Thursday, April 30, 2009

'Flu? No, I Came On The Bus.

I hear news that there was an actually, proper, honest-to-God earthquake in Cumbria the other day. Quite a serious one, too as I understand. Damage to the value of two pounds and seventy five pee was done to Carlisle city centre. I wonder if the earth moved for them?

And I was pure dead pleased to hear that Durham's fast bowler Graham Onions had been called up to the England cricket squad for the first test against the West Indies at Lord's next week. This comes just a few months after his Durham team-mate Phil Mustard made his international debut. I wonder if there's any truth in the rumour that Durham are trying to sign the Australian off-spinner Craig Berger to complete the gastronomic set.
Nah, listen...

Let's have a little round-up of some hot Top Telly News.

In America the hugely dramatic seventh season of 24 - their best in at least three years (since the one in which William Devane played 'Secretary of Defence With A Machine Gun'!) - continues ever onwards with the show's unique, high-octane mixture of absolutely insane plots and tool-stiffening violence. The big bonus over the last couple of episodes has been a terrific performance by Amy Price-Francis - she's the girl who plays Tony's shadowy establishment conspirator. She is fabulous. If you think you might've seen her before, I can tell you that she was in a few episodes of Californication last year and was also a regular in a decently average - albeit short lived - US drama called Tracker from a few years ago.

House delivered one of its best episodes of the season this week (and, again, it hasn't exactly been short of other great episodes to compare with this year). Ah, that Anne Dudek - what an flaming icon that young lady is! Her bitchy double act with Hugh Laurie is absolutely inspired - one of genuine pith and wit and beautifully acted by the pair of them. And, the subplot about Chase's mad bachelor party being organised in Wilson's apartment, without Wilson's prior knowledge was just brilliant. 'Where's my furniture?' 'Oh ... probably out back, somewhere!' Genius. Meanwhile Lost's also doing very nicely after a week's break with an episode this time around that concentrated largely on Daniel's over-complicated back story and his curiously loveless relationship with his mother, the mysterious and sinister Eloise (there's a joke in there about 'sonovabitch', I'm sure). Which was very good (particularly the wholly unsurprising revelation concerning the idenity of his father) but ... NOT ENOUGH DESMOND, I'm afraid! Guys, will you just put it right, soon, please, I'm getting Dessie withdrawl over here. Two scenes and some gun shot wounds do not satisfy me.

There was an excellent bit on the - always impressive - Daily Show earlier in the week with Jon Stewart (at his wonderful stone-faced best) berating God for his dramatic irony in really having it in for humanity. 'Seriously, a pandemic?! You're adding that to the financial crisis? Is this your idea of a joke?' They followed that with a short sketch in which John Oliver - who now gets almost Beatlemania-style screams each time he appears on the show from the studio audience - standing outside the Centres for Disease Control and being very balanced and 'don't panic'-like about the swine 'flu outbreak. This scene then cut to another of the Daily Show's fine correspondants, Jason Jones, at somewhere called 'the Centres for Stuff I Heard From Some Guy.' Jason claimed that he had it on very good authority that the entire population of the state of Arizona was already dead and that John Oliver himself was infected and would be soon turning into a brain-eating zombie and should to be shot with a silver bullet! John had to make an 'official' statement, thereafter, that the 'flu could not be spread 'through dragons laying eggs in your heart!' Wild and crazy guys. Mind you, I'll bet Terry Nation's having a damned good laugh about this pandemic. Didn't he sort-of predict this?!

Lastly, it has been announced that a bunch of terrifyingly ugly men in their mid-forties with very bad hair and who like wearing spandex - Mötley Crüe (who, apparently, are 'a popular beat combo' of some description) - will be appearing in the Bones season finale in two weeks time. The horror. David, in your past life as a vampire, you used to ruthless kill people like that on a weekly basis ...

And, so to UK TV. And, something that been very eagerly awaited in the Telly Topping household. A teaser for Torchwood: Children of Earth was broadcast on Australia's UKTV this week, in conjunction with their broadcast of the final episode of Torchwood series two. UK blog readers can see the teaser on the BBC's Torchwood site. Torchwood: Children of Earth is, just in case you've been living on Mars recently, a five-part mini-series, which will air in Britain this summer on BBC1 and, in the US on BBC America. An official air date hasn't yet been announced, but the British Film Institute will host a preview showing of the first episode in London on Friday 12 June, at BFI Southbank (formerly the National Film Theatre) so it'll be sometime after that. This preview will be followed, apparently, by a question and answer session with various members of the cast and crew. Sounds rather good. I'll have to see if I can blag a press ticket for that.

The BBC, meanwhile, have ordered an adventure format from the executive producer of Last Man Standing that will 'abandon' losing contestants from the show in far-flung locations around the world. Can't they do that with people on Britain's Got Talent? I'd definitely watch that.

Each week, Drop Zone - a series of six one-hour episodes - will helicopter contestants into a different location, ranging from easily recognisable cities to deep jungles. Those who don't get out on their own, seemingly, get left there. Nice idea! It'll be Pro-Celebrity Dwarf Tossing next, mark my words.

It would appear that Jay Hunt wishes to move BBC1 away from voting-style talent shows (apart, obviously, from their one great success in the genre, Strictly) and into more general Saturday night entertainment shows such as John Barrowman's Tonight the Night and Graham Norton's forthcoming vehicle. And also, as this format suggests, gameshow-type adventure series following the unexpected success of Total Wipeout and the 'far less successful, in fact, a sodding disaster, but they've still - somehow - milked a second series out of it' Hole in the Wall.

ITV seems to be moving away from Friday night comedies as it's reported to be looking for another shiny-floor show for Friday nights at 9pm. The new ITV director of comedy and entertainment, Elaine Bedell, is said by Broadcast to be searching for a sixty-minute entertainment show to air at 9pm on Fridays on ITV1. The move would push the broadcaster away from thirty-minute comedies such as Moving Wallpaper or light-hearted hour-long dramas like the upcoming Boy Meets Girl. The change will, they hope, help to distinguish ITV1 from BBC1, which regularly runs thirty-minute comedies between 9pm and 10pm. Yeah ... I think it not outrageous to suggest that most people can already distinguish between the two. BBC1 is Channel One and ITV1 is Channel Three. If you've reached adulthood and haven't managed to work that out yet then, frankly, there's probably not much hope for you beyond flipping burgers and asking 'do you want fries with that?' as a supplementary question.

The following is from the BBC's in-house magainze Ariel: "Horne and Corden, the sketch show written by Mat Horne and James Corden, has broken all previous records amongst the channel's target audience of 16-34s. The series averaged 0.9 million viewers per episode and a six percent share overall. BBC Three's controller, Danny Cohen, said: 'I'm delighted their first series has performed so well. It's a wonderful indication of their popularity with young people in particular, and it goes right to the heart of BBC Three's mission to work with the best of young British talent.' According to figures released by the BBC, the series opened with 1.4m viewers (an 8.7 per cent share). The final episode of the series drew seven hundred thousand. Discussions for a second series are well underway between production company Tiger Aspect and BBC Three." So, what they're basically saying here is that 'this show is very popular with students.' Aye. That's hard to argue with. And, given the current appalling state of the education system in this country, that says SO much on so many levels.

Satellite TV broadcaster BSkyB has said its profits rose in the last quarter as more customers signed up for its high-definition digital services, appearing to buck purchasing trends in the luxury goods market. Pre-tax profits at BSkyB climbed thirteen percent to sixty three million between January and March.

Although it added 243,000 customers for its Sky+HD service, many existing customers left, bringing the net gain down to 80,000 new customers. Revenue gained to £1.4bn, from £1.25bn in the same period last year. Sky has a total of 9.3 million customers, with five million of those subscribing to Sky+, which lets users record programmes. More than one million subscribers now watch regularly Sky's high-definition service. Customers who have TV, broadband and a telephone service with Sky make up about fifteen percent of the broadcaster's total users, up from nine percent a year ago.

'Looking ahead to the rest of 2009, we expect conditions to remain challenging,' a spokesthing for BSkyB said. 'In difficult times, customers are making careful choices.' In February, BSkyB won the rights to show more than eighty percent of live televised Premier League games in the UK from 2010, beating rival Setanta. As a fully-paid up Sky man myself, I'm saying nothing at this juncture except wondering, idly, who's got the rights to coverage of the Championship next year? Since that's, almost certainly, where my lot are headed.

The BBC have released a press pack up today for the forthcoming Alex Kingston drama vehicle Hope Springs - presumably it will be taking over from All The Small Things on a Tuesday when the latter, which has been critically mauled but, actually, got moderately decent ratings and, more importantly, kept the majority of its audience though most of the series, ends next week. Hope Springs, meanwhile, is said to be about a group of female crooks who hide from the law in a sleepy village and has been described, wonderfully, as 'like Widows crossed with Heartbeat.' I'll tell you what, I'm gonna watch it now and if it isn't, exactly, like that then I personally am going to be very disappointed!

The BBC have also announced today that the Sports Personality Of The Year event will be held in Yorkshire for the first time, at The Sheffield Arena, and will be covered live on BBC1 on Sunday 13 December. Last year, you may remember, was an hilarious romp in which some big bloke on a bike beat a little chap bloke in a car (who said entertainment was dead?) and everybody said 'Cor!' just like Sid James in Carry On Abroad when they saw the dress that Rebecca Adlington was almost wearing. Tickets for last year's show, presented by Sue Barker, Gary Lineker and Jake Humphrey, sold out within an hour of going on sale, so the increase in the size of the venue this year will also allow an increase in the total size of the audience.

Meanwhile, a particular favourite drama of all of us on the Top Telly Tips slot [Spooks] is now back in production for its eighth series which will be shown later in the year. The critically-acclaimed last series saw the appointment of ice cold Ros Myers (the great Hermione Norris) to Head of Section D and the release of Lucas North (hunky, dangerous Richard Armitage) after eight years in a Russian prison. Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) and his elite team of spies were forced to quickly adapt to their new dynamic following the dramatic death of Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones), but there was no time to mourn their colleague as the Russians descended on London and a mole within Section D was discovered. It was Connie. We were all very shocked. Sorry if you haven't seen that particular episode but, if not, where've you been?

Rolf Harris, artist to royalty, musician, singer of hit singles, TV presenter, all-round entertainer, swimming teacher, wobble-board maestro, insurance salesperson, asthmatic and cult heroes to at least two generations of Britons (possibly more) is to guest host Have I Got News For You, the BBC's top-rating topical comedy quiz show, for the first time. Born in Bassendean, Western Australia, but resident in the UK for more than half a century, Rolf will join the regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton on 15 May 2009 for the fourth programme in the current series.

And, finally, the following is, quite simply, the greatest newspaper headline in the history of the world. It hasn't, actually, got anything particularly to do with TV per se. But, who cares? From the Daily Mirror: Leona Lewis bloodied and knocked to the floor after being headbutted by her horse. You know ... They should film that and show it on TV every Christmas.