Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Till I Finally Died, Which Started The Whole World Laughing

Come Fly With Me helped BBC iPlayer rack up a record-breaking one hundred and sixty two million programme requests during January, while the platform's new mobile apps also made a strong debut last week. Throughout January, the online version of catch-up platform iPlayer attracted a record one hundred and thirty six million requests, boosted by an all-time high of 101.3m TV requests and almost thirty five million for radio. On all available platforms, iPlayer attracted a total of one hundred and sixty two million requests for live and on-demand programming, up twelve per cent on the previous record of one hundred and forty five million in December. The figure was also up thirty five per cent year-on-year. Virgin Media accounted for around sixteen per cent of iPlayer requests, while Sony's PS3 had five per cent and computers accounted for seventy two per cent. In a record-breaking January, the on-demand platform generated 4.4m requests a day (3.3m for TV and just over one million for radio) from a record average of 1.7m daily users. Matt Lucas and David Walliams' comedy Come Fly With Me was the most requested TV show in January, with all five episodes making up the top five positions, including episode two attracting 1.8m requests. Perennial iPlayer favourite Top Gear came in sixth, with episode one of series sixteen pulling in 1.1m requests. Other popular shows for January included the Christmas Day Doctor Who (eight hundred and fourteen thousand), EastEnders and Hustle. The most requested radio show was coverage of the fifth test of The Ashes (day three), at one hundred and fifty seven thousand requests. The controversial anniversary episode of The Archers on Radio 4 came in third place with one hundred and twenty five thousand requests. The BBC also announced that its new iPlayer mobile app for Apple's iPad was downloaded fifty four thousand five hundred and eleven times in the first twenty four hours after its release last Thursday. Total iPlayer requests from iPads, which include the online iPlayer already available on the device, grew one hundred and eleven per cent from 9 February to 10 February. Another iPlayer app - released for Google Android - caused total requests from Android mobile devices to increase two hundred and twenty eight per cent during the same two day period.

MasterChef presenter Gregg Wallace has revealed that contestants are wasting their time with sob stories on the show. Wallace said that he ignores the hopeful chefs' pleas when they talk about their 'passion' for food, claiming that his verdict always comes down to what is delivered on the plate. 'A lot of jargon comes out and lots of people talk about their passion and love for local ingredients,' he told the Digital Spy website. 'But, actually we're not that interested in hearing that. What we're interested in is when they engage you in what's going on in front of them. That's when you start to get through to the cook. It's not a job interview. That bit about their passion and it changing their lives may be true or may not, I tend to push it to one side. But when they talk about what they're doing and why, that's when I listen. That is unrehearsed.'

The second series of Ant & Dec's Push the Button got off to a disappointing start despite coming on top in its slot with an average of 5.77 million viewers. The show was down almost a million viewers on the first series debut in February last year, which averaged 6.6 million. On Saturday Push the Button had the better of BBC1's Total Wipeout (4.38 million) and the first half hour of a new National Lottery series, Secret Fortune (5.89 million). BBC1's Casualty was the most-watched show of the day, averaging 5.93 million, and deservedly so for one of the best episodes the series has produced in quite a long time. On Sunday, Being Human on BBC3 reached the halfway mark of its third series with an audience low for this year - 1.2m - but it remained, by a distance, the most-watched multichannel show at 9pm.

Top Twenty programmes week ending 6 February 2011
1 Coronation Street - ITV - 11.06 million
2 EastEnders - BBC1 - 10.63 million
3 Dancing On Ice - ITV - 8.85 million
4 Silent Witness - BBC1 - 8.40 million
5 Emmerdale - ITV - 8.11 million
6 Midsomer Murders - ITV - 8.10 million
7 Big Fat Gypsy Weddings - Channel Four - 8.03 million
8 Wild At Heart - ITV - 8.01 million
9 Marchlands - ITV - 7.37 million
10 Top Gear - BBC2 - 7.33 million
11 Lark Rise To Candleford - BBC1 - 6.96 million
12 Countryfile - BBC1 - 6.85 million
13 Casualty - BBC1 - 6.78 million
14 Six Nations: Wales vs England - BBC1 - 6.71 million
15 National Lottery: In It To Win It - BBC1 - 6.54 million
16 Holby City - BBC1 - 6.07 million
17 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV - 6.06 million
18 Total Wipeout - BBC1 - 5.58 million
19 Waterloo Road - BBC1 - 5.54 million
20 Match Of The Day - BBC1 - 5.49 million

Jeremy Paxman is renowned for his imperial interviews, so perhaps it is no surprise that BBC1 has chosen the Newsnight presenter to explore the history of the British empire for a major new series. Paxman – who last week took a pay cut when he signed a new four-year deal with the corporation – has already started filming the five-part documentary, Empire. The series traces the rise and fall of the British empire – which, at its peak, was the largest in history. Unless you count America, now. Ooo, controversial. Anyway, British influence spanned the globe and Paxman will travel to India, Canada, Asia and Africa, finding out how the empire began. Paxman will investigate what the BBC calls 'the complex effects' the British empire had on the modern world, and traces its influence on sport, finance, social history and technology. Is there anything we can be proud of in it or was it all atrocities, imperialism and oppression. He will also explores the effect it had on British people at home. It is not the first time Paxman has fronted historical documentaries for the BBC. His last series for the BBC arts department was The Victorians in 2009, which brought to life the world of Victorian Britain as seen through the paintings of the era's artists and which was a hit both critically and commercially. 'Jeremy Paxman is a brilliant and distinguished broadcaster – who better to weigh up the complexities of the British empire – its glories, its tragedies, the winners and the losers, its triumph and its curse,' said the BBC arts commissioning editor, Mark Bell. 'We hope that this series will bring to life the people and the chain of events that made it such a powerful institution, as well as shed new light on its consequences.' The BBC said the series 'forms part of BBC's commitment to commissioning in-depth arts and culture programmes across a broad range of topics.' Empire will be broadcast on BBC1 this autumn.

David Dimbleby's bumper new five-year contract, keeping him at heart of the BBC's political coverage until he's at least seventy seven, may have irked another high-profile colleague. If the Daily Express' Hickey column is to be believed, Andrew Marr had 'more than one eye' on taking over the Question Time presenter's position – and has 'long presumed' he was next in line to head up the corporation's election coverage.

A stray one-liner in an article in this week's Gruniad Morning Star suggests that Garrow's Law had been recommissioned for a third series. Which is very good news.

When television presenter Christine Bleakley announced that she was defecting from the BBC to ITV last year in a reported four million pound deal she insisted that 'with my hand on heart it was nothing to do with money.' But now legal papers disclosed as part of a High Court battle between Bleakley and her former agent reveal that money was a key factor in her decision to quit the Corporation. Documents lodged at the High Court as part of Miss Bleakley’s defence against agent John Noel – whom she sacked by text message last June – appear to show that the presenter repeatedly ordered Noel to 'provoke a bidding war' between the BBC and ITV. In the papers the battle for her services is described as 'a once in a lifetime opportunity.' The admission came to light in Bleakley's thirty-page defence to a legal bid by Noel, who is seeking up to twenty two and a half per cent of her income over the next two years. The document says: 'When the claimant [Noel] and the defendant [Bleakley] discovered that her co-presenter Adrian Chiles was leaving The ONE Show to work for ITV, the defendant was offered what was potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, namely the prospect of being able to get the BBC and ITV to bid against each other to secure her services.' Bleakley's lawyers say that noel 'entirely failed to seize that opportunity on the defendant's behalf, despite repeated requests from the defendant that he engage in negotiations.' Bleakley left the BBC to follow Chiles to ITV. The pair now appear on breakfast tragedy Daybreak. The show has been savaged by critics and has proved a flop with viewers. The court document appears to undermine Bleakley's claims last year that her move to ITV was not motivated by her own financial gain and crass greed. In an interview – five months after the four million pound three year deal was struck – the Northern Ireland-born presenter said: 'It was the stick everyone was trying to beat me with. I understand viewers hear these things and say, "Who do these people think they are?" But I can honestly put my hand on my heart and tell you it was nothing to do with money. I come from a very modest background. My sister worked in a bank, my brother-in-law is a firefighter, my mum's retired. I worked a long time without getting paid and money never came into it. Once money's mentioned everything changes.' Bleakley sacked Noel – who also acts for Strictly Come Dancing presenter Tess Daly and X Factor host Dermot O'Dreary – by text message in June last year, giving him two months notice in writing a day later. The message, which is included in Noel's twelve-page claim for breach of contract and lost earnings, read: 'I understand if I've upset you and that going our separate ways seems the obvious way forward. I admire and respect you and will always say that to anyone who will listen. I’m sorry it's come to this and I mean it too when I say I wish you the very best in the future. Maybe we can join forces again soon.' Noel claims the ITV deal was struck while he was still Bleakley's agent and only came about because of previous negotiations he had carried out with broadcasters on her behalf. Bleakley's counter claim centres on her allegation that her agent failed to secure her the same salary as her co-presenter on The ONE Show – or a pay rise after Chiles quit. The court papers show Noel had negotiated deals for Bleakley to front a travel programme for the BBC, release her own fitness DVD and present a documentary for Radio 4. Prior to Chiles' departure in April 2010, he and Bleakley were being groomed as the BBC's 'golden presenting couple.' The pair were popular with viewers because of their easy-going on-screen banter – which fuelled tabloid-led speculation they were romantically involved. They helped turn The ONE Show into a huge hit, watched at its peak by up to seven million viewers per night. Despite this success, Chiles broke up their double act, quitting the BBC and defecting to ITV in a six million pound four-year deal. He has also repeatedly claimed that the move wasn't motivated by money, saying: 'The past has been slightly re-written, which I am slightly annoyed about. They are trying to portray it as a classic big-money move to ITV, when nothing could be further from the truth.' Desperate to stop their rising star following Chiles to ITV, bosses at the Corporation, including Alan Yentob and the then-BBC1 controller Jay Hunt, offered Bleakley a string of sweeteners – including the promise of her own prime time Saturday night show if she stayed. Publicly, at first, she insisted that she would stay at the BBC, where she was believed to be earning one hundred thousand pounds-a-year, announcing at the time: 'I'm so happy here. I'm staying put, absolutely. I don't want to go anywhere.' But the court documents reveal that behind the scenes Bleakley had a meeting with ITV controller Peter Fincham 'to see whether ITV might be interested in securing her services.' Ten days after declaring her loyalty to the BBC, Bleakley – who had worked for the corporation since she was seventeen – signed the four million pounds deal to defect. The move reunited her with Chiles and the pair – who cost ITV a total of ten million smackers to lure to the channel – launched their new breakfast series Daybreak in September as a replacement for GMTV. The heavily promoted launch helped Daybreak pull in a million viewers for its first broadcast. But within weeks audiences fell to less than five hundred thousand – fewer than half the figures of its predecessor, which was axed directly because low ratings. Since then Daybreak's ratings have remained in the seven to eight hundred thousand range, approximately half of the audience that the BBC's rival Breakfast gets daily. Noel took Bleakley on as a client in September 2004 when she was an unknown TV presenter. Which, at the rate Daybreak is going, she may well be again quite shortly.

The executive producer of Bones has revealed details about the next episode in the show's sniper story arc. In thee recent The Bullet in the Brain, the FOX forensic drama introduced the sniper Jacob Broadsky (played by Arnold Vosloo), a former ally of Booth (David Boreanaz) who has become a cold-blooded killer for hire. Stephen Nathan told Entertainment Weekly: '[In the 10 March episode] Booth is truly determined to go after him but also is struggling with the demons that come along with being a sniper himself, and wondering how Brennan sees him.' Nathan added that the episode will see Booth consider 'if Brennan thinks that he's the kind of guy who can easily pull the trigger, or if she knows how difficult that is for him as well.' He continued: 'It's forcing him to look into an aspect of his life and look into how other people perceive him as well.' Nathan previously confirmed that the sniper storyline 'is going to hang over [the show] for the rest of the year.'

Stockard Channing has signed up to play a lead role in new NBC pilot Seventeenth Precinct. The fantasy drama, from Battlestar Galactica producer Ron Moore, will focus on police officers in the fictional town of Excelsior who investigate 'magical' crimes. Deadline reports that Channing will play Mira, a former homicide detective who transfers to the precinct's robbery division. The actress is best known for her role as Rizzo in 1978 film Grease and also played Abbey Bartlet on NBC's The West Wing from 1999 to 2006. Sony Pictures TV will produce the Seventeenth Precinct pilot. Ron Moore is developing the project in addition to sea-based action drama The McCulloch and a proposed remake of sixties CBS series The Wild Wild West.

A man has been arrested in connection with alleged incidents of assault at a mosque in Keighley. Police said it followed the release of secret footage filmed at the Markazi Jamia Mosque, which was broadcast on the Channel Four Dispatches programme on Monday night. The footage from the programme includes children apparently being hit. Police said the man had been bailed and that the force was 'receiving co-operation from the Keighley Muslim Association.' Some of the programme also features footage of a school in Birmingham. It was viewed by detectives after some of the footage was posted on the Internet. A West Yorkshire Police statement said: 'We have recently become aware of a number of incidents of alleged assault at a mosque in the Keighley area and just before the weekend we were able to view edited footage of the alleged incident. One man has been arrested in connection with the incidents and has been released on police bail pending further enquiries. West Yorkshire Police are receiving full co-operation from the Keighley Muslim Association who are working with us in support of the inquiry.'

Former Sky Sports football presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys were back broadcasting after returning to the media on radio station talkSPORT on Monday. The pair left Sky after they made controversial off-air remarks about female assistant referee Sian Massey. Keys, presenting a three-hour show with Gray said: 'It's nice to be back talking football.' At the weekend Massey returned to duty in the Premier League. She was lambasted by Gray and Keys for her performance during the Wolves versus Liverpool match last month. But on Saturday she ran the line during the 1-1 draw between Blackpool and Aston Villa and was praised by Tangerines manager Ian Holloway. He said: 'She took the right decisions. I was confident in her. She is good at what she is doing.' Gray and Keys avoided any controversy in their show, sticking to football and focusing on Wayne Rooney's 'wonder goal' for Manchester United on Saturday. They did not offer any apologies or make any mention of the controversy which led to Gray being dismissed by Sky and Keys resigning and, perhaps significantly, did no open the phone lines.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is one of the most genuinely beautiful songs ever written, recently heard in the movie The Fighter. I particularly admire just how pretty Robin looks on this film clip. I mean, you know, teeth notwithstanding. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has always felt that The Bee Gees are often fantastically under-rated as a band, dear blog reader. I do realise that sounds a faintly ridiculous thing to say about, what is it, the eighth biggest selling artist in history, or something. But, you know, forget the disco stuff some of those early LPs are astonshing.