Wednesday, June 08, 2011

That's The Way The Whole Thing Started, I Wish We Had Never Parted

So, dear blog reader, it's a day with a 'y' in it. That must therefore mean we have a Doctor Who story in the newspapers. Quelle surprise, ça va? There you go, you didn't know yer actual Keith Telly Topping was barely monolingual, did you? Full of surprises, that's me. Anyway, with quite impeccable timing - to wit, just a few hours after the BBC had announced the recommissioning of the next series of Doctor Who (and a Christmas special) - the Sun ran a rather confused (and, for that matter, rather confusing) story (seemingly taken from Private Eye's highly negative piece discussed yesterday) with some guff about a debate over the fiftieth anniversary. Which, just in case you'd thought we'd leaped a year forward, is still two and a half years away in November 2013 not 2012 as the Sun claim. Given the proper wicked tongue-lashing which he gave Private Eye on Twitter over this matter, we await Steven 'Killer' Moffat's response to this tabloid 'exclusive' with something approaching baited breath! Then again, it's worth remembering that in 2006 the Sun earnestly informed its readers that Zoe Lucker was going to be playing The Rani on the next series of Doctor Who based on information, they claimed, from 'an insider.' And, a year later, that David Bowie would also be appearing. And, we're still waiting.

Meanwhile, there was a rather fun Twitter exchange recently when one 'Badwolfink' informed Steven Moffat in relation to A Good Man Goes To War: 'If you kill Rory again in this episode I'm getting my pitchfork.' To which The Moffster replied: 'Badwolfink: You'll have to pull it out of Rory first.' Wild and crazy guy!

On a related topic, John Barrowman has confirmed that he would be happy to return to Doctor Who. The actor first played Captain Jack Harkness on the popular BBC family SF drama in 2005 and reprised the role as the star of its spin-off series Torchwood. Barrowman told Zap2it: 'I've always said that if I'm asked to go back to Doctor Who, I'll go at the drop of a hat. That's where Captain Jack got his beginnings.' He added that Jack's possible return had 'already been discussed' by Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat - remember him? - and Torchwood creator Russell Davies. 'It's in the cards, but who knows whether it will happen?' he said. Barrowman also praised current Doctor Who star Matt Smith, but admitted that he still feels 'attached' to his former co-star David Tennant. 'I like Matt Smith [and] he brings his own quirkiness to it,' said the star. 'When a new Doctor starts, everybody goes along for the journey because they love the show. But then you attach yourself to that Doctor.' Barrowman continued: 'There's a whole new generation who are now attached to Matt, and rightly so. But David Tennant is my Doctor.' Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) previously insisted that he would 'love to have [Jack] back' on the show.

Being Human creator Toby Whithouse has revealed a number of 'cryptic nuggets' as hints for what to expect in the show's fourth series. Following the success of series three earlier this year, Being Human was recommissioned for another eight sixty-minute episodes in March. Writing on the show's official blog, Whithouse wrote: 'There will be lots of new faces, an old face, a genuinely shocking death, a new villain, a sort-of new kind of supernatural (though that could change. We're very fickle), a new writer and a journey to somewhere even we have never gone before.' The writer also commented: 'Each series gets harder to make as, hopefully, we set the bar higher and higher. But I think we've got another corker for you.'

The latest - twelfth - episode of the 'I' series of Qi to be filmed will feature guest panellists Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack and Sandi Toksvig. Who, hopefully, won't get all naughty and bad again and talk about 'cuts' because that would be terrible and would make the Daily Scum Mail all cross. With the wax exploding in their ears and all that. Which would be terrible. The theme of the episode is said to be 'I Spy.' Before filming, Stephen Fry tweeted: 'Just had a good chat with Terry Wogan for a TV doc he's making on Wodehouse. Now off to the Qi studios.' Wogan's documentary, previously announced last week mentioned in pre-publicity that the documentary 'will include rarely-seen interviews with the writer and well-known fans of his work.'

And, speaking of the wretched Daily Scum Mail, the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has risked his political neutrality by describing the Daily Scum Mail as a 'sexist, racist, bigoted, comic cartoon strip.' Which, frankly, some dear blog readers might feel is underselling the matter, somewhat. He also apologised for breaking the trade descriptions act by describing the Scum Mail as a 'newspaper.' Heh. I'm starting to warm to this chap! His stinging remarks came at a question and answer session with the political commentator Steve Richards at Kings Place in London. Bercow has been repeatedly criticised in the Daily Scum Mail, notably by notorious right-wing numskull thug and ex-public school bullyboy Quentin Letts, its parliamentary sketch writer. Letts recently described the Speaker as 'preening, sycophantic, short-tempered and grotesque.' On another occasion Letts wrote: 'Effortless humour is one of the things Squeaker Bercow so palpably lacks. Everything about him, even his wit, is by numbers, worn heavily, as though out of a book.' Bercow's condemnation of the Scum Mail was promoted by his wife Sally who is active on Twitter and is a staunch supporter of Labour. The Gruniad claims that there is a group of around forty Conservative backbenchers and ministers that still 'deeply resent' Bercow's election to the Speakership 'either because they think he is too left-wing, self-promoting or simply unreliable.' In his question and answer session with Richards, Bercow also discussed the sensitive issue of whether MPs were abusing their parliamentary privilege by mentioning details of superinjunctions. Bercow said that 'no superinjunction should be preventing colleagues from trying to debate issues,' before noting that 'it would be very sad if the sovereign nature of parliament as a whole and the House of Commons in particular was eroded by the judiciary.' Superinjunctions, he added, were 'undesirable – we don't want to see their spread.' But he did criticise the Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming who has twice used parliamentary privilege to reveal details of superinjunctions. Bercow said: 'Debating principles and issues is very different from violating an order to score a point.' He defended the right of his wife to express her views on a daily basis on Twitter. 'She's free to do what she wants. Sally is my wife, but not my chattel or my property. The duty of impartiality doesn't extend to her – there isn't a Mrs Speaker – and it's a spectacularly sexist idea that Sally should have to be silent.' Bercow also said he believed IPSA, the body responsible for handling MPs' expenses, was 'far too complicated.' He disclosed he had written to IPSA asking it 'sharply to reduce its own expenditures, particularly the large amount of money spent on communications officers to communicate with the public.' Bercow is known to be a supporter of further reforms to the Commons sitting hours, but will have to wait to see if any proposals emerge from the procedure committee or the modernisation committee. His signal achievement since becoming speaker apart from being willing to talk in public about his role has been to increase the number of ministerial statements or urgent questions, making the executive more answerable to parliament than for many decades.

Still on the subject of scum newspapers, the scummiest of the lot, the News of the World's owner has formally apologised in court to the actress Sienna Miller for hacking into several of her mobile phones. News Group newspapers said 'sorry' for what it called 'the harassment and distress' it had caused. The twenty nine-year-old actress, who was not at London's High Court, formally settled for one hundred thousand pounds damages and costs. Four alleged victims of phone hacking have already reached out-of-court settlements with the newspaper. Miller's counsel, David Sherborne, said that the actress had been the subject of numerous articles in 2005 and 2006 which contained 'intrusive and private information.' He said that Miller had not known the source of the information, much of which was only known to a few trusted friends and family. 'The claimant did not know whether someone close to her was leaking information or whether her mobile telephone was somehow being hacked into. Both possibilities were extremely distressing for the claimant.' Miller had considerable concerns about the security of her mobile phone after callers hung up on her and voicemail messages were missed, her counsel said. She tried to protect herself by changing her number three times, he added. News Group's counsel, Michael Silverleaf QC, offered its 'sincere apologies' to Miller for the damage and distress caused. It acknowledged the information should never have been obtained in the way it was, the private information should never have been published and it had accepted full and total liability. Sherborne said that Miller first issued proceedings for misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment in October 2010, after documents were disclosed by the Metropolitan Police. Two months ago, News Group made an unconditional admission of liability. 'This meant that News Group accepted that confidential and private information had been obtained by the unlawful access of the claimant's voicemail messages, that confidential and private information had been published as a result, and that there had been an invasion of her privacy, breaches of confidence and a campaign of harassment for over twelve months,' he added. The court granted Miller an injunction preventing any further unlawful accessing of her voicemail and publication of her private information. The News of the World's apology to Miller is the latest development in a scandal which dates back to 2006, when the paper's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking into royal aides' voicemails. Since then, a series of inquiries and legal cases have explored just how widespread the practice was, with wide implications for the police, numerous celebrities and politicians. More and more public figures have alleged their phones have been hacked and some have launched legal actions against the paper, or the police for allegedly failing to investigate. News International, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, has offered to co-operate fully with a Metropolitan Police inquiry.

Laurence Fishburne is reportedly leaving crime drama CSI to 'pursue other projects.' The actor has decided not to renew his contract, which expired at the end of the recently completed eleventh season, the Deadline Hollywood website reports. The site also revealed that Fishburne's last contract renewal, which was signed in spring 2010, was only for one year. Fishburne has played pathologist Ray Langston for two and a half seasons on the CBS show. He was originally cast to replace the departing William Petersen, who portrayed Gil Grissom. Fishburne will next be seen on the big screen in Steven Soderbergh's viral outbreak thriller Contagion.

Leverage producer Dean Devlin has claimed that the upcoming fourth season will be 'more emotional.' He told TV Guide that the TNT drama's team of con artists will evolve in surprising ways in future episodes. 'The fun is still there [and] the heists are still there,' he insisted. 'But [the team's] relationships are going to develop in ways that are profound.' Devlin also promised that viewers will see a 'new intensity' in the relationship between expert thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and computer hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge). 'The Parker-Hardison relationship really goes to a much higher level this year,' he said. '[There's a] much deeper intensity.' Former Mad Men star Michael Gladis was previously reported to be appearing in the new season's third episode as PR expert Reed Rockwall, while Lethal Weapon's Danny Glover will play a retired war hero in the fifth episode. The fourth season of Leverage is scheduled to premiere on 26 June on TNT.

Simon Cowell has admitted that he felt 'sick to my stomach' over anonymous Internet claims that Britain's Got Talent was fixed for Ronan Parke. Now Cowell knows how the rest of us feel when presented with his shows. The twelve-year-old singer was targeted in what has been described by the music mogul as 'a smear campaign' made up of 'complete and utter lies.' Parke eventually came second in the competition last weekend, losing out to Jai McDowall. However, speaking to the Sun, Cowell confirmed that he is looking at signing Parke to his Syco record label. 'I think we could do something with Ronan and Jai,' he told the paper. 'We would have to look at what else we have on because we're doing a lot with people like JLS. But I think people like them.' Discussing the anonymous Internet document - incorrectly described by many media outlets as 'a blog' - that spread late last week, Cowell confessed that it had come as a 'hammer blow' during a 'nightmare' few weeks, as he dealt with the fall-out of the Cheryl Cole fiasco on The X Factor USA. 'The most upsetting thing was this poisonous e-mail,' he said. Well, actually, it wasn't an e-mail either, it was, apparently, a PDF document which appears to have been spread around by e-mail. Slight difference. It was so malicious and so anti- this twelve-year-old kid who couldn't defend himself,' Cowell continued. 'The fact there were people who thought it was a scam, or worse that it was true or a publicity job, made me feel sick to my stomach. I felt very sorry for him, I phoned his mum. It is sensitive to talk about what the police are doing but they are taking it seriously. We have to stop people who are able to hide behind being invisible and can make up lies about a kid which could have wrecked his life.' Why? Newspapers have been doing it for years, they just make stuff up and then produce anonymous 'quotes' to support them, credited to 'an insider' or 'a source' so that readers have no possibility of checking the veracity of them. 'If you read it in full he could have got beaten up or bullied. He could have lost his confidence. You can't let people get away with this,' Cowell concluded. Criticising those who claimed that the document was a publicity stunt initiated by Cowell himself, he added: 'If this was concocted by us then we wouldn't have gone to the police. I wouldn't be prepared to stand up in court, which I am prepared to do. That person should have the guts to speak in public but won't because it's a lie.' Which is very hard to disagree with. Please remember this however, dear blog reader, the next time you see a story about The X Factor in the Sun which carries an unattributed quote in it.

ITV reportedly declined The Voice when it was pitched to the channel a year ago, to 'keep Simon Cowell happy.' The broadcaster is now bidding against the BBC to secure the rights to a UK version of the show, after it proved a hit in the US. The Voice saw four judges - Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton - choose singers on their vocal abilities alone, as the judging panel are not allowed to see the acts when they first sing. ITV turned down the programme because it did not want to upset X Factor boss Cowell, the Mirra claims. 'They didn't dare entertain the programme when they were offered it nearly a year ago because they still hoped to persuade Cowell to appear on The X Factor,' said a 'source.' Anonymous of course. Will Simon Cowell be complaining about this, we wonder? The fifty one-year-old has since confirmed that he will not appear on the judging panel for the eighth series of the competition, instead choosing to focus on the US version, which will launch in September. The Voice - originally broadcast in Holland - is reportedly wanted by ITV director of television Peter Fincham as 'a back-up' for The X Factor.

UKTV, the pay-TV channel operator behind Dave, Watch and Gold, has agreed its first product placement deal for a new show. The broadcaster has signed a multi-layered agreement with Brightsolid, the DC Thomson-owned company behind genealogy websites such as Find My Past, Genes Reunited and Friends Reunited, which it acquired from ITV last year in a twenty five million pound deal. Brightsolid will fund a new ten-part series called Find My Past on factual channel Yesterday, in exchange for brand exposure in the titles and associated marketing. Find My Past, being produced by Lion Television, will use the findmypast.co.uk website to show how three 'seemingly unrelated' members of the public are linked to well known historical events, such as Dunkirk or the sinking of the Titanic. UKTV, which is jointly owned by BBC Worldwide and Virgin Media, will broadcast the programme in the fourth quarter of this year on Freeview channel. John Robertson, marketing director of Brightsolid Online Publishing, said: 'Connecting people and places is at the heart of our business, so this investigative, historical format with a gripping human interest storyline is a natural fit. As a company with pioneering family history brands, we're very excited to be leading the way in advertising-funded programming.' Sally Quick, head of commercial partnerships at UKTV, added: 'Findmypast.co.uk already has a strong commercial association with us as Yesterday's main sponsor, so finding and developing a fresh genealogy TV format to co-fund has been a natural next step. Born out of what was originally an advertiser-funded programme deal, Find My Past offers Brightsolid the perfect product placement opportunity as we're able to seamlessly integrate its websites into the content via interactive exposure by the contributors themselves.'

Kevin Smith has announced that he is developing a reality show for AMC. The Clerks and Dogma director will produce the series, which will be set inside his New Jersey comic-book store, according to IGN. A casting call for the forthcoming show has been released, asking for 'real people who live and breathe the comic book lifestyle.' In answering a tweet yesterday, Smith revealed that he is 'thrilled' to be working with AMC, the network behind series like The Walking Dead and Mad Men. 'A really cool one,' Smith wrote when asked by one of his followers if his reality show had a network yet. 'That makes awesome shows. That I watch. Fuck it: It's AMC.' Smith recently revealed that he knew his film Red State would not be successful, noting that the movie did not have commercial appeal.

The BBC has agreed a twelve-month partnership with Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow to develop comedy scripts for production at its new BBC North base. Comedy North, part of BBC Vision Productions Comedy, will collaborate with Baby Cow North on narrative scripts that 'bring through the next generation of on and off screen comedy talent from the north of England.' All the new comedies will be made at the BBC's new production base at the MediaCityUK complex in Salford Quay. In 2008, BBC Worldwide purchased a twenty five per cent stake in Baby Cow, the production company founded by Coogan and Henry Normal that makes BBC3's award-winning comedy Gavin & Stacey. The collaboration deal comes as Graham Duff and Johnny Vegas's comedy Ideal, a co-production between BBC in-house and Baby Cow, is due to celebrate its fiftieth episode on Thursday night on BBC3. Mark Freeland, the head of BBC in-house comedy, said: 'As our commitment to comedy being produced from the north increases, I can think of no-one better with whom to partner than the creative comedy minds of Baby Cow. Together, if we can develop some more comedies that last for fifty episodes and beyond, and like Ideal, are so damn good, then we will be able to say it has worked fabulously well.' Baby Cow's Henry Normal added: 'It's exciting to be developing comedy with BBC comedy North. The new Salford media centre is a new adventure for all of us.'

Physicist and former pop star Brian Cox is to team up with singer Billy Bragg at this year's Glastonbury Festival. Oh, somebody who works for the BBC and a leftie singer-songwriter, that's two 'scowling tuts' for the price of one for some lice at the Daily Scum Mail there. Cox, who played keyboards with D-Ream, will record a special edition of Radio 4 show The Infinite Monkey Cage at the Cabaret Marquee. Guests on the science and comedy show, co-presented by Robin Ince, include Bragg and comic Shappi Khorsandi. The show, which won a Sony Award this year, will be broadcast on Monday 27 June. It was included in an announcement about BBC coverage of Glastonbury which will include a two-hour show to introduce the festival on Thursday 23 June to be broadcast simultaneously on 6Music, Radio 1 and Radio 2. BBC2 will screen live headline sets from artists including U2, Paul Simon and those boring bastard Coldplay while BBC3 will feature performances from the likes of Mumford and Sons. Coverage on BBC4 will feature 'heritage artists' including BB King and Jimmy Cliff while digital station 6Music will broadcast extensive coverage.

Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson has been named as the new children's laureate. She will take over from Anthony Browne, who has held the post since 2009. The role, which has a bursary of fifteen thousand smackers, is awarded every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books. 'I hope to find every opportunity to be a spokesperson and advocate for children's books and reading,' Donaldson said. Previous children's laureates have included Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Quentin Blake. Donaldson began her career writing songs for TV but in 1993, one of her songs, A Squash and a Squeeze, was made into a book, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The pair went on to collaborate on the best-selling picture book, The Gruffalo. She has written more than one hundred and twenty books for children and teenagers to date, including The Gruffalo's Child, Room on the Broom, Zog and The Snail and the Whale. 'With my background in plays and song-writing, I am particularly keen to develop projects which link books with drama and music, and to explore the ways performance can help children enjoy reading and grow in confidence,' she said.

England wicketkeeper Matt Prior apologised to a female spectator at Lord's after smashing a window during the second Test against Sri Lanka. Prior was run out for four on the final day and when he returned to the dressing-room his bat 'fell against the window,' shattering the glass. The spectator in the members' enclosure directly below the window suffered a small cut on her ankle. Prior, accompanied by captain Andrew Strauss, later apologised in person. England team spokesman James Avery originally said the glass had been broken after Prior's gloves ricocheted off a kit bag and knocked the bats, resting on the windowpane. But he later issued a second statement, which said: 'Prior put his bat on the ledge where the wall met the window. The bat handle bounced off the wall into the glass and the glass broke.' Avery said he was at first working from second-hand information, but had learned the true sequence of events from coach Andy Flower, who witnessed the incident. 'It was an accident and Matt Prior has apologised,' added Avery. The twenty nine-year-old Prior had been run out for four as England chased quick runs before a declaration on the fifth day. The game ended in a draw. The Sky Sports coverage of Windowgate, incidentally, was hilarious!

We started with a Doctor Who story and, sadly, we have to - sort-of - end with one as well. Actor and singer Roy Skelton, best known for voicingthe  puppets George and Zippy in the popular children's programme Rainbow, has died aged seventy nine. Roy also voiced the Daleks in Doctor Who between 1967 and 1988, as well as the Cybermen, the Krotons, various computer voices and, in one episode, K9. He also appeared in three Doctor Who stories in the 1970s as an actor including his most well-remembered role as King Rokon in The Hand of Fear. In 2002, he guest-starred in the audio drama Sarah Jane Smith: Test Of Nerve. Roy was born in 1931 in Oldham. After leaving school to tour with the National Association of Boys' Clubs Travelling Theatre, Roy trained in drama in Bristol. His early acting work in repertory was with the Bristol Old Vic Company. This was followed by experience in the West End (including Oh! My Papa! and Chrysanthemum) as well as some singing, and a stint on television playing the character of Lampwick in Pinocchio. He went on to appear in repertory theatre all over the UK before landing parts in Music For You and as a piano-playing supervillain in the teenage detective drama Quick Before They Catch Us in 1966. During this time at the BBC, Roy continued with his regular theatre work, despite his television career starting to take off. He appeared in guest roles in Z Cars and Softly Softly and, uncredited, in the movies There's a Girl In My Soup and Frenzy. An opportunity to voice the rather stern and grumpy Mr Growser character in the BBC's puppet version of Hulme Beaman's Toytown led Roy to a successful career specialising in voice characterisations for childrens' radio and television shows. He worked on Picture Book (as the voice of Sossidge the dog), the sitcom Take a Chance, as well as Gordon Murray's marionette-based Rubovian Legends. One children's TV job which Roy expected would last several weeks, but instead kept him gainfully employed for well over fifteen years, was voicing Zippy and George on ITV's lunchtime show Rainbow (he also wrote about one hundred and fifty scripts for the popular show). His colleague Geoffrey Hayes said: 'He really brought Zippy and George to life through his voice.' Roy was 'fabulous at improvising if something went wrong,' he added. 'The most wonderful thing was if Zippy and George were having an argument between themselves, it sounded like he'd double-tracked it as they seemed to be talking over each other. It was a wonderful technique and I don't know how he did it. Although he was known for Zippy and George he was actually a fabulous actor with a great singing voice and a wonderful raconteur - he used to tell us some wonderful stories.' Roy reprised the role of Zippy in 2008 for the BBC1 series Ashes to Ashes. He is survived by his daughter, Samantha.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we have a splash of early Elvis, baby.

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