Friday, April 06, 2012

Avoid The Rush

New Doctor Who companion Jenna-Louise Coleman has said that her character (Avocado ... or, whatever she actually ends up being called) will 'surprise' fans with a never-before-seen introduction. The Waterloo Road actress was last month confirmed to be starring alongside Matt Smith in series seven of the BBC's long-running and popular family SF drama, replacing Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. Speaking about the upcoming debut, Coleman told viewers to expect 'lots of secrets and intrigue' from her alter-ego. 'I know what my introduction is,' she told Doctor Who Magazine. 'And I have a general idea of where we're going to go. There's definitely a story arc. It sounds really interesting, really exciting. I don't think anything's been done like it before, but there are lots of secrets and intrigue, and I think it's going to throw and confuse a lot of people, and surprise a lot of people.' Coleman previously admitted that she doesn't know the name of her character, as she asked Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat not to tell her 'anything until [she needs] to know it.' The actress also said that she expects 'to have the best time ever' with Smith.

BBC3 has cancelled The Fades after one series. Johnny Harris confirmed to SFX that the corporation decided against ordering more episodes of the supernatural drama. Fellow cast member Iain de Caestecker had previously set out his hopes for a second series to be commissioned. But, now those hopes have been ripped, still beating, from his chest and crushed to a bloodied pulp under the totalitarian jackboot of yer actual Zai Bennett. So, no change there, then. Scripted by Skins writer Jack Thorne, the show also starred Daniel Kaluuya, Lily Loveless, Tom Ellis, Johnny Harris, Daniela Nardini, big cuddly Claire Rushbrook and Natalie Dormer. As well as positive reviews, The Fades pulled in reasonably strong audience figures for the channel last September, and also performed quite well on iPlayer. Centring around teenager Paul, the show culminated with him saving the world from an apocalypse.

A leading Downton Abbey character will die in the next series, it has been confirmed. Executive producer Rebecca Eaton revealed that the departing actor or actress is 'pretty key in the cast.' She also revealed that one couple will start a family, telling the Orlando Sentinel: 'Somebody will be born, and somebody will die. Somebody pretty key in the cast [is] unfortunately not going to make it,' she added. Meanwhile, Eaton admitted that Dowager Countess actress Dame Maggie Smith can be difficult on the set of the ITV period drama. 'Maggie Smith is a handful, it's true. She's very difficult. She knows her worth, and she's tricky on the set, but she delivers when the time comes,' she explained. So, any bets on which one of them is going to die, yet? Speaking about the arrival of Shirley MacLaine as Lady Grantham's mother Martha Levinson, Eaton added: 'There are some wonderful scenes between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine - Shirley MacLaine being ditsy as ever. And Maggie barely restraining her sneer in having to deal with this American.' So far, the show's creator Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes has killed off Matthew Crawley's fiancée Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle) through the post-war influenza epidemic in the second series finale.

BBC Worldwide have released the first promotional photo for BBC1's Ripper Street, starring Matthew Macfadyen. Currently filming in Dublin, the eight-part crime drama is set in and around Whitechapel in London's East End in 1889, during the aftermath of the Jack The Ripper murders. The cast also includes Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, Myanna Buring, David Dawson and Joe Gilgun. The series is expected to be shown this autumn.
Nichelle Nichols has tweeted a photo of herself with Barack Obama doing the Vulcan salute. The Star Trek actress - who played Lieutenant Uhura in the original series and several subsequent films - visited the President at the White House in February. After receiving her pictures this week, she tweeted that Obama was 'definitely a Trekker!' Conan O'Brien later joked: 'Trekkies say he doesn't qualify because he has a wife and a job.'
Live long, and prosper.

The president of The Roman Finds Group archaeologist forum has raised concerns that ITV's new landmark history series Britain's Secret Treasures will encourage a damaging 'gold rush' for valuable objects. The commercial broadcaster has teamed up with the British Museum for the week-long series, presented by Michael Buerk and historian Bettany Hughes, which will chart the fifty most significant historical discoveries made by the public. It will call on viewers to report their finds by sending in photographs to a dedicated section of the ITV website. These will be assessed by the British Museum and the best discovery will be revealed at the end of the final episode. But the ambition has sparked disquiet among some archaeologists, who are concerned that it will spark a 'gold rush' and disrupt potentially important historical sites. Roy Friendship-Taylor, a council member of the British Archaeological Trust, and chairman of The Roman Finds Group said the series sounded 'worthy', but warned that ITV and the British Museum must 'play down the treasure element. We don't want an army of metal detectors digging a hole through the context of an archaeological site to get at what they need. People could plunder straight through a valuable site,' he said. This context of a find - as they're always saying on Time Team - can be just as important to archaeologists and historians as the objects themselves, he added. Friendship-Taylor hopes ITV will encourage viewers to unearth artefacts in the 'right way' and advise them to seek the authority to dig from local museum representatives. An ITV spokesman said: 'The series will of course refer responsibly throughout to the best practice methods to be used by amateur archaeologists, as advised by the British Museum, and willfully explain all aspects of the Treasure Act. The endorsement of the series by the Council of British Archaeology, and promotional hook up around their national event, the Festival of British Archaeology, which will run at the same time as the series transmission, will provide a proper outlet for people interested in knowing more about how to seek treasures, as well as corroborating material on how to do so responsibly. Thanks to the public we have ninety thousand more pieces of information every year to explain and breathe life into our past - the aim and legacy of Britain's Secret Treasure is to add to that database and get more items properly excavated and reported, not encourage irresponsible treasure hunting.'

Bob Dylan's double platinum LP Blood on the Tracks is to be adapted into a feature length film. The 1975 classic, Dylan's best-selling record to date, is to be turned into a 'classic drama' by Brazillian film company RT Features. Following the demise of Dylan's relationship with his then-wife, Sara, the LP highlights themes of heartbreak, bitterness and failed romance. It contains several of Dylan's best songs including 'Tangled Up in Blue', 'Idiot Wind', 'You're A Big Girl Now', 'Simple Twist of Fate' and 'Shelter from The Storm'. In his autobiography, Dylan refuted the claim that the LP was inspired by the breakdown of his marriage, and said he was actually influenced by the short stories of Russian author Anton Chekhov. 'As long time admirers of one of the greatest albums in the history of music, we feel privileged to be making this film,' said RT Features' chief executive Rodrigo Teixeira. The company is now looking for a director for the movie, he added. 'Our goal is to work with a filmmaker who can create a classic drama with characters and an environment that capture the feelings that the album inspires in all fans.' Dylan released Blood on the Tracks, his fifteenth studio LP, through Columbia Records in early 1975. He wrote all of the songs for it in two months in 1974 and it was recorded in New York and Minneapolis in just six working days. Six years earlier, he was asked by Rolling Stone magazine whether he would like to star in a movie, or if he would ever write songs for one. The musician replied he was 'a little shy of these people', and that the process of writing for screen, he found, was a long one. He continued: 'These producers, they wanted some music for their movie, so I came up with ['Lay, Lady, Lay']. By the time I came up with it though, it was too late. It's the same old story all the time. It's just too late.' He did, eventually, become involved in movies, appearing in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (1973) and writing the soundtrack for it, including the hit 'Knocking on Heaven's Door' and, later, creating his own movie, the sprawling but occasionally brilliant Renaldo and Clara (released in 1978). Dylan's latest release, Chimes of Freedom, features eighty artists including Adele, Billy Bragg and Sting, performing Dylan songs. It was released in support of Amnesty International on 24 January.

The BBC has ordered a new series about Great Britain and Northern Ireland's past by looking at how the countries' people shaped their history. Historian Michael Wood will write and present The Great British Story: A People's History, which was co-commissioned by BBC2 and BBC Learning and will be produced by Maya Vision. The eight part series will look at local communities and their individual histories, touching upon several key events including Viking invasions, the Norman Conquest, the Industrial Revolution and the two World Wars. It will be directed by Rebecca Dobbs and executive produced for BBC2 by Cassian Harrison alongside Karen Gregory for Learning. Wood said The Great British Story was an 'exciting journey' following the development of British language and laws. He added: 'It highlights the common threads that bind us and the unique differences that enrich us all.' 'In The Great British Story we see how "they" became "us"' Harrison said: 'We are delighted that Michael is presenting The Great British Story which promises to unlock our shared historical past through the eyes of ordinary people and hopefully encourage them to explore about their own local history.' There will also be a BBC Learning campaign supporting the series, including showcase events in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to celebrate local history. The Great British Story: A People's History will broadcast later this year. It follows Maya's BBC4 series Story of England - also featuring Wood - which was broadcast last year.

BSkyB has announced a 'multi-million pound' project to fund British-made movies. The network, which has been criticised in the past for a lack of investment in British content, says it will spend up to five million smackers on new productions. The move is likely to be regarded as a challenge to the BBC and Channel Four, both of which fund feature films. However, Sky said that its commissions would not get a theatrical release, with films premiering on its TV channels. In a statement, the satellite broadcaster said it would invest in 'a number of feature-length films for television aimed at the whole family over the next five years.' These would premiere on the Sky Movies channel. Additionally, Sky Atlantic will commission 'up to twelve peak-time landmark documentaries.' Some films have already gone into production, but Sky is asking people to approach them with further pitches. The investment comes on the heels of the government's review of British film policy, which was published in January. The review called on the UK's 'major broadcasters to invest more in the screening, acquisition and production of independent British film.' Sky's chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, said the broadcaster saw 'a real opportunity in British films.' He added that the investment was designed to strengthen BSkyB's subscriber base. 'We know British programming resonates strongly with our customers, so we've been building our capability and credibility in this area over the last couple of years.' The broadcaster has already made a handful of high-profile feature-length films - including Treasure Island, which starred Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood, and a series of adaptations of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, featuring David Jason. Two years ago, BBC director general Mark Thompson claimed Sky was not spending enough on home-grown programmes. 'It's time Sky pulled its weight by investing much, much more in British talent and content,' he said in a speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Since then, Sky pledged to spend six hundred million smackers on UK productions by 2014.

Sky News managing editor Simon Cole is planning to retire in a move which, Sky claims, is entirely unrelated to this week's revelations about e-mail hacking. On Twitter Cole commented: 'I've been planning for some time to retire from Sky News after seventeen years. This is unrelated to the Darwin story. There is no linkage. Fact.' Cole is currently said to be 'in discussions' with the broadcaster about his leaving date. This week it was revealed that Cole authorised Sky's Northern England correspondent Gerard Tubb to into hack the e-mails of John Darwin, the 'canoe man' accused of faking his own death off Seaton Carew in 2002. It has also been reported that Cole authorised Tubb to access the e-mail account of another man, a suspected paedophile and his wife. Sky News admitted that e-mails have been hacked on two occasions as 'part of investigative journalism' and has robustly defended both occasions as 'editorially justified and in the public interest.' Sky News head John Ryley said in a statement: 'We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently. They require finely balanced judgement based on individual circumstances and must always be subjected to the proper editorial controls.' The broadcaster also issued a statement highlighting where 'some of the most important stories have involved breaking the rules in some way.' It referenced the Daily Telegraph's story on the MPs expenses scandal.
Meanwhile, Sky News has accused the Gruniad Morning Star of 'double standards' over the e-mail hacking malarkey. The Gruniad was the first to report, rather gleefully, it must be said, that Sky News north of England reporter Gerard Tubb had in 2008 accessed the e-mail account of yer man Darwin. Tubb was authorised to do this by a senior executive at Sky News, despite the fact that the action is illegal under the Computer Misuse Act. John Ryley said that evidence gathered by Tubb helped police secure a conviction on fifteen charges of fraud and money laundering against Darwin's wife Anne, who was also facing trial for deception. He didn't say why Sky News couldn't have simply told the police about their suspicions and let them do the necessary hacking. Presumably because that wouldn't have been a story, one imagines. Ryley boasted that police had described the material supplied by Sky News as 'pivotal' to the case, leading to Anne Darwin receiving six and a half years in the pokey, and more than five hundred thousand smackers of her assets being recovered and returned to the insurance and pension firms defrauded. So, if Sky News are so good at this criminal detection malarkey, it does rather make one wonder why they don't stop being broadcasters and join the police? If they're as good as they claim, they should be able to half this country's crime in days. In a strongly worded blog post, Ryley said that 'careful consideration' had been given to the e-mail access, but that it was deemed that 'the story was justified in the public interest. None of the material obtained was broadcast prior to the conviction and our coverage made clear that we had discovered and supplied e-mails to the police. There has been no attempt by Sky News to conceal these facts, which have been available on our website ever since,' said Ryley. 'To be absolutely clear, we stand by these actions as editorially justified. As the Crown Prosecution Service itself acknowledges, there are rare occasions where it is justified for a journalist to commit an offence in the public interest.' Ryley noted the position of BBC director general Mark Thompson, who recently said that whatever the conclusions of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, 'it is important that the ability of serious investigative journalists to do their work is not blunted or unnecessarily constrained.' The channel boss said that a recent review of payments and e-mail records at Sky News had revealed 'no evidence' of any illegal or unethical behaviour. 'At Sky News, we hold ourselves accountable for our decisions. I'm proud of our journalism and journalists,' he said. 'It's less clear why the Guardian should apply such scrutiny to a Sky News story that has been in the public domain since 2008, particularly while failing to acknowledge its own past actions. Needless to say we reminded the Guardian of its own past conduct before they published today's story. Double standards? Draw your own conclusions.' Oooo. Get her. Big fight, little people ...

A senior employee at Virgin Atlantic has resigned after allegations that she passed private flight details of celebrities, including Ashley Cole and Sienna Miller, to a global paparazzi agency. E-mails seen by the Gruniad - oh, ho! - indicate that a Virgin Atlantic supervisor of 'Upper Class customers' passed detailed flight information of at least eight celebrities to the London-based firm Big Pictures. The Virgin Atlantic employee, who resigned on Thursday after the Gruniad raised the claims, appears to have been told in an e-mail from Big Pictures that the agency was 'trying to sort you out some money with accounts.' The allegations will intensify scrutiny by politicians and the courts over the alleged illicit trade of private information by some media companies in the UK. And on the Gruniad over where they got these e-mails from, of course. One imagines Sky News will be investigating that as we speak. They're good at investigating, just in case you didn't already know. Solicitors for Cole and Miller, two of those named in the e-mail, said they were taking legal instructions over the alleged leak. The e-mail to Big Pictures says: 'Got a few more for you!' then lists celebrity flights from London for Miller, Cole, his former wife the Heaton Horror, the Stottingtot Hotshots footballer Jermaine Defoe, actors Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow, and the singers Robbie Williams and Nicole Scherzinger. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic said it was taking the apparent leak 'extremely seriously' and launched an urgent inquiry into the affair. The company said in a statement: 'The allegations that have been raised are extremely serious and we have launched an immediate investigation. The security of customer information is our highest priority and we have robust processes in place to ensure that passenger information is protected. The incident that has been alleged concerns eight customers' flights booked in 2010 and we are in contact with all of those people. It is too early to draw conclusions on this matter but of course we would deeply regret any concern that these allegations may cause the individuals involved.' The airline employee, who looked after allegedly 'high-profile' customers on Virgin Atlantic flights (although, how Jermaine Defoe qualifies for that category, they don't say), is understood to have resigned on Thursday but denies passing the information to Big Pictures. The employee said she was 'not going to comment on that at all' and hung up the phone when contacted on Wednesday morning. Checks by the Gruniad, the newspaper claims, confirm that, where known, the whereabouts of the celebrities matched the details apparently disclosed by the Virgin Atlantic employee. Cole, the Chelsea and England defender, was pictured at Heathrow by a Big Pictures photographer on the date given in the correspondence. Miller was pictured arriving at Los Angeles airport from Heathrow on the correct dates. Defoe was reported to be in St Lucia for his children's charity between the dates listed in the e-mail. Sources at the airline said that four of the eight celebrities flew on the dates given, but the other four cancelled their bookings. The flight codes given in the correspondence – such as VS7 for Heathrow to JFK flights – also match information published on Virgin Atlantic's website. The exchange suggests a longstanding and friendly relationship between Big Pictures and its apparent airline source, the Gruniad claims. In one e-mail, headed 'Hello ...', the picture agency asks for holiday advice after saying that it was 'trying to sort you out some money with accounts.' The reply goes on to say 'Got a few more for you!' and lists celebrity bookings on Virgin Atlantic flights to and from London airports. 'Talk soon!' the message ends. The Virgin Atlantic employee behind the apparent leak is understood to have told colleagues that she was 'recently a victim of identity theft.' The employee is also understood to have cited 'other reasons' for her sudden resignation on Thursday. Virgin Atlantic was said to be 'trawling e-mail archives and investigating who has access to its booking system.' Sources at the airline indicated that other travel firms may have had partial access to its bookings system. Big Pictures is also understood to have launched an investigation into the affair. Legal experts said the disclosure may not necessarily be a criminal offence, but appears to be prima facie evidence of a breach of the Data Protection Act and a breach of the individuals' right to privacy. 'This could just be the beginning: this could be the tip of the iceberg,' said Gerald Shamash, the privacy lawyer who founded the firm Steel & Shamash. 'It's extremely worrying but nothing in the whole of this saga has surprised me, with everything that is coming out.' Shamash said advance knowledge of the whereabouts of celebrities was the 'bread and butter' of life as a picture agency or tabloid newspaper. 'This has got to be private information. It has to be. There's no public interest in this whatsoever. Once it has these details, the agency does one or two things: it keeps [the information] to sell it or phones a newspaper to say this person has gone to Los Angeles. It's a symbiotic relationship with newspapers.' The Leveson inquiry into press standards has heard a string of claims of illicit trade of private information by media companies. Big Pictures' founder, Darryn Lyons, told the inquiry in February that his company - famous for its dogged pursuit of celebrities and public figures - does not have a formal code of practice but 'photographers are informed what is expected from them.' The agency, which employs twenty nine members of staff and one hundred and fifty two freelance photographers, paid fifty three thousand smackers in damages to Miller in November 2008 over harassment and invasion of privacy. Big Pictures also agreed not to photograph the actor in public. 'I don't agree that people should be hounded up and down the street all day in any shape or form,' Lyons told the Leveson inquiry. 'But I do agree that people as a part of history, should be photographed in public places, absolutely, and I'm avid about it. We have a free press and a free press should be able to work in public places.' He added: 'We live in a world of voyeurism. It is a business where young people look up to. Fifty per cent of celebrities want to be photographed and they love it for their own self-gain in terms of financial back pocket, and to make them more famous.' Interesting. It's also an established fact that sixty seven per cent of all statistics are made up on the spot to prove a point. I'm just syain' ...

The US Coast Guard has used big fek-off cannon to sink a crewless (and, therefore, defenceless) Japanese ship which drifted to Alaska after the 2011 tsunami. The coast guard earlier said that they would hold off scuttling the Ryou-Un Maru after a Canadian fishing boat claimed salvage rights. But a Canadian official later said that the Bernice C had been unable to tow the two hundred feet Japanese 'ghost ship.' Besides, the Americans, they like blowing up things. You might've noticed. The boat had no lights or power and was viewed as a danger to other ships. And, also, a sitting target. It was thought to be at the vanguard of a stream of tsunami debris that has been drifting east since last year's disaster hit Japan. The Ryou-Un Maru was first spotted off the coast of Canadian British Columbia on 23 March. The vessel was moving at about one mile per hour in a maritime transport corridor that separates US and Canadian waters. It was adrift about one hundred and ninety five miles from Sitka, when it was sunk, officials said. Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow told the AP news agency that a cutter was used to fire cannon at the abandoned ship, which burst into flames and took on water. After a few hours, larger ammunition was used to complete the job, and blow that motha up, real good, he said. A Hercules C-130 air crew was ready to participate in the operation, broadcasting to mariners and air traffic to alert them and help clear the surrounding area before the demolition of the ship began. CPO Wadlow said it would be 'too expensive' to try to salvage the ship, and too dangerous to put anyone on board. Plus, blowing the shit out of it is 'much more fun.' The ship may have carried more than seven thousand five hundred litres of diesel fuel, officials said. The Ryou-Un Maru, a shrimping boat, has been traced to the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Alaskan Senator Mark Begich suggested that the boat's owner had been identified, but the owner did not want the vessel back. On 11 March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan, triggering a tsunami that swamped a power station, prompting the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

So, on Thursday evening, as usual, dear blog reader yer actual Keith Telly Topping went he to attend Ye Scunny Steve's The Record Player at the Tyneside. For the first time in a while, last night's event contained a couple of records which I was entirely unfamiliar with - in this case, a double-header from yer actual big-haired Canadian hard-rockers Rush. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed. The first one - 1977's A Farewell To Kings - was the better of the two. It was more musically interesting (I could see a lot of influences in it - Krautrock, particularly Can, The Who, Led Zeppelin) so, in that regard it wasn't really what I was expecting. But Geddy Lee's hysterical vocals really put me off the thing. That, was exactly what I was excepting! And, the lyrics were mostly a bit too Spinal Tap's Stonehenge for my liking an'all. The second one, 1982's Signals, was far more immediate, tuneful and even poppy in places but, rather soulless, I felt. A very atypical early 1980s rock LP with a very atypical early 1980s multi-layered, bombastic production sound. (It sounded, uncannily, like Genesis of that period. Except for one song which sounded exactly like 'Walking on the Moon' by The Police. And given that few thins set yer actual Keith Telly Topping's teeth on edge like Phil Collins and Sting, that was never gonna be a good combination.) So, not an entirely wasted evening, let it be said. I now know for certain that I'm very unlikely to be buying an Rush CDs any time soon. However, in tribute to yet another thoroughly splendid night of chat with the lads and lasses, here's yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Put that lighter away, boy.
Next week, it's The Singles Club.

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