Monday, September 21, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

We start the week's Top Telly News with Sunday night ratings, at a glimpse:

20:00 - Antiques Roadshow: 5.37m (20.9%)
21:00 - Waking The Dead: 6.36m (25.2%)

20:00 - Last Chance To See: 1.98m (7.7%)
21:00 - Dragons' Den: On Tour: 1.7m (6.7%)

19:45 - The X Factor: 10.52m (41.4%)
21:00 - Doc Martin: 7.67m (30.4%)

This would appear to be continuing proof that any widely publicised 'ratings battles' tend to be argued over, in the media and elsewhere, on somewhat shaky principles. To be blunt: If you put enough 'good stuff' on TV at any one time then audiences will find something they like and come to the party. Which is good for ITV and good for the BBC; everyone should be happy with those numbers from last night. It's interesting to note how, for instance, Waking The Dead doesn't seem to have been damaged at all by Doc Martin's return. Yes, it got less viewers than the ITV show but, by the same token, it got more or less exactly the same number of viewers as watched it last week. I was initially surprised about that but then, thinking about it logically, I can't see there being a huge crossover between Waking The Dead's audience and Doc Martin's. So, the fact that Waking The Dead had virtually the same audience, within a couple of hundred thousand, last night as compared with the previous week when it was up against Marple shouldn't be that much of a surprise despite its opposition yesterday getting nearly eight million as opposed to Marple's four and half million. Different audiences, you see. Mind you, it's also worth noting that last year, Doc Martin was getting nine million viewers not seven and a bit. So, swings and roundabouts. Still, it's a good figure for the decent show, although you do kind of wonder what all of these viewers have been watching on previous Sunday nights?! Or, indeed, were they not watching anything and have returned to the prodigal telly purely to see Martin Clunes getting his boat-race back on the box? The overall impression from last night, though, is how everyone can do well when there's a good, varied selection of programmes to watch - something for all of those bores who are still complaining about Strictly and X Factor being scheduled opposite each other to consider, perhaps. But, of course, they won't.

And, speaking of such. The BBC has vowed to stand by Alesha Dixon despite the ongoing - and wholly media-created - row surrounding her performance as a Strictly Come Dancing judge. two hundred and seventy two viewers are said to have complained to the BBC that the singer is 'not suitable for the panel' following her debut on the show at the weekend. Out of an audience of pushing eight million. Do the maths to work out what percentage they represent yourselves, dear blog reader. Responding to the complaints, a Strictly spokesman told the Daily Mail: 'The BBC are right behind [Alesha]. The bosses are really pleased with her. Alesha will be staying on the judging panel for the rest of the series.' The representative added that criticism of Dixon on discussion websites does not give a fair indication of her popularity with viewers. He insisted: 'Internet forums are always full of heated debate. They are not representative of public opinion.' As someone who frequents Internet forums far more than is truly healthy, Keith Telly Topping wholeheartedly agrees with this assessment. That's what makes them fun. It's also worth noting that, according to the BBC press office, 'around one hundred' viewers also contacted the BBC to say that they were unhappy that the programme clashed with The X Factor. Not blog readers will perhaps like to note, the 'thousands' that the Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt claimed had spoken earlier in the week. If you're as curious as this blogger is about this apparent discrepancy then, I'm sure the Right Honourable Mr Hunt would be delighted to set the record straight as to where, exactly, he obtained the 'figures' that he quoted so freely at the Royal Television Society. He can be contacted c/o the House of Commons, London, England if anyone's interested.

And, still with Strictly, Len Goodman has said that Alesha Dixon must be feeling the pressure in her new role. Goodman also admitted that he never expected the show's judging panel to change, the Sunday Mirror reported. 'None of us like change,' he said. 'I don't think any of us ever thought they'd change the lineup of judges. The panel is like a plant. It needs pruning to allow it to keep growing. But you don't pull it up at the root.' He added that Dixon would struggle because of her lack of experience. 'We've done seven years of this,' Goodman said. 'We've served our apprenticeship but poor old Alesha has come in on week one. Alesha's a sensible girl. She has limited knowledge on technique. I think she knows she can't talk about the rise and fall of ballroom dancing. Can you imagine the kind of pressure she's under?' Craig Revel Horwood, meanwhile, has said that he is angry about the response. And, you don't want to get Craig angry, trust me. It's not a pretty sight. He claimed that his new colleague needed time to bed in on the show and described the media's response to her appointment as 'horrendous. 'I don't think she deserves it,' he told the BBC. 'She deserves to be given a chance and it makes me very angry that she's not. If you go back and look at the first weeks of any of us, Arlene, Len, Bruno and I, on any of our early recordings none of us were perfect right away. Alesha has got to be given a chance. She's up there to form a critique and that's what she is doing.'

Jessie Wallace has slammed the 'spiteful' weight jibes that she claims she had to endure during her stint on Strictly Come Dancing. The former EastEnders actress admitted that she was mortified when the show's host Bruce Forsyth introduced her as 'Jelly Wallace' in one live episode last year. Heh! I hadn't that one before. Excellent. Anyway, Wallace has since lost two stone with an intensive diet and exercise regime. Reflecting on her Strictly experience, the star told Celebs On Sunday: 'There's only so much I can take. When I did Strictly, the word "jelly" was said instead of my name and I don't think it was an accident. It's spiteful. I've had the piss taken out of me so many times and I'm human and a woman and our weight fluctuates, so I was like, "I've had enough of this, I want to look the best I can."' Wallace added that she wouldn't like to appear on Strictly again for another chance at impressing the judges. 'I don't know how I put myself through that,' she explained. 'The roller coaster of emotion was just horrible. The nerves, remembering the dance, ten million people watching, the judges, the scores, it's just horrible. And I never said I could dance - it just got too competitive and too much for me.'

A two-storey Lego house created by Top Gear and Toy Stories presenter James May faces demolition after plans for Legoland to buy it fell through. The house will be demolished on Tuesday if a new owner cannot be found in time. It will cost about fifty thousand pounds to dismantle and reassemble. Top Gear's website has set up a Facebook page in an attempt to find a buyer. Legoland now say it is too expensive for them to move it. The house was made for BBC2 series Toy Stories. The house was built by about one thousand volunteers and currently stands in Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey - but now the vineyard needs the land back to harvest its grapes. 'Knocking it down is just wrong on every level. It's a really lovely thing - it would break the hearts of the thousand people who worked like dogs to build it,' May told the Mail on Sunday.

Wage concerns are reportedly stalling ITV's attempt to hire a new chief executive. the Sunday Telegraph says the commercial broadcaster's preferred candidate, the former BSkyB boss Tony Ball, is demanding a remuneration deal worth thirty million pounds over five years - a package major shareholders are reticent to endorse. It is said that Mr Ball has also asked for share options to be back-dated to May, when he was first linked to the job, in return for attempting to reverse the fortunes of the debt-laden company. ITV is said to be working on an alternative plan of offering the position to current director of television Peter Fincham. The station has declined to comment on the speculation. The race to find a new chief began when the broadcaster announced that industry veteran Michael Grade would step down from his current executive role to become non-executive chairman before the end of the year. ITV unveiled a one hundred and five million pounds loss for the first six months of the year in August after falling advertising revenues hit the company hard. Its share prices also tumbled last week after the Competition Commission refused to scrap rules governing the charging of advertisers.

Hugh Laurie has admitted that walking with a limp in House has hurt his knees. Laurie has been playing Greg House, who walks with a cane, for five years. However, he said that he may not be able to continue because of the effect on his knees, the Daily Mail reports. 'The show might last through to series seven, eight or nine but I don't know if I will because I'm starting to lose my knees,' he explained. 'It's a lot of hip work. There are things going badly wrong. I need to do yoga.' Meanwhile, Lisa Edelstein has praised the writers of House for exploring the relationship between her character and the show's titular character. Speaking to E! Online, the forty three-year-old actress, who has played Lisa Cuddy for the past five years, promised fans that season six will be 'great.' Discussing the rocky romance between House and Cuddy, Edelstein said: 'As much as they fight, they fight like people who love each other. They fight like people who have been married for eighty thousand years. They have a very significant relationship, however it expresses itself at whatever time. She's totally there for him when he gets back.' She added of season six, which premieres in the US tonight on FOX: 'It's a great season. It's a rocky road for a lot of the characters and there are some twists and turns that might take people by surprise - if they don't read spoiler pages!'

Doctor Who has been named 'the best TV programme' by the British Fantasy Society as part of the FantasyCon convention at Nottingham's Britannia Hotel. The award was picked up by Rob Shearman, the writer of the first series episode Dalek, who paid tribute to head writer Russell Davies and executive producer Julie Gardner. Rob added that some people had originally 'laughed' at the idea of resurrecting Doctor Who when he first told them that he was working on the show. And, Keith Telly Topping was one of them, dear blog reader. And, he's not 'alf glad he was as wrong as a wrong thing bit big wrong knobs on it. In its wrongness.

Martin Clunes has criticised STV's decision not to show the fourth series of Doc Martin on its network. The Scottish ITV franchise holder has decided to opt out of showing the Cornish drama, alongside almost all of ITV's autumn dramas. STV says the move has allowed it to show a more diverse slate of local programming, and is boosting regional investment. Speaking on Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 5 Live programme on Friday, Clunes said he did not understand why the commercial broadcaster had opted out. 'We've had people coming down from Scotland to Port Isaac [in Cornwall] to watch the filming because they like the show so much… From one end of the country to the other,' he said. 'There a load of things at ITV I don't understand, but I really don't understand that. It just seems churlish.' Clunes then joked: 'I'll tell you what, if they're not careful we'll make it up there. That'll teach them.'

Drama veteran and former BBC governor Richard Eyre (old Labour) has accused the corporation of a 'dereliction of duty' for turning its back on classic playwrights. He told the Sunday Times that the BBC's public service remit is to be 'educational and inspiring' but that it is 'failing when it comes to drama' because of a bias against theatre, which he believes has crept into the corporation. So, yet again we have somebody claiming a curiously narrow definition of what 'public service' actually means. Essentially 'what I want to see them make and nothing else.' 'Educational and inspiring,' sure. But also, 'entertaining,' Richard. Remember that bit of Lord Reith's edict of what the BBC should be aiming for? He added that over the last decade, the BBC has become increasingly focused on modern drama at the expense of British writers such as William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and TS Eliot – and that the only concession to the classics were adaptations of 'bonnet buster' novels. Eyre, who was a BBC governor between 1995 and 2003 and also worked at the corporation in the 1970s as former producer/director of its Play For Today strand (on which, of course, they did loads of Shakespeare adaptations, didn't they?), argued that the corporation should continue to make sure it includes plays as part of its drama output. As a way of introducing the medium to new audiences. He said: 'I did not live near a theatre and it was watching a television production of As You Like It, starring Vanessa Redgrave, that gave me my interest in the stage. But young people these days can't do this as the BBC is not doing these sort of plays. I'm not saying the BBC should do classics for their own sake but they must be a part of the mix.' Oh Christ, another OLD BORE pissed-off that it isn't still 1965. A BBC spokesman said: 'The BBC produces a wide range of drama across its four channels that provides writers with a platform to create work that is highly creative, thought-provoking and tailored to the medium of television.' Why they felt they even had to justify such idiotic comments with a reply of any sort that wasn't a big fat raspberry is, as yet, unexplained.

Michael Parkinson has criticised Five's new early evening show Live From Studio Five. According to the Daily Mirror, Parkinson complained that he couldn't understand the chatshow. 'If there was a category for worst ever show, it would win hands down,' he said. Live From Studio Five launched last Tuesday, with Melinda Messenger, Ian Wright and The Apprentice's Kate Walsh acting as hosts. And, if you're still watching it ... Hello, Mrs Wright.

One of the writers of Peep Show has admitted that he fears the show could eventually go downhill. Well, you know, most things do, sooner or later. Best not to worry about it frankly, mate. Sam Bain, who pens the programme with writing partner Jesse Armstrong, told the BBC that their concerns about the show had changed now it was in its sixth series. Bain said: 'Our philosophy is that as much fear as possible is good because if you get complacent then you're dead. In the first series, it was the fear that the show would be a failure and now the fear is that the show is going to go downhill and become a bloated and bad excuse for itself.' He added: 'Channel 4 have always been incredibly supportive, a lot of other channels would have cancelled us but they've never done that.' Bain said that he and Armstrong 'don't feel pressure to change the show' and also joked that the current series would be the programme's 'breakthrough.'

Trevor Eve is to star in a modern reworking of Andrea Newman's steamy, taboo-busting 1970s psychological drama, A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, for ITV. Adapted by Guy Andrews, whose credits include Lost In Austen and Prime Suspect, the three-part series will explore the consequences of a father's obsessive love for his daughter and 'how secrets once buried in the past return to haunt their lives.' Eve will play Peter Manson, whose apparently successful life is turned upside down when his teenage daughter Prue reveals she is pregnant by her teacher, Gavin Sorenson. Newman's book, first published in 1969, caused controversy when it was originally adapted for television by LWT for ITV in 1976 with its story of infidelity, lust and incest. A sequel, Another Bouquet, was made a year later. Clive James, in his Observer review of the first series, commented that 'by the end everybody had been to bed with everybody else except the baby.' The original ITV version starred Frank Finlay as Peter, Susan Penhaligon as Prue and James Aubrey as Sorenson. Commissioned by the ITV controller of drama commissioning, Sally Haynes, the new version will be made by independent production company Mammoth Screen, who recently produced ITV's Wuthering Heights and whose managing directors, Michele Buck and Damien Timmer, are overseeing ITV's upcoming remake of The Prisoner. 'It's a timeless, multilayered tale of a family torn apart by secrets from the past,' said Haynes. 'It created a stir during the 1970s when first produced for television and, thirty years on, we're convinced a modern day audience will be just as intrigued by its themes of paternal jealousy and incestuous relationships.' Timmer added: 'The original TV version of A Bouquet of Barbed Wire was one of the most controversial dramas of its era, busting taboos which still have the power to shock decades later. Guy will bring a thrilling, modern sensibility to the story.' Filming is scheduled for November, with broadcast due next year.

The BBC's Little Dorrit proved to be a big winner at the annual Emmy Awards in the US. The Charles Dickens adaptation took home seven trophies, including that of outstanding miniseries. Meanwhile, Irish actor Brendan Gleeson was named outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the acclaimed biopic Into The Storm. Accepting the award, the fifty four-year-old said: 'Now there's a turn-up for the books.' He went on to give an emotional speech, thanking the production team for giving his parents the chance to see an early cut of the film. His mother died shortly afterwards. In taking the title, he got the nod ahead of a short list that included Sir Ian McKellen, Kenneth Branagh and Kiefer Sutherland. Into The Storm, a joint BBC/HBO venture won a second gong for its musical score. But it missed out on the best TV movie title to Grey Gardens, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Lange won a leading actress award for the role. Little Dorrit proved to be the big British winner of the night. Even before the televised segment of the award show began, the series could brag a handful of trophies, including those for art direction, costumes and cinematography. More success was to come as the evening progressed, with Dearbhla Walsh taking home the prize for outstanding directing of a miniseries, movie or a dramatic special. Writer Andrew Davis also won an award for penning the script. Its success culminated with being named best miniseries - one of the event's blue ribband awards. Accepting the award, executive producer Anne Pivcevic said: 'We are thrilled that Little Dorrit has gone down so well this side of the Atlantic.'

Charlie Brooker is back to his vitriolic best on Screen Burn reviewing History's Life After People. 'The show goes on to explain in sobering detail just how little mark even the greatest of us can hope to make. We see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco crumble into bits. We also see skyscrapers buckle, bridges tumble, ships sink and the Houston Astrodome collapse inwards like a depressed meringue. The remains of cities are hidden beneath a carpet of vegetation. There's nothing left. Even Bruce Forsyth's dead.' Ah, King Charlie. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Holly Willoughby will be replaced by Christine Bleakley on next year's The Xtra Factor, say tabloid reports. According to the Daily Star, Willoughby will step down from her role on the spin-off show after the latest series ends at Christmas. 'Holly's enjoyed Xtra Factor but feels the time is right to step aside and let someone else have a go,' said a source. The twenty eight-year-old, who also hosts This Morning and Dancing On Ice, gave birth to her first child Harry in May. The ONE Show host Bleakley is allegedly Simon Cowell's new favourite TV presenter. I'm not sure whether that's something for Christine to be happy about or not.

X Factor producers are worried about rumoured X-rated online videos featuring girl-band Kandy Rain, according to a tabloid claim. A video of singer Vicky Lloyd has surfaced online featuring her taking her off her bikini in the shower before 'caressing her breasts and frolicking seductively,' according to the Sun. ITV bosses are apparently concerned that further leaked videos featuring the girls may upset families watching the show. Lloyd, Azi Jegbefume, Khatereh Dovani and Chemmane Applewhaite met while working at the adult club Secrets in London. The four-piece were one of the final acts to make it through to boot camp at the weekend and have been tipped to make the final twelve. Their performance of The Pussycat Dolls's 'Don't Cha?' got the approval of all four judges. 'The girls no longer work as lapdancers now they're in the show,' said an ITV spokesperson.

Michael Emerson has described his scenes on Lost as 'dangerous and electrical.' Speaking at this year's Emmy Awards, the fifty five-year-old actor - Benjamin Linus in the ABC series - also discussed the possibility of Jacob still being alive. 'Very often the scenes between Ben and John Locke are dangerous and electrical in a way that delights me,' he said. 'They feel theatrical and I like that.' He added: 'I don't know if Jacob is killable; Ben stabbed someone, or it seems like he did. That's what I know.' Emerson was crowned 'Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series' at last night's awards, held at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

A nine-month-old former stray puppy called Barney has been named as the latest Blue Peter dog. The crossbreed puppy was given to presenter Helen Skelton by Dogs Trust. He had been taken to one of the charity's re-homing centres. The Dogs Trust's chief executive Clarissa Baldwin said Barney had 'immediately impressed staff with his winning personality.' Previous dogs on the BBC show have included Petra, Shep and Goldie. Ms Baldwin said Dogs Trust staff knew straight away that 'charming little pup' Barney was 'destined to be a star.'

Adam Rickitt has announced that he was recently injured in a hit and run accident. The former Coronation Street actor used his online video diary to discuss the incident, which occurred when he was walking his dog in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month. Addressing his fans, he revealed: '[I] got run over by some complete arse. My whole arm has basically got enormous bruising.' Confirming that he also suffered cuts and swelling to his right arm, Rickitt added: 'It's bloody painful.' The Sun reports that the thirty one-year-old's dog was unharmed in the incident. Rickitt currently stars in New Zealand soap Shortland Street. His Coronation Street character Nick Tilsley will soon return to screens with a new actor in the part.

Coronation Street producers have been criticised by the Royal College of Midwives over scenes involving the soap's new mum Maria Connor. In a letter to the show's bosses, the organisation's education and research manager Sue Macdonald complained that there was no mention of Maria's midwife on-screen after she gave birth to baby Liam earlier this year. The RCM believes that writers should have made reference to the 'postnatal advice and support' on offer to the character, Midwives magazine reports. Macdonald also criticised the ITV drama's portrayal of breastfeeding. Earlier this year, viewers saw Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) advising Maria to start using bottles after she experienced problems with feeding her child naturally. Most experts agree that human breast milk is the healthiest form of milk for young babies. The RCM manager commented: 'The representation of bottle-feeding as the way to feed an infant in a family programme such as Coronation Street contributes to normalising bottle-feeding in our society.' A producer for the programme responded to the concerns by claiming that Coronation Street cannot always match the requirements of 'accuracy and interested bodies.' The representative added: 'We do not want Coronation Street, which is a character-led drama serial, falling into the genre of drama-documentary. Notwithstanding, we have of course taken your comments on board over the issue of breastfeeding and it may well become the nub of a story on some future occasion.' In other words 'shut up, butt out and go away.'

Louisa Lytton has claimed that she will stay grounded when she moves to America. The former Eastenders actress is travelling to Hollywood to work on the next American Pie film. 'I doubt I'd ever go off the rails,' Now quotes her as saying. 'I've got good friends and family around me to keep me grounded and I think I'm past that now. I appreciate it all so much I wouldn't do anything to screw it all up.' Lytton added: 'I don't think it was until I got there that it hit me... I had my own Winnebago and a lovely apartment to stay in. It was really surreal.'

Louise Redknapp has admitted that she missed being in the city while shooting her new Five show Farmer Wants A Wife. The thirty four-year-old, who hails from Lewisham in south-east London, praised the 'breathtaking' farm where the show was filmed but claimed that she was eager to return to her urban life. 'It was brilliant for a weekend, but I have to say I missed shopping on Oxford Street,' she told the Press Association. Spoken like a true WAG, love.

Anne Robinson demanded that the BBC pay a personal hairdresser and make-up artist for her, reports say. The Watchdog presenter refused to appear on the BBC's Breakfast show unless the institution paid for the stylists, the Daily Mail claims. The hairdresser cost the corporation three hundred and fifty pounds, while the make-up artist was paid two hundred. Robinson was only on the programme for a seven-and-a-half minute interview. 'When we heard about her demands everyone was furious, and most of us wanted to drop her,' a source told the Sunday Mirror. 'We couldn't believe she would be so difficult, especially as we were giving her the opportunity to promote her own show. In the end we paid up. But no-one was happy about it - we are under pressure to account for all our expenditure and it is very hard to justify this kind of expense.' A spokesman for the BBC said: 'We don't discuss arrangements for hair and make-up for any of our guests.'

Jessica Simpson has called off the search for her dog. The maltipoo named Daisy was snatched by a coyote last week, but Simpson later said that she was hopeful her pet would be found. However, the Sun reports that she has now decided to stop looking. 'They concluded the search and are not continuing it at this time,' Simpson's spokesperson said. 'There are no leads.' Leads, do you see? It's ... oh, never mind.