Monday, December 14, 2009

Winners, Losers & Middle-Tier Celebrities

In what was probably the least unexpected news of the year, Little South Shields Joe won The X Factor last night. Lots of people watched it. It was all right. And, very well predicted, Our Simon. Meanwhile, Jenson Button came second in the Sports Personality of the Year Award to Ryan Giggsy-Wiggsy. Not particularly well-tipped, Mr Telly Topping.

Can we talk about proper TV now?

Eddie Izzard was honoured with a special award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for his epic marathon feats in aid of Sport Relief. The popular forty seven-year-old action transvestite actor and comedian ran an incredible forty three marathons around the UK, covering over one thousand miles miles in just fifty one days and raised over two hundred thousand knicker for charity. Eddie completed the endurance event following just five weeks of training. In 2006, fellow comedian David Walliams also received a special award after he swam the Channel also in aid of Sport Relief. After picking up the award, Izzard explained that he took up the concept of running round the country 'as a health idea. But I'm no athlete,' he told the audience. 'Not like everybody here tonight. It was really tough,' he added. 'Everything was painful. People asked me if I enjoyed the running but I enjoyed the stopping! I staggered, I ran and I crawled.'

Larry Lamb has predicted that the current series three will not be the last of Gavin & Stacey. Oh, crap. Just when we thought it was safe to get our hopes up ...

Sacked Strictly judge Arlene Phillips had claimed that Ali Bastian had no sex appeal on the dance floor. According to the Sun, the veteran choreographer 'blasted the sexy star' of The Bill, for having 'the passion of a pomegranate' after she was given the boot in Saturday's semi-final. Can't spot the likeness, personally but then I reckon Arlene Phillips has all of the tact and taste of a big ugly warthog. Swings and roundabouts, is it not? Despite a perfect fifty out of fifty for her American Smooth with partner Brian Fortuna, Ali failed to win viewers over. It looked pretty sexy to me. Meanwhile, Dancing With The Stars professional Derek Hough has been tipped to join the Strictly team in 2010. According to the Daily Mail, the twenty four-year-old Utah-born dancer visited the UK to watch the show being filmed and is currently in talks about being added to the professional roster on the BBC1 show. Hough previously starred as a judge on Bruno Tonioli and Arlene Phillips' 2007 BBC series DanceX.

Outnumbered and Harry Hill's TV Burp were the big winners at this year's British Comedy Awards last night. Outnumbered - a particular favourite of this blogger - won prizes, for best sitcom, best British comedy and best female comedy newcomer for child actress Ramona Marquez. TV Burp was named best comedy entertainment programme for the second year running, while Harry himself also picked up the prize for best comedy entertainment personality. The Inbetweeners star Simon Bird built on his newcomer prize last year to be crowned best TV comedy actor, while the actress award went to The IT Crowd's Katharine Parkinson. Pulling, which won an award for actress Sharon Horgan last year, won the TV comedy drama prize, despite having been cancelled by BBC3. Other winners included Psychoville, named best new comedy, sketch show Harry & Paul and Charlie Brooker, who was named best male comedy newcomer for Channel 4 show You Have Been Watching. The judges were on safer ground than last year, when Russell Brand was named best stand-up just weeks after the Sachsgate furore hit the headlines. This year, Brand's partner-in-crime Jonathan Ross returned to host the event and made several jokes about the BBC's compliance culture. Meanwhile, the stand-up award went to Michael McIntyre. Special prizes were also awarded to Father Ted writer Graham Linehan, Peter Kay (why, for the love of God, why?) and Sir Terry Wogan.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spent a night in hospital after being harshly smacked in the snitch and knocked to the ground following a political rally in Milan. Pictures showed Mr Berlusconi, seventy three, with a badly cut lip and blood on his cheek and chin and it was subsequently revealed that he had suffered a broken nose. A man, who reportedly hit Berlusconi with a model of Milan Cathedral, has been arrested. The prime minister, media mogul and owner of AC Milan, looking dazed as he was helped to his feet by aides and put in a car. He got out and tried to climb on the car to show he was all right. He was taken to a hospital in Milan after the attack. The Italian news agency Ansa said he was to stay under observation for twenty four hours, but there was no immediate report on the extent of his injuries.

Holby City's executive producer, Tony McHale, is to stand down from his role it has been announced. McHale co-created Casualty's sister show alongside Mal Young, wrote the first ever episode, which aired in 1999, and served as the programme's lead writer, before opting to take a break several years later. He then returned in 2006 as executive producer. Speaking of his decision to stand down, he said: 'I've had a terrific four years on Holby and am thrilled with what we've achieved. I'd like to thank cast, crew and production for all their hard work, talent and dedication. I know the show will go on from strength to strength.' Controller of drama at the BBC John Yorke said: 'It's been a privilege to work with him, and we will all miss his extraordinary passion, vision and determination that Holby should be the best, most ambitious and most exciting show on BBC1.' He added in a message to staff: 'It's worth pointing out that Tony was the first writer in the country ever entrusted with the status of showrunner on a big prime time drama, and it's to his immense credit that he has pulled it off with such success. Never out of the top ten, almost always in the top five and with a glorious BAFTA victory to his credit, we will all miss him hugely, and wish him the best of luck with future projects.'

Louis Walsh has told the People that he doesn't believe reports which suggest Simon Cowell is planning to leave The X Factor. 'Simon will never give up being on telly,' Walsh joked. 'He's too vain. Simon said he didn't want to be a judge forever, but he will. He enjoys doing it and without him I'm not sure if the show would go ahead. It wouldn't be the same. Simon and I have our rows but he does, actually, know what he's doing. He's a character and a talented man. Even before The X Factor started he was the brains behind Westlife and look how many number ones they have had.' However, Walsh admitted that he is often annoyed by the category of contestants Cowell gives him. 'I do get peed off with Simon when I'm not given the best category,' he said. 'I suppose it's like he has his favourites.'

Dannii Minogue, meanwhile, has not decided to quit her judging role on The X Factor, it has been claimed. It was suggested in various newspaper reports over the weekend that the singer was 'highly likely' to leave the show, with ex-Spice Girl and Jimmy Saville-lookalike, Mel B, being named as a potential successor. However, an insider told Metro: 'The story that she has quit is total rubbish. She is not quitting. If she is offered it again, then she will decide if she wants to do it.' Recent reports in the Mirror have claimed that Simon Cowell is planning to increase the number of panellists on the show to five, with Robbie Williams being considered for the additional position.

The BBC is to host pitching workshops for independent producers and will post journalism masterclasses by Robert Peston and John Humphrys online, as part of a wide-ranging initiative to share its training resources. It is also opening up its multiplatform training scheme, the Multiplatform Foundation, to other broadcasters and trade bodies PACT and Bectu, and will partner with ITV and Channel 4 on existing diversity schemes. The masterclass will also include coaching on ideas development and is open to all out-of-London companies and in-house producers, to 'share and nurture best practice.' It has been piloted in Belfast and is due to take place in Glasgow and Cardiff early in the new year. The corporation is opening up its College of Journalism website, which has been running for three years and includes workshops by Evan Davis, Jenni Murray and Jeremy Vine as well as Peston and Humphrys. They cover topics ranging from practical journalism skills to ethical and values of journalism, which are tested in hundreds of interactive video and audio modules. The BBC claims that there is no course of the same depth currently on the market and the site will be available by subscription outside the UK. Meanwhile the corporation will link its Extend Scheme, which aims to open up the media industry to people with disabilities, with ITV's similar Enabling Talent programme, and join forces with Channel 4 on its Diversity 2010 programme. The scheme aims to 'improve understanding of modern thinking about diversity,' through a series of workshops for senior figures that will highlight examples of best practice in politics, the commercial sector and communities, as well as in the media industry.

James Corden has reportedly started talks about hosting his own BBC football World Cup show. According to the Sun, the programme would be similar to David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Fantasy Football League series. 'James is a massive football fan and also very funny so this is the perfect show for him,' said a source. Well, one of those two statements is certainly true.

Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks has agreed to axe its upcoming child killer plot just days before transmission. Last month Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered child James Bulger, expressed her outrage at the Liverpool-based serial embarking on a storyline that she believed had been based on her son's death. In scenes that were scheduled to air this week, the past of Loretta Jones (Melissa Walton) was to return to haunt her in the form of her old friend, Chrissy (Amber Hodgkiss). It would soon be revealed that the pair had been living under false names since they bullied a twelve-year-old to death when they were the same age. Despite the subtle differences between the storyline and the 1993 Bulger case, Fergus demanded a meeting with the show's bosses at its production house Lime Pictures in Liverpool. She subsequently attended a private screening of four episodes, before meeting with Hollyoaks' executive producer Tony Wood and Lime Pictures' Managing Director Sean Marley to express her upset over the story as it 'carried distinctive similarities to events following the murder of her son.' Due to the nature of the complaint, Lime Pictures agreed to drop and re-mould the storyline and invited Fergus to work with the show to shape future plots affecting young people.

More4 is to explore the year leading up to American student Amanda Knox's twenty six-year jail sentence for the murder of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher. An intimate portrait of Knox and her family will begin the new season of documentary strand True Stories next month. The Trials of Amanda Knox will feature interviews with the Knox family and Amanda's friends, alongside exclusive access to the letters that she has written from prison in Italy. Knox began her sentence this month for the murder, which took place in Perugia in November 2007. She is expected to launch an appeal next year. More4 editor Tabitha Jackson, who ordered the documentary from Red Eye Pictures, said the film aimed to capture the truth behind the headlines in the high-profile case. 'The arrest of Amanda and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and their subsequent trial has attracted an almost unprecedented level of attention and comment from around the world. But the level of noise and in many cases hysteria, has made it almost impossible to discern the basic facts of the case.'

The BBC was forced to mount 'a rearguard action' yesterday to reassure some of its biggest names after a leaked document put them at the bottom of a talent league table according to The Times. Michael Palin and Delia Smith, who taught a whole generation how to cook, are both dismissed on the list as 'occasional sparkle but limited appeal.' Instead Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director who turned his hand to presenting five years ago, heads the list as 'top tier — highly valued.' The list of fifty four names is believed to have been drawn up by an executive at BBC Knowledge, the department responsible for documentaries and factual programmes. Its publication is said to have caused serious embarrassment to the BBC. Some commentators have suggested that it 'provides an insight into what the BBC thinks of its stars' after it refused to publish their salaries, despite an outcry from licence-fee payers over Jonathan Ross' six million pounds-a-year pay packet. While BBC executives rushed to reassure those presenters who had been criticised, agents of those in the top tier calculated how much more money they could demand for their stars' services. Dan Cruickshank, the architectural historian, described in the list as having only 'average appeal,' said: 'I was telephoned this morning by a BBC executive who told me that this was not an official list and I was not to worry.' George Entwistle, the controller of BBC Knowledge, refused to comment at his home in south London over the weekend and 'shut his front door in a reporter's face.' The newspaper claimed that he has 'personal knowledge' of several of the talents who do well on the list. He was an editor of Newsnight, whose main presenter, Jeremy Paxman, is listed in the top tier. The pussycat's friend, Emily Maitlis, another Newsnight presenter, is marked as 'mid range.' As an executive editor at BBC Arts, Entwistle launched The Culture Show on BBC2, both of whose presenters, Lauren Laverne and Mark Kermode, get good mentions on the list. Later his role as acting controller of BBC4 coincided with the success of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. Brooker is also rated as 'top tier — highly valued.' Frankly, as far as this blogger is concerned any list that has Charlie Brooker ahead of Michael Palin is doing something right. Palin himself is reported to have said: 'If limited appeal means getting an eight million audience for a travel show I guess one has to live with it. Occasional sparkle? I'd like to have that on my gravestone.' Raymond Blanc, the presenter of the BBC2 hit show The Restaurant, said he 'hated the idea of being mid-range because I always strive for excellence.' Griff Rhys Jones, whose last series on Britain's rivers was a considerable success and who is rated 'top tier,' said: 'My agent will be very interested to read some of the rankings.'

Hugh Grant has revealed that 'girls keep me youthful.' It's all right for some, innit?

Shares in BSkyB surged on Friday morning after the city broker Cazenove issued a statement suggesting that a Tory election victory could be good news for the company. And, in other news, it has been confirmed that bears shit in the woods. The broker argued that a change in government could result in a regulatory pressure on the company, in the shape of Ofcom's pay-TV review, easing. It said: 'The question is whether Ofcom will be able to implement its proposals immediately or else whether Sky is granted a stay ahead of any appeal process, which would be long and drawn out. Given recent statements from David Cameron, it is tempting to jump to the conclusion that the egulatory and political environment may shift in favour of Sky during 2010.'

The BBC has recruited Sarah Edwards, head of entertainment development at TalkbackThames, to bolster its in-house entertainment production team. Edwards, who developed BBC1's Hole in The Wall, will join as head of format entertainment in January. Her other development credits include The Weakest Link and Eggheads for the BBC, In It To Win It and Coach Trip for Channel 4, and ITV's new dating format, Take Me Out. Prior to joining TalkbackThames, Edwards was head of development at Twelve Yard Productions. She has also worked previously at the BBC. In her new role, she will develop new entertainment formats across London, Manchester and Scotland. She will report to controller of entertainment Jon Beazley, and work closely with head of format entertainment, Martin Scott, head of entertainment production in Manchester Helen Bullough, and Eileen Herlihy, who is head of entertainment and events in Scotland. 'It's a brilliant time to get stuck into developing some new ideas for one of the few production teams capable of making big hit shows,' Edwards said. 'I have had a fantastic time at Talkback Thames, working with some of the best entertainment teams in the business, but as a development person I couldn’t resist a job where there are real opportunities for big and exciting commissions.'

Dollhouse hit a season high in terms of ratings on Friday night, according to the latest viewing figures. The first episode of the evening, Stop-Loss, pulled in 2.72m during the 8pm hour, topping the previous high of 2.57m for the second season premiere. Both of Friday's episodes continued the trend of the previous week with clever plot twists and great writing. Keith Telly Topping particularly enjoyed the huge unexpected finale to the second episode.

Patsy Palmer wants both David Wicks and Dan Sullivan to return to Walford for her character's second wedding to Ricky Butcher. The EastEnders actress said that she was delighted that Carol, Robbie, Sonia, and Billie Jackson are all returning for Bianca Jackson's big day. However, Palmer added that the presence of Wicks (Michael French) and Sullivan (Craig Fairbrass) would add extra drama. 'I'd love David back - Michael is great,' she told Inside Soap. 'I also want to see Bianca's ex Dan Sullivan return. But I'm a bit selfish - the only stories I can think of for them are about me!' Show producers confirmed last month that Ricky (Sid Owen) and Bianca are to remarry in February to coincide with the soap's Twenty Fifth anniversary celebrations. The storyline will begin at Christmas when Ricky decides to propose.

Tiger Woods' lawyers made use of the UK courts to bring a bizarre legal case to prevent publication of nude pictures his lawyers say may not even exist claim the Daily Mail. The move was, according to the paper, being seen as another attempt by foreign celebrities to use British law to censor authors, publishers and journalists around the world. The decision was taken at a secret hearing last week at the request of the disgraced golfer's UK solicitors, Schillings, who have previously acted for a string of celebrity clients in high profile privacy cases. So 'secret,' it would seem, that the Mail can talk freely about it. But, anyway, no prior notice of the move was given to the British media, preventing any objection to the ban on publication of what the US media has described as nude photos of the golfer. It comes after it was reported that a US soft porn magazine had been offered naked pictures of Tiger Woods, the Mail claims. But, they continue, his lawyers deny that any nude photographs exist and suggest that any images in circulation have been doctored. Legal experts have described the move, which prevents the media in Britain from reproducing material that could freely be published in America, as 'unbelievable.' The injunction was granted by High Court judge Mr Justice Eady amid intense speculation about Woods' extra-marital activities.

And finally, Ronnie Wood's former girlfriend, Ekaterina Ivanova, has spoken for the first time about her split with the Rolling Stone guitarist, describing him as 'an evil goblin' according to the Telegraph. Hands up who kind of knew that was going to happen?