Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm About To Give You All My Money

We start off today's blog with massive congratulations to my BBC Newcastle colleague, and occasional Afternoon Show oppo, Peter Grant who made his debut as a weather presenter on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday morning. Sadly his opening words were 'the big news today is those temperatures have fallen.' Boo. Bring back the old weather man instantly!
Tuesday was, as it happened, a momentous day in broadcasting as and episode of Blue Peter was broadcast from the BBC's Television Centre studios for the final time. The legendary children's show - and national icon - ended its current series in London ahead of its move North to the corporation's new home in Salford. Other departments including BBC Sport, TV's Breakfast and Radio 5Live are also due to move to the new development. First broadcast in 1958 - two years before Television Centre was even opened in West London - Blue Peter has gone on to become the longest-running children's TV programme in the world. Today's final show included a - successful - world record attempt for the most people hula-hooping simultaneously. A new Blue Garden garden will be built on the roof of the MediaCityUK base in Manchester to replace the - regularly vandalised - one in TV Centre. The iconic garden will be situated on a studio roof at the BBC's new site. Current presenters Barney Harwood and Helen Skelton also bade farewell to co-host Andy Akinwolere whose last show it was. Former presenters Janet Ellis, Diane-Louise Jordan and Anthea Turner returned for the final London show to participate in the world record hula-hooping challenge. A Guinness World Records official confirmed that a new record had been set after four hundred and twenty six people managed to simultaneously dance with hula hoops for two minutes - beating the previous record of three hundred and twenty six.

There was also another perfectly extraordinary episode of Luther on BBC1 - the three in three weeks for what is, rapidly, become must-see telly for this blogger. This mixed a bone-chilling series of seeming random violent attacks with the ongoing back-story. As Luther's affection for teenage ex-slapper Jenny (the terrific Aimee-Ffffffion Edwards) grows, so does his determination to protect her and help her get back on her feet. Baba, however, is determined to keep John Luther on a tight leash. To add to Luther's difficulties, he is called in on his day off to investigate a man whose brutal and escalating murders seem to have no obvious motive, leaving Jenny alone and vulnerable. Highlight of the episode, was a wonderfully creepy, slightly deranged turn by David Dawson whom dear blog readers will probably remember best as Tony Warren in The Road To Coronation Street. I'll never see that scene where he and Jessie Wallace's Pat Phoenix flirt playfully with each other in the latter in quite the same way after this!
Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles are rumoured to have been offered the opportunity to host a new evening programme while Daybreak 'undergoes a revamp.' The duo left the BBC in controversial circumstances after successfully fronting The ONE Show together and their careers on the ITV flop breakfast format has never really recovered. The Mirra - citing, as usual, unattributed quotes from 'insiders' - claims that ITV bosses are 'now keen to try and recreate the success of BBC1's evening magazine show' with a new programme. Daybreak would gain two new anchors, with plans to relaunch the breakfast show as more news-focused, if the changes were to go ahead, the allege. 'Using lesser known faces could well be the key,' an unnamed and probably fictitious 'insider' told the paper. 'As we've learned from experiences on TV-am and GMTV, and now with Daybreak, parachuting in big stars with a huge fanfare isn't popular.' Well, it was a bit bloody idiotic trying with these two waste-of-space glakes, in that case if it hasn't worked twice before and you knew the reasons why. Particularly as you're paying them the gross national product of a small third world country. That is, of course, if you exist, 'insider.' Which you probably don't. 'In fact,' the alleged insider alleged continued, 'it's a recipe for disaster.' It was recently claimed that the presenters would not be 'axed' from Daybreak as any such move would require a four million smackers pay-off. The 'source' allegedly continued: 'BBC Breakfast is doing really well because it gives people what they want in the mornings - the news. The good thing for us is they're about to shoot themselves in the foot by shifting their very successful show up to Manchester, losing half the production team, several presenters and very possibly most of their guests. This is the perfect time to revamp Daybreak and take them on.' If given the green light, Bleakley and Chiles's new magazine programme would follow the main evening six o'clock news, directly leading into Emmerdale. A spokesperson for ITV confirmed that a news review at the broadcaster was 'ongoing,' but added: 'The suggestion that Adrian and Christine are moving to 6pm is untrue.'

The actors in New Tricks have criticised the BBC's over what they describe as 'censorship.' Alun Armstrong told the Radio Times that he does not like the way the BBC can change the scripts. 'We tend to come up against the BBC mainly when there are edicts and memos and script changes, which we never get to discuss,' he said. Meanwhile, his co-star James Bolam suggested that the cast can always tell which changes have been made by the BBC. 'I object to the censorship,' he continued. 'In the '60s, in the theatre, we fought very hard to get rid of censorship from the Lord Chamberlain's office. And nowadays, in television, one is more heavily censored than ever.' Amanda Redman suggested that the corporation is 'terrified of offending anyone,' whilst Dennis Waterman added: 'They have a phrase that is used to our producers, "audience expectation." They say that viewers don't expect us to swear. But we're ex-coppers!' Well, you're not really Den, you're actors. In your case, one who last acted in anything decent around 1980. However, New Tricks' executive producer Alex Graham played down the actors' comments. Obviously. 'This is a recurring complaint from the actors, but I don't really recognise this version of events,' he said. 'I don't want to sound old-fashioned, but - although it's technically a post-watershed show - New Tricks is a family programme. Part of its appeal is that all the generations watch it. The boxes [on the BBC compliance forms] are pretty full. We don't have the f-word, but there's a lot of other stuff. Sure, we sometimes feel the BBC is being a bit prissy, but this isn't supposed to be The Wire.'

Tom Sizemore has signed up to play a recurring role in the second season of CBS's Hawaii Five-0. The Black Hawk Down actor will play the head of an Internal Affairs unit in multiple episodes, according to Entertainment Weekly. A former Detroit homicide detective, Sizemore's character will be recruited to investigate the Five-0 unit, led by Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin). Sizemore is best known for appearing in such films as 1993's True Romance, 1995's Heat and 1998's Saving Private Ryan. His past television credits include a starring role on CBS drama Robbery Homicide Division and a recurring part on the Starz series Crash. He has also appeared in recent episodes of Southland and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In March, Sizemore joined the cast of FOX drama pilot Exit Strategy but the project has not yet been picked up to series. Lost actor Terry O'Quinn will also appear in the second season of Hawaii Five-0 as a Navy Seal, while former Heroes star Masi Oka, who played the recurring character of medical examiner Max Bergman in the first series, has been promoted to a regular. All of which is very interesting but, what fans really want to know is, how often will Grace Park be appearing in a bikini next year?

Four of the five surviving Monty Python's Flying Circus members have reunited to voice a 3D animated film based on the memoirs of their late colleague and friend Graham Chapman. A Liar's Autobiography will feature recordings that Chapman, who died in 1989 aged forty eight, made of his 1980 book. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones have all signed up while Eric Idle is not involved. Too busy hanging out in LA with rock stars, as usual, one imagines! Always Eric's main scope of interest, that. The film is due out in spring next year. Mad-as-toast Terry Jones joked that he had 'no idea' until recently that Chapman was actually dead and 'thought he was just being lazy. However, I am now delighted to find myself working with him again on this exciting project,' he added. Co-director Jeff Simpson said that producers had worked closely with the Chapman estate and the Pythons to 'get this exactly right.' Chapman died after battling cancer. Simpson said that the comic would be pleased 'his work is being re-imagined in glorious 3D - he always loved wearing silly glasses.' Heh.

Joel Schumacher is reportedly in talks to direct a new HBO drama pilot. The Phone Booth director could helm The Big Girls, according to Deadline. The Big Girls - fantastic title, notwithstanding - is based on the 2007 novel of the name name by Susanna Moore. It follow a young psychiatrist at a women's prison who treats the criminally insane while also dealing with her own psychological issues. Adam Mazer will adapt the book for television. The writer won an Emmy last year for his work on HBO television movie You Don't Know Jack starring Al Pacino. Electus executive Ben Silverman and Original Media's Charlie Corwin will serve as producers on the pilot. Other projects currently in development at HBO include a drama based on the career of Mike Tyson, a new - and much anticipated - series from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin about TV news station, fantasy pilot Hobgoblin and Goldie Hawn's The Viagra Diaries.

Channel Four has announced that four-time Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Michael Johnson is to join their presentation team for its coverage of the IAAF World Athletics Championships. Last October, Channel Four broke the BBC's twenty seven-year hold on the TV rights to the IAAF World Athletics Championships, sealing an exclusive deal to the series from 2011 to 2013. Johnson, a nine-time world champion, will join main presenter Ortis Deley - yes, 'him from The Gadget Show' - for the coverage as lead pundit, bringing his extensive experience in track and field. He has also previously provided analysis on the BBC's coverage of athletics for the last eight years. Jamie Aitchison, the editor for live sports at Channel Four, said: 'Michael is renowned for his frank, incisive and illuminating views and we are delighted to have him as our lead analyst in our exciting team.' Alongside Deley and Johnson, the Channel Four IAAF team will also include commentators Jon Rawling and Rob Walker, while Sonja McClaughlin will deliver trackside reports. Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, will promote the coverage in a series of specially-made idents, due to be broadcast prior to and throughout the championships. Channel Four has also teamed up with music website Mixcloud towards the aim of 'crowd-sourcing' music to accompany its coverage in a special competition. Commissioned through Channel Four's multi-million pound Alpha Fund, the competition involves Mixcloud users compiling an eight-track list of music they think could accompany athletics. I'm guessing they're looking for something a bit more left-field than 'Keep on Running' although, with Channel Four, you can never be too sure. The winning playlists will be broadcast on the IAAF World Athletics microsite at the Channel Four site. Channel Four will air almost sixty five hours of coverage of the 2011 IAAF World Championships this August and September in Daegu, South Korea, including all evening sessions and a daily highlights show in prime time. IAAF World Athletics runs ahead of Channel Four's exclusive rights deal to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, as the broadcaster seeks to bolster its sport offering.

Horrible Simon Cowell's new ITV game show Red or Black? has been hit with criticism before it's even been broadcast after featuring spray-painted sheep in one of the games. The series, due to be broadcast later this year with Ant and/or Dec as hosts, sees hopefuls - their greed making them almost sick with excitement - having their luck tested as they compete to win one million smackers. Early stages of the competition have been filmed in London's Wembley Arena. The latest filming in Roundhay Park, Leeds saw the contestants guess if sheepdogs could round up more of the red or black sheep. However, the Daily Lies reports that animal rights activists have criticised the decision to use the sheep, stating that it would have been a 'stressful and frightening' experience for the animals. Well, I imagine it would have been a horrible experience for them. Although, if the producers promised to keep Cowell away from the sheep I'm sure everything would've been all right for the animals in question. 'It's never a good idea to make sheep, or any animals, props,' a spokesman from People for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals told the paper. 'Sheep are sentient, intelligent and complex animals and flockmates recognise each other even if they've been separated for years. Subjecting these shy sensitive animals to long periods of restraint in order to spray them with potentially noxious chemicals will also be stressful and frightening for them.' An ITV 'source' - nameless and, therefore, probably fictitious - denied that the sheep had been at any risk, adding that the dye was harmless. 'I can assure viewers we are not in the business of being cruel to animals,' the insider said. 'We followed all the proper guidelines for using animals on television. While the animals may have looked quite dramatic in their new colours, they did not come to any harm.' He then added, 'also, they're just sheep!'

The X Factor 2011 final will reportedly be staged in London's Wembley Arena. The ITV show is currently filmed in Fountain Studios, which holds an audience of three hundred. The switch to the twelve thousand five hundred-seat venue has been ordered by Simon Cowell, according to the Sun. 'There may have been some concerns about the change in the judging panel, but viewers will forget all of that when they see the new-look show and final,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'We are very excited about making it bigger and better - with a bigger venue, bigger-name guests and more audience members and celebrities than ever before.' Cowell will not appear on the judging panel for the new series of The X Factor, but has apparently vowed to attend the final - said to be scheduled for the weekend of 10 and 11 December. Moving the final to Wembley Arena was previously rumoured to have been among plans to expand the show for the 2010 series.

Merlin producer Johnny Capps has confirmed that Anthony Head will return for the show's fourth series. Head, who plays the tyrannical medieval king Uther Pendragon in the popular BBC fantasy drama, recently landed a regular recurring role on the NBC sitcom Free Agents. However, Capps told SFX: 'Tony is in the next series, and there are some very exciting stories for his character. [Uther makes] some interesting choices and some unexpected choices.' He continued: 'Tony is an important part in the series and Uther's legacy is [also] important.'

The full shortlist of nominations for the 2011 TV Choice Awards, to be hosted by Ben Miller on 13 September 13 has been announced. It is as follows: The Best New Drama category will be between Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Single Father and The Walking Dead. Being Human, Glee, Misfits and Shameless will contest the Best Drama Series award. Best Family Drama will see Casualty, Doctor Who, Merlin and Waterloo Road go head-to-head. The Best Actor category - or 'The Squee Girls Special' as it's probably better known - will feature Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Morgan, Matt Smith and David Tennant. Best Actress sees a fight between Amanda Burton, Karen Gillan, Vicky McClure and the late Elisabeth Sladen. Sadly not a real one, in mud. Because, to be honest, if it was, I'd watch. The Best Comedy award is between Benidorm, The Inbetweeners, Miranda and The Ricky Gervais Show. Best Entertainment Show pits An Idiot Abroad, Celebrity Juice, The Graham Norton Show and, bizarrely Qi against each other.
The Cube, Deal Or No Deal, The Million Pound Drop Live and Total Wipeout will battle it out for the Best Game Show award. The hotly-awaited Best Daytime Show award will feature BBC Breakfast, The Jeremy Kyle Show, Loose Women and This Morning. But not Daybreak, of course. Best Factual Entertainment Show features the hilarious prospect of Top Gear taking on the likes of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, Embarrassing Bodies and Katie: My Beautiful Friends. For some odd reason, MasterChef doesn't get a nomination in the Best Food Show cateogry, instead The Hairy Bikers, Saturday Kitchen and Something For The Weekend get the job of putting Jamie's Thirty Minute Meals firmly in its place.

Emma Swain has been named the BBC's new Controller of Knowledge, as a permanent replacement for George Entwistle. Swain - who now gets the greatest job title in the world - will be responsible for leading the Knowledge strategy across all BBC factual programming, including arts, music, history, natural history, business, science, religion, consumer journalism and contemporary factual. She has been acting controller of Knowledge commissioning since February, when Entwistle became temporary director of BBC Vision following Jana Bennett's departure to BBC Worldwide. Entwistle was officially appointed to the role in April. Swain was previously head of Knowledge TV commissioning, overseeing an eight-strong team that commissions factual TV content from Vision Productions and the independent sector for the four BBC channels. Over her BBC career Swain has held a number of senior posts, including commissioning editor for specialist factual and head of Knowledge multimedia commissioning. She also spent a brief period in 2007 as acting controller of BBC3. She has helped develop a range of successful factual shows, including Don't Tell The Bride, Kill It Cook It Eat It, Comic Relief Does Kilimanjaro and Life. Her former role as head of Knowledge TV commissioning will not be filled, as some of the responsibilities have already been redistributed.

BBC News has apologised for 'human error' which resulted in a report yesterday on the death of actress Margaret Tyzack wrongly featuring a photo of Siân Phillips. Tyzack died on Saturday at the age of seventy nine after a long acting career on stage and screen, including the 1967 BBC adaptation of Victorian drama The Forsyte Saga. However, a report on her death broadcast on Monday evening on the BBC's News At Ten featured a portrait of Welsh actress Siân Phillips. The BBC has apologised to the families of Tyzack and Phillips for the 'unfortunate' incident, which it said was 'down to human error.' The human who erred has since been identified and name to write out one hundred times 'Siân Phillips is not dead.' And, then he had his knackers sliced off with a rusty blade. He won't be doing that again in a hurry, let me assure you, dear blog reader. In a statement, the corporation said: 'Due to human error incorrect pictures were used to illustrate a report of the death of actress Margaret Tyzack on the BBC News At Ten. The pictures used were in fact of the actress Siân Phillips. This was very unfortunate and we would like to apologise to both the family of Margaret Tyzack and to Siân Phillips for any distress or offence caused.'

As reported yesterday, a thirty four-year old female journalist has been released on bail after she was arrested by Scotland Yard on suspicion of illegally accessing voicemail messages. Press Association royal reporter Laura Elston was arrested when she attended an appointment at a central London police station at around 3pm. Scotland Yard said that Elston was questioned on suspicion of 'intercepting communications, contrary to section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.' She was later released on police bail to reappear in early October. It is not known if Elston has ever worked at the News of the World, which up to this point has been the main focus of Operation Weeting. On Thursday last week a thirty nine-year-old woman was arrested at her home in West Yorkshire by Scotland Yard officers as part of Operation Weeting, on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications contrary to section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. She was released later the same day after questioning at a West Yorkshire police station. The woman, believed to be Terenia Taras, contributed more than thirty stories for the News of the World as a freelance between 1998 and 2004, although Scotland Yard would not confirm this. They didn't need to, thougjh, it's a matter of public record. A spokesman for Scotland Yard said that the woman had been bailed to return to a West Yorkshire police station in mid-October. Taras is the ex-girlfriend of Greg Miskiw, the News of the World's former assistant editor, who is currently in the US. She has also written occasionally for other tabloids including, most recently, the Sunday Mirra and, less often, for the Daily Scum Mail. Her last bylined article appeared in the Sunday Mirra in December 2007. In April, a senior reporter at the News of the World, James Weatherup, was arrested and questioned. Weatherup, who has also worked as a news editor with the Sunday tabloid, was released after questioning. The paper's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and former assistant editor Ian Edmondson, were also held in April and released on police bail to return in September. Days later the Met launched Operation Weeting, after receiving 'significant new information' from News International.

The mathematical constant pi is under threat from a group of detractors who will be celebrating on Tuesday. Those marking 'Tau day' suggest a constant called tau should take its place: twice as large as pi, or about 6.28 - hence the 28 June celebration. Tau proponents say that for many problems in maths, tau makes more sense and makes calculations easier. Not all fans of maths agree, however, and pi's rich history means it will be a difficult number to unseat. And, most normal people don't really care. 'I like to describe myself as the world's leading anti-pi propagandist,' said Michael Hartl, an educator and former theoretical physicist in a way that makes one wonder if he pbelieves his mother is really proud of him because of this boast. 'When I say pi is wrong, it doesn't have any flaws in its definition - it is what you think it is, a ratio of circumference to diameter. But circles are not about diameters, they're about radii; circles are the set of all the points a given distance - a radius - from the centre,' Hartl explained to BBC News. 'If you define your circle constant as the ratio of circumference to the diameter, what you're really doing is defining it as the ratio of the circumference to twice the radius, and that factor of two haunts you throughout mathematics.' The discrepancy is most noticeable when circles are defined not as a number of degrees, but as what are known as radians - of which there are two times pi in a full circle. With tau, half a circle is one-half tau. Hartl believes that people still use degrees as a measure of angle because pi's involvement in radians makes them too unwieldy. He credits Bob Palais of the University of Utah with first pointing out that 'pi is wrong,' in a 2001 article in the Mathematical Intelligencer. But it is Hartl who is responsible for The Tau Manifesto - calling tau the more convenient formulation and instituting Tau Day to celebrate it. Kevin Houston, a mathematician from the University of Leeds, counts himself as a convert. 'It was one of the weirdest things I'd come across, but it makes sense,' he told BBC News. 'It's surprising people haven't changed before. Almost anything you can do in maths with pi you can do with tau anyway, but when it comes to using pi versus tau, tau wins - it's much more natural.' Hartl is passionate about the effort, but even he is surprised by the fervent nature of some tau adherents. 'What's amazing is the "conversion experience": people find themselves almost violently angry at pi. They feel like they've been lied to their whole lives, so it's amazing how many people express their displeasure with pi in the strongest possible terms - often infolving profanity. I don't condone any actual violence - that would be really bizarre, wouldn't it?' Yeah. Probably.

Hundreds more Britons went to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s than had previously been thought, newly released files show. MI5 recorded the names of about four thousand people from Britain and Ireland suspected of travelling to join the war, National Archives files show. The previous estimate stood at about two thousand five hundred. Course, we have a very big Thirties revival when yer actual Keith Telly Topping was eighteen - everybody was going off to Spain to fight the fascists, except we called it The World Cup then. Nah, lissun ... Many volunteers were Communists and of considerable interest to MI5 because of their naughtiness and their doings. One name on the list is Eric Blair, better known as the author George Orwell. His experiences in the Spanish Civil War were documented in his masterpiece A Homage to Catalonia. The details of those who had joined the fight against General Franco's forces between 1936 and 1939 continued to be updated by security service MI5 up until the mid-1950s. The record for Orwell covers the period in which he published the bestselling novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, until his death in January 1950. The files, which can be downloaded free for a month, comprise more than two hundred pages detailing the movements of the men and women who left British ports for the Spanish front line - as well as 'a roll of honour' of some of those killed in action. James Cronan, the National Archives' diplomatic and colonial records specialist, said it was not clear how many of those who left actually reached Spain, but he added that 'we know that hundreds never returned. The International Brigades brought volunteers together from all over the world in defence of democracy but few, if any, records exist of their service,' he said. 'That's why uncovering a document like this is so exciting.' This year marks the seventy fifth anniversary of the start of the war in July 1936.

A woman 'under the influence of alcohol' has been arrested after spraying breast milk on police. Stephanie Robinette, thirty, had attended a wedding with her husband earlier in the day, but started a dispute after consuming a quantity of alcohol, according to her husband. He claimed that Robinette hit him several times and then locked herself in her car, Reuters reports. When the sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene in Delaware, Robinette refused to exit the car and loudly swore at them. The sheriff recalled: 'When deputies attempted to remove Robinette from the vehicle, she advised the deputies that she was a breastfeeding mother, proceeded to remove her right breast from her dress, and began spraying deputies and the vehicle with her breast milk. This is a prime example of how alcohol can make individuals do things they would not normally do.' Robinette, from Ohio, was eventually arrested for domestic violence, resisting arrest and 'disorderly conduct.' Not to mention the potential that she could have 'had someone's eye out with that.'

And so, by process of logical elimination, we come to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, today, features the Goddamn Queen of Soul Miss Aretha Franklin. Sock it to me.

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