Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In The Shed Daddy Sharpens Up His Seceteur Blades

We begin today's From the North top telly news-style malarkey and shenanigans with some unwelcome information, dear blog reader. Shooting Stars has been cancelled by the BBC, according to Bob Mortimer. The surreal comedy panel show, also fronted by Vic Reeves, has apparently 'not been recommissioned' for a ninth series. So, that's basically cancelled, in other words. Announcing the news on Twitter, Mortimer told fans: 'BBC have just cancelled Shooting Stars.' The programme's last six-episode series - its best, comically, in several years - ran in August and September this year. In the interest of fairness it has to be noted however that Shooting Stars has steadily lost viewers since its triumphant return to BBC2 in 2009 following a seven-year break. And, you can have the bestTVV show in the world but, if nobody's watch it it's not going to last very long. During the revival, show favourite Matt Lucas stepped down from his role as scorer George Dawes, being replaced by Angelos Epithemiou (Renton Skinner). Many fans responded with dismay to the news for Shooting Stars demise - including TV critic Caitlin Moran, who called the decision 'a genuine outrage.' No, Caitlan, love it really isn't. Homophobia, bigotry and racism are all genuine outrages. A TV show that I quite liked being cancelled is 'a bit sad but I'll get over it.' Sense of perspective, chuck. Referring to one of the show's many catch-phrases, comedian Dave Gorman simply wrote: 'Ulrika-ka-ka-katastrophe!' Presumably because he couldn't think up a joke of his own. Which is most unlike Dave cos he's normally very on-the-ball with stuff like that. 'In future there will be less space on BBC2 for comedy/entertainment panel shows so sadly Shooting Stars won't be returning,' said a BBC spokeswoman. 'We'd like to thank Vic and Bob for everything they've brought to the channel over the years,' she went on. The comedy quiz originally ran from 1993 to 1997, returning twice - first in 2002, and again in 2009. Mark Lamarr, Ulrika Jonsson, Johnny Vegas, Will Self and Jack Dee were among the regular panellists. The show's many outlandish elements included the Dove From Above round, Smell the Cheese and the nonsensical phrase 'Uvavu!' No more, dear blog reader, shall we see them Geordie jeans. They're especially tight around the arse. Apparently. And, as for Geordie jumpers...
Not forgetting the single greatest fifty six seconds in the history of television, dear blog reader. Ah, they don't make 'em like that anymore!

And, speaking of Doctor Who, there's going to be a film, apparently. Yes, of course there is ...
No, really, it's been in the tabloids and everything so it must be true.
In other news, Elvis has been found, alive and well and living in South Shields.
Next.

Mind you, again it should be noted in the interests of fairness that over the last twenty four hours, a particularly notorious (and spectacularly odious and obnoxious at that) member of Doctor Who fandom with all of the personality of an ashtray has apparently called the respected State Of Play director David Yates 'a scumbag' on Twitter simply for daring to suggest that Yates would rather like to do any proposed Doctor Who movie starting from scratch. The business of film-making being what it is, it's probably only about a four-in-one bet that the project will ever get past the 'we're thinking about it' stage. But part of me really hopes that it does just so that it will annoy individuals like that particular overgrown school bully. And then Doctor Who fandom wonders why normal people run away from them in public.
Back to the real world, now.

There was much anger and frustration bubbling over from BBC staff in this week's in-house magazine Ariel about Delivering Quality First cuts, with an article and two letters questioning the wisdom of them. One, from the BBC News obituary editor, Nick Serpell, takes issue with recent workshops held to explain DQF to staff. Having attended one of the sessions Serpell asks what 'made the most impression on me? Was it the assertions that BBC staff earned more than those employed in other media organisations not being backed up with one single example or by any indication of where and how the information had been obtained? Was it that the various graphs and charts which were presented in support of management arguments contained factual errors, and we have now had an admission that they were not "entirely accurate"? However, I think the aspect that annoyed me most was being lectured on the need to cut staff salaries in order to save money by three managers each of whom, according to BBC figures, earns well in excess of one hundred thousand pounds a year. Perhaps they'd like to hear my plan to cut BBC costs.'
The Press Complaints Commission is 'a self-serving gentleman's club' that 'has failed abysmally,' the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists has told the Leveson inquiry. In a broadside at the high court on Wednesday, Michelle Stanistreet denounced Rupert Murdoch, 'greedy' newspaper owners and the system of press self-regulation that she said had failed under the PCC. 'For years we have had the media bosses' model of self- regulation,' Stanistreet said. 'It is one that excludes both the producers and the consumers of the media output and represents only the owners. The general public and journalists themselves have had to contend with what has been little more than a self-serving gentleman's club.' Stanistreet said that journalists at some national newspapers were 'under immense pressure' to write 'inaccurate' stories and 'not speak out publicly' for fear of reprisals. 'The pressure on journalists to deliver is relentless, often to unpredictable and unreasonable timescales, and without the resources to do the job well,' she told the Leveson inquiry on its third day. 'Such pressures lead to short cuts and can result in the abandoning of fundamental principles. That's why it is important for your inquiry to understand the reality of newsroom culture and the pressures that journalists in some workplaces have come under to deliver the goods, to write stories that are inaccurate or misleading.' Stanistreet, who took over as general secretary of the journalists' union in July, said that she was trying to persuade members to speak out about their employers but that few were willing to do so. 'The stark reality is that in many workplaces there is a genuine climate of fear about speaking out,' she said. 'The fear is not of immediate punishment but of finding that a few months after your inquiry ends a journalist who has spoken out may find herself on a list of redundancies.' Stanistreet also criticised Murdoch and News International. She referred to the private detective Derek Webb, who has claimed that a senior executive at the Scum of the World urged him to join the NUJ following the arrest of Clive Goodman, the paper's royal editor in 2006. Webb has claimed that he was employed by the Scum of the World to follow public figures including Prince William and Gary Lineker. 'This is a breathtakingly cynical move on behalf of the News of the World but also an interesting perspective on an organisation that is so hostile to the NUJ,' Stanistreet said. 'Clearly, in the minds of senior executives at News International, presumably a proper journalist is one who is a fully fledged NUJ member with a union press card rather than the ones News International dispenses to its staff.'

The Apprentice's Nick Hewer has been announced as the new host of Countdown. Channel Four confirmed that Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie's aide will take over from Jeff Stelling when filming of the long-running game show recommences at the end of the year. Hewer's first episode as Countdown host will be broadcast on 9 January 2012. 'I'm flattered to have been asked to present such an iconic programme and will work hard to justify sitting in the same seat as such great talents as Jeff Stelling, Des O'Connor and of course the great Richard Whiteley,' Hewer commented. 'It's particularly fitting that I should be doing this now as my spelling has started to slip quite badly. I used to be able to spell chrysanthemum.'
Channel Four chief creative officer Jay Hunt said of the announcement: 'Nick will be a fantastically charismatic host for Countdown. He is sharp and funny and has a real twinkle in his eye.' Head of daytime Helen Warner predicted that Hewer would bring 'dry wit, fierce intelligence and unique charm' to the show, while executive producer Peter Gwyn added: 'I'm absolutely delighted that Nick has agreed to take the Countdown chair, and I can't wait to see him bring his unique style and humour to this iconic format. 'With Nick at the helm and our thirtieth birthday next year, we've got some very exciting times ahead for Countdown viewers.' Maths expert Rachel Riley and Dictionary Corner chair Susie Dent are both returning to the show. Stelling quit as Countdown presenter back in May after two years in the role.

Pet food-maker Pedigree has told a dog owner the claims it makes in TV adverts are 'mere puffery,' after he lodged a complaint that a 'long-lasting chewy treat' was scoffed in seconds by his hungry mutt. The dog owner, who seemingly didn't have anything better to do with his time that whinge about nonsense like that, received the response after lodging an unsuccessful complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority about a Pedigree TV advert featuring a small yappy-type dog that was unable to munch its way through a chewy treat. In the advert, which claims that the Pedigree Jumbone™ is the 'long-lasting chewy treat,' the small yappy-type dog was shown eventually giving up after failing to polish off the treat. The ASA received a complaint that the claim was 'not true,' with the owner claiming his dogs had taken 'under one minute' to eat the product. And, once again, let us simply marvel at the crap some people chose to care about! In its response to the ASA manufacturer Pedigree said the man should not have believed the claim of the 'light hearted' advert as it was 'mere puffery.' In Pedigree's view 'long-lasting' meant 'several minutes.' The ASA weighed the evidence and agreed with Pedigree that, on average, chewy dog treats lasted about 'three minutes and twenty one seconds.' In comparison to softer treats that was, therefore, considered to be 'long-lasting.' The ASA dismissed the complaint. And told the bloke not to be such a rank pedant and glake in future. Probably. In 2008, Volkswagen UK was in the firing line with seven hundred and forty three members of the general public lodging complaints about a TV advert which featured a small yappy-type dog shivering and shaking. Animal lovers complained that the advert, one of the top twenty most complained about of all time, condoned animal cruelty. The ASA rejected that complaint as well.

Meanwhile, two would-be adult film stars who failed to get work after responding to a job advert seeking new talent also lodged a complaint with the advertising watchdog to find out why they were rejected. Remember, guys, it's not size that's important. According to, you know, mothers. On receiving the complaints the Advertising Standards Authority decided to investigate further issues with regard to the adverts in question, including whether it broke the marketing code for not clarifying if the positions available were 'for temporary or permanent work.' Although one suspects that very much depends on the applicant themselves and, you know, how long they can keep it up. SexxxyBlue, a service which wannabe adult movie stars pay to try and get a career started, ran a job advert in the national press stating that it needed 'broad-minded' males and females to appear in adult films and DVDs. For those who find work getting hard, it would appear. The offer included 'excellent rates for part-time commitment.' The ASA received complaints from two disgruntled chaps who had paid to enlist with SexxyBlue but had not received any work and were not convinced 'whether the employment opportunities were genuine.' SexxxyBlue said it had withdrawn all adverts for its website and that it would not be advertising again. However, it failed to offer any responses to issues raised by the complainants or the ASA. The ASA ruled the advert had broken the advertising code because the 'employment opportunities' were not substantiated and were therefore misleading. The ASA banned the advert.

Former newsreader Angela Rippon is to re-enact one of TV's most famous moments for Children In Need, the BBC has announced. The sixty seven-year-old will revisit the dance routine which she performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976. More than twenty six million people tuned in to see the sketch, which was part of the comedians' annual Christmas Special. Rippon will dance alongside current BBC newsreaders for a Strictly Come Dancing segment on the charity fundraiser. They will be joined by some of the Strictly professional dancers. The famous scene saw Rippon emerge from behind a newsreader's desk. Dressed in top hat and tails, she partnered Morcambe and Wise in a high-kicking ballroom sequence, set to the soundtrack 'Let's Face The Music And Dance.'
For this year's Children In Need sketch, Rippon - who once hosted the forerunner to Strictly Come Dancing - will be joined by Sian Williams, Sophie Raworth, Susanna Reid and Emily Maitlis. The sequence will begin with them sitting behind their desks wearing glasses, white blouses and pencil skirts, before they launch a raunchy dance routine in purple, glittery leotards.

Micky Flanagan has defended panel shows from claims that they are 'crowding out other forms of comedy.' The Fast Show's Charlie Higson - who, himself, has appeared on Qi a couple of times and so might be considered something of a hypocrite - recently suggested that the format has taken over from sketch shows because they are 'much cheaper to do.' His colleague John Thomson added: 'These shows are produced by agencies who have their acts, and only their acts on those shows and it's not opened to everybody. It's a closed shop, which isn't right. That's why you see the same faces appearing on panel games.' In response, Flanagan told the Digital Spy website: 'I think things have their moment - they come in waves. The sketch comedy wave was big and made a lot of people's careers, and made a lot of people very, very wealthy, and I think they should be pleased about that. I get a little bit worried when comics start saying that one thing is spoiling it for everyone else. If you think panel shows are genuinely spoiling comedy or making it hard - produce a really good sketch show, and you'll be surprised at how many TV companies jump on it.' Of the 'closed shop' claims, he added: 'It's not an accident that certain comedy agencies have a lot of great comics on their books. If a producer goes to them, "I'm producing this new panel show, can I have Sean Lock or any decent comic?" they're told, "Yeah, you can - you know we've also got..." The reason all those acts come from that single company is because that company gets all the best, talented acts because it looks after them the best.'

The BBC World News channel has been banned from buying certain programmes and accepting some sponsorship deals, after an investigation found serious breaches of the corporation's editorial guidelines in shows about subjects including Malaysia and carbon trading. A full investigation was launched by the BBC Trust into programming on BBC World News, a commercial channel distributed internationally, after it found conflict of interest and sponsorship issues with a show called Taking the Credit, about carbon trading, originally broadcast in 2009. The investigation by the Trust's editorial standards committee found a further fifteen programmes broadcast on the channel in serious breach of the BBC's editorial or sponsorship guidelines. These programmes included eight containing sections about Malaysia made by a company called FBC Media, which had an 'apparent financial relationship' with the Malaysian government. FBC Media's parent company, FBC Group, confirmed to the BBC investigation that the Malaysian government was a client. 'Based on evidence before the committee of the apparent financial relationship between FBC Media Ltd and the Malaysian government, the committee concluded that FBC Media Ltd was not an appropriate producer for these particular programmes, being about Malaysia, its industries and Malaysian government policies,' the ESC concluded. 'The committee considered that it could not be adequately confident that a relationship between FBC Media Ltd and the Malaysian government and/or other Malaysian interests had not affected the content of BBC output. In light of the overall content covering Malaysia, the committee was concerned that the BBC has broadcast programmes which may have promoted particular subject matters (or presented them in a certain way) as a result of a production company's financial interests.' All fifteen programmes were found to have been in breach of one, or more, of the BBC's rules governing conflicts of interest, promotion of a sponsor's activities and sponsorship of current affairs shows. The shows had been bought by the BBC for 'a low or nominal cost' from independent producers. 'International audiences must be able to rely on the same integrity and independence in the BBC's editorial decisions as audiences in the UK,' said ESC chair Richard Ayre. 'We have found that several programmes shown on the BBC's World News channel had been inappropriately sponsored. The Trust is deeply concerned at this and we very much regret that these programmes failed to live up to the editorial standards we set for the BBC.' As a result of the investigation the BBC World News channel has been banned from buying programmes for a low or nominal cost and it will 'no longer accept sponsorship from non-commercial organisations.' In May, the BBC Trust found Taking the Credit in breach of editorial guidelines around sponsorship of a current affairs show and conflict of interest. Taking the Credit was funded by a company called the Africa Carbon Livelihood Trust, which had links to a firm called Envirotrade, which featured in the documentary. According to the BBC Trust, the ESC 'concluded that the funding in full or in part of this programme by Envirotrade – via the Africa Carbon Livelihoods Trust – amounted to sponsorship. However, the committee considered that the programme was current affairs and that such sponsorship was in breach of the guidelines, which prohibit any sponsorship of news and current affairs,' the Trust said. According to the BBC Trust there was a conflict of interest because 'there was an inextricable link between the funder organisation and a project featured in the programme. Further, the programme portrayed the work of Envirotrade in a positive way and as a result breached the requirement that sponsors' activities should not be promoted. The programme also failed to credit the sponsor in the programme, so the viewers were unaware that there was a funding arrangement in place.' A BBC World News spokesperson said: 'We accept the BBC Trust's findings. We are committed to the highest standards of broadcasting and our editorial independence must always remain protected. There were breaches of BBC guidelines though we note that the trust report found no breaches of impartiality in any of the programmes. We are determined to learn any lessons from this process. That is why we have set out a robust action plan which has been endorsed by the ESC. We are now committed to bringing in a series of changes to tighten our systems and strengthen the protection of our editorial independence.'

Top Boy has been renewed for a second series by Channel Four.

Freddie Starr has withdrawn from I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) following his jungle health scare. The sixty eight-year-old former comedian was taken to a hospital on the Gold Coast yesterday after a suspected allergic reaction to something he had eaten in the jungle. As part of a Bushtucker Trial eating challenge with The Only Way Is Essex's Mark Wright, Starr ate dishes including turkey testes, a pig's anus and a fermented egg. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is classed as 'entertainment' in the Twenty First Century, apparently. In a statement, ITV said: 'Producers of I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! have decided that Freddie Starr won't return to live in the jungle. Freddie has been a terrific contestant. His Bushtucker Trial is one of the stand-out moments in the history of the show and we wish him all the very best.' Earlier this year, Starr successfully underwent a quadruple heart bypass. Despite his health problems, the comic said before he entered the jungle that he felt confident he would be able to last the course.

And speaking of tragic old has-beens, Sir Jimmy Savile will be 'spinning in his grave' at the prospect of his Jim'll Fix It show being revived by the BBC, a friend has claimed. A spectacularly tasteless thing for an, alleged, 'friend' to have said mere days after Sir Jim's funeral you might consider, dear blog reader. I couldn't possibly comment. Mind you, it'll be a bit different for Sir Jim to actually be 'spinning in his grave' since the coffin was, by all reports, encased in concrete. The DJ and presenter died at the age of eighty four late last month. His passing was followed by the announcement on Tuesday that his iconic programme would return for a one-off Christmas special to be fronted by Shane Richie. However, Savile's 'friend of thirty years,' Stephen Purdew, has 'blasted' (that's tabloid-speak for 'criticised' only with less syllables) the BBC's decision to relaunch the show so soon after Savile's death. Actually, the Sun didn't describe Purdew as' a friend,' at all, they described him as a 'grieving pal.' And, again, we ask does anybody actually use the word 'pal' these days in anything other than an ironic sense. You know, as in 'what you lookin' at, pal?' And, the like. 'It's disgusting,' Purdew told the Sun. 'Jimmy has only just died, for goodness sake. He will be spinning in his grave. It was an iconic show, totally identified with him. A remake won't work.' Nice to see that Mr Purdew is not only an expert on television production and the likes and dislikes of a mass audience but also, seemingly, a clairvoyant. Although the Sun spectacularly fails to state in what capacity Purdew works in the TV industry or, even, exactly what his relationship with Mr Savile actually was. Except as 'a pal.' Nor do they mention how much he was paid by the newspaper to convey his outrage to them. 'It only works with someone who has Jimmy's endearing qualities, not a comedian. Shane Richie is a nice enough man, but he's no Jimmy Savile. The BBC have not done the programme since 1994, why suddenly revive it now?' 

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping must say, he likes this very much dear blog reader. Yer actual proper satirical comment, that is! 'He added: "At the end, I said she could come to my mum's house and we could have fish fingers and watch my favourite programme, which is Primeval. She said thanks, but probably not."'

Richard Desmond's newspapers were unusually quiet on Tuesday about the opening day of the Leveson inquiry. While the other papers - even those who were getting a right good shafting during the opening statements, like the Sun - covered his lordship's opening gambit, one could not see a whisper of it in the Daily Lies or the Daily Scum Express. Desmond's Express and Lies titles flounced out of the Press Complaints Commission in high dudgeon at the start of the year, an absence which is seen as catastrophic for the industry's self-regulatory regime as it finds itself in the spotlight during Leveson. And there was no sign of Desmond – or anyone from his company Northern & Shell – at the Society of Editors conference on Monday either. It has to be queried if, perhaps, after his recent interview in the Gruniad in which Desmond said '[Paul] Dacre goes out slagging me off; he can go fuck himself,' they were a bit worried about bumping into the Daily Scum Mail notoriously aggressive editor in chief. You do not piss off the Scum Mail, dear blog reader. They've always had friends in high places. Herr Hitler, for one.

Good old mad as toast Ken Russell's controversial 1971 film The Devils is finally to be released on DVD, it has been announced. The film, which contains sexual content (and plenty of it) and religious imagery (and plenty of it), will be released in March by the British Film Institute's video publishing arm. Starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, the movie was cut before it could be given an adult 'X' rating. Film critic Mark Kermode has called it Russell's 'most incendiary work.' He added it is 'an extraordinary and impassioned depiction of the unholy marriage of church and state which is as relevant today as it was when the film was first released.' The BFI said that the DVD release - the original version certified for cinemas - will contain extra content and special features and will be available from the usual home film retailers. The Devils, which depicts the hysterical ferment that swept through a French convent in the 1600s, contained depictions which were considered shocking at the time. Scenes which were deleted before the UK film censors would issue its toughest certificate included naked nuns assaulting a statue of Christ. This sequence was restored in 2004, but will not appear in the DVD release. The film, however, was feted abroad, earning Russell an award at the Venice Film Festival - even though it was banned at the time in Italy. The film-maker was also honoured at the National Board of Review in the US, where the movie censor had imposed more wide-ranging cuts than in the UK.

Dulcie Gray who had a long stage, movie and television career has died aged ninety two. She was best remembered in recent years for her role in BBC drama, Howards' Way. Described by The Stage magazine as 'one of the best-loved British screen and stage actors of the second half of the last century' the actress is reported to have died earlier this week at theatrical care home Denville Hall from bronchial pneumonia. Gray was born in 1915 in Kuala Lumpur and later trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts before making her professional career debut in 1942 movie Banana Ridge in a minor role. Throughout the 1940s she became a key player in numerous melodramas for the Gainsborough Studios as well as a successful run in theatre which included many West End performances. Many of her television appearances were as one-off roles in lavish dramas such as ITV Play of The Week and Play for Today. Her biggest television success would come in 1985 when she began a five year stint on Howards' Way as Kate Harvey in the glamorous nautical Sunday night drama. She also worked in television, theatre and film alongside her husband Michael Denison which spanned their fifty nine-years of marriage until his death in 1998. Gray also had a successful career sideline as a novelist writing over twenty books. She was awarded a CBE for services to drama in 1983. She last appeared on screen in 2000 in an episode of the BBC drama series Doctors.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day From The North is very happy to present a truly righteous splash of The Very Things.
Whatever happened to The Shend? Well, he was in an episode of Torchwood, obviously but, after that ...

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