Monday, July 30, 2012

Three Cheers For Our Side

The eyes of the world (and, possibly, beyond) were, of course, focused on London on Friday night for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. You might have noticed, dear blog reader. In fact, chances are - unless you're a sour-puss-grumpy-face, you did. A peak audience of twenty seven million viewers (I'll repeat that, TWENTY SEVEN MILLION viewers) in the UK - and an estimated one billion worldwide - tuned-in to watch a celebration of British iconography, including James Bond escorting the Queen to the Games and Mr Bean in Chariots of Fire. Doctor Who was represented in a blink-and-you'll-have-missed-it moment when the TARDIS materialisation sound effect complementing Queen's dirge-like horrorshow (and drag) 'Bohemian Rhapsody' during the 1970s musical section. As widely reported before the event, a video montage from the BBC's popular, long-running family SF drama's theme-tune had originally been planned to be included but it was,seemingly, 'dropped for timing reasons.' Doctor Who's brand manager Edward Russell clarified: 'A video montage which very briefly showed all eleven Doctors was approved but we were told it may not be included which was clearly the case.' Doctor Who wasn't alone - the Clangers never even made it to rehearsal stage and a Monty Python's Flying Circus segment was, also, dropped at the last moment.
In Doctor Who, of course, one episode saw the Doctor himself light the Olympic flame (Fear Her in 2006 - not a very good one, it must be admitted). In reality, the Olympic cauldron (made up of two hundred and five petals representing every country competing at the Games) was ignited by seven aspiring young athletes chosen by British Olympic champions like Kelly Holmes, Steve Redgrave and Daley Thompson. I'd've preferred either David Tennant or Matt Smith personally (no offence to the kids who did it, of course, they were all very good). But, hey, you can't have everything. As the American satirist Steven Wright once wisely noted, 'where would you keep it?'

The Royal Mail is to release a set of stamps to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who next year, with the first day cover reportedly due on 8 January 2013. So, if you've ever wanted the opportunity to lick a Doctor's backside, that'll probably be your best chance. I'm here all week. Try the veal. No other details are available at present, with the Royal Mail informing the Doctor Who News website: 'Unfortunately it is too soon to have or to send out any information regarding an issue in January 2013. Probably around the end of November or start of December we should have a first publication that we can send.' It won't be the first time that Doctor Who has been officially recognised in such a prestigious way. A Dalek was chosen by Royal Mail to represent television in The Entertainers' Tale issue that was released on 1 June 1999. The set also comprised Bobby Moore (sport), Charlie Chaplin (cinema), and Freddie Mercury (popular music).

The BBC have confirmed that the first official television trailer for Doctor Who's next series will be broadcast on Thursday 2 August, around 8:00pm on BBC1, with a repeat the following week. The trailer forms part of a series of promotions for shows that form the latest British Original Drama campaign that will run throughout the London Olympics coverage over the coming seventeen days. As well as Doctor Who, the list includes Merlin, Hunted (see below), Good Cop, Accused, The Secret of Crickley Hall, The Paradise, Ripper Street, plus EastEnders (also, see below). The series of trailers kicked-off from 28 July with a special compilation. Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, said: 'BBC1 drama offers audiences the most vibrant and most original home-grown drama in Britain today. This upcoming range of new drama titles are the very best of British, made with ambition and scale that I hope will capture the imagination of our audiences with the same spirit as the London 2012 Olympics.'

Sharon Ricknman (Letitia Dean) is heading back to Albert Square and to mark the characters return to EastEnders a new trailer has been released by the BBC, using The Rolling Stones 'Gimme Shleter' as a soundtrack. 'There's one heck of a storm coming,' it says Hurricane Sharon heads to Albert Square. Although the trailer promoting the character’s return actually features a tornado rather than a hurricane. But that meteorological error aside ...

BBC1's coverage of day one of events at London 2012 won every single time-slot from 6am to close (unlike Britian's place on medals table), peaking with 8.7m viewers at 8.20pm according to overnight figures. BBC3 averaged a very strong eight hundred and eighty thousand punters between 9am and 11pm (and an over one million average between 6pm and 10pm). The all-day audience shares saw BBC1 against 29.9 per cent of the available audience with ITV hitting an all-time low on 6.7 per cent (and that includes ITV+1 figures). They only just beat BBC3's 6.4 per cent for the silver medal. ITV's best performing programme all day was a repeat of Midsomer Murders pulling in 2.3m viewers between 8pm and 9pm. That was their sole audience above two million. BBC1's evening Olympics 2012 show (from 7pm) average 6.3m across its three hours.

A new trailer for suspense thriller Hunted has been released by the BBC. Written and created by American writer Frank Spotnitz (probably best known for his work on The X Files) and from Kudos the producers of [spooks], Hustle and Life on Mars, Hunted is an original eight-part mini-series set in the world of international espionage. It stars Melissa George - pretty girl, can't act - as Sam, a highly skilled operative for an elite private intelligence company who survives an attempt on her life that may have been orchestrated by members of her own team. Once she returns to the firm, she is forced to perform her highly dangerous secret missions 'in the shadows' without knowing who to trust and who wants her dead. And, from the evidence of the trailer, it looks rather good - very in keeping with Kudos's record of producing good-looking, slick, testosterone-snorting British dramas that could, at a pinch, pass for American ones. Spotnitz said of the show: 'I'm incredibly excited about the ambition of this series. It's got action on a cinematic scale, huge story twists and turns, and intriguing characters who are both emotionally and morally complex. I can't imagine a better cast, director or production team to bring it all to life.' Stephen Dillane, Morven Christie, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Lex Shrapnel also appear in the show's cast.

The cast of US sitcom Modern Family have reportedly agreed new pay deals after six of them sued TV network ABC last week over their contracts. Sofia Vergara, Ed O'Neill, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson filed legal papers, claiming their contracts were illegal. Show producer FOX promptly shat in their own pants and, in some haste, confirmed the deal and said filming for the fourth series would begin on Monday. Exact financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed. Show creator Steve Levitan told reporters on Friday he was 'very happy' the dispute was resolved. 'It's a distraction I'm happy to see end,' he added. Five of the actors sued the network on Tuesday, asking a judge to rule their contracts should be invalidated because they violated California law prohibiting deals that run longer than seven years. O'Neill joined the case later in the week. As the dispute dragged on, a first 'table read' rehearsal for the season was cancelled. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new pay deal will see the salaries for Bowen, Burrell, Ferguson, Stonestreet and Vergara rise from about sixty five thousand dollars per episode to about one hundred and fifty thousand bucks for the fourth series. O'Neill, who as an already established star made about one hundred and five thousand dollars per episode for season three, will also receive an increase. The new deal will also see the cast receive a small percentage of the show's profits. In exchange for the pay rise, the cast have agreed to add one year to their existing seven-season contracts - which will see their salaries boosted to three hundred and fifty thousand dollars per episode for an eighth series - and will drop their legal action. The sitcom about the everyday lives of a dysfunctional family of fathers, sons, daughters and grandchildren living in suburbia is among ABC's top shows. It won the EMMY for best comedy last year, while Burrell, Bowen and Stonestreet have won individual EMMYs for their work on the show. The sitcom was also recently nominated for fourteen EMMYs for this year's awards.

Meanwhile, some - genuinely - appalling news. James Corden has said that he 'definitely' intends to make more Gavin & Stacey episodes. I'm so sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, dear blog reader, truly I am.

And speaking of unappealing arseholes, a lack of any inherent originality seems to figure strongly in the career of Paddy McGuinness. And, it would seem, he's at it again. The extremely unfunny Take Me Out presenter is reported to be starring in 'a TV Burp-style show for Channel Four.' So, the story here seems to be, if you can't afford Harry Hill, Paddy McGuinness will do instead. I wonder if Harry was up for the Gregg's adverts gig as well? McGuinness filmed a pilot called Paddy's TV Show in Manchester last week. The Sun - of course; about the only people in the world who think Paddy McGuinness is, in the least bit funny, are likely to be Sun readers - reports that ITV Studios describe the programme as 'a comic look at TV shows that might normally slip under the radar.' Or, TV Burp in other words. If picked up, it will be McGuinness's first project for Channel Four since the wretched Phoenix Nights spin-off Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere in 2004. The hugely popular TV Burp broadcast its final episode on ITV in March after presenter and creator Harry Hill quit the show, citing the strain of the tough working schedule.

NBC co-host Meredith Vieira failed to do her homework during the broadcaster's much-criticised coverage of the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday night. 'If you haven't heard of him, we haven't either,' this ignorant odious fraction of a woman said when Tim Berners-Lee was highlighted. 'Google him,' continued her co-host - and hairdo - Matt Lauer, clearly unaware of the irony of what he just said concerning the inventor of the World Wide Web. Personally, this blogger is with LA Observed's Bob Timmerman: 'After the sixteen days of the Olympics are done, there will be plenty more things people will dislike about NBC's coverage of the games. But, this bit of willful ignorance of one of the world's most innovative minds and someone who developed a communications medium that has made it possible for NBC to show us the Olympics online, just floored me. I'm not worried about London's ability to pull together a well-run Olympics. I'm more worried about NBC's ability to find on-air talent who are not completely ignorant of any technological development. In the world of television news, it is still acceptable to laugh at one's lack of knowledge about science and technology. ' Yeah. What he said.

The BBC is to seek assurances from the company that provides its Olympic pictures after an embarrassing technical error resulted in a frustrating lack of timing information during the men's cycling road race. As the race progressed the BBC's commentary team and viewers alike became increasingly frustrated with the lack of information on the gap between the leaders and the peloton. As they urged Mark Cavendish and his team-mates to try and close the gap as the race entered its final stages, Hugh Porter and Chris Boardman were at a loss to explain to viewers how big the gap actually was. In a statement released shortly after Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinokourov crossed the line first on The Mall, the BBC placed the blame squarely with Olympic Broadcasting Services, which provides pictures to broadcasters around the world. OBS, embroiled in controversy last week when it emerged that it had clashed with the company hired by Danny Boyle to produce his opening ceremony, in turn passed the blame to London 2012 organisers. A BBC spokesman said: 'We have raised our concerns with OBS who have explained that there were GPS problems with the LOCOG-supplied timing graphics, which resulted in a lack of information for the commentary teams. A number of tests were run by OBS this morning on parts of the course. We've been assured that everything is being done to try and resolve this ahead of the women's road race.' The failure of the timing equipment could not have come at a worse time, with all eyes on Mark Cavendish and his team-mates in the hope they could help him to Britain's first gold of the games. With the entire race dependent on whether they could close the gap with a breakaway group in time to mount a late charge and put Cavendish into position to win a sprint finish, the lack of timing information left a massive hole in BBC coverage leading to lots of waffling. OBS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the International Olympic Committee and hosts the broadcasting operation for several major sporting events. It employs teams from around the world to produce the coverage of the twenty six Olympic sports, with its services provided to the host city as part of the Host City Contract agreement. The template has been in place only since 2008, before which the host broadcaster was typically provided by the host city. Manolo Romero, the Spaniard who has been managing director of OBS since its creation in 2001, announced this week that he intended to stand down in 2013.

In a subsequent update, Olympic organisers blamed 'spectators using Twitter' for disrupting television coverage of the cycling road races. Viewers were left in the dark about timing and positions after electronic updates failed to reach commentators during both the men's and women's events. Poor old  Chris Boardman was left using his own watch to try and estimate timings. But the International Olympic Committee had said that fans sending updates to Twitter while watching the race had, in effect, jammed transmissions of race information. Communications director Mark Adams said: 'From my understanding, One network was oversubscribed, and OBS are trying to spread the load to other providers. We don't want to stop people engaging in this by social media but perhaps they might consider only sending urgent updates.' Okay ... Hang on. You're suggesting people should only tweet 'urgent' updates? Is there a single instance in the history of the Internet of Twitter ever being used for anything other than utter trivia? Tim Berners-Lee, you've got a lot to answer for! Jesus, I've heard everything now. Only use Twitter for 'urgent' stuff! What planet, exactly, are you from, Mark? Anyway, the timings are, apparently, sent to organisers via tiny GPS transmitters in competitors' bikes but the messages were not being received during the races. A spokeswoman for games organisers LOCOG -who are not having a very good time at the moment, what with the empty seats and all - said: 'There are fixed timing points at the start and finish line, as well as one at Box Hill which LOCOG provides. These worked well and the result and timing of the race are not in doubt.'

A Tony Hancock radio episode not heard for more than fifty years was broadcast on Sunday – to mark the start of the Olympics. The special edition of Hancock's Half Hour was originally broadcast in 1958 to coincide with that year's British Empire and Commonwealth Games. It originally went out live on the BBC Light Service from the London Coliseum as part of a variety show, designed to entertain athletes on their way home from Cardiff, where the games that year were being held. In the nine-minute sketch, Hancock along with Sid James and Bill Kerr make preparations for their varied roles in the games. It had been thought that no recording of the show existed, but an off-air recording was found in the vast archive left by the late Bob Monkhouse, when he died died in 2003.

The Daily Scum Mail went to town on last week's mix-up which saw North Korea's female footballers walk off because images of them were shown alongside the South Korean flag on the stadium screen – with characteristic restraint (that's err, irony, in case you were wondering, dear blog reader), the Scum Mail covered the one-hour row with an atypical angry, twenty two-word headline and six giant photos. Awkwardly, however, according to the Gruniad Morning Star the paper itself was guilty of a similar 'foul-up' and 'blunder': among various flags flown from the top of its Kensington offices to welcome Olympic visitors was that of the Soviet Union - a country which ceased to exist in 1991. A Russian flag had to be hastily found to replace it. The Scum Mail still mentally stuck in the Thatcher era? Who'd have thought it?

The six metre-tall puppet figure of Lady Godiva is to continue its journey around Coventry on Sunday, before departing for London. The puppet left Coventry Cathedral and made her way to Broadgate where she was dressed in her embroidered coat to cover her nakedness. The coat has been created by a team of textile and glass artists from across the West Midlands. Godiva Awakes is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The Lady Godiva puppet will later travel to London to celebrate the 2012 Games, powered by a team of cyclists.

After the disappointment of the Men's Road Race the day before, Lizzie Armitstead won Britain's first medal of the 2012 Olympics on Sunday as Netherlands' Marianne Vos claimed gold in the women's road race. Armitstead took the silver with Russian Olga Zabelinskaya third in a thrilling rain-soaked race that ended on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. Zabelinskaya instigated a breakaway with twenty five kilometres to go and Armitstead and pre-race favourite Vos went with her. Armitstead attacked Vos on The Mall but the Dutch rider had too much power. Britain's Nicole Cooke, who won this race four years ago, finished in the main peloton. Britain, therefore, had the same number of medals as Kazakhstan. Which is nice. Subsequently Rebecca Adlington - remember her? Mad Frankie Boyle's mate - won a bronze. So, Britain now has more medals than Kazakhstan. Three cheers for our side.

And, there was further good news as Lewis Hamilton took his second victory of the season as he beat Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hamilton led throughout the race but had to fend off a determined challenge from both Raikkonen and the Finn's Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was third. Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was fourth ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Jenson Button. Alonso extended his title lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber to forty points. The Australian was ahead of the Spaniard after their second stops, but Webber suffered a failed differential and made a third stop for fresher tyres with thirteen laps to go, which dropped him back down to eighth place at the flag. Webber is two points ahead of Vettel in the championship, with Hamilton a further five points adrift and one ahead of Raikkonen as F1 heads into its mid-season four-week break before returning with the Belgian Grand Prix on 2 September. Jenson Button, slower and harder on his tyres than team-mate Hamilton, finished the race sixth, ahead of the Williams of Bruno Senna, Webber, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. Hamilton's win came as a result of a controlled defensive drive, not dissimilar to Alonso's victory in Germany a week ago. The McLaren driver led from pole position and measured his pace ahead of the faster Lotus cars. The 2008 world champion said: 'There is a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do, but we are going to give it everything.' Grosjean was his main opposition for the first two-thirds of the race, as Raikkonen bided his time fighting up from sixth place on the first lap, after he dropped a place to Alonso at the start after a temporary failure of his Kers power-boost system. But clever strategy by Lotus, founded on their car's excellent tyre usage, gave Raikkonen clear air in the middle of the race before his second and final stop and put in an impressive sequence of laps to make up enough ground to pass Button, Alonso, Vettel and Grosjean. The two Lotus cars were side by side rounding the first corner when Raikkonen emerged from the pits but the Finn legitimately pushed the Frenchman to the outside of the track on the exit of the corner and consolidated second place, before setting off after Hamilton. He quickly closed on to the McLaren's rear, and the question then became which driver's strategies would work out best - and would Hamilton's tyres last when he had made his final stop five laps before Raikkonen. But the extra wear generated by following another car took the edge off Raikkonen's tyres, and he had to settle for second place as Hamilton took his first win since the Canadian Grand Prix in June and became only the third driver - after Alonso and Webber - to win more than one race this season. Raikkonen said: 'We came second, it's not enough. We had some problems with the Kers in the first lap which didn't help us, but we had good speed. We keep trying the next race to win, we keep saying that but at least we are up there all the time. I take the second place, but for sure we are not happy until we win.' Grosjean was left to fend off Vettel, a problem that removed itself when the German made a third stop for tyres late in the race with ten laps of the sixty nine remaining. Vettel used his fresher tyres to try to close a fifteen-second gap on the Lotus but ran out of time. Button ran third in the early laps, but his heavier tyre wear forced him on to a three-stop strategy, one more than Hamilton's. Button's race was further hindered by coming out from his second stop behind Senna, although the Briton managed to rejoin ahead of the Brazilian after his final stop having made up ground following Senna's second and final stop.

So, I guess it's time for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, in that case. Here's a James Kirk song sung by the legend that is Edwyn Collins from one of the great debut LPs of all time.