Friday, April 30, 2010

Power, Corruption & Lies

Coldplay have reportedly expressed their 'regret' that they turned down an invitation from the producers of the US musical comedy-drama Glee to showcase their songs in an episode. Of course, it would've meant the show needing to change its title for a week - from Glee to Utter Misery.

Strictly Come Dancing judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli have revealed that they would like the BBC to increase the show's budget. Well of course you would, guys. So would those involved in just about every other show on TV. But it's not going to happen. Don't you know there's a recession on? Speaking to the Mirror, the pair admitted that the programme fails to match its US counterpart Dancing With The Stars in its current format. Goodman commented: 'The US set is amazing. Some weeks the professionals come down out of the sky in a cradle with smoke and steam. They're showing us how it's done when it's a British show.' Tonioli added: 'Dancing With The Stars is like a theatre show. The reaction you get from a thousand people is different from two hundred.' The duo, who appear as panellists on both versions of the dance competition, also believe that extra cash would help Strictly to better compete with The X Factor in the annual ratings war. Tonioli said: 'ITV put so much money into The X Factor, their production values are incredible.' However, Goodman conceded that the BBC would be accused of 'wasting money' if a costly revamp ever went ahead.

The BBC's Creative director Alan Yentob has given a ringing endorsement of BBC3 and rebuked those who dismiss the channel without sampling its output. 'A lot of so-called critical friends do not hesitate to criticise BBC3 when they haven't even watched it,' he told yesterday's Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London. 'Well, I have watched it, and by and large am very impressed. Thoughtful, intelligent programming is becoming its hallmark.' He conceded that some of the programme titles might not be to everyone's taste – Blood, Sweat and Takeaways; Snog, Marry, Avoid; Fuck Off, I'm A Hairy Woman; Young, Dumb And Living Off Mum et cetera – but said that they spoke to the target audience. Controller Danny Cohen's 'ardent wooing' of the BBC3 audience was 'not a trivial pursuit' said Yentob, but part of a determined effort to reach people who otherwise might lose out on public service broadcasting. He drew particular attention to recent programmes Girls On The Front Line and The World's Most Dangerous Place For Women, and to BBC3's recent election specials in which it interviewed the main party leaders as further examples of serious thoughtful programming. However, while BBC3 was doing well, the same could not be said for BBC Switch – the service aimed at teenagers – which was why the strategy review had proposed closing it. 'BBC Switch hasn't quite done the job,' said Yentob, admitting that older children and young teenagers were currently underserved by the corporation. 'The audience that sits between the different services [CBBC and BBC3] is a problem for the BBC and we need to think hard about it. Switch isn't working but that doesn't mean we don’t need to serve that audience – because we do.' During a lively question and answer session after his speech Yentob was asked whether BBC executives were thinking harder about their expenses, now that they were being made public. The answer was 'yes.'

Neil Gaiman has confirmed that he has completed writing the latest draft of his script for the next series of Doctor Who. The author told his Twitter followers that he would now continue to work on an adaptation of his own 2005 novel The Anansi Boys. Gaiman wrote: 'Doctor Who episode next season draft done and in. Now I work on Anansi Boys script and then try and get to see fiancee on her birthday.' Earlier this year, Gaiman teased readers that his planned Doctor Who episode was originally called The House of Nothing but added that it has since been retitled.

Oily toerag and all round offensive globule of phlegm Piers Morgan has been reportedly fined six hundred and sixty six pounds by Brighton magistrates for speeding. Who said the judiciary don't understand the concept of irony?

Christopher Biggins has launched the search for Britain's best pudding on Market Kitchen. The veteran entertainer and reality TV contestant is the face of the Good Food TV campaign, which will feature Rachel Allen and Bill Granger as judges. Viewers of all ages can apply for the contest, with the winner taking home a trophy and an invitation to the BBC Good Food Show. Biggins, sixty one, has admitted that he is a 'pudding fanatic,' claiming that he sometimes even takes one to bed with his partner. Which, I'm sure you'll agree dear blog reader is a horrible image at the best of times. Not the puddings so much, but the idea of Christopher Biggins in bed with a partner. I mean ... brrrrr. I think I need a shower.

Production crew on The Bill have vowed to end the ITV police drama on an all-time high when filming completes in June. Members of the crew told Broadcast they were out to prove ITV made a poor decision to end the show this autumn, and that some freelancers had turned down better-paid alternative work to be involved in the final episode. 'You might think there's a sense on set of "Oh, it doesn't really matter any more," but it's actually the complete opposite,' one long serving crew member Copper's Narked to the magazine. 'We want to stick our fingers up to ITV and show it made the wrong decision to end the show.' Ooo, somebody's getting all stroppy and discombobulated, it would seem. Another - nameless - insider 'with many years experience' on The Bill according to Broadcast added: 'I don't care if I have to bust my balls to the last shot, I will. I have a sense of loyalty to the senior people on the show.' However, the show's twenty six-year run is unlikely to end with a big-bang finale. The last script is being closely guarded, but an insider said: 'We're not going to blow up Sun Hill or kill everybody off.' There is still anger among the crew at how they claim The Bill has been treated by ITV, which first moved it from a twice-weekly 8pm slot to once a week at 9pm, and then from Thursdays to Tuesdays. 'They've turned a golden goose into a golden turkey,' another source said. 'It has been very successful and there was still plenty of mileage to be had.' But ITV sources pointed to a major advertising campaign to relaunch the series at 9pm and said that the show was failing to win back audiences after twenty six weeks in its new slot.

Comedian and actor Alan Davies is to make his debut on Channel 4 with a personal journey exploring the political and social changes during the 1980s that underpinned his teenage years. In his first factual series, Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution (working title), he will reflect on life growing up in the east London suburb of Loughton, and how it fitted into the Thatcher era. Davies' narrative of the decade will unfold in three parts, picking up the themes he explored in his memoir, Rebel Without A Clue: How The 80s Made Me. Channel 4's head of specialist factual Ralph Lee said: 'The book helped us use him as a way into a period of history I've always been interested in. C4 documentaries have covered a lot of single events in the 1980s - from Shergar and the Brighton bomb to the Brixton riots and the housing crash - but this is trying to offer the twitching net curtain view of what it all meant.' Davies is best known for his regular appearances on the BBC quiz Qi and for the drama Jonathan Creek, but has also presented episodes of Great Britons and science strand Horizon.

A new survey has claimed that there are now more TV sets in the average American home than people. According to results from Nielsen Media Research's annual Television Audience Report, the number of TV sets in the typical US household is 2.93 but the number of people is 2.5. The company observed that the rise in televisions has bucked the wider industry downturn heralded by the recession and that television sales figures for 2009 have been larger than at any time since 2006. Only seventeen per cent of US households now have just one TV, falling from twenty one per cent in 2005.

Nigella Lawson is to return to BBC2 for a new thirteen-part series - ending suggestions that she has effectively been replaced by former model Sophie Dahl. Nigella's Kitchen will look at cooking 'for modern living,' and will see Lawson present a mix of recipes for leisurely weekends and speedy week-days, as well as tips for using leftovers. And, the difference between this and The Ludicrous Ms Dahl is what, exactly? Oh yes, I forgot, Nigella is a proper bloody cook. How silly of me. The series will also examine gadgets, and reveal which Nigella 'can't live without, and which have been bought late at night on the Internet and are now gathering dust.'

Actress Katie Holmes is to play former US first lady Jackie Kennedy in a TV mini-series about President Kennedy and the events surrounding his family. Greg Kinnear has been cast as JFK in the drama, which is the first scripted series on The History Channel. Oscar winner Tom Wilkinson will play Kennedy's father Joe in the programme, which will look behind the scenes of the famous clan. The serial is due to be aired on the US cable channel next year. It will cover the early years of Kennedy's presidency until 1963, when he was assassinated in Dallas. Jackie Kennedy, who later married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, was considered one of the world's most stylish women during her lifetime. Holmes, who has been married to Tom Cruise since 2006, appeared in 2005 blockbuster Batman Begins. The actress appeared in one hundred and twenty eight episodes of television drama Dawson's Creek from 1998 until 2003, as the character Joey Potter.

Lacey Turner, who plays Stacey Branning in EastEnders, is leaving the soap later this year, the BBC has confirmed. The actress, who has been in the role for five years and collected numerous awards, said 'the time has come to try something different.' EastEnders new boss Bryan Kirkwood has said the door will be left open for the character to return in the future. Stacey's on-screen mother Jean, played by Gillian Wright, will also make her exit from Albert Square.

Tamara Taylor has admitted that she has no idea what will happen in the next season of Bones. Taylor, who plays Cam in the show, told the Zap2It.com website that she is curious about future episodes. 'The writers are always surprising me,' she said. 'It's interesting, because I don't know how they're going to start season six.' She continued: 'Wait until you get to the season finale. We flash back... I think we sort of cover a lot of distance between the one hundredth episode and the finale.' Speaking about the current series' final episode, Taylor added that Booth will continue to struggle with his health. 'There are interesting hints,' she said. 'There are sort of allusions to Booth's brain tumour. It's still floating around, so that story hasn't died. So it's going to be interesting to see what you think of the finale.' Taylor explained that the episode has 'quirky little silly nods' to the season four finale and suggested that Cam will face 'love and loss. Not the loss of love, but you will see,' she said. 'There's not much more I can say. The season finale is going to leave people wondering what happens next.'

Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka has branded a BBC documentary about the slums in Lagos 'condescending' and 'colonialist.' Aired on BBC2, three-episode mini-series Welcome To Lagos tracked people living in the poorest areas of the Nigerian city to celebrate their industriousness. Speaking to the Gruniad Morning Star, Nobel Laureate Soyinka said that the documentary was 'the most tendentious and lopsided programme' he had ever seen. What, more tendentious and lopsided than Love Thy Neighbour? Despite the series receiving much critical praise in the UK, Soyinka said that he believed it demonstrated 'the worst aspects of colonialist and patronising' attitudes towards modern life in Africa. Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986, said: 'There was no sense of Lagos as what it is - a modern African state. What we had was jaundiced and extremely patronising. It was saying "Oh, look at these people who can make a living from the pit of degradation." There was this colonialist idea of the noble savage which motivated the programme. It was patronising and condescending. It surprised me because it came from the BBC which is supposed to have some sort of reputation. It was not worthy of the BBC.' The seventy five-year-old writer, who splits his time between homes in the US and Nigeria, said that it is 'deeply frustrating' to see such a 'negative and reductionist overview' of the city. 'What I saw I found very unjust and sensationalist. What I saw was not an honest reportage. The problem is the title - it programmes the mind of the viewer in advance and sets the overall context,' he said. 'One could do a similar programme about London in which you go to a poor council estate and speak of poverty and knifings. Or you could follow a hobo selling iron on the streets of London. But you wouldn't call it, Welcome to London, because that would give the viewer the impression that that is all London is about.' Whilst not directly responding to Soyinka's comments, a BBC spokeswoman defended the documentary as a valid portrayal of modern day Lagos. 'Welcome To Lagos explores the impact of the massive rate of global urbanisation in one of the fastest growing mega-cities in the world,' she said. 'Its aim was to give a voice to those living at the sharp end of this ever-expanding population, and highlight the resourcefulness, determination and creativity of those adapting to life in this most extreme of urban environments. The series has generated a broad range of comment, but it has been well received by both viewers and media commentators, many of whom have specifically highlighted the positive and un-stereotypical portrayals within the film.'

ITV is working on an adaptation of Philippa Gregory's bestselling novel The Little House. Collision and Robin Hood actress Lucy Griffiths will take on the lead role of Ruth in the drama, while Emma's Rupert Evans will play her husband Patrick. BAFTA-winning actress Francesca Annis, who previously starred in Cranford, and Foyle's War and The Chief actor Tim Pigott-Smith will also join the cast as Ruth's interfering in-laws Elizabeth and Frederick. The story sees Ruth struggle to cope after moving into her in-laws' road and giving birth to an unplanned baby. She finds being a mother difficult and eventually starts to believe that Elizabeth is unnaturally obsessed with her grandson. The novel has been adapted by Ed Whitmore, who has previously worked on Silent Witness and - most notably - Waking The Dead, while Survivors and Ashes To Ashes director Jamie Payne will helm the project.

The executive producer of Ashes To Ashes has claimed that the series finale is 'terrific.' Ashley Pharoah told the Digital Spy website that he believes it is time for the show to end. 'I thought I was going to feel a bit melancholy but it feels exactly the right time to be doing it,' he said. 'It's interesting. When we finished Life On Mars it didn't feel the right time to end it, which is why we did Ashes, but now, five years of those two shows combined - it's been a fantastic journey.' Pharoah added that he is unsure how fans will react to the show's finale. 'You want to please everybody, don't you?' he said. 'We all do, but it won't please everybody. The ending of Life On Mars didn't please everybody - some people loved it, some people hated it. I remember the fansites the next day were rivers of blood! Some people will be upset, I'm sure, but it's the ending Matt [Graham] and I wanted to write. We didn't double guess anybody, we didn't try to please anybody apart from ourselves, so if people don't like it I would be sad, I suppose, but I think it's a terrific ending.' Pharoah also claimed that the finale is more 'definitive' than the end of Life On Mars. 'I think you learn who Gene Hunt [Phil Glenister] is and where he's from and what he's doing in the world which is the bigger picture and it does wrap up both series,' he said. 'I love a bit of ambiguity so I don't think that every "i" is dotted or every "t" crossed but it's certainly the end of the road. There will be no more spin-offs after this series and when you watch the ending you'll see why.'

ITV Studios USA are working on a new project based on Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The mini-series is being developed with Open TV and Film, Deadline reports. Open's chairman Simon Shaps explained that the show will be based on a book by Richard Woolfe, who had access to Obama during the campaign. Shaps added that the book, Renegade: The Making of a President, is a complex portrait of the President rather than a simple tribute. 'It is early days, but we are sure there will be no shortage of ideas for who plays the President,' Shaps said. 'The questions that have since emerged about what he's going to do with the presidency were, to some extent, already there during the campaign. We will get to the root of what Obama wants to do with America.'

Former X Factor contestants John and Edward are to appear as guests on the final series of Big Brother, a report has claimed. That's not Celebrity Big Brother. Just normal Big Brother. The twins will take a break from promoting themselves this summer to enter the house for a short stay, according to the Sun. A source told the newspaper: 'They will make compulsive viewing. It might be for a night or maybe longer.' Keep 'em as long as you like, guys. Months. Years, even. The pair were previously tipped to appear on January's Celebrity Big Brother series, but the idea never went ahead amid rumours that Simon Cowell had banned them from the show.

Meanwhile, former-Oasis rythmn guitarist Bonehead Arthurs has revealed that he was asked to appear on the final series of Celebrity Big Brother. The guitarist, who appeared on the rock group's first three studio LPs, claimed that he was offered one hundred thousand smackers to appear on the Channel 4 reality show alongside music mogul Alan McGee. 'I got an email before Christmas from Alan McGee he just said, "Bonehead, do you fancy doing Celebrity Big Brother?"' he told Oasis blog StopCryingYourHeartOut. 'I just said, "No, fuck that mate. I think they offered us about one hundred thousand pounds each to do it. But I wouldn't do it for one hundred fucking million. Sad.' He added: 'I watched it about twice when Terry Christian was on it as I used to co-present a radio show with him. I watched it as I knew him, I watched about twenty minutes of each show. It's rubbish. I've been approached once and no, I would not do it.'

Marks and Spencer is making unproven claims about anti-cellulite knickers, consumer group Which? has said. The £29.50 Anti-Cellulite Firm Control Waist and Thigh Clincher pants contain vitamin E, aloe vera and caffeine. The label says they are 'independently proven to reduce visible signs of cellulite,' but experts told Which? that any tight pants would have the same effect. M&S dismissed the allegations and said the ingredients were 'widely used in creams to reduce signs of cellulite.' On the M&S website, the knickers are listed as containing 'three active natural ingredients.' So, the obvious question is, now this has been revealed will they have to take the knickers down?

Come on, I'm working with limited material here.

The most recent episode of Britain's Got Talent attracted thirty complaints, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, the majority of these from viewers upset about exotic dancer Tia Brodie's topless fire-eating display. Ofcom also reporteldy received ten complaints about a lesbian kiss on Coronation Street last Friday. Sorry, what Century is this again?

And, finally ... Ah, yes. It would seem that it's true what they say - the old ones are still the best.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The God Factory

Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey has revealed that his new play Canary was inspired by criticism of the soap's first gay storyline. Harvey developed the Weatherfield drama's memorable 2003 plot which saw Todd Grimshaw (Bruno Langley) slowly coming to the realisation that he was gay. He also went on to devise storylines for the show's other main gay character, Sean Tully (Antony Cotton). Coronation Street provoked a mixed response when Todd was seen kissing his girlfriend's brother Nick Tilsley seven years ago. Although the drama was praised by many for tackling sexuality issues for the first time, Ulrika Jonsson was among those who criticised the move, arguing that the kiss should not have been broadcast before the watershed. Reflecting on the response to the plotline, Harvey told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'It proved that we are still some way short of full acceptance, which made me think it was about time I tried to write a new play.' Canary, which is currently running at the Liverpool Playhouse theatre, encompasses fifty years of gay history in Britain as it follows the lives of characters Tom and Billy. Harvey said: 'It's my first full-length stage piece for almost nine years. I wanted to come back with a bang.'

Meanwhile, Coronation Street legend Betty Driver is receiving hospital treatment for a chest infection, a report has claimed. According to the Sun, the eight nine-year-old checked in for care at a private facility a few days ago. Driver's co-stars have reportedly sent well wishes to the actress, who has played show favourite Betty Turpin-Williams since 1969. A source told the newspaper: 'She is probably the most popular person in the cast. Everyone wants her to get well and get back on set.' Driver has apparently said that she is keen to return to Coronation Street filming as soon as she is well enough to do so.'

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier, who starts in his new role this week, has called on staff to build an 'agile' and 'adaptable' business in the age of multiplatform. In an e-mail to employees on Monday morning, the former Royal Mail chief executive recognised that 'tough challenges' lay ahead for the commercial broadcaster and it must become less dependent on advertising. Setting out his early vision for ITV, he said it must build on strengths – such as entertainment format Britain's Got Talent – and modernise to 'face the challenges of the on-demand, content-led world across all three screens: television, Internet and mobile.' Crozier said staff should not be 'defensive' about turning around the company's fortunes. They should instead recognise challenges, find a way to solve them and move on, he said. Crozier added that the strategy review, launched by chairman Archie Norman in February, was well underway and has received a 'huge response' from employees highlighting deficiencies and making suggestions for change. 'We will keep you involved and informed as the strategy progresses, because in the end the real difference will be made by all of us working together in an integrated way to create an exciting, fun and successful business,' he said.

EastEnders is to remain at its Elstree Studios base in Hertfordshire 'for the foreseeable future,' it has been confirmed. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, a new deal has been signed which will keep the Walford drama in its long-established home for another four years. Previous reports had suggested that EastEnders could move elsewhere, with Pinewood Studios regularly being tipped as a potential new location. However, a BBC spokeswoman has confirmed: 'There are no plans for EastEnders to move from Elstree.'

The BBC has two hundred million pounds to spend on drama in 2011 and 'literally nothing commissioned,' controller of drama commission Ben Stephenson has revealed - alongside his aspirations for a new 9pm police show and more younger-appealing drama. In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC Writer's Room, Stephenson defended the speed of development as essential to achieving the right mix of programming across the BBC channels, and said that next year's slate is still wide open. 'There is nothing commissioned for 2011, literally, and it’s terrifying,' he said. 'That's two hundred million pounds worth of money unspent that's got to be spent, but if the script's not right, it's never going to be right in production. When a writer starts to lose heart or feels that it's just hell, then it's time to stop.' Stephenson also admitted that BBC drama is not targeting under fifty fives effectively, or representing older women on screen in a 'grown up way. [We’re not quite managing to serve] anyone under fifty five. That age group is incredibly important. However, it's no more important than anyone else. We're not necessarily going after eighteen-year-olds but I don't think there is anything wrong in us saying that forty-year-olds should find drama that they want to watch,' he said. He added: 'The audience is essentially older women. But there isn't enough grown up representation of older women on screen. It's a bit paradoxical.' Stephenson poured cold water on suggestions the BBC could launch another pre-watershed soap, but is receptive to more longer-run, post-watershed pieces. 'It may be that some shows have longer runs in the future. In the way This Life was twenty four episodes in the second series and gave you the hit of a soap, but for a different audience,' he said. He is also looking for a new BBC1 police series to air at 9pm – but not one that would be classified as a crime drama. 'We've got a lot of brilliant crime shows [but] it would be great to find a character-led police precinct show that isn't about the story of the week,' said Stephenson. 'That has to come not from me saying that but from somebody amazing having something to say. Because the minute you set something in a police station it can seem really ordinary and dull, so your writing has to be a million, trillion, billion times better than anything else in order to lift it up and transcend it. I'd love to find our equivalent of Homicide or indeed what Casualty did when it first came to the screen – those first episodes are amazing. Inevitably over time they've become different things but the impact that had – I'd love to find our equivalent of that at 9pm.'

The BBC's creativity and independence is being threatened by 'too many regulators' and commentators 'sticking their oar in,' its creative director Alan Yentob has claimed. Speaking at a Voice of The Listener and Viewer conference yesterday, Yentob hit out at the 'cacophony' of critics among the media and regulators who want to have their own say about the future of the BBC, and claimed the cumulative effect was seriously detrimental. 'Make no mistake about it, the regulatory regime and the financial scrutiny under which the BBC operates, whether through a government department like DCMS, the BBC Trust, Ofcom or the National Audit Office or the Parliamentary Accounts Committee – I could go on – all of these will affect the BBC's ability, ultimately, to act effectively, creatively and independently, in the best interests of licence payers,' he said. '[The regulators] might be acting in the public interest but it's quite tough if you are on the other end. There is a point when we should be held to account, and there is a point where it just becomes a bit trying.'

This came on the very days that one of those critics, the Scottish National Party, lost a legal bid to force the BBC to allow its leader Alex Salmond to appear on tonight's final prime ministerial debate. After raising fifty thousand pounds in under forty eight hours, the SNP lodged papers at Edinburgh's Court of Session this week in a last-ditch effort to influence the debate format. In its legal petition, the SNP asked the judge to force the BBC to give Salmond a presence alongside Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron on the BBC1 debate. The party also called for an injunction to block the debate programme from being aired in Scotland if the corporation failed to meet its demands. However, the court rejected the SNP's legal bid and instead supported the BBC's case that it had not breached guidelines on guaranteeing fairness and impartiality. Speaking to reporters outside the Edinburgh court, SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said: 'We are disappointed that the debate on Thursday night will go ahead without any substantial participation from the SNP. We believe it is wrong and unfair and all the points we have made until now still stand.' Another Scottish Nationalist, seen left, added 'Hoots, toots och-aye th'nooo. See you, Jimmy! Can y'lend us a fiver till Friday?' In a further blow, Ofcom has rejected a joint complaint from the SNP and Welsh national party Plaid Cymru about ITV's opening televised debate on 15 April. The parties had argued that the programme broke broadcasting rules, but the media regulator's specially-assembled election committee dismissed the complaint. In its ruling, Ofcom said: 'Having considered all the submissions and evidence before it under the relevant provisions of the Broadcasting Code, the election committee decided that both complaints should not be upheld. The committee found that the broadcast of the first debate on ITV complied with the requirements of the Broadcasting Code and that no remedial action was required on the part of ITV licensees.'

Michael McIntyre has urged the BBC to stop repeating his Comedy Roadshow. The comic said that the reruns make his fans think that he is constantly using the same routine. 'The re-running is unbelievable,' McIntyre told the Sun. 'The BBC repeat shows so much that people think I'm actually doing the show again. People come up to me saying, "When are you going to get some new material?" I say, "It was a repeat - it wasn't me doing it all again."' McIntyre also revealed that new episodes of the show will be aired later this year. 'This year I'm finishing my autobiography,' he said. 'Then my new Roadshow comes out in September.'

Allison Janney has reportedly signed up for a guest role in Lost. The New York Post says that the former West Wing star will appear in the fifteenth episode of the show's final season.

Reports have suggested that Desperate Housewives will end in two years' time. According to Deadline, ABC is considering a two-year pickup on the show, which would include deals with the main writers. Creator Marc Cherry currently has a contract with the network for three more years, but could spend the final year in development if Desperate Housewives comes to an end after its eighth season. Meanwhile, actresses Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria Parker and Marcia Cross reportedly have deals through the next season. ABC has allegedly contacted them about extending their deals for two more years, but there is not thought to have been significant communication between the actresses and the studio.

Complaints over the second Prime Ministerial debate have swelled to more than seven hundred in the past week. Though, that's still three thousand short of the number of viewers who were more concerned by an animated Graham Norton appearing during Doctor Who. Just, you know, for a bit of perspective, here. Ofcom confirmed yesterday that Sky News' live broadcast of the debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg had prompted six hundred and fifty two complaints since last Thursday. A further nineteen viewers complained about the surrounding programme, Decision Time: The Sky News Debate, and BBC2's broadcast of the full debate later in the evening prompted a further thirty nine - bringing the total to seven hundred and ten. Details of viewer disgruntlement with Sky News' handling of the debate first emerged last week, with an initial flurry of more than one hundred complaints. Users argued that moderator Adam Boulton broke a number of the rules limiting the extent to which he was allowed to intervene in the debate. It was suggested that Boulton had 'heckled' Clegg in relation to an article in the Daily Telegraph alleging that donations were paid into the Lib Dem leader's private bank account. You stick it to da man, Adam. I'm sure Big Rupert's very proud of you. Within the seventy six rules agreed between the broadcasters and the political parties, number sixty three states: 'It is not the moderator's role to criticise or comment on the leaders' answers.' Ofcom would only have grounds to investigate if complaints refer directly to impartiality because the media regulator played no part in setting the rules governing the debates.

A senior BBC strategist has left the corporation after an internal investigation found them to have leaked the BBC's controversial strategy review to the media. BBC director general Mark Thompson told staff last month that he was 'incredibly angry' at the leak of the review, and pledged to launch 'a full investigation' to find the source. On 26 February, The Times carried virtually all details of Thompson's Putting Quality First report, including the decision to axe of digital station 6 Music, ahead of its initially planned 9 March publishing date. The leak forced the BBC to move its announcement forward and led to anger from broadcast and journalism unions about the potential job cuts involved. Drafted by the corporation's director of policy and strategy John Tate, the confidential review was seen by only a limited number of people at the BBC before it was leaked. Speaking to the Independent, the BBC confirmed that Thompson's investigation has resulted in a senior strategist leaving the corporation. 'We can confirm than an investigation has been satisfactorily concluded and that an individual has now left the BBC,' said the corporation. Despite declining to name the employee, the BBC said that they were guilty of a 'gross breach of trust' by leaking the report to the media. Thompson's strategy review, which also included the axe for digital station the Asian Network and a halving of the BBC's web pages, is currently under public consultation at the BBC Trust until 25 May.

BBC Worldwide has bolstered its scripted team in the US, appointing two new executives with experience on Mad Men and 30 Rock. Vlad Wolynetz, commissioner at US cable channel AMC, will join the team as senior vice president of scripted production next month. Hugh Fitzpatrick comes from William Morris Endeavor to become vice president of scripted programming. They will join the scripted team led by Julie Gardner, senior vice president of scripted and executive producer. Both men will be responsible for further developing the studio’s scripted slate, working with US writers and UK creative talent. Wolynetz served as vice president of production, series and movies at AMC. In his fifteen years at the network, he supervised series including the production of acclaimed drama Mad Men as well as Breaking Bad, Rubicon and Walking Dead. Fitzpatrick joins from William Morris Endeavor where as a television literary agent, he represented a variety of writers and directors, involved in shows as 30 Rock, The Office, The Mentalist, Fringe and Big Love.

Janice Hadlow said that Sophie Dahl's critically reviled cookery show, The Ludicrous Miss Dahl, may return, but the BBC are also talking to the former model about other ideas. Oh, of course they are. 'There are lots of different options there. We're not ruling out the same show. It could be a cookery show.' So, to sum up, them, 'the cookery didn't work out Sophie darling. Do you have any other talents, beside simpering? Juggling, perhaps?'

And, finally... ... Not a lot of people know that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Poster Child For The Right-To-Party Party

What has been described - in a press release, anyway - as 'two distinctive, intelligent and ambitious news dramas' which reflect 'the strategy and investment' for the form on BBC2 were announced by Janice Hadlow, BBC2's Controller, at the Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on Tuesday. The first is a four-part adaptation of Michel Faber's international best-selling novel, The Crimson Petal & The White. The other, which sounds much more exciting, frankly, is the story of the early career of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise and their relationship with Eric's mother, which will feature Victoria Wood. These are said to represent 'some of the best new dramas lined-up for the channel over the next year.' The screenplay for the latter is by one of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV dramatists, Peter Bowker, whose other credits include Blackpool, Desperate Romantics and Occupation. In September 2009, Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, committed to extra investment for drama on the channel over the next three years and to making BBC2 the home of BBC Films – the film-making arm of the BBC. This was to help Hadlow and Ben Stephenson re-establish BBC2's reputation as the home of intelligent and ambitious drama. Less snooker - which was also announced as part of the package - will also help. The BBC Strategic Review has proposed extra funding for drama on BBC2 from 2012 to help ensure 'a more consistent presence on the channel.' The actors who will play Morecambe and Wise as children and adults have yet to be announced though the story will begin with their first meeting, as teenagers, when they shares a youth variety bill in the 1930s. Wood who won best actress at the BAFTAs in 2007 for Housewife, 49 - and whose alleged 'comedy' yer Keith Telly Topping, as previously mentioned, simply cannot get away with - will take on the pushy role of Eric Morecambe's mother, Sadie.

Meanwhile, in the same round of announcements, Doctor Who actor Matt Smith is set to appear in a BBC drama about the novelist Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood wrote A Single Man, which was adapted into the 2010 Oscar-nominated film starring Colin Firth. The television play - Christopher And His Kind - will chart how the writer left his domineering mother (played by the great Lindsay Duncan) for the decadent climate of 1930s Berlin. Historians Mary Beard and Amanda Vickery are also to front new series on the channel. Cambridge professor of classics Beard is making a documentary about Pompeii, while Vickery will look at home-making in the Georgian era. Hadlow said: 'I have long wanted to see more women presenting specialist programmes on BBC2.'

Paul Merton has been confirmed as a guest host of The ONE Show after Adrian Chiles leaves on Friday. The Have I Got News For You team captain will anchor the show next Thursday, with Watchdog presenter Matt Allwright confirmed for Monday's programme. Allwright will then return on the Friday as well as each day the following week, except Thursday, for which the BBC have yet to announce a stand-in. However, the search for a permanent replacement for Chiles is still said to be ongoing. So, not Chris Hollins then? Bosses are believed to have lined-up several potential candidates to host the early evening magazine show alongside Christine Bleakley. Those believed to be in the running include Five presenter Matthew Wright as well as ONE Show regular Rav Wilding. Other presenters rumoured to be considered for the position include Jamie Theakston and Dermot O'Leary. Come on, be honest, this is just 'pick a name at random and throw it in the ring' time for the press, isn't it? One BBC source told the Guardian: 'It's really got to be someone who works well with Christine. There's no rush.' Earlier this month, Chiles revealed that it was 'no secret' he was disappointed over plans to replace him with Chris Evans on Friday editions of the show, which he has fronted since 2006.

Stand-up comedian and actor John Bishop is to host a prime time Saturday night show for BBC1. John Bishop's Britain, which will air in August, is billed as taking 'a closer and comical look at all the things that affect our lives in this country.' It will involved real people filmed at home, work or other familiar environment telling their own stories on broad themes such as being a parent, falling in love, going to school or bad holiday experiences. Producers are looking for amateur comedians to contribute their anecdotes, too. Mike Worsley, from programme-makers Objective, said: 'We are looking for genuine true stories, although of course they can be slightly dramatised for comedy effect.' It sounds like utter diarrhoea to yer Keith Telly Topping, to be honest dear blog reader, but I'm prepared to give it a go since I do like Johnny Bishop's dry, cheeky-chappie Scouser act quite a lot. Bishop's career has really taken off in the last year, in which he has been nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award and appeared on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo. As well as that truly dreadful sports quiz thing on Sky with James Corden. John's first live DVD is also due out this Christmas.

Simon Cowell is yet to decide on his future on Britain's Got Talent, his spokesman has revealed. The legend in his own lunchtime that is Max Clifford announced that 'no decision has been made,' in spite of yesterday's public statement regarding Cowell's likely lack of involvement in next year's series. So, what was a non-story to begin with becomes even more of a non-story and yet, somehow, still gets more column inches this morning than the genocide in Rwanda ever achieved in the British press. It's a sick, sorry and shitty world we all live in, dear blog reader. Just thought you'd like to be advised of that.

Richard Armitage has linked his role in an upcoming drama to his character in [Spooks]. The actor, who stars as Lucas North in the MI5 drama, will appear as SAS soldier John Porter in Sky1's new six-part-adaptation of Chris Ryan's Strike Back. Speaking of his new character, he told TV Times: 'He's sort of like Lucas, only on some kind of go-faster drug.' Armitage continued: 'I thought I was really fit because I've always done training - but nothing like this. I nearly passed out after ten minutes and I was on the verge of vomiting pretty much ever session. [Spooks] is physically demanding, but nowhere near as tough as this.'

NBC will broadcast a programme later in the year tracking Prince Charles's environmental work. The Press Association states that the film, titled Harmony, has been commissioned by the network. It explores his view that people have lost their understanding of how to live in harmony with the natural world. Paul Telegdy, head of alternative programming at NBC, said: 'I always thought of [Prince Charles] as one of the leading environmental activists on the planet.'

And, finally, yer Keith Telly Topping spotted, as he was coming home from work along Walker Road yesterday afternoon, this - pretty funny - example of what I believe those in the know call 'guerrilla art.'I was pure dead disappointed, so I was, not to have a camera about my person at the time to record this work of casual genius for posterity. But, thankfully, somebody else seems to have spotted it and snapped it. And it, along with numerous other examples - of various degrees of cutting-edge social comment and wit (and, in some cases, singular lack of it) - can be found here. Now this blogger does not, I hasten to add, advocate that anyone deface anything. It's naughty and it's wrong. And, I should take the further opportunity to warn any potential defacers that, if you do, and are pinched by The Bobbies whilst doing so, then like as not you'll be up to your neck in very hot water. Which would, of course, be very bad. And possibly very costly. Having said that, looking at examples of other people having done this sort of thing is, I think I'm right in saying, not only perfectly legal but, also, a pretty good way to waste about a quarter of an hour of anyone's free time. Communists and anarchists, ladies and gentlemen, they might be a bunch of nutters but, you've got to admit, they're occasionally quite amusing with it. We've also, in the past, featured several examples of the works of the contributors to the great My David Cameron website on this blog. And, very funny many of them are too. Although, as with the previous site, there's some efforts that don't work as well. But, I thought, what with the General Erection just a week away, a few more examples over the couple of few days - all, of course, with a particular TV-or-movie-related bent - might amuse you. Remember your amusement, dear blog reader is, after all, what I'm here for. That, and to get sarky about Amanda Holden. Let's start with this one - Although, personally, I think my particular favourite has to be this. However, remember kids, in the interests of the balance and impartiality that I always try to show when it comes to party politics, yer Keith Telly Topping truly believes that It's nothing personal, Dave. There'll be some more of this jovial politician-bating tomorrow. Bet you can hardly wait, eh?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

The BBC has issued a second apology about what has rapidly become known as 'Nortongate' - the row surrounding the Over The Rainbow trail which it aired during the climax of Saturday's Doctor Who episode. The Daily Telegraph reports that the organisation had received over five thousand complaints by Monday afternoon about the animated Graham Norton which popped up on-screen, advertising the following show, during the final - cliffhanging - scene of The Time of Angels. Charlie Brooker, Simon Pegg and Ashes To Ashes writer Matthew Graham are among a number of high-profile twatterers (or whatever they're called) to also have criticised the use of the trail - particularly during the dramatic climax to the episode. The BBC had previously apologised for the 'timing' of the advert on Sunday although some media analysts had speculated that this was an example of a 'non-apology apology' and one which didn't, actually, address the question of whether such a trail would be shown in future during a drama production - Doctor Who, or otherwise. But, credit to them, the corporation has now said: 'The Over The Rainbow trail in Doctor Who should not have been played out on Saturday and we apologise to all Doctor Who fans whose enjoyment of the show was disrupted. We recognise the strength of feeling that has been expressed and are taking steps to ensure that this mistake will not happen again.' One wonders, rather, what would have happened if they'd tried that sort of thing in 1963 - say at the end of episode two of The Daleks? And now, thanks to the wonders of photoshop and some mad genius on Gallifrey Base, you can wonder no longer! See left. Anyway, a minor variant on this apologetic statement has, seemingly, been sent to everyone who e-mailed the BBC complaining about the issue - including yer Keith Telly Topping, as it happens. They were well-contrite and begged my humble forgiveness, so they did. Which, frankly, I'm even more pissed off about than I was about the OTR trail in the first place. I wanted them to come out fighting with a 'well if you don't like it don't watch it'-style calling of my bluff! If they haven't got the bottle to take little-old-me on, what chance do you reckon they've got of surviving the first wave of Tory assault bombers on 6 May? I think I'll complain to the BBC. Oh, hang on ...

Incidentally, for those playing 'musical switchboards', as of this morning - according to a very nice lady at the BBC's press office - the Beeb has now received six thousand three hundred and sixty nine comments ('of which six thousand two hundred and thirty one are complaints') concerning this issue. This does rather make one speculate, idly, about what the other one hundred and thirty eight people who contacted the BBC had to say on the matter? 'How nice to see that lovely Mr Norton cheering up the end of rotten old Doctor Who' perhaps? The second biggest batch of complaints to the BBC this week, incidentally, was the forty it received concerning the scheduling of a BNP party political broadcast immediately before The Graham North Show on Monday evening. There's an definite irony in that, somewhere, I think.

Denise Welch has received a flood of supportive messages from members of the public after speaking candidly about her 'cocaine shame,' according to her spokesman. The Loose Women presenter yesterday admitted that she developed a serious drug problem while she was suffering from depression in the nineties. Welch's confessions appear in her new autobiography Pulling Myself Together, which is being serialised by the Mirror this week. The book sees her explain that her 'lowest moment' came when she snorted cocaine in between filming scenes as barmaid Natalie Barnes on Coronation Street. A representative for the fifty one-year-old told the Manchester Evening News: 'Denise has been inundated with messages of support after her decision to be honest about her past. By opening up about how her depression forced her to experiment with drugs, people have been really moved to support her. She hopes her book will highlight how important it is to get the correct diagnosis with depression, which it took her nearly two decades to do.'

Kevin Whately has admitted that he had doubts about joining Inspector Morse spin-off Lewis. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Whately explained that he has been surprised by the show's success. 'I was a bit of a naysayer,' he noted. 'But it took off like a train so here we are back again.' Wor Kev, who plays the title role, added that people enjoy the show's 'familiarity,' explaining: 'People have always liked it, so they carry on watching it.' However, he also insisted that the episodes focus on the murder cases instead of on Lewis and his sidekick, Hathaway (Laurence Fox). 'There is always a danger with a long-running series for it to disappear up its own arse, to become all about the regulars,' he said. 'Like hospital dramas where it's the main characters getting ill. Here I'm very aware that Lewis is the pivotal character, but the guests do all the acting.'

David Cameron has insisted he is 'pro-BBC.' Over fifty TV personalities - including Harry Enfield, Jo Brand, Eddie Izzard and David Tennant - publicly opposed Conservative plans for the corporation at the weekend. But the Tory leader has told the Radio Times: 'I'm probably the most pro-BBC Conservative leader there's ever been.' That's hardly a ringing endorsement, your Daveship, is it? 'I worked at ITV (in public relations) for seven years and you learn to respect the incredibly important role the BBC plays. Competitors like the BBC because you're competing up here on quality rather than down here on price.' He added: 'I would never do anything to put the BBC at risk.' Well, the media and culture spokesperson for the party that you lead, Jeremy Hunt, has already come close to breaking existing employment law by suggesting that the BBC should be making journalistic appointments based on party politics rather than ability to do the job. So, I reckon, that takes a bit of believing, frankly. 'Conservatives should be as proud of establishing the BBC as Labour are of establishing the NHS,' he concluded. A letter containing almost fifty signatures and sent to the Observer accused the Tories of 'attacking the BBC to serve the interests of its commercial rivals.' They claimed the Conservative position 'threatens to devalue not just the BBC itself, but our culture as a whole.' Cameron told the Radio Times that the BBC has to 'retrench a bit.' Asked about the BBC's proposals to close digital music station 6 Music, he said: 'I think it's up to the BBC. They were trying to do too many things and they're right to focus on doing good things well. There was a moment the BBC had overreached on magazines, websites, (buying) Lonely Planet. I think they do need to retrench a bit and focus on what matters most. So while I might like listening to Radio 6 because it's my sort of music, you can't do everything.' Cameron told the magazine that he was a fan of The Magic Roundabout, Newsround and Jackanory as a child whilst his wife, Samantha, liked Clangers. Cameron said he watched Neighbours and the game shows Going For Gold and Bullseye at university and was into Starsky & Hutch, The Sweeney, The Professionals and Dallas as a teenager at Eton. These days, he told the magazine, Sunday night is his big TV night, and he enjoys detective drama like Silent Witness and Waking The Dead. He prefers Band of Brothers to The West Wing (which proves he's not to be trusted with the country, frankly), was a fan of The Fast Show and, when asked to pick a favourite Doctor from a list of Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith. Went, perhaps surprisingly, for Big Tom. I'd've had Dave down as more a Pertwee man myself. Paternalistic. Establishment. A friend of the military and the Old Boy network. Cameron's continued, sick, arse-licking of The Jam still cuts no ice with me, however. Or, with Paul Weller it would seem. When told that The Jam were Cameron's favourite band as a teenager and that he particularly liked Weller's 'socially aware' lyrics, Paul is reported to have replied 'what a pity he didn't understand them!'

In the same issue of the magazine, SNP leader Alex Salmond and Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones were also asked about their TV viewing habits. Unsurprisingly, Scot Alex expressed his admiration for David Tennant, revealed some Trekkie tendencies - although he blew his cool somewhat by claiming Voyager was the best example of the show - and went for Blur over Oasis. Nah. Too 'art school,' Alex. Good singles band, but that's about it. Ieuan spoke of his pride at the success of BBC Wales shows like Torchwood and Doctor Who, thinks David Tennant is 'the best ever' Doctor and - like Cameron - expressed a particular fondness for Waking The Dead. Both nationalist leaders join a long list of politicians to heap praise on The West Wing.

Call sheets for the series finale of Lost have reportedly been leaked. Gawker reports that the documents were left in a Honolulu restaurant, although it is unclear whether or not they are genuine. The sheets reveal several possible spoilers, mentioning that Jack (Matthew Fox) is 'in Hell' and that he gets a nosebleed (usually a sign on impending death on the island). The documents appear to suggest that a number of male characters of the drama - including Jack, Not-Locke, Ben, Hurley and Desmond - are rope-climbing in caverns and waterfalls. No female characters are said to be mentioned on the sheets. Gawker called a telephone number listed on the sheet and was told that producers often make fake call sheets to avoid spoilers being released onto the Internet. Meanwhile, a representative for ABC has reportedly confirmed that the document is genuine and 'the property of ABC.' She refused to reveal whether or not the call sheet was real or a decoy, but said that it 'contains elements of truth.'

Kiefer Sutherland has admitted that the end of 24 took him by surprise. Sutherland, who plays Jack Bauer, explained that he did not realise he had filmed his final scene in the show until someone told him. 'We had months to prepare for that last day and I'd thought of what I wanted to say,' he told the Zap2It.com website. 'We're usually running-and-gunning so fast it's like, "We've gotta move on!" Since we knew it was almost the last scene, though, we were doing extra coverage of my feet, my elbows, my hands. We were making up shots, just to have the next one not be "the one."' He continued: 'I thought there was still one shot left. Just as I walked out on the stairs for it, they said, "Ladies and gentlemen, that is a show wrap." It kind of caught me off-guard, but I figured, "Well, I'd better say something." It was going to be short, because there was nothing you could say to explain how much all of this meant.' Sutherland added that he struggled with his goodbye speech, explaining: '[I] caught the eye of our key gaffer and our key camera operator, and my voice started to go. Then my lips started to go, and I had to look down at my own feet.' The actor also revealed that he wants to work on roles which are different from Bauer in the near future. 'My immediate instinct is, "You can't pick up a gun and chase anybody for a while,"' he said. 'Not unless you're playing Jack Bauer in 24, anyway. That would just be too odd. Almost icky.'

National Geographic Channel has commissioned a documentary on the Icelandic volcano including close-up footage of the dramatic eruption. Volcanic Ash Chaos: Inside the Eruption has been produced by Scandinature Films and will air on Friday at 9pm, followed by several repeats throughout May. NGC has gained footage of the two eruptions of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano from one of its film crews on location in Iceland at the time. The crew secured footage of the eruptions from a helicopter as well as the aftermath which includes flooding, Coast Guard rescue flights and eyewitness accounts. Broadcasters are scrambling to take advantage of the volcano. FIVE secured almost two million viewers with an documentary last Wednesday, first aired on NGC, about flying through volcanic ash. Channel 4 has also ordered a fast turnaround documentary from Pioneer Productions. The Volcano that Stopped Britain will broadcast this Sunday at 10pm.

Former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones has been handed a suspended jail sentence for dangerous driving. The actor, who is best known for playing Weatherfield layabout Les Battersby, last month pleaded guilty to the charge at Mold Crown Court. Jones drunkenly tried to crash a Mercedes last August as it was being driven along the A55 in Flintshire by his wife Sandra. He grabbed the car's steering wheel and jerked it up and down, causing the vehicle to swerve violently. Appearing in court this morning, the fifty seven-year-old was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for eighteen months. He has also been banned from driving for eighteen months and must pay one thousand smackers costs. Additionally, Jones was ordered to do one hundred hours hours unpaid work and complete a twelve-month supervision order.

Kirstie Allsopp has criticised Katie Price for putting her three children in the public eye. The horsey Location, Location, Location host admitted that she disapproves of the way Harvey, Junior and Princess, are regularly featured in magazine photoshoots with their mother. Speaking to Star magazine, Allsopp - a mother of two herself - explained: 'As far as Katie Price is concerned, she might as well just put her children up a chimney to earn some money. Everyone knows who they are. They have no chance in later life of leading private lives. You really shouldn't criticise people in the public eye, but I think someone does have to say, "Think twice before you have your children photographed." It's one thing to turn up to a premiere or a party, it's another to put them through a photoshoot.' Does anybody else think Kirstie Allsopp is starting to sound more and more like your mum with every public utterance she makes these days. Not that she's necessarily wrong, particularly in this instance, but it's all a bit 'sensible shoes' isn't it? I half expected this interview to end with her threatening to give Jordan a jolly good smacked bottom. Which, to be fair, I'd actually pay good money to see, dear blog reader. I'm a man of very simple tastes.

Can You Hear Us On The Box (In Baghdad)?

The BBC has refused a freedom of information request to reveal how many people watched its TV drama about freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke. The programme, On Expenses, which was originally broadcast on BBC 4, told of Brooke's struggle to make parliament more accountable by publishing expenditure claims by MPs. A reporter working for the bureau of investigative journalism, a new journalistic enterprise, made a formal Freedom of Information Act application asking for the specific viewing figures. The BBC's legal and business affairs manager, Lorraine Stiller, replied that the corporation was rejecting the application on the grounds that the information 'is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of "journalism, art or literature."' She pointed out that the BBC does publish iPlayer viewing figures on its website. The latest report shows that there were 67.4m online requests for TV programmes in the month of March and it lists the top twenty most viewed shows. But the bureau's managing editor, Iain Overton – who has made documentaries for the BBC in the past – argues that, as a publicly-funded body, 'it is only through the publication of all data in the public interest can true accountability be achieved. Clearly, if public bodies only made their best figures available, and hid the rest from public gaze, then real failings would rarely come to light.' Or, maybe the viewing figures were so small that they didn't want to embarrass the producers by telling everyone what they were? Just one to drop into your toaster to see if it pops up brown, Iain bonny lad. I also think it's pretty damn frigging disgraceful that an important piece of legislation like the FOI act - designed to be used to reveal matters of genuine public concern and potential criminal activity - can be used, by an journalist, in an attempt to get something as utterly trivial as TV ratings figures and iPlayer usage. Both of which are freely available in the public domain from the BARB website and the BBC's own website. Damn straight the BBC refused it and rightly so. If they'd allowed it then I expect every single day they'd've had to deal with a deluge of such requests from glakes demanding to know how many people watched Tracy Beaker yesterday. Grow up fer Christ's sake, Iain, they are a publicly funded body and they have more important things to do with the funds the public provide them with than to employ people just to deal with trivial nonsense like your 'request.'

As a side note, dear blog readers may like to know that in 2007 Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, said that he feared the Freedom of Information Act was being abused by 'vexatious requesters' seeking 'pointless' facts from the Government and various other state bodies. There was, for instance, the celebrated and widely reported case of the person who wanted to know how much British diplomats had spent on Ferrero Rocher chocolates for official functions. There was also a woman who asked how many eligible bachelors there are in the Hampshire constabulary.

ITV is reportedly hoping to keep hold of Ben Shephard and Penny Smith. Shephard confirmed last week that he will leave GMTV later this year, while Smith announced her departure from the morning show last month. However, the Mirror claims that ITV executives are desperate to keep the duo at the channel after audience research revealed that they are the most popular GMTV presenters. While Shephard and Smith regularly received an eight out of ten rating, the other hosts were reportedly marked either six or seven. ITV is now allegedly trying to find other jobs for the pair. A source explained: 'ITV are looking at how they can fit Ben and Penny into the schedule as you can't ignore their overwhelming popularity.'

Emilie Fleming has claimed that she was not 'edgy' enough to win Andrew Lloyd Webber's Over The Rainbow. The nineteen-year-old gap-toothed singer, who departed the show over the weekend, said that she did not fit in with the 'modern version' of Dorothy that the judges are hoping to cast in the updated West End musical. 'Obviously, they don't want that traditional sort of Dorothy this time. They want an edgy, modern version. I'm happy for that and it just wasn't meant to be for me,' she told the Digital Spy website. Fleming also said that she will not let the judges' criticism that she 'isn't tough enough' for a West End career hold her back in the future. 'I've had the time of my life [on this show], but I need to grow more and there's plenty more to work on,' she said. 'I'm still young, I've got a long way to go as a performer. Whatever happens, I'm not going to stop. And hopefully you'll see me again one day!'

Endemol Sport is to launch a series of channels in the Middle East dedicated to English Premier League football. And, since yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still seemingly unsellable) Magpies are now back in the Premiership, yer Keith Telly Topping is suddenly interested in this news in a way that he wouldn't have been six months ago. Endemol has partnered with Abu Dhabi Media Company to launch four new high definition channels, that will be broadcast across twenty two countries as part of the the Abu Dhabi Al Riyadiya portfolio. Endemol Sport will join forces with Endemol Middle East to support ADMC in the production of programming covering the EPL. These programmes will be produced at newly built studios at ADMC, along with all three hundred and eighty EPL matches, as part of next season’s subscription package. Coverage will include big match previews and reviews, news bulletins and shows that mix football and entertainment. The first two new EPL channels will be broadcast in Arabic specifically targeting the local audiences across the region. Two English language channels are also being launched as part of the package. The main English channel will broadcast Premier League TV, the newly launched official 24/7 channel from the English Premier League, with match presentation from studios in London and additional programming including a mix of news, views and classic games from the EPL archives. Ah, the iron first of cultural sporting imperialism inside the velvet glove of top quality action from all of today's fixtures. al-Qaeda beware, even martyrs of Allah sometimes need a bit of time out to watch Fulham versus Stoke City.

Former EastEnders actress Tracy-Ann Oberman - whom my producer amusingly confused with Alex Kingston over the weekend - has claimed that the soap world is similar to what life was like on 'old-style' Hollywood movie sets. The actress admitted that she often used to draw comparisons to classic films when shooting scenes as Walford's Chrissie Watts, who is best remembered for murdering her husband Dirty Den (Leslie Grantham) in the programme's twentieth anniversary episode. Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph about drama, Oberman explained: 'The way the system works is that you're stuck in this studio a long way from anywhere, and you're living, eating and breathing the job. You're being driven around on the studio buggy and you're working with the same people. There really is something quite old-style Hollywood studio about it.' Only, less money, I'm presuming. 'It kept making me think about what it must have been like to be living on the lot at MGM, waiting to see what your next script was going to be.' She continued: 'The way soaps are written is often quite melodramatic - particularly with the storylines I had. They were very theatrical, and there's something quite film noir-ish about murdering your husband. I often used to think, "Wow - how would Bette Davis approach this?"' Ask for more money, probably.

Coronation Street will next month receive a special BAFTA award honouring the work of the soap's crew. The show's production team will pick up the prize at the British Academy Television Craft Awards on 23 May, Broadcast magazine reports. The award will mark the Weatherfield drama's fiftieth anniversary, recognising the contributions made by every person who has worked as part of the programme's behind-the-scenes team over the past five decades. Speaking of the accolade, executive producer Kieran Roberts commented: 'The wonderful actors in the early episodes of Coronation Street rightly became celebrated, but behind the cameras there were many other stars in the birth of British television's most successful drama serial - creator Tony Warren, of course, and the writers who followed him. Fifty years on, Coronation Street is still brought to life and to screen by a huge team of dedicated and highly talented people behind the camera. We're delighted that the special award at this year's British Academy Television Craft Awards recognises the extraordinary contribution to British television made by the entire Coronation Street team, not just this year but in every single year across five decades.'

Meanwhile, Coronation Street couple Ashley and Claire Peacock - played by Steven Arnold and Julia Haworth - are to be written out of the soap. The actors came to a mutual agreement with new producer Phil Collinson that it was time for the Peacocks to move on, an ITV statement said. The writing team are now working on a exit for butcher Ashley, his housewife Claire and their two children. The Peacocks will however be on-screen until at least the end of 2010. 'Both the actors and myself felt we had reached a crossroads with the characters to the point that as actors they were not being fulfilled and stories were harder to find,' said Collinson. 'We mutually decided to start working towards an exit for the Peacock family, giving the actors the opportunity to explore new opportunities and for us to devise a dramatic exit storyline.'

BBC soap EastEnders has been 'rapped' by Ofcom after a woman's phone number was accidentally displayed in an episode of the serial. 'Rapped' of course being tabloid speak for 'criticised only with less syllables.' Beautician Lisa Edwards complained to the media regulator after receiving nearly three thousand unwanted text messages because her business mobile number appeared on-screen on Ricky Butcher's phone. The episode in question aired on 7 September last year and Edwards' number was seen as Ricky received an SMS from his ex-partner Sam Mitchell. Immediately above Sam's text were two messages which clearly showed Edwards' telephone number. Ofcom confirmed that it had upheld Edwards' complaint, ruling that the footage 'was an unwarranted infringement of [her] privacy.' The watchdog added that the broadcast had led to 'a series of unwanted and abusive telephone calls and texts being received by Mrs Edwards.' Unwanted, I can understand, but 'abusive'? Who the hell rings up a telephone number they've seen on television and screams obscenities at the person who answers? EastEnders viewers, it would seem. Explains much, I suppose. Meanwhile, the BBC confirmed that it had conducted an investigation to determine how the businesswoman's number had ended up on a prop phone, but could not provide an explanation 'with any certainty.' The corporation added that the number of nuisance calls and texts could have been inflated after Edwards spoke to the Sun about her experience. Her number was clearly displayed in a screen capture that the newspaper published to accompany the story. Edwards has already received both verbal and written apologies from the BBC over the matter.

Former EastEnders actor Phil Daniels ('Oi!') has claimed that the soap's producers are 'clueless' over what viewers want to watch. The Quadrophenia icon spoke out to condemn the news that Charlie Slater, Minty Peterson and Libby Fox are among half-a-dozen characters who are to be written out of the Walford serial drama in the months ahead. Daniels made his own final appearance as Libby's stepfather, Kevin Wicks, in January 2008. His character was then killed off after Daniels chose not to renew his contract following a two-year Albert Square stint. Speaking to the Sun about EastEnders' forthcoming cast changes, the tricky, fast-talkin' Cockney geezer, innit, commented: 'It'll be sad. Minty's good, Charlie's good. I love Libby. They are good characters. I don't see why they have to go. That's that programme for you. Hasn't got a clue, has it? Viewers don't want it to be Hollyoaks. It's a chance for me to come back from the dead if they want glamour. There aren't enough laughs in EastEnders for me - and there weren't when I was doing it either!'

Sir Ian McKellen has criticised modern television. This wouldn't have anything to do with The Prisoner getting less than two million viewers on Saturday night would it, your sirship? The actor claimed that many TV programmes are 'rubbish. You can always find exceptions,' he said. 'If I've been to the theatre, I try to get home to see Newsnight on BBC2, which examines the news in proper detail. But so many news programmes don't. They run for half an hour at most and the content is thin like gruel, not thick and chunky in the way most of us would like it to be. You have politicians at election time trying to get across their messages and because the programmes give them so little time they end up lying, coming up with soundbites which mislead viewers.' So, to sum up, it's television's fault that all politicians are scum. Interesting theory. McKellen also blamed the alleged decline in quality on multi-channel television. 'Generally speaking there is so much rubbish on TV it is simply not worth watching,' he said. 'Standards have slipped catastrophically. I'm afraid multi-channel TV hasn't worked.' Christ, you sound like my dad. 'Fine if you want to watch football all day - not so good if you're searching for quality drama. One channel churns out the same old rubbish as a hundred others.' He continued: 'And while I would never knock reality TV because a lot of people like it, I'm not sure I like the idea of it as a replacement for drama that is written by somebody then rehearsed and performed.' So, if that's not knocking reality TV, then what, exactly, is knocking reality TV, your sirship? 'Given a choice of watching Prime Suspect and a show in which somebody tries to live with a wife who isn't his wife or eat live insects while being observed by two comedians, I know which I'd prefer.' So, definitely something to do with The Prisoner getting less than two million viewers on Saturday night, then. Be seeing you. Or, you know, not.

Nigella Lawson has admitted that she doesn't watch cookery shows. The celebrity chef told the People that she does not want to be too influenced by others. 'I have an absolute policy of not watching,' she said. Me too, Nigella love. At least, with regard to Sophie Dahl and Jamie Oliver. 'I don't want to be told there is only one way of making something and I don't want to pick up someone's ideas. I don't read cookbooks either. I don't like being stuck to one formula. I don't mind going to restaurants but I would sooner order steak and chips.'

A Kay Burley interview on Sky News which left pop star Peter Andre visibly upset has been found not in breach of broadcasting guidelines by Ofcom. Upwards of eight hundred and eighty complaints were made by viewers over the way in which Burley questioned Andre about his children with Katie Price. Andre stopped the interview after Burley asked how he would feel if his former wife's new husband, Alex Reid, wanted to adopt his children. But Ofcom ruled Burley's approach was not 'bullying' or 'intimidating.' Ofcom said the majority of complainants were concerned by the intrusive manner in which Andre was interviewed by the presenter. The interview took place on the day of Price's marriage to Reid, although Andre had already been booked to come into the studio to talk about his new CD. Sky News informed Ofcom that Burley consulted Andre prior to the interview and told him that he would be asked questions about the wedding and related issues. 'It was understandable that the presenter focused on the human interest angle of the wedding by asking Andre for his reaction, and how it would impact on his children,' Ofcom stated. The watchdog acknowledged Burley's interview style was 'probing and persistent' but said 'she remained overall measured in tone throughout and did not put inappropriate pressure on Andre for a response.' Ofcom also noted that Burley had apologised for any upset caused. It also stated that Andre was a well-known professional singer with considerable experience of the media and 'had previously talked candidly and frequently in public (including in television programmes) about his relationship with his former wife and his children.' Andre himself did not make any complaint about unfair treatment or unwarranted infringement of privacy to Ofcom.

Simon Cowell has responded in kind to criticism from Hollie Steel's mum regarding Britain's Got Talent. Nina Steel claimed earlier this month that her eleven-year-old daughter, who caused controversy after breaking down in tears during last year's semi-finals, was 'dropped like a penny' by producers. However, Cowell has now insisted to Reveal: 'Last year's finalist Hollie Steel's mum has been saying certain things about the show. But kids aren't dragged on the show - parents bring them. Kids are always going to be disappointed if they don't win. Most of the kids I've seen during auditions had a blast. If I thought they weren't enjoying themselves I'd do something about it.'

Smug-faced Jason Gardiner has insisted that he is not aware of any plans to axe him from the Dancing On Ice judging panel. Earlier this month, press reports claimed that bell-end Gardiner would lose his place on the skating show because producers had grown tired of him being 'downright rude' to contestants. It was also claimed that Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie Spence was being lined-up to replace the outspoken choreographer. However, writing on Twitter yesterday, Gardiner commented: 'There has been nothing official from ITV about replacing me on DOI next year with Louie or anyone else. Press make up what they want always!' Do please note the use of the word 'official' there. And ponder.

Meanwhile, that oily twat Piers Morgan has claimed that Adrian Chiles' dispute with the BBC gave the TV host 'sleepless nights.' Writing in his Daily Scum Mail diary, Morgan revealed that he heard about Chiles' feud with the corporation first hand when the presenter came to dinner at his home back in February. Morgan commented: 'He's a loyal, thoroughly decent man, who loved his job. And he was close to tears by the end of our dinner chat.' Oddly, Piers, you have that affect on a lot of people. Just thought I'd mention it.