Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who Controls The Past Controls The Future: Who Controls The Present Controls The Past

As announced yesterday, the long-awaited seventh series of yer actual Doctor Who will begin on BBC1 on 1 September. Which is nice. It will begin, however, in a time slot which has reportedly led The X Factor producers to (marginally) reschedule that night's show. Early TV listings for 1 September showed the BBC's popular long-running SF family drama's opening episode, Asylum Of The Daleks, beginning at 7:20pm and ending at 8:10pm - leading to an overlap of ten minutes between the BBC show and The X Factor. However reports from listings magazine Radio Times now suggest that ITV has moved The X Factor's start time to 8:10pm, preventing any clash between the two shows - although neither Doctor Who's transmission time nor changes to the ITV schedule have yet been confirmed by either channel. It's not the first time Doctor Who has faced a potential schedule clash with The X Factor. The series six finale The Wedding Of River Song also clashed with that week's edition of the Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads talent show when it was screened on 1 October 2011. The episode picked up an average overnight audience of 6.1 million (its final, consolidated ratings figure was 7.67 million and it's 'ratings +7' total, including iPlayer and BBC3 repeat figures was 9.58 million). The X Factor - which at that point had reached the judges' houses stage - saw its viewing figures dip below ten million for the first time in five years, suggesting that Doctor Who had, at least in part, dented its ratings.

Yer actual Matt Smith his very self, meanwhile, has promised that Doctor Who's series seven opener Asylum of the Daleks is one of the scariest episodes yet. But then, he always says that! Discussing the episode with TV Guide, Smudger promised that the Daleks are more menacing than ever in their return. 'We have made the Daleks scary again, something I am not sure we got right before,' Smith admitted. Steven Moffat also spoke about the Ponds' exit from the series in episode five when they face the Weeping Angels for the final time. Moffat promised that Amy and Rory's farewell will be 'a monumental moment' for the popular long-running family SF drama. 'This, more than any other, is the year of the Ponds,' Moffat declared, adding: 'It's true, I cannot lie, somewhere out there, the Weeping Angels are waiting for them!'

Moffat has also suggested that he will reveal key themes of series three of Sherlock at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday. Moffat announced on Twitter that he will give three words referring to upcoming episodes of the drama at a Friday afternoon panel. 'Last year it was Woman, Hound, Fall,' he wrote. 'This year's three words revealed tomorrow at [the] Sherlock Master Class.'
To the shock of many, not least probably a few members of her own family, Elisabeth Murdoch has come out in support of the BBC licence fee in a speech to TV executives in Edinburgh. Giving the annual MacTaggart Lecture, the daughter of News Corporation founder and billionaire tyrant Rupert also praised the BBC for its 'creative leadership.' A Murdoch saying nice things about the BBC? She must be ill. Or, maybe there's a touch of sibling power games going on here and we're just seeing the opening shot of The War. Her brother, James Murdoch the small delivered the same lecture in 2009, and notoriously - odiously - described the BBC's size and ambition as 'chilling.' He also said that phone-hacking was merely the works on a single 'rogue' journalist and that turned out to be a load of old bollocks too. His sister also criticised the 'dearth of integrity' highlighted in the Leveson inquiry into press standards. Yep, definitely a family power-play going on here. Delivering the Festival's keynote speech, she said the exposure of the 'sometimes self-serving relationships' between great pillars of society such as police, politics, media and banking served as a reminder that 'with great power comes responsibility.' Referring to the Leveson Inquiry, she said that the result should be the 'fierce protection of a free press and light touch media regulation,' adding that it was hard to argue for this because of the 'unsettling dearth of integrity across so many of our institutions. Sadly the greatest threats to our free society are too often from the enemies within,' she said. Mentioning no particular brothers or fathers, of course. Independence from regulation, she added 'is only democratically viable when we accept that we have a responsibility to each other and not just to our bottom line.' Murdoch is chair of the Shine Group - which makes shows including Merlin and MasterChef, both broadcast by the BBC. She was due to speak at the festival in 2011 but pulled out in the middle of the phone-hacking scandal. On that occasion, she was replaced by Google chairman Eric Schmidt. Murdoch is the first woman to deliver the speech since Janet Street Porter in 1995 and only the fourth since the festival's inception in 1976. Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch spoke at the 1989 festival. The MacTaggart Lecture was named after writer, producer and director James MacTaggart - who died in 1974. Since then it has established itself as a platform for agenda-setting speeches in the media with attendance by more than two thousand delegates from the broadcasting and media industries. When James Murdoch the small took to the floor at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in 2009, he used his notorious 'greed is good'-style speech to take aim at the UK establishment. Twenty years after his father delivered the lecture, Murdoch the small said a 'dominant' BBC 'threatened independent journalism' in the UK. He also blamed the government for regulating the media 'with relish.' Murdoch the small's elder sister used her speech to challenge his assertion three years ago that 'the only reliable guarantee of editorial independence is profit.' She said he was 'clearly being provocative' but 'profit without purpose - or of a moral language - was a recipe for disaster.' Yes, love. We noticed that. While praising the BBC for its Olympic coverage and creative partnerships, Murdoch added: 'The BBC needs ITV and Sky to thrive so that they can [all] maintain a position of equality rather than dominance.' Absolutely. Would that a few people in ITV realised the same is true of them needed a successful BBC by the same turn. After speaking in support of the 'universal license fee,' she mentioned that the 'biggest challenge' facing the BBC's new director general George Entwistle 'may be to demonstrate how efficiently that funding is being spent on actual content on behalf of the license fee payers.' Before the phone-hacking scandal, James Murdoch the small had been widely considered to be the front-runner to take over his father Rupert's media empire. But the row raised questions over his suitability, despite his repeated denials of any knowledge of the illegal practice at the Scum of the World. Which came after his repeated denials that there had been any illegal practice at the Scum of the World except for those of a single 'rogue' journalist. In contrast, Big Sister distanced herself from the scandal which enveloped her father and brother. She was the one who suggested to her father that James Murdoch the small should take a leave of absence from the corporation and step aside. Having bought and sold US TV stations before a brief stint working at Sky in the early 1990s, she left the family business to build her own successful TV production company. Although Shine has now been bought by News Corporation, she has made a point of ploughing her own furrow, away from the rest of the family. Despite Murdoch's personal ambition and independent success, she does not make many public appearances and her profile is not as high as that of her brother. Speaking ahead of Thursday's lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, media-watchers speculated that the event would be Murdoch's 'coming out' party. 'This is a very public moment for her and she's been planning for it very carefully,' said Sarah Ellison, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, who has written extensively on the Murdoch empire. 'It's a way for her to declare some of her independence from her family.' Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, Ellison said there was 'no question' that Murdoch harboured ambition within the family. 'By distancing herself, the bet is that she'll be able to come back at a time when some of the scandal has passed her by, and have a cleaner slate,' Ellison said. 'She's very, very ambitious.' In that family? What a surprise.
The former BBC director general, Greg Dyke, has said the corporation's chief critics, including the Murdochs and the Daily Scum Mail, are 'damaged goods' after the Leveson inquiry into press ethics. Christ almighty, I hope he's right! Dyke added that the BBC was less open to attack from its opponents following the success of its Olympics coverage. 'I think this is a great moment for the BBC. I think the Olympics summed up what the BBC is about, and the strongest opponents of the BBC – the Murdochs, the Daily Mail – are all damaged goods,' he told an Edinburgh International Television Festival session on the future of the corporation on Thursday. Oh, if only wishing made it so. 'There is a wonderful opportunity for the BBC to restate what it's about over the next few years.' He added: 'What's happened to News International is a massive turning point in the influence newspaper groups have on our society.' Dyke praised Mark Thompson, the outgoing director general of the BBC who leaves next month to become chief executive of New York Times Company. He said Thompson's successor, George Entwistle, faces a significant challenge to maintain standards in the wake of the twenty per cent Delivering Quality First cuts, aiming to save about six hundred and seventy million smackers over the next five years.

The British public is less concerned about the amount of sex, violence and swearing on TV than in the past, a report from media regulator Ofcom says. The survey found that twenty five per cent of adults felt there was 'too much' sex on the small screen, down from thirty six per cent in 2005. And three out of four people said they agreed that the timing of the 21:00 watershed was 'about right.' However, nineteen per cent of people said they had been offended by something shown on their TV screen in the last twelve months. Though, to be fair, that could simply have been the vile and odious rascal Hunt's mush. That is pretty offensive, to be fair. Thirty-six per cent of viewers were concerned about the level of violence, and the same number raised concerns about swearing. Ofcom noted that the figures had dropped significantly since 2005, when the current Broadcasting Code came into effect. At that time, fifty six per cent were concerned about violence and fifty five per cent about swearing. And twelve per cent about young men having long hair and not standing in cinemas when the national anthem is played. Probably. Last year Ofcom issued new guidelines on the watershed, which warned broadcasters to be more careful about what they show before 21:00. And, extremely annoyingly, what they show in the ten or fifteen minutes immediately after it which kind of buggers up the whole point of having a watershed in the first place. The twelve-page document was issued in response to several breaches of its code, many of which included explicit music videos. In its latest report, the regulator said twelve per cent of audiences felt the standard of programmes had improved - a rise of two per cent since 2005. About fifty five per cent said quality was being maintained, while the proportion of adults saying standards had 'got worse' fell from forty per cent in 2005, to thirty one per cent. 'More repeats' and a 'lack of variety' in programming were the top reasons given by those who felt the standard of TV had slipped. Adults over the age of sixty five were more likely to have felt that standards had worsened - they would like their own twenty four hour channel featuring a non-stop diet of casual racism and tutting - while younger respondents to the survey, those aged between sixteen and thirty four, felt they had improved. The report also found that TV was the main source of UK and international news for seventy six per cent of adults. More than half of adults - fifty nine per cent in all - felt that TV news was 'impartial', down from sixty six per cent last year.

Sue Perkins is to write a new sitcom for BBC2, it has been announced. The Great British Bake-Off host will also take the lead role in Heading Out, about a vet who is afraid to tell her parents she is a lesbian. Dawn French will star opposite Perkins, along with The Thick of It's Jo Scanlan and the divine Nicola Walker from [spooks]. Right, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is watching that, I don't care if it's got Dawn French in it, Sue and Nicola have swung it for me. The six-part series will begin production in September and is due to be broadcast next year. Perkins will play Sara, a skilled veterinarian whose friends insist she tell her parents about her sexual orientation. To help her achieve this, her friends buy her a series of sessions with an eccentric lifestyle coach. Executive producer Nicola Shindler said Perkins's script was a 'fantastically original, smart and witty.' Perkins herself said the project had been 'a joy to work on' and that she hoped that joy 'proves to be infectious.' The forty two-year-old has written for TV previously and is well known for her appearances on The News Quiz, Just a Minute and other radio shows. Her television credits include Supersizers, Qi and Ronni Ancona and Co.

Channel Four has commissioned a new drama about a small town rocked by a spate of shootings, penned by the screenwriter behind Red Riding, and unveiled a new panel show to be hosted by yer actual David Tennant his very self. Southcliffe has been written by Tony Grisoni and will be made by Warp Films. The four-part series of one-hour episodes will look at the fallout from a spate of shootings, which all occur in one day, through the eyes of a journalist returning to the small town of Southcliffe where he grew up. Grisoni was responsible for adapting David Peace's Red Riding series of crime novels into a trilogy of dramas for Channel Four in 2009. Good stuff they were, too, albeit grim as a Northern sunset. Southcliffe, which will be broadcast next year, will be directed by Sean Durkin, who directed the film Martha Marcy May Marlene. The drama was one of a number of commissions unveiled by Jay Hunt, Channel Four's chief creative officer, at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday. Tennant will host a new seven-part Channel Four Saturday night panel show called Comedy World Cup. E4 is to broadcast a new series set in the urban music scene, which to be made by Big Talk Productions and has been given the working title Youngers. The eight-part series of thirty-minute episodes has been scripted by writers who have worked on Skins, My Murder and Casualty. Dragon's Den star Hilary Devey is to get her own show in which benefits claimants will travel back more than sixty years to see what the welfare state was like in its early days in 1949. The three-part series of sixty-minute episodes, which has been given the working title Hilary Devey's Dole Office (snappy!), will be made by Twenty Twenty and air next year.

Her fictionalised life of Thomas Cromwell won Hilary Mantel the Man Booker prize – and now Wolf Hall and its follow-up Bring Up The Bodies are to be brought to television in a six-hour adaptation for BBC2. The TV version of the acclaimed 2009 novel and its sequel, expected to be broadcast in late 2013, is to be adapted by Peter Straughan, who wrote the screenplay for the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy movie. The third part of Mantel's Tudor trilogy, the yet-to-be-published The Mirror and the Light, may form a stand-alone drama at a later date. Stressing the channel's commitment to drama in the face of cuts that from the new year will ravage the daytime schedule, BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow – who named Wolf Hall as among her favourite books of recent years – said the novels were 'right in the cross hairs of what BBC2 viewers will enjoy. I think there is a cumulative, mounting hunger for the [dramas] that we do,' said Hadlow. 'That doesn't mean that all of them will be massive audience drivers but I think what drama injects into the channel is of such value … something so powerful that you'd want to protect that at all costs.' Other new dramas for BBC2, which will broadcast Tom Stoppard's eagerly awaited – and very expensive – adaptation of Parade's End starring yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch on Friday night, include spy thriller The Honourable Woman by Hugo Blick, who wrote and directed the channel's recent acclaimed drama The Shadow Line. There are likely also to be new Shakespeare films on the horizon following the critical success of The Hollow Crown tetralogy which were shown earlier this summer, as well as a look at classic world drama, with French and Russian classics getting a similar screen treatments. Hadlow also unveiled new comedy commissions for the channel, including the return of Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall to BBC2 in Hooligan's Island, which will catch up with Richie Rich and Eddie Hitler, stranded on a desert island, more than fifteen years after viewers last encountered them in Bottom. Hadlow denied that a return to the characters would be a backwards step. 'This will be very different. It puts them into a very different scenario,' she said. BBC2 will look to another comedy double act, in the shape of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, for a new comedy drama for the channel set in the British embassy in the fictional state of Tazbekistan. Other new comedies include the previously mentioned Sue Perkins vehicle Heading Out and Radio 4 comedy hit Count Arthur Strong making his television debut. The creator of the malapropism-afflicted former variety star, Steve Delaney, will work with Graham Linehan – writer of Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd for Channel Four – on six half-hour episodes of the show for television. Hadlow, talking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday, said she was determined to keep BBC2's identity intact in the face of swingeing Delivering Quality First cuts that will see the channel's daytime programming substantially reduced. She argued against the idea of combining BBC2 and BBC4 in an effort to save money. 'I think BBC4 has been given a slightly new strategy to follow and I think that will be clear and something that the audience will appreciate; a concentration perhaps on culture and arts and music will be distinctive. We know that the audience really love BBC4. To lose that would be a very, very tough ask for an audience that over the years has grown to feel it the jewel in the BBC's crown. So I'm not sure that just merging the two channels would be helpful in that respect.' Hadlow also unveiled a year-long factual season that will see BBC2 look back at the history of British inventions from all angles and explore their influence on science, history and art among others.

Hadlow also defended the disappointing ratings, poor critical response and controversy that surrounded Ricky Gervais's 2011 BBC sitcom Life's Too Short. When asked about Life's Too Short, Hadlow said: "I think part of BBC2's remit is to take risks. Are you brave enough and are you willing to take risks as a channel? If you want to take risks, which we do, you will do things that cause controversy.' She added: 'I think you judge it in the end on whether people will laugh or not.' Hadlow said that she was happy with the broadcaster's post-watershed slate of comedy with hits such as Rev and Twenty Twelve, but revealed that a 'broader, pre-watershed show' was a big concern following the shift of Miranda to BBC1.

Channel Four's head of comedy Shane Allen, the executive producer behind The Inbetweeners Movie, is switching to the BBC. Allen has been appointed the BBC's controller, comedy commissioning, succeeding Cheryl Taylor who was appointed controller of CBBC in June. In charge of Channel Four comedy since 2009, Allen's credits include series two and three of E4 hit Inbetweeners (and its record-breaking movie version), Friday Night Dinner, Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror and new Ricky Gervais sitcom Derek. So, some good stuff and some rubbish, then. He also commissioned Facejacker, the return of Comic Strip Presents, and Frankie Boyle's controversial Channel Four show Tramadol Nights. Allen said: 'Comedy is my life's passion, so this is a dream job and the best gig in TV comedy given the BBC's unique volume, range, commitment and legacy. It's the perfect time to join as Cheryl Taylor leaves behind a string of big audience delivering hit shows across all the channels, and George Entwistle is a very keen and inspiring champion of comedy on his new watch. I feel proud to leave Channel Four comedy in rude health and end on a high with the Funny Fortnight season.' Previously a commissioning editor of comedy at Channel Four and before that a freelancer, Allen was also a producer on The Eleven O'Clock Show and Ali G in Da USA, a writer on BBC2's Shooting Stars and writer and assistant producer on Chris Morris's controversial Brass Eye. Roger Mosey, acting director of BBC Vision, said: 'I'm delighted by Shane's appointment. He has a great track record in the industry and we're pleased he's joining the BBC to make sure that we continue to offer original and distinctive comedy to our television audiences.'

Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones will start as hosts of notorious ITV breakfast flop Daybreak next month, it has been confirmed. The presenters will take over from sacked interim hosts Kate Garraway and Dan Lobb on Monday 3 September, according to advance programme information released by ITV.

The bloodbath of a final episode suggested a comeback was out of the question. But television's appetite for remaking SF classics of yesteryear has extended to Blake's 7, the story of a motley band of interstellar renegades which came to an end on BBC1 in 1981. A remake of Blake's 7 - after a decade or more of false starts - is being produced for the same US cable TV channel, Syfy, that successfully revived another 1970s SF show, Battlestar Galactica, in 2004. Doctor Who was, of course, reinvented as a huge success for a new Saturday teatime audience by BBC1, but not every reboot of a fondly remembered show has been successful – ITV's new version of The Prisoner proved short-lived despite an all-star cast featuring Sir Ian McKellen. It remains to be seen what form the Blake's 7 remake will take or how faithful it will be to the original. Veteran director Martin Campbell, who was behind the camera for Piers Brosnan's first outing as James Bond in Goldeneye, is set to direct the pilot. The reworked Battlestar Galactica took the basic plot of the original – a ragtag space fleet of humans struggle for survival after an attack by cyborg baddies, the Cylons, wipes out their twelve home planets – but took it in a much darker direction than the cheesy 1970s source material. It found extra resonance with a new audience with its storylines' parallels with the post-9/11 terrorist threat and war in Iraq. Despite the shaky sets and basic special effects synonymous with many seventies TV SF shows, Blake's 7 was watched by huge audiences of up to ten million viewers in the UK and developed a loyal cult following which remains to this day. Blake's 7, about a band of escaped convicts led by the eponymous Roj Blake, played by Gareth Thomas, and later Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) who wage war on The Federation, may or may not offer an opportunity for a modern-day allegory or two. Created by Terry Nation, who was also responsible for creating Doctor Who's Daleks, Blake's 7 began on BBC1 in 1978 and ran for four series. It ended on a bleak note, with all of the rebels apart from Avon shot by rebel guards. The final scene, in which Avon stepped over Blake's body, raised his gun and smiled before shots rang out, suggested that he was killed as well. It is not the first time the space opera has been earmarked for a TV revival. None have so far been successful, although it was revived as a series of audio dramas, some of which have been broadcast by the BBC, and books. Darrow wrote a novel, Lucifer, based on the series and picking up from the end of the show, suggesting Avon wasn't killed after all. The new version of the show, which will be produced by US TV producer Georgeville Television. It will be directed by Campbell and written by Joe Pokaski, whose credits include another SF show, Heroes. If Syfy likes the script for the pilot, it will go straight to a thirteen-episode commission.

Channel Four is to axe My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, the series that provided an eye-opening and sometimes controversial insight into the Traveller and Gypsy communities, the network's biggest rating hit in many years. Jay Hunt, chief creative officer at Channel Four, said that the broadcaster was 'close to drawing the line' on the show. 'I think we've quite naturally got to a point where we've started to look differently at that franchise,' she said, speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday. 'We have already evolved where we are [with it]. It is important to know when to draw the line, and we are close to drawing the line. I think it will come to a point where it is time to move on.' Hunt said that Channel Four had 'no plans' to make another series of the programme, however there will be six 'Gypsy-themed one-off specials' next year. A spokesman confirmed that Channel Four will not be making any more series of the show, but would not be drawn on whether there might be further specials or spin-offs after next year. Earlier this year Channel Four broadcast Thelma's Gypsy Girls, which attracted two million viewers.

Television no longer has the dramatic techniques to explain today's world, according to leading documentary-maker Adam Curtis. At a masterclass session at the Edinburgh International Television festival, Curtis claimed that the traditional techniques television uses, such as the identifying of good and bad guys and a linear narrative, are obsolete. 'The problem is that the big areas where power is being exercised – finance, managerial theory, computers – are not reducible to dramatic stories,' he told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'These worlds have made themselves 'unstorifyable' – they have become deliberately dull.' This dullness, he argues, masks the damage and influence that these sectors exert but it also make it impossible to create stories because events like the financial crisis cannot be reduced to a simple narrative. 'In the old days journalism was about fighting battles against bad people,' he said. 'But in the modern era those things don't apply: we have tried to find baddies but we all know that is not substantial enough.' Curtis argues that rather than looking at the world from above and trying to make sense of the lie of the land, too many people who make TV programmes have become trapped into using the opaque language of the very people they're meant to be reporting on. 'Every month we are told the Eurozone is going to collapse and the jargon used is utterly dense. But then nothing happens. We need new tools to be able to tell these stories.' Curtis's trademark style of documentary-making eschews the usual techniques of talking heads and relevant archive. In series such as The Century of the Self, which looked at the way Sigmund Freud influenced the birth of advertising, and his most recent series All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, which examined how humanity has been, effectively, colonised by the machines it built, Curtis mashed together old advertisements, apparently irrelevant archive and classic pop songs and self-shot interviews often deliberately filmed poorly to highlight their artificiality. That approach can help viewers approach topics in a very different way from most current affairs documentaries. In his Edinburgh session Curtis argues that programme-makers will need to turn to ever more dramatic means to tell stories about the new sources of power. 'I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones,' he said. 'That takes a fantasy world and makes it real and turns into a struggle for power. The journalism of the future is going to have to be incredibly high blown, almost romantic and it will need to turn what looks dull and impenetrable and turn it into Game of Thrones.' Curtis dismisses the suggestion that the Internet is now a source of scrutiny and agent for transparency. 'I am hugely sceptical about this idea that interactivity will create a new kind of democracy and spread of power,' he said. 'If you look at the years since the rise of the Internet, power has become more consolidated, more elitist, less open to examination, so the interactive Utopians have failed to deliver the power to the people they promised.' After his appearance at Edinburgh, Curtis will continue his work on a new theatre piece for the Manchester festival, and he is also working on creating what he calls an 'anti-website' where text, video and images will seamlessly scroll. Despite his forays outside television Curtis says he remains upbeat about the health of the medium. In ten years the Internet will just be TV with your local library attached he predicted. 'I'm not scared of the Internet killing TV,' he said. 'People like watching programmes but we need to find new ways to explain the world we are living in because right now television is falling down on the job.'

Sony Pictures Television has taken a 'majority stake' in Left Bank Pictures, the British firm behind Wallander, Mad Dogs, Strike Back and Cardinal Burns. The deal, which marks a significant expansion for Sony into the UK scripted productions sector, will see all future Left Bank content, both finished production and formats, distributed by Sony Pictures Television. Alongside television formats, Sony will also have a first look option on distribution for any feature films produced by Left Bank. In just five years of operation, Left Bank has established itself as a leading scripted production business, including awards recognition by the Golden Globes, EMMy's, Academy Awards, BAFTA and Royal Television Society.

It was always going to be a high-risk strategy being a guest panellist on Keith Lemon's special festival edition of Celebrity Juice. So spare a thought for ITV director of television Peter Fincham who ended up with his head in his hands after Lemon – the smarmy game show host creation of comedian Leigh Francis – went all post-watershed on the distinctly pre-watershed festival opener. The gags about his wealth, ITV's Daybreak, sex – "'re you familiar with the euphemism licking the lid?' asked Lemon, and even inviting Fincham to recreate a particular sexual position – all that Fincham could handle. 'Are you a fan of the tits?' Lemon asked the ITV boss. 'Yes and no,' replied Fincham. I'd've said yes, after all he did sign Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Still, it could have been worse. Lemon asked BBC3 controller Zai Bennett who won BBC1's The Voice, only for Bennett to appear not to know. 'Simon Cowell did,' said Lemon, flatly, to laughter from the audience. First thing that Leigh Francis has said that's funny since Bo-Selecta, that. 'It's a very good programme,' was all Bennett could offer. What the hell Bennett - the man who cancelled Ideal and The Fades - knows about 'good programmes' I'll leave up to you, dear blog reader. Regular team captain Holly Willoughby, co-host of The Voice, looked appalled.

ITV2 has acquired the rights to three new US comedies including Ben and Kate, a series by the producers of Zooey Deschanel's New Girl. The network will show Ben and Kate, Animal Practice and Up All Night next year as ITV2 adds to its comedy line-up. Angela Jain, ITV's director of digital channels and acquisitions, announced the new shows at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday. Animal Practice is a Universal Television production based on an irreverent New York veterinarian, played by Justin Kirk of Weeds and Angels in America. Up All Night was snapped up from NBC Universal and follows two struggling parents, played by Christina Applegate and Will Arnett. Ben and Kate is a Twentieth Century Fox comedy that follows a couple of siblings as they struggle out of their comfort zones and into real life. Jain told the TV festival that the new commissions were part of ITV2's strategy to show more scripted comedy. She described Keith Lemon's Celebrity Juice as 'funny, filthy, rude, and channel-defining' in a one-hour interview with E4 host Rick Edwards. Whereas this blogger who is a big fan of Leigh Francis's other comic creations, thinks it's about as funny as an afternoon at the genital torturers. 'If you look at all channels there's always a couple of shows across every channel which dominate – but the point is: that is normal. It's what you do around that which is just as interesting,' Jain said. She added that ITV2 is considering changing the cast of the channel's other runaway success, The Only Way Is Essex. Jain also announced the channel's first UK-originated scripted comedy, Plebs, which is set in ancient Rome and described by the broadcaster as 'like The Inbetweeners, with centurions.' In the same way that just about every comedy Channel Four created a couple of years ago was, as mad Frankie Boyle noted, always talked about by excited twentysomething commissioning editors as 'like [something] crossed with Skins!' Plebs follows three young men – played by Tom Rosenthal, Joel Fry and Ryan Sampson – 'from the suburbs as they try to get laid, hold down jobs and climb the social ladder in the big city.' Doon Mackichan provided a smidgen of class as the lads' ruthless boss, Flavia. The six episode, single camera sitcom has been written by Sam Leifer and Tom Basden and will be overseen by ITV comedy commissioning editor Myfanwy Moore. Jain also confirmed that journalism reality show The Exclusives will not return. The series was a ratings flop for ITV2 earlier this year and Jain claimed that the show was correctly 'unfavourably compared' to BBC1's The Apprentice. Defending her commissioning of the show, Jain said: 'Flops are painful. They are awful. But this job is a bit of a crapshoot. You never know what's going to work.' Giving her reasoning for the show's underwhelming ratings, Jain said: 'We work in a world that is quite elitist and in reality lots of people don't care about the world of showbiz scoops outside the media world of London. I think I underestimated how alienated the audience would be by it.'

He might have written half a dozen of the greatest novels in the English language but that fact that he's a hate figure to the Daily Scum Mail is, apparently, enough to put the willies up that wretched - and thankfully, soon to be gone - spineless coward Mark Thompson. George Orwell tendered his resignation from the BBC 'because for some time past I have been conscious that I was wasting my time and the public money on doing work that produces no results,' so perhaps it's not surprising that the proposal to place a statue of the author of The Road To Wigan Pier, Homage To Catalonia, Animal Farm and 1984 - on the broadcaster's premises has been rejected. According to the Labour peer Joan Bakewell, the BBC's director general Mark Thompson turned down the scheme to erect the statue at the BBC's new Broadcasting House 'flat,' because 'apparently, George Orwell would be perceived as too left-wing a figure for the BBC to honour.' Well, indeed, By right-wing scumbags. The statue was proposed by the George Orwell Memorial Trust, run by former Labour politician Ben Whitaker, and backed by names including Rowan Atkinson, Melvyn Bragg, John Humphrys, James Naughtie and Orwell's son Richard Blair. More than sixty thousand smackers has been raised to have Martin Jennings, the sculptor of the bronze of John Betjeman at St Pancras and of Philip Larkin in Hull, create it. 'The point was not particularly to refer to Orwell's own history as a journalist for the BBC which he was for a couple of years during the second world war – he resigned as he found it rather tedious and bureaucratic. But he was such a paragon of political journalism, an example of how it should be done,' said Jennings. 'I realised London was lacking a statue of this great man, and wanted to find a location with resonance. It was all going smoothly and then there was a sudden hiatus, at which point it was decided that the statue should be close to but not literally on the BBC premises.' The Trust is currently waiting for Westminster city council to give planning permission to erect the statue in Portland Place, nearby but not actually on the BBC's premises. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We cannot put the statue immediately outside New Broadcasting House as the BBC piazza already has artwork by Mark Pimlott built into the pavement which would be obscured. We are however working with Westminster city council and those involved with the statue to find an appropriate location nearby. It would have been nice to have on the premises, but having it close by would be a very good second. Orwell was always rather detached from any institutions, anyway,' said Jennings, who described the author and journalist as 'a gift as a subject – those 1940s trousers reaching halfway up his chest, the tie tucked into his waistband, and probably a cigarette butt somewhere.' Orwell worked for the BBC between 1941 and 1943 as a talks producer for the Eastern service, writing what the BBC describes as 'essentially propaganda for broadcast to India.' He is rumoured to have based the infamous Room 101 from 1984 on a BBC conference room.

Prince Charles's royal aides threatened legal action against newspapers if they published photographs of Prince Harry naked in a Las Vegas hotel room, despite the fact they were freely available on the Internet. Lawyers at Harbottle & Lewis, the London legal firm, swung into action on Wednesday after they were notified by St James's Palace that a number of British newspapers had 'expressed an interest' in buying the photographs and had intended to publish. The photographs were being sold for ten grand a pop by the Splash News picture agency and it is understood about ten British and Irish titles expressed an interest in buying them. So far no British titles have published the pictures, either in print or online, but three Irish titles have done so. Newspaper editors are understood to have been asked informally by royal aides not to run the pictures at lunchtime on Wednesday. Later in the day a strongly worded letter from Harbottle & Lewis was circulated via the Press Complaints Commission, along with a covering note from the regulator saying it was happy to pass on St James's Palace's view that publication would be in breach of clause three of the PCC's editors' code of practice. The clause says 'it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.' The letter from Harbottle & Lewis warns editors that publication outside the UK is no justification for publication in Britain. 'The only possible reason for publication of the photographs is one of prurience and nothing more,' said the letter from the law firm. 'No matter of public interest as those words are understood in English law is raised by these photographs. The fact that they have appeared in another jurisdiction is meaningless.' The letter ended by warning that the members of the royal family 'entirely reserve their rights as to any further steps' should publication occur. No British paper published the photos although the Irish edition of the Daily Lies put them on the front page. Daily Lies proprietor Richard Desmond has removed all his papers from the PCC regime, but the title is understood to have made a decision not to publish in Britain anyway. Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the Scum of the World, said the decision by UK tabloids not to publish the photos demonstrated the 'chilling effect' the Leveson inquiry was having on papers. In a blog on The Huffington Post website he said Lord Justice Leveson had 'neutered the great British press and made it a laughing stock.' If that's true then it's just one more reason to build a statue of Leveson next to the one they're putting up to George Orwell. However, Peter Willis, editor of the Daily Mirra said that, on the contrary, the decision showed self-regulation was working. 'We are constantly told the PCC is a toothless tiger and this shows that it is not. We don't want PCC judgments against us. We drafted the code and we signed up to it,' he said. In its coverage of the affair on Thursday, the Daily Scum Mail points out the pictures were 'banned in Britain – but the pictures can be seen worldwide,' listing more than one hundred websites, newspapers and other news organisations, including US broadcasters CNN and CBS, which published the photos. Daily Scum Mail executives have been among the most forthright voices at the Leveson inquiry warning that foreign publication on the Internet risked 'undermining UK press regulation.' Ian Mallon, deputy editor of the Evening Herald in Ireland, which used the pictures, said the brouhaha over privacy was just a 'nonsense' and said British newspapers had been cowed into censorship for all the wrong reasons. 'Prince Harry obviously didn't mind being photographed. The big thing now is the fear factor that comes from London and editors who are absolutely petrified to be seen to be doing something untoward,' Mallon added, referring to the prospect of Leveson recommending the abolition of self-regulation of the British press. St James' Palace confirmed that it contacted the Press Complaints Commission over the possible use of naked photos of Prince Harry. The palace had heard a number of UK newspapers were considering using them, a spokesman said. It believed publication of the photos - taken in a Las Vegas hotel room - would constitute an invasion of privacy. The pictures of Prince Harry and a young woman - who is not his wife - naked in a Las Vegas hotel room appeared on US gossip website TMZ. St James' Palace confirmed the prince is in the photos and that it contacted the PCC on Wednesday because it had concerns about his privacy being intruded upon, in breach of the editors' code of practice. The photos are believed to have been taken on a camera phone last Friday when the prince was on 'a private weekend break with friends.' TMZ reported that Harry had been pictured in a group playing 'strip billiards.' So, that's what they call it these days, is it? There was a time when he was known as the partying prince, falling out of nightclubs in the early hours, getting himself into scrapes and generally showing a lack of good judgement. In more recent times, Harry has somewhat transformed his image. His military service has played a big part in the change. He served in Afghanistan with his regiment, and said he was keen to return. And time and again during his royal duties he has shown the caring instinct that his late mother demonstrated. Harry has become a huge asset to the Royal Family: committed, but with a sense of fun and mischief to which people have warmed. So this latest episode will surely be both an embarrassment and a disappointment to his family and, most particularly one imagines, to Harry himself. His friends say he was just 'letting his hair down', a young officer having a few days of relaxation before returning to military duties. But it can never be quite as straightforward as that when that 'young officer' is third in line to the British throne. The pictures have been picked up by much of the US media but no British newspapers have published them, although they have appeared on a political blog in the UK and the Sun mocked up an image of one of them. Former Scum of the World executive editor Wallis told BBC2's Newsnight: 'The situation is fun, it's a good, classic newspaper situation. The problem is in this post-Leveson era where newspapers are simply terrified of their own shadow, they daren't do things that most of the country, if they saw it in the newspaper, would think "that's a bit of a laugh." There would be no harm done and they would not think any worse of either the paper or of Prince Harry.' Wallis said it would have been in the public interest to publish the pictures. 'He is third in line to the throne, he's been on the world stage for weeks and weeks, he is supposedly surrounded by police security officers,' he said. Former Sun editor the odious Kelvin MacKenzie, who also appeared on Newsnight, said the photos represented a 'fantastic' story. 'Literally any journalist worth his salt, whether at one end of the market or the other, would have said: "Thank you God." It doesn't affect Prince Harry at all. He is single and he is cavorting with ladies who wish to be cavorted with,' MacKenzie said. 'So where are the issues? There are no issues except one - Leveson.' However, former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe said the incident was a setback for the prince. 'It really undermines the work that he has been doing in the last six months - that's his charitable work and even his military career, which has taken off in a fantastic direction,' he said. The Leveson Inquiry was launched last year in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal centred on the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. Broadcaster Vanessa Feltz, an alleged victim of phone-hacking, told Newsnight: 'If there is some kind of moral awakening then it's about damn time because there are too many people whose lives have been played fast and loose with for nothing more than a bit of titillation over your Frosties.' She added: 'What [Prince Harry] does in a private hotel room is what we expect him to be doing. He's a young fellow, he's not married, he's not on state business, he's not representing the Queen, and any editor who says it's of no interest to anyone is quite right.'

Meanwhile, in a related story, the Sun has denied that it pressured a twenty one-year-old woman on work experience with the newspaper to strip off for a mock-up of the Prince Harry naked pictures. One or two people even believed them. A shot of a naked Sophie Henderson, cuddling up to a Sun staffer who has also stripped to pose as Prince Harry, appeared on the front page of the News International tabloid on Thursday morning. The photo also briefly appeared online before being removed. A News International spokeswoman said the photo had been published online 'in error' and was never intended to go online because the real pictures were available on the Internet from media organisations outside the UK. 'There is no suggestion that [Henderson] is in any way unhappy,' said the spokeswoman. On page five of Thursday's Sun the paper describes How we "heir brushed" pic, with a picture caption stating that Henderson and picture editor Harry Miller 'dropped everything to recreate the Prince's pose – after the Palace asked us not to print the real Vegas snaps.' It adds that the pair were 'happy to strip.' However, according to the Gruniad Morning Star who always love rooting around in all the shit the Sun stirs up, one alleged 'manager of a large media company, who did not want to be named,' alleged said that it was allegedly highly unethical to get an intern to, allegedly, strip. 'If we did that to a work experience person, we'd worry about finding ourselves in court.' Miller and Henderson issued a statement late on Thursday confirming they were both happy to have taken their clothes off for the paper. 'For anyone worried about whether we were forced against our will to strip off, we are pleased to be able to set the record straight. Please be assured, there is no cover-up at Wapping. It was a bit of harmless fun and we were delighted to have played our part in making the readers laugh,' they said in a statement issued by the company.

Maine, Oxford and Scandinavia might look nice on the telly but they're sure keeping the funeral parlours busy, according to the Sun. After totting up the figures, Radio 4's More or Less has worked out that the deadliest fictional place in the world of deadly fictional places is Cabot Cove in Maine, home town of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, which has one hundred and forty nine murders for every one hundred thousand of the population. Ystad, home of Swedish detective Wallander, is nipping at its heels, with one hundred and ten murders per one hundred thousand. By comparison, Oxford, which is home to Inspector Morse and his sidekick Lewis, is positively boring, with a mere three murders for every one hundred thousand, while Midsomer, of Murders fame, (where recent deaths include the body of a tax inspector being found dumped in a barrel of cider and a local farmer brutally murdered on an ancient stone circle) has just 3.2 murders per hundred thousand. And, still very few black people. I'm just saying. Handily, the Sun gives a few top tips for keeping safe if you ever find yourself in any of these places, including keeping an eye on your drink so no one can poison it and making sure you never arrive in storm.

One of Ryan Taylor's specials over the wall gave an under-strength Newcastle side a valuable 1-1 draw away to Atromitos in the first leg of their Europa League play-off tie. Denis Epstein had put the hosts ahead before Taylor equalised with a trademark free-kick just before half-time. Alan Pardew made nine changes (at least a couple of them enforced) from the side that beat Stottingtot Hotshots 2-1 on Saturday as their league match with Moscow Chelski FC starts in less than forty eight hours. The winners of the tie will go into the competition's group stage draw. Pardew delved into his second-string and gave first competitive starts to summer signings Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana in the absence of established players such as Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba who were all left at home, and Hatem Ben Arfa who missed out through suspension. As Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez sweltered on the substitute's bench in a baking Athens, Atromitos took advantage of full-back James Tavernier's inexperience to open the scoring on twenty four minutes as Epstein shot past Steve Harper. Newcastle refused to panic and went into the interval on level terms after Taylor curled a free-kick into the bottom corner of former Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws goalkeeper Charles Itandje's net with the last kick of the half. As the heat took its toll, the second period was played at walking pace. With just under fifteen minutes left, Pardew brought on seventeen-year-old striker Adam Campbell to break Andy Carroll's record as the club's youngest ever European debutant. Atromitos - who were playing their first competitive game of their season after finishing fourth in the Greek Super League last term - wasted the best chance of the half shortly after as Konstantinos Giannoulis shot horribly wide when through on goal after he burst past Tavernier on the left. The result ensured Newcastle travelled back to the North East with a vital away goal as they returned to European competition after a five-year absence.

Which brings us to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader. I'm afraid, in these tough financial times, you're never far from The Crunch.

No comments: