Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm No Clown, I Won't Back Down

The BBC has confirmed that crime drama The Body Farm will not return for a second series. The Waking the Dead spin-off starred Tara Fitzgerald as Eve Lockhart and Keith Allen as her ally DI Craig Hale. The first series was broadcast in September and October last year, but no further episodes will be produced, according to the Radio Times. While the series premiere attracted an audience of 6.3m, viewing figures had dropped to 4.3m by the sixth and final episode. Parent series Waking the Dead - starring Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston - drew to a close in April 2011 after nine series. At the time, Johnston, who played Grace Foley, said that she felt 'robbed' by the BBC's decision although, to be fair, the BBC had already made it clear that the main reason the series being cancelled was due to Trevor Eve's massive salary packet. 'I'm very sad about it,' she admitted in March. 'It was a lovely job. The show gets great audiences, it's sold all over the world and I don't quite get why it's going.' Because yer man Trev was getting a reported million smackers a series and, in case you hadn't noticed, the BBC have hardly got a pot to piss in these days, Sue. The Body Farm was made by BBC Drama Production in association with Eve's company, Projector Productions.

Oscar-winning US actress - and world class fruit-case - Shirley MacLaine is to join the cast of Downton Abbey for its third series as the mother of Lady Grantham. MacLaine - whose character is named Martha Levinson - will begin filming with the rest of the cast next month. 'It is so exciting to have an actress of Shirley MacLaine's stature joining our brilliant Downton Abbey cast,' said Laura Mackie, ITV's director of drama. 'It is a tribute to the show's success on both sides of the Atlantic. Julian [Fellowes] has written another brilliant character in Martha Levinson, who will be a wonderful combatant for Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess,' said Gareth Neame of Carnival Films. MacLaine has starred in more than fifty movies during her career which started in 1956 as nineteen year old in Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry. She won an Oscar in 1984 for Terms of Endearment. She has been nominated for a further five Academy Awards - Irma la Douce, Some Came Running, The Apartment et al - appeared in a couple of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite movies, Gambit and Two Mules For Sister Sara, and recently received France's most prestigious cultural award, the Legion of Honour. Her other movie credits include The Children's Hour opposite Audrey Hepburn, Steel Magnolias and Postcards from the Edge. Downton Abbey recently won the National TV Award for best drama and a Golden Globe for best mini-series. MacLaine will play the mother of Elizabeth McGovern's character, the American-born wife of Hugh Bonneville's Earl of Grantham.

It was good to see Whitechapel back on ITV on Monday night with something of a return to form after its hugely disappointing second series. The drama seems to work far better when dealing with Gothic horror as opposed to gangster stories. The episode pulled in an overnight audience of 6.6m viewers (including ITV+1 viewers) on a night in which ITV totally dominated thanks to two episodes of Corrie attracting just under ten million viewers each. The BBC couldn't cope with that with even EastEnders having a lower-than-usual 8.7m. The Royal Bodyguard closed its first - and, presumably, only - series with another lacklustre audience of 2.81m. It won't be missed. This was followed by Mrs Brown's Boys (5.39m).

Radio 5Live should provide more coverage of non-mainstream and minority sports, the BBC Trust has said. The station and its digital offshoot Sports Extra currently offer news and live commentary across twenty sports. However in a review, the Trust found up to two-thirds of 5Live's sport output in 2010-11 was football focused. The report added the station should spend more of its budget on news output in the future, to be representative of its seventy five per cent news output remit. 5Live and Sports Extra currently provides coverage on sports including cricket, golf, athletics, women's football, baseball, swimming and snooker. The Trust said while the current offering was a 'good starting point' it felt the station could 'increase its commitment' with a wider range included during peak listening hours. 'Although football will continue to be the most covered sport, other sports should receive more representation,' the report said. BBC management, in its submission to the trust, said 5Live would 'explore the possibilities' of reporting on swimming, extreme sports and American sports, depending on audience interest. BBC Trustee Alison Hastings, who led the review, told 5Live's Victoria Derbyshire she did not think it was 'sensible' for the Trust to specify which sports the station should be covering. 'But certainly during the Olympics, and perhaps at other times, you will be hearing a wider range of sport,' she said. The BBC Trust carries out an in-depth review of each of the BBC's services at least once every five years. It assesses performance, through public consultation and from responses from the broadcasting industry, against the service's remit and decides whether amendments are necessary. The review found 5Live was 'highly valued' by listeners, with a weekly audience of about 6.7m. It said news coverage on the station had 'breadth, depth, wit and intelligence' but said audiences were more likely to think of it as a sport network. The Trust said the station needed to do more to raise awareness of its news output and re-balance the spending towards news instead of sport. 'We recognise that sports rights and high-quality sports production can be expensive, however we feel that the balance of spend towards sports does not reflect the station's role to provide seventy five per cent news,' the Trust said. The report added a small proportion of the audience felt that, at times, 5Live had too much focus on trivial or less serious issues. The Trust said it would therefore like to see fewer 'non-news' features in news programmes, particularly when there was more important news in the agenda to cover. 'Audiences really value the fact that it's not wall-to-wall hard news all the time,' said Hastings. 'They like the tone. But if you're a programme that, maybe because of the time of day, is less likely to be doing more hard-driven news, you've got to think carefully about some of the regular features. Does that make the whole programme less "newsy" than it's meant to be?' Hastings said. 'It's great to see that 5Live's approach to news coverage and breaking news really stands out for listeners. We've set out ways in which we think 5Live could build on this to ensure that all of its journalism continues to meet the high standards that audiences expect.' A spokesman for 5Live said: 'We are pleased the report concludes the both 5Live and Sports Extra are performing well and are rated highly by our audiences. We will now consider the detailed findings and develop the plans to implement the report's recommendations.' In response to the report, RadioCentre - the self-interest trade body for UK commercial radio - said it welcomed the BBC Trust review, particularly 'measures to prioritise high quality news coverage and feature minority sport more regularly.' However, it added that the 'modest' nature of the changes represented 'a missed opportunity for the BBC.'

Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft concealed his involvement in a business that went bust with debts of around nineteen million quid, the BBC's Panorama has alleged. The programme claims that Lord Ashcroft misled the stock market and the media about his links to a Caribbean-based construction company. Lord Ashcroft has given more than ten million smackers to the Conservative Party. He said he has had no 'economic beneficial or legal interest' in the firm since he sold it in 1999. But the programme has obtained evidence that appears to show Lord Ashcroft continued to secretly control the company, Johnston International, long after that date. Johnston was one of the largest construction companies in the Caribbean, until it closed down without warning in June 2010. Panorama has spoken to fourteen former employees, who all say they were told, long after 1999, that Lord Ashcroft was their boss. One former employee, who did not want to be identified, said that Lord Ashcroft was often mentioned during meetings in the Johnston office. 'They used to refer to him sometimes as Michael Ashcroft and they would also refer to MAA, which are his initials. And they would refer to running things past MAA. No-one was under any illusions as to who that was. It was very clear that that was Lord Ashcroft.' The programme has also obtained dozens of faxes which were sent to Lord Ashcroft by the Johnston chief executive after the 1999 sale. They cover a seven year period and were all addressed to 'MAA.' The faxes update Lord Ashcroft on company business and ask for his instructions on major building projects. Lord Ashcroft then wrote his instructions on some of the faxes and sent them back. Creditors are owed around thirty million dollars following its collapse nineteen months ago. They include many former employees who have been left thousands of dollars out of pocket. George Mason Seymour, who worked for Johnston for thirty years, said the workers had been kept completely in the dark. 'All of us feel the same way right now because we all need money, we all got families, we've got school started a few months ago. We have bills to pay and there's nothing much going on.' At a creditors' meeting last September, Johnston's liquidators warned creditors that there was 'very little cash' left in the company. They also said that two million dollars should have been paid to the workers but had been transferred instead to the British Caribbean Bank, Lord Ashcroft's bank. British Caribbean Bank denies that this money should have gone to the workers. Through its solicitors, the bank says that the transfer of Johnston's assets was 'entirely proper' in 'every respect.' The bank says the assets represented security for loans: 'It is entirely unsurprising that such secured claims would rank in priority to claims by unsecured creditors, including employees.' Lord Ashcroft declined to be interviewed. But in response to Panorama's most recent questions, his lawyers said that he 'stood by every statement he had made' to the programme. They also said that Lord Ashcroft did not have 'any kind of interest' in the ownership of the Johnston group of companies. But Panorama had not asked Lord Ashcroft about the ownership of Johnston. The programme had asked whether he controlled the company - and that is a question he has repeatedly avoided answering.

Sky Sports has today secured four more years of live international and county cricket under a new contract agreed with the England & Wales Cricket Board. The satellite broadcaster's new deal ensures exclusive coverage of first-class cricket will remain on Sky TV, mobile and online. Replacing Sky's existing multi-million pound deal, which was due to expire in 2013, the new agreement runs from 2014 to 2017. Sky Sports will exclusively broadcast coverage of all England Test matches played at home, including the next home Ashes against Australia in 2015, along with series against India (2014), Pakistan (2016) and South Africa (2017). The broadcaster will also cover all England's One-Day Internationals and T20 matches, plus selected fixtures featuring England Lions and the England women's team. At least sixty county matches from domestic cricket will be broadcast on Sky Sports each summer, covering each of the major competitions in each county. 'This is good news for cricket and good news for viewers. Our viewers will enjoy a breadth of live coverage, at domestic and international level, and the ECB extends a partnership that has proved good for the game,' said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis. 'Cricket is flourishing in England and Wales, with increased participation, record attendances and success for England's men and women. Through extending our partnership, the ECB can invest on and off the pitch and the game can continue to grow.' ECB Chairman Giles Clarke added: 'Sky Sports has raised the bar for all live television broadcasters with its innovative, informed and comprehensive coverage of cricket and we are very pleased to renew this agreement for a further four years. No-one should be in any doubt that our partnership with Sky has been of immense benefit to the wider game. World-class support structures for our successful England teams, major ground improvements at county level, a flourishing coach education programme and a 5% increase in participation at our "Focus" clubs are all by-products of this relationship.' The deal will take Sky's partnership with the ECB for live cricket into its twelfth consecutive year, and there is also an option for Sky to extend the deal for an additional two years to cover tours by India in 2018 and Australia in 2019. Last week, it was announced that Test Match Special will remain on the BBC until 2019, after the corporation agreed a new radio rights deal with the ECB to home England Tests.

Mad Frankie Boyle's controversial show Tramadol Nights has reportedly been dropped by Channel Four, according to the Daily Scum Mail. Boyle allegedly said: 'I was really happy with it, but you can see why they didn't want to recommission something that was getting them front page hatred, and I was a bit relieved. A six-week panel show takes six weeks to make. Because I was involved from storyboard to editing, Tramadol took over six months, and loads of that was late nights and six-day weeks.' The reports have also claimed that Boyle's planned chat show, Frankie Boyle's Rehabilitation Programme, will not be made into a series after a pilot was filmed last year. A Channel Four spokesperson allegedly described Tramadol Nights as a 'one-off' and confirmed that no more episodes will be made, adding that there are no plans to turn Rehabilitation Programme's 'non-transmittable pilot' into a series.

Steve Jones has revealed that he will not host The X Factor USA's second season. The thirty four-year-old Welsh presenter announced the news on Twitter, but did not give reasons for his departure from the programme. It was first rumoured that Jones was about to get the tin-tack from The X Factor last December, with alleged 'insiders' claiming that only a 'miracle' would save his job. Jones was said to be 'devastated' at the prospect of moving on from the show.

Channel Four has raided BBC News once again, hiring the deputy editor of Panorama to edit current affairs documentary strand Dispatches. Daniel Pearl will report to Dorothy Byrne, Channel Four head of news and current affair. Pearl is a former deputy editor of Newsnight and the BBC1 10pm news and in 2010 edited the BBC's prime ministerial election debate. Last year Channel Four News hired Newsnight's political editor, Michael Crick, and correspondent Jackie Long, and BBC World News America presenter Matt Frei. ITV News appointed Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News channel chief political correspondent, to be its business editor.

Screenwriter Andrew Davies has criticised BBC1's recent adaptation of Great Expectations. The three-part drama, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, was broadcast over the festive period - to general audience acclaim - and featured an all-star cast including Gillian Anderson, Douglas Booth, Ray Winstone, David Suchet and Vanessa Kirby. However, the Daily Torygraph reports that whinging old gasbag Davies has complained about the adaptation, which was written by Oliver Twist screenwriter Sarah Phelps. Davies, who has previously adapted classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Bleak House, Sense and Sensibility and Little Dorrit for the small screen, complained that the drama 'didn't really feel like Dickens.' Maybe that's why seven million people chose to watch it which is a bigger audience than anything you've written in the last decade, pal. Jesus, why is it in the television industry that everybody seems to think they have a duty to diss the hard work of others? 'With Dickens, you can leave characters out so long as you don't leave too much out,' Davies said. 'That was an adaptation of Great Expectations that left so much out it didn't really feel like Dickens.' Davies added: 'It had the story all right but it left the humour out. Taking the humour out of Dickens, it's not Dickens anymore.'

The coroner at the inquest on Wales manager Gary Speed has said that he cannot be satisfied that Speed intended to kill himself. Nicholas Rheinberg recorded a narrative verdict after hearing details of the ex-Premier League player's final hours. Speed's widow said that his job had strained their marriage and they had 'an exchange of words' the night before he died, which led to her sleeping in her car and later found his body hanging in the garage at their home near Chester. The coroner gave the cause of death as hanging but said 'the evidence does not sufficiently determine whether this was intentional or accidental.' Louise Speed said she had gone for a drive after they had words when they returned from a dinner party, but she could not get back into the house. Four days earlier Speed sent his wife a text talking 'in terms of taking his life,' but she said that she had 'dismissed' it because of their children. Mrs Speed said he did not leave a note. Detective Inspector Peter Lawless said Speed's computer and phone were checked for a note, and none was found. His friend, the former England captain Alan Shearer, who was with him the day before he was found dead, said that he had become aware there were 'issues' between the couple. Shearer, whose family went on holiday with the Speeds, said that he told Speed such issues were normal in a long-standing relationship. Shearer last saw his former Newcastle teammate at lunchtime on the Saturday before he died, when Speed appeared on the BBC's Football Focus programme. He said that Speed - who played for a number of Premier League clubs, including Leeds United, Newcastle, Everton and Bolton Wanderers - 'seemed fine' and was laughing and joking. He got the call with the news of his death the next day. 'It just didn't and still doesn't make sense to me,' said Shearer's statement. Shearer also said that his friend did not seem worried about anything and told him he would call him the following Monday and that they had been playing to spend the following weekend together playing golf. He also said Speed seemed to be enjoying the Wales manager's job. The hearing was told by the Welsh national team's GP, Dr Mark Ridgewell, that Speed showed no signs of stress and depression. Dr Bob Muggleton, the medical officer at Sheffield United - the club Speed managed before taking on the Wales job - told the inquest in Warrington that he had worked with him until 2010 and no mental health issues were raised during that time. The inquest was told about a dinner party hosted by a friend of Speed the night before he died, when he had appeared 'in good spirits.' Speed had been pushed in the swimming pool with his clothes on, along with other men, in 'scenes of good fun.' He had also been talking of booking a Christmas holiday to Dubai. Robert Bateman, the taxi driver who took the Speeds home, said everything had seemed normal and they were 'as normal as they always are.' The inquest was told Speed had alcohol in his blood, just over the UK drink-drive limit of eighty milligrammes. In a statement, Speed's mother Carol said her son had said that there was 'no greater honour than to manage his country in the game he loved.' She described him as 'a half-empty person' and 'certainly no optimist.' The phone call from her daughter-in-law was the 'worst moment of my life.' Mrs Speed arrived at the inquest in Warrington shortly before it began with a number of family and friends. The League Managers' Association is expected to release a statement on her behalf after the hearing. After news emerged of his death, tributes were paid to Speed from around the UK and the sporting world. Football matches around the country held minute's silences and applause, while fans of his former clubs left scarves, shirts, photos and flags in Speed's memory. Tributes were also left at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff City Stadium and Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. The Football Association of Wales announced a memorial international friendly game against Costa Rica in Cardiff, which will be held on 29 February. Gary had earned the first of his eighty five Welsh caps as a twenty-year-old in a friendly against the Central American country in 1990. The former Premier League star, who had two sons, went on to become Wales' most capped outfield player, captaining his country forty four times and scoring seven goals. Earlier this month Speed's friend and former Wales teammate Chris Coleman was unveiled as the new Wales manager.

Nice to see that CNN, that 'internationally renowned newsgathering organisation' has such a great grasp of geography. Err, I think you'll find London's roughly where Norwich is in reality there, lads.
The Stone Roses bassist Mani has confessed that he didn't realise his tour advance payment would be so big. Mani revealed that he went to a cashpoint to withdraw money for food shopping recently only to discover that two million smackers had been deposited into his account, reports the Sun. They claim that Mani told his friends in Stockport: 'It's madness. I only went out to buy milk and things. I went to the cashpoint and someone has stuck nearly two million pounds in while I wasn't looking. The whole world's gone crazy. I could have fallen over backwards when I saw the balance.' Mani confirmed that the band were aware that they would receive an advance from the high sales of their reunion tour and festival dates, but did not know it would be as much as they have been given.

Which means there's only one possible candidate for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And it ain't 'Money For Nothing' either.

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