Monday, August 27, 2012

And Everything Depends Upon How Near You Stand To Me

Yer actual Matt Smith and Karen Gillan arrived in New York, New York - so good they named it twice - over the weekend to attend a special screening of the opening episode of the new series of Doctor Who hosted by BBC America. The pair were joined by executive producer Caroline Skinner at the Ziegfeld Theater where episode one of season seven was presented to a very enthusiastic audience. Arriving in a vintage DeLorean, Smith and Gillan were greeted by photographers and signed autographs for the waiting fans.
Inspector George Gently's Northern Soul-based episode on Sunday evening was really rather good, featuring a cunningly constructed David Kane script touching on aspects of race politics and casual racism within both the society itself and the police, Enoch Powell's notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech, with a superb soundtrack and mostly very acted (we'll ignore Lenora Crichlow's almost-but-not-quite Geordie accent for the moment). There were two major anachronistic drawbacks, however. Firstly, the references of Frank Wilson's 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)' by Bacchus and Carol. Although recorded in 1965 and scheduled for release (on the Motown subsidiary Soul label) early the following year, the record was - famously - withdrawn and, until the mid-to-late 1970s, its existence wasn't even known about, let alone it being anyone's 'favourite record' in 1968. Ten out of ten for the quality of the choice, mind. Secondly, Marvin Gaye's 'Lets Get It On' wasn't even recorded until 1973! Oh, and Breville didn't invent the Snack 'N' Sandwich Toaster®™ until 1974, but that cheese and onion toastie Bacchus gave Carol in the pub looked, suspiciously, like a Breville. That apart ... jolly good effort.
British television is currently on an Olympics high, and the impact was felt throughout this year's Edinburgh International Television Festival. From the moment yer actual Elisabeth Murdoch (relation) praised the 'exuberant and unrivalled BBC coverage' in her keynote MacTaggart Lecture speech till the closing session, when LOCOG's director of ceremonies, Martin Green, revealed they'd never expected the Queen to take part personally in the James Bond sequence, there was an acknowledgment that it was television which made the Olympics such a remarkable experience for so many millions of people. 'It wasn't Twitter that made us cry,' said Murdoch: 'It was the power of television.' For the eighteen hundred TV producers and executives and media commentators gathered in Edinburgh, it was a shot in the arm after years in which television has been somewhat on the back foot - battered by budget cuts, audience fragmentation, scum tabloid nonsense and claims that the once all-powerful medium had been superseded by the Internet. The Olympics audience figures were 'just breathtaking', said Richard Bacon, chairing the final session. 'Fifty two million people in the UK watched some of the Olympics coverage. Peak audiences of over twenty six million saw the opening and closing ceremonies. 24.2 million people pressed the Red Button. There were thirty nine million UK browsers to BBC Sport, and twelve million mobile video requests.' 'Some people said linear television would eventually be replaced by digital channels, but what this shows is you can do both,' said Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of London 2012. 'BBC1 and BBC3 did fantastically well but so did online and mobile. It shows you can make big events bigger if you use all your platforms. You might think that using twenty four channels would damage BBC1, but actually it strengthened it' he said. 'People loved the fact that they could edit their own Olympics, so if you wanted to watch the fencing and then the Greco-Roman wrestling you could. People loved that choice.' This was reflected in the audience appreciation figures. Some ninety six per cent of people said the TV coverage 'met or exceeded' their expectations. 'IPSOS-MORI said they were the highest figures they had ever seen,' said Mosey. 'Of course we had wonderful material to work with, because the games and the ceremonies and torch relay were so brilliantly organised, but it felt as though we were really in tune with the nation and each fed the other.' The response was particularly satisfying after the criticism of the BBC's coverage of the Queen's jubilee river pageant. Mosey said the BBC had conceded that was 'probably not its finest hour' but insisted the rest of the BBC's jubilee output had been a success. Just, not those bits featuring Fearne Cotton. Elisabeth Murdoch's warm endorsement of the BBC, and not just its Olympics coverage, surprised some of her audience. It's simply not what they expect to hear from a Murdoch. Three years ago her brother, James Murdoch the small, in his own notorious 'greed is good'-style MacTaggart Lecture, accused a 'dominant' BBC of 'chilling' ambitions and of purveying 'state-sponsored journalism.' Twenty years before that, her father billionaire tyrant, Rupert, had attacked British television - particularly the BBC - for being 'obsessed with the past', and part of 'a British disease' which portrayed 'businessmen as crooks.' Some observed that the BBC commissions Elisabeth's company, Shine, to make hit programmes such as Merlin, MasterChef and, before that, Life on Mars and [spooks]. Others suggested that she was attempting, with her husband, the PR guru Matthew Freud, to 'detoxify Brand Murdoch.' This blogger believes that the speech was a combination of both of those things and, more specifically, a very clever bit of positioning by yer actual Lis her very self as a 'non-threatening' potential successor to her father. The acceptable face of Murdochism, if you like. Whatever the explanation, she 'put on record' that she was a 'current supporter of the BBC's universal licence fee' which mandates 'its unique purpose as a strategic catalyst to the creative industries of this great country.' And, in contrast with billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's view that the BBC lived in the past (which may have been justified in 1989), his daughter said: 'The BBC seems furthest ahead in understanding that our new world demands new eco-systems. Under the vision and leadership of Mark Thompson, the BBC has been the market leader for building new relationships and services, with creatives from every sector.' She also chastised previous festival organisers for the fact that she was the first woman in seventeen years to deliver the MacTaggart Lecture. Speaking later in the festival's Question Time session, Mad Harriet Horrorshow, the deputy Labour leader, expressed her frustration: 'You wait seventeen years for a woman to give the MacTaggart Lecture and it's a Murdoch - it's like waiting for a woman to be prime minister and finding it's Margaret Thatcher.' Well, quite. Horrorshow welcomed Murdoch's support of the BBC, but said the corporation now faced another threat to its future - from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. He told his festival audience that Scotland had been 'short-changed' by 'outdated' broadcasting policies dictated from Westminster and if the country gained independence after the 2014 referendum, he would replace the BBC with a new public service broadcaster. Horrorshow said: 'What an irony that as the Murdochs are retreating from wanting to break up the BBC, the baton is being picked up by Alex Salmond.' Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran pointed out one of the risks: 'On Thursday night, millions of people tuned in to see the first episode of Waterloo Road, filmed in Greenock, broadcast across the UK.' She said the first minister must answer whether programmes like this would still be made in Scotland without the BBC. Some thought Salmond's timing was unfortunate, at the very moment when the Olympics has made the BBC as popular as it's been for a very long time. But TV's feel-good factor won't last forever and the festival debated several other key issues facing the industry. There were discussions about the Leveson Inquiry, made more immediate by the Sun's publication during the Festival of naked photos of yer actual Prince Harry's knob on holiday in Las Vegas. Elisabeth Murdoch acknowledged that the phone-hacking at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World had been 'a nightmare' for her family - though it was much worse for the victims and the parents of Milly Dowler, she hurriedly added. She said the 'dearth of integrity' by so many institutions had made it hard for the industry to argue for a free press and light touch regulation. But overall, speakers felt that this was a newspaper issue, not one that affects television, which is already highly regulated. A new BBC director-general, George Entwistle, takes charge next month, and must continue to implement budget cuts and there was no shortage of suggestions and advice. Former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessy, now an independent producer, said the corporation must 'simplify' its commissioning process to save time and money. Roger Mosey was reticent when asked whether the success of the Olympics meant the BBC might now dedicate a channel to sport, or give greater coverage to the minority sports which proved so popular. But there was some comfort for Entwistle from Steven Moffat, the man behind two of the BBC's biggest international hits, Sherlock and Doctor Who. He discussed both series at the festival and said Doctor Who could go on making money for the BBC 'for generations to come.' As the glow of the Olympics fades, the BBC may well be very grateful for it.

BBC America has announced it is co-producing BBC1's The Musketeers, a new drama inspired by the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas and written by Adrian Hodges. The Musketeers is a fresh and contemporary take on the beloved story and characters created by Dumas. It tells the story of a band of brothers, highly trained soldiers who are assigned to protect King and country. Courageous, impulsive, ready to fight any battle, if the cause is just. The series shares Dumas' original Seventeenth Century setting and will feature a fresh story each week across its ten episodes due to be broadcast for 2014. Presumably this will be going into the Merlin/Doctor Who slot for Saturday evenings. Perry Simon, General Manager BBC America, said: 'The series bristles with vivid escapism and heroic action adventure and is set to thrill audiences with crackling stories of the week.'

Downton Abbey's male actors have joked that their period underpants are difficult to wear. They were reportedly banned from wearing modern underwear during a filmed cricket match in case they 'showed through' on-screen. Actors including Dan Stevens and Hugh Bonneville reportedly 'struggled to remain focused' during filming while wearing the baggy garments, leading to several rude jokes. David Robb - who plays Doctor Clarkson on the period drama - spilled the alleged beans to the Sun: 'The bosses reckoned viewers might be able to see our Calvin Kleins, so we had to wear these big pants,' he reported as saying. I'm almost certain that he didn't use the word 'bosses' or anything even remotely like it as no one who works in television uses words of less than three syllables when talking to tabloid newspapers. 'But they don't really contain a chap - you just flop and dangle around all over the place - and the boys' jokes were flying, as you can imagine,' he continued. Allegedly. 'I don't think the viewers will really be able to see anything but I'm not sure.' The cricket match between the house and the village, will feature as part of the drama's third season finale. Robb added: 'The cricket match was hilarious. We didn't really know what we were doing, but had great fun.'

Ruth Jones has dismissed claims that a new series of Gavin & Stacey is in the works. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Jones told Metro that her schedule does not allow her enough time to work on reviving the show. Which is, frankly, the single best bit of news to come out of Edinburgh this year. Let's all have a party.

Glasgow Rangers fan Fraser McLaren scored the equaliser and came close to handing Berwick Rangers a surprise win as the Glasgow visitors misfired on a ground that doubles as a speedway track in their latest Scottish Division Three match. Berwick had just about edged the first half but fell behind in stoppage time when Andy Little fired home. McLaren broke clear to find the far corner after sixty two minutes and had another effort saved by keeper Neil Alexander. Chris Townsley found the net for Berwick late on, but his effort was disallowed for offside. The result leaves Rangers sitting fourth in Division Three, having also drawn their opening away game at Peterhead, with Berwick second from bottom. Rangers' old ambition to play league football in England was finally realised but in circumstances they would not have imagined until the club's summer of financial turmoil and disgrace. As they crossed the border to sun-kissed Shielfield Park, memories in the capacity crowd returned to a famous Berwick victory in 1967, when the Wee Rangers caused one of the biggest shocks in Scottish Cup history with a 1-0 victory over the men from Ibrox.

Elvis Presley's piss stained smalls will go up for auction next month. The late singer's dirty pants were worn under his famous white suit in 1977, the year in which he died. They were found at the estate of his father Vernon Presley, and will go under the hammer in Stockport in September. The framed piece of clothing is expected to fetch around ten grand. The auction will be held to coincide with the thirty fifth anniversary of Presley's death. Also available for purchase is his annotated bible, which he owned since his first Christmas at Graceland in 1957. Several passages were underlined by Presley, including: 'What is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world and lose himself or be cast away.'
Which bring us, by an inevitable sense of this being the end of the page, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which today, for no other reason than I felt like it and because there's a very good article in this month's Mojo about their early years, features a stunning dose of yer actual Smiths their very selves. Kiss my shades.

No comments: