Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Know I'll Change, If Change Is What You Require

ITV's behind the scenes look at Aylesbury prison was watched by more than five million overnight viewers, its biggest documentary hit for more than eighteen months on Monday evening. Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury, the first of a two-part series, was watched by 5.05 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. It was ITV's most-watched documentary since William at Thirty, about Prince William, pulled in 6,1 million viewers in June 2011. Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury also pipped the factual opposition on BBC1. The second of BBC1's three-part series Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, averaged 4.9 million over the 9pm hour. On Channel Four the first episode of a new series of Embarrassing Bodies averaged 1.8 million punters across the same period. On BBC2 the fourth episode of Stephen Poliakoff drama Dancing on the Edge averaged 1.9 million. At the same time, Channel Five's documentary repeat – Shrinking My Seventeen-Stone Legs – averaged eight hundred thousand viewers. At 10pm, the second episode of Charlie Brooker's dystopian series Black Mirror pulled in 1.2 million. The audience for the episode, White Bear, was down on the 1.6 million who watched the previous week's second series opener. On BBC2 at 10pm, a Mock the Week repeat averaged 1.2 million in the half-hour from 10pm, followed by a repeat of Wonders of Life which had six hundred thousand viewers. Wonders of Life replaced Newsnight, which was off-air due to the one-day BBC strike. BBC1's BBC News bulletin at 10pm managed to stay on-air despite the strike, and the bulletin, fronted by Chris Rogers, averaged 4.6 million between 10pm and 10.35pm. ITV News at Ten between 10pm and 10.35pm was seen by 2.6 million viewers. Elsewhere, University Challenge was BBC2's top-rated broadcast with 2.67m from 8pm, while Police Interceptors delivered eight hundred and sixty thousand viewers - Five's biggest audience of the night - at the same time. Overall, ITV had a comfortable primetime win with 23.9 per cent of the audience share, against BBC1's 19.2 per cent.

Tuesday's episode of Death In Paradise pulled in yet another slot-winning overnight audience of 6.1m punters on BBC1. Up against it, ITV's coverage of The Arse's calamitous defeat to Bayern München in the Champions League was watched by a 4.98m average audience. It was a good night all round for BBC1 with EastEnders topping the ratings with 7.76m overnight viewers and Holby City being watched by 5.08m.
Further casting news on the Doctor Who biopic An Adventure In Space And Time: The man credited for the original iconic look of the TARDIS interior, Peter Brachacki, is to be played by David Annen, his agent has reported. The character actor has had roles in a variety of television programmes, including The Chatterley Affair, Criminal Justice and Lennon Naked, and the gamut of regular series such as Call The Midwife, Doctors, Midsomer Murders and Law & Order: UK. Film-wise, he has appeared in The West Wittering Affair and Theatre of Dreams, both directed by David Scheinmann. After the excitement of Sunday's Dalek excursion to Westminster, the return to BBC Television Centre turned out to be the last day of filming for the drama at the spiritual home of Doctor Who. Producer Matt Strevens said afterwards: 'Filming is now complete at Television Centre location. Could we be the last drama every to film there? Week three continues elsewhere tomorrow.' Writer and executive producer Mark Gatiss summed up the moment, which might well be the last drama to be filmed at the iconic site: 'Farewell TVC.'
The BBC is planning a new investigation into claims about weapons of mass destruction made in the run-up to the Iraq war in a special hour-long episode of Panorama, ten years after a radio report on the same subject caused one of the biggest crises in the corporation's history. Andrew Gilligan's Today programme report in 2003 that Tony Blair's government had 'sexed up' intelligence information about WMDs, which subsequently turned out not to exist, prompted an almighty row which led to the departures of both the director general Greg Dyke and the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies. The award-winning investigative reporter Peter Taylor is expected to reveal new claims about the government's conduct in the lead-up to the war and in particular about WMDs, in a programme to be shown on 18 March, nearly a decade after Britain embarked on the invasion. BBC 'sources' allegedly insisted that the programme is 'not intended as a look back to the past' but is 'a look forward' to the findings of the report by Sir John Chilcot into the reasons for the conflict, which is due to report towards the end of this year. Taylor fronted Modern Spies, an acclaimed BBC2 series on espionage which interviewed an alleged Iraqi defector, who claimed to have made up the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – a claim which, it is alleged, was 'given credibility' by the British and US government at the time. The documentary comes at a difficult time for the BBC in the wake of the Savile fiasco and The Pollard Report, which highlighted key journalistic mistakes in the making of a Newsnight report which wrongly led to implication on the Internet of Lord McAlpine in a story about sexual abuse. The BBC said: 'Panorama's experienced team has an excellent record of managing investigations on a daily basis. We have robust procedures in place and all of our investigations are carried out in accordance with the BBC's editorial guidelines and guidance, under the close supervision of the editor.'

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are shooting a new sitcom for the BBC. Currently known only by the working title The Vic And Bob Sitcom, the pilot episode will be recorded at BBC Television Centre next month. The script is still being finalised but the cast will include Reeves and Mortimer's Shooting Stars colleague Dan Renton Skinner as well as Matt Berry, Morgana Robinson and Pramface's Dylan Edwards. It will also feature Norwegian stand-up Daniel Simonsen, last year's Edinburgh Comedy Award best newcomer, in his first acting role in the UK. Bob leaked the cast details in a tweet which began: 'Today rehearse new sitcom Fuck This House.' The message was subsequently deleted. Unsurprisingly, the BBC say that will not be the title the show will go under. Last year, Reeves said he felt 'unwanted' by the BBC after they cancelled Shooting Stars. Before he and Bob debuted the pilot panel show Lucky Sexy Winners on Channel Four, Reeves said: 'I didn't think we were required at the BBC any more so that's why we decided to go elsewhere. Shooting Stars is getting on for twenty years old so it was probably a good thing the BBC didn't want it any more. We can go on to be more creative.' Nevertheless, Vic recently appeared - to great acclaim - in BBC2's Hebburn, written by Jason Cook and Graham Duff, and can currently be seen in the CBBC sketch show Ministry Of Curious Stuff. His last venture into sitcom with Mortimer was 2004's BBC3 series Catterick, which also featured Charlie Higson, Morwenna Banks, Reece Shearsmith, Matt Lucas and Tim Healy. The pair planned to revive some of the Catterick characters in a live tour last year but, in the event, that never transpired. Another clue as to the new sitcom's theme may lie in a film project Reeves and Mortimer were said to be developing last year. Reeves said: 'It's probably going to be about a hotel and some people trying to make a hotel work. It's going to be nothing like Fawlty Towers, more like a Mike Leigh film.' Their pilot will be one of the final recordings at BBC Television Centre before the West London site undergoes a two hundred million smackers redevelopment to include a hotel, flats and offices.'
All manner of stories about malarkey and doings have been generated in the aftermath of The Leveson Report. The latest is in Scotland where, according to a report by The Drum website, one of the people advising first minister Alex Salmond on press regulation is being accused of a possible conflict of interest. It has emerged that Peter Watson, a lawyer with the Glasgow-based firm Levy & McRae, once acted for Salmond in dealings with the Press Complaints Commission. The complaint, against the Scum Mail on Sunday, concerned two stories in January 2010: Salmond and the asylum fugitive and Salmond faces probe over case of illegal immigrant. It was claimed that they were both inaccurate. The PCC decided otherwise and the complaint was not upheld. The Drum quotes Alistair Bonnington, the former BBC Scotland legal chief, as saying that there might be a 'perception' of a conflict of interest. Watson is one of five members of the panel that forms the Scottish Leveson implementation committee. Levy & McRae occupies a unique position in relation to Scotland's newspapers, acting for and against titles. On one bizarre occasion, reports The Drum, Newsquest, publisher of the Herald and Sunday Herald, found itself being asked for a right of reply by Levy & McRae over an article concerning a Levy & McRae client that had been passed for publication by a Levy & McRae lawyer.

The National Union of Journalists has hit back at millionaire Old Etonian David Four Homes Cameron after the prime minister suggested there were 'no grounds' for Monday's twenty four-hour walkout at the BBC over cost-cutting measures. Cameron angered some BBC journalists by appearing to dismiss their concerns over plans to reduce costs by twenty per cent, or about seven hundred million smackers over the next five years. Speaking as BBC journalists forced flagship shows including BBC2's Newsnight and Radio 4's Today off the air on Monday, Cameron maintained that the BBC was a well-funded broadcaster and described the contentious 2010 licence fee deal as 'fair.' Which it wasn't or anything even remotely like it. On Tuesday, the National Union of Journalists general secretary, Red Michelle Stanistreet, accused Cameron's government of setting the BBC on 'a path to decline' and of 'misunderstanding the value' of quality programming. 'David Cameron has criticised the BBC strike but he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,' Stanistreet said. 'We are campaigning for quality journalism and against job cuts – we got fantastic support for the strike action. The prime minister's comments confirm what we all know – he's clueless about the need for working people to fight for jobs and public services.' Yep, that sounds about right. Stanistreet called on incoming director general Lord Hall to push for a renegotiation of the licence fee settlement, which froze the BBC's funding – including the £145.50 licence fee – until 2017 and saw the corporation take on extra responsibilities, such as the World Service. 'The deal, clinched behind closed doors in 2010, froze the licence fee and foisted an additional three hundred and forty million pounds of spending commitments on the BBC, setting the corporation on a path of decline that threatens our world-acclaimed public service broadcaster,' she added. 'We're seeing the impact of those cuts now, and thanks to the strategic decisions of senior BBC management they're translating into a clear attack on quality programming and journalism at the BBC.'
And, speaking of odious and extremely rich Tories, Downton Abbey creator Lord Snooty has suggested that the hit period drama could continue without him. Lord Snooty told the New York Times that his commitment to US pilot The Gilded Age could force him to abandon his Downton commitments. 'If I'm doing a series at NBC, I would not be able to write all of Downton and all of that series at the same time,' he said. 'I would hope that by the time all the hurdles have been cleared, the timing makes it so I can then concentrate on the new series. If Downton goes on - of course, that's not my decision - then it would be with other writers. Perhaps with me supervising.' Lord Snooty admitted that it would feel 'funny' to see Downton continue without his direct involvement. 'There's no point, really, in making pronouncements of absolutes,' said Lord Snooty. 'The only thing is, I know I would not be able to write eleven hours of Downton and ten hours of The Gilded Age, or whatever it is, side by side.' Downton Abbey has been renewed for a fourth series and a 2013 Christmas special, with Lord Snooty explaining that he is 'still keen' to stay with the series and end it on his 'own terms' if possible. 'My own belief is that these things have a life, and one of the tricks is to recognise when it's time to come to an end,' he acknowledged. 'But we haven't made a decision when that will be. Some things go on for twenty years, don't they, but I just don't see Downton being one of them.'

From one end of the social scale to another. Some residents of the Manchester suburb of Harpurhey have complained that a BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary gives a distorted impression of their area. The Manchester Evening News reported that two hundred people turned out for a 'fiery meeting' on Monday to protest about BBC3's People Like Us. It gives a 'biased and distorted' view of the area, Graham Stringer MP said. The BBC said the show gave a 'warm and at times unflinching look' at life and did not focus on negative stereotypes. The six-part series follows a group of young people in the area, which was named the most deprived neighbourhood in England in a survey in 2004. The Manchester Evening News quoted Lisa Walker, who appears in the show with nineteen-year-old son Dale, as saying her family felt 'gutted' by how they were represented. 'They said Dale was unemployed when he is doing a two-year apprenticeship and didn't mention any of the voluntary work he carries out at the local boxing gym and a local school,' she said. 'We weren't aware the show was going to come across like that and now we're really worried about what's going to be in future shows as it's not the show we were told it was going to be.' Stringer, who is MP for Blackley and Broughton, said those at the meeting complained that children were being bullied at school because they were from the area and people had pulled out of buying houses there as a result. 'The vast majority of people that live here are decent and trying to make a go of it,' he said. 'I don't think that the BBC should be commissioning programmes which make life in a relatively poor area more difficult for people who live here. It's not trying to represent part or all of that life, the programme is actually distorting what's going on.' Stringer said he would request a meeting with BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten. 'There was a feeling that the money they're paying in their licence fee was being used to make their life more difficult. They wanted the programme to be taken off [air],' he said. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We are listening to the range of feedback from the local area and contributors, many of whom have been positive. People Like Us takes a warm and at times unflinching look at the reality of life for young people in Harpurhey and follows a range of contributors as they tell their own stories in their own words through both good times and bad. The series does not focus on negative stereotypes, indeed many of those featured are resilient, resourceful and ambitious young people with positive stories to tell - from running their own businesses to planning their future careers - and they do so with captivating wit and enthusiasm.'

FIFA has confirmed that goal-line technology will be used at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The system was successfully trialled at the Club World Cup in December, and is being used for this summer's Confederations Cup. FIFA president Sepp Blatter had previously stated his commitment to bringing in goal-line technology for the tournament in Brazil. Blatter has pushed for goal-line technology ever since he watched Frank Lampard denied a goal in England's defeat by Germany in the 2010 World Cup. He subsequently said that he was 'sorry' for the mistake caused by the Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda failing to spot that the midfielder's shot had bounced over the line. Blatter also insisted that video technology was 'a necessity' after another controversial incident in England's 1-0 win over Euro 2012 opponents Ukraine helped eliminate the co-hosts. Ukraine forward Marko Devic's shot appeared to have crossed England's goal-line but a goal was not awarded. Both Goalref and Hawkeye were used at the Club World Cup and have FIFA approval. Goalref works by using magnetic sensors to determine whether the ball crossed the line, while Hawkeye uses a number of cameras. Two German firms are also likely to bid, with the tender expected to be awarded by early April. A FIFA statement said: 'After a successful implementation of Goal-Line Technology at the Club World Cup in Japan in December 2012, FIFA has decided to use GLT at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The aim is to use GLT in order to support the match officials and to install a system in all stadia, pending the successful installation, and pre-match referee tests.'

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader is accompanied by a short story. In 1981, like most of the rest of the country, yer actual Keith Telly Topping bought a copy of The Human League's Dare. As mentioned last week, when the LP featured on Uncle Scunthorpe's The Record Player, it's a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's. But, at the time, the other stuff he was listening to was, well, The Jam, Talking Heads, Joy Division, The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Clash. To be honest, he was a bit embarrassed about this electro-pop appreciation which he was developing and kept it as something of a guilty bedroom secret. One of the biggest regrets yer actual Keith Telly Topping has in his entire life, dear blog reader, is that he had the chance to go and see The Human League on the Dare tour (a friend of a friend had a spare ticket) but he didn't take up the offer because he didn't want to be seen as in some way 'uncool.' By ... whoever it is that gets to decide what's 'cool' and what isn't. A chance, very definitely, missed. Now, flash forward about twenty five years and yer actual Keith Telly Topping finally gets to see The Human League live at The Arena on one of those seemingly endless eighties revival package tours (along with Culture Club and ABC, actually). Okay, it's wasn't The Human League with Jo Callis, Ian Burden and Adrian Wright, it was Phil, the girls and .... some other people. But, nevertheless, it was effing brilliant, one of the best gigs yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has ever attended. Indeed, it's perfectly possible that if yer actual Keith Telly Topping's mate Rich hadn't been hanging on to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's leather jacket sleeve when the opening bars of today's selected 45 of the Day were played, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would've been past security, up on the stage and genuflecting at the feet of Mister Phil Oakey his very self. That, as they say, is very definitely a chance missed.
The point of all this waffle, dear blog reader, is that - as has been noted so often in the past - it's far easier to regret something you haven't done as something you have. If you want to do something, you do it, no matter what anyone else thinks. It's your life, dear blog reader, you've only got one to live so live it on your rules not someone elses. Because, sometimes, you never get the chance at a later date to make good on missed opportunities. Here endeth the lesson.

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