Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We're Coming In, Out Of The Cold. We're Gonna Buy Before We Get Sold

Have I Got News For You's regular panelist Ian Hislop wants the former Prime Minister Tony Blair to appear on the popular and long-running BBC1 comedy news quiz, according to a report in the Gruniad Morning Star. Private Eye editor and thoughtful and interesting documentary film-maker Hislop says that he has asked for the programme's producers to approach Blair to tap him up for a potential appearance on several occasions: 'He would be terrific, but for some reason they never book him. It's time, don't you think?' Long overdue, one might suggest. Over to you on that one, Tone. Hislop also admitted that he enjoyed sparring with Piers Morgan in a previous episode of the show. 'That was car-crash TV,' he said. 'It was so enjoyable. I was told by people at the Mirra that they used to play it on a loop. I haven't seen him since. He was very upset with me.' Hislop suggested that 'it's good to take people on' in the show, picking out politician John Prescott as an example. He said: 'You don't want to get too cosy and it's nice to have a frisson - a bit of needle.'

BBC1's new 'smart, complex and contemporary spy series' Nemesis is now shooting in London. Originally titled Morton, the eight-part series was commissioned earlier this year and is being produced by Kudos (the maker of [spooks], Hustle and Life On Mars among many others). The show is written by Frank Spotnitz, best known for writing nearly fifty episodes of The X Files. Australian actress Melissa George will play the lead role. The BBC's official synopsis for the show reads: 'Meet Sam. A spy. A hunter. And herself hunted by an enemy more ruthless and determined than any she's ever known. Sam has been running from her past her entire life but when she returns to Mobius, the organisation that employs her, and begins to pursue her pursuer, she will discover the only way to escape that past ... is to confront it. This is the story of a spy with a bull's eye on her back, a human target unable to trust anyone at any time, even the man she loves. She is, quite literally, running for her life.' Sounds intriguing. Nemesis is due for broadcast sometime in 2012.

For Peter Cook the worst job he ever had might well have been retrieving the lobsters from out of Jayne Mansfield's arse but, for chatty man Alan Carr it was a rather more mundane occupation: 'Wiping grease off gearboxes so paint could go on them. I have a massive tub of meths, no mask and a cloth. By 3pm I was laughing at anything and dancing along to the music on the radio,' he told the Metro. 'When I came home, it was like I was having a massive comedown. It was rotting my brain. I did it for six months - which explains a lot.' Alan was also asked about the worst gig he'd ever had to perform: 'A New Year's Eve gig in Nottingham,' he replied. 'The money for New Year's Eve shows is amazing. You think: "They're paying me this for a twenty-minute set?" But there's a reason. There were bottles being thrown at the stage. A woman ran on and got her tits out. Ed Byrne was on after and they shouted at him to get his cock out. They were fucking crazy. They threw a bottle at me and then champagne corks at my head. Some of the audience were shouting to throw them back so I did. One bounced off a light and fell to the floor and they started chanting: "You throw like a girl!" It was awful. I haven't done a New Year's gig since - it's good for the bank balance but you're left scraping your ego off the floor.'

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)'s new series waved goodbye to nearly two million viewers on Monday evening, but it still obliterated Young Apprentice on BBC1, according to overnight audience data. 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) averaged 9.57m for ITV on its second episode, considerably down on the record eleven and a half million overnight ratings for the series launch the previous night. A further six hundred thousand punters tuned-in to 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) on ITV+1, whilst the spin-off show I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here Now! was watched by seven hundred and twenty four thousand people on ITV2 from 10pm. The sort of people for whom the sight of Freddie Starr eating a pig's anus isn't sick, degrading or wretched but, apparently, good old-fashioned quality British light entertainment.
Against such tough competition, BBC1's Young Apprentice slumped to 3.2m from 9pm, as Lewis Roman became the fourth candidate to be fired by Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie after the over-fifties task. Elsewhere MasterChef: The Professionals on BBC2 pulled in a steady 2.67m and over on BBC4, the Children in Need special on Only Connect was watched by just short of eight hundred thousand. And, on that bombshell, here's a picture of Victoria Coren dressed as a pussycat.
Well, yer actual Keith Telly Topping feels better after that, dear blog reader, I dunno about you lot.

And so to a new, semi-regular From The North series, You Might Remember From Such TV Shows As...: We start with this week's guest villain in the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0, the great Tony Curran as an Boston-Oirish, beggorah, bejesus where's me shillelagh hitman. You'll probably know him best, dear blog reader, for his astonishing performance as Vincent Van Gogh in Doctor Who last year.
Now, I'm sure you're going to get a real kick out of the next one, dear blog reader because it's one of the most poxy cases of rank and utter hypocrisy you'll ever come across. The Daily Torygraph is reporting that the BBC has 'dropped a climate change episode from its wildlife series Frozen Planet to help the show sell better abroad.' Or, slightly less prejudicially, the BBC is selling the show abroad - as they do with many of their shows - and the host broadcasters are deciding which episodes they want to buy and which they don't. That's called capitalism, you'd think the Torygraph would've been used to it by now. British viewers will see seven episodes of the show, the last of which, in three weeks time, deals with climate change and the threat to the natural world which, host David Attenborough believes, are posed by mankind. Fine. Looking forrward to watching that one. However, viewers in other countries, including the United States, will only see six episodes. The environmental programme has been, according to the Torygraph, 'relegated' by the BBC to an 'optional extra' alongside the ten-minute behind-the-scenes documentaries which close each episode and which foreign networks can ignore. And will do because they'll need time to get some adverts in. 'Campaigners', the newspaper claims, said that the decision not to incorporate the episode on global warming as part of the main package was 'unhelpful.' What the hell it has to do with them (these 'campaigners' or, indeed, for that matter, the Torygraph itself) is another matter entirely. The BBC make programmes for British audiences - licence fee payers who, after all, the BBC belongs to. They have a duty under the Royal Charter to do several things in these programmes two of which are to educate and inform their viewers. Their British, licence fee paying viewers. They have no such obligation, either legally or morally, when selling the same programmes to overseas markets. Indeed, many would argue that BBC Wordlwide's only duty when selling BBC shows abroad is to make as much money as possible which can then be put back into the BBC so they can make more shows for British viewers. Like, for instance, the way that Top Gear is sold to one hundred and eighty countries around the world and, effectively, pays for a decent proportion of the output of the BBC Natural History Unit. Irony, you say? I couldn't possibly comment. 'They,' the newspaper continued, added that it would allow those countries which are sceptical of climate change to 'censor' the issue. One presumes that the 'they' in question are 'campaigners' although you may have noticed that we've gone three sentences into this story here and none of these 'campaigners' have actually been named or the number of them which exist have been disclosed? Could this be another complete and utter non-story masquerading as anti-BBC scum-drivel with an agenda? 'Others' - and still we haven't actually found out whom these mysterious people are alleged to be - 'suggested that the Corporation should have offered On Thin Ice, the global warming episode, for free due to the importance of the issue.' Why the BBC should do this in a global capitalist free market the Torygraph do not make clear. So, just so we're clear about this, this is a right-wing, Conservative Party supporting broadsheet suggesting that a state funded broadcaster should be insisting that the broadcasters of other countries take the programmes they make in a 'if you don't broadcast it exactly as we say, we'll ...' well, I'm not sure exactly what the Torygraph expect the BBC to do in such circumstances but isn't that whole idea a bit ... I dunno, Soviet? The BBC said that it was standard practice to offer international clients only the parts of programmes which they wished to purchase. After all, you can't force somebody to buy something they don't want to buy. Again, that's called capitalism in action - the sort of thing the Torygraph is normally very supportive of. Why the change here? Because it's the BBC involved, of course and it suits their sick agenda to somehow portray the BBC as doing something 'wrong' by doing what British companies try to do every single day, sell their products overseas. Frozen Planet, on BBC1, is the latest big budget series from the BBC's Natural History Unit in Bristol, which was made in association with Discovery Channel and The Open University. Astonishing images already broadcast in the series include killer whales swimming in parallel to wash their prey off lumps of ice, icebergs larger than any man made structure on Earth 'calving' from the icecap and the spectacular plumage of a reclusive great grey owl. It was filmed over four years and is thought to have cost over sixteen million smackers to produce. Over thirty networks across the world have bought the series - thus, it's effectively already paid for itself - but a third of them have rejected the choice of the additional two episodes, including the one on climate change. As is their right since they're paying money to acquire it. On Thin Ice features Sir David Attenborough, talking at length about the melting of the ice and featuring hungry polar bears. Viewers in the United States where, the Torygraph states, 'climate change sceptics are particularly strong group,' will not see the full episode. Instead, the BBC said that Discovery, which shows the series in the US, had a 'scheduling issue so only had slots for six episodes,' so 'elements' of the climate change episode would be incorporated into their final show, with editorial assistance from the Corporation. Whether that's true or not - and it sounds like bullshit, frankly - doesn't really matter. It's entirely up to Discovery having bought the show to decide what to do with it. However, the Frozen Planet DVD will be sold overseas - including the US - containing all seven episodes as broadcast in the UK. So, what - exactly - is the problem, you might wonder? There isn't one, it's just a newspaper being silly and trying to create a story where there isn't one. A spokeswoman for the BBC said it was not be feasible to force networks to buy the climate change episode as it features Sir David talking extensively to the camera and there are many countries where he is not famous. Finally, after several paragraphs of this ceaseless drivel, the Torygraph started to name names. Tony Juniper, whoever the hell he is - an 'environmental adviser' and former head of Friends of the Earth, apparently - said: 'It raises questions about the BBC’s overall environmental coverage, which is patchy and inconsistent.' You mean, the BBC, the company who made the damn show in the first place, Tony? Christ save us all from armchair critics. A spokeswoman for the BBC - wearily - said: 'In international sales it is normal practice to offer broadcasters the option to take which parts they want, as well as add-ons, such as the one-hour Making Of episode. On Thin Ice features David Attenborough in vision as it is his authored show. It would be impossible to do a presenter-less version. Only those countries that accept David as a presenter (and there are many where he is well-known – such as Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia) could be expected to take episode seven as it stands. In the case of Discovery in the USA, they had a scheduling issue so only had slots for six episodes and have decided to combine elements of episode seven, On Thin Ice, with episode six, The Last Frontier. The BBC has been consulted on editorial decisions on this.' Instead of saying, as she should have done, 'it's our programme what the hell does it have to do with you to whom we chose to sell it to and what they chose to do with it once they've bought it?' Of course, she didn't say that because the BBC is, collectively, far too polite to do such a thing. But, I'm not.

And, speaking of stupid old Tories, Penelope Keith claims that the death of sitcoms with 'universal appeal' has contributed to the breakdown of families – and even to the summer riots. Yeah. Thanks for your contribution to the debate, Penny m'love. How about a nice cup of milky cocoa? The seventy one-year-old Good Life star complained that even the word 'sitcom' had become 'pejorative' as TV executives sought niche programmes to appear to target demographics. In an interview with the Radio Times, Keith said: 'Life today is terribly compartmentalised. Children and adults eat in separate rooms or watch television in separate rooms. I'm sure that is a reason why young people occasionally bash up old people - because the ages don't mix any more. You look at those young men out rioting in the summer and you think that if someone were at home saying, "Don't you dare!" they'd have more of a chance.' Y'see, this, dear blog reader, is what happens when pensioners get taken seriously. She added that broadcasters 'exacerbate' the problem by failing to make programmes for the whole family. 'I think it is very sad that "sitcom" has become a pejorative term. Because all the best comedies are about funny situations. And of course today's "mee-ja" is so narrowly targeted at one particular socio-economic group or at a particular age group, which I find invidious. I really do. When I did The Good Life and Manor Born, producers didn't have to fill in forms saying which audience they were targeting. It was commissioned just because it was good.' Reminds one, somewhat of that Alas Smith and Jones sketch in which a politician says 'a little old lady came up to me in the street the other day and asked "why, oh why, can't it be like the old days?" So, I took her pension book off her and stuck her grandson up a chimney.' Keith was being interviewed to promote To The Manor Reborn, a BBC1 documentary about the restoration of a five hundred-year-old country property. So, that's definitely going to be one worth avoiding, then.

'Anyone tuning in to Pelada Naked Soccer (PBS) hoping for some novel ball control would have been sadly disappointed,' the Metro's Keith Watson noted in his latest, excellent, review. 'This road move by US college football players Luke and Gwendolyn was a slacker hymn to the kick about, the international language of soccer. Nutmegging around the world from Brazil to Iran - where Gwendolyn joined in a game with the lads - here was a timely reminder that football is worth way more than Blatter and his bloated big-business cronies could even imagine.' Word, my brother.

Lord Hollick, the Labour peer and millionaire businessman, has offered to pay the BBC the five thousand quid needed to secure a repeat broadcast of Dennis Potter's drama The Singing Detective to mark its twenty fifth anniversary. However, BBC rules on using donations to pay for programmes may prevent Hollick's offer being accepted. Hollick made a personal approach to the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, at Oxford charity art auction last week and told him that he would be happy to make up the five grand gap between what the BBC is prepared to pay and what the Potter estate wants for the rights to repeat it. He confirmed on Twitter: 'Bumped into Mark Thompson, BBC DG at Art Room charity auction and confirmed my £5k gift to help BBC fund rebroadcast of Singing Detective.' The BBC had planned to repeat the series from last Sunday 13 November, but negotiations broke down over the repeat fees. It is understood that the BBC was prepared to pay fifteen thousand smackers in repeat fees but the Potter estate wanted twenty thousand. 'The BBC is understood to be considering ways that could make it possible for Hollick to make the unprecedented offer, although it is unclear whether it can directly take Hollick's money, as it is "unable to accept donations in exchange for programmes,"' according to one 'corporation insider' claims the Gruniad. One other solution that may be considered is for Hollick to donate the money to the Potter estate to make up the five grand shortfall in what is it asking for the repeat fee. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'It would be inappropriate to pay above the odds for any programme, particularly during a time of budget cuts.' The Singing Detective, a six-part drama which starred Michael Gambon as a hospitalised writer, won huge critical acclaim when it was first shown in 1986. The series, which had noirish elements as well as Potter's trademark use of surreal musical numbers in the middle of the drama, explored often dark aspects of the writer's own childhood in the Forest of Dean.
The Scum of the World's former owner has disputed whether there is evidence that twenty eight of the paper's employees commissioned a private investigator to hack into mobile phones. News International's barrister, Rhodri Davies QC, told the Leveson inquiry into press standards at the high court on Tuesday that the company 'would like to have this information rechecked.' One is sure that it would. And, one is equally sure that soon enough it will be. In a court of law. Davies also said the company now accepted that phone-hacking 'was not the work of a single rogue reporter.' The practice was 'wrong, shameful' and 'should never have happened,' he said. About time, frankly. Three years, at least, too late. But still ... 'The News of the World managed to plumb both the depths and the heights,' he added. I dispute the latter claim, or anything even remotely like it, but it's nice to hear somebody connected with the odious, disgraced, disgraceful and now, thankfully, defunct, newspaper finally admit to this. 'The depths, I need hardly say, are taken up by phone-hacking.' The inquiry heard on Monday that the names of at least twenty eight News International employees – former royal editor Clive Goodman and twenty seven others – were written in the page corners of notebooks belonging to Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed in January 2007 for intercepting voicemail messages on behalf of the Scum of the World. That suggests the practice was employed by far more than a handful of Scum of the World journalists, as the company has claimed. Davies said that the statement, by the inquiry's counsel Robert Jay, 'has occasioned some surprise on our side.' News International, Davies claimed, was 'aware' that five Scum of the World journalists were named in the notes – Goodman, who was jailed along with Mulcaire in January 2007, and four others, whom Davies did not name. Davies said the company believed Scotland Yard had also identified the names of other Scum of the World staff in Mulcaire's notes but 'our understanding is it does not add up to twenty seven. We have never seen the whole set of Mulcaire notebooks,' Davies pointed out. 'I believe the only people who have are the police.' The inquiry was told on Monday that four individuals at the Scum of the World instructed Mulcaire to carry out two thousand one hundred and forty three out of a total of two thousand two hundred and sixty six 'taskings' the investigator conducted for the paper. Several jobs were commissioned by names that are ineligible, while others were marked 'private' by Mulcaire. Goodman also requested some of those taskings. Davies expressed surprise that the remaining one hundred and twenty three 'taskings' could have been requested by as many as twenty one other Scum of the World staff. But he added: 'Two thousand two huundred and sixty six taskings is two thousand two hundred and sixty six too many.' He also said that the Sun 'disputed' a claim brought against the paper by actor Jude Law, who is also suing the Scum of the World for breach of privacy, but added that he could not go into detail because of 'confidentiality rules' imposed by the judge who is hearing the case. Davies told that inquiry hearing that, following Goodman and Mulcaire's jailing in 2007, the paper had 'put its house in order.' While he 'could not guarantee' that no phone hacking took place after that date, he said: 'If phone hacking continued after that it was not the thriving cottage industry which existed beforehand.' He added that the decision to place MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport committee and lawyers representing alleged victims of hacking under surveillance was 'unacceptable,' saying 'it wasn't journalism at all.' That incident, dear blog readers may recall, took place in 2009, long after, according to Davies, the Scum of the World had 'put its house in order.' So were a series of continuous denials that any phone-hacking had ever taken place by any of their employees - except for Goodman, something the company continued to insist, publicly, until January of this year when they suddenly changed their tune. The inquiry also heard on Tuesday from Jonathan Caplan QC, for the Daily Scum Mail owner Associated Newspapers. Caplan 'warned' Leveson against 'putting forward changes to the current system of press regulation' based on what had happened in the industry in the recent past. 'We need to be clearly aware that any recommendations are not simply introduced on the basis of historic transgressions which no longer occur,' he said. Caplan added that as far as the publisher was aware: 'No journalist at Associated Newspapers has engaged in phone-hacking.' Addressing the use of Steve Whittamore, another private investigator who was the subject of a police investigation, and who was used by the Daily Scum Mail, he said that there was no evidence its journalists had asked him to 'do anything illegal.' Whittamore had mostly been asked to obtain telephone numbers which were already publicly available by busy journalists who did not have the time to find them, Caplan added. 'There simply is no evidence that they ever asked Whittamore to do anything illegal.' The private investigator was also used by several other national newspapers, including the Observer.

BBC2 have gained exclusive access to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for a documentary that will be broadcast in December. Emily Maitlis will ask him about his belief that there is 'no conflict' between sharing and the privacy of Facebook users. The social media site was set up in February 2004 and has since changed the way many people interact. It now has more than eight hundred million active users and was the subject of award-winning film The Social Network, which starred Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg. The BBC2 in-house documentary will explore the website's Harvard roots and its plans to make more profit. Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook will be one of seven documentaries in BBC2's Money season. Other programmes include RBS - Inside the Bank that Ran Out of Money and Ian Hislop's documentary When Bankers Were Good, which focuses on Victorian philanthropists.

Colin Baker will, reportedly, be a guest on a popular cookery show during the festive period: 'I am allowed to tell you this and no more - Celebrity Come Dine with Me over Christmas. Watch yours truly cooking and eating - ad nauseam,' he posted on Twitter.

And, speaking of Twitter there was something of a storm on the popular social networking site on Sunday night when an official Sky News account tweeted: 'BREAKING: James Murdoch arrested over phone-hacking claims. Questioned at Paddington Green police station at 10pm.' The tweet was then forwarded many times, including by many within the media news industry.
The situation calmed down a touch when Sky News realised what had happened. Sky's home affairs correspondent Mark White was first on the Twitter scene and said: 'Just spoken to Met Police. They are not aware of any phone-hacking related arrest. Sky Newsdesk cheking [sic] where tweet originated from.' The Sky News Press office later added: 'Every indication is that @SkyNewsBiz account was hacked, we are investigating if and how this could have happened.' The offending tweet was subsequently removed.

There's a very good piece by the excellent Ed Byrne in Tuesday's Metro about the vexed subject of authenticity in TV: 'I was reading an article online about all the anachronisms that people have spotted in ITV's Downton Abbey. They focused on references to modern vernacular that people, serving people in particular, wouldn't have employed at that time. People were complaining the use of the phrase "get knotted" ruined the authenticity of an otherwise excellent show, but does it? Is the authenticity not also compromised by the fact that, as with pretty much all TV or film drama, the cast of Downton Abbey are, by and large, also too good looking to be "authentic"? Not to mention that, in order to have an entertaining plot, way too many things happen to the main characters for the plot to be an "authentic" representation of life in late Edwardian Britain.' Ed's regular column in Metro is one of British journalism's undiscovered joys, take last week's piece on whether comedy can ever be classed as dangerous. 'Ricky Gervais, Doug Stanhope and Tim Minchin have all been at the centre of controversy recently over varying degrees of offence they have caused in their quest to raise a titter. This latest round of the "is comedy going too far?" discussion has led to the phrase "dangerous comedy" being bandied about. But can any comedy, no matter how edgy or offensive, really be classed as dangerous? I think not. I don’t mind when comedians describe themselves as in-your-face, controversial or near-the-knuckle, but I despair when words such as dangerous, risky or worse yet, brave are being used to describe the work of somebody who basically takes the piss for a living. Going to war is dangerous. Firefighters are brave. The biggest risk a comedian takes involves buying a dodgy sausage roll on the way home from the gig.'

Apart from those vastly annoying 'holidays are coming' Coca-Cola adverts, nothing better defines that odious combination of Christmas and commercialism than John Lewis's seasonal gift to the world of advertising. Last year's offering single-handedly catapulted Ellie Goulding back into the public consciousness with her teeth-rattlingly shite cover of Elton John's 'Your Song'. This time, we've got Slow Moving Millie massacring The Smiths' 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want', and for every five people who find it mawkishly moving, there's another five ready to tear out their own lungs at how wretched the whole thing is. Yer Keith Telly Topping falls into the latter category just in case you were wondering. Inevitably, the Internet has reacted in the only way it knows how - with some excellent parodies. One of the first saw the visuals of the advert unchanged but the music switched to the theme from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, with terrifying consequences.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Haul in the anchors and let's cast off. And more power to yer elbow, dear blog reader.

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