Sunday, October 02, 2011

They're Still There, He's All Gone

Filming on the Doctor Who Christmas special has reportedly been disrupted by strike action on Friday. The twenty four-hour protest was called in response to compulsory redundancies at BBC Wales. Four editor posts are planned to be cut, with the dispute revolving around the BBC's failure to reassign the individuals involved. Production on the likes of Casualty and Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm was also suspended for the day. Meanwhile, the Radio Wales programme Good Morning Wales was replaced by a prerecorded arts programme. The Doctor Who Christmas special - starring Matt Smith in his second festive episode - will focus on the Time Lord's relationship with Madge Arwell (played by Outnumbered's Claire Skinner) and her two children, Lily and Cyril in wartime Wales. Written by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He), the special will also star Alexander Armstrong, Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir in something close to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's dream cast for an episode of his favourite family drama series. The currently untitled episode will be broadcast in late December - likely on Christmas Day although that won't be confirmed until closer to the time.
6.1 million viewers watched the Doctor Who series finale The Wedding of River Song on Saturday, according to overnight figures - hugely impressive considering the competition, both from The X-Factor and the unseasonably hot October weather – and also up considerably from the 2010 finale. And, of course, for the benefit of the Sun, that's just an immediate snapshot of those watching the episode live. The final, consolidated ratings figures - taking into account timeshifts - will be released in about ten days time. The popular family SF drama had an overnight audience share of 28.3 per cent. It was the third highest rated show of the day and the second highest on the BBC. Top of the day for overnight ratings was The X Factor with 9.5 million watching - slightly down on last week - whilst Strictly Came Dancing began its new run with seven and a half million (and a fifteen minutes peak of 8.6m shortly before the episode's end), giving Doctor Who a much better lead in than the two previous weeks. The new series of Merlin started with an excellent 5.2 million watching as was fourth for the day. All Star Family Fortunes on ITV, had an overnight average of 3.6 million viewers (the ninth highest of the day), with its audience considerably dented by both Strictly and Doctor Who. One wonders if Vernon Kay will be crowing about that on Twitter this morning. I'm guessing probably not. It was, generally, a good evening for the BBC with Casualty also pulling in 4.4m viewers and nearly four million hanging around for Match of the Day. And, I don't say this very often in relation to journalists doing stories about TV ratings and, usually, wholly failing to understand the context of them, but a genuine word of congratulations to Ben Dowell of the Gruniad for an almost uniquely nuanced piece on Who's current performance. 'The BBC will be hoping that Saturday's finale boosts the viewing figures for the main series, which so far has performed well. According to the consolidated overnight ratings, this series is averaging 7.6 million viewers an episode, up on last year's average of 7.3 million. There has been a generally good critical reaction to the series, the sixth since Doctor Who returned in 2005 and which ran for seven episodes with a mid-season finale before a run of six. The Guardian's Doctor Who expert, Dan Martin, said that episode ten, The Girl Who Waited, was "a damn near-perfect episode." Smith has signed up for a third series and Christmas special, and there has been speculation that he will appear in a fourth series in 2013, marking the fiftieth anniversary.'

Meanwhile, do you ever get the feeling, dear blog reader, that some people with access to photoshop just have too much time on their hands?
All right, that did make me smile, I will admit that. 'One for Scumbag College now. Who has the world's stickiest bogey?' 'Tennant, Gallifrey II.' 'Barrowman!!!!!'

Speaking of Christmas telly, Downton Abbey will 'spearhead ITV's schedule on Christmas Day,' a tabloid report has claimed. According to the Mirra, who of course always know what they're talking about, the network is 'hoping to oust BBC1 from its traditional festive pedestal.' The claim that a 'feature-length episode of Downton Abbey is likely to skew the figures considerably in ITV's favour,' a 'source' - nameless, needless to say - has allegedly said. However, an ITV spokesperson insisted that a decision had not been made, adding: 'We are delighted that Downton Abbey will be part of ITV's Christmas line-up.' For the last six years, BBC1 has convincingly topped the Christmas Day ratings with the combination of EastEnders, Doctor Who and The Royle Family. They usually get at least eight - sometime nine - of the top ten highest rated programmes of the day and ITV ha,s traditionally, usually done quite badly on the day. Indeed, ITV has only come out on top of the ratings twice in the last twenty seven years, 2000 being the most recent.

BBC2 has commissioned a four-part comedy starring Stephen Fry. Peep Show duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb will also appear in the four-part Dickensian comedy adventure. The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff - excellent title - will begin with a one-hour Christmas special before three thirty-minute episodes are broadcast in early 2012. Produced by That Mitchell and Webb Look's Gareth Edwards, the festive episode will see Fry play an evil lawyer called Malifax Skulkingworm and Webb in the role of Jedrington. Meanwhile, Katherine Parkinson of The IT Crowd plays Jedrington's wife Conceptiva. Webb said: 'I'm really looking forward to working with my all time hero David Mitchell. Apparently Stephen Fry is in it too, which is nice.' BBC head of in-house comedy Mark Freeland said: 'Mark Evans's already well-loved Victorian comic world is a wonderful way to celebrate the bicentenary of Dickens' birth. He probably wouldn't have agreed, but I am very excited.'
Neville Thurlbeck, the former Scum of the World chief reporter, has sensationally broken his silence on the phone-hacking scandal, saying that he 'took no part in the matter which led to his dismissal.' In his first public statement since he was arrested and bailed for alleged phone hacking in April, Thurlbeck said that the 'truth will out' and 'those responsible will eventually be revealed.' In a clear shot across his former employer's bows, Thurlbeck claimed that there was 'much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International,' but had so far 'chosen not to do so.' The forty nine-year-old former chief reporter at the Scum of the World was sacked by Rupert Murdoch's News International earlier this month, prompting him to sue his former employer for unfair dismissal. Thurlbeck had applied for 'interim relief' at an employment tribunal hearing scheduled to be heard on Friday but pulled out late on Thursday afternoon. His solicitor Nathan Donaldson, employment partner at DWF, also issued a statement on Friday confirming that Thurlbeck was continuing his action against News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the Scum of the World, 'for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing. Scotland Yard has now made me aware of the reason for my dismissal, a reason which News International has withheld from me for almost a month,' Thurlbeck said, in a statement issued by his solicitors that shows he is fighting back against his former employer. 'For legal reasons, I am unable to go into the reason cited. However, I will say this. I took no part in the matter which has led to my dismissal after twenty one years of service,' he added. 'I say this most emphatically and with certainty and confidence that the allegation which led to my dismissal will eventually be shown to be false. And those responsible for the action, for which I have been unfairly dismissed, will eventually be revealed.' According to the Gruniad Morning Star Thurlbeck also claimed that for more than two years, News International had accepted he was 'not responsible' for 'the matter in question' and there was 'no valid or reliable evidence now to support their sudden volte face. At the length, truth will out.' Thurlbeck also said he would 'fight my case to the end' and accused News International of 'giving "off the record" briefings' to the press. 'This has compelled me to speak for the first time since my name became linked to the phone hacking scandal through the "For Neville" e-mail more than two years ago,' he said. 'I would request that News International abandon the unseemly practice of whispering behind the back of a loyal and long-serving former employee. There is much I could have said publicly to the detriment of News International but so far, have chosen not to do so.' News International said in a statement that it was 'not able to comment on circumstances regarding any individual. As we have said previously, News International continues to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan police service in its investigations into phone hacking and police payments to ensure that those responsible for criminal acts are brought to justice.' The Gruniad Morning Star revealed more than two years ago the existence of a 'for Neville' e-mail – believed to be a reference to Thurlbeck – sent to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, which contained a transcript of messages left on a mobile phone belonging to Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor. The revelation of the existence of the 'for Neville' e-mail contradicted the carefully built defence that News International had maintained until late 2010, that phone-hacking at the newspaper was limited to Mulcaire and one 'rogue' reporter on the Scum of the World, the former royal editor Clive Goodman. Both were jailed in early 2007 for phone-hacking offences. Thurlbeck was due to attend an 'interim relief hearing' about his unfair dismissal claim on Friday, but withdrew because the 'issues to be determined by the employment tribunal will require key individuals within the News Group Newspapers being cross-examined.' His solicitors added that 'unfortunately' Friday's hearing was limited to 'a review of papers' and because of this 'procedural limitation' Thurlbeck and his legal team had decided to withdraw. They wanted to ensure the benefits of a full hearing where 'complete disclosure' from the parties would be made. News International parent company News Corporation set up an internal investigation unit, the management and standards committee, on the orders of Rupert Murdoch in the summer to 'assist', they claim, the police's phone-hacking investigation and 'purge', the claim, the organisation of 'bad practices.' However, it is understood News International is not telling any former employees why they are being dismissed under the MSC's rigid clean-up protocol, which aims to ensure that any potential police investigation is 'not compromised.'

Rowan Atkinson has suggested that another series of Blackadder could still be produced. The actor said that although the original cast may be 'too old' to reprise their roles, the basic format of the historical comedy could live on. 'We're all just getting a bit old for that kind of thing,' he told Daybreak. 'It could be reprised in some form or other, but generally speaking The Black Adder seemed to work best when there was a sort of claustrophobic world and a hierarchy. So if you can think of any situations in which they are dominant - then I think there is a possibility of a fifth series.' Atkinson also discussed his forthcoming spy spoof Johnny English: Reborn, which he claimed would impress audiences 'more' than its 2003 predecessor. 'It is undoubtedly larger, more ambitious, more full of action and more glamorous locations. So I think the money is up there on the screen,' he said. 'I think it's a slightly better film overall by any objective measure. I'm not saying whether it's funnier or not - although I think it's got some very good jokes in it.' Atkinson reunited with his Blackadder co-stars for a Christmas documentary back in 2008. Blackadder writer Richard Curtis has claimed that a fifth series of the show would be set in the 1960s and focus on a rock group The Black Adder Five. The final run of Blackadder - set in the trenches of World War One - was broadcast to huge acclaim in 1989. The cast teamed up for a one-off film entitled Blackadder: Back & Forth ten years later.

Glee and Wicked star Idina Menzel has urged caution over the recent practice of using TV talent shows to find West End leads. 'If they just pick someone out of nowhere, they might sound great but they don't know how to do it every day,' she said ahead of a solo concert at London's Royal Albert Hall. Menzel created the role of green-skinned witch Elphaba in Broadway hit Wicked and went on to launch the West End production. She also worked with one of the hopefuls on BBC1 show I'd Do Anything in 2008, in which the prize was the female lead in a production of musical Oliver! Yet the forty-year-old Tony winner believes training and discipline are vital for a lasting career in musical theatre. Recent West End revivals of The Sound of Music, Grease and The Wizard of Oz also used a TV talent show to find their stars. Connie Fisher, winner of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? in 2006, was forced to give up her Sound of Music role because of problems with her voice. 'If someone wins a talent show and they're incredibly talented, they deserve to be up there - provided they can see it through,' Menzel says. 'Doing eight shows a week takes a lot of technique and experience on how to pace yourself. That's where the discipline comes in.' Earlier this year Menzel was seen on TV's The Glee Project, mentoring contestants competing for roles in the third series of Glee. The actress is also reprising her role as Shelby Corcoran on the show. Menzel appeared with fellow Glee star Kristin Chenoweth in the original run of Wicked. According to Menzel, it has also fostered a new respect for theatre performers, actors previously marginalised on US TV. 'For so long you couldn't put music and singing on a television show. People would just laugh at it,' she says. 'But with people who can really sing, who can show up and do it every night, you can really see the difference. Whether people realise it or not, that's what's drawing them to the show. Glee is educating people about the kind of hard work that goes into that, and making them appreciate theatre people more than maybe we usually are [appreciated]. I like being in surroundings with people that are familiar with and respect the theatre. What it's doing is celebrating real singing; that's what I love about it.' Before Wicked, Menzel formed part of the original cast of Broadway hit Rent, about Bohemian artists living in New York. She has also appeared on the big screen in Enchanted, Ask the Dust with Colin Farrell and the film version of Rent, in which she reprised her stage role as Maureen. Her work as a recording artist will be the focus of her 6 October concert, which will see her perform with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch. 'Some of the songs are from shows I've been in and some are originals from my previous albums,' the singer explained. 'It's kind of eclectic, but the whole thing ends up being really cohesive once you hear the orchestra.' Menzel last performed at the Albert Hall in 2008 when she appeared in a special concert version of hit musical Chess. 'To be able to go to the Royal Albert Hall and headline and do my own show is really a dream for me,' she says. 'This time in the world when everybody's having economic struggles - I don't take it lightly that people are buying tickets to come see me.' And Menzel enthuses about London audiences, describing them as 'warm and enthusiastic and supportive as any other, if not more so.'

The maker of a video game mistakenly used in an ITV documentary as alleged footage of the IRA has said that it will not pursue legal action against the broadcaster. ITV's new Exposure investigative journalism strand got off to a cracking start when it claimed in its first programme, Gaddafi and the IRA, that footage from video game Arma2 was actually a film of the IRA shooting down a British army helicopter in 1988. The broadcaster had the original clip of the IRA incident in its archive from an old episode of The Cook Report, but fell foul after trying to replace it with a 'cleaner' version taken from YouTube, leading to the Arma2 footage being used. ITV has since apologised to Arma2 creator, Czech company Bohemia Interactive. Despite ITV not having permission to use footage of the game, Bohemia Interactive chief executive Marek Spanel told Broadcast that the firm would not be taking legal action. Even though he noted that the mistake was a 'bizarre appreciation of the level of realism incorporated into [the firm's] games,' Spanel also expressed concern that ITV was not more diligent with the footage. 'I'm concerned about how this came about - it seems a bit crazy. Some people, including myself, thought the procedures would be a bit more solid for this kind of high profile media,' he said. 'In my company it wouldn't be possible for someone to download something from YouTube and then use it on television.' But Spanel also noted that military game specialist Bohemia had benefited from the increased publicity surrounding the controversy. Earlier in the week, an ITV spokesman said: 'The events featured in Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA were genuine but it would appear that during the editing process the correct clip of the 1988 incident was not selected and other footage was mistakenly included in the film by producers. This was an unfortunate case of human error for which we apologise.'

BBC comedy commissioner Simon Wilson has quit the corporation to join Bwark, the makers of The Inbeweeners. Wilson, who as senior executive editor across all the BBC TV channels worked on Rev, Lee Nelson's Well Good Show and Not Going Out, will be creative director with Bwark. He will work alongside founders Iain Morris and Damon Beesley on new projects, which have not yet been announced. The BBC has appointed two new comedy commissioners to replace him: Chris Sussman and Gregor Sharp. Cheryl Taylor, the corporation’s controller of comedy commissioning, said: 'Simon has made a huge contribution to the quality and diversity of our output over the past five years and we will all miss his dry sense of humour and dedication to the genre. He's a tough act to follow but I'm delighted to be welcoming Chris Sussman and Gregor Sharp who, between them, bring a wealth of comedy and entertainment experience to the table and will be huge asset to the BBC comedy commissioning team.' Sussman has a background in entertainment, working on shows including Strictly Come Dancing and World's Craziest Fools. He has also written on a number of comedy shows, including Monkey Dust, Man Stroke Woman and The Peter Serafinowicz Show. Sharp previously developed comedy shows at BBC Scotland, where productions include Life Of Riley, The Old Guys and How Not To Live Your Life. He said: 'I am thrilled to be joining Cheryl and her team at an exciting time for comedy production in the UK.'

The BBC's business editor Robert Pestinfestation has claimed that the corporation made him look like 'a stuttering idiot' on his first day on air. In an interview with The Big Issue, Peston described the moment he made the move into television in 2006 after a career as a newspaper journalist. Peston said that he was 'quite cross' with the BBC on his first broadcast after he was forced to appear on a freezing balcony over the Thames without a jacket. 'I'd been quite a prominent figure in print journalism for years so a lot of my old colleagues would have been watching, probably hoping I'd fall flat on my face,' he said. 'It was Budget day, March, and about -10C. I was on a balcony facing the Thames and my producer, who must have been a sadist, said that my very fashionable leather coat made me look like a Nazi and I had to take it off. So I froze. I could barely speak. And the next day all the diary comments in the papers were about what a stuttering idiot I was. I thought, fuck the BBC, they could have protected me from this!' After the interview was published on Friday, Peston - who got into trouble in 2007 over a scathing blog posting about Microsoft Windows Vista - used Twitter to try and make amends for the comments. He tweeted: 'Big Issue has taught me a lesson - quotes me "effing", including a spectacular "eff the BBC." Not clever, not funny, as my son will tell me.'

Ofcom has reminded broadcasters of their duty not to broadcast material 'unsuitable for children' before the nine o'clock watershed. The media watchdog's warning follows several breaches of its code, many of which included explicit music videos. It has issued a twelve-page document to illustrate the problems and help broadcasters police adult content. However, Ofcom noted that parents had 'fewer concerns' about the programmes their children watch than in the past. It said that thirty six per cent of parents had expressed concerns about their children's viewing habits in 2009, but that figure had now dropped to thirty one per cent. Thus appearing to suggest that over two thirds simply don't care. Which sounds about right. In addition, seventy seven per cent of parents thought the watershed fell at the right time, and seventy three per cent believed the amount of regulation of television was 'about right.' According to Ofcom's research, the types of pre-watershed programmes which caused most concern to the parents surveyed were soaps (fourteen per cent) and film (fourteen per cent), followed by reality programmes (twelve per cent) and music videos (eleven per cent). Ofcom's guidance reminded soap opera producers to be 'mindful' of their pre-watershed audience, particularly with regard to violence.
This followed several complaints investigated by the watchdog - including a graphic fight between the King Brothers on Emmerdale and a gang attack on EastEnders, which resulted in Honey Mitchell going into premature labour. 'While soaps are not aimed at young people, they are scheduled pre-watershed and often attract a significant child audience,' Ofcom noted. 'Broadcasters should therefore ensure that material that may be unsuitable for children is appropriately scheduled.' It also warned TV stations to be wary of repeating soaps and other shows in the daytime without considering edits to remove offensive material. The advice on music videos followed a number recent cases where pop promos contained unsuitable material. Greatest Hits TV was put on notice by Ofcom last week after broadcasting a compilation of sexually explicit videos by rap star Fifty Cent at nine o'clock in the morning. The video for 'S&M' by Rihanna, which contains scenes of bondage, was also ruled unacceptable after it was screened on WTF TV during the day. 'Ofcom understands that music videos will rarely contain sexually explicit images,' the watchdog noted in its guidance. 'However, the cumulative effect of certain images can result in material of a sexualised nature in music videos which is unsuitable for child viewers and could case offence.' Broadcasters were also reminded that trailers for late night programmes should avoid potentially offensive images or wording if they were to be shown before the watershed. The new guidance was issued as a supplement to Ofcom's pre-existing rules on protecting the under-eighteens.

A runaway cow has been offered a TV commercial deal after going on the rampage in a sports shop. Laura the cow was caught on CCTV causing havoc in an Intersport store before being lassoed by security staff in Serfaus, Austria. The animal is thought to have entered the shopping centre looking for food and warmth when her grazing grounds were hit by early snow, Metro reports. She chewed two sports bras and a T-shirt and left a cow pat on the floor before guards tied her to a dumbbell using a skipping rope. Laura has since signed up to appear in Intersport's latest TV promotional campaign for the company's winter rental service. 'Laura had the right idea, for anyone preparing for winter Intersport is the right place to be,' Intersport spokesman Hans Seifert said. 'We have all your winter needs - skis, helmets and warm winter clothing.' Farmer Hannes Schroder was originally forced to pay for the damaged goods, but has since recouped his costs due to the TV deal. 'I had to buy everything she chewed - even the bras,' he said.

The Bank of England has announced that the new-style fifty quid note will be introduced on 2 November. The design of the new note was revealed in 2009 and features entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt, who pioneered the use of steam engines in textile manufacturing. The Bank says the note will have a range of enhanced security features. It will be the first time that two portraits will appear together on the reverse of one its banknotes. The Boulton and Watt note will initially be circulated in tandem with the current fifty smackers note featuring Sir John Houblon, the first governor of the Bank of England. The Houblon note will eventually be withdrawn. The Bank will announce a withdrawal date in due course. The design has seldom changed since it was first introduced in 1725. A white fifty pound note was in use for more than two hundred years years until 1943. There are two hundred and ten million fifty quid notes in circulation, valued at ten and a half billion smackers. That is eighty four per cent higher than seven years ago. The twenty quid is the most common Bank of England note in circulation, with 1.55 billion notes in circulation worth thirty one billion wonga.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved - though still unsellable - Newcastle United have made their best start to a season in seventeen years with a hard-fought victory over Wolves at Molineux. Demba Ba scored his fourth goal in two games when he headed in Yohan Cabaye's corner at the near post. Later, Argentine midfielder Jonas Gutierrez added the second when he surged past four challenges to fire in low shot. Steven Fletcher headed in for Wolves late on, who were denied a penalty and what appeared to be a legitimate goal in stoppage time. Which is, obviously, unfortunate but frankly anything that puts a scowl on Mick McCarthey's boat-race is valid, I'd've said. It won't last, of course, as Shearer noted on Match of the Day last night. But, for the moment, the Magpies are flying.
For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of Day - a 'short irregular series' which began in late October last year and is, as much to my surprise as I'm sure it is to yours, dear blog reader - here's a bit of Brooooce. And his most misunderstood work. And, stripped of the Fairlight-enhanced bombast of the drums and the pompous over-the-top production, to reveal a delicate beauty and righteous anger beneath. Stunning.

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