Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Having Dec's Babies' Will Ant Be Jealous?

Here's a rather fascinating statistical anomaly for you, dear blog reader - Derren Brown's lottery stunt on Channel Four last night attracted seven hundred thousand more viewers than the regular draw broadcast on BBC1. The ten-minute live special, Derren Brown: The Event, won its slot at 10.35pm with more than 2.6m viewers. The show was broadcast simultaneously over five channels – C4, E4, 4Music, More4 and Film4 – enabling it to reach a total of over three million viewers. Over on BBC1, The National Lottery Draw itself was watched by just under 2.4m. In the Channel Four show, made by Dazzling Dezza's regular producer Objective Productions, the illusionist appeared to accurately predict the Lottery results. It featured a short live clip of Initial's BBC1 lottery coverage as part of the stunt. And, on Friday night, he's going to tell us how he did it. Or not. More likely not, I'd've said, otherwise, we'll all be doing it every week! Meanwhile, Objective have enlisted Derren and scientist Kat Akingbade to front a Channel Four web series debunking psychic phenomena. Each episode of Science of Scams will feature a hoax film that appears to show unexplained activity such as ghosts or telekinesis. Brown will introduce each spoof video in the manner of Rod Serling's classic introductions for The Twilight Zone, while Akingbade will demonstrate the science behind the phenomena. The series was commissioned by Channel Four education commissioner Alice Taylor, who said that she wanted to overhaul teens' perception of science, particularly amongst girls. The seven films will appear on a dedicated site run by Illumina Digital, as well as Channel Four's YouTube channel and its on-demand service. The series was devised by Objective's head of magic Anthony Owen, who will executive produce, with Anthony Waldron as producer.

The BBC will cut back on its investment in US TV shows as part of its recently announced strategic review, it has been claimed. According to The Times, Sir Michael Lyons's plans to reduce spending will directly affect the broadcasting of US dramas such as Heroes, Mad Men and The Wire. Insiders reportedly told the newspaper that the one hundred million pounds used each year on US imports was a likely target in any plans to lower expenditure.

The popular BBC1 crime drama New Tricks will run until at least 2011 after the broadcaster ordered two further series for the production. Wall to Wall will make a seventh series to air in 2010, followed by series eight in 2011. Both runs will be of eight episodes length. The show wrapped its sixth season last week with an audience of 7.7m viewers.

Top Gear's Richard Hammond says he is still recovering from the effects of a high-speed crash which took place while filming for the show three years ago. Speaking about Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa's recent crash, Hammond said 'any damage could take years to get over. I know that for me, three years later, the process is still ongoing,' he wrote in his column for Top Gear magazine. Hammond had been driving a 300mph jet-powered dragster when it veered off the track at Elvington airfield, near York. The presenter, now thirty nine, was airlifted to hospital after the September 2006 accident, where he was treated for serious brain injuries. He eventually made a good recovery, returning to present Top Gear in January 2007. Earlier this week the Brazilian Massa, whose skull was fractured when it was hit by a spring from another driver's car while qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, said he was determined to race again. Writing for the magazine, Hammond said: 'I damaged the front of my brain in my crash in 2006 and the thought of someone else having to set off on the lengthy journey to recovery from such an injury was a glum one. But every time I read that he [Massa] hopes to return to racing in F1 soon after sustaining that head injury, I'll admit that my shoulders slump a bit.'

BBC1 is launching a local Football League magazine show with different versions across England, and is inviting independent producers to pitch for three of the seven production contracts. Late Kick Off (working title), will run once a week for sixteen weeks from January and will exploit the BBC's rights to the Coca Cola Championship and Leagues One and Two highlights. The show will air across seven English regions - the North West, North East, Yorkshire, West and East Midlands, East Anglia, London and South East and the combined South, West, and South West. Producers in the North East, the East and the South West of England are eligible to pitch for the business. Oh, I'll bet Robson Green and Ant and Dec have been straight on the phone trying to nail-down the North East slot! The remaining four series will be produced in-house. BBC controller of English regions David Holdsworth said: 'We [will] create a magazine that will focus on the local teams that fans want to talk about. More than a highlights programme, we'll be analysing the games, talking to the managers and the players and dissecting the moves.' Late Kick Off will build on The Football League Show which airs on BBC1 after Match Of The Day. It will be funded from efficiency savings in the English regions as part of a package of local programme funding approved by the BBC Trust last month.

And speaking of little Dec Donnelly, he has confirmed that he and Ant McPartlin are currently recording a pilot show for a new family-based gameshow. What, another one? The presenter told the Sun that the ITV programme would be like 'Family Fortunes meets The Generation Game.' So, that's The Family Game, then? Donnelly added: 'It's great fun as we're recording it up at Pinewood on a massive sound stage. It's quite a physical show - really different to what we normally do - so we need the space. It's great getting families involved, as Saturday night TV is about families. It's good to have real people on, as loads of shows have celebrities attached.' Ant and Dec are reportedly planning to conceive a number of new shows as part of their planned contract with ITV, with whom their current deal ends at the end of the year. Last week, it was suggested that the pair's salaries could fall by a third during the recession. Meanwhile, Georgie Thompson has revealed that she wants to have a 'football team worth of kids' with Donnelly. So long as they've got her looks and his ball skills rather than the other way around, then the Toon'll gladly have 'em in about twenty years time. The Sky Sports News presenter, who has been dating Donnelly since the start of the year, has spoken about her relationship with the Saturday Night Takeaway host for the first time. 'Things are going brilliantly with Dec,' she told Closer magazine. 'We don't act like a typical showbiz couple because we have the same attitude towards fame. We'd rather hang out with friends with a takeaway or watch a film than hang out at glitzy dos.'

Phillip Schofield has insisted that This Morning did not suffer in the aftermath of Fern Britton's gastric-band-scandal. Reports claimed that Britton was bombarded with letters from angry viewers after her weight loss secret was exposed last year. It was also suggested that the backlash led to the host's string of absences from work. The fifty two-year-old presenter was accused of deception when details of her gastric band shenanigans emerged in the media. She had previously credited exercise and healthy eating for her slimmer figure. Reflecting on the controversy, her former co-host Schofield told the Sun: 'After the gastric band story came out my first reaction was to support Fern one hundred per cent. I knew it was going to be tough for her so it was important that I stood by her. My role was as a mate.' He continued: 'She didn't suffer from any immense lack of support from the viewers and the programme didn't suffer. It happened a year ago. We've moved on from that and Fern looks fantastic.' Britton left This Morning earlier this year amid claims that she was unhappy over Schofield's two million pounds ITV contract, which allegedly meant that he was paid three times more than her. However, Schofield insisted: 'We have different contracts. Mine plays out for two years so it looks a bit strange. She has a different agreement. We were paid the same in a way but the figures look distorted because of my deal.'

Watchdog producers have been 'pampering' Anne Robinson following her decision to return to the show, a press report claims. According to the Sun, the sour-faced malcontent host has been rewarded with a private bathroom decorated in 'warm tones' at the programme's studios, despite the fact that she will only be in the building one day a week. It is believed that the Weakest Link presenter has also been given a luxury relaxation room, while her colleagues will have to settle for a shared dressing area and toilet. An insider commented: 'Having her own toilet is taking star treatment to a new level. Never mind Weakest Link - this is more like the Weakest Stink.' No ... I don't think an insider said that last bit at all, dear blog reader, I think it was much more likely to have been wholly invented by a sub-editor. Go on, Sun, prove me wrong. Produce your 'insider.' Robinson announced in May that she would return to Watchdog following an eight-year absence from the consumer show. She will be seen on-screen again from tonight. A BBC spokesman confirmed: 'Production thought it appropriate for Anne to have her own room.'

The BBC is lining up a major adaptation of Kate Atkinson's Behind The Scenes At The Museum from Mistresses producer Ecosse Films. Brian Fillis (Fear Of Fanny, The Curse Of Steptoe) is penning the four episode screenplay and another member of the Mistresses team, Lucy Bedford, is set to be executive producer, with a view to broadcast in 2010. The bestselling 1999 novel is dominated by the first-person narrative of Ruby Lennox, who starts her life story at her conception. It is interspersed with flashbacks to the lives of her female ancestors - so that the action spans more than a century and charts the changing role of women. Bedford told Broadcast: 'I've loved the book for ages but was conscious that it is a very difficult adaptation. It's structurally complex because there are multiple timeframes and the sweep of the story is enormous.'

Peter Davison and Jill Halfpenny have joined the cast of the West End production of Legally Blonde. The duo join Duncan James, Alex Gaumond, Susan McFadden and Aoife Mulholland in the musical, which is based on the popular 2001 movie. Gavin and Stacey star Sheridan Smith has been cast as the lead Elle Woods, who was played by Reese Witherspoon in the film. Davison, who played the title role in Doctor Who between 1982 and 1984, will portray Callahan, while ex-EastEnders actress and Strictly Come Dancing winner Halfpenny is Paulette.

Comedian Frank Skinner has said that he lost half his life savings after being urged by his bank to put all his money in US insurance company AIG. The comedian told the Daily Mail that he initially felt like he had 'joined an elite' when he invested all his savings with the Queen's bankers Coutts. Skinner said: 'I told them I wasn't a risk-taker and didn't want to accumulate any more money, but just wanted to make sure that what I had was safe. My personal banker told me that at the very worst I could lose ten per cent, but that there was no way that would actually happen.' He added: 'As it turned out, I got half my money back but the rest is frozen until 2012, and even then there is no guarantee that I will get it. If I do lose the rest of my life's savings, then I'll just sell all my possessions. If you see a big rush of Frank Skinner memorabilia on eBay, you'll know why!'

Rose McGowan has reportedly been injured on the set of forthcoming action film Red Sonja. The thirty six-year-old was announced as taking on the part of the comic book heroine last year. The Death Proof and Charmed star apparently suffered serious damage while performing a stunt for the update, which required her to undergo surgery. She told FOX News: 'I had wrist and elbow surgery and they took part of my elbow out. I had really bad nerve damage from doing stunts - I do a lot of my own stunts. I could no longer use my arm, but now I can hold a fork and drive so we're working our way up.' She added: 'It'll probably be another six months of rehab, but it's the price you pay for being really limber and being able to do back flips." McGowan's fiancé director Robert Rodriguez had reportedly planned a remake of cult 1968 movie Barbarella to star the actress but the production is now, apparently, in doubt.

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled in favour of BT over 'misleading' Sky adverts promoting potential savings available when switching landline and broadband services. The Sky advert in question depicted a conversation between two men in which it was claimed that customers switching calls and broadband packages from BT to Sky could save one hundred and eighty five pounds a year. In the small print, Sky identified that its calculation was based on a comparison between BT Option 2 & Unlimited Evening & Weekend Plan against Sky Broadband & Sky Talk. In response, BT complained that the advert was misleading as it failed to mention certain key factors in BT's Total Broadband Option 2 package that would be lost when switching to Sky, such as a 'superior' 802.11n router. BT also said that Sky only offers free security services for the first twelve months of a customer's contract, compared to BT's provision of such support for the whole duration of the contract. Despite the telecoms giant claiming that the ads did not include Sky's thirty pound connection fee, the ASA upheld Sky's argument that the cost had been factored into the calculations. The ASA also ruled that the router technology offered by BT 'was unlikely to be materially significant to many consumers considering a switch.'

Greg Dyke and Will Wyatt have waded into the BBC pay row - agreeing with the Tories that corporation exec salaries are too high. The shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt told The Times this week that the Conservatives would cap executive pay for an incoming director general at the same level as the prime minister - one hundred and ninety two thousand two hundred and fifty pounds. Mark Thompson currently earns eight hundred and thirty four thousand pounds. So, that would be ... more. Salaries across the BBC would be cut in line with the reduction over time, which Dyke and Wyatt both admitted was required. Dyke, director general before Thompson, told Broadcast: 'I have thought for some time that top salaries at the BBC have got high - probably too high. Top salaries throughout broadcasting are coming down and I think the BBC will have to do the same.' Their comments add ballast to Tory plans to cap pay for BBC and Channel 4 executives, but both former execs lampooned the Tories' heavy-handed approach. Wyatt said it was 'ridiculous posturing' to limit salaries artificially. Dyke slammed it as 'crude, populist politics' and doubted it would happen.

ITV is poised for a daytime quizshow shake-up, with a pair of new shows set for lengthy orders and Goldenballs likely to be shelved. Broadcast magazine states that director of daytime and factual Alison Sharman is on the verge of commissioning The Chase and Divided after recently piloting both over the summer in the 5pm slot. The changes signal mixed fortunes for Endemol, which makes both Divided and Goldenballs. Its subsidiary Initial has halted production on Goldenballs while a stockpile of episodes wait to be aired. ITV has not formally decommissioned the show, but senior sources do not expect the long-running programme to return. Looks like it's curtains for Carrott. Back to comedy for you, Jasp.

A Canadian production company is remaking iconic ITV thriller The Saint but has yet to approach UK broadcasters about the project. Vancouver-based Brightlight Pictures has confirmed it is scheduled to film a pilot episode of the series later this autumn and Welsh actor Dougray Scott is lined up to play the iconic lead Simon Templar. Scott, who will soon star in ITV and RTE's three-part thriller co-production Father And Son, is in ongoing negotiations with Brightlight over the role but is thought to be close to an agreement. Sony Pictures Television has secured distribution rights to the pilot and any forthcoming series outside of the US and Canada, and is understood to be planning to pitch the format to UK broadcasters. An American broadcaster is yet to be formally attached to the project, but is expected to be revealed soon. The Saint was one of ITV's most famous drama franchises and while it does not hold the rights to the format, ITV Global Entertainment retains the rights to the original series. Based on Leslie Charteris' novels, Templar was a Robin Hood-meets-James Bond-style character who had a penchant for disguise and solved mysteries, while taking on his nemesis Inspector Teal. NBC originally replayed ITC's Roger Moore version in the 1960s with huge success and CBS syndicated the series in the 1970s. The most recent remake of the franchise was a dreadful 1997 film starring Val Kilmer.

Victoria Beckham has admitted that she has become obsessed with Gossip Girl. The former Spice Girl - you know, the one who couldn't sing or dance but married a footballer - told America's Elle magazine that she had started watching the show to keep herself occupied while husband David was in Italy playing for AC Milan. 'I've done Nip/Tuck, Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice,' she explained. 'Then I got into Gossip Girl. I'm beyond obsessed with that show.'

Jennifer Aniston has reportedly revealed that she is planning a break from acting after finishing production on her latest movie The Bounty. How odd - I thought she's done that the second filming wrapped on the last episode of Friends.

The Beatles - a popular beat-combo from the 1960s, you might've heard of them - are expected to dominate the CD charts on Sunday following the reissue of their remastered back catalogue. According to figures from the Official Charts Company, the group will likely secure five Top Twenty places and fifteen CDs in the Top Seventy Five. Originally a number one in 1969, Abbey Road is currently the bestselling CD, while the stereo box set is also expected to appear in the Top Twenty. 'These results for the reissues indicate that Beatlemania is alive and well,' Martin Talbot of the OCC said. 'There are still three more sales days to be counted - today, Friday and Saturday - so this story is not complete yet. But already it is clear that the Beatles' enduring appeal shows no signs of waning.'

Comic Paddy McGuinness is looking for singles to take part in a new dating show on ITV. The Phoenix Nights star was last month announced as the host of Take Me Out, which will feature a collection of women on the hunt for Mr Right. 'To say I'm excited about hosting Take Me Out is an understatement,' said McGuinness. 'ITV and dating shows are a match made in heaven.' The programme's format will see one single man choosing a date from thirty girls. The same group of females will come back each week if they are not selected. ITV is searching for contestants for the show, promising that McGuinness 'will guide single ladies and a whole host of potential single men in pursuit of the perfect partner.' Anyone wishing to participate - and to in all likelihood completely degrade themselves before millions of strangers - can apply via ITV's website.