broadcast rights to the American version of the series, which includes Lisa Kudrow, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee as well as Matthew Broderick and Brooke Shields exploring their family trees. It launched on the NBC network on 5 March, focussing on Sex & the City star Sarah Jessica Parker. Kudrow's production company, Is or Isn't Entertainment, co-produced the series with Shed Media US. It is based on an original idea from Wall to Wall Productions, the indepedent that has, to date, made seven series of the show for the BBC.

According to Juliette Kaplan's website the BBC have finally cancelled Last of the Summer Wine. About twenty years too late, frankly, but better late than never.

Five is lining up a live entertainment spectacular to find a real life UK Glee club. Don't Stop Believing is a six part show that will be made by Shine Television and Group M Entertainment, which will work with Shine on international distribution. It is set for broadcast over the summer. The show will scour Britain for amateur musical groups, who will be coached and choreographed by industry experts to perform in one of five live shows. After being judged by a panel, the remaining groups will perform in a live final to win a major prize. As well as the main competition, members of the public will be invited to audition for a specially created Don't Stop Believing supergroup, which will go on to represent the UK on the international Glee Club circuit in the US. The auditions will be shown live, with new members being added to the group every week. The show was ordered by channel controller Richard Woolfe, who built a reputation at Sky1 for noisy, shiny-floor family entertainment shows such as Hairspray, High School Musical and Don't Forget The Lyrics. And, also, let us never forget, the man who commissioned Live From Studio Five. 'Nuff said, I think. Don't Stop Believing follows E4's huge success with US musical drama Glee, which focuses on a bunch of outcasts who participate in a singing and dancing club at an Ohio secondary school. The series has been one of E4's best-ever performers, drawing combined audiences of over one and half million.

Five has struck a bulk-buy deal with North One to ensure flagship shows Fifth Gear and The Gadget Show are guaranteed for almost one hundred and twenty more episodes. The two-year, four-series agreement covers both shows and will involve secondary rights to The Gadget Show being taken by UKTV's Dave and those for Fifth Gear by Discovery in the UK and EMEA region. North One will also make a spin-off series, Fifth Gear Sport. Five is understood to have made per-episode cost savings of roughly ten per cent by ordering so many episodes up front. Managing director Mark White said the deal could pave the way for further long-term agreements in some cases. 'There's a lot of factors that need to be met before we commit to a long-term deal, including the show having a track record of increasing viewers but still leaving the potential for growth. That could be in terms of audience or commercial, or ideally both,' said White. Neil Duncanson, chief executive of All3 Media owned-North One, said the 'innovative' deal benefitted both businesses. 'It's a compromise to keep the brands moving and developing. There's been a reduction in the unit price, but we get a long-term commitment from Five and a guarantee that Fifth Gear comes back.' The Gadget Show, currently airing its seventeenth series on Five, will have a further seventy eight one hour shows produced, and there will be forty more thirty-minute episodes of Fifth Gear, kicking off in May with a ten-part series. Dave will air series eight to sixteen and all the new episodes of The Gadget Show, while Discovery will get second run of all the new Fifth Gear episodes after making a 'significant' investment as part of the package.

Kudos Film & TV is considering making a drama in Colombia. Kudos creative director Jane Featherstone said the move overseas was bad for the industry, but that it was currently unavoidable. 'Of the things I've got slated for the next two years, sixty or seventy per cent will be made outside of the UK. The only reason we do that is the budget. It's not a great gig to slog to South Africa or South America, or even Colombia, where we're thinking of working - they've got a great studio set-up and it's cheaper,' she said. 'It has to be detrimental to the British broadcasting industry. We're using all their [overseas] crews and directors, and crews here aren't getting trained like they used to. It's not good news, but short term, it's the only solution.' Her concerns were echoed by BBC controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson and Sky1 drama commissioning editor Elaine Pyke, and there was a consensus that lobbying for tax breaks was required. Pyke said: 'It's sad how much filming we have to do abroad. It's a bloody shame because the talent is here. Next year, we have one show filming in London - and all the rest abroad.' Stephenson added: 'There needs to be a conversation about tax breaks, and about making drama in this country. One of the things I really want to do is see more of the country represented across a drama.'

Jason Manford has revealed that he may retire from stand-up comedy to spend more time with his children. The twenty eight-year-old comic, who has twin girls, said that he would like to do more writing, acting and presenting so that he doesn't have to spend so much time away from home. 'I love fatherhood - it is the best thing I've ever done; being away from home, that never gets any easier,' he told the Mirror. 'My girls are seven months old, so by the time the tour finishes, they'll be eighteen months coming to two years. It'd be nice to spend the next four to five years at home really, taking them to school, doing that sort of thing. I'll probably leave stand-up to be honest; I'll stop doing it for a while and start writing, hopefully do more presenting and acting.'

'Celebrities' ranging from earache-inducing Ann Widdecombe to earache-inducing singer Lily Allen will 'lay themselves bare' in a real-life companion to HBO drama In Treatment on Sky Arts 1. Not literally, one would hope - particularly in the case of Ms Widdecombe. In Confidence is being made by Associated Rediffusion and will be fronted by Professor Laurie Taylor, the sociologist and broadcaster best known for BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed. He will scrutinise one celebrity each week, touching on their moments of joy and tragedy, and the strengths and flaws that have defined their lives. Taylor described the series as 'uncomfortable viewing for people who don't like their meat cut up for them.' As well as mirroring the therapy sessions depicted in In Treatment, which recently aired on the channel, the interviews are Sky Arts' answer to More 4's Shrink Rap, hosted by Pamela Connolly. Other guests lined up in the series include Richard Dawkins, Kathy Burke, David Starkey, Jonathan Miller, Martin Rawson and Damien Hurst.

Boy George has claimed that he had 'a lucky escape' when he was blocked from appearing on the final Celebrity Big Brother. The singer had planned to enter the Channel 4 show, but authorities refused to change the terms of his probation following his sentence for false imprisonment. George told the Sun: 'I think I probably had a lucky escape actually. The lack of intelligent conversation on the show was quite shocking. They were all just talking about who was more famous than the last person. I think it would have sent me over the edge. My mum said, "If you go on that show I'm leaving the country."' Of his past spats with other stars, George added: 'I've had fallings out with everyone. When you're young you're in conflict with everything, but as you get older you chill out a bit and forget why you were even bothered in the first place. I think I'm finally at the point in my life where there are no feuds. I'm more friendly with people. When you're less in conflict with yourself, you're less likely to be in conflict with anything else. What you say about other people often says more about you.'

Former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones tried to kill himself and his wife as they had an altercation while travelling in a car, a court was told today. The actor, best known for playing Weatherfield's Les Battersby, is currently standing trial for dangerous driving and assault over incidents which allegedly occurred in Wales on 28 August 2009. At Mold Crown Court this week, prosecutor Gordon Hennell said that Jones's partner Sandra had been driving along the A55 in Flintshire when Jones grabbed the wheel and threatened to kill them both. It is claimed that the vehicle swerved violently as Jones tried to take control of the steering. According to BBC News, Hennell said: 'He let go of the steering wheel but kept saying that he was going to steer the car in front of a truck and kill them both.' A jury heard that the couple had been arguing about a ring before setting off on their journey and that Jones had a long-established alcohol problem. The court was later told that Sandra managed to control the car before stopping at Traveller's Rest at Rhuallt, Denbighshire. It is claimed that while the pair were there, Jones grabbed his wife's hand as she tried to get her bag, which led to charge of common assault. Jones denies both of the charges he is facing. The trial continues.

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