Monday, October 18, 2010

The Crackheads, The Critics, The Cynics And All My Heroes In The Methodone Clinic

Well-known professional Jimmy Saville impersonator, as it happens, Mel B became the latest name to be rumoured as a potential contestant in the next series of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The former Spice Girl was alleged to be joining people like - get this - Jedward, Chico, John Leslie and the Chuckle Brothers in entering the jungle and eating kangaroo bollocks. Seriously. This isn't the punchline to one of Mad Frankie Boyle's rants on Mock The Week, this is genuinely what people were claiming. Or, perhaps it is the punchline to a Mad Frankie Boyle rant and it's somehow got into the public arena where some people are taking it seriously. Who, in all honesty, cares? With that line-up, you'd just need Andy Townsend and somebody from Atomic Kitten in there and then we could nuke the gaff and take them all out at once. A 'source' allegedly told that triumph of wholly accurate factual content, Heat magazine: 'Mel B will make explosive television. She's got a gob on her and she speaks her mind. She is quite a force to be reckoned with, so heaven help the celebs - and the wildlife!' Not that anybody remotely unfictitious actually talks like that, but never mind. However, Ms B herself has since denied the speculation, writing on Twitter on Sunday: 'No no no noooo I am not doing the show I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! Not me, they got it wrong as usual silly billys!!!! [sic]' So, there you have it ladies and gentlemen of the blog. Either Heat's 'source' is a liar, in which case if I was the magazine, I'd be pretty angry. Or, he never existed in the first place, in which case if I was everybody else I'd be pretty angry with having my time wasted and my intelligence insulted. One way or the other, dear blog reader, fear leads to hate. Leeds hate Mel B after Seven Days On The Breadline. Mel B leads, only, to anger. Avoid wherever possible.

Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat has dropped a few hints about the second series of the detective drama. Sherlock will return in 2011 with a further three ninety-minute episodes and Moffat revealed a few vital clues about the upcoming series in a recent interview with NPR's Morning Edition. 'The critical words, I'd say, would be - Adler, Hound, Reichenbach,' declared Moffat. Ooo, tasty. Irene Adler, of course, was a character in the story A Scandal in Bohemia. She was considered to be the closest thing that Sherlock Holmes ever had to a love interest. Rachel McAdams played the character in the recent cinematic version of Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. The Hound of the Baskervilles was one of the four full length novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective, and probably the most famous. Finally, Reichenbach refers to a series of waterfalls on the River Aar near Meiringen in central Switzerland, the location in which Holmes and Moriarty have their battle to the death in the story The Final Problem.

ITV has ordered another thirteen episodes of Law & Order: UK. The crime drama, which stars Bradley Walsh, Jamie Bamber, Harriet Walter and Freema Agyeman, is based on the successful American Law & Order format. The third series of the show premiered last month and attracted guest stars including Rupert Graves, Deborah Findlay and Kevin Doyle. Juliet Stevenson, Tobias Menzies and Nicola Walker have already signed up to appear in the next series. ITV's director of drama Laura Mackie said: 'Law & Order: UK is continuing to deliver audiences with its top-flight acting and "ripped from the headlines" storylines that captivate and entertain. With the commissioning of thirteen new episodes we are proving ITV's commitment to a series which has the potential to run and run, much like its US counterpart.'

Fern Britton has reportedly signed up to appear in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. The presenter, who participated in Let's Dance For Comic Relief last year, will be joined by five other alleged celebrities for the Christmas day show, it has been claimed. A 'source' - possibly Heat and Mel B's 'source', possibly not, perhaps we'll never care - allegedly told the Sun: 'Fern's really excited about taking part and is watching the current series for inspiration.' Well, if the current series is anything to go by, the big tip is, follow Ann Widdecombe and be crap, people seem to be lapping it up. Britton - seen, right, in her classic 'last time I saw something like that it had an apple in its mouth' pose - says that she will be nervous when it comes to facing the judges. 'The Strictly bosses are really happy she's signed up, too. They know viewers want to see what she'll look like in the typical Strictly frocks now she's lost all that weight,' our helpful source slurped. 'There's no way of knowing yet if she'll be up to scratch in the Latin and ballroom numbers - but she did very well in Let's Dance.' Britton's appearance would mark he first time that a contestant on the Christmas special had not already taken part on the main show.

Meanwhile, Strictly professional Brendan Cole dancer has decided to take a leave of absence from the show following the death of his father. The thirty four-year-old discovered that his father, Eddie, had lost a ten-year battle with leukaemia just hours before Saturday night's show, yet still took to the dance floor with his celebrity partner, Michelle Williams. However, the Daily Scum Mail reports that Cole has now opted to take some time out from the show and on Sunday morning returned to his native New Zealand along with his wife and brother. A friend of Cole explained: 'Brendan is incredibly disciplined and always professional, so he went out on the dance floor on Saturday night. He didn't tell any of the contestants, I think he was just in a state of shock. His father had been ill for quite a while, but Brendan is of course devastated.' A Strictly spokesperson added: 'Brendan's father has passed away and Brendan has gone back to New Zealand to be with his family. Michelle Williams will continue on Strictly Come Dancing and will be partnered with Ian Waite for this week's show until Brendan returns the following week. Our thoughts are with Brendan and his family.' Which, of course, From The North - and, hopefully, all of its readers - will echo. Cole and Williams survived a narrow brush with possible elimination of Sunday's night's results show but, despite finishing in the bottom two, they managed to acquire enough votes form the public to survive. Instead, balding former TV magician Paul Snakehips Daniels, very satisfyingly, had his ass kicked out the door. Which, let's face it, is always enjoyable whatever the circumstances.

Saturday evening's overnight ratings were, once again, good news for both of the major channels. Strictly Come Dancing continued with its healthy start to the series, having an average audience of 9.29m with a peak of 10.35m at 19:15. Afterwards on BBC1, Merlin maintained its more than decent regular audience of 5.29m. Casualty, however, took something of a scudding from The X Factor, drawing only 3.77m from 20:45. On ITV Harry Hill's TV Burp's 5.15m was the lead-in show to The X Factor which, once again, topped eleven million viewers - 11.36m with a fifteen-minute peak of 12.57m at around 20:15. In far funnier news, Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow rated considerably higher than Piers Morgan's sick Life Stories. McIntyre's stand-up show climbed over three hundred thousand viewers from last week to a figure of 4.19m on BBC1 at 10pm, while Morgan's interview with Russell Watson pulled in 3.86m for ITV, with only thirty six thousand additional viewers tuning in on HD. That's a fall of over half-a-million week-on-week. So, that's good news, anyway.

EastEnders producer Bryan Kirkwood has revealed that the soap will have 'a good week of episodes' during Coronation Street's fiftieth birthday celebrations. Kirkwood told This Morning that the production team specifically planned strong episodes when they discovered their rival show's anniversary plans, which include a much anticipated tram crash. He said: 'We plan up to nine months in advance with storylines. Some of our long-term storylines are two or three years in the future. We knew Corrie's fiftieth was happening in the first week of December so we've got a good week of episodes. There are no explosions, there are no trams, but I'm really happy with the material we've got.' Speaking about the ITV soap, he added: 'I say good on them and good luck. It's a great show. They've embarked on a live episode. When I see the pictures of their tram crash I feel more than a little bit jealous - they've got a huge stunt on the way. But I'm sure they'll do it brilliantly.' Kirkwood also revealed that he is hoping to announce a date for EastEnders transmitting in HD soon, following a refurbishment of the set.

Poor old Daybreak hit a new ratings low on Friday when it was watched by an average of just six hundred and thirty thousand viewers across its two and a half hours. I would say that I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for them now but, on reflection, it is, after all, Chiles and the Orange One. So, no mercy I'm afraid! Just to put this in perspective, the programme it replaced, GMTV's lowest audience was six hundred and sixty thousand in June of this year.

The BBC has announced that its senior management pay bill has been reduced by 12.2 per cent as part of a major efficiency drive across the organisation. In a financial disclosure report published last week, the corporation confirmed that its management head count has also been cut by 7.4 four per cent dropping to five hundred and ninety two employees. Further reductions will be made by the end of next year in order to deliver the promised twenty five per cent reduction in executive pay and twenty per cent cut to head count, said the BBC. Also, the BBC confirmed that its top executives have reduced their expenses claims as the corporation responds to widespread pressure to cut costs. In the three months from April to June, the one hundred and fourteen senior BBC executives claimed an average of four hundred and forty five pounds a month each in expenses, around one hundred pounds less than a year ago.

UKTV controller Matthew Littleford, ITV's head of digital channels Zai Bennett and BBC daytime controller Liam Keelan have emerged as leading contenders for the role of BBC3 controller. Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, is set to formally start the recruitment process following the appointment of Danny Cohen to the role of controller of BBC1, which was announced on Friday. Cohen had been hotly tipped to step into the role vacated by Jay Hunt, who left to take the new role of chief creative officer at Channel 4. It is understood that a shortlist of candidates for Cohen's job is already in circulation. The process of filling the job is believed to be at an early stage. Serious contenders include Keelan, who recently said he aspired to the BBC1's controller job at some stage in his career, and Dominic Bird, the creative director of BBC Entertainment North. The division is responsible for shows including BBC2's Dragons' Den – which is executive produced by Bird – Mastermind and A Question of Sport.

The Vatican's official newspaper has reportedly praised Homer Simpson. According to the Daily Telegraph, L'Osservatore Romano described the cartoon character as a Catholic. 'The Simpsons [is] among the few TV programmes for children in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes,' the newspaper said. '[The family] recites prayers before meals and, in their own peculiar way, believes in the life thereafter.' L'Osservatore Romano admitted that Homer does often fall asleep in church and regularly mocks his highly religious neighbour, Ned Flanders. However, the article added: 'Few people know it, and he does everything he can to hide it, but it is true - Homer J Simpson is a Catholic.' L'Osservatore Romano has previously praised the cartoon for its 'realistic and intelligent writing.'

More trouble in paradise, it would seem. X Factor judges Cheryl Cole the Heaton Horror and Louis Walsh have reportedly fallen out with each other backstage. According to the Sunday Mirror, which once upon a time used to be a newspaper, the pair are now 'avoiding each other after a series of confrontations,' including on last week's show when Walsh - very amusingly - told Cole: 'It's not all about you, Cheryl.' A 'source' - I'm guessing, probably not Mel B's chum - is alleged to have said: 'Cheryl is quite upset by Louis. It all started off as a joke but she feels he's gone too far. Simon will tell Cheryl not to worry because it's only Louis, but she's a sensitive soul and she does get upset. She feels he's picking on her unfairly. She's like, "What have I done to him? I've never said anything bad about him." It's kind of like playground teasing which has suddenly gone into bullying. I'm sure Simon will be having a word if it carries on. He is the peacemaker. He doesn't like arguments. He doesn't mind a bit of teasing and a bit of fun but when it starts to upset people he understands that it's not nice. The problem is Louis always goes too far.' Bright fight. Little people.

BBC1 is bringing the story of the British High Street to life in Turn Back Time, an exciting and ambitious new series which transports four empty shops and a group of contemporary shop-keeping families back to the High Street's heyday in the 1870s, before propelling them through a century of dizzying changes right up to the Seventies. In the picturesque market square in Shepton Mallet in Somerset, the families' lives will be turned upside down as they get to grips with how shopkeepers lived and worked in six key eras of British history. Laced with real-life entertainment, family drama and human endeavour, the families have to deal with whatever history throws at them. Alongside all the usual pressures of running a business, they will have to learn traditional skills and make their own produce by hand – each episode throwing new challenges their way as the High Street marches towards the modern era. They will be overseen by Turn Back Time's own unique chamber of commerce (Gregg Wallace, Tom Herbert and Juliet Gardiner), who will sets the challenges for each era and enforces accurate rules and regulations – revealing who has delivered on best customer service and weekly sales as the decades tick by. The families will also live the life of each period, dressing, eating and playing as they once would have done – from eighteen-hour working days and wartime rationing, to evenings of entertainment sitting around the wireless. So, this is, basically, a mix of The Apprentice, Victorian Pharmacy and Mary Queen Of Shops. Sounds pretty good, actually! However, these are no museums. The shops will be serving modern-day customers who are used to the pace and convenience of Twenty First-Century shopping. While the shopkeepers themselves struggle with pounds, shillings and pence, will their customers welcome the old-fashioned delights of personal service and hand-delivered goods or will queuing, weighing and hand-wrapping tax their patience? BBC Learning is also offering viewers the chance to continue the Turn Back Time experience in their own area. Working with local history societies museums, libraries and archives, Hands On History will offer a range of events and activities around the country, including a number of historical pop-up shops. I know from talking to my own colleague, Lynn, that BBC North have a series of events planned, the first being towards the end of November at the Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland. I'll have more details on that closer to the time, if anyone in the area wants to pop along. For more information visit Hands on History visit their website, here. The BBC, of course, as they are proud to proclaim, is committed to providing a broad range of compelling history content across all channels and platforms. BBC history programmes are known, and widely respected the world over (although, usually not by the Daily Scum Mail) for their thought-provoking themes, meticulous research and expert contributors. Recent successes like the Battle Of Britain Season and The Normans demonstrate the BBC's continued investment in developing the genre. And, audiences can continue their journey with BBC history by visiting the BBC History website, here.

Posh Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, is involved in a battle against Tesco to protect the village of which he is Lord of the Manor according to press reports. I now have a vision in my head of Lord Julian raising a peasant army and leading them into a terrifying charge down the fresh fruit and veg isle towards the meat counter. It's my psychosis, dear blog reader, I can handle it. In his popular Sunday-night drama Downton Abbey, Fellowes depicts an aristocratic family struggling to maintain control of their country estate. In real life, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and actor has become involved in a battle to preserve a Lincolnshire village from the arrival of a Tesco supermarket. 'I don't live in Tattershall but, as Lord of the Manor, I am entitled to have my voice heard and, perhaps, being slightly well-known helps as well,' Fellowes told the Daily Telegraph. The writer, who inherited his title from his late father, Peregrine, says: 'My role is, hopefully, to be the speaking voice of those who live there. What I want is less important, but I represent the general feeling in the town, which is that it is not appropriate. I am not anti-Tesco in general but, in this particular instance, it will intensify traffic and kill off a lot of local businesses, potentially, so it is understandable that the locals are very worried.' Tesco hopes to build an eleven thousand square foot superstore in the village, which, it says, would create around one hundred and thirty jobs. Fellowes, who lives between his homes in Dorset and London, warned locals recently that they should not be 'hypnotised' by the supermarket giant. Blimey, I didn't know they employed Derren Brown. 'We are used to the muscle power of big companies likes Tesco,' he wrote in a letter to a local newspaper. 'But while we may even admire their vigour, we should not be hypnotised by their might into letting wholly inappropriate development happen because they say it must be so.' Yes, because providing lots of local jobs for unemployed people is just a disgraceful example of bullyboy naughtiness. Anyway, isn't providing jobs for the locals supposed to be the Lord of the Manor's job, traditionally? Fellowes, sixty one, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay to the country house drama Gosford Park, will no doubt win support from Edward Fox. The seventy three-year-old star of The Day of the Jackal recently helped to convince councillors to vote against plans for a supermarket near his cottage in Dorset by delivering a heartfelt speech to a packed town meeting. Earlier this year, Fellowes, who wrote the novel Snobs, called for the Government to start creating new hereditary titles. The writer, who helped Iain Duncan Smith with his speeches when he was Conservative leader - and my, didn't that turn out well? - said: 'The hereditary peerage is fine as long as you can aspire to one, but you can't keep its social importance and lock it.' Tesco, meanwhile, told the newspaper: 'We're hoping to bring something special to Tattershall. We believe we've developed a plan which will provide the produce people want, complement the existing scenery, bring new jobs and boost trade.'

Uniforms used on ITV's The Bill have been bought by the Metropolitan Police to 'stop them falling into the hands of criminals.' A spokesman for the London constabulary said that it bought the four hundred items of clothing as it feared people could use them to pose as real police officers. He would not say how much the purchase had cost the Met but unused items will be re-issued to officers. The twenty four-year run of the The Bill came to an end in August. The show had permission from Scotland Yard to dress its actors in real uniforms and stab-proof vests bearing the force's crest. The Met Police spokesman said: 'When the announcement was made that The Bill was to cease production, the Metropolitan Police approached the production company with a view to acquiring all used and unused items of clothing and uniform. The purpose of this approach was to ensure that Metropolitan Police uniforms did not enter the public domain and give rise to the potential use by unauthorised persons in the commission of criminal activities.' As well as various types of shirts, trousers and pullovers, the items bought include twenty nine body armour covers, twenty eight high visibility jackets, an a number of hats.

Phil Tufnell has revealed that he thought A Question of Sport was rigged before he joined the programme. The former England spin bowler begged producers to slip him the answers when he joined the long-running panel show in 2008 since he thought it was normal practice, reports the Daily Lies. He admitted: 'I was angling, and it was - "Nope. No-one is ever told the questions or answers."' Tufnell is said to have been particularly shocked that the panellists weren't told the identity of the sportsperson in the mystery guest round.

Stand-up comedian Toby Hadoke has criticised the licensing panel which closed the Manchester home of his popular XS Malarkey comedy nights. He has accused councillors of refusing to hear evidence on behalf of the Remedy bar, and simply bowed to a police request that the venue be shut. A hearing last week temporarily closed the bar for twenty eight days following a fight outside the club on 1 October. The venue's fate will be determined at another hearing on 4 November, but bosses fear that it will lose its 3am licence and be forced to go out of business. But Hadoke was furious at the way the initial hearing was handled. He told Chortle: 'This is a prime example of those charged with doing a job involving serving the community doing precisely the opposite. [The panel] seem much keener on the arbitrary wielding of power than any wider concerns for the vicinity they represent. At the farrago of a "hearing" the woman in charge ignored the contents of any representation on the venue's behalf – some from established comedians with a very high profile attesting to the safe atmosphere at XS Malarkey – instead preferring to concentrate on a grammatical error she spotted!' Ah well, y'see, some people are like that. Look at Lynne Truss, she's made a career out of it.

Yer Keith Telly Topping got a really very charming little e-mail from a young chap in Ryton, in good old rock and roll County Durham on Saturday evening in which my new friend suggested the startling possibility that this blogger could be part of the family of the noted philosopher, rationalist and empiricist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). At least, I think what's what he meant. Which, actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. After all, synthetic judgements are - when all is said and done - those which are based on a synthesis (or the putting together of different facts) of experience and are, therefore, considered to be a posteriori. Apparently. So, dear blog reader, take yer Keith Telly Topping's advice, cos he's a right Kant, and act only according to that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will that it would become a universal law. My son. You'll find it's a reet good laugh. Particularly when applied to the majority of ITV's output these days. Anyway ...

Keith Richards has accused the film director the late Donald Cammell of setting up an affair between his lover and Mick Jagger. He accused Edinburgh-born Cammell of encouraging his Rolling Stones band-mate to bed Richards' then-girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. Which he did. Allegedly. Richards claims that he then had a one-night stand himself with Jagger's girlfriend Marianne Faithfull in revenge. Which makes that old joke about Marianne crawling out from under a stone a hell of a lot funnier than it used to be, frankly. The guitar hero and elegantly wasted dude launches a scathing attack on Cammell, who later killed himself in Hollywood, in his 'explosive tell-all' autobiography, Life. Cammell, a shipping firm heir, was co-directing the cult 1968 movie Performance when Jagger and Pallenberg - who play a couple in the movie - had the affair. Richards said: 'Clearly he took a delight in the idea that he was screwing things up between us. It was a set-up, Mick and Anita playing a couple. Donald Cammell was more interested in manipulation than actually directing.' Richards' dislike for Cammell, who died aged sixty two in 1996, has been revealed in his book. Richards said: 'I really didn't like Donald Cammell, the director, a twister and a manipulator whose only real love in life was fucking other people up. He was the most destructive turd I have ever met. Also a Svengali, utterly predatory, a very successful manipulator of women. Cammell wanted to fuck me up, because he had been with Anita before me.' Pallenberg, who previously dated Cammell, fell for Richards while she was in an - allegedly abusive - relationship with another Stone, guitarist Brian Jones. Richards said: 'I didn't find out for ages about Mick and Anita but I smelled it. I never expected anything from Anita. I mean, hey, I'd stolen her from Brian.' He then told her: 'So, you've had Mick now. What do you fancy, that or this?' When Richards found out about the fling, he took revenge by sleeping with Jagger's then-partner, Faithfull. The bed-hopping drove a wedge between the rockers but despite their fraught relationship, their band continued to record and tour for forty years. Indeed, over the four years that immediately followed this, they'd produce the majority of their greatest work - Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. He said: 'I doubt whether it would have happened without Cammell.' Keef admits using the episode to taunt Jagger thereafter, telling him: 'While you were doing that, I was knocking Marianne.' Richards says he only slept with Faithfull once and had to make his escape out a window after Jagger arrived home and almost caught them in bed. He said: 'We heard his car drive up and there was a big flurry and I did one out the window, got my shoes, out the window through the garden, and I realised I'd left my socks. Marianne and I still have this joke. She sends me messages: "I still can't find your socks!"' The notorious hellraiser was paid a reported four million quid plus advance for Life, which will be published on 26 October. Yer Keith Telly Topping's birthday, incidentally. Just thought I'd throw that one in as a bit of useless information. Meanwhile, in almost-related news, Reuters is reporting that Keef will again be appearing as Cap'n Jack Sparrow's father in the upcoming Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Richards, of course, famously inspired Johnny Depp's portrayal in the first three Pirates movies. He has, apparently, confirmed the casting. Whilst Reuters didn't reveal how much of a part Richards will play in On Stranger Tides, sources also reported that the plot of the movie will delve further into Jack's past.

A nineteen-year-old woman from Bellevue has been charged with second-degree assault after stabbing a fellow classmate during an 'anger management' session. Obviously, a much-needed one by the sound of things. According to the Seattle Times, Faribah Maradiaga 'blew out of control' and stabbed the victim several times in the arm and shoulder. Local police reported that the class were viewing an anger management video, before the assailant 'started complaining' about the film and disrupted the session. When another woman said that 'the video was good and to give it a chance,' Maradiaga 'started talking trash.' She then pulled out a knife and repeatedly stabbed the victim.