Sunday, September 13, 2009

The War Of Smudger's Beard

Various hot industry rumours have been reaching Keith Telly Topping's shapely ears over the last few days. As they do from time to time. Mostly they concern allegations about who was doing what to whom round the back of television centre last week. And, if those are true then the pair of you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, at your age. Stop it, it's disgusting. However, one of these rumours actually strayed into an area of some interest. It suggested that, because of the massive hype surrounding the current Beatles reissue programme, ITV are in 'active negotiations' (presumably with Apple) to broadcast a repeat run the Fabs' six-part 1996 series Anthology. Of course, as ninety nine per cent of fans of the band will probably have the (vastly expanded) ten-part DVD set of the series in their collection, that might cut into any potential audience for it. Nevertheless, I'll bring you more news if or when I get it.

For the forthcoming one hundredth episode of Bones, series creator Hart Hanson is considering rewinding the story all the way back to Booth and Brennan's first assignment together. 'We alluded in the pilot,' noted Hanson in an interview with TV Guide, 'that the first time they worked together — the time before the pilot — it went very badly. They had a terrible time. So it would be really fun to do a flashback episode.' However, fans should note that such a script hasn't been written yet, much less carved in stone. 'It's in the bin of ideas for the one hundredth episode, but it's a big bin!' Hanson jokes.

Tina Fey has won an Emmy Award for her satirical portrayal of Republican vice presidential contender and self-styled Rottweiler Sarah Palin on the long-running sketch-based comedy show Saturday Night Live. Some commentators (including one particular knob writing in The Times) have described Ms Fey's comedy career as being 'in decline' - despite the huge success of her TV-industry sitcom 30 Rock. However, her relentless mocking of Sarah Palin's stumbling performance and outrageously crass and ignorant statements during the US presidential campaign became cult viewing across America. Accepting the award for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy, Fey paid tribute to the former Governor of Alaska: 'Mrs Palin is an inspiration to working mothers everywhere because she bailed on her job right before Fourth of July weekend,' she said. 'You are living my dream. Thank you, Mrs Palin!'

But, on the other hand, True Blood star Michelle Forbes has reportedly expressed her displeasure at the series being snubbed by the Emmys and suggested that they don't, actually, mean anything. Much like most awards, I guess. If you win one, brag about it. If you get ignored, by them, then say that they're 'worthless.' You win either way! The actress who plays Maryann Forrester on the vampire drama, said that there is 'no glory' in award shows. She told E!: 'Excuse me, but fuck awards!' You are excused, Michelle. 'That's not where the glory is. The glory is in the audience. That's who we tell the stories for. It's not for, with all due respect, the critics and not for the awards shows, but for the audience.' The forty four-year-old (who won a huge, dedicated fanbase via notable appearances in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica and Waking the Dead) recently revealed that her portrayal of the mysterious Bon Temps resident is open for interpretation and explained that she does not view her as a villain.

Terence Stamp may have voiced Jor-El for Smallville, but Julian Sands is taking on his Kryptonian form. As seen in last season's finale, Zod (Callum Blue) has ventured to Earth, albeit unaware of the existence of Clark (Tom Welling) and who he will grow to be. Zod has brought a few Kandorians along for the ride — including Jor-El, Clark's biological dad. Sands' casting was first reported by EW's Michael Ausiello. Jor-El will first appear in the forthcoming eighth season's seventh episode, which is titled 'Kandor.' At Comic-Con, Smallville's executive producers Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders teased that because of the time-parallel caused by Zod, there would be a chance to see a living Jor-El. 'You'll learn pretty quickly - in Episode 2 - what happens,' said Peterson, who also teased that Stamp will be heard again this season as well.

It's not all bad news for America's 'always-the-bridesmaid' network the CW: After the premiere of its expensive and much-hyped remake of Melrose Place tanked (and, I mean, really tanked), the highly-anticipated Vampire Diaries became the most-watched series premiere in the network's history. The debut episode of the series (which has been described in the genre press as both 'a cheap Buffy rip-off' and 'a cheap Twilight rip-off' ... assuming those two aren't essentially the same thing in the first place) was watched by a shade under five million viewers, enough to top 90210's 2008 debut. The fifth-season-opener of Supernatural, however, didn't hold on to the great lead-in. It drew 3.4 million viewers, a loss of half a million viewers from last season's premiere.

The award-winning US television, film and theatre writer Larry Gelbart, who is best remembered for the M*A*S*H TV comedy series, has died at the age of eighty one. Gelbart died at his California home after a battle with cancer. M*A*S*H - about army doctors during the Korean War - began in 1972 and won Gelbart an Emmy award. He also won a Tony for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and was twice nominated for an Oscar, for the movies Tootsie and Oh! God. Gelbart was brought in to develop the TV version of M*A*S*H, which had been filmed for the big screen by Robert Altman in 1970. He wrote ninety seven episodes over four seasons before leaving. The comedy show subsequently went on until 1983 to become one of the most successful on US television. Early in his writing career, Gelbart wrote jokes for stars including Bob Hope and Red Buttons and worked on Sid Caesar's show Caesar's Hour. In 1962 he co-wrote the Ancient Rome-based hit Broadway show A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Phillip Schofield has revealed that he believes Fern Britton is irreplaceable on This Morning. Holly Willoughby has been confirmed as Britton's replacement on the ITV show. Schofield told the Daily Mirror: 'She is one of a kind. It's like trying to find Ant another Dec. So if you can't find another Fern, the best thing to do is find someone else who is completely different and brings a new dynamic to the show - Holly will take us in a different direction.' The presenter also said that picking Willoughby to replace Britton was a 'no-brainer' for him, adding: 'Holly is bright, intelligent and she can talk to time and hit the news dead on, and these things are important. She ticks all the boxes and she's also gorgeous.'

Kristina Rihanoff has praised her Strictly Come Dancing partner Joe Calzaghe. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Rihanoff described the former world champion boxer as 'driven; and 'on fire. My God, the man is like a machine!' she said. 'He is fantastic. He is super-human. He's like... I don't know, some superior human being.' So, that'd be cautious approval, then? She continued: 'I've been blown away by the amount of concentration he has. It's amazing. He's probably the best, most focused person I've ever worked with, and I'm talking both professionals and amateurs here. He pushes himself over and over again, for hours and hours. I don't even have to push him, he does it all himself. The thing is that Joe doesn't know how to lose. It's all about winning, about being the best. We've got a lot in common, actually.' Calzaghe recently said that he had 'hit the jackpot' when he was paired with Rihanoff. The dancer also directed comments to Calzaghe's ex-girlfriend noting that Jo-Emma Larvin had 'better get used' to photographs of them together. Larvin recently admitted to the press that she was 'hurt and angry' after rumours that Calzaghe was dating his dance partner. However, Rihanoff told the Mail: 'No offence to her, but if she is going to get upset about some pictures with me holding his hand, well, she'd better get used to it. Yes, I'm going to hold his hand. I mean, he is my partner. That's what we do together: we dance and we hold each other's hands. If somebody has a problem with it or they are insecure, I cannot do anything about that.' Put them claws away, madam. You might snag your tango frock.

Former Hollyoaks star Chris Fountain has admitted that he expected to have a long period of unemployment when he left the soap. And to be fair, so did most of the people who watched him act. The twenty two-year-old actor made his final appearance as Justin Burton on the Channel 4 show in May after more than five years in the role. Fountain has since been cast in BBC drama Five Days, which is to return to screens next year. Speaking to BANG Showbiz, he commented: 'I haven't had time to miss Hollyoaks as almost as soon as I left I started work on Five Days, which I absolutely love. So I've been really lucky to get work, I thought I was going to be unemployed for ages. It's been good for me as an actor as well as filming Hollyoaks was very intense because it's on five nights a week.' The first series of Five Days ran on BBC1 to great acclaim in early 2007, telling the story of the disappearance of a young mother and her children.

Former Coronation Street star Bruce Jones is said to be living in a caravan after an argument with his wife. According to the News of the World, Jones is facing charges of assault, drink-driving and dangerous driving after the furious row last month. Jones has allegedly moved into a friend's caravan in Wales because of his police bail, which states that he must have no contact with his wife. 'We are really worried about him,' a source said. 'He is desperately unhappy and has hit rock bottom. Ever since he left Coronation Street he has been struggling to cope financially but now his problems have got much worse. Bruce has always been the life and soul of the party but now he is withdrawn and depressed. He doesn't want people to see him at his lowest ebb. He is just taking each day as it comes.' Jones admitted in January that he was facing financial problems having being sacked from the soap on which he played Les Battersby.

Product placement is to be allowed on British TV shows, in a move expected to be announced next week. Independent broadcasters will be allowed to take payments for displaying commercial products during shows. The change is intended to bring in extra funds for commercial broadcasters. Experts believe it could raise up to one hundred million pounds a year. There are currently strict rules against product placement and this ban would remain in place on BBC shows. Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw is expected to announce a three-month consultation on the changes in a speech to the Royal Television Society next week. An ITV spokesman welcomed the move, which he described as 'reforming UK prohibition.' He said: 'If the government does decide to permit product placement, it will be warmly welcomed by the commercial broadcasting industry and advertisers alike. Reforming the UK prohibition would also be a welcome acknowledgement of the pressures currently faced by an industry in transition. New sources of revenue means better-funded content - which can only be good news for viewers.'

So many people are now being subjected to the very public agonies and ecstasies of television talent shows that John Barrowman – judge on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Grease is the Word – is calling on producers to put in place 'aftercare' programmes to help contestants cope when the cameras stop rolling. 'If you don't look after them, they are going to get sick,' John told the Sunday Telegraph. 'When they come out of a show, it's the responsibility of the producers to look after them.' He praised Sir Cameron Mackintosh for the help that he gave to Jodie Prenger after she won I'd Do Anything. She went on to enrol at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. However, he added: 'There are certain people who have gone on these shows who haven't been looked after. They haven't had the guidance.'

Another little part of Keith Telly Topping's teenage telly years just passed the other week. The towering Scottish actor Iain Cuthbertson, who died aged seventy nine on 4 September, achieved national prominence on television as the slippery Charlie Endell in the ITV comedy crime-drama Budgie (1971-72) and, on the other side of the law, in the title role in the BBC drama series Sutherland's Law, playing a procurator fiscal in a small Scottish town (1973-76). Cuthbertson, a powerful six foot four inches, was as imposing in voice as he was in appearance. As the gangster Endell, he revealed a wry edge to his villainy; there was a twinkle in the eye, under the high forehead and compressed mouth. Born in Glasgow, the son of David Cuthbertson, a leading biochemist, he read modern languages at Aberdeen University. Much later, he served as its rector, from 1975 to 1978. After national service as an officer in the Black Watch, he began acting and became a regular at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. He was subsequently associate director at the Royal Court in London, directing the comedian Max Wall in a 1966 production of Alfred Jarry's absurdist play Ubu Roi. He also worked for BBC radio as a reporter. In the 1980s, a press advertisement for Scotch whisky contrasted a picture of the young Cuthbertson standing at a microphone with his present-day self, under the tagline 'improved with age.' His first television appearance was in a BBC programme about holidaying in the Scottish resort of Dunoon, presented by Franklin Engelmann. 'I can't say that I prefer the stage,' Cuthbertson once said. 'I find television very stimulating and far less tying down in terms of time.' For the producer Peter Graham Scott, he played a conniving, eighteenth-century laird in The Borderers (1968-70). The BBC2 series was conceived with the - ultimately unsuccessful - hope of selling it to America and its cast included the then unknown Michael Gambon. He then took on the role of Endell, a Scottish crime boss muscling in on the seamier side of Soho and the employer of the luckless Budgie Bird, played by the late Adam Faith ('there are two things I hate in life, Budgie, and you're both of them!'). Cuthbertson relished his character's sly ruthlessness as well as the show's brilliant scripts by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. Arguably, Endell was a truer reflection of such a type of real-life chancer than Arthur Daley in Minder, in which Cuthbertson guested in 1989. He reprised the role in Scottish TV's Charles Endell Esquire (1979), his character now out of jail and aiming to be Glasgow's crime lord, but despite heavy promotion, it ran for only one series. Cuthbertson was a chief constable in Scotch on the Rocks (BBC, 1973), a now-largely forgotten but at the time highly controversial five-part thriller dealing with nationalism and the prospect of Scotland becoming a world power, adapted from the novel by Douglas Hurd and Andrew Osmond. In Sutherland's Law, he starred as the public prosecutor John Sutherland, undertaking investigations into criminal cases in a rural community on the west coast of Scotland. The series made much use of locations in Oban, Argyll, and brought him a Radio Industries Club of Scotland award for television personality of 1973. To the surprise and delight of Michael Palin, Cuthbertson accepted a role in an episode of Palin's and Terry Jones's Ripping Yarns (1977), parodying a pre-war murder mystery. He would also enjoy some self-spoofing as the villainous Scunner Campbell in the children's ITV comedy SuperGran (1985-87), contributing the line 'is there nothing she cannae do?' to Billy Connolly's theme song. His other plays for television included David Edgar's political drama Destiny (BBC, 1978) and two stunning excursions into the supernatural, Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape (BBC, 1972) and MR James's The Casting the Runes (ITV, 1979) as well as memorable guest appearances in numerous series and serials including Doctor Who (The Ribos Operation), Survivors (Power), Children of the Stones, Danger UXB and Z Cars. Twice he was a fearsome headmaster, in Tom Brown's Schooldays (BBC, 1971) and Vice Versa (ATV, 1981). His film roles included the classic screen adaption of E Nesbit's The Railway Children (1970), with Cuthbertson playing the children's father, finally freed and reunited with his family at the climax after being wrongly imprisoned for espionage. He also appeared in Gorillas in the Mist (1988), starring Sigourney Weaver and in Scandal (1989), portraying Lord Hailsham. Cuthbertson suffered a stroke in 1982. One of his first jobs after he recovered was as dialogue coach to a multinational cast in Graham Scott's version of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae (1984), starring John Gielgud. Guest appearances, often as enjoyable heavies, included The Avengers, The Onedin Line and Inspector Morse. He is survived second wife, Janet.

Good news for all Cap'n Jack Sparra fans, Disney has announced a new movie in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. The company made the announcement with Johnny Depp at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, the Daily Mirror reports. Depp sailed onstage in a pirate ship to a standing ovation. He staggered around the stage before hugging Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, who told the audience of 5,000 fans about the next instalment. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will be the fourth film in the series. It is expected to be released in 2011.

A Michael Jackson fan has reportedly lost hundreds of pounds because the Vienna tribute concert was cancelled. Kelly Healy spent over five hundred pounds on flights and a hotel to take her mother to the Austrian gig scheduled for 26 September. However, the late singer's brother Jermaine Jackson announced on Friday that the gig will not be happening. Although she will be refunded for the concert tickets, Healy revealed her disappointment to Sky News Online: 'We are really upset and disappointed. We had all the original problems with our tickets to Jackson's concert when he died, we flew to America but couldn't get to the memorial concert because it was announced at such short notice and now this. We've heard nothing from the tribute concert organisers and have been told by our travel agent that we can't have our money back.' Radical suggestion, I know, but you could just go to Vienna anyway, you know? Treat it as a mini-break. It's quite a nice city. Plenty to see.

If you're interested in reading something controversial (and rather mean, frankly) dear blog reader, check out Christopher Hart's well-constructed but, ultimately, toothless and somewhat hollow character assassination of Stephen Fry in this week's Sunday Times here. Not a piece I have a great deal of sympathy for or agreement with. Mainly because there is an obvious and fundamental flaw at its core - something articulated by one of the respondants: 'How can Stephen Fry be the most annoying Brit, when our fair isle also boasts the likes of Jamie Oliver, Sting, Bono, Simon Cowell, Cliff Richard, etc?' You know, Keith Telly Topping really wishes he'd said that.

Newcastle United goalkeeper Stevie Harper reckons that a book about his fifteen year plus career at the club would sell more copies than one written by Harry Potter author JK Rowling according to the News of the World. I'm not sure about that though, regardless of sales, Keith Telly Topping considers that, in terms of any inherent literary merit, it would certainly have a far better plot and more realistic characterisation than most of Ms Rowling's efforts. Even if much of its content would be similarly unbelievable to most people.

And finally, it has to be said that the early-season Championship table does, undeniably, make surprisingly pleasant reading for supporters of Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though, seemingly unsellable) Toonies. Now, however, they will also be able to monitor the club's progress by via the state of Alan Smith's facial hair. Twenty eight-year-old club captain Smudger is promising not to shave until the Magpies' unbeaten start to the season comes to an end. So, that'll be some time this afternoon, in all likelihood? Look, it's not defeatism, it's realism. I've supported this club since 1969, I know not to get my hopes up. About anything!

Update: Sunday: 4:09pm (GMT). Cardiff City 0, Newcastle United 1. That, I didn't expect. Coloccini scoring the winner - and being part of a defence that's kept five clean sheets in a row - I definitely didn't expect. The Smudger's beard, it would seem, is safe for another week. (Albeit, old poor old Smudger himself got sent off a couple of minutes into injury time for a second bookable whatsit.) Keith Telly Topping watched it on Sky and I think he did about as much work as players, frankly!