Friday, December 18, 2009

They Fought The Law (... And The Law Won)

Wasn't it interesting, dear blog reader, to watch Peter Kay making a total tit-end of himself on this evening's The ONE Show? Albeit, yer Keith Telly Topping did think that the alleged comedian's description of the BBC's magazine programme as 'like Pebble Mill on smack' was slightly amusing. Let's be fair, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day.

The former X Factor winner Steve Brookstein has criticised the show - and Simon Cowell - in what has been described as 'an impassioned Facebook message.' But which, to yer Keith Telly Topping reads rather more like the depressed ramblings of the unemployed. Been there, mate and, trust me, it's a vortex of despair. Brookstein, who won the first series of the programme in 2004 but was later dropped by Cowell's record label, affirmed his support of Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing In The Name' for this year's Christmas number one. He wrote: 'Before X Factor gimps have a go, I will tell you this and I sware [sic] on my son's life, I was not bothered that my single, 'Against All Odds', went to number one and I wasn't bothered that my album went to number one.' Just thought you'd mention that in passing did you, Steve? 'I just wanted to make good music - and not the pop schlop [sic] associated with Cowell,' he continued. 'Unfortunately. I was dropped because I wouldn't play the game. Now to my point - X Factor is on for four months - surely winning the show and getting a deal is enough for any artist.' Brookstein added: 'To release for Christmas is just mega rich Simon Cowell doing a fuck-you to Santa Claus, Rudolph, all the little elves, Frosty and not forgetting Baby Jesus. What a douche!' So ... not a fan, then, I'm guessing?

Meanwhile, in somewhat related news, a week after appearing on the X Factor final, Sir Paul McCartney has said he's supporting the campaign to get US rock band Rage Against the Machine to number one. The former Beatle performed on last Sunday's final of the ITV show with the final twelve acts singing backing vocals for his rendition of 'Drive My Car.' But the sixty seven-year-old has now said he could understand the thinking behind the online campaign to prevent yet another X Factor winner topping the charts. 'I like the idea,' Sir Paul told Sky News as the sales battle between Rage and X Factor winner Joe McElderry looked set to go down to the very wire. 'Everyone expects Joe to do it, and if he goes to number one then good luck to him,' McCartney added. 'He's just some kid with a career ahead. I've got nothing against that, but it would be kind of funny if Rage Against The Machine got it because it would prove a point.'

And, one of the great minds of her generation, Alexandra Burke, has said that she believes the campaign to give Rage Against The Machine a number one single this Christmas is 'weird.' Yeah, thanks for your thoughtful and intelligent contribution to the debate, Alexandra. We'll let you know.

David Tennant has noted that he will feel possessive over his role in Doctor Who until his final two episodes are broadcast. The Tenth Doctor will die in the End Of Time two-parter being aired on Christmas Day and New Year's Day before he regenerates into Mel Smith. Tennant told BBC Newsbeat: 'It was an emotional finish and the final story is very emotional, there was crying on and off screen. Until they broadcast, it will still feel like mine. I didn't know how I'd feel when they started filming again. There were photos of Matt in costume and that was the first realisation that it is going on without me. But it was actually quite exciting, I can't wait to see it.' When asked if he will be watching the show at Christmas, David added: 'I'll still be in it, so I will be sitting round with three or four hundred of my closest friends forcing them to watch me on television. That's what happens on Christmas Day.' That's pretty much the same round our house, David. Except instead of three or four hundred it's just me and a prawn nibblet.

Doctor Who's show runner, Russell Davies, has revealed that he is very proud of the final episodes which mark the end of Tennant's reign. The writer believes it's been a fate-driven partnership. 'It's literally the first thing I remember from when I was three years old,' Russell told the Philadelphia Inquirer. 'I was born in 1963, so I can remember black-and-white images of Doctor Who from that age. My mother used to sit and make me watch it, she loved it so. The whole of Britain watched Doctor Who. Now it does again, fortunately. In those days, every child watched it. There was just no question, no debate. It was a show that everyone watched so a lot of people grew up and became teenagers. I just stayed with it. I've loved it, but it's time to move on. I wanted to get out while I still loved it before I got bored. I'm excited. I feel like I made the right decision and it's an achievement. It's been the number one programme in Britain. Not the number one drama - the number one programme.' As fond as he is of the character, however, writing is another matter. 'It's hard work,' he says, 'it's never enjoyable. I like the end of it when something's made and I'm happy with it and I watch it. And I've watched things I've made many times, mostly because I can't believe the luck and the relief having gotten to the end of it. I'm building up to writing a script right now, and I'm not liking this process. It's nights of worry and torment. However, it's better than being a nurse or a teacher in an inner-city school,' he added. 'Writing is like putting your brain on paper, which is not natural and not easy but in the end, it's the joy of it when it works, when it clicks. Then something magic happens.' The magic didn't happen at first. Davies grew up in South Wales and never entertained the idea of being a writer. He was a talented artists at school. 'It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I looked on writing as a possible job, never thinking it was possible. Then, fortunately, I met the right people and worked very hard to get the right contacts and opportunities. It took a long time to realise it was even an option,' he noted. 'I moved to Manchester and learned my trade there. Granada Television is based there, which is a big, old television station dating back to the 1960s, a very prestigious company. I learned so much there. I just knocked on doors begging for jobs and writing things for nothing and standing in line and waiting - well, everyone has to do that, really. Eventually somebody I knew moved there and they gave me a job. So it's always the way, it's always the people you know.'

ITV2 this week announced that Billie Piper is to feature in a Call Girl special next year. The one-off will see Piper meet real-life call girl Brooke Magnanti, who wrote the Belle Du Jour blog detailing her exploits as a working prostitute in London. Magnanti said of the special: 'This show will be the last word on what it was like to be Belle: How my sexuality was formed, how I came to the work, what it's like to be portrayed on TV. Viewers will get an exclusive look at the real woman who lived as Belle, actually becoming her one final time.' Piper added: 'I am really looking forward to catching up with Belle again.'

The first of an expected series of top-level departures from ITV began yesterday when Sir George Russell, its deputy chairman, stepped down. Archie Norman, the former Tory MP and Asda chief executive, arrives in the new year to take up the post of ITV chairman, replacing Michael Grade. He is being urged by investors to make changes to the board. However, it is understood that Sir George, aged seventy four, informed ITV of his decision to leave the one hundred and sixty thousand pound-a-year post before Norman's appointment was announced last month. Nevertheless, one City analyst described Sir George's departure as 'the first step in the new Norman regime.' Norman will begin work on 4 January. He will lead the search for a new chief executive, a process that could take up to six months. Sir James Crosby, the former HBOS chief executive who ran the succession process as chairman of ITV's nominations committee, is also due to leave the broadcaster. His replacement, yet to be named, is expected to start at about the same time as Norman. Yesterday, Mr Grade praised Sir George for his 'huge contribution to ITV since its inception.'

Five has just announced a new fly-on-the-wall series for 2010 which intends to follow various celebrities in their attempts to give up smoking. Chloe Madeley, alleged medium Derek Acorah, former sitcom actress Linda Robson, John Burton Race and Paul Danan (no, me neither) have all agreed to take part in the show, which is to be called Celebrity Quitters. Interesting new use of the word 'celebrity' that I hadn't previously come across, there. Yer Keith Telly Topping is absolutely certain that there's a gag in this, somewhere, about a packet of fags. But, you know how touchy people can get if even the most innocent of puns becomes mistaken for an apparent homophobic slur. So we'll let that one slide away quietly.

The Village People are reportedly threatening legal action against Channel 4 over a promotional film used this year for Jamie Oliver's TV show Jamie's American Road Trip. To the tune of 'Go West' the vastly annoying celebrity cook - dressed as all of the members of The Village People - was seen making his way through a British airport. However, anyone who believes The Village People are little more than a fun-at-their-time 1970s disco band with hits including 'YMCA' and 'In The Navy' needs to think again, apparently. According to John Giacobbi, the British lawyer pursuing who is currently Channel 4 on their behalf, 'The Village People are still a huge, multimillion-dollar global business.' The name and band's costumes are, seemingly, trademarked in the US, and hundreds of commercial requests are dealt with every year, said Giacobbi. There was, he added, no such request from Channel 4. Now, yer Keith Telly Topping normally stays well out of any threatened legal-type nonsense. But, on this particular occasion, since it's Jamie Oliver we're talking about, I fully support the guys and hope that they take this lippy, over-paid, talentless, full of his own important gobshite to the cleaners.

The BBC is expected to name Zeinab Badawi and Fiona Armstrong as two of its new female news presenters according to Broadcast. The appointments follow an edict from director general Mark Thompson in September, to secure at least one additional woman presenter aged over fifty within twelve months, in a bid to broaden its roster of on-screen talent. It is understood that the corporation is lining up four new BBC News channel presenters in total. Three of the quartet – including Badawi and Armstrong – are in their fifties and the fourth is in her sixties. None of the new recruits are household names like former newsreaders like Moira Sewart and Selina Scott, but they come with strong credentials. Badawi, who is fifty, co-presented Channel 4 News with Jon Snow for nearly a decade during the 1990s and is currently a presenter on BBC World. The Sudanese-born newsreader was named international television personality of the year at the Association for International Broadcasting's annual Global Media Excellence awards in November. Armstrong was the anchor on Border's regional news programme Lookaround until the service was merged with Tyne Tees in February this year. Also known as Lady MacGregor of MacGregor, she was a reporter on News At Ten in the late eighties and early nineties, covering the Lockerbie disaster and stories concerning AIDS orphans in Africa, and was part of the GMTV launch team – although she left after a few months. Armstrong has also worked at the BBC, with the BBC News team in Manchester at the very start of her career and as a presenter in BBC World's breakfast news programme before joining Border. Until now, BBC News has only had one woman presenter in her fifties – Maxine Mawhinney – and female newsreaders have admitted privately that they often knocked a few years off their age for fear of being ousted when they became 'too old.' The new positions are still subject to financing but the corporation is keen to finalise them and make them public before Christmas.

ESPN Classic has stepped up its original programming slate, ordering its first quiz panel show from the independent producer Bite Yer Legs. The Umpire Strikes Back will be hosted by Talk of the Terrace's Mark Chapman with Match of the Day 2's Kevin Day and comedian Des Clarke as team captains. Each captain will be joined with a sports celebrity in each episode and the teams will be quizzed on sports issues and incidents throughout history. So ... They Think It's All Over: The Next Generation, then? Austin Healey, Ray Parlous, Graham Poll, Bob Casey and Perry Groves are understood to be lined up to feature. Perry Groves?! Somebody is clearly pulling my tiddler here. Who's on next, Gus Caesar? It is understood the series run will be twelve episodes, but ESPN and Bite Yer Legs have yet to confirm in which slot the series will broadcast in early 2010. ESPN has a long heritage of working with independents in the US and worldwide, but is a relative newcomer to the UK, taking over from failed sports broadcaster Setanta in the summer of this year. The first series will be filmed in Chiswick from today and marks ESPN Classics first shift into dedicated comedy and panel shows. Bite Yer Legs' previous credits include the BBC3 documentary My Big Fat Greek Olympic Dream, the Northern Ireland documentary The Troubles I've Seen for ITV and the sports entertainment show World Cuppa for ITV4.

Andrew Cowles, the civil partner of Stephen Gately, has formally complained to the press watchdog about the controversial Daily Mail column by Jan Moir about the pop star's death. The Press Complaints Commission will now be forced to investigate whether Moir's column, headlined 'A strange, lonely and troubling death,' breached its code of practice. Moir's column was first published online with the headline 'Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death' but Mail Online subsequently changed this to match the print version. Cowles complained through his solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, citing breaches of accuracy, intrusion into grief or shock and discrimination. 'The commission will now investigate this complaint with the newspaper and publish the outcome in due course,' the PCC said. Because of the move by Cowles, the PCC has delayed its findings on the reported twenty five thousand complaints, the largest in its entire history, which it received after Moir's column first appeared. The PCC generally does not launch formal investigations into third-party complaints. So, it's particularly pleasing to see that just when the Mail thought they'd dodged a bullet they may yet be brought to book for this sickeningly insensitive, horribly timed and thoroughly mean-spirited piece of alleged journalism. Although, given the fact that Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail editor, also happens to chair the PCC's code committee, I wouldn't bet on it personally.

The BBC has made what it presented as 'a tactical climbdown' in its libel battle with the oil trading company Trafigura. After lengthy negotiations with Trafigura director Eric de Turckheim this week, the broadcaster agreed to apologise for a Newsnight programme, pay twenty five thousand pounds to charity, and to withdraw any allegation that Trafigura's toxic waste dumped in Africa had 'caused deaths.' But at the same time, the BBC issued a combative statement, pointing out that the dumping of Trafigura's hazardous waste had led to the British-based oil trader being forced to pay out thirty million pounds in compensation to victims. 'The BBC has played a leading role in bringing to the public's attention the actions of Trafigura in the illegal dumping of five hundred tons of hazardous waste' the statement said. 'The dumping caused a public health emergency with tens of thousands of people seeking treatment.' Trafigura had only brought the libel action against a single aspect of Newsnight's reporting, the BBC statement went on: 'Experts in the [compensation] case were not able to establish a link between the waste and serious long-term consequences, including deaths.' In a confidential out-of-court settlement earlier this year, an agreed joint statement was issued by Trafigura and lawyers Leigh Day, representing almost thirty thousand claimants in the Ivory Coast. It described the consequences of the waste dumping as 'low-level illness,' rather than deaths or miscarriages. This left an earlier Newsnight programme exposed to litigation: Trafigura claimed that Newsnight had specifically accused them of causing deaths and that they were, therefore, entitled to recover damages under British libel law. The BBC's decision to settle has reportedly caused dismay among some journalistic staff. One commented to the Gruniad: 'This result is very unfair. It is completely outrageous that Trafigura should never yet have been brought to a court verdict on their own behaviour, but the BBC should have been penalised for trying to report on it.' BBC sources said one factor in the management decision to settle was the fear that Carter-Ruck, Trafigura's libel lawyers, could run up potential bills of as much as three million pounds if the issue came to a full trial, particularly in the current uncertain climate of British libel law. A hearing would have to be conducted before the controversial libel judge Mr Justice Eady. In a court statement before Eady at the High Court, it was agreed that 'The BBC accepts the conclusions reached by the experts in the personal injury action [and] acknowledges that the evidence does not establish that Trafigura's 'slops' caused any deaths, miscarriages or serious long-term injuries. Accordingly, the BBC has withdrawn those allegations and has agreed to broadcast an appropriate apology on Newsnight.' The outcome represents a partial success on behalf of Trafigura for Carter-Ruck partner Adam Tudor. Trafigura's attempts to enforce a 'super-injunction' against the Guardian, preventing parliamentary reporting, led to political uproar earlier in the year. A reproving statement from the Lord Chief Justice followed, plus a parliamentary inquiry and the eventual collapse of an attempted ban on publication of the contents of a scientific report disclosing that Trafigura's waste was potentially highly toxic. De Turckheim issued his own statement, repeating the claim that 'The slops were... dumped illegally by an independent company called Compagnie Tommy – a deplorable action which Trafigura did not and could not have foreseen.' Sounds entirely reasonable. Internal e-mails - also published by the Guardian - have shown that Trafigura executives were, in fact, aware of the hazardous nature of their waste, and the need for specialist expensive disposal. Trafigura is currently facing prosecution in Amsterdam, for allegedly lying about the nature of the waste during an earlier attempt to dispose of it cheaply. For what it's worth, From The North considers that Trafigura is, collectively, clearly a lovely company staffed by people who could, in no way whatsoever, be described as greedy, litigious corporate poisoners and who simply want to make the world a better place. And to fill it with lots of fluffy-bunny love. Good luck to them, I say.

Daily Telegraph journalist David Bond is to replace Mihir Bose as the BBC's senior sports editor. Bond, who will take on the role in the New Year, is currently the Telegraph's sports editor and was previously deputy sports editor at the Evening Standard and sports news correspondent at the Sunday Times. During that time he has focused closely on the London 2012 Olympics, England football and the business and politics of sport – including doping issues. He also masterminded the Telegraph's handling of the Rugby Union's Bloodgate cover-up story. He secured the job despite some reported reservations among BBC executives about the ability of strong print journalists to transfer their skills to television. Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said: 'David brings with him a formidable track record in sport's journalism. As our sports editor he will be the on-air figurehead of BBC Sport's News operation. In a highly competitive field he impressed with both his editorial judgement and passion for the role.'

Rosie Webster allegedly puts the 'Cor' in Coronation Street - flashing the flesh in a series of saucy photos as she tries to make it as a glamour model. The teenager - played by Helen Flanagan - will shell out for a portfolio of sexy shots. Her daring outfits will include a thigh-skimming cheerleader's costume, which she wears in her new job as a Cherry Vodka promotions girl, and a vampy corseted dress which shows off plenty of cleavage. Rosie's new career starts on screen tonight, when she shocks her parents - Kevin and Sally - with her new uniform. The outfit comes complete with roller-skates, so Rosie can glide round the bars of Weatherfield, firing shots of vodka from a water pistol. But show insiders say her plans go awry as her photos appear in some unlikely places. Undeterred by the experience, Rosie decides she needs a boob-job in order to further her chances, unaware that her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Flanagan, who took skating lessons for her new storyline, said: 'This is the perfect career for Rosie. She is like so many girls out there who read the celeb mags every week and want to be like Katie Price or celebs from shows like Big Brother.'

Sean Wilson has claimed that Coronation Street producers would need to be 'very persuasive' if they wanted him to return to the soap. In an interview with This Is Nottingham, the actor hinted that he has still not forgiven his former bosses over the storyline dispute which led to him bowing out as Martin Platt in 2005. Reflecting on his exit, Wilson explained: 'The reason I left was because they wanted my character to have an affair with a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl. I said I didn't like the idea of that, they said I was doing it, so I said, "Okay - I'll get my coat." I didn't think they gave me as much respect as my twenty one years on the show deserved. They would have to be very persuasive if they wanted me back.' Dont worry, sean, I'm not sure they're that desperate, to be honest. Meanwhile, discussing Martin's legacy, Wilson commented: 'I tried to create a rounded character and I had a lot of good storylines as a vehicle for that. People remember him fondly.' After leaving Corrie, Wilson has launched a new career as a cheesemaker in recent months, but has not ruled out an acting comeback for the future. A few more comments like that in the media, pal, and I'd start ruling it out. Nobody likes an uppity, 'difficult' actor.

Hollyoaks favourite Calvin Valentine is reportedly to be shot at the end of the soap's 'flashforward' episode, sparking a six-month long 'Who Shot Calvin?' mystery. Earlier this week, it was announced that the Channel 4 serial has filmed a six-months-into-the-future episode set in May 2010, which will be sandwiched between regular instalments. Calvin (Ricky Whittle) and Carmel's (Gemma Merna) second wedding dominates the episode, but as the loved-up couple take to the floor for a rendition of Dirty Dancing signature theme '(I've Had) The Time of My Life,' Calvin is shot by an unidentified sniper. Throughout the show's look into the future, a plethora of villagers are angry at Calvin for as-yet-unknown reasons. However, as the series plays out its stories over the next six months, motives for murdering him will become more clear. When the real-time episodes cross with the six-month point foretold by the titular event, viewers will discover the identity of Calvin's murderer.

Vic Reeves has said that Katie Price has an 'obnoxious character.' The Shooting Stars host was asked by Metro who was the rudest celebrity he has ever met. Reeves replied: 'Jordan, by a long way. She was on Shooting Stars years ago. I don't need to explain what she was like as we're all aware of her obnoxious character. She said, "Don't mention my tits." So I presented her with a succession of gifts including a pair of door knockers and some jugs but I never mentioned her tits.' When asked if any of the show's guests did not understand the concept, he added: 'Very few but they've usually been American or they've been on a promotional tour and their agent hasn't told them what the show's about. JR Ewing was very confused about it all. A lot of people have grown up with it. Ricky Wilson from Kaiser Chiefs said he was amazed when he was on as he was sitting in the seat he imagined sitting on one day when he watched it as a young 'un.'

And finally, dear blog reader, since the last sample of Keith Telly Topping's experimental voyages into the world of abstract impressionism seemed to go down so well, I've been asked if it would be possible for me to showcase another example of my oeuvre. Which, I'm delighted to do. This one is a particular favourite of mine from my red-on-black period. It's an installation piece entitled Day Three of The Fourth Test At Headingley. Rain Stopped Play (1998).