Monday, March 29, 2010

Showing Some Backbone

In language worthy of his most famous creation, Malcolm Tucker, the genius behind The Thick of It Armando Iannucci yesterday called on the BBC to do more to defend itself from its critics – and 'find someone to, articulately, tell James Murdoch to fuck off.' Iannucci was speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards, where his political satire won a hat-trick of awards. These included a first acting prize for the show for its star, Peter Capaldi, who plays Tucker. The creator, writer, director and producer of The Thick Of It, Iannucci thanked the BBC for 'holding its nerve over the series, especially when they have been under a lot of pressure over taste and decency and all sorts of things. I love the BBC dearly and would fight for it to the death,' he said. 'My only wish is that whenever it is accused of something, even if it's something it hadn't done, I wish it wouldn't go to the first police station and hand itself in. Surely at the end of the day with all its skill and expertise and all the talent behind it and loyal following, it could find someone to articulately tell James Murdoch to fuck off.' Iannucci's comments were greeted with applause by the assembled programme-makers, presenters, actors, media and showbiz journalists and critics at the awards at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. So, it's safe to assume that nobody from the Daily Mail or the Daily Express were there, then. Murdoch, News Corporation's chairman and chief executive in Europe and Asia, launched a stinging attack on the BBC in his MacTaggart lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival last year. Iannucci's remarks echoed the response of The Wire star Dominic West to Murdoch's speech. Picking up an award for the HBO series later at last year's festival, he commented: 'I accept this award in contempt of the Murdoch doctrine!' The Thick Of It, which transferred from BBC4 to BBC2 for last year's series, won best comedy/entertainment prize and the writing award, as well as best actor. Capaldi said: 'My colleagues on the Thick Of It have been showered with awards for this show for absolutely years. This is the very first award that I have ever won for my contribution to the programme. It's a big thrill for me and a huge relief for them – they are suffering such compassion fatigue.' He added: 'It's not all about the winning. It's about being nominated many, many times, losing to Gavin & Stacey, and Miranda last week, and the Chuckle Brothers on one occasion! It's character building. Unfortunately the character I am building is Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood.' Heh!

Matt Smith has revealed that he prepared for his Doctor Who role by writing his own stories about the Time Lord. The twenty seven-year-old actor, who takes over from David Tennant as The Doctor on Saturday, explained that he used the literary experiments as a way of creating a bond with his new character. Smith is quoted by the Mirror as saying: 'I wanted to feel like Doctor Who, understand where he'd come from. So I wrote stories of The Doctor and Einstein in Egypt which focused on their roles in the creation of the Pyramids. I had six months prep before we began filming so it gave me time to write quite a few stories.' You don't have to justify fan-fiction, Matt, some of us have been writing it for years. One or two of us even got paid for it!

Hayley Tamaddon has been crowned the winner of this series of Dancing On Ice. The actress (pictured right, seemingly losing the use of her bowels at her moment of triumph), who skated with Daniel Whiston, triumphed in the public vote over Gary Lucy after they each performed a bolero. Kieron Richardson finished in third place earlier in the show. After hearing the result, Tamaddon burst into tears and fell to the ice before hugging Whiston. Lucy said: 'She was fantastic from the start, it's thoroughly deserved. I'm just happy I had such a great time and got so far, and my little one [his daughter India] just loved every minute of it.' Tamaddon was then presented with the Dancing On Ice trophy and laughed as she held it in the air. Meanwhile, Jason Gardiner has claimed that he could be 'axed' from Dancing On Ice due to the controversy surrounding his judging style. 'Axed' of course, being tabloid-speak for 'moved aside, gently, for being an unpopular gobshite, just like Arlene Phillips.' The choreographer's cutting remarks have angered some viewers of the ITV show (and some contestants for that matter), most notably after he compared contestant former swimmer Sharron Davies to 'faecal matter that won't flush' in one live show. His public utterances concerning his fellow judges are said, also, to have gone down like a lift when the cable's snapped. Speaking to the Sun, Gardiner admitted: 'It hasn't been a very easy year for me. Producers might turn around and say they don't need that kind of heat on a family show.' Adding that he has also upset fellow panellist Karen Barber by fuelling rumours about her love life, Gardiner noted: 'I'm not in her good books. Any of us are replaceable. I've heard they want to try new things next year.'

Perhaps the reason why the producers may wish to 'try new things' was summed up by the audience that the live Dancing On Ice final achieved according to overnight figures. The last skate-off of the series, which saw Tamaddon triumph, pulled in 8.79m between 7.45pm and 10pm. Overall this series of the ice-dance show has seen something of a significant decline it its audience - down a whopping eight per cent on last year's figures. Elsewhere, over on BBC1, what may be the final episode of Lark Rise To Candleford was watched by 5.8m viewers at 8pm. The audience then dropped drastically to 2.85m during Enid, which aired between 9pm and 10.30pm. The Tropic of Cancer grabbed 2.54m for BBC2 at 8pm, then 3.08m watched Brian Cox's excellent Wonders of the Solar System during the 9pm hour. On Saturday night, meanwhile, Piers Morgan's Life Stories hit a new series low. The latest instalment, which revolved around Joan Collins, managed just 3.39m for ITV1 during the 9pm hour. Oh dear. How sad. never mind.

Oxford Scientific Films has secured Richard E Grant to front a ninety-minute special on safaris for BBC4. The films will see Grant traveling through Kenya as he reveals that the first safaris were pioneered by infamous British colonists and how the African countryside became 'the ultimate white man's playground.' The film also shows how safaris have been reinvented, with trophy hunting giving way to mass tourism. OSF chief executive Claire Birks described History of Safari with Richard E Grant as 'a dream project' and executive producer Alice Keens-Soper said the actor was 'a very engaging interviewer. He was born and brought up in Swaziland so he has a unique and fascinating take on this subject,' she added.

Claudia Winkleman has been confirmed as the new host of Film 2010. The long-running movie review programme will also have a new format, which will involve a range of cinema and industry experts and a variety of studio guests. 'Everyone has an opinion on film and I'm looking forward to debating the biggest news and releases with a whole variety of guests each week,' said Winkleman. 'I am completely over the moon about being given this enormous honour and am incredibly proud to be to be presenting the new look Film 2010. It's an honour to follow on from the brilliant Jonathan Ross. I have been lucky enough to cover the BAFTAs and present the UK broadcasts of the Oscars and the Golden Globes for years and now to be able to work with the producers on Film 2010 is just amazing.' Winkleman, who currently hosts her own Arts Show on Radio 2, is most famous for her presenting role on Strictly Come Dancing spin-off It Takes Two. Originally hosted by the difficult-to-please film critic Barry Norman, the BBC1 show has been running since 1972. Ross replaced Norman as the host in 1999. Winkleman's Film 2010 will start in September.

Over The Rainbow has been criticised by some viewers for advertising Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End musicals. The BBC received seventeen complaints over the weekend, concerning the promotion of Oliver! and Webber's new show Love Never Dies, according to the Sun. Webber's Phantom Of The Opera sequel opened last month, which apparently led some viewers to question 'the timing' of his new BBC1 talent show. Other complaints allegedly concerned the appearance of I'd Do Anything winner Jodie Prenger on the show. Prenger performed the show tune 'As Long As He Needs Me' and wished her successor Kerry Ellis good luck in taking over from her in the role of Nancy in Oliver! The Graham Norton hosted talent show was accused of providing 'free advertising' for the musical. Webber has frequently rubbished suggestions that he is interested in presiding over the BBC shows to boost ticket sales for his own shows, arguing that programmes such as Any Dream Will Do and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? have benefited musical theatre all around the UK. On Saturday, the final ten Dorothys on Over The Rainbow were revealed. The ten contestants cut from the competition will compete via a public phone vote for one final 'Wild Card' slot on next Saturday's first live show. Meanwhile, Graham Norton reckons the competition is a lot tougher than on previous BBC talent shows. 'We've had a lot more men and drag queens apply this year who are phenomenally good,' he noted. Guess it's true what they say about just how many friends Dorothy has in musical theatre.

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond got to live-out yet another one of all of our schoolboy fantasies over the week ed. In addition to marrying a model, being a roadie for The Who and crashing a car at three thousand miles an hour and surviving, Richard watched as the show's twelve thousand pound 'reasonably priced car', a Chevrolet Lacetti, was destroyed as two concrete towers were demolished on top of it as a cement works at Northfleet in Kent over the weekend. Ace.

Hermione Norris has claimed that ITV were right to end Kingdom. The gentle Sunday night drama set in Norfolk, which was fronted by Stephen Fry, was cancelled by the broadcaster last October after a - mostly very positive - three-year run. Speaking to the Digital Spy website, [Spooks] star Norris, who played Beatrice Kingdom in the series, said that she agreed with ITV's decision to bring the show to a conclusion. 'The third series was lovely and my favourite series so I felt it was quite timely. Three is a good amount to do. If you're in, series three's a good time to get out, I think! I did three of Wire in the Blood. You've got to really enjoy what you do and really be giving it as much as you possibly can.' She added: 'I feel that it stopped when it was still very fresh and at its best so it was probably a good thing. There would be nothing more sad than it just becoming [the thing that pays the bills].'

ITV has confirmed that their Men & Motors channel will cease transmission on Sky and Freesat on Thursday of this week to make way for ITV1 HD. On 1 April at 6am, the channel will stop broadcasting on digital satellite as the new high definition simulcast of ITV1 takes its slot on the Freesat and Sky electronic programming guides. The channel ended transmission on Virgin Media a week earlier on 25 March for 'operational reasons.' Men & Motors will now cease to exist, but it is understood that some of its programming will be transferred to ITV4.

Ofcom has said that rules forcing ITV1, Channel 4 and Five to sell all their advertising airtime could be scrapped under new proposals for the TV industry. Introduced in 2003, current regulations governing TV advertising sales were designed to foster fair and effective competition in the market, including restrictions preventing ITV1, Channel 4 and Five from withholding airtime to drive up prices. However, Ofcom believes that the rules are no longer appropriate due to 'significant developments' in the television sector. The watchdog pointed to a 'substantial increase' in the number of available channels, which has led to 'increasingly fragmented TV audiences across many channels and enabled media buyers to purchase airtime across an extensive range of channels.' Among its proposed changes, Ofcom believes that ITV1, Channel 4 and Five should be permitted to withhold airtime as the approach will no longer have a negative impact on competition. Ofcom also wants to allow all three commercial public service broadcasters to offer bundled deals, in which media buyers purchase airtime across multiple television channels rather than just one. Known as conditional selling, the method brings various benefits to PSBs, including the opportunity to reduce negotiation costs. Despite some competition concerns from conditional selling, Ofcom believes that the potential benefits to the TV industry would be significant, and so it is proposing an end to the industry-wide ban. Any anti-competitive effects from such a change would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. 'In the last few years the TV sector has moved on with substantial increases in the take-up of digital services and in the number of available channels,' said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

Yer Keith Telly Topping caught an episode of Olivia Lee's Dirty Sexy Funny on Comedy Central last week. And, much to his considerable surprise, he actually rather enjoyed it. If you've never seen it before it's a hidden-camera prank show with some sketches and stand-up mixed in and made by Tiger Aspect. It doesn't sound too promising from that description but it's quite well put together and Olivia herself is very engaging and, dammit, funny. If you only know her from Channel 4's dreadful Naughty Bits and you're not doing anything at ten o'clock on a Monday night (and, let's face it, who is?) you could do an awful lot worse than check out an episode.

According to the Sun, Peaches Gelodf could be 'axed' (that's tabloid-speak for ... well, in this particular case, 'axed', I guess) as the face of a lingerie range over her alleged 'sex and drugs and Scientology' scandal. If you haven't heard the news, a chap - seemingly named Ben - posted a series of topless snaps of the Miss Ultimo model and daughter of Saint Bob, online and said that, with her, he'd taken heroin before having sex at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles. Geldof's spokesman rubbished the story and the star was said to be 'spitting [with fury' over the allegations. It is suggested in the article that Ultimo bra 'bosses' will meet Geldof's management today to 'decide on her future.' One alleged 'source' allegedly revealed: 'There is pressure on Ultimo to take a stand as Peaches models a range for teenagers.' This story has been circulating on the Internet since Friday when an individual going by the screen-name 'Big Ben' (according to the tattoo on his knob, one assumes) posted about his experience on Reddit.com in response to the question: 'What's your most WTF one-night-stand story?' His tale, summarised - for those dear blog readers who can't be bothered to read the entire, sordid, account - was, essentially: 'Did heroin, screwed a z-list celebrity, woke up in a Scientology centre, fled the country.' Well, something like that, anyway. Peaches has now released a statement via her management confirming that the images posted of a naked, tattooed, super-wasted Peaches Geldof-lookalike actually is her. And that she was very, very drunk at the time. But definitely not smacked off her tits. So, that's all right then.

And, finally, here's a picture of Girls Aloud's Sarah Harding at the weekend's Empire Film Awards seemingly fondling her own buttocks. Do any dear blog readers have photos of other famous celebrities fondling their own buttocks? If so, then please send them to 'Pictures Of Celebrities Fondling Their Own Buttocks; From The North c/o Stately Telly Topping Manor, His Gaff, Merrie Albion, Near Peterborough' (under a brown-paper wrapper, of course).

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