Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dinner-Dinner-Dinner-Dinner Murrrr-Darrrr!

Taggart star Alex Norton has revealed that he thought the show was 'lucky to last a year.' The actor, who plays Matt Burke in the twenty five-year-old crime series which celebrated its one hundredth episode on Christmas Eve told the Sun: 'Taggart's amazing - one hundred not out. It's utterly incredible. What a milestone. To be in the one hundredth episode of Taggart was a real buzz. I've been in it now for eight years and loved every minute of it, so long may it continue. My greatest hope when I was asked to do Taggart was that I'd get a good three years out of it. To be honest, I thought I'd be lucky to last a year. But it just went on and on. Its success is extraordinary.' The drama, which STV have produced since it began in 1983, was rumoured to be on a cancellation list after ITV axed a number of high profile dramas in a budget-cutting operation earlier in the year. Hugo Speer spoke out at the time about Taggart's importance in the British drama industry. The Scot added: 'I must admit, I'd more or less resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to film Taggart again. I just didn't see how, after all the toing and froing between STV and ITV. It was a worrying time. A lot of top dramas have been axed because of budget cuts. But it would have been a bloody shame for everyone involved. Taggart provides a lot of work for a lot of people in Scotland. I've got bills to pay, just like everyone else. I live in London, so I'll always need to work. There's even news that ITV are putting money into it. As far as I know, they are. The most important thing is we've been told that it's definitely going ahead, even if ITV decide not to commission it, but it's obviously good news if ITV are coming on board. I think we're aiming to start filming again in April, but I don't know. Taggart does fantastically well on the network for ITV. Colin McCredie keeps his eye on things and he's always scouring the net for info. He will email us and say, 'Last night's viewing figures were this. Even the repeats of Taggart get a lot more viewers than a lot of new dramas. You have to hope common sense prevails. It would have been silly for ITV to kill it off.'

Ricky The Hit-Man Hatton will reportedly make a cameo appearance in the next series of Shameless. According to the Sun, the former world light welterweight boxing champion was 'knocked out' to meet the cast of the Channel 4 drama. Knocked out, d'ya get it?! Oh, suit yourself. 'He was buzzing when he got the part,' a source said. 'Now he can't wait for the episode to be screened.' Hatton has already said in several interviews that he a huge fan of Paul Abbott's gritty Manchester-based comedy drama. The insider added that Hatton's cameo sees him confronting one of the main characters . Well, it's either that or get in the ring with Amir Khan, I guess.

David Tennant has denied wild Internet speculation that he will play The Riddler in the next Batman movie. The soon to be former Doctor Who star explained that he has had no contact with the producers behind the Dark Knight sequel, although he believes that he would be a good choice for the villainous role if asked. 'I probably should be [playing The Riddler],' the Guardian quotes him as saying. 'But you'd think my agent would have mentioned something if it was true.' Tennant previously admitted to being a fan of the 1960s TV incarnation of Batman and admitted that it would be a 'boyhood dream come true' to play The Riddler. Couldn't possibly be any worse than Jim Carrey's thoroughly crap interpretation Batman Forever.

The South Bank Show has broadcast its last ever edition. The show, which debuted in 1978, is believed to be the world's longest-running arts TV series and has been broadcast in over sixty countries. Presenter Melvyn Bragg had already decided to quit ITV before the programme was cancelled, saying: 'They've killed the show, so I thought I'll go as well.' The final episode visited the Royal Shakespeare Company, following director Michael Boyd as he researched the Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s for a forthcoming production. In the voice-over for the final scenes, Bragg noted: 'The brave work is continuing, keeping this now-well established British institution full of new life as it moves into the future.' Film-maker Sir David Lean once famously claimed that 'the best directors in Britain [were] working on The South Bank Show.' Subjects of previous films have included Sir Paul McCartney, Ken Dodd and the feminist Germaine Greer in 1978, The Velvet Underground (1985), John Cleese (1986), Manchester indie band The Smiths (1987), Raymond Chandler (1989), Douglas Adams (1991), Coronation Street (1995), Kenneth Williams (1997), Iain Banks (1998) and Trainspotting actor Ewan McGregor (2002). Keith Telly Topping's own favourite South Bank Show was Chris Hunt's stunning 1988 deconstruction of Hamlet featuring contributions from Richard Eyre and Michael Pennington and archive footage of Orson Welles, Richard Burton, Tyrone Guthrie and Huw Weldon. Other memorable films include Weekend in Wallop, The Movie Life of George, The Making of Sgt Pepper and John Lloyd's A-Z of British Comedy. Bragg will move to BBC2 to front two forthcoming documentaries on the subject of class. Meanwhile, ITV has commissioned ten retrospective documentaries to celebrate the South Bank Show's history.

Kym Marsh has been ruled out from appearing on the forthcoming series of Celebrity Big Brother. A Coronation Street spokeswoman has dismissed recent - widespread - speculation that the actress was planning to take a break from the soap in order to take part in the Channel 4 reality show. According to the Sun, Marsh had been 'given a strict dressing-down' from CBB bosses for hinting on Twitter about a possible appearance in the show's final series. However, Weatherfield chiefs have insisted that the Twitter page in question is a completely fake account. The spokeswoman said: 'It's completely wrong. She doesn't even have a Twitter or Facebook account. She doesn't use any of those accounts at all. They are all fake.' Brooke Kinsella, Ivana Trump and MC Hammer (Stop!) have all been linked to the Channel 4 series, which begins on Sunday at 9pm.

EastEnders took the lead in Monday's Bank Holiday battle of the soap, with an average audience of 9.6million viewers compared to Coronation Street's 9.2m. The latest episode of the Walford soap, during which the police questioned various suspects around the Square over Archie Mitchell's brutal murder, drew 9.61m from 8pm. BBC3's 11.30pm repeat added a further five hundred and sixty three thousand. Meanwhile, Coronation Street's double bill, which saw Kevin attend a consultation with Sally and Bill learn of Kevin's affair with Molly, was watched by 9.24m and 8.79m at 7.30 and 8.30 respectively.

Tests run by consumer publication Which? have found no significant decline in picture quality on the BBC HD channel, despite the recent controversy. After the BBC introduced new encoders on 5 August, the bitrate on BBC HD dropped from 16Mbs to 9.7Mbs, a reduction of nearly forty per cent. Freesat viewers subsequently reported various problems with picture quality and sound on the channel, with some accusing the BBC of failing to deliver a truly high definition service. In response, an expert Which? viewing panel ran a series of tests involving comparisons between archived pre-August BBC HD material and live broadcasts on Sky and Freesat. The footage was viewed on identical forty-inch HD TV sets. After running like-for-like comparisons of a range of programming over 'a lengthy viewing period,' the panel concluded that any difference in picture quality between the new and old BBC HD broadcasts was 'insignificant.' As recently outlined by BBC principal technologist Andy Quested, Which? also found that the perceived quality of BBC HD broadcasts differed from programme to programme, particularly dependent on whether the material was shot in the studio or outside. 'Even with the change in picture quality between programmes we assert that all BBC HD broadcasts are all of an HD quality,' said Which? TV expert Michael Briggs. 'If there is any difference between the new HD broadcasts and the old HD broadcasts, then it is tiny, and smaller than the existing differences between any two HD programmes filmed in a studio or on location.' Earlier in the month, BBC HD head Danielle Nagler said that she wants to 'draw a line' under the debate about picture quality on the channel.

Zoe Saldana has said that pre-production on the next Star Trek movie will start in 2010. Speaking to MTV, the thirty one-year-old revealed that the film's writers are still working on the script. 'I spoke to JJ [Abrams] and Bryan Burk, his producing partner at Bad Robot, and they are still in the middle of building the script with Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, and we'll probably be going into pre-production around this time next year,' she said.

The emergency phone call made by Charlie Sheen's wife which landed the Hollywood actor in jail over Christmas has been released by police. Brooke Mueller told the operator the forty four-year-old actor had threatened her with a knife during the 911 call leading to numerous press headlines along the lines of Sheen Threatens Wife With Knife. It's a jolly good job he didn't then go off on a rhyming crime spree otherwise we may have discovered that he'd been after his son with a gun and then he'd brought his daughter to the slaughter. 'Right now there are people that are separating us, but I have to file the report,' Mueller continued, later confirming her family were with her. The audio was released as Sheen was being released on five thousand dollars bail from a cell in the county jail. The Platoon and Hot Shots star had been arrested on domestic violence charges in the state's world famous ski resort of Aspen early on Christmas morning. Mueller had claimed that Sheen had hit her - but later retracted that story, claiming she had been drunk when she called officers. Police, however, are continuing to pursue the case. Sheen was charged with second-degree assault and 'menacing' as well as a misdemeanour charge of 'criminal mischief.' Those aren't real charge-names, are they? What next 'being a bit of a scallywag'?

Evangeline Lilly has claimed that she isn't interested in fame. The Lost actress grew up expecting to be a missionary, Now reports. 'I stumbled into this job on a whim,' she explained. 'It was completely by accident because I'm an intensely private person. I'm much too private to deal with being a public figure. That's not attractive to me.' She continued: 'In my home, we didn't watch TV, we didn't watch movies and we didn't have magazines with celebrities on the cover. All I wanted was to be a missionary. I had prepared to give myself over to poverty for the rest of my life and that was my goal. I'm not interested in fame.'

An MSP has written to the BBC Trust calling for a greater balance of news stories from all around Scotland in the corporation's output. Brian Adam, SNP member for Aberdeen North, claimed that there is currently a bias in the BBC's Reporting Scotland programme towards news coverage from the central belt, which is unfair to other parts of the country. Adam said that he would like to see regional opt-outs on the programme to boost levels of genuine local coverage and that the BBC has a duty to all licence fee payers in Scotland, but is 'not doing them justice' with its coverage the moment. 'As far as the BBC is concerned, Scotland is all one region. The result is that those of us living in the north or the Highlands see very little of our local news on the TV,' said Adam in his correspondence to the BBC Trust. 'While BBC Radio produces local opt-outs and STV broadcasts news for the north, the west and the east of Scotland, much of the BBC TV content is focused on the central belt. Both STV and the BBC have the facilities in Aberdeen, in Dundee, in Inverness, and I'm sure that people in the north east and Highlands would welcome more local reporting, as would others across the country.' In response, BBC Scotland head of news Atholl Duncan said that a broader range of stories from all around Scotland would be given coverage on Reporting Scotland in the future. However, Duncan said that there were no plans run regional news opt-outs as this would provide too significant a competitor for STV at a tough time for commercial broadcasters. 'In the New Year we do plan to increase the regional content on Reporting Scotland by running more stories from around the country,' he told BBC News. 'Reporting Scotland does cover the big stories from the Aberdeen area in detail. For instance, our coverage of the recent bad weather, the controversy over the Aberdeen bypass and the plans for the Trump golf course have all been covered extensively.' The government will next year start a trial in Scotland of its independently funded news consortia scheme, which is designed to create a vibrant regional news alternative to the BBC's coverage.

Cat Deeley has claimed that television presenters in America are 'a little Stepford.' The So You Think You Can Dance host also explained that she believes her Stateside success is down to her genuine nature. 'When I watch shows in America, I feel that some of the hosts are a little Stepford - in the nicest possible way,' she told the Radio Times. Is there, actually, a nice way to be Stepford? 'It feels as if they're more worried if the light is in the right place and they're standing right than they are about communicating with an audience.' She continued: 'The fundamental part of my job is to communicate with an audience in a very real way. I think I'm maybe a bit "realer" than typical American hosts.' However, Deeley also suggested that audiences in America are more responsive. 'It's a lot easier to get Americans to scream and dance and shout and clap,' she added. Indeed. As Mad Frankie Boyle once noted, you can usually manage to attract that sort of reaction from them with little more than a balloon on a stick. 'In Britain, it's almost as if we're ashamed of having ambition and drive.' No, that's not true at all Cat, chuck. We're just ashamed of making ourselves look like a complete tit.

A woman made an emergency 999 call to Greater Manchester Police to say that her cat was 'doing her head in' because it was playing with a piece of string. The force has released an audio recording of the call to remind people that the 999 service should not be abused. The woman said it was an emergency as it had 'been going on for two hours.' Well, just take the bloody string off it, you stupid woman! Between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, GMP said it had received one thousand three hundred and seventy seven 999 calls, but that only a fraction of them were concerning genuine emergencies. In another call, a man contacted emergency services to say he was stuck on a patch of ice in a street in Bolton and was too scared to go forwards or backwards. That'll be Paddy McGuinness on his way to Gregg's, no doubt.

A flatulent pig triggered a minor emergency in Australia when smells wafting from her farts sparked fears of a gas leak. Two fire engines and fifteen firefighters turned out in darkness to search for the source of the 'leak' at Axedale, near Bendigo in Victoria. Eventually, the culprit - a one hundred and twenty kilogram pet sow - was identified, reports the Melbourne Herald Sun. Fire chief Peter Harkins said: 'We got to the property and we could smell a very strong odour in the vicinity. It didn't take us too long to work it out because we could both smell and hear her. She got very excited when two trucks turned up and she squealed and farted and squealed and farted. I haven't heard too many pigs fart but I would describe it as very full-on.'

And, finally. Keith Topping's Always Look On The Bright Side of Life (2008).