Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Hurting

Just in case you weren't watching the news at all yesterday, dear blog reader, Britain suffered from one of those - thankfully rare - spree-killing of the kind that are somewhat more commonplace in the US. A man in Cumbria, for reasons unknown at this time, shot and killed twelve people and injured a further eleven before turning his gun on himself. I'm sure that in the days and weeks ahead we'll hear plenty more about this tragedy. Answers will be urgently sought - some might even, hopefully, be obtained - as to why this man did something so apocalyptically catastrophic and, seemingly, random. There will, no doubt, be a further round of the usual debates such events often precipitate; about subjects as diverse as the availability of guns, the pressures of modern life and the effects of violence in film and television on viewers. And many other topics which tend to get argued over in the aftermath of tragedies by those searching easy answers or, slightly more sinisterly, by some who have an agenda to pursue. But that's all for another day. From The North's thought - for what they are worth - are, of course, with the families of the dead and injured. That's only right and proper for anyone with a heart beating in their chest. As an obvious knock-on effect of this, last night's episode of Coronation Street - part of the soap's carefully-planned week-long siege storyline - was postponed at the eleventh hour and replaced with an old episode of Harry Hill's TV Burp. No doubt to the considerable irk of some of Corrie's audience although, hopefully, to the understanding of the vast majority. I understand exactly why ITV took this decision and, broadly speaking, I fully support it. There is an occasional tendency for us all in the industry to view television as an island, cut off from everything else around it. It isn't, it sometimes has to reflect a wider world-view. I suspect that the main reason ITV took the decision was to save themselves from the grief that they would have received from various scum organs of the media had they not postponed Corrie. You can probably write your own 'Ban This Sick Filth'-type leaders yourself, in advance. And, again, I completely understand ITV's position. What I do have a small problem with is their stated 'official' line on the reasons for postponement. A spokesperson told the press: 'ITV has postponed tonight's episode of Coronation Street out of respect to those affected by today's tragedy. Coronation Street will be replaced by a compilation episode of TV Burp.' My italics. Now, I've - thankfully - never been in the horrible position of having a member of my family killed in anything even remotely like this, so I can't claim to speak from personal experience here. But, I have to say, I very much doubt that the doings of a soap opera were likely to be of any particular concern to anyone even vaguely connected to the horror of what happened in Whitehaven yesterday. Especially as, to take that train of thought to its logical extreme, the replacement of Corrie with an episode of Harry Hill seems to be saying - if we accept the 'this is for the families' rationale - 'we're showing something amusing instead so the families of the bereaved and injured can have a right good laugh.' If you're doing this because of the likely reaction from grieving relatives to watching TV in the aftermath of this tragedy, ITV, then can I suggest you go the whole hog and shut down the entire network for three or four days? I say all of the above as someone who was, genuinely, horrified and upset by the news of the tragedy in Cumbria, someone who is not a regular viewer of Coronation Street and doesn't really care whether it was on TV last night or not, someone who likes Harry Hill a great deal and someone who, as noted, broadly speaking, supports ITV's actions. I'd just like there to be a little bit of honesty involved. 'We don't think the families of the victims will be in the slightest bit interested in the storyline of tonight's episode of Corrie. We imagine they will have much more important things on their mind right now. We're doing this because if we didn't do it, we'd be torn to shreds by the tabloids.' I'd respect that and think others would too. Sometimes, we do the right thing for the wrong reasons and sometimes, we do the wrong thing for the right reasons. But, right and wrong are usually involved in there somewhere. Life's too short, much to short, to fight against the whims and caprices of fate. The beat goes on and we, however reluctantly, must go one with it. Dan Wooton, the showbusiness editor of the News of the World, suggested on Twitter last night that Corrie would resume tonight with the postponed episode - so, that 'respect for the families' thing from ITV lasted a whole twenty four hours and not a second longer, it would seem - and that the finale, scheduled for Friday, will now be shown on Saturday at 10pm. Not sure, exactly, where he's acquired that information from as ITV were still insisting this morning that 'We will continue to review the situation and will announce plans in due course.'

And, in another horrible example of life and art getting that bit too close for comfort, EastEnders producers are reported to have decided to refilm some parts of Lucas Johnson's story following the recent apparent murders of three sex workers in Bradford. During next week's episodes - which were, of course, planned several months ago - man of the cloth-gone-bad Lucas (Don Gilet) was to be seen visiting a local red light district and picking up a girl named Jade. From there, he would drive her to a remote location and force her to pray for God's forgiveness. After she attempts to run away, Lucas gives chase and creating a ligature with his tie - as he previously did when killing Owen - he would strangle the girl to death. However, following the CPS's decision to charge forty-year-old criminology student Stephen Griffiths with the murders of three women, EastEnders executives have agreed to drop any hint of a prostitute link from next week's episodes, again, 'out of respect for the families of those affected by recent events.' A spokesperson for the BBC soap told the Digital Spy website: 'EastEnders storylines are written many months in advance and any similarity to real-life events is coincidental.' Yes mate, I think even the biggest glake in the world would have realised that. They continued: 'However, on this occasion - to ensure we do not cause distress to the families involved in the recent tragic events in Bradford - we have decided to reshoot some parts of the storyline involving Lucas Johnson.' And, again, it's hard to argue with that.

The long-running BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine is to be cancelled after thirty seven years, the BBC has announced. About thirty years too later, as far as this blogger is concerned, but it is nice to see, finally, the BBC trying to drag its sitcoms out of the 1950s and, boldly, into the second half of the Twentieth Century. The series - which has followed the exploits of a variety of North country eccentrics of advancing years - made its TV debut in 1973. Over the years it has featured a host of famous faces including Eric Sykes, Dame Thora Hird and Bill Owen. Jay Hunt, the controller of BBC2, said the final series to be shown this summer will be 'a fitting farewell' to the well-loved characters. It will feature Peter Sallis as Norman Clegg alongside several other cast members including Russ Abbott as Hobbo and Brian Murphy, who plays Alvin. Every single episode of the sitcom has been written by Roy Clarke and produced and directed by Alan J W Bell. There had been speculation for many years that the show would be retired but it was continually recommissioned. BBC1 will celebrate the end of the series with special editions of Countryfile and Songs Of Praise. Both will come from Holmfirth, the village in Yorkshire where the series has been filmed since it began. Hunt added: 'I am delighted some of the channel's other heritage brands will be helping to say goodbye in style.'

Sanjeev Bhaskar has revealed that he will play a doctor in a new BBC drama. The Indian Doctor focuses on Bhaskar's character, Prem Patel, who moves to Wales in the 1960s. 'I'm just about to start filming on a five-part drama for the BBC where I play an Indian doctor who ends up in a small Welsh mining village in 1963,' Bhaskar told the Press Association. 'Part of the fun of this is his take on Britain and this little Welsh mining village in the sixties and their take on him, so it's kind of fun.'

An inquiry by the Al Jazeera news network into mass resignations following a row about the on-air appearance of female presenters has concluded that the channel was within its rights to 'set conditions' on clothing and looks. The investigation was launched after five female presenters quit the broadcaster in protest against 'repeated offensive public remarks' about 'clothes and decency' made by a channel official, believed to be deputy editor-in-chief Ayman Jaballah. Saudi newspaper Al Hayat said the inquiry found that Al Jazeera had the legal right to 'set conditions and criteria for its employees' physical aspects in line with the spirit, values and images it wants to disseminate.' The panel also dismissed a complaint against Jaballah, saying any comments made had been professional, not personal, and had not tarnished the reputation of any journalist involved. It recommended that future remarks on dress and make-up be made in writing rather than publicly aired.

EastEnders star Jo Joyner has been cast in a new BBC comedy series. The thirty two-year-old actress - who currently plays Tanya Branning in EastEnders - will feature in Candy Cabs, a three-part show produced by Splash Media. Joyner will join Lisa Millett in the lead, supported by Paul Nicholls, Denis Lawson and Ricky Whittle among others. 'We're delighted to be on board with the girls from Candy Cabs. The series has a wonderful cast, warm and witty writing and a sparkling seaside setting brimming with northern soul,' comedy commissioning editor Cheryl Taylor said. 'We look forward to three nights of emotional and dramatic fun with these lovely ladies. Our girls are mad, bad and addicted to lip gloss. Candy Cabs is about friendships, fun and finding yourself,' added writers Johanne McAndrew and Elliot Hope, whose credits include Holby City and Footballers' Wives.

Mariella Frostrup has said she regrets calling the team behind Radio 4's Today programme 'misogynists' - and said it was based on 'no factual evidence.' The presenter had been critical of the producers of the station's flagship morning news show in an interview for The Lady magazine. But in a letter to the BBC's in-house newspaper Ariel this week, she claimed she had been 'careless' with her choice of words and said Today editor Ceri Thomas and his colleagues were 'not demons.' In her letter, Frostrup - who presents Radio 4's Open Book - said: 'As a woman who deals primarily in words for a living, my choice of one in particular was careless when last week, in an interview, I described the producers of the Today programme as "misogynists." It was an inflammatory choice, based on no factual evidence and it did nothing to further necessary discussion about the absence of mature women in key broadcasting positions and as role models in public life generally.' During his Feedback interview in March, Thomas had said the gender mix on Today was 'not ideal.' Discussing why there were more women on the BBC News channel than Today, he said: 'Because I think those are slightly easier jobs. They are difficult jobs but the skillset that you need to work on the Today programme and the hide that you need, the thickness of that, is something else.'

Tim Roth has revealed details of the forthcoming Lie To Me episode that will reunite several cast members of The Shield. The actor told TV Guide that the episode - titled Pied Piper - will see his character, Cal Lightman, realising he may have sent the wrong person to jail in a child murder case. "We get called to an execution and the guy says he didn't do it, and he didn't do it," he said. 'The reason he is getting executed is because I was a witness. So he's sentenced to death based on my science and my testimony.' David Marciano - Steve Billings on The Shield - will play the accused man, while his former co-stars David Rees-Snell and Cathy Cahlin-Ryan will appear as the character's brother and ex-girlfriend respectively. The episode will also feature ex-Shield actors Kenny Johnson, Benito Martinez and Catherine Dent.

Actress Liz Vassey's contract has not been picked up for the next season of CSI. Ah, that's disappointing, I really liked her. According to Entertainment Weekly, Vassey, who plays DNA technician Wendy Simms, will not be part of the regular cast when the show returns for its eleventh season later this year. An insider said: 'The show is going in a different creative direction.' Vassey first appeared in a recurring role in the sixth season of CSI and was eventually promoted to a series regular for the recently completed tenth season. Several of Vassey's co-stars are also rumoured to be in the process of negotiating new contracts.

BBC4 has ordered a sixty-minute documentary from Bigger Pictures exploring the formative years of Formula 1. BBC4 controller Richard Klein ordered the as-yet-untitled film, which will be produced by the BBC's Sam Anthony and Bigger Pictures' managing director John Matthews.

A Christian advocacy group, Citizens Against Religious Bigotry, is reportedly 'furious' at Comedy Central's plans to air a new sitcom featuring Jesus living as an ordinary young man in New York. The in-development JC will also portray God as an apathetic video game fan who is uninterested in his son's life. According to FOX News, the voice of Satan, CARB will be holding a press conference today to 'denounce' the show 'as they believe Comedy Central openly mocks and disparages God and Christianity.' No, actually, I think they're actually mocking and disparaging New Yorkers and video game fans. And, uptight people with nothing better to do with their time than complain about a TV show that hasn't even been made yet. I'm just guessing here, you understand. As, indeed, are the CARB it would seem. The organisation also plans to boycott companies who advertise throughout the programme. Media Research Center president Brent Bozell said: 'Why should they be supporting a business that makes a habit of attacking Christianity and yet has a formal policy to censor anything considered offensive to followers of Islam? This double standard is pure bigotry. One from which advertisers should quickly shy away.' Let he that is without sin cast the first stone - a very wise individual once said that. What a pity so few of those who claim to act in his name seem to remember that bit of advice.Ofcom has confirmed that it is reviewing complaints about the swallowing act of Stevie Starr on Monday night's Britain's Got Talent. After transmission, the media regulator received 'a handful' of complaints about Starr's act, which features him swallowing a range of objects, such as lightbulbs and mobile phones. Most complainants felt that the act would encourage younger viewers to engage in dangerous behaviour. Oh God. The shit some people chose to care about ... Speaking to BBC News, an Ofcom spokesman said that the watchdog will review the complaints to see if it needs to launch a full investigation. In the semi-final programme, Starr - who is also known as The Regurgitator - was shown swallowing the engagement ring of Big Top's Amanda Holden, among other objects. Before the act was aired, ITV warned viewers not to replicate the stunts at home. But, of course, someone somewhere will. Because, as we all know, some people are just bloody stupid. Starr also failed to win a place at the show's final this weekend.

Jeff Brazier's new television show has reportedly been dropped. The parenting programme, Superdaddy, followed Brazier as he looked after his sons Bobby and Freddie following the death of their mother, Jade Goody. The show also saw Brazier advise couples who were facing problems in their relationships on how to deal with their children. However, the Sun claims that Living decided not to broadcast the series after the pilot aired in April. When asked if there would be more episodes of the show, Brazier reportedly said: 'Sadly not. Living decided against it.' Tragedy.

Virgin Media On Demand has revealed an alternative World Cup line-up fronted by Peter Crouch's fiancée Abbey Clancy, targeting those who - the company believes - find football a turn off. Abbey Clancy's Girls Night In will feature a selection of the Liverpudlian model's favourite programmes designed to appeal to members of the public who are uninterested in the football tournament in South Africa. So, yet again, by the very nature of the title, we have the sickeningly sexist assertion that the only people who don't like football are women. And that women, by and large, don't like football. QED. From personal experience I can tell the makers of, what I'm sure will be, a badly presented fiasco, that I know as many women who are passionate about the game as I know men who aren't. People are more complex than you give them credit for, Virgin. American series including Gossip Girl and The Hills feature heavily on the female-orientated schedule, along with ITV2 drama Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Gordon Ramsay's The F-Word will also be available on demand.

Reggie Yates has reportedly signed up to host a new show about celebrities who live with their parents. Among the participants on the ITV2 series are X Factor contestants Jedward, the Daily Star reports. Blimey, that's a bit of a comedown for them two, isn't it? Yates will allegedly set the stars 'challenges' to 'encourage them' to move into their own home. 'Fans will be shocked to discover that their favourite celebrities are not all living the lifestyle of the rich and famous,' a source said. 'Many are still taking the easy way out, living at home under the wings of their mum and dad. Reggie will throw the spotlight on the stars out there who have got so used to their creature comforts that they are too scared to go out and get a pad of their own.'

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