Monday, May 10, 2010

A Little More Constipation, A Little Less Action

Jason Manford is to star in a new prime-time panel show alongside Peter Andre and Bradley Walsh. The comic will head one team of celebrities in the ITV show Odd One In, with Jordan's former husband captaining the other. According to the broadcaster's publicity material, the teams will be 'bombarded' with a barrage of 'hilarious and unusual' line-ups, each containing a person with a special skill, odd job, or an astonishing secret. The celebrities have to guess which. Eight forty five-minute shows are being recorded in front of a studio audience, who get to play along on electronic keypads, later this month. Loose Women panellist Lisa Maxwell and ONE Show reporter Angelica Bell are the guests on the first programme. Although a long-standing team captain on Channel 4's 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Manford's last stint as a panel-show captain was opposite Fern Britton on BBC1's short-lived and disastrous Saturday-night quiz As Seen on TV. I have to say, yer Keith Telly Topping really does like Jason Manford as a comic - and he's a mate of a mate as well so I always feel as though I should support his TV work. But, it must be noted, he's accepted some thoroughly rotten television formats for himself over the years. And, this sounds like the latest.

Two of EastEnders' youngest characters will be written out of the soap later this year, it has been confirmed. Charlie Jones and Madeline Duggan - who have played Ben Mitchell and Lauren Branning for the last four years - will leave the Albert Square serial in the coming months as part of the soap's 'ongoing revamp' under new executive producer Bryan Kirkwood. According to the Daily Star Sunday, thirteen-year-old Jones had to be 'consoled' by his chaperone after hearing the news that his four years with the soap would be coming to an end. He has yet to film his final scenes, but his exit will allegedly have nothing to do with Barbara Windsor's departure in the autumn. It has been suggested that the character's final story will revolve around the climax of his hate campaign against Louise - or, perhaps, tie-in with Lucy Benjamin's whistle stop return as Louise's mother Lisa Fowler. Meanwhile, Duggan - who has been notably absent from the show since her screen-mother Jo Joyner left on maternity leave - has already filmed her final scenes. On Thursday, she was spotted filming on location with Joyner, who reprised her role as mother-of-two Tanya for a single episode. She is due to return to work full-time in the coming months, having given birth to twins. An EastEnders source told the newspaper: 'Charlie and Maddy are two very popular youngsters. So there were a lot of sad faces when everyone heard they were both leaving. They've both had their fair share of dramatic storylines and will be greatly missed. Ben's exit will be one of the biggest storylines of the summer. It's going to very dramatic and will have repercussions for months to come. Fans are in for a real treat with this one. Maddy has already filmed her exit. She was pretty emotional as she's very close to Jo, who plays her mum on the show.' They added: 'But she's had a great time working on 'Enders and has everything going for her.' An show spokesperson confirmed: 'Charlie and Madeline will be leaving EastEnders later this year. They have been a pleasure to work with and we wish them all the best for the future.' Before the end of the year, EastEnders is due to lose at least ten familiar faces, including Lacey Turner (Stacey Slater), Tiana Benjamin (Chelsea Fox), Gillian Wright (Jean Slater), Cliff Parisi (Minty Peterson) and Derek Martin (Charlie Slater). Since taking the helm, however, Kirkwood has orchestrated the returns of favourites Kat and Alife Moon as well as signing former Footballers' Wives actress Zoe Lucker.

Meanwhile, EastEnders bosses have reportedly cast a daughter for feisty Albert Square newcomer Vanessa Gold. Actress Kylie Babbington joins the soap as Jodie Gold around the same time as her mother played, as previously reported, by Zoe Lucker. Jodie first appears in the fictional London district in search of her mum and her arrival doesn't go unnoticed by Darren Miller, who takes an immediate shine to her. With a big heart, 'an infectious smile and a personality to match,' Darren falls head-over-heels in love and quickly begins wooing her with the Miller charm. That's gonna be funny.

EastEnders came out on top at the British Soap Awards over the weekend, scooping ten awards to Coronation Street's three. Its haul included best soap, best actor for Scott Maslen, who plays Jack Branning, and best actress for Lacey Turner. Coronation Street's Betty Driver, who plays barmaid Betty Williams, won the lifetime achievement award. BBC1's Doctors won twice while Channel 4's Hollyoaks and ITV's Emmerdale picked up a solitary award each. Accepting the best soap prize for EastEnders from Paul O'Grady, Adam Woodyatt said: 'I haven't prepared a speech because Babs Windsor was supposed to have been up here tonight and, unfortunately, she's not feeling well, she's at home. So Babs, I hope you're feeling better and you're back at work next week.' Picking up his best actor prize, Maslen, who also won the 'sexiest male' category, said: 'This ain't taken too seriously. It's nice. It's another doorstop.' His colleague Turner also won best dramatic performance at the ceremony at ITV Studios on London's Southbank. Other EastEnders wins included best exit for Charlie Clements - who played Turner's on-screen husband Bradley - for his death in the soap's live episode. The 19 February programme, which marked the soap's Twenty Fifth anniversary, also won best single episode. Larry Lamb won villain of the year, for Archie Mitchell, while the mystery over the character's death won best storyline. Marc Elliott, who plays Syed Masood, was named best newcomer. Driver, who could not pick up her award in person because of illness, said in a recorded message she was 'so excited I don't know what to say. I'm not very good at making speeches but I want to say thank you to everyone, especially ITV, the soap awards and the lovely Granada where I've worked for over forty years.'

BBC2 is piloting a chat show 'with a difference' in which celebrities are interviewed in a mock-village hall by residents played by comedians annoyingly smug git Adam Buxton, the great Joanna Neary and Al Kerr. The thirty-minute pilot, Same Time Next Week, has been developed out of a live show staged by Neary and is being made by comedy independent Feelgood Fiction. The comics will play villagers who grill the celebrities on local issues in a format that will also feature video diaries, reviews, letters and songs. Executive producer Laurence Bowen is scouring real-life villages for some pre-recorded inserts ahead of a non-broadcast pilot episode, to be recorded before a studio audience on 19 May. Former BBC Westminster correspondent John Sergeant and Gavin & Stacey actress Joanna Page are lined up for the pilot. Michael Cumming, whose credits include Brass Eye and The Omid Djalili Show, is directing. Sounds good. Apart from the fact that Buxton's in it.

Christine Bleakley has allegedly been handed a two million pound pay deal by BBC bosses. The salary increase comes after her ONE Show co-presenter Adrian Chiles defected to ITV. The Daily Star Sunday reports that the two-year deal represents a one thousand per cent pay rise for the Belfast-born anchor. A source close to Bleakley said that nothing has been signed, but added the offer was seen as 'extremely tempting and very generous.' A BBC insider said the loss of Bleakley would be a 'serious blow' to the corporation. 'Losing Adrian was bad enough because of the chemistry he had with her. It really is a shame that the pair will not be working with each other any more,' the source said. 'But Christine is a star in her own right and everyone is hoping this offer will keep her at the BBC. She is a major asset.' The papers goes on to claim that 'sports presenter Chris Hollins and Top Gear's Richard Hammond are believed to be in the running to partner the presenter on The ONE Show,' though former This Morning presenter Richard Madeley, has thrown his hat into the ring and claimed that he was 'approached for the role but would not consider taking it on on a full time basis.'

The BBC's decision to start Doctor Who half-an-hour earlier at six o'clock this week to make room from the double-eviction Over The Rainbow 'event' was partially vindicated by the talent show getting its highest Saturday ratings of the series, 5.7m (5.5 on BBC1, 0.2 on BBC HD), more than half-a-million viewers up on last week's episode. The knock-on effect also helped the new series of Dale Winton's National Lottery: In It To Win It, which followed with just over four million. Doctor Who itself, despite getting its joint worst overnights of the series so far - a combined audience of 6.2m on BBC1 and BBC HD - was still, comfortably, the BBC's highest watched show of the day. Meanwhile it just gets worse for The Prisoner, which continued its staggering ratings decline shedding another one hundred and fifty thousand viewers. The fourth episode of the revived 1960s drama had just 1.41m in the 9pm hour on ITV, placing the channel last among the terrestrials and behind even its digital sister station ITV2. There, Britain's Got More Talent was watched by 1.79m and a further two hundred and fifty thousand viewers on + 1 timeshift. Casualty was BBC1's other major hit of the day, with 5.62m, whilst an extended edition of Have I Got News For You brought in 2.41m for BBC2, and on Channel 4, a screening of Jason Statham's Transporter 2 averaged 1.95m. A new episode of CSI: NY delivered 1.86m on Five. Elsewhere, Channel 4's repeats of Blitz Street and SAS: The Real Story interested eight hundred and fifty four thousand and seven hundred and twenty thousand viewers from 7pm. Five's NCIS double-bill took eight hundred and forty thousand and nine hundred and nine thousand from 7.10pm. BBC2's VE Day-themed repeats of Dad's Army, Timewatch and an excellent and touching Nation on Film had audiences of 1.59m, 1.37m and 1.2m. Overall, BBC1 averaged 22.1 per cent for first place in prime time, two points ahead of ITV. BBC2 was third with 7.1 per cent, followed by Channel 4 and Five both with five and a half per cent.

The Sun claims that Del Boy is on his way back to TV as the BBC is to commission a series of its Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock & Chips. Inbetweeners star James Buckley, who played Derek Trotter in last year's one-off comedy drama, will again take the role. Buckley said that writer John Sullivan had approached him about the series. He said: 'I got a text from him and he said he was in the middle of writing six hour-long episodes.'

The BBC has been criticised for its election night 'boat party' which, it is claimed, cost over thirty thousand pounds. During the corporation's election night coverage, cut-away sequences from the boat saw This Week host Andrew Neil speak to celebrities including Bruce Forsyth (seen right arriving at the event and looking for al lthe world as though he's forgotten if he left the gas on at home), Joan Collins and Fern Britton about their perspective on events. The satirist Armando Iannucci wrote on Twitter from the event: 'On the barge. No power. You can't see us. We have no telly. It's the worst place in UK to be right now, apart from Brown’s trousers.' Meanwhile, some viewers complained on BBC message boards, with one commenting: 'I have absolutely no interest in hearing the views of drunken celebs. Typical BBC self-indulgence.' Responding to the criticism, a BBC spokesperson said: 'As part of our election night coverage, we produced live interviews and broadcasts throughout the night from a boat moored outside the London Eye, discussing the election results with views of the House [of Commons]. Andrew Neil was talking to politicians, commentators and well-known personalities and opinion-formers.' Bruce Forsyth, and 'opinion-former'? Can I have a second opinion here, please?

Author Stephen King has landed a role in one of his favourite TV dramas after letting producers know that he was a fan. The horror and thriller writer will make a special appearance in biker drama Sons of Anarchy later this year. According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, King will play a loner who comes to the aid of Katey Sagal's character Gemma.

NBC has confirmed that it has picked up the pilots Love Bites, Outsourced and The Event for the 2010-11 prime time season, says Access Hollywood. Ugly Betty's Becki Newton appears in Love Bites alongside Jordana Spiro. They play two single girls in a group of married friends in the sitcom, which is produced by Sex And The City's Cindy Chupack. Another comedy, Outsourced, stars Better Off Ted's Rizwan Manji and Todd Dempsy. This follows an all-American novelties company. Meanwhile The Event, described as 'a dramatic thriller,' features Jason Ritter as a man investigating the disappearance of his fiancé, portrayed by Sarah Roemer.

The creators of Mock The Week and Whose Line Is It Anyway? are working on a new improvised TV show. Hugh Dennis is hosting a pilot edition of Fast and Loose in London later this month to test how the format works – although the pilot will not be broadcast. It promises to have performers 'spoofing TV genres' and 'playing characters in a series of games suggested by the host and the studio audience,' which suggests that it owes more than a little to the internationally successful Whose Line? improvisation format.

There has been an angry reaction in Australia after television producers cast a Caucasian man in the role of a Chinese-Australian war hero. Billy Sing was a hero of the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, but a TV drama has him cast as a white man. The producers say they could not find a sixty-year-old Chinese actor to play Billy Sing's father, so both parts will be played by white actors. They have been accused of re-writing Australian history. Billy Sing was known as 'the Gallipoli assassin,' the son of a Chinese man and English woman, who became a hero of the Australian forces during World War I by killing more than two hundred enemy troops. The recipient of a Distinguished Conduct medal, his memory is cherished within the Chinese-Australian community. And that appears to be why there has been such an angry reaction to the decision of the producers of the television mini-series, The Legend of Billy Sing, to cast a white man in the lead. The director, Geoff Davis, actually picked his son, Josh, to play the role, and defended the decision by saying that he could not find a sixty-year-old Chinese actor good enough to play Billy's father. He therefore decided that both men should be Caucasian. But Chinese-Australians have complained that young people will now grow up thinking that Billy Sing was white and that is a betrayal of their heritage. The head of a Chinese-Australian youth association said that 'whiting out' Billy Sing was not only a gross historical misrepresentation but treading on the grave of a true Chinese-Australian hero.

Dorothy wannabe Jessica Robinson reportedly plans to find herself a job in Topshop after being kicked off Over The Rainbow. Bit of a comedown, one could suggest albeit, it has to be said, should get a job there, she's likely to find her new bosses far less demanding than Lloyd Webber. Jessica lost out in the sing-off on Sunday night to Danielle Hope. Now the eighteen-year-old is looking for a job at the High Street fashion store to pay her way through stage school.

The doctor who was with Elvis Presley when he died has reportedly claimed that his refusal to deal with chronic constipation caused his death. Presley, who died in 1977 from what was commonly believed to have been heart failure, suffered from the hereditary condition of bowel paralysis, reports FOX News. Dr Nick Nichopoulos ('Hi, Doctor Nick') claims that the singer - seen left, in his younger years but, even then, clearly bursting to let a Big One go - refused an operation which could have saved his life. 'We didn't realise until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad. We found stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months because of the poor mobility of the bowel,' he said. Nichopoulos, who has just released his book The King And Doctor Nick (no, really!) said Elvis could be alive today if he had undergone a colostomy.

More than two hundred viewers have attacked Channel 4’s comedy output for its reliance on 'sick' and 'puerile' humour and strong language - and the 'abhorrent' views of Frankie Boyle. Channel 4’s Comedy Gala, staged last month at the O2 Arena in aid of Great Ormond Street, came under fire from one hundred and eleven viewers, who questioned whether what one described as 'wall to wall "adult" and sick humour' was appropriate for the cause that it was supposed to be representing. The same week last month saw C4 bring the US tradition of Comedy Roasts to the UK with a series of programmes in which Chris Tarrant, Bruce Forsyth and Sharon Osbourne received a lashing from their peers and celebrity fans. But these too hit a nerve: Osbourne's episode drew fifty two complaints. 'Car-crash TV,' said one viewer, who objected not to the strong language or the choice of guest but to the format itself. 'I watched with increasing incredulity, then increasing anger, waiting for the non-existent humour,' they said. Forsyth's edition attracted thirty complaints, with Jonathan Ross' 'persistent' strong language a particular concern. Meanwhile, the broadcast of a live set from comic Mad Frankie Boyle received twenty seven complaints. One general principle. One viewer said that Frankie had a 'complete lack of compassion to serious major world events … He has done nothing but be offensive to everyone on the planet.' Well, not everyone, mate. Just Kerry Katona. And Stephen Hawking. And Rebecca Adlington. And the Queen. Yeah, all right, I can see where you're coming from. The complainant carried on: 'It has been abhorrent and although I was warned to be aware of his material, I had no idea how fowl he could be. I will be following up how disgusted I am.' Blimey. It's a Jihad. However, the broadcaster’s monthly round-up of the most divisive shows reveals strong support for the latest crop of one-off shows badged together under the Comedy Lab banner. Whimsical comedy Penelope: Princess of Pets, which starred Kristen Schaal, received eighteen messages of support, while sketch format Happy Finish had a further eight. The most praised show of April was How the Other Half Live, with twenty six supportive comments. A similarly uplifting series, Young, Autistic & Stagestruck, was second with twenty two. Other popular shows included Blitz Street and One Born Every Minute. Viewers have given short shrift to new daytime cookery show Iron Chef however: in its first week on air, it attracted forty complaints. 'Not to be rude, but it's pants,' one said. That's not rude, my friend, just very poor English.

Why, exactly is ITV currently branding itself as 'The Brighter Side'? Do they mean to imply that their programmes are more, inherently, cheerful than those on other channels? That can't be right, surely? Most of their shows have murders in them. Particularly the talent contests.

An American stand-up comedian has won her legal fight to joke about her family – after her mother-in-law sued her over the gags. Sunda Croonquist bases her material on being a half-black, half-Swedish woman who married into a Jewish family – but the in-laws apparently took offence and claimed that the jokes meant they were subject to public ridicule. US District Judge Mary Coop has now thrown the case out of court, saying the routine is protected under the First Amendment of the Constituion which guarantees the right to free speech and freedom of expression. Croonquist's sister-in-law Shelley Edelman, who was amongst the plaintiffs, complained to the court about an on-stage comment which compared her New Jersey accent to a cat in heat. But the judge ruled that the line was 'colourful, figurative rhetoric that reasonable minds would not take to be factual.' To add to the family tension, Croonquist's husband, Mark Zafrin, is a partner in the law firm that successfully represented the comic. The case was brought by Croonquist's mother-in-law, Ruth Zafrin, and brother and sister-in-law Neil and Shelley Edelman.

Russell Kane has been dropped from a TV show – over fears that his fast-moving performance 'could induce epilepsy.' The Essex stand-up comedian recorded a set for Russell Howard's Good News, which was due to be broadcast on BBC3 over the weekend, but producers cut the segment because he 'moved around too much.' Cameras panning to keep up with him caused a strobing effect on the background to the set, which is made up of giant TV displays. Kane, who last month caused controversy in Australia for joking about autistic children on similarly titled TV show Good News Week, told the Chortle website: 'It's funny, but a bit gutting too. I have been completely cut from tonight's Good News on BBC3 because I moved so quickly on the stage that I made the background behind me strobe. The recording failed the epilepsy safety test. I'm now so fast I can induce seizures,' he joked. Kane said he will now appear on the next series of the show, where he promised to be 'much less twitchy.'

Marco Pierre White's Kitchen Burnout is expected to be dumped at the end of its seven-week run, according to the Sun. The ITV show, which sees the chef lead celebrities as they attempt life in a professional kitchen, attracted fewer than two million viewers for its last episode. A source said: 'It's a shame but Burnout has done just that - it's burnt out. People just don't seem to like the show.' Bosses had hoped that White's show would play a key role in boosting Friday night viewing figures. Now, they are apparently considering bringing back the closure-threatened Popstar to Operastar. 'We thought that was bad but Marco's show has made us think differently. There is now a very real possibility that Popstar could be back,' the source said. See what you've been and gone and done now, Marco?!

Lady Gaga is facing the wrath of bosses at an underwear company after she allegedly failed to return four 'priceless' items of lingerie. The 'Poker Face' singer was reportedly sent seven undergarments from Rigby and Peller, which supplies underwear to the Queen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sophie Dahl. Though not, presuambly, the same pairs because that would be ridiculous. Gaga was reportedly loaned the exclusive items to wear in her next video, but company sources allege that only three of the briefs were returned. So, is Lady Gaga a knicker nicker? Executives at the company claim the panties were prototypes for their 2010 autumn/winter collection - due to be unveiled at a fashion show this week - and their loss could stall the production line. A spokesperson for the company told the Daily Express, 'Obviously we were delighted that Lady Gaga wanted to use our new pieces in her next video but we did stress we needed them back in plenty of time for our press show. They are handmade, unique designs, simply priceless and not available anywhere in the world so we are really disappointed not to get them back for our major showcase of the year.' A spokesperson for Gaga told the publication, 'We've nothing to say.' Except, seemingly, that they have nothing to say.' So that nothing is, very definitely, a something.

And finally, Annie Lennox says she doesn't like The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent. Neither does yer Keith Telly Topping. But then, he can't stand Annie Lennox either. With her whiny voice and her mortgage-sensible music bought by people who knit their own yoghurt. Swings and roundabouts, innit?

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