Friday, December 10, 2010

Week Fifty One: Christmas Is Comin', The Geese Are Gettin' Fat

The live fiftieth anniversary episode of Coronation Street attracted an average audience of around fourteen million people, according to overnight figures. The ambitious show involved sixty five actors and a three hundred-strong crew portraying the aftermath of a devastating gas explosion and even more devastating tram crash. At its climax, two characters appeared to die from their injuries. The show is the world's longest-running TV soap, with its near seven thousand five hundred episodes having featuring thirty nine births (the latest being Fiz giving birth to the appropriately named Hope), one hundred and fourteen deaths (and counting) and eighty eight weddings (whether last night's between Peter and Leanne will be the shortest, we'll have to wait to find out). There have been months of speculation about the identities of those who would be killed off in the catastrophe. On Wednesday, Ashley Peacock - a Street regular for fourteen years, played by Steven Arnold - was seen being crushed to death after the Joinery bar collapsed. On Thursday, viewers saw Peter Barlow flatline in hospital and Molly Dobbs succumb to her injuries. The spectacular storyline was a sign that TV shows now have to strive harder to make an impact, Coronation Street's producer Phil Collinson admitted. 'Television has changed,' he said. 'Programmes like Coronation Street have to stand up against massive pieces of event television like Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor. So we had to do something extraordinary. When drama pushes the boat out, it has to push it out really far. I think the days are over when television drama can sit back and leave it to your imagination. We have to compete against those great big juggernauts.' In the end it all appeared to go quite smoothly, with barely a fluffed line from the cast, although some eagle-eyed fans on Twitter wondered whether they had spotted disabled Izzy Armstrong (played by Cherylee Houston) standing up from her wheelchair at one point. Programme-makers pre-recorded a dress rehearsal as a back-up in case of any technical emergencies. A show spokesman, however, said that the episode was transmitted 'absolutely live' and there was no need to revert to the pre-recorded run-through. In a further revelation during the nail-biting episode, paramedics found that Charlotte Hoyle (Becky Hindley) had a pulse after a frantic John Stape (Graeme Hawley), who had clobbered her with a hammer, tried to pass her off as a victim of the catastrophe.

The critics, too, seemed to broadly enjoy it: 'The live episode of Coronation Street was a harrowing, heart-rending hour of high drama, tears, trauma, death and romance that made EastEnders' effort look like mild hysteria,' noted Jim Shelley in the Mirror. 'It started slowly. The title sequence had gone. No chimneys, cats, pigeons – all blown away by the force of Monday's explosion and the high-pitched wailing, shouting and screaming that has been going on ever since. In their place: mayhem, extras in firemen outfits and an all-encompassing darkness. As games of Guess The Survivor go, it rivalled Agatha Christie for tension and occasionally over-acting. Ashley, Molly and, maybe, Peter Barlow departed with Charlotte The Terrahawk hopefully not far behind, although Rita was noticeable by her absence. Her shoulder pads may have saved her. Molly died, as she lived, looking like The Exorcist. Her final words, in scenes of Excruciating Irony as Sally tried talking her into consciousness, were to tell her Jack's dad was Kevin. Ouch.' 'If extra energy is the benefit of live editions, the curse is the risk of mishaps and actors fluffing. As it turned out, everything seemed smooth, although the producers were clever in setting every scene among characters under stress or grief, so any flapping might have been taken as acting,' added the Gruniad's Mark Lawson. 'The fact that a show which began as northern social comedy marked this passage with scripts befitting a disaster movie is emblematic of the way the genre has developed. A level of plot-twist and incident that would have served [Tony] Warren for a year is now delivered within a single half-hour. Even within this week's Towering Inferno storyline were sub-plots involving a paternity revelation and a man's murder of his mistress with a hammer. Even the Street's biggest rival, the merely twenty five-year-old EastEnders joined in the celebrations. The BBC once notoriously responded to the launch of ITV by incinerating Grace Archer, and so there must have been some nervous actors in Albert Square as this commercial birthday approached but the corporation's attitude turned out to be more supportive: Dot Branning revealed in last night's dispatch from Albert Square that she is an obsessive Corrie viewer, although the show couldn't resist another character muttering in the launderette that she'd "rather watch a lot of dirty laundry going round." Being fictional, Dot won't count in the ratings, but the programme hardly needs her, this live edition crowning one of the best weeks in its life.' In the Independent Gerard Gilbert called the live show an 'exciting, well-crafted episode of a soap opera,' but suggested there were a few mistakes. 'Alison King as Carla seemed to lose the thread at one point, but it's hard to be sure in the circumstances, and William Roache was a bit indistinct at times, but then he was standing over his son's deathbed,' he wrote. Metro's Rachel Tarley claimed there were a 'few camera-focus issues' but it was 'actually nigh-on impossible to tell the hour-long special apart from a regular Corrie episode.' Although she added there was 'a lot of tearless crying as some of the actors struggled to turn on the waterworks on cue.'

A Coronation Street special on Celebrity Juice was watched by more than one million viewers on Thursday evening, according to the latest audience data. The comedy panel show, featuring Kym Marsh, Shobna Gulati and Andy Whyment, averaged 1.11m for ITV2 from 10pm and one hundred and eighty thousand an hour later. In a night dominated by Corrie's landmark live episode, the soap's anniversary show Coronation Street: Fifty Years, Fifty Moments was watched by 6.83m on ITV from 9pm. In BBC1's comedy hour Have I Got News For You and Live at the Apollo achieved, respective, audiences of 5.17m and 4.31m from 9pm. Earlier, The ONE Show was watched by 4.88m from 7pm and The Apprentice: The Final Five by 2.53m in the 8pm hour. And, in the best news of the night, Kirstie and Phil's Wretched Puke-Inducingly Twee Perfect Christmas could only get an audience of a mere eight hundred and ninety thousand viewers on Channel 4 in the 8pm hour. Good.

And, that brings us, as it happens, to the next batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips, dear blog reader:

Friday 17 December
On this week's episode of the best show on British TV, Qi - 8:30 BBC1 - Stephen Fry, as usual, asks all of the unanswerable questions on the subject of the week: Which is holidays. Not the holidays, dear blog reader, that's the next episode on Christmas Eve. The panellists this time around are the great Bill Bailey, the great Rich Hall, the great Rob Brydon and the ... Alan Davies and they try to come up with some interesting answers. Or, some funny ones. And, usually succeed. This week's extended - XL - edition can be seen at 10:00 on BBC2 on Saturday night.

At the end of a couple of weeks that few of its residents will ever forget (those that aren't dead, anyway) in Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - the residents watch in horror as a fight breaks out at the graveside. Whose graveside, you may well be asking? Take yer pick, frankly. The minister attempts to proceed, but with a significant truth revealed the service descends into chaos, and friendships are put to the test when the finger of blame is pointed. Oh, that graveside. Alas, poor Molly, we hardly knew ye. But in your departure, you left behind all manner of ruddy chaos! Meanwhile, Becky is disturbed to learn that the shop's CCTV footage survived the crash and captured her lootin' and robbin'. Keep your mincers peeled for another appearance by that great South Shields actor John Woodvine as dead nutter Charlotte's dad.

Festivals Britannia - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary tracing the history of British music festival culture, from its jazz beginnings (nice!) at Beaulieu in the late 1950s to the Isle of Wight festivals that began in the 1960s, one-offs including Bickershaw in 1972, and the modern line-up of Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and numerous others. The film explores the tension between those attending the performances and the forces policing them, and focuses on the relationship between freedom and shifts in the political, musical and cultural landscape. With contributions by Michael Eavis, one of yer Keith Telly Topping's great musical heroes Richard Thompson, Acker Bilk, Terry Reid, The Levellers (who, hopefully, will have washed first), Billy Bragg, John Giddings and many more.

Saturday 18 December
In Strictly Come Dancing - 7:00 BBC1 - doddery old Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly who has a mouth that appears to be too big for her face, introduce the final of the contest, in which the last three couples vie for the glitterball trophy with an array of dazzling dances. It says here. Judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon give their verdicts on the performances, but the fate of the finalists ultimately lies in the hands of the public, whose votes will decide which couple waltzes off with this year's title. The same public, let us remember, that kept Ann Widdecombe in the show beyond all reason and sanity. These people simply cannot be trusted. The results will be announced later in the evening (at 9:05).

The Cube: Celebrity Special - 7:00 ITV - sees Phillip Schofield inviting the actor and reality show regular Joe Swash and ... reality TV regular Kelly Osbourne to take part in a festive edition of the nerve-racking game show. Both are challenged to complete up to seven - seemingly simple - tasks within the confines of a large transparent cube to win a charity jackpot of, get this, a quarter of a million spondoolicks. But each celebrity has only nine lives - and with each one they lose, the pressure mounts. Last in the series. Thank goodness.

There's also a welcome repeat of Reichenbach Falls tonight at 10:25 on BBC4. In this clever, sharp little drama - which predated Sherlock by three years - two former friends, the volatile detective Jim Buchan and the successful crime writer Jack Harvey, are thrown together when a century-old skeleton is uncovered beneath the streets of Edinburgh. The investigation propels them into the city's dark underworld, where they discover a shattering truth. Excellent one-off thriller based on a short story by Ian Rankin and starring Alec Newman, Alastair Mackenzie and John Sessions.

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story - 10:45 BBC2 - is a documentary charting Britain's finest comedian and action transvestite's rise to fame, featuring interviews with his friends, family and colleagues. The film includes previously unseen footage of Eddie's student days, his time as a unicycling street mime performer, and his early stand-up performances.

Sunday 19 December
The Sports Personality of the Year - 7:00 BBC1 - is presented, as usual, by Sue Barker, Gary Lineker and Jake Humphrey. They present a review of the year's sporting highlights from the LG Arena in Birmingham, as memorable performances and outstanding achievements are celebrated, before the announcement of the fifty seventh recipient of the award. The ten contenders for the award are Grand National-winning jockey Tony McCoy, golfers Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood, Commonwealth Games diving champion Tom Daley, cricketer Graeme Swann, darts legend Phil Taylor (eh?!), cyclist Mark Cavendish, Winter Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams, boxer David Haye and European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis. Subsequent programmes are, of course, subject to change if it goes on for hours, like it usually does. And, Jessica Ennis is going to win that, by the way. So, there's no point in watching now! Although, as well as the main accolade, other awards will include one for lifetime achievement.

I just don't believe it, it's The Many Faces of Richard Wilson - 9:00 BBC2. To most people the actor Richard Wilson, will always be grumpy old sod Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave, while perhaps to a younger audience he is Gaius in the Arthurian romp Merlin. But Richard's long and distinguished acting career began many years before, and here he tells his story, focusing on the early appearances, what drove his choices and their consequences. Featured archive footage (some of it being shown for the first time in many years) include Crown Court, Only When I Laugh, Tutti Fruitti and Dr Finlay's Casebook. Hopefully, they'll also include a clip of the memorable episode of The Sweeney in which Richard played Jack Regan's boss and said, at one point, 'I don't belieeeeeeve it!' True story.

In One Hundred Greatest Toys with Jonathan Ross - 6:00 Channel Four - self-confessed gadget nerd and classic toy collector Jonathan Ross presents a three-hour countdown of the nation's favourite games and gizmos, as decided by a Channel Four online poll. Inventors and toy-makers tell the inside stories of their creations and successes - including Action Man®™, Yahtzee®™, Barbie®™ and Trivial Pursuit®™ - while the children of yesteryear, today's celebrities, authors, actors and journalists, take a nostalgic look back at the toys they loved. Viewers will also find out who came up with the design of the Raleigh Chopper®™, how a one-time wimp created the world's toughest action figure, how Tomorrow's World influenced Action Man's haircut and why the Vietnam War almost brought Britain's Matchbox®™ car range to an end. As these list-TV shows full of talking heads go, this doesn't sound a bad one, actually, albeit isn't this pretty much exactly what James May's been doing for the BBC for the last three years with, considerably, more charm?

The Truth About Carols - 8:00 BBC4 - sees the composer Howard Goodall uncovering the often turbulent and uncomfortable relationship between carols and the celebration of Christmas. Though around since the Twelfth Century, the hymns have only been a feature of services for the past one hundred and fifty years, as the Church believed them to be pagan or of no spiritual value. They have been used as secret codes, saved from the brink of extinction and subject to state censorship at various times. The programme includes performances by folk star Bella Hardy, the Purbeck Village Choir and the Truro Cathedral Choir, who recreate the very first Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Monday 20 December
In-keeping with one of this week's regular themes, pagan festivals and fairy tales, there's The Nativity - 7:00 BBC1. Tony Jordan gives the biblical story of the birth of Christ a contemporary twist in this four-part drama. Nazareth girl Mary counts her blessings when her parents, Joachim and Anna, arrange her betrothal to a local carpenter, Joseph. In the East, the three Magi gather to discuss a prophecy in the stars heralding a great event. Andrew Buchan and Tatiana Maslany star, with Neil Dudgeon, Claudie Blakley, Peter Capaldi, Art Malik and Jack Shepherd. Continues tomorrow.

David Jason - remember him? He used to be on TV a lot - stars in Come Rain Come Shine - 8:30 ITV. This is a drama about an ex-docker whose life revolves around his family. A simple man with strong values, Don Mitchell is immensely proud of his property developer son David, who has carved out a life others can only dream of, mixing in social circles a million miles away from his working-class roots. Don's wife Dora often questions her son's affluent lifestyle, but his father will not hear a bad word said against him. However, it seems all is not well in paradise, as the family soon discovers. Alison Steadman, Shaun Evans and Kellie Bright co-star.

Sky One's series Little Crackers - 9:00 - gives a number of today's comedians the chance to explore their own past with an autobiographical comic short. One of tonight's is a festive tale written by Catherine Tate, telling the story of a shy six-year-old girl who received a role in the school nativity thanks to her mother's persistence, before singing a song somewhat inappropriate for the situation.

Timeshift: Nordic Noir - The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary examining the success of Scandinavian crime fiction, looking at the genre's most acclaimed writers and memorable characters. The film reveals how Stieg Larsson based his Millennium trilogy on his life as an investigative journalist, reveals his inspiration for the character Lisbeth Salander, and explores Henning Mankell's Wallander series as well as new writers emerging from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Narrated by husky-voiced Mariella Frostrup. Who, as Half Man Half Biscuit once so aptly noted 'does loads of voiceovers, but nothing much else yet she seems to get by.'

Sometimes, the name of a TV show can give viewers completely the wrong idea about it. And so it is with The Gadget Show's Christmas Stocking - 8:00 Channel Five. Can I have Suzi Perry in a pair of fishnets, please? Anyway, the presenters reflect on memorable moments from the current series of the popular technology show, which include Ortis Deley and Jason Bradbury's attempt to learn new skills using simulators, Suzi's transformation into a virtual character, and Pollyanna Woodward's power-tool drag-race. Plus, Jon Bentley gives a rundown of the five best innovations of 2010. Last in the current series.

Tuesday 21 December
Having seemingly had enough of James May's company, Oz Clarke is off on his travels again, this time with a new companion. In Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar - 9:05 BBC2 - a new four part series, the wine expert and comedian Hugh Dennis embark on a challenge to set up the UK's most patriotic drinking establishment. Their journey takes them right across the UK, looking for the best British drinks to stock their cellar. But there is a twist - the duo will be in competition with each other, running their own bar, each, inside the pub. Their search begins in the South of England, where they discover sparkling wines in Sussex and offal and jellyfish-flavoured beers in Cornwall. Part two will be shown on Boxing Day at 7pm.

Perhaps the reason James isn't up for that gig is because he's busy with his real job. In Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 Captain Slow, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond compare the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and the Ferrari 458 Italia in an epic road trip up America's east coast. They undertake a series of challenges culminating in a race to find the fastest way into New York City, all in the name of crowning the world's greatest sports car. Plus, motor-related tat for your Christmas stocking and another Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Wonder if it'll be Santa? There are also strong rumours that a new Stig might be unveiled in this.

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the opportunity to indulgently bellow 'Iiiiiiiiit's Christmas' along with Lord Noddy Holder OBE on a bit of archive footage of The Slade from 1973. And, you know, in them days, dear blog reader, the future really had only just begun. Prepare, then, for ninety minutes of yuletide nostalgia with Top of the Pops 2 Christmas Special 2010 - 6:30 BBC2. Yer actual Mark Radcliffe sifts through the Top of the Pops archives to present a selection of festive performances, including songs by Wizzard (yes, that one), The Pogues and Kirstie MacColl (yes, that one), Elton John, Take That and ABBA. And Coldplay. Oh brilliant. Hummus instead of turkey for Chrimbo dinner, is it? Is it too much to hope that this will be a Greg Lake-free zone? Probably. Bet they don't play 'Israel' by Siouxsie and Banshees, the best Christmas single ever released by anyone.

And, along similar lines, we've got Imagine: Ray Davies - Imaginary Man - 10:35 BBC1. The Kinks' singer-songwriter Ray Davies talks to Alan Yentob, retracing the steps of an extraordinary career that took him and his band from the 1960s beat boom to international fame. The writer of 'You Really Got Me', 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion', 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Dead End Street', 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?', 'Days' and 'Waterloo Sunset' - among dozens of others - recalls his upbringing in North London's Muswell Hill and the influence this had on his beautifully observed lyrics, evocative, wistful, reflective descriptions of life in the suburbs which would cast a beguiling spell over bands as diverse as The Who, The Ramones, The Jam, Blur and The Kaiser Chiefs. Last in the current series.

Now, as some regular long-term listeners of BBC Newcastle will know, yer Keith Telly Topping has been doing his mildly amusing television reviews for the station, off and on, for about sixteen years or so. However, the current, daily, malarkey - Keith Telly Topping & His (Two) Top TV Tips, created by Wor Scunthorpe Steve Drayton - began in May 2007 and, if my math are correct (and they are), Wednesday 22 December 2010 will see the slot's one thousandth episode. As Bart Simpson has written on the blackboard so many times in the past, 'I will not celebrate meaningless milestones.'

Wednesday 22 December
In The Comedy Annual 2010 - 9:00 ITV - Britain's leading comedians (although, it's noticeable that ITV haven't, actually named any of those taking part) give their verdict on the brilliant, outrageous and infuriating stories of the year. Among the topics covered are the travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud and the use of vuvuzelas at the World Cup in South Africa.

I'm also happy to advise you that there's a repeat of 2008's The Perfect TV Detective - 9:00 BBC4. This is a documentary exploring the enduring popularity of crime dramas, this documentary investigates the backgrounds of the many sleuths to feature on TV screens over the years, from clerics to cooks, gardeners to geriatrics - asking which if any is better than the old-fashioned detective. Among the crime-solvers profiled are Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Morse, Jonathan Creek and Taggart. And it features yer Keith Telly Topping in his role as 'respected TV journalist, reviewer and critic.' Allegedly. What more could you ask for?


Bill Bailey is the subject of tonight's Little Crackers - 9:15 Sky1. Bill produces a rather clever, surreal little film in which he recalls a particularly nightmarish Christmas Eve from hell in 2009, when he found himself as a Scrooge-like grump, trapped in a multi-storey car park with the technological world rapidly turning against him. Only through the calming voice in the pay-and-display machine did he find redemption.

In Come Dine with Me: Celebrity Christmas Special - 9:00 Channel Four - drum 'n' bass deejay and Strictly contestant Goldie, former Footballers' Wives actress Susie Amy, one-time Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis and veteran crooner Tony Christie host Christmas dinner parties for each other in this festive special of the wining and dining challenge. Goldie tries some shock tactics, Susie goes camp, Janet offers an old-fashioned ambience and Tony aims for a touch of sophistication - but, which of them will be the Christmas cracker?

Thursday 23 December
All About Ronnie Corbett - 9:00 BBC2 - is, as you might expect, a documentary charting the comedian's long career, in the year of his eightieth birthday, featuring the man himself as well as many fellow comics who admire him. Including interviews with Miranda Hart, Rob Brydon, Stephen Merchant, Bill Bailey, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, Catherine Tate, Reece Shearsmith, Bruce Forsyth, Michael Palin, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Jon Culshaw, Tamsin Greig Kevin Bishop and Stephen K Amos. I presume the latter two are on this for a sole reason of seeing someone who actually is funny in the hope that they'll pick up something from the experience.

How Science Changed Our World - 8:00 BBC1 - sees Professor Robert Winston presenting his top ten most important scientific advances of the last fifty years, examining how the innovations have transformed the world, eradicated diseases and changed the way people communicate. Included on his list are the Pill, the MRI machine, the Internet, stem cell research and IVF. On his journey he explores the origins of the universe, probes the inner working of the human mind and takes a trip to the most powerful laser in the world. Sounds like quite a packed hour, then. Best to make a cuppa before hand in case you miss something important.

In Eight Out Of Ten Cats Christmas Special - 10:00 Channel Four - Jimmy Carr hosts a festive edition of the topical panel show, with guests comedian Jack Dee, TV presenter Big Fat Cuddly Lorraine Kelly, comedy actress Josie Long and former I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... winner Christopher Biggins joining regular team captains Sean Lock and Jason Manford. Among the seasonal topics up for light-hearted discussion and debate are the best things about Christmas Day and the worst person with whom to spend Christmas. That's easy. Kirstie Allsopp. As anybody who's been watching her show for the last few weeks will know.

And so, to the news: The veteran comedian Ronnie Corbett has revealed that he nearly quit showbusiness just before he got his big break. The seventy nine-year-old said he had vowed to find a new career by the age of thirty seven if he had not made it. 'Fortunately, at the age of thirty seven I did The Frost Report - where I met Ronnie Barker - and that turned my life round,' he told the Christmas edition of Radio Times. The duo subsequently created their own sketch-based comedy show The Two Ronnies and went on to be one of the most popular comedy double acts in the UK. Although, never quite surpassing Eric and Ernie in the public's affections. 'I always had a little plan in my mind and gave myself until the frighteningly mature age of thirty seven,' Corbett said. 'If nothing had happened by then, I would stop performing and go into the business as an artist's agent or something.' The actor is starring in a comedy show which will be shown on the BBC on Christmas Day called The One Ronnie. Rob Brydon, Miranda Hart, smug, fat, unfunny James Corden and singer Charlotte Church will join the star in The One Ronnie, which will also mark his eightieth birthday.

The third season of Lie To Me will have just thirteen episodes. Entertainment Weekly reports that FOX has declined to order the back nine episodes of the Tim Roth-fronted crime drama. The broadcaster stresses, however, that Lie to Me has not been cancelled. The Chicago Code, a new drama from Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Terriers, and, indeed, Lie To Me itself) had already been scheduled to take over Lie To Me's slot beginning 7 February, and with American Idol taking up so much time on FOX's schedule, it may well be this is simply a matter of there being too many shows for too few slots this spring. A decision on Lie To Me's future is not expected until May.

Simon Cowell has revealed that he has plans to launch a new Saturday night music show. The music mogul refused to reveal much about the show to journalists at an X Factor press conference yesterday. However, Broadcast magazine reports that he claimed 'there is always room for more music. We will be doing something on Saturday nights,' he continued. The Mirror adds that Cowell confirmed: 'It's going to be a stand-alone show. We might announce something fairly soon because we think there should be another music show. There has been a resurgence in the business and music has become exciting again.' They suggest that 'insiders' allegedly claim the show, which is already under discussion, could be on air as early as next year. An ITV 'source' said: 'We can’t say too much yet, the plans are still being finalised, but everyone knows Simon doesn't do anything by halves. This will raise the bar again, with no expense spared.' Max Clifford, the judge's spokesman, denied that the programme will be a direct replacement for Top of the Pops. Cowell also reportedly hinted that he may not return to The X Factor next year. Exactly the same story that went around this time last year. Say what you like about Cowell but he's a master at manipulating press headlines about not only his shows but, also, himself. Speculation about Cowell's future on the show has been rife - in the press, if not anywhere that actually matters, like at ITV - since the announcement that he would be launching a version of the show in America next year - at, essentially, the same time as the next series of the UK edition should be kicking off. 'I haven't made up my mind yet,' he is quoted by the Daily Star as saying. Yeah. Bet you have, though. 'I don't know if I will be back. I think we should be judged as well as the contestants; I don't want to look like a mug.' He added: 'We've taken some flak this year but I've done my best to make the show more interesting.' Cowell admitted that he enjoys being part of a show which people want to discuss. 'It gets people talking, it always causes controversy but I'd rather have that than be doing something boring and predictable,' he said. 'I've met with fans on a regular basis this year and they like the changes, they like the twists.' He added: 'I would never want to make the same show as I made the year before.'

Stephen Mangan has admitted that he feels the pressure of playing the role of Dirk Gently in a new BBC4 drama. It was confirmed in October that the actor had been cast as Gently in a loose adaptation of the Douglas Adams novels. 'I do feel pressure that there's a big fanbase,' he told SFX. 'I played Adrian Mole years ago and I felt a similar pressure [then] because it's almost as if you're playing a real person, but a real person who everyone thinks looks different, [imagines] in a slightly different way, or who they've got a different idea of.' Mangan suggested that the show's humour would help to differentiate it from other detective series. 'If it's not funny it will have failed, because there are a lot of detective stories out there and they're already well covered for serious, flawed detectives,' he said. 'So what this brings is the quirkiness, the oddness, the intelligence, the wit [and] the strangeness.' The former Green Wing actor also joked that his co-star Darren Boyd's tall stature was 'quite annoying. The central dynamic of the whole show is me and Darren,' he explained. 'They're like a double act. We get on very well [in real life] but he's six foot four [so] I'm going to look very short.'

ITV has confirmed that Adrian Chiles will host a new Sunday night show which will 'take a look back at the biggest stories of the week.' The Daybreak host will take charge of That Sunday Night Talk Show and a panel of guests which includes Frank Skinner, John Prescott, Catherine Tate and Louis Walsh. The eight-part series of thirty-minute episodes will be made by Harry Hill's TV Burp producer Avalon Television and is likely to be broadcast in the 10pm slot. Exact details have yet to be confirmed but it is thought that the show will begin early next year. Other guests slated to feature are Alastair Campbell, Al Murray, Shaun Ryder and Margaret Mountford. Elaine Bedell, ITV's director of comedy and entertainment, said: 'That Sunday Night [Talk] Show promises to be the perfect roundup of the week as Adrian and his guests cast a wry eye over the past seven days' events and the week ahead.' The project will be Chiles's first outside of the breakfast show and his presenting duties for the network's wretched football coverage. It'll be interesting to see whether this is as disastrously, spectacularly bad as they are.

Ruth Kearney has revealed details about her role in the upcoming fourth series of Primeval. It was announced earlier this year that the actress had joined the cast of the ITV family SF drama as computer whiz Jess. She told SFX: '[Jess] has everyone's back. She's got an eye and an ear for everything, so I think she's definitely someone you want on your team. I think she's very loyal too because she obviously hears every conversation, and has read everyone's files, but would never use that against them.' Kearney also said that there are 'two sides' to the new team member. 'On one hand, she's very girly - loves socialising and hearing gossip and all that king of thing,' she explained. 'But when she's sitting in front of her hub in the ARC, she's the most efficient person you could ever have in that job.' She continued: 'She's a bit of a whiz-kid and highly apt at computer science. She was headhunted for this job, and she was just immediately at home.'

The BBC has announced that Fern Britton will talk to veteran US civil rights campaigner The Reverend Jesse Jackson for her new interview series. Fern Britton Meets ... starts this Sunday on BBC1 with the Jackson interview, in which he will discuss the challenges facing Barack Obama in his presidency. One of the most enduring images during Obama's US presidential victory speech was of Jackson in the crowd, tears streaming down his face. Discussing the moment, he says: 'When I looked at him walk out and victory being declared, I thought about nameless, faceless people that you will never know, many of my friends had become martyred for the right to vote, and now here we are electing an African-American president. So, there I stood watching fifty years of labour, sacrifice and risk and so the journey overwhelmed me and the joy of us getting there.' Jackson, who mounted failed campaigns for the Democratic party nomination in 1984 and 1988, will note that Obama is 'operating against great odds' in the US, including 'unprecedented attacks' against his character. 'We've never known such violent personal attacks on someone with coded words - is he one of us? Is he an American? Was he born here? Is he a Christian?' he says. 'We've never known such violent attacks before. He has a high moral compass. He has integrity and he has courage, so he has the stuff of which great presidents are made. But he's operating against great odds. But I find a certain satisfaction of watching him grow in the office. Well, he has superior skills and his greatness will come in time.' Despite the fact that an African-American is now in the White House, the reverend believes that the battle for civil rights is as pressing as ever. 'We are free but not equal. There's a lot of unfinished business, as we seek not just racial justice but economic justice,' Jackson says. 'That's important because when they close a plant and turn the lights out we all look very much alike in the dark. So we must take light into dark places and heating into cold places. That's important with our mission.'

TV Guide Canada has printed an official retraction for misrepresenting Ed O'Neill's comments regarding Jane Lynch's recent Emmy win. The Modern Family actor was originally quoted as saying that he did not believe Lynch deserved the award since her character on Glee is one-note. 'Earlier this week, TV Guide Canada published a story misquoting Ed O'Neill's recent comments about Jane Lynch's Emmy win,' the publication apologised in a statement. 'Our writer did not mean to misrepresent Mr O'Neill or anyone else involved in the story. He and TV Guide Canada sincerely apologise for this error. Mr O'Neill's real quote is as follows: "I'm one of Jane Lynch's biggest fans. I love Jane Lynch. She is a genius. But at the same time I said, 'Sofia could win,' because I've only seen Glee once."' O'Neill's quote continued: 'But I thought Jane's role is rather one-dimensional. It's kind of strident. It's always kind of the same. I've seen her be much better. So I thought, "Sofia's funnier," and I think she is in these two comparative roles. Anyway, Jane won. But I was hoping that Sofia would.'

Michael Palin joined actor Colin Firth at a charity screening of The King's Speech, a film he hopes will prove 'stammerers are no different from anybody else.' The former Monty Python's Flying Circus comedian's father had a severe stammer and he himself famously played a man with a stammer in the film A Fish Called Wanda. The King's Speech, which has already been tipped as an Oscar winner, is based on the true story of King George VI, played by Firth, as he attempts to overcome his stammer with the help of irreverent Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. Palin said on the red carpet: 'I think [the film] could make an enormous difference because it's very important to see people with stammers as just the same as anyone else. They laugh the same, they cry the same, one just has the slight problem of speaking fluently. It's very important to show that a stammer isn't just a comedy vocal touch [and that] stammerers are no different from anybody else.' The screening, which was also attended by director Tom Hooper, raised money for The Michael Palin Centre For Stammering Children, a specialist centre the actor gave his name to after playing Ken in the 1988 film. 'It caused a bit of debate: should you portray a stammerer on film? But it was a successful film and it got me thinking, particularly about my father's stammer,' he said. Firth revealed that even to this day his speech had been affected by playing a stammering character. 'If I start thinking about it there's the danger it will kick in again,' he said.

Channel Four News has confirmed plans to hire a new presenter to join Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy next year as part of a major revamp of the show. According to media reports, producers on the long-running programme are introducing the changes as part of the ongoing 'creative renewal' at Channel Four. Lead presenters Snow and Guru-Murthy will take on slightly different roles, with the third presenter due to appear regularly on the show in the new look team. The appointed presenter will take on heavyweight interviews and host live discussions, as well as cover for the main hosts when they are away. However, Channel Four News programme-maker ITN has denied suggestions that the move is part of long-term plans to replace sixty three-year-old Snow when he eventually retires. Other new roles on the show include a social affairs editor to join the home news team, with responsibility for analysing stories impacting modern Britain. A restructure of the science unit will see a new editor hired to lead the team and an environment correspondent come on board to examine climate change stories. The 7pm news programme will also seek to further increase audience engagement with more live blogging and interactive formats. In September, Channel Four News relaunched its website, featuring live blogs and video content for mobile devices. 'One of the things that distinguishes Channel Four News is the sense of identity and personality that viewers associate with it. We're absolutely committed to ensuring that as our content and agenda evolves, those values remain,' said Channel Four News editor Jim Gray. 'This time next year, I predict that our programme, line-up and journalism will have evolved in line with news audiences - but it will all still be unmistakeably Channel Four News.' Channel Four head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne added: 'Channel Four News is the cornerstone of our commitment to public service broadcasting and these changes will build on the successes of 2010. Our experience of launching new online brands such as FactCheck, experimenting with on-air formats and talking to our viewers every single night has given us fantastic insight into what news consumers want.'

BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, could reportedly be part-privatised to raise around two billion pounds and transform the body into a force for championing UK export growth. According to the Daily Telegraph, senior BBC figures are reviewing the position with Worldwide, which generated profits of one hundred and forty five million last year on turnover of £1.074bn. Options under consideration include an eighty per cent sale of Worldwide, which would bring in an estimated windfall of between two billion and two and a half billion pounds. Even the sale of just a fifty per cent stake in the organisation would net the BBC around one billion pounds. Last December, the previous Labour government placed Worldwide on a list of assets it was reviewing for potential financial or operational separation, including a 'sale or partial sale.' However, Worldwide was given a reprieve in October after the new coalition government said that there was 'no commitment' to offload the BBC's commercial arm. The BBC is understood to be reconsidering the partial sale of Worldwide as it could bring in a huge cash injection, just as the corporation is facing a sixteen per cent budget cut under its new licence fee settlement. There has also been suggestion that Worldwide could be used to reduce the BBC's estimated one and a half billion pounds pension scheme deficit, but most likely as asset backing. Worldwide, which sells BBC properties such as Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who and Top Gear to overseas markets, currently contributes around ten per cent of UK creative exports. The body also runs international BBC-branded TV channels, such as BBC America and BBC Entertainment, and sells magazine, DVDs and merchandise. Next year, it will launch an international version of catch-up TV service iPlayer, using an as-yet-unannounced commercial payments model. However, Worldwide's expansion is constrained by its relationship to the BBC, as the BBC Trust closely governs the organisation's acquisitions and service launches. The body also often faces criticism from the private industry, such as its controversial deal to buy Lonely Planet, which was described by oily little daddy's boy James Murdoch as 'a nationalisation' of the travel guide publisher. A part-privatisation of Worldwide would free up the body to expand and potentially better serve the UK creative industries, but the BBC is keen to retain full control of its branded properties. Options for the potential sale will be discussed over the coming months, but a final decision is unlikely from the Trust until a new chairman replaces Sir Michael Lyons next May. Speaking this week, a BBC Trust spokesman denied that Worldwide is up for sale, but did admit that its ownership structure could be reviewed in the future. 'Decisions concerning any future ownership changes to BBC Worldwide are matters for the Trust. Worldwide is not up for sale,' he said. 'Our priorities are to maximise the value of the BBC's intellectual property on behalf of licence fee payers, while protecting the BBC's brand and reputation. However, any business operates in a dynamic environment and we reserve the right to consider formally the appropriate ownership structure for Worldwide, should we see fit in the future.'

David Tennant, as previously reported, has teamed up this month with former Doctor Who director James Strong and writer Chris Chibnall to shoot a BBC Film telling the story of Manchester United's legendary Busby Babes. United – The Busby Babes And The Munich Air Crash, will follow Matt Busby and his assistant Jimmy Murphy as they built the gifted, mostly teenage, team which became the side with the youngest average age ever to win the English football league in the mid-1950's. Of course, like many comets, they burned bright and died young, tragedy striking The Flowers of Manchester in Munich when eight of the players died in a plane crash in February 1958 when the team were on their way back from a European Cup match. Just over half of the forty four passengers (including coaches and several journalists) were killed. Although they've secured a notable name in Tennant, the movie will actually be led by Skins actor Jack O'Connell. He plays Bobby Charlton, the youngest of the Babes to survive. Tennant, a noted Derry City fan of course, plays Assistant Manager Jimmy Murphy. A combative Welshman, Murphy was Matt Busby's first appointment to his regime and his right hand man, being responsible for scouting, training and teaching the young players who would become world beaters. Thomas Howes (Downtown Abbey) plays centre-half Mark Jones, who died in the crash aged twenty four. Sam Clafin (so good in Any Human Heart at the moment) will portray Duncan Edwards, the team's star player who died - aged just twenty one - from his horrific injuries fifteen days after the crash. Bobby Charlton would call Edwards' death 'the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football' and many believe that Edwards, had he lived, would have still been a key part of the England side for the next decade. Dougray Scott will play Matt Busby himself, the manager of the team who won five league titles and, eventually, a decade later helped to lay to rest the ghosts of Munich by creating another team - including Chalrotn - that finally lifted the European Cup. Executive producer Simon Heath said: 'Chris Chibnall has written an authentic and moving version of this heartbreaking story, which with the help of a great cast, we hope will be a fitting tribute to those who survived and those who lost their lives at Munich.' Filming is currently taking place in a variety of locations across the North East (they were in Tynemouth last week and Wallsend earlier today) whilst the football sequences are being filmed in Carlisle (Brunton Park standing in for Old Trafford) and the movie is expected to be released next year.

And, finally, here's yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Now, I'm not normally a huge fan of that 'arbitrary pop song played at the end of the bit of TV drama to underscore a particular point,' thing which seems to have become something of an industry standard over the last decade or so. But, once in a while (The West Wing's used Massive Attack's 'Angel' is one that always sticks in my mind) if it's done well, and with some wit and imagination, then it can be astonishingly effective. And, so it was on Friday night with Corrie and this little cracker from Mr Bonio and his boys ... 'All the promises we made/From the cradle to the grave...'

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