Thursday, September 10, 2009

From The North Says "Hugo Chavez Is A Scallywag And A Rotter" And He Can't Touch Me For It!

Talent show fans will have to choose between Simon Cowell's X Factor and the frocks and sequins of Strictly Come Dancing after the BBC decided to go head-to-head with ITV on a Saturday night for the first time. The two shows have traditionally aired with little or no overlap in broadcast time, meaning that fans have seldom had to choose which show they would watch live. However, the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, which is due to start on Friday 18 September, has been scheduled on its first Saturday night, the next day, to air between 7.25pm and 9.05pm. This pits it almost directly against ITV's blockbuster X Factor, which will then be in its fifth week, airing between 8pm and 9.15pm. 'It is disappointing that they are effectively splitting the audience – both shows have previously been pretty much complementary,' whinged an ITV source. Well, that's Capitalism for you - giving the people a choice of products. I thought you guys were all in favour of it. 'Given that millions of people enjoy both shows this seems to be a very aggressive and competitive scheduling decision.' Previous series of Strictly Come Dancing, which is about to start its seventh outing, have traditionally aired earlier, with start times between 6pm and 6.30pm. This year the first two weeks of Strictly will see shows air on Friday and Saturday night. From week three the show will take over Saturday nights with one long episode, including the results. The BBC argues that there is actually more choice for viewers this year because Strictly has dropped its Sunday night results show, run for the past two seasons, while X-Factor has launched a Sunday show this year for the first time. 'Strictly and X Factor have successfully co-existed on Saturday night for many years,' said a BBC spokesman. 'This year is no different.'

The head of Australia's public service broadcaster has lambasted James Murdoch over his attack on the BBC, accusing him of wanting to 'destroy the BBC as we know it.' Mark Scott, the managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, took issue with the News Corporation Europe and Asia chief's wholly agendaless claim in his MacTaggart lecture that the BBC was constraining commercial news organisations from charging for news in a most satisfyingly forthright way. 'I can't let this pass without commenting on James Murdoch's recent claim that it was "essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news,"' Scott said in a speech tonight to the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association at Australia House in London. 'In other words, that as commercial news services were now considering charging for their online news, there was no longer a place for a free, public news service provided by the BBC. Think about this: the reason it sounds like a bad idea is because it is a bad idea … Strip away the lofty language and you see that the James Murdoch solution is less about making a contribution to public policy than it is getting rid of the BBC's services, effectively destroying the BBC as we know it – a tragedy for the UK, a tragedy for the world.'

EastEnders actress Danniella Westbrook has credited co-star Steve McFadden for helping her through her soap comeback. The thirty five-year-old signed up to reprise her role as Walford's Sam Mitchell in April following a break of almost five years from her TV career. Westbrook has now revealed that she adjusted quickly to life back on the show's set thanks to McFadden (who plays her brother, Phil Mitchell), despite her initial concerns about returning to Albert Square. She told the Press Association: 'I was very nervous because I hadn't done anything for five years and I hadn't done any acting for ten years, so Steve mentored me and talked me through stuff and helped me out. My first two weeks were spent constantly with Steve so I was very lucky. They were very kind to me in that sense.'

Leona Lewis has admitted that she is baffled by criticism of her 'nice girl' image. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, the twenty four-year-old singer - recently in the news after being amusingly headbutted by her own horse - insisted that she is proud of the way she has behaved since finding fame on The X Factor in 2006. She commented: 'People are always saying, "She's really sweet," and it's like, I've been brought up properly by my parents and I'm respectful to people. So I think, "What, is it bad to be a good person?" I don't think so.' The chart-topper also suggested that the public may only see one side of her personality, insisting that she does stand up for herself when she needs to. 'I'm quite quiet and it takes me a while to come out of myself and be comfortable,' she conceded. 'But just because I'm polite and nice doesn't mean I can be pushed over. I'm not confrontational, but I will speak my mind.' Hope you gave the horse a good telling off, Leona.

Rockin' Ronnie Wood's daughter, Leah, has dismissed press rumours that she had banned him from seeing his new granddaughter. Leah gave birth to her first child, Maggie, in May, nearly a year after Ronnie's split from her mother, Jo, following details of his affair with a twenty-year-old Russian waitress emerged. The family were subsequently dogged by reports that The Rolling Stones guitarist was not welcome at family celebrations since the birth. However, Leah has maintained that she continues to keep a strong relationship with her father and explained that he is delighted to be involved in the child's upbringing. 'A father and daughter always have a special bond and when I was pregnant I was like, "Where is my dad? I need to see him." I love his company. He is a wonderful man and, whatever has happened, he is my dad at the end of the day.'

Dannii Minogue has replaced controversial Australian radio host Kyle Sandilands following his most recent suspension from on-air hosting duties. Yesterday, Sandilands was suspended for the second time in five weeks after he commented that Australian actress Magda Szubanski could lose more weight if she entered a concentration camp. The comments caused outrage among the public and drew ire from Jewish groups, while singer Renée Geyer - whose mother spent time in concentration camps and whose grandparents were killed at Auschwitz - labelled the 'unthinkable' remarks 'offensive and hurtful.' This morning, thirty seven-year-old Minogue and Australian Idol host Andrew Gunsberg joined Sandilands's co-host Jackie O on the breakfast radio programme and will continue to anchor the show for at least a week.

One of the world's biggest superstars, Barbra Streisand, has today confirmed an exclusive appearance with Jonathan Ross. In her first British TV interview this century, she will be in the UK for a one-off edition of Jonathan's Friday-night talk show, Friday Night With Streisand And Ross, which will be, according to the BBC press release, 'entirely devoted to a celebration of her legendary life as a performing icon. As well as discussing her career as a double Oscar-winning artist, actress of stage and screen, concert performer, director, movie producer, songwriter and best album-selling female recording artist, Streisand will also be performing live in the studio intimate material from her eagerly-awaited new album Love Is The Answer as well as one of her all-time classic hits.'

ITV has commissioned a second series of its East End-based drama Whitechapel, this time focusing on the crime family the Krays. The show, which stars the former Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis, has been one of the top-rating dramas for ITV this year. The finale of the first series, a modern day-take on Jack the Ripper, attracted 7.6m viewers when it aired in February. The second series is to be produced by Carnival Films and will be broadcast in three episodes, like the first series. It will look at the 'gangster brutality' of the Kray twins, Reggie and Ronnie, who ran an organised crime operation in East London in the 1950s and 1960s. The broadcaster said that the series will contain 'copycat murders, maiming and torture' set in a climate of paranoia of the 'faded glamour' of East End in the time of the Krays. 'Whitechapel II will be as audacious and as compelling as the first series, strengthened by further character development and very real personal jeopardy,' said Laura Mackie, ITV's director of drama commissioning. 'We are delighted to be commissioning more episodes following the success of [the first series of] Whitechapel.' Pre-production of the new series will begin in the autumn and broadcast is expected sometime in 2010.

UKTV has secured the first-run rights to upcoming British cinema release Morris: A Life with Bells On. The film, a mock-documentary about Morris dancing starring Derek Jacobi, Naomie Harris and Greg Wise alongside writer and producer Chaz Oldham, will play out on Blighty next year. Blighty will also show a twenty three-minute behind-the-scenes programme, Morris: in the Making, on 27 September to coincide with the movie's nationwide cinema release. Website will also host behind-the-scenes content and taster clips and UKTV will launch a viral campaign to support the art of Morris dancing. The low-budget comedy, described as a feelgood mixture of Billy Elliott and The Full Monty, has played well at several film festivals. But it was deemed 'too niche' by distributors, initially struggling to find a cinema release before the makers encouraged fans to launch online petitions. It has since secured a limited run in independent cinemas.

Fox International Channels has launched a new look for the FX UK channel and its associated online presence. The channel's new look on Sky, Virgin Media and Tiscali includes a reformatted FX logo including a URL to promote the refreshed website, which now offers video clips, games and other content. 'The objective was to give the channel a more contemporary and accessible feel. We conceived a red FX "creature," made up from elements of our logo that personifies the brand values and the programming acting in different ways at different times,' said FX director of creative cervices Mark Harrison. 'This broader creative approach should appeal to the audiences we have been attracting in the last year.' FX general manager Cecilia Parker added: 'It has been a very successful year for FX. We won Broadcast best entertainment channel of the year and digital channel of the year. We've had many high points with critically acclaimed shows like Dexter, Generation Kill and True Blood further cementing FX's position as a must-see channel. Now that we are five years old, we were in need of a brush up. The channel needs to match the excellence of our content, and we have achieved that.'

Fiver has acquired the UK broadcast rights for Knight Rider, The City and 10 Things I Hate About You. Additionally, the network has inked deals with DCD-owned September Films to screen Bridezilla, a reality series centred around brides-to-be who are determined to have their perfect wedding. Also arriving on Fiver later this year is the second series of The Sexy Ad Show, fronted by comedian Spencer Brown. Fiver's Jeff Ford said of the deals: 'I am delighted that this autumn we will have an exciting and fun lineup of new and exclusive shows for our Fiver audience that truly reflects the change in attitude and energy of the channel.'

ITV has missed out on entering the FTSE 100 despite hopes that it was about to rejoin the ranks of the UK's top companies. The broadcaster dropped out of the elite index for the first time a year ago and investors hoped it was about to get back among the blue-chips after its shares performed strongly in recent weeks. But a quarterly review of the FTSE line-up today is set to conclude that ITV will not be readmitted based on its market capitalisation at the close of trading last night.

A graphic designer has accused the BBC of copying his characters for its Kerwhizz cartoon - a claim the corporation has strongly denied. Mike Mitchell’s copyright action alleges that the characters in Kerwhizz, aired in May last year, bear a resemblance to his illustrations for The Bounce Bunch, which he had placed on freelance websites. He claims that he sent the designs to the BBC's children's animation department in October 2007, but that the corporation said it had 'lost them' in May last year. Hertfordshire Trading Standards is investigating the case after the designer sought its advice. But the BBC vehemently deny the claims and said it has yet to receive notice of legal proceedings. A BBC spokesman said: 'We deny any allegation of copyright infringement and have found no evidence to support the allegation. We conducted a thorough investigation in May and are satisfied that Kerwhizz and the characters that appear in that programme are a completely independent creation. We've provided this information to Mr Mitchell and Hertfordshire Trading Standards. No use at all was made of Mr Mitchell's proposal for The Bounce Bunch which he submitted to CBBC and not CBeebies.'

Phil Redmond, the creator of Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks, is to consider the future of children's television in a lecture at the forthcoming Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention. Delivering the RTS Huw Weldon Memorial Lecture, Redmond will address the extent to which broadcasters are meeting the needs of young audiences in today's market. The lecture will look at whether broadcasters are tackling the youth market and suggest how they might provide interesting and relevant content in the digital age. It will take place at the University of Cambridge West Road Concert Hall on 16 September.

In a rare interview granted to the BBC2 documentary series The Love Of Money, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Dr Alan Greenspan, claimed that bankers knew they were under pricing risk but thought they could get out before the financial crisis hit. Dr Greenspan said: 'What happened to the bankers – yes they knew that they were involved in an under pricing of risk and at some point that correction would be made. I fear that too many of them thought they would be able to spot the actual trigger point of the crisis in time to get out.' Seen by many as a key architect of the global free market economy and the crash of 2008, eighty three-year-old Greenspan also argues that human nature will lead to a repeat of events similar to those that have unfolded around the world over the last year. 'Crisis will happen again but it will be different. They are all different but they have one fundamental source and that is the unquenchable capability of human beings when confronted with long periods of prosperity to presume that that will continue and they begin to take speculative excesses with the consequences that have dotted the history of the globe, basically since the beginning of the Eighteenth Century or back to the South Sea Bubble. Or even before. It's human nature – unless somebody can find a way to change human nature we will have more crises – none of them will look like this because no two crises have anything in common except human nature.' Well, 'being less greedy' might, possibly, be a start. Radical suggestion, I know.

The competition regulator is preparing to announce a relaxation of rules governing how ITV sells advertising, but is unlikely to scrap all the controls binding the channel and could call for a complete review of Britain's TV advertising trading system. The Competition Commission aims to announce the results of its review of the contract rights renewal system this week. CRR, introduced when Carlton and Granada merged in 2003, is a set of rules designed to protect advertisers against ITV abusing its dominant position in the TV advertising market. Changes to it could affect a wide range of media developments, including the proposed merger of Channel 4 and BSkyB's ad sales operations. The Office of Fair Trading has recommended a relaxation to CRR, such as to stop forcing ITV to roll over sales contracts with agencies, but said it still believed that there needed to be 'effective safeguards.' One senior TV executive believes that removing or simplifying the rollover contract system, which is based around the old regional Carlton and Granada operations, could allow ITV to cut its sales force by up to twenty five per cent, or one hundred staff. However, ITV wants CRR completely abolished, arguing that since the merger the advertising landscape has changed decisively. When CRR was introduced, ITV took in excess of fifty per cent of all UK TV ad spend. By the end of this year it will take just over thirty six per cent, according to figures from media agency Initiative. It could be politically difficult for the Competition Commission to completely drop CRR. There would be an outcry from advertisers and media agencies that with a market share in the mid-thirties – or the mid-fortiess if ITV's digital channel portfolio is taken into account – an unfettered ITV would naturally abuse its position. Abolition would also pave the way for BSkyB and Channel 4 to merge sales houses without fear of being blocked by competition authorities in a similar way. A combined Channel 4/BSkyB sales operation would hold a thirty six per cent share of UK TV ad sales.

The shop where yer Keith Telly Topping buys the majority of his weekly groceries, the UK's fourth-largest supermarket, Morrisons saw half-year pre-tax profits rise forty five per cent, saying that new customers had been drawn in by its prices in the downturn. The firm made four hundred and forty nine million pounds in the six months to 2 August, attracting a million new customers in the past two years. A good third of that was entirely down to Keith Telly Topping's loyalty to their tasty meat products and freshly baked bread. Official. Chief executive Marc Bolland said he was confident shoppers would stay with the firm as the economy picked up. I think, it's probably more to do with them getting Richard Hammond in to do their TV adverts, though. Careful that you don't crash that trolley into anything, Richard, the tabloids will be watching.

And now, with the US fall season about to kick off here's a quick From the North guide to some forthcoming highlights from across the Atlantic:

Bones (FOX). Premieres: Thursday, 17 September.
What to Look Out For: According to creator Hart Hanson's Twitterfeed: 'Best question of today: "How red should the blood be when it gushes?" Heading over to Stage 9 for the first shot of Season Five: Sweets and Booth in Sweets' office. Sound ... Speed ... ACTION!' There is said to be a crucial Booth/Clown scene extremely early in the season. Plus, of course, just about the best ensemble cast in any TV show currently in production anywhere in the world. Apparently Cyndi Lauper will make a guest appearance as a psychic. The mind boggles. Of course, last time on the show Booth didn't know who the hell he was (or, who the hell Bones was for that matter) so, in the six weeks that've reportedly passed since 'The End of the Beginning' clearly something major in the 'momory recovery' department has been going down. The fifth series premiere is called 'Harbingers in the Fountain' and concerns a cult group who want to live in an underwater utopia. That sounds like a good idea.

CSI (CBS). Premieres: Thursday, 24 September
What to Look Out For: After last year's tumultuous cast upheavals - with William Petersen out and Laurence Fishburne in - no major cast changes have been announced for season ten. However, the prodigal Jorja Fox - in the role of former CSI Sara Sidle - will be back for five episodes, starting with the season premiere. No word on whether her boyfriend, Grissom, will also make an appearance this year (although Petersen remains an executive producer on the series). The opening episode, 'Family Affair', concerns a young actress killed in an apparent hit-and-run. The following week 'Ghost Town' is an investigation in Vegas's porn industry. Now, Keith Telly Topping thought the back end of last year included the best run of episodes for this show in about three seasons - particularly 'Turn, Turn, Turn' and 'A Space Oddity' - but, apparently, ratings weren't considered to be all that clever (if you can call an average of nineteen million disappointing). Will this year see the missing millions back? Time will tell.

Dollhouse (FOX). Premieres: Friday, 25 September.
What to Look Out For: After Alpha's reign of terror in last year's season finale, Echo (the Goddess who walks the earth that is Eliza Dusku) struggles to suppress the personalities and memories embedded in her as her journey of self-discovery continues. Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) is now working within the Dollhouse as Echo's handler on her missions while attempting to uncover its true purpose. But his obsession with protecting Echo may lead to his downfall. And hers, of course. Secret and not-so-secret romances flourish as the line between fantasy and reality becomes increasingly blurred. Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (creators of Reaper) have joined the writing staff for season two as replacements for former showrunners Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain (who left Dollhouse to join the staff of Lie to Me). Battlestar Galactica's Jamie Bamber also guests in the season premiere - 'Vows' - as a client who hires Echo to be his wife. For the purposes of nefarious skullduggery, one might speculate. Another of Penikett's former BSG castmates, Michael Hogan, is likewise due to appear later in the season. Miracle Laurie (November) is scheduled to return at some point. Also, expect to see a whole bunch of fine actors from previous Joss Whedon shows - the great Alexis Denisof, Summer Glau and, of course, Amy Acker - at various stages. Nice. Hopefully, they'll give Adelle a bit more to do this year and hopefully they'll also stop trying to get the audience to like Topher who is, let's remember, essentially an emotional rapist. Hopefully, also, Dollhouse will get an audience larger than two this year. Because it deserves to.

Desperate Housewives (ABC). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September.
What to Look Out For: The audience will find out who is set to become the next Mrs Delfino in the season premiere. There is also a new family arriving on Wisteria Lane, with new housewife Drea de Matteo from The Sopranos who will be at the centre of this season's main mystery. Maiara Walsh is promoted to series regular as Gaby's (Eva Longoria Parker) conniving niece and Andrea Bowen returns for at least one episode as Susan's daughter, Julie. Lynette and her family are tested by her unexpected pregnancy with twins. She must also deal with Tom's need to go back to college and study. And, Bree's affair with Karl Mayer will see her get mixed up in 'wrongdoings' and Orson will have to come to her rescue. Marc Cherry stated that her affair will be discovered most likely in the tenth episode of the series which will air just before the Christmas break. The storyline, apparently, climaxes with a major cliffhanger. Tasty.

Californication (Showtime). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September
What to Look Out For: Sex-obsessed Hank (David Duchovny) takes a job as a professor at a major California university, where he finds an adversary in the dean of students (Peter Gallagher) and a paramour in a sexy teacher's assistant (Diane Farr). Charlie (Evan Handler) ditches dabbling in the adult entertainment industry for a conventional talent agency, only to find his sultry new boss (Kathleen Turner) wants to act out her own love scenes with her newest employee. Steamy. As usual. It needs to be said, again, however this is, quite simply, the best thing that Duchovny - and actor who seems to spend his career wavering between brilliance and scenery chewing - has been in for years.

Cold Case (CBS). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September.
What to Look Out For: An American version of Waking the Dead, basically. As usual. A variety of long-unsolved crimes that it's up to Rush (Kathryn Morris) and her cohorts to reopen and probe afresh. Some of them will be underscored by the music of one artist, which has become a tradition of this show of the last couple of years, as was the case with the use of Pearl Jam songs in last season's two-part finale. Also look for the likelihood that Lilly and Eddie (Bobby Cannavale) will become romantically involved again. The opening episode, 'The Crossing', involves the disappearance of a young woman aboard a magnificent ocean liner in 1966. Long assumed to be a suicide, it is now being re-investigated as a homicide when the victim's bones are recovered. Expect a really good soundtrack for that one.

And now, especially for our Graeme, some titbits about his favourite show Family Guy (FOX). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September.
What to Look Out For: The only TV show in history to have been sued by Carol Burnett, a Music Publisher and Jesus (true story!) in an homage to 1990s SF classic Sliders, Brian and Stewie will take a trip on the dark side through a series of parallel universes. Listen for the voices of original Saturday Night Live Not Ready for Prime Time Players Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase in an upcoming episode, 'Spies Reminiscent of Us.'

House (FOX). Premieres: Monday, 21 September.
What to Look Out For: Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital is the setting for the season premiere, 'Broken', as Greg House (Hugh Laurie) spars with Dr Nolan (Andre Braugher) about when he'll be declared 'sane' and, thus, fit to return to work saving people that the other doctors just can't save. Meanwhile, there's trouble at Princeton‑Plainsboro where Foreman (Omar Epps) has been left in charge. Whose bright idea was that? Errr... Cuddy's. Never trust that woman to do anything except look dangerously hot in a schoolgirl outfit. The season premiere clip currently doing the rounds on the Internet shows House with a very short haircut and a very bad attitude (so, no change there, then), which causes him to be hauled off by men in white outfits. The tag line: 'What happens when the doctor becomes the patient?' The good news: Cameron and Chase are getting more to do this year (hurrah). And, Thirteen is still around (although rumours are that Taub might not be). Whether the long-promised all-naked-Cuddy-romp episode will appear any time soon, however, we can but dream. Dreaming, as Blondie once said, is free.

Lie to Me (FOX). Premieres: Monday, 28 September.
What to Look Out For: After this terrific drama – inspired by the work of psychologist Paul Ekman – got a mid-season start earlier in the year, its ratings accelerated on episodes that involved more overt action outside the Lightman office. So, expect that path to continue in the drama's second season, especially with the arrival of new executive producer and showrunner the great Shawn Ryan, who has built his reputation on such testosterone-snorting shows as The Shield and The Unit. Erika Christensen will also guest star as a girl with multiple personalities. And, Tim Roth will be effortlessly brilliant. As usual. Rumours persist about a possible cross-over two-parter with Bones but there's still no definite news on that and, ultimately, it might be a product of someone's wishful thinking. One thing definitely worth keeping on eye on, however, is the brilliant way in which Cal and Gillian (the wonderful Kelli Williams) bounce off each other, moving from quirky Moonlighting-style wacky comedy to sequences of real emotional depth and honesty in the blink of an eye. This was Keith Telly Topping's favourite new American show last year, by a considerable distance, and it's one that will, hopefully, continue to get better and better.

Brothers & Sisters (ABC). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September.
What to Look Out For: Kitty (Calista Flockhart) and Robert (Rob Lowe) heading to marriage counseling as he continues to hone his political aspirations. Who knows, one day he could end up back in the White House. Wouldn't that be ironic? Justin (Dave Annable) starts med school as Rebecca (Emily VanCamp) plans their wedding. Kevin (Matthew Rhys) and Scotty (Luke Macfarlane) seek a surrogate to carry their baby. Nora ( Sally Field) and Saul (Ron Rifkin) have to contend with how to help their aging mother (Marion Ross). Holly (Patricia Wettig) and David (Ken Olin) work on their somewhat rekindled romance. Ryan (Luke Grimes) stays at Ojai, which everyone works to keep afloat. Balthazar Getty, who plays Tommy, and is just about the best reason for watching the show in the first place (Rob Lowe notwithstanding) will return but apparently won't be seen until late in the season.

The Mentalist (CBS). Premieres: Thursday, 24 September.
What to Look Out For: Look for Oz alumnus Terry Kinney to shake things up considerably as an FBI special agent joining the hunt for serial killer Red John - who counts Jane's (Simon Baker) wife and daughter among his victims. Kinney's character, Sam Bosco, is as dedicated to playing it by the book as Jane is not. He also happens to be Teresa's (Robin Tunney) ex-boss, so there's a bit of history there. It'll be interesting to see if The Mentalist - last year's one genuine breakout debut hit on US netowrk TV - can maintain the momentum.

NCIS (CBS). Premieres: Tuesday, 22 September.
What to Look Out For: Well, long time viewers will hope that some sort of rescue will be attempted, which could pit Ziva's (Cote de Pablo) emntor, Gibbs (Mark Harmon), against her Mossad boss, her own father - or, perhaps, find them in a tense alliance. Actually, every alliance Gibbs ever forms is terse, so that's a given, really. In the meantime, Gibbs allows remaining team members full-of-himself Tony (Michael Weatherly) and poor-put-upon McGee (Sean Murray) to interview candidates for Ziva's replacement. I don't know about anyone else, but that sounds rather little ominous for any fans wanting to know if them crazy kids Tony and Ziva will ever get it together. However time will tell and, as usual, David McCallum will get all the dryly funny lines and Pauley Perrette all the moistly funny ones.

Nip/Tuck (FX). Premieres: Wednesday, 14 October.
What to Look Out For: Divorce/annulment triad? Who knows what's up now with regard to Christian (Julian McMahon) and Liz's (Roma Maffia) marriage, but we do know that the penultimate season of ten episodes features guest stars will include Vanessa Redgrave (again), Barry Bostwick, McMahon's former Charmed castmate the divine Rose McGowan and former Dancing With the Stars competitors Mario Lopez and Gilles Marini (eh?). Ageing funny-as-a-dose-of-the-pox Joan Rivers is alleged to be appearing, as herself, in the season finale. Thank God she's not appearing as anyone else because, frankly, if anyone had the misfortune to look like her, they'd have bigger problems than anything Christian and Sean could ever fix.

The Simpsons (FOX). Premieres: Sunday, 27 September.
What to Look Out For: Something approaching a pan-global celebration for the twentieth anniversary of the world's longest-running animated comedy. There's be some naysayers who'll tell you that 'it's not as good as it used to be,' inevitably. But then, they're the sort of people who don't get invited to any of the cool-kids parties so they're to be pitied rather than listened to. The Springfield antics continue this year with an opening episode - Homer The Whopper - in which Homer is cast as the lead in a comic-book feature film and Bart discovering a better prankster than he in school. In the annual Hallow'een episode, Treehouse of Horror, Lisa winds up in a murder scheme, Homer's blood becomes the secret ingredient in Moe's beer, and the family fights zombies. As usual. The Simpsons - comfortingly, reliably, effortlessly brilliant. Some things never change.

Heroes (NBC). Premieres: Monday, 21 September.
What to Look Out For: In Volume five, Redemption, the heroes try to settle back into their lives, but it's not easy. HRG (Jack Coleman) is on his own, while daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere) settles into college life with a new roommate. Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) saves lives but slides into obsession. The past haunts Tracy (Ali Larter). Sylar (Zachary Quinto) has lost his identity in becoming Nathan (Adrian Pasdar). Madeline Zima will join the cast as Gretchen, Claire's quirky roommate. Rick Worthy will have a recurring role, playing Matt's new partner, an experienced and capable Los Angeles cop. But a charismatic new leader, Samuel (Robert Knepper), entices the heroes to join him and go public. Is anybody still watching this?

Ugly Betty (ABC). Premieres: Friday, 9 October.
What to Look Out For: Okay, brace yourself dear blog reader because the tradmark braces are, apparently, coming off. 'There definitely will be a transformation [for Betty],' says executive producer Silvio Horta, 'but you'll have to tune in to see exactly how it happens.' Ah. Can't you just tell us and save us the bother of watching, pal? Pfft, TV producers, always with the mystery. Betty (America Ferrera) also discovers that her new job isn't what she expected, and Marc (Michael Urie) goes to startling lengths to get her fired. Matt (Daniel Eric Gold) is back, but Henry (Christopher Gorham) will always be a part of her life. Daniel (Eric Mabius) recovers from his loss in what Horta calls 'a touching, crazy and hilarious story arc.'

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO). Premieres: Sunday, 20 September.
What to Look Out For: As the seventh season opens, Larry David is still trying to cope with the departure of his wife, Cheryl, as his life continues to be involved with that of the New Orleans refugees, the Blacks. Series regulars Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman all return; this season's slate of guest stars includes Sharon Lawrence, Catherine O'Hara, Meg Ryan, Elisabeth Shue, Christian Slater, Sherry Stringfield and, get this, the stars of Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards.

Medium (CBS). Premieres: Friday, 25 September.
What to Look Out For: Something of a miraculous recovery, since Allison (Patricia Arquette) will live to remain psychic for another day though, this time, on a different network. It's possible that some of the effects of the stroke she suffered last year could impact her abilities as a seer and her personality in general.

CSI: Miami (CBS). Premieres: Monday, 21 September.
What to Look Out For: That self-important wanker Horatio Caine, taking off his sunglasses at the most dramatically inappropriate moments and then saying something about as pithy as a toe in the nadgers. As usual.

Lost and 24 return in January, the former for the last time. Meanwhile, of the new shows, the following appear to be your best bet if you're looking for something to get interested in.

FlashForward. Premieres: Thursday 24 September.
So, what do dear blog readers reckon would happen if everyone in the world blacked out for two minutes and, whilst unconscious, experience a vision of their own future six months hence? Equal parts telefantasy, medical drama, cop show and human-interest storytelling, Flashforward appears to offer action and emotion aplenty, not to mention enough time-shifting conspiracy-mysteries to keep any passing Lost fans happy. Jack Davenport, Dominic Monaghan Joseph Fiennes and the wonderful Sonya Walger (Penny in Lost) star. Could well be this season's one to watch.

V. Premieres 3 November 2009.
More Lost analogies occur here as this 're-imagining' of NBC's cult 1984 original has been given the full Twenty First Century treatment, from the presence of leading lady Elizabeth Mitchell to the use of musical stings and flashback sequences. Whilst the plot seems to be a pretty straightforward retelling of the original, it still works as both an exploration of faith - on all levels - and an examination of what it actually means to be human. Keith Telly Topping has some good memories of the original and is very much looking forward to seeing this one. Plus, the action sequences are done well and it's got Firefly's Morena Baccarin as an alien lizard. What's not to love?

And, finally, a leading Venezuelan TV channel, Globovision, could lose its broadcast licence for allegedly airing a viewer's text message calling for a coup and the assassination of President Big Nasty Black-Hearted Rapscallion Hugo Chávez (whom, one suspects, has a really small penis). The channel's owners may also face trial for 'trying to incite rebellion.' Globovision, a twenty four-hour news channel, is the last major channel on Venezuela's regular airwaves that is strongly critical of Chávez. Last month, the government closed thirty two radio stations and two small television stations. Telecommunications commission president Diosdado Cabello said last week that an additional twenty nine radio stations 'will soon leave' the airwaves, adding: 'We are acting within the law.' Well, of course you are matey. You make the law so it's pretty certain you'll be acting within it. These moves indicate that press freedom in Venezuela is under severe threat. 'There's a clear strategy to control the flow of information and restrict criticism,' says Carlos Lauria of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 'It's aimed at building a communicational hegemony for the state.' From The North, as ever, stands one hundred per cent behind anyone - journalist, broadcaster, blogger or just plain old citizen - anywhere in the world who wants to exercise the freedom of speech that should be their moral right. For what that's worth - which probably isn't much. So, the next time you feel like complaining about some aspect of your comfortable place in British or American society, remember, we haven't - quite - got the stage yet where, for instance, the BBC or FOX News are in any danger of being taken off the air and their employees carted off to prison. Free speech shouldn't need to come with a price but, actually, it does. So, use it. Use it today. Use it often. And, use it wisely. Because, there are many places where you can't use it at all.