Friday, September 24, 2010

Luxury Venom

Matt Smith has revealed that he was 'very excited' to be able to appear in an episode of Sarah Jane Interferes. Smith will play the Doctor alongside Elisabeth Sladen (as the annoying title character) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant) in the Doctor Who spin-off. He told SFX: 'I did feel I was in the presence of Doctor Who royalty! Both [Elizabeth and Katy] go back a long way and occasionally I'd be reminded of the show's long and glorious past.' He added: 'You never lose sight of the fact that you're part of a programme which has been around for a very long time and will doubtless go on for a very long time in the future, long after I've stopped playing the Doctor.' The actor also revealed details of his role in Death of the Doctor. 'There are rumours of the Doctor's demise, which obviously cause Sarah Jane a great deal of concern and an understandable need to try to help by rushing to his side,' he explained. 'It's drama on a grand scale, with some tense scenes inside a secret base beneath Mount Snowdon.'

TV comedy moment of the week comes from Mock The Week and, yet again, it's from yer Keith Telly Topping's particular favourite, the breathtaking wit of Mr Milton Jones. 'Most of my family are police marksmen. Except for my grandfather. He's a bank robber. He died just recently. Surrounded by his family!' Heee!

Coronation Street creator Tony Warren reportedly planned to end the show after its initial thirteen episodes in 1960. According to the Sun, Warren had suggested that Weatherfield could be destroyed in an explosion in its final episode. Daran Little, a former Corrie archivist and writer, and author of the recent, highly-acclaimed, The Road To Coronation Street, revealed: 'His vision was that, on the thirteenth episode, the street would blow up, or something like that, and it would end. But after the fourth episode it was obvious how much people liked it. They didn't know how long it would carry on, but he couldn't write it all.' Little continued: 'What he perhaps wasn't ready for was the idea of other writers working on what had been his baby. Tony, within two years, had left. I'm not sure why.' In fact, Warren continued to submit scripts to Corrie off-and-on until 1968 and, subsequently after a length period doing other things, returned in the 1980s and is still involved with the ITV soap to this day. 'I meet regularly with the producers to discuss the storylines, and I see everything before it goes out,' Warren said. 'When it comes to the show, I'm quite hands-on, without people realising it.' He added: 'With all the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, I'm going to have a busy few months ahead.'

A TV series based on the classic film Goodfellas is reportedly in the works. Warner Bros TV is in the lead position to produce the show, reports Deadline. Screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the original 1990 Martin Scorsese movie, is expected to writer the pilot. Irwin Winkler, a producer of the film, is also rumoured to be involved in the TV spin-off. There is still no word on whether Scorsese himself will be associated with the project. Scorsese's Goodfellas, starring Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro, was nominated for the 'Best Picture' Oscar in 1991. Co-star Joe Pesci won the Oscar for 'Best Actor In A Supporting Role' for his performance as insane mobster Tommy DeVito.

Merlin star Anthony Head has admitted that he does not think of his character Uther as a villain. The actor told SFX that the ruthless king was 'just old school. He's an old school father and an old school king,' he claimed. 'His past indiscretions and misdemeanours are fairly well up here with the best of despots, but he is living in the Dark Ages, and there are other people who are ready to usurp his kingdom at the drop of a hat.' Head also confessed that he could relate to Uther's hatred of magic, having encountered 'white witches' while filming a 2005 documentary. 'I met people involved in white witchcraft,' he explained. 'But I also saw evidence of people who are drawn to the dark side, and who do some despicable things to innocent people in the name of magic. So I really did get to understand why someone would become unnerved by the concept of magic.'

Gary Oldman is to play John Le Carre's George Smiley in a new film of classic novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Colin Firth and Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch will also appear in the movie, to be released in the UK in September 2011. Set during the Cold War, Le Carre's 1974 novel tell the story of a retired MI6 agent drawn back into the world of espionage. Sir Alec Guinness, Simon Russell Beale and George Cole are among the actors to have portrayed Smiley on TV and radio. The latest adaptation will be directed by Tomas Alfredson, the Swedish film-maker best known for his extraordinary 2008 horror movie Låt Den Rätte Komma In. Filming on the Working Title production will begin at the end of September in London and on location in Budapest and Istanbul. 'The timing is right for a big screen version of Le Carre's classic novel,' said Working Title's Tim Bevan, whose other roles include chairman of the recently axed UK Film Council. 'It's great for us to have Tomas onboard who has assembled a stellar cast and will bring a unique vision to the material.' Probably best known these days as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films, Oldman has forged a distinguished career both behind and in front of the camera. The fifty two-year-old has memorably played Sid Vicious, Joe Orton, Count Dracula and Lee Harvey Oswald on screen. He also wrote and directed acclaimed 1997 drama Nil by Mouth, recipient of two prizes at the following year's BAFTA film awards.

Caroline Aherne is working on a new comedy show for ITV. The Royle Family creator is working on a new series with producer Jeff Pope, following their previous one-off for the channel, The Fattest Man in Britain. ITV head of entertainment and comedy Elaine Bedell told an industry conference in London yesterday that the plans were 'quite well advanced.' At the moment, Benidorm is the only sitcom on ITV, although Bedell told the Broadcast Comedy Forum: 'We want a companion piece. Mainstream sitcom is very hard to get right,' she said. Well, for ITV it is, anyway. 'And there is no hiding place on ITV. We have to launch straight into peak time. Not only do we expect high numbers – Benidorm gets six million – but we expect a return on our investment. We expect these to be returnable, long-running series.’ She accepted that the channel’s sixty-minute prime time slots also made it difficult to launch a new sitcom, but added there may be a chance to produce forty five-minute shows for Saturday nights. It will be a slightly less scary place to be,' she said – even though the slots would be immediately after big hitters such as X-Factor. Bedell also said that ITV 'wants a format to allow comedians to showcase their talent,' but added that panel shows they had piloted 'didn't feel heartland ITV.' She also confirmed that Comedy Rocks would return in the new year with Jason Manford 'and a host of new comedians.' A pilot episode aired in March with Paul Zerdin, John Bishop, Jo Brand and Joe Pasquale as guests.

Internationally renowned British film and television composer Geoffrey Burgon has died at the age of sixty nine, his publishers have confirmed. His soundtrack to the 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, starring Jeremy Irons, earned Burgon one of two Ivor Novello awards. He also composed music for The Chronicles of Narnia, Doctor Who and Monty Python's Life Of Brian. James Rushton of Chester Music said Burgon's music 'truly touched hearts.' Born in 1941 in Hampshire, Burgon took up the trumpet at the age of fifteen, before enrolling at the Guildhall School of Music. His early compositions were largely for ballet, notably for Ballet Rambert and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. A breakthrough performance of his Requiem at the Three Choirs Festival in 1976 established his name, leading to several major commissions and allowing him to pursue composition as a full-time career. In 1979 his music for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - in particular the haunting arrangement of the prayer Nunc Dimittis that played over the closing credits - won Burgon his first Ivor Novello. More recently the composer won BAFTA awards for The Forsyte Saga and Channel 4's Longitude. However, despite lucrative offers from Hollywood, his principal focus was concert music - and the composer said he spent fewer than two months of each year working for television and film. 'Geoff was much more than simply a media composer,' said Rushton. 'Most of his musical conversation was about the classical concert world and he retained a keen ear for the classical music of his peers. His large catalogue of concert works, from the imposing and dramatic Requiem from the mid-1970s to the recent viola concerto and cello concerto, reveals a composer in full control of a very immediate, lyrical and varied language, and one whose work deserves wide attention.' Burgon's works included a concerto for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie, City Adventures (1994), a piano concerto for Joanna MacGregor (1997), and Hard Times, an opera based on Charles Dickens' novel of the same name (1991).

Ten weeks of principal photography have begun on the forthcoming ITV drama Injustice. James Purefoy leads the cast as William Travers, a criminal barrister who is recovering from a traumatic series of events that have shaken his belief in the legal system. Injustice is Anthony Horowitz's next project for ITV following the huge success of stripped drama Collision which screened to excellent reviews and ratings. The five part drama will be filmed in Suffolk and London and is produced by Anthony's own production company, Injustice Films Limited. Purefoy will star alongside Dervla Kirwan, Nathaniel Parker, Charlie Creed Miles and Obi Abili. On the surface William Travers is a picture of success. An accomplished criminal barrister happily living with his wife (Kirwan) in rural Suffolk. However, Travers is still recovering from a traumatic series of events that have shaken his belief in the legal system. Reluctantly, he is drawn into a case that involves his old friend Martin Newall (Parker) who faces conspiracy and murder charges while at the same time being investigated by a vicious and vengeful detective DS Mark Wenborn (Creed Miles). The series is a story of friendship, conspiracy, betrayal and murder as well as a critical look at the way the legal system operates. ITV Director of Drama Commissioning, Laura Mackie said: 'Anthony is such a talented screenwriter and the quality of his scripts has attracted top flight acting talent. We're totally committed to original, authored drama and this commission is a brilliant addition to our slate for 2011. I'm delighted to be working with ITV again after the success of Collision. Laura Mackie asked me to come up with a psychological thriller that would keep audiences guessing to the end and I hope that with Injustice I've done just that,' said executive producer and writer Anthony Horowitz. 'We're shooting in Suffolk, my favourite part of Britain, and after working closely with the director, Colm McCarthy - and with James Purefoy already cast in the lead - I think we're on course to provide a very striking, very cinematic five-part drama.'

Television sitcoms fail to reflect much of British life, a senior BBC executive has admitted. Simon Wilson, the corporation's executive editor for comedy, said that programmes pitched to him tend to offer a 'surprisingly narrow' view of the country. 'They are often set in the South East,' he said. 'And if not, it tends to be set in Manchester or nearby. There are also a limited number of worlds: Flat-shares, people just leaving college, middle-aged men. These are not reflecting most people's normal lives.' Well, they certainly do reflect the 'normal' lives of people who share a flat, are middle-aged or have just left college, so that's bollocks for a kick-off. Or, don't you think such people are 'normal', Si? He said that compared to the diversity of real-life stories told in factual entertainment shows, comedy often falls short. So, in other words, if you're pitching a sitcom to the BBC make sure that one of your characters is from an ethnic minority, ideally transgender and, possibly, in a wheelchair. You know, to 'reflect diversity.' Or, alternaitvely, you could just write about real effing people regardless of their creed, colour, orientation, age, class status or handicaps, so long as they're bloody funny. Surely that has to be the overriding consideration before you get into what aspect of society a comedy show and its characters 'reflect'? Has everybody in TV been taking the stupid pills this week? 'The number of stories to be told are not reflected in what we receive,' he said. 'We'd love to find stories that reflect modern Britain.' Wilson said that of all the BBC's TV channels, he received fewest ideas aimed at BBC1 audiences, despite their bigger budgets, possibly because of the fear of failure: 'These are 9pm to 10pm slots and incredibly exposed,' he said. He added he was looking for 'warmth' in programmes pitched for BBC1, but warned producers and writers: 'Steer away from families – we already have a number of shows in development that dissect family relationships. Competition is very tough in that field.' Yeah. And steer away of circuses too because the last one in that area went down so well, they don't think they can top it. Or, should that be Big Top it? And, they say there's no comedy writing talent in this country, dear blog reader. Anyway, BBC2 was especially keen to develop 'broad, pre-watershed' comedy following the success of two very good ones, Rev and Miranda, while 'continuing to nurture the slate of strong writer-performers' associated with the channel. BBC3 is seeking 'totally unusual' shows such as Mongrels and Wrong Door, he added, while the few comedies made for BBC4 should be full of 'insight, wit and extremes. Shows here can have a very strong flavour – think of The Thick Of It or Charlie Brooker. We can go further because there's an arthouse feel to the channel.' Meanwhile Sky1's Lucy Lumsden outlined her channel's new drive into comedy, with plans to launch six to eight shows a year. 'We're doing a lot of pilots,' she said. 'Our viewers are used to shows that are fully-formed, and anything we make has to sit next to the big, bold American acquisitions.' But she added: 'We're not going to try to please everyone; we want to be loved by a few.' She said she was particularly looking for shows that could be shot in front of a studio audiences, plus sitcoms that could go out before the watershed but still have an edge. She pointed out that 30 Rock plays in the US before 9pm, but in Britain 'something goes wrong inside our heads when we think pre-watershed.' Lumsden, who previously worked at the BBC, also said Sky would commission the occasional wildcard show because 'hits never came out of strategy.' Already Sky1 is making the surreal sitcom This Is Jinsy, which previously piloted on BBC3. However she said there were no plans for any sketch shows. 'I'm very nervous of them that dreaded hit and miss,' she said. Comedy Central is also moving into homegrown commissioning, with plans for three shows a year. It has already started its new policy with Olivia Lee: Dirty, Sexy, Funny, which has a second series in the works, and Grouchy Young Men, which will not be returning, commissioning editor Pete Thornton added. Digital channel Dave is also looking to make more of its own content, following the success of the Red Dwarf revival and Argumental. 'Panel shows are very important to us,' said channel head Steve North. 'Animation is very exciting and a multiplatform element is important.'

PACT, the UK trade body for the independent production sector, has called on the BBC to increase its commissioning of online content from UK producers. In a submission to the BBC Trust's external commissioning review for BBC Online, PACT urged the corporation to foster more competition between external suppliers and in-house producers to 'ensure the best quality content for the licence fee payer.' The organisation highlighted the fact that online commissioning from external suppliers has declined from thirty one per cent to twenty six per cent, just above the BBC's minimum external quota. PACT said that the decline is 'despite a proliferation of high quality externally-produced content increasingly being commissioned for other broadcasters and new media services.' John McVay, PACT chief executive, said: 'The lack of competition in commissioning between external and in-house suppliers at the BBC raises questions as to whether the BBC is providing the licence fee payers with the best content possible, and whether or not it is truly meeting its public purpose of stimulating UK creativity and the creative industries. PACT has called for the BBC to ensure fair commissioning by introducing an online Window of Creative Competition, similar to what is currently successfully in place in television and has recently been introduced to stimulate competition in radio. This would open up commissioning to both internal and external producers but places no obligation on the BBC to commission externally if the external supply sector cannot provide the best work.' Andrew Chitty, managing director of Illumina Digital and chair of PACT's digital policy group added: 'The UK external supply sector is winning more and more high profile digital commissions, but the BBC is using it less and less. The sector is not asking for any special protection, just the chance to compete on a fair basis with in-house producers, and ultimately ensure the best possible content for the licence fee payer. We look forward to engaging with the BBC management to make this happen.' In July, the Trust launched its first WoCC review of online commissioning to examine whether 'a suitable proportion' of online services are being made by external companies.

Sesame Street has reportedly pulled a segment featuring naughty Katy Perry from an upcoming episode. The singer had filmed a video for the PBS children's show in which she sang a modified version of 'Hot N Cold' with Elmo. However, according to the New York Times, the network has decided not to include naughty Katy Perry's contributions on the programme after viewers complained about the 'content' of the segment, which was released online this week. 'Sesame Street has a long history of working with celebrities across all genres, including athletes, actors, musicians and artists. Sesame Street has always been written on two levels, for the child and adult,' said the Sesame Workshop in a statement. 'We use parodies and celebrity segments to interest adults in the show because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or care-giver. We also value our viewers' opinions and particularly those of parents.' It continued: 'In light of the feedback we've received on the naughty Katy Perry music video which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street which is aimed at preschoolers.' Presuambly, they knew that Sesame Street was aimed at preschoolers before they invited naughty Katy Perry to take part? Because this statement would appear to suggest that they did not. A representative for naughty Katy Perry herself has reportedly only said that the singer 'enjoyed' filming her scenes for the show.

And, finally, isn't it about high time that we had a new location picture of the TARDIS crew - Karen Gillan, Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill - from the current filming of Doctor Who's forthcoming sixth series? Nice!