Thursday, December 09, 2010

Train, Train, Train, Comin' Round The Bend, Took My Baby But It Never Will Again

A TV critic who wrote off Coronation Street fifty years ago has suggested that the soap has 'haunted' him ever since. In December 1960, Daily Mirror columnist Ken Irwin produced a scathing review of the soap's opening two episodes, claiming that they contained 'little reality' and predicting that the drama would not last. Writing at the time, he commented: 'The programme is doomed from the outset - with its dreary signature tune and grim scene of a row of terraced houses and smoking chimneys.' In a new article for the Mirror this week, Irwin - now retired - has marked the soap's fiftieth anniversary by reflecting on his early criticism, which is often quoted in articles exploring the show's history. Irwin explained: 'Coronation Street has haunted me for fifty years. Even when I tried, I couldn't get away from it. In 1963, when I wrote another feature headlined Haven't We Just About Had Enough of Coronation Street Anyway?, Granada were so annoyed that they took a news camera team onto the streets of Manchester to ask passers-by, "What do you think of Ken Irwin?"' He continued: 'My criticism was always honest and, I think, fair. In my defence, that first programme - in black and white - was dreadfully dreary. And if anyone had suggested that the show would be a runaway success and would be on screen for fifty years, they would have sent for the men in white coats to take you away!' Well, it should be noted in the interests of fairness that, actually, the Gruniad's TV reviewer did, indeed, conclude his review the first episode with the line 'this show could run forever' and there is no evidence that he was subsequently sectioned under the mental health act.

A handful of 'confused' Coronation Street fans - or stupid glakes, as 'normal' people call them - were reported to have been left wondering whether Manchester's tram service was still running following Monday night's disaster episode. After the tram crash aired on Monday evening, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive's travel advice line received 'at least' six calls from, well, cretins - let's not beat about the bush here - who wanted to check whether real-life tram services in the city would be affected. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, a spokeswoman for the GMPTE confirmed that 'half a dozen' enquiries were made after the episode. However, she added that none of the callers were panicking or in any apparent distress over the matter. Meanwhile, the actor portraying the tram driver has suggested that he fears being blamed for the death of popular characters. Shouldn't have taken the job then in that case, matey. Tom Burroughs appeared briefly in Monday night's episode as the driver of the doomed tram as he unsuccessfully attempted to avert the disaster. And, even more briefly on Wednesday night's episode, being carried away on a stretcher. And, a bit of rather manic over-acting aside when he was about to plummet into the street, he was really rather good in it. However, producer Phil Collinson has since confirmed that the driver will be seen to survive the crash and feature in the ITV soap again. 'I worried people were going to attack me for killing off favourite characters,' he told the Sun. The still might. Some of them, apparently, believe it was a real tram crash! 'I've got glasses and a hat I wear when I travel on Manchester's trams so passengers don't recognise me.' Burroughs confirmed that he only saw the finished scenes as they were broadcast earlier this week. 'It was getting closer and closer to the end of the episode and I thought, "Is this going to happen or is it going to be the biggest hoax in TV history?" Then it came out of the blue,' he said. 'I was in shock and completely in awe of how they had made it look.'

This week's Corrie, incidentally, shows just exactly what happens when you hand Graeme Harper and The Mill a budget of a couple of million quid. All manner of bloody mayhem and carnage inevitably ensue! So, Ashley, definitely; Charlotte, definitely; Molly, almost certainly; and ... Place your bets now!

A special Doctor Who celebrity edition of the BBC2 quiz show Eggheads, is scheduled for Monday 20 December at 6pm. The quiz will feature a team that includes the Colin Baker along with Katy Manning, Frazer Hines, Louise Jameson and John Leeson who take on the Eggheads to win money for their chosen charity. And, speaking of Doctor Who, Catherine Tate, Mark Gatiss and David Troughton are all currently appearing in the National Theatre production of Alan Ayckbourn's play Season's Greetings, which opens on 8 December. If you're in London, check it out.

Ofcom has confirmed that it is investigating The X Factor over claims that it has encouraged viewers to purchase songs recorded by guest artists on the show. The telecoms regulator will reportedly look into host Dermot O'Dreary's comments after acts perform on the Sunday night results show, where he has allegedly urged viewers to download the songs that have just been performed, the Gruniad Morning Star reports. An Ofcom spokesman said: 'We are investigating The X Factor for potential breaches of our rules prohibiting the promotion of products in programmes.' According to the broadcasting code, the talent show is only allowed to directly promote 'programme-related material,' such as the downloads of songs performed by the contestants on the show. It is suggested that O'Dreary encouraged viewers to download songs by former contestant Diana Vickers and by guest act Michael Bublé.

ONE Show host Chris Evans had reportedly claimed that he was 'frozen out' by ex-presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Evans, who fronts the BBC1 show on Friday evenings - and is doing a pretty reasonable job of it so far - claims that the pair 'blanked' him after he took over alongside Alex Jones in August. In an interview with that bastion of groundbreaking journalism and integrity, Heat magazine, Evans allegedly recalls Chiles confessing that the Friday show was a 'hassle' for him but then 'kicked up a fuss' when BBC bosses offered Evans the job of presenting the show on that night. Later, Evans celebrated getting the job with Bleakley. 'And she's never spoken to me since, either,' he moaned. Last night a 'source' whom the magazine claims is 'close' to Chiles and Bleakley said that they did not recognise Evans' version of events, dismissing them as 'rubbish.' Much like the show they now present, in fact.

Billy Connolly has admitted that he is baffled by his wife Pamela's dedication to Strictly Come Dancing. The well-known Scottish comedian, who is currently promoting the film Gulliver's Travels, said that he is 'deeply impressed" by Pam's efforts on the dance floor, but insisted that he would not be following in her footsteps and taking up the pastime. 'It's awful. My wife dances six, seven, yesterday it was ten hours,' he said. 'Dancing isn't supposed to be like that. It's supposed to be a preamble to sex! You are not supposed to do it for ten hours. You'll be knackered. You are supposed to dance around the fire and then get under the bearskin and get on with it. That's the history.'

Soap operas including Coronation Street and EastEnders have been criticised for regularly showing characters drinking but rarely showing them hungover. Research published by the charity Drinkaware found alcohol features in more than a third of soap air-time. They monitored four shows - Coronation Street, EastEnders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks - over six weeks and found three hundred and eighty three scenes where characters drank alcohol but only twelve that showed them hungover. Characters bought eight hundred and thirty six drinks, equivalent to more than three thousand units of alcohol, during the study including one hundred and eighty eight pints of beer and two hundred and eighty six glasses of wine and champagne. Top of the tipple chart was Emmerdale with an average of eight drinks consumed each episode in the Woolpack. Coronation Street and EastEnders not far behind with an average of seven. Hollyoaks was more sober with an average of four drinks in each show. Drinkaware's chief executive Chris Sorek said: 'British soaps' current representation of the substantial role alcohol plays in people's lives isn't too far from reality, but with research showing people, and particularly children, make assumptions about acceptable real-life behaviour from their television viewing, it's important the negative effects of drinking too much aren't down-played. Weaving some consequences of drinking to excess into soaps won't require fundamental script or storyline changes- even a passing reference to a hangover will start to nudge reform of the on-screen drinking "norm." When viewers sit down to watch a soap they want to be entertained and certainly aren't expecting to see a public health campaign. But soaps are still a useful channel to get information to viewers. We need to avoid normalising the idea of consequence-free drinking to excess, especially among under eighteens, so people of all ages can make informed decisions about their own drinking based on the facts.'

Anne Reid - seen left. Don't plug it in, Val! - has suggested that the new version of Upstairs, Downstairs should not be compared to the original series. The period drama, which first broadcast on ITV between 1971 and 1975, has been revived by the BBC for a series of three hour-long episodes. Reid, who plays cook Clarice Thackeray, told TV Choice. 'You can't dwell on the pedigree too much. You have to put it out of your head. But it's a double-edged sword [because] the expectations are huge, especially in America.' She continued: 'The danger is that people will think they are getting the same thing [as the original] and they're not. I hope people will give it a chance and look at it as something new. I think it's a fascinating period.' The actress also praised her co-star Jean Marsh, who not only co-created the show but also played maid Rose Buck in the original series. 'Jean has lots of tales,' said Reid. 'She seems so serious on the screen and yet she's outrageously funny in real life. We laugh all the time and are very badly behaved.' Actually, here's a little thought for anyone who's interested in continuity between the original and the new version. This is supposed to be set approximately six years after the first series ended and yet Jean Marsh is playing the same character but she's thirty five years older than she was when last seen. What's the betting there's a throwaway line in the opening episode to suggest that poor Rose has had 'a hard life'?

Poirot actor David Suchet has revealed that he watched the 1974 movie version of Murder on the Orient Express before filming a new adaptation for ITV which will be shown on Christmas Day. The film starred Albert Finney as the Belgian detective and was nominated for six Academy Awards upon its release. 'I watched the film when it came out and I wanted to see it again to check the tone,' Suchet told TV Choice. 'I have a great admiration for Albert's performance. He played it with his neck on one side and very strangulated.' However, Suchet confirmed that the main inspiration for the new ITV version was Agatha Christie's original novel. 'Because [the Finney version] was a one-off film and not part of a series, they put a lot of Poirot's eccentric mannerisms into it,' he claimed. 'We've lived with him for so long we don't need to do that. So the foundation was the novel, rather than other adaptations.' The actor also admitted that he was uncertain how his own portrayal of Poirot would be received when he first played the role in 1989. 'I didn't know if I'd be acceptable because I wasn't playing him for laughs and I hoped viewers wouldn't find me boring,' he confessed. 'However, being a classical actor, I've stepped into the shoes of many famous actors playing very famous roles, so in a sense, I was used to that.' And, if you don't want to know the ending, look away now.

They all did it.


Leverage's Timothy Hutton has revealed that viewers will learn more about his character, Nate Ford, in future episodes. The actor told Collider that Nate's past will be explored in both the third season finale, due to start its two episode run next week, and in the subsequent Christmas special. 'There's quite a bit about Nate Ford and his past that we don't know about, and I think the writers are going to bring that forward,' he suggested. 'I think that a lot is revealed in the two-part finale, as well as the Christmas show. It's a nice surprise, at the very end.' Hutton confirmed that the show will continue to delve into Nate's personal life next year. 'In season four, I think there's going to be a continuation of what we've already seen,' he suggested. 'A lot of people come out of the woodwork, looking for Nate and wanting to settle the score.' He continued: '[Nate has] definitely got a lot of issues, and we haven't seen the end of his problems. I think there’s going to be more to come.'

The BBC pensions dispute has come to an end after the National Union of Journalists accepted an agreement brokered by mediation service ACAS. NUJ representatives yesterday voted to endorse a deal that will see the career-average benefit pension - based on an employee's average salary over their entire career - uprated by up to four per cent each year, rather than the previous offer of two and a half per cent. However, the union said that the position would be reviewed after the actual scale of the BBC's pension scheme deficit is disclosed next spring. The NUJ will call for fresh talks if the deficit proves to be less than £1.5 billion. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: 'In light of the significant concessions the BBC has made in recent negotiations, including agreeing to delay the implementation of any changes until after the full scheme valuation is agreed and the real size of the deficit is known, reps have today endorsed the agreement reached at ACAS. Reps will review the position once the actual deficit is published - and further action cannot be ruled out in the event that the deficit is lower than predicted.' A BBC spokesperson added: 'We are very happy that the pensions reform consultation has been concluded and that this has been achieved without costing the BBC anything more.' The agreement brings to an end five months of dispute over proposed changes to the BBC's final salary pension scheme, including a forty eight-hour walkout by NUJ members last month. Four other unions that represent BBC staff, including BECTU and Unite, have already accepted the corporation's final offer on pensions. The NUJ said that it would have been 'much, much better' for the BBC to wait until the full extent of its deficit was known to create a viable long-term solution. The union also expressed its 'ongoing disgust with the BBC's plans to circumvent and undermine the role of the [pension] trustees and treat with contempt the protections afforded to scheme members under the current scheme rules.'

FIFA vice-president, the odious - although not, obviously, corrupt in any way shape or form, oh no, Jack Warner - has blamed the UK media for England's failure to secure the 2018 World Cup, arguing that football's world governing body was 'insulted in the worst possible way.' A Sunday Times investigation into alleged corruption at FIFA was followed last week by a Panorama exposé, broadcast just three days before the World Cup vote on 2 December. The BBC1 programme alleged that members of FIFA's executive committee took bribes, while Warner himself was accused of selling thousands of World Cup tickets to touts. Russia was named the host of the World Cup in eight years' time, after England picked up just two votes from the twenty two members in FIFA's executive committee. Warner, who controlled three votes in his capacity as president of the Concacaf federation of Caribbean, North and Central American countries, feels the media reports contributed to England's downfall. 'Suffice it to say that the FIFA ExCo as a body could not have voted for England having been insulted by their media in the worst possible way at the same time. To do so would have been the ultimate insult [to FIFA],' he said. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty shocking statement for someone in his position to make; that a major sporting body would be so petty, so thin-skinned that a bit of criticism, even if it was inaccurate - and the jury's still solidly out on that score - as to reject one bid in favour of another. Still, one suspects that the Russian media will be far more 'respectful' towards FIFA over the next eight years. And, those that aren't can probably expect to get murdered, that's usually what happens to Russian journalists who ask questions they shouldn't. In a statement after Panorama was broadcast, the Football Association said that the programme 'did nothing but rake over a series of historical allegations' and was an 'embarrassment to the BBC.' They then sent the prime minister of this country, grinning like a bloody idiot, off to Zurich to be photographed happily shaking hands with Warner. Who, allegedly, told Cameron to his face that, yes, they had his vote. And then he, promotly, did the opposite. Because, of course, it's clear that FIFA have nothing, whatsoever, to hide. The BBC's director general Mark Thompson later defended Panorama, arguing that the corporation had a perfect right to broadcast the programme as it contained 'significant information about matters of very serious public interest and public concern.' Paul Elliott, the former Chelsea footballer who served on the board of England's 2018 World Cup bid, said today that Panorama's timing was 'unhelpful' and parts of the show 'were not great.' However, he added that the programme contained important evidence on alleged corruption at FIFA and the BBC was right to show it. Speaking to the Gruniad Morning Star, Elliott said: 'I was fighting my corner, and for my country, for a tournament I believed would be hugely positive, so I saw the timing as unhelpful. But knowing what I do now, and how we were treated by FIFA, I can see it was the right thing to do. Parts of the programme were not great, but they had a document which raised extremely powerful and serious questions of FIFA. Those questions have not been answered. In hindsight I can see it was a solid piece of work and when you have evidence like that, you broadcast it. So the BBC were right to do so.'

Kerry Katona made a return to ITV's This Morning this week - two year's after her last, controversial appearance. The thirty-year-old reality TV regular (until she got filmed snorting cocaine at which point the TV appearances dried up remarkably quickly) criticised host Philip Schofield following her 2008 interview on the show when she slurred her words during an interview. It was claimed last year that Schofield had banned Katona from returning to the show. However, the Sun reports that Katona wanted to 'fix things with Schofield' before her rumoured appearance in the new series of Dancing On Ice. 'Phil has been asking for months to get her back on the show and now with Dancing On Ice coming up, they're ready,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'Kerry feels embarrassed about her last appearance. She hasn't taken drugs or bipolar medication for almost a year and feels ready to return to live telly.'

Kate Garraway has praised Adrian Chiles for speaking out about criticism of his looks. Writing in New magazine, the general Daybreak dogsbody commented on Chiles's admission that dealing with comments about Daybreak had been hard. 'Adrian said he's found it understandably difficult to deal with the fact that people have slated him for being "the ugliest man on TV,"' she said. 'It was very honest of Adrian to admit that it hurts his feelings when people say nasty things about his appearance.' She added: 'People tend to assume that a football-loving alpha-male like him wouldn’t care. Poor guy!' Yeah, terrible. Remind us, how much is he getting paid again?

Which brings us to the latest example of yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This one's a special request for a Mr James Naughtie of London. 'Be careful what you say/And you can play shite all day.'