Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday I Don't Care About You, It's Friday, I'm In Love

The executive producer of Doctor Who is leaving the BBC to join Channel Four as Film4's senior commissioning executive. Piers Wenger joined BBC Wales as head of drama in 2009 - succeeding Julie Gardner - and has overseen the latest regeneration with Matt Smith playing The Doctor. In March, Wenger revealed he was taking up a new role as creative leader of key BBC network productions in Cardiff. 'It is with great sadness that I say goodbye to Doctor Who and BBC Drama, and all of the extraordinary people who I have worked with there,' he said in a statement. 'But Film4's output, with its ethos of encouraging filmmakers to produce their most authored and original work, could not be closer to my heart.' In his new role, Wenger will report to C4's controller of film and drama Tessa Ross, who described him as 'a hugely talented executive who will bring to Film4 real vision at a time when we are embarking on an exciting new phase in our development.' Wenger served as a Doctor Who executive producer alongside Steven Moffatt and Beth Willis. Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, said: 'I will be very sad to see Piers go. He's been a fantastic colleague and friend - but I know that film is a huge passion of his and this is a great new role for him.' Stephenson said he would be working with Moffat to find a successor in the coming months. Under Wenger's leadership, BBC Wales relaunched Upstairs Downstairs and oversaw production of the BAFTA-winning Sherlock. Keith Jones, director of BBC Wales, paid tribute to Wenger, who leaves the corporation in September. 'He is one of the most talented creative leaders of his generation,' he said. 'We are lucky to have benefitted from his extraordinary skills and imagination.' Bethan Jones will serve as acting head of drama for BBC Wales until the end of June when Faith Penhale, from the independent company Kudos, takes up the post as previously announced. She will oversee the relocation of Doctor Who, along with series such as Casualty, Upstairs Downstairs and the Welsh-language soap opera Pobol y Cwm, to a new BBC Wales drama production centre in Cardiff Bay.

'Since we've been apart I've been so miserable. I make Thom Yorke look like Timmy Mallett!' The seventh series of BBC3's best-kept secret, Ideal, started with an utterly glorious - if somewhat impractical - evocation of Moz's perfect night in. Just him, Kara Tointon off EastEnders, Paul Weller in the corner strumming his guitar, passing Moz the biggest spliff you've ever seen and offering to make them all cheese on toast (with the crusts cut off). Even the presence of the Goddamn Modfather his very self, however, fails to impress Probation Colin (the great Ben Crompton), whose own, 'very different' perfect night involves him, his ex-girlfriend, Carmel, Liam Gallagher and some fish fingers. 'Completely different,' he tells Moz (Johnny Vegas) when he's accused of plagiarisation. 'You're not there. Kara Tointon's not there. Paul Weller's not there. It's just me and Carmel. And Liam. And fish fingers.' The opening episode - The Police - throws together a bunch of typically insane elements, Graham Duff's intricate house-of-cards script managing to juggle a whole shed-load of reintroductions to the audience once the lengthy opening sequence - and Colin's regret about the day he went to the shop for a meat pie instead of watching Carmel try on her new sexy underwear (and, he sniffs with wholly inappropriate sadness, all the meat pies had sold out) - was over. 'I could still find true happiness,' he argues. 'I'm on probation!' Then we get the revelation that Moz's dad, Keith (Mick Miller), is trying to grow an ear to replace the one the Triad cut off last series on the back of a mouse (called Bugalugs) that Dodgy Darren got him from a medical lab. Big Gay Brian (Duff himself) is continuing to annoy the hell out of American conceptual artist clothes designer Tilly (Janeanne Garofolo) to the point of, essentially, stalking her. Via cups of tea, it would seem. A fascist pizzeria has opened over the road - 'Mussolini's common enough name in Italy!' Moz tells Colin. 'That's just you showin' your prejudice, y'name-Nazi!' This is followed by Moz's incompetent attempts to make Jenny (Sinead Matthews) a Valentine's Card to show how much he still cares ('are you wearing glittery eye-shadow?') Then there's the episode's big revelation, that dear 'hasn't-got-two-brain-cells-to-rub-together' little Jen has only been and gone and joined The Fuzz. Her attraction to PC (Tom Goodman-Hill), it would seem, was only down to the uniform. And, now that she's actually got her own, she considers herself a complete person ('I'm all about the arrestin', me!) To such an extent that she's off on a course to Glasgow for three months to learn about computer crime. Throw in Nikki (Nicola Reynolds) and her - never previously mentioned - younger sister, Jess (Elinor Crawlery), coming to stay (and taking an immediate shine to Cartoon Head). And Psycho Paul (Ryan Pope) getting stabbed by The Red Mist - a sinister quasi-mythical gang of knife-wielding Ginger Goth-thugs who may, or may not, be mutants and live in the Sewers. 'They don't live in the sewers,' Colin argues suggesting that, actually, they live near Burnley. 'They've come up in the world,' replies Moz. 'Just.' Heartbroken Tania (Emma Fryer) has returned to shoplifting and confesses to ex-boyfriend Paul that she's now going out with Jason, the former mini-moog player with the band Silicon Valets. ('I've heard them. They're shite!') Rainbow smacks Moz in the face over the swastika pizza and there's brilliant dialogue all-round. 'Ambulences are for poufs!' says Paul when it's suggested he should be in hospital 'No, you're thinking of Fiat Puntos' notes Moz wisely. Ryan Pope and Emma Fryer's fantastic overacting when Psycho Paul is not dying and Colin and Tania's really genuinely sweet little heart-to-heart on the landing ('the world doesn't deserve me') are added bonuses in a great episode which reminds us of just some of the many reasons why Ideal is still worth the effort to seek it out. At 10:30 on BBC3. And, next week we've got Derrick and Yasuko, Troy and Fist back into the bargain. Mad-skills.

Following the news that Cheryl Cole had been sacked from her job as judge on the X Factor USA, initial reports suggested that her strong North East accent was the reason why the FOX executives decided to give her the boot. However, it now appears as though that isn't the real reason why Cheryl's American dream came to such an abrupt end. Although Daily Scum Mail's Showbiz Editor didn't go into details about the reasons behind Cheryl's sacking, Sara Nathan did tweet this: 'BTW - Cheryl did not get dropped due to accent. FOX did plenty of audience focus groups on her before giving her the gig.' So what really happened? Watch this space, From The North is on the case.

BBC1 has announced a range of new dramas, including two penned by William Boyd and Sally Wainwright. Boyd has agreed to adapt his novel Restless into a two-part drama for the channel, Broadcast reports. Restless focuses on a young woman who finds out that her mother was a spy during World War II. The Channel Four adaptation of another of Boyd's novels, Any Human Heart, won a BAFTA on Sunday. Wainwright, who has worked on shows such as At Home With The Braithwaites, Unforgiven and the forthcoming Scott And Bailey, has signed up to write Anthony and Cleopatra. The six-part series focuses on two widows in their seventies who fall in love but have to deal with their families. Elsewhere, Stephen Butchard will author Savage, a show about a young policeman who witnesses the murder of his best friend. Butchard's credits include Five Daughters, Vincent and House of Saddam. Other dramas announced by the BBC include Bert and Dickie, a one-off TV movie about two British oarsmen who won gold medals at the 1948 Olympics. Bert and Dickie, written by William Ivory is set in the run-up to the 'austerity Games' held three years after the war, and tells the story of Bertram Bushnell and Richard Burnell. The pair won gold in double sculls, despite only having been partnered six weeks before the Olympic races began. It will also explore how London coped with staging the first post-war Games with rationing still in place, an achievement which, effectively, saved the Olympic movement. The controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, Ben Stephenson said that next year 'will be a year of huge cultural significance.' Four-part series Inside Men will focus on three employees at a depot who carry out a heist, while May Day is a thriller about a community looking for a missing girl. Stephenson claimed that the programmes have 'real scale and will connect with the hearts and lives of British people,' suggesting that the announcements 'demonstrate a bigger commitment to original British drama than any other broadcaster in this country.' The news of the commissions comes shortly after it emerged that Hustle author Tony Jordan will follow his recent acclaimed adaptation of The Nativity with a drama about Noah and the ark.

BBC Worldwide has confirmed that Exponent Private Equity is its preferred investment partner for BBC Magazines. Exponent, whose other publishing interests include The Times supplements, web publisher Magicalia and graduate recruitment specialist GTI, won out in a lengthy competitive tender process. It was always the intention to secure a single commercial partner for BBC Magazines and an exclusive deal with Exponent - also the private equity company behind the Ambassador Theatre Group, Quorn Foods and Radley handbags - has now been approved by the BBC Trust. In a brief statement, Worldwide said: 'Discussions will continue with Exponent, with a view to completing an agreement this summer, which would be subject to the final approval of the BBC Trust.' The BBC's commercial arm has already said that it could be open to whole sell-offs, as well as licensing of BBC titles, which last year made £18.4m profit on sales of one hundred and sixty three million smackers. BBC Magazines MD Peter Phippen told colleagues that Exponent emphasises opportunities for growth. 'We are delighted to be named as BBC Worldwide's preferred strategic partner for its magazines business and we hope these negotiations reach a successful outcome,' the company says. 'Exponent invests exclusively in market-leading businesses which have strong growth potential and great people. We believe that BBC Magazines is such a business. We look forward to working with the team at BBC Magazines and in partnership with BBC Worldwide to continue to develop the BBC Magazine franchise and to take advantage of the growth opportunities afforded to the business outside of BBC Worldwide ownership.' Most recent circulation figures show that overall, the BBC Magazines stable, which includes Radio Times and market leading titles like Good Food Magazine, Gardeners' World and Top Gear, was up 0.5 per cent year-on-year. The July-December 2010 results show subscriptions are at an all-time high of just under a million, with Radio Times claiming the UK's top subscription slot and number one position in over the counter sales for the first time.

Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh have written a new comedy series for BBC3. Which, given that the dreadful, smug-faced horrorshow Walsh is just about the single least funny comedian currently working (Jack Whitehall notwithstanding), will probably be about as much fun as an afternoon at the genital torturers. The duo will also appear in the show, which is currently called Life Stories. Horgan will play Helen, a woman who is falsely imprisoned for the murder of her boss. However, her fiancé and alibi Justin is reluctant to free her as he can't face breaking up with her, while her younger sister Laura has taken over her flat. Elsewhere, one of Helen's colleagues has a crush on her and realises that the only way he can guarantee to spend time with her is by visiting her in prison. Helen also has to deal with a rubbish lawyer, a tough prison governor and a cellmate who is in for arson. She has to find her boss' real killer to prove her innocence and spends her time writing to her pen-pal Maurice, who is on Death Row in Kansas. Sounds laugh-a-minute stuff.

Elijah Wood's new comedy Wilfred has also been picked up by BBC3. The show, which will be broadcast on FX in the US, focuses on Wood's character Ryan. Ryan begins to see his neighbour's dog Wilfred (Jason Gann) as a man in a dog costume. BBC3 controller Zai Bennett has now announced that he has picked up the comedy, which is based on an Australian series. Chris Klein, Rashida Jones, Nestor Carbonell, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Kaczmarek and Ed Helms have also signed up to appear. Wood has previously described Wilfred as 'bizarre,' while executive producer David Zuckerman has suggested that it resembles the movie Fight Club. BBC3 also confirmed that White Van Man, the sitcom starring Will Mellor and written by comic Adrian Poynton, will be returning for another six-part series. Filming is due to start later this year. Also announced this week were two new comedy pilots. Eggbox is a half-hour comedy-drama about life on a teenage cancer ward, co-written by Tom Bidwell, who himself survived cancer when he was fifteen. He also wrote the Oscar-nominated short film Wish 143, about a teenager with cancer who asks to lose his virginity before he dies. His co-writer Mark Catley has worked on Holby City, Casualty and EastEnders. Finally IED – Army abbreviation for improvised explosive device – is a single-camera comedy about a bomb disposal unit. It is written by James Cary and Richard Hurst who, between them, have co-written twelve episodes of Miranda. The executive producer is Stephen McCrum, producer of Mrs Brown's Boys. And, of course, due to the subject matter, before even a single frame has been filmed, it's already been the subject of a shitehawk Daily Scum Mail scum 'exclusive.' The shows are the first new commissions to be announced by Zai Bennett since he landed the BBC3 job in December.

There's a very good piece in the Gruniad by Mark Lawason on the differences between appealing to studio audiences and viewers. 'The solution is to make the people on the banked seats a character that adds to enjoyment or understanding: as Graham Norton does in his talk-shows and David Dimbleby achieves on Question Time by employing the invitees as supplementary interrogators. In the last week, though, both presenters have suffered the difficulties that a double perspective can bring. Fronting Sunday's BAFTA television awards on BBC1, Norton, in order to connect with the licence-payers funding the event, had to break through a large and rowdy group of broadcasting establishment grandees being given, as prize-presenter Cuba Gooding Jr pointed out, drink but no food.'

Big news on FOX's Bones spin-off. The female lead on The Finder is being recast. Saffron Burrows is leaving the show, according to Entertainment Weekly. The former Law & Order: Criminal Intent actress played Geoff Stults' sidekick in the show's pilot. Her character was a tough bar owner and helicopter pilot, but the network has decided to re-conceive the role. (One issue for some fans, apparently, was that the British actress who played the role with a rather striking accent. Now, where have we heard that before?) Recastings are common at this time of year after networks analyze their pilots and try to work out how to make the shows better before they debut in the fall. But normally this all happens behind the scenes. The Finder is unusual, since the pilot starring Burrows was actually broadcast on the network in the Bones slot this season.

Jonathan Ross has revealed how he was mistaken for Wynne Evans, the opera-singing annoying twerp on the Go-Compare advertising campaign. The presenter admitted the mistake while hosting Channel 4's Comedy Gala at London's O2 arena earlier this week, the Sun reports. Recalling a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital, Ross recalled how one child had asked him to do your song. 'I told her, "Why don't you start my song and I'll join in?,"' he told the audience. 'So she said, "All right" and sang, "Go Compare! Go Compare!" She thought I was that fat twat who sells insurance.' He added: 'I wish I could say I was joking!' Evans was also at the fundraising event. 'I laughed my head off,' he said afterwards. 'I can honestly say that I've never been mistaken for Jonathan Ross.'

A would-be comedian has been accused of stealing Lee Mack's jokes when he appeared on Australia's Got Talent. Jordan Paris, twenty two, impressed the judges enough to be put through to the live semi-finals. But one routine was a near word-for-word copy of Mack's joke about going to see Robbie Williams. When confronted by journalists, Paris admitted that he knew Lee Mack but refused to admit he'd done anything wrong. 'A joke's a joke,' he said. 'And if it's making people laugh then I'm happy,' he told the Gold Coast Bulletin. On the show, he told judges - Dannii Minogue, Kyle Sandilands and Brian McFadden - that he had been performing stand-up for three years. One viewer on YouTube also claimed the first part of Paris's act has been stolen from an American comedian called Geoff Keith.

Veteran talk show host Oprah Winfrey's final programme broadcast on Wednesday after twenty five years on the air. The fifty seven-year-old pre-recorded the show on Tuesday. The talk show queen was seen alone on stage, telling viewers how much they mean to her. The finale follows a two-day special farewell show at the United Center in Chicago, which Madonna and Beyonce took part in. Fans who watched Winfrey record the final show said she had tears in her eyes as she bid farewell one last time. 'She said, "This isn't goodbye. This is until we meet again,"' said audience member Amy Korin. '[There was] a lot of crying and hugs,' she added. The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is syndicated in one hundred and forty five countries, redefined the talk show genre and made Winfrey one of the most influential women in the US as well as the wealthiest black woman in the world. Winfrey, who recently relinquished her position as Forbes magazine's Most Powerful Celebrity to Lady Gaga, announced in November 2009 she would be leaving. At the time she told audience members the final season would 'knock your socks off.' On her twenty fifth and final series she was filmed dancing on-stage with John Travolta and took an entire audience to film in Australia. Other season highlights included interviews with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W Bush and Michael Jackson's family. The double episodes filmed in front of thirteen thousand fans was broadcast earlier this week and saw Tom Cruise, Aretha Franklin, Tom Hanks and Stevie Wonder pay tribute to the presenter. In January, Winfrey launched her own TV network, which will offer round-the-clock lifestyle programmes. The channel is called OWN, and is a joint venture with the Discovery channels.

He fell short in the herculean task of converting three hundred million Americans to healthy eating, so perhaps it's no surprise that the vile and wretched blubberface Jamie Oliver's next laughably self-promoting project is both more modest and safely within his culinary comfort zone: a celebration of traditional British pub-style food. The announcement of the supposed TV chef's next outing – a six-part Channel Four series and an accompanying book to make him vast wads of wonga, of course – comes just three weeks after the latest series of his Food Revolution programme was dropped like a handful of hot turds mid-series in the US after poor ratings. More humiliating still was that the ABC network replaced it with reruns of the American equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing. The first series of Food Revolution – set in a West Virginia town identified as America's fattest – disarmed the understandable hostility of locals told by an unknown, chirpy Englishman that they were killing their children with starch and grease. The programme even bagged an Emmy for best reality show but lost momentum, and viewers, when it relocated to Los Angeles for a second outing. Dominique Walker of Channel Four said: 'In this new series we see him travelling across Britain to discover the fascinating stories of how our own food, the dishes we think of as traditionally British, are actually a product of the rich melting pot of cultures that have made our country what it is today.'

When John Cooper murdered brother and sister Richard and Helen Thomas at their house in Pembrokeshire in 1985 he was already a prolific burglar. His son told the jury at Swansea Crown Court how his father would go out at night with a shotgun concealed under his coat. He used it on 22 December 1985 at Scoveston Park, killing Richard and Helen. Four years later he confronted holidaymakers Peter and Gwenda Dixon, from Oxfordshire, on the Pembrokeshire coastal path near Little Haven. Before shooting the couple at point blank range he had tied them up and demanded their bank card, forcing them to disclose the pin number. He then used that to withdraw money at cash machines in the county and on the day their bodies were discovered in undergrowth he sold Mr Dixon's wedding ring to a jeweller for twenty five pounds. The jury was shown a clip of Cooper appearing on the ITV darts-themed gameshow Bullseye recorded two months before the Dixons were killed. The prosecution said his appearance at the time matched an artist's impression of a man seen outside a bank when the card was used to withdraw money. John Cooper was jailed on Thursday for life for the four murders. Rumours that Bullseye's Jim Bowen was being sought for crimes aginst presenting cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied. Smashing. Great.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we have a celebration of the weekend starting, like, here. These three are for everybody who's got that Friday feeling. Starting with The Easybeats.
Followed, of course, by The Cure.
And concluding, all too quickly, with The Specials.
Have a good weekend, everyone.

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