Monday, September 28, 2009

Is This The End?

Thoroughly brilliant Waking the Dead last night, I thought; a complex Silence of the Lambs-style story with fine guest turns by Our Friends in the North's Gina McKee and Deep Space Nine's Alexander Siddig. And, best of all, a fabulously cold, maniacally evil return for Ruth Gemmell as Boyd's nemesis Linda Cummings. There does seem to be something of an air of finality about this story (and, indeed, the previous three this season). Stella's death, Spence leaving and, last night, the unexpected revelations about Grace's health have all conspired to give a wake-like atmosphere to most of the recent proceedings. Whether tonight's season finale will also be the series finale, Keith Telly Topping doesn't know. The season was originally announced as being five two-part stories and we've only had four. A rumour did circulate a while back that a final two-parter had been filmed and was being held back until Christmas but I haven't been able to find out if there's any truth in that. Or whether another series is likely to be commissioned - I'm sure the BBC would like one, given the six million plus ratings and huge audience appreciation figures the show has been pulling in of late. But, creatively, it is possible that the production is drawing to a close. If it is, then it's been one of the most intelligent, imaginative, sometimes baffling, occasionally infuriating, but always madly entertaining dramas that British TV has produced in years and it will be fondly remembered by millions. Keith Telly Topping not least amongst them.

Joe Calzaghe has told his friends that he and Kristina Rihanoff are 'officially dating,' it has been claimed. According to the Mail On Sunday, the boxer has spent every night this week together with his Strictly Come Dancing partner. A source said: 'Joe has said that he and Kristina are an item and they are very happy. They are meant to be focusing on the show and their dance moves but the truth is they are getting very distracted by each other.' However, a spokesman for Calzaghe said: 'They are two single people who are greatly enjoying each other's company.' Rihanoff previously maintained that she and Calzaghe have a 'strong friendship,' while it is alleged that the BBC had insisted the pair's relationship 'remain platonic' until the end of the series. Keith Telly Topping does rather wonder whom, exactly, the BBC intend to send around to see Joe given that he's, clearly, decided not to comply with their insistence. Cos, he's a bit hard is Smokin' Joe. You know, nails.

Meanwhile, Brendan Cole has described critics of new Strictly judge Alesha Dixon as 'uneducated.' Oh, that's going to get them all on your side, Bren, I'm sure. The professional dancer added that Dixon has been doing well despite being under a lot of pressure. 'She's doing a great job,' he told the News of the World. 'The people who are criticising her are uneducated. They don't necessarily know what they are talking about. Anyone who criticises her needs to get a life.' Cole added that Dixon's critics are 'out of order' and said: 'If she hadn't done well I'd have been the first person to say, "That was bullshit." Alesha was always in a lose-lose situation. People don't like change. And fans loved [previous judge] Arlene so were upset to see her go. But Alesha's just doing the job she was asked to by the BBC. And I thought she was fantastic considering the pressure she's under. She wasn't hired for her technical expertise. She was hired because she is a great performer and knows what it's like to be one of the celebrity dancers.'

Coronation Street's ratings suffered again on Friday evening due to BBC1's coverage of Strictly. The Weatherfield soap's final two episodes of the week, during which Rita decided to sell her half of the Kabin and Michelle scrapped with Rosie, had 7.7m and 6.81m at 7.30pm. EastEnders' Friday instalment - which saw Jane reveal to Ian that she want to have his babies - was the most-watched soap of the day, drawing a smidgen over eight million.

X Factor hopefuls Tru Colourz have made a shock exit from the ITV show – after lying about their age. According to the Mirror, millions of fans watched on Saturday as thrilled trio — Christina, Rachel and Ivette — made it to the final twenty four. Mentor Louis Walsh broke the news to the singers at the end of Boot Camp but their delight was short-lived as it emerged one of the girls is under sixteen, the show's age limit. In tearful scenes - to be screened next Saturday - Louis tells the trio that they've been disqualified and asks them to leave. Remember, dear blog reader, truth is always the victor.

Senior Labour party figures were engaged in an escalating row with the BBC after Gordon Brown was asked live on air whether he has been prescribed medication to help him cope with the pressures of his job. Lord Mandelson criticised the BBC for 'personal intrusiveness' as the Labour party lodged an informal complaint about the 'quite dreadful' questions about the prime minister's health. The row broke out after Andrew Marr, the presenter of the BBC's Sunday morning political discussion show, asked the prime minister about rumours that he has been prescribed painkillers. Rumours which have, so far, been reported mainly on right-wing websites. In the second of his conference interviews with the main party leaders, broadcast live from Brighton, Marr asked Brown whether he was using 'prescription painkillers and pills.' The prime minister immediately dismissed the question. 'No. I think this is the sort of questioning that is,' the prime minister said as he was interrupted by Marr who described it as a 'fair question.' Brown then gave a detailed description of his well known difficulties with his eyesight. He lost the sight of one eye after a teenage rugby accident and has a retinal detachment in his other eye, leaving him with the 'same fear' that he will completely lose his sight. Marr again demanded a response to his original question. 'What about my other question?' he said. Brown replied: 'I answered your other question.' The strong questioning by Marr infuriated Downing Street because the rumours about Brown's health have been categorically denied by No 10 in recent weeks to various media organisations including the BBC.

The reaction of the BBC to Government plans on the future of its funding has led the Culture Secretary to accuse the corporation of bias. Ben Bradshaw levelled the charge after Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, strongly criticised Labour plans to force the broadcaster to share the licence fee, while remaining silent on Conservative proposals which, in Bradshaw's words, amounted to 'gross interference.' He questioned why the chairman 'doesn't feel so strongly about the gross interference proposed by the Conservatives, who want to fix the payments of employees,' yet remains 'very sensitive' about Labour plans to force the BBC to share some of the three and a half billion television levy to fund regional news on ITV. Bradshaw hinted that he thought the trust was favouring the Tories because it believed they would win the next election. 'It would not be sensible for any organisation to give the impression that they are presuming the outcome of the next election,' he stated. And that isn't 'gross interference' either, Ben? Cos it rather sounds like a threat to me.

And, speaking of implied threats, Yoko Ono has said that she is planning to make music until she is at least ninety six years old. Oh, come on. Don't we get at least a few years off for good behaviour?

'Predators' - likely to include trade buyers and private equity firms - were circling ITV over the weekend after the broadcaster was left 'rudderless' when it failed to appoint a chief executive and said that chairman Michael Grade would step down shortly according to the Daily Mail. The German RTL Group, which already owns Five, is understood to be looking at making an offer for the company. The group refused to comment beyond saying it looked at all opportunities. Meanwhile a number of major private equity firms have also run the rule over the business. Mediaset, the Italian media giant controlled by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been looking at ITV since earlier this year. Rival pay-TV firm BSkyB has a 17.9 per cent stake in the business which it has been ordered to reduce by competition authorities, though it is appealing, but it is understood that potential acquirers, including RTL, are eyeing that stake as a way into ITV. In my father's house, there are many mansions. You can have one if you like.

Seth Rogen has co-written the premiere of the Twenty First season of The Simpsons. The Funny People star, who is the second celebrity to both write and act on the animated series after Ricky Gervais, has said that it was an honour to work with the cast of The Simpsons. Rogen told the Huffington Post: 'As a writer, it always just seemed like the Holy Grail. I can die a happy man now.' The twenty seven-year-old actor will play a trainer hired to get Homer Simpson into shape in an episode titled Homer The Whopper. He said: 'We wanted to comment on how Hollywood generally ruins these movies. The whole joke is Homer is cast to play a guy who's an everyman and they try to make him into this physically fit guy.' Rogen has also said that recording with the cast was 'one of the highlights of my life.' The episode aired in the US last night and will be shown in the UK on Sky shortly.

Johnny Vegas is to star in a new puppet-based comedy series for CBBC, it has been announced. Dead Puppets Society, airing in 2011, sees Vegas juggle his day-to-day showbiz career with his secret life as a hunter of puppets who have risen from the grave. Vegas said: 'I relish the opportunity to bring my own sense of the anarchic to where I think it may well best be appreciated.' CBBC has also announced Junior MasterChef, a new singing competition fronted by The Choir's Gareth Malone and a new comedy starring Rufus Hound.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has agreed to take part in a debate alongside the British National Party on the BBC's Question Time. Mr Straw told the BBC he would join a panel which will include the BNP leader Nick Griffin (recently described by Frankie Boyle as someone who looks like 'a plucked owl who looks like he's been fast-tracked into a management position in Greggs'), the Tories and Lib Dems, in London on 22 October. Straw said that the BNP were defeated when Labour 'fought them hard.' Labour has previously refused to debate with the BNP and some activists have branded the policy change 'a disgrace.' The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had already said they would take part in the programme. Speaking on The Politics Show in the North West, Mr Straw said: 'Wherever we have had BNP problems in my area and when we have fought them hard, we've pulled back and [we have] won the seats back. And that's what we have to do. We've got to make the argument for people and I am delighted to do so.' As ever, in such matters, From The North intends to stay strictly - politically - neutral in this matter. And, thus, is giving both of the protagonists equal picture-space.

The legendary late-TV cook Keith Floyd is to be cremated in a banana leaf coffin, it has emerged. The famous gastronome's funeral will take place in Bristol, the city where he ran a string of restaurants and launched his cooking career. A public memorial service will take place at Ashton Court Mansion at 11.30am on Wednesday before a private service for family at Canford Crematorium. The humanist funeral is being organised by Floyd's partner Celia Martin, whom the marvellous raconteur had been living with as he battled bowel cancer. Ms Martin has chosen a handmade woven coffin made from banana leaves for the eccentric entertainer - because of its environmentally friendly nature, and partly as a humorous nod to his love of cooking with leaves.

Katie Price and Heather Mills will be strapped into rollercoasters and other extreme theme park rides for a new TV gameshow. Is that cruel and unusual? If so, good. The pair will join other famous faces such as Matt Wills for new series, Scream If You Know the Answer!, to be presented by Blue singer Duncan James, which will see celebrities team up with members of the public to take part in games and compete for a five thousand pound prize. Just give me a gun... The teams, who will wear special cameras, will take part on theme park rides at Thorpe Park including Stealth, one of Europe's fastest rollercoasters; Samurai and Slammer, which spin through three hundred and sixty degrees; Detonator, a one hundred and fifteen-foot drop at forty five mph; and Tidal Wave, which plunges eighty five feet, creating a huge wall of water. Keith Telly Topping has been on the latter - at the state fair in Minnesota a couple of years ago - and found it to be quite, quite terrifying. Hope Heather Mills and Jordan get put on that one, then. The ten-part series, which is being made by production company Lion Television, is due to air on UKTV's Watch channel next year. Filming will begin this week.

Danniella Westbrook has said that she is lucky to be alive after her years of drug addiction. The EastEnders actress told the Sunday Mirror that she now avoids temptation and is happy to lead a domesticated life. Westbrook said: 'I'm bloody lucky to be alive. Every day I wake up and think, "Thank God I'm here and in one piece." That feeling doesn't fade. I could be dead now. I just feel lucky to still be here. My life is pretty boring, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I shut the front door and I'm mum. I do the school run, go to Tesco and I walk my dogs. I've been sober for nine years in March.' She added: 'We don't even have a drop of alcohol in the house. Weekends are spent watching Strictly or having a barbecue. There's no temptation with drugs because I'm not in an environment where they are. The closest I come to coke these days is the bottled variety at the kids' birthday parties. There's no chance of slipping up because there's no temptation. I'm thirty five. Can you imagine me in a nightclub?'

Nicola Stapleton has revealed that she would 'love' to land a part in Coronation Street. The thirty five-year-old actress confirmed that she is keen for a stint in Weatherfield because the ITV drama is the only main UK soap that she has not yet appeared in. Stapleton is best known for playing EastEnders' Mandy Salter in the '90s. She also recently had a guest role as Danielle Hutch in Emmerdale and will be seen as maneater Savannah Madeiros in Hollyoaks later this week. She told the Glasgow Sunday Mail: 'I never set out to do so many soaps, they just came my way. All I need is Coronation Street and I've appeared in them all. I'd love to do it. I think Coronation Street is a fantastic show.' So does Keith Telly Topping. Can he have a part as well?

Film director Roman Polanski has been taken into custody on a thirty one-year-old US arrest warrant, Swiss police say. Polanski, seventy six, was detained on Saturday as he travelled from France to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. The Swiss justice ministry said he was being held ahead of a possible extradition to the US for having sex with a thirteen-year-old girl in 1977. Polanski fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to the charges. In recent years, he has tried to have the rape case dismissed, but a US judge formally rejected his requests in May. Polanski was initially indicted on six counts and faced up to life in prison. He claims the original judge, who is now dead, arranged a plea bargain but later reneged. Earlier this year, Judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the judge in the original case, but said Polanski must return to the US to apply for dismissal.