Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Greatest Comeback Since Lazarus

Wasn't it absolutely great to see Gina McKee back on our screens in Waking the Dead this week? It's been too long since Gina - one of the finest British actresses of her generation - was in something as high profile and meaty as this. Still no news yet on whether the show will be recommissioned (and, to be honest, it may be some time before it is, or isn't) but the ending was far more positive than I'd expected. (Well, if you can call the extraordinary sight of Mad Ruth Gemmell throwing herself off a towerblock positive.) And, as mentioned on Monday's blog, the ratings have been very consistent this year (a regular audience of a tad over six million) so I wouldn't be surprised if Boyd and co. are back next year some time.

Meanwhile, in the most completely unexpected TV news - of not only the year but, possibly, the decade - Primeval has been recommissioned for two series under a new co-production deal between ITV and UKTV. The arrangement, which also involves BBC America and German broadcaster Pro7, is for a seven-episode fourth series and a six-episode fifth. ITV will premiere series four in early 2011, while Watch will have the first run of series five later that year. ITV will then broadcast series five. Stars Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearitt, Ben Miller and Jason Flemyng will all return for the new batch of episodes. Primeval features a group of scientists who battle prehistoric creatures and ran for three series. The most recent run of the popular show attracted average audiences of about five million in its Saturday tea-time ITV slot and received a fair bit of critical acclaim too - not least from Keith Telly Topping himself who really rather liked it. But when ITV was forced to make drastic cuts of forty million pounds in the channel's production budget, it looked like spelling the end of the special-effects laden series. 'I am thrilled that ITV has agreed to this new deal, which will allow us to produce another thirteen episodes of Primeval,' said Tim Haines, creative director of Impossible Pictures. 'The confidence demonstrated in the programme's continued success here and abroad will help us bring more big screen action and a whole host of new creatures roaring back into people's living rooms.' Keith Telly Topping is, for once, both surprised and delighted by this news.

The Lost cast have been discussing the sixth and final season of the hit series. Michael Emerson, who recently won an Emmy for his portrayal of the enigmatic Ben Linus, revealed that the show's fans may 'not be fully satisfied' with its conclusion. Oh. That doesn't sound good. Six years of my life I gave this bloody show. Anyway ... He told TV Guide: 'I don't know if [the fans] will be fully satisfied or not. I don't know if we want to be fully satisfied. I think it's always best to go away wanting a little more.' Terry O'Quinn admitted that he was amazed by the script for the season premiere episode. He said: 'When I read the first script, it's the first time in the whole series that I said, "Wow, that's amazing."' Co-star Jorge Garcia hinted that the bomb that exploded at the end of last year's finale will factor heavily into the sixth season's plotlines. He explained: 'Basically the bomb went off at the end of the last one and all bets are off.' It has been rumoured that cast members from previous instalments, including Ian Somerhalder, will make appearances during the forthcoming season. However, Garcia added that actress Cynthia Watros will not be reprising her role of Libby, saying: 'It looks like we're probably not going to see Libby. They'll probably deal with the story, but [Watros] may not be joining us.' It was reported earlier that Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet Burke), who was last seen trying to explode the aforementioned bomb with a rock as the credits flashed to white, will return for the programme's final episodes.

Writer Andrew Davies, famed for his adaptations of classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Moll Flanders, has said the BBC's period drama is 'going downmarket' and the corporation only wants to undertake 'big, popular warhorses.' Davies, who brought Middlemarch, Bleak House and Little Dorrit to the small screen, said he had been developing Anthony Trollope's The Pallisters and Charles Dickens' Dombey and Son, but that those have both been axed by the BBC in favour of Winifred Holtby's South Riding and Dickens' David Copperfield, although neither is expected to air for several years. 'I think, in terms of doing the classics, their position is somewhere near what ITV's was ten years ago,' Davies said in an interview in Radio Times. 'Which is, "Yes, we'll do them, but only if they're big, popular warhorses." So it's going downmarket, I guess.' Despite the BBC cutting back on the number of 'bonnet and bodice' adaptations in favour of more modern period drama, Davies said there was still room for big classic pieces. 'I don't think we've seen the last of the big Nineteenth-Century adaptations,' he said. 'I'm rather counting on the fact that there is still the BBC charter. The BBC has to justify its licence fee and the cultural value of transmitting the classics is one of the things that makes the BBC unique. That said, they're certainly putting the stress on the Twentieth Century. It's the revenge of the controllers. The new breed don't have anything like the power that, rightly or wrongly, someone like Jane Tranter [former BBC controller of fiction] had. So there's an element of slate-wiping and territory-marking. An adaptation I was working on of Trollope's The Pallisers has been axed by the BBC and instead I'm doing ... South Riding - a Twentieth-Century story with quite a modern feel. I was also going to do Dickens' Dombey and Son, but they've asked me to do David Copperfield instead.' He added: 'I'd love to adapt more contemporary novels. But there isn't really enough story and character to make a really satisfying serial, so they tend to be single dramas. I remain, however, fairly optimistic for the future of period drama because it's just such a popular thing. People like bonnets. I don't think you can underestimate that.' The BBC's latest costume drama, the four-part Emma, adapted by Sandy Welch, launches on 4 October with Romola Garai in the title role. A BBC spokesman confirmed that The Pallisers and Dombey and Son had been in development but had not been commissioned. 'In the case of The Pallisers it had become clear that it would have been cost-prohibitive to bring the drama to the screen in the way we would want.' The BBC plans to rest Dickens for several years before producing David Copperfield, the spokesman said. 'Andrew Davies can rest assured that period drama is not "going downmarket" at the BBC; in fact quite the opposite is true. We are extending our range by delving into new eras with pieces such as Andrea Levy's Small Island and taking a fresh look at classics such as Jane Austen's Emma and Henry James' Turn of the Screw. For BBC audiences there has never been a greater range and breadth of high-quality drama on the BBC.' He then -significantly - failed to add 'all the money we've lavished on Andrew Davies over the years and the bugger still isn't satisfied!' So, there you have it dear blog reader, a week ago Richard Ayre was whinging that the BBC weren't making enough period drama, now Andrew Davies is whinging because they're not making the right sort. They can't do right for doing wrong, it would seem.

And in another example of crass 'biting the hand that feeds you' Criminal Justice star Maxine Peake has claimed that television force-feeds rubbish to viewers. Yes, that's Maxine Peake - someone who makes their living in the glossy, superficial world of television. I don't, actually, think anybody is forced to do anything, love. There is an 'off' button, you know. Speaking during an interview with the Radio Times, the actress - Juliet Miller in the BBC drama - also noted 'Our social structure seems to be collapsing. Why? The government does nothing about it. I'm a bit of a conspiracy theorist because I think they've got us where they want us, gripped in a climate of fear - swine flu, the economy - and dumbed us down so much we're not rebelling.' She concluded: 'We're force-fed so much rubbish on television that we've become comfortably numb.' Still, on the bright side, there's a new series of Doctor Who coming next April.

Ugly Betty will reportedly shoot a forthcoming episode in the Bahamas. According to Entertainment Weekly, the ABC show is to head to the Atlantis Resort and Casino to film on location. It is understood that the episode, which airs in November, will feature most of the cast and centre on a photoshoot for Mode magazine. 'Location shoots can make or break you as an editor, so it's a big deal for Betty,' a source said, adding: 'There's also some drama with a certain love triangle.'

In a short address to the Labour party conference in Brighton, Ben Bradshaw, culture secretary, said the BBC must be more sensitive to the views of licence payers, and vowed to do more to help regional news. Reassuring the conference, he said that Labour would 'never sacrifice the BBC on the altar of free market dogma,' but warned that 'like all successful organisations, the BBC must change in order to survive.' Bradshaw said local news was 'vital for the health of our democracy'. 'We face losing it completely from ITV unless something is done, and many of our local newspapers are also struggling to survive,' he said. And challenging political rivals to set out their aspirations for the media market, reminded the conference of the party's stance: 'Labour is the only party that will guarantee high-quality news on TV in the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and say how it'll be paid for.'

Monty Python's Flying Circus star Terry Jones has spoken for the first time about becoming a father again at sixty seven. Jones's twenty six-year-old girlfriend Anna Soderstrom gave birth to a daughter Siri earlier this month. Terry told The Radio Times 'I don't think people who have children are acting selfishly or unselfishly.' The star who already has a grown up son and daughter added 'Having a child who'll be loved, to parents who love each other, is the important thing.' He continued: 'I've a reasonable chance of living another twenty years, and hope I do, so Siri will be in her twenties.' Jones left his wife of more than thirty years to set up home with his Swedish girlfriend, who he met at a book signing, but refuses to talk about their relationship publicly because 'it doesn't worry me what anyone says, except when publicity hurts others.' The comedian also told the magazine how he had fully recovered from colon cancer but had been left with slightly frozen feet. He says it was a side effect caused by chemotherapy and is the only lasting effect of the disease after doctors discovered a tumour. He said: 'It never worried me because I wasn't ill. They cut it out and it hasn't spread. To play safe, they gave me chemo and I have slightly frozen feet as a side effect.'

Omar Miller has joined the cast of CSI: Miami as a series regular, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The thirty-year-old actor, who has previously appeared in Eleventh Hour and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will first appear in the CBS drama on 5 October. Miller will play Walter Simmons, a Louisiana native and art theft specialist who transfers over from the night shift to join Horatio Crane's team.

Robert Carlyle has admitted that he was not a fan of the original Stargate series before landing a role on latest spin-off Stargate Universe. Speaking exclusively to Digital Spy, the forty eight-year-old Scottish actor revealed that he 'hadn't really seen much' of SG-1 or Atlantis. 'It's funny,' he said. 'After I'd agreed to do the show and I got sent all the DVDs - two hundred fucking hours of SG-1 and all the rest of it! I was surprised how much of it I had actually seen. I'd probably seen about twenty episodes of SG-1 over the years and I didn't see anything at all of Stargate Atlantis but that didn't seem to matter. This is a whole new deal, so I didn't have to sit and watch the whole back catalogue - that would have been a bridge too far!' Meanwhile, SG-1 stalwart Richard Dean Anderson may become a recurring cast member on Stargate Universe, according to Carlyle. Earlier this year, co-creator Brad Wright confirmed that Anderson - Jack O'Neill on the original Stargate series - will guest star on the latest spin-off alongside Gary Jones. However, Carlyle, who plays Dr Nicholas Rush on Universe, has hinted that Anderson may appear more often than was previously announced.

Actress Sally Whittaker's daughter, Phoebe Dynevor, is to appear in BBC1 school drama Waterloo Road. The fourteen-year-old will play rich student Siobhan Green, who is forced to attend comprehensive Waterloo Road when it merges with her own nearby school, the Sun reports. A show source said: 'In the end she conquers her snobbery and finds herself getting along with the natives.' Whittaker, who plays Sally Webster in Coronation Street, added: 'I have to stress that she got the part on her own merit. It was nothing to do with me.'

EastEnders star Larry Lamb has hinted that his time on Albert Square is about to 'turn terribly nasty.' Speaking to Digital Spy website at this year's Inside Soap Awards, the sixty five-year-old said: 'It's not good, not good. It's all going very wrong. I think he's involved himself in some deep, dark stuff and I've got the beginnings of an inkling of an idea that it's all about to turn terribly nasty for Archie. I think he's maybe going to end up in hospital or something like that.' He added: '[Janine and Archie] are a terrible, terrible, terrible combination. I think she's certainly likely to be involved in anything that goes wrong with Archie because they're so thick. Everything they're doing is a co-plot at the moment.'

Zöe Lucker has claimed that her Strictly Come Dancing co-star Ricky Whittle was 'mortified' by rumours that they don't get along. Earlier this month, reports suggested that the Hollyoaks actor had described Lucker as 'a stuck-up cow' in a 2005 interview. Whittle later described the speculation as 'upsetting' and insisted that he is enjoying the actress's company on set. Lucker has now told Celebs On Sunday: 'I don't even recall meeting Ricky before Strictly. And when I did meet him, he was lovely. Bless him, he was mortified about that article. He said to the producers, "Oh my God, I have to speak to Zöe. I have to tell her this isn't the case." Then he left me a voicemail saying, "I'm so sorry someone printed this rubbish."'

Ali Bastian has reportedly been performing with a torn ligament on Strictly. The Bill actress told the Sun that she did not initially realise the extent of her injury. Bastian said: 'I sprained my ankle three or four days into training and I have been dancing on it the whole time. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, but now I have found out I have got a little tear in the ligament.' She added: 'But I'm looking after it, icing it, doing all the right things and they have strapped it up for me. I'm trying to pretend it's not there but it's painful.' Bugger. Keith Telly Topping has a lot of money riding of Ali winning the damn thing. I wonder if it's too late to switch bets to Laila Whatsherface?

Alexandra Burke has said that her mother Melissa Bell is proud of her success but still finds it hard to cope with her X Factor win. Bell was a former member of British group Soul-II-Soul and appeared on the group's 1993 single 'Wish'. Burke told Marie Claire: 'I think we're too alike because we clash. We both sing. She had Soul II Soul but it didn't last as long as she wanted it to last. Then I get this big new show, I win it, and it's weird for her to see this. Although she's proud, it's like she wants to rewind time to when she was younger, when she didn't have kids.'

Cheryl Cole has said that she will buy Simon Cowell tooth whitener for his birthday. The Girls Aloud singer that she would buy her fellow X Factor judge the product for his fiftieth next month. She told Hello magazine: 'No, I'm joking, I shall have to think about it.' Cole went on to say that she is 'obsessed' with Beyoncé Knowles, saying: 'When I met her I turned into an absolute gabbling fool, "You are what every woman should aspire to be, you are amazing, I love you!" I was so embarrassed.' The singer also revealed that although she will eventually want children, she is not ready yet, saying: 'This is the most fulfilling time of my life ever. I am in a really positive place and I feel like I need to enjoy every single second of it.'

Graham Norton has taken a fresh swipe at Dannii Minogue, claiming that the Aussie star is no longer relevant on The X Factor. The chatshow host told Radio Times that Minogue has been pointless ever since Cheryl Cole joined the judging panel last year. He commented: 'Cheryl Cole! What a star! Imagine how humiliated Dannii Minogue feels. They don't even go to her for comments anymore.' It is not the first time that Norton has attacked Minogue's credentials. Last year, he suggested that the singer is a poor mentor on the show, saying: 'She's like tying a lump of concrete around your neck.' Fine lookin' lady, though Graham. That's got to be taken into consideration.

La Roux singer Elly Jackson has described The X Factor as 'fucked up,' comparing it to a modern- day freak show. The twenty one-year-old admitted that she disapproves of the audition stages where the judges ridicule contestants in front of millions of people. 'That shouldn't be what we find entertaining. I do have a problem with it, and for that reason I don't really watch it. I just don't really approve of it,' she told Heat. 'I watched it the other night, but that was the first episode I've seen in years. Some of the auditions are funny, but they shouldn't really be; it's only funny because you're taking the piss.'

Reports that a movie version of Friends is being developed have been refuted by three of the show's ex-stars. James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther in the series, recently claimed that the popular sitcom is to be made into a feature film. However, representatives for former castmembers Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow have moved to dismiss the speculation, says Gossip Cop. Each issued statements saying: 'We are not aware of any plans for a Friends movie.' A case of Friend Disunited, it would seem. Oh, never mind.

BSkyB is to offer loyal pub subscribers its new cutting edge 3D TV service before it is released to the domestic market. Speaking to The Publican, Sky Businesses' managing director Iain Holden confirmed that the service will go to pubs first - as early as next year - and that they would enjoy a period of exclusivity ahead of other subscribers. However, he said that given the experimental nature of the technology he was unable to provide an exact launch date. Although existing Sky HD boxes in pubs will not need upgrading to screen 3D content, there is likely there will be an additional charge for the service, and for the screens pubs need to show it. Selected sporting events are to be filmed live in 3D by Sky in 2010 for special pub screenings.

Actress Sara Paxton has been giving her reaction to The CW's abrupt decision on Friday to cancel her series The Beautiful Life after airing just two episodes. 'We're so shocked! I definitely think it's unfair. The CW didn't give our show a chance to succeed or fail. We had some amazing episodes coming up that we were all proud of, and the story lines were about to get really interesting, so we're sad that no one will ever even see those. It's unbelievable the way that they told us — we were all in the middle of work. I was sitting in the hair and make-up chair, and I'm getting my hair done just like a normal Friday. And all of a sudden, they got the call and the producers had to make an announcement on set that we were done—that we were over! And I was sitting there in shock. I couldn't believe that in the middle of work, the rug was pulled out beneath our feet. Immediately, I run over to Corbin's [Bleu] room, and I'm like, "oh my God, oh my God!" I was freaking out! And Corbin was shocked. Everyone was just devastated. It was horrible. Terrible.' So ... not a glass-half-full type situation then, Sara?

David and Victoria Beckham have started taking elocution lessons in a bid to boost their US career prospects, a report claims. According to the Daily Star, ex-Spice Girl Victoria has decided that she wants to sound more like It-girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson because she believes that her accent is holding her back in the TV industry. Some form of talent - in anything except looking pouty and like you've just smelled manure nearby - might also help, Posh. Meanwhile, it has been suggested that David wants to sound less 'monotone' when he makes his own television appearances. A source told the newspaper: 'David is quite keen to move into TV work when he finally retires, probably after the next World Cup. He's got the looks and the knowledge, but knows his voice needs work.'

Snoop Dogg is a fan of British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, it has been claimed. Hang on - is this 1 April and Keith Telly Topping's been in hibernation for six months? According to the Sun, the gangsta rapper mo'fugga from da 'hood, with his ho, etc. believes that lead character Hyacinth Bucket, played by Patricia Routledge, may have a number of American followers. Again, some stories just don't need a punchline.