Monday, December 06, 2010

Work! Whitelaw! Short Sharp! World War!

Benidorm creator Derren Litten has admitted that he cried whilst writing the late actor Geoffrey Hutchings's departure from the show. Litten rewrote the Christmas special and six new episodes of the series after Hutchings, who played Mel in the ITV comedy, died earlier this year. Speaking about how the actor's passing had impacted on the show, Little said: 'First of all I didn't know how I was going to write the departure of Mel with the respect and tact it required. I spoke with Andi, Geoff's wife, and she said I had her blessing to do whatever I thought was right. In the end, writing that part of the storyline wasn't difficult but it was incredibly emotional. I sat at my desk in the office in my house and cried as I wrote it; I'm pretty sure it will have the same effect on the viewer.' Producer Ben Cavey added: 'We chatted about it and we just realised there was no way we could replace Geoffrey Hutchings, it was just going to be impossible. So really the ball was in Derren’s court to whether he was willing to try and rewrite the entire show. Fortunately he was and he set to work and pretty much single-handedly rewrote six hours worth of television in the course of four weeks. I hope in a way that's a real tribute to Geoffrey, I have been working with Geoffrey pretty solidly for about a year and a half, I had just done another show with him for BBC2. I'm very aware that his partner and his family are able to remember him in a great way. I think the show constantly reminds the viewer right until the last episode what a fantastic presence the character of Mel was, and what a brilliant actor Geoffrey Hutchings was.'

Is this the greatest headline in the history of the Internet? I thought that was just a vicious rumour. Still, it didn't stop her from winning in the end! Dear old Stace and Shaun Ryder have both been reflecting on their favourite moments and trials from this year's I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The nostalgic mood commenced when the final two were instructed to use a video camera to record their memories of camp life and show off favourite areas of their jungle home. Firstly, Ryder remembered his argument with Alison Hammond over prison chores and detailed his most emotional moment in the show. 'The time when I was closest to tears was with my letters from family saying how proud they are of my uniqueness and the girls loving dad,' he said. 'That would have been it.' Solomon meanwhile identified the moment that she accidentally threw a stone in Dom Joly's eye as her funniest. The former X Factor contestant also declared that she had 'a wicked time' competing in the Super Scario and Celebrity Cyclone challenges, innit, but clarified that not every task came to her so easily. 'I've found the trials a lot harder than what I thought, everything made me a nervous wreck at every trial. I never want to do another Bush Tucker Trial ever again.' 'I would eat tarantula again,' Ryder confirmed. 'If there was a choice between Gillian's shit bars and any of the stuff in Rank Banquet, I will eat the rank stuff. It's a pressure getting stars for food for the camp, you want to do it. I hated playing the quizzes and the games, they piss me off, but herding goats, eating bugs and getting covered in shit, they are alright.' The pair also expressed gratitude for their I'm A Celebrity ... success, with Solomon adding, 'I've never got past third before!' as Ryder stated, 'My kids will think I'm a superhero.'

The I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... finale was watched by an average overnight audience of almost twelve and a half million viewers. Stacey Solomon's victory was seen by 12.39m, making it the ITV reality show's second most popular final since the format began in 2002. It was out rated only by Kerry Katona's win in 2004. Spin-off show I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here Now! followed with a whopping 1.88m for ITV2 from 10.25pm, while the main show had a peak audience of 12.95m a few minutes before the result was announced. Prior to this, The X Factor semi-final saw a modest rise on last week, attracting 13.85m viewers from 7.40pm and a peak of 14.64m between 8.15pm and 8.30pm. Strictly Come Dancing had another good night with 11.97m for BBC1 from 6.40pm for the quarter-final stage, reaching a peak of 12.96m at 7.15pm, after which Merlin's two-part finale ended on a series high of 6.61m. All in all in was a phenomenal night for ratings, with nearly twenty nine million viewers watching TV between 7pm and 10pm. Merlin, incidentally, averaged 5.75 million in overnights across its thirteen episodes this series. That's an increase of over half-a-million on their 2009 average.

Mutton-dressed-as-mutton Ann Widdecombe was compared to a 'Dalek in drag' by the Strictly Come Dancing judges on Saturday night. And then, stunningly, was voted off the show on Sunday night. Which does, rather, restore ones faith in humanity. The ex-Tory MP, faceache and drag picked up but fourteen points for her alleged 'American smooth,' which was a record low score on Strictly, and was ridiculed for her inept performance. Judge Bruno Tonioli commented: 'Anton was pushing you around like a trolley with tinsel falling everywhere. And when you were on your own, you looked like a Dalek in drag.' Len Goodman also revealed that he thought it was time for Widdecombe to leave the dance competition: 'You're a bit like the snow - it gives you fun but eventually you just want it to go away, and that's how it is. Sorry Ann.' Unusually, it was left to Widdecombe's most persistent critic, Craig Revel Horwood, to offer some - vague - praise for the routine, saying: 'The knee-lift at the beginning was alright to look at and the spin I think you coped very well at, and I didn't mind.' Also in the show, Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan picked up the first perfect score of the series, getting all tens for their Viennese waltz. Widdecombe, and her professional partner Anton du Beke, who have finished last on the judges' leaderboard for six consecutive weeks and broken the record for the lowest ever score on five different dances - were finally given their marching orders by the public after finding themselves in the bottom two alongside, shockingly, Scott Maslen and Natalie Lowe. 'I feel that we had a jolly good time, I would never have expected to get to week ten,' Widdecombe stated. 'The thing I'll miss most is that on Monday there won't be any training. It's been tremendous, I've really had the time of my life and this guy has been fantastic.' Asked to sum up his partnership with the cumbersome politician, Du Beke insisted: 'Ann has been just incredibly wonderful, I've had the greatest time because of this woman.' Earlier when co-presenter Claudia Winkleman expressed her surprise at the result, Widdecombe argued: 'I certainly could foresee this happening. It was coming at some stage.'

The Coronation Street production team have created a wonderful trailer for the forthcoming Four Funerals & A Wedding storyline using Dean Martin's version of Lerner and Loewe's 'On The Street Where You Live.' (As it happens, yer Keith Telly Topping always preferred Vic Damone's recording personally, but that's just a matter of individual taste.)

Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley may be 'sidelined' from their Daybreak presenting role in the New Year or even sacked outright, a show 'source' has allegedly suggested. Bosses on the 'troubled ITV breakfast programme' are said to be 'seriously considering' replacing the former ONE Show pairing with stand-in hosts Dan Lobb and Kate Garraway on a more regular basis from January. The 'insider' allegedly told the Sun's Buzz magazine: 'Ratings go up every time they pair up, and the feedback from viewers has, not surprisingly, been that Dan has much more sex appeal than Adrian.' However, when questioned about an increased role on the show, Lobb stated: 'It's flattering that people like seeing us on the sofa, but I enjoy working as part of a team.' Chiles recently confessed that he had wrongly assumed his reunion with Bleakley would be an 'immediate runaway success.' And he also described the show as 'a disaster. We woke up one morning and found that, far from being okay, it was actually one of the biggest crocks of shite anyone had seen in years.' Sounds about right.

BBC Sport has confirmed plans to broadcast coverage of the two Carling Cup semi-final clashes next month. In midweek, West Ham United trounced the holders Scumchester United 4-0, whilst Birmingham City secured a 2-1 victory over arch-rivals Aston Villa. Arsenal beat Wigan 2-0, and Championship club Ipswich Town triumphed against West Bromwich Albion to book their place in the next round. On 11 January, the first leg of West Ham's semi-final match against Birmingham will be shown live on BBC2, starting at 7.30pm. It will also be streamed live on the BBC Sport website for UK users only. The BBC will also broadcast live coverage of the second leg of Arsenal's semi-final against Ipswich at the Emirates Stadium on 25 January. Highlights of both games will be made available on-demand.

Loved Armstrong and Miller's vampire characters' description of Gok Wan as 'a gregarious sodomite of some repute' on Saturday night's show.

Bill Bailey became embroiled in a bomb scare near his house in Hammersmith, on Tuesday which resulted in a controlled explosion, a scenario he described in some detail on Twitter. 'Suspect package incident in Hammersmith - cops akimbo - we've been coralled indoors,' he tweeted. A few minutes later he added: 'Loud explosion heard at end of Ham/smith Grove - streets still empty' followed by 'Apparently controlled explosion of suitcase bomb - riots in London, no hobnobs, is this the End of Days?' and, subsequently, 'Area still cordoned off. Am being kettled in my own office.' Finally the street was given the all-clear. 'Some poor sod's suitcase has been exploderised,' Bill wrote. 'The Vulnerability of Unattended Baggage. That's the title of my next show!' I'd watch it.

Katy Brand has 'slammed' - that's tabloidese for 'criticised' - ITV after they failed to enter her for the British Comedy Awards for the second year running. Although, is it just about possible that they - like many other people - don't actually consider Katy Brand to be particularly funny? Just a suggestion. Brand launched a furious attack on the broadcaster on Twitter after she learned she couldn't be in the running for any award because the broadcaster failed to put her name forward. She Tweeted: 'For the 2ND YEAR IN A ROW, ITV has FORGOTTEN to submit my Comedy Awards longlong list nomination form, so not even in the running. Thanks ITV. I'm not saying I would have made the shortlist, but once again ITV has prevented me even having a chance by not being fucking arsed. I didn't say anything about it last year because I thought it would look ungracious, but AGAIN ITV? ARE YOU ACTUALLY SHITTING ME?' In a later post Brand accused ITV of not being 'bothered about my comedy career.' And, yet, they commission your show. Perhaps, they should show you how really unbovvered they are by cancelling it? Over to you, ITV.

The BBC Press Office have updated for the first week of 2011: Hustle and Silent Witness are both back on BBC1. BBC2 have Episodes, the much-anticipated Eric & Ernie and Sinking Of The Laconia. EastEnders and Casualty are both scheduled to be broadcast on New Year's Day on BBC1.

The freezing of the licence fee for the next six years will result in fewer hours of BBC programmes being made 'but to higher quality,' Mark Thompson has said. The corporation's director general told The Andrew Marr Show that the deal, announced in October, had been 'a tough settlement but a good settlement.' Personally I think it was the day the BBC allowed themselves to get screwed with their pants on but, hey what do I know? I'm just a licence fee payer. Thompson also defended the Panorama exposé of alleged FIFA bribery broadcast ahead of the 2018 World Cup announcement. At the time of the announcement of the licence fee settlement - which means it will remain at £145.50 - the National Union of Journalists said the BBC should have fought government proposals, something this blogger wholly agrees with. Thompson said the BBC had told the government that its plan to transfer funding of the World Service from the Foreign Office to the corporation 'could only be done in the context of a complete settlement. I believe that, even though we only started working on that settlement about nine days before the conclusion, there was enough time for us to think it through,' he added. Asked if licence fee payers would notice a difference in the quality of output in the future, he replied: 'I think people will notice a difference but I hope that the effect of the difference, in the end, will be positive.' He said that he believed the BBC could 'deliver services of what I hope will be higher quality than we deliver at the moment to the public within this framework. Sometimes it means doing fewer things better, raising standards. Perhaps instead of doing three documentaries, you do two but you spend more money on them and you make sure they're higher quality.' The BBC could concentrate on 'big exciting projects' like the organisation's opera season and its A History of the World in 100 Objects programming. On the Panorama show - which has been been accused of damaging England's chances of hosting the World Cup - he said: 'I believe we were right to broadcast and I believe we have very strong support from the British public in broadcasting.' The programme, broadcast three days before the vote to choose the host of the 2018 World Cup, made allegations about four of the twenty two members of FIFA's governing body. He said the Panorama team had received information a few weeks before the show was broadcast which they had thoroughly checked, 'putting a number of specific allegations to the people involved, as we must do, and when the programme was ready to transmit, we transmitted it.' He said he understood there were 'often reasons to believe that transmitting a programme might be impolitic or inconvenient.' But, he added: 'If you believe that you have a matter of real public concern to broadcast, there have got to be overwhelmingly powerful reasons for not broadcasting.'

A group of nineteen Internet organisations and firms have submitted a letter to the lack of culture secretary Ed Vaizey calling on him to guarantee continued net neutrality in the UK. The signatories, including eBay, Skype, Which, We7, Yahoo, the Open Rights Group and the National Union of Journalists, asked Vaizey to take practical steps to ensure the Internet remains open for all parties, regardless of their size or financial clout. They also want the government to ensure that the traffic management policies run by Internet service providers are kept in check and all content is treated equally. 'End-users' choice of which applications, content, and services to view, use or run is already restricted in the UK today, especially when accessing the Internet on mobile,' said the letter. 'The government's commitment to the open Internet must be reflected in action on the ground to remove any such arbitrary restrictions to the open Internet. We also recommend the government's policies on the open Internet and traffic management take account of citizens' access to public services online in the future.' The signatories also called on media regulator Ofcom to monitor the ISP market to ensure principles of fair competition in traffic management are implemented. They further asked for a wide-ranging policy debate to be launched on the long-term impact of traffic management on the Internet industry. Ofcom is currently running a review of net neutrality and web traffic management practices. In a speech earlier this month, Vaizey appeared to suggest that the government was prepared to allow ISPs to prioritise certain content providers, abandoning the principle of a free and open Internet. However, he later attempted to allay fears about the plans, insisting that his 'first and overriding priority is an open Internet where consumers have access to all legal content.' Last week, Labour MP Tom Watson pledged to be 'militant' against any threat to a free and open Internet, arguing that 'a lot of powerful interests' would be well served by an end to net neutrality.

A newly-discovered poem by Philip Larkin will be heard for the first time on a BBC documentary about his relationship with his secretary. The unpublished poem, Dear Jake, was among other rarely-seen works found in a lost notebook by producers of Philip Larkin and the Third Woman. The poems, sent in 1976 to his secretary of twenty eight years Betty Mackereth - now eighty seven - reveal her as a muse. In the programme, she speaks for the first time about being Larkin's lover. In the documentary, which marks the twenty fifth anniversary of Larkin's death at the age of sixty three, Mackereth speaks for the first time about their affair, which was only recently revealed. Larkin biographer Sir Andrew Motion said Dear Jake, which programme-makers say has only been seen by Larkin and Mackereth, was 'a rather amazing and wonderful' discovery. Larkin expert Professor James Booth of Hull University, said: 'What we have here is another poem in the sequence of poems written to Betty where she appears to him, in my view, as a muse of vitality and longevity, with a genuine emotional kick. This is quite a find.'

Morrissey has joined in to support his former songwriting partner, Johnny Marr, in expressing his  abject dismay that Oily David Cameron claims to be a fan of his music. To be honest, he had me before the end of the first line, but, 'Bryan Ferret' and 'Jamie Horrible'! That's the funniest thing Mozza has written in years. And the fact that, up to a point, David Cameron appears to have, broadly, the same record collection as this blogger, is not something I'm particularly happy about either. Some of us have standards, you know?

Still, at least when it comes to yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, I'll bet the prime minister never bought this one at HMV in Slough when he was on an away-day from Eton. Or, do you reckon he used to send his fag out to buy his singles? Interesting question ... 'I see no joy, I see only sorrow/I see no hope for yer bright new tomorrow.' What goes around, comes around. Particularly Tory economic policies.