Monday, January 09, 2012

Are You So Dumb That You Cannot Speak?

Risible, odious and crass Blind Date rip-off Take Me Out returned to ITV on Saturday night with 4.86m viewers - not a single one of whom would appear to possess an ounce of dignity or self-respect - placing the broadcaster second to BBC1 in its primetime slot. The ridiculous and oafish Paddy McGuinness-fronted show added a further two hundred and seventy three thousand punters on +1, whilst spin-off show Take Me Out: The Gossip, perhaps the most trivial and pointless television programme in the history of the medium, presented by Mark Wright and Zoe Hardman, was watched by six hundred and ninety nine thousand desperate souls on ITV2. The largest multichannel audience of the night belonged to an episode of Foyle's War on ITV3, which had an audience of 1.14m from 9pm. The opening episode of BBC4's latest superb Danish import, Borgen, had an audience of six hundred and fifty four thousand. Later on ITV, Talent Show Story saw a diminished audience of 2.39m and The Jonathan Ross Show a meagre 2.88m. On BBC1 meanwhile, The Magicians - now, thankfully, shot of the hugely unfunny Lenny Henry as host - conjured up an audience of 5.11m from 6.30pm, followed by The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins with 5.84m. The first episode of Casualty from its new South Wales production base was the day's most-watched programme on any channel, taking home a strong 6.13m. BBC2's offerings of The Good Life (8pm), Steptoe and Son (8.30pm) and Fawlty Towers (9pm) had, respectively, 2.25m, 2.62m and 2.5m. Celebrity Big Brother continued its miserable ratings decline on Channel Five, with just 1.94m watching highlights from the second day in the House. The Bank Job scored 1.3m for Channel Four from 8.30pm. Overall, BBC1 dominated primetime with 22.7 per cent, followed by ITV on 14.3 per cent.

It was a better night for ITV on Sunday, as Twatting About on Ice somehow managed to give ITV a - narrow - primetime victory with a strong series launch. The ridiculous figure-skating competition attracted 8.65m morons for the opening episode from 6.30pm, with a further two hundred and ninety sad, crushed victims of society watching later on +1. Later, the results show was seen by 6.51m from 9.30pm. Wild at Heart, broadcast in between, averaged 7.18m with two hundred and forty thousand on +1, while That Sunday Night Show began its new series with 2.22m. On BBC1, Sherlock continued its impressive second series with 8.16m from 8.30pm for The Hounds of Baskerville, preceded by The Antiques Roadshow with 6.26m from 7.30pm. However, the night was let down for the BBC by the dreadfully unamusing The One Lenny Henry with its pathetic audience of 1.6m from 10.25pm. Thank Christ there is only one Lenny Henry, frankly. And one episode of this fiasco. Last funny sometime around 1985, that bloke. If Benny Hill can be criticised for never changing his act in thirty years then, frankly, it's only fair that people like Henry (and Ben Elton for that matter) cop the same accusation. Elsewhere, Celebrity Big Brother drew 2.14m on Channel Five in the 10pm hour (slightly up on its Saturday night low point). BBC2's line-up consisted of a Top Gear repeat (1.51m), Great Barrier Reef (2.54m) and To Boldly Go (1.47m) before the channel showed the film Adventureland, which was watched by eight hundred and sixty thousand punters from 10pm.

The opening episode of Sherlock, incidentally, had a final consolidated rating of 10.66m viewers (thanks to a timeshift of 1.91m) according to BARB. Almost, but not quite, the highest ratings for a Steven Moffat drama in 2011 (and the first day of 2012). BARB's consolidated rating figures for week ending 1 January 2011:-
1 EastEnders - BBC1 Tues - 11.28m
2 New Year Live - BBC1 Sat - 10.67m
3 Sherlock - BBC1 Sun - 10.66m
4 Coronation Street - ITV Fri - 9.65m
5 The Royal Bodyguard - BBC1 Mon - 8.35m
6 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Mon - 8.24m
7 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 8.23m
8 Absolutely Fabulous - BBC1 Sun - 7.97m
9 Great Expectations - BBC1 Tues - 7.57m
10 Top Gear: India Special - BBC2 Wed - 6.61m [BBC2 5.76m, 849k BBC HD simultcast]
11 BBC News - BBC1 Wed - 6.40m
12 The Borrowers - BBC1 Mon - 6.34m
13 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.93m
14 Celebrity Mastermind - BBC1 Thurs - 5.80m
15 Earthflight - BBC1 Thurs - 5.77m
16 Frozen Planet - BBC1 Wed - 5.66m
17 Film: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - BBC1 Mon - 5.33m
18 Jim'll Fix It With Shane Richie - BBC1 Mon - 5.15m
19 Film: Shrek The Third - BBC1 Tues - 5.03m
20 ITV News - ITV Tues - 4.98m
In what is still one of the two most important TV weeks of the year, it was a thoroughly rotten seven days for ITV. Apart from Coronation Street and Emmerdale not a single ITV programme topped five million viewers between Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Tuesday's ITV News (4.98m), All New It'll Be Alright On The Night (4.95m) and Poirot (4.88m) got closest. BBC2's other medium sized hits of the week, besides Top Gear, were Great Barrier Reef (3.41m) and Jools's Annual Hootenanny (2.76m). Qi had 2.36m and Three Men Go To New England 2.35m. Channel Four's Big Fat Quiz Of The Year had a final audience of 3.89m. The New year's Day episode of Sky1's Treasure Island had a consolidated rating of 2.16m, by a comfortable distance the highest multi-channel show of the week, and higher than anything Channel Five could offer either.

An interesting little Twitter debate brewed up on Monday morning between the BBC's head of communications Sam Hodges and ITV's head of press and resident Comical Ali, James MacLeod over the Sherlock versus Wild at Heart overnight figures. Hodges, obviously delighted with Sherlock's second eight million plus overnight in a row tweeted: 'Episode two of Sherlock wins the 8.30-10pm slot, averaging 8.2m viewers. Great overnight.' Quick as a flash, MacLeod replied: 'Never mind about "winning" - over fifteen million were watching quality drama on both channels over the period.' I'm sure someone will be keen to remind MacLeod about the 'never mind winning it's the taking part that counts' stuff the next time he's on Twitter crowing about X Factor's overnights or trying to convince people that Red or Black? was a massive hit when it wasn't that or anything even remotely like it. Second, James. It comes right after first. Ask Buzz Aldrin.

Actually, Sam Hodges is becoming a bit of a hero on this blogger at the moment. Not only is his Twitter feed a great source for overnight ratings info, but he often gives as good as he gets when some tabloid scum prints their latest 'BBC Shock! Horror! Probe! Exclusive!' Take, for instance, the Daily Scum Express's frothing at the mouth outrage over a forthcoming BBC3 documentary Sex Sessions under the headline BBC's "Freak" Sex Show Slammed which pulled in the usual rent-a-quote gobshite from Mediawatch. To point out, again, Vivienne - you do not speak for me or anybody else I know. Just wanted to make that clear. Anyway, all of this is, of course, risible enough coming from a newspaper owned by a pornographer. Sam Hodges clearly had a similar thought asking 'The Telly Rocket': 'If people talking about sex on BBC3 offends you so, how would you sum up the approach of your colleagues at Television X?' Sam, you da man.

Enjoying the full co-operation of police units that specialise in controversial subjects such as counter terrorism or police corruption is now almost impossible, according to writer and producer Jed Mercurio. Mercurio, who has written and produced a new five-part BBC2 series about police corruption called Line of Duty, said only very limited co-operation for his research for the new series was given by the police. Line of Duty, which stars Lennie James, Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Neil Morrissey, is due to be broadcast in the spring. 'I had no problem getting access to see what the offices looked like and we could talk informally to fairly junior officers about their lives. But in terms of dealing with what we deal with in the show which is anti-corruption, that was problematic and we kept coming up against that problem,' Mercurio said at a screening of the drama at the BFI last week. Speaking after the screening Mercurio told the Gruniad Morning Star that none of the police standards departments in any UK force would act as technical advisers on the programme. 'We had some meetings with the anti-corruption officers but none would agree to be technical advisers on the series. It is a pretty sensitive area and there is a problem with these areas – areas like corruption and anti terrorism,' he said. During the Q and A session after the Line of Duty screening, Mercurio added that he was forced to rely for a large part on blogs such as Inspector Gadget and PC Copperfield for background information on the subject of police investigations of officers facing corruption allegations. Simon Heath, Line of Duty's executive producer and head of drama at World Productions, the independent producer of Line of Duty, agreed with Mercurio's assessment. He said that Cops, World's acclaimed BBC2 drama which ran for three series between 1998 and 2000, also enjoyed only a shortlived co-operation with the police. 'When that show started the team behind it got almost total access but when the show went out access almost totally stopped,' said Heath, adding that access for research assistance from the police is now 'PR-led.'

Grumpy, greedy, pompous, overpaid, recently unemployed ITV failure Adrian Chiles has suggested that he would happily present This Morning with former Daybreak flop The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley. The former ONE Show pair were - amusingly - sacked from the ITV breakfast disaster in November amid a shitstorm of low ratings, and risible audience feedback. They presented their final edition last month. Chiles, last seen on Sunday, presenting ITV's miserably poor coverage of the FA Cup on Sunday, has now expressed 'an interest' in taking over from Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on the channel's flagship daytime programme. But, he was sensible enough to add that that he and Bleakley are probably the least desirable candidates for the job since they made such an right arse of the last high-profile presenting jobs ITV gave the odious, greedy pair of traitors. 'Maybe we can do This Morning,' he said in the Sun's TV Buzz magazine. 'Not that they would want us, but if no one else is available and they were threatening to take the show off the air, they might put us on.' Sound like a dying man clinging to the cliff edge by his fingertips? Glad to know it's not just me. Chiles then attempted to explain his current stance on his and Bleakley's Daybreak firing, saying that he was 'hurt, but not really bitter' about ITV's decision. Taken, let's remember, because the pair had, effectively, become ratings poison for the commercial broadcaster. 'It's their train set, they don't want me and Christine to do it,' he said, with a pet-lip almost trailing the floor. 'We gave it our best shot, but you can't win them all.' Indeed. And in your case, Greedy, you didn't win any of them. 'It was hard to enjoy because we were always getting slated, but I'm proud of it - prouder of it than The ONE Show. It was a difficult time being under that much pressure. You get ratty with one another, but we were the only ones helping each other through it at times.' Chiles stated shortly after departing Daybreak that he had to take 'a lot of blame' for the show's failure. Which, frankly, is a bit like that episode of The Simpsons where Kent Brockman says 'A spokesman attributed the production shutdown to "a half-witted oaf."' To which Homer replies: 'Aww, it was sweet of those guys to blame an oaf. But, really, it was my fault.'

And speaking of Daybreak and its seeming never-ending ability to make us guffaw with laughter until we're helpless, and your bladder is in danger of bursting, newsreader Tasmin Lucia Khan has become the latest of the Daybreak team to be be dropped from the ITV breakfast flop as producers reportedly 'continue to search for new anchors.' Tasmin announced the night before on Twitter that Friday would be her last Daybreak as she is off to America. She has been the main newsreader for Daybreak since it launched in September 2010. The breakfast show has struggled in just about every single way that it is possible to struggle in since it replaced GMTV. Former BBC Breakfast editor David Kermode has been drafted in as Daybreak's editor in the hope he and a new team can get the show on-track. Personally, I think he'd have more luck trying to save Wigan or Blackburn from relegation but, there you go.

Being Human is back on BBC3 in the near future, and there's a few changes in store for series four. With Mitchell (Aidan Turner) gone for good and George (Russell Tovey) also on his way out before the end of the next series, soon Annie (Lenora Crichlow) will be left as the last ghost standing. There is a new paranormal line-up fronting the next eight episodes, however, as Annie is joined by new vampire Hal - one of the powerful Old Ones - and Michael Socha's werewolf Tom, now sticking around Honolulu Heights full-time. Fans of the show can also expect a new roster of supporting characters, including Harry Potter's Mark Williams as Regus, Andrew Gower as Cutler and Alex Griffin as the aptly-named Griffin.
There's an interesting piece in the Sun on the forthcoming year on TV, dear blog reader. I know it's the Sun but they seem to have got most of the details right so far in a kind of 'even a broken clock is right twice a year' sort of way. Their forthcoming highlights include Call The Midwife, Mad Dogs, Birdsong, Love Life, The Fuse, Bertie and Dickie, A Touch of Cloth, Nemesis and The Scapegoat. Good picks, by and large.
Hart Hanson has said that is he 'confident' Bones will be picked up for an eighth season. The series creator spoke about the show's prospects at Fox's TCA panel, insisting that Bones will return for the 2012-2013 television season, Deadline reports. 'Oh, hell yes!' Hanson said when asked if the show would be renewed. 'Putting Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) together and having a child as far as we're concerned reinvigorated the series,' he continued. 'There are still very good stories to be told in the Bones universe, stories that our characters generate,' Hanson said. 'So that's a long way of saying "Yes." I'd like it to come back.' Deschanel gave birth to a baby boy named Henry in September. Her pregnancy was written into the show's storyline.

A quarter of a century after his only previous appearance on the small screen, Dustin Hoffman is set to appear on TV playing a cool, criminally minded gambler in a new HBO drama about the thoroughbred racing business at California's art deco Santa Anita Park. HBO executives are not the only ones hoping Luck is a wager that pays out: its success would help to challenge the argument that audiences will only embrace youth and beauty. Other long-in-the-tooth actors in the show include Nick Nolte, playing a trainer known simply as the 'The Old Man', Michael Gambon and Dennis Farina, who starred in director Michael Mann's 1980s series Crime Story. Whatever the odds, Mann clearly believes that age is no hindrance, and indeed may be a dramatic advantage in settings that require the weight of character and time. Mann, who is best known for hits such as Miami Vice and the movie Heat, has not restricted himself to actors in Hoffman's age group for the project. The series, which starts on HBO in the US on 29 January and is to be screened in Britain on Sky Atlantic from next month, will bring new exposure to up-and-coming British star Tom Payne, best known as Brett Aspinall in the BBC's Waterloo Road. The twenty nine-year-old, who also played George Best in the BBC film Best: His Mother's Son, plays Bug Boy, an apprentice jockey. But it's Hoffman, seventy four, who will drive Luck to a finishing-line win or otherwise. The star of The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy hasn't accepted a TV role since playing Willy Loman in a 1985 adaptation of Death of a Salesman (although he did do an uncredited voice-over on an early episode of The Simpsons). In search of the cultural edge, Hoffman plays Chester Ace Bernstein, a cool-headed gambler out for revenge against those who set him up for a three-year stretch inside, but also as vulnerable to the frailties of age and in fear of the onset of dementia. Critics who reviewed the pilot on US television last month described Luck as 'a beautiful hour of television' and as 'an entrancing mixture of beautiful horses, stumble-bum gamblers, exciting races, and a tightly controlled yet open, emotional performance by Hoffman.' Critics have also welcomed Hoffman's return to a character role, after he has recently been splashing about in comedic waters with the Fokkers and Kung Fu Panda films. Tipping the odds toward making Luck a winner, the series was written by David Milch, the writer behind Hill Street Blues and Deadwood. Luck is nothing if not closely observed: Milch is a horse-racing aficionado who knows the sport both as a winner (he's an owner with two Breeder's Cup winners to his name) and as a loser — he counts gambling as among his compulsions. Entertainment Weekly says Milch's love of interconnected groups of owners and trainers, winners and losers, schemers, compulsive railbirds and romantics is 'perfect' for a drama set at a racetrack. The short-burst intensity of racing, coupled with the slow-paced plotting of characters such as Bernstein – who plans to take control of the track to turn it into a slot-machine casino, a fate facing several historic tracks across the US, including New York's Belmont – appears ideal for an HBO character drama. But beyond bringing the richly drawn world of racetrack characters and thoroughbred bloodlines to the screen, racing authorities are quietly hoping that the series may draw new interest in racing itself, which has suffered decades of declining attendances and purses. Officials at Santa Anita Park, situated under the shadow of the San Gabriel mountains in Arcadia, say they hope the exposure will bring larger attendances to the winter and spring meets. 'A lot of it is about the horse-racing game itself,' spokesman Pete Siberell told the LA Times. 'It's deep and it challenges you to catch up. We're hoping it will get people interested in the game, the beauty of horse racing, and also want to see Santa Anita for themselves.'

Graham Norton's London home was burgled on Friday night, resulting in his car being stolen. The comic returned home in the early hours of Saturday morning to discover that his house had been ransacked and the black Lexus hybrid taken. Hours later, he appealed to listeners of his BBC Radio 2 show to help find the vehicle by reading out its number plate. 'I'm a bit distracted but was anybody else broken into last night?' he said. 'Anybody else come home to find your house ransacked? It was only stuff and the dogs were fine but I didn't get to bed until very late because I had to wait for the scenes-of-crime unit to come. It took me an hour before I realised they'd taken my car. I'm not sure well catch them. Shall we have a game of crimestoppers? Shall I give out my registration? It's a big black Lexus and filthy. Its reg is LT59 DDY and there'll be a five pound reward if someone finds it. David Cameron, if you're listening, so much for your Big Society. Where's my car?!' He later revealed on Twitter that his car had, actually, been recovered, although it was 'due to the on-board tracker' rather than his radio and Twitter appeal.

TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson has reportedly been arrested for shoplifting cheese at Tesco. The sixty-year-old, who has starred on hit shows including Food and Drink and Ready Steady Cook, was cautioned by police after being involved in five alleged incidents at the supermarket's Henley-on-Thames branch. Tesco staff filmed Worrall Thompson using self-service checkout machines and the celebrity reportedly put some items into his bags without paying for them. A source told the Sun: 'He was ordering blocks of cheese at the deli counter, taking bottles of wine, then putting some things through the scanner but walking out with the rest. They caught him on camera doing it more than once, but had to be one hundred per cent sure it was not a genuine mistake before apprehending him. Because of his high profile, the security staff could not afford to get it wrong.' Thames Valley police said in a statement: 'We arrested a man from High Wycombe following a report of shoplifting offences. The man has been issued with a formal caution for these offences.' Worrall Thompson's restaurant business is believed to have been damaged by the recession and he recently downsized properties from a £1.6 million mansion to a home in High Wycombe.
Resembling an overheating aunt in white linen in a Merchant-Ivory movie, her pale skin unsuited to a South African summer, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks bizarrely popped up in unflattering holiday pics on Scum Mail Online last week. Just as if she was Lady Gaga or Victoria Beckham – with the accompanying copy making much of the contrast between her past year of 'ugly scandal' and her freedom to fly away on a sun-soaking New Year break in Cape Town and look 'as if she doesn't have a care in the world.' And then, strangely, the piece and pictures were taken down, only to be later made part of the story of her former PA's arrest on Friday. Similarly mystifying was the use of the same photo on a Daily Torygraph news page, although the broadsheet did omit the Scum Mail's second holiday image, of the former News International boss with her husband, the horseracing trainer Charlie Brooks. As Charlie Brooks is a Torygraph columnist, reminding readers of the link may have been thought inadvisable.

David Hockney has denied attacking Damien Hirst for using assistants to complete his works. Hockney was reported to be criticising Hirst when he told Andrew Marr in a Radio Times interview that the practice was 'a little insulting to craftsmen.' But the Royal Academy of Arts, which is staging a major Hockney exhibition, has issued a statement on his behalf. The artist 'has not made any comments which imply criticism of another artist's working practices,' it said. Marr wrote that Hockney was 'critical of artists with no craft, who delegate the making.' He wrote that a poster for the exhibition read 'All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally' and added that Hockney nodded when asked whether that was a dig at Hirst. 'It's a little insulting to craftsmen, skillful craftsmen,' Hockney told Marr. 'I used to point out at art school, you can teach the craft, it's the poetry you can't teach. But now they try to teach the poetry and not the craft.' That was widely reported as a rebuke to Hirst. But the Royal Academy has said Hockney's views were taken out of context and that the criticism 'did not happen. The Royal Academy wishes to make it clear that, contrary to some recent press reports, David Hockney has not made any comments which imply criticism of another artist's working practices,' the statement said. 'Nor are there any words to this effect on the poster promoting his forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.' The line 'All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally' was on Hockney's gallery wall but not on a poster for the exhibition, the spokeswoman said. Hockney, seventy four, has prepared a series of new landscape paintings of his beloved East Yorkshire for the Royal Academy show, which opens on 21 January.

The life of Nelson Mandela is to be the subject of a twenty million dollars TV mini-series spanning six decades and the momentous events leading to his election as South Africa's first black president after twenty seven years in jail. Mandela, now ninety three, has given his approval for the six-hour drama, which is due to go into production later this year, shooting primarily on location in South Africa. Casting is still being finalised. Mandela has previously been played on screen by Morgan Freeman in Clint Eastwood's 2009 film Invictus. The producers are in talks with broadcasters in the UK and US about the project. The scripts are based on two books optioned by the producers, the autobiographical Conversations with Myself and Nelson Mandela By Himself, which features authorised quotations. The programme-makers have also been given access to the archives of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Entitled Madiba, the clan name from the Xhosa tribe by which Mandela has often been known, the mini-series is being co-produced by his grandson, Kweku Mandela, and the UK film-makers who were behind The Queen and The Damned United. Kweku Mandela said Madiba would not just be another project painting his grandfather as 'Mandela the saint', but would seek to credit the many people who helped shape his life story. He added that the producers were also seeking to educate a new generation about the system of apartheid through which South Africa's white minority oppressed the black majority for more than forty years up to 1990. The first democratic elections open to all races were held in 1994. The series will also examine Mandela's relationship with his mother and her impact on his character. Mandela's father died when he was a child. Born in 1918, Mandela joined anti-apartheid organisation the African National Congress – which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary at the weekend – in the mid-1940s and founded the ANC youth league with others including Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo. Mandela qualified as a lawyer in the early 1950s and opened a law firm in partnership with Tambo, while the pair continued to campaign against apartheid. As resistance to the National Party's apartheid regime grew, the ANC was outlawed in 1960, and four years later Mandela and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement were sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent eighteen years of his imprisonment at Robben Island before being transferred to the South African mainland. A campaign to free Mandela became the focus of international opposition to apartheid, with a regime of sanctions imposed on South Africa. In the face of this mounting international pressure, in 1990 South African president FW De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, with Mandela released from prison on 11 February that year. Three years later Mandela and De Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize and in 1994 the ANC won South Africa's first multiracial democratic election, with Mandela becoming president. He stepped down in 1999 and retired from public life in 2004. Madiba is being written by Nigel Williams, the British novelist, screenwriter and playwright, whose previous TV credits include an adaptation of his own novel The Wimbledon Poisoner and Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren. The mini-series is being co-produced by UK film-makers Andy Harries and Marigo Kehoe through their production company, Left Bank Pictures, which has credits including the BBC's Swedish detective drama Wallander. Harries and Kehoe have previously collaborated on projects including The Queen and The Damned United. Harries told the Gruniad Morning Star that during a research trip to South Africa for the project in May 2011, he and Kehoe had a brief meeting with Mandela to discuss the mini-series and get his personal blessing. They found him at his home in Johannesburg, sitting 'in his armchair in his lounge reading the paper.' Harries said he believed a 'quality six-hour TV series with a budget of over three million dollars an hour will be able to give the story the space and breadth it needs.' He added: 'There is a whole generation of people who weren't even born when Nelson Mandela finally walked free from prison after twenty seven years in captivity in the early 1990s. His story is one that they need to know.'

And, on that bombshell, there's only one Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day possible. And a legendary live performance on The Tube to go with it.

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