Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Sad Death Of 'Our Man in Saigon'

Five's new wretched daily abomination and insult to the audience's intelligence, Live from Studio Five, lost one hundred thousand viewers on its second outing on Tuesday night, drawing just four hundred thousand (a paltry two per cent audience share) to the commercial broadcaster between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. The panel show, fronted by Apprentice runner-up Kate Walsh, ex-footballer (who never played in the World Cup finals) Ian Wright and large-chested TV nonentity Melinda Messenger, debuted with almost half-a-million viewers on Monday night, helped (if that's the right word) by an interview with former glamour model and reality star Katie Price. The show is one of the first commissioned by Five controller Richard Woolfe since he joined the broadcaster. So, he's the one to blame if you want to shout at anyone in particular.

And now, some very sad news. One of the BBC's greatest foreign correspondent, Brian Barron, has died from cancer at the age of sixty nine. Brian covered wars across five decades - from Aden in 1967 to Iraq in 2003 - and served as the BBC's man in some of the world's major cities. World News Editor Jon Williams said: 'He was simply the most distinguished BBC correspondent of our age.' Barron witnessed many major events and was honoured with several awards. Joining the BBC World Service in 1965, he is possibly best remembered for his stint in Viet 'Nam. In 1975, he watched with his friend and long-time cameraman, Eric Thirer as that last iconic helicopter left the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon and they were there when the North Vietnamese entered the city hours later. Brian had ignored the BBC's order to leave on the helicopter. He later delighted in telling the story of how he'd known the end was near when plaster began falling off the ceiling of the broadcasting studio at Saigon Radio. Brian had gone there to talk to London because there were no reliable phone lines. As the building shook, the microphone suspended from the ceiling swung above his head - a renegade squadron of strike planes, which had defected to the communist North, was bombing the presidential palace just up the road. It was at that moment that the BBC Governors in London decided he should evacuate - the order to board the nearest helicopter crackled through the earphones in the dust-filled studio. He ignored the instruction - as Brian put it 'what foreign correspondent would walk away from his biggest story yet?' He subsequently reported from Africa on the demise of Idi Amin, covered the Falklands War from Chile, as well as working as Ireland correspondent at the height of the Troubles in the early 1980s. He won several Royal Television Society awards including Reporter of the Year in 1980 and the International Reporting Prize for his coverage from Latin America. After his official retirement, Brian and Eric continued to work together in New York. Two years ago, in what would be his final report for the BBC, he returned to Aden, forty years after the end of empire. Jon Williams said: 'It was vintage Brian - funny, poignant, but with a message. He was an inspiration to more than one generation of reporters, producers and editors.' He died at his home in Cornwall surrounded by his family. Barron leaves his wife Angela and daughter Fleur.

It's a right bad week for some of Keith Telly Topping's childhood telly heroes. Henry Gibson, the wry little comic character-actor whose career included Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Nashville and Boston Legal, died on Monday at his home in Malibu after a brief battle with cancer. He was seventy three. Gibson's breakthrough came in 1968 when he was cast as a member of the original ensemble of NBC's Laugh-In, on which he performed for three seasons. Each week, a giant flower in his hand, he would recite a - usually dreadful, though mercifully short - poem, introducing them with the catchphrase that became his signature: 'A Poem, by Henry Gibson.' The poems proved to be so popular that they led to the release of two comedy albums, The Alligator and The Grass Menagerie, as well as a book, A Flower Child's Garden of Verses. After Laugh-In, he played the evil Dr Verringer in The Long Goodbye (1973), the first of four films in which Henry appeared for director Robert Altman. They reunited two years later for Nashville, in which Gibson played country singer Haven Hamilton and also wrote his character's songs. The pair went on to work together again in A Perfect Couple and HealtH. In television, Henry's more recent notable work included a five-season stint as crusty Judge Clarence Brown on Boston Legal and multiple episodes as the voice of newspaperman Bob Jenkins on the animated King of the Hill. He also made guest appearances in numerous series including Stargate SG-1 and Charmed. Henry is survived by three sons.

As mentioned in a previous blog, Eddie Izzard finally completed his endurance feat of forty three marathons in fifty one days for charity Sport Relief, finishing in London's Trafalgar Square. Izzard, who ran at least twenty seven miles per day and took just one day off each week, covered about evelen hundred miles on his route across the UK. The forty seven-year-old comedian and actor, who trained for just five weeks for the event, told BBC News he now planned to 'sleep for a week.' And, here you can see him being put into his slumber by the Prime Minister. Eddie - who ended his mammoth challenge in the pouring rain - said he had been trying to complete his final day's run in under five hours but had failed to do so by thirty seconds. 'I don't know what the hell I was doing at the end but it must have been way faster than I was doing the rest of the time. So I feel exhausted now, but you know, it's over.' He added: 'Being here is very nice because, when I left here seven-and-a-half weeks ago, there was nothing here, it was just a cold morning and now there's a lot of people here, even in the rain.' So far, Eddie has raised more than two hundred thousand pounds for the charity. He was joined by well-wishers for portions of the challenge, which took in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Dollhouse has tapped Ray Wise to join the cast for the upcoming season in the potentially recurring role of Howard, an intelligent higher-up in the Dollhouse who has huge presence and humour. Wise is coming off of a two-year stint as Lucifer on The CW's Reaper. Of course, to most TV viewers he'll forever be the daddy who killed Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. His CV also includes notable appearances in 24 and The West Wing. Dollhouse, which kicks off season two a week on Friday, is amassing quite the impressive talent roster this season. In addition to Wise, upcoming guest stars include Jamie Bamber, Keith Carradine, Alexis Denisoff, and Summer Glau. Now, hopefully, some people will actually watch the damned show this time around.

Officials in Turkey allegedly want to extradite Sarah Ferguson and charge her with violation of the country's privacy laws. According to the Sun, the Duchess of York could face a prison sentence for last year's undercover investigation of state-run orphanages in the Eurasian state. A Home Office source reportedly said: 'We have had a request from the Turkish government for Mutual Legal Assistance in relation to the Duchess of York. We are now awaiting the necessary paperwork but it seems likely the request will be granted.' Another added: 'If, following a police investigation, charges are laid in Turkey, the Duchess could be arrested and extradited to appear in court in Turkey. That is how international law works.' However, an official Home Office spokesperson told the newspaper: 'We never confirm or deny the existence of MLA or extradition requests.' After the show was broadcast on ITV last November, Ferguson denied claims that she had attempted to damage Turkey with a 'smudge campaign.' Shouldn't that be a smear campaign? Anyway, after living on a Manchester estate and a Hull estate, a twelve month stretch in some cockroach infested Istanbul hell-hole would probably be a welcome change of pace for the waste-of-space former royal. So, Fergie, if you want to borrow my DVD of Midnight Express just to get a taste of what you might be in for ...

And, speaking of people who used to be important, veteran broadcaster Michael Palin has hit out at the culture of 'managerial interference' at the BBC, claiming it no longer allows the sort of creative freedom that led to Monty Python. He also spoke of his anger at a BBC Trust ruling against one of his programmes, claiming that the decision brought the BBC 'into disrepute.' Palin told a Royal Television Society veteran's lunch that he felt 'very, very angry and let down' by the 2007 Trust ruling, which partially censured his BBC1 travel show New Europe for giving an 'inaccurate' view of the Balkan wars. He said: 'I had a complaint from someone, as far as I gather a serial complainer, who said I hadn't condemned the Serbs roundly enough in the programme. Fair enough, everyone has opinions [but] the complaint was upheld. That, I believe, brings the BBC into disrepute.' God save us all from serial complainers, Michael. Like people who are pissed off that it's not 1969 anymore, just to quote one example. I don't suppose it's occurred to you Mr Palin, sir, that you do a job that millions of people would love to do and that it might be an idea for you to be a bit sodding grateful to the BBC for employing you to make the damn show in the first place? Maybe you'd like to make your next travelogue where you get to swan off around the world for six months and get paid for it for another broadcaster, say Sky, and see if you get the same levels of artistic and commerical freedom as you do from the Beeb. And, please don't be shy in letting us all know how you get on.

Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond is to call on the BBC and Channel 4 to stop competing for teenage viewers and instead work together. Redmond, who was also behind the creation of Brookside and Hollyoaks, is currently delivering the RTS Cambridge Convention's Huw Wheldon Lecture and is expected to suggest the two PSB broadcasters join forces to serve the teen market.

Coronation Street star Craig Kelly has claimed that he is not taking part in Strictly Come Dancing to raise his profile. So, why is he taking part, then? Because that's why everyone else does it. The thirty eight-year-old actor, known for his role as businessman Luke Strong on the soap, insisted that he signed up for the competition because he wants to have fun and experience a new challenge. Right. Yeah, that's much more believable. Speaking to the Daily Record about the pressure of the contest, Kelly commented: 'Having been in Corrie helps, but I've never been on anything that has so much stuff written about it as Strictly. It's a great job to be doing though. I am not doing it because I want to be ultra-famous - no way. Yes, I am fairly competitive when I want to be, but I just want to have a laugh and work hard. I've met the other contestants taking part and they all seem very nice.'

Kevin Webster's clandestine affair with Molly Dobbs in Coronation Street is to take a tragic turn for the worse when Kevin's wife Sally is diagnosed with breast cancer. Producers at the Weatherfield soap are working hand-in-hand with a panel of breast cancer experts and charities to ensure that Sally's story is portrayed as realistic as possible. Over the coming months, Kevin (Michael Le Vell) and his mistress Molly (Vicky Binns) continue meeting in secret for steamy sessions at a motel behind their respective partners' backs. However, the pair reach a crossroads in their affair when Molly asks Kevin to make a decision about their potential future together. Kevin's world comes crashing down around him, though, when Sally - played by forty six-year-old Sally Whittaker - breaks the tragic news that she has found a lump on her breast and has been diagnosed with the disease. Unbeknown to her family, Sally has kept her shock discovery a secret until the doctors informed her of the biopsy results. On hearing the life-changing news, a guilt-ridden Kevin is forced to choose between supporting his wife and family through the turbulent time ahead or continue seeing Molly. Speaking of the plot, Whittaker said: 'I do know women who have suffered or are suffering from breast cancer. For the last year, I have been fundraising for breast cancer charities and am a long-standing patron for The Genesis Appeal. So, when I was told about this storyline I was determined to do it justice for all the women out there who are going through what Sally is.' She continued: 'A few years ago, I found a lump and was sent to get it checked out straight away. I was lucky that it proved to be nothing but the time spent waiting to find out the results was agonising.' A Coronation Street spokesperson added: 'Breast cancer is a disease which affects so many women and their families. We are keen to ensure that the storyline accurately reflects the many problems and issues faced by breast cancer sufferers.'

Publicity surrounding Sean Wilson's new cheese venture has helped him to secure a new business contract, it has emerged. Last month, it was revealed that the former Coronation Street actor had set up the Saddleworth Cheese Company and won awards for three of his creations. Businesswoman Theresa Kendall, who owns Kendall's delicatessen in Coventry, has now revealed that demand has been high for Wilson's cheeses ever since the news was reported. She told the Coventry Telegraph: 'Since the recent publicity about Sean's new venture, we have been asked by lots of customers who are curious about his cheese-making skills and loved the names he has given them. We like to be very responsive to our customers' needs so we thought we'd give these new cheeses a try.' Theresa's daughter Freya, who also works at Kendall's, added: 'I think these cheeses will attract a lot of attention. The fact that Sean Wilson was well-known in Coronation Street and is now making cheese is pretty unusual.' Wilson's range includes cheeses named Muldoons Picnic, Shanks Pony and How's Yer Father. The forty four-year-old recently announced that he would like to return to his role as Weatherfield's Martin Platt in the future. Keith Telly Topping likes a nice bit of cheese. Just thought he'd mention that.

Desmond's actor Robbie Gee is to make a guest appearance in EastEnders, Digital Spy had revealed. The forty five-year-old - who played the part of Lee Graham on the Channel 4 sitcom - takes on the role of Dexter, the boyfriend of Denise Fox's sister Kim. Comedienne Tameka Empson, meanwhile, will portray Chelsea (Tiana Benjamin) and Libby's (Belinda Owusu) Auntie Kim, who has been referenced many times in scripts since Denise's arrival. The pair will turn up in Walford in time for Denise's wedding to her old flame Lucas Johnson (Don Gilet).

Teri Hatcher has claimed that Desperate Housewives is a 'unique genre' of television. Speaking behind the scenes at the sixth season photoshoot, forty four-year-old Hatcher - Susan Mayer on the ABC series - added that the success of the show is down to its mix of comedy and drama.
'Desperate Housewives is a very unique and special show in that blending of drama and comedy,' said Hatcher. It isn't an all-out comedy and it isn't the level of drama of, say, The Sopranos or something. In its special way - that I'm proud of - Marc Cherry has created a kind of unique genre and I think it gives the fans something to look forward to and be surprised by every week. Some episodes lean a little more comedic; some lean a little more dramatic, and I think that's what makes it fresh and fun - that you don't really know what you're gonna expect.' She concluded: 'It's gonna be something new every week.'

Channel 4 has recommissioned The Secret Millionaire for a sixth series. The current season, which began last night, will feature a new batch of millionaires living in anonymity in deprived areas, whilst a new batch of episodes is already in production and is slated to air in 2010. Earlier this year, the fourth series ended its run with an audience of just over two million viewers.

Discovery has named Turner executive Dee Forbes as the new managing director and executive vice president of its UK/Ireland business. Forbes will manage all commercial and channel activities in connection with Discovery’s UK business, which consists of twelve pay-TV brands including Discovery Channel, DMAX and Real Time. When she takes up the new role, in January 2010, she will also be responsible for managing forthcoming Freeview channel, Quest, which the Discovery is poised to launch at the end of September.

Freesat has reached six hundred thousand sales since it launched in May 2008, making it the UK's fourth biggest digital TV platform. The subscription-free digital satellite platform achieved the sales milestone in just sixteen months, compared to BT Vision's four hundred and forty three thousand pay-TV subscribers gained over a three-year period. Freesat also increased its sales by fifty per cent during the second quarter of 2009. The platform now carries one hundred and forty channels and services, as well as seventy hours of peaktime high-definition programming, all available without subscription. According to official BARB figures, nine of the top ten most popular multi-channel, non-sport programmes aired in the first half of 2009 were also available on Freesat. Freesat managing director Emma Scott said: 'To achieve this level of sales and viewing in such a short space of time is a fantastic achievement and testament to the ever-growing appeal of Freesat, both to consumers and broadcasters.'

American television talk show host Jay Leno pulled in eighteen million US viewers with the first outing of his new programme. Leno, who presented the late evening Tonight Show for seventeen years, now has an earlier slot on the NBC network. The premiere featured rapper Kanye West, fresh from making headlines for interrupting singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Awards. But several critics have reacted coolly to Leno's new show, saying it is too similar to his Tonight Show format.

The simmering feud between Rupert Murdoch and Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, took another turn yesterday. Murdoch's News Corporation announced that its Italian satellite pay-television division, Sky Italia, had filed a lawsuit against two of Berlusconi's media companies for anti-competitive practices. It is suing RTI, the company that operates the TV channels of Berlusconi's Mediaset media empire, and Publitalia, Mediaset's advertising division, for refusing to accept advertising from Sky Italia. News Corp said it was taking the legal action 'for violation of antitrust rules under article eighty two of the European Treaty and for unfair competition.' In June, Berlusconi accused Murdoch of mounting a personal attack through The Times because the paper carried reports and comment about relationship between Berlusconi and an eighteen-year-old model. At the time it was suggested that Berlusconi's greatest concern was not the content of the articles but Murdoch's business ambitions in Italy. Both men are competing for control of the country's pay-TV market. The feud can be traced back to December when Murdoch complained about a decision by Berlusconi's government to double the VAT levied on Sky Italia to twenty per cent. See, it's not just the BBC old Rupert's got it in for.

JJ Abrams has hinted that his Star Trek sequel will reflect modern-day issues. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Abrams said that he is keen for the next Trek outing to offer up contemporary social commentary. 'The ambition for a sequel to Star Trek is to make a movie that's worthy of the audience and not just a second movie that feels tacked on,' he explained. 'The first movie was so concerned with just setting up the characters - their meeting each and galvanizing that family - that in many ways a sequel will have a very different mission.' He continued: 'It needs to do what [Gene] Roddenberry did so well, which is allegory. It needs to tell a story that has connection to what is familiar and what is relevant. It also needs to tell it in a spectacular way that hides the machinery and in a primarily entertaining and hopefully moving story. There needs to be relevance, yes, and that doesn't mean it should be pretentious. If there are simple truths - truths connected to what we live - that elevates any story.'

Patsy Kensit has admitted that she is reluctant to continue stripping off for TV and film roles. The Holby City actress confirmed that she is likely to stay covered up on screen from now on for the sake of her sons James, seventeen, and Lennon, ten. For God's sake, Patsy love, they've had Liam Gallagher for a dad, I think they're past caring, frankly. 'It would be the most traumatic thing in James's life if I got my kit off!' the Daily Express quotes Kensit as saying. More traumatic than hearing 'Little James' for the first time? Surely not? Refusing to completely rule out naked scenes, she continued: 'The only way I'd do it is if nudity was intrinsic to the plot.' Or, the money was fantastic? It's a consideration, surely? Kensit shed her clothes in a scene with Mel Gibson for Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989. She also bared all in 1995's Angels and Insects. 'I've taken everything off in the past,' she explained. 'I was completely starkers with Mel. It wasn't hard work spending a week together in bed!'

Johnny Marr has insisted that there is not a big gap in experience between him and The Cribs, whom he joined last year. The former Smiths and Electronic guitarist told BBC Newsbeat that he does not have a paternal relationship with his new band. Marr said: 'There's nothing I could teach them. They're not kids. That's good for me, because I couldn't be in a band where there was a big gulf in experience. It wouldn't be good for anyone. It wouldn't be appropriate. I think people expect there to be cultural differences when there aren't any.' He added: 'A group is a group, I know how to be in a group. I've absolutely no interest in promoting myself - far from it, I think it stops it being a proper band then. The Cribs have got a second guitar player and it's my job for that to be as tremendous as I possibly can.'

Peter Hook has announced the release of The Haçienda Acid House Classics compilation album on 5 October. The ex-Joy Division and New Order bassist launches a book on the same day titled The Haçienda: How Not To Run A Club. In the book, Hook said: 'What a fuck-up we made of it. Or did we? Sitting here now I wonder. It's 2009 and the Haçienda has never been more well-known. This year we celebrate twenty one years of acid house and we are holding Haçienda nights across the UK and have merchandise deals for CDs, T-shirts, shoes, posters, even a bespoke bike frame and a fine art project. Where will it end?' The Haçienda Acid House Classics double-CD features a new remix of A Guy Called Gerald's epic 'Voodoo Ray', New Order's 'True Dub' and two previously-unreleased songs from Hook under the Manray name, 'Ways Of Making Music' and 'We're On It'. Hook will launch the book and CD with a UK signing tour, which includes dates in Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Oxford, London and Bristol.

TV chef James Martin has apologised for causing a group of cyclists 'sheer terror' as he test drove a sports car. Martin, presenter of BBC1's Saturday Kitchen, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that he had intentionally forced them into a hedge as he turned a corner. It was the best thing he had 'ever seen in my rear-view mirror,' he claimed. The article provoked an angry reaction from cycling groups. Martin apologised in a statement for 'any offence caused' by his 'misjudged' piece. Martin, thirty seven, spoke of his 'hate' for cyclists in the column in the newspaper's Live magazine. 'That's one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away,' he wrote. He said he had spotted the group dressed in 'fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes. Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the bird song - and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists. Knowing they wouldn't hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split-second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.' He added: 'The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I've ever seen in my rear-view mirror.'

Former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones has appeared in court accused of dangerous and drink driving on a busy North Wales road. Jones, fifty six, who played Les Battersby in the ITV soap, is also charged with common assault. Appearing before Prestatyn magistrates, Mr Jones, who lives in Alderley Edge in Cheshire, did not enter any pleas to the charges. The driving offences are alleged to have happened on the A55. District judge Andrew Shaw at Prestatyn Magistrates' Court directed that the case should be heard before a crown court and bailed Mr Jones until 11 November. The actor, appeared under his real name Ian Roy Jones.

Kerry Katona's husband Mark Croft believes that a sex tape could solve their financial problems, it has been claimed. Former cab driver Croft reportedly came up with a get-rich-quick scheme to turn his wife into a porn star after 'realising that steamy videos boosted the profiles of Paris Hilton and Abi Titmuss,' the Daily Star claims. It is believed that Katona immediately rejected the plan because she feared it would help her ex-husband Brian McFadden's custody case. However, a source told the newspaper: 'Mark's not given up by any means. He thinks it's a guaranteed earner, which could make them up to half a million.' Do people actually use phrases like 'a guaranteed earner' in real life?

Katie Price should have contacted the police after being allegedly raped in her younger years, an ex-Scotland Yard commander has said. Earlier this month, the glamour model announced that she had been sexually attacked 'more than once' in the early days of her career. In this week's edition of her OK magazine column, the star added that the man responsible is a 'famous celebrity.' John O'Connor, whose career with the Metropolitan Police Service spanned thirty years, has now told the Sun that he is surprised by Price's decision to go public with her alleged ordeal after keeping quiet for so long. Writing in the newspaper today, O'Connor commented: 'Any woman who has been raped has a duty to report it - and that includes Jordan. Rapists belong behind bars, not walking the streets where they can attack other women. But I'm curious as to why she has waited so long to reveal this alleged rape. A police force, if called in now, would face a monumental struggle putting a case before a court. Her claims could never be corroborated by witnesses and there would be no forensic evidence.' He added: 'Jordan needs to think long and hard about her next move. And, most importantly, why she is making it.' Price first made her revelations in response to criticism of her boyfriend Alex Reid's gangster movie Killer Bitch, which reportedly contains graphic scenes of rape and murder. She is also reported to have reacted furiously to some suggestions that she had made the entire scenario up and was merely seeking yet more of the publicity that she, supposedly, is so 'bored' by. From The North, however, will continue to give Ms Price's public utterances an airing. If they're funny. Or, if they resemble a car crash. Which, let's face it, almost all of them are and, indeed, do.