Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Days Off Watching The Telly For You Lot, Even If You Have Got Swine 'Flu!

Just a mad-quick reminder from keith Telly Topping to you, dear blog reader.

Tonight's episode of Mock the Week features the very excellent Aussie comedian Adam Hills - a particular favourite of this blogger - and the pride of Hudderfield Alun Cochrane. Not to mention Dara, Russell, Hugh and Mad Frankie. Don't miss it. Or, if you do, watch it on iPlayer.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central UK's first original commission is to be a hidden camera series fronted by Balls of Steel star Olivia Lee. Olivia Lee: Dirty, Sexy, Funny is an eight part series made by Tiger Aspect inspired by the glamorous and shallow lives of the characters found in shows such as Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty. It is narrated by Lee as the voice of 'anonymous' blogger City Girl, who writes a Belle de Jour-style web diary about London and also features her playing larger-than life pranks on unsuspecting members of the public, who become part of the action. As well as the stunts, the series will feature a number of scripted sketches and various characters from Lee and her crew. Lee's characters will include Miss Single, Ms Technophobe, the Door Bitch and Lady Gatecrasher, who goes around invading a variety of major public events causing maximum embarrassment to both herself and others. Sounds positively hilarious. The series was ordered by Comedy Central director of content Sarah Farrell and the series producer and director is Chris Faith. Piers Torday is the producer, and Tiger Aspect head of entertainment Clive Tulloh will executive produce. Tulloh was also executive produced Olivia Lee's Naughty Bits, a Tiger Aspect Comedy Lab pilot that aired on Channel 4 last summer and promptly sank without trace.

Torchwood and Life on Mars writer Chris Chibnall will not return as showrunner on the second series of ITV's Law & Order: UK and plans to concentrate on other projects. Showrunning is, of course, a common feature in most US drama and comedy but is quite rare in the UK. A Kudos spokeswoman said Chibnall would not be replaced. Three writers from the previous series are already penning three episodes each and Andrew Woodhead, Jane Featherstone and Stephen Garrett will executive produce the second series. Woodhead added that the 'incredible job' Chibnall had done on the first series meant the show's processes and practices were well established, negating the need for a new showrunner. The initial seven episodes, which starred Bradley Walsh, Martha out of Doctor Who and Apollo out of Battlestar Galactica amongst others, were a huge (and deserved) success for ITV, drawing audiences of more than six million. The final six episodes from the first recording block have yet to air. A second thirteen episode series was ordered last month and production will start in seven weeks time.

Sky1's schedule under Stuart Murphy is starting to shape up, with an X Factor-style dancing competition lined-up to replace Don't Forget the Lyrics! which has been cancelled. Just Dance is an eight episode co-production by Shine TV and Princess Productions and is Duncan Gray's first order as Sky1 entertainment editor. Executive producers are Karen Smith and Henrietta Conrad. The series will kick off with nationwide auditions for dancers of all styles, shapes and sizes and a panel of famous names will select performers to take part in 'studio dance extravaganzas' for a place in one of three semi-finals. In the live final, the winner will be selected by the public. So, exactly like X-Factor but for dancers, in other words. How stunningly, jaw-droppingly, mind-numbingly original. The auditions also feature a section called Dancing in the Street, in which the live audience will join the contestants for a professionally choreographed mass-participation routine. The show will go out in January 2010 and will replace RDF Media's karaoke series Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, which comes to an end next month. Just Dance is scheduled to go out in the same month as Outline Productions' Fat Families (working title), a six-part series that will see presenter Steve Miller visiting homes and using shock tactics to encourage families to 'lose the weight, before it's too late.' If he comes round here, keith Telly Topping will show him just how late it is. The show is scheduled to air at 8pm, which Sky1 is keen to establish as a 'factual' slot. It was ordered by Sky1 commissioning editor, factual and features Emma Read and Outline's Laura Mansfield is executive producer. Sky 1's Celia Taylor has also ordered Uppercut Films to produce ninty-minute documentary War Torn (working title), which will chronicle the experiences of injured British service personnel as they embark on an epic journey to the Everest region. Finally, Gray has ordered twenty five episodes of Silver River's camera clip series Oops TV, featuring Justin Lee Collins.

Taggart's executive producer of seven years has been made redundant as speculation about the future of the long-running drama grows within the industry. STV Productions head of drama Eric Coulter has left the broadcaster, as has Taggart series producer Graeme Gordon. Coulter oversaw thirty eight episodes of the popular crime show. His role as STV Productions head of drama will effectively be taken by drama executive Margaret Enefer and director of content Alan Clements. Gordon, who produced more than forty episodes of Taggart, will not be replaced. The departures come as Taggart's future appears to hang in the balance.

Kim Cattrall has revealed that her maternal grandfather was a bigamist. The Sex And The City star, who was born in Liverpool, discovered details about her background during her appearance on a forthcoming Who Do You Think You Are? The fifty two-year-old learned that George Baugh left his family when her mum was eight-years-old and that he was still married to her grandmother when he wed another woman, E! reports. She said: 'The most difficult thing was telling my mother and her sisters the truth of what became of their father. I felt I was ruining their last fantastic hope of what became of him. He was unremarkable except in his selfishness.' She added: 'Ultimately, who am I to judge my grandfather? His story will eventually integrate into our lives and we'll carry on just like we've always done. We are British, after all. In the end, this became a story not about my grandfather's desertion, but about my mother and her two sisters surviving it. For that, I am profoundly proud and grateful.'

An upcoming abortion-themed episode of Family Guy will not air on the FOX network, it has been reported. The broadcaster has refused to screen the 'controversial' instalment but will not halt its distribution onto other platforms such as a DVD release, says The Hollywood Reporter. 'Fox will not air the 'Partial Terms Of Endearment' episode of Family Guy, but we fully support the producers' right to make the episode and distribute it in whatever way they want,' the channel's executives said in a statement. Show creator Seth MacFarlane spoke out about the subject at Comic-Con, saying: '20th Century Fox, as always, allowed us to produce the episode and then said, "You know what? We're scared to f**king death of this."' He later clarified his comments in an e-mail to the publication, adding: 'We were allowed to take a crack at this controversial story and that's enough for me.'

Anna Paquin has revealed that the one thing she doesn't like about her True Blood character is her hair colour. The actress, who plays Sookie Stackhouse on the HBO vampire series, told a Comic-Con audience that she would spend less time in a hair salon having her 'roots retouched' if her role on the series wasn't blonde. She said: 'What do I not like about her? Well if Charlaine [Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels] and the creators had written her as a non-natural blonde, I would be spending a lot less time in the hair salon getting my roots retouched, and my hair would probably be a little bit longer because it's gradually getting shorter as the ends break off because I'm a fake, fake, fake blonde.'

Suranne Jones (Unforgiven, Coronation Street) leads an impressive ensemble cast in Gwyneth Hughes' (Miss Austen Regrets, Cherished) gripping new drama serial Five Days, which will returns to BBC1 in 2010, it was announced today. Kate Harwood, BBC Controller Drama Series & Serials, says: 'Once again Gwyneth has delivered a tense emotional drama about a rich range of characters which will leave viewers desperate to find out what happens next in a complex story of mystery and moment.' A tiny newborn baby is abandoned in the toilets of a Yorkshire hospital. At the same time, the Trans-Pennine commuter train is halted by a suicidal jumper. Are the two events connected? From this moment on, the lives of those onboard the train and in the hospital will be changed irrevocably, not least for DC Laurie Franklin (Suranne Jones), off-duty that day but travelling on the train with her mum (Anne Reid), who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Laurie likes tying up loose ends. And if she can prove a connection between the body and the baby she will be happy. But things never turn out quite the way we expect. Five Days is an atmospheric ensemble drama; a mystery which unfolds over the five most significant days of the police investigation into these two mysteries. It is set in the heart of urban Yorkshire – a melting pot of tensions and relationships within a multicultural landscape. The serial will also star David Morrissey, Bernard Hill and Hugh Speer.

The government has made it clear that it would not expect the BBC to clear its schedules to broadcast educational programming if swine flu closes schools after the summer break. Press reports had suggested that the department for children, schools and families was considering invoking an emergency clause in the BBC's operating agreement, to enable it to broadcast lessons directly into pupils' homes. But the DCSF has now said that although ministers are looking at contingency plans to deliver the national curriculum if pupils are unable to attend school, there's no suggestion of using BBC networks to do so. 'We would never force an organisation to assist in delivering education,' a spokesman confirmed. He added: 'Given the current information that we have on the virus, which for most people results in a mild illness, we do not consider that there is a case for - and experts have advised against - mass school closures. We will be monitoring the situation closely over the school holidays.' The BBC says it has a strong role to play in supporting the public through any emergency, including a serious 'flu epidemic, local radio would be well placed to provide health advice and local information. But in the event of a total schools closure, the BBC website – familiar to millions of school pupils through services like BBC Bitesize – would have the most important role with school-age children.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Suit Hits The Fans!

Doctor Who - as you may be aware dear blog reader - has one of the oldest and most loyal fandoms in television. I'm a fully paid up member of The Special People myself. You might've noticed. And Russell Davies is, of course, undoubtedly the most influential of our number. From being transfixed by the show as a starry-eyed, snot-nosed brat in the 1960s to masterminding its staggeringly popular regeneration in 2005, the executive producer and scriptwriter has also found time to create the spin-off series Torchwood, which transferred with such success to BBC1 earlier this month. In an interview with Broadcast this week Russell reflected on the role of the fan in modern television with some perception. 'I'm a fan myself and shaped the [current] show, so in that respect a fan has had a big effect. It felt like I had forty years of focus groups in my head.' But despite this, Davies staunchly refuses to let his fellow Who obsessives have any creative input. 'When it comes to fans affecting the creative direction of Doctor Who, we have a simple policy: Not at all, ever.' He, rightly, points to previous eras of the series (particularly during the 1980s) when writers and producers bowed to fan orchestrated demands for returns of popular characters and alien races only to find they were unsuccessful with a general viewing public. 'I have been in the job five years and have never opened my mail. Every letter is asking to bring back monsters from 1965 and then we'd get complaints from the same kind of people when you do bring them back.' Well, if you've never opened your mail, Rusty, how do you know that? Small flaw in an otherwise flawlessly logical point there. Davies also points to potential legal problems over fan contact. 'It's my job to encourage new writers, as I always have done, but it's impossible on Doctor Who because of its volatile fandom. I have had to find writers myself because, legally, I cannot read [fans'] scripts as they will come back with their lawyers. It's the fans' own fault for being so litigious.' Russell also claimed to avoid the legions of fan forums and message boards on the Internet, revealing: 'If a writer pipes up in a meeting about a fan suggestion from a forum, they are immediately chucked out. It is not a democracy.' While he highlighted the importance of fans and acknowledged that Doctor Who is the 'ultimate merchandise show,' he quickly reiterated that followers are 'important to the heart of the programme but not to the fiction of the programme.' Quite right too. Doctor Who has eight to ten million viewers in the UK alone, why does it need the thoughts of maybe twenty thousand guys (and a few ladies) on the Internet as anything more than a slightly interesting footnote? And, again I fully include myself, this blog, the Fortress of Solitude and all of Gally Base in that equation. When asked about writers on other shows who do read the forums and invite ideas from fans, Davies notes: 'Haven't they got any ideas of their own? Creative people sometimes feel embarrassed about their own ideas but they need to grow a backbone.' Meanwhile, at last week's Comic-Con in San Diego when Davies attended a panel one girl in the audience was reported to have claimed that Russell had 'hurt' a lot of Internet fans both when he took the decision to kill Ianto in the recent Torchwood mini-series and with his subsequent comments. She also accused him of being 'out of line.' Out of line with whom other that a few hundred online stroppy drama queens, she didn't actually say. 'I'm immensely sorry if people are sad, but I'm not changing my mind,' Russell replied to what was reported to be a thunderous round of applause from most of those in attendance. 'I've got to be blunt about this, there have been campaigns to send packets of coffee to BBC Wales in protest. There have been nine packets sent. I'm not taking the mickey, but that's a very small number.'

Also at Comic-Con, David Tennant fondly recalled Tom Baker's regeneration in 1981: 'I never forgot him and I never loved him any the less, but then Peter Davison came along within three weeks, I thought he was the best. Hopefully you'll watch the final episodes and cry along with us, but then three weeks later you'll think Matt Smith is the best thing there's ever been. Change is part of the show and I'm very pleased to be part of that history. But I'm also pleased that we're handing it over in rude health!' Would he consider coming back for charity specials or similar? 'Who knows? The dust has to settle. But it's the fiftieth anniversary in 2013, isn't it?' David, however, is still bitter and twisted about ending up behind Billie Piper on the Top Gear leader board. He believes - strongly - that the only reason for this was due to Billie's see-through top which earned her a cheat-bonus from Jeremy Clarkson. 'If Billie didn't have such good breasts I would be higher up,' said David. And, had he given any advice to Matt Smith? 'I've chatted to Matt a couple times and he's very enthused and quite clearly going to be brilliant. Which is annoying. He's such a talent, there is nobody in Britain who has worked with Matt who doesn't rave about him. They have nothing but praise to lavish on him, so I don't think he needs any advice from me really.' When asked if, like John Barrowman, she had stolen anything from the set before she left, Julie Gardner commented 'I think the only reason John Barrowman stole things is so he could be strip-searched on the way out!' And, finally, Russell was asked if he would continue with Torchwood. 'I hope so,' he replied. 'We were astonished by the success of that last series. I can't give you a promise because I haven't had the meetings with the right people yet. Also there's a recession going on. It will be back ... in some shape or form.'

And still with the Doctor Who news: The BBC has confirmed that John Simm will reprise his role as the Master in David Tennant's final episodes to be broadcast this Christmas. Which, to be fair, most of fandom knew months ago! It doesn't make us better than anyone else, of course. Just, more nosy. Simm had been spotted on the set during the recording of Tennant's finale and his return was announced at Comic-Con before being confirmed by the broadcaster in a press release. The BBC said: 'At the close of series three we saw the Master gunned down by his wife and whilst lying in his enemy's arms, he refused to regenerate. The world believed he had died and The Doctor accepted that he was the last of the Time Lords. But this is Doctor Who and you can't keep a good bad guy down.' Simm previously appeared as the character in three Russell Davies-penned episodes; 'Utopia', 'The Sound Of Drums' and 'The Last Of The Time Lords'. Tennant's previous co-stars Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate have all been rumoured to return for the actor's final episodes and John Barrowman was spotted during location filming, whilst Alex Kingston will - as announced last week - appear during Matt Smith's first recording block as the eleventh Doctor.

The Blue Peter Garden will be moved to the BBC's new base in Salford, the BBC has confirmed. Feverish speculation in the weekend's papers that the garden would be abolished in favour of a 'virtual' alternative online were scotched by the BBC, who said 'Our plan is to move the real Blue Peter garden to Mediacity UK.' The garden, originally designed by Percy Thrower and unveiled on the show in March 1974, has been a mainstay of the children's programme to educate viewers on aspects of wildlife, water features and outdoor games for the last three decades. It has also hit the headlines after being twice vandalised - once in 1979 and again in 1983. Situated behind the BBC's TV Centre, the garden also contains a time capsule, buried in 2000, to be opened in 2029. It is not yet clear whether this will be dug up and transported to the new location for reburial.

The most terminally boring pop group in the world, Coldplay, will become the latest musicians to make a guest appearance in the award-winning animated comedy The Simpsons, their spokesman has confirmed. Bet that'll be an episode worth watching. Sorry, worth avoiding was the word I was actually looking for. The band will reportedly be hired by Homer to play a private concert for him and Bart after he wins the lottery. 'When Bart goes to the bathroom, Coldplay has to stop,' executive producer Al Jean told US website Entertainment Weekly. Fantastic. Can we get Bart to stay in there permanently? Coldplay will follow in the footsteps of artists including U2 and The Rolling Stones. Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Johnny Cash, Elton John and The Who have also made guest appearances. The difference between all of those and Coldplay, of course, being that none of the others can send you to sleep before their first song is finished. Except, maybe Ringo ... on a bad night. The voices of celebrities including comedy actor Seth Rogen and actress Neve Campbell will reportedly also feature in the forthcoming twenty first season of The Simpsons, which will begin in the US on 27 September. Entertainment Weekly said the late singer and actress Eartha Kitt had also recorded audio for an episode for the new season before her death on Christmas Day last year.

Zoë Wanamaker has called for an end to sexism within the TV industry, insisting that actors and actresses should receive equal pay. In an interview with The Stage, Wanamaker claimed that she had been forced to 'fight' to secure the same salary as Robert Lindsay when negotiating her contract for their BBC1 sitcom My Family. She continued: 'Women are always at the bottom as far as pay is concerned - the equal pay business is a big struggle.' Wanamaker also said that agents and bookers should be 'more careful' when negotiating deals for female performers in the future. 'Why should women get less? They have the same responsibilities, if not more, especially if they are married and have kids." Responding to Wanamaker's remarks, a BBC spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: 'We will not go into specifics on talent pay but we are absolutely committed to equality for men and women. There are many factors which determine artists' salaries and which results in them being paid at varying levels. The BBC hugely values Zoë Wanamaker as an artist.' Anyone else wondering if there was a muttered '... but not for much longer,' there that got lost in translation?

The Wire star Dominic West has admitted that he regrets his bone-ignorant criticism of UK television. The Sheffield-born actor, who played Detective Jimmy McNulty in the HBO show, made headlines in March after claiming that the BBC struggles to produce high quality contemporary drama. Speaking at the time, he commented: 'They're dying to do The Wire and hate doing Cranford.' However, West has now attempted to distance himself from the remarks, which he made during an appearance on Radio4's Today programme. He told The Sunday Telegraph: 'I was rather overawed by being on Today because I listen to it every day and I love it. And I was so excited about being in that studio and being taken vaguely seriously that I started pontificating on something about which I know nothing. So, no, I don't stand by anything I said.'

David Walliams has vowed to put Little Britain on the backburner once he completes work on the forthcoming movie version. The comedian, who created the BBC comedy show with Matt Lucas, confirmed that fans should expect only one-off specials rather than full series in the future. Little Britain launched on BBC radio before making the transition to television in 2003, running for three seasons. A US spin-off was later created. 'The BBC and HBO both asked us to do more shows but we feel it's time to do something else before people get sick of you,' Walliams is quoted by The Mail On Sunday as saying. Have to admit, I reached that stage a couple of years ago with you guys to be honest, Dave. Sorry, but I'm sure you'd want honesty. No, you work in television, of course. Ridiculous of me to even suggest such a thing. Don't know what came over me.

Anth McPartlin and Declan Donnelly's production company, Gallowgate, is developing a new Saturday night variety show aimed at ITV. The primetime show, which has yet to be named, is being pitched as a family-quiz-meets-talent-show. What, another one? In it, families of five – including two children - work as a team to win a prize by performing their hidden talents, completing physical and mental challenges. So, that's Family Fortunes with a few bits of The Kryton Factor mixed in. Or, alternatively, The Generation Game meets Ask the Family. Only, without Robert Robinson's patronising 'ah's between every question. Hey, lads, come up with a new idea, eh? This sort of old-hat, derivative nonsense won't get you much respect from aal the hard lads doon The Bigg Market. If commissioned as a series, the show would bolster Gallowgate's production slate. Reports claim that the company is working on a pilot entitled The Show Wot We Wrote – based on a catchphrase from their heroes Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise - and were championing the return of Saturday Night Takeaway. The latter has no yet been formally recomissioned and a spokesman for Gallowgate said any other comments were 'purely speculative at this time.' He added that The Show Wot We Wrote was an 'old' idea that is not in production or being pitched. McPartlin and Donnelly have several projects lined up for the rest of the year, including hosting I'm A Former Z-List Non-Entity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race On TV, Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible on ITV and launching their biography Ooh! What a Lovely Pair in September. They are currently in negotiations with ITV, as their three year, twenty million pounds 'golden handcuffs' deal will expire this December.

Living TV has secured the exclusive broadcast rights to new episodes of Medium, the US paranormal drama starring Patricia Arquette which is currently shown on the BBC. The Virgin Media TV-owned channel will begin airing seasons five and six -a package of forty one episodes - from September. The deal, with CBS Studios International, will also see the drama repeated on Virgin1. Viewers will be given chance to catch-up with the story as the agreement also includes the first four seasons. Living will begin airing these earlier instalments from 8 August, showing four episodes from the first season each Saturday. It completes a hat-trick of current paranormal drama acquisitions by Living, which recently picked up Supernatural and also airs Ghost Whisperer.

Broadcaster Miranda Sawyer has complained about the number of 'clever-clever' comedians working at the BBC. The journalist and TV host claimed that the corporation prefers to hire presenters with similar styles rather than providing a wide variety of approaches on its programmes. Speaking to the Radio Times, she commented: 'Paul Merton, Billy Connolly, Michael Palin, it's always the same people. Waltzing around exotic places to give you their witty take on funny foreigners, or uniting the nation behind a great cause. And when they're replaced, it's by the same kind of celeb - clever-clever male comedians who do well on panel shows.' As opposed to mouthy, pushy Northern birds who've never said or written anything even remotely funny in their entire lives, perhaps? She didn't say.

Cheeky Brommie japester Frank Skinner (so good in Mock the Week a fortnight ago - especially after Keith Telly Topping had cast significant aspertions on his ability to still make people laugh in his preview) has revealed he may pitch a Fantasy Cricket TV show. The comedian, reportedly met up with his former Fantasy Football League co-star Angus Statto Loughran and the pair are considering working together again. 'I could be back with a cricket version of Fantasy Football. I think [it] would work,' Frankie is quoted as saying. Skinner, of course, co-presented the cult hit Fantasy Football League with David Baddiel between 1994 and 1996 on BBC2. A cunning mixture of good natured laddish flat-share sitcom, in-jokey sports critique and irreverent chat show, the format was successfully revived for World Cup and European Championship specials on ITV in 1998 and 2004. According to the Sun, ITV is also planning to revive Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned, but with different hosts. 'They approached me and said, "What two comedians would you recommend?"' noted Skinner. 'I said, "What do you mean, we're not dead?" But I don't mind them bringing it back with younger comedians - because I own the format.'

Battlestar Galactica's Jamie Bamber has signed on to guest star in the season two premiere of Dollhouse, according to E! Online. The actor, who played Apollo in the Sci-Fi series, will reportedly take on the role of a character who is 'heavily involved in an engagement' between Echo (Eliza Dusku) and her new handler Paul (Bamber's former Battlestar co-star Tahmoh Penikett). Bamber recently wrapped production on the final series of Battlestar Galactica and is expected to begin production on a second season of Law & Order: UK later this year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Week Thirty One: Why Do TV Weddings Never Go Smoothly?

It is time, Keith Telly Topping believes dear blog reader, for yet another round of Top Telly Tips in the area. One time. Word.

Friday 31 July
Doc Martin - 9:00 ITV - the popular, mid-paced drama starring Martin Clunes as a doctor who moves from the big city to a small Cornish town reaches the end of its current seven episode run tonight. Martin and Louisa's wedding day arrives (and Caroline Catz does, undeniably, look quite stunning in white), but the day is plagued by unexpected disasters, as most TV weddings tend to be, you may have noticed. Can the couple make it through the chaos and finally become husband and wife? Go on, have a guess. I do rather like Doc Martin, it's a gentle and unassuming little thing and fits in that particular slot extremely well - let's be honest about this it's just about the only returning drama series that ITV produce that has much of an audience. Given its popularity I would expect news on a recommission to be forthcoming very soon.

Saturday 1 August
Speaking of long-running medical dramas, Saturday's Casualty - 8:55 BBC1 - is the second of a two-part story in which carnage strikes the emergency department following a devastating coach crash. The team are brought together to deal with the influx of casualties, with even Jordan putting aside his own troubles to help treat the victims. Meanwhile, Alice and Curtis are faced with a terrible choice and Cathy's loyalty is pushed to the limit when her son brings his crew into the ED, resulting in a life-or-death situation for one member of staff.

Sunday 2 August
Single-Handed - 9:00 ITV - is a new police drama set and filmed on the west coast of Ireland and starring Owen McDonnell and Ian McElhinney. Sergeant Jack Driscoll arrives to take up his post in the area where he was born and raised. But being familiar with the place does not mean that his job will be any easier - he is taking over from his father Gerry, whose reputation still casts a long shadow. And Jack and Gerry's relationship gets more complicated when Jack's investigation of the death of a young immigrant raises long-buried secrets and puts some of his father's influential friends under the microscope. This sounds rather like a kind of Irish version of Hamish MacBeth and it's from the same production team that made The Vice a couple of years back which I thought was a very solid bit of work. So, some decent expectations for this one.

In Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - Jeremy and James are set the task of creating a memorable TV advert for Volkswagen. Despite vowing to work together to deliver a classic piece of advertising, they quickly fall out on-set. Meanwhile, Richard looks for an alternative to boring Germanic sports saloons and ends up going mostly sideways in the new Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst. Plus, the Cool Wall returns and American chat-show legend Jay Leno is the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Last in the current series - expect the next one to start around November(ish) running up to Christmas.

Man on Wire - 9:00 BBC2 - is a fascinating-looking documentary about one man's determination to walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Obviously, before they collapsed. Bit pointless doing it afterwards, really. This jaw-dropping blend of traditional talking-head interviews, archive footage and meticulous period re-creation has, as its subject, a charismatic French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, an ebullient mixture of Jean Blondin-style athletic and elegant showmanship, mime artist Marcel Marceau and the cartoon Road Runner. The film offers a deceptively sturdy sounding board for his often insane ideas. This is not so much a documentary as a true-life heist movie in which the 'crime' was a death-defying conceptual art event: Petit and his accomplices spent months planning their coup and his boyhood dream finally came true over thirteen hundred feet above the streets of Manhattan in 1974. Sadly, no video footage exists of Petit's staggering forty five-minute walk between the towers, but director James Marsh expertly manages to captures the vertiginous thrills of the day, leaving one not just with a sense of wonder but a profound feeling of admiration for the rigorous preparation and heady commitment that made it all possible.

Monday 3 August
The Trouble With Girls - 9:00 BBC2 - is an observational documentary looking at twenty-year-old Shona and seventeen-year-old Abbie, two young women stuck in the criminal justice system. Both want to go straight and sort their lives out, but over the that the film follows them months it becomes clear that binge-drinking and drug-taking, trips to court and packing for prison have become a normal way of life for both the girls. Will they take a second chance to turn things around, or is life in prison preferable to the difficulties they face on the outside?

There's a new series of The Gadget Show - 8:00 Five - the consumer technology series presented by Jason Bradbury, the Goddess that is Suzi Perry, Jon Bentley and Ortis Deley. In tonight's episode Jason and Suzi build a remote-controlled car, Jon takes a trip to New York to test out the brand new iPhone and Ortis travels to Germany to swim with a colony of robotic penguins. What I really like about The Gadget Show, and I think I might've said this before during one of its previous series, is that the presenters don't take either themselves or the products they're pushing particularly seriously which, combined with a cheeky sense of fun helps to turn a potentially dryly dull show about geeky boys-toys into, in effect, the Top Gear of consumer affairs. Plus, as mentioned, there's Suzi Perry. Nice.

It's all malarkey, shenanigans and discombobulation going down on Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - as Fiz's engagement ring somehow ends up on Sally's finger, Joe causes a scene in the medical centre and Becky and Hayley encounter problems on a shopping expedition. With hilarious consequences, no doubt. What a right how do you do. How will they resolve all that? Perhaps we'll never care.

Tuesday 4 August
The Coast team follow the southern shoreline of Ireland, from Cork Harbour round to Dublin Bay tonight at 8:00 on BBC2. In Cork, lovely Scottish Neil (and his lovely hair) explores the Titanic's last port of call and tells the tale of the Irish priest who disembarked the doomed vessel at the very last minute. The divine messiah of punk archaeology Alice Roberts tries to decipher some of the earliest writing in the British Isles as she encounters the curious carvings on one of the mysterious Ogham Stones. Miranda Krestovnikoff goes in search of the rare white-fronted geese, which every year make an epic migration from Greenland to Ireland. Dick Strawbridge takes a ride on 'Brunel's Folly', the dramatic coastal railway that the great engineer constructed to cling to the cliff face at Bray Head and Hermione Cockburn creates an earthquake on Killiney beach to discover how one hundred and sixty years ago a local man, Robert Mallet, invented seismology. Never less than fascinating, always beautiful to look at and you might just learn something. What television was invented for, basically.

You Have Been Watching - 10:00 Channel 4 - is, as mentioned a few weeks ago, a comedy panel show looking at the week's television and hosted by the fearsome Charles Charlie Charles Brooker. And, it's been rather good in small doses so far although, to be honest, mostly you wish the guests would just shut the hell up and let Charlie get on with his latest furious rant about the terrible state of the medium. But, tonight's guests include one of my favourite actors, Martin Freeman and one of my favourite satirical commentators, Reginald D Hunter, so that sounds promising at the very least.

Keith Telly Topping also tipped Desperate Romantics - 9:00 BBC2 - when it started a couple of weeks back and he's pleased to report that it's really rather good so far; especially once they got the great Phil Davis into the cast. Aiden Turner's been the biggest revelation in the opening two episodes - I never thought he was much of an actor, to be honest, but his Dante Rossetti is a magnetic, towering performance. Tonight, the youngest and most talented member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Millais, played by the excellent Sam Barnett, delights in having landed the influential John Ruskin (Tom Hollander) as his patron. His friends and fellow artists, Hunt and Rossetti, watch on enviously as Millais begins his rise to fame and fortune. Ruskin insists on Millais painting his beautiful, young wife Effie (Zoe Tapper, a whirlwind of repressed sexuality), but Millais is horrified when he realises that he is expected to sleep with her as well. Rossetti immediately seizes on the benefits of his friend's predicament. As you would. Good stuff this - a clever and funny script by the great Peter Bowker, gorgeous period details and a rollicking romp for anybody that enjoys seeing mutton-chop sideburns in all their effulgent glory.

Wednesday 5 August
In tonight's episode of the always reliable Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - Davey Mitchell goes in search of his Scottish genealogy. David, a history professor himself, of course, quite apart from being one of this country's most brilliant and inventive comedy voices knows that the Mitchells were wealthy sheep farmers in Sutherland, but mysteriously gave up the lease to their farm in 1933. He wants to know why they abandoned a tradition going back so many generations. He also tries to find out whether his family were involved in the notorious Highland Clearances and discovers how one ancestor became something of a local hero.

One of the genuine cult shows of the last decade, Location, Location, Location is back, back, back at 8:00 on Channel 4. Phil, Phil, Phil Spencer and Kirstie, Kirstie, Kirstie Allsopp host the property series and try to help two young couples have fallen for Hertfordshire's charms. As you do. It's a right heartbreaker, that Hertfordshire. 7/7 survivor Martine Wright and Nick Wiltshire first met in 2003 and are about to get married so they're looking for a nice place in the country to move into. Meanwhile, Dina Mistry and Pradeep Patel have viewed nearly fifty properties so far but none of them have been what they're looking for. Can Phil and Kirstie help the over-picky and hard to please couple with their self-created dilemma?

Top chefs Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett demonstrate ways to slash food bills and improve our diets in the stupidly named Economy Gastronomy - 8:00 BBC2. The England family spend a fortune at their local takeaways, but they really want to eat better for less - as a family. After attempting to stick to the Economy Gastronomy plan, reducing their food bills and cooking every meal from scratch for a week, can they successfully use the same principles when challenged to cook a three-course meal for six people against the clock?

Spanish Flu: The Forgotten Fallen - 9:00 BBC4 - is a beautiful looking drama illuminating one doctor's pioneering efforts to protect the people of Manchester from the 1918 influenza pandemic. Set against the background of the Armistice in November of that year, as millions of exhausted soldiers return home from the Great War, the film tells the little-known story of Dr James Niven, Manchester's medical health officer for thirty years, and his heroic efforts to combat a second wave of fatal influenza as it spreads across the city. Like Breaking the Mould last week, this drama - part of BBC4's Biology season - features a quality cast that includes Bill Paterson, Mark Gatiss and two of the cast of Hot Fuzz, Paul Freeman and Kenneth Cranham. This one should be well-worth ninety minutes of your time.

Thursday 6 August
I mentioned New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1 a couple of weeks back; always reliable and watchable but I never expected it to produce an episode like last week's extraordinary UFO/CIA one featuring both Dempsey and Makepeace. That might just be the best single bit of continuing drama the BBC have made since Torchwood finished. And totally unexpected too. We can but hope that tonight's episode will be even half as good. When clips of actress Eva Roderick being assaulted in the 1990 film-noir Shadow Show are mysteriously posted on the Internet, UCOS are asked to re-open the investigation into producer Max Stone's death and Eva's subsequent disappearance. I do like New Tricks when they get experimental and a bit off-beat (there was that terrific episode last year about the hippie rock band). They're very clever at playing cunning little intertextual games with the audience. If only somebody could do something about that piss-poor theme tune ...

In The Funny Side of TV Talent - 9:30 BBC2 - Clive Anderson guides us through the history of television's talent shows. Where did they come from? How have they evolved? And why do we so frequently end up laughing at them? Now, Keith Telly Topping has a confession to make dear blog reader. He used to find Clive Anderson insufferably smug and pretentious and would rather like to have kicked his gormless-looking face right in. But a succession of brilliant appearances of Qi have cured Keith Telly Topping of such daft-glakishness! I still have slight problems with him as a presenter, however. A bit like Griff-Rhys Jones, he has a rather awkward habit of talking a touch too fast and then, seemingly, realising he's doing it so deliberately slowing down with an exaggerated 'stretching a one-syllable-word-out-to-five-or-six.' But, a funny and bright man nonetheless who usually makes very good TV shows. Let hope this is one of them.

Real Crime: The Tesco Bomber - 10:35 ITV - presents exclusive archive footage, police and witness testimony and reconstructions of key events tell the story of the hunt for the Tesco Bomber, Robert Dyer, who attempted to extort millions of pounds from the UK's biggest retailer through a campaign of bombings in autumn 2000. In a quiet suburban area of Bournemouth, fifty-year old father-of-two Dyer began his six-month extortion campaign against Tesco, targeting the supermarket's customers with a wave of letter bombs and threats. Dyer, who had money problems, got the idea for the 'perfect crime' after reading a Reader's Digest article called How To Catch a Blackmailer in a doctor's waiting room. The Tesco Bomber tells the story of this perfect crime that went wrong and the police operation that ultimately foiled it. From its copycat inspiration and flawed execution to the final trial that fully exposed the blackmailer's amusing ineptitude (like leaving a copy of one of his blackmail letters in a newsagents by mistake), it's a gripping insight into a remarkable story. Mark Austin presents.

And lastly, a very quick reminder to you all, dear blog reader, just in case you'd forgotten: Mock the Week is currently in the middle of its seventh series and is as take-no-prisoners as it's ever been. It's also still, comfortably, the most provocative, most cutting, most vicious and, perhaps more importantly, most ambitious comedy show on telly. And, easily the funniest too. And it will remain so until Qi comes back in a few months time unless something extraordinary emerges in the meanwhile. Which it won't. Last week's episode, in particular, was an outstanding example of all Mock The Week's many strengths coming together; there's Russell Howard's cheeky insolence mixing with some charming and witty Lucy Porter interjections and Dara's razor-sharp tongue. And then, there's Mad Frankie, off for his weekly apocalyptic howl of disgust and rage at the state of the world today. There's something hard and brutal at the core of Frankie Boyle's humour that goes far beyond crass and inelegent cliches about his Glasgow background. Give this man his own - post-watershed - vehicle. I adore this show because, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, they just do not seem to give a bleeding stuff what anybody thinks about them or their humour. Indeed, they seem to revel in such an outsider status. The Daily Mail and their scum ilk hate them and would love to see Mock the Week banned on general principle. That fact, alone, justifies the show's continued existence. I find that genuinely refreshing in this opaque, synthetic, plastic modern media world where the vast majority of TV comedy shows these days are so absolutely terrified of upsetting anyone that they've forgotten how to tell a joke. We need Mock The Week. Whether we want, or even deserve it, or not.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Death At Sea

We start of the latest burst of Top Telly News with a couple of sad passings from the TV world. Cartoonist John Ryan, creator of the Captain Pugwash TV series, has died in hospital in Rye, aged eighty eight. The BBC commissioned the first series of the cartoon in 1957 after spotting potential in Ryan's best-selling children's books telling tales of Pugwash and his nemesis Cut-Throat Jake and his Mexican sidekick, Stinka. Ryan's agent, Jane Gregory, said there was 'a huge amount of love' for the childish, pompous and cowardly pirate and his shipmates aboard the Black Pig - Tom the Cabin Boy, Master Mate, Barnabas, Willy and Jonah. The series memorable theme tune, 'The Trumpet Hornpipe', was played by Northumbrian accordianist Tommy Edmundson - who was paid the princely sum of two guineas by the BBC when he recorded it in 1957. Ryan is survived by his wife, Priscilla, and three children. Captain Horatio Pugwash was created in 1950 while Ryan was working as an art teacher at Harrow School. It was published in the same year in the first edition of the Eagle comic. A book deal soon followed, before the stories were adapted for TV by the BBC, with black-and-white episodes being made for ten years until 1967. A batch of colour episodes were shown on the BBC in a successful mid-1970s revival. Ms Gregory told BBC News that Ryan was 'always enthusiastic, always charming. A lot of the character of Captain Pugwash was John, which is probably why we loved him as much. He was an absolute gentleman.' Ryan had continued to write books until the 1990s. Ms Gregory added: 'They're all now republished and they're hugely successful. Grandparents bought them for their parents and parents are now buying them for their kids.' Speaking to BBC News in 1998 - when the character was brought back to life for a series of cartoons for ITV - Ryan said Pugwash was born out of necessity. 'I had to make some money having got married, being a sort of artist, and I think he represented something which is in all of us, which is cowardice and greed.' Simple sets and home-made puppetry gave the original BBC series its distinctive look. Levers were used to provide jerky movement on flat cardboard characters, they were largely controlled by members of Ryan's family. The earliest episodes were recorded live without editing, and with all the voices being provided by legendary voice-actor Peter Hawkins. Ryan's daughter Isabel, also speaking in 1998, said: 'We had a lot of fun with pieces of coloured card, Indian ink, Copydex glue, staples, pins, putting things together and cutting things out and sharpening pencils - genuinely feeling as though we were part of the whole process.' Ryan also enjoyed success in the late 1960s and early 70s with two other series for the BBC, Mary, Mungo and Midge and The Adventures of Sir Prancelot. He was also a cartoonist for more than forty years for The Catholic Herald newspaper. Editor Luke Coppen said Ryan had 'created a hilarious visual chronicle of the post-Vatican II Church. No other Catholic cartoonist, it is safe to say, depicted the period with such consistent wit and insight. He will be greatly missed.'

And, on a similarly sad note, one of Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Harry Towb, has died. He was eighty three. Harry, who was born in Larne, County Antrim, died peacefully in his London home on Friday after battling cancer for a short time. Harry grew up in Belfast and worked with different theatrical groups before moving to England in the 1950s. As recently as last December he appeared in the BBC's EastEnders as David, Janine Butcher's elderly fiancee. He is survived by his wife, actress Diana Hoddinott, three children and three granddaughters. His son, Joshua, said his father was a great family man who loved his work. 'He loved his family very much,' he said. 'But he never liked not to be working. He worked all the way through his illness as long as he could, right up until a few months ago.' One of the actor's biggest stage roles was in the National Theatre production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. Elsewhere Towb's numerous TV credits include appearances in Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, cult favourites The Avengers and Doctor Who (twice), the sitcom Home James, the popular children's dramas Tottering Towers and The Flaxton Boys, Moll Flanders, Callan, Heartbeat, Casualty, and The Bill. He was one of a number of older actors used by Armando Iannucci as part of a rep-company for The Day Today and Clinton: His Struggle With Dirt. Harry also had roles in a variety of films including The 39 Steps, Patton, Digby the Biggest Dog in the World, All Neat in Black Stockings, Carry On at Your Convenience and The Most Fertile Man In Ireland. In 1991 he starred with Warren Mitchell in the controversial BBC Northern Ireland comedy So You Think You've Got Troubles. In it he played George Nathan who was trying to re-populate the Jewish community of Belfast. He brought over the Mitchell character, Ivan Fox, as a non-practising London Jew, who is confronted with the sectarian attitudes of the city.

John Sergeant will star on ITV this autumn, travelling to England's tourism hotspots to uncover the 'gems and eccentricities' of the UK for a new factual series. John Sergeant on the Tourist Trail, will see the former political journalist and Strictly Come Dancing contestant take in famous sites and join foreign tourist parties as they visit Britain for the first time. The series is one of the highlights of ITV's autumn schedule, unveiled last week by director of television, Peter Fincham. Other factual shows include Joanna Lumley: Catwoman, Robson Green's new series on Wild Swimming and Outbreak, which will commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of World War II on 3 September by documenting every hour of the first day that war was declared. Made by ITV Studios, Outbreak will feature archive footage interviews with Richard Attenborough, Betty Driver and Sir Peter Blake as well as soldiers, politicians and ordinary families. Fincham said the line up would offer 'something for everyone. ITV has enormous pulling power, as was very powerfully demonstrated by the phenomenal success of Britain's Got Talent. It is a channel that brings people together not only in front of their televisions but also online, connecting audiences that are otherwise splintered by the multitude of choice on offer,' he said. Yes, Peter. It's all very well banging on about how great Britain's Got Talent did (and it did). But nobody's watching anything else you're producing at the moment, apart from the soaps. There does reach a point where that eighteen million audience does start to look like a one-off. 'The range of programming that we offer caters to a wide range of different tastes and this autumn is no exception. Viewers can look forward to great drama, big events, major stars, and real impact from ITV.' In drama, ITV will show new five-part drama Collision, which tells the story of a major road accident and a group of people who were involved. Robbie Coltrane will star in David Piries three-part thriller Murderland, while Mammoth Screen will bring the previously announced Wuthering Heights to life in a tw-part adaptation. Agatha Christie's Marple, Blue Murder, Doc Martin and The Fixer will also return in the autumn. In entertainment, The X Factor will be back. Phillip Schofield will host a new game show based on strategy called The Cube, where contesatnts can win up to £250,000. Benidorm and Harry Hill's TV Burp will all return to the channel (although in the case of the latter, not for too much longer if the Sky bid is successful), whilst the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson will help communities raise standards and ambitions in a new series of Duchess on the Estate. Oh, Christ NO! Was once not enough?

Top Gear presenter and Twenty First Century Renaissance Man and All-Round Good Chap James May is looking for volunteers to help him build a new house in Surrey - made entirely out of Lego®™. As part of his BBC series James May's Toy Stories, he plans to build a two-storey house in the middle of the Denbies Wine Estate, in Dorking. More than three million Lego bricks have been delivered to the site. May will host a building day next Saturday, when members of the public can help him with the project. The house will be life-size with a staircase, toilet and shower, and May said once it was completed he intended to live in it for a few days. He added that although the house would be temporary, there had still been various 'planning hoops' to leap through. 'I've got a man working on a flushing Lego lavatory. We think it's possible. Things like power supply, sanitation and plumbing coming into the house are as they would be for a real building. Everything within my Lego house must as far as possible be Lego.' May said that although he already had thousands of Lego bricks, he could not be sure there would be enough. 'So if people do have bricks that aren't being used that they would be happy to donate to a very worthy pioneering Lego cause, then we'll be happy to take them off your hands.' I used to have a fantastic Lego collection when I was a kid. I used to get a box for every birthday and Christmas and I acquired loads of extra bits and pieces from cousins and neighbours. I kept the whole lot in a huge cardboard box. I built skyscrapers that you wouldn't believe (although, I only had about four window bricks so that, presumably, meant it wasn't a particularly bright skyscraper to work in). Then, one day, my dad gave the lot away to the osn of someone he worked with because he hadn't seen he playing with it for a couple of months and assumed I'd grown out of it. Fathers, eh? Anyway, James's Lego event follows two other successful toy challenges which saw May build what was said to be the world's first Plasticine garden, which won the People's Choice Award at the Chelsea Flower Show and also the world's largest model plane.

ITV has been forced to defend The Jeremy Kyle Show after it was criticised in court for a second time. Judge Sean Enright claimed that the programme contained 'an element of cruelty and exploitation' as he presided over a case involving two former guests of the show last week week. Peterborough Crown Court heard that Jamie Juste had attacked his partner Rebecca Langley after they appeared on the daytime show and took lie detector tests. Juste, who believed that Langley had been unfaithful, was jailed for two years. Summing up the case, Enright commented: 'I have not seen this show, which I believe is classified as light entertainment, but there is plainly an element of cruelty and exploitation in what takes place. [The couple] must have both suffered considerable mortification and embarrassment.' Responding to the criticism, an ITV spokeswoman told The Guardian: 'With respect to the judge, we are surprised at his remarks given that he pointed out that he has not seen our programme. And we absolutely refute the notion that it involves cruelty and exploitation. Jamie Juste and Rebecca Langley approached the production team requesting an appearance on the show to resolve problems within their relationship. As well as discussing these issues in the studio they were given advice from our aftercare team about dealing with their difficulties and offered counselling sessions prior to this incident. The court heard the attack occurred after Juste had been drinking and taking drugs.' In September 2007, Judge Alan Berg voiced similar concerns over The Jeremy Kyle Show, branding it 'a human form of bear baiting.' He made his complaints as he sentenced a guest who had headbutted another during filming for the programme.

And finally, Jamie Oliver will visit 'America's fattest town' in a new cookery show for ABC, which will air next year. The series will apparently be based in Huntington, West Virginia. Oh good. I hope they don't eat him, because that would be dreadful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Telly Jobs For The Toon?

Independent producers are to be invited to pitch for up to three million pounds in development and production grants from a new content fund to encourage long-term sustainable productions in the North East. Northern Film and Media plans to hand out almost a million of grants to productions in all genres, with a particular focus on entertainment and drama, in the first wave in September. A further two million is earmarked for next April if the scheme proves to be a success. The fund is intended as a lifeline to a region that has been hit hard in recent months - both within the industry and outside. NFM calculates that production staff numbers have dropped by a third to two hundred, following job cuts in ITV's Tyne Tees newsroom and the axe falling on Coastal Productions' ITV drama Wire in the Blood. Not to mention all the lay-offs after they stopped building Hadrian's Waal, of course. Massive unemployed, that caused. The pot has been drawn up in the same spirit as the £10.2m four-year fund set up by Screen Yorkshire in 2006, which has driven a boom in the region's production base. Half of that investment has gone directly into production on dramas such as Channel 4's Red Riding trilogy, BBC1's Survivors and ITV's Wuthering Heights. Screen Yorkshire is negotiating with regional development agencies about the next phase of investment. The North East fund, which was compiled through donations from agencies in the region, including One North East, will be used to invest up to £200,000 a time in new series with returning potential. Up to fifty thousand pounds will be given out to projects for development. On top of the cash, the agency will provide funding for companies wishing to recce the region, as wells as a free location service. It is open to producers working in TV, film, video games, interactive or music across the country, who want to bring productions to the North East. NFM chief executive Tom Harvey hoped the fund would reverse the region's fortunes by bringing talent back to the area and building on children's BBC drama Tracy Beaker, which is filming in Newcastle for thirteen weeks from this summer. Harvey said: 'It is unbelievable that shows like George Gently, which are meant to be based in the region, are filmed in Ireland because of access to development money. We want to invest in talent and projects that are going to make a real impact on national and international screens, not only emulating the success of TV and film productions such as This is England, Spooks and Hustle and games such as Grand Theft Auto or Guitar Hero, but also building on the North East's own voice and individuality.'

Assault charges brought against actor Kiefer Sutherland after he allegedly head-butted a fashion designer in May have been dropped. A New York district attorney office spokeswoman said it would not pursue criminal charges against the 24 star. Sutherland turned himself in to police after claims that he attacked Jack McCollough in a Manhattan nightclub. He and McCollough subsequently released a joint statement saying they had 'settled their differences.' McCollough had previously claimed that Sutherland broke his nose at nightclub SubMercer in the early hours of 5 May. According to the district attorney's spokeswoman, however, the case could not continue because the actor's alleged victim would not co-operate with prosecutors.

The BBC is planning a new drama village in Cardiff Bay that is likely to become the cornerstone of a 'Salford for Wales.' The waterfront Roath Basin location is the BBC's preferred option for a site that is intended to house Casualty's new studios when they move from Bristol in 2011, plus production on all dramas made out of BBC Wales such as Doctor Who and Torchwood. It has already held talks with indies, thought to include Indus and RDF-owned Presentable, about moving to the site. A senior Wales-based BBC exec told Broadcast: 'This is a significant proposition and a long-term plan. If I were setting up an indie, I’d seriously consider Cardiff Bay.' The BBC will confirm whether the drama village will go ahead in the next few months. In time, the site could house all of BBC Wales, including its current Llandaff HQ, which dates back to the 1960s and is too small to house future production capacity.

Kudos Film & Television has teamed up with Northern Ireland independent Generator Entertainment to form a new joint venture TV production company in Belfast. Kudos Generator Television, the Spooks and Ashes to Ashes producer's first base outside London, will develop original scripted TV projects across a number of genres including drama, children's and comedy. Projects will be filmed in Northern Ireland with local crews and talent, with the aim of establishing a sustainable TV drama production infrastructure. BBC Northern Ireland is backing the joint venture through the corporation's regional development initiative. Kudos managing director Dan Isaacs said discussions had been going on for around a year, building during the production of NI Screen-backed BBC1 drama Occupation. 'To build an infrastructure you need returnable series, so BBC NI asked if we would help,' he said. 'We thought it was a good idea but wanted to find a local partner. Generator benefits from our experience and we benefit from its local knowledge. We don't have a regional base so it also helps us meet broadcasters' regional quotas.'

The vision that is Katherine Heigl has branded the schedule of Grey's Anatomy 'cruel and mean' because it requires the cast to work very long hours. The actress, who plays Izzie Stevens in the cult medical drama, told The Late Show With David Letterman that she had just endured a mammoth day of filming for the upcoming season. 'Our first day back was Wednesday and I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them, it was a seventeen-hour day,' she said. 'It was actually kind of great to be back. All my friends are there and at this point, they're sort of like family but it was a little weird because [TR Knight is] not there anymore.' The star added that she hopes Grey's will continue to be successful, saying: 'We have another two years, I think, at least in the contract. Hopefully the show goes into ER time, which would be cool.;

The audience for BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? profiling DJ Chris Moyles took a hefty knock last night as 4.7m people tuned in - the show's third worst performance ever. The hour-long factual programme did manage to build its audience from 4.5m to 5m in the concluding quarter hour. The series, now in its seventh run, can normally be expected to gain bumper ratings for the show and the latest series kicked off last Wednesday with 6.4m watching Davina McCall investigating her family history. Must be down to Mr Moyles's delightful personality, then.

The Czech Republic has announced it is quitting the Eurovision Song Contest, saying there is a lack of interest at home in the musical event. The country, which made its debut in 2007, came last with no points in one of the semi-finals in May. Its previous two attempts failed to reach the final, with rock band Kabat also coming last in the qualifying round two years ago. A spokesman for Czech Television told the BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague that poor viewing figures for the show also prompted the decision. This year's Czech entry was performed by Roma group, with its lead singer dressed as comic character Supergipsy. It was the first time in five years that a country had failed to make a mark on the scoreboard.

Coronation Street producers have announced that they are recasting Gail Platt's eldest son Nick Tilsley. The character, who was previously played by Adam Rickett, will return later in the year as a new actor takes on the role. Following a relationship with Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson), Nick left for Canada in 2002 though he briefly returned for his mother Gail's wedding to Richard Hillman. His next return came in in September 2003, during which Todd Grimshaw (Bruno Langley) attempted to kiss him in what was Coronation Street's first almost-gay-snog. When his on-off relationship with Maria (Samia Smith) broke down, Nick was last seen leaving the Street in a taxi to start a new life and job in Nottingham. Since his departure, he has been referenced in scripts by his family on numerous occasions. A Corrie spokesperson said: 'It will be great to see the return of Nick, he has so many links with the street - both with his family and also with the various women he has had relationships with.' They added: 'It will be interesting to see how Leanne and Maria will react to his return and of course David has never really got on with his stepbrother so there will be some fireworks there.' Rickett himself can currently be seen in New Zealand-based soap Shortland Street. He previously embarked on a brief pop career before being approved as a prospective candidate of the Conservative Party.

Husky-voiced Sky Sports News temptress and babe Georgie Thompson will appear as a panellist on a new Sky1 sports quiz, say reports. According to the Sun, the presenter and girlfriend of Declan Donnelly has signed up to star on the show, which is being developed by Objective Productions. The programme, which has a ten-episode order, will apparently be a similar format to the BBC1 show They Think It's All Over. 'Georgie's profile has rocketed since she started seeing Dec,' said a source. 'But it has only highlighted what her fans have known all along - she has the looks and the talent to move away from sports into the big time.'

Nip/Tuck star Joely Richardson has been tapped to guest in the fourth and final season of The Tudors, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The actress, who plays Julia McNamara in the FX drama, has reportedly signed on to play Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Richardson will appear in a five-episode arc on the Showtime historical drama, which is currently filming in Dublin. It was recently reported that David O'Hara has been cast as the Earl of Surrey, the son the Duke of Norfolk. The fourth season, which will document the King's marriages to Parr and Catherine Howard, will premiere in 2010.

Contestant Kenneth Tong has walked out of the house on Channel 4 show Big Brother - less than a week after entering as one of five new housemates. Tong entered the house on Friday night, minutes before his girlfriend, the glamour model Karly Ashworth, was evicted after losing the public vote. Tong scaled a wall in the garden to exit the show. Friday night's eviction has, as a consequence, been cancelled. Details of refunds for phone voters are on the Big Brother website. Before he left the house, businessman Tong told housemate Marcus Akin: 'I came in as a legend and I will go out as one.' Whilst in the house, Tong received an official warning for swearing at fellow housemate Bea Hammill.

Five has picked up ABC drama FlashForward, it has been announced. The thirteen-episode series, starring British actors Joseph Fiennes and Jack Davenport, has been acquired by the channel with exclusive UK terrestrial and digital rights for Fiver and Five USA. 'I am delighted we will be the UK broadcaster of this gripping new series,' said Five's managing director Jeff Ford. 'When we saw the pilot at the LA screenings this year, we knew it would be perfect for our channels and make a fantastic addition to our autumn lineup.' ABC's Catherine Powell added: 'The buzz surrounding FlashForward has been rapidly growing internationally and from our very early discussions, Five shared the same excitement and enthusiasm. "They also have an impressive track record of breaking US shows in the UK and will be an energetic and creative marketing partner to ensure we make the most of FlashForward's clear appeal to British viewers.'

On a related note, ITV has acquired the rights to new drama The Vampire Diaries, it has been announced. The Twilight-style series follows two vampire brothers - one good, one evil - who vie for the souls of a high school girl, her friends and family. The cast includes Lost's Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Diaries will premiere on US network The CW in September and air on ITV2 in the UK from early 2010. Under the deal with Warner Bros, ITV has also secured the rights to the fifth movie in the Harry Potter franchise and a slew of other film titles, including Happy Feet and the Batman, Oceans and The Matrix franchises. ITV2 has also acquired the rights to the upcoming third season of cult drama Gossip Girl.'s Michael Ausiello's regular spoiler blog Ask Ausiello has revealed a few potential nuggets from the forthcoming US drama series. According to CSI producer Naren Shankar 'We're going to launch a new season-long serial killer arc. Starting at the end of our premiere, a brand new nemesis [will emerge] who has a very unique way of killing.' And Bones are looking for an actress in her late teens to play Cam's adopted daughter, Michelle. Which presumably means that Dana Davis who played the character in two episodes last season won't be returning given her recurring role on the sitcom 10 Things I Hate About You.