Thursday, November 15, 2012

He Bites On The Neon And Sleeps In The Capsule

The BBC has released the first image from a prequel to this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. The prelude to the BBC's long-running popular family SF drama's traditional festive episode will be broadcast on 16 November as part of the Children in Need telethon. The segment is due to appear during the 8:30 to 9:00pm slot of the evening, though timings are, invariably, estimates due to the live nature of the programme. In addition to the mini-episode, a new trailer for the Christmas special its very self - written by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) and to be broadcast on yer actual 25 December - will also be shown, giving viewers another glimpse at new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman. The Christmas episode will feature guest appearances from Richard E Grant and Silent Witness actor Tom Ward. On the subject of the special, yer actual Matt Smith recently said: 'It does the sort of wonderful Doctor Who-ey Christmas things - you know, snow, aliens, good will, good cheer, someone trying to take over the world. Hopefully it makes for good Christmas Day telly.' Marvellous. The Christmas special will be followed by eight new Doctor Who episodes in the early part of 2013 - the show's fiftieth anniversary year.

In some of the least unexpected TV news of the last decade, Hunted, the struggling BBC1 Melissa George spy drama, has been put out of its misery, with no second series to be commissioned. The BBC1 drama, which aimed to be a replacement for the late, and much lamented, espionage cult classic [spooks], has seen its average audience fall by nearly half over the course of six episodes, with a plot that left many viewers - including, reportedly, some BBC executives - confused. Alleged BBC 'sources' allegedly 'directly involved with commissioning' the eight-part series from Kudos, the producer of [spooks], Hustle, Life on Mars and Ashes To Ashes, confirmed next week's eighth episode will be the last. 'It hasn't found the mainstream audience it was hoped,' said a BBC spokesperson. The show's average overnight ratings have dropped from a début of 4.5 million and a 19.3 per cent audience share in early October to 2.6 million for last Thursday's sixth episode. Last week Hunted was almost beaten by BBC2's Michael Portillo series Great Continental Railway Journeys, which averaged 2.5 million. The drama, set in Morocco, London and Scotland, was made in a collaboration with HBO Cinemax. The writer and creator is Frank Spotnitz, who wrote and produced numerous episodes for The X Files. The story revolves around a female spy, Sam, played by former George, who works for a privately owned security company, called Byzantium. It opened with her being hunted down and almost killed in Tangier, forcing her to ascertain which of her colleagues had betrayed her. BBC executives are sanguine about the decision, pointing out that not all new dramas work out, and that there have been plenty of successes on both BBC1 and BBC2 to compensate. Kudos, part of News Corporation-owned Shine, also makes The Hour, which returns for a second series on Wednesday night after critical acclaim and healthy audiences for its first run on BBC2 last year. The company also made last year's underperforming BBC1 SF drama Outcasts, which was dumped from its peaktime slot in February after only three out of eight episodes and switched to 10.25pm on Sunday nights.

In the second least unexpected TV news of the last decade, ITV's highly derivative flop medical drama Monroe has been axed by the broadcaster. Monroe starred James Nesbitt as maverick neurosurgeon Gabriel Monroe and was created by Blackpool and Occupation writer Peter Bowker. Sarah Parish and Tom Riley also appear in the series alongside the Irish actor. It should've worked - terrific writer, good cast. But, it didn't. It flopped big-style(e) like a big flopping floppy thing that flopped. The drama débuted in March 2011 to a strong audience of 6.8 million viewers but figures soon started to fall and have recently dropped as low as 3.5 million for episodes of the show's second series. According to Broadcast the series will not return for a third year. Nesbitt previously stated that the show appeals to viewers because it aims to tell 'human stories.' Just, you know, not very good ones.

The finale of the first series of The Paradise - recently recommissioned for a second series - rose to 4.74m overnight viewers despite facing I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), which maintained a strong 8.07m in the 9pm hour on Tuesday for ITV. MasterChef: The Professionals (3.08m) soared to new series high on BBC2 at 8pm as Monica Galetti filleted a couple of hapless wannabe chefs and served them on a bed of hot sarcasm (a slice of hot tongue, followed by a choice cut cold shoulder, if you will), after which Dara O'Briain's Science Club was watched by 1.36m. George Clarke's Amazing Spaces was Four's most-watched broadcast of the night with 1.78m at 8pm (+1: 246k), while Heston's Fantastical Food continued with a modest 1.04m from 9pm. Overall, BBC edged ITV in primetime with 21.1% versus 20.7% of the audience share.

Nicholas Lyndhurst is the latest nostalgia figure to join the cast of the popular BBC crime drama New Tricks. The Only Fools and Horses legend will make his début in the crime drama's tenth series next year, according to the Radio Times. Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong are both set to leave the programme, following the departure earlier this year of fellow original cast member, James Bolam. He was replaced by Denis Lawson. Dennis Waterman, apparently, is going nowhere, fast. So, no change there, then. 'I am thrilled to have been asked to join New Tricks,' Lyndhurst said in a statement. 'I have always admired the clever mixture of charm, wit and intelligence the show brings to its audience, and feel very flattered to be part of the BBC's top drama series.' Executive producer Richard Burrell added: 'I think that the audience are going to have great fun watching him as a new member of the anarchic UCOS team, ensuring that solving cases for the Met is never dull. We can't wait to start working with him.'

The Outnumbered Christmas special will feature guest appearances from Mark Heap and Sanjeev Bhaskar, it has been announced. Heap still, despite a long and varied career which has taken in shows as diverse as Friday Night Dinners and Lark Rise To Candleford, is still probably know for his performance as crazed conceptual artist Brian in the cult 1990s comedy hit Spaced. He and Bhaskar will join the Brockman family for a forty-minute special, revolving around the family's Christmas party celebrations. Things, as usual, don't run smoothly as gran turns up unannounced, Jake has fallen in with the wrong crowd, Karen is busy chatting with online friends and Ben is hosting games of blind football and swingball with the guests. The show, written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin, features Hugh Dennis, Claire Skinner, Tyger Drew-Honey, Ramona Marquez and Daniel Roche. A fifth series of Outnumbered will follow the Christmas special in 2013. The show's producers have denied comments from the cast and rumours in the press that the fifth outing will be the sitcom's last, claiming that 'no decision' has been made on its future.

News Corporation's FOX brand is to have its own UK-based channel for the first time, with the company's FX pay-TV channel to be rebranded. FX, which broadcasts shows including The Walking Dead and Dexter, will be renamed FOX in the new year. FOX is the name of News Corp's main US TV network, which broadcasts shows including American Idol and The Simpsons. It will be the first time a FOX brand has been used on a News Corp-owned UK channel (although US-based FOX News is also available to Sky Digital subscribers, should anyone be brave enough to venture in there). FX launched in the UK in 2004 targeting twenty five to forty four-year-old viewers, one of a number of international spin-offs of the original FX cable channel which launched in the US in 1994. With much of its original schedule orientated around dramas such as Nip/Tuck and more recently American Horror Story: Asylum and True Blood, its new FOX incarnation will see an expansion of its comedy offering with Louie, starring Louis CK, and Men at Work. Other new shows will include historical fantasy drama Da Vinci's Dreams, afternoon talk show The Ricki Lake Show and new runs of Dexter and NCIS.

As rumoured earlier in the year, Superstars is to be revived for an Olympic special this Christmas on the BBC. Sixteen British Olympic athletes - including Mo Farah, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and Nicola Adams - will compete to be crowned the two top 'superstars' in the one-off episode. Super Mo said: 'Superstars is going to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it. After a hard season it will be nice to compete in a different environment. Some of the events are quite new to me which will make it all the more interesting.' The athletes will tackle seven different disciplines such as track and field events, kayaking and archery, before heading into the gym tests, the famous grand finale of Superstars. Rebecca Adlington will act as a mentor to the competitors when they take to the pool for a fifty metre swim. Thus meaning that this is, at least, one event where she can't get spanked by a fifteen year old. Gabby Logan will host the special, while former Olympians Denise Lewis and Iwan Thomas are to serve as pundits. Hang on. Pundits? Superstars never needed pundits? 'I am thrilled to be hosting this special edition of Superstars, we have an incredible line-up of Olympic heroes,' Logan said. 'What an opportunity for them to compete against each other across a range of diverse physical challenges. My dad was on Superstars back in the late seventies and as a kid it was one of my favourite shows.' Mark Linsey, the BBC's Controller of Entertainment Commissioning, added: 'As a great fan of the original series I am thrilled to commission this one-off for Christmas.'
A lobbyist who oversaw his company's BSkyB account during billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's attempt to gain control of the broadcast and telecoms firm has been appointed as a special adviser to the government minister responsible for competition law according to the Gruniad Morning Star. James Wild led media operations at the lobbying firm Hanover, where he oversaw the BSkyB account. Last month, he joined the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as an adviser to the business minister, Michael Fallon. A second Hanover employee, Nick King, who is understood to have been briefed on details of BSkyB's lobbying operation, has been appointed as a policy adviser for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport by the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Miller, in the last month, claim the newspaper. The moves have, the Gruniad argues, 'raised fresh questions about the closeness between the Conservative party and the Murdoch empire, just months after a DCMS special adviser resigned over an inappropriately close relationship with a News Corporation public relations employee.' Labour MP Chris Bryant, a vocal critic of News Corp, said: 'It seems the revolving door between the Conservatives and News Corp is still well-oiled and in regular use. How can we be confident that these people won't be opening up yet another back channel to News Corp and News International as the government decides how to respond to the Leveson report?' Wild's appointment was unusual because most ministers who are not secretaries of state do not usually take on special advisers. A DCMS spokesperson claimed: 'It is ridiculous to suggest the department has, or would, give any company favourable access in policy-making or decision-taking.' One or two people even believed them. The BIS had nothing to add on behalf of Fallon. Wild joined Hanover as an account director in 2009 to boost growth in the firm's communications sector, such as its BSkyB accounts. A press release from the time quotes him as saying: 'BSkyB [is an] incredibly exciting business and I was attracted to Hanover because of its excellent reputation in the comms sector.' Before moving to Hanover, Wild worked in the research department for the then shadow Tory trade and industry ministers Angela Browning and David Heathcoat-Amory. While the DCMS is responsible for broadcasting and telecommunications, BIS has responsibility for competition, corporate governance, business law and business support. Fallon oversees the enterprise and regulatory reform bill, which includes measures to establish the Competition and Markets Authority and abolish the Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading. The bill includes powers to amend the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002, as well as measures relating to copyright. In a statement, Wild said: 'While in my previous role, I never met ministers nor their officials in relation to BSkyB – indeed I stopped working on the account more than a year ago. In my new role I am bound by the government's code of conduct for special advisers and any relevant interests are declared in the normal way.' Wild did not respond to questions about whether he would excuse himself from competition matters due to come before Fallon which might involve BSkyB. King joined Hanover in May and had previously worked in the research department at Conservative central office from 2009-10, covering culture, media and sport issues. A spokeswoman for King said he knew of the account 'in the same way that he knew about many of Hanover's broad array of clients,' but he did not lobby any politicians or civil servants on BSkyB's behalf.

Georgia Taylor and Paterson Joseph have joined the cast of Law & Order: UK. An eight-part seventh series of the ITV crime drama will start filming later this month. Joseph will play Detective Inspector Wes Leyton, the replacement for Harriet Walter's character Natalie Chandler. A veteran officer, Leyton shares a past with Ronnie Brooks (the excellent Bradley Walsh) but often clashes with Brooks's hot-headed partner Sam Casey (Paul Nicholls). Coronation Street's Taylor also joins the cast as Kate Barker - a defence barrister-turned-Crown Prosecutor who works with Chief Prosecutor Jacob Thorne (Dominic Rowan). Barker - who takes over from Freema Agyeman's Alesha Phillips - is described as 'head strong, straight-talking and charming.' Peter Davison will also return to Law & Order: UK as Henry Sharpe, Director of the Crown Prosecution Service.

A Panorama about the owners of the Daily Torygraph, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, which had been deferred by former BBC director general George Entwistle, is now back on following the departure of the broadcasting chief who had reservations about whether to broadcast the documentary. For which read, he was chicken-shit scared he'd get shouted at again by bastards with an agenda in the media and parliament. Well worth four hundred and fifty grand that sort of bravery. The programme, being fronted by journalist John Sweeney, about the reclusive - and often litigious - billionaire twins, was referred to the embattled director general last week and was, effectively, put on hold. It had been previously approved by other senior news executives, but such were the sensitivities that this film was sent right to the top. Sweeney said that reports in other newspapers that the Panorama had been 'pulled' were 'not true' and that he and the production team 'were still working on it, and we hope to put it out soon.' No broadcast date has been agreed, but the BBC usually chooses the last possible moment to confirm what is airing on Panorama on any particular week. It is not clear precisely what the subject of the programme will be, although an alleged 'BBC source' allegedly told the Gruniad that it would be 'a piece of investigative journalism,' because Panorama was 'not a soft toy factory.' No, indeed. Tomorrow on things that aren't other things, 'a DVD player is not a ham sandwich.' There are, however, some clues emerging elsewhere as to what the programme might concern. Panorama's filming has already attracted the considerable ire of the man who manages the Barclay's estate on Sark, the channel island, which Brecqhou, the neighbouring island where the twins live, is legally part of. Kevin Delaney, who runs the twins Sark Estate Management, wrote a lengthy article criticising the BBC in his Sark Newsletter. Writing on 22 October, Delaney accused the BBC of being 'a deeply flawed and dysfunctional organisation that has failed miserably in its self-regulation.' He said that Sweeney had visited Sark on three occasions in the autumn, and after accusing the BBC journalist of 'unbecoming drunken antics at the pub' - he complained about Sweeney's investigation. 'Empowered by the might of the BBC, Mr Sweeney filmed people without their consent. He aggressively invaded my offices and harassed and intimidated my staff in his concerted efforts at staging a hostile confrontation with me on camera - despite being made aware, in writing, that I did not want to be interviewed by him,' Delaney wrote. Delaney added that he had made a complaint to George Entwistle, and other BBC executives, which he said had been ignored or not acknowledged. He said that the production team's behaviour meant that 'the British licence payers' money was thus spent to support a campaign to shut down free speech on Sark.' John Sweeney had previously been sued by the Barclay twins in the 1990s after he was filmed landing on their island of Brecqhou, which is next to the channel island of Sark. Both the journalist, and John Birt, the then director general, were sued by the twins in France - and after a lengthy legal action, Sweeney was ordered to pay twenty thousand Francs in damages by a court in Rennes.

Janeane Garofalo has revealed that she was married for twenty years without knowing anything about it. Garofalo explained at the New York Comedy Festival that she had wed the producer Rob Cohen in Las Vegas but didn't realise that the ceremony was official, the New York Post reports. 'Rob and I got married, for real, which we had to have a notary dissolve not thirty minutes before we got here tonight,' the West Wing and Ideal actress explained. 'We were married for twenty years until this evening.' Garofalo explained that the duo only discovered that they were legally wed because Cohen is now planning to marry his girlfriend, producer Jill Leiderman. 'We got married drunk in Vegas,' she said. 'We dated for a year, and we got married at a drive-through chapel in a cab. [We thought] you have to go down to the courthouse and sign papers and stuff, so who knew? We were married, and apparently now that [Rob] is getting married for real, his lawyer dug up something.'

A composition by Blur's Damon Albarn has been played to radio listeners around the world to mark ninety years of BBC broadcasting. '2LO Calling', a 'snapshot of the airwaves', featured iconic sounds from radio over the past nine decades. Musician and artist Nick Franglen told the BBC he enjoyed how the piece began but was 'left feeling flat' by the end. The broadcast at 17:33 GMT was hosted by BBC Radio 2's Simon Mayo from London's Science Museum. It was the first scheduled simultaneous broadcast since 1922, when the BBC was established. '2LO Calling' began with the chimes of Big Ben and featured the first ever broadcast from the 2LO transmitter and the number one song at the time - 'Three O'Clock in the Morning'. The three-minute piece also featured messages from listeners around the world along with the sound of the blackbird and skylark, commentary from the Cameroon election and the BBC pips. 'There is a special musicality to some of the vocal messages, which I tried to preserve,' Albarn told the BBC. 'Added to that, I got to do what I've always wanted - to play along with the pips.' Albarn also chose to include a famous quote from philosopher Bertrand Russell: 'Love is wise, hatred is foolish. It featured in Morse code, the series of clicks, tones, dots and dashes historically used to transmit information. Russell delivered the BBC's inaugural Reith Lecture in 1948. BBC Radio 3 presenter, Tom Service described the tone of the piece as being one of 'simultaneous elegy and hopefulness. The children's voices and their hopes for the future were both visionary in their innocent belief in the power of music; and dystopian in their hopes that the world wouldn't become overpopulated or burn itself to oblivion. Only at the end did Albarn allow himself a moment of real musical invention, in a radiophonic hymn for tolling piano chords, glockenspiel and those now magical, mythical pips,' he added. The 2LO transmitter made the first broadcast - from the British Broadcasting Company as it was then known - on 14 November 1922. More than fifty five BBC radio stations came together for Radio Reunited. It is estimated the broadcast could have reached up to eighty million listeners. The Science Museum is marking the ninetieth anniversary of BBC Radio with a display featuring part of the original 2LO transmitter. The display takes visitors back to the first broadcast and features two radios used to receive the BBC's early broadcasts, a microphone used in the early BBC Savoy Hill studios and an early copy of the Radio Times from 1923. Tim Boon, head of research and public history at the Science Museum, said: 'The first broadcast by the 2LO ninety years ago marked the moment when radio moved from the realm of the "amateur enthusiast" to the first proper public broadcasting service in Britain. This exhibition takes visitors back to a time when everything, from the technology to the content of the programmes was still new.' Radio Reunited was one of a series of on-air events to mark ninety years of BBC Radio, which will also feature a wide range of special programming across BBC stations.

Britons have bought 3.7 billion singles since the UK chart was launched sixty years ago, figures have revealed. This would be enough seven-inch records to stretch sixteen times round the earth, the study of sales since 1952 stated. The Official Charts Company said purchases peaked in the 1980s, before digital formats were established, when six hundred and forty million singles were sold. Its managing director Martin Talbot said the figures gave an insight into singles sales never seen before. He said: 'Working on historic statistics from so long ago to create data reflecting sales to consumers has required diligent research and attention to detail. And, while it is unlikely to ever be possible to arrive at exact totals for those early years due to the nature of the data available, we are confident that these figures give us the clearest picture yet published of the development of singles sales across the six decade history of the Official Singles Chart.' There have been more than twelve hundred number one singles since the first chart was published in the NME six decades ago.

Astronomers have spotted a 'rogue planet' - wandering the cosmos without a star to orbit - one hundred light-years from Earth. Recent finds of such planets have suggested that they may be common, but candidates have eluded close study. The proximity of the new rogue planet has allowed astronomers to guess its age: a comparatively young fifty to one hundred and twenty million years old. The planet, dubbed CFBDSIR2149-0403 (catchy!) is outlined in a paper posted online to appear in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Rogue planets are believed to form in one of two ways: in much the same way as planets bound to stars, coalescing from a disk of dust and debris but then thrown out of a host star's orbit, or in much the same way as stars but never reaching a full star's mass. One tricky question is determining if rogue planet candidates are as massive as the 'failed stars' known as brown dwarfs, further along in stellar evolution but without enough mass to spark the nuclear fusion that causes starlight. Either way, the objects end up free of a host star's gravity. Given that most planets we know of are found through the effects they have on their host star's light, pinning down rogue planets has proven difficult. An international team went on a vast hunt for the planets using the Canada France Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and the Very Large Telescope in Chile and came up with just one candidate. 'This object was discovered during a scan that covered the equivalent of one thousand times the [area] of the full moon,' said study co-author Etienne Artigau of the University of Montreal. 'We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighbourhood.' But crucially, the new find appears to be moving along with a similarly itinerant group of celestial objects, called the 'AB Doradus moving group' - a collection of about thirty stars which are of roughly the same composition and are believed to have formed at about the same time. Because CFBDSIR2149-0403 appears to be moving with the group - to a certainty of eighty seven per cent - astronomers believe it too formed with the stars, about fifty to one hundred and twenty million years ago. It is this estimate of age that allows astronomers to use computer models of planet evolution to make further guesses as to the planet's mass and temperature. The team believe it has a temperature of about 400c and a mass between four and seven times that of Jupiter - well short of the mass limit that would make it a likely brown dwarf. What remains unclear is just how the planet came to be - the tiny beginnings of a star, or planet launched from its home? Study co-author Philippe Delorme of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble, said that the latter implied a great many planets like it. 'If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space,' he said.

This very evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will be attending Uncle Scunthorpe's latest Record Player event at The Tyneside. This week it's the best David Bowie LP of 1973, yer actual Aladdin Sane its very self. Well-tasty. Passionate bright young things, take us all away to war, droogie. But, don't fake it. Thus, in celebration of this, here's opportunity knocking for one Mr Jones of Bromley, and his three Martian Spiders from Hull, Mr Ronson, Mr Bolder and Mr Woodmansey live on yer actual Top of the Pops in January 1973, rocking the bastard shack. Skill.

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