Wednesday, September 02, 2009

No Donkey-Blogging Here: The Politicians Are On To Me - Only Charlie Brooker Can Save Me Now. Or, Possibly, David Beckham

Greetings, dear blog reader. From The North's genial patron and host was somewhat surprised to discover, upon returning from a bit of shopping at Morrison's this morning, that a letter addressed to 'Mr Keith Telly Topping Esq.' from the House of Commons had been delivered to Stately Telly Topping Manor. 'Oh no,' thought Keith Telly Topping, 'this is it - Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman have finally tracked down my home-boy gaff and are to insist that they are better at TV critique than moi. So, therefore, why don't I sod off to Russia and stop breathing nice people's air, or they'll 'send the boys round.' Or something. In the end it didn't turn out to be that or anything even remotely like it. (Though you can be absolutely certain, dear blog reader, that if it was, Keith Telly Topping would be sodding-off precisely nowhere.) Opening the letter, Keith Telly Topping was all agog with discombobulation, wondered what on earth it could possibly be. A 'Wanted: One Moat Cleaner (preferably Polish) no-questions-asked' job offer? A begging letter from The Treasury asking if Keith Telly Topping had any spare change they could borrow? Something from the Liberal party containing a picture of Nick Clegg so that people in the street might actually recognise the man? A note from the Scottish Nationalists remind all us filthy English scum that 'it's ooor oil, y'ken'? Actually, it turned out to be none of those things but was, instead, a rather nice and friendly letter from Keith Telly Topping's constituency MP about a minor - none-TV-related and, therefore, in no way important - matter that they had discussed some time ago. There you have it, dear blog reader - it would seem that not all politicians are egotistical, sleazy, criminally corrupt, manipulative, rent-a-quote glakes.

So, Keith Telly Topping finally got around to catching up on a few recorded shows that he'd missed of late over the weekend. He'd only missed them, of course, due to his insanely hectic and extensive social life. And if you believe that codswallop, you'll believe anything. Self-deprication. Keith Telly Topping positively loves it. But, it remains unrequited, just like most of the love in Keith Telly Topping's life. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, a four episode You Have Been Watching marathon on Bank Holiday Monday left Keith Telly Topping quite breathless in awe and wonder at the total-sarky-bleeder genius that is Keith Telly Topping's hero, King Charlie Brooker. The format of the show, if you've never watched it, is basically an extension of Screenwipe - King Charlie watching lots of crap-TV and then ripping it to shreds - but with a panel-game element as three guests get to join in the fun. It sounds wretched but it actually improved as the season went on. Initially, you just wanted the guests (some of whom you'd never heard of) to shut-the-hell-up and let Charlie release another one of his atom bombs of caustic wit from the safety of his Jim'll Fix It-style chair. Example (on the subject of Casualty's end of season plotline): 'If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. That's the writers job!' Gradually, however, the viewer rather warmed to the idea of King Charlie's guests having a right go at rubbish TV as well as him - especially when they had a similar ability to King Charlie himself in terms of being dryly cynical and frothing with anger - Davey Mitchell, Mad Frankie Boyle and the great Reginald D Hunter on successive shows, for instance. Having said that, there were also some rather unexpected moments of sheer joy. Lovely Martin Freeman's reply to Charlie's assertion that the Japanese don't torture people: 'Tell that to my uncle!' Big fat cuddly Liza Tarbuck's incandescent rage at the horrors of Iron Chef America and her belief that it was created by somebody 'on cocaine.' (Charlie's description - 'Ready Steady Cook if it had been directed by Michael Bay' was even better.) And, best of all, the single most erotic moment on television that Keith Telly Topping can remember in his entire life, when that pouting minxy vision of luscious loveliness Victoria Coren used the phrase 'licking her tits' in polite conversation about Lady Chatterley's Lover. Horn-tastic. Yes, Keith Telly Topping is a very sad and crushed victim, dear blog reader. But he would like you all to know that society is to blame. And, he's sticking to that defence when the case comes afore the beak. Anyway, You Have Been Watching - fine stuff. I understand another series is in the initial planning stages for next year. I can't wait - where else am I going to get jokes about Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum that I can rip-off?

The death of former Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones is to be reviewed following new evidence, it has been revealed. Police in Sussex were handed new information connected to the musician's untimely death forty years ago. Jones, was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool at a house in Cotchford farm, Hartfield, East Sussex. An inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure but speculation continued that he was murdered. A spokesman for Sussex Police said the force had been handed documents connected with Jones's death, prompting the review. 'These papers will be examined by Sussex Police, but it is too early to comment at this time as to what the outcome will be.' The circumstances of Brian's death, of course, have been the subject of a number of best-selling books, including Terry Rawlings Who Killed Cock Robin? and Laura Jackson's Golden Stone and of Stephen Woolley's 2005 movie Stoned.

Lord Stephen Fry says that gorillas eyeing up his shapely man boobs helped to inspire his five-stone weight loss this last year. He was filming Last Chance To See for BBC2 about endangered animals. Fry told the TV Times: 'I was fed-up with my boobs anyway, but I could see the silverback gorillas looking at me with envy.' See... when Victoria Coren talked about that part of the body on You Have Been Watching, it was a genuinely stirring moment. Our lovely Stephen, for all his world-class intellect, stunning oratory skills and rapier-like wit, doesn't quite have the same effect on Keith Telly Topping when it comes to discussions about Mr Tatty Bojangles. Pity, really.

Five is to air new drama FlashForward within days of US transmission, it has been revealed. The show, which is being tipped as 'the next Lost,' debuts on Thursday, 24 September in the US, on ABC. The UK premiere will follow the next week on Five. The quick turnaround of FlashForward was ordered by Five's new controller Richard Woolfe, who popularised the whole idea of fast-tracking popular US drama at Sky1 with shows such as Lost and 24. Earlier this week Woolfe said of the acquisition: 'When I sat in the screening room in LA last May, it was the one show that blew my mind away. I know that it's going to pull in a massive audience.' The series stars the great Jack Davenport, Joseph Fieness and two former Lost cast-mates Dominic Monaghan and Sonya Walger. Seth MacFarlane and Alex Kingston also have recurring roles. Sounds excellent.

Cable network AMC has renewed Mad Men for a fourth season, according to reports. The Emmy-nominated series, which is set in an early-1960s New York advertising office and stars John Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, recently drew in four and half million viewers for its 16 August third season premiere - a staggering figure for cable. The show has been called 'a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon' by the network's president, says Variety. 'We always saw the potential for Mad Men,' AMC head Charlie Collier said. 'It's been extremely gratifying to see the show develop in to such a pop cultural phenomenon with such a passionate fanbase.' Executive producer Matthew Weiner has also signed a two-year deal to remain on board the series.

Channel 4 bosses are drawing up a shortlist of possible replacements for Paul O'Grady, it has been claimed. The teatime chat show host was recently widely reported to have threatened to leave the broadcaster over plans to cut his programme's budget by half. According to the Daily Express, executives are now 'hastily' considering their options for the 5pm slot amid fears that O'Grady will not return when his contract expires at the end of the year. The newspaper has suggested that Loose Women star and former Dancing On Ice contestant Coleen Nolan is one of the names being put forward to replace the popular Birkenhead-born comedian. Meanwhile, actor Shane Richie, who is Nolan's ex-husband, has also been tipped as a possible successor. O'Grady moved his chatshow from ITV to Channel 4 in 2006 following a feud with his former employers. To lose one network might be regard as misfortune, Mr O'Grady. To lose two looks like carelessness.

BBC2 launched the third series of The Tudors last Friday with a two episode double bill that pulled in a powerful audience of 2.3 million (eleven per cent audience share). It's interesting to note that they have, seeming, decided to show two episodes of the sixteen part series back-to-back each week.

Alan Davies has taken a pay cut of twenty five per cent to star in a new one-off episode of the BBC1 drama Jonathan Creek. The comedian, who found fame through the sleuth drama in the 1990s alongside Caroline Quentin, will appear in the ninety-minute special, The Judas Tree, which is due to air at Easter next year. Filming is to begin this month. Following a Twitter discussion about talent pay, Davies – also a regular panellist on Qi – tweeted (or, is it 'twatted', I'm never too sure about how you conjugate the verb 'to tweet'): 'Just had a twenty five per cent pay cut on Jonathan Creek. The BBC are "driving down talent costs!"' A BBC spokesman 'declined to comment,' to the Gruniad although a source close to the production confirmed that Davies did have his pay cut. 'It is certainly true he has had a cut, which is in line with all talent at the BBC who are facing reductions in their deals,' the insider said. The BBC has high hopes for the new Jonathan Creek after a previous special - the first new episiode in five years - pulled in nine million viewers on New Year's Day. Davies will also be shortly seen as a guest star in an episode of ITV's detective drama Lewis, while he will also play celebrity chef Roland White in BBC2 comedy Whites. So, I'm not sure that the pay cut's going to hit his standard of living that much. Not that Alan has stated it will, of course, Keith Telly Topping would like to make that abundantly clear.

David Beckham has reportedly been encouraging his children to watch British television at their Los Angeles home. The footballer apparently told Gordon Ramsay that he makes Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz turn over from American cartoon networks to BBC America to ensure that they remember they are British. A source told the Sun: 'After the LA Galaxy match, Gordon, Victoria and David went for drinks on Sunset Boulevard. They were in high spirits and David used the occasion to tell Gordon that he makes his lads watch BBC America at home.' The source added that Ramsay's cookery programmes being regularly shown on BBC America mean that Beckham has to switch the channel again because of the chef's use of profanity and cussing.

Supernatural creator Eric Kripke has insisted that the show will end 'with a bang' whether it finishes this season or continues for a sixth. The executive producer had previously claimed to have a five-year plan for the CW drama, although it was later suggested that the cast were contracted for a possible sixth series. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, he said: 'I did set out to tell a five-season storyline. Quite frankly, I never expected [the show] to make it to five years. But now we're in our fifth year, I have every intention of ending the story with a bang and not drawing it out or watering it down. That having been said, I'm looking at this season as the last chapter in this particular story. That doesn't mean there can't be a new story. Buffy did it. The X-Files did it.' Kripke went on to say: 'You close a chapter on a big mythology storyline and then you begin a new one. One of the things I like about this show is we don't draw out mysteries endlessly. We'll answer a bunch of questions this season and then pose some new ones next season.'

David Boreanaz has become a father for the second time, according to People. The Bones star and his wife Jaime Bergman welcomed daughter Bardot Vita Boreanaz on Monday. She weighed seven pounds, fourteen ounces. The forty-year-old actor was forced to confirm that Bergman was expecting their second child in March, when he accidentally broke the news during a live television interview. Boreanaz rose to fame playing the vampire-with-a-soul Angel in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and, subsequently, its spin-off, Angel. He and former Playboy model Bergman married in November 2001 and are already parents to seven-year-old son Jaden Rayne.

BSkyB has been criticised by the advertising watchdog for promoting its high-definition Ashes cricket and Lions rugby union coverage this summer, when both contests would have ended by the time some customers could have the service installed. The two TV campaigns and one press ad promoted BSkyB's HD services, through its Sky+ HD box, by highlighting the sports coverage available to those that signed up. A TV advert focused on the Ashes cricket contest between Australia and England. Which England won two-one late lasy month (just wanted to mention that again for an lovely Aussies reading this in case you didn't know). The advert, featured a voice-over by Sir Ian Botham. The press advery also promoted the benefits of watching the cricket in HD. Seven viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that the TV ads were misleading because when they registered to receive the HD service they were told there was a twelve-week waiting period for installation, which meant they would miss all the Lions tour and most of the Ashes. One reader objected about the press advert on the same grounds. BSkyB said that existing Sky+ HD customers could upgrade their sports package in 'a few hours' and would not miss the events. The broadcaster added that completely new Sky TV customers would also have been able to see the events as it operated a seven-day installation policy for them. The issue was with existing Sky customers who did not have an HD set-top box. Sky said it amended its ads from 6 June to warn, in small print, that installation might not happen until after the Ashes had started.

BBC soap EastEnders has revamped its title sequence for the first time in a decade. The soap's iconic blue, green and grey London map intro has been given a facelift and brought into the Twenty First Century, with a new three-dimensional coloured map, complete with a Thames boat and moving clouds. The theme tune has also been rescored by original composer Simon May. The new version has stronger drum beats and various percussion instruments playing in the background. They so should've got Bill Bailey to record his bhangra version, that would have been novel. The EastEnders logo now fades into the shot as opposed to 'scrolling up', while the accompanying whistles are more pronounced. Speaking of the show's new titles, executive producer Diederick Santer said: 'I love the EastEnders title sequence and think it works brilliantly. Although the execution has changed a few times with different colours and treatments of aerial photos, the concept hasn't changed since it was designed by Alan Jeapes in 1985. It's the best title sequence on telly.' He continued: 'It's not been tweaked or changed in the ten years since the Millennium Dome was completed in 1999 and in my first week here in 2006, it started to bug me. With everyone now so familiar with Google Earth, it struck me that the style of the map image, as well as the content, was a little out of date.'

Rumours, seemingly groundless, have suggested that Kerry Katona is to appear on Coronation Street. According to the Daily Star, the soap's producers were planning to offer Katona a role before she was filmed taking cocaine last month. An 'insider' said: 'There are a number of plans for new characters joining the show and it was felt she could be bang-on for someone like Cilla - loud, brash, screeching and wicked. Everyone knows Kerry comes with baggage and whether recent events will force a change of heart, we don't know. But when you look back, Corrie has been very tolerant and supportive when actors have had their ups and downs.' Yeah, that sounds like just the sort of thing that someone in any way connected to a major television production would have told a tabloid journalist. Or, possibly not. The source is reported to have added: 'There are people out there who still believe Kerry, on the right tracks, is popular and liked. There is also a feeling that she could take to a part like this like a duck to water.' Not that Keith Telly Topping is accusing the Daily Star of being 'a right bunch of mendacious bastards' of course, perish the very thought. Although it is, dear blog reader, worth remembering that in early 2003 the Daily Star claimed a 'world exclusive' when they reported that ex-Neighbours actress and sometime pop-wannabe, Holly Valance, was 'in discussions' to replace Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In discussions with whom, the report did not specify. This revelation, no doubt, came as a big surprise to Mutant Enemy, the American production company which had made Buffy for the previous seven years. Just two days before this article appeared, they had recorded the one hundred and forty fourth - and final - episode of the popular show and held the production wrap-party at their Santa Monica studios – in, it should be noted, something of a blaze of publicity. A couple of weeks later, Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, happened to be in London. During a magazine interview, Whedon was shown the Star 'exclusive' and asked to comment. He did. 'Who's Holly Valance?' he asked. And that's where the story ended, the Star producing no follow-up to either confirm their 'exclusive' or to admit that, actually, they had been lied to by someone - probably an over-eager publicist - and had run the story anyway without even bothering to check the veracity of it. In this particular instance, it would appear that the sole reason the Katona story appeared was that it gave the Star the change to produce a humorous cartoon on their editorial page of the same issue.

Further Corrie news, this one a little more believeable. Former Raffles star Anthony Valentine is to play a new love interest for Blanche Hunt, it has emerged. According to the Sun, the seventy-year-old actor has signed up to appear as George Richards, the father of Peter Barlow's late wife Lucy, on the ITV soap. It is believed that George quickly alienates Peter's dad Ken (William Roache) after making his Weatherfield debut, but receives a warmer welcome from busybody Blanche (Maggie Jones). Blanche reportedly tells her daughter Deirdre: 'Now that's what I call a man. Good looking, good company and loaded to boot. I think I'm in love.' Battleaxe Blanche later attempts to impress George by discussing her history as a yo-yoing champion, claiming that she was an expert in competitions. As well as his role as Arthur Raffles in the 1970s TV drama, Valentine is best known for appearances in Colditz and Callan.

A documentary celebrating ten years of Queer as Folk leads the programming slate for upcoming gay, bisexual and transgender web-based broadcaster Fruit TV. Queer As Folk: Ten Years On includes an interview with the cult show's creator and writer Russell T Davies. This will be joined by AIDS in America, a documentary where survivors of HIV talk about the early impact of the virus and My Life With Milk, a radio documentary charting the life of American politician and gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk. All the programmes will be broadcast over the internet at when the site launches next year. Other programmes include a look at the works of Oscar Wilde and a documentary exploring the sex lives of the average Brit. Fruit TV, based in Manchester, is a partnership between production company Made in Manchester and its creative director Ashley Byrne, former ITV Granada producers and editors Scott Heslop and Anthony Beswick, and Iain Scott, a partner in Taurus bar on Manchester's Canal Street. Good luck to 'em.

The highlight of the second audition show for the new series of X Factor was the performance of Jamie Archer, or 'Jamie Afro' as his friends somewhat obviously call him. Jamie's a old-style rocker, a category which had traditionally been poorly received by The X Factor audience and the judges but, you can always tell a rocker by the size of his axe. Jamie's belting take on the Kings of Leon song 'Sex on Fire' lead to a quite unique - and slightly disturbing - audition experience: Simon Cowell singing along and looking happy for once. Good on yerself, Jamie, though I'm really not sure about this gradual 'humanisation' process that Cowell seems to be forcing upon the unwilling public. You made your name being Mr Nasty, Si - that's what the public seem to want, not some soppy milktoastesque Mr 'Only Occasionally Nasty' instead. The second episode of the new series averaged 9.3m viewers across its seventy five minutes, with a peak of over eleven million towards the end.

Ray Winstone is fronting a campaign for the Football Association that aims to stop pushy parents shouting abuse at their children during the grassroots football season. The FA film, which is being seeded online, features Winstone talking straight to camera about how grown-ups do not stand for any abuse in their day-to-day life. In the seventy five-second film, called Elders and Betters, an aggressive, angry father shouts down to a young teary-eyed boy that he is a loser for not playing well. 'Over half our young footballers have to put up with pressure and abuse from their elders and betters,' says Winstone as the clip draws to a close. 'Ain't it time we gave it a rest.' The clip, which ends with the tagline Lose Respect, Lose the Game, has been developed by agency Contentment Worldwide. The clip has been timed to launch ahead of the start of the grassroots football season in about two weeks time.

Figures suggest that using the holidays as an excuse for a summer ratings lull is not always justified, according to former ITV scheduler Stephen Price in a fascinating think-piece for Broadcast magazine. 'In my old job moving coloured boxes around on a spreadsheet I was often subjected to the lament: "No one watches telly in the summer because everyone goes away." I reflected frequently on this zealous view of the world. It's what might be known as The Tuscan Conjecture ... For commercial channels it is a question of balancing the need for big hits in the revenue-hungry autumn and sustaining a good enough schedule in the summer so that by September viewers haven't forgotten you. The balancing act is more difficult now, but it's not new. The BBC, which also guards its audience carefully, can afford to do more during the alleged exodus.' An excellently written piece, that - well worth a read.

Spencer Pratt has revealed that he is planning to legally change his name to 'King Spencer Pratt', according to Access Hollywood. A representative for The Hills star has confirmed that Pratt is in the process of adopting the new title and will file legal papers next week. Explaining the change, Pratt said: 'I have decided that if there is a Queen of England and Prince William, we need to have a King of America and I have nominated myself for that title.' Any Republicans out there want to give him three good reasons why that's a really bad idea? I mean, quite apart from the fact that it makes him sound like a ... well, like a King Pratt, in fact. He later added on his Twitter account: 'I highly recommend everyone to change your name to King or Queen in front. It's very empowering. I see why these English humans do it.' I don't, actually, think the change their name, Spencer. They're usually born with it.

Arlene Phillips has reportedly admitted that she has had Botox. The sixty six-year-old told Celebs on Sunday that she has undergone several cosmetic procedures, but added that they are painful. 'I've had Botox on my forehead, between my eyes, and I've had a few injections to suck out fat around my chin and in my face,' Phillips confessed. 'That was very traumatic, I don't like pain.' And it STILL wasn't enough to keep you in a job? Innit marvellous? Meanwhile Craig Revel Horwood has predicted that Arlene Phillips will do well as a presenter on The ONE Show. Horwood told thelondonpaper: 'I'm looking forward to working with Alesha, but I'm certainly going to miss Arlene. Sitting next to her, we had some great rows, I loved it. I think she'll be great on The ONE Show. It'll be a good opportunity for her to judge the judges.' He added: 'She's wise enough in the world and very successful in her real job, which is choreography and directing.' Oh, get her!

And, finally. Two bloggers from Azerbaijan are facing up to five years in jail after posting a video of a donkey giving a news conference on YouTube. Shortly after the video was released, Andnan Hajizade and Emin Milli were held on hooliganism charges following a scuffle in a restaurant. Their lawyer says the arrests were politically motivated. But authorities insist they are investigating a simple criminal case. In the video, the donkey extols the benefits of living in Azerbaijan and praises the government for its positive attitude towards donkeys. The video was seen by many as a parody of government news conferences, which critics say are often little more than propaganda events.