Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mad Frankie, Jezza, Gene & Some Proper Third World Dictators

Wasn't Tuffers an unexpected delight on last night's Strictly? Who would have thought that the (self-confessed) lazy, chain-smoking old off-spinner* was capable of that? Certainly not Keith Telly Topping. As Len said, 'Phil, you bowled me over!' Almost as alarmingly brilliant was the po-faced look on poor old Jo Wood's saggy boat-race when she got a three from wicked-hearted Craig. Worth the price of licence fee on its own, that was. Meanwhile, Zöe Lucker (who got off to fine start herself with a waltz that caused an outbreak of excessive Latin gushing from Bruno) has said that she believes the Strictly judges were overly harsh in the first week. Former Footballers Wives actress Lucker, thirty five, admitted that she was expecting the panel to go softly on their criticism of the celebrities during the opening round of the reality series. 'I thought because it was the first week that they would be a little kinder,' she told Ms Claudia Thingy on Strictly: It Takes Two. 'The rest of us were all sitting backstage, clapping and cheering, thinking "they've got out there and done it!" We felt so proud of them and I thought they would get sevens and stuff... I thought it was really harsh.' Ex-EastEnders actress Natalie Cassidy agreed, adding: 'I thought it would be a bit airy-fairy, all sevens. Len [Goodman, judge] being nice to everyone and people warming up... now we're all petrified!' Only, she said it a lot more Cockney, you know.

[* - Thanks to Doug Morris for pointing out that Tuffers was, of course, a slow left-armer and not an off-spinner. And, as the chucker-down of a fair few schoolboy Chinamen himself (that's a googly bowled by a left-hander for anybody wondering if I've just said something racist and/or dodgy) Keith Telly Topping really should have known that. Anyway...]

CSI's tenth season kicked-off on Thursday with an episode - Family Affair - that was required to pack in a whole hell of a lot of disparate elements; Riley's sudden (off-screen) departure, a (temporary) return for Sara (and an explanation as to why she isn't with her husband, Grissom, at the moment), promotions for both Nicky and Langston, the long-overdue additions of Liz Vassey and David Berman to the regular cast (they're both part of the title sequence now) and, not least, a plot. Of sorts. That it managed all of the above was a considerable feat. That it did so with an exceptionally experimental and weird opening sequence (in curious freeze-frame) that precluded the climactic shoot-out (yes, this week's CSI had a climactic shoot-out!) was even more impressive. Keith Telly Topping's ear obviously isn't as a close to the casting grapevine as he'd always thought it was since the departure of Lauren Lee Smith hadn't even penetrated my radar. Not that Riley was ever a character who engaged much audience sympathy or trust. Jorja Fox's five episode stint back on the show, however, was a big news story and she fitted back in seamlessly, beginning with a lovely scene in which she and a stressed and overworked Catherine discuss leadership skills. Sara and Grissom are now married, it seems. He's currently guest-lecturing at the Sorbonne and, whilst Sara waits around for her own French work-visa to come through, she's been asked by Ecklie to come and help the team through a temporary staffing crisis. Made sense. Larry Fishburne continues to impress and his growing confidence and wryly amusing little double-act with George Eads is starting to pay dividends. In a tough slot - opposite Grey's Anatomy, The Mentalist and Flashforward, the episode's overnight ratings were down on last season's twenty three million who saw the death of Warrick Brown, but the show was still, comfortably, in the week's top ten most watched. Rumours of CSI's death appear to have been, on the evidence of this, greatly exaggerated.

Mad Frankie Boyle missed the final episode of the current series of Mock The Week after falling ill just before the recording was due to take place earlier in the week. An ambulance was called to BBC Television Centre in West London and rushed the thirty seven-year-old comic to hospital, where he underwent tests. It forced Boyle to miss the taping - his place on the episode was filled by comic Ben Norris, who was doing the audience warm-up for the show. Boyle's agent confirmed: 'Frankie was taken ill just before the Mock The Week recording, but is recovering now and is fine.' Keith Telly Topping is sure he speaks for all of From The North's readers when wishing Mad Frankie a speedy and full recovery. Get well soon, Frankie, we need your caustic wit and angry take on current affairs more than ever these days. The episode, itself, was notable for yet another fine turn by Davey Mitchell and the quite brilliant introduction of a new comedy name to me, Milton Jones, whose dry, deadpan humour was a delight. Apparently, he's done a lot of radio but not much TV. More of Mr Milton next year, please, BBC.

Jeremy Clarkson, James May, Richard Hammond and The Stig (who seems to have shed several inches of height since the last series ended) are pictured here, left, at the Top Gear Live launch at the Royal Geographical Society yesterday. Looks like the boys have been checking out From The North and have noted our recent incorporation of 'live traffic feed with all them little flags' and Keith Telly Topping's current singular obsession with saying 'hello' to, basically, everybody on the planet. Speaking of which, today it's a right big and cheerful shout-out to all of you lovely cats and ladies in .... lesse, who haven't we done yet? Bolivia, Angola, Vanuatu (it's in the South Pacific, look it up) and the Seychelles. Oh, and the Maldives as well (that's if the rising sea levels haven't made your gaff scuba-central by now all you Maldivians). Is it just me or does James look like he's being goosed by The Stig here? Just me then. Top Gear, incidentally returns to our screens in November. Let the hippies and the Communists tremble before its mighty works.

It's time to get your shoulder pads out of storage, start crimping your hair and get into the Eighties mood for the very last time. At least according to BBC Press Release. Yes, the award-winning drama Ashes To Ashes is back as filming has begins on the eagerly-awaited third and final series. The highly-anticipated finale sees Philip Glenister and Keeley Hawes reprise their roles as that most un-PC of policeman, The Lord Thy God Gene Hunt, and his sassy partner twisty-faced Alex Drake, along with Dean Andrews as Ray Carling, Marshall Lancaster as Chris Skelton and Montserrat Lombard as Shaz Granger. As well as the much-loved regular faces, Daniel Mays (The Street, Plus One) will also appear in the series as Discipline and Complaints Officer, Jim Keats, adding an exciting twist to the team dynamic. With the last series' cliff-hanger leaving audiences with the frightening image of Alex lying shot on a hospital gurney, the questions on everyone's lips are will Alex survive? And, assuming that she will, how will her colleague and the accidental would-be assassin Gene Hunt dig himself out of that hole? The cult drama, made by Kudos Film in association with Monastic Productions, finally unravels many of the mysteries from the previous two series of Ashes To Ashes, as well as those first experienced by the initial time-travelling copper, Sam Tyler, in the groundbreaking Life On Mars four years ago. Will Alex finally discover why she's been sent back to the Eighties? Tune-in and find out. I will be.

Tony Ball reportedly wanted a forty two million pound package to run ITV – but it was his demand to have the final veto over the company's new chairman that caused negotiations to collapse. The five-year package proposed by Ball included bonuses for performance and a substantial return on investment, in return for him spending millions on ITV shares. It also included a generous pension scheme and other incentives. But the sticking point that effectively ended negotiations was Ball's demand to have the final say over the selection of the new ITV chairman. According to Broadcast, the board were prepared to compromise on Ball's pay demands despite the cost, but felt it was unacceptable to hand him total control over appointing the person who would ultimately be his boss. The end of talks sends the commercial broadcaster back to the beginning of it search process, which will now be completely overseen by a new non-executive chairman.

Media Highlight Of The Week: Watch this FOX News clip. Florida law professor, Jeremy Levitt, argues with the right-wing (and bloody proud of it) scum Op-Ed anchor Bill O'Reilly over a claim that the channel has helped to heighten racial tensions in its reports on President Obama. In dismissing the racist attacks on Obama as a fringe activity, O'Reilly claims that ten per cent of the American people are racist. Blog readers are advised to note in particular the moment - towards the end - when Levitt tells O'Reilly: 'FOX News and the far right has a race deck, and they play the ace of spades every day.' Burn!

Living has set a date of 6 October for the launch of its HD service. Living HD will be simulcast with the established channel on Virgin Media and will include HD transmissions of shows such as Ghost Whisperer, Private Practice, Boston Legal, CSI Vegas and CSI Miami. Virgin will offer the channel as part of its premium XL TV package at no extra charge. The platform also offers HD channels from the BBC, Channel 4, ESPN, FX, MTV and National Geographic and around three hundred hours of on-demand HD content.

Rob Lowe has spoken out about the upcoming season of Brothers & Sisters. The former West Wing actor, who plays US Senator Robert McCallister on the ABC series, said that last year's plotlines between he and Calista Flockhart's Kitty Walker were 'the study of a disintegration of a marriage,' The Associated Press reports. The forty five-year-old's character suffered a heart attack during the third season. Flockhart's role saw her almost cheat on Robert after they adopted a baby. The pair then separated during the season finale. He said: 'Last season was the study of a disintegration of a marriage and we begin this year worlds apart.'

Hayden Panettiere has reportedly confessed that she suffers from image worries and often hates her body. I think I'm on pretty firm ground when I suggest that you're in a minority of one there, sweetheart.

Watchmen: Ultimate Cut will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in November, Warner Bros. has announced. The special edition release features the animated short Tales From The Black Freighter as an integrated story-within-a-story. Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic will also come with the film. Included among its three hours of extra features are new commentary tracks by co-creator Dave Gibbons and director Zach Snyder.

Megan Fox reportedly refuses to shop in US supermarket Wal-Mart after she was caught stealing in one of its stores as a teenager. The Transformers star revealed that she was stopped for trying to shoplift make-up from the Olsen twins' cosmetics line several years ago and was subsequently banned from the chain, Contactmusic reports. She said: 'I don't know if the ban was for life, but when I was fourteen or fifteen I did get caught and convicted of stealing Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen cosmetics from a Wal-Mart. They actually took me into the court and I had two choices and I took the second choice, which was wrapping [gifts] for Christmas, which was awesome, it wasn't really a punishment. The other one was they were gonna make me wear a sign that said "I stole from Wal-Mart" and stand outside Wal-Mart for three days.'

Government officials in that highly noted hot-spot for nutters, despots and lunatics, Venezuela, have reportedly threatened TV networks with fines if they do not remove Family Guy from their schedules. The region's Justice Minister, Tareck El Aissami, claimed that the US animated show advocates drug use, according to reports. The government cited an episode of the Seth MacFarlane-created series which sees the characters seemingly champion the legalisation of marijuana. Authorities announced earlier this week that they would financially penalise network bosses who ignore the ban. From The North believes that, basically, somebody wants a hug. Probably Hugo Chavez. Who is alleged to have a very small penis, incidentally. Just thought I'd mention that. Dunno if it's true or not but that's what I heard, anyway. Off, 'some guy on the Internet.' That, incidentally, would be classed a 'journalism' on FOX News.

Kerry Katona is, reportedly, 'hoping to win back public support' with a stint on Celebrity Big Brother. According to the Daily Lies, the disgraced, bankrupt, druggie ex-singer and reality TV non-entity believes that she will be seen as a 'genuine' and 'down-to-earth' person by the general public if she enters the house with her husband, Mark Croft next year. Is she incapable of going anywhere without him, because it certainly seems that way? It is thought that Katona has received few, if any, offers of work since she was filmed snorting cocaine at her Cheshire home last month and was extremely sacked by Iceland as their spokesperson for the lard-based joy that is chicken drumsticks. An alleged 'source'allegedly told the tabloid: 'It's desperation stakes for her and Mark because they're going through a hell of a bad time. Every time the phone rings or a letter drops on the mat, it seems to bring yet more bad news.' What, even if it's a wrong number? Blimey, that is depressing.