Friday, September 25, 2009

We Have Come To Speak Politics To You Today

The Scottish Labour Party has clashed with the SNP after the nationalists re-floated the idea of establishing a new independent Scottish broadcaster. As part of a series of broad ranging 'national conversation' papers, Scotland's culture minister Mike Russell said one option for Scotland could be a national broadcaster funded by the BBC licence fee, advertising and direct taxation. Hang on a second. Scotland has a 'culture minister'? Seriously? What's his job, then? Getting the deep fried Mars Bars out of the fryer? Anyway, this mythical 'national broadcaster' would, effectively, replace BBC Scotland and would only be available to Scottish viewers on digital or satellite. Plus everyone over the border in England with an ariel that's pointed vaguely in their direction. The broadcaster would have a budget of three hundred million pounds. And as much Irn Bru as they can all drink. They will also be given the haggis grazing concession for a small area of Peebles. The organisation would draw on BBC staff and would require a licence fee rise to approximately one hundred and forty five pounds - similar to Ireland's system whereby households have to stump-up one hundred and fifty notes to fund RTE's TV and radio stations. And, Bono's Ferrari. Probably. Of the BBC's four billion plus annual income, three hundred and four million pounds comes from Scotland and BBC Scotland's share of that is one hundred and sixty million. Under the proposals, Scotland's World Cup and European Championship football qualifiers could be shown free and there would be a boost for Gaelic television (particular when the World Cup is on next summer since the Scots, of course, 'didnae qualify'). The SNP claims that under the current set up with broadcasting powers reserved to Westminster, Scottish broadcasting is marginalised in the UK. Yeah, you never see a Scotsman on telly these days, do you? Except Neil Oliver. And Billy Connolly. Is anybody having flashbacks to Absolutely's Stoneybridge council meetings at this point? The campaign for the White Heather Club revival starts here. And ends here too.

And now some really hot telly news from the US: Jennifer Morrison has reportedly agreed to leave the FOX drama House. According to Entertainment Weekly, the star's exit is 'a creative decision' on the part of the show's producers and was not at Morrison's request. The actress, who plays Allison Cameron on the series, is the first of the original cast-members to depart. She is believed to have filmed her last scenes earlier this week. Morrison's final episode is expected to air in November. Suspicions about her future in the show were raised last week when she failed to attend a premiere screening in Hollywood. Well, that's been on the cards for about the last two years, hasn't it?

The producers of FlashForward have claimed that they already know how the series will end. With a whimper not a bang if it doesn't get the ratings, I'm guessing. Speaking to SFX, David S Goyer, who has also worked on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, said that he has meticulously planned the end of the show. 'We pitched [ABC] a fairly excessive plan,' he said. 'I mean, we know exactly the shot that season one ends on! They obviously said this resembles Lost, in that it's a really cool script, but [they asked], "Do you have any idea where it goes?" We said, "Yeah we know how the whole season ends and how the whole series ends," and they went, "Holy shit!"' You mean, they 'said "Holy shit!"' David. Try to speak English even if it isn't your first language, please. Producer Marc Guggenheim added: 'We know what the ultimate season is and the penultimate season is. For in-between, we know the various seasons but we are treating it like an accordion. In success, [the show] can go seven years. In less success, it would need to go three years to work. The end game of the show, to be properly done, really requires two full seasons focusing on the end game.'

Last week, the big news from Top Gearland was Richard Hammond's confession that he would like to see Angelina Jolie (massive lips and all, seemingly) as the female presenter on the show. This week Holby City actress Tina Hobley has said she would like the job. Or at least, that's what the Daily Star reckon. 'One of the guys would have to step aside,' she apparently claimed. 'It'd have to be Richard Hammond. The Hamster has to go.' Hammond appears to be the only choice to make way for the new girl given that, as Tina has written in her Radio Times blog, she rather fancies Jezza Clarkson. Strange lass. 'Jeremy is the main draw: clever, witty, and – in my opinion – rather attractive.' Keith Telly Topping agrees with all of that ... except the last bit. 'I've had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times and he's even lovelier in real life.' Will The Hamster step aside for her? Bear in mind that Tina drives a Porsche Carrera. I do love a woman with an expensive sports car...

ITV is back to square one in its search for a new chief executive after its board terminated discussions with Tony Ball. In a statement to the City, ITV said: 'The process of negotiation and discussion has highlighted a number substantial differences, including a failure to finally agree contractual arrangements, together with a disagreement over the future chairmanship. The committee has therefore concluded that it would not be in the best interests of the company to appoint Mr Ball as ITV plc's chief executive.' The statement added that the committee had negotiated 'exhaustively' with Ball, who was reportedly looking for up to thirty million pounds over five years if he could significantly improve ITV's share price. It was agreed during the chief executive search process that Michael Grade would stand down as chairman whatever the outcome. He will be replaced by an incoming non-executive chairman whose first task will be to appoint a new chief executive.

The BBC Trust has launched a major review of BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4, as well as all Red Button interactive services. This latest consultation by the governing body represents the 'largest and most significant' review of the BBC's output to date, including the first time that the Trust has assessed BBC1 and BBC2, the corporation's most popular channels. The Trust will assess all programming, including national and regional news, in terms of its worth and value for money. However, this will not include children's programming, which was covered in a separate report back in February. BBC Trustee Diane Coyle, who is leading the review, said: 'We need to ensure these services are meeting audiences' expectations. This is why we have launched this significant piece of work that will help us understand how well the BBC's most popular services are operating. These services have a key role in helping the BBC deliver its public service mission. We'll be looking at how they are performing against their service licences and whether they are offering value for money. Our research tells us that audiences want and expect more fresh and new ideas on the BBC television. This review will help us understand how best the BBC can provide distinctive programming that audiences love. We now want to encourage viewers to get in touch with us to let us know what they think of these BBC services.' The Trust will also launch a twelve-week public consultation to gauge what viewers think about the BBC's performance, including what they would like to see done differently. This consultation will close on 18 December.

The former Channel Five chief executive David Elstein has accused the BBC of 'inverse Sarkozy syndrome: trying to seem smaller without actually becoming smaller.' Elstein compared the BBC's recent suggestions that it could reduce the scale of its activities to the French president Nicolas Sarkozy's alleged attempts to make himself appear taller. But he warned that the corporation could make life harder for itself by opening a debate about its size. 'In my view, inviting pollsters or politicians or pundits - let alone competitors - to determine the size of the BBC, and which services might be dispensed with, is a slippery slope,' Elstein said, delivering the Institute of Economic Affairs Beesley lecture in London today. "Is BBC3 really worth the five hundred million pounds it has cost so far? Is the move to Salford really worth the reported eight hundred and seventy six million pounds cost, still rising? Should Hollywood movies, or series, or music-driven radio services or premium sport be a charge on the licence fee?,' he added. 'If a Conservative government is cutting back on ministerial cars and salaries, can a licence fee reduction be far behind the threatened licence fee freeze? Is the battle over the digital support fund going to turn into a long war of attrition?" Elstein renewed his call – first made in a 2004 report by the Broadcasting Policy Group, which he chairs – for the BBC to be funded by a voluntary subscription. He pointed to the success of US channel HBO, arguing that there was 'no credible BBC counter-claimant' to the critical acclaim accorded to the subscription cable service's drama The Wire. 'Dependent solely on subscription, HBO can take great creative risk. If subscribers don't like what they are getting, they can cancel. Writers, actors and directors flock to work for HBO,' Elstein said. 'Nowhere in films or television is there so much creative freedom - certainly not at White City.' Elstein also hit out at Channel 4 for spending money on new ventures such as Film Four and digital radio to the detriment of its public service remit. It is not just the woeful financial performance of the new ventures that causes concern, he said. 'They constitute a major distraction from Channel 4's core purpose: contributing to PSB [public service broadcasting]. In joining the general switch by terrestrial channels towards the attractions of Freeview, Channel 4 has shifted not just resource but also audience to the non-PSB side of its activities.'

Leigh Francis' Mad-as-Toast tribute to the late self-styled King of Pop scored with just under four hundred thousand viewers on E4 last night, whilst the new Knight Rider series helped to deliver Fiver its best ever Thursday evening audience. Cha'Mone – Mo'Fo' Selecta! A Michael Jackson Tribute held its audience relatively steady over the hour from 10pm, peaking in the last fifteen minutes - once Mock The Week had finished. It was also hilarious, particularly its uncannily accurate take on Uri Gellar: 'I'm one of Michael's best friends. Even though I only met him six times!' And the ending was almost sweet. It just edged out Katy Brand's Big Ass Show on ITV2, which was watched by three hundred and seven thousand viewers between 10pm and 10.30pm.

Simon Cowell and the FOX network have reportedly opened up discussions about bringing The X Factor to the US. Run, America. Get away now while you still can. The forty nine-year-old, who is apparently locked into being a judge on American Idol for two more years, is finalising an agreement to bring the talent show to American audiences, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It is unknown if the series creator would appear as a panellist, though it is thought that he would act as the reality competition's executive producer.

X Factor judge Cheryl Cole has angered Simon Cowell by speaking out in defence of Alesha Dixon, a report claims. Cole described Dixon as a 'strong woman' earlier this week following the star's controversial debut as a panellist on Strictly Come Dancing. According to the Daily Star, Cowell was incandescent with rage when he heard about the singer's remarks because he doesn't want his employees helping to keep Strictly in the headlines. A source said: 'Simon's very much of the opinion of letting Strictly get on with it. He knows he's got the best show on the box and what they do is their business. He wants everyone connected to the show to be pulling in the same direction and not getting distracted by this backlash over Alesha. Simon would rather Cheryl spoke about The X Factor. After all, if she talks about Strictly, all she is doing is giving a rival show free publicity.'

Ali Bastian has revealed that she would never have turned down the chance to star on Strictly Come Dancing. The twenty six-year-old actress, who is best known for roles on Hollyoaks and The Bill, made her first appearance on the ballroom contest last Friday. Speaking to the Henley Standard, she commented: 'Being asked to do it was just amazing. I have watched the show since it started. There was no question of me not doing it.' Bastian and her professional dancing partner Brian Fortuna have already been tipped as potential winners by judges Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Alesha Dixon. She added: 'I had no idea what they were going to say and to have comments like that was fantastic. I was incredibly nervous.' Axed panellist Arlene Phillips recently suggested that Bastian could be the programme's best ever contestant. But, nobody is really interested in what she's got to say anymore. Yesterday's woman.

Strictly star Craig Kelly has refuted claims that Bruce Forsyth is too old to present the show. The actor revealed that he disagrees with comedian Justin Lee Collins, who recently called for the eighty one-year-old to stand down. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, he insisted: '[It's] absolute rubbish. Bruce is a legend. He's still sharp and he makes me laugh. I don't think you could do this show without Bruce.' Kelly, who is best known for his role as Coronation Street's Luke Strong, has so far only performed in an unmarked group dance on the contest. Reflecting on how he fared, he commented: 'I had half the rehearsal time of anybody else because I was filming my last scenes in Corrie. And then, suddenly, on the day of the live show, I finally nailed the steps and the moves. Thank goodness I didn't put a foot wrong. The adrenaline I got from going out on that stage was like nothing else. I actually enjoyed it but it was like being thrown out of an aeroplane and not knowing if your parachute is going to open - an out-of-body-experience.'

Gemma Atkinson has admitted that she was a 'fashion victim' during her time on Hollyoaks. The twenty four-year-old actress told the Daily Express that she made style mistakes as she tried to follow in the footsteps of fellow cast members on the Channel 4 soap. Atkinson played Lisa Hunter on the teen drama from 2001 to 2006. She has since worked as a model and appeared on reality TV. Asked to categorise herself as a fashion victim or trend setter, Atkinson replied: 'I was a victim during my years on Hollyoaks because I was trying to fit in with the young female cast. These days I dress to suit my body shape as opposed to what a top model is wearing in a magazine because I know it won't look the same on me.' Quizzed about whether she has expensive tastes, she commented: 'I have more designer shoes than clothes and own a few pairs of Christian Louboutin and Gucci shoes. I get more wear out of them than a dress so I don't mind spending a bit more.'

Anna Friel has revealed that she will always be grateful to the producers who cast her in Brookside. The actress signed up to play Beth Jordache on the now-defunct Channel 4 soap at the age of sixteen. Though Friel only stuck with the role for two years, Beth's lesbian kiss with neighbour Margaret Clemence (Nicola Stephenson) and involvement in the death of her cruel stepdad Trevor (Bryan Murray) made her one of the programme's most memorable characters. 'My partner David says to me, "When you're eighty, it will be Brookside." No matter what I do, like a big massive anchor round my neck,' Friel told BANG Showbiz. 'But I'd be an absolute idiot to say, "Gosh I don't realise what that did for me." It would be so ungrateful. I thank the day when they said, "You're going to play Beth." To do something that's still remembered now, I suppose I have to think there are not many things like that.'

EastEnders' Jane Beale (Laurie Brett) shocks her husband Ian (Adam Woodyatt) during tonight's episode when she reveals that she wants a baby. What? With Ian? Doesn't that mean, you know, sharing a bed with the miserable git? After the week-long Branning/Beale wife-swap, Jane begins questioning the course of her own life and realises that she wants to be a mother to her own child. Tanya (Jo Joyner) informs a panicked Ian that Jane is unhappy with her life, but he's puzzled as to why. Despite having had an emergency hysterectomy after Ian's son Steven shot her, Jane pays a visit to an unknown man, before breaking the news to Ian that she wants to be a mother. Bet that'll cheer him out.

Marion and Geoff creator Hugo Blick is to move away from comedy and into fully blown crime drama with a major series for BBC2. He will write and direct The Shadow Line, a cliffhanger-laden drama that BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow described as having the same scope and ambition as such BBC2 landmarks as Our Friends in the North, Smiley's People and Edge of Darkness. Hadlow told Media Guardian: 'The narrative takes place partly in the world of the police, who are investigating a murder. There is a parallel story … in the criminal world.' It is understood that the drama will not follow the usual conventions of the genre, though Hadlow declined to unveil further details. The Shadow Line is planned as a six episode series and is earmarked for a 9pm weekday slot. It will not broadcast until at least 2011. Blick has made a name for himself with comedy monologues Marion and Geoff, co-written with its star Rob Brydon, and Sensitive Skin, which starred Joanna Lumley.

UKTV has announced a new partnership with RDF Media for script development of future live-action comedy and animation commissions on Dave. Under the deal, RDF Media will develop three pilot scripts, including one animated series, with UKTV hoping at least one of the shows will be broadcast on Dave in the second half of 2010. This deal builds on the success of Dave's first scripted comedy Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, which pulled in over two-and-a-half-milliion viewers viewers when it premiered this Easter. UKTV director of entertainment Christian Drobynk revealed that there are ambitious plans to further expand Dave's portfolio of new commissions in the future. 'We've proven with the phenomenal success of Red Dwarf: Back to Earth, the UK's highest ever rating multi-channel commission, that Dave can deliver high-quality scripted comedy that stands out in this competitive market. Original scripted comedy resonates with the Dave audience and we believe that a slick animation series with the channel's witty banter at its core, will enable us to capitalise on the momentum we've garnered with Red Dwarf and continue to extend Dave's appeal.' RDF Television head of comedy Clelia Mountford added: 'We're delighted to be working with Dave as they move into commissioning original comedy - from witty banter to witty narratives, it's an exciting time for all concerned.' The partnership will also look to sell scripts to TV operators in other countries, with a pilot script for an animated series already being pre-sold to the FOX network in the US. RDF Media USA chief executive Chris Coelen said: 'In a global market that is increasingly close-knit, we're working with our partners at Dave to develop comedies that first and foremost work within the UK, but which also have potential to sell and succeed in territories worldwide, including the US.'

Merlin star Colin Morgan has revealed that fans of the show are often confused by his accent. The twenty three-year-old, who is originally from Northern Ireland, told SFX magazine that people assume he is English because his titular role on the BBC series requires him to disguise his Irish accent. He said: 'One of my mates told me that a work colleague was saying, "Is that your friend who does Merlin? His accent's really changed." Well, yeah, it's called acting! Often when you meet people, they're like, "Oh you're not... What are you?" Whenever I do go home, my accent becomes a lot stronger. When my brother was over here some people thought we were speaking a different language.' Morgan also said that producers of the show almost allowed the character to share his Irish accent. 'I was using my own accent for all the auditions and at the last stage they were like, "Well, we want to try you with an English accent."'

A razor-wire fence built around the Oxfordshire home of Beatle George Harrison's widow can be replaced, despite objections from some of the property's neighbours. South Oxfordshire District Council gave planning permission for Olivia Harrison to replace the eight foot fence in Henley-on-Thames to maintain security. Some neighbours had branded the fence 'unnecessary and inappropriate.' One of them, former Likely Lad Rodney Bewes claimed that the wire had injured his cat and cost him thousands of pounds in vet fees. The high-security fence was installed after the Beatle, who died aged fifty eight in November 2001, was stabbed seven times by an intruder who broke into Friar Park in 1999.

Sarah Jessica Parker has not been feuding with Kim Cattrall on the set of Sex And The City 2, according to her representative. Tabloid reports had alleged that Parker (Carrie Bradshaw) and Cattrall (Samantha Jones) were refusing to speak to each other while filming the follow-up to last summer's blockbuster hit. However, a spokesperson for Parker has blasted the rumours, telling Gossip Cop that the speculation is 'false on every level.' A production insider added: 'The camaraderie on the set is super tight. Really good.'

Graham Norton has agreed to sign a new deal with the BBC, according to a report. Earlier this month, it was suggested that Norton had been approached to return to Channel 4 when his current contract with the corporation expires at the end of the year. However, the comedian has now decided not to switch broadcasters and is currently in the process of planning three BBC shows for 2010, the Sun claims. A source told the newspaper: 'Graham loves the BBC and is really happy working there. Yes, he has had some turkeys, especially Totally Saturday, but he feels he is treated well there. He has agreed to do the three shows and his agent is currently sorting out the deal.' It is thought that Norton's new contract will see his salary slashed by approximately half a million pounds per year. He has previously confirmed that he would be happy to take a pay cut due to the current financial climate.

Piers Morgan has claimed that he deserves 'every penny' of his current ITV contract. The Britain's Got Talent judge also argued that he should be given a pay increase next year. 'I've got no problem if they take it away from somebody else who feels guilty about this type of thing, because I have absolutely no guilt issues about my salary whatsoever,' he told the Sun. 'I think it's time the talent fall back and go, "Hang on a second, without us, you don't have networks."' Anybody else's heart bleeding all over the carpet for this arrogant cheb? Nah, thought not.

Lily Allen's spokesman has reassured fans that Allen is not retiring from music after the singer posted a message on her blog which stated that she had no plans to make another record. Aw, come on, Lil. Don't get all of our hopes up like that if you don't mean it.