Thursday, December 24, 2009

Very Thin Ice

Holy mother of crap, but that was one bitchin' cliff-hanger to end the current series of [Spooks] last night. No news yet on when, or even if, we can expect a recommission but yer Keith Telly Topping remains hopeful that it'll be sooner rather than later. Or, indeed, rather than not at all.

Doctor Who producer Russell Davies has warned that the BBC will be 'dismantled' by the Conservatives if they win the next general election. Yes, Rusty, we know it will. But, they're going to win the next election anyway whether we like it or not because of the, frankly, rank incompetence and stupidity of the current lot. (And, I say that as somebody who voted for them. Three times. And will probably vote for them again.) So, there's not really much point in worrying about it, the die is well and truly cast. Sometimes, we - collectively - get the government that we bloody well deserve. Russell said that any move to freeze the licence fee would mark the end for the corporation, as he predicted that the BBC has 'five or six years left.' He said: 'It's going to be appalling. Jeremy Hunt has absolutely attacked the licence fee and then suddenly, a few weeks ago, he backtracked and said, "Oh no, we won't interfere with the charter." They want the votes but once they get in they are going to be absolutely vicious,' he told the Mirror. The screenwriter added that the Tories will win support by arguing that the licence fee is a tax that British people could do without. 'They'll dismantle it slowly. It'll get smaller and smaller until it just supports Radio 4 and some news,' he added. A frightening vision of the future there - darker, even, than the Dalek Invasion of 2164. Where's Harriet Jones MP for Fyldale North when you really need her?

Mock the Week will return for its eighth series in January, the BBC has announced. The satirical quiz show, which stars Dara Ó Briain, will broadcast for six weeks, having already been recommissioned for two further series by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow. Producer Dan Patterson says: 'We're delighted to be back. 2010 promises to bring a host of new targets for our team and our New Year's resolution is to welcome them with all our usual warmth, respect and best wishes.' Heh! Cheeky sod! The topical improv quiz, which has regularly attracted over two million viewers for BBC2, will have more guest comedians following Mad Frankie Boyle's recent departure. Regulars Hugh Dennis, Andy Parsons and Russell Howard will all return for the show's first winter run since 2007. I feel a 'hurrah!' coming on.

Adrian Chiles has once again dismissed widespread rumours of a romance between himself and his fellow ONE Show host, Christine Bleakley. The presenter, forty two, also told the Croatian Times that 'beautiful women are far too complicated.' Of his rumoured relationship with thirty-year-old Bleakley, he said: 'It was like West Brom being linked with Ronaldo or something.' Thank God he didn't use a Chelsea player as an example in that metaphor or there might've been war on. 'Look at her, and look at me. West Brom might quite like to sign Ronaldo but it is simply not going to happen.'

Top Gear was the most watched programme of the year on BBC iPlayer, figures show. The first episodes of series thirteen and fourteen of the car magazine show were streamed 1.7 million and 1.3 million times respectively. The figures have been published to mark the second birthday of the iPlayer on Christmas Day. November saw a record eighty eight million requests for BBC TV and radio programmes, bringing the total number of requests for content to over seven hundred and twenty nine million. Other heavily-requested shows include Life, Doctor Who, Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo. 'These figures show people are making the most of the choice they now have,' Erik Huggers, the BBC's director of future media and technology said. 'Whether it's watching EastEnders on your PC during your lunch break, listening to Desert Island Discs on the bus or watching Mock The Week in bed, viewing patterns change depending on the time and location of the audience.' The iPlayer is now available on more than twenty different devices including games consoles and mobile phones. The new data provides an insight into how users differ depending on the platform they use. Mac and PS3 users tend to prefer comedy shows like Mock The Week, while PC and Virgin Media users appear more keen on drama, with EastEnders and Waking The Dead proving particularly popular. More people also tend to watch content after 9pm and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The US actor Arnold Stang, who voiced the lead character in the popular 1960s cartoon Top Cat, has died at the age of ninety one. Stang died of pneumonia at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts on Sunday, JoAnne Stang, his wife of sixty years, said. Known for his distinctive nasal voice and nerdy looks, the actor also starred alongside Frank Sinatra in 1955 film The Man With The Golden Arm. He was also appeared in 1963 comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Mrs Stang attributed her husband's career longevity to his willingness to tackle any professional challenge. 'He was really unique, because he could perform in any role, comedy or drama, he just loved it all,' she said. 'He always thought of himself just as an actor, not any particular kind of actor, but just an actor who would play whatever he was asked to play.' Stang started his career on the radio as a teenager and played alongside Milton Berle on radio and TV in the 1950s. He spent a lot of his career voicing cartoons and dozens of advertisements, and also made appearances on US TV shows including The Cosby Show and Batman. His last big screen role was in 1993 movie Dennis the Menace.

Newsreader Julia Somerville - and her big hair - will return to the BBC in the new year to present on the News channel. Julia - and her big hair - began her career in broadcasting when she joined the BBC in 1972 as a sub-editor in the Radio Newsroom. She will join Westminster correspondent Carole Walker, former ITN newsreader Fiona Armstrong and BBC World presenter Zeinab Badawi on the TV news service. A BBC spokesman said the new line-up was made to 'ensure it had the best range of faces' on the channel. After being made a Labour Affairs Correspondent in 1981, Somerville was recruited by BBC Television News to present the Nine O'Clock News.

Boy George has been told he cannot participate in the final series of Celebrity Big Brother, a judge at the High Court has ruled. The singer's legal team had been trying to lift a Probation Service ban on him appearing on the Channel 4 show. The former Culture Club member - real name George O'Dowd - was released on licence from prison early for imprisoning a male escort. Mr Justice Bean said the Probation Service was within its rights to refuse the star permission to appear. And, that both he and the general public had clearly suffered enough already.

Leslie Ash is reportedly taking a break from Holby City for 'a few months' beginning in 2010. The actress, who plays chief executive Vanessa Lytton in the popular medical drama, has only spent five months on the show. A source told the Mirror: 'She's taking a few months off but will be back before the end of the year for another stint. Vanessa returns to sort out a major crisis.'

Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and their friends are getting a Twenty First Century makeover for a new TV animation series in a deal aimed at winning over a new audience of young fans for Beatrix Potter. Potter's publisher Frederick Warne and its licensing agent Chorion plan to update the characters from the writer's original little white books for a series set to hit screens around the world in 2011. 'Our aim will be to introduce Beatrix Potter to a new generation of children and make her characters as loved today as they have been in the past,' said Chorion chairman Waheed Alli. 'At the moment they are the top end. So posh people buy them in America and posh to middle class people buy them here. Our job is to take them from the high end to allow all children to buy into it. It's about democratising the brand.' The company behind Mr Men, Noddy and The Very Hungry Caterpillar has enjoyed rising sales during the economic downturn, putting much of the success down to parents returning to brands they know. Alli believes Potter's characters will tap into that trend particularly well. 'Parents want to see the things they grew up with in the hands of their kids.' In the new series, Peter Rabbit will remain the central character in a cast that will return to what Alli calls the 'bolder palette' of Potter's early drawings. The likes of Tom Kitten will retain their mischievous personalities but the storylines will be new and 'appropriate' for the next generation. 'Peter Rabbit's father being caught by the farmer and being baked into a pie is not going to be our first episode. We'll be skipping over some chapters,' said Alli.

The remains of the Renaissance artist Michaelangelo Caravaggio have been retrieved by Italian scientists hoping to find out more about his death. They had been housed in a special container called an ossuary in the town of Porto Ercole. The bones have now been taken to the University of Bologna where they will compared with those of his descendants. They will then go on show until 24 January in Rome's Borghese gallery before being placed in another burial site. The new resting place for Caravaggio has yet to be announced. The project is being led by anthropology professor Georgio Grupponi, who also worked on the reconstruction of the face of the Middle Ages poet Dante Alighieri that was unveiled in 2007. The cause of Caravaggio's death has been something of a mystery for centuries - various theories have been advanced over the years. Among the most common are that he was assassinated for religious reasons, or that he collapsed with malaria on a deserted beach. One scholar believes he may have died from typhus in hospital in 1610. Caravaggio pioneered the Baroque painting technique known as chiaroscuro, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted. But it was his wild lifestyle that has captured just as many imaginations as his spectacular art the years. He was famed for starting brawls, often ended up in jail, and even killed a man, Ranuccio Tomassoni. He was allegedly on his way to Rome to seek a pardon for this crime when he died.

The FBI has released more than three hundred pages of formerly classified documents relating to pop icon Michael Jackson. They include information regarding the singer's 1993 and 2004 child molestation cases, as well as an extortion case where he was a victim. Despite an application under the US Freedom of Information Act, just over half of the file will remain secret. The pages do not provide any new information on Jackson's sudden death in June, aged fifty. One document reveals that in 2004, local police in Santa Maria requested FBI involvement believing the court proceedings against the pop star were a 'soft target for terrorism' due to the global media coverage. 'No intelligence indicating a terrorist threat' existed, the FBI said, although the bureau did provide other technical and investigative assistance into the case. In June 2005, Jackson was found not guilty of all charges at the end of the four-month trial.

An American man who triggered a media sensation by falsely claiming his son was adrift in a helium balloon has been sentenced to ninety days in jail - and his wife to twenty. Richard Heene, forty eight, and his forty five-year-old wife, Mayumi, said in October their son had been carried off by the balloon. Six-year-old Falcon Heene was finally found hiding at the family home. In court in Colorado, Heene appeared to fight back tears as he apologised to rescue workers and the community, saying he was 'very, very sorry.' I'm sure he'll be even more sorry when he's banged up in the pokey with some guy named Bubba for a cell mate who says 'you is maaaaa li'l puppy now.' The judge also ordered four years of supervised probation for the couple and banned them from receiving any form of financial benefit from the case. Heene and his wife Mayumi had pleaded guilty to charges that they carried out the balloon stunt to promote a reality TV show. The prosecutor had argued the couple should face time in jail to act as a deterrent to others who may be considering mounting similar stunts for financial gain and publicity. He said Heene had 'wasted a lot of man power and a lot of money in wanting to get himself some publicity.' Well, you could say the same about half the people on X Factor and they end up with bloody recording contracts. He argued that the couple had acted not on the behest of any TV companies, but that 'they came up with it all on their own, not necessarily just to get a TV show but at least to put their name out there again and maybe in hopes that somebody would pick them up. For that,' he continued, 'they need to be punished.' Richard Heene will be allowed to serve sixty days of his ninety-day sentence on release, allowing him to continue working as a construction contractor during the day, while spending the night in jail. With Bubba.

A judge has spared Jennifer Lopez some blushes after he barred the singer's ex-husband, Ojani Noa, from selling or distributing a private tape from their honeymoon which, allegedly, involves 'spanking scenes'. Judge James Chalfant granted a temporary injunction against Cuban chef Noa, thirty five, and his agent, Ed Meyer and warned the pair that jail was waiting for them if they broke the ban. 'They may not publish it for any reason,' the judge said. 'Anywhere, anytime, anyhow without further court order. If they do they go to jail.' Presumably, with Bubba and Richard. Talk about overcrowding in prisons.

And, speaking of people going to jail, Sophie Anderton was arrested this week following a drunken incident at Waterloo station, press reports have claimed. The thirty two-year-old supermodel spent the night in a prison cell after trying to catch the Eurostar to Paris at the wrong station, according to the Daily Mail. They don't mention whether Bubba and co were in there as well. Unlikely, admittedly. Amy Winehouse, possibly. A source said: 'Sophie was mortified. When she arrived at Waterloo she'd been drinking pretty much all day. An idea to board Eurostar for a romantic Christmas mini-break was mooted and Sophie wanted to hop on and go. Unsurprisingly, she couldn't find the train. She started yelling things like "don't you know who I am?" and shoving people out of the way.' However, a friend later added: 'She made one silly comment to a passer-by and that was it. Sophie feels terrible about it all and has paid the price.' You mean 'do you know who I am?' isn't a silly comment?