Wednesday, May 04, 2011

See How Big And Strong I've Grown. I'm Standing On My Own

Possibly because they've finally come to their senses and realised what an utter waste it is having Doctor Who as the only bit of meat in a shit-sandwich of Don't Scare The Hare and So You Think You Can Dance, but more likely because Eurovision's on that night, the BBC have shuffled about the running order of their Saturday night schedule for 14 May. It now runs as follows:-
15:40 Total Wipeout
16:40 Don't Scare The Hare
17:15 BBC News
17:30 So You Think You Can Dance
18:30 Doctor Who - The Doctor's Wife
19:20 So You Think You Can Dance Results
19:50 The National Lottery
20:00 The Eurovision Song Contest 2011

It was reassuring to see a particularly witty and clever episode of House this week - Changes, written by former West Wing scribe Eli Attie. One which featured the very welcome return of Candice Bergen as Cuddy's total bitch of a mother. The disease of the week storyline featured House and his team treating a lottery winner who had been stricken by a sudden partial paralysis. Mixed in with that was his search of the only woman whom he had ever loved and Thirteen's attempts to get him to discover that love is just another word for misery. Meanwhile, Cuddy's mother threatens to sue the hospital, House and her daughter for mistreatment, with poor Wilson trying to act as a peacemaker in the middle. And, Chase and Foreman make a bet with each other about their respective sex life and stress levels. All-in-all very good fun with some brilliant interplay between the characters.

The latest episode of Hawaii Five-0, Ho'ohuli Na'au, was also pretty decent although the denouement was a bit signposted and, by a considerable distance, Scott Caan continues to be the best thing about it (locations and cool title music aside). A world-renowned photographer, Renny Sinclair (played by Rick Springfield), has been murdered while on assignment in Hawaii shooting the annual swimsuit edition of a top sports magazine. Danny thinks this case may be the best one yet that Five-0 has investigated when he has to talk with the supermodels in town for a sports magazine's annual swimsuit cover shoot. McGarrett discovers another envelope from the mysterious informant who is leaking information about his parents murders and Chin makes a decision that could have significant on everyone.

A writer for The Sarah Jane Adventures has confirmed that the series will not continue without lead actress Elisabeth Sladen. The actress died before filming could be completed on the show's fifth series, but recent - as it turns out wholly inaccurate - tabloid rumours had suggested that scripts were being rewritten to explain her absence. That ever reliable bastion of truth, the Sun had claim that 'once the scripts have been rewritten, it is hoped the show will air this year.' They quoted an anonymous - and, as it turns out, apparently fictitious, 'source' as saying: 'Writers will find a way to complete the series without Sarah.' However, writing on his Twitter account, Gareth Roberts denied the rumours, insisting 'The story re SJA is not true [sic].' Roberts has worked on fifteen episodes of the CBBC drama and has also written for parent series Doctor Who. Another of the show's writers, Phil Ford, has also responded to the Sun's lies on Twitter: 'Dear Editor of the Sun, I think you will find there's plenty of news out there today without making stuff the fuck up!' Well, quite. Prior to her death, Sladen had filmed three two-part stories for what would have been the show's fifth run, including one serial written by Roberts. It is currently unclear when or if these episodes will be broadcast.

Stewart Lee (he's not a real penis, oh no, hang on) has confirmed plans for a Fist of Fun DVD. Hurrah! At last! Last year, Lee's former comedy partner Richard Herring suggested that the pair may collaborate on a release of their critically acclaimed mid-'90s BBC2 show, which originally started life as a radio programme. Lee, whose own Comedy Vehicle returns this week to the BBC, told the Digital Spy website: 'He's sorted it out. He's managed to buy the first series, or both series, of Fist of Fun off [the BBC] for fifteen grand. So we've gone three ways on it, me, Rich and Chris Evans, who runs Go Faster Stripe. Of course we can sell them after gigs and I don't think it should be too difficult to make the money back.' Well, I'll buy one if that's any consolation, Stu. He continued: 'I think it's quite important for Richard's self-esteem. He's done much better than me financially in his life - he co-wrote Al Murray's sitcom - but I don't think he's had the critical acclaim that I've had. Weirdly, I'd be much happier with the money and no critical acclaim. I think he feels he did something really good in Fist of Fun and it's never had the credit it deserved.' it has in these parts, matey. 'I think it's really important for him to get it out there. I'm really happy for him that that's happening. I'm slightly ambivalent about it. I really liked the first series. I feel with the second series we were encouraged to make a number of artistically ill-advised compromises.' Asked about the planned release date of the series, Lee added: 'We'll film a load of extras for it. I think it might be next year - we've got an idea about doing a one-off gig to launch it.'

Comics have been falling over themselves to make fun of the death of Osama Bin Liner. American talk show hosts led the way, with CBS's David Letterman greeting his Late Show audience with the words: 'You seems like you're in a good mood. You folks enjoy the Osama Bin Laden season finale?' Later, he joked: 'How about those Navy Seals? They jump out of a helicopter and they break into the compound and they fire a warning shot into his head. Well, the good news is, Bin Laden lived to see the royal wedding.' Meanwhile Jimmy Kimmel on ABC joked: 'It was the first Twitter death rumour ever that turned out to be true.' On NBC, Tonight Show host Jay Leno declared: 'It looks like president Obama has a new campagin slogan: "Yes I Did."' Online, much of the comedy reaction depicated Obama - who currently had the highest approval rating for a US president since Jed Bartlet - as an action hero. Making the rounds was a phot showing a smiling US president in sunglasses and a suit with the caption: 'Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate. I was too busy killed Osama Bin Laden.'
Paul Abbott's three-part drama Exile picked up extra viewers for BBC1 last night, overnight audience figures indicate. The John Simm and Jim Broadbent-led series was watched by 4.26m viewers from 9pm on Tuesdat, a modest increase from the previous episode. Over on ITV, the second part of crime thriller Case Sensitive dropped to 4.07m, down over one million from Monday night's first episode. However, it did pick up an additional two hundred and seventy thousand viewers on ITV+1. Elsewhere, Britain's Next Big Thing entertained 1.38m in the 8pm slot for BBC2, followed by tribute show The Quite Remarkable David Coleman, which picked up 1.49m.

Lord Patten, the new BBC chairman, marked his first day in the job by telling staff he would be 'a complete moron' if he didn't set out to defend the independence and integrity of the corporation. Yes. You would. Next ... Patten took questions from staff during a discussion with Martha Kearney, who presents Radio 4's The World at One, which was broadcast on the BBC's internal television network. He was asked by e-mail if he could give assurances that his political ideals, forged as a long-serving Conservative cabinet minister and Tory party chairman, 'will not take precedence over his commitment as BBC chairman to keep the BBC truly independent and impartial from all political influences.' Patten said: 'I would be a complete moron if I tried to secure this job, which I wanted very badly, and didn't defend the integrity and impartiality and independence of the BBC.' He described himself as 'an old-fashioned, moderate Tory' and said: 'I can't deny my past and wouldn't want to do so.' Patten said he hoped the BBC could push through a massive programme of savings – following last year's licence fee settlement, which froze the annual levy at its current rate until 2016 – without cutting services. 'I don't think the BBC can avoid some difficult choices,' Patten said, 'I hope it can avoid cutting whole services. But if the BBC is going to live within this settlement we delude ourselves if we think it can do so without making some difficult choices.' The licence fee settlement, which also handed the BBC new funding responsibilities including meeting the cost of the World Service, means the organisation has to implement budget cuts of twenty per cent in real terms. It was rumoured that the BBC will announce details of some job cuts on Wednesday. Patten stressed the BBC Trust would not 'second guess' the conclusions of a review, called Delivering Quality First, being carried out by management into where the cuts should fall. Executives, led by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, are conducting a series of consultations with staff, having held thirty eight 'town hall meetings' since mid-January. The latest is due to take place on Wednesday. Ideas that have already been put forward include scrapping dedicated local radio news broadcasts, axing overnight programming on BBC1 and BBC2, launching a 'slimmed-down' news channel and scaling back the Parliament Channel. A final list of proposals is due to be prepared in June and the report will be presented to the BBC Trust in July. One senior BBC 'insider' allegedly told the Gruniad that there is growing unease among executives about the likely reaction of staff to some of the cuts once they are formalised. The source said senior figures are worried that radical proposals will be resisted. Patten also acknowledged that controversy over executive pay is 'particularly sharply focused in the media's mind because of what they see as a contradiction between the assertion of a public service ethos and the impact of the market, and of competition on some of the senior salaries that are paid.' But he added that licence-fee payers expected to be served by the best available executives, as well as the most accomplished presenters and performers, and indicated the trust would not seek to determine executive pay. Patten argued that new on-screen talent should be nurtured regardless of the risk that they will be poached. 'We should not be too fussed about that,' he said. Patten said there were areas Ofcom might be able to handle more effectively or efficiently than the BBC Trust, and that he didn't want to 'spend the next four years talking endlessly about governance.' Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Patten said the corporation was working through a series of cuts that would scale back the number of senior executives by about a quarter. 'In some circumstances, yes [pay is too high],' he said. He also said that some talent was paid too highly but admitted that it would 'probably be inflationary' to look to publish stars' pay bands, as has been done with executive pay. 'You don't have to pay fifty per cent more on an individual than you do on the [BBC] Proms, to put it bluntly,' he said. He added that in such a hotly contested, talent-driven market, 'talent drain' is 'something you live with' that needs to be balanced against the fact the licence-fee-funded BBC doesn't have to 'flog ads and subscriptions up and down the street.' Patten said that an important part of the BBC's raison d'etre is to 'discover, train and employ [talent] for a few seasons.' And if then they are 'snapped up by competitors [the BBC] shouldn't feel to bad about that.' He refused to categorically rule out certain BBC services being reduced as the BBC deals with a budget cutback. 'I hope it can make these choices without hitting services,' he said. 'I hope we can avoid cutting services but we can't avoid making tough choices.' He said he wished that the BBC wasn't taking over the World Service – from 2014 – 'with substantial cuts in the system,' but added that he felt it was 'safer in the hands of the BBC than the Foreign Office, frankly.'

The prime minister, oily David Cameron, has denied that it was inappropriate for him to have dinner at the home of senior News Corporation executive and well-known Crystal Tipps look-alike Rebekah Brooks while the government was supposed to be considering the company's takeover bid for BSkyB. Cameron said that Brooks, the chief executive of News Corp's UK newspaper publisher News International, was 'married to a very old friend of mine' – a reference to her husband, Charlie Brooks, the racehorse trainer and writer. Both he and Cameron attended Eton together. And, no doubt, got up to all manner of larks and tomfoolery when they were there. With their fags. The prime minister added - wholly unconvincingly - that party leaders and prime ministers 'have lunches and dinners with editors, journalists and proprietors all of the time' and that he did not think 'there's a problem at all' with him attending the dinner. Nor, seemingly, did he think there was a problem at all with employing Brooks' former News International colleague Andy Coulson as his chief politcal advisor despite the fact that Coulson - and, indeed, Brooks before him - had edited the News of the World during a period when we now know the company admits that members of its staff were hacking the mobile phones of various celebrities. Which probably says far more about what the prime minister considers 'not a problem at all,' than it does about anything else, frankly. Cameron was quizzed about the dinner at the Oxfordshire home of the Brooks over the Christmas period on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday by presenter John Humphrys. The dinner was also attended by James Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia, and took place while the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, was considering whether to refer the company's bid to acquire the sixty one per cent of Sky it did not already own to the Competition Commission on public interest grounds. It took place a few days after Cameron had stripped the business secretary, Vince Cable, of responsibility for media takeovers and given the powers to the vile and odious rascal Hunt. Cable had been secretly taped by Daily Torygraph journalists saying that he had 'declared war' with Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive. Humphrys said that a lot of people thought attending the dinner was inappropriate and asked Cameron if he wished he had not done it. 'No,' replied the prime minister. 'I've had absolutely nothing to do with the merger proposals that were put forward,' he continued. 'I deliberately excluded myself from any part of that decision-making process. The first I knew of [the vile and odious rascal Hunt's decision] was when the results were announced on the BBC. Jeremy Hunt had a quasi-judicial role to carry out, which he carried out in my view entirely properly, and it's quite right that he didn't consult the prime minister over that. He looked at the evidence and he made the decision and so I don't think there's a problem at all. Party leaders and prime ministers have lunches and dinners with editors, journalists proprietors all of the time.' Pressed further by Humphrys, he added: 'The person in question is married to a very old friend of mine. I even occasionally meet people who work for the Guardian, or the Independent, or the BBC, or whatever.' Cameron was also asked about his comments last month that parliament and not the courts should decide where the right to privacy begins, in response to the rash of celebrities taking out injunctions to prevent media coverage of their private lives. The prime minister said 'we should have a discussion and a debate' about the issue, but shied away from backing a new privacy law, suggesting that more could be done through the newspaper industry's self-regulatory body, the Press Complaints Commission. 'I think we should discuss what is the right way forward. I sense that there's still more to be done to recognise that actually the Press Complaints Commission has come on a lot in recent years and we should be working with that organisation to make sure that people get the sort of protection they need, while still having a free and vibrant press,' Cameron added. 'We don't want statutory regulation of the press. By all means let's debate it,' he said. 'But I think there's still more to be done through the Press Complaints Commission.'

The BBC, meanwhile, has admitted that John Humphrys could have been 'clearer' about how the alternative vote system works in his somewhat fraught interview with David Cameron. In the discussion, Cameron accused Humphrys of giving listeners incorrect information about the way the AV system works. He also said that the presenter should go 'back to school.' The interview was staged ahead of the referendum on Thursday in which voters will decide whether to ditch the old first-past-the-post system in favour of AV, which involves voters ranking parliamentary candidates in order of preference. Under AV, candidates receiving the fewest votes in each round will be eliminated and their second preferences distributed among the remaining candidates. Humphrys and Cameron clashed after the presenter told the prime minister that it was incorrect to argue that some votes could be counted more than others under AV. Cameron responded: 'It is quite worrying if actually the lead broadcaster on the BBC doesn't understand the system. You don't understand the system you are supposed to be explaining to the public. I do think that's worrying. Back to school.' In a statement, the BBC showed the collective backbone of a squid and pointedly failed to back their presenter. Despite saying that Today and other BBC programmes had already 'spelled out in great detail how AV would work' if the system was introduced, a spokesman for the corporation admitted that Humphreys had not been clear enough in his explanation of the specific technicalities. 'During a lively Today interview, David Cameron and John Humphrys disagreed over a technicality when the AV referendum was discussed,' he said. 'John Humphrys was trying to reflect the point of contention between the campaigns over whether some people, in effect, have more than one vote under AV. In hindsight, he could have made this clearer.'

Simon Cowell has taken time out from the launch of The X Factor in the US to unveil his latest ITV production - a game show in which contestants will be able to win one million pounds on the spin of a wheel. Red or Black will be fronted by Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly and broadcast live over the course of seven consecutive nights later this year on ITV. It has the one million smackers prize in common with another ITV show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? But unlike its thirteen-year-old predecessor, contestants won't have to know anything to win it. 'No talent is involved,' said Donnelly which suggests it should fit in nicely to Cowell's stable of shows. 'If your luck holds out ten times in a row you will win a million.' Cowell said the idea for the show was first mooted a decade ago and he was immediately attracted to it. 'A lot of shows I see are quite boring to watch. I like the fact we are doing something that is high concept. Thank goodness ITV gives us the budget to do something big and put their money where their mouth is,' he added. 'Every single night someone is going to have to make that decision [between red or black]. We have only seen that a few times on TV.' Like Cowell's other ITV shows, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, Red or Black will be filmed in an arena – in this case, Wembley Arena – with viewers following contestants' journies from the early rounds to the final spin of the wheel. Some seven thousand contestants will initially take part, whittled down by a series of fifty-fifty challenges in which they will have to predict an outcome. Not all the challenges will be as straightforward as spinning a wheel – others will include cars dropping out of aeroplanes, people strapped to rockets, and giant, arena-sized pinball machines, many of them featuring big name guests. However, acutely aware of the restrictions on gambling in television programmes, Cowell preferred to say 'risk their luck' rather than gamble when describing how the show works. 'It's not gambling because people are not using their own cash,' he added. Cowell said he hoped to take Red or Black 'around the world. I hope if it succeeds it will travel. I have had interest from America already.' The programme will be co-produced by Cowell's Syco TV and ITV Studios. The ITV director of entertainment and comedy, Elaine Bedell, said it would be 'one of the biggest TV events on ITV this year.' She added that Cowell had rung her with the idea. 'This being Simon this was at 1.30am, but even then it was quite a compelling idea.' ITV will launch its appeal for Red or Black contestants on ITV1 tonight. Viewers have until 13 May to apply. Cowell also said the judges line-up on the US version of The X Factor – the source of endless speculation over whether Cheryl Cole will join him on the show – would be confirmed by the end of the week. He also revealed there would be changes to the format of the semi-final and final of The X Factor in the UK, prompting speculation that it may move to Wembley Arena. Cowell refused to confirm details except to say it would be 'very exciting.' He defended the ratings performance of the latest series of Britain's Got Talent and also dismissed concerns about his health. The latest series of the ITV talent show is the first without Cowell as a judge from the outset – although he will return for its final week of live shows – and audiences have fallen - albeit only marginally - year-on-year. But Cowell said the peak audience for Saturday's latest instalment of 11.4 million was only four hundred thousand down on the equivalent episode last year. Asked if the decline was down to his absence – his Syco TV company continues to co-produce the show – Cowell said: 'A little bit. If you told me last year we would be getting these kind of numbers, who says that's bad news? It's good news,' Cowell said. 'We have got to get out of the habit of being gloomy. The fact is people are enjoying the show. I think it's fantastic. I know the difference between a good show and a bad show, and this is a good show.' Cowell laughed off concerns attributed to his mother that his workload was putting his health at risk. He will begin filming the US version of The X Factor on Friday. 'I think I am all right,' he said. 'I think I coughed once down at my mum's and I am having a heart-attack or something. I have had an easier year this year, no problems.' Cowell confirmed he was still looking at launching a weekly pop music show – which has been seen as an attempt to fill the void left by Top of the Pops – but said that it would not be cost effective just to do it in the UK. 'It would need to be bigger than one country,' he said. 'Not for now, a year down the line.'

Tony Hancock's brother and manager, Roger, has died at the age of eighty. The news was announced on the website of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society and confirmed by musician John Altman, who also used to be one of Roger's clients. He became his elder brother's agent in 1961, when Tony Hancock decided to split with writers Alan Galton and Ray Simpson, who had helped to shape his career throughout the 1950s. He called them and his long-term agent Beryl Vertue to a meeting at his home and told the writers bluntly: 'I have decided I don't want to do any more programmes with you,' then turned to Vertue to add: 'Because of your involvement with Alan and Ray it would be too embarrassing for you to look after me, so I don't want you to do that either.' Since Hancock's suicide seven years later, Roger has been responsible for protecting his brother's legacy. It has been reported that Roger has blocked the release of the 1963 ATV series Tony made after leaving the BBC and his writers, because he felt it wasn't up to scratch. He would also become the agent of Doctor Who writer and Daleks creator Terry Nation.

Cricket pundit Edward Bevan was shaken and bruised after a ball was smashed through his commentary box window. It happened as he commentated for BBC Radio Wales on Glamorgan's Clydesdale Bank Forty match against Somerset in Taunton. The ball crashed into the commentary box hitting Bevan on the back and scattering glass everywhere. It was the third similar incident in his career - but he said he could see the funny side. 'It hit me on the back and I was quite shaken for a while,' he noted. 'There's a bruise there this morning - in fact I couldn't carry on. Dear old Steve James [Bevan's fellow commentator] carried on for about a quarter of an hour.' Bevan said he had lost the flight of the ball 'for a moment. Steve next to me turned round and the thing came through the window,' he said. 'As I turned so it wouldn't hit my face or head, it hit me in the small of the back, which wasn't nice.' Bevan said his injury could have been a lot worse if he had not turned away. 'Had I stayed where I was the consequences would have been much worse,' he said. 'It's the third time it's happened now - twice in the little box we used to have in Cardiff, not the palatial building we have now, and yesterday of course, which is probably the worst commentary box in the country.' Bevan also paid tribute to the batsman, Somerset's Peter Trego, who scored a century in a 'magnificent' innings. 'Apparently when the ball went through the window, he [Trego] stood down and put his fist through the air as if to say "I've been trying to do that for years and I've done it at last!"'

A man unwittingly arranged a date with his girlfriend after meeting a woman on the Internet. The pair had planned to see each other at a coffee shop in Barrie, Ontario. However, on the date last Saturday evening, the man was surprised to discover that the person he was supposed to be courting was his angry partner. Upon confronting him, the forty nine-year-old woman threw coffee in his face and slapped him, according to police reports. An off-duty local officer then intervened and arrested her.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we've got a little game of 'same name/different song.' Let's have a bit of the Mock Turtles. By the way, in case you're wondering dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would like to confirm that, yes, he did indeed adore this single about a decade - maybe a bit more - before some chinless berk in an advertising company somewhere decided to use it in a Vodophone ad with David Beckham. Just wanted to make that perfectly clear. Thanks.
Can you dig it, dear blog reader? Pop Will Eat Itself can.

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