Thursday, May 27, 2010

We're No Longer As Thick As Thieves

Bravo scored its highest ever audience on Tuesday night with the 'saucy sword and sandals' drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The gladiatorial blood-and-snots-splattered carnage-fest was watch by a discerning average audience of three hundred and sixty four thousand viewers from 10pm to 11.15pm on the Virgin Media-owned channel, and an additional ninety seven thousand an hour later on Bravo +1. Cor. Think about it. All those horny-as-a-polecat fourteen years olds staying up that late on a school night? Shouldn't be allowed. With a total of four hundred and sixty thousand viewers, it ranked as the top rated show on pay TV across the whole day and beat Bravo's previous best performance, when imported vampire drama Blade achieved around four hundred thousand viewers in January 2007.

As the BBC celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Television Centre next month, the corporation is to unveil proposals for a multimillion pound redevelopment of the site to revitalise west London with a twenty three-acre 'creative quarter.' Plans are still being discussed for what will be one of the biggest development projects in Europe. But the Gruniad Morning Star has learned that the BBC wants to offer independent TV production companies, performing groups, and media companies such as YouTube space at the redeveloped Television Centre. Under the proposal the BBC would sell Television Centre to developers but rent back some of the studios to continue making programmes at the site and, perhaps, lease some space to house an orchestra. The rest of the centre – parts of which are crumbling and likely to be demolished – could become home to independent production companies, other media organisations and performing arts companies. As part of his recent strategy review, the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, promised that 'partnerships with other cultural and civic institutions should no longer be peripheral and ad hoc, but strategic and central to the BBC's idea of itself.' The corporation is also said to be considering keeping a presence at Television Centre by leasing studio space for some of its music shows and orchestras and 'BBC heritage, legacy or licensing commercial activities,' such as exhibitions. Television Centre – which opened on 29 June 1960 – has been the home of some of the BBC's most important programmes, including Blue Peter, Doctor Who and Newsnight. The BBC announced in 2007 that it planned to sell off the building as several thousand staff from the news, children's, sport, learning, future media and technology departments and Radio 5 Live move to new homes at the refurbished Broadcasting House in central London and Salford Quays in Greater Manchester by 2012. However, the plan to redevelop the centre now has to accommodate the decision last summer by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to list the central ring – or 'concrete doughnut' – and Studio One of Television Centre, which were designed by Graham Dawbarn of Norman and Dawbarn. While other studios in the building, as well as the scenery block and canteen, did not meet the level of architectural or historic interest needed for listing, they will nevertheless gain Grade II status because of their 'structural attachment' to the more notable parts of Television Centre.

If anybody's still unsure as to what, exactly, the finale of Lost was all about, yer Keith Telly Topping had a go at explaining it on this morning's Jonathan Miles Show on BBC Newcastle. And, probably, ended up making things as clear as mud! If you want to have a listen, it can be heard - for the next seven days, only - here about two hours into the show, immediately after The Four Seasons! Obviously, if you're still unspoilerised then, I'd probably give it a miss!

Meanwhile, Michael Emerson has confirmed rumours that there will be extra Lost footage included in the forthcoming complete DVD box-set. The actor told Kevin Pereira on Attack of the Show! that the new scenes will focus on Hurley (Jorge Garcia). Emerson said: 'For those people that want to pony up and buy the complete Lost series, there is a bonus feature. Which you could call it an epilogue. A lost scene. It's a lot - it's twelve or fourteen minutes that opens a window onto that gap of unknown time between Hurley becoming number one and the end of the series. It's self-contained,' he said. 'Although it's a period in the show's mythology that's never been explored.'

And, Shawn Ryan has praised the end of Lost. Ryan, who created The Shield, was previously congratulated on the way that his show ended. He has now claimed that the producers of Lost should be 'very, very happy' with the end of their series. 'I have a feeling that [executive producers] Carlton [Cuse] and Damon [Lindelof] were ultimately pleased with what they did,' Ryan told Fancast. 'And that's the important thing.' Ryan advised the duo not to listen to fans' criticism of the finale, saying: 'You really and truly cannot please everyone. A lot of critics really liked the Shield finale, but I also read plenty of people online who wanted something different, or something more. [Online critiques] tend to offer extreme points of view that do a lot of shouting and don't necessarily represent the vast majority. Hopefully [Cuse and Lindelof] aren't spending all of their days reading them, good or bad.' Ryan added that people will view the episode differently as time passes. 'As finales go, time changes perspective,' he said. 'So just because [the Lost finale] might be polarising now, it doesn't mean that a year from now the majority might fall to one side or the other.'

Doctor Who is to move to a later timeslot for its ninth and tenth episodes. Cold Blood will be screened at 7pm on 26 May, while the Doctor and Amy's encounter with famed artist Vincent van Gogh in Vincent and the Doctor will air at 6.40pm on 5 June ending at half-past-seven just before Britain's Got Talent begins.

Channel 4's BAFTA-winning sitcom The IT Crowd is to get a fifth series, its creator and director Graham Linehan announced last night. Speaking at preview screening of the show's fourth season – which will be broadcast this summer – Linehan said that a fifth series had already been commissioned. Linehan, who also wrote Father Ted with Arthur Mathews and Black Books with Dylan Moran, said that after four seasons of writing The IT Crowd alone, he intended to put together a team of writers to work on the fifth series. Cast members Katherine Parkinson and Richard Ayoade described Linehan's directing style as 'chaotic, but brilliant.' Linehan himself described rewriting a major plotline in one episode only days before it was recorded.

Veteran presenter and producer Roger Bolton has called on the BBC to appoint a religion editor for news as part of measures to address the corporation's 'secular and sceptical' attitude towards faith issues. Introducing the annual Sandford St Martin Trust Awards, which recognise excellence in religious broadcasting, Bolton noted that entries had almost halved from forty three just five years ago – with no submissions from ITV, Five or Sky. Their absence could, he said, be explained by a 'lack of imagination' among commissioners as by a softening of public service regulation. But Bolton, who fronts BBC Radio 4 right to reply show Feedback, reserved most of his criticisms for the BBC. He said BBC TV commissioners 'view religious coverage as a rather tiresome obligation to be minimised rather than a rich and promising area to explore.'

The BBC has ordered more on-location shoots in the North, in a bid to 'showcase' the region to the rest of the world and drive up local satisfaction with the corporation. Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, used a Royal Television Society lecture this week, to spell out how he wants shows like Tracey Beaker Returns to be as closely associated with specific northern locations as Doctor Who is with Cardiff. 'Traditional methods of employing actors with all-purpose northern accents in programmes made and set in the south, or in a TV "no place" are just not good enough,' he will say. 'People love seeing their own home town or region on TV too, they want the BBC to provide a credible voice and iconic locations that separate the authentic from the fake. We need to be better at representing people's lives on screen, so our new base in Salford will be a filter, not a fortress, ensuring the benefits flow to places like Leeds, Liverpool, Bradford, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Hull and York.' Tracey Beaker is already based in Newcastle but the new series will feature The Angel of the North and 'other iconic landmarks' to give the show a stronger geographical identity. One episode will be set on an adventure holiday course in Northumberland. Other productions being filmed in the region include George Gently, which will be shot in Durham, and Deep North, a BBC4 documentary fronted by poet Michael Smith which will explore the North East's Baltic and Viking heritage.

Paul Weller was reunited with his former Jam partner Bruce Foxton for the first time since 1982 on Tuesday, as the two performed together in London. Weller, two days into his five-night residency at The Royal Albert Hall, called the reunion 'history in the making' as he welcomed his old band-mate to the stage. The duo – augmented by Weller's backing band – kicked off their three-song reunion with a vitriolic version of 'Fast Car/Slow Traffic'. The recorded version on Weller's latest CD, Wake Up The Nation, also features Foxton on bass. 'It's been a while hasn't it?" said Foxton afterwards. 'Twenty-eight years. Thank you for the wonderful reception!' Foxton then remained onstage for versions of the Jam classics 'The Eton Rifles' and 'The Butterfly Collector', before exiting to a huge ovation from the audience and a hug from Weller. Weller played a greatest hits set to the sell-out crowd, including songs from Wake Up The Nation alongside older material, including 'Start!', 'The Changingman' and 'Strange Town.' The singer – who was celebrating his fifty second birthday yesterday – responded jokily when the crowd sang him 'Happy Birthday', saying, 'The only thing I want right now is a cigarette.'

Sky is reportedly close to agreeing a long-rumoured deal to purchase Virgin Media's television channel portfolio. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the satellite broadcaster is nearing the conclusion of protracted negotiations to buy Virgin Media TV's channel business, which includes Virgin1, Bravo and Living. The deal, which is thought to be worth up to one hundred and sixty million pounds, could be finalised as early as next week. 'We are absolutely steaming ahead, and it should be done, if not by the end of this week, then next week,' said a source close to the negotiations. As part of the deal, Virgin Media is expected to gain a long-term carriage agreement to keep offering the Virgin Media TV channels on its cable TV platform. However, the company could also get preferential access to Sky's high definition premium sport and movie channels as part of friendlier relations between the two firms. Sky's acquisition of Virgin, which would most likely be rebranded after the change of ownership, would also bring the company a valuable slot on Freeview. It may look to use the channel slot as part of the long-planned launch of its Picnic service on digital terrestrial television, which was given the provisional greenlight as part of Ofcom's pay-TV review.

Sarah Ferguson has said that she would like to compete on Dancing With The Stars. Or, indeed, any other television show in the world that will pay her to maintain her hugely expensive, overly pampered and indulged lifestyle.

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