Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Telly News Update

The government could introduce legislation to ringfence that part of the licence fee which it wants to use for children's programmes and ITV regional news. This, in the hope that this would mollify the BBC's trenchant opposition to the plan according to the Media Gruniad. No new legislation would be needed to 'top-slice' three and a half per cent of the licence fee each year from 2012 and make it available to provide public service content for other broadcasters, as the government proposes. However, it could agree to ringfence the proportion of the licence fee it wants to use in the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, to stop future administrations from siphoning off any more – one of the BBC's main fears about the entire top-slicing plan. A consultation is under way about top-slicing and is due to close in September. The Queen's Speech, in which the Digital Economy Bill will be officially unveiled, is not expected until mid-November.

Former Spice Girl Mel B has reportedly agreed to guest host on ITV1's Loose Women. According to the Daily Mirror, the thirty four-year-old mum of two - who is currently living in Los Angeles - will join the show's presenting panel for the week beginning Monday 14 September. A source 'close to the show' is quoted as saying: 'We can't believe we've managed to get her. She's known for being sassy and outspoken, so she will fit in just fine - and maybe bring a few A-list pals with her.' When told of this, Melaine is said to have replied 'I don't have A-list pals. I was the Scary one not the Posh one or the Ginger one...'

Robbie Williams is to appear on the new series of ITV's talent show The X Factor, it has been confirmed. A statement on the singer's website on Friday said details of his involvement were still being worked out, although it was widely reported in the media that Williams would give masterclasses to contestants in the later stages of the show, which returns to ITV later this month. It has also been reported that Madonna could appear on the show as well.

BSkyB has written to the BBC Trust expressing 'serious concerns' about the handling of its plans to create Internet-connect TV service Project Canvas. According to the Financial Times, the satellite and digital giant said the Trust's conduct of a consultation process on Canvas 'will only serve to undermine further industry confidence in its ability and inclination to act as a genuinely independent regulator of the BBC.' Since February this year, the Trust has been conducting a market impact assessment and public value test to see whether Canvas – the BBC ITV, BT and Five partnership seen as the logical successor to Freeview - is a suitable use of the licence fee. Canvas would set the standard for bringing on-demand video from the PC to the TV though a smarter set-top box. This, in turn, would strengthen the competition from free-to-air broadcasting for pay-TV businesses Sky and cable operator Virgin Media.

E4 has commissioned a new series about teenagers with superpowers. Comedy drama Misfits - due to air later this year - follows a group of teens who get caught in a flashstorm while on community service and find themselves saddled with strange new powers. Party-girl Alisha (Antonia Thomas) can send people into a total sexual frenzy with just one touch. A bit like Keith Telly Topping himself when's on form. Hard-as-nails Kelly (Lauren Socha) can suddenly hear people's thoughts, one-time sporting hero Curtis (Nathan Stewart Jarrett) discovers he has the ability to turn back time, and painfully shy nerd Simon (Iwan Rheon) can make himself invisible. Again, something Keith Telly Topping normally has little trouble doing when there's a bit of bother on the horizon.

Michael Crick, the political editor of Newsnight, has attacked the BBC for being 'barmy' and having 'utter contempt' for its viewers in its pursuit of younger audiences. Crick said the claim that the BBC was 'obsessed with youth' was a 'gross understatement,' adding that it was more difficult for older women than men in the corporation. The debate over alleged BBC ageism has been reignited in recent weeks by the axing of Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips. Writing in the BBC in-house magazine, Ariel, Crick said: 'Commercial channels have to focus on young people as they are the ones susceptible to advertising. The BBC should have no such worries. We should respect and cherish our older viewers who are loyal to us, and a growing part of the population. The average Newsnight viewer is fifty five. How many Newsnight staff are older than fifty five? Jeremy Paxman and one or two others. Men are allowed to become old on television, but not women. Where are all the grey-haired women? A very large chunk of the population is now made up of women over fifty five, but they are certainly not represented on television.'

BBC2 raced to the top of the ratings medel table on Sunday as Usain Bolt's world record-breaking one hundred metres sprint at the World Athletics Championships was watched by five million viewers (just over twenty three per cent audience share). Bolt's victory was part of BBC2's four-hour coverage of the Berlin event between 5pm and 9pm, which averaged three and a half million and also saw Sheffield's Jessica Ennis win a richly deserved gold medel for Britain in the Heptathlon. The athletics was the most popular thing on TV for most of the night, leading the way between 5.15pm and 7pm and again between 8pm and 9pm. Only BBC1's Countryfile, which attracted a shade under four million viewers between 7pm and 8pm, prevented it from being top performer for the entire duration. Bolt's sensational run, which took place around 8.40pm, helped BBC2 peak at 5.2million between 8.45pm and 9pm.

Amy Winehouse will reportedly feature as a backing singer on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing. The star will sing alongside her thirteen-year-old goddaughter Dionne Bromfield towards the end of September. A source told the Sunday Mirror: 'She’ll do anything to help Dionne become a huge success and Strictly was just too big an opportunity for them to not take. Obviously everybody's extremely nervous about the appearance but the team are confident Amy could make it work and really do some good for Dionne. She's promised to not mess it up on the night.'

It might, however, be an idea, dear blog reader, to take that alleged 'quote' with a pinch of salt, as the Sunday Mirror has admitted to passing off old quotes as a new interview with Sophie Dahl in its Celebs on Sunday magazine. The Sunday Mirror magazine printed an apology on page three of yesterday's edition, admitting it had 'given the impression' that someone connected to the paper had interviewed Dahl for its 31 May issue cover story featuring the model and writer. The magazine also admitted that Dahl had never said the words the magazine ran as a coverline on its front page. 'On 31 May we published an interview with Sophie Dahl as our cover story, which included previous comments from her,' Celebs on Sunday said in a weak attempt to appear contrite. 'Unfortunately, we gave the impression that a member of our team had personally interviewed Sophie Dahl when they had not. We also accept that she did not say the words attributed to her on the front page. We are happy to make this clear and apologise to Sophie Dahl for any offence and upset that our story caused her.' The coverline that Dahl denied ever saying was: I'm so in love with my fiance Jamie Cullum - 6 inches doesn't matter to me. From the North would like to confirm that we haven't spoken to Sophie Dahl either so we're unable to confirm whether, indeed, six inches is a problem to her, or otherwise. Perhaps, that's just as well.

BBC Worldwide has hired Nigella Lawson's brand guru William Miller to launch new retail ranges for its major on-screen talent. Miller – who helped launch Nigella Lawson cookware and developed homeware ranges for Kirstie Allsopp, Sebastian Conran and V&A – joins the commercial arm of the BBC as Director of Talent and Brand Ventures with immediate effect. He reports to managing director of content and production Wayne Garvie who has tasked him with building the profiles of key, un-named individuals internationally and develop new commercial opportunities. Garvie said: 'William is a rare beast: someone who has excelled in both television production and the retail world, and combined both. He will be taking talent literally outside the box, building an awareness of them overseas and establishing new routes to market for them around the world.'

Sonic Youth have reportedly been confirmed to appear on a forthcoming episode of Gossip Girl. Executive producer of the US drama Stephanie Savage revealed that the band have agreed to perform on episode five of the show's new season - where they are expected to play an acoustic version of the song 'Starpower'. 'Sonic Youth [are] one of my favourite bands,' Savage told Entertainment Weekly. 'And last year I was doing a regular Google search, it came up in some blog about a Sonic Youth show that Thurston [Moore] was playing 'Psychic Hearts' and Gossip Girl was playing on a screen in the background. And I was like, "Whaaaat? [sic] Oh my God." I hope they're not making fun of us! I hope it was a cool, edgy homage! And it turned out that it was - tongue-in-cheek for sure, but definitely with love, and that they were fans of the show.'

Neil Morrissey is reported to be in 'millions of pounds' worth of debt after a property scheme he invested in collapsed. According to the News Of The World, the forty seven-year-old Men Behaving Badly star has lost around two and a half million pounds after investing in a string of pubs and hotels, but will apparently not file for bankruptcy. He is quoted as saying: 'People advise you to take the easy route - it'll only last a year and you'll be back up and running. But I just thought there are too many good people who've lost their money on these deals and I wanted to repay them as much as I possibly could.' Discussing plans to repay his creditors, he explained: 'I feel morally obliged. Afterwards I'll feel better about myself. Now I'm working very, very hard. Every second out there to earn another penny. I don't sit around and get depressed about things. It's not my character.' Morrissey was recently nominated in the best actor category in this year's TV Quick and TV Choice Awards for his role in Waterloo Road.

BBC Drama announces a re-working of the Henry James classic, The Turn Of The Screw, for BBC1 this Christmas, starring Michelle Dockery (Cranford, Red Riding) as the young governess, Sue Johnston (The Royle Family, Waking The Dead) as Mrs Grose and Mark Umbers (Mistresses) as the Master. Adapted by Sandy Welch (Emma, Jane Eyre), the ninety-minute drama is reset in the Twenties, when Britain is still imbued with the grief of the First World War, adding a chilling extra dimension. Ben Stephenson, Controller of Drama Commissioning, says: 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a ghost story for the adults to watch in front of the fire when the children are in bed, and they don't get more chilling than this bold reimagining of the classic Henry James tale.'

Illusionist and all-round Top Chap Derren Brown is to stage his first interactive stunts in his forthcoming series of specials for Channel 4. Each of the four editions of Derren Brown: The Events will encourage viewers at home to participate for the first time. Details of the shows are under wraps, but the events promise a complex degree of misdirection and each will have an underlying theme: to trick, to win, to fool and to control. The specials, produced by Objective Productions, follow previous one-offs in which Brown has performed Russian Roulette, contacted the dead in a séance, convinced people to conduct a robbery and taught an apparently foolproof horse gambling system. Brown has described the first of the four specials as a stunt that 'could be a career breaker.' He said cryptically: 'In the modern world of mass communication and big business, simple tricks can be developed to make even the most secure of systems vulnerable when you know where to push.'

Aidan Turner has revealed that he is hopeful that there will be a third series of Being Human. In a recent chat with the website Digital Spy, the actor suggested that a new series could well be commissioned - if the fans are behind it. 'I'd love to shoot a third series, and I think the other guys would too,' he said. 'We'll just have to see how these things go. It's all about ratings and reviews and they're things that we can't control. We're all in for it but it's whether we get the go-ahead. If the fans are behind us in this series like they were for the first, then it should happen.' Turner also confirmed that filming is currently under way for the show's second series, which he described as 'quite dark.'

Sky Arts has picked up the rights to HBO's therapy drama In Treatment, featuring Miller's Crossing and The Usual Suspects star Gabriel Byrne. The series, adapted from an Israeli show, will air in the UK at 10pm every weeknight from October. It has already claimed two Emmy's, a Golden Globe for Byrne and a Writer's Guild of America award. Starring Byrne as Maryland psychoanalyst Paul Weston, each instalment of the forty three episode series features a session with a different patient. Weston's own weekly appointment with a therapist will air on Fridays. Sky Arts will broadcast an omnibus repeat of all that week's episodes each Sunday from 10pm.

Kirsty Gallacher has revealed that she is trying to shed her 'cold' presenting style. The thirty three-year-old host, who has previously fronted Kirsty's Home Videos and Gladiators for Sky1, admitted that she is now changing her approach. Speaking to the Daily Mail, she explained: 'Over the past year I've worked hard to relax. Perfection is not a great thing - because you can never reach real perfection. I used to take life very seriously. In my presenting, you could see that I came across as quite cold. I'm mellowing now. You find at this age you know what you want to do, you know what suits you, you know what you are. You just grow up.' The star also confirmed that she left Gladiators after audience research suggested that she wasn't 'buoyant' enough for the show's younger viewers.

ITV's The Bill is continuing to struggle badly in its new timeslot, overnight viewing figures suggest. Last month, the Sun Hill police drama moved to a Thursday slot, airing weekly during the 9pm hour. Last week's episode of ITV's flagship crime drama averaged 3.4million viewers (just under fifteen per cent audience share), a drop of over a million from its first revamped episode on 23 July and a fall of two hundred thousand viewers from the previous week.

BBC Worldwide is to beam The Last Night of the Proms live into cinemas around the world. The climax of this year's event on 12 September will be broadcast to screens in fifteen countries, including Japan, Australia, Germany and South Africa. BBC Worldwide's Music arm secured the international deals, which will feed the concert via satellite in digital surround sound. The finale, famous for its flag-waving renditions of various Nineteenth Century jingoistic tripe like 'Land of Hope and Glory' and 'Rule, Britannia!' (not to mention a complete misreading of what 'Jerusalem' is actually all about) by assorted chinless wonders, is already shown on large outdoor screens around the UK.

Channel 4 is to broadcast its first Urdu-language commission at the end of this month. Adha Cup, a short film from IWC Media, is a black and white comedy written and directed by Sarmad Masud that will air as part of C4's new drama talent strand Coming Up on 25 August. The twenty five-minute drama follows two bored social workers who reluctantly agree to reunite the cast of a legendary amateur Bollywood musical, to restage it in their own workplace. They track down a singing barber, a villainous butcher and an over-acting taxi driver, but hero Sajid Hussain remains elusive.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has admitted that he hopes to return to Lost for its final season. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the actor - who played Mr Eko on the show for two years - said that he has been in discussions with producers over a potential comeback. 'Adewale is open for business,' he said. 'We have had talks about some things they might do for the final season and there are other dead folks coming back allegedly but at the moment it is still a maybe. A strong maybe, but I have not shot anything yet or signed any contracts. But I'm hoping.' He added: 'Fans of Eko should have hope. I loved playing that character.' Greg Grunberg recently revealed that he has been asked to return for the show's upcoming sixth season to reprise his role as flight 815's pilot, while Elizabeth Mitchell confirmed - much to Keith Telly Topping's delight - that she will reprise her role as Duplicitous Bitch Juliet for 'more than one episode.'

Hugh Laurie has admitted that his titular character on House is 'pretty damaged.' Talking to ET Online, Laurie also teased details of the FOX show's upcoming sixth season. 'He is pretty much where he was at the end of season five. In this case, the season picks up only a matter of days after season five ended and House is going through a pretty harrowing medical and psychiatric experience.' Laurie added: 'He is trying to keep himself in check, curb his acerbic tongue and connect with people in a way he hadn't done previously. How long it will last remains to be seen. I have my doubts.' Discussing House's apparent hallucination at the end of series five - in which he slept with Lisa Cuddy - Laurie joked: 'It will be addressed, but teasingly, and it will probably take four and a half years.'

Former Worzel Gummidge and Till Death Us Do Part actor Una Stubbs is to star in a new BBC children's drama written by Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Ingenious, which is being made by the Hollyoaks producer Lime Pictures, tells the story of a group of children who discover genies in a glass bottle and go on a hunt for a dragon. The one-off drama, which will air on BBC1 later this year, will also star the great David Calder, whose credits include Star Cops, Widows, Burn Up and Bramwell, Ian Puleston Davies, who appeared in Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Waterloo Road's Christine Tremarco. Ingenious will be directed by Brian Kelly, whose CV also includes epsidoes of Torchwood and is produced by Rebecca Hodgson.

BBC staff have reacted furiously to a ban on sending flowers to the funerals of staff who have died in service accoridng to Broadcast magazine. Staff are said to have attacked the corporation's management as crass, 'star-struck' and in need of recalibrating their moral compass in a row over the expenses rules which permit senior execs to send gifts to talent but do not allow sympathy bouquets at staff funerals. The issue came to light earlier this month after human resources and development manager Isabel Cosgrove wrote to BBC in-house magazine Ariel to ask 'how on earth' executives were allowed to claim for flowers. At the time, chief financial officer Zarin Patel defended the decision, claiming that talent gifts are 'usual amongst [that] community' but that it is 'hard to justify the purchase of gifts for staff from licence fee funds.' However, her response has only prompted more fury, with sixteen angry staff writing to Ariel. They questioned how the talent would feel about having their 'fripperies' prioritised over 'a mark of respect and a gesture of thanks' to dead members of staff. 'On the one hand Zarin Patel tells us that "Our staff are very important to us, they make the BBC what it is," whilst on the other she tells us that if we are unfortunate enough to die in service the BBC will not mark that sad event with a forty pound bouquet,' wrote Andy Leslie, an audio and music employee. 'This shows the crass style of some of our star struck management when someone who may have worked tirelessly for the good of the corporation is effectively ignored while they fawn over celebrities.'

Channel 4 comedy chief Andrew Newman and BBC executive Cheryl Taylor are reported to be the favourites to land the job as BBC head of comedy commissioning as the selection process enters its final stages. The corporation has reached the end of its first round interviews for the post and successful candidates are facing final interviews with director of BBC Vision Jana Bennett at the end of August. According to sources, Taylor was initially reluctant to go for the role but did a volte face the day before the application deadline after being courted by BBC management. Newman has told friends he is not interested but is also facing a major charm offensive by the corporation. Former head of BBC in-house comedy production Jon Plowman is also in the frame – despite saying that he left his previous position to return to programme-making and wanted to continue in that capacity. It is understood that Graham Smith, former head of comedy and entertainment at Five and Nick Symons, former comedy chief at Carlton and a director of A Bit Of Fry and Laurie, have also been interviewed for the role.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has announced that the character of baby Stewie is gay. The thirty five-year-old told Playboy magazine that he was working on an episode that would deal with the toddler coming out, but it was eventually scrapped to keep his sexuality vague, Pop Eater reports. MacFarlane said: 'It had to do with the harassment he took from other kids at school. He ends up going back in time to prevent a passage in Leviticus from being written, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is an abomination."' He added: 'Ultimately, Stewie will be gay or a very unhappy repressed heterosexual. It also explains why he's so hellbent on killing [his mother Lois] and taking over the world. He has a lot of aggression, which comes from confusion and uncertainty about his orientation.'

Kerry Katona is refusing to seek help for her alleged drug problem, it has been claimed. Over the weekend, an online video emerged which appeared to show the troubled star snorting cocaine in the bathroom of her home. According to the Sun, friends have since begged the former Atomic Kitten singer to check into The Priory rehab clinic, where she has previously received treatment for depression and other personal problems. However, it is believed that Katona is instead planning to jet off for a holiday in Tenerife with husband Mark Croft and her four children in an attempt to 'clear her head.' A source told the newspaper: 'Kerry's attitude towards the footage beggars belief. She needs to stay and face her demons but she's running away to hide. Kerry's kidding herself that this will all blow over.'

Channel 4's youth strand T4 has commissioned the 'ultimate adrenaline-fuelled summer road trip,' with a series in which the former Hollyoaks actors Matt Littler and Darren Jeffries take part in challenges and stunts at five sport events around the world. The six-part series, Red Bull Rivals, to be made by the independent production company Tiger Aspect, will include 'incredible challenges, death-defying events and famous faces.'

BBC3 has ordered a ninth run of factual entertainment format The Real Hustle. Objective Productions and Crook Productions are about to begin production on a ten episode series, which springs con tricks, magic and scams upon unsuspecting members of the public. The seventh holiday-themed series ran earlier this summer and an eighth series, The Real Hustle Undercover, will air later this year. The series was commissioned by BBC3 commissioning editor, formats, features and specialist factual Harry Lansdown.

A new documentary featuring never-heard-before fragments of conversation, along with interviews and rare footage of The Beatles - a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them - will form the centrepiece of a season of programmes as BBC2 and BBC4 join forces for Beatles Week. The joint season, celebrating the Fab Four's enduring legacy and continuing influence and the fortieth anniversary of the last time all four were in the studio together, begins on BBC2 on Saturday 5 September 2009. The Beatles On Record offers a concise history of The Beatles in the studio and sits alongside other highlights of the week including the first TV showing of The Beatles: The First US Visit, the Maysles brothers' ground-breaking film charting the Fab Four's arrival in America in February 1964. BBC4's programming includes Storyville's extraordinary story of how The Beatles' music may have contributed towards the collapse of the Soviet Union and a new compilation of archive footage featuring an eclectic range of artists who have covered Beatles songs over the decades. The Beatles On Record, directed by Anthology collaborator Bob Smeaton, charts The Beatles' extraordinary journey from Please Please Me to Abbey Road and reflects on how they developed as musicians, matured as songwriters and created a body of work that sounds as fresh in 2009 as the time it was recorded. And, having been playing quite a few of their records recently (particularly Rubber Soul, an LP that sounds fresher and more 'current' with each passing year) Keith Telly Topping is in the horrible position of finding himself, for once, in complete agreement with a hyperbolic press release. Very strange. Narrated entirely by Sir Paul (MBE), the late George (MBE), Ringo (MBE) and the late self-confessed Scouse junkie wife-beater (MBE, returned) along with their producer - and erstwhile 'fifth Beatle' - the lovely Sir George Martin, the documentary features more than sixty classic songs, rare footage and photos from The Beatles' archives and never-heard-before out-takes of studio chat from the Abbey Road recording sessions. BBC2 will also be reshowing Timewatch: Beatlemania, the inside story of the rise and fall of Beatlemania. It's worth remembering that by 1966 when they stopped touring, the Beatles had played more than one thousand four hundred gigs, toured the world four times over and sold the equivalent of two hundred million records. There's also another chance to see the massively (and snobbishly) under-rated 1965 action adventure spoof Help!, directed by Richard Lester. Watch out for 'Paul's Exicitng Adventures on the Floor' and Patrick Cargill's Ringo impression, fab gear. Storyville: How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin tells the extraordinary, and largely unknown in the West, story of how The Beatles' music may have contributed to the collapse of the USSR. In August 1962 director Leslie Woodhead made a two-minute film for Granada in Liverpool's Cavern Club with a raw and unrecorded group of rockers. You've probably seen it - it was the performance of 'Some Other Guy' when somebody in the crowd shouts 'we want Pete!' at the end. Poor old Ringo, everyone's a critic! Woodhead also arranged their first live TV appearances on a local show in Manchester and then watched as the Fab Four phenomenon swept the world. Twenty five years later, whilst making films in the post-collapse-of-the-Berlin-Wall Russia, Woodhead became aware of how – even though they were never able to actually play in the Soviet Union – The Beatles legend had soaked into the lives of a generation of youngsters. Many Eastern bloc teenagers learned to speak English via listening to records smuggled into the country. This film meets the Soviet Beatles generation and hears stories about how the Fab Four helped to change their lives. Other programming throughout the week on BBC4 includes Sings Beatles, a new compilation of archive footage featuring a diverse range of artists – from Sandie Shaw to Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Carpenters to Candy Flip – who have covered Beatles songs over the years. They passed the audition. And, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

And, fiinally dear blog reader, Alyssa Milano has married boyfriend David Bugliari in New Jersey, according to People magazine. The former Charmed actress tied the knot with Bugliari, a Hollywood agent, at his parents' home on Saturday. 'We wanted a wedding that was reflective of who we are as a couple,' Alyssa explained to the magazine. Milano, thirty six, wore a custom-made dress by Vera Wang and carried a bouquet of lily of the valley flowers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, former co-star Shannen Doherty was not in attendance. Alyssa was reported to have walked down the aisle, which was decorated with rose petals and natural grass, to the strains of John Lennon's 'Imagine'. Interesting choice for the happiest moment of your life - picking a song written and sung by an alcoholic, wife-beating Scouse junkie. Hope you have a bit better luck with your marriage than his first wife did, Lys, m'love.