Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Get Ready To Crumble

Horribly sad news to kick-off with. Gary Coleman has died at the age of forty two. The diminutive actor - best known for his role in the 1980s US sitcom Diff'rent Strokes - was hospitalised in Utah on Wednesday after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage caused by a fall. Coleman slipped into a coma on Thursday and was taken off life support Friday morning. His wife, Shannon Price, as well as close friends and family, were at his bedside when he died. Coleman's growth was hampered from a young age by a kidney disease which meant he never grew beyond four feet eight inches and required daily dialysis. In Diff'rent Strokes, which ran from 1978 to 1986, Coleman played precocious Arnold, becoming famous for his catchphrase 'whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?' Over the years, all three of Diff'rent Strokes' child actors suffered post-fame struggles. Dana Plato, who played Coleman's on-screen adoptive sister, Kimberley, posed for Playboy in an attempt to shed her child-star image and also appeared in softcore films. She was later arrested twice (once for armed robbery, again for forging a prescription for Valium) and, tragically, died of a drug overdose in 1999 at the age of just thirty four. Todd Bridges, who played Willis, was arrested in 1994 after allegedly ramming someone's car after an argument. He also had issues with illegal drugs for several years. Coleman himself sued his parents and his former manager over misappropriation of his trust fund. Although he was awarded over one million dollars, he subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 1999. He was charged with assault in 1998 after he punched a woman while he was working as a security guard at a shopping mall.

And, another solider down. Dennis Hopper has gone at the age of seventy four after a long battle with prostate cancer. BBC News reported that Hopper died on Saturday morning surrounded by friends and family at his home in Venice, California. The award-winning actor and director, who was diagnosed with the illness last year, was last seen in public in March after being honoured on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In a career spanning fifty five years, the Kansas-born actor was best known for co-writing, directing and starring in the cult movie Easy Rider in 1969, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His first film appearances on the big screen saw him appear alongside the legendary James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause in 1955 and Giant a year later. After a quiet period, Hopper won attention for his appearance in Apocalypse Now in 1979, and garnered another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1986 basketball film Hoosiers. His TV work included playing the villain, Victor Drazen, in the first series of 24. His last role was in the drama Crash on the Starz network. A committed method actor, Hopper was often pegged as 'difficult' by various studio bosses and spent much of the first decade of his career working either in television (The Time Tunnel, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Naked City) or with maverick outsiders of the Hollywood system like Roger Corman (The Trip). Off-screen, Hopper was an active part of the era's pop-art explosion, both as a savvy man-about-town partygoer, hanging out with all the rock groups in Laurel Canyon and on the Sunset Strip, and as a fine photographic chronicler of the mid-60s LA scene. In 1969 he directed, co-wrote, and starred-in Easy Rider, the ultimate counterculture movie. Flush with its astounding success, he went on to make the daring, self-reflexive and wilfully anti-commercial The Last Movie, the crushing failure of which alienated him totally from Hollywood's establishment. Actually, the drug-crazed abandon of the movies' shooting, in Peru, was far more interesting than the film itself. By his own admission, Hopper then wandered in a morass of drugs and drink through much of the 1970s (and, watching his manic performance in Coppola's Apocalypse Now, you can easily believe it). With one, immortal, line - 'Don't you fuckin' look at me!' - Hopper, whose movie career had floundered throughout the early 1980s, was reborn as the apotheosis of middle-American urban menace in David Lynch's classic thriller Blue Velvet. Hopper's mesmerising performance as Frank Booth led to slew of similarly over-the-top psychomaniac roles (some of them very good, like the character he played in Speed, others less successful, such as Waterworld). But it also announced the comeback of a truly gifted actor whose talents had too often been under-utilised (by both himself and others). He also become a noted director (showing a solid understanding of the mainstream in Colors and a wry appreciation of noir-irony in the erotic thriller The Hot Spot). Other important movies of this genuine Hollywood legend include True Romance ('you know something is wrong when Dennis Hopper plays the most "normal" character in a movie!' noted one contemporary reviewer), Cool Hand Luke, Hang 'em High, the truly outstanding Out of the Blue (which he also directed), True Grit, Paris Trout, Rumble Fish and Tracks. Five times married, five times divorced, and still raging to the bitter end, Hopper had been recently quoted as saying: 'Like all artists I want to cheat death a little and contribute something to the next generation.' He did not go quietly into that endless night. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Christine Bleakley apparently has 'no intention' of defecting to ITV when her current ONE Show contract finishes in September. The presenter, thirty one, is said to be 'furious' (or, you know, the Northern Irish equivalent) after her former BBC co-host Adrian Chiles said publicly that he wouldn't rule out the chances of her following his move to ITV. 'Obviously, there's no doubt, sooner or later Christine and I will work together,' he noted. 'Whether that's going to be in September on GMTV or some time in the future in a far-off time or place, I don't know.' An insider told the Mirror: 'Both Christine and the BBC are getting annoyed with Adrian. She is furious and has no intention of leaving.' Meanwhile, the News of the World has a story which suggests ratings for The ONE Show have gone up since co-host Adrian Chiles' departure. 'Shock figures prove the BBC was right to bank on Christine Bleakley to keep viewers watching the 7pm programme,' says the article, without the slightest hint of pointed agenda. Oh no. What have you done to piss off the Screws of the World, Adie? Since Chiles' exit, with various male guest hosts being used, most recently Matt Baker, the show has averaged 4.3million viewers per night - twenty two per cent of the total TV audience. During a similar period last year, with Chiles at the helm, the show averaged 3.9 million viewers, a twenty per cent share. A BBC source said: 'This shows you the star power of Christine. A lot of people said viewers would go away when Adrian left but the opposite's happened. It's a quiet time of year so ratings like this are a real achievement.' Beeb insiders believe the show will grow even more when comic Jason Manford replaces Adrian four days a week.

EastEnders producers have, reportedly, 'axed' Lucy Beale actress Melissa Suffield after she allegedly ignored numerous warnings from bosses about her 'unruly behaviour.' Not literally of course, because, using an axe in an untoward manner is illegal. According to the Daily Star Sunday, the seventeen-year-old - who has played Ian Beale's eldest daughter since 2004 - was issued with a final warning after attending a London nightclub whilst underage. Despite being reprimanded, Suffield allegedly continued to ignore warnings about her continued misbehaviour, which resulted in a string of meetings with producers and culminated in her dismissal from the role last week. A source at the soap told the newspaper: 'Melissa has been hauled before bosses on a number of occasions for her behaviour and attitude outside work. In the end they made the decision to let her go. The way she's been behaving out of work over the last few months is not acceptable. Melissa is seventeen and wants to go out, have fun and do what she likes. But that kind of behaviour doesn't work when you're on a show like EastEnders.' They continued: 'She was given a warning a couple of months back after she was photographed going into a London club. So when things didn't improve they had no choice but to write her out of the show.' An EastEnders spokesperson confirmed: "Melissa will be leaving in the summer. She's had a fantastic six years on the show and we wish her the best of luck.' Earlier this month, Devon Anderson - who plays Billie Jackson in the serial - was reportedly banned from attending the British Soap Awards after violating strict BBC rules over advertising by posting a photograph of his intended outfit on Twitter.

Coronation Street's forthcoming Siege Week apparently set producers back a total of over one million pounds, a report claims. According to the News of the World, the week's worth of episodes - following Tony Gordon's escape from prison - have left a hole in the show's budget for the rest of the year. Reported costs include two hundred and eighty thousand pounds for the factory explosion, with one hundred and fifty grand used to repair subsequent damage, and one hundred and twenty thousand on special effects. 'We wanted Tony to leave with a bang. We'll wipe the floor with the BBC,' an insider claimed.

Former Birds Of A Feather actress Pauline Quirke has joined the cast of Emmerdale as Jackson Walsh's mother Hazel. The fifty-year-old - who played Sharon Theodopolopodous for nine years alongside Linda Robson in the BBC sitcom - begins filming for the soap at the end of next month and her larger-than-life character will soon find herself at the centre of 'an enormous and gripping storyline,' according to loose-tongued sources close to production. Free-spirited teacher Hazel arrives in the Dales on a whistle stop visit to see her son Jackson (Marc Silcock), who is currently being wooed by troubled teen Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller). However, as one newly-single villager takes a keen interest in her, Hazel's jetset lifestyle is halted when she becomes embroiled in a 'hugely dramatic' plot - or, as close as you'll get to 'hugely dramatic' on Emmerdale, anyway - which affects the lives of both her son and his lover. Speaking of her signing, Quirke said: 'I'm really looking forward to joining the show, my mum was a fan back when it was called Emmerdale Farm, so it's always been a part of my life. The show has really moved on, it's consistently good, there are some great characters and great storylines, I've especially loved Aaron's story.' She added: 'I've never done anything like this before so it's something different for me and I'm very happy to be a part of it.' Series producer Gavin Blyth commented: 'I am absolutely delighted that Pauline will be joining Emmerdale at such an exciting time. She is a fantastic actor who I know will do justice to this character.' Quirke began her acting career as an eight year old, appearing as an extra in Thunderball. As a teenager, she had a part on Dixon of Dock Green and hosted two ITV children's sketch comedies You Must Be Joking and Pauline's Quirkes. Her other acting credits include The Sculptress, Missing, Skins, Cold Blood, Carrie's War, The Bill and My Family.

Karren Brady is reportedly adding the gym to her weekly schedule after seeing herself on Junior Apprentice. Brady, who replaced Margaret Mountford as Lord Alan Sugar's right-hand woman on the BBC show, said she was shocked to see herself on the TV and hear how 'posh' she sounds. 'I can't do anything about the voice but I have to start working out!' the forty one-year-old told the Mirror. Brady, who is said to be an 'old friend' with Lord Sugar, added that working on the show was 'great fun. He's so witty, I just can't stop laughing out loud. We share the same sense of humour and he's always kicking me under the table in the boardroom,' she said. Although enjoying her stint in front of the camera, Brady said it takes substantial commitment. 'For the past few months I've been filming back-to-back. First the Junior Apprentice and then the main series. The last I heard it's back in September. It's always about the candidates and I think people will love this new set,' she said.

Germany emerged triumphant at this year's Eurovision Song Contest as the UK's pitiful effort limped home in dead last place. Teenager Josh Dubovie, representing Great Britain with a song written by failed hairdo Pete Waterman, scored just ten points. Speaking after her win, nineteen-year-old Lena, who scored two hundred and forty six points with her song 'Satellite,' said: 'I am so happy and so thankful and so grateful.' Polite, these Germans, don't you think? Acts from twenty five countries took to the stage during the event, hoping to impress voters from across Europe. Turkey's MaNga was in second place, with Romania third and the much-fancied Denmark song - which sounded like a dead-ringer for 'Every Breath You Take' frankly - coming fourth. Belarus had been trailing in last place for most of the voting until the final marks saw it overtake Dubovie's wretched thing. This is the third time that the UK has finished in the bottom spot in the past eight years, following on from previous dismal performances by Andy Abraham in 2008 and Jemini in 2003. Bookmakers had made Azerbaijan the favourite to win this year's contest. Their chosen act, Safura, was the first contestant to perform on Saturday's show with her song 'Drip Drop.' The organisers also allowed Spain's Daniel Diges to perform twice during the event after a fan disrupted his first performance by jumping on stage. A man wearing a black T-shirt and red hat got onto the stage during Diges' rendition of 'Algo Pequeñito.' The invader knelt before Diges and then appeared to try to join in with the song, waving his arms energetically before he was forced off by security guards. 'We thought it was part of the show but after the security guards chased him off stage we realised it had been the best stage invader since Jarvis Cocker,' commented James Dylan from bookmakers Ladbrokes.

Pete Waterman has reportedly 'hit out' at critics who 'slammed' this year's Eurovision song and he had vowed that he will not be behind next year's entry. Is that a promise? 'That Sounds Good To Me', which was sung - if that's the right word - by Josh Dubovie, in Oslo, was written for the competition by the former Pop Idol judge and full-of-his-own-importance berk. So, it was very nice to see it fail like a big failing thing failing, through its failure. Bookies had placed record odds against the song's chances of winning, though Dubovie said that, regardless of criticism, he would perform with a smile on his face. Yes, pal. The rest of Europe wasn't laughing though, was it? Responding to Dr Fox's judgement that the tune was 'average,' Waterman told the Sun: 'When did he last write a fucking hit song?' Well, slightly more importantly, Pete, when did you last write a hit song? 'He can't even speak English, let alone write a hit song,' continued Waterman. 'Dr Fox? He is not even a real doctor. He doesn't know anything.' Waterman went on to say that Eurovision has become 'too arty,' adding: 'It's become waylaid by people trying to be serious artists. Hang on a minute, we're here to party! This isn't showbusiness, it's a song contest.'

Britain's Got Talent hosts Ant and Dec have claimed that acts on the show have a tendency to copy previous winners. Speaking to the Sun, the comic duo criticised contestants for using sob stories to progress to the next round. Ant said: 'People think they know how to play it. They watched last year's series and think, "Ah, Susan Boyle was slightly odd-looking, she didn't look like a singer. If I dress a bit like that and look like I'm not here for an audition, I'll get through." We've seen people who have a "make-under" just to try and recapture that Susan Boyle moment but it doesn't work like that. You can see straight through it when they turn up with a make-under and a story ready to pounce out. Simon Cowell on the judging panel sees it very quickly and has no patience for it.' Meanwhile, Dec added: 'In series two we got a lot of middle-aged portly gentlemen who thought they could sing 'Nessun Dorma' just to be like Paul Potts. This series we had a guy with a flat cap and oil and dirt all over his hands and he was going, "Oh my car broke down on the way here. I didn't think I was going to make it." And you're thinking, "Go and wash your hands. Stop making a big thing about it." You see it when we interview people and we say, "What have you come to do for us today?" and they say, "I've just got out of hospital." You go, "Hang on, that's not an act, what's your act?"'

Myleene Klass could be Adrian Chiles's GMTV co-host following a number of screen tests for the job, according to various - probably not very accurate - tabloid reports. Of course she has. She can, after all, read a bloody autocue. Wasn't it Natasha Kaplinsky whom Charlie Brooker once described as 'a skeleton covered by a skin of ambition'? I think we might have a new candidate here, Charles.

1 comment:

Carey said...

I'm surprised you missed the Dennis Hopper/Dr Who connection there, Keith. According to The Writers Tale, Hopper actually asked for a role in Doctor Who and was a hairs breath away from playing first Max Capricorn and then Mr Copper in Voyage of the Damned, but schedules never matched.

It's a strange idea to think of Frank Booth in Doctor Who...