Saturday, August 23, 2014

Deep Breath: Twelfth Night

'A giant dinosaur from the distant past has just vomited a blue box from Outer Space! This is not a day for jumping to conclusions.'
So, dear blog reader, Peter Capaldi his very self is The Doctor. He is the resurrection and the light. He becomes the twelfth actor to play the role on television in the BBC's long-running popular family SF drama. Or, if you count Richard Hurndall and John Hurt - which you really should, since they both did the gig, albeit in both cases only briefly - the fourteenth. Which is nice. In the past, the job of introducing a new Doctor to the show's audience has, usually, been done by bringing in some old, familiar, established elements from Doctor Who's past. Patrick Troughton was given a six episode face-off against The Dalek and Mister Pertwee's introduction was within a comfortingly contemporary Earth setting that viewers knew from The Web Of Fear and The Invasion and was aided by the reintroduction of UNIT and the Brigadier. Who, of course, were both still knocking around four years later when Tom Baker first appeared. And, it was similar threats to a world we could all, easily, recognise as broadly speaking our own that Chris Eccleston (facing Pertwee's old enemies The Autons), David Tennant and Matt Smith were presented with. Peter Davison and Paul McGann had to contend with different regenerations of The Doctor's nemesis, The Master and for Sylvester McCoy, it was another renegade Time Lord, The Rani. Only The Crap One had a story which contained no obvious links to the series' past. Which is, perhaps, one of the many reasons why The Twin Dilemma is the Doctor Who story that lots of regular viewers would have somewhere very close to the bottom of any hypothetical list of 'ooo, I really must watch that one again.' Its thoroughly rotten, cliché-driven script, cheap design and hammy performances from the top on down notwithstanding. The Power Of The Daleks, Spearhead From Space, Robot, Castrovalva and the 1996 TV movie (and even, to an extent, Time & The Rani) all spent time in visuals and dialogue reminding viewers of former Doctors as a necessary juxtaposition marker to the changes which they were currently being presented with. Of late, Rose, The Christmas Invasion and The Eleventh Hour have all had a similar construction - throwing the new Doctor(s), immediately, into a sink-or-swim situation from which there is little time for reflection or dwelling on the past but, instead, charging head-first into the future unknown. In Doctor Who, across forty eight years since the series' first regeneration story in 1966, certain key elements always seem to accompany The Doctor in the fog of each post-regeneration crisis. A bewildered companion (or two or, once, three), a complex problem to drag The Doctor out of his mental confusion and, most obviously, the presence of the TARDIS. 'It's part of the TARDIS,' said Patrick Troughton forty eight years ago. 'Without it, I couldn't survive.'
'A dinosaur is burning in the heart of London. Nothing left but smoke and flame. The question is, have there been any similar murders?' On a related note, the character of the new Doctor usually falls into one of four broad categories in his first story: There's the lugubrious, mysterious, unfamiliar stranger who, nevertheless, the audience feel instantly that they will soon come to know and love (Troughton, Tom). There's the haunted, post-apocalyptic figure of - again - mystery with, one senses, some ancient and unspeakable sadness at his core. One which he doesn't hide but effectively covers most of the time with bluff and evasion (most obviously Eccleston, but also, to an extent, Pertwee and Smudger). There's also the bewildered amnesiac whose clouded mind will suddenly, after the intervention of a, necessary calming force, reveal the hero within (Davison, McCoy, McGann and, especially, Tennant). And then, there's the unlikable crass bully whose chest-beating sneering arrogance and casual indifference to his companion's understandable distaste for such a change almost instantly puts a significant proportion of the audience off both the character and the show for the next three years. Peter Capaldi's début, mercifully, occupies bits of the first three strands and, for this blogger at least, none whatsoever of the fourth, a few aesthetic comparisons with the appallingly nasty 'I am The Doctor, whether you like it or not' scene in The Caves Of Androzani notwithstanding. Clara, like Peri, might have lost a rather fanciable young chum to someone older, louder and more sure of himself but, thankfully, there, the comparisons between six and twelve end. Apart from the fact that one is exactly half of the other, obviously.
'He is lost in the ruin of himself, and we must bring him home.' Shooting for Deep Breath took place at The Maltings in Cardiff from 7 January 2014 and, later, at Mount Stuart Square. Scenes were subsequently filmed on Queen Street in the city towards the end of the month. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat announced to fans that this episode is going to be 'a big introduction' for Peter Capaldi noting that there would be 'plenty of action and nonsense and jeopardy, as there ever is in Doctor Who.' The episode, it was announced, would feature Capaldi alongside Jenna Coleman and Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey reprising their roles of Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax. Capaldi's predecessor, Matt Smith, it was rumoured, would also appear in a cameo which had been shot during the production of his final episode, last year's Christmas special The Time Of The Doctor. On 6 July 2014, long after the episode had been completed, the scripts for the first five episodes of the series (including Deep Breath) were inadvertently leaked online from BBC Worldwide's Latin America headquarters, prompting a plea from the BBC to fans to keep the storylines of the five episodes secret. Also leaked was a poor quality black-and-white rough cut of Deep Breath, missing most of the visual effects but otherwise complete. The BBC blamed the leak on the fact that the files had been stored on a publicly accessible server in its new Miami-based headquarters. Steven Moffat, speaking at the London Film and Comic Con, called the leak 'horrible, miserable and upsetting.'
'It's all right up till the eyebrows and then it just goes haywire. Look at the eyebrows! They're attack eyebrows. You could take bottle tops off with these. They're crosser than the rest of my face. They're independently cross. They probably want to cede from the rest of my face and set up their own independent state of eyebrows!' A lifelong fan of the series, as a teenager Peter Capaldi inundated the Doctor Who production team with fan mail full of questions and suggestions. In the live TV announcement ofhis casting, he was presented with a letter his fifteen-year-old self wrote to the Radio Times praising its Doctor Who coverage in 1973, which Capaldi sheepishly referred to as 'the full anorak.' Peter had previously played the character of Lucius Caecilius in the 2008 Doctor Who episode The Fires Of Pompeii as well as playing - quite magnificently - the civil servant John Frobisher in the 2009 spin-off Torchwood: Children of Earth. Before taking the role of The Doctor, Peter stated that he had to seriously consider the increased level of visibility which would come with the part, adding that 'I had to decide if I was ready to live with that, because once that genie is out of the bottle, it doesn't go back in.' He revealed in an interview that he had been invited to audition for the role of the eighth Doctor in 1995 prior to the production of the 1996 TV film. He turned it down as 'I didn't think I would get it, and ... didn't want to just be part of a big cull of actors.' 'I've been very, very lucky in that Matt Smith and David Tennant have been incredibly friendly and supportive to me,' Peter has noted recently. 'I can talk to them any time because it's quite a small club, the actors who've played The Doctor and they recognise the realities of what being in this position is like.' Part of Doctor Who's attraction for Peter it seems lies in its imaginative potential: it's held a sense of wonder, awe and terror for generations of British people - including the new Doctor himself. 'It is this relationship between the domestic and the epic,' Peter says on the subject of what appeals to him about the programme. 'The sense that there's a bridge, that a hand can be extended, and you can step from the Earth, from the supermarket car park, into the Andromeda Nebulae. And I love monsters. Everybody loves monsters.'
'You remember thingy. The not-me one. The "asking questions" one. Names ... not my area.' Deep Breath, of course, features a significant portion of the staples from the programme's Twenty First Century regeneration, created by a group of Doctor Who fanatics, just like Capaldi. There are in-jokes aplenty in Steven Moffat cleverly weighed script with lots of self-referential moments - the dialogue is littered with allusions to both the new Doctor's apparent age and his, definite, Scottishness, including at least one very loaded independence joke - but that's just one part of the show's detailed, complex and eccentric universe. For someone as established and respected an actor as Capaldi this is all food and drink. Visually, in his eventual 'front row of a Specials gig in 1979' costume, he looks a bit like the ageing rock star he could well have been now had circumstances dictated. He was, infamously, in the sub-Postcard band Dreamboys along with his old mate Craig Ferguson in his youth just prior to breaking into acting in Local Hero. And so to the part he's waited to play all of his life; Capaldi is, within seconds of his first appearance in Deep Breath, The Doctor. A new, volatile, cross, sarky, mature and much more dangerous Doctor. You'd expect Capaldi to be riveting from the word go - unless you were that infamously glakeish American online Special Person who declared that Capaldi (whom he or she had 'never heard of', incidentally) had, this person considered, 'neither the depth or range' to play the part. Apparently. It's on The Internet, dear blog reader, so it must be true. Comparisons to several previous Doctors are, of course inevitable. That always happens during a new Doctor's opening overs and this time around, it's no different. It's not hard to detect shades of William Hartnell, Tom Baker and, especially, Mister Pertwee, reportedly Peter's own childhood favourite, in his performance (and, interestingly, more than a smidgen of Sylvester McCoy too. Not just in the Scottishness, either).
But Capaldi is, defiantly, his own Doctor occupying his own space (and time) and shows as much depth and range as an actor of his quality and experience should. Much has been made in parts of the media of his incarnation being 'darker' that his immediate predecessors (something which Capaldi has used at least one recent TV interview to play down). By the conclusion of the opening episode, and one scene in particular - sure to be debated at length within fandom - audience will know (know for certain) that this is not a Time Lord to be messed with. Yet there is also a warmer, more vulnerable side to the character - reminiscent of both Davison and Smith - hovering in the background but, perhaps, a touch harder to access than it was before. There's also a decent amount of humour in the episode, most of it coming from The Doctor and Clara's developing new relationship. 'He doesn't do puzzles, he isn't complicated. He really doesn't have the attention span!'
'I could use it to blow this whole room if I see one thing I don't like. And that includes Karaoke and mime, so take no chances.' Of course, it's a continuity lover's dream. There are allusions to, in no particular order, The Time Of The Doctor (Handles, 'I am not a control freak!', the eleventh Doctor's cameo phone call from Trenzalore), Planet Of The Spiders ('here we go again'), Invasion Of The Dinosaurs, Terror Of The Zygons (the monster in the Thames), The Pirate Planet ('what's the point?'), The Power Of The Daleks ('renewed?'), The Day Of The Doctor (Marcus Aurelius, 'are you judging me?', the 'round things'), The Snowmen ('... and we will melt him with acid'), Robot ('And a big, long scarf. No, move on from that. Looked stupid!'), The Fires Of Pompeii ('I have never seen that face', 'It's funny, because, I'm sure that I have.'), The War Games (Time Lords' ability to chose a specific face when regenerating), Time & The Rani ('I've gone a bit Scottish'), Asylum Of The Daleks (The Impossible Girl small ad), Human Nature (the references to The Doctor's watch), The Angels Take Manhattan ('it's at times like this I miss Amy'), Silence In The Library (the voice-activated sonic), The Girl In The Fireplace ('droids harvesting spare parts. That rings a bell'), The Doctor's Wife (the non-matching hands), The Brain Of Morbius ('This isn't a man turning himself into a robot. It's a robot turning itself into a man piece by piece'), Blink ('she called the police?'), The Tenth Planet ('is there any of the real you left?'), The Eleventh Hour ('Geronimo!'), The Mind Of Evil ('Oh, look! The cavalry!'), The Talons Of Weng Chiang (the Fifty First Century), The Underwater Menace ('little man!'), Ghost Light (the entire building as a spaceship), The Robots Of Death ('self destruction is against my basic programming'), Frontios (the hat-stand), The Three Doctors ('you've redecorated, I don't like it!'), The Bells of St John ('a long time ago you were given the number of a computer help line, but you ended up phoning the TARDIS. Who gave you that number?'), The Hand Of Fear (the TARDIS missing its intended target and ending up in Scotland) and The End Of The World (chips solve everything).
There are visual nods in the direction of several previous regeneration stories (notably Castrovalva and Spearhead From Space) as well as a whole array of pseudo-historical adventures from the series' past - the sometime steampunk Victorian settings of The Snowmen, The Crimson HorrorThe Next Doctor, The Unquiet Dead and The Talons Of Weng Chiang, most obviously. It's also full of clever inter-textual Sherlock Holmes jokes ('We've got the Paternoster irregulars out in force. If anyone can find him, they can. Meanwhile, Madame Vastra is slightly occupied by the Conk-Singleton forgery case and is having the Camberwell child-poisoner for dinner'!) and there's a really witty little allusion to the Father Ted perception scene ('It's just far away. Everything looks too small'). Along with paraphrases from The Terminator, Apocalypse, Now, Sweeney Todd, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Tipping The Velvet, Bleak HouseO Captain, My Captain and the collected works of Robert Burns.
'I'd say that person would be an egomaniac, needy, game-player sort of person.' 'Well at least that hasn't changed.' In a story which benefits from being firmly set in one of Doctor Who's most regular haunts - the land of cod Gothia Victoriana - Deep Breath functions on just about every level one could ask of it; as straight entertainment, as subtext and as metaphor. Superbly directed by Ben Wheatley, in places stylistically fascinating, it is an episode essentially about faith, in all its forms (that surprise final scene with Michelle Gomez). It featured big ideas - necessary big ideas - but still found time for the small and the apparently insignificant amid its classy depiction of rebirth and refocusing. The episode had elegance, tension and beautiful drama, particularly in the scene in which Clara refuses to tell The Half-Face Man what he wants to know (Jenna acting her little cotton socks off here, and elsewhere for that matter). 'Shut up, I was talking to the horse!'
And then, there's the dialogue. 'Hello, rubbish robots from the dawn of time. Thank you for all the gratuitous information. Five foot one and crying, you never stood a chance!' Yes, this is one of Moffat's funny ones, dear blog reader. 'I'll wager you've not seen anything like this before!' 'Not since I was a little girl.' And: 'It dropped a blue box marked "Police" out of its mouth - your grasp of biology troubles me.' And: 'You're very similar heights. Maybe you should wear labels.' And: 'Don't look in that mirror, it's absolutely furious!' And: 'I never bother with sleep, I just do standy-up-catnaps. Generally when anyone else starts talking. I like to skip ahead to my bits, it saves time!' And: 'You want a psychic link with me? The size of my brain, it would be like dropping a piano on you.' And: 'I love monkeys, they're so funny!' And: 'The world which shook at my feet, and the trees, and the sky have gone, and I am alone now.' And: 'May I take your clothes?' And all of those are in the first ten minutes! Then, it gets all moody and philosophical. 'He is the Doctor. He has walked this universe for centuries untold, he has seen stars fall to dust. You might as well flirt with a mountain range.' And: 'Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor, last of the five Goodens. A stoic philosopher.' 'Superlative bass guitarist. The Doctor really knows how to put a band together.' There are moments of naughty humour ('My time machine got stuck in your throat. It happens. I brought you along by accident - that's how I mostly meet girls!' And: 'You've got to admire the efficiency.' 'Is it okay if I don't?') There are great daft lines for Strax to bellow ('Out of the way, human filth. Jurassic emergency!' and 'He's almost certainly had his throat cut by the violent poor!') There is time for the surreal ('Probably best to stay out the larder. It'll get a bit noisy in there later') and the epic ('I'm the Doctor. I have lived for over two thousand years and not all of them were good. I have made many mistakes, and it's about time I did something about that.') Moments of the humane ('I've got a horrible feeling I'm going to have to kill you. I thought you might appreciate a drink first. I know I would') and the sinister ('Never start with your final sanction. You've got nowhere to go but backwards') and the genuinely sad ('To find the promised land.' 'You're millions of years old, it's time you knew. There isn't one'). There's geet towering slabs of wee-yer-pants humour ('Deflected narcissism, traces of passive aggressive and a lot of muscular young men doing sport.' 'What are you looking at?' 'Your subconscious' And: 'Where are we now?' 'Factually, an ancient space ship, probably buried for centuries. Functionally, a larder'). There's sly, witty wink-of-the-eye humour ('What devilry is this, sir?' 'I don't know. But I probably blame the English') and giggly, 'I shouldn't really be laughing at this but ...' humour ('Oh, the symbolism.' And: 'She called the police? We never do that. We should start!') Deep Breath is written to be quoted, at length, to complete strangers on a bus six weeks after the episode has aired: 'I'm not just being rhetorical, you can join in!' And, who could fail to love the bit where Clara got hit in the mush with The Times?
'Please tell me I didn't get old? Anything but old!' Deep Breath, then, is the first brick in the construction of the twelfth Doctor's house. It's lyrical and smart, but never - as Frank Cottrell Boyce noted in his piece in the Torygraph this week 'smart-alec'. It's never so in love with its own cleverness that it finds no room for the odd moments of slapstick and largess towards its audience. 'Nothing is more important than my egomania!' It's not perfect, there are flaws. There are a couple of lugubrious faux-naïf moments that might have been left on the cutting room floor in an ideal world, a couple of supporting players who hadn't, quite, got with the programme and at least one less-than-special effect which could have done with a bit more time and money, although the dinosaur is wonderful. But such criticism is churlish when one sees the way that Peter and Jenna interact, the way the script pulls many 'you can't get there from here' tricks and then proves they, actually, you can. 'Give him Hell, he'll always need it!' And the new title sequence is fabulous, though the redone title music is just a shade too ... clang-y and bang-y for this blogger's own personal tastes. I'm sure I'll get used to it. Conclusion: Deep Breath is good. In fact, it's borderline great. It's not a love letter to the series past like The Day Of The Doctor was though it flirts with being exactly that (so much for the 'no flirting' thing!) Instead, it is a little bit like a Kate Bush single; appealingly odd, multi-layered, wistful and knowingly a part of its own, unique, universe. And utterly memorable. 'Welcome to Heaven' indeed. Or, to put it another way: 'Spontaneous combustion!' 'Is that like love at first sight?' Yes, dear blog reader. Yes it usually is.
And, from the important stuff, to the ratings: Match Of The Day At Fifty was seen by an average overnight audience of 2.37 million on BBC1 on Friday. The hour long Match Of The Day retrospective which, if you will, kicked-off at 10.35pm, peaked with an audience of 2.53 million. BBC1 also had success with the sitcom Boomers, which with viewing figures of 3.56 million, was Friday's highest-rated show outside of soaps across all channels at 9pm. The evening began with 3.01 million for The ONE Show at 7pm, followed by 2.62 million for A Question Of Sport and 2.62 million for Scrappers at 8.30pm. The Dales was ITV's most popular show outside of soaps, on something of a horrorshow of a night for the commercial channel, scoring figures of just 2.36 million at 8pm. Doc Martin was seen by 2.09 million at 9pm. Young Vets got BBC2's evening off to a respectable start, attracting 1.16 million at 7pm. It was followed by 1.66 million for Mastermind and 1.31 million for Sweets Made Simple. The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice achieved an evening high of 2.11 million at 9pm, while Gardener's World was seen by 1.63 million. On Channel Four, The Million Pound Drop attracted eight hundred and seventy thousand punters at 8pm, while six hundred and forty thousand watched The Singer Takes It All at 9pm, which was followed by The Last Leg with seven hundred and sixty thousand. Celebrity Big Brother's latest episode was seen by 1.85 million. BBC4's excellent Running Up That Hill: The Kate Bush Story was among the highest-rated multichannel shows, picking up seven hundred and thirty eight thousand viewers at 9.10pm.

BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore has revealed details of a number of new programmes heading to the channel. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival over the weekend, Moore revealed that she had commissioned several shows to broaden BBC1's drama, factual and documentary offerings. The first of these, The Living And The Dead, is a new six-part fantasy drama from the creators of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. It begins shooting next year and, according to Moore, is 'steeped in real history and mythology that will scare the audience and awaken the dead.' Set in Somerset in 1888, the hour-long episodes will follow the story of Nathan Appleby, a farmer who has made it his mission to prove the existence of an afterlife. Described by the creators as a 'complex and compelling man', Appleby will experience paranormal activity - encouraged by the Society for Psychical Research - until his obsession begins to threaten the safety of his family and his own sanity. A second drama which begins shooting in the New Year, From Darkness (written by the excellent Sugar Rush's Katie Baxendale) focuses on former Greater Manchester Policewoman Clare Church. Described by Moore as 'powerful and provocative', the series will see Church having to face returning to the force after twenty years when grim new evidence relating to a past case is unearthed. The last of the new drama commissions is a seventy five-minute exploration of a woman's response to her daughter's murder in the 7 July bombings. A Song For Jenny, written by Frank McGuiness and directed by Brian Percival, was adapted from Julie Nicholson's memoir and will star Emily Watson as the grieving mother. On the comedy front, Moore announced a new six-part studio sitcom series, Mountain Goats. Set in the Scottish Highlands, it will revolve around 'the antics of an energetic ragtag group of Mountain Rescue volunteers.' The final new offering Twenty Four Hours In The Past will see Ruth Goodman supervise six 'celebrities' as they relive a day in the life of some of the poorest people in Victorian Britain. Well, that should be funny. Oh, hang on, this isn't part of the comedy slate, is it? 'Authenticity runs through everything I'm trying to do on BBC1 and the new programme commissions underline this focus,' added Charlotte. '(By) inspiring talent and discovering new voices to tell universal stories in unexpected ways (I hope) to bring audiences the very best quality programming.'

Senior BBC executives including Director of Television Danny Cohen and drama chief Ben Stephenson were - according to a not in the slightest bit agenda-soaked trouble-making piece of shite in the Gruniad Morning Star - 'furious' with Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s rigorous questioning of Charlotte Moore at Edinburgh on Friday. The pair, the Gruniad allege, 'confronted' the Channel Four News presenter at the end of Moore's Meet The Controller session with Stephenson 'particularly animated.' Sadly, it would seem the pair didn't take the odious, full-of-his-own-importance Guru-Murthy out the back and give him a jolly good, hard, talking-to. Guru-Murthy was, the Gruniad sneer, 'having none of it', telling them they were being 'ridiculous.' The presenter, by all accounts no fan of BBC1's Sarah Lancashire drama Happy Valley, was also criticised by a BBC drama producer in the audience who took umbrage after he asked Moore about veteran BBC journalist John Simpson's recent not very warm comments about the 'tough women' who run the corporation. 'Do you think that in repeating that and asking that of a female controller, there is a danger you are legitimising it?' she asked, to loud cheers and applause from the audience who were, clearly - and much to the Gruniad's seeming distaste - 'on Moore's side.' Quite the opposite, weaselled Guru-Murthy (who, of course, the middle-class hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad just love the mostest, baby). 'When a leading BBC talent like John Simpson makes a public comment like that, one of the BBC's leading women needs to be invited to comment on it.' Which Moore was happy to do. 'He's entitled to his opinion,' she said, flatly. 'I don’t think he was talking about me.' That's the way to deal with uppity nonsense, Charl, slap it down. Hard.

The BBC will carry on producing its big hit shows such as EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who and Top Gear in-house, despite proposals to open up BBC schedules to independent producers. Director of Television Danny Cohen revealed at Edinburgh that those formats, at least, would not be up for grabs. If the proposal to shake up BBC productions outlined by Tony Hall in July goes ahead, Cohen said the BBC is 'not planning to put any of the current strands' out to tender. He said the new BBC production outfit 'will be part of the BBC family in the way BBC Worldwide is', indicating it would be a stand-alone subsidiary. Cohen said, candidly, that the plan has 'gone down differently in different areas, in some parts I'm not the most popular person', while some staff are 'excited by it.' He said the BBC is, 'doing very, very detailed business planning' but there is not a figure he could - or cared to - put on what the savings would be as yet. However, he thought that, 'there's millions to be saved.' Cohen said that areas such as natural history will win 'huge amounts of business' in an open market but that particular attention needed to be paid to genres such as children's programming and sport. When asked if restrictions or guarantees would be put in place to ensure the production subsidiary could not be sold off one day, Cohen said that discussions were still taking place: 'In terms of the potential to be sold off I don't think that's in our plans either,' he said. 'But, I think that we need to get through the next stage of our regulatory and financial planning to be able to come up with a conclusive plan on that one.' Speaking afterwards to the Gruniad Morning Star, he said: 'It's a fair question and we need to do more work on it. I just don't know about the regulatory detail, I need to get more advice on it. I think there needs to be [some kind of restriction] but it would also be the case that if they didn't make the business it's going to go, those bits wouldn't survive.' He added: 'If we can’t compete, those bits won't continue.' Cohen also said his job will change because there will be a conflict of interest: 'I won't be able to do the current job because my job in its current form won't exist. The question will be: do we need to do that before we make a move so that when we do the planning there's no thing? That's one of the things we're looking at.' Within the next few days the BBC will appoint a policy and strategy team which will lead the process. When asked if the new outfit becomes part of BBC Worldwide it could mean that some staff may move back to Television Centre where BBC Worldwide will move next year, Cohen said: 'As to property, we are going to need to make sure our productions are in places where they are efficiently run based on their budgets and that may mean that big factual production isn't in W1.' Cohen also asked the industry to get 'behind the BBC' in the run-up to charter renewal over the next eighteen months.

Channel Five has issued a statement following claims that the latest series of Big Brother was 'fixed.' Since the show concluded last Friday, some viewers have been complaining to the broadcaster that Helen Wood's victory could not possibly reflect the results of the public vote. 'Channel Five has received inquiries from viewers about the most recent series of Big Brother,' begins the response posted on the programme's official website. The statement goes on to highlight the multiple procedures put in place to independently verify phone and text votes on any given eviction night. It also highlights the individual housemate standings at various points on the day of the final. 'At 9.20am on 15 August, the morning of the final of Big Brother 2014 Ashleigh was eight thousand and eighteen votes ahead of Helen,' reveals the broadcaster. 'Helen was nine thousand seven hundred and eighty nine votes ahead of Christopher, Christopher was four thousand nine hundred and forty five votes ahead of Ash, Ash was eight thousand seven hundred and thirty votes ahead of Chris [and] Chris was eleven thousand two hundred and thirty seven votes ahead of Pav.' Poor Pav. The figures show that viewer votes put Ashleigh ahead of Helen right up until the start of the evening's live broadcast. By the time the voting lines closed at 10.03pm, Ashleigh's lead had been lost, with Helen managing a four thousand six hundred and thirty one vote victory. In response to allegations that Helen's pass to the final was 'orchestrated' by Channel Five to ensure that she won the show, the broadcaster adds: 'During the launch of Big Brother, the viewers voted for Pauline to be given 'the power' in the House. And, you mustn't mess with Pauline, dear blog reader. Or she will attack and you don't want that. 'Pauline knew nothing about what reward would be given when she selected Helen for a reward. The first either Helen or Pauline or any other housemate knew about there being a "pass to the final" was when Big Brother announced to the House exactly what the reward was that Pauline had chosen Helen to receive. Helen auditioned for Big Brother in the same way as all other applicants for a place in the Big Brother House,' Channel Five continues, in reference to rumours that the twenty seven-year-old from Bolton had been 'hand-picked' as the winner. 'When she entered the House, Helen did not have an agent, a manager or any connection with either Northern & Shell or [owner of Channel Five and soft-core pornographer] Richard Desmond.' The broadcaster also addresses claims that Helen received 'multiple warnings' from producers which did not air on the show and that these went on to skew the final result. 'There were a number of further informal interventions with Helen about her conduct,' it explains, 'although these informal interventions were not themselves included in any broadcast. Informal interventions with other housemates, similarly, were not included in the material broadcast.' The statement concludes: 'The Big Brother voting system remains independently verified and Big Brother is satisfied that the outcome of Big Brother 2014 was an accurate reflection of the public's decisions.' As if anybody actually gives a stuff about crap like this. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has yet to make a comment on the allegations, but notes on its website that as of Monday it had received over four hundred0 complaints about the reality show's result.

BBC4 is seeking as a priority to bring back the missing 'edge of satire' to refresh its schedule, in line with past hits, including The Thick Of It and Twenty Twelve. Cassian Harrison, the channel editor, said that 'bold, critical commentary on the world we live in now' was on his agenda, and was also being pursued with BBC comedy commissioner Shane Allen. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he also said he wants to refresh Friday nights, which have tended to draw on archives of popular rock and roll performers for concert, clip and list shows. 'We need to turn that chapter, open up the mix, more variety, more than one artist and explore collaborations with 6Music' he said, including live performances from music venues, such as London's Round House. Harrison also backed 'big bold ideas', like the recent hit, The History Of Toilets and added that a forthcoming programme, Spider House, followed the lives of twenty thousand spiders throughout the day; 'how they mate, what they eat, what they do.' Although BBC4's twenty six per cent budget cut has ruled out landmark biopic dramas such as Edith and Burton & Taylor, Harrison is able to buy a licence for some original drama and has agreed to contribute to a second series of the Anglo/Welsh S4C drama, Hinterland which ran successfully on BBC4 earlier this year. He is continuing the popular Saturday night screenings of European dramas like The Bridge and Spiral with Cordon, a Belgium production about a killer virus due to be shown this autumn. And although BBC4's audience is upmarket and over fifty five - except for yer actual Keith Telly Topping who is very downmarket and only fifty - Harrison said that once audiences grew to more than five hundred thousand the mix became much more diverse, and it needed its own Twitter account and Facebook page to interact with regular viewers.

So, as noted, an outbreak of a deadly virus in Antwerp will be the focus of the latest Saturday night foreign drama on BBC4, with the broadcaster also due to show the new series of The Bridge and the acclaimed French police drama Spiral. The Belgian city is sealed off from the outside world in the ten-part thriller, Cordon, following the discovery of a contagious and deadly virus which brings out the very best of the people trapped inside, but also the very worst. It is the second thriller from Belgium on BBC4 following the bank heist drama, Salamander, as the broadcaster looks to spread its net further beyond the traditional Scandinavian home of its biggest hits, The Bridge, The Killing and Borgen. The dramas have come to define the channel as it reshapes itself after savage budget cuts which have meant it has lost all of its home-grown drama output. The Bridge will return for a third series as part of BBC4's new season of programmes announced at Edinburgh on Thursday. Other new series include a season of programmes exploring the nation's fascination with all things Gothic across BBC3 and BBC4 and a series of Storyville films about love in the Twenty First Century. Elsewhere, Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman will join cult favourite Lucy Worsley to tell the story of British dance in a three-part series, Dancing Cheek To Cheek. The only one of the BBC's four channels to increase its audience in the current decade, albeit from the lowest base, Cassian Harrison said: 'BBC4 is in rude health: share and reach were both up on the previous year and audience appreciation continues to be the highest of all BBC channels. BBC4 has a unique place in the BBC portfolio offering intelligent, innovative and surprising content with a distinctive depth, wit and verve.' That BBC4 has a channel editor rather than controller is, of course, a reflection of its downgraded status as a result of recent cuts, although its future appears to be secure, unlike sister channel BBC3, due to get kicked online next year. Other new BBC4 shows already announced include metal detector sitcom The Detectorists, starring Mackenzie Crook and Puppy Love from Getting On co-creators Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine. The Gothic Season will include programmes about Frankenstein, Gothic architecture and a Goth music special featuring Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, The Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission. A new documentary, Spider House, will feature a Gothic family house taken over by spiders, showing 'in unprecedented detail' the secret world of the spider, while three-part Treasures Of The Indus will explore the treasures of the Indian Subcontinent. The three-part Love Season will include One Hundred Years Of Love And Courtship, featuring the 'very first kisses ever caught on film' with a soundtrack by Richard Hawley, a documentary about a Japanese love hotel and One Hundred And Twelve Weddings, about, well, one hundred and twelve weddings, basically.

Scowling Jezza Paxman his very self is said to be 'in discussions' with Channel Four over a possible move from the BBC. The former Newsnight host has been in talks with Channel Four's chief creative officer Jay Hunt about future projects on the channel, she revealed at Edinburgh. When asked if she had held talks with Paxman, she said: 'I have known Jeremy for years and worked with him on Newsnight. Jon Snow should not be worried in any way. But am I in talks? Yes, of course.' Hunt would not give any more information about what kinds of projects Paxman could be involved in. Paxman left Newsnight after Twenty five years as its lead presenter in June, but remains at the corporation as host of University Challenge. He recently received broadly positive reviews for his one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Channel Four will create a one-off drama focusing on Nick Clegg's rise in British politics. The project, which has the working title Coalition, will chart Clegg's journey in 2010 from 'rank outsider' to 'the man who would decide the fate of the country.' And, if they hang on for another year until the next election, they'll be able to chart his journey into the gutter with all the other shit when he and his party get abandoned by their long term supporters for forgetting all of their principles for a sniff of power.

The cast of a popular South African soap opera, Generations, have all been sacked after going on strike in a long-running dispute over pay and contracts. The show's sixteen actors, watched nightly on state broadcaster SABC, were fired after resisting calls to return to work at studios in Johannesburg. The programme will continue to be broadcast until October, while producers have indicated that new actors will be recruited. Generations follows a group of black middle-class characters working in advertising. It was first shown in 1993, a year before South African's first democratic multi-party elections brought Nelson Mandela to power. The programme is a popular draw with South Africans, providing a source of aspiration to many TV viewers. Executive producer Mfundi Vlunda told a South African radio station that new cast members would be sought. 'There were other actors before, there will be other actors in the future,' he told Talk Radio 702. 'Generations will go on, it doesn't mean the demise of the series. We've been engaging with them since October last year,' said Vlunda, who added that the cast had been asked to continue recording the show while negotiations continued but had not returned to work. 'That's it, it's finished, it's a termination,' he added. Vlunda branded the actors' pay and contractual demands 'unreasonable' and claimed that twelve of South Africa's highest paid actors were Generations cast members. The cast have contended they are underpaid and also receive no repeat fees for their work, which is screened in other African countries. Among the actors losing their jobs is Sophie Ndaba, who has played Queen Moroka since the show's inception. The cast's lawyer said that they would 'seek further advice' before deciding how to fight the programme makers' decision. South Africa's Arts and Culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, said that he was willing to help reach 'a speedy and amicable resolution to this matter' and added the drama had helped foster the development and growth of the country's creative industries.

Now, as some of you will already know, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith telly Topping has been suffering from a sodding annoying back injury over the last few months - essentially, it's sciatica (that's inflammation of the sciatic nerve for those without a medical degree, which is caused by a compressed disc in the lower vertebrae). Frankly, it hurts like jimbuggery. It's okay, I'm not fishing for sympathy here, I'm taking strong pain-killers for it which helps and the lack of mobility a lot of the time is liveable-with. But, as a consequence, much of the cycle-based fitness regime that yer actual Keith Telly Topping had been doing at the back end of last year - which seemed to be doing him a lot of good - has had to go into mothballs. Except from swimming. Now, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had been really enjoying going along to his local pool two or three times a week, doing a few lengths breaststroke and then spending half-an-hour in the steam room or the sauna (or, sometimes, both) before breakfast. Over the last couple of weeks, or so, I've started to up the amount of pool work that I'm doing. It's usually five days a week now - sometimes six - and whereas once upon a time, six or eight lengths might've been considered a good day, I've found myself able to get up to ten, twelve, thirteen and then, on Thursday of this week dear blog reader, this blogger set a new British, European and Commonwealth All Comers personal best of fourteen. Fourteen! No, that's not Paul Hadrcaste's second, rather forgotten, single but, rather, the number of lengths wot yer actual Keith Telly Topping only went and done (a figure which he matched on Capaldi Saturday, incidentally). It hurt. I mean, it really hurt, but still ... Little victories and all that. This was considerably aided, it must be said, by the pair of swimming goggles Keith Telly Topping bought at Argos in midweek for a tenner. This was the first time in ages that he had emerged from the waters without his eyes stinging like Sting (singing on the roof of the Barbican) from all the chlorine. Anyway, this was the middle part of an early morning triathlon which also involved yer actual Keith Telly Topping walking to the bus stop and then, later, limping back to the bus stop to come home. Admittedly, there was a break in the middle for a coffee at Morrison's. You know, this blooger reckons that international triathlons should all have a coffee break in the middle; it'd be more civilised and, imagine what the finishes would be like if the Brownlee brothers had tons of caffeine swilling around in their systems?!

2 comments:

Janet Ellicott said...

I've been a fan of Peter Capaldi's work for many years and he was even better than I thought he'd be. I'm looking forward to seeing how his Doctor differs from his predecessors.

chas_m said...

I'm not as familiar with Capaldi as the typical UK resident, but of course I've seen him in a few movies and TV shows so I knew him to be a skilled actor. I thought he was splendid in his debut and set up for plenty of interesting character development. I do worry that US ears will have to strain to catch some of the dialogue (not just from him -- this has been an ongoing problem with the rapid-fire Moffat style), but actor-cum-auctioneer is the way of the world these days, I reckon. I felt like all of the cast kind of upped their game a bit on this one, and in particular felt that they finally found the right mix for Strax. Looking forward to next week.