Saturday, August 07, 2010

Week Thirty Three: If You Drive A Car, I'll Tax The Street. If You Try To Walk, I'll Tax Your Feet

The BBC reportedly received two hundred and five thousand pounds from the government's counter-terrorism budget to produce a special edition of Woman's Hour, it has emerged. According to figures obtained by a campaign group known as The Taxpayers' Alliance under a Freedom Of Information request, the corporation received the grant to produce an Afghan Woman's Hour series similar to Radio 4's long-running segment. The programme, which was broadcast weekly on the BBC's Pashto and Persian services, was given funding under the Foreign Office's Prevent initiative, reports the Daily Telegraph. Launched by the government in 2008, the campaign provided funding for anti-extremism projects run by international bodies and charities. The government allocated ten and a half million pounds worth of grants between 2008 and 2009 towards the aim of 'preventing violent extremism' around the world. Discussing the Afghan Woman's Hour programme, a BBC spokesman said: 'The series was educational and aimed at helping good governance in Afghanistan. Women were not empowered in society under the Taliban. It was hoped this series would help them become empowered after the war.' However, Conservative commons culture committee member Philip Davies - yes, him again - yesterday criticised the allocation of state funds to the licence fee funded BBC. 'This certainly wouldn't have been my first choice of how to spend two hundred thousand pounds of counter-terrorism funds,' Davies said. 'Given the pressure on police and security budgets I'd suggest it should have been spent on something more tangible.' Guns, perhaps? Just a guess. Taxpayers' Alliance research director, one Matthew Sinclair, called on the government to scrap the Prevent scheme entirely and instead focus on policing and intelligence. 'Taxpayers' money has been given to dubious projects and there is little accountability for this spend,' he said. I wonder where, exactly, Matthew Sinclair obtained the idea that taxes should only be spent on things that taxpayers actually agree with. It may come as something of a surprise to Matthew but there are approximately forty million taxpayers in this country. Many of them really dislikes tanks, guns and wars being fought in their name with which they, ideologically and fundamentally, do not agree. Some may consider it an obscenity that we spend more government money in this country on the armed forces than we do on the National Health Service and feel that such a statistic is a gross, and quite sick, example of a lack of priorities. Others dislike parliament and MPs - like Philip Davies, for instance. Especially those who have, in the past, made extremely dubious expenses claims of public - taxpayers - money. Many more do not like subsidising the Royal Family via the Civil List and consider such a system to be a crass anachronism that should have been done away with centuries ago. And, I dare say, if you asked around, you'd probably find quite a decent number who have a very low tolerance threshold for an organisation which calls itself The Taxpayers Alliance that doesn't seem to have been democratically elected by anyone and yet which, it would appear, still claims to speak for all tax payers. Just a thought to pop into your toaster, Matthew and see if it pops up brown.

Joanna Lumley has teamed up with a well-known purveyor of Indian foodstuffs - which, in the interests of product placement yer Keith Telly Topping won't name, but it sounds a bit like Charwoods - to create and market a limited edition Mango Chutney with Kashmiri Chilli. She will launch the product at the Harvey Nichols department store in London before it is rolled out to supermarkets in September. Another day, another celebrity endorsed foodstuff, you might think. But this particular marketing match may provoke a raised eyebrow or two from the cynical as the actress and the product actually seem to be genuinely connected, for once, and in more ways than one. Not only has Lumley been a spicy food addict since her childhood growing up in Kashmir, but also some of the profits (about ten pence per jar) are being pledged to The Gurkha Welfare Trust, an organisation whose aims, as several members of the last government are painfully aware, the divine Joanna supports. How much she had to do with inventing or refining the product itself is less clear, but the chillies it contains are, we are assured, from the region of her birth. Plus, any excuse to have a photographic illustration of Joanna wielding a big knife!

The world's largest arts festival has got under way with its busiest line-up to date. Dizzee Rascal, Alan Cumming and Eddie Izzard are among the top names featuring at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which runs until the end of the month. A record two thousand four hundred and fifty three comedy, theatre, dance and music shows will be performed across the Scottish capital at the annual event, which is now in its sixty fourth year.

Lovely Chris Walker was, sadly, the first of the five semi-finalists eliminated from Celebrity MasterChef in a mad-tight episode last night. Neil Stuke (currently the bookies' favourite), Christine Hamilton (who seems to burst into tears when John and Gregg like her food more than when they don't), dear old Dick Strawbridge and lovely Lisa Faulkner will battle for the title next week.

According to one of my favourite TV journalists, Maureen Ryan in the Chicago Tribune, Russell Davies has confirmed the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood, which will debut 'in the summer of 2011.' Davies, who created the Doctor Who spin-off, will be writing several episodes of the ten-part series himself, but other writers for series four include the former X-Files scribe John Shiban, Doris Egan who has written for House, Torchwood veteran John Fay and, best news of all, Magic Jane Espenson whose work of Buffy the Vampire Slayer yer Keith Telly Topping was such an enormous admirer thereof. The writers, Maureen notes, are currently hard at work on the new season of the show, which tells an international story and feature the kind of serialised story-line featured in Torchwood: Children of Earth. John Barrowman will return as Captain Jack Harkness, Eve Myles will be back as Gwen Cooper and casting is said to be underway for several new characters. Filming on the BBC-Starz co-production will begin in January and, although some of the series will be shot in the UK, a substantial part of the new Torchwood will likely be filmed in North America.

And, on that marvellous news, to the next batch of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 13 August
The second episode of Home Movie Roadshow - 9:00 BBC2 - investigates, through the cine films of ordinary people, how the British have filmed their lives over the last one hundred years. Footage in this episode includes an astonishing film showing the dramatic salvage of German ships from the First World War, discovered when the Roadshow bus went to Glasgow, a priceless archive of films which portrays parts of working-class London in the 1920s and the home movies of the Monty Python team at work, as revealed by Terry Jones. Presented by the excellent Dan Cruickshank and Kirsty Wark along with experts Robin and Binny Baker.

If you haven't caught Pete Versus Life - 10:00 Channel 4 - yet, you're missing something of a treat. The excellent Rafe Spall stars as twenty-something Pete, a struggling sports writer. Although well-meaning, Pete often lacks the emotional maturity required to deal with life's more intricate problems. The unusual twist with this sitcom is that Pete's life is commented on as if it was an exciting sporting event, by two professional commentators - anchor man Colin King and former international footballer Terry McIlroy. Colin and Terry discuss and analyse Pete's domestic cock-ups with accompanying statistics, on screen graphics and slow motion replays. In tonight's episode during a party, Pete's friend and rival Jake reveals an intimate secret about his sex life to Pete who, despite his promise to keep it to himself, proceeds to disclose the information to everyone. Also stars Dan Ings, Simon Greenall and Pippa Duffy. Clever stuff and well worth half an hour of your time.

Saturday 14 August
Tonight's the Night - 7:50 BBC1 - sees John Barrowman helps make more wishes come true. Russell, can you hurry up with the new series of Torchwood so we can get Barrowman back to doing what he's best at instead of this watered down version of Jim'll Fix It? Tonight, we're to be entertained by a daredevil grandfather who has raised thousands of pounds for charity goes wing-walking and a teenager who is in constant pain duets with Strictly Come Dancing's Alesha Dixon. I don't imagine that's going to help ease the pain, to be honest. Especially not if she sings that 'Breathe Slow' and stretches the word 'composure' out over about nine syllables like she usually does. That's really painfully. John also gives a teenager with a hearing disability the chance to present the weather forecast on live TV and a former soldier performs with the show's orchestra.

Sunday 15 August
Secret Britain - 9:00 BBC1 - is, according to the Beeb's pre-publicity, an epic journey which sees some of the country's astonishing beauty unlocked by Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury. So, Countryfile, in other words. Same presenters, same production team, essentially the same idea. Starting in the far south west of England, the first leg of their voyage takes the intrepid pair to Dover via some of the most crowded parts of the UK. Yet there are still hidden corners and forgotten stories to be found as Matt explores Britain's only desert and Julia gets off the beaten track to discover the shady green world of Dorset's ancient routes.

Vexed - 9:00 BBC2 - is a new comedy drama following the exploits of police detectives Jack and Kate, a pair of unorthodox sleuths who struggle to balance their everyday problems with their duties. A killer is suspected of selecting victims from among a supermarket's loyalty card customers, and when the gossip-hungry duo are called in to investigate, they revel in the chance to explore the scheme's database. Starring Lucy Punch and Toby Stephens. I saw a trailer for this last week and, actually, and surprisingly given the set-up, it looks pretty good. With any new comedy, of course, it's always worth watching the first episode just to see if it's to ones tastes.

Monday 16 August
You might expect a show with a title like Dan Snow's Norman Walks - 7:00 BBC2 - to be about rugged handsome Dan taking various famous Normans - like Messrs Wisdom, Collier and Vaughan - for a walk. But, no. Actually, in this Dan begins his exploration of the remains of Norman Britain on the Sussex coastline, where William the Conqueror first set foot on British soil in the lead-up to the Battle of Hastings. 1066 and all that. You might've heard of it. Poor old King Harold got one in the eye during extra time. if you missed it, don't worry. You can catch the highlights on the Bayeux Tapestry. The historian traces the two weeks from the landings to the armed confrontation itself, speculating about what both armies did during that period of time, and tries to separate myth from fact concerning one of British history's most famous dates. Previously shown, to great acclaim, on BBC4 and part of the BBC's excellent Normans Season. I'd still like to have seen Dan and Norman Collier having a walk together, though. Maybe an idea worth pitching to BBC4 for next year?

In tonight's Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - the actor Rupert Penry Jones, whose notable roles include Joe Chandler in Whitechapel and Adam Carter in [Spooks], has heard that there is Indian blood in his family and is keen to find out more. His mother, the actress Angela Thorne, was born in Karachi when it was part of British India and, as Rupert traces her relatives, he is humbled to find out about his grandfather, Bill, whose unsung heroism in a Field Ambulance unit during the Second World War included action at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Rupert also discovers that his great-great-grandfather Theophilus was the first Thorne in India and traces his footsteps to Allahabad, an old British fort overlooking the River Ganges. The three episodes which I've seen in the current series so far have been, genuinely, excellent. as, indeed, most episodes of this fine show are. So, hopefully, this one - which sounds fascinating - will keep up the good work.

In Their Own Words: British Novelists - 9:00 BBC4 - is a new series which, not unreasonably, tells the story of the British novel in the Twentieth Century. Told by the authors themselves who discuss their work via footage from the BBC archives. This episode examines the impact of the First World War on the novel as the country contemplated the devastation caused by the conflict and the demise of the Empire. The full extent of this resource is surprising: it takes us from late Victorian writers like GK Chesteron, HG Wells and EM Forster through to Salman Rushdie, Angela Carter and Martin Amis. It includes the only recording of Virginia Woolf in existence, as well as surprising set-pieces: We get to see former teacher William Golding with the pupils who inspired Lord of the Flies, JG Ballard, the author of Crash, celebrating the beauty of the motorcar and Doris Lessing putting Home Secretary Rab Butler in his place during a live televised debate about the atom bomb. Narrated by Rebecca Front.

It's always worth highlighting that The Gadget Show is on - 8:00 Five. Jason Bradbury and Suzi Perry use cutting-edge amateur recording equipment in a contest to produce the best cinema trailer, with their efforts being judged by Radio 1 film critic James King. Meanwhile, Jon Bentley tries out three of the best dishwashers on the market with chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, and is accompanied by Pollyanna Woodward in testing the team's top five in-ear headphones in Singapore. Plus, Ortis Deley investigates the US military's ground-breaking robot project.

Tuesday 17 August
The Great British Bake Off - 8:00 BBC2 - sees ten amateur bakers competing in a series of challenges designed to test their cake-making abilities. Sort of MasterPastyChef, if you will. Throughout the series, hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins - working together on a TV series for the first time in several years - cast light on the history of British baking. This week's show sees the hopefuls bake their own signature cake before being given a blind recipe for Victoria sandwich (that produces widely divergent results), and finally a task involving the ingredient feared even by professionals - chocolate. Judging their efforts are baking writer Mary Berry and professional baker Paul Hollywood, who will eliminate two contenders tonight.

One of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite shows Ideal returns tonight for a sixth series at 10:30 on BBC3. If you've never seen it before then it's rather difficult to describe but, here goes - it's, essentially, a darkly amusing studio based sitcom about a low-rent Manchester drug dealer, played by Johnny Vegas. Actually, to be honest it isn't, it's more a character piece about the collection of social misfits, weirdos and psychopaths who use his flat as, sort of, the local community centre. It's weird and silly, it can sometimes be very scary and it's certainly often near-the-knuckle in terms of subject matter. If you're easily offended by swearing, sexual situations or violence then it's probably a good idea to give it a miss since the show, written by the great Graham Duff, features liberal doses of all three. If, on the other hand, you enjoy something like Shameless, then you'll probably also dig Ideal. In this opening episode of the new series, after nine months away, Moz returns with Jenny (the great Sinead Matthews) to Manchester. However, on arriving back at his flat, he discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Nicki, has seized control of his drug-dealing business. The guest star is the great Sean Lock. Look out later in the season for appearances by Mark Radcliffe and The West Wing's Janeane Garofalo and an episode featuring a Hallow'een fancy dress party in which you'll be treated to Ben Crompton dressed as Frankenstein's Monster and Alfie Joey done up as The Wicked Witch of the West (see right). Only in Ideal, dear blog readers, only in Ideal! It's great to have it back.

And, speaking of comedy, How Not to Live Your Life - 11:20 BBC2 - is written by and starring Dan Clark, about a neurotic twenty-nine year old man who is trying to navigate his way through life but is not helped by his bad instincts. And, it's rather good, another undiscovered treasure of late-night BBC scheduling! In this episode, Don decides to join a gym in an effort to demonstrate to Sam and Eddie that he is in good shape. However, when a session on a treadmill proves too much, he decides to take advantage of a less strenuous option, and goes for a colonic irrigation session - where he ends up agreeing to go on a date with the therapist.

Yet another contribution to the BBC's impressive Normans Season is The Making of King Arthur - 9:00 BBC4. In the years popularly associated with King Arthur's reign over medieval England, Norman forces came to occupy the land, prompting oppressed locals to romanticise their history. Simon Armitage reveals how these formative years helped develop belief in the monarch as the Once and Future King, and explores the roles the Arthurian tales have played in the national consciousness of Great Britain. Didn't the Channel 4 and the Time Team production office do a similar, Tony Robinson-fronted piece called something like The Real King Arthur a few years back? Not that I'm complaining, of course, I like this sort of thing.

Wednesday 18 August
I've been really enjoying Coast - 8:00 BBC2 - this series. Tonight, the team travel, sort of, away from the coast for once, from Glasgow to Edinburgh via the Caledonian Canal. Well, it is a waterway, at least! Nick Crane tells the story of Britain's greatest man-made canal, which connected the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) joins the crew of the last surviving coal-powered Clyde Puffer, while the deadly killer Miranda Krestovnikoff explores an underwater worm city beneath Loch Creran. Plus, of course, the divine Dr Alice Roberts discovers what drew the artist Joan Eardley to the tiny village of Catterline, Hermione Cockburn explores the islands around Easdale, and Mark Horton looks at the legacy of the Picts.

If you're a reader of From The North and you live outside of the general North East of England region then you might have been only dimly aware of a major news story that enveloped this area for several days some weeks ago. Raoul Moat: Inside the Mind of a Killer - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a Cutting Edge documentary which, the makers claim, examines the events that led up to Raoul Moat's murderous attacks and subsequent week on the run in Northumberland before his eventual, highly public, suicide. Featuring interviews with friends, relatives and neighbours and exploring Moat's childhood the film, they claim, 'explores the events that shaped him into a murderer' and looks at the consequences of his actions for those who survive him. Hopefully in a non-sensationalist and tabloidesque way. This is, after all, the award-winning Cutting Edge strand so that's not, entirely, a forlorn hope. It's a tricky one this because, I know from my own postbag that many listeners of BBC Newcastle were thoroughly sick of the entire ... let's not beat about the bush here, circus that surrounded the story and that, probably, the last thing many people in the area want to do is sit through another hour of debate about why this happened. Some, however, remain fascinated by the whole subject. Particularly the tabloids, it would seem. Anyway, I highlight this documentary because it's on, because it features some aspects of 'local interest' and because I imagine, some you, dear blog readers, might be interested in watching it. Personally, I'll be glued to Celebrity MasterChef instead.

Or, you may prefer this. In the lifestyle documentary Dannii Minogue: Style Queen - 9:00 ITV2 - the X Factor judge, and least famous of the Minogue sisters, starts writing her autobiography and attends the worldwide launch of her Project D clothing line - the day she and business partner Tabitha have been working towards for six months. Dannii then heads to Australia to prepare for the birth of her child. Last in the series. What a tragedy

Restoration Roadshow - 6:30 BBC2 - is getting something of a following, apparently. Can't stand it, personally. Seen one antiques programme, seen 'em all as far as I'm concerned. However, in tonight's episode, Eric Knowles is at Stonyhurst College near Clitheroe in Lancashire, where wood expert Malcolm Green focuses his attention on a rocking horse, furniture restorer Tim Akers tackles a Davenport desk, and ceramics maestro Roger Hawkins faces a tough challenge with an exploding Crown Derby vase.

Thursday 19 August
In Digging for Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - Coast's Alice Roberts spends a year visiting archaeological digs around the country, finding out about discoveries that shed new light on British history. So, Time Team-lite in other words! Which, interestingly, was a programme Alice herself used to be on. In Buckinghamshire, Simon Mays and Jill Eyers use a recent rediscovery of artefacts from a 1912 excavation to investigate what appears to have been a mass infanticide during the Roman era. Alice also meets the team examining one of the largest discoveries of Roman coins ever made in Britain, and hears about a mystery in Dorset. I'm all for more archaeology shows on TV, it's a truly fascinating subject but, it's to be hoped that this has something a bit different to say for itself than the TV institution that is it, so clearly, an homage too. And, to be honest, as with Restoration Roadshow yesterday, when you've seen one trench you've seen 'em all. Still, when all is said and done ... Alice Roberts. I mean, sold. On her alone! Yer keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, he's a man of very simple tastes.

It's all fun and games on Coronation Street tonight at 8:30 on ITV. As Natasha books in for an abortion, Nick decides to tell her that his future lies with her and the baby, while Leanne faces up to her relationship with Peter. Fiz returns from Majorca early with surprising news for John, and Rita gives Audrey a pep talk, hoping to spur her back into action.

Manson - 10:00 Five - is a documentary originally shown last year to mark the fortieth anniversary of the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders in Bel Air, revealing why the followers of Charles Manson embarked on one of the most notorious killing sprees in American history. Among those giving a personal perspective are Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor at the subsequent trial and author of the definitive book on the subject, Helter Skelter, and former Manson follower Linda Kasabian, who turned state's evidence in exchange for legal immunity. Dark stuff. It's quite chilling the way in which Charlie, Grade A psycho-nutter that he was, still manages to assert a weird kind of aura around both himself and his crimes. It's as though he tapped into an early version of the cult of celebrity. If he was around now, he's probably be trying to get onto Britain's Got Talent.

Deadliest Crash: The Le Mans 1955 Disaster - 9:30 BBC4 - is a documentary examining what caused Pierre Levegh's Mercedes to crash into the crowd during the 1955 Le Mans twenty four-hour race, killing more than eighty people - an incident which remains the worst accident in the history of motor racing. Among the theories discussed are the use of untested technologies by the car's manufacturers, the addition of a lethal fuel additive, and alleged reckless driving by future Formula 1 world champion Mike Hawthorn, who won the race with his Jaguar team partner Ivor Bueb. Narrated by Jack Deam.

Moving on to the news now, and Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer will reunite for a new holiday show on Channel 4. Kirstie And Phil: Holidays Uncovered will see the Location, Location, Location hosts investigate deals on trips. In each episode, Allsopp and Spencer will travel to a different destination and will organise a holiday including meals, accommodation and activities. One of them will receive a luxury budget but the other will be given only a small sum. At the end of each instalment, the duo will review the deals they used and decide which holiday was better. 'Phil and I are really looking forward to revealing how to have a fantastic holiday whatever your budget,' Allsopp said. 'For the last ten years we have travelled up and down the UK staying in every sort of accommodation. Now the time has come to put that experience to good use and travel further afield to find fun and good value for everyone.' Meanwhile, Channel 4's deputy head of features Andrew Jackson said: 'From cheap boutique hotels in the Med to the most expensive of cruises, Kirstie and Phil will be checking out whether holiday-makers get true value for money, and inspire viewers to make their two weeks in the sun a whole lot brighter.' And people accuse the BBC of wasting money!

Alexander Siddig has revealed that he enjoys playing roles in science-fiction shows. The actor played Julian Bashir on yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - the Trek series that got good the quickest and stayed good the longest - and will join the cast of Primeval for the show's upcoming fourth series. He told UGO: 'I will always have a soft spot, as long as I live, for doing crazy, geeky sci-fi shows. And I hope to goodness that people keep offering me them.' However, he admitted that he was initially keen to distance himself from the genre when Deep Space Nine ended in 1999. 'I got over the whole cool stage of trying to pretend I hadn't anything to do with it and acting like "sci-fi sucks," which I immediately went to when I finished the show,' he explained. 'Because I was blasé, I needed to distance myself from it to get a career going.' Siddig - who has also appeared in films such as Syriana and Kingdom of Heaven - also revealed that his young son was excited by his new Primeval role. 'My son just made a ton of friends at school because I'm doing that show,' he said. 'Everybody actually loves it.'

Sky's Living channel has commissioned its first ever scripted UK comedy for a programme about the comeback of fictional ex-Page Three girl Gayle Tuesday. Starring Brenda Gilhooly as Gayle, the sixty-minute pilot is being filmed in a documentary style by production company Black Orchid. The programme, which will be broadcast on Living in September, follows Gayle's progress as she attempts to revive her career in showbusiness, including botox treatment, charity work and a reality cookery show. The script has been written by Harry Hill, who will also appear in the pilot, along with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and camp Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie Spence. Other cameos in the programme will come from Ainsley Harriott, Toyah Willcox, Paul O'Grady and Hollyoaks actress Roxanne McKee. 'Gayle is back, and where else would she want to be than on Living, the UK's top celebrity channel,' said the Living TV Group's head of commissioning Mark Sammon as though being 'the UK's top cwelebrity channel' were, somehow, a good thing. 'We know that Living's young audience love scripted comedy on the channel, like US hit Cougar Town, so we're very excited to have made our first commissioning step into this genre and to have secured the services of such a great comedy writer and performer in Brenda.' I always thought Living TV was mainly watched by women in their thirties who liked Charmed and Most Haunted, personally, but, obviously I was wrong. Black Orchid Productions' producer Pete Ward added: 'Gayle Tuesday is a unique character who is unashamedly enthusiastic about the world of celebrity. It is the first scripted comedy for Living, and we are delighted to be at the forefront of that.' Gilhooly's character first appeared on television in Channel 4's Viva Cabaret, but later secured her own show, Gayle's World.

Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss has revealed that the drama was originally planned for a pre-watershed airing. Speaking to Den of Geek!, the writer admitted that the programme may have been more family-orientated until it was 'darkened' by Steven Moffat and himself. He explained: 'We did talk about it originally as sort of Doctor Who an hour later. But, actually, in the making of it, it darkened. So, it's still very funny, and I think what would be ideal, and this is what you'd always want, I'd think, would be for it to be the kind of programme that kids think they shouldn't quite be allowed to watch.'

'Human Relations is an original concept that was brought to us by Scott Prendergast, a respected independent filmmaker,' the US Syfy channel have said in a statement issued to the media. 'It was, in no way, inspired by Drones. We pride ourselves in our professional integrity and take suggestions of plagiarism very seriously.' The statement - the latest in a flurry of activity concerning allegations almost-but-not-quite made by the former Buffy actress Amber Benson that a movie she has co-directed may have been used as a template for a drama currently in development with the network - appears to be an attempt to put an end to the controversy surrounding the two projects without the whole thing ending up in a messy court case. They're pretty serious charges to be - almost - making, particularly when Amber herself admitted that she had not read the script of Human Relations, only read a brief synopsis of the proposed show's themes which, it appears, had been written by someone in the Syfy press office rather than by anyone directly connected to the project itself. The saga started on 31 July when Benson, on her personal blog, pointed out what she described as 'coincidences' between the description of the Syfy project and her own, recently completed and soon to be released independently produced movie which she co-directed with fellow actor Adam Busch. Mark Stern, Syfy's head of original programming, told the Airlock Alpha website that the cable channel had waited to respond because Stern had wanted to make sure Benson's claims were without foundation before he spoke. 'Our initial concern was if there was any truth to this,' Stern said. 'If that were the case, that would be an important thing for us to know. I talked to Scott, and he laid out the genesis of the idea - and, it's clearly his - that he had been working on it for years. And that's all we needed to know.' After initally appearing to at least infer the possiblity of intentional wrongdoing - without actually using the dreaded 'p' word - Benson seemed to modify her stance somewhat on Wednesday, telling the same website that it wasn't Prendergast with whom she had a problem but, rather, Syfy itself. 'I didn't feel like he was our enemy,' Benson said of Prendergast. 'If there is an enemy at all, it's Syfy. They've been guilty of that in the past, you know, where they like an idea, and they tweak it a little bit and reuse it. I didn't want that to be the case for Drones.' Benson, however, as the website notes, did not elaborate further on any specific examples of Syfy doing any such thing. In fact, the cable channel has something of a reputation for doing exactly the opposite, at least according to Stern. 'If we wanted to do a television series based on her film, we would've approached her to do that,' Stern said. 'There is no reason for us to go off and create our own version of this. Why wouldn't we have just approached her about doing it, instead of saying, "We need to go find Scott Prendergast and have him adapt it."' Stern pointed out several examples of formats where Syfy has approached outside creators for their ideas, most prominently Sanctuary, which got its start as a web series before Syfy developed it as a series with its original cast and crew. Prendergast has maintained from the beginning that he started developing what would evolve into Human Relations in 1995 when he worked in an office in Chicago. The idea was shelved for some time, but was resurrected approximately two years ago when he first began to get involved in independent films like Kabluey, and that he then pitched this idea to Syfy last January. Benson said that syfy.com was hosting a trailer for Drones at the time, and appears to believe this is a clear link between the two productions. She also told Airlock Alpha that Prendergast should have said how the two projects were different, even though she acknowledged that Prendergast most likely never saw her independent film which is still finalising a distribution deal. Stern, however, states that he is now familiar with both projects - having learned about Drones over the weekend when the controversy first hit the Internet - and claims that the two are very different. 'Without getting into too much detail on Human Relations, it does get very outrageous in terms of the approach, and that's why we likened it to Men In Black,' Stern said. 'It gets a lot more alienish - is that a word? For me, watching Amber's movie, it's a little more Office Space. It's a smart, satiric office comedy, but Human Relations is much broader than that.' There are still a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome before Human Relations moves from Syfy's development slate to an actual series on the cable channel, Stern added. But, he made it clear this controversy would have no effect on the fate of the show. 'I feel badly for Scott,' Stern said. 'It's horrible for Scott knowing he didn't rip [Benson] off, and have his name dragged through this mud. He's worked his ass off on this thing for years.'

Edward James Olmos is to play a guest role in the upcoming seventh season of CSI: NY. TV Guide reports that the actor will play a former gang leader in an episode scheduled to air in October. The character, recently released from prison, will seek revenge on Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise), who sent him to jail fifteen years earlier. The part will be Olmos's first television role since playing William Adama on Battlestar Galactica.

South Korea's military leaders have reportedly been tasked with making sure the country's soldiers stop swearing. According to AFP, defence minister Kim Tae-Young confirmed plans of the campaign to the Yonhap news agency. An unidentified senior ministry official said: 'These soldiers aren't teenagers. When discharged, they will go back to society where they cannot continue cursing their way through their entire life. That's why they have to clean up their language.' Another official reportedly condemned the military culture that supposedly encourages swearing. Crikey. That's a bit effing outrageouws, isn't it?

And finally, dear blog reader, I'd like to thank my good friend the great Danny Blythe for the following offering: 'So Wycliffe is standing for the presidency of Haiti? Things must be a bit quiet on the old solving-crimes-in-picturesque-Cornwall-front, then? Maybe he's left it all to DS Lucy Lane?' Thang you, thang you, he's here all week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great wrap up on this story - thanks

Scott P.