Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do Not Kick The Cat Up The Tree

The greatest actress in the world, Allison Janney was in this week's Lost, dear blog reader. And, truly, it was a sight to see. I can say no more.

Now, yer Keith Telly Topping couldn't but fail to notice that, over the last few days From The North has been getting an awful lot of hits from Internet users coming direct from Google Search. These, largely, appear to be from people who are, seemingly, desperate to find out how old BBC News's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg is. All visitors here, from any location are, of course, very welcome. However, sadly, I have to confess that the short answer to such queries is, I don't know Laura Kuenssberg's age. Sorry. I'd love to help, truly I would, but the BBC press office isn't saying. Indeed they were, frankly, more than a shade confused when I rang them to ask. And, to be fair to them, it's a bit of an indelicate question to ask about a lady, is it not? Good reporter, mind. Very watchable and a bit of a stone cold fox on the sly, too. Although, from now on I doubt I shall ever be able to watch her reporting live from Westminster again without wondering about one of life's great mysteries. Just, exactly, who are her two friends? What do you mean, which two friends? Multi-Placard Man and Fat, Slightly Scary, Staring Bloke, of course. Let the Daily Telegraph explain further. 'One stands behind her, holding alternating placards. The other is a fat bloke who just stares. Occasionally, they trade sides.' Fat, Slightly Scary, Staring Bloke, as it happens, has been the subject of an entire thread all of his own over on the Gallifrey Base Forum of late. Apparently he's got something of a fan club within Russell Howard's Good News' production team as well. They, seemingly, did a montage of all if his appearances on the day Nick Griffin went to TV Centre.

The BBC's director general Mark Thompson has claimed that the corporation's journalistic output is as important to the UK's global image as the Royal Family in what is clearly the first step in a series of gentle reminders to a - potentially hostile - new government of exactly how much weight and prestige the BBC carries internationally. In a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London, Thompson cited recent research as indicating how important BBC News is to Britain's overseas standing. Commissioned by the BBC and conducted by Human Capital, the study revealed that four out of five opinion-makers in Kenya, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey gained a positive view about the UK from the corporation. 'They were shown a list of different British organisations and initiatives and asked whether they made them think more or less positively about the country: the British Armed Forces, the British Council, the UK government, UK government foreign aid and so on, and the BBC,' said Thompson. 'No fewer than eighty per cent of people asked said that the BBC made them think more positively about the UK, by far the highest of all the British institutions mentioned.' According to the research, seventy nine per cent of respondents felt that the BBC helps people from different cultures and countries to understand each other, while nearly two-thirds - sixty three per cent - believed that the corporation works towards creating a more stable world. Thompson said that the BBC enjoys a 'unique' level of trust from worldwide audiences, despite the presence of numerous other international news broadcasters. 'Around the world, people want access to the cool-headed, fair-minded spirit of Britain - and the BBC - at their best,' he said. 'The independence and quality of our international news offer is paramount and sacrosanct. Its integrity and reliability is the platform on which every other reputation is built.' The director general claimed that the BBC's news output across TV, radio and online platforms provides 'a lifeline, a beacon of truth and reason, for millions of people.' He further said that it 'shouldn't come as a surprise' that Apple selected the BBC News mobile application among a handful of such apps to support the iPad's US launch. However, the BBC News app and its sister BBC Sport app have been temporarily blocked from launching in the UK while the BBC Trust investigates complaints from the industry. As mentioned earlier in the year at the time that the 6 Music closure was announced, it's been speculated within the BBC that Mark Thompson used the furore surrounding this decision to send a very clear warning to politicians of all sides. One senior executive was reported to have told The Times: 'He is not concerned about the outcry, because it sends a message to politicians that even if you want to close a small, niche BBC station there's such a large outcry; imagine what would happen if you tried to close BBC1 or BBC2?' The irony, of course, is that the BBC is a widely-acknowledged world class broadcaster with a reputation for fairness, balance and excellence that extends across the world but it is hugely unappreciated in its own back yard. This is matched by another irony. The fact that the only other governments in the world who seem to have a problem with the BBC - besides our own - are places like China and Iran where the BBC, also, accused to 'stirring up trouble.' It's always so nice to see our political system allying itself with dictators and despots, isn't it?

And, just to prove a point, almost ten million people watched the BBC News special covering Gordon Brown's resignation and handover of power to David Cameron's coalition government. An average of 8.9m tuned-in to watch the full programme on BBC1 which was broadcast between 19:15 and 21:00 on Tuesday according to overnight figures. A peak audience of just under ten were watching at 20:30, while a further 1.58m watched the coverage on the BBC News Channel. EastEnders and Holby City were both moved from the BBC1 schedule whilst The One Show was taken off-air to allow the BBC News special to be shown. Meanwhile, over on ITV, anybody wanting to watch democracy in action got, instead, an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. And then ITN wonder why nobody takes them seriously. Having said that, something which is certain to the delight of the Daily Scum Mail, the BBC's coverage prompted complaints from some viewers who were angry at the changes to the schedule. There were seven hundred and thirty eight complaints from viewers unhappy that EastEnders was dropped, while eighty three people complained that Holby City was not broadcast as billed. Both were rescheduled to be shown on Wednesday evening instead. A further four hundred viewers were unhappy at 'schedule changes in general.' It beggars belief, doesn't it? 'This was a BBC News special on an historic evening, which covered Gordon Brown's resignation and David Cameron taking over as Prime Minister at the head of Britain's first coalition government since the Second World War,' a BBC spokesman said. 'Audiences rightly expect BBC News to cover and explain such significant and complex events.' it's to be hoped that, in coming months when new Culture Secretary Horrible Jeremy Hunt starts pushing his sinister anti-BBC agenda around the cabinet table, Mr Cameron remembers which was the only channel to cover his coronation and how many people were watching it.

Derren Brown has insisted that he approached his new Channel 4 investigation shows with an open mind. The illusionist's latest run of programmes sees him examining the claims of people who say they have evidence of the paranormal. Speaking to Metro about the series, Brown commented: 'The idea was never to make shows that were just out to debunk. It was about approaching the subjects sceptically but in the true sense of the word, which means reserving judgement and being open to evidence.' Asked whether there is a part of him that wants to believe in the supernatural, he replied: 'Completely. I spend my working life replicating the paranormal and I have the same love for it as the people who say it's real. That's part of what drove me to do the documentaries - but the humanist, rational explanations are ultimately the more beautiful and compelling ones.'

Steve Rider has quit as ITV Sport's main anchor, ending a relationship spanning more than thirty years, following last month's hiring of Adrian Chiles from the BBC. ITV said that it had reached 'an amicable agreement' with Rider, who has been ITV Sport's main presenter since 2005 and has worked for the broadcaster on-and-off since the 1980 Moscow Olympics, that will see him leave his role immediately. Rider's departure is not unexpected, coming just weeks after the high-profile signing of Chiles, to take on presenting duties for the World Cup and morning TV show GMTV. Chiles himself had made a rapid exit from the BBC after it emerged that Chris Evans was to replace him on Friday nights on The ONE Show. ITV's live coverage of the FA Cup final this weekend and the Champions League final later this month will be presented by Matt Smith. No, not the Doctor, ITV's Matt Smith. Chiles will present the two England friendly matches that ITV is scheduled to broadcast before the start of the World Cup next month. The first will be against Mexico on 24 May, which will be Chiles's first appearance, and the second against Japan on 30 May. ITV said that discussions were ongoing about 'future projects and opportunities' to work with Rider across other sports in the future. 'It was important to get this sorted before such an important few weeks for ITV Sport,' said Rider.

BBC4 has confirmed plans to broadcast a groundbreaking documentary following three people who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Titled Sectioned, the documentary has been produced by Maverick Television in partnership with the Open University. The sixty-minute programme, which will air on BBC4 on 19 May depicts life in the UK's mental health system. After being given unprecedented access to the Nottinghamshire healthcare trust, the programme markers filmed the three men as they battled various mental health issues, including paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Maverick introduced much more stringent participant consent processes than is standard and worked very closely with the BBC's compliance teams to ensure that the documentary does not cause controversy after transmission next week. Although, knowing the way some people just love to complain about anything, it probably still will. Speaking to the Gruniad Morning Star, documentary director Ben Anthony said that maintaining constant consent from the three men was a 'big issue' during filming. 'Obviously people with mental health problems that are so ill they are around a hospital environment, the question was about do they have the capability to understand? We relied on repeatedly getting their consent every time we filmed with anyone in the hospital,' he said. 'We had to get on camera their consent and have them clarify what the documentary is about. With people as vulnerable as this we have to be especially careful.' Despite the serious nature of the documentary, Anthony said that there were lighter moments and the participants all took away positives from the process. 'We wanted to demystify what the treatment is for people who are sectioned, and we hope it will help break down the stigma surrounding it,' he added.

And, to prove the point about serial complainers, the Advertising Standards Authority has confirmed its intention to investigate a Paddy Power TV advert after receiving more than four hundred complaints. In the advert, which launched last month as part of the betting firm's World Cup campaign, a blindfolded footballer was depicted (off-screen) accidentally kicking a cat - Tiddles - into a nearby tree. Despite being approved by advertising body Clearcast, the advert attracted over four hundred complaints from viewers about its 'offensive nature' and 'potential to encourage cruelty to animals.' Some complainants also reportedly expressed concern that the advert was 'offensive in the way it portrayed sight-impaired people.' The interesting thing about that is, of course, that - given the inherently visual nature of the medium - the vast and overwhelming majority of these complaints (if not, indeed, all of them) are likely to have come from individuals without any visual impairment themselves? I wonder, did anybody bother to ask any actual blind people whether they felt particularly belittled or insulted by it? Probably not. In response, the ASA confirmed that it will launch a full investigation into the advert to gauge whether it has breached the advertising code. The thirty-second film actually featured several players from England's team at the World Blind Football Championships. In March, Paddy Power was ordered to scrap a separate TV advert featuring four wheelchair-bound actors hurriedly leaving an Indian restaurant without paying their bill. When asked if he'd been offended by the advert, Tiddles commented 'Me? How?' Think about it ... Gotta say, again, to those who feel life isn't short enough already without wasting some of it to make complaints as trivial as this, grow up fer Christ's sake. This blogger is a great cat lover and I certainly would never dream of booting one into the next field but I thought the advert was funny. And, apparently, no cats were hurt during the making of it, so what's the problem? Anyway ...

Stephen Fry has revealed he is set to appear in two new ITV dramas, despite the broadcaster’s decision to axe Kingdom - the series which he produced and starred in - last year. Kingdom, which was made through Fry's production company Sprout Pictures, was pulled following three series last year, with Fry revealing the decision on his own blog. However, the actor and presenter told The Stage that he is now set to appear on ITV in two new dramas, which he said he hoped would be on screen within a couple of years. Fry also revealed that he is to appear in a new BBC drama this autumn. Speaking about the ITV shows, he said one was a co-production with his own company and another was being developed by a production house formed by ex-ITV executives. He said: 'I hope to be doing some drama in the next two years with ITV. Two projects we are working closely on have not yet come to fruition - they are in development. There is also a BBC thing I am doing this autumn, but that has not been announced yet.'

John Barrowman has admitted that he hasn't yet watched the new series of Doctor Who. Barrowman, who has previously appeared in the show as the Doctor's occasional companion Captain Jack Harkness, explained that he has been too busy to watch Matt Smith on the show so far. 'I have not seen any of the new Doctor Who,' he told Bang Showbiz. 'I've been away in the States and because of the filming schedule over there doing Desperate Housewives I wasn't able to sit down and watch it." However, Barrowman added that he is "excited" about watching the show in the future. I have it all on my computer,' he said. 'I've yet to watch it to get up to date. I'm looking forward to it. I'm a big fan of Who myself. I think Matt Smith will add his own kind of personality and cache to being the Doctor. So I'm excited about it and like everybody else out there, they will get on that journey with the Doctor and the TARDIS and the assistant. It's not really about who plays it, it's about the programme. I'm looking forward to watching.'

As previously rumoured, the BBC has commissioned a new eight-part SF series from Ashes To Ashes and [Spooks] producer Kudos. Outcasts follows a diverse group of people who are living in a small town on a fictional planet that has been colonised by humans. These pioneers are helping build a new community far away from their loved ones and are optimistic about their future, but the planet holds many mysteries which threaten to destroy the fragile peace. A strong cast will include Hermione Norris ([Spooks]), Danny Mays (Ashes To Ashes), Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica) and Ashley Walters (Small Island). The series is currently being filmed in South Africa for transmission in the Autumn on BBC1. Sounds very promising.

E1 Entertainment is reportedly shopping a series based on John Grisham's 1991 bestseller The Firm to TV networks. According to Deadline Hollywood, Grisham is co-producing the TV pilot project with scriptwriter Lukas Reiter. Reiter previously developed a pilot based on the legal thriller for CBS, but the network opted not to pick it up. He has since rewritten the script and is pitching the show to a number of cable networks. The novel was first adapted for a 1993 film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Sydney Pollack.

Coronation Street is to be broadcast in high definition on ITV HD from 31 May, it has been announced today. The landmark development follows a multi-million pound investment at the Weatherfield soap's Manchester base, allowing the programme to meet the demands of the higher-quality filming. In recent months, a number of upgrades have been made to the serial's production capabilities, including the introduction of new cameras, lighting and editing facilities. Additionally, a number of the drama's exterior sets have been improved to bring them up to high definition standard. The soap's executive producer Kieran Roberts commented: 'Coronation Street is known for its wonderful writing and performances but we're also very proud of the technical expertise and excellence that goes into making the programme. Our engineers and crews have done a fantastic job in taking the show to high definition and I'm especially pleased that it's happening in the year Coronation Street celebrates being fifty years young.' Meanwhile, ITV's director of television Peter Fincham said: 'It is fitting that, in its golden anniversary year, Coronation Street should be entering the era of high definition. It is fantastic news for ITV viewers who will be able to enjoy a better than ever experience of their favourite soap, and joins an impressive range of high definition shows available on ITV HD, including this summer's World Cup.'

Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine have reportedly created their own online reality show. Because no TV broadcaster will currently touch them with a bargepole, perhaps? We'll probably never care. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the former What Not To Wear presenters created Trinny And Susannah: What They Did Next after being criticised in the press. Nice idea, that. Blame someone else for something just in case it turns out to be rubbish. 'It came about from a very bizarre process,' Constantine told the newspaper. 'One weekend I had the Scissor Sisters staying and I read a Sunday Times article which said the next time Trinny and I should be on TV should be our own hanging.' Oh, I wouldn't go that far. Although, such a format does have a certain entertainment potential, I will admit. Because otherwise, why anybody with a single ounce of dignity or self-respect in their bodies would be in the slightest bit interested in anything that pair of smart-alec, full-of-their-own-importance individuals have to say on any subject is, frankly, beyond me. So, let's see how many people they get watching them online. You never know, it might be a hit and they'll have TV executives flocking back to their door to offer them work. Stranger things have happened.

Glee creator Ryan Murphy has called for a boycott of Newsweek magazine over an article which suggested that gay actors cannot play straight roles. Murphy called the column, by gay writer Ramin Setoodeh, 'needlessly cruel and mind-blowingly bigoted.' The writer said that Will & Grace star Sean Hayes' Broadway performance as a heterosexual lead was 'insincere' and 'unintentionally camp.' Setoodeh said his article was intended to start a debate. 'The point of my essay was not to disparage my own community, but to examine an issue that is being swept under the rug.' He added that his piece had become 'a straw man for homophobia and hurt in the world,' and claimed his words had been 'twisted.' Newsweek called the article 'a thoughtful, honest essay on a controversial topic' and said it was 'unfortunate his argument has been misunderstood.' Kristin Chenoweth, Hayes' co-star in the New York stage production of Promises, Promises, also condemned Setoodeh's views, calling them 'horrendously homophobic.'

A recording of a 1966 Beatles press conference at which good old alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John Lennon was quizzed over his controversial comments about Jesus is to be auctioned. The reel-to-reel recording is estimated to fetch up to twenty five thousand dollars at a Los Angeles sale on 13 June. The tapes of the 17 August 1966 press conference in Toronto were stored in a drawer for more than forty years, Bonhams and Butterfields said. The recording, made by a young photojournalist and Beatles fan at the King Edward Hotel, includes Lennon and Paul McCartney joking about the longevity of The Beatles. 'We're obviously not gonna go around holding hands forever,' Lennon says. 'It would be a bit, you know, embarrassing at thirty five,' McCartney adds. Although comments from the press conference were widely reported at the time, this is thought to be the only surviving recording. 'We do know what they said that day, we have just never heard it,' Margaret Barrett, director of entertainment memorabilia at Bonhams and Butterfields said. The owner of the tapes had tried to sell them in 1966 but 'no-one thought they were important,' she added.

Wallace and Gromit will return to screens to recreate Diego Maradona's infamous 1986 'Hand of God' goal in a new TV advertisement. The advert, called Hand of Dog, has been launched to advertise utilities company Npower's status as one of the main backers of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Npower's marketing director Kevin Peake said of the campaign: 'We believe a successful bid to stage the FIFA World Cup in England would be fantastic for the country and particularly for Britain's businesses. Wallace and Gromit illustrate, in their fun and endearing way, how hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018 could also benefit businesses' revenue.' The advert will begin showing on commercial channels from today.

And, still on the subject of The People's Game - in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup, yer Keith Telly Topping will be peppering this blog with a few of his patented Top World Cup Facts, which always seem to go down so well. Let's kick-off with a particular favourite. Did You Know, dear blog reader, that given the estimated worldwide television audience for the opening game of the 1998 World Cup tournament (Brazil vs Scotland) was approximately one and a third billion people, Darren Jackson's clearly audible cry of 'Fekkin' Hell!' when he got booked for a particularly cush foul on Dunga after twenty four minutes has been officially recognised as the world's most widely-heard obscenity, as confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records? Bet you didn't.

Around a third of British adults have suffered an injury while having sex or immediately afterwards, a new survey has revealed. Well, they're obviously doing it wrong in that case. The questionnaire from mobile phone recycling firm PhonePiggyBank suggests that eighteen million people have hurt themselves having sex, with four in ten also claiming to have broken a household item during the act. Sofas were deemed to be the most dangerous locations for sex, followed by stairs, cars, showers and the bedroom. The top ten of risky sex sites was made up by chairs, kitchen tables, the garden, toilets and work cupboards. I'd add to that garden sheds, particularly those containing rusty lawn trimming equipment. A company spokesman said: 'Sex is a risky business these days. There are numerous hazards in and around the home which can inflict severe injuries if people aren't careful. We were amazed to find out that even the bedroom can prove a hazardous location for certain people. Our advice would be to remove any dangerous objects well before you plan to start making love and take care while in the act.'

Heather Mills has 'hit out' at Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan, claiming that he should not be allowed on television due to his past. 'I can't stand Piers Morgan,' she told the Mirror. Well, that's one thing you've got in common with the rest of humanity, Heather.