Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bought A One Way Ticket To A Life He Once Knew

TV moment of the week: Without any shadow of a doubt it has to be Jesse Spencer, Hugh Laurie and Omar Epps' expressive, soulful and very pissed karaoke rendition of 'Midnight Train to Georgia' on Monday's episode of House. As Gregg Wallace might say - if he had my job rather than his own on MasterChef - 'TV comedy just doesn't come any better than this.' That aside, the episode itself was a bit 'blah'; some of the sub plots were quite well-done (Thirteen being paid to take House to a lesbian bar, for instance). And the final scene, with Cuddy and House facing some awkward truths, was nicely intriguing. But the main bulk of the story (guest star Adam Garcia's character and his struggle with his sexual identity) rather left me cold. And that doesn't often happen with House.

From Laurie, to Fry. The first episode of the next - H - series of Qi has been filmed this week. The episode's guests, alongside Stephen and Alan are Bill Bailey, Danny Baker and Eddie Izzard. Top stuff. That'll be the first time Eddie's appeared on Qi since the show's untransmitted pilot episode in 2003. (It has, since, been released on DVD.) Recording of the sixteen episodes will continue throughout May and June and the series is likely to begin broadcasting sometimes late in the year. Also in comedy news, this Thursday's edition of Have I Got News For You - which features Armando Iannucci among others - has been moved to Friday at 8:30 because of the general election. It will now be recorded on Friday afternoon so that the result can be discussed. Earlier this week Iannucci expressed his shock that he'd been told as the episode was due to be recorded on Wednesday for Thursday transmission, under the BBC's pre-election impartiality rules it was unlikely that they'd be able to talk about the election, at all. There's no news yet on what's replacing it on Thursday, though it's been widely speculated that it will simply swap over with the Qi repeat originally scheduled for Friday. It has to be said, didn't anybody at the BBC think about the potential for a scheduling problem with placing Have I Got News For You on Thursday two months ago when the series started? It's not like the election announcement came as a surprise to anyone. I remember some years ago my old mate Martin Day writing an impassioned article about this very subject for, I think, the Gruniad. It occurred after the season finale of that year's Casualty had to be postponed and replaced with a repeat at the last minute because it concerned a plane crash and would have been broadcast on - or very near - the anniversary of the Lockerbie tragedy. Martin wondered, rightly, why someone isn't simply employed by the BBC to sit in an office and get sent one-page synopses of all forthcoming drama, comedy, even game shows and a list of potential transmission dates and then check them against a list of 'dates when stuff has or might happen' to ensure that no awkward or potentially offensive clashes occur? It's surely not beyond the wit - or resources - of TV scheduling departments to employ someone to flag up potential conflicts before they actually happen. I mean, I'd do it. I'd want a decent salary mind. And six weeks leave each year! But, the point stands.

James Nesbitt is to star in the title role of a new medical drama commissioned by Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV. Monroe has been written and created by one of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV dramatists Peter Bowker and will be produced by Mammoth Screen. Bowker and Nesbitt previously worked together on the award-winning Iraq drama Occupation. The title character in Monroe is a brilliant and unusual neurosurgeon; a flawed genius who never lets anyone forget either his flaws or his genius. Each episode will feature one compelling story of the week about life or death situations. The drama will focus on the way in which a serious injury or disease cuts across the lives of everyone involved, from hospital staff to patients to relatives. And how that group become, in an intense few days, a reluctant dysfunctional family united by hopes, fears and grief. Hang on ... this is House, basically, isn't it?! At the centre of this stands Monroe, his trainees, his anaesthetist and his poker school - and his female colleague, heart surgeon, Jenny Bremner, who has contempt for his cockiness. Yep, still sounding like House. The series will tell heightened emotional stories and be shot through with dark humour and portray the pressures and pleasures of high-end surgery in a modern urban hospital. Monroe will start filming in September 2010 in Leeds. Laura Mackie said: 'Monroe will breathe new life into the medical genre, I hope the combination of Pete's sharp and pacy script and Jimmy's performance as the charismatic surgeon will make this one of the most compelling new dramas for 2011.' Peter Bowker said: 'I am a huge fan of hospital drama - not least because it provides the chance to tell big emotional stories based on compelling characters. Neurosurgeons are the nearest thing we have to real-life miracle workers, yet they share the same human failings as the rest of us. We want them to be brave enough to take the decisions they take, yet they can't always be right. We don't have to like them, but we have to believe in them. Monroe dramatises what it is like to be at the sharp end of those expectations.' Well, I like Bowker and I like Nesbitt so this - despite not sounding like the most original idea in the world - could be good. Judgement reserved on that one.

Long-lost recordings of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise have been aired as part of a Radio 4 documentary. The sound archive was uncovered by Ernie Wise's widow, Doreen, in her garage when she was moving house. She found a box full of old reel-to-reel tapes and 78rpm records that the comedian had stored away years earlier, some of which date back to 1949. Morecambe's son, Gary, who is planning a permanent museum in Morecambe, said the discovery was 'very exciting.' The comedy legends reached the height of their stardom on TV in the 1970s and 1980s, with their show commanding huge audiences. But for decades before that they'd been a popular radio act. Among the most important finds are a number of long-lost episodes of Eric and Ernie's first radio show You're Only Young Once. The show, on which the duo developed their partnership, was made for the BBC between November 1953 and June 1954. Other tapes include live rare recordings of their Great Yarmouth and Blackpool summer-season shows from the mid-to-late 1960s and original master tapes of some of the songs written for the duo. Gary Morecambe told the BBC: 'It really is exciting when anything new comes to light. I remember some of it being in existence on acetate records back in probably the 1960s or early 70s because my father used to have copies. I remember him playing some of it and us having a laugh over it, because it was obviously from the early days, the very beginning of their working careers. Other than that I don't think even he [Eric] knew that Ernie had stored away all of this material. It does make you think about old attics and things and wonder what even the BBC has stored away and doesn't even know.' Morecambe hopes the material can eventually find its way into his museum, which he said was progressing. He added: 'All I can say its looking ninety nine to one hundred per cent positive, so fingers crossed on a museum and exhibition of Eric Morecambe happening in the near future and at a permanent site hopefully in Morecambe.'

Criminals may have used a forthcoming Coronation Street plot as inspiration for a real-life jail escape, according to a press report. Michael O'Donnell, twenty eight, is currently on the run following a calculated series of events which allowed him to flee from an ambulance in Greater Manchester. O'Donnell, who was awaiting sentence for burglary and conspiracy to rob, was being taken to the Salford Royal hospital on Sunday after cutting off part of his ear whilst on remand. As the ambulance was transporting O'Donnell, it was ambushed by four masked men with baseball bats and bolt cutters, who conspired to free O'Donnell. According to the Daily Star, there are suspicions that the idea was lifted from a future Corrie storyline which will the villainous Tony Gordon (Gray O'Brien) escape from jail in similar circumstances. Last month, it was revealed by various media outlets (including this blog, as it happens) that Tony is to feign a heart-attack in prison, allowing his henchman Robbie Sloan (James Fleet) to free him by holding up an ambulance at gunpoint. Assistant Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, who is investigating the O'Donnell case, said: 'This was a terrifying attack on an ambulance and, though nobody was physically harmed, it certainly left the people who were looking after O'Donnell at that time feeling understandably frightened.'

Terry Pratchett has claimed that Doctor Who has become 'ludicrous.' The author, who said that he has always been a fan of the series, explained that it 'breaks most of the laws of narrative.' Writing for SFX magazine, he continued: 'On planet Earth it's generally taken for granted that it's a bad thing to introduce into a narrative some last-minute solution that was totally unexpected and unheralded. The unexpected, unadvertised solution which kisses it all better is known as a deus ex machina - literally, a god from the machine. And a god from the machine is what the Doctor is now.' He went on: 'A decent detective story provides you with enough tantalising information to allow you to make a stab at a solution before the famous detective struts his stuff in the library. Doctor Who replaces this with speed, fast talking, and what appears to be that wonderful element "makeitupasyougoalongeum."' Pratchett also stated that he didn't consider Doctor Who to be science fiction in the accepted sense and claimed that the Doctor is starting to resemble God. 'The Doctor himself has in recent years been built up into an amalgam of Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ and Tinkerbell,' he said. 'There is nothing he doesn't know and nothing he can't do. Perhaps they should start transmitting the programme on Sundays.' However, Pratchett concluded that he will continue to watch the series. 'After all, when you've had your moan you have to admit that it is very, very entertaining, with its heart in the right place, even if its head is often in orbit around Jupiter,' he said. 'I might shout at the screen again, but I will be watching on Saturday.'

Mick Jagger has said that the Rolling Stones wrote some of their most popular songs whilst under the influence of illegal drugs. Speaking to Absolute Radio, the singer said that the band wrote much of their music, during the 1960s and 1970s, during periods of heavy narcotic abuse. The sixty six-year-old insisted that the 'party atmosphere' helped to inspire the band's output, particularly the classic 1972 LP Exile on Main Street. 'That was a period of time when everyone took loads of drugs, it was very fashionable, but I mean, we did a lot of hard work as well, so it was a bit of a party atmosphere, loads of visitors, you know, there was a lot of drugs floating around,' Jagger said. 'But not everyone was completely out of it all the time and we did a lot of good tracks, you know,' he added.

Peter Andre has insisted that he told the truth about turning down a judging role on The X Factor in Australia. Last month, the singer - see left, getting in touch with himself - announced that he had rejected an offer from TV bosses because he did not want to be apart from his two children. However, the Daily Star later reported that a spokesperson for X Factor creator Simon Cowell had dismissed the suggestion, saying that Andre had not been asked to be a judge 'in any country.' Writing in his New magazine column, Andre commented: 'The fact is that Fremantle, the company that co-produces the show in Australia, sent my manager Claire Powell an e-mail to ask me if I'd be interested in joining the show about three weeks ago - I saw it with my own eyes. Why would I feel the need to make something like this up? It's so weird when people will do anything to try and make you look stupid when all I was doing was telling the truth. Every week, Claire and I sit down and I look at all the projects I've been asked to get involved in, and we work out what's possible and what's not. I wish I'd never mentioned it now!'

Meanwhile, Sting is reportedly planning to write his first Broadway musical. But, if you're thinking about going to see it when it opens, yer Keith Telly Topping's advice is, don't bother. Because, it'll be horseshit.

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