Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back To The Old House

House made its much anticipated return to US TV on Monday night with a double length episode - Broken. Apart from a brief one-scene cameo by Robert Sean Leonard, the episode featured none of the regular cast except for Hugh Laurie. A cunning variant on One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest it, effectively, reformatted the show (even if only for two hours). Seemed pretty popular with the American public, too. According to overnight figures, the season premiere drew just over seventeen million viewers on FOX, nearly four million above the show's average for last season. It also won the - madly important - adults eighteen to forty nine demographic that advertisers love by a very wide margin (FOX scored a 6.7 rating in the range, compared to 4.1 for second-place CBS). Although the episode took a little while to get going, the dialogue - as usual in House - buzzed and there were some very good performances from many of the guest cast. (It's always nice to see Moonlighting's Curtis Armstrong back on our screens.) And, Hughie himself was on top form.

And, now, for an exciting new feature on From The North: a paragragh of sickening pomposity. For everyone reading this blog in Liechtenstein, Keith Telly Topping would like to let you know that you've got a very nice country and he hopes that you're all having a really pleasant day. Tomorrow, Keith Telly Topping will be gratuitously buttering up the peoples of The Federated States of Micronesia. Or, possibly Viet 'Nam. He hasn't decided yet.

A group of MPs yesterday condemned what they call the 'arrogance' of the BBC Trust for dismissing some of their anxieties about the expansion of the corporation's commercial activities. The criticism was contained in a report today by the Commons culture select committee which attacked the BBC's response to its investigation earlier this year that was focused mainly on the BBC's business arm, BBC Worldwide. So, to sum up, representatives of the single most disgusting and sleazy, leper-scum-filled profession on the planet are trying to tell someone else how they should be conducting themselves in matters of finance, yes? Claimed massive expenses for any decent moat cleaning recently, chaps? Don't vote for them, dear blog reader, it only encourages them.

BBC management has said it will not back down over its scheduling of Strictly Come Dancing, with the show set to remain head to head with ITV's The X Factor on Saturday night's despite mounting pressure on the corporation to move it. Good for them - that's how you deal with bullies, stand up to them. Jana Bennett, the BBC director of vision, today told an internal meeting of staff that Strictly Come Dancing would 'remain at the heart of the BBC1 Saturday schedule,' while senior insiders confirmed that the corporation had refused to countenance moving the show. The two reality shows went head-to-head last Saturday and are due to do so again this week. An early draft of the schedule for Saturday 3 October - which is due to be confirmed tomorrow - shows the two programmes will again air against each other, although the BBC is expected to move Strictly twenty five minutes earlier to 7pm. However, this is only because the programme is longer, clocking in at two hours and fifteen minutes and ending at 9.15pm. The X Factor is due to air between 8pm and 9.30pm. According to a corporation insider, Bennett – in a speech to staff at a BBC Vision forum that also featured appearances by the director general, Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons – reiterated her commitment to BBC1 'providing the best overall line-up of programming on a Saturday' which meant 'keeping Strictly at the heart of the schedule.' The source added that the BBC would not back down and move Strictly as its Saturday night schedule was governed by a contractual obligation to broadcast Match of the Day no later than 10.30pm. 'The schedule isn't changing in a couple of weeks' time,' the insider said. 'Strictly will move to 7pm on 3 October simply because it is a longer show and because we have to back time everything from Match of the Day, but it is absolutely not some sort of backing down. We will not back down.' ITV could move The X Factor later if it wanted as it was only planning to air a movie after the reality show on 3 October, the BBC source added.

Vanessa Feltz has claimed that critics of Strictly Come Dancing's new recruit Alesha Dixon are hypocrites. That's big of her. Some 'fans' of the ballroom show have complained that Dixon is a poor replacement for Arlene Phillips since she made her debut on the programme last week. However, Feltz has now insisted that the same viewers objected to Phillips when she was on the panel. Writing in her Daily Express column, she said: 'The "she's too ancient" versus "she's too clueless" debate rages ever more ferociously. People who wouldn't know their paso doble from their merengue profess to be outraged at Alesha Dixon's lack of ballroom pedigree. Strictly-ites, who happily scoffed as Arlene stumbled clumsily over her painfully scripted flights of alliteration, suddenly insist they miss her more fervently than their deceased relatives.' She continued: 'Strictly Come Dancing is a light entertainment show, not an in-depth induction to the arcane origins of the rumba. There isn't time for exacting analysis. Alesha's more than equal to the task - looking delectably pretty and spitting out the occasional empathetic platitude. Lay off Ms Dixon. It's not her fault she got the gig.'

Meanwhile, Justin Lee Collins has called on Bruce Forsyth to retire from Strictly and described him as 'very rude.' The presenter, who fronted spin-off Strictly Come Dancing: On Three in 2004, told the BBC that Forsyth is 'too old' to continue on the reality talent dance programme. Collins said: 'I still think Bruce in his day was the best at what he did, but I think he should have given up three or four years ago. As legendary as he is - I grew up loving him, as did my parents, as did my grandparents - he wasn't particularly nice to me on that show.' He added: 'I loved him and they do say never meet your idols because you're always going to be disappointed and in the case of Bruce I was disappointed. But he does a very, very difficult show on TV, and I think particularly on that first series, he may have found it difficult. I still love to watch it, religiously. I never miss it, if I'm away it's recorded. It doesn't get much bigger or better than Strictly.'

Former X Factor star Niki Evans has branded the show 'ageist and sexist.' The thirty six-year-old singer, who reached the semi-final in the 2007 series, claimed that women in the over-twenty fives category have no chance of winning according to the Sun. 'Age is a horrible, horrible thing to have to go through,' she noted. Get used to it, darling, you've got a lifetime of it ahead of it. 'I was very lucky, touch wood. There's only a couple of us who got to fourth [position] - of my age group, women. I'd be very surprised if an over-twenty five woman ever won it. It's not just ageist - it's sexist as well because you get the little cute boys and since the four age groups have come in, because it's over-twenty fives, it's groups, under-twenty five boys and under-twenty five girls. Since that it's got much, much worse because you're getting twice the amount of young people coming through.' The talent show's categories were changed in the 2007 run following the introduction of Dannii Minogue as a fourth judge.

ITV has started making plans for a new reality contest called Popstars to Opera Stars, according to a report. The competition will see a group of well-known singers training to perform arias before showing off their new vocal skills in front of the nation each week, the Sun claims. It is thought that opera favourites Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson are among the famous faces being lined up as judges, while Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts could mentor the celebrity contestants. A source told the newspaper: 'We're aiming big as this will be a massive show. We are talking about people like Will [Young], Kimberley Walsh from Girls Aloud and Mutya [Buena] from the Sugababes. It's all about getting people out of their comfort zones. It is a tough call for an established singer, as they could end up struggling with some of the notes in opera.' ITV bosses reportedly came up with the show after noticing - with their usual fantastic sense of rank opportunism - the success of traditional singers like Potts and Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent.

The BBC has announced that Top Gear will be available in high definition on BBC HD starting on 15 November. Hurrah! Even more Clarkson for all the hippies and the Communists to get all vexed over. Some days you simply realise that, yes, there is a God. To date, the only episode of BBC2's hit motoring entertainment show to be broadcast in HD was the July 2007 Polar Special. In a post on the BBC Internet Blog, a spokesman explained: 'I can confirm that the team is now working with HD cameras on the new series. You've been very clear that this is a BBC programme that for you represents the best of what we do and that you believe it is one of those series that can benefit most from HD. I agree with you and I'm confident that the shift will ensure that the cars are glossier and faster than ever and the presenters... well, probably will look even more like their reflections in the mirror but we'll all have to wait to judge.'

Simon Pegg has said that he will not return to Spaced for a third series. And, in today's other 'hot news', hey isn't it terrible about the Titanic? The comedian created and wrote the Edgar Wright-directed cult sitcom with Jessica Hynes. It ran for two series in 1999 and 2001. Writing on his Twitter page, Pegg said: 'Spaced premiered on Channel 4, ten years ago this month. Happy Daiz but there will be no more. Time to let it go.' Earlier, he had joked: 'Back at the hotel I made a big mess in when Spaced lost out on the International Emmy in 2001. When I say mess I mean I didn't fold my socks.' Since Spaced ended, Pegg has collaborated with director Wright and co-star Nick Frost on the highly-regarded feature films Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Evidence has emerged from the Competition Commission's inquiry into the Contract Rights Renewal mechanism that ITV may have misled clients over the effectiveness of advertising on the network according to the Gruniad. In appendix D of the Competition Commission's report, titled 'Quality of Impacts,' the commission comments upon the stark differences between what ITV told its clients – while trying to talk up the singularity of advertising around 'event' programmes on ITV – and what it subsequently told the commission while trying to argue the opposite. In paragraph eight, the commission notes: 'In 2008, ITV developed the concept of event TV. ITV's marketing presentations observed that certain programmes were watched by a higher proportion of viewers with a greater degree of "engagement" with the programme (so-called "true fans"), which in turn indicated a greater engagement with the programme's advertising content and thus a higher propensity to purchase the product or service being advertised. The presentation noted that ITV showed the majority of event TV programmes across almost every genre.' In the next paragraph, however, the commission reveals what ITV told them in the course of their enquiry into CRR: 'ITV told us that this research was only undertaken for marketing purposes, that it had significant methodological flaws and that ITV used the results that are most favourable to ITV. ITV submitted that many of the results of its research in fact showed that, when compared with other commercial channels, ITV did not have a more engaged audience nor was there any specific sales uplift attributable to ITV. Further ITV told us that ITV did not fare well in terms of "water-cooler" moments as viewers who strongly like ITV are also least likely to say that TV gives them something to talk about.' The contrast between the two versions of events, the paper concludes, may go some way to explaining why, at almost every turn of the argument, the Competition Commission noted the case put forward by ITV but was not for the most part convinced by it.

STV has vowed to fight ITV's legal bid over thirty eight million pounds in unpaid bills, and has said it will now be pursuing its own claims against the network. In a statement to the city, STV said it would 'vigorously defend its position' and 'its rights as the licence holder to control its schedule and opt-out of programming in accordance with the Devolution Contract and the relevant networking arrangements.' The statement followed yesterday morning's announcement from ITV that is would be launching legal proceedings to recover the debt from the Scottish franchise. In a statement, ITV said the debt had accumulated as a result of STV not honouring its contractual contributions towards the network's programming budget. 'STV is attempting retrospectively to opt out of an increasing number of peak time programmes which contravenes existing agreements,' it said. 'The company is also wrongly attempting to claim a rebate against programmes which have been "written off." We are currently withholding monies from STV against this debt and currently believe the net debt is approximately fifteen and twenty million pounds.' Under the current rules, any ITV network can opt out of network programming, and can expect a refund in line with their contribution to the programme's budget if they comply with an appropriate notice period. The Scottish broadcaster added that the outstanding programming costs malaise was just one of 'numerous matters' needing to be resolved with ITV, including a claim relating to outstanding advertising revenues.

Sonya Walger has claimed that FlashForward is not similar to Lost. The actress, who stars on both shows, said that the apocalyptic ABC drama, which has been billed as a replacement for Lost, is 'definitely not a sci-fi show.' Well, I'm not sure Lost is, either, per se. But, anyway we can have the definition arguments later. Asked about the comparisons between the shows, she told Digital Spy: 'I think they're only valid in that they're both big ensemble shows with one big concept or premise. But after that, they part ways really quite rapidly. FlashForward doesn't have the mythology of Lost. We have one major event that happens that you are asked to buy into. After that, you're dealing with very human ripple effects - how people deal with it and how they come to terms with it.' Discussing her former Lost co-star Dominic Monaghan joining the cast of FlashForward, she added: 'I don't think it hurt that I was on Lost and people liked my character and people want to see what else Penny is up to. And I think the same is true for Dominic. It doesn't hurt that either of us were on Lost and it doesn't help that John Cho was on Star Trek. It doesn't hurt that Joe Fiennes has done many great films!' She concluded: 'Nobody assumes that just because I'm in it, the whole of the Lost audience will watch it.'

Hannah Waterman has announced that she will give up smoking for the London Marathon. The former EastEnders actress admitted that she was told off by her personal trainer after being pictured with a cigarette outside a gym last week. Writing in her Closer magazine column, Waterman commented: 'Oops! I'm in my trainer and my mum's bad books this week after being caught by the paparazzi having a fag outside the gym. In fact, they both didn't talk to me for the day as they're so cross.' She continued: 'In my defence, I've stopped drinking and am not eating very much, so giving up cigarettes is next on my list of things to do before I die prematurely! I've smoked for ages, but my trainer Adam wants me to run the London Marathon with him next year and says I'll need to quit if I want to do a decent time.'

John Barrowman has claimed that women often offer to rent out their wombs to him. The Torchwood star said that he is interested in starting a family with his partner Scott Gill and claimed they would consider various options in order to have children together. 'I love spending time with other people's children, but I definitely want my own. It's something I have spoken about with my partner Scott many times,' he told Love It magazine. 'I am forty two now and it would be fantastic to start our own family. We have considered surrogacy and I'm not joking when I say that quite a few women have offered to rent me their womb to rent and bare a child.' I think I know a fair few of them, actually. Get yourself to a convention, John, you'll have them queuing around the block. He added: 'Some of them even insist that they want me to do the actual deed in bed, rather rely on artificial insemination. Even though I am gay, I wouldn't rule it out - give me some Viagra and a blindfold and you never know what might happen!' Sounds like a party round our house, that.

Charlie Sheen has reportedly hinted that he may be on his way out of Two And A Half Men. At the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, the forty four-year-old is said to have told friends that he has had a 'good run' on the hit CBS sitcom. He plans to quit the series after this season when his current contract expires, Buddy TV reports. 'I've got five kids, I've got an amazing wife. There is life outside of show business. It's been a great run. This is my last contract year,' Sheen is reported as saying. His Men co-star Jon Cryer picked up a trophy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series at the ceremony. Sheen, pictured left with his father, former president Martin Sheen, has been nominated in the lead actor category for his role of Charlie Harper, but has never won an Emmy for his work on the show.

Canadian co-production Murdoch Mysteries is to get more of a British flavour for its third run, thanks to a deal between UKTV, ITV Studios, Global Entertainment and Shaftesbury Films. The UK companies have been granted a greater editorial input into the latest thirteen episode run of the Victorian era crime drama, in which at least one episode will be filmed in Bristol. The plot will feature a complex crime that spans two continents. British actors including former Holby City and [Spooks] actress Lisa Faulkner will join a cast headed by lead stars Yannick Bisson and former Coronation Street star Thomas Craig. UKTV content acquisitions manager Alexandra Finlay renegotiated first-run UK rights for the company's crime channel Alibi.

A baby boom, a big appetite for Mr Men T-shirts and early success for an adventurous pig named Olivia have helped the rights owner Chorion to a leap in profits. The home of characters including Noddy, Paddington Bear and the Very Hungry Caterpillar said it was able to shrug off the recession thanks to consumers continuing to spend on children. 'The last thing you cut is what you spend on your kids,' said Chorion's chairman, Waheed Alli. 'Noddy has been through the recession many times before. When things get tougher, people veer toward the things they know and love,' he said. 'It's a lot like comfort eating.' Well, indeed. I mean, people just can't get enough of that Mirror'd Top Hat and the old 'BABY, BABY, BAYYYYYBAY' malarkey at the best of times, let alone the worst. Tell 'em all about, Lord Nodster and ease our troubled ways with your attractive blend of Black Country hooligan-rock and its songs with amusing phonetically-spelled titles. Chorion, which also has rights to Agatha Christie's Poirot and Miss Marple, lifted annual sales by more than a third to £53.7m. Results published today show a sixty three per cent rise in earnings to £14.6m. The company, taken off the stockmarket by the private equity group 3i and its managers in 2006, is optimistic about continued buoyant demand. The UK birth rate has been rising since 2001 and reached a twenty six-year high in 2008. That means more pester power from more pre-schoolers. 'We just have a bigger market,' said Alli. Adults also form a growing part of the business. The Mr Men and Little Miss characters were one of the biggest drivers over the last year, thanks to exposure from TV shows in seventy countries. Rising book sales were mirrored by booming adult clothing sales.

Channel 4 is to air a quickly made documentary on the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the Californian woman freed in August after over eighteen years in captivity. The documentary features 'the first full-length interview' with Dugard's stepfather Carl Probyn, the prime suspect in the case since the eleven-year-old Dugard's kidnap in 1991 until the arrest last month of her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, with whom she fathered two children. Captive for Eighteen Years: The Jaycee Lee Story, the first documentary broadcast in the latest run of flagship Channel 4 documentary strand Cutting Edge, is being made by Question Time producer Mentorn Media. Dugard's case, was compared in the world's media with that of Natascha Kampusch, who was held prisoner in a dungeon in Austria for more than eight years.

ITV News has won an International Emmy for its coverage of the earthquake in China's Sichuan province that left almost ninety thousand people dead or missing. Channel 4's Dispatches: Saving Africa's Witch Children won the current affairs category. The Oxford Scientific Films and Red Rebel Films production showed the plight of Nigerian children accused of being witches.

Springwatch star Chris Packham has apologised for claiming that pandas should be left to die out. The wildlife expert sparked criticism after suggesting that the species had 'gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac' and only received attention from the public for being cute. WWF representative Dr Mark Wright was among those who blasted Packham's remarks, arguing: 'It is a daft thing for Chris to say and an irresponsible one. Pandas face extinction because of poaching and humans moving into their habitat. If left alone, they function perfectly well. Chris has taken an unhelpful position. Giant pandas can function and survive perfectly well if they're given space to do so.' Speaking yesterday, Packham confirmed that he stands by his comments but regrets upsetting fans. He told the Mirror: 'I really upturned the apple cart with what I said and I'm sorry I upset people. But I am glad it has raised a debate and that was always my intention. I don't hate pandas, I love cuddly animals. I love all animals.'

Sarah Michelle Gellar and her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. have welcomed their first child together. The former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star gave birth to daughter, Charlotte Grace Prinze, on Saturday. Speaking to People, a representative for the actress said: 'The family is over the moon.' Gellar and Prinze married in 2002 and announced that they were expecting a baby in April.

US President Barack Obama appeared on The David Letterman Show to discuss suggestions that reactions to his healthcare reform plans have been racially-motivated. The president was announced as the sole guest on the long-running series last week, which marked his sixth appearance on the CBS talkshow and first since taking office. Obama joked with the presenter about recent swipes against him for one of his controversial new policies, E! reports. 'First of all, I think it's important to remember that I was actually black before the election,' he quipped. 'Really? How long have you been a black man?' Letterman responded. The host then used his Top Ten feature to present reasons why the president had agreed to appear on the programme, which included: 'Thought it would be fun to watch someone else get heckled', 'Said yes without thinking... like Bush did with Iraq,' and 'We told him Megan Fox would be here.' During his appearance on NBC's The Tonight Show earlier this year, Obama made comments about a low bowling score that upset Special Olympics organisers.

Johnny Marr has denied any suggestions that he and former Smiths frontman Morrissey are still on bad terms. However, the guitarist told the Norwich Evening News that although he and Morrissey were in touch occasionally, a Smiths comeback was not imminent. Well, thank goodness for that. Keith Telly Topping's two favourite bands (apart from The Beatles, obviously) remain The Smiths and The Jam and he has no wish to see either get back together and quite possibly tarnish some golden memories of his teenage and twentysomething years. Marr said: 'I like The Smiths's songs, but I like playing with two guitars and writing new songs. Unfortunately a reunion would go against both those things. It's not necessarily the case that we're not talking. We have e-mail. We worked on that Sound Of The Smiths together. That came out about a year ago. Right now I have got screwdrivers inside guitars, my car broke down yesterday. I've got no time for a feud.' Of the band's enduring popularity, the current Cribs guitarist added: 'I am still really, really proud of [The Smiths]. It would be pretty churlish to be annoyed by how much people like your group.'

Sarah Harding ignored her Girls Aloud bandmate Nicola Roberts during a recent night out, a report has claimed. According to the Daily Star, Harding 'ditched' her fellow singer after they stepped out for a series of London Fashion Week events. Poor Nicola. Always the bridesmaid. It is believed that the pair spoke briefly at a Vivienne Westwood show before Roberts was left alone in a six-party crawl that followed. An onlooker said: '[Sarah] was stumbling all over the place. At one point she almost fell on top of me.' Harding reportedly spent most of her night with Lady Victoria Hervey and JLS star Marvin Humes. The source added: 'I felt sorry for Nicola. She was on her own the whole night.' Girls Aloud reportedly shed tears when they performed again together on Saturday night at Wembley Arena. The group, who were supporting Coldplay on the final leg of their world tour, became emotional during a rendition of Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat', reports the Sun. The band performed a further eight songs from their back catalogue - 'Biology', 'Love Machine', 'Sound Of The Underground', 'Untouchable', 'I'll Stand By You', 'Call The Shots', 'Something Kinda Oooh' and 'The Promise'. Fine set-list that, you know. Far better than the monotonus, bland, Dire Straits-like bollocks that evaporates on contact with the ear that the act they were supporting managed by all accounts.

Former tennis star Pat Cash has revealed that he turned down appearing on Strictly Come Dancing several times. The Australian sports star claimed that he snubbed BBC producers: 'I've been asked to do Strictly a bunch of times - I think maybe I'd kill myself before I do it,' he told ChannelBee. 'I will never ever watch or do that. I hate it, I cannot imagine why anybody would want to get up and make an arsehole of themselves on national TV. Who watches this stuff? Sorry Grandma - I know she likes it.' Cash was also derogatory about ITV's The X Factor claiming that the only things he liked were the 'bad acts' and Dannii Minogue, who he described as 'hot.'