Monday, October 03, 2011

I Made This Up as I Went Along. It's Good Innit?

Philip Glenister has admitted that he was originally 'unhappy' with Ashes to Ashes. The Life On Mars spin-off was given lukewarm reviews by some critics when its first series aired in 2008 although, to be fair, others loved it. The actor told the Press Association: 'I was very uncertain originally and I wasn't happy with the first series, but then we got it back on track. It wasn't like I called time on it. We'd all agreed from day one that if the BBC was happy with it, we'd do three series and then call it a day.'

Meanwhile, the catchphrase 'Fire up the Lada,' could soon by sweeping Russia. The BBC has licensed the hit TV series Life On Mars, which turned Glenister's politically incorrect DCI Gene Hunt into one of the nation's best loved TV characters, to be remade in the former Soviet Union and the action will be relocated from 1970s Manchester to Communist Moscow. The BBC's announcement comes as figures from the UK Television Exports survey show that the world's appetite for British television is positively booming. The success of formats such as Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor as well as dramas like Downton Abbey, Doctor Who and Sherlock as well as BBC Worldwide's brand leader Top Gear have led to a thirteen per cent rise in export revenues to more than £1.4bn in the last year. The first series of ITV's Downton Abbey, which recounted the trials and tribulations of servants and masters in an Edwardian country house, has now been sold to more than one hundred countries around the globe. BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, said that Life On Mars had been licensed to Russia's Channel One broadcaster, after similar remakes in the US and Spain. The annual TV export report, published by the TV producers' alliance PACT and the government trade body UK Trade and Investment, shows that UK TV sales to Russia are growing faster than sales to any other country. Revenue climbed fifty four per cent to thirteen million smackers in 2010. The report also showed a twenty per cent growth in Canada and thirteen per cent in the USA for 2010 compared to the year before. It is not yet known how in the forthcoming Russian version John Simm's time travelling policeman character will negotiate the differences between modern day Russia and its Soviet past. London-based Valentina Shpakova, who works in Russian television, said programmes with a nostalgic edge are extremely popular with Russian viewers: 'The idea [of Life On Mars] seems quite interesting, and it's definitely not something we have on our television so far. We have quite a lot of programmes on Russian television looking back to the 1970s and 80s talking about that era and running the music from that time.' In 2008, the American ABC network bought rights to the show and Harvey Keitel starred as the abrasive Gene Hunt. But the show was cancelled after seventeen episodes. Sixteen and a half of which were pretty good. The last bit of the last one, however, really wasn't. While overseas production of UK formats increased from thirty seven million quid in 2009 to eighty one million wonga last year, exports of finished programming is a far bigger business. Revenue from ready-to-screen TV was up fifteen per cent over the year to six hundred and fifty seven million spondoolicks. However the report does not represent an entirely rosy picture of Britain's TV export scene. It claims the tendency of British commissioners to finance projects with a handful of episodes – as opposed to US commissions which can run into more than twenty episodes for a drama – is hampering development. 'The low number of episodes per run and a lack of long-running series, particularly when competing against US and Australian content, were seen to be the major obstacles to international sales,' the report said. While US network HBO has commissioned a thirteen-episode run for every series of Mad Men, the BBC's The Hour, which was seen by some commentators as 'the British response' to the US show, ran for only six episodes in its first series. The report also hinted that the development of more parochial British programmes could be increasingly dumped in future in favour of more exportable products. 'Growth of international sales are sometimes hindered by overly domestic content. However some programme makers are now responding to the need for series to have international appeal.' John McVay, PACT's chief executive, said: 'Once again the UK Television Exports Survey shows strong year-on-year growth – but just as importantly – we're seeing significant growth in new markets and territories too. These results show that the world is still seeking great formats and programmes of the quality that UK producers are renowned for.' Nick Blair, the chief executive of UK Trade and Investment, added: 'These figures illustrate the world-class strengths and reputation of the UK television industry and reflect the ongoing support provided by UK Trade and Investment. Both our TV formats, like Dancing with the Stars and The X Factor and finished programmes, such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock are increasingly enjoyed by audiences across the globe. The heightened demand for our programmes from emerging, high-growth economies such as Russia is particularly encouraging.'

So, after two weeks in which ITV's final consolidated ratings figures were curious by the absence from BARB's website, it appears that they've finally started sending in their returns again. Here's the Top Thirty programmes week ending 25 September:-
1 The X Factor - ITV Sun - 11.11m
2 Downton Abbey - Sun - 10.25m
3= EastEnders - BBC1 Tues - 9.52m
3= Doc Martin - ITV Mon - 9.52m
5 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.42m
6 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.18m
7 Doctor Who - BBC1 Sat - 6.93m
8 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 5.94m
9 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 Sun - 5.79m
10 The Body Farm - BBC1 Tues - 5.78m
11 Midsomer Murders - ITV Wed - 5.58m
12 All Star Family Favourites - ITV Sat - 5.49m
13 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.31m
14 Outnumbered - BBC1 Fri - 5.21m
15 [spooks] - BBC1 Sun - 5.12m
16 Billy Connolly's Route 66 - ITV Thurs - 5.01m
17= Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 4.72m
17= DCI Banks - ITV Fri - 4.72m
19 The ONE Show - BBC1 Tues - 4.60m
20 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 4.58m
21 Formula One: The Singapore Grant Prix - BBC1 Sun - 4.46m
22 Who Do You Think You Are? - BBC1 Wed - 4.37m
23 Match of the Day - BBC1 Sat - 4.30m
24 The Great British Bake Off - BBC2 Tues - 4.25m
25 Waterloo Road - BBC1 Wed - 4.24m
26 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Tues - 4.20m
27 Watchdog - BBC1 Thurs - 4.12m
28 Crimewatch UK - BBC1 Thurs - 3.90m
29 New You've Been Framed - ITV Sat - 3.76m
30= ITV News - ITV Mon - 3.40m
30= Qi - BBC2 Fri - 3.40m
The ITV figures, as usual, do not include HD as ITV count those separately. So, dear blog reader, here a question for you - will we see a correction in tomorrow's Sun concerning the story they ran last Tuesday in which they claimed that All Star Family Favourites 'beat' Doctor Who in 'the ratings'? Will we shite as like. Hell hath no invisibility like a tabloid forced to admit it got something wrong.

Recording begins next week on the new series of Room 101, the BBC comedy show which was first broadcast in 1994. It returns with a new host, format and channel. Other than that, it's entirely the same. Frank Skinner takes over presenting duties from Paul Merton (who himself took over from Nick Hancock) with three celebrities – rather than one – competing to banish their pet hates into the titular Room 101. Plus, it switches from BBC2 to BBC1. Danny Baker was among the celebrities invited to take part. 'Asked to be on it I said "I don't like panel games,"' he tweeted. 'They said, "Great! Come on and say that!"'

Strictly Come Dancing contestant Nancy Dell'Olio has allegedly threatened to 'quit' the show after being unimpressed with her appointed hairdresser. The fifty-year-old mutton-dressed-as-mincemeat refused to participate in the ballroom competition's first performance shows this week unless she was able to hire her own styling team from Harrods, the Scum Mail On Sunday reports. However, the paper claims in a surprisingly supportive piece about the corporation, the BBC 'refused to bow down to Dell'Olio's demands' and she eventually agreed to step out onto the dance floor on Saturday night. At which point she nearly tripped over her own feet. Which was funny. 'Initially the priority was to calm Nancy down when she said she would quit,' a Strictly 'insider' allegedly revealed. 'Production told her, "It is the first live show, can you put up with it this week and we will look into how we can resolve this next week?" But it was later made clear that the hairdresser on the show would be the one Nancy would have to use and that the matter wasn't up for discussion.' A 'source' allegedly close to Dell'Olio allegedly said that the 'outburst' had been 'due to nerves' over her dancing debut. Dell'Olio is already alleged to have negotiated custom dance shoes and a chauffeur-driven car from Strictly bosses. She reportedly also 'caused a stir' by stating that her Strictly rival - former Tory MP Edwina Currie whom, of course, the Scum Mail just lurv -  was 'not glamorous enough' to stand next to her.

Strictly 'bosses', meanwhile, have allegedly asked contestants to tone down 'sexy' dance routines in order to 'keep the show family friendly.' Show executives had allegedly concerns about the cha cha cha moves planned by James Jordan for Alex Jones and Kristina Rihanoff for Jason Donovan, the Sun claims. Which, like as not, means that all of this is lies. A 'production insider' allegedly told the paper: 'Alex is a beautiful girl who looked amazing in her barely-there dress and James has obviously been working out, so he wanted to make the most of their first dance with some sexy twists and turns. But once show bosses saw rehearsal footage they had a word to remind James this is a family show.' Jordan was seen defending Jones to nasty judge Craig Revel Horwood on Saturday's show, telling him: 'Some of the celebrities from [Friday] are slightly disheartened, which you can understand. So, be a bit nicer?' Claiming that Rihanoff 'decided to wait until later in the competition to get away with something raunchier' after producers spoke to her, the 'source' allegedly added: 'Dancers could get away with more on Friday's show because it aired after the 9pm watershed. But Saturday's went out at 6pm when a lot more families were watching. Going forward, that will be the time it normally airs, so you have to be careful about these things.' It has also been claimed that Audley Harrison's wife Raychel had expressed concerns to his professional partner Natalie Lowe about some planned moves, with the show insider adding: 'Natalie didn't mind toning it down at all.'

From last week's many obituaries, an amusing story about how TV used to work, in the days before everything was referred through layers of management. The BBC once had the audacity to ask David Croft and his writing partner Jimmy Perry, to send a script in advance for a new, proposed, sitcom. They duly did – but they wrapped it in several envelopes and several layers of Sellotape, ensuring it would take half an hour to open. They were never again asked for scripts in advance. Although, probably, zer name vos on ze list.

BBC Radio 4 will reportedly be 'spared' from impending budget cuts at the BBC as the corporation seeks to reduce costs across its services in light of the licence fee freeze. Over the past few months there have been numerous press stories about just where the cutbacks at the BBC will fall. Some articles have claimed BBC2's daytime schedules will be axed and will simulcast with the BBC News Channel during the day. Other reports have claimed the BBC will cut back on its Sports spending, that BBC3 or BBC4 could be closed, the BBC's local Radio stations will bare the brunt or that it's News department will be cut back. Each proposal has provoked reaction from the general public - the prospect of cutting back BBC4, in particular, did not go down well with viewers. It now seems that the digital channel will escape most of the cut backs because of the backlash. Radio 4 may also escape cost cutting if reports over the week are to be believed. The station's output will be 'spared from the cuts' though its behind-the-scenes activities will be squeezed. The Daily Torygraph reports that the BBC's other national stations such as BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2 will face cuts. The two radio stations have long come under fire from BBC-critics who claim they infringe of commercial territory. The cuts at the BBC are under the banner of Delivering Quality First which will see the BBC investing money in key areas such as drama. The corporation is having to make major cuts and difficult decisions because of the licence fee imposed on it by the government and also has the additional funding responsibilities of S4C, the Welsh language, and the BBC World Service. The licence fee freeze was controversial when it was imposed and there have been calls for it to be scrapped or investigated because of the alleged closeness between News International and the Government at the time the decision was made.

Channel Five's digital station 5* has secured the UK rights to air the US SF drama Alphas. The first-run televisions right, granted by NBCUniversal International Television Distribution, will see the show launch on the channel in October. Alphas follows five normal individuals who, when working together, are able to attain superhuman mental and physical abilities in order to fight injustice. 'With its high octane, exhilarating action, Alphas is the perfect addition to the autumn schedule on 5*. We're thrilled to have secured this new acquisition from NBCUniversal and hope the viewers enjoy the ride,' Channel Five's Head of Acquisitions Paul Fagan said in a statement. Alphas, which is broadcast on the SyFy network in the US, was recently renewed for a second season of thirteen new episodes by the network. The series stars David Strathairn and Ryan Cartwright and was created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow.

Kenton Allen, the executive of Rev and Friday Night Dinner producer Big Talk, has been appointed advisory chair for the 2012 MediaGruniad Edinburgh International Television Festival. Allen takes over from BBC Vision director George Entwistle, advisory chair of the festival for 2011. Allen's role for the thirty seventh festival will involve commissioning session ideas and overseeing their production. The producer, whose credits include The Royle Family, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Ideal, was creative head of BBC Comedy and BBC Comedy North between 2003 and 2008. Before that he was the creative director of Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine, which he joined from his role as head of entertainment development at Granada TV. He said of his appointment: 'I think George did a brilliant job this year, and I relish the prospect of getting stuck in and making 2012's festival the best it can be. There has never been a more creative and exciting time to be working in television and no other event showcases this like the MGEITF. It's a very special event and I haven't missed one in fifteen years. I feel very honoured to be taking on the role and I'm really looking forward to helping make it unmissable.'

Actress Jean Marsh will miss the start of the next series of the BBC's update of period piece Upstairs Downstairs as she recovers from a minor stroke. Scripts are being rewritten for the new six-part series, due to be broadcast in the spring, which begins filming next week. Co-creator Marsh, seventy seven, appeared as Rose Buck in the 1970s ITV original as well as in the BBC's 2010 version. The BBC wished her a speedy recovery and said it had 'something extra special' planned for her new storyline. 'Unfortunately I won't be returning to Eaton Place quite as quickly as I had hoped,' Marsh said in a statement. 'I am looking forward to spending time with Rose again when I'm match-fit and I miss the cast and crew tremendously.' Marsh recently earned an EMMY nomination for her performance as Rose Buck which followed previous nominations for the same role in 1974, 1975 and 1976. BBC Wales head of drama and Upstairs Downstairs executive producer Faith Penhale said the cast and crew were looking forward to Marsh's return. 'Rose is a much loved, cherished member of the household who was instrumental in bringing everyone together in last year's successful revival,' she added. Last week it was announced that former ER star and Doctor Who regular Alex Kingston would be joining the Upstairs Downstairs cast to play Blanche Mottershead, the younger sister of Dame Eileen Atkins' character Lady Holland. Dame Eileen co-created the programme with Marsh but only joined the cast for last year's BBC take. She has since announced she will not be appearing in the new series. Marsh, who was joined in last year's series by Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard and Claire Foy, is the only actor to have appeared in both the original and the revived versions. The new series will begin in 1938 and span the months leading up to the outbreak of World War II.

John Hurt has signed on to star in the three-part mini-series Labyrinth, an adventure thriller based on the best-seller by Kate Mosse. Christopher Smith is directing the series, which also stars Sebastian Stan, Katie McGrath and Emun Elliott of HBO's Game of Thrones. Other cast members include Janet Suzman, Jessica Brown-Findlay and Vanessa Kirby and Italian actress Claudia Gerini. Germany's Tandem Communications and Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Films, the team behind the multi-EMMY nominated The Pillars of the Earth, are producing Labyrinth together with Film Afrika Worldwide and in association with Universal Production Partners as a German-South Africa co-production. Tandem co-head Tim Halkin and Ridley Scott and Liza Marshall of Scott Free are executive producing.

The surviving Beatles have paid tribute to George Harrison at the London premiere of Martin Scorsese's new documentary about his life. Sir Paul McCartney called the guitarist, who died in 2001, 'a great man' and 'an all-round good boy.' Scorsese told the BBC he had been drawn to tell Harrison's story because of the outlook of his lyrics. 'For years, his music seemed to be dealing with themes that I connected with,' he said. 'I found comfort in them and a hope and a special experience listening to his music. I was fascinated by him.' The Oscar-winning director said Harrison's love of India had changed western culture. 'George was the one to open our minds to this, that this could be of value to you in your life, to you and everyone you love. His music really expresses that.' The documentary, George Harrison: Living In The Material World, will receive a limited cinematic release, before being shown on the BBC in the UK and on HBO in the US. It is split into two parts - first chronicling the Beatles' rise to fame, then documenting the solo years, when Harrison juggled music with philanthropic work and a career as a movie impresario. Five years in the making, the three-and-a-half hour film was pieced together as Scorsese worked on Shutter Island and forthcoming 3D family film Hugo. He said it had been made possible by Harrison's widow, Olivia, who threw open the family archive of photos, home videos and personal effects. At one point in the film, Dhani Harrison is heard reading from his father's diary: '10 January - got up, went to Twickenham, rehearsed until lunchtime, left The Beatles.' Olivia Harrison told the BBC it had been 'hard to part with' elements of the archive, 'but they finally convinced me it was okay.' The London premiere - attended by McCartney, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono - was partnered with a charity screening in Harrison's hometown of Liverpool. Viewers there said the film 'brought to life how there were four people in the Beatles.' 'You hear so much about Lennon and McCartney, but without George and Ringo, they wouldn't have been there,' one fan told the BBC. In London, the premiere was also attended by The Beatles' former producer Sir George Martin, Noel Gallagher, Sir Ben Kingsley, Billy Connolly, Terry Gilliam, Ronnie Wood and Harrison's former wife, Pattie Boyd. Sir Paul, who was accompanied by his fiancee Nancy Shevell, said watching the film had been 'an emotional experience. Every time I see something to do with George it brings back more memories than you would believe. He was my little mate on the school bus. A lot of fond memories. He's sorely missed by us all.' Ringo Starr said it was moving that films were still being made about the guitarist, ten years after his death. It's far out. It's far out. It's like the Beatles go on forever.' Yoko started to witter on about something or other as well but nobody was too interested in that.

The Who's Pete Townshend is to deliver the inaugural John Peel Lecture, in which he will assess the state of music in the Internet age. The lecture, part of the Radio Festival in Salford at the end of this month, will hopefully become an annual event given by a different music figure every year. Townshend will ask how musicians can survive in the age of free downloads. The lecture, named in honour of the legendary BBC DJ Peel, who died in 2004, will be broadcast live on BBC 6Music. It will be introduced by Peel's son and broadcaster Tom Ravenscroft, along with fellow 6Music presenters Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe. Townshend said he was 'honoured' to be asked to deliver the address, adding that the former BBC Radio 1 DJ had introduced him to bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Undertones before they had signed record deals. 'John didn't just listen to music, he played it on air and let his audience decide,' the sixty six-year-old guitarist said. 'He was a listener first, and an activist second, and I am happy to have a chance to honour him and examine how his legacy might extend into the future.' In his lecture, Townshend will pose the question: 'Can John Peelism survive the Internet?' A BBC statement said his lecture would ask: 'In an age of free downloads and a disposable attitude to music, can creative people earn a living, and without radio, how can the "unpolished" music that John Peel championed find an audience?' The event, to be held at The Lowry theatre in Salford on 31 October, is designed as the music industry's equivalent of the annual MacTaggart Lecture, given by a leading media executive at the Edinburgh International Television Festival every August.

A family from California have claimed that their car was destroyed after it was hijacked by 'a rogue bear.' The McCarthys were holidaying at their Sierra Nevada cabin this summer when the animal broke into their Toyota Prius parked on the property's driveway. According to the Contra Costa Times, the bear 'became enraged' after getting stuck inside and went about destroying parts of the car - including the gearbox, which shifted the vehicle into neutral. The Prius then rolled down the driveway, crossed the street, flew over a small wall and eventually came to a stop outside a neighbour's house. 'The car was completely closed,' head of the family Brian McCarthy said. 'There wasn't any food in there. The only things in there were a beach towel, some CDs and a few phone chargers.' Lieutenant David Stevenson of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department added: 'Normally, you'll get reports of the dumpster-divers and trash-divers, but bears breaking into cars is different.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, yer actual Keith Telly Topping presents a couple of little gem from a time when you could actually get floppy bits of plastic given away free with a magazine. And, if you managed to get the damn thing home without bending it and if the sticky adhesive tape used to stick it to the magazine hadn't shagged up with grooves too much then it might even play. And if it didn't, well, never mind, it made a nice frisbee. 'Please place coin here if flexible record slips.' Here's something The Skids and XTC gave away with an issue of Smash Hits. Complete with Richard Skinner introduction.
And here's Paul, Bruce and Rick, recorded during the Sound Affects sessions and giving Flexipop readers a taste of as a psychedelic breakfast in 1981. 'How about that? Far out man!' A lost classic. (The demo version of 'Boy About Town' on this is beautiful too.)

1 comment:

David Alexander McDonald said...

A word of correction, me old mate, but Mad Men is produced by AMC (who also give us The Walking Dead, a portrait of life in Los Angeles' television culture) rather than HBO. It might also be noted that AMC's first season of The Walking Dead was a mere six episodes.

HBO's series tend to come ten to twelve episodes a season, as do Starz. The same is pretty much true for Showtime as well, though they do some shorter things.

And then we have the current situation with USA and SyFy, where seasons are getting chopped into pieces, with sections airing months apart, sometimes up to a year apart (fatally for series such as Caprica and Stargate niverse.)