Thursday, November 01, 2012

When Times Were Hard

Yer actual Matt Smith has been at it again - saying that he would 'love' Danny Boyle to direct an episode of Doctor Who. Like that's going to happen. Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, who collaborated with Boyle for the Olympic Opening Ceremony, told the Digital Spy website recently that he wants to write for the series. 'I'm always slightly aggrieved that I never got asked to write for Doctor Who,' Boyce said. 'That's in the same league [as the Olympics]. I'd jump at that.' Asked how he would feel about Boyce and Boyle reuniting to work on Doctor Who, Smudger said: 'I would just have a heart attack if [Danny Boyle] came anywhere near Doctor Who. I would love it. I just think he is the most brilliant director. I completely admire his work.' Speaking to journalists at London Comic Con MCM Expo, Smudger added: 'Everything he does. He adds pace, style - whether it's zombies or a guy riding a bike on the way to a cliff or a guy running down a street getting hit by a car. I think he's just a brilliantly stylist and the DP that he uses, Anthony Dod Mantle, is wonderful as well. He's one of my favourite filmmakers around. He'd be an amazing director for Doctor Who, but I don't think we'd get him.' Matt continued: 'I'd tell you who I'd also think would be great. Edgar Wright. He'd do something brilliant. I think he'd do something really, really clever with it. But we're very lucky to have Steven [Moffat]. I count him in that bracket. I think he's a genius.'

Yer man Smudger also promised that Neil Gaiman's upcoming episode will be 'a fan favourite.' Yer man Gaiman wrote the acclaimed series six episode The Doctor's Wife, which went on to win the 2011 Ray Bradbury Award for 'Outstanding Dramatic Presentation' and the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Asked if Gaiman's series seven script was linked to his previous effort, Matt said: 'No, it's very different. But again I think it will be a fan's favourite because, well, without giving anything away, it just will be, because there's something in it. Neil's brilliant ideas will always add a level to Doctor Who, which will be interesting.'

Andrew Scott has ruled out a return to Sherlock. Scott's Jim Moriarty memorably shot himself in the face during a confrontation with Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes, in the show's second series finale The Reichenbach Fall. While it's been speculated that Moriarty might have somehow survived his own apparent death (as Cumberbatch's character went on to do in the same episode), Scott told the Sun that his fate is not open-ended. 'Moriarty is dead. I don't think there could have been any better exit for a character like that,' Scott said. 'I feel very proud of Sherlock. Moriarty was a very potent character and one the audience really responded to. But it's important to me that he doesn't take over. You have to take risks and play as many different things as possible.' Scott has previously suggested that it would be 'difficult' for Moriarty to return, adding: 'It's very hard to come back from shooting yourself in the mouth, we all know that.' Scott's new drama series The Town is expected to be broadcast on ITV later this year.

Rolf Harris's first British series in eight years, Animal Clinic, premiered with high viewing figures for Channel Five on Tuesday of last week. The eighty two-year-old broadcasting legend's new project performed way over the network's usual Tuesday 9pm output with 1.5 million, while a further one hundred and seventeen thousand punters caught the episode later on Channel Five+1. Channel Four's Jewish Mum of the Year plummeted to eight hundred and three nine thousand viewers at 9pm. Pre-watershed documentary George Clarke's Amazing Spaces was the broadcaster's most popular programme of the evening, attracting 1.61m from 8pm. A Great British Bake Off retrospective earned BBC2 an impressive 2.73m at 8pm - this year's finale peaked with a huge 7.2 million viewers the previous week. Elsewhere, ITV's full coverage of Champions League football - involving The Scum - scored 4.5m between 7.30pm and 10pm, while The Paradise did what SC Braga couldn't manage and gave The Scum a hiding with 4.9m for BBC1. Overall, BBC1 defeated ITV in primetime with 22.6 per cent of the audience share versus 18.9 per cent for ITV.

BBC1's hunt for its next hit sitcom will see it adapt US gay dad comedy It Takes A Village, one of six new pilots being made for the corporation. Writer and director Richard Hurst, a regular collaborator with Miranda Hart, has adapted the show which was made as an untransmitted pilot in the US for ABC. The show will tell the story of a thirteen-year-old maths genius called George whose parents split, his mum remarrying and his dad moving across the road to live with his new boyfriend. It will be one of six scripts to be filmed in front of a live studio audience at the second Salford Sitcom Showcase in November. Last year's début Salford showcase led to two BBC commissions, Adil Ray's Citizen Khan on BBC1 and Hebburn, starring Chris Ramsey, Vic Reeves and Gina McKee, on BBC2. This year's round of pilots include another BBC1 pilot, 1987, a south Wales set sitcom written by exceptionally unfunny comedian Mark Watson and produced by Hartswood Films. Two of the shows are intended for BBC2, including Just Us, a family comedy directed by Ed Bye and starring Peter Davison, Samantha Bond and Tessa Peake-Jones, and The Gatekeeper, with Adrian Scarborough. Slated for BBC3 are Chain Gang, based in a Bristol coffee shop, and Homeboys, about two Twentysomething brothers still living with their parents. The BBC North director, Peter Salmon, said: 'The first Salford Sitcom Showcase was so successful, we couldn't resist another one. This place is teeming with naturally funny performers, writers and entertainers so this event is one of the highlights this autumn and hopefully will result in some new commissions.'
The Sun newspaper has been ordered by a high court judge to reveal 'what it knows' about the alleged theft of a mobile phone belonging to Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, which was reportedly 'handed to the paper' by 'a member of the public.' Mr Justice Vos also on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction against the Sun preventing the tabloid from publishing any material in relation to confidential information on the phone. At the same time Vos issued an order barring reporting of witness statements submitted to court in relation to the theft to prevent potential criminal proceedings being compromised by 'the side wind of civil proceedings.' McDonagh's phone was allegedly stolen in October 2010. But it did not emerge that it had been handed to the Sun by' an unidentified individual' until the Metropolitan police discovered the connection this summer as part of its Operation Tuleta investigation into alleged computer hacking and other naughtiness and criminal breaches of privacy by newspapers. Details on the case have so far been scant, but in a forty five-minute hearing at the high court on Wednesday, it became evident that the phone had not been handed back to McDonagh and News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary which publishes the Sun, has been given twenty one days to explain what happened to it. Vos said the paper might say 'we chucked it away in a bin or never had in the first place' but that it needed to provide the court with details either way. Before the judge finalised the wording of the order, the counsel for News Group Newspapers, Guy Vassall Adams, said that McDonagh's demand to hand over the mobile 'presupposes that [News Group Newspapers] knows the whereabouts' of the phone. Vos's order, handed down in court, said: 'The defendant shall, within twenty one days of this order, provide a confidential witness statement, containing a statement of truth to the claimant's solicitors, explaining what material has been delivered up and where it is originating from, and if no mobile phone, and, or, no other material is delivered up what inquiries have been made by the defendant and the outcome of those inquiries; any further information they may have as to whether that material was ever in their possession and as to the present whereabouts of that material.' McDonagh launched proceedings against News Group Newspapers on 7 September, two months after a Sun journalist was arrested and bailed by officers working on Tuleta in relation to allegedly 'handling stolen goods.' They acted after The Met had been handed information by News International's management and standards committee that showed 'staff at News International titles appear to have been in possession of material downloaded or otherwise obtained from stolen mobile phones.'

Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati has announced that she will leave the show next year to 'focus on other projects.' The actress has played Sunita Alahan for eight years, from 2001 to 2005 and again since 2008, when she rejoined the cast. 'I have loved playing Sunita but I really feel the time has come for me to focus on other aspects of my career,' she said. 'I always told myself I would see my son through school and I have done that.' Shobna Gulati is also known for her role in the thoroughly wretched sitcom Dinnerladies with Victoria Wood and says she would like to return to comedy programmes. She said: 'Comedy writing has long been a passion of mine and the commitment to a show like Corrie is huge and doesn't really leave enough time to concentrate on other projects. I'd love to be able to combine my writing and acting career in the future.' Recent storylines in the soap included Sunita cheating on her husband, Dev, with gambler Karl Munro. The actress added that she would miss the cast and crew, as well as playing Sunita. Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson described working with Shobna Gulati as 'a pleasure.' He said: 'It's sad to lose such a well-loved and brilliantly played character but it provides an exciting storyline opportunity and the writing team are already looking forward to developing a brilliant exit story for her. Viewers can expect something very memorable.' The actress will be leaving the ITV soap early next year. Shobna Gulati is also one of four people taking legal action against Mirra Group Newspapers for alleged phone-hacking. The others are former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Abbie Gibson, a former nanny for the Beckham family and Garry Flitcroft, the former captain of Blackburn Rovers.

Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's publicists must be earning their money this week – if only to prevent The X Factor boss from seeing the unflattering pictures of his new 'puffy-faced' look in the British press. The Sun's front page has the picture caption Pieman Cowell - heh! - over a shot of the pop mogul and sour-faced chef off Crossroads looking somewhat larger than life on US TV this week. Inside, the paper wonders about the cause of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's chubby cheeks under the headline, Supersi Me. Is Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads auditioning fora remake of Alvin and the Chipmunks?

After ballroom dancing, twatting about on ice, singing, cooking and sending them to live in a jungle, viewers could be forgiven for thinking there was nothing television executives had not asked celebrities to do. Think again. ITV is hoping to make, if you will, 'a splash' with a new reality show in which celebrities learn how to dive under the expert tutelage of Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley. The peak-time show, which has the working title Splash!, promises 'spectacular and hilarious prime-time fun.' It remains to be seen just how high the board will be, or how low the bar will be set to qualify as 'a celebrity.' Contestants will be asked to perform a dive each week live on television in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Daley said it had been a 'wonderful 2012. What better way to round it off by becoming involved in this great new show; a dream come true for me – an entertainment show all about diving. I'll be helping the celebrities as they master a dangerous and exciting sport and I can't wait to get started,' he added. The show will feature a panel of 'expert' judges, with the viewing public voting for their favourite celebrities. The identities of the contestants have not yet been revealed. As ever with reality shows of this sort, the prospect of the contestants making utter fools of themselves will be at least as much of a draw as the potential for a perfect ten. Plus, viewers will get to see celebrities in their swimwear which should be novel. The ITV director of entertainment and comedy, Elaine Bedell, who ought to be frigging ashamed to show her face in public after dreaming up this fiasco, brazened: 'Splash! promises thrills, spills and a touch of comedy as famous faces take to the celebrity diving board.' And, possibly, celebrity drowning as well. Bonus. The format for the show originated in the Netherlands – where it was called Sterren Springen – and the rights have already been bought by broadcasters in the US, France and Australia. Some of ITV's most successful shows are reality formats featuring celebrities outside of their comfort zone, including Twatting About On Ice and 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). But the broadcaster has also suffered a number of conspicuous flops in the genre, including Celebrity Love Island, Celebrity Wrestling (memorably spanked in the ratings by Doctor Who back in 2005) and Celebrity Shark Bait, a 2005 show in which actor Richard E Grant - among others - came face-to-face with a great white. Mark Borkowski, an entertainment PR and branding specialist, said: 'It beggars belief, you can't make some of these things up. There is a greater pressure on broadcasters now to come up with shows that will connect and generate a big social media campaign. There was a lot of buzz after the Olympics, which generated all these contemporary icons, and arguably people do want to see more of Tom Daley on TV.' BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing led the Olympics bandwagon, casting popular medallists cyclist Victoria Pendleton and gymnast Louis Smith in its latest series, helping it to a number of ratings wins over ITV's The X Factor so far. The challenge for the new ITV show will be that dives last a few seconds, unlike a waltz on Strictly Come Dancing, or the tortuous 'bushtucker trials' presided over by Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity. The makers of the original Dutch version of the show more than compensate for this by contestants taking an age to reach the board – invariably accompanied by Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best' – and countless replays of their often disastrous dives. Some viewers could be forgiven a sense of deja vu. Channel Four's reality show The Games, a sort of celebrity Olympics-meets-It's A Knockout, featured a diving round and a memorable belly flop by alleged comedian Bobby Davro. It remains to be seen whether Davro will be tempted back to improve on his score or, indeed, whether ITV would want him. The broadcaster is keeping extremely tight-lipped about the line-up as well as the exact format of the show, or even what Daley will be asked to do. He is expected to take some sort of presenting/judging role on the show which will be given a weekend slot. Jeff Goldman, the co-managing director of Eyeworks Distribution, which owns the format, said: 'We look forward to now bringing it to UK, and especially with ITV and Tom where we think it is the best home for audiences to enjoy its mix of fun, suspense, daredevil stunts and touch of humour all centred around the beauty of diving and inevitably making Splash! a hit in the UK.' The show will be produced for ITV by independent producer Two Four Television, the company behind shows including BBC1's pre-Olympics documentary Tom Daley: Diving for Britain and The Hotel Inspector. So, they've got a really good record of bombing. Two Four managing director Melanie Leach said: 'This show provides all-star family entertainment that everyone can enjoy and will no doubt feature those special moments that everyone will be talking about.'

From the moment that Chantelle Houghton was introduced to the nation - the 'fake' celebrity in the Celebrity Big Brother house who then proceeded to win the show - she has always seemed not so much an actual human being as, rather, a character from a heavy-handed satire about the hollow emptiness of crass Twenty First Century celebrity culture. As she proceeded to date her way through the celebrity C-list - Preston from The Ordinary Boys, fer Christ's sake! - handing out dribbles of her personal life to slavering tabloid reporters and eventually having a child with the ex-husband of Katie Price, Alex Reid, who himself also won Celebrity Big Brother, it was hard to fathom whether Houghton was manipulating the celebrity culture, or whether it was a case of vice-versa. Just as she launched her career by being a 'fake' celebrity, a parody of a celebrity, so she has always stayed. Houghton belongs to a certain subset of alleged 'celebrities' – which can also count among its numbers odious creatures like Kerry Katona, Peter Andre and Reid himself – who are famous purely for talking about themselves and their average lives in TV shows. They appear on magazine covers on a weekly basis by flogging their lives as if they were soap operas, providing intimate updates about their romantic travails, their quarrels with their ex-partners and their plans to make more self-obsessed fly-on-the-wall TV documentaries. They would not have a job without these magazines and these magazines (OK, Now, New, et cetera) would not exist without them. It's an intriguingly self-perpetuating cycle, like drinking one's own urine. This week, though, Chantelle went off-message, big style. Mid-morning, she broke the number two Twitter rule: don't tweet when angry (the number one rule, of course, is don't tweet when drunk). She went on a veritable rampage against Reid, accusing him of all manner of grievous crimes, the most attention-grabbing one being that he had turned her house 'into a sex dungeon' when she was eight months pregnant. According to a tabloid, Reid replied on Twitter, asking Chantelle not to discuss their private business, which takes laughable, gob-smacking hypocrisy to a hitherto unknown level, even in the z-list celebrity world. One can, perhaps, see this affair as merely a continuation of Houghton's usual attention-seeking modus operandi, vomitting up the most personal details of her life in order to gain maximum attention, although it has to be said that these details are - especially - humiliating not only to Reid but also to her and she is presumably not getting any financial compensation for sharing these secrets as she may or may not do when it comes to magazines. Or one can say that this proves all the time Houghton really was the young innocent she was presented as when she wandered into Satan's feast, who thought she knew the rules but didn't. Among her many tweets, she admitted that she believed Reid when he told her his cross-dressing was 'a publicity stunt' when this turned out, she claims, to be not entirely true. Thus, she has now stepped out of the screen, like Jeff Daniels in The Purple Rose of Cairo, and into the real world, eager to show the masses the shallowness she left behind. Or one can move, quickly, away from the distressing spectacle of Houghton specifically and look at some issues surrounding this, namely, the ultimately dead-end nature of a career based almost entirely on self-revelation, and whether this is any different to the culture of self-revelation encouraged by social media. If Houghton is a parody of a celebrity, she is also an exaggeration of the basest elements of the modern age – the shallowness, the celebrity worship, the sheer narcissism – and the rest of us can only look after her, shaking our heads, and wondering what, exactly, 'a sex dungeon' actually is.
He is known for the violent retribution he administers to his enemies, thinking nothing of shooting, stabbing or electrocuting them as he hands out justice on behalf of Queen and country, before uttering a dry quip over their still twitching corpses. So you might imagine that James Bond's approach to forgiveness does not have much in common with the Catholic Church - even if his sexual appetite, might have. Allegedly. But the Vatican's daily newspaper has overlooked such niceties and given delirious coverage to Skyfall, the latest Bond film, claiming it shows a new, introspective side of the British agent while thankfully cramming in the usual dose of exotic locations and 'extremely beautiful Bond girls.' L'Osservatore Romano has tried recently to move with the times, praising cult films such as The Blues Brothers and TV show The Simpsons, lauding Bob Dylan and publishing a women's supplement, ever since the editor, Gian Maria Vian, was told by the Pope in 2007 to 'liven up' the one hundred and fifty one-year-old daily. But its Skyfall review takes things to new limits for the newspaper, which ran it in Wednesday's edition alongside coverage of the five hundredth anniversary of The Sistine Chapel, the appointment of new bishops in Peru and the Philippines, and the welcome news that catholic numbers are rising in Ireland. 'To celebrate fifty years of the world's most famous secret agent – which even the Queen paid homage to at the Olympics – we needed a film that rose to the occasion,' said the paper in its review, one of five articles which it devoted to Bond. 'Skyfall does not disappoint. The Twenty Third Bond film is one of the best in the longest cinematic story of all time,' it states, adding the film 'does not lack any of the classic ingredients which have made James Bond a legend – the title credits song, adrenalin pumping action, amazing hyper-realistic chases, exotic locations, extremely beautiful Bond girls, the usual super villain and the essential vodka martini.' For the bishops, priests and cardinals itching to catch Skyfall, the paper gives a breathless breakdown of the plot, admiring the generational clash that 'is the key to the film.' Daniel Craig, who claimed in Casino Royale that he preferred having sex with married women, is deemed to be 'ever more convincing,' in his latest appearance, while Judy Dench is 'perfect' as M. Javier Bardem, is described as terrific, 'up there with Goldfinger, Doctor No and Rosa Klebb,' although no mention is given to the homoerotic feel he gives his character. Bond himself is less clichéd, 'less attracted to the pleasures of life, darker and more introspective, less invulnerable physically and psychologically and because of this more human, even able to be moved and to cry – in a word, more real.' Summing up, the paper declares: 'Nothing will ever be the same again on the big screen for James Bond.' A background piece on Ian Fleming follows, with L'Osservatore Romano's extensive coverage wrapping up with a focus on Bond soundtracks, heaping praise on John Barry's adaptation of Monty Norman's Bond Theme. And, in a eulogy eloquent enough to make any priest sob into his bible, it praises the 'two minutes of music played during the legendary gun-barrel sequence which evokes a world of impeccable dinner jackets, cocktails, casinos, luxury villas, femme fatales and powerful cars.'

A Daily Torygraph reader wrote to the paper's letters page on Wednesday with a query regarding its weather forecast for 30 October. 'Is yesterday's World Readings weather report in the Daily Telegraph the greatest masterpiece of understatement?' asks one Paul Strong of Claxby in Lincolnshire. 'New York: Max 15C. Min 12C. Rain.' The lad's got a point.

A scientific experiment has found that two mediums were unable to demonstrate that they had special psychic powers. And, in other news, the Earth is still round, apparently. Who'd've thought it? The test by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, tried to establish whether mediums could use psychic abilities to identify something about five unseen volunteers. The results, carried out under test conditions, did not show evidence of any unexplained powers of insight. But medium Patricia Putt said this experiment 'doesn't prove a thing.' No, Ms Putt (great name, by the way), it doesn't. Well, nothing that anyone with half-a-frigging-head didn't know already, anyway. This Hallow'een challenge was an attempt to investigate whether professional mediums could 'demonstrate' their psychic powers in a controlled setting - by inviting them to deduce something about people they had never met and could not see or hear. The experiment, designed by Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, asked two professional mediums to write something about five individuals who were concealed behind a screen. These five volunteers were then asked to try to identify themselves from these psychic readings - with a success rate of only one-in-five. This was a result that was 'entirely consistent with the operation of chance alone,' said Professor French. But Putt, one of the mediums involved, rejected the suggestion that this showed any absence of psychic powers - saying that she needed to work face-to-face with people or to hear their voice, so that a connection could be established. Or, so that cold-reading and body language could be used in much the same way as Derren Brown does his prestidigitation, a cynic might argue. Perhaps we'll never care. 'Psychic energy' was not likely to work in the setting created for the experiment, she said, and her success rate was usually very high. Putt said the experiment was designed to confirm the researchers' pre-conceptions - rather than examine the nature of her psychic ability. 'Scientists are very closed-minded,' she said, claiming that there were fraudsters operating as psychic mediums - but that it was wrong for scientists to think that such mediums 'were all the same.' But Michael Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, who helped to organise the test, said it showed that claims to have special abilities 'aren't based in reality.'

A BBC Radio Ulster presenter was left 'embarrassed' after being fooled by a hoax text about Jimmy Savile. Karen Patterson was discussing the now-disgraced TV star when she began to read out texts about the affair. One of the messages she read out said: 'I wish everyone would stop criticising Jimmy Savile. He was a nice man. When I was eight, he fixed it for me to milk a cow blindfolded.' Ah. yes. Humour. I remember humour. Patterson, only later sussed out that the text was a Hoax, and grovellingly apologised to listeners, stating: 'I am very sorry if I have caused any offence, but apologies. It was a genuine mistake.'
The BBC has announced a series of programmes to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the UK singles chart. Shows across BBC radio and TV will be broadcast in November to celebrate the chart's birthday, after it was launched by the NME in 1952 as a Top Twelve. Pop Charts Britannia: Sixty Years of the Top Ten will look back at the history and evolution of the chart, its place in British popular culture and its most ground-breaking moments. The documentary will feature contributions from BBC broadcasters such as David Jacobs, Pete Murray, Bob Harris, Paul Gambaccini and Reggie Yates, while stars including Sir Cliff Richard and experts Jon Webster and Rob Dickins will also appear. Whether any archive footage of Jimmy Savile will be included, we'll have to wait and see. But, I wouldn't bank on it. The programme will be broadcast on Friday 16 November on BBC4. The Joy of the Single will look at the changes of music formats from vinyl to downloads, and how the chart has been altered over the years to move with the times. Brtoadcast on Friday 23 November on BBC4, the likes of Jack White, Norman Cook, Graham Gouldman, Richard Hawley, Neil Sedaka, Norah Jones and Mike Batt will make appearances. Tony Blackburn will also host two special Pick of the Pops shows on BBC Radio 2, where he will play the best-selling songs of each year in chronological order from 1952 to 2012. The former chart show host will play the best-sellers from 1952 to 1985 in the first show on Saturday 10 November and from 1986 to 2012 on Saturday 17 November. Finally, BBC 6Music's Steve Lamacq will present special charts from 12 to 16 November, including the best-selling songs by bands starting with 'The' (will The The be included? You'll have to listen to find out), and the biggest-selling foreign language song. Mark Cooper, creative head of BBC Music Entertainment, said: 'The singles chart and the single itself are the key drivers of pop and while both documentaries suggest we are leaving one era of music buying behind, hopefully these programmes celebrate the world we grew up in - record shops, vinyl, Top of the Pops, the Radio 1 chart run-down - and also point to the future.'

Which brings us, pure dead brilliantly to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This very evening, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is attending the latest Record Player which, this week, featured Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds epic Murder Ballads. So, dear blog reader, be very warned. Parental guidance is highly advised when clicking on this link as it contains strong language and even stronger sentiments. And Polly Harvey looking disturbingly alluring as well!

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