Sunday, August 21, 2011

Possibly Violence Later

Two days in and it's already a slippery slope for Celebrity Big Brother. The revived reality show lost a significant portion of its audience on Friday, overnight data has revealed. For the second episode - which saw Kerry Katona, Bobby Sabel and Sally Bercow put up for eviction - the Channel Five fiasco averaged 3.22m in the 9pm hour, still decent for the channel but a whopping drop of nearly two million viewers on Thursday's premiere night. Whilst Celebrity Big Brother experienced an even greater dip at the start of its last series on Channel Four in 2010, the broadcaster will be hoping that the show steadies and quickly, as channel executive Richard Desmond recently stated that he did not expect the show to fall under three million. And the amount of money they've spent on acquiring the format and paying mega moolah for its desperate z-list chancers (a reported three hundred thousand smackers on Kerry Katona alone!) it really needs an audience of at least three million to justify its existence. For episode three - on Saturday night - the audience dropped to 2.7m.

The X Factor returned with a bang on Saturday night as an average audience of 11.3m tuned in. Introducing new judges Gary Barlow, Tulisa Constostavlos and Kelly Rowland, the eighth series of the talent show launched with 10.8m, with a further five hundred thousand on ITV+1 - slightly, but only very slightly, down on last year's record-breaking opener. Caroline Flack's The Xtra Factor, meanwhile, got off to a respectable start on ITV2, with 1.17m at 9.15pm and a further two hundred and sixty thousand on ITV2+1, making it the most-watched multichannel broadcast of the evening. Elsewhere, The X Factor was complemented by You've Been Framed, which kicked the night off with 3.53m at 6.30pm, All Star Family Fortunes which started a new run with 5.63m at 7pm and a soap star special of Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire? which was watched by 4.31m at 9.15pm. BBC1's night was far more low key, as 3.2m watched National Treasures: Book of Secrets from 6.20pm until 8pm, then The National Lottery: In It To Win It had an audience of 3.53m, before Casualty and John Bishop's Britain slipped to 4.18m and 3.37m respectively.

ITV is hoping to build on the success of shows such as Downton Abbey and Marchlands by boosting its drama output by forty hours a year, or nearly thirty million smackers. The new drama will be broadcast on ITV from 2013, with the rise in hours equivalent to six to seven new series annually and about twenty eight million notes in extra funding for the genre. Laura Mackie, the ITV drama director, and her team are looking to commission returning drama series for 2013 from writers and producers for the ITV 8pm and 9pm slots. There are also drama slots still open for the second half of 2012. While most of the new drama will be screened at 9pm, Mackie is also interested in more shows for the 8pm pre-watershed slot, where Wild at Heart runs on Sundays. She wants to expand the range of ITV drama, which is dominated by detective and crime series, and is seeking ideas focusing on female relationships, and with humorous scripts in the mould of At Home with the Braithwaites, one of her personal favourites, and Footballers' Wives. Mackie, who joined ITV in 2007 from the BBC to modernise and refresh ITV drama, said: 'We have a hunger for new stuff. It is great news for the creative community.; ITV has also rushed to re-order four dramas launched in 2011: Scott and Bailey, about the lives of female detectives in the North-West, James Nesbitt's medical series, Monroe, Case Sensitive, based on the psychological novels of Sophie Hannah and Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as a veteran Newcastle detective. The extra investment in the genre marks something of a U-turn for ITV, which reduced its drama output during the 2009 advertising recession. Long running pre-watershed shows Heartbeat, The Royal and The Bill – originally screened at 8pm then moved to 9pm before it was axed last year – were also cancelled, although ITV maintains that this was about creative renewal and freeing up money for new shows rather than because of cost-cutting. ITV's drama expansion is partly due to the fact it has no major sporting events scheduled for 2013. It is also an acknowledgement that only a few of the less expensive ITV documentary and factual programmes ordered at 9pm since 2009 have performed as well or consistently as drama.

Adrian Edmondson is planning a new project – based on the sado-masochistic tendencies of the composer Percy Grainger. The comic said: 'He was a bizarre man, who had a prodigious talent but was very peculiar. He was obsessed with S&M and would flagellate himself, then run to the Royal Albert Hall to play a piano concerto with blood running down his back under his shirt. I'm working on a project in my head about him. I'm not sure what form it will take yet, whether it's for stage or screen.'

It has been dealing with fictional emergency trauma for twenty five years but now TV's Casualty is facing its own big drama. The cameras roll for the final time in Bristol this week, as the programme - inextricably linked with the city - is moving to Cardiff Bay in September. Whilst being set in the fictional town of Holby, the BBC programme's opening titles and location settings have shown many views across Bristol including the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Harbourside. Running since 1986, Casualty is credited with bringing millions of pounds into the local economy and providing hundreds of jobs for actors and technicians. Mehjabeen Price, of South West Screen, said the series brought lots of prosperity to the city. 'Casualty has made Bristol its home for twenty five years, and has been a valuable asset to our region's industry,' she said. This final chapter for Bristol comes after rumours of a possible move to Cardiff started to circulate in 2008. In July that year, an Early Day Motion was tabled in the Commons. It also noted that drama series Doctors could be forced to relocate to Salford from its Birmingham base. While the motion welcomed the increase in jobs for Cardiff and Salford it said this should not be at the expense of other regions. Then in December some of the cast and crew, headed by Derek Thompson - who has played Charlie Fairhead in the programme since it began - campaigned against the move. In 2009 the BBC formally announced it would move the programme to Cardiff as part of plans to increase network TV production from the UK nations and regions. Price said that since the move was confirmed, SWS was keen to look to the future. 'We want to make it clear that Bristol remains an excellent home for good drama, with strong infrastructure and expert local crew base,' she said. 'We send our thanks to Casualty for the benefits it has brought to Bristol over its lifetime." Casualty now joins a growing stable of network drama to be produced in new studios in Cardiff Bay, including Doctor Who and Torchwood. However, when the series started hospital interiors were filmed at Television Centre in London with the location-action shot in Bristol. After the first series all filming was moved to Bristol, with exterior hospital sequences shot at the City of Bristol College in Ashley Down before moving to a trading estate in Lawrence Hill in 2002. Cheryl Griffin, editor of Holby TV - a fans' website - said that Bristol had played a positive role in making Casualty what it is for more than two decades. 'I still remember Charlie driving over the suspension bridge in the early series - these Bristol landmarks are part of the nostalgia,' she said. 'It will be a loss to both Casualty and Bristol.' She said the move was being approached with 'some trepidation' but fans have been promised good new storylines and characters. The programme has also employed a large number of supporting actors and actresses. Chris Ryde, from the actors' union Equity, said the move left the Bristol area without any significant long-term work for them. 'We were told [by the BBC] that other major series would come to the West Country,' he said. 'We had Larkrise to Candleford - that lasted twelve months. And then there's [Channel 4's] Skins - that's about the sum total of the rest.' Ryde said that regular supporting actors had been given assurances they would be used as much in Cardiff as they had been in Bristol. 'They'll possibly be used even more as the programme's going to be a more studio, rather than location, format,' he added.

Bob Mortimer has claimed that Shooting Stars is receiving 'the best critical acclaim in years. The fifty two-year-old comedian believes that Britain is crying out for 'stupid' comedy. Mortimer told the Observer: 'It's had the best critical acclaim we've had in years, so maybe the time's come round again. The show's no better or worse, but there's a feeling in the air that maybe things have got a bit dreary again. There's a need for something a bit stupid - a bit Milligan, a bit Cooper.' Meanwhile, Vic Reeves recalled a rare time when he lost his temper over a character, adding: 'We had a new costume woman and she wasn't pulling her weight. I said, "He's a lieutenant and that's a hussar's hat." She said, "It doesn't matter." But it fucking does matter!'

Sport now. England tightened their grip on the fourth Test against India by posting a massive first innings total and then tearing through the tourists' fragile top order in the final session of a rain-interrupted third day. Ian Bell took his score to a Test-best two hundred and thirty five as England batted positively from the outset to lift their first innings total to five hundred and ninety one for six before rain stopped play at the lunch interval. The loss of thirty five overs prompted Andrew Strauss to declare and England made the perfect start with the ball by removing Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman inside the first four overs. Graeme Swann then snared Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina and nightwatchman Ishant Sharma as India crumbled to one hundred and three for five in reply, with Rahul Dravid standing tall through the mayhem to reach fifty seven not out. Saturday's play was something of a microcosm of the entire series, with England flaying the tourists' bowling to all corners before underlining their supremacy with a clatter of wickets and with energy and enthusiasm in the field. The contrast between the teams' attitude to preparation was summed-up during the rain delay. While the England squad went through a lengthy warm-up routine, not a single India player set foot on the outfield to get loosened up for the re-start. India began their innings effectively a man down with opener Gautam Gambhir receiving medical treatment for concussion after he hit his head on the ground when he dropped a catch from Kevin Pietersen on Friday afternoon. Sehwag, out for a king pair at Edgbaston, scored his first runs of the series successive fours off James Anderson. But the last ball of the first over thudded into his pads and umpire Simon Taufel raised the finger. Laxman was the next to fall, hanging the bat out to a outswinger from Stuart Broad that nipped off the seam and took the edge. Dravid and Tendulkar steadied India, surpassing Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes as the most prolific partnership in Test history, before Swann made one of his most significant contributions of the series. Surprised by some extra bounce, Tendulkar gloved a sweep shot into the air and was caught by Anderson scampering back from slip. Raina looked out of sorts as he has all summer and failed to score a run for twenty eight balls before groping forward to Swann and getting stumped by Matty Prior. And another memorable day for England was completed when Sharma looped a catch to Alastair Cook at short leg, leaving India still four hundred and eighty eight runs behind and clinging on by their fingertips. Earlier, England had resumed on four hundred and fifty seven for three looking to make rapid progress against a deflated India attack. Bell, whose three hundred and fifty partnership with Pietersen on Friday was England's highest against India, played and missed at the second ball of the day but clipped the third off his toes to the midwicket fence. Nightwatchman Anderson struck two fours before sending a thick edge off Sreesanth through to second slip and Eoin Morgan was caught behind in the same bowler's next over for one. Moments later, Bell brought the ground to its feet by becoming the third England batsman of the series to score a double-hundred, eclipsing his previous Test best of one hundred and ninety nine against South Africa at Lord's in July 2008. He and Ravi Bopara (a serene-looking forty four not out) added sixty one in seventy eight balls before Bell attempted an uncharacteristically agricultural heave and was trapped in front of leg stump. Bell, who had been moved up the order for the match because of Jonathan Trott's absence with a shoulder injury, left to another standing ovation in recognition of a brilliant innings in which he passed five thousand career Test runs. 'This was not far off a perfect innings. I played as well as I could do but I'd like to think I can do more in the years to come,' he said. ''ve always said I had unfinished business at number three. In the future, I want to keep getting myself up the order in all forms of the game. I want to show people I am a much improved player.'

Anyone watching Sky's Football First last night might've been startled and/or terrified by Sarah-Jane Mee's rapidly growing darza of a beehive.
Jesus, if that gets much taller it'll be poking through the roof, love. What do you think this is, 1963?

Of course, if you were watching Football First there can only have been one reason. And it wasn't Sarah-Jane's honey-dripping beehive. Or Paul Walsh's barely monosyllabic comments (it's not a sprint, like, its a marafon, the Premier League, innit?') it was for the most important game of the day, if not indeed the whole season. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies continue to hold the upper hand in recent Tyne-Wear derbies as Ryan Taylor's whippy free-kick earned them a win over The Disgraceful Mackems Slime. The hosts - who've getting been a bit uppity of late what with all their 'we've signed more players than you' malarkey and, frankly, needed a good slapping down and putting in their place - had more possession for most of the first half and the opening exchanges of the second although they had about as much penetration as a ... hang on a sec. Careful Sarah, will you, you could have someone's eye out with that thing. Right, back to the match. Joey Barton - having spent the week, as usual, as public enemy number one of every scum newspaper in the country (he's responsible for all of the ills in the world, you know? The riots? That was Joey Barton. The situation in Syria? Yep , that's Joey too) was denied a goal when his header was punched over the bar by Sebastian Larsson. Appeals for a penalty were turned down by Howard Webb. And his guide dog. Of course, if it had been the other way around and it had been Barton on the line sticking his arms up, no doubt he would have been up before the FA on a charge on 'being a bastard' first thing on Monday morning. It looked for a while as though that incident might prove pivotal in the match but Taylor's free arrow-like kick flew straight in on sixty two minutes. Miss Stéphanie Sessègnon and Asamoah Gyan both had chances for Sunderland, whilst Phil Bardsley was sent off late in the game for a ghastly and crude two-footed tackle on Fabricio Coloccini that could have broken the Argentine's leg. Fortunately, although the game was keenly-contested it did not quite reach boiling point - despite Lee Cattermole spending most of the ninety minutes going round kicking anything that moved (and, anything that didn't just in case it tried). Victory for Alan Pardew's side means that Newcastle are unbeaten in four league games against their North-East rivals. In fact, they've only lost once at Blunderland since 1980. You know, Andy O'Brien, Liam O'Brien, any any any O'Brien ... and all that. Now, it seems, it's Oh, Ryan. Heh. Sorry. Anyway, the manager will have been happy to earn three points during a taxing week following all of the crassly hyped controversy of their match against Arsenal last weekend. And, let's face it four points out of a possible six from the opening two games with no goals conceded by a team with, supposedly, a traditionally weak defence is decent in anyone's language. Although, given the way Arsenal are playing at the moment, last week might come to be regarded as two points dropped rather than one gained. Webb will probably be content, too, that the incident involving Barton did not decide an otherwise tough but entertaining match. Blunderland will doubtless be angry that they did not get any reward from a game for which they controlled - in terms of possession if not chances - for large chunks. But, they lacked any sort of cutting edge up front. It was not quite as bad as last autumn's 5-1 pants down thrashing at St James' Park for Fat Steve Bruce, but this was still a very bad result for the - alleged - boyhood Newcastle fan who must be well pissed off that his next home game is against Moscow Chelski FC. Bruce's side set the tempo early on with Sessègnon effective in a hole between Newcastle's midfield and defence. It wasn't long before the Benin international carved out the first chance for the home side, but his fierce shot was tipped over by Tim Krul. Deployed as a holding midfielder alongside an uncharacteristically off-the-pace Cheik Tioté in Pardew's 4-2-3-1 formation, Barton, who attempted too many ambitious long passes, failed to prevent Blunderland enjoying the better of the first half. Just as it looked as though a Blunderland goal may come, the tide was stemmed by a moment of controversy on fifteen minutes. From a corner Barton nodded Shola Ameobi's header towards goal and it struck Larsson's arm as it was heading for the top of the net. Pandemonium inside the Stadium of Shite. The Geordies went mental. The Mackems just stood around looking a bit shamefaced and Larsson's 'who, guv? Me, guv?' charged towards the linesman to protest his innocence and claim he'd headed it was, frankly, a bit 'the lady doth protest too much.' TV replays subsequently justified Barton's righteous sense of frustration and despite appeals from Newcastle's players to Webb and his assistant (and his dog), the end result was but a corner. Yohan Cabaye was perhaps fortunate only to pick up a booking for a dangerous-looking high tackle on Bardsley, and several players went into the book in the second half as the temperature rose on the pitch. Not only a lovely passer of the ball, the former Lille playmaker showed he can put his foot in, too. More constructively, though, Cabaye forced Simon Mignolet into a fine save courtesy of a curving, dipping, long-range strike. Looks like Newcastle might've signed a good'un in the Frenchie. But Bruce's side remained in the ascendancy as Sessegnon again worked Krul and Gyan clipped the top of the bar with a left-foot curler just before half-time. That left Newcastle looking to break on the counter and target Ameobi from deep corners. Although Cabaye had another swerving shot saved, they made few inroads in the first half. Blunderland began the second half in quieter fashion and that, along with Ryan Taylor's supreme accuracy swung the game back in favour of the visitors. Jonas Gutierrez served notice of his intent with a shot on the hour, and it was the Argentine who was brought down - by Cattermole - for the free-kick which led to Taylor's strike. From the left the defender arrowed his kick into the top right corner, past a flailing Mignolet, and although Steven Taylor aimed to get a touch on it at the back post, the ball flew straight in to give the Newcastle fans The Horn. Coloccini and Steven Taylor – later joined by Mike Williamson as Pardew switched to a flat back five – remained as solid as the eight-foot metal barrier that police had erected outside the stadium to separate rival fans. Bookings for Cattermole and Barton predictably followed and the latter also had the ball in the back of the net late on but was rightly ruled for a marginal but clear offside. Further chances came for Gyan and substitute Craig Gardner, who made his Blunderland debut and young Dan Gosling should have sewn it up for The Glorious Magpies in injury time having been put through one-on-one by Ameobi's delicate flick-on. But, his arse fell out and he shot weakly at Mignolet. Nevertheless, it was a welcome relief that Taylor's goal proved to be the difference between the sides rather than any moment of controversy or discombobulation. While Bardsley's sending off was thoroughly deserved, it served as a mere footnote to a passionate, tough encounter and capped a frustrating afternoon for The Disgraceful Mackem Slime. Which, let's face it, is always a good thing.

Thus we come to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of Day. This one, I'm afraid, seems appropriate for all Blunderland fans in terms of what you got out of yesterday's match. Here's The Young Punx.
And finally, a quick announcement for all regular dear blog readers. This will be the last From The North update until probably Wednesday (maybe Thursday). This is because yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be in Edinburgh for the latest performance of Monopolise! So, if you're anywhere near the Pleasance Theatre on Monday night (22 August), why not pop along and take in the show. It is rather good even if I do say so myself.

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