Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Ghost of Electricity Howls

The first World Cup semi-final was watched by nearly eight million viewers on Tuesday night, according to overnight viewing figures. Coverage of the Netherlands' tight and exciting 3-2 victory over Uruguay averaged 7.92m for ITV between 7pm and 9.45pm. A further six hundred and forty thousand watched the game on ITV HD. The audience reached a peak of 11.45m around 9pm, the biggest non-England viewing figure of the 2010 World Cup. ITV struggled through the coverage with just one commentator - the world's biggest Manchester United supporter Clive Tyldesley - after summariser Jim Beglin fell ill shortly before the game. Mercifully, as the BBC have the rights to show all of the remaining games of the tournament that's the last time anybody will be forced to watch ITV's quite pitiful coverage. There was a note of truly desperate pleading in Adrian Chiles' voice last night as he expressed the hope that viewers would 'enjoy the final on ITV.' Thanks, Adie, but no thanks. I'll stick to a broadcaster who has enough common sense not to employ Andy Townsend, if you don't mind.

David Mitchell has insisted that sketch shows are not dead. Merely resting. Speaking to TV & Satellite Week, the comedian admitted that he doesn't know why people think the format is no longer suitable. 'It baffles me that people say the sketch show is going to be dead as a format,' he said. 'What they mean is, "I saw a bad sketch show recently."' Mitchell added that the sketch show format is a good way to broadcast comedy on television. 'The sketch show is a very natural way to do comedy,' he explained. 'No-one ever says the sitcom's finished. The sketch show and the sitcom are the two obvious ways to present comedy and they will continue in pretty much the basic form they're in forever.'

Jeremy Clarkson has been criticised after making a comment about not wishing to be 'bummed' on Top Gear. The remark was cut - part of Clarkson's interview with guest Alistair Campbell - from the programme but Campbell grassed it up like a school sneak on his blog. 'I cannot remember how the subject of homosexuality came up, but I said at one point that [Jeremy] wasn't very sound on gay rights,' Campbell explained. '"Oh yes I am," he said, adding, to more laughter from the largely adoring (of him) crowd, "I demand the right not to be bummed."' Gay rights groups have criticised Clarkson for the comment, with Stonewall's Ben Summerskill telling the Daily Star - always one of the most tolerant organs of the media towards gay rights, of course: 'Surely the reason Jeremy Clarkson doesn't want to get bummed is that he needs somewhere to speak out of.' So, is it Stonewall's position that anyone who doesn't want to be bummed should be forced to be? Because, to be honest, I think that's taking the wholly noble cause of gay rights - which I fully support - to an extreme that I, personally, am somewhat uncomfortable with. Meanwhile, Peter Tatchell said: 'This isn't what we expect from a presenter on the BBC funded by the licence-payer.' No, but it's exactly what you'd expect from the exaggerated 'character' that Jeremy Clarkson 'plays' on Top Gear. A spokesperson for the BBC said that the remark was cut from the broadcast because the interview had to be edited down from twenty five minutes to nine. Campbell - who appeared in the 'Star In A Reasonably Priced Car' segment - was introduced by Clarkson as a man 'who spent most of his adult life working with penises.' A defiant Campbell discussed politics with Clarkson, insisting that Prime Minister David Cameron had not won the recent election. 'He didn't really, he's the Prime Minister but he needs little Cleggo,' he said. The Labour party member also revealed that he had asked his followers on Twitter for advice on how to deal with Clarkson during the interview. Campbell completed the Top Gear track in a very impressive one minute forty seven seconds, becoming the second fastest driver in the new reasonably priced car, behind Dragons' Den entrepreneur Peter Jones.

Eddie Izzard has revealed that he struggles to find suitable dresses for his drag performances. The action transvestite comedian, who often cross-dresses for his shows, said that he hates shopping for the clothing, but sees it as an important part of his act. 'I'm straight, so clothes are not my second nature,' he told the New York Post. 'If I was tall and skinny, it would be easy to throw on a dress. Instead, I have to shop around.' He continued: 'I finished my last tour in Canada in girly mode, and I'm just back in boy mode now. I consider it a superhero thing. It involves wearing a dress, wearing makeup - and fighting people who have a problem with it.'

Coronation Street will stage its biggest stunt ever to celebrate the show's fiftieth birthday. 'Much-loved characters' will be killed off as the street's viaduct collapses, sending a tram crashing on to the cobbles. The ITV soap's official website confirmed that a special week of episodes will be shown leading up to the anniversary on 9 December. Producers are desperate to keep details under wraps and have issued alternative scripts. 'Not even our cast and crew know which residents will die and the drama will continue into 2011 as the people of Weatherfield come to terms with the tragedy and the dramatic twists and turns that follow,' the site confirmed. Corrie producer Phil Collinson said: 'As we celebrate the show reaching such an incredible milestone it feels fitting that we will be screening an event of this magnitude which will affect the lives of all the residents of Coronation Street. We'll be using all the wonders of modern television production to bring you a disaster that will rock the lives of everyone in Weatherfield. At the heart of the drama, though, will be ordinary people on an ordinary street battling adversity - the template for the programme created by Tony Warren fifty years ago.' In a webchat, Collinson refused to confirm the fate of any of the Street's residents. 'I'm not going to answer that as everybody's future in uncertain!' he replied to a viewer question. 'We're in the very early stages of planning, but we'll be using all the wonders of modern technology to bring you something spectacular.'

Stephen Colbert hosted The Colbert Report whilst ill last night, wearing a robe and wrapped in a blanket. The comedian sat in a comfy chair while wearing a pair of slippers on the Comedy Central show. 'Nation, I am sick,' he admitted, 'I am not kidding. I have a fever, and there is nothing left in my stomach.' Colbert joked that the blanket he had used to warm himself had belong to his nana. 'I gotta say she put up quite a fight when I took it,' he quipped.

Female staff at The Daily Show have denied reports that there is sexism on set. The employees were responding to a recent article on the website Jezebel, which suggested that the show is a challenging working environment for women and that men are more likely to succeed. However, women at the show have now posted a letter to 'people who don't work here' on the programme's official website. The letter reads: 'We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative. However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make one thing clear - the place you may have read about is not our office.' The employees continued: 'The Daily Show isn't a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary - just like the men here, we're indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show's creative content and the fact is, it wouldn't be the show that you love without us.' The women described host Jon Stewart as 'the opposite of sexist' and praised the 'flexibility' of their working lives. They added that the claims of sexism are 'not fair' and said: 'The truth is, when it comes down to it, The Daily Show isn't a boys' club or girls' club, it's a family - a highly functioning if sometimes dysfunctional family.' The employees concluded their letter by joking: 'PS Thanks to the male writers who penned this for us.' The author of the original Jezebel post responded: 'I just wish the show had agreed to answer questions or make anyone available to talk when I approached them for comment before the piece was published.'

Duncan Bannatyne will appear in a new reality TV show which sees ten homeless people competing for one job, according to sources. Under the wonderfully provocative title Bannatyne 'to front tramp reality show', the Digital Spy website reports that the Dragons' Den tycoon will set tasks for the contestants in his twelve million pounds luxury spa hotel in Hastings, with the winner receiving a job from the entrepreneur. They, apparently, got this from the Sun. They're good with titles, Digital Spy. A few days ago they gave us David Essex hails Al Jazeera, quite possibly the greatest byline in the history of journalism? Anyway, Bannatyne's show, called Homeless Hotel, aims to give people on the streets the chance to regain their self-respect by getting into work. A source said: 'Reality shows have tackled everything under the sun but no one has thought of doing something like this. Some people might think the concept is exploitation but it's no different to any other similar show.' Err... beg to differ with you, bro. 'The only difference here is that the people taking part have nowhere to live. We're not going to be scooping tramps off the street and laughing at them trying to adjust. It's a serious programme where the contestants will all be people who have got themselves into an unfortunate situation and are desperate to work their way out of it.' Homeless charity Shelter is believed to be supporting the show, which will be filmed later this year.

BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan has defended the corporation's daytime schedule after criticism from the BBC Trust. Keelan said that daytime has gone through a 'pretty significant shift' in recent years and so it was 'interesting' to read the Trust's calls for improvement. On Monday, the BBC's governing body called on the corporation to move away from daytime programmes that viewers perceive to 'lack quality and originality.' Particular criticism was levelled at the amount of property and collectibles shows in the schedule. The Trust said that the overall ambition of daytime on BBC1 and BBC2 is not meeting audience expectations, and BBC management must now explore options for improving the quality and distinctiveness of output within current funding levels. Writing on the BBC TV Blog, Keelan said that the decision to stop airing long-running Australian soap Neighbours in February 2008 felt like a 'major loss to the schedule.' However, he said that the move worked to free up space and, more importantly, money to invest in the daytime schedule to make it feel 'much more distinctive than our rivals.' Keelan said that BBC Daytime has since increased its amount of current and consumer affairs programmes by one hundred and forty per cent - a rise from around eighty hours to nearly two hundred hours projected for 2010 - including new shows Rip Off Britain and The Estate We're In. He said that the BBC has also focused on bringing on more UK-originated drama, including additional episodes of the long-running Doctors. Daytime has further commissioned more 'event' dramas, such as the Pauline Quirke-vehicle Missing, along with Land Girls and Moving On. Keelan highlighted that certain property programmes have been decommissioned, such as The Unsellables, while daytime factual shows, Fake Britain, Real Rescues and Dom's On The Case: NHS, have recently been promoted to prime time. 'The Trust rightly gives us credit for the range of programmes in daytime: we launched more than fifty different shows last year compared with fewer than ten on each of our commercial rivals,' said Keelan. 'A large influx of new programmes, such as those mentioned above, does of course mean we have to lose others from the schedule to make space. 'The Trust has also acknowledged that daytime has already started the process of changing its mix of programmes - the challenge remains to continue to provide the broadest range of programming of any broadcaster. Despite challenging budgets - a daytime series budget is roughly a quarter of a peak time series - the aim in daytime will always be to produce the highest quality programming other broadcasters wouldn't go near.' In the autumn, daytime will air Sanjeev Bhaskar's new drama The Indian Doctor. It will also soon start broadcasting the next series of Moving On. Brookside writer Jimmy McGovern, who is executive producer on Moving On, said: 'This series just wouldn't have been possible without BBC Daytime's commitment to commissioning drama that takes risks. Drama with something to say. Drama that is inexpensive. Drama that is excellent value for money.'

Philip Glenister has admitted that his Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes character Gene Hunt might define him. According to the Sun, Glenister joked that he will probably end up appearing as Gene a lot more in the future. 'If anything, I think I'll end up playing the Gene Genie in panto,' he said. 'I'll be coming on and announcing to the three front rows of cubs and school kids, "If you don't shut it, I'll come round your houses and stamp on all your toys. Got it?" Ten grand? Thank you and good night.' However, Glenister added that he doesn't mind being known for playing Gene. 'If it defines me, this part, then so be it,' he said. 'It's up to me and it's up to, hopefully, some good scripts out there, but we'll have to see.'

ITV has confirmed that Jonathan Ross will host a new chat show on the network from next year. The presenter's final edition of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, featuring David Beckham among the guests, will air on BBC1 on 16 July. Media Gruniad Morning Star confirms that Ross has signed a deal to produce a 'brand new show for ITV.' The eighteen-episode series is expected to air on a Friday or Saturday night following X Factor from late 2011, effectively replacing Life Stories which will, no doubt, go down brilliantly with Piers Morgan. In a statement, Ross said: 'I am thrilled and excited that after a short break I will be rolling up my sleeves and creating a brand new show for ITV. I have worked successfully with most of the key figures at the network in the past and cannot wait to get back on screen with a fast, funny, and unpredictable new talk show.' Now, what's the betting that if anything even slightly controversial happens on his show, the Daily Scum Mail won't be even remotely interested. He's not BBC now, and, therefore, doesn't fit into their narrow-minded scum agenda.

Meanwhile, Al Murray is reportedly also developing a new pilot for ITV. Haven't people suffered enough already, Al?

The number of celebrity contestants competing on Strictly Come Dancing will reportedly be cut from sixteen to fourteen for the next series. According to the Sun, the show will now last just twelve weeks, rather than the usual fourteen, with the BBC apparently hoping the change will help hold viewer interest. The newspaper also reports that 'no-one has yet signed up for the show,' with host Bruce Forsyth and the usual line-up of professional dancers still waiting on new contracts. The programme's stars allegedly 'fear their wages will be slashed in light of the reduced run.' The BBC's plans to form a troupe consisting of professional dancers axed from the main contest is also said to be in jeopardy, with Ian Waite, Matthew Cutler, Lilia Kopylova, Darren Bennett and Brian Fortuna all reportedly refusing to perform.

Former Lost actor Henry Ian Cusick is to appear in a multi-episode arc on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. TV Guide reports that the actor - who played Desmond Hume on the ABC show - will appear in at least two episodes of the upcoming twelfth season as graphic artist Erik Weber. Producer Neal Baer admitted that he was a fan of Lost and called Cusick 'a sharp, smart leader and very charismatic.' He also revealed that the Weber character could become romantically involved with Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). 'There might be some flirtation,' he said. 'Erik meets Olivia when he comes to someone's aid. And then we'll see how it goes. Olivia is devoted to her job and knows that comes first.'

Bugatti's Veyron has reclaimed the title of world's fastest supercar. A new version of the vehicle, called the Super Sport, hit two hundred and sixty eight mph at Volkswagen's test track in Ehra-Leissien. The Veyron's previous record of two hundred and fifty three mph was broken in 2007 by the American SSC Ultimate Aero which reached two hundred and fifty six mph. Bugatti test driver Pierre Henri Raphanel piloted the Super Sport over two runs, averaging two hundfed and sixty eight mph. The new top speed was reached after Bugatti uprated the specifications of its flagship sportscar. However, its four turbochargers have been upgraded and larger intercoolers added. Bugatti has also redesigned the car's bodywork, with an all carbon fibre shell reducing weight. The standard Veyron's top speed was famously put to the test on the BBC's Top Gear. Presenter James May reached two hundred and fifty three mph on the Ehra-Leissien track. Afterwards he said the experience 'made my eyes water.' However, when driven on the programme's test track by their tame racing driver, The Stig, the Veyron only managed the tenth fastest lap of the track. Jeremy Clarkson speculated that the vehicle's relatively heavy weight may have caused it to put in a slower time than lighter supercars such as the Caparo T1 and Koenigsegg CCX.

Analogue television sets are no longer being sold at major retailers across the UK, ahead of the digital switchover in 2012. Digital UK, which is overseeing the move - including the radio switchover, said that no analogue TV sets were sold in the UK in May. Around five million homes have already made the transition, with twenty million due to follow. The coalition government has said it is 'completely committed' to the project. However senior government sources have told the BBC that a firm date for the switch is yet to be announced. In a statement, the Department for Culture Media and Sport said: 'We understand the concerns about digital switchover and are working closely with all stakeholders, looking in detail at all the issues including coverage and cost to the consumer, to consider how a transition from analogue to digital radio can best be delivered.' The process has already been completed in various parts of the country, including Wales and England's North West and is now under way in Scotland. Meanwhile, Digital UK said research has found that thirty one per cent of people aged over sixty five in areas where the switchover has been completed feel more 'tech-savvy.' Also, ninety per cent of respondents said they felt digital TV was as good, if not better, than analogue. Digital UK chief executive David Scott said: 'There is clear evidence that the benefits of digital TV are welcomed by the vast majority of those who have upgraded, most of whom have found it a straightforward process.'

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has been forced to censor his autobiography, according to the Daily Scum Mail. The paper's source claimed that the band's management have asked Richards to make the book less 'explosive.' Passages in the autobiography about Richards' relationship with singer Mick Jagger are purportedly due to cause a stir when the book is released in October. The 'insider' allegedly explained: 'Keith once said he was finding it difficult to remember things when he first sat down to start writing it. But his memory seems pretty good. It's going to be explosive when it comes out.'

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