Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Future's Here Today!

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, briefly, found himself a - tiny - bit-part participant in a major breaking news-story today, dear blog reader. This blogger had been doing some publicity filming with Alfie Joey and Mark Deeks for Monopolise! along with Look North's Sharuna Sagar. The first half - at the Live Theatre on the Quayside in Newcastle - went fine but some additional footage which we'd planned to film later at The Cluny in Byker (where Alf and I did much of the writing for the stage show) had to be called off because of a massive fire that was (and, as I write, still is) talking place at the nearby Shepherd's Scrapyard. Which half of Newcastle currently seems to be watching from various vantage points nearby. More than forty firefighters were scrambled to tackle the major blaze. A number of explosions were reported coming from the facility which is cited just off the back of Albion Row. Surrounding buildings were evacuated after the fire was first reported at lunchtime, Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade said. Obviously, we couldn't get to the pub but, at one point yer Keith Telly Topping was so close to the incident he could've toasted crumpets from it. A huge mushroom-cloud like column of smoke from the blaze could be seen right across the city - yer actual Keith Telly Topping's radio oppo Simon Logan noted that it could clearly be seen at the BBC studios in Fenham nearly five miles away. Further reports indicate that the plume of thick black smoke could be seen as far away as Whitley Bay, Hexham, Sunderland, South Shields, Hartlepool, the Farne Islands and even the Scottish border about sixty miles North.
The flames came from the former Shepherd's Scrapyard, which has since been taken over eleven years ago by a company called Ince Ltd. A spokesman for Northumbria Police said that nearby homes and businesses were being advised to keep doors and windows closed because of acrid smoke. Some surrounding roads - including bits of Shields Road, City Road and all of Leighton Street, Ouseburn Terrace and Byker Bank, have been closed to traffic to allow emergency crews access to the scene. Thus, getting back to Walker over the Glasshouse Bridge having stopped to have a gander at the raging inferno proved to be something of a major feat of motoring. Thankfully, no injuries have been reported so far. A Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade spokesman said: 'Twelve fire appliances are on the scene, including two specialist aerial ladder platforms. We are advising residents to keep their doors and windows shut as a general precaution, which should be more than sufficient for this kind of fire. Our Control Room has been inundated with calls about the incident and we would like to thank the public for their vigilance.' Ince Ltd's managing director Malcolm Ince, said there was more than two thousand litres of explosive fuel kept close to the fire. He said: 'We think a small fire has smoldered in the scrap, we've been collecting it for about six or seven months, then it started smoking, then we just saw huge flames. I had to make the decision to evacuate the six workers.'
So, it's been a bit of a strange day all round for yer actual Keith Telly Topping. Getting back to Stately Telly Topping Manor, he not only managed to break a bathroom mirror (seven years of bad luck, that) but, also, his most favourite coffee mug. Seperate incidents, obviously. Smashed beyond repair, so it was. Goodbye old friend - we've shared many a warm and comforting moment together!
Anyway, onto more serious news: Rupert Graves and Una Stubbs will return for the second series of Sherlock as Inspector Lestrade and Mrs Hudson respectively, the BBC have confirmed this week.

Rumours of the death of Poirot, ITV's long-running adaptation of the Agatha Christie detective, seem to have been greatly exaggerated: ITV is 'actively developing' a new film starring David Suchet as the Belgian detective. The network declined to name which book is up for adaptation, but Broadcast magazine says that it understands ITV has engaged scriptwriter Nick Dear to develop Dead Man's Folly for a two hour TV movie for 2012. Suchet, who has starred in sixty five adaptations for ITV over the past twenty two years, is set to reprise the role. This follows recent tabloid press reports that the show - which sells to forty countries around the world - was being axed to save costs. ITV has also denied it ordered a production hiatus, with sources insisting it is 'business as usual.' The last Poirot adaptation, Murder On The Orient Express, was shown on Boxing Day and attracted consolidated viewing figures of five and a half million and a twenty per cent share. An adaptation of the Miss Marple mystery The Clocks, starring Jamie Winstone, Anna Massey, Lesley Sharp and Phil Daniels, has already been filmed and is expected to be shown this Christmas. A further Miss Marple adaptation, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, filmed in 2008 and co-starring Georgia Moffett, Richard Briers and Rik Mayall alongside Julia McKenzie, is also awaiting transmission. 'We wouldn't look to commission more until we were about to broadcast,' said an ITV 'source'. A spokeswoman added: 'We are currently developing Poirot scripts.' Broadcast notes that 'it is understood' Suchet is keen to complete filming the remaining six Poirot mysteries, ending with the detective's swan song Curtain.

BBC1 is considering new singing format The Voice for a prime Saturday night slot following its success in the US. An adaptation of the show, which launched on US network NBC last month with nearly twelve million viewers, is being considered by BBC controller of entertainment Mark Linsey for broadcast next year. 'The BBC is looking at The Voice for BBC1 on Saturday night but it has not yet been commissioned and we are a long way off any decision being made,' said a BBC spokeswoman. Casting would be a key factor in securing a commission. Celebrity judges including Christina Aguilera and soul singer Cee Lo Green have helped with the success of the US version. The BBC is speaking with Wall to Wall to potentially adapt the format for UK viewers. The production company picked up the UK rights following an agreement with format-creator Talpa Media, which launched the show last year on RTL4 in Holland. Developed by Big Brother creator John de Mol, The Voice of Holland became the top-rated Dutch primetime show in 2010. The show features celebrity artists forming and coaching teams of singers. Individuals are eliminated until each celebrity has only one team member left, who will compete in the finals to be named 'The Voice' - whereupon they will secure the obligatory recording contract. To ensure only the best voices are chosen, the initial audition process is blind - the celebrity coaches can hear the singer but cannot see them. The Voice is the first show to come out of a joint venture between Talpa and Warner Horizon. Wall to Wall is owned by Shed Media, which was bought by Time Warner last summer.

According to Metro's mega-bitchy gossip columnist Neil Sean, 'ditched X Factor judge Dannii Minogue says ITV wants to sign her up for lots of shows.' However, Neil continues, 'station bosses know nothing about it.'

Stephen Fry is to have a role in The Hobbit, its director Peter Jackson has announced. The film-maker said that he was 'thrilled' to confirm Fry would be playing The Master of Laketown in one or both of the Lord of the Rings prequels he is currently shooting in New Zealand. 'I've known Stephen for several years,' wrote the director in a casting update posted on the Facebook website. 'He's a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us.' According to Jackson, he and Fry are currently working on a new version of classic World War II film The Dam Busters. Laketown, or Esgaroth, is a place where elves and humans meet to trade in the fictional universe of JRR Tolkien. Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen are among the other British actors currently working on Jackson's eagerly awaited addition to the Rings saga.

Kay Mellor, the writer behind Band of Gold and Fat Friends, has scripted a new drama series for BBC1 about a group of supermarket workers who win the lottery. Mellor's production company Rollem Productions has been commissioned to make the five-part drama The Syndicate. It will go into production in September for a broadcast on BBC1 next year in a post-watershed slot. The series will centre on staff at a small cut-price supermarket in Leeds whose lives change after winning the jackpot. Mellor, who is in the process of writing the series, researched the role by working at a Spar in Leeds and interviewing lottery winners. 'It's a project I'm particularly excited about and I can't wait to bring it to the screen,' she said of the as-yet-uncast drama. 'We're living through difficult times. More and more ordinary people live from week to week hoping, wishing, that they'll win the lottery to elevate financial pressures and lift them out of profound debt.' This is the first BBC drama for Rollem since A Passionate Woman, an adaptation of Mellor's play that was shown on BBC1 last year. Billie Piper played the lead in the critically acclaimed two-parter as a young wife and mother who falls in love with her Polish neighbour in 1950s Britain.

Vera, the ITV drama starring Brenda Blethyn as a Northumberland police detective, has been commissioned for a second series. ITV confirmed it has plans for another four episodes, each two hours in duration, and that scripts are well developed. The first series of the show, which is based on the Vera Stanhope books written by Ann Cleeves, concludes on ITV on Sunday. Vera is made by ITV Studios but also partly funded by Northern Film & Media, which is backed by One North East, the north-east regional development agency, the European Regional Development Fund and the British Film Institute. This explains its location, and use of iconic landmarks, including the Angel of the North sculpture. Northern Film & Media back a wide range of TV drama, including Inspector George Gently and Tracy Beaker Returns for the BBC. ITV has yet to decide whether to commission a second run of Monroe, its medical drama starring James Nesbitt as a brain surgeon, which was broadcast in March. Nesbitt is currently making The Hobbit in New Zealand, so ITV said it is under no pressure to make an immediate decision.

And, on a somewhat related theme, two of ITV's recent crime drama pilots -The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher and Case Sensitive - are both expected to second series. According to Broadcast, the detective shows have already begun work on further episodes, although the deal has 'not been fully greenlit yet.' The Kate Summerscale period adaptation Whicher, which starred Paddy Considine and Peter Capaldi, picked up over six million viewers and ITV drama director Laura Mackie is apparently keen for it to return. Meanwhile, producer Hat Trick is already working on the follow-up to two-part drama Case Sensitive, which starred Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd.

ITV has also ordered a seventh series of its drama Wild At Heart. The show, which stars Stephen Tompkinson and Dawn Steele, focuses on a group of - really soppy - people living on a game park in South Africa. ITV announced that it has ordered ten new episodes, which will begin a few weeks after Danny, Alice, Caroline and Du Plessis lost Leopard's Den. Alice and Caroline return to the UK, while Danny and Du Plessis search for a new place to live. However, Du Plessis makes a decision which causes Danny to reconsider their relationship. Meanwhile, mining boss Peeters (played by David Butler) continues to cause problems for the family. The new series will also introduce a new character called Sean, who is a rival for Danny. Steve November, who works for ITV's drama commissioning team, said: 'I am delighted that Wild At Heart will be returning to ITV in 2012. We can look forward to seeing our favourite characters in new and exciting situations and to seeing significant new characters join the mix.'

ITV's wretched celebrity homelessness series was trumped by both Channel Four and Channel Five in the primetime slot on Tuesday evening. Home Is Where the Heart Is - featuring Blur's resident wanker Alex James and them camp interior designers Colin and Justin - lost more than two hundred thousand overnight viewers compared with last week, with an audience of 1.9m at 9pm across both ITV and ITV HD. A further fifty nine thousand viewers watched on ITV+1. The commercial broadcaster, which is usually second only to BBC1 in primetime, was relegated to fourth place across the hour by C4 and C5. BBC1's Crimewatch comfortably won the slot with 4.87m viewers. C5's US drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was the second highest rating show in the 9pm slot, watched by 2.3m. It was trailed closely by The Secret Millionaire, which had 2.11m viewers at 9pm for C4. An additional two hundred and eight seven thousand watched on time-adjusted C4+1.

The director of Coronation Street's fortieth and fiftieth anniversary live episodes has said that 'event television' is 'the future.' Tony Prescott recently won a BAFTA Craft Award for his work on last December's live episode, which saw the aftermath of a tram cash on the Street. 'I would love to do more live drama on television and I think television as an event now is the future,' he told The Stage. 'Look at shows such as The X Factor and Dancing On Ice - all the biggest grossing shows now are because they are live and they are events. 'You can't have an opinion the next day if you have not watched them live, can you?' Prescott expressed his belief that weekly dramas could begin broadcasting live, while also implementing an interactive element: 'Imagine, in the future, audiences could change the end of a show by voting on [it]. That's the future, isn't it?' God, one hopes not. The director - who has been in the industry for thirty years - is said to have hinted that ITV soap Emmerdale could celebrate it's fortieth anniversary with a live episode next year. However, he admitted that work on the soaps has become 'more and more difficult' due to budget cuts. 'I am working on Emmerdale at the moment and we are down to nine days for [shooting] four episodes,' he said. 'We used to have eleven days. But it's getting tighter and tighter and it's getting more and more difficult. For twelve hours of each day you are filming without one minute's break.'

Former Coronation Street actor John Savident, who played butcher and later Rovers Return owner Fred Elliott says he no longer has much regard for the drama. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News the seventy three-year-old told the newspaper that he has little time for the show which made him a soap opera icon. The actor who has a string of previous television credits to his name, including Granada's Crown Court and ATV's Tightrope, says that six years after his on-screen death he rarely has time for the serial. 'Honestly I rarely watch Corrie now. Some of the young people just want to be on-screen and have no ambition to act anywhere else - what future do they have when their contract ends? One of them asked me who this Lawrence Olivier was I was talking about as he'd never heard of him! Olivier was my hero and I had the honour of working with him on a couple of occasions' Savident told the newspaper. It isn't just the influx of youth to Weatherfield that has turned the actor off the production. He is also not keen on the show's introduction of celebrity guest appearances. 'Don't get me started on that score' he said. 'I took Sir Ian McKellen to task by asking how he could play a role in Corrie which meant some poor actor who needed the work lost out. He didn't reply - just hung his head. When the pace changed to five shows a week I knew the quality would suffer. My family were in Surrey but I was in Manchester, often going to work every day and never filming a scene.' This, he claims, led the actor to make the decision to quit the street. 'Although I'd asked to leave I wanted to go quietly and suggested that Ashley discovers Fred dead in bed on his wedding morning. But they preferred a dramatic finish so as he was about to marry Bev Uwin he died on his last visit to Audrey.' The actor with a long history of theatre performing added that he didn't regret leaving the soap and only misses some of the cast. 'Particularly the lovely Sue Nicholls who is such a lady, Bill Roache and the wonderful Betty Driver.'

The Nativity, the retelling of the Christmas story by former EastEnders lead writer Tony Jordan for BBC1, emerged as the clear winner on Tuesday at the annual religious programme awards celebrating excellence, organised by the Sandford St Martin Trust. The four-part drama, shown over the Christmas week by BBC1 at 7pm, won the premier award for religious programming on TV at the ceremony held at Lambeth Palace, London. It was also voted best religious programme of the year in the Radio Times Readers Award. The drama, which reduced bishops to tears during a BBC screening last December, is seen as a sign of the way religious programmes are breaking out of the 'God slot' scheduling on Sundays into more mainstream, primetime slots. The Nativity, broadcast in soap-style episodes, starred Andrew Buchan as Joseph and Tatiana Maslany as Mary, and was made by Jordan's production company, Red Planet Pictures. At the time of its broadcast it drew criticism from a few glakes with an agenda (like this one. And this one.)But, elsewhere, it was widely praised by 'normal viewers' and churchmen alike. Songs of Praise, which was once described by a former editor as 'the biggest karaoke programme in the world,' won a special award as it celebrates its fiftieth year of broadcasting. The runner-up in the TV category was God's Beggar Children, for the BBC News Channel and BBC World, which followed a Senegalese child home after five years of abuse. God's Beggar Children beat Rev, the surprise hit BBC2 comedy about a East End Church of England vicar, played by Tom Hollander, currently in production for a second series.

Meanwhile, Tony Jordan has signed up to write a new drama about Noah and the ark for BBC1. The new project comes after Jordan adapted the story of The Nativity for the BBC last Christmas. According to the Gruniad, the Noah drama will end with the first drop of rain, meaning that the flood will not be a part of the show. Instead, the programme is expected to focus on Noah's earlier life. Jordan has suggested that he wants to examine Noah's complete faith in God. It is likely that the drama will be filmed in Morocco, where The Nativity was produced. Jordan has also previously worked on shows including Hustle, Life on Mars and EastEnders. He is currently executive producing another upcoming BBC1 drama, Death in Paradise, which stars Ben Miller and Sara Martins.

BBC Scotland comedy Gary: Tank Commander has secured a network slot on BBC3 - the first such move for a Scottish sitcom in seven years. The comedy, produced by Zodiak-owned The Comedy Unit for BBC1 Scotland, is to make its debut south of the border this summer on BBC3. It will initially broadcast series two, with an option to air some earlier episodes. The last time a comedy transferred in this way was when Still Game, another Comedy Unit production, was picked up by BBC2 in 2004. It ran for four more years. The company met with BBC executives in London last week to discuss a potential UK-wide screening of Gary, plus sketch shows Burnistoun and Limmy's Show. However, the others have yet to be picked up. The mockumentary-style sitcom, which has run for two six-part series to date, was created by stand-up Greg McHugh, who stars as the title character, an Edinburgh soldier based in Iraq and Afghanistan attempting to avoid run-ins with his chief sergeant and muck around with his mates.

Ross Noble is taking the five hundred thousandth Triumph motorcycle built at the Hinckley factory on a seven-day tour. He will ride the Speed Triple bike straight off the production line on Tuesday 24 May for a tour that finishes in his home town of Newcastle on 30 May. The route is secret, but Noble will reveal his location daily on Twitter so fellow riders can meet him – and he says he will change his route based on followers' suggestions. As well as marking twenty years of production at the Triumph plant, the tour also marks Noble's twenty years as a stand-up. He said: 'I'll be riding a great British bike around Great Britain which will be great. People can follow me on Twitter and also tweet me things to do and places to go, which means the contact you get with other riders when you're out and about can be extended to the non-bike-riding fraternity.' Guy Masters, general manager of Triumph UK, added: 'Reaching the five hundred thousandth bike in just twenty years is a terrific achievement. To mark the occasion, we wanted to do something that gave our a customers a chance to get involved. We were delighted when Ross agreed to help us mark the milestone with his tour, which will involve dealers, riders and fans across the UK.'

Simon Cowell and Rod Stewart are among the celebrities who have backed Daybreak's 'Donate a Day' initiative. The fully interactive project, which will launch this Monday, will see ITV's breakfast show encouraging viewers to pledge their time to help a worthy cause or someone they know who is in need. Presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, as well as other members of the Daybreak team, will donate their time over the course of the week. The best way they can do that, of course, would be to donate their time between 6:30am and 8am each day and do something worthwhile instead of Daybreak.

A fifty five-year-old woman has claimed to be 'allergic to electricity.' Janice Tunnicliffe said that she developed a rare condition called electrosensitivity after receiving chemotherapy for bowel cancer in 2008. She told the Daily Torygraph that she now suffers from headaches, nausea, chest pains and tingling in her arms and legs when near electrical items or anything which transmits a signal. 'Different things give me different feelings but it's mostly headaches and nausea. iPhones make feel really sick within about twenty minutes of being near one so even though I might not realise someone has one straightaway, I soon find out,' she said. 'Wi-Fi makes me feel like I have a clamp at the back of my head which is squeezing the life out of me. It's completely draining and a home hub can totally immobilise me - I'm left unable to move my arms and legs.' Explaining her theory that the problem is related to her chemotherapy, she continued: 'Personally, I think there must be a link with the chemotherapy and the ES, but no-one is going to admit that. I used to go for long walks every day and while I was out of the house I would be okay. But when I came back I would start to feel unwell again very quickly and slowly I started to put two and two together. After the cancer, the doctors recommended we enjoy a nice holiday somewhere and the whole family went to the Greek island of Kos for two weeks in September 2008.' She added: 'While I was there was I was fine, but when I got home I felt ill again almost straightaway. It wasn't until afterwards that I considered it might have been because of all the "electrosmog" we were experiencing at home.' Tunnicliffe, who apparently spends her evenings playing Scrabble with her husband by candlelight, now protects herself by covering the windows of her Nottinghamshire home with a special metallic material.

Meanwhile, another woman in Kent has revealed that she has a fear of uncovered toilet rolls and 'freaks out' when she sees one. Yeah, this blogger is the same with the Nepalese snow leopard, personally. Can't be in ther same room as one. According to Metro, Phoebe Tann said that the phobia developed when she was thirteen years old after her mother asked her to buy toilet rolls from a shop. 'I got to the aisle and I couldn't do it,' she admitted. 'I froze and then I just had to get out of there. My mum thought it was an excuse because I was too embarrassed to be seen carrying toilet roll. But something clicked in my head and sent me in a big panic.' Tann continued: 'I know it's a weird phobia.' You think? As a result of the phobia, any toilet roll in her house is covered by her mother. Furthermore, only one roll is kept in the bathroom at any one time. Tann's fear doesn't manifest itself in public toilets due to rolls usually being kept behind metal cages. Which is, I'm sure you'll agree dear bog reader, very convenient.

Actress Rosie Perez has taken legal action against the producers of TV show Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, alleging that she was injured during the filming of a 2009 episode in New York. The one-time Oscar nominee claims she was 'recklessly pulled, grabbed, yanked, wrenched and manhandled.' According to her attorney, the forty six-year-old is suffering severe pain and has numbness in her arms. Representatives for the NBC network and the show have yet to comment. Best known for her roles in such films as Do the Right Thing and White Men Can't Jump, Perez received an Academy award nomination in 1994 for Peter Weir's film Fearless. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, a spin-off from the original Law and Order series, is now in its twelfth season.

US news pioneer Joseph Wershba, one of the inspirations for the film Good Night and Good Luck, has died aged ninety. Wershba, whose work helped to end Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch-hunt for Communists in America in the 1950s, died of complications from pneumonia, CBS said. Robert Downey Jr played Wershba in Good Night and Good Luck, which was nominated for six Oscars in 2006. 'Joe Wershba was a wonderful man who was a pioneer of broadcast journalism,' said Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News. Wershba, a news reporter and producer for the network, led a 1954 report on McCarthy for Edward R Murrow's TV news show, See It Now. The report helped discredit McCarthy, who had falsely accused various celebrities and entertainers of links to communism, including playwright Arthur Miller and film star Charlie Chaplin. His accusations ruined many careers. Wershba also worked on 1953's The Milo Radulovich Story, about a reserve officer discharged by the US Air Force because it believed his family had communist sympathies. His appeal was denied despite the Air Force providing no evidence. Following the CBS investigation, Radulovich was reinstated. Wershba is survived by his wife Shirley, a son and daughter and two grand-daughters.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we've got a Mark E Smith song about The Pope. What could possibly go wrong?!

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