Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alesha: The Last Dance Before The Crucifixion?

Tuesday's update. And we start with what might well be considered 'an ecumenical matter.' The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, spoke of his sense of frustration at the view that the Church of England was the 'Marks & Spencer option' only, for the highly educated or 'suited and booted.' The bishop's remarks come as the Church of England launched its Back to Church Sunday campaign to attract lapsed worshippers and others into the pews this Sunday 27 September. Jesus, the Reverend said, would just as likely have shopped at Asda or Aldi. I dunno, I'd've had him down as more of a B&Q man, myself.

Anyway, welcome, dear blog reader, to the latest installment of 'so who, exactly, is still watching Live From Studio Five, then?' The 'celebrity magazine-style show' hit a new audience-low last night, according to overnight viewing figures. It achieved a lowly two hundred and thirty thousand viewers. The show has now lost over half of its entire audience since its opening night last Monday.

And, for all of the - literally - tens of dear blog readers who've been typing in 'Vicky Lloyd'+'video' during a Google-search and landing themselves on this very blog, please note - I haven't got it or even got a link to it. I just report the news!

Phillip Schofield has revealed that Lauren Harries has been banned from This Morning after her bizarre appearance on the show yesterday. Isn't that a bit like being banned from buying Coldplay records - a welcome relief? The presenter said that the former child star would not be asked to return following her 'peculiar' performance when she was interviewed about transgender issues alongside Dr Kenneth Demsky. During the interview, Harries, thirty one, did an impression of psychiatric hospital character Anne from Little Britain, shouting her catchphrase 'Eh! Eh! Eh!' She also appeared to stand up and grab her breasts shortly before an advert break. As you do. Harries, who had a sex change in 2001, was on the programme to discuss the recent news stories about transgender children. 'What a shame that Lauren did her cause no good at all,' said Schofield. 'You just never know what's next do you? Sadly [Lauren] let herself down a bit on the show today by behaving in a most peculiar fashion. Certainly didn't advance understanding. We will regroup, recast and try again. I really want to hear more from the doctor who was on with her. He was a little bemused! She did an "Anne" from Little Britain! Maybe it was a dare. Spectacularly inappropriate and very silly... If I wasn't so cross at the wasted opportunity to advance public perception I think I would laugh at the utter madness of it all. Oh well, she won't be on This Morning again. I hope the doctor will come back, though... but with a more sensible spokesperson.' Schofield further claimed that Harries appeared 'passionate, intelligent and interesting' when she was asked to appear on the show.

Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton have agreed to put on a 'united front' on TV this week, according to a report. Earlier this month, it was claimed that the pair are locked in a 'fierce battle' for chatshow guests as Norton gears up for his move from BBC2 to BBC1. Norton will now appear on the next edition of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross in an attempt to put a stop to the rivalry rumours, the Daily Express reports. However, a source told the newspaper: 'There's inevitably now a lot of rivalry between the Ross and Norton camps, particularly when it comes to ratings and the guests they secure. Graham will obviously be promoting his new chatshow when he appears on Jonathan's and that's not going down well with everyone.'

Alesha Dixon has described the criticism of her performance on Strictly Come Dancing as 'a storm in a teacup.' Responding to complaints from both viewers and sections of the media, Dixon insisted that she does have the credentials to be on the judging panel. 'People forget that I had four months of solid training from the World Champion (Matthew Cutler) for ten hours a day. I haven't just been picked up off the street and told to judge a little dancing show,' she told Claudia Whatsherface on Strictly: It Takes Two. 'I do know what I'm talking about. I find it such a shame that it clouds what we are actually here for, which is to look at the dancing.' In a separate interview, with Radio Times, Dixon says that claims she is out of her depth are 'nonsense' - but admits that she has been hurt by the criticism. Alesha added that she was shaken by the public's reaction to her appointment and the claims that Arlene Phillips was pushed out because of her age. 'Maybe people wanted to start a cat-fight. But I didn't see it as an argument between Arlene and me. We were just caught in the middle. I haven't even spoken to her about it. Why would I? Was I wounded by some of the comments? Sure. Some of them were very stereotypical and judgmental. When I read that I only won in 2007 because I was half-naked, I did take that seriously. That's not someone offering a considered opinion, that's someone being a bitch.' Former Strictly winner Darren Gough, meanwhile, has weighed into the row in exactly the same way he used to weigh into the Aussie batting. Full-on, but without any decent back-up. The Dazzler is reported to have claimed that Alesha needs to offer harsher judgements on the show. The retired cricketer, who triumphed with professional dancer Lilia Kopylova on the 2005 series, spoke to the Press Association, commenting: 'I think some of the stick she's taken has been a little bit too far, but she's got to improve and if you're going to be honest about it, she's got to be more critical.' He continued: 'When you're not a professional dancer yourself and you have to stand up and judge people like Brendan Cole and Anton Du Beke who've been dancing for fifteen to twenty years it's going to be very difficult for her. She said basically the same thing, "Oh, you look nervous, but nice start to the competition."'

Martina Hingis has admitted that she thought she was safe in Saturday's Strictly Come Dancing dance-off. The former Wimbledon champion, who became the first celebrity to be voted off the show at the weekend, said that she thought her superior points tally to Rav Wilding in both the Latin and Ballroom would see her through to the next round. Hingis and partner Matthew Cutler found themselves in the bottom two alongside Wilding and Aliona Vilani, despite not being among the lowest scorers with the judges. 'I am quite a disappointed because we put so much work into it and I don't get to dance anymore,' she told Strictly: It Takes Two. 'Our group got along really well and before going live on the show Alioni, who ended up in the bottom two with us, she actually gave me loads of tips and help.' She added: 'We had better scores from the two dances [than Wilding and Vilani], so we were thinking we should be safe.' Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon backed Hingis, but Bruno Tonioli and head judge Len Goodman, who cast the deciding vote, chose to save Wilding. Defending his decision, Goodman said: 'I felt Martina was a little brittle and loose. I was a little shocked when the other judges went for her.' Tonioli commented: 'I thought Rav deserved to stay. He has incredible potential and he was better in the dance-off.' Only, in an Italian accent, obviously.

Sky has revealed that nearly two million homes used Sky+ this weekend to record either Strictly Come Dancing or The X Factor during the scheduling clash. Almost two million Sky+ and Sky+ HD subscribers used the recording function of their set top box to ensure that they did not miss either of the shows. After The X Factor beat Strictly in the ratings war, figures released by Sky also indicate that it was the preferred choice for Sky+ users, with 1.2m saving the ITV show to watch later, compared to just under seven hundred thousand for Strictly. A Sky spokesperson said: 'Scheduling clashes like this are what Sky+ was made for. It's great we've been able to save two million people from a difficult decision and enabled them to watch every second of their favourite shows.' It is indeed, even if Keith Telly Topping still doesn't know how to operate one. He would, however, say that there's something hugely ironic about this statement given the uppity dudgeon that the Sky spokeswoman's boss, Mr Murdoch's newspapers have been in over the scheduling clash in question. But, he's not gonna. Cos it's cheap. And if there's one thing that Keith Telly Topping isn't, it's cheap. He's surprisingly expensive.

John Barrowman has accepted the role of Robin Hood in a Christmas panto at the New Theatre in Cardiff. The Torchwood and Doctor Who star will play the legendary outlaw in order to help save the venue from closure, WalesOnline reports. Council finance executive Mark Stephens said: 'John Barrowman in Robin Hood could help turn around the New Theatre. Our basic problem is lack of income. People are not going there.' A reported thirty five thousand tickets have already been sold to fans for the production, which will be shown twice a day with seventy two performances over the holiday period. Barrowman played the role at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2008 after appearing in the title role of Aladdin at the same venue the previous year. John, meanwhile, has hinted that he may return to Doctor Who for David Tennant's final episodes. Well, the fact that he was photographed on location when the episodes were being shot was a bit of giveaway, I'd've said. The actor has starred as Cap'n Jack Harkness on several occasions during Christopher Eccleston and Tennant's time as the Doctor. When asked about a return for any of this year's Doctor Who specials, Barrowman told Metro: 'I'll put it this way - Captain Jack will always return to the side of The Doctor when he needs assistance.' Regarding the popularity of his character, he added: 'I think it's the fact I'm portraying somebody people can identify with. Whether it's because he's omni-sexual or he's proud of who he is - he doesn't give a shit about what anybody thinks. If I had a formula, I would sell it! I'd be handing it out on street corners for one pound fifty each. I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the popularity and success of Captain Jack.'

This one it not, exactly, current Top Telly News per se (I think we first mentioned it in about January!) but it's worth a second mention - Channel 4 have acquired UK rights for two of the most talked-about new dramas from US cable network HBO, True Blood and Generation Kill. True Blood, a twelve-part series starring Anna Paquin and British actor Stephen Moyer, is set in the not-too-distant future when vampires can survive on synthetic rather than human blood. Paquin won best drama actress in the Golden Globes for her performance in the series. The creator and executive producer of True Blood is Alan Ball, who created Six Feet Under, while the story is based on the well-regarded novels of Charlaine Harris. Channel 4 has also acquired the UK terrestrial rights for Generation Kill, the latest project from David Simon, the creator of The Wire. Generation Kill, which had its UK TV premiere on digital channel FX, is a seven-part miniseries from HBO Films that tells the story of the first forty days of the 2003 Iraq war through the eyes of a group of teenage US marines. The drama is based on a book by Rolling Stone reporter Evan Wright, who was embedded with a marine unit during the second Iraq war. The Channel 4 head of acquisitions, Gill Hay, said both series would find a 'natural home' on Channel 4. Both are scheduled to begin their runs on Channel 4 in October.

The Bill's longest-serving cast member Graham Cole has blasted the decision to axe him from the show. In June, the production confirmed that the fifty seven-year-old's character PC Tony Stamp was being dropped after nearly twenty two years on the show. Series producer Tim Key later insisted that the veteran is simply being 'rested.' News of the actor's departure came following confirmation of the ITV programme's revamp as a post-watershed drama airing just once a week. Reflecting on his exit, Cole told the Mirror: 'As the longest-serving actor, I was one of the biggest earners and it's no secret that costs had to be cut. But I've spent nearly half my life on that show. What hurts the most is being axed after all that time so quickly. They've just thrown it all away - bye, you're out the door. It beggars belief. I'll walk around and feel fine, then someone will give me a smile or a nod and I'll get this huge wave of emotion come over me.' He continued: 'I'm no different to all the hundreds of thousands of workers who have lost their jobs recently. I want to keep the belief that something else will come along. But the phone hasn't rung.' Cole also claimed that The Bill is less appealing to its loyal fanbase following its reinvention. He commented: 'Everyone from little kids to old grannies loved The Bill, but ITV seem obsessed with sixteen to thirty two-year-old males. It makes no sense - those people don't even watch TV! The essence is lost. It's not The Bill anymore.'

Ofcom has warned that the ITV network will be facing a loss of up to sixty four million a year by 2012, if it has to continue providing regional news bulletins. In a response to the DCMS' consultation on the future of regional news in the nations and regions, the regulator indicated its support for establishing independent news consortia to deliver localised news across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The media watchdog added that new funding would be required if the regional news on Channel Three was to be maintained after the digital switchover. In its submission, Ofcom added that the Channel Three regional network licences could be in deficit to the tune of thirty eight to sixty four million pounds by 2012. 'The Channel Three regional licences allow ITV Broadcasting Limited in England and Wales, UTV in Northern Ireland and STV in Scotland to broadcast terrestrially, using reserved analogue and digital signals, but come with a number of public service broadcasting (PSB) obligations, including a requirement to provide regional news services on Channel Three, which is the biggest cost,' it said. 'But as the digital TV roll-out gathers pace across the UK, the value of this access to the radio spectrum is declining.'

Outright Distribution has sold the forthcoming US version of Who Do You Think You Are? to Australia. Nine Network has picked up broadcast rights to the US adaptation of the genealogical show, made by British indie Wall to Wall. It is due to launch in the US on NBC in April next year featuring Lisa Kudrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon amongst others.

The BBC has named Saul Nassé as its new controller of Learning, replacing Liz Cleaver who opted not to follow the department to Salford. Nassé currently heads BBC Worldwide's Indian production operation in Mumbai and has worked for the BBC itself in a wide range of genres, including as editor of Tomorrow’s World and acting head of religion and ethics. As controller of learning he will lead the department's relocation to Salford in 2011, and will be responsible for all of the BBC's formal learning content, including online revision service Bitesize, mental health project Headroom, and teen arts strand Blast. He will take up his new role in January, reporting to controller of BBC Knowledge commissioning George Entwistle.

Meanwhile one of BBC Learning's latest projects, My Story, launches on Thursday as a segment of The ONE Show. Have you got a real-life story that you think others will be interested in or inspired by and you're based in the UK? If so, find out further details of how to enter here. It can be anything, covering any theme - celebration, achievement, discovery, bravery, tragedy, humour. The prizes for the up-to-fifteen winners includes some publishing deals and cash advances. In other words it isn't just a box of choccies. And, my colleagues, Lynn and Marianne, would particulaly like to see a North East winner. So, come on you lot, get scribbling and tell the world your stories.

ITV has launched legal proceedings to recover thirty eight million pounds of debt from Scottish franchise STV. 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 peaktime 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 to twenty million pounds.' In the statement, ITV added that it had been 'attempting to resolve this matter for more than a year but unfortunately our efforts have been unsuccessful. Given that we are a commercial organisation, with responsibilities to our shareholders, we are left with no option but to take legal action to recover this sizeable debt,' it added.

BBC Children's budget is set to increase by at least twenty five million pounds over the next three years thanks to cost savings at the corporation. BBC Vision director Jana Bennett revealed the extra cash at today's BBC Vision Forum, an annual event for in-house and independent programme makers. She said it was a response to the BBC Trust's recommendation that the BBC should strengthen its role as the cornerstone of home-produced children's output in the UK. Bennett also claimed that the economic downturn has turned comedy and drama into 'market failure' genres. Bennett said the crisis in commercial TV funding meant BBC needed to take extra responsibility in previously buoyant genres. She said: 'We used to think of religion, current affairs and music and arts as the classic market failure genres – areas of output in which the BBC had a special responsibility. To those, we could now legitimately add children's, comedy, specialist factual and drama. All these genres could be endangered in this tougher commercial world.'

There's an excellent piece in today's Gruniad Morning Star by the BBC's Head of Scheduling, George Dixon, about the furore over the Strictly/X Factor clash, and how it's nothing new. 'One thing that has changed is the investment and variety on both the mainstream channels over the past five years. The days of TV movies and Starsky and Hutch in prime time are long gone. BBC1 has invested heavily on Saturday night: alongside entertainment we introduced new drama including Doctor Who and Merlin. Later in the evening we've successfully played comedy with Outnumbered and our Michael McIntyre stand-up series. Just as important are our regular weekly series including Casualty, Match of the Day and the National Lottery formats. Our detailed schedule is planned six months to a year in advance and we don't have the luxury of knowing where other channels will be pitching their programmes until press day. That only happens ten days before that week's schedule actually starts to transmit.'

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons has said that the corporation should not get engaged in competitive scheduling with rival broadcasters such as ITV as it risks losing viewers. Speaking to The Times, Lyons said that the BBC should not battle ITV for viewers, but instead focus 'on the quality and impact of its programmes, not just audience share.' Which of course is fair enough, it's something a lot of BBC viewers and listeners will be happy to hear. But, I'll tell you what, if I was the next BBC producer whose programme is cancelled because its ratings 'aren't up to scratch,' I'd be camped outside Sir Michael's office demanding a flaming good explanation to how he manages to square that circle. Of course the BBC doesn't need to chase ratings, we know that. But, by the same token, it doesn't mean it should give up and let ITV walk all over it whilst it laughs either. What next, moving The Ten O'Clock News because its ratings are interfering with ITN's News At Ten?

X Factor judge Louis Walsh has undergone cosmetic surgery in Los Angeles, according to a report. The fifty seven-year-old flew out to the States to have 'a bit of work' done last week following encouragement from his show co-star Simon Cowell, the Mirror claims. It is believed that Walsh paid for his wrinkles to be Botoxed and also had surgery on the bags under his eyes. A source said: 'Simon has been badgering him for years and Louis finally succumbed. He's been in dark glasses to hide the bruising.' Cowell has previously suggested that Botox is 'no more unusual than toothpaste.'

Comedienne Katy Brand has hit out at Myleene Klass, describing her as 'smug and over-exposed.' The Big Ass Show star admitted that she is baffled by Klass's dominance in the TV industry and annoyed over her interviews about motherhood. Speaking to Take 5 magazine, Brand commented: 'She seems to be on everything. A presenter can't go to the loo without Myleene taking their job. She has nothing behind the eyes. And I hate women who constantly talk about being a working mum. It's so smug.' The actress added that she tries to remain unfazed by critics who have commented on her size since her rise to prominence. She said: 'It's like, "Katy's not as thin as Myleene Klass." Oh my God, I had no idea until I read that! I roll my eyes a bit but it doesn't upset me. It's more depressing.' Earlier this year, Klass hit back at claims that she is over-exposed by saying: 'It looks like I'm everywhere because it's my job to be everywhere.' No, dear, that's God's job. Your job is a look pretty and read an autocue.

A high-profile Swiss football referee has been given a three-match ban for insulting fans. Massimo Busacca was pictured waving his middle finger at crowds during a match between FC Baden and Keith Telly Topping's favourite club-name in the wide, wide world of sport, Young Boys of Berne. He had asked for a warning to be played over the public address system after Baden supporters ran onto the pitch. Mr Busacca said he was provoked by the subsequent 'verbal abuse' he received from the fans, but he apologised for his 'unsporting gesture. I lost my cool,' he said in a statement. Mr Busacca was in charge at last season's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United and is lined up to referee World Cup matches in South Africa in 2010. The Swiss football association said he was the 'best Swiss referee' but that the suspension was to come into force immediately.

Alex Reid's ex-girlfriend Jodie Mugridge has claimed that he is only dating Katie Price for fame. Well, we didn't think it was for her mind, darling. The twenty nine-year-old told the Sun that she and Reid had a relationship from March to May this year after meeting at the Remix club in Woking, Surrey. Mugridge said: 'Knowing what I know about him, he is clearly in it for the fame. As soon as he gets established, he'll bin her and her family. He is a total exhibitionist who is only interested in sex, sex, sex. He was also extremely vocal in bed. No other boyfriend of mine had yelled as loudly as Alex. I hope Jordan has sound-proofing.' She added: 'I thought straight away Alex and Jordan would gel sexually. Jordan will probably enjoy the fact he is all over her at the moment because she needs the attention. But there is no way he should have met those children so soon, because he won't be able to stop himself from groping her in front of them.'