Sunday, February 05, 2012

Great Danes

BBC1 once again made ITV its bitch in the Saturday overnights. The Six Nations Rugby coverage of England's 13-6 victory against Scotland in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield averaged a whopping 6.5m viewers, peaking at 8.4m shortly before the end. Thereafter The Magicians, if you will, conjured 4.97m, Casualty took 5.7m at 8.40pm and the season finale of Mrs Brown's Boys, moved from Monday night to a Saturday slot, was watched by 6.32m in the 9.30pm slot. Match Of The Day averaged 4.5m with a peak of 5.6m. BBC1 was the highest rating channel for all bar thirty minutes between 6am yesterday and the close. Mrs Brown's Boys was the highest-rated programme in primetime, increased on its Casualty lead-in and, satisfyingly, beating The Jonathan Ross Show despite the latter's much-hyped David Beckham appearance. The interview with Beckham did boost Ross's show to an audience of 3.92m, a marked improvement on the previous week's overnight of 2.47m although still well down on the sort of audiences he was pulling in a couple of years ago on the BBC. A further four hundred thousand punters chose to watch the ITV+1 timeshift in what has been a controversial week for the chat show host, who apparently offended the actor Tom Hardy during the taping of the show. Earlier on ITV, Harry Hill's TV Burp was watched by 5.42m. Another edition of Take Me Out appalled 4.97m with its risible horridness. BBC2's Versailles: The Dream of a King had an audience of 1.73m, and a showing of Brighton Rock, the film adaptation of Graham Greene's classic novel, was watched by 1.21m. The Million Pound Drop Live achieved 1.38m on Channel four. A double bill of NCIS on Channel Five had 1.27m and 1.55m from 7.30pm, and CSI: NY increased the audience to 1.82m at 9.30pm. On BBC4 Borgen finished its ten episode run with six hundred and twenty five thousand and five hundred thousand (including BBC HD). BBC1 won an easy primetime victory on twenty three per cent audience share, followed by ITV on 16.8 per cent.

BBC4 has confirmed that the channel will show the second series of Danish political drama Borgen 'next winter.' The ten-part series continues to follow the fortunes of Denmark's first female Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg (played by Sidse Babett Knudsen) and the personal and professional lives of a mix of characters woven together by a complex world of politics and media. The second series was broadcast in Denmark on DR1 last autumn and at its peak attracted over two million viewers, around forty per cent of the Danish population. Like fellow Danish drama The Killing, Borgen has been a critical and ratings success for BBC4 - not least on this very blog! - with the first episode of the series attracting an impressive consolidated ratings figure of seven hundred and seventy six thousand viewers when it was broadcast on 7 January this year. DR has confirmed a third series of Borgen is currently in production and is scheduled to be shown in Denmark in the autumn of 2012. As noted on yesterday's blog, in September of last year NBC announced they were developing an English language remake of the programme with a view to producing a broadcast pilot. This followed another US broadcaster, AMC, launching an American version of The Killing in 2011. Which was half as long and about a tenth as good as the original. Richard Klein, the Controller of BBC4, said: 'I'm thrilled our latest Scandinavian drama Borgen has been such a success and we are delighted to be bringing the audience a second series of this fantastic political series next winter.' Sue Deeks, the Head of BBC Programme Acquisitions for the channel said: 'Borgen's combination of politics, journalism and human drama (not to mention stylish interior design!) has proved a winner with viewers and critics alike and we are delighted to confirm that Birgitte Nyborg will be returning for another term on BBC4.' Hva så smukke?

Meanwhile, for viewers still reeling from the finale of Borgen on Saturday night, it will sound like just the tonic. To many others it might sound like the oddest British television acquisition for some time. Lilyhammer is a Norwegian comic drama starring Miami Steve Van Zandt, the latest Scandinavian import to be bought by BBC4, currently on a high after critical acclaim and healthy audiences for a string of Danish and Swedish series. Van Zandt, best known as guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band and who also played Silvio Dante in the acclaimed US drama The Sopranos, stars as a New York mobster who enters the witness protection programme and starts up a new life in Lillehammer, the sleepy Norwegian town he fell in love with while watching the 1994 Olympic Games. 'Lilyhammer mixes sharp wit and American big city ways with the beauty of the Norwegian mountains and folksy nature of a small town – a perfect combination for a razor-sharp drama about cultural mores,' said Richard Klein. When the eight-part series launched in Norway last month, it drew the country's highest ratings for a drama premiere. In the US it will be streamed by Netflix. Sue Deeks, said: 'Lilyhammer is fresh, funny and offbeat – it makes a highly original addition to BBC4's rich Scandinavian drama slate.' Like Borgen, a tale of power and its affect on individuals and relationships set amid Danish coalition politics, Lilyhammer will mark a move from the crime dramas such as The Killing, which have traditionally dominated subtitled European imports on BBC4 and beyond. The Danish political drama has proved there is great appetite for quality foreign language TV beyond the crime genre – rating strongly despite lacking the whodunnit quality that ensures viewers return to a show – with audiences gripped by Sidse Babbett Knudsen's performance. BBC4's next Scandinavian drama, the Danish/Swedish co-production The Bridge, will be broadcast next spring.

It took just twenty seconds into the latest episode of Top Gear for public enemy number one Jezza Clarkson to offend someone. Unfortunately for the grubby slime at the Gruniad Morning Star looking for a story for Monday morning, it was only one Richard J Hammond Cheeseburger III.

Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli has revealed that Simon Cowell discussed the possibility of hiring him. The choreographer, who is close friends with Cowell, told the Daily Scum Mail that he hasn't ruled out working with Cowell on future projects. 'Simon likes [Strictly] so much he'd buy it if he could,' Tonioli said. 'His mum loves it too, which doesn't help. He's asked me about things. I can't exclude the possibility. It would be great to do something with him, but it has to be the right thing.' Speaking of Cowell poaching talentless greed-bucket Alesha Dixon for Britain's Got Talent, Tonioli continued: 'Oh, that was sneaky. I should have known because I know Simon very well. He should have told me. It wasn't a shock. I had a laugh with Alesha so I have no problems. It's her decision and nothing to do with me. Only she knows [why she left Strictly], but it's probably something to do with lots and lots of money. I do Strictly for love, not money. You can't compare our salaries to The X Factor judges' because the BBC would never pay that.' Tonioli added that Dixon's exit won't damage the Strictly brand because it is 'bigger than any of us' and suggested that the show returns with the three remaining judges rather than replace her.

BBC 5Live presenter Richard Bacon had his own take on the BBC Trust review of the station, published last week, which suggested that it might like to cut back on the inconsequential chit-chat on the station and pay more attention to minority sports not covered elsewhere. 'My show today is exclusively lacrosse, British bulldog, fives and Kabaddi,' Bacon told listeners. Disappointingly for fans of these minority sports, the show actually featured Alain de Botton talking about his new book and Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman on who should replace Alesha Dixon.

Harry Hill is reportedly planning a move to Channel Four to make a feature-length film. The comedian quit his long-running ITV series TV Burp in September after rejecting a one million smackers pay rise which would have seen his salary top four million wonga. He is now said to be 'in talks' with Channel Four boss Jay Hunt about a movie and a sketch show and hopes to sign a deal when his golden handcuffs contract with ITV ends in April. 'Harry has lots of ideas and fancies doing something different for a while, especially his own film. That doesn't really fit in with ITV's plans for him so he is interested in doing a deal with Channel Four,' a source told the Mirra. 'They have offered him big budgets and a lot of creative freedom to make what he wants, and that's what attracts him to the offer more than the pay cheque. He has been earning millions with ITV for years so it is not all about the money. For Harry it's all about doing projects he loves so it seems almost certain he'll head to Channel Four. And all his fans would love to see a Harry Hill movie.' The film could be released in cinemas and on DVD as well as being shown on Channel Four. A new Harry Hill television series is likely to launch around the channel's thirtieth anniversary in November. Hill originally rose to prominence on Channel Four with The Harry Hill Show, which ran for three series from 1997 before he moved to ITV. Hill's move back to Channel Four is claimed to have been prompted by 'creative differences' with agent Jon Thoday, managing director of TV Burp producer Avalon. He was at the centre of a bidding war between Sky and the BBC after splitting from Thoday last year.

A number of doormen have lost their jobs after their manager was outraged at comments during Channel Four documentary Bouncers. According to Wales on Sunday, Club owner Iftekhar Harris said he was 'shocked' at the bouncers' behaviour. During the first episode on Wednesday, cameras filmed a selection of doormen in Newport, dealing with drunken revellers. It also included some of them making derogatory remarks regarding customers, with one saying that they are 'all inbreds.' 'Rest assured, I've sacked the company that supplied them, and they will not be working on my doors again. I will not have comments like that about the amazing people that come to my venues, simply to have a good night out' said Harris following the documentary's broadcast.

The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb has said he is making a 'spectacular' recovery from cancer and that he is feeling 'fantastic.' The sixty two-year-old has been having chemotherapy for the disease as well as trying to overcome a bowel condition. His increasingly gaunt appearance had prompted press speculation that he was close to death. But the singer told BBC Radio 2 on Friday that he was 'feeling better' than he had for more than a decade. 'The prognosis is that it's almost gone and I feel fantastic and really from now on it's just what they could describe as a "mopping-up" operation,' he said. 'I am very active and my sense of well-being is good.' The singer also said reports about the nature of his cancer had been conjecture. 'I mean the fact is, I've never spoken to anybody about my condition or the condition that I was in and a lot of them go over the top to the point where they're telling me things that I didn't even know about myself.' In January his spokesman said the singer had been having chemotherapy, and Gibb confirmed on Friday that he had been diagnosed with a growth in his colon. 'Well, it's all simple. I was diagnosed with a growth in my colon. It was removed. And I've been treated for that by a brilliant doctor, and in their own words "the results have been spectacular."' In April last year, Gibb was forced to pull out of series of shows in Brazil after he was taken to hospital with abdominal pains. In 2010 Gibb also had health problems, which also led him to cancel a series of scheduled public appearances. He went on to have emergency surgery for a blocked intestine and the surgery resulted in the singer having part of his intestine removed. His twin brother Maurice died in 2003 due to complications from a twisted intestine. Gibb told Radio 2 that his recovery since falling ill last year had 'amazed' the medical staff who have been treating him. 'They said "What are you doing that we don't know about?" and I said I'm not doing anything and in fact I haven't taken a single tablet. I feel better than I did ten years ago. I'm active, my appetite's fantastic, the plumbing is all in perfect working order. If I had a choice about how I'd like to feel for the rest of my life, this would be it. If I wanted to tick all the right boxes about sense of well-being, it would be now. This is the way I'd like to feel. I don't know how I could feel any better.' Gibb is soon to make his classical debut with the release of a CD about the sinking of the Titanic. He has collaborated with his son, RJ, on The Titanic Requiem to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the disaster.

Actor Ben Gazzara has died at the age of eighty one. Known for his tough-guy presence in many films, television shows and stage productions over his long career, Gazzara died on Friday from pancreatic cancer at a Manhattan hospital, Reuters reports. A three-time TONY nominee for his stage work, Gazzara made his big break into films with his role as an accused killer in Otto Preminger's 1959 courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder. He went on to work with numerous high-profile Hollywood directors, including John Cassavetes, with whom he collaborated on several films, including the 1976 gangster drama The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Gazzara's other memorable big-screen parts included a starring role alongside Audrey Hepburn in Peter Bogdanovich's They All Laughed, and as villainous businessman Brad Wesley in Patrick Swayze action movie Roadhouse. The son of Italian immigrants, Gazzara was a proponent of method acting and it helped him achieve stardom early in his career. Gazzara grew up on New York's Lower East Side; he lived on East 29th Street and participated in the drama program at Madison Square Boys and Girls Club. Years later, he said that the discovery of his love for acting saved him from a life of crime during his teen years. He took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator and afterwards joined the Actors Studio. In 1955, he originated the role of Brick Pollitt, the disturbed alcoholic son and failed football star in the Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He left the show after only seven months to take on the role of Johnny Pope, the drug addict in A Hatful of Rain, which earned him the first of his TONY nominations. In 1965 he starred in the TV series Run for Your Life which saw him twice nominated for an EMMY during the show's three-year run. His other films included The Strange One, The Thomas Crown Affair and Opening Night, one of three appearances directed by his friend Cassavetes. Gazzara married three times; to Louise Erickson (1951–1957), Janice Rule (1961–1979) and German model Elke Krivat from 1982. He also disclosed a love affair with actress Audrey Hepburn. They co-starred in two of her final films, Bloodline (1979) and They All Laughed (1981). He is survived by his third wife, and two daughters.

Papiss Demba Cissé marked his debut for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Magpies with a stunning strike that helped Newcastle beat the Aston Villains to move back up to fifth in the Premier League. The ten million quid signing scored the winner in the second half when he chested down Jonas Gutierrez's cross and slammed in a half-volley from inside the area. Senegal team-mate Demba Ba had put the hosts in front when he poked in from close range in the first half. Robbie Rocket-pants Keane had earlier levelled for the Villains. The visitors could have had more than just that one, but were thwarted on several occasions by United keeper Tim Krul, who had a fine game and pulled off one particularly outstanding save in the dying moments to deny Villains substitute Gary Gardner. The visiting side were made to rue those missed chances when Ba, who returned to the starting line-up following his appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations, thrashed home from six yards after Villa failed to clear Danny Guthrie's cross. The downside for Newcastle was that, even as the striker celebrated scoring his sixteenth goal of the season, team-mate Ryan Taylor was lying injured after colliding with Stephen Warnock, who had attempted to block Taylor's shot in the build-up to the goal. Taylor, who was playing on the right of midfield, had to be carried off on a stretcher with what looked to be a serious leg injury. It meant a second enforced change for Newcastle, with injured striker Leon Best having been replaced by Cissé early on. Villa finally breached the Magpies defence in the fifth minute of first-half stoppage time. Winger Charles N'Zogbia surged into the left-side of the area and played a square ball for Keane, who stole in past his marker and finished from close range. Former Freiburg forward Cissé had looked lively after coming on in the fourteenth minute but failed to hit the target with three headers and seemed likely to have to wait to open his account in England. With less than twenty minutes remaining, however, he scored with a scintillating strike. Flying Argentine winger Gutierrez swung in a ball from the left that Cissé controlled with his chest before arrowing his strike into Shay Given's top-right corner. Villa desperately searched for an equaliser, but their efforts continued to be scuppered by Krul who punched away a fierce Ciaran Clark drive before blocking Gardner's close-range effort with just seconds remaining. In the day's other game, Moscow Chelski FC drew 3-3 with The Scum.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

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