Thursday, January 12, 2012

Whose Whinge Is It This Time, Anyway?

BBC executives 'thought very carefully' before including the pre-watershed nude scenes in Sherlock which drew around one hundred complaints - the majority, seemingly, from Daily Scum Mail readers - but decided to go ahead because the drama is 'cheeky entertainment', according to controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson. Stephenson said that Sherlock fans will have to wait at least until next year for more episodes of the hit show, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. In the New Year's Day episode, A Scandal in Belgravia, Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes meets his match in the formidable shape of Irene Adler, who is naked when they first meet. However, thanks to the camera angles and Lara Pulver's carefully placed arms and hands, viewers do not actually see any of her naughty bits. He said: 'We thought about it very carefully, we had lots of conversations about it. Just because it's pre-watershed doesn't mean it has to be dull. You actually saw more of Benedict Cumberbatch than Lara. Sherlock is cheeky entertainment that takes risks like having text on screen.' Stephenson said that the complaints would be taken seriously - which is, frankly, disappointing - but pointed out that about ten million viewers had watched the show and that it had high audience appreciation scores (eighty eight out of one hundred, as it happens). When asked when the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-penned drama would be returning, Stephenson said, 'not this year.' He declined to say when it would be back and went on to say that viewers would have to wait for Sunday night's final cliffhanger episode of the current run to see why. Sherlock fans had to wait eighteen months between series one and two, and have already been asking for more episodes. But the schedules of the cast and writers, the demands of the complex scripts and quality look of the show mean a fast turnaround is not possible. Moffat, who is also showrunner on Doctor Who, has been working on what Stephenson called the 'remarkable plans' for the BBC's popular family SF drama's fiftieth anniversary in 2013. Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London on Wednesday, Stephenson also revealed that Victoria Wood is making a return to the BBC with a film she has written for 2013. Which is, of course, awful news. 'She's coming back to BBC1, where she belongs,' he said, but declined to give details. Stephenson also said that Idris Elba series Luther will be returning to BBC1 'at the end of this year or beginning of next' and that four episodes will be made. However, no decision has yet been made about whether Garrow's Law and new drama Young James Herriot will return or whether Christmas family drama The Borrowers will be back as a series. He also revealed he was held meetings with actors' union Equity about bringing more lead female characters on screen. 'It's what we should do. Our average audience is a woman in their fifties, that's who we appeal to broadly.' Commenting on the effect of the cuts being made as a result of Delivering Quality First, Stephenson said that while 'we're moving away totally from drama on BBC4 and downplaying it on BBC3' the number of BBC1 dramas 'will go up,' except in 2013-14, when there will be one fewer due to 'accounting reasons.' Stephenson also revealed that the BBC is talking to one of the Danish directors of BBC4 hit The Killing about a project and said that BBC2 is to be broadcast a film related to the Olympics, more details of which will be revealed soon. Talking about his future, Stephenson said he was 'not interested' in the current vacant head of drama role at Channel Four, pointing out he is only in his fourth year of his job at the BBC.

Last night's live League Cup football on Match of the Day was watched by 6.77m for BBC1, according to overnight data. Coverage of the match between Liverpool Deliverance Ye-Haws and Sheikh Yer Man City FC from 7.30pm guided the channel to comfortable primetime victory over ITV. In the same timeslot, ITV showed The Unforgettable Leslie Crowther and Midsomer Murders, which attracted 3.89m and 5.12m respectively. The latter had an additional two hundred and forty thousand punters on +1. BBC2 ended up in third place for the night with a line-up of Hairy Bikers' Best of British (2.11m), The Great Sport Relief Bake Off (2.53m), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1.67m) and Mock the Week (1.35m). Channel Four's birthing double-bill of One Born Every Minute (2.6m the 9pm hour with an impressive five hundred and thirty thousand on +1) and How to Be a Good Mother with Sharon Horgan (1.23m) brought some decent results whilst, earlier, the utterly risible Fabulous Baker Boys was watched by 1.11m viewers. Overall, BBC1 convincingly won the night with 25.3 per cent ahead of ITV's 19.2 per cent audience share.

The Gruniad Morning Star have yet another anti-Jeremy Clarkson story in their pages. Must be a 'y' in the day.
Channel Four's main network suffered a slight dip in its audience share following the decision to axe Big Brother, but the broadcaster saw growth across its overall channel portfolio. Using consolidated ratings data, the broadcaster reported an 11.6 per cent overall audience share across Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4 and 4Music in 2011, up by 0.2 per cent on figure from 2010. Channel Four's main network saw its audience share drop to 6.8 per cent in 2010, which it largely put down to the cancellation of Big Brother after ten years as the channel's flagship entertainment brand. The show has since resurfaced on Richard Desmond's Channel Five, currently broadcast its second run of Celebrity Big Brother. As it developed a strategy without Big Brother, Channel Four suffered some notable misses, including the Chris Evans-fronted Famous and Fearless, which was dropped last year after one - very disappointing - series. But Channel Four noted that the percentage decline on its main network 'was the least pronounced year-on-year decline in core channel share for five years,' while the broadcaster was also boosted by the surprise hit Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. The documentary occupied the first three spots in the top ten highest performing programmes list on Channel Four in 2011, which contains just one drama, Shameless.

The BBC has scrapped changes to children's show Waybuloo after a number of parents whinged about a 'sarcastic' commentary provided by Come Dine With Me narrator Dave Lamb. The show, which has been on CBeebies for the past three years, tells the story of a group of piplings who practise yogo. Apparently. Sounds suitably impressive if you're five. Anyway a new, shorter, version with a voice-over by Lamb, was introduced on Monday and prompted one hundred and fifty complaints from parents. How many of them were actually speaking for the children, I'll leave up to your own imagination, dear blog reader. The BBC reacted after a day - showing all of the cowardice and lack of backbone that we've come to expect from it when faced with a few dozen malcontents - saying it had 'listened to all your feedback.' The show, a joint British-Canadian production, is set in the land of Nara and features CGI characters Nok Tok, De Li, Lau Lau and Yojojo as well as real children, or cheebies as they're called in the show. The new format, which also saw the programme shortened from twenty minutes to ten, inspired a flurry of telephone complaints from parents as well as on Facebook, Twitter and on the CBeebies website. One parent, Emma, who seemingly had nothing better to do with her time, complained on the CBeebies 'grown-ups' site that the voice-over was 'totally unnecessary and has spoiled what was an enchanting programme.' Is that your view, or your child's, young lady? 'It completely jars with the programme - just sounds like a sarcastic running commentary, just like Come Dine With Me,' she added. Another parent wrote that she could not believe 'you got the guy from Come Dine With Me to do the voice-over. So tacky. Also the narration seemed quite aggressive - almost as if he was mocking the characters. Really disappointed.' Writing on the CBeebies website on Tuesday, the show's producers said: 'Thanks for all your comments - it's great to see how passionate you are about the show.' For which read, why don't you grow up and find something more constructive to do with your time than whinge about a children's TV show? 'We've listened to all your feedback and have decided to revert to the original format for the show in bedtime from tonight onwards.' The decision prompted praise from parents on the website 'for reacting to people's comments so quickly.' Or, showing no bloody backbone whatsoever and collapsing like a pack of cards instead of standing up for their artistic right to do whatever they liked with a format they created in the first place. And, once again, let us marvel at the utter shit some people chose to care about. Announcing the changes at the weekend, the show's executive producer Vanessa Hill had written: 'We know that our fans love the Piplings, the show's positive outlook and the chance to get down on the living room floor and join in with some yogo - so obviously all of that had to stay.' She said Dave Lamb would bring 'his trademark inimitable and humorous style to the series, acting as a light-hearted guide for children, but also their parents, to the piplings' adventures in Nara.'

Luther and Death In Paradise will both return to BBC1, it has been confirmed. Ben Stephenson made the announcement at the recent Broadcasting Press Guild lunch. Death In Paradise - described by Stephenson as 'old-fashioned fun with a modern slant' - stars Ben Miller as Richard Poole, a fish-out-of-water British policeman who is relocated to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint-Marie. The drama, which peaked at 6.78m viewers in 2011, will return for eight more episodes later this year. Stephenson added that Idris Elba's dark detective drama Luther - which attracted an audience of up to 6.77m - has been recommissioned for four more sixty-minute episodes. Elba said earlier this year that he was hoping for a third series of Luther, telling the Digital Spy website that the new run will boast 'more mayhem.' The actor also revealed that he would like to reprise his role of DCI John Luther in a big-screen adaptation. 'I really do want to make Luther into a film,' he said. 'I think that's where the ultimate Luther story will unfold, the big silver screen.'

As alluded to on yesterday's blog, Matthew Macfadyen has won the lead role in new BBC drama Ripper Street. The period drama, created by Waking The Dead writer Richard Warlow, will focus on H Division, the notorious police precinct charged with keeping order in Whitechapel, during the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders. BBC head of drama Ben Stephenson confirmed the casting of Macfadyen at the recent Broadcasting Press Guild lunch. The former [spooks] star's recent credits include 2011 blockbuster The Three Musketeers and Channel Four mini-series Any Human Heart. 'Ripper Street is a gripping new drama,' BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said in September. 'Set against the backdrop of a fevered historical London, I believe it has the quality and intensity to be a hit with BBC1 viewers.' Stephenson has also confirmed that Hayley Atwell will star in two-part drama Restless, adapted by Any Human Heart author William Boyd from his own novel. The Captain America: The First Avenger actress will play a young woman who finds out that her mother was a spy during World War II. Atwell appeared alongside Macfadyen in Any Human Heart and recently filmed a role in the big-screen adaptation of The Sweeney.

BBC director general Mark Thompson's cost-cutting programme is taking its toll on the top ranks of the corporation as it emerged that targets for slashing the number of senior managers and their salaries have been exceeded. It is understood that the total senior management pay bill has fallen around twenty seven per cent and the actual number of senior managers by twenty four per cent. This compares with the targets set by the BBC Trust and Thompson of twenty five and twenty per cent respectively. It is not yet known how the cuts to senior management were spread across the various departments of the BBC, which senior managers have gone or whether any have been redeployed. A BBC spokesman declined to comment on the figures but said details on pay would be published on Thursday. In 2009, to allay public concern about the salaries of senior managers, the BBC Trust said their pay bill had to be reduced by twenty five per cent over the next three-and-a-half years and their numbers slashed by a fifth. However, in July 2010, the Trust announced further action on pay and the deadline for achieving the actions was brought forward by eighteen months to December 2011, rather than July 2013. In addition, the BBC is trying to make savings of seven hundred million smackers a year and axe two thousand jobs as part of its Delivering Quality First cost-cutting proposals.

Television news is not dumbing down, according to an independent study of British TV news output over a thirty five-year period. The study, From Callaghan to credit crunch, finds that television news on the main domestic channels continues to provide viewers with a comprehensive and serious account of the day's national and international events. It reveals that between 1975 and 2009, despite huge technological and economic upheavals in broadcasting, there is no evidence of a significant shift towards a tabloid agenda in the main evening news bulletins. Throughout that time, the proportion of serious news carried by the main BBC, ITV and Channel Four bulletins has never fallen below sixty five per cent. This is particularly true of the two BBC1 bulletins, which have shown no significant change in the balance of their bulletins over the thirty five-year span of the project. While the level of tabloid coverage on the two ITV bulletins has doubled since 1975, there has been no noticeable increase since 1999. The balance remains roughly two thirds broadsheet to one third tabloid. Channel Four News has maintained a consistently broadsheet news agenda over the study period, at around eighty to ninety per cent of total content. It has seen a rise in its tabloid content over the past decade, but this remains below twenty per cent of the total. Only on Channel Five News did the figure for 'serious' news fall below the fifty per cent mark in 2009, following a substantial shift in its output during the course of this study. This was the only evidence of a deliberate editorial change in priorities.

Al Gore's Current TV channel is under the threat of closure in the UK after Sky dropped the network from its pay-TV platform. Which, presumably, means a change of name from Current to, err, Former. The satellite broadcaster, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, took the 'commercial decision' to no longer offer the liberal current affairs channel to its more-than-ten million UK subscribers. The move comes just months after Sky Italia also controversially dropped the network in Italy, leading to claims that Murdoch was victimising Current TV on political grounds. Current's pay-TV contract with Sky was due to end in two months' time, but Sky had already informed the company that it will be cut from its pay-TV line-up. Current TV is still available on Virgin Media and online, plus it can continue to operate as a free-to-air channel on Sky. But the network has already been hurt by low ratings, while the majority of its UK funding is understood to come from the pay-TV deal with Sky. Staff at the channel and independent producers were informed this week that Current TV risks closing as early as March, although the broadcaster is exploring options to remain widely available. 'We were led to believe that Sky had a genuine interest in supporting an independent channel but at the last minute they told us that they were ending Current's contract without negotiation,' said Current UK managing director Jane Mote. 'No other British channel is showing the kind of insightful, inspirational and challenging programming that the independent producers of Current are offering audiences every day and it is truly disappointing that Sky has chosen to effectively take these diverse voices off the air.' Joel Hyatt, who set up Current TV with former US vice president Al Gore in 2005, accused Sky of 'pandering' to News Corp's preferred political viewpoints. No shit? And you're, what, surprised by this? Current Media chief executive Hyatt said: 'Sky is shutting down an intelligent alternative to mass market programming. By doing so, Sky is once again discriminating in favour of the networks it owns and the points of view News Corporation agrees with.' Current TV originally launched with a mission to 'democratise' television by allowing new producers to make shows for the network, with around a third of its content user-generated. The channel launched on Sky in the UK in 2006, and has doubled its UK audience over the past twelve months. However, its ratings remain low in comparison to other networks, attracting an average primetime reach of just four thousand seven hundred viewers last year. Sky said that Current TV was dropped from its pay-TV entertainment line-up because it hadn't 'made the impact with our customers that we'd hoped for. Content is at the heart of Sky's business and we're committed to investing in the cut-through programming that matters most to our customers,' said Sky commercial director Rob Webster. 'We already spend more than three hundred and fifty million pounds a year with pay channel partners, but we need to make this investment work hard in delivering high-quality, pay-exclusive content that gives customers more reasons to subscribe. On the basis that Current TV hasn't made the impact with our customers that we'd hoped for, we've decided not to renew our retail relationship. But as an open platform that helps many hundreds of channels reach more than ten million Sky homes, Current TV still has a great opportunity to reach more than one in three UK and Irish homes. Should they choose to do so, we wish them well.'

NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0 will crossover in two episodes during May sweeps. The event will see NCIS: LA stars Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J appearing in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 on a Monday night, TV Guide reports. The following day's instalment of NCIS: LA will feature Hawaii stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. The storyline for the crossover focuses on the outbreak of a virus which might have been used as a murder weapon. NCIS: LA's executive producer Shane Brennan explained that he 'jumped' at the idea following the success of an earlier crossover between the two shows featuring NCIS: LA star Daniela Ruah. 'What we've come up with [this time] is an enormously entertaining, high octane story that showcases the very best of both shows,' he said. 'It's going to be a fun ride.' Meanwhile, Hawaii Five-0's executive producer Peter Lenkov said: 'Besides the obvious excitement of teaming up with an incredible show, expanding Hawaii Five-0's universe [and] teaming with NCIS: LA on a case with huge stakes, we're interested in exploring the relationship between McGarrett and Hanna, both SEALs with a little history.' The NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0 crossover will be broadcast on CBS in May.

The two hundredth episode of NCIS has been teased. Titled Life Before His Eyes, the 7 February instalment will follow Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) as various 'what if' scenarios are explored. Showrunner Gary Glasberg told TV Line: 'It very much is about a pivotal moment that Gibbs faces, and it literally looks back at key moments through nine years of NCIS where decisions had to be made and had people gone in one direction instead of another, how the world would have ended up.' One scenario will see what would happen if Kate's (Sasha Alexander) desk was not taken by Ziva (Cote de Pablo). Michael Weatherly, who plays Tony, commented: 'For the first time, I didn't know what was going to happen. I literally had to concoct in my mind seven years of, "What if there was no Ziva in Tony's life? How would he have been different?" The character that she brought into the room was so different from her normal Ziva. And I came in with my own tweak.' Rocky Carroll, who portrays NCIS director Vance, explained: 'There are some weird, dreamlike juxtapositions. There are a lot of surreal, "How did we end up at the same time?" kind of moments, and the audience is going to love that.' Glasberg further teased that many 'familiar' and 'old' faces will return, and that Gibbs will conclude that 'the decisions he has made were meant to be. As he looks around NCIS, he realises that this is where he should be,' he added.

Channel Four has commissioned a new drama about torture called Complicit. The one-off film will focus on an MI5 officer called Edward working in the Middle East, Broadcast suggests. The drama is expected to explore the moral dilemmas Edward faces surrounding the use of torture and will be set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. Complicit has been written by Guy Hibbert, who previously created Omagh and Five Minutes of Heaven. Channel Four's chief creative officer Jay Hunt said the drama 'shows us a hidden world we think we know in an entirely original way, and goes straight to the core of one of the greatest dilemmas of our age.'

Take Me Out contestant Wen-Jing Mo has confessed to a past life as a two hundred pounds-per-hour prostitute. The twenty eight-year-old, who won a date with former escort Aaron Withers on the show last Saturday, explained that she was 'desperate' for money when the salon she had an apprenticeship at went bust. 'Looking back now of course I regret doing it - but at the time it was a lifeline for me,' she told the Mirra. 'I think a lot of other people in my position would do the same if it meant they could eat properly - I saw it as a matter of survival.' Mo was signed to a London escort agency for six months at the age of eighteen after falling into massive debt. She claimed to have a CCJ out after failing to pay council tax for almost a year. 'Looking back at that period of my life is incredibly difficult for me - and some of the memories are seriously unpleasant,' she said. 'I've worked hard to block a lot of them out and start again, but some of the clients were very rude and obnoxious - very scary sometimes. On at least one occasion I threw the guy's cash back in his face and ran off. Often I was just grateful just to get away safely.' Mo said she hoped that Take Me Out would mark the beginning of a new chapter in her life. 'When I applied to go on Take Me Out I was genuinely looking for love,' she claimed. 'I've moved on with my life and the show seemed like a good fun way of perhaps meeting someone new. I didn't want my past to get in the way of that, or for anyone to prejudge me.' Mo also criticised Withers for covering up an assault conviction stemming from a fight with a man and his girlfriend. An alleged 'TV source' said of the latest Take Me Out revelation: 'The fact that both the stars of its first show have worked as escorts is incredible to say the least. It's hardly the sort of image that ITV would want to be associated with.' Whom this anonymous - and probably fictitious - 'TV source' is, what they have to do with Take Me Out and why they talk in a way that no normal person ever does, the Mirra don't say. Rumours that Take Me Out's new theme tune will be a cover version of The Pop Group's 'We Are All prostitutes' cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.

ITV has ordered a new drama called Leaving. The three-part series has been written by Public Enemies author Tony Marchant, Broadcast reports. The drama focuses on the friendship between an unemployed former student and a married hotel events manager. Described as a 'character-driven story', Leaving is expected to focus on plots involving love, family, and issues to do with getting older. Marchant has previously written Holding On and The Whistleblowers and the television movie The Mark of Cain.

Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts has revealed that she would love a role on Downton Abbey. So would lots of other people, Nic. Most of those can act, however. A necessary difference. Jeez, talk about ideas above your station.

A pub has started selling a brand of beer aimed at dogs. The Brandling Villa in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, offers non-alcoholic, bubble-free drinks containing malt and beef flavourings. Yeah. Well, they've always been a funny lot in Gosforth. Landlord Dave Carr told the Daily Scum Mail that dog beer was originally put on sale to create an animal-friendly atmosphere. 'People seem to think it's a bit mental - we keep it in the fridge along with other beers and they ask what it is. People think it's just a normal beer with a ridiculous name,' he said. 'I scoped the Internet looking for ridiculous stuff, and we became dog-friendly. There aren't many pubs you can go to with your dog.' Carr also revealed that the pub now has a dog-specialised menu, adding: 'The dogs were drinking water and eating biscuits, so we also created a dog menu, designed for dogs but based on traditional English dishes.'

And do to Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Sham rock!

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