Friday, September 11, 2009

Big Fight, Little People: Seconds Out, Round Two

The war of words between the BBC and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation escalated further this week when the BBC's director general accused Murdoch's son, James, of being 'desperately out of touch' for lambasting the corporation in a speech last month. Mark Thompson's decision to name Murdoch, who runs News Corporation's operations in Europe and Asia, in an e-mail to employees hopefully heralds the start of a BBC fight-back following allegations that it is too powerful, according to senior sources at the corporation. And about bloody time, too. I don't know about anybody else who admires the BBC as a world-renowned institution that this country has taken for granted all too often in the past, but I was really starting to get just a bit sick of the corporation's collective spineless attitude to criticism from those lice with a sinister agenda - curling up into a ball in the corner saying 'please don't hit me again.' If you're gonna go down, Auntie, swing yer fists and go down with a few well-deserving noses bloodied.

Nine young women in Turkey have been freed from a villa which they entered two months ago believing that they were taking part in a Big Brother-style reality TV show. Police stormed the building, in Riva, reportedly after various family members of the women became concerned they were being prevented from contacting their relatives. According to local media, naked images of the women were being openly sold on the Internet. The women were also told to fight each other, wear bikinis and dance by the pool, HaberTurk newspaper reports. The mother of one of women told the newspaper they were not abused or sexually harassed.

Anne Robinson has admitted that she doesn't like to be in the same shots as her Watchdog co-host Anita Rani. The sixty four-year-old presenter reportedly told Loose Women that she plans to avoid standing next to Rani on screen because she doesn't want to look overweight. Speaking in the TV interview, Robinson commented: 'I've got an Anita, who's worryingly thinner than I am. She must be a size six, so I've asked them not to put me too near her in any shot. I am the oldest woman on television.' Robinson returned to Watchdog this week in a blaze od publicity following an eight-year absence from the programme, which has been revamped for a new one-hour slot. She added: 'Watchdog's had a facelift, I've had a facelift, there you go.' Yesterday, the BBC confirmed that Robinson has a private toilet and relaxation room at the show's studios in what seems certain to be known as Loogate from now on. She's got a face like a lavatory as well but that's neither here nor there.

Ant and Dec have reportedly been banned from appearing on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross. According to the Sun, ITV bosses will not allow the presenting duo to appear on the BBC show after the BBC allegedly prevented EastEnders star Barbara Windsor from appearing on Piers Morgan's Life Stories. Maybe the BBC just thought they were saving Babs from the unnecessary embarrassment of being in the same room as that oily twonk? It's a possibility. An insider told the newspaper: 'Ant and Dec are livid. They really wanted to go on, have a laugh, plug their new book, talk about their new show and the next series of Saturday Night Takeaway. The BBC know an ITV show with Barbara would hurt them in the ratings so they've acted in this petulant way.' It has been suggested that the dispute could result in all major stars being forbidden from appearing on rival broadcasters' programmes.

Ross Kemp has announced that he has no immediate plans to return to EastEnders. The forty five-year-old last appeared in the role of Grant Mitchell three years ago and has since concentrated on his laughably predictable career in investigative journalism. Speaking at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Kemp admitted that he is currently unsure about whether fans will see his hardman character again. He told the Press Assocation: 'I don't know yet - you never know, do you? It depends if I'm employed, if they ask me and where I am in terms of work. But not at the moment. They seem to be doing quite well without me.' Asked about his next TV project, he revealed: 'I'm off somewhere on my travels pretty soon. I can't tell you where, because of insurance issues.' And, in case members of the Taliban are waiting for him at the airport, no doubt. Now, there's an interesting thing - notice that there doesn't seem to be a descriptive word for being a member of the Taliban. I reckon 'Talibanana' would be quite good. What do you think, dear blog reader?

EastEnders star David Proud has insisted that his disabled character must not become a stereotype on the soap. The actor, who was born with spina bifida and cannot walk unaided, made his debut as wheelchair-user Adam Best last night. His role was first announced in June. Though Proud is the BBC1 show's first ever adult disabled actor, he has confirmed that its writers will not be dwelling on the issue in Adam's forthcoming plots. Speaking to the Sun, the twenty six-year-old commented: 'The BBC scriptwriters used my independent nature to shape their characterisation of Adam. They have purposely avoided making his disability a storyline.' He continued: 'Adam thinks his mother's boyfriend Minty isn't good enough for her and neither is the Queen Vic up to standard. Not all disabled people are nice, so all characters shouldn't be either. It's a stereotype. People are people. He is a multi-layered, rounded character and his story will unfold.'

John Barrowman has said that he was recently forced to turn down major roles in US shows House and Grey's Anatomy. The Torchwood star told thelondonpaper that he could not accept the parts because of his commitment to the West End production of La Cage Aux Folles. Barrowman said: 'I'm going to be completely honest. Over the last two weeks, I have been offered Grey's Anatomy, a major part. I've been offered a major part in House. I've turned them down because I'm doing La Cage. And yes, I met with the creator of Desperate Housewives and he talked about writing a role for me... So who knows?' How very odd. I've never known John turn down the opportunity of potentially having Hugh Laurie's hand stuck up his colon before.

BBC bosses have refused to back down in the row over Strictly Come Dancing's schedule clash with The X Factor, according to a report. Yesterday, it emerged that the ballroom show will go head-to-head with ITV's talent series on Saturday nights from 19 September. Strictly has traditionally been broadcast in an early evening slot but moves to 7.25pm later this month, creating a sixty five-minute overlap with The X Factor. The Mirror claims that the BBC and ITV held emergency talks over the issue yesterday but failed to reach a solution acceptable to both parties. A source said: 'Executives were talking but neither side was prepared to back down and all hell broke loose. Each side was furious with the other.' The BBC has claimed that its schedule revamp is necessary because drama series Merlin will have Strictly's old slot this year.

BBC1 is looking for a Dorothy and, bizarrely, a Toto the dog as it turns to The Wizard of Oz for in its latest search for a star format. Talkback Thames is making the show, which follows the similar How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, I'd Do Anything and Any Dream Will Do. It will look for a female lead and canine star for the forthcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber West End production of the musical and will reunite the impresario with host Graham Norton. Judges are yet to be announced as is the run for the show, which will broadcast in 2010. Lloyd Webber said: 'Our previous musical talent searches have provided an incredible shot in the arm for musical theatre in Britain and I can't wait to work with the BBC again in the hunt for Dorothy – but , as a cat man myself, however, I approach casting Toto with considerable trepidation.' So much for all of those 'he's off to ITV' rumours. The Wizard Of Oz was commissioned by Jay Hunt and controller of entertainment ommissioning Mark Linsey. The executive producer is Suzy Lamb.

Independent producers commissioned by ITV will have their content vetted for compliance by the commercial broadcaster, following moves by Ofcom which increase the fines the network faces for breaches of the broadcasting code. In a statement, ITV said that the decision to adopt 'double compliance' reflected a lack of confidence in the compliance procedures of its subsidiary Channel Television. Channel TV currently vets most of the network's indie-produced content including The X Factor, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Britain's Got Talent. ITV has stated that from today it would oversee and verify the 'compliance processes undertaken and advice given by any non-ITV plc owned licensee appointed as the compliance licensee on one of its network programmes.' Channel TV themselves have criticised ITV's decision. with chairman Mick Desmond claiming the broadcaster is taking a 'cynical advantage' of Ofcom's decision to increase the network's fines for breaches of the broadcasting code. The ITV franchise holder for the Channel Islands currently vets almost all indie-produced content for the ITV network, including all of Talkback Thames' programmes as well as hit shows like Midsomer Murders and The British Comedy Awards. Desmond told Broadcast: 'It's a bit rich coming from a company that Ofcom recently highlighted had compliance inadequacies and a systematic failure to comply a number of key programmes. ITV plc is Channel TV's only competitor for making sure programmes broadcast on the ITV network are compliant. This move is attempting to take a cynical advantage from Ofcom’s statement made earlier today.'

Disgraced former glamour model, Sophie Anderton has admitted she 'probably' slept with men for money. Speaking during a candid interview on ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show yesterday, she confessed: 'I'm sure I probably did. I did a lot of things on drugs I'm not proud of.' The former Wonderbra model, thirty two, was filmed in 2007 offering sex to an undercover reporter in exchange for cash. She recalled: 'My mother said, "I'm not going to allow you to die before I do." That shook me up.' The former Celebrity Love Island contestant then acknowledged that her addiction was not entirely conquered.

Her twinkling toes have yet to touch the shiny dance floor before Len and co's stern gaze, but Natalie Cassidy is already the most talked about of this year's Strictly Come Dancing contestants - and, for all the wrong reasons. The former EastEnders actress is attracting rather a lot of unwanted - and unkind - attention from the tabloid press because of her supposedly 'ill-advised choices' of rehearsal costumes. So, From The North thought it would be silly to pass up the opportunity for a bit of comment too, since everybody else seems to be getting in on the act. In what was described by the Daily Mail as 'by far her most unflattering outfit to date,' the actress emerged from a two hour gym session last week wearing a sheer lycra leotard, tied around the middle the way you would a sack of potatoes and leggings which looked at least one size too small. The combination proved 'suitably disastrous' for the sartorially challenged twenty six-year-old and it was not helped at all by her rather unwise decision to go without a bra either. Oh God, put them away, love. All of this followed another 'dire ensemble' - again courtesy of the fashion police at the Mail - black Lycra cycle shorts and a red leotard, which she wore to a training session a few days earlier. Poor lamb. At least she's trying.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O is due to feature in a new advert aiming to combat childhood obesity in the US. According to NME, the commercial showcases the star's song 'All Is Love', which is taken from the soundtrack of forthcoming film Where The Wild Things Are. The frontwoman composed the movie's score under the name Karen O And The Kids and has enlisted several of her bandmates to appear alongside members of Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs and Deerhunter. The tag line, presumably, being 'Don't get fat, kids, or you'll never be a rock star'? What a tremendous idea that is - get a stick-insect thin singer to lecture kids on their weight problems. I'm sure that'll go down really well with surly teenagers.

Martin Clunes has ruled out a TV comeback for Men Behaving Badly. The forty seven-year-old actor, who played Gary Strang in the legendary 1990s sitcom, claimed that a sequel would not have the same appeal for viewers because the cast are now too old. Clunes and his co-stars Neil Morrissey, Caroline Quentin and Leslie Ash filmed the final episode of the BBC1 show in 1998 and have since moved on to other projects. Asked if Gary and Tony's antics would still work on screen, Clunes commented: 'It may be seen as a bit seedy.' Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he continued: 'I have fond memories of the show and I am still in touch with Neil, Caroline and Leslie. We did say we were going to do a follow-up but then Caroline didn't want to do it. Then it was suggested the boys do it without the girls but that would have been missing the point completely. It's best if we are left thinking that it would be nice if we all got back together, but then not actually do it.'

NBC has reportedly picked up a pilot from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The untitled procedural series will centre on a team which makes sure that fugitive criminals do not evade the law, Variety reports. Jennifer Johnson is attached as writer for the series, which will be produced through Warner Brothers and Bruckheimer TV. She will also serve as the show's executive producer, along with Pirates of the Caribbean financier Jonathan Littman and KristieAnne Reed. The project is the second that the Peacock Network has ordered from the production company after previously collaborating on the flop military drama E-Ring in 2005. Bruckheimer's corporation currently has eight shows on the air, including Miami Trauma on CBS and The Forgotten on ABC.

Two Ronnies and Spitting Image scriptwriter Laurie Rowley has died, aged sixty eight. Rowley, who also penned work for Not The Nine O'Clock News, Hale and Pace and Alas Smith & Jones, is survived by his wife Joyce and children Leslie and Johanne. Clive Anderson, who worked with the writer on scripts for his chatshow, told the Guardian: '[Laurie] did a good line in jokes, old and new, about baldness and hair loss, an area in which he was always slightly ahead of me. To younger writers, he laid down all sorts of rules about gag-writing. Don't use numbers: the audience start worrying about figures and miss the joke. Don't distract with unnecessary detail. At all costs avoid "jingles" - the repetition of a word. Remember most people are mainly interested in sex and money.' Rowley took up writing in his mid-thirties after giving up his job as a shower-fitter in Leeds. He was taken on by the BBC after it was impressed by the material he had penned and submitted while previously working in plumbing. His writing won him numerous accolades include a Sony Award and a Golden Rose.

Craig Gazey has revealed that his Coronation Street character will soon find love. The actor confirmed that a romance storyline is on the cards for Graeme Proctor but remained tight-lipped about who his partner will be. Speaking to the Press Association, Gazey commented: 'I can't say who but I've been told that Graeme hopefully soon will get a love interest. Maybe someone on the street, maybe not, but something is coming up for him.' He continued: 'It's always a little bit embarrassing because with an on-screen kiss you know that person hasn't chosen to kiss you, so I'm not that excited about that. It's more the fact that it will be good to find a new dimension for Graeme.' Gazey also said that he would be happy if the soap's producers chose to reveal that Graeme is a virgin. 'I think he's vulnerable and I'd like to see how he deals with a relationship,' he added.

Dannii Minogue has admitted that she finds it difficult to stay on friendly terms with her fellow X Factor judges. Never in the world? And here's us viewers thinking you and Cheryl were, like, the bestest of best pals. The singer confirmed that tempers often boil over on the panel once the talent show reaches the live shows stage, where she faces competition from Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole each year. Speaking on Australian radio station 2DayFM, Minogue revealed: 'It's weird with us. Basically, it's a competition for the judges too. If Simon says to one of my singers, "I really like you but the song was really bad. What on earth were you thinking choosing that, Dannii?" in front of fourteen million viewers, you have to defend yourself and your choices. Basically, it's someone's life and they want that success so badly - and the responsibility is all down to you. The pressure is huge.'

The offices of news broadcaster ITN were locked down by police yesterday after a man with a knife stabbed himself in the reception area of its central London headquarters. Police cordoned off the Gray's Inn Road building and the surrounding road following the incident, which occured mid morning. After stabbing himself in the chest, the man surrendered to police and was taken to hospital. He was not arrested. It is not yet known whether the incident was connected to ITN or any of the other occupants of the Gray's Inn Road building. It is understood the man made some reference to an 'injustice,' although it is not known what this referred to.

Maura Tierney has dropped out of NBC's Parenthood to undergo further cancer treatments. The forty four-year-old actress revealed earlier this year that a tumour had been discovered in her breast. NBC pushed the series back to midseason as a result. However, Tierney has now pulled out of the drama because the production schedule would interfere with her treatments. A spokesperson for the star confirmed yesterday: 'Ms Tierney and her doctors remain confident that the outcome of her treatments will be positive. She is deeply disappointed that she will not be able to rejoin such a highly respected, talented, fun and funny group of actors and wishes to thank Jason Katims and NBC for their patience and support.'

It was going to be difficult for Katy Brand to best her Chris Martin 'made almost entirely from hummus' line as From The North's Quote of the Week. But, bless her, the girl's had a right good go. On the subject of Katie Price: 'The thing I find funny about big stars is the people who are very pompous and pretentious, who are riding high and trying to convince us that they're something that they not necessarily are - and I don't think you could ever really accuse Katie Price of being pretentious! She might be many things but she's not pretentious so there's nothing to take the piss out of, really. Katie Price is boobs and books - there's not a lot else I could say.' I'm really starting to warm to Katy Brand! How did that happen?

TV's 'queen of shops' Mary Portas is believed to have doubled her salary by defecting from the BBC to Channel 4 in a two-year deal worth half a million smackers. It follows a bidding war in which both sides tried to secure her Mary, Queen of Shops show and its audiences of up to three million viewers with a multi-year contract. The BBC2 programme, produced by Optomen, features Portas using her retail skills and expertise to help small retailers who are struggling to survive the recession. A BBC spokesman said: 'We're proud to have given Mary her first major TV series on BBC2 and have enjoyed working with her on a number of successful programmes, including Mary, Queen of Shops. She's a great talent, and we would have liked to have continued working with her. However, always mindful of how much we spend, unfortunately the financial offer from Channel 4 made it impossible for us to compete.' A Channel 4 spokesman said: 'Mary is a real authority in her field and a perfect creative fit for the Channel.'

David Walliams is to present a special tribute to British comedy legend Dick Emery for BBC Radio. Dick Emery: The Comedy of Errors? is a sixty-minute documentary by Made in Manchester Productions, which will celebrate his work and feature a rare interview with Emery's only daughter, Eliza. The programme will also reflect on Emery's colourful private life, which included five wives and six long-term relationships. Oooo, he was awful. But we liked him. Eliza, a singer and entertainer herself, will also tell the emotional story of her half brother who spent just two weeks with Emery – not finding out the star was his father until he was thirty eight. MIM ceative director Ashley Byrne said: 'David Walliams is a perfect host for this programme. He's one of Emery's greatest admirers and will hopefully help to introduce new generations to his genius.'

STV has attempted to explain the reasoning behinds its controversial decision not to show some of ITV's biggest dramas during its peak time schedule, reports the Guardian. Viewers and representatives from the media have recently levelled criticism against the ITV licence holder in Scotland about its policy for shunning many high-profile ITV shows. This included not carrying Agatha Christie's Marple last Sunday to instead broadcast a repeat of the surf movie Blue Crush, which attracted just one hundred and twelve thousand viewers, representing the lowest audience on all five terrestrial channels in Scotland that evening. In response to the criticisms, STV's director of broadcast services and regulatory affairs Bobby Hain said that the new scheduling policy is motivated by a desire to introduce more original programming with a focus on Scotland. 'Our programme strategy is to create space in the schedule for material that we are making ourselves, for original Scottish content and for alternative acquisitions,' he said. 'We want to grow our own production base and grow our audience in Scotland and we are freeing up some funds from our network contribution to invest in other content.' As a Channel Three franchise holder, STV can select whichever programming it wants from the ITV network or choose to broadcast its own commissions instead. STV opted against screening Lewis and Kingdom earlier in the year due to both programmes having English settings, but it did recently agree to take Murderland because the show is set in Scotland and features Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane. The new focus on Scottish programming is primarily spearheaded by STV chief executive Rob Woodward and has yielded some recent successes, including the Scotland Goes To War series. Hain said that he is confident future programming such as travel show Scotland Revealed will prove ratings hits, but also stressed that STV remains 'very committed' to the ITV network, from which ninety per cent of its programming still derives.

Comedian Mark Watson has found it necessary to defend his appearance in a series of - really crappy, it must be said - adverts for Magners cider, claiming that he needed the money to support his family. The stand-up comic was accused of 'selling out' by 'journalist' David Jesudason, who claimed that Watson had 'stuck two fingers up to his loyal fans' in an article on the comedy website, Chortle. So, not a real journalist, then? (Apparently, he writes occasional football articles for the Gruniad and the Indepedent. So, to repeat, not a real journalist.) Jesudason also argued that Watson clearly did not care about the 'ills of the world.' What, because he did a sodding advert? What kind of crass horseshit is that? The ills of the world aren't going away any time soon whether Mark Watson cares about them or not. And they're certainly not going to be solved by him not doing a cider advert. Watson responded to the criticism with a right-to-reply piece on the site, insisting that the adverts have granted him artistic freedom in the long-term. 'I like to think I've behaved with reasonable integrity in my career. I've resisted numerous offers to make my twenty four-hour shows profitable, for example, in the hope of preserving the experience for the people who come to see it,' he wrote. 'At the Fringe just gone, I did a series of non-profit lectures on climate change. I've turned down appearances on TV shows I didn't like or approve of.' He added: 'Most pertinently to the current debate, I spent the best part of the last two years writing a novel which my publishers rejected as being too "uncommercial." Coming as it did a week after this enormous professional setback, my decision to support my family by doing an advert would, I think, be intelligible to most people, if not to Mr Jesudason. I accepted the Magners job because the money has allowed me the freedom to take on unpaid or hardly-paid projects which I might otherwise have had to abandon.' Hey, mate, don't even justify nonsense like that with a response. I'm a moderate admirer of Mr Watson's work on Mock The Week, for instance, though I do find the Magners adverts to be irritating in the extreme. That's why I've got a remote control, so I don't have to watch them if I don't want to. I certainly wouldn't be so bloody bare-faced ignorant as to criticise him (or anyone else, for that matter) for working for their living, any more than I would think of having a go at Stephen Fry and Paul Merton for doing insurance adverts. I'm presuming that this Jesudason chap, whoever the hell he is, has a financial status that's secure enough for him not to have to worry about how the mortgage is going to be paid next month? From The North's advice, Mark, if you're interested. Seek this loud-mouthed bloke out and ram a ruddy good dose of humility down his neck. God, some people are just scum.

According to the Gruniad the Serious Fraud Office is investigating suspected criminal price fixing and fraud at Britain's two largest sports retailers - JJB and Sports Direct. I do wonder, is there a Frivolous Fraud Office next door to the Serious one?

With the remastered Beatles CDs and the video game hitting shelves this week and selling like ... things that sell a lot, very quickly, those hacks at the Daily Star must have been scratching their collective heads and burning the midnight oil to find an 'exclusive' angle to the story. So, why not crowbar the Fab Four into their twenty seventh piece on reality TV in the latest edition? 'Simon Cowell says Beatles would never have won X-Factor' apparently. Well, not unless they done a Pete Best on Ringo, I guess. Keith Telly Topping, however, is quite glad they had George Martin as an interpreter of their ideas rather than Hit-and-Miss Simon.