Friday, September 18, 2009

The Time Of The Season

In tonight's episode of Derren Brown: The Events, the illusionist and master of shenanigans and prestidigitation will, apparently, transform himself into a beggar and see if he can dictate how much money the public donates to his plastic cup. Brown, who appears scruffy with a beard and woolly hat disguise, will focus on subliminal messages he has placed around a shopping centre where he is being filmed. He will try and use the hidden messages to control people. He has also said that he will attempt to amaze and befuddled viewers of the programme called How to Control the Nation?, by making them 'stick' to theirs seats throughout the show. He says: 'It's safe. It won't work on everybody, but it's applying what I do one on one with people on stage and turning it into a piece of technology that can then be broadcast - and it has never been done before.' The money raised through the donations given by the public to tramp-Derren were all given to homeless charity Shelter (though, they haven't said how much, yet). Next, Brown will attempt to help a viewer win a fortune at a casino by gambling on a roulette wheel as part of his season finale to be aired in two weeks time.

The new US TV season kicked off this week and the fifth year of Bones was first out of the blocks with a rather decent little episode that tired up most of the dangling plot threads from last year's finale in the first two scenes and then got on with telling a story. The fact that this fine little show has one of the best ensemble casts on telly and an appealing dose of gentle self-mockery just when you think they're in danger of getting too far up their own arse in term of pretension, continue to impress. The season premiere was a rather atypical Bones episode - light on common sense, as usual, but thickened with much good characterisation, a few very funny scenes and some terrific acting. And, a surprisingly pleasing guest appearance by Cyndi Lauper, playing very much against type. Look out for that one when it turns up on Sky, you won't be disappointed.

Just as Bones, House, CSI et al return, Keith Telly Topping's summer favourite, Leverage, has just ended the first half of its second season (the remaining episodes will be shown later in the year) with a very good segment that appears ready to take the show off in an entirely new direction. No spoilers, but watch out for a guest turn by Jeri Ryan that will have you sitting up like a dog and begging for more.

Dollhouse returns next week, as previously mentioned, and today we're treated to our first look at Alexis Denisof in his - potentially recurring - role as a Senator. 'Gosh, Miss Faith. How you've grown!' For those of you, dear blog reader, who never followed the career of this most interesting and capable of actors Alexis, although American-born, spent most of his early acting days in Britain, playing Sean Bean's love-rival in some episodes of Sharpe and appearing in Vic and Bob's Randall and Hopkirk remake. Initially cast to appear in one episode in the third series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the bumbling replacement watcher, Wesley Wyndam-Price, although the character somewhat divided fan-opinion, Alexis's performance won him a regular slot on the show. The following year, he was recruited to the Buffy spin-off, Angel where Alexis, along with David Boreanaz and Charisma Carpenter (and, subsequently Amy Acker, J August Richards, James Marsters and the late Andy Hallett) formed one of the most likeable and talented ensemble casts on any TV show of the last decade, and maybe beyond. He also became the envy of most of the blokes in the Western world when he married his former Buffy castmate and stone-fox Alyson Hannigan! Much to the disappointment of Angel fans we haven't seen a great deal of Alexis on TV since the series prematurely ended in 2005 - he's been mainly doing theatre work in the meantime. So, it's really nice to see one of Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors back in series TV, even if only for a bit. We've missed ya, Wes.

Around one thousand Coronation Street viewers die every week, a new study has suggested. Not directly because they are watching Corrie, hopefully. According to the Sun, TV researchers used government death data and information about the show's daily audience to work out that fifty thousand members of its OAP-fanbase pass each year. The Weatherfield-based drama is said to have the oldest viewership of all the British soaps, with over thirty one per cent of its followers being in the over-sixty five age group. Information released by the National Office of Statistics recently revealed that those over the age of sixty five are one hundred and sixty times more likely to die than anyone else. A source commented: 'Corrie is a massive hit among Britain's older generation, many of whom have watched it since it began nearly fifty years ago. 'Interestingly, the figures also show half of its viewers are over fifty five as well, so it just goes to show how old the audience is. It's a credit to Corrie that it can keep on entertaining people right up until their dying days. How many shows can say they do that?'

The shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has attacked the BBC for scheduling Strictly Come Dancing against The X Factor on Saturday nights. 'It was an extraordinary decision to disappoint thousands of licence fee payers,' he said. 'There will be thousands of viewers who are very angry at that decision.' Yes, Jezza, I'm sure there probably will be. And there will also be millions of licence fee payers - and voters - who won't care since they watch neither show or, they watch just Strictly (or, just X Factor for that matter) but who would very much like to see you butt-the-hell out of something that's not any of your concern and actually do some MP-ing to justify your existence. So, there you have it dear blog reader, Ben Bradshaw and Harriet Harman apparently want to be TV critics and Jeremy Hunt, seemingly, wants to be a TV scheduler. Come the next election, all three might well get their wish if the votes don't go for them. Get your application forms at the local job centre, you guys. Meanwhile, top BBC salaries would be capped, the license fee frozen and its commercial activities severely curtailed if the Conservatives win power, Hunt added. He has told his friends at the Daily Mail that parts of BBC Worldwide might even be sold off, with the remainder limited to promoting its broadcast products overseas. Well, there's a big surprise. Can't wait to see how much of the BBC is actually left once the Tories have finished with it. Just like the early eighties all over again.

I have to say I find all this wailing and gnashing of teeth from ITV themselves over the BBC's scheduling decision superbly ironic. Last year, just about every single week, they fell over themselves to issue press releases each Monday morning declaring that the previous Saturday night's The X Factor had 'beat' Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings. This, despite the fact that the shows usually ran in different timeslots, served different audiences and didn't, actually, clash. I know, because I got most of them. It was the equivalent of Chelsea arguing that because they beat somebody 3-0 and Manchester United only beat somebody else 2-0, Chelsea, therefore, beat Manchester United. Now of course, as soon as there's an actual competition between the two, ITV have thrown all their toys out of the pram and started screaming blue bloody murder. It's genuinely hysterical.

Meanwhile ex-culture secretary James Purnell has said that it would be wrong for the BBC to cut back on its activities. His comments come after News Corp director James Murdoch recently attacked the broadcaster and the current culture secretary Ben Bradshaw's argued that 'the BBC probably has reached the limits of reasonable expansion.' According to the Guardian, Purnell told the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge: 'If you start to have the BBC contracting, it will have very bad long-term consequences on the kinds of people you attract and their ambition. I'm particularly worried that because something is aimed at young people it will be seen as not public service. It's less of an argument than it used to be, but it's still there.' Don't tell us, pal. Tell your mate Ben Bradshaw and that Jeremy Hunt, they're the ones who seem to require convincing. Regarding the potential negative threat to the BBC from 'top-slicing' off of the licence fee, Purnell said: 'It depends on the way you do it. If the government is allocating the money, yes. If it's through an independent trust with very clear limits on how it's done, then no.' He added that none of the money 'top-sliced' from the licence fee should be spent on privately-owned broadcasters such as Five or ITV, which 'would end up wasting money on subsidising failing organisations.' Purnell, who quit the government this summer, was culture secretary from June 2007 until his replacement by Andy Burnham in January 2008.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, yesterday finally responded to Ben Bradshaw's attack on the corporation by accusing him of political meddling. About bloody time, Mark. Thompson told delegates at the RTS Cambridge Convention that Bradshaw's criticism of the BBC Trust, which the culture secretary hinted he would like to see abolished, proved the corporation's regulatory and governance body was doing a good job. 'To threaten them with imminent or creeping abolition when they take a different view from you is not in keeping with the tradition of political independence on which the whole of British public broadcasting is based,' he said. Thompson pointed out that the trust was created by the same Labour government in which Bradshaw now serves, and that the vast majority of the 'long list' of services launched by the BBC in recent years, including the iPlayer and digital channels such as BBC3, 'were approved by the Government of which Ben is a member. Indeed, the Government asked the BBC to launch a range of new services to help with their policy of encouraging the public to move to digital television and radio,' he said. Describing much of Bradshaw's attack as 'frankly puzzling,' Thompson added: 'Ben's surprise at these services it itself surprising.' In what was billed by the BBC as a passionate defence of public service broadcasting, Thompson also criticised News Corporation Europe and Asia chief executive James Murdoch's vision of a 'bi-polar universe of market and state,' and argued that the BBC occupies a 'public space. We will fight tooth and nail to preserve our broad public remit,' he said. Thompson conceded, however, that the BBC did look far stronger in relation to its commercial competitors, which are cutting costs in the wake of a severe advertising downturn, than it has done in the past. 'We have to accept that to many in commercial media we seem relatively bigger and stronger than ever,' he said. Referring to Murdoch's MacTaggart speech last month, which called for a 'far, far smaller' BBC, he said that, while he disagreed with News Corp executive's analysis, the corporation recognised that 'the world has changed.' Last week, it was announced that Thompson will lead a wide-ranging review of BBC services, with hints that some could be axed. 'The review will be both radical and open-minded,' Thompson said today in Cambridge. 'Ben Bradshaw wondered aloud last night whether the BBC might have reached the limits of expansion. Don't assume that we'll dismiss that notion out of hand or erect defensive barriers against it. Defining the public space the BBC should occupy and being explicit about where space must be left for others will be the thread through the whole review.' Thompson ridiculed Murdoch's suggestion that the BBC is Orwellian and authoritarian. '[Murdoch believes] Media properties are either commercial and therefore truly free, or they are state-sponsored, state-controlled and therefore not just paternalistic, but authoritarian,' he said. 'In this country we have a different tradition.' Thompson compared the BBC to other cultural institutions valued by the public, including museums, art galleries and orchestras. He pointed out that the BBC is independent from the government and implied that Murdoch failed to understand that point. 'In James's universe, the Hutton crisis could never have happened – no scandal, no inquiry, no resignations. You'd never be able to slip a cigarette paper between the BBC and the secretary of state. Yeah, right,' he concluded.

TV’s heavyweights have issued a near-unanimous call for a major review of television regulation, with a clear majority also backing partial television news. Outgoing ITV chief executive Sir Michael Grade, Five chief executive Dawn Airey and outgoing Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan all called for broadcasting’s regulatory 'shackles' to be overhauled in a major review, which they hoped would be carried out quickly. Duncan slammed the level of regulation in television as 'barmy,' citing the advertising rules which dictate a minimum number of ads per hour on commercial terrestrial channels. 'Newspapers can manage supply and demand but we can't. We are stuck in a system which is based on the market twenty or thirty years ago,' he said. Grade added: 'I want to be where [BSkyB chief operating officer] Mark Darcy is. I want to get out of the middle ground. I just want to be a business. Please, just cut me loose. Let me do what we do best and entertain.' He would not be drawn on the issue of Contract Rights Renewal, which is currently subject to a Competition Commission review.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has come under fire from BSkyB for suggesting the company should sell its highest value content at pre-determined prices. Ofcom has reviewed the pay-TV sector, which BSkyB dominates, after complaints from competitors including Virgin Media and BT Vision. According to the document quoted by the Financial Times, Ofcom wants to set the prices at which BSkyB can sell content such as Premier League football. BSkyB accused the regulator of making basic errors and exceeding its powers in the report. The FT quoted BSkyB's chief operating officer, Mike Darcey, as saying: 'Profitability is one of the critical factors in Ofcom's proposals but its financial analysis is riddled with mistakes. This is a case that tests the outer limits of Ofcom's powers. If it comes to it, we'll look forward to getting an impartial hearing before a court.' Jeremy Darroch, chief executive of BSkyB, called Ofcom's intervention 'a regulator's attempts to impose price controls on the marketplace' in today's Daily Telegraph.

Who is the ideal headteacher? Doctor Who, apparently. The Time Lord, in his David Tennant incarnation, was the number one choice of primary schoolchildren, who were asked to pick their 'dream headteacher.' Not unexpectedly - I mean, I know quite a few women in their twenties, thirties and forties who would really rather like to be spanked by David Tennant, so it's hardly a surprise to find young-uns are of the same mind. Our David saw off stiff competition from the US president Barack Obama, author JK Rowling and pop star Cheryl Cole. Asked for reasons, almost half of the nine to eleven-year-olds polled said they chose their celebrity because they were fun. A third said they had picked 'someone they could look up to,' while the same proportion cited the celebrity's popularity. And more than a quarter chose someone for their intelligence. The survey, commissioned by the National College for the Leadership of Schools and Children's Services (formerly the NCSL), also looked at the impact headteachers have on pupils. Nice to see that you're all 'down wid da kidz', people but, you know, don't you have more important things to do with your time?

Tom Baker has hailed the taste of Doctor Who fans and praised the formula of the show for its ongoing success. The actor made the comments to the BBC in an interview celebrating his return to the series in five-part audio adventure Doctor Who: Hornets' Nest. When asked what makes fans of the programme different, he replied: 'Their unswerving loyalty. Their good taste. Their blind love.' Yes, we are pretty fantastic, that's hard to argue with. Anyway: 'The formula is so good,' continued dear old Mad Tom. 'Benevolent alien, a being with secrets. A sonic screwdriver, but I'm sworn to secrecy by the BBC. They pay me thirty pieces of silver every month to be discreet.' Regarding his return to the show, he added: 'The scripts arrived at a good moment. I'm a bit capricious about what I accept. I asked some hard questions and made some impossible demands. The BBC agreed to everything I asked on condition the details would be locked in a strongbox in the Bank of England. They will be revealed on the BBC website on 20 January 2034 at 6.12am - the one hundredth anniversary of my birth.'

Production has begun on Noel Clarke's latest directorial outing, according to Screen Daily. Emma Roberts, Ophelia Lovibond, Tamsin Egerton, Shanika Warren Markland, Rosanna Arquette, Adam Deacon, Ben Miller and Sean Pertwee will star in the heist thriller, which Clarke is co-directing with Mark Davis. Producer Damon Bryant said: 'I'm incredibly excited to be working with Noel Clarke as I have been a long-term fan. When he asked me to get involved there was no question what my answer would be.' Clarke, who appeared in Doctor Who and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet wrote and directed Adulthood, which won the Orange Rising Star Award at this year's BAFTAs.

ITV has told indepedent producers that they are likely to shoulder most of the costs for having their programmes go through a double compliance process, following Ofcom's decision to ramp up the amount the broadcaster can be fined for breaches of its rules. In a letter from ITV commercial director Jonathan Rogers, sent to executives yesterday, he explained that the commercial broadcaster expected the majority of producers would 'be able to absorb most of the costs within your existing programme budget. We do not expect this procedure to increase the administrative and practical burden of the compliance process significantly,' he said.

Ten Alps co-founder and professional gobshite Bob Geldof has blasted the government for proposing Independently Funded News Consortium pilots in all the nations except Northern Ireland. Geldof, seen here making Tony Blair smile nervously when he threatened to 'do a number with my mates Sting and Bono on our new song about how we managed to secure world peace,' said in London today that Northern Ireland's exclusion from the pilots, set out in the Digital Britain Report, was 'frankly odd. No interpretation we’ve heard actually makes sense - from lack of funds for the province, to lack of credible alternative news suppliers,' he said.

Gordon Ramsay ranted at BBC Breakfast's Bill Turnbull during an interview this week. The celebrity chef was angered by Turnbull's questioning about the amount of time he has actually spent cooking in kitchens in recent years. Ramsay defended his delegation of cookery duties, arguing that no-one expects fashion designer Giorgio Armani to make all his suits individually. 'When you go and spend five hundred pounds on an Armani suit and you are happy with it, you don't ask the lady at the desk whether it was Giorgio himself who stitched it,' he said. 'I know the confidence I have in my team, in fact we have been together for over ten years - how can you propel talent if you don't expose them?' When probed about whether it was possible to still buy a meal cooked by Ramsay, the Kitchen Nightmares star added: 'You sound sad. I am forty two years of age. I have been at the stove for twenty one years, I want a life outside my kitchen, sorry. Would you like me to polish your shoes Bill? Come on, get a life.' Ramsay was on the show to promote a new range of Seriously Good sauces, which will raise money for Comic Relief.

Andrew Buchan, Brian Cox and Lindsay Duncan have signed up for BBC2 drama The Sinking Of The Laconia. The two-part series, which also stars Inglourious Basterds star Ken Duken, tells the true story of the heroism shown by some during the Second World War. Brian Cox plays Captain Sharp, whose armed British vessel the RMS Laconia was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat 156 in September 1942. Also on board was third officer Thomas Mortimer (Buchan), who heroically risked his life to help the passengers reach the lifeboats. Filming began last week on the sxity seventh anniversary of the sinking of The Laconia.

Matt Lucas has described comedy as a 'dialogue' where the audience has a key role in deciding the limits of taste. The actor told thelondonpaper that he never really felt as though Little Britain had gone too far. Lucas said: 'We would let the audiences decide. Sometimes we'd play stuff and they wouldn't laugh, and we'd think, "OK, we've overstepped the mark here." Other stuff we thought a bit too edgy the audience would really laugh at, so we'd put it in. It's a dialogue, comedy.' He continued: 'There are all types of different humour. There is shocking stuff but also stuff that's just plain silly. The Sebastian sketches are just farce, and Lou and Andy is like pantomime because when he turns his back, I get out of the wheelchair. You want to scream, "It's behind you!"' Lucas added: 'We have got a film in development which has Little Britain characters in it, but it's not really a Little Britain movie. We've put Little Britain to one side for a bit. We want to write a book together, and we might write a musical at some point.'

Showtime is considering developing a series involving the Italian noble family the Borgias. According to Variety, the drama is being lined up as a potential replacement for The Tudors, which was recently renewed for its fourth and final season. The Crying Game writer Neil Jordan has penned a script which revolves around the family who weilded such power in Italy during the Renaissance, though Showtime is yet to formally greenlight a pilot.

A US newsreader has seemingly told his weatherman colleague to 'keep fucking that chicken' during a live broadcast. Presenter Ernie Anastos made the comment to Nick Gregory during the 10pm news bulletin on FOX 5 WNYW. Gregory said: 'Check that again on FOX 5 Guardian and check that Saturday to make your weekend plans.' Anastos interjected: 'It takes a tough man to make a tender forecast, Nick.' Gregory continued: 'I guess that's me.' Anastos replied, bizarrely: 'Keep fucking that chicken.' Gregory answered: 'Okay, I'll do that.' Co-host Dari Alexander looked surprised by the outburst as the broadcast continued.

The BBC is understood to be close to commissioning a second series of Reggie Perrin after dusting off the 1970s sitcom earlier this year. Star Martin Clunes told the Mirror that he would be filming more episodes in March 2010. Former BBC comedy controller Lucy Lumsden asked for further scripts from original author David Nobbs and Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye during the show's first six-part run on BBC1. Lumsden's successor, Cheryl Taylor, is believed to be leading negotiations with Clunes and co-stars including Fay Ripley and Neil Stuke for a second run, with an eye on an autumn 2010 broadcast.

Nineties drama Cold Feet is to be remade for audiences in the Czech Republic as part of a deal that includes one hundred hours of original ITV Studios content. Commercial broadcaster Prima TV has commissioned thirteen instalments of the drama, which follows the lives of six thirtysomething friends. It will be produced by Film Brigade Production, for broadcast later this year. Gordon Lovitt, director of programming at Prima TV, said: 'With its beautifully crafted script, inspirational characters and hugely compelling storylines, we immediately knew that Cold Feet would be a perfect fit for our channels primetime line-up and we're looking forward to starting production on this very exciting commission.' ITV Global Entertainment has also sold a mixture of drama, documentary and movies to the Czech broadcaster. These including drama-doc Perfect Disaster, long-running detective series A Touch of Frost and crime drama Lewis. The deal was brokered by Dorit Schilling, senior sales executive for Germany, CIS, Poland and Czech Republic at ITV. She said: 'Prima has acquired a comprehensive schedule of UK television's most popular and compelling shows, which will work perfectly alongside the previously acquired sixty hours of 'Brainiac' programming.'

Channel 4 has given the go-ahead for a ten-part cross-platform Hollyoaks music spin-off after Lime Pictures secured as a sponsor. The show, produced by Lime’s digital arm Conker Media, has been in development since C4 aired a one-off pilot in spring last year but a full commission has been dependent on getting a commercial partner. The Hollyoaks Music Show with is part of the indepdent's initiative Get Close to Hollyoaks, which targets brands wanting to reach the youth drama's audience through a range of exclusive digital media events. High street retailer Matalan gets title sponsorship of the series, online branding and access to both cast members and bespoke digital content for use online and in-store. The thirty-minute show will air Saturday mornings from next month and will also get three further weekly transmissions on the 4Music channel.

Former Emmerdale star Matt Healy has revealed that he considered quitting acting before landing his role on the soap. The forty-year-old admitted that he was struggling to find long-term work in the industry before he was cast in the part of Matthew King on the ITV show. In an interview with the Chester Chronicle, he explained: 'I think a lot of actors get to the point where they are sick and tired of going between various jobs while waiting to get a steady role. I was working as a courier in London and I had decided to go back up to Manchester to think about my next move when I got the call. Feeling as low as I did makes you appreciate offers like that so much more.' Healy made his debut on the Yorkshire-based drama in 2004. He was seen for the final time last year when his character was killed off in a dramatic van crash. He continued: 'It was such a great experience to play Matthew King and I have many fond memories of being on the show. It was my idea to leave the show in the way I did. I thought it did my character justice. I could never have seen myself leaving the show in a taxi. There had to be some finality to it.'

Christian Cooke has said that Demons was axed by ITV because 'it wasn't good enough.' Quite. Speaking to Digital Spy, the twenty three-year-old, who played Luke Rutherford during the show's six-episode run, suggested that the ill-fated series did not have a clear audience. Addressing February's axing, Cooke said: 'It probably wasn't good enough, at the end of the day. And also, there are things like timing. Perhaps it was too scary for little kids but not scary enough for the cult audience. It's just luck of the draw sometimes.'

Live From Studio Five continued its poor performance for Five last night, according to early viewing figures. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind. Meanwhile, EastEnders edged ahead of its rival Coronation Street for the first time since ITV unveiled its new Thursday drama line-up on 23 July. The Albert Square soap's third episode of the week, during which Ricky discovered the truth about who informed the police about Sam, drew 7.89m at 7.30pm. BBC3's repeat added a further seven hundred thousand viewers. Coronation Street's episode, which saw Leanne learn of Peter's fling with Michelle, averaged 7.69m at 8.30pm, while ITV2's repeat added two hundred and sixty six thousand at 11pm.

Ronnie Wood's estranged wife has vowed to support him following his split from Ekaterina Ivanova, according to a press report. Yesterday, it emerged that Wood had dumped his Russian girlfriend following a heated row at his North London home. The alleged altercation was said to have been sparked by the rocker's desire to attend a family dinner with his ex-partner Jo and his daughter, Leah. Former model Jo, who is currently training for Strictly Come Dancing, has since told the Rolling Stone that she will 'always be there' for him, the Daily Star claims. Bless. A source told the newspaper: 'Jo is very fond of Ronnie. I wouldn't rule out seeing them back together - but she won't rush back. I understand Ronnie's problems with his girlfriend were caused by his plans to have a meal with Jo. The Russian was having none of it and exploded.' Ronnie's relationship with his wife ended last year when he allegedly ran off to Ireland with Ivanova. A spokesman for the musician said: 'This is a private matter and we have nothing to add.' That's not very rock and roll, is it Ron?

Kerry Katona is interested in making a movie about her life, it has been claimed. According to the Daily Star, the reality TV personality wants actress and glamour model Jennifer Ellison to play her in the prposed biopic. 'Kerry's up for listening to offers so long as they're not tacky,' said a source. 'Kerry would love Jennifer Ellison to play her in the recent years - she thinks she's a great actress. Also Kerry would have control over the film and that's what she wants. She's desperate for her husband Mark [Croft] to be portrayed in a good light.' Is somebody ever going to clue this poor, deluded woman in on the reality that she's finished? No? Oh well, tomorrow another Kerry Katona story. You heard it here ... last.