Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week Six: Nature Is A Language, Can't You Read?

This week saw another splendidly manic episode of Qi, dear blog reader. (And, of course, of Qi: XL - now the preferred option for the cognoscenti, it would appear). I think that yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite line on the show ever might just have been when Stephen Fry noted that, contrary to common belief, Catherine the Great did not die whilst on the lavatory. 'Although she did have a stroke on the commode,' he added. 'Is that a euphemism for something?' asked Alan Davies with impeccable comic timing! Friday also, sadly, saw the final episode of Dollhouse in the US - cancelled after two series due to general viewer apathy despite its brave and smart construction. Joss Whedon's exploration of the nature of human identity ended pretty much as it began, with much intelligence, wit and fabulous acting. And hardly any viewers at all. Sometimes, as The Smiths once noted, The World Won't Listen. Better luck with the next project, Joss. Although, it has to be said there does seem a remarkable reticence on the part of the general public to actually watch any of the TV shows the man produces - however good they may be. (And, they've all been more than merely 'a bit good,' trust me. You should, too, I'm a highly respected television reviewer, apparently!) Come on Joss, try writing something big, dumb, mind-blowing and a hit. You owe it to yourself. And, possibly, to your bank manager as well.

Let's have the next batch of Top Telly Tips.

Friday 5 February
My Boyfriend The MI5 Hoaxer - 7:30 Channel 4 - is an Adrian Gatton documentary which recounts the extraordinary story of an innocent nineteen-year-old woman's year-long relationship with her hoaxer boyfriend. A man whom she believed was an MI5 agent. Swept off her feet by conman Wayne Gouveia, Oxford-based shop assistant Leanne McCarthy was embroiled in a series of stake-outs and car chases as Gouveia attempted to convince her of his fake identity. As it transpired, Gouveia was an extremely sophisticated hoaxer with a track record of duping young women into his fantasy world.

Yer Keith Telly Topping caught a recent episode of Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World - 9:00 BBC2 - almost by chance (mainly because it was on BBC2 before Qi!) and was, frankly, rather impressed with it. I'm always a bit of a sucker for a good populist historical documentary. In the last of this four-part series, Dan Snow explores the ups and downs of a climactic century in naval and British history. The Nineteenth-century Navy used 'gunboat diplomacy' - not to mention rum, sodomy and the lash - to push British interests further afield. Technological advances saw Britain and France engage in an arms race over battleships. When Germany emerged as a new threat, Admiral Jackie Fisher was called to reform the Navy. Fisher believed in peace through deterrence and had plans for a huge new battleship. Dan Snow is rapidly becoming the BBC's go-to guy when they need somebody young and interest to present a history show (that used to be Neil Oliver's job). Since that battlefields thing he did with his dad, Peter, Dan's become a very accomplished presenter with a nice enthusiasm for the subject that drags the viewer in.

Saturday 6 February
As with the previous show The Virtual Revolution - 8:15 BBC2 - was something that Keith Telly Topping caught the first episode of and feels thoroughly justified in recommending that you all try to catch up with if you missed it. In this series the articulate and personable Doctor Aleks Krotoski continues her investigation into how the World Wide Web is transforming all of our lives and the both positive and negative effects of technological advances. In this episode, she charts how the web is forging a new brand of politics, both in democracies and authoritarian regimes. With contributions from Al Gore, Martha Lane Fox, Stephen Fry, Tim Berners-Lee and Bill Gates, Aleks explores how interactive, unmediated sites like Twitter and Youtube have encouraged direct action and politicised young people in unprecedented numbers. And, take a well-deserved bow all of you good people of Harrogate, which, according to the research conducted for this programme, is Britain's capital for online porn consumption! It always looked such a quiet, unassuming place as well.

Or, if you have only sludge for brains then you could try the vomit-for-entertainment that is All Star Mr & Mrs - 8:30 ITV instead. Comedian Robert Webb and his wife Abigail, actor Andrew Sachs and his wife Melody and Anthea Turner and her husband Grant Bovey endeavour to answer questions about their relationships, in the hopes of winning up to thirty thousand pounds for their chosen charities. Fern Britton and Phillip Schofield are the hosts. Poxy, lice-ridden misery-in-a-bowl. Those responsible should be whipped to within an inch of their lives. And then whipped some more.

Sunday 7 February
The Great Rift: Africa's Wild Heart - 9:00 BBC2 - is a rather fine looking series investigating the geological forces that have shaped East Africa's Great Rift Valley, one of the most spectacular natural structures in the world. The valley provides the stage for an epic battle between trees and grass - its course influenced by volcanic eruptions, landscape and rainfall. On its outcome rests the fate of Africa's great game herds. In the Rift's savannas, grazers and their predators struggle to outwit each other, forcing one group of primates to develop a social system that paved the way for the evolution of mankind.

In case you hadn't noticed, 24 is back - 9:00 Sky1. Day Eight of the real-time drama continues a-pace and Big-Hard-Angry-Violent Jack Bauer teams with a damaged, hollow-eyed Renee Walker (his ex-FBI girlfriend in the previous series) to chase some dangerous leads. Meanwhile, cross-eyed but loveable President Taylor learns of a threat that seriously jeopardises the peace accord with Hassan (played by 'him out of Slumdog Millionaire'). Bit of a slow start to the series, so far, but it all picks up a bit when you get to a couple of 24 staples - a helicopter getting blown up and somebody having their hand cut off with a hacksaw for dramatically shaky purposes. Good old fashioned family entertainment, so it is.

Monday 8 February
In Dispatches: Post Office Undercover - 8:00 Channel 4 - two reporters go undercover to Copper's Nark on whether the Royal Mail has made any effort to improve its service. Perhaps inevitably, they find that staff are struggling with an antiquated system, poorly trained agency workers and defective equipment, yet some managers express contempt for the customers and complain that the service disruptions are caused by union disputes. Because, let's face it, if they hadn't found that, they wouldn't really have much of a programme, would they? 'The Royal Mail? It's doing ... all right' doesn't really have much potential for the Shock! Horror! Pictures! stuff that Dispatches usually goes for. Nevertheless, with millions of pounds a year being paid to compensate customers for lost post, Dispatches asks whether the Royal Mail can deliver on its promises. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that their likely answer is going to be 'no.' And, having recently had to weight seven days for three package sent from London to Newcastle, first class, to be delivered, then for once I'm going to agree with them.

Getting Our Way - 9:00 BBC4 - sees former British Ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, looking back at five hundred years of intrigue and adventure to construct a history of British diplomacy from the inside. Interesting idea for a series and it's very well presented. Christopher begins by putting himself in the shoes of diplomats battling to protect British national security at three stages of our history - Sir Henry Killigrew in Elizabethan times, Lord Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna following Napoleon's defeat and David Ormsby-Gore manoeuvring to acquire nuclear weapons from a reluctant America. Sounds fascinating.

The Good Wife - 10:00 Channel 4 - is a legal drama series starring the excellent Julianna Margulies about a woman who returns to her job as a defence attorney to support her family after her husband is sent to jail. Alicia puts her misgivings behind her and represents the son of a former friend who snubbed her as soon as news of the scandal broke out. The boy has been accused of murder. Alicia also sees Peter who takes a call from a prostitute while she's there. This imported drama looks to have the makings of a minor cult hit for Channel 4 in the way that Boston Legal did a few years ago.

Tuesday 9 February
One Born Every Minute - 9:00 Channel 4 - is an example of something we haven't had from TV for a while: The fly-on-the-wall documentary series filmed in a busy maternity ward. In the first programme, Tracy is upbeat about the birth of her fourth child until the baby's heart rate slows and the midwife must hurry to deliver it quickly. Meanwhile, nervous first-time mother Lisa is even more frightened when she learns she will need a Caesarian section and that her baby's first few precarious days will be spent in an incubator.

Two years ago, Taiwanese-born chef Ching He-Huang's delightful Chinese Food Made Easy got something of a cult following on BBC2. It was a particular favourite of Yer Keith Telly Topping who loves a bit of chilli salt and pepper King Prawn with fried rice to a point that is almost beyond all laws of God and Man. Well, Ching's back, albeit on a different channel in Chinese Food in Minutes - 7:30 Five. Tonight, two gospel singers cook up a feast for their choir. On the menu is a sizzling chicken and black bean stir-fry and succulent sweet-and-sour ribs. Will the singers, with Ching's help, prove to be gifted Chinese chefs?

If you like witty and fun food shows on TV then it's a great night for you because we've also got another episode of The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best - 8:00 BBC2. On your one special day of the year, you deserve the best dish on the menu and who better to steer you in the right direction than Davey Myers and Si King, the Hairy Bikers? Join them as they visit three mums and discover what they hold dearest for the day of many happy returns. The lads rustle up a summer berry trifle (oh, stop it, I'm feeling hungry now), while our mums treat the boys to such varied dishes as a Manchester tart, Greek stuffed vine leaves and a Caribbean Saturday soup. Scrummy.

Wednesday 10 February
The latest episode of Natural World - 8:00 BBC2 - is called The Wild Places of Essex. It's all wild, isn't it? Particularly on a Friday night. Anyway, in this multi-award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane sets out on a journey to explore the unexpected landscapes and natural history of Essex, revealing that there is far more to the county than the stereotypes of white stilettos and boy racers. Allegedly. Macfarlane spends a year travelling the county's strange and elemental landscapes of heavy industry, desolate beaches and wild woods. He encounters massive knot flocks over the Thames and peregrine falcons at Tilbury Power Station. Them Essex birds, eh? Always a handful.

Vampires are all the rage at the moment, you might have noticed. What with the Twilight movies, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and, from a few years earlier, yer Keith Telly Topping's own particular favourite Buffy The Vampire Slayer. BBC3 seem to have noticed this trend. Hence, Vampires: Why They Bite at 9:00. Vampires are 'officially' hot. Apparently. But, as historian and self-confessed vampire nut Lisa Hilton reveals, this isn't society's first bout of vampire mania, merely the latest of several. She uncovers why we have been obsessed with these fanged fiends for centuries and charts their transformation from bloodsucking monster to romantic lead taking in the Victorians overt thirst for a decent bit of vampire lust.

Speaking of flavours of the month, some of the more pretentiously vocal TV critics, most of whom I despire worse than syphillus (and I'm thinking, chiefly, of that utter waste-of-space Alison Graham in the Radio Times here), seemingly can't get through a sentence at the moment without mentioning Mad Men. You know, it's those same people who were saying The Wire was 'the greatest TV show that has ever - or will ever - be made' six months ago, and were pure-dead into name-dropping The Sopranos a year before that and The West Wing a year before that. Which is all vastly annoying to those of us who watched these fine shows from the first episode and already knew they were a bit special. I hate Johnny-or-Jennie-Come-Latelys, me. Except when, as in the case of The Sopranos, yer Johnny-Come-Lately Telly Topping was just such a bore, himself. But, it is especially annoying in the case of Mad Men where, as Metro recently noted 'the chatterati are out in force, jumping on the Mad Men bandwagon and claiming it as their own, even though they only caught up with the first two seasons on DVD in a rented cottage in Cornwall over Christmas!' Anyway, if you haven't come across the series before, then where the Hell have you been? It's a US drama which takes an unflinchingly harsh and venal look at the world of advertising in 1960s Madison Avenue New York. In tonight's episode a new client with money to throw around is very excited about doing business with the firm, but his father is a friend of Bertram's - will they take the money? Peggy searches for a new roommate and Betty receives bad news.

Thursday 11 February
In tonight's episode of Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - David Platt rides to the rescue after Joe's vanishing act in the Lakes. Come again? David doing something noble and honest for a change? How'd that happen? Meanwhile, Leanne goes to Ken to help Peter in his hour of need. And, Sunita is in a situation and only the dashing Dev can help.

Bill Bailey's Birdwatching Bonanza at 9:00 is Sky's attempt to do a birdwatching show that features somebody marginally 'cooler' than that wretched little Communist Bill Oddie. The great and wonderful Bill Bailey certainly qualifies. This is, of course, a birdwatching series with something of a twist; you'd expect nothing less either from Bill or, indeed, from Sky. The final stars to take their place on the twitching challenge are Trudie Goodwin and Josie D'Arby. Both of whom I actually had to look up to find out who they were. So, this is clearly the I'm A Celebrity (And I Use That Word Quite Wrongly) ... version of Top Telly Twitching. Through it all, however, Bill is his usual witty and knowledgeable self. It's a bit like Extreme Fishing With Robson Green I guess. Only with more birds, obviously. And, less fish.

It's a very good night for those viewers who enjoy watching talented chaps with beards on their TV. Derren Brown: Something Wicked this Way Comes - 10:50 Channel 4 - a repeat of Dazzling Dezza's award-winning stage show filmed live at the Old Vic, London, featuring audience participation, shocking stunts, mesmerism, prestidigitation and many subliminal mind games. This is one of Derren's best theatre routines and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment Show 2006. Viewers are warned, however, you might want to close your eyes at the bit where Derren appears to walk over a carpet of broken glass.

We mentioned Simon King's Shetland Diaries - 8:00 BBC2 - last week in which cruel and wicked Simon takes his wife and and daughter and makes them live with him for a year in the Shetland Isles. Spring arrives in Shetland, bringing with it an influx of wildlife from all over the world. Simon dives in the sea and discovers starfish, dead man's fingers and moon jellyfish. He also gets very close-up to a seal. Did you know, dear blog reader that in 2007 Simon and an assistant were attacked by a rabid cheetah in Kenya while filming for Natural World? They were both given rabies jabs and did not develop the disease, although the cheetah itself later died. That's what happens when you bite Simon King, all you animals out there. You get dead. Don't do it, it's not worth it.

And, so to some Top Telly News. John Barrowman has reportedly joined the cast of Desperate Housewives. According to the Daily Mail, Big Gay John has signed up to appear in several episodes of the drama. The Torchwood actor is said to be playing a villain in the show, but the storylines are currently being kept secret. He will allegedly begin filming his scenes in March so that they can be broadcast in the US this spring. Oh, John's gonna love that the mostest, baby. I'm supposing that him getting to wear shoulder-pads will be part of the deal?

Cage fighter Alex Reid was voted the winner of this year's Channel 4 series of Celebrity Big Brother on Friday night. Singer Dane Bowers came second in the competition and ex-footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones came third. Reid, who was booed on the launch night of the show, said he was 'overwhelmed' at winning the show.

Bryan Batt has been dropped from the upcoming - fourth - season of Mad Men. The actor, who played the gay art director Salvatore Romano in the show, revealed his concerns earlier this week that he had not secured another year with the drama. Show bosses have now confirmed that Batt will not be returning for the programme's forthcoming season, Starpulse reports. Series creator Matthew Weiner said: 'Losing Bryan was a tough moment for the show, but that's where we are. I know how people felt about Bryan. I obviously love working with him, and he has been an indelible character since the pilot. But I felt it was an expression of the times that he couldn't work there anymore.'

Snoop Dogg has revealed that he would love to add a guest stint on Coronation Street to his list of cameo appearances. The US rapper said that fans are often surprised to hear that he is a huge fan of the ITV soap. He told the Sun: 'When I'm in Britain I love to eat Indian food and chill in my hotel room and watch Coronation Street. I've done guest roles in shows in the US. If Coronation Street want me to make a cameo then, cool, let's do it. Maybe I could just play myself doing a concert in Manchester and I could come in to the pub for lunch.' Snoop said the soap is as iconic in Manchester as the Statue Of Liberty is in New York. 'I'm not interested in other soaps like EastEnders, Coronation Street is what it's all about,' he said.

NBC has revealed that it will lose two hundred and fifty million dollars when it puts its regular programming on hold to bring the Winter Olympics to US viewers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the massive - eight hundred million plus dollars - broadcast rights fee has caused the slide. 'It would be tough for anybody,' said John Skipper, executive Vice President of ESPN. 'The current economy is overwhelmingly a factor.' The network's troubles have apparently surprised many observers, who have gotten used to NBC and its sports impresario Dick Ebersol meeting challenges. Vancouver is NBC's sixth consecutive Olympics, the longest streak for a US station. NBC Universal will offer more than eight hundred hours of live coverage, which is more than the past two Winter Olympics combined. 'They weren't really anticipating having the economic problems that they've encountered in the last several years,' said Dennis Mazzocco, a Hofstra University professor and producer of twelve Olympic telecasts. 'It was a gamble, no question.' Well, that's what you get for dropping The West Wing you stupid bastards. What goes around comes around.

GMTV presenters reportedly feel like they have been given a 'slap in face' by executives who have issued viewers with 'humiliating' surveys about them. Would it be possible, I wonder, for Kate Garraway to be given an actual slap in the face? Just, you know, for comparison purposes. Insiders claim that the questionnaires are worded in an 'incredibly loaded and negative way' and have led to fears that feedback could help producers decide which of them will get the sack. According to the Mirror, the first survey is on sports presenter Dan Lobb and gives a list of comments about him such as 'his presenting style lacks energy.' Andrew Castle, John Stapleton, Kate Garraway, Ben Shephard, Emma Crosby and Penny Smith (seen left, wearing kinky boots and a short skirt like an Avengers-girl for the noughties ... So, it's to be hoped they keep her) will be the focus of further such sudies in the coming weeks. 'The poll feels like a massive slap in the face for the presenters. Half of the statements are loaded and immediately put a negative spin in the viewer's mind,' an insider said. 'The presenters are extremely upset that their perceived failings will be laid bare for all to see. They are already feeling very insecure about the review that's taking place and the poll just adds to the paranoia.' GMTV chiefs claimed that the surveys have nothing to do with possible cost-cutting changes, with a spokesman saying: 'We do regular research to take account of viewers' feedback. It's not related to ITV's review of the GMTV business.'

Fiona Bruce was forced to ad-lib on the Six O'Clock News last week when the weather-girl was late on set. According to the Daily Mail, Bruce handed over to Louise Lear for the weather before being told that Lear wasn't ready. 'She will be getting here in just a moment,' Bruce told viewers, with that husky, minxy delivery of hers. 'She's getting ready. She's poising herself beside the weather. We are on tenterhooks to find out what she's going to say. I could tell you about the weather myself, actually, as Louise gets ready. But I don't really know what it's going to be like. But Louise is the woman to tell us. Louise, are you ready?' Lear was then seen, still fastening her jacket, when the cameras finally moved to the weather and she apologised to viewers. 'Slowly but surely, we will get there in the end,' she joked. 'You will have to excuse the unfitted jacket, but never mind.' At the end of Lear's segment, Bruce congratulated her and said: 'Masterfully done, Louise.' A BBC spokesperson explained that the confusion was caused when the running order was changed to accommodate the news of JD Salinger's death. That sod. First he puts Holden Caulfield in an asylum, then he causes Fiona Bruce some on-air kerfufflement. Literary genius he might've been, it's true, but frankly there's just no mercy for the latter crime.

Tesco has been criticised for banning shoppers in pyjamas in light of an advert for the supermarket which featured Martin Clunes shopping in his nightware. The Men Behaving Badly star was shown in the 2007 TV commercial running into the store for some milk, clad only in his jammies. A shopper told the Sun: 'Why is it OK for posh Mr Clunes, but not for normal people like us?' I don't, actually, think Martin's poshness has anything to do with the matter, frankly. Anyway, Tesco spokesman David Nieberg said that the irony had not been missed by the company. However, he added that the commercial was not meant to reflect reality. 'Another ad shows a shopper getting picked up in a hot air balloon - and we do not provide parking facilities for balloons,' he said. Good answer. Albeit, I'm sure somebody will complain about the lack of such facilities. Probably the Daily Mail.

As one of the country's leading dramatists, Stephen Poliakoff is used to getting his own way at the BBC. In fact, the veteran writer once boasted that at the corporation, 'nobody has tried to interfere' with his work. So when a BBC executive attempted to do exactly that, Poliakoff created such a furious scene that staff ended up calling security after becoming alarmed by the shouting, claims the Daily Mail. The row reportedly happened at Television Centre in West London after he was told that in future he would have to submit his projects for approval. The fifty seven-year-old award-winning writer was in a meeting with the BBC's drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson. Poliakoff - who infamous once said: 'I don't have to refer casting decisions upwards, and that is a right I guard tenaciously' - was is alleged to have told by Stephenson that he would have to submit to the same process of pitching ideas as the rest of the BBC's stable of writers. He was also told his next project would not be commissioned without him writing a script first. A source said: 'He was shouting and yelling - the noise coming from Stephenson's office was extraordinary. One of his staff called down to security to make sure nothing happened. By the time they arrived, the moment had passed so no action was taken.' The meeting was also attended by Lorraine Heggessey, one of the most powerful women in television and the boss of independent production company Talkback Thames, which produces Poliakoff's dramas. Poliakoff has developed a reputation as one of Britain's premier dramatists. His TV plays attracted large viewing figures for work such as Shooting The Past, about a library threatened with closure, starring Timothy Spall and Lindsay Duncan. But his more recent films have not been so popular. His latest, Glorious 39 - a conspiracy thriller about British appeasement of Hitler and co-produced by the BBC - cost almost four million pounds, yet has made only three hundred thousand at the UK box office since it was released late last year. Pride & Prejudice screenwriter Deborah Moggach criticised Poliakoff this month, saying: 'I think he is complete rubbish, actually. People think he is profound. I just don't rate him very highly. I resent him for having an over-reverential coterie of people at the BBC who think he has something significant to say.' A BBC spokesman refused to comment on the incident. He said: 'The BBC has enjoyed a long and successful working relationship with Stephen and continues to do so with the recent film Glorious 39 and new dramas currently in development that we are very excited about.' The question has to be asked of course - if this story is genuine (and, with Mail, that's always something that needs to be taken with a decent sack of salt) then why should Poliakoff be exempt from the process? If it's good enough for acclaimed, award-winning scriptwriters like Russell Davies and Jimmy McGovern to have scripts vetted then why not him? That's if it's true. Which it might not be. Perhaps, we'll never care.

Mouthy, opinion-on-just-about-everything Coleen Nolan has reportedly said that Heather Mills should focus on her skating, rather than talking about her artificial leg. What any of this has to do with Ms Nolan, you might wonder? Keith Telly Topping, to be honest, couldn't give a monkey's chuff. I just report the news, kids. The former Dancing On Ice contestant added that Sir Paul McCartney's ex-wife should also stop reminding fans that she is giving her fee from the reality show to charity. Mills, who lost her left leg in an accident in 1993, recently twatted (or, whatever it's called) that she has ordered a new leg socket after losing weight while taking part in the show. She earlier said that her determination to stay in the competition would see her skating on one leg if the pain in the socket gets too much. Which would be a sight worth seeing, I'm sure you'll agree ladies and gentlemen. 'Heather Mills is great - but my advice to her would be stop talking about your leg and your charity work and be judged on your dancing,' Nolan said. But, if she doesn't talk about those things then what's she got left to talk about? Her divorce? Nah ... I think there might be a gagging order in force there. According to the Daily Mail, the charity which Mills is donating her fee to is The Hunts Point Alliance for Children in New York's South Bronx. No More Landmines - the organisation which she was previously linked to - has folded, the paper claims. 'They let me go as a patron and I was not allowed to have anything to do with them because of all the lies written about me,' Mills said. 'Paul was supposed to continue to support them. I still do work behind the scenes for minefield charities, but I don't speak loudly about it.' Except on this occasion, of course. Just a one-off. Honest.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Premiership Latest: Never Rub Another Man's Rhubarb

That was yet another very fine episode of Mock the Week we had last night. Chris Addison's stand-up is getting a lot more assured than it used to be a couple of years ago and Wor lovely Sarah Millican is, of course, a stone dead fox (as well as being probably Britain's finest female stand-up comedian). But I must admit the star of the show for me last night was the excellent John Bishop - that's the first time I've really seen much of his comedy (although I'd heard reports that he was very good indeed). Previously, I only really knew him from Skins. It's becoming increasingly noticeable that, without Mad Frankie there, everyone does seem that bit more relaxed and eager to join in on Mock The Week these days. Don't get me wrong, there was no greater fan of Frankie Boyle than I. His surreal explosion of fury a couple of seasons back which culminated in that riff about future cities 'gaining sentience and raising themselves of hydraulic limbs to battle for resources' might, just, be the single funniest moment that television has produced in the entire decade. But, it's just possible that the show has come out of his departure as a better - and more rounded - format because it's not so dependant on one man any more. (Or, at a pinch two, if we include Dara.)

According to a thoroughly nasty, agenda-ridden 'exclusive' in the Gruniad Morning Star, Jeremy Clarkson earned 'more than eight hundred thousand pounds in the year to the end of March 2009 from the company set up to channel profits from the global exploitation of the Top Gear brand.' Well, how bastard-well dare he? Accounts for Bedder Six filed at Companies House showed an after-tax profit of just over two million pounds on a turnover of twenty four million. Jeremy, who reportedly earns around one million smackers per annum for presenting Top Gear, owns thirty per cent of Bedder Six and as a result will have collected four hundred and seventy nine thousand pounds from his share of the company's dividend. He also received a three hundred and fifty grand fee for 'payment for services.' This was more than twice his earnings from Bedder Six during its previous accounting period, when he received three hundred and seventeen thousand quid over the seventeen months to the end of March 2008. Bedder Six has nearly tripled its turnover from £8.675m during the previous seventeen months, when after-tax profit was £1.876m. Andy Wilman, the Top Gear executive producer, is a Bedder Six director along with Clarkson and will also have taken a share of the dividend. And somehow, whilst reporting all of these facts quite straight, the disgraceful Communist scum at the Gruniad still managed, in some way, to make it sound as though it disapproved of some or several aspect of all this. It's called capitalism, boys and girls. Get used to it because it's not going anywhere fast. The corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, owns just over fifty per cent of the company, which was created by Clarkson and Wilman in 2006. Bedder Six is used as the main channel for the profits for Top Gear merchandising and some of the other commercial exploitation of the BBC2 motoring and entertainment show, including foreign sales of the original UK production. So, in other - and slightly less provocative - words, a major shareholder of a business that pays the BBC for the right to distribute a brand (of their own devising) makes some money from this by being successful, internationally and the Guardian, apparently, believes this equates to a story which their left-wing readers would all like to have a right good tut at. How wonderfully, typically, scummishly, British. Clarkson has, apparently, created one of the few things this country can still export to improve the country's trade balance and the Guardian, seemingly, still disapproves. Well done, Jezza. We need more people like you. On both counts. And, the fact that you piss the Daily Mail off as well is just one more reason to add to the list.

Matthew Graham has promised fans that the series finale of Ashes to Ashes will be 'beautiful.' Well, I should bloody-well hope so. We've stuck with it this far, we don't want something that's anything less than beautiful. Writing on his Twitter account, the show's co-creator thanked the cast and crew after completing the series. 'Three nights ago I watched the Ashes finale being filmed,' he said. 'Thank you Cast and Crew for making it so transcendentally beautiful. And powerful.' He also wrote that it will be a 'super-crucial and highly charged series climax' with a 'very exciting sequence involving Chris, Ray, Shaz and a scary elevator.' Graham added that the Life On Mars spin-off will reach a 'thrilling' conclusion and commented that 'it really feels like the characters are entering their end-game.'

GMTV has reportedly sparked complaints to media regulator Ofcom after a 'programme expert' claimed that breast milk can be 'as bad as cola.' Midwife Clare Byam-Cook made the remark yesterday whilst being interviewed on-air by Lorraine Kelly, the Mirror reports. She is quoted as saying: 'Breast milk beyond the age of two isn't necessarily good because it's very, very sweet. The fact that it's breast milk doesn't make it any different to a glass of Coca-Cola.' Byam-Cook's comment was then challenged by the rest of the panel debating the subject. However, it is claimed, by the paper, that 'hundreds' of mothers have now complained about the show's content, branding Byam-Cook's views 'outrageous' in e-mails to GMTV and Ofcom. So, that'll be about four in reality, then? GMTV's ability to be impartial on the subject of breastfeeding has been called into question in the past as its weather slot is sponsored by those well-known child poisoners, Nestlé. A spokesperson for the morning programme insisted: 'This item was fair and balanced.'

Kaya Scodelario has revealed that her Skins alter ego has a 'dark' journey ahead in series four. The seventeen-year-old actress, who plays Effy Stonem on the E4 teen drama, said that her character 'loses it completely' at one point. 'Effy always go through these intense periods in her life, I've realised. This year she goes into a very deep, dark place. She goes on a cool journey in her own mind and loses it completely and needs help. It's surprising who does help her and who she does become close to.' She added that she thinks the decision to axe the cast on the show is 'brave' and 'keeps it fresh.'

Julie Walters has admitted that she almost turned down the chance to play Mo Mowlam in a new biopic about the late politician's life. The actress was confirmed for the Channel 4 drama project last June and the one-off programme, titled Mo, will be broadcast on Sunday night. Mo will tell the story of Mowlam's work in the Labour party, her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks and her battle against cancer. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Walters has now admitted that she initially felt she could not do the role justice because she considers herself to be 'a little weed who totters along.' She continued: 'Our body shapes were completely at odds. My husband Grant described her as being like a hockey mistress and, well, that's not me, is it? Then there was the way she spoke, in a kind of shrill way, with her mouth a bit puckered and squeaky, and I thought, "Oh, God! What have I let myself in for?" I rang my agent and asked him to get me out of it. He said I was talking rubbish and that once I'd put on her wig and glasses, I'd be fine. And he was right.'

BBC employees have rubbished claims by director general Mark Thompson that the corporation should pay senior executives large salaries in order to compete with the private sector. Writing in BBC in-house magazine Ariel, staff questioned why Thompson has to be paid more than anybody else, and highlighted the different rules for rank and file staff and those in top jobs. Lindsay Alexander, who works in global news, said: 'Most of us stay here because we like working at the BBC and value our output more than we value the luxuries value that high salaries can buy. What an enormous pity that the person who heads the BBC doesn't share that same view.' Andreas Gebauer, an assistant editor at the World Service, said that even if the BBC has to pay Future Media and Technology staff in line with the market to secure services like the iPlayer, 'why does it follow that [Thompson], as the DG, needs to be paid more than anybody else? There are plenty of football clubs who pay less than their star players. People who want to work here should know that their salaries will not be the same as in the private sector.' The damning criticisms come after an explosive episode at the BBC News and Sport festival this month, in which Today interviewer Stephen Sackur told Thompson: 'There are huge numbers of people in the organisation who think your salary is plain wrong and corrosive.'

The executive producers of Ugly Betty are reportedly under pressure to finish the series. Since ABC announced plans to cancel the show, the cast are said to have been 'in demand' by casting directors working on new pilots. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Betty execs are now keen to wrap production on the show before filming begins on pilot season to allow the cast time to land new roles. Production is currently scheduled to finish on 25 March, but the producers will apparently try to bring the date forward to align with broadcast pilots, which generally film between the beginning of March and the end of April.

ITV's incoming chief executive Adam Crozier will bring 'transformational change' to the broadcaster, chairman Archie Norman has pledged. Following a protracted and high-profile ten-month search for a new leader, ITV yesterday announced the surprise appointment of former Football Association chief executive Crozier. Norman said in a message to staff that Crozier is a 'terrific leader' with a track record of bringing 'transformational change in consumer businesses.' In a later statement, he further revealed that Crozier was the 'unanimous choice' of the ITV non-executive directors following a thorough selection process. He added that the forty six-year-old's first task will be to 'bring together' the talent within ITV and help drive forward the broadcaster to greater prosperity. 'In his seven years at the Royal Mail, Adam has transformed the group from a loss-making organisation into a profitable business that last year doubled its operating profits to more than three hundred and twenty million pounds,' said Norman. 'He implemented a two billion pound transformation programme and established the Post Office as a leading brand in financial services, with a fast-growing online business.' Yeah. And, had more strikes on his hand than the average box of Swan Vestas. And, what, no mention of his glorious helming of the Football Association? You do surprise me. Crozier, who will reportedly walk away from the Royal Mail with up to two million quid in bonuses, expressed his excitement at joining a company with the heritage and brand status of ITV. 'The entire media sector is going through enormous change and that presents both great opportunities and significant challenges for everyone in the industry,' he said.

ITV's director of programmes, channels and online Peter Fincham is understood to be staying put at the commercial broadcaster, following the appointment of the new chief executive. Fincham, who has helped drive a creative renaissance with an extended version of The X Factor, the drama Collision and the upcoming mini-series The Prisoner, has told senior staff he never applied for the chief executive role at ITV, or at Channel 4. A source close to Fincham said: 'He had the opportunity to apply for the role last year when Rupert Howell and John Cresswell were also in the running, but decided not to. He doesn't harbour grand ambitions to claw his way further up the TV ladder. To use a newspaper analogy, he sees himself as more of an editor than a publisher and wants to keep his hands dirty, rather than being bogged down in corporate affairs and deregulation. The only thing he wants is for [ITV chairman] Archie [Norman] and the new chief executive to let him and his team get on with their jobs of making great programmes.' Yesterday, Norman paid tribute to Fincham and his team, adding that the reason he had opted for Adam Crozier as chief executive was because he 'already had a disproportionate number of star broadcasters.' He also said the 'entire management team' were delighted with the decision.

A new UK comedy writing competition, supported by the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund, the UK Film Council and Working Title Films, has been launched to help aspiring writers break into the film and television world. Writers will be able to submit their scripts until the end of February 2010, when they will then be judged by an industry panel made up of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dan Mazer, Kenton Allen (Big Talk Productions), Sally Caplan (UK Film Council), Amelia Granger (Working Title Films) and Sarah Farrell (Comedy Central). The winning screenplay will be made into a short film, which will be funded by CTBF and the UKFC. The writer will also receive a one thousand pounds cash prize from Working Title. Norma Burke, who will be executive producing the winning short for N20 Entertainment said: 'The UK is an amazing hotbed of comedy talent and this award is a fantastic opportunity for new writers or writers from disciplines such as stand up or theatre to show their funny bones on celluloid whilst working with a team of people who will support and nurture them.'

Former Hear'Say star Suzanne Shaw has been cast in ITV soap Emmerdale. The ex-pop singer, who has established a successful theatre career in recent years, is to play Edna Birch's (Shirley Stelfox) 'feisty and flirtatious' granddaughter Eve on the long-running programme. Shaw first found fame by appearing on ITV reality competition Popstars in 2001. The show saw her winning a place in the band Hear'Say, who remained active for nearly two years before disappearing into the great reality TV music grave in the sky. More recently, the twenty eight-year-old has triumphed on Dancing On Ice and starred in a number of West End musicals, including Chicago, Summer Holiday, The Rocky Horror Show and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Speaking of her new role, Shaw commented: 'I am so excited to be joining the cast of such a popular and long-standing show. It's quite daunting to think I'll be watched by millions of people every night, but I can't wait to get stuck in to country life! Eve is going to be such a fun character to play, she's a real flirt and her arrival is definitely going to cause fireworks.' Emmerdale's series producer Gavin Blyth added: 'We are delighted to welcome Suzanne to the cast. Viewers can look forward to some explosive storylines as Eve cranks up the heat in the village and attracts her fair share of male attention!' Shaw's former Hear'Say bandmate Kym Marsh has been a cast member in ITV's Coronation Street for nearly four years.

Coronation Street producer Kim Crowther has unveiled the casting of Liz McDonald's new lover. Actor Ian Puleston-Davies will take on the role of Owen, the father of Weatherfield's first regular disabled character Izzy - played by Cherylee Houston.

EastEnders actor Scott Maslen has admitted that he would love his character Jack Branning to be unveiled as the killer of Archie Mitchell. Businessman Jack is currently one of several Walford residents who are under suspicion as the police try to determine who murdered Archie at Christmas. Maslen has now commented: 'It would be great if Jack did it - as long as he didn't get put away for years and years, never to be seen again.' He continued: 'I actually have no idea who the murderer is - I thought I did, but now I'm not so sure. It's one of those situations where your gut instinct tells you it's one person, but if you go against that and pick the least likely person, you'll probably be right!'

The BBC has defended its decision to allow Alan Titchmarsh to front a campaign for B&Q, despite him presenting a new gardening programme for the corporation. All BBC presenters must adhere to strict rules governing their participation in commercial activities to negate any potential conflicts of interest. However, gardening and DIY chain B&Q has reassured the BBC that Titchmarsh will not be directly endorsing any of its products, but rather offering advice to customers, reports The Times. 'Alan Titchmarsh is not endorsing our products. There is no plan for him to appear in B&Q TV adverts,' said B&Q horticulture manager Steve Guy. 'He's helping with information to help get people gardening. He will support us with hints and tips for customers.' Titchmarsh will once again front the BBC's coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show in May and also soon start production on new series, Alan's Garden Secrets. BBC Editorial Guidelines state that BBC programming must never be 'undermined by the commercial, business or financial interests of presenters.' Gardener's World presenter Percy Thrower was sacked by the corporation in 1976 after he appeared in an advert for a weedkiller brand. Of course, other weedkiller brands are also available. In Titchmarsh's case, though, the BBC is satisfied that its guidelines have not been broken, particularly as the presenter is not currently appearing on any BBC programming.

PACT has called for the end of BBC Worldwide's first look deal for BBC shows, claiming it is stifling competition among TV distributors. BBCW currently has first say on whether any BBC shows made in-house should be offered to the market and the last chance to outbid any competing bids. Rival distributors picking up BBC shows also have to pay for the use of the BBC brand, a charge that PACT argues BBCW should also have to pay. 'Were BBC Worldwide pay a licence fee to the BBC for the use of the name this would not result in a loss of value to the BBC – it would merely transfer the value of the asset (and thus potential sale price) into an ongoing annual charge,' it argued in a report published today. The producers' body has called for a 'sunset clause' on the scale and scope BBCW's access to, and use of, the BBC brand and for limits on BBCW's lead role in funnelling co-production monies into the BBC, which is currently the main method by which rivals can gain access to significant BBC programming assets. PACT argues that the current arrangements give BBCW unfair advantages in both the domestic and international market, as well as raising questions of transparency and value for licence fee payers. 'The current relationship between BBC Worldwide and the BBC is not appropriate for a stand-alone business, and has contributed to Worldwide being the biggest exporter of British TV in the market,' said PACT chief executive John McVay. 'Choosing not to open up the market for its programmes to competitive bidding also raises the question of whether the BBC is getting a true market value for its programmes, and ultimately, the full return on their investment funded by the licence fee payer. These are areas that need to be addressed before it can be privatized, but also if it is not.'

A martial arts expert from Barnstaple who featured in a Channel 4 documentary following the family of Michael Jackson as they planned a move to Devon has begun libel action against the broadcaster. Channel 4 is facing courts costs 'well in excess of one million pounds' during the trial, which has been brought about by thirty-year-old Matt Fiddes, a former bodyguard to Michael Jackson who was used in the documentary - The Jacksons Are Coming - as a local guide to the family. According to documents presented to the High Court, Mr Fiddes claims that the programme 'was, from start to finish, a gross misrepresentation or distortion of the true facts as they occurred.' The programme was made by production company Studio Lambert which followed the Jacksons' apparent move from the US to a small town in Devon - a tale later revealed as a publicity stunt which had been formulated by Fiddes and Tito Jackson. The deal, worth twenty thousand pounds, was made to help Tito Jackson secure a deposit to buy a house in London from which to launch his career, according to Fiddes. A spokesman for Studio Lambert said: 'Channel 4, Studio Lambert, and the producer Jane Preston completely refute these false allegations and are confident that they can demonstrate the honesty and truthfulness of this documentary.'

Steve Carell has said that he would love to remake Only Fools and Horses for a US audience. The forty seven-year-old actor, who stars in the American version of The Office, said that he would be up for playing the role of Del Boy. 'That would be my dream role,' the Sun quotes him as saying. 'The British do sitcoms better than anybody else in the world.' Really? I mean ... Big Top included? He also called for Ricky Gervais, Paul Rudd, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller to get involved in the project. 'I think with the right scriptwriters and cast we could do Only Fools and Horses justice. If anybody wants to help me do a remake, I'd love it - with Ricky as Mike the barman.'

Pete Waterman, the producer who turned Kylie Minogue into a pop star, is to produce this year's UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. As one-third of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team in the 1980s, he was responsible for the careers of Rick Astley and Dead Or Alive, and in the 1990s he produced Steps. He was also a judge on Pop Idol and on Popstars: The Rivals, the show that created Girls Aloud. So he's got an effing lot to answer for already!

Melinda Messenger has quit magazine show Live From Studio Five after less than five months as a co-host. The former Page Three girl will bow out to 'pursue new projects' when her current contract expires in March, the Sun reports. Oh knackers, Wrighty, there goes the 'intelligent' one of the hosts. What's Plan B? In a statement, Messenger said that she has had a 'fantastic' time on Five's evening programme, which is also presented by ex-footballer Ian Wright and Apprentice finalist Kate Walsh. A Five spokesman commented: 'We would like to thank Melinda for the great job she has done.' It is thought that Messenger will be replaced by a series of guest hosts, including uppity, full-of-his-own-importance Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle and GMTV's Gloria De Piero, who have both filled in on the show before. And neither of whom, so far as can be worked out, have made it any less shit.

TV presenter Matthew Wright was left confused yesterday when he thought a caller to his show had confessed to having sex with dog. During a discussion on Five's The Wright Stuff about fulfilling partners' desires, a woman named Sue phoned up to explain that she had been willing to do 'something to do with canines' for her ex-lover. 'I gave in to his fantasy because at the time I very much cared for him and I thought maybe it's a one-off,' she said. 'Maybe it's not too bad, if this is what he wants to do once, then that's fine. It's fifty per cent of what caused the end of the relationship.' Host Wright and panellist, the comedian Jo Caulfield did not realise that Sue was talking about the sex act 'dogging' rather than actually indulging in intercourse to an animal. 'I don't know if we've got much further with this because it was such an extreme example,' said Wright. 'If somebody said that to me, that would be it, because that's the same as "I want to get involved with children," quite frankly. It's way, way, way over the line.' When the misunderstanding was cleared up during an advert break, Wright told viewers: 'It's fair to say we've been talking about nothing but our previous caller during the advert break. I think we all know now that the activity she was accusing him of rhymes with "logging," just so we're all clear about that. Shall we move on?'

John Terry, the England football captain, is bracing himself for a series of damaging revelations about his private life after a High Court judge overturned a controversial superinjunction sought by the footballer and his legal representatives. Lawyers acting for Terry had successfully applied for a High Court injunction last Friday having learned that a Sunday newspaper was planning to publish revelations about the Moscow Chelski FC captain. The so-called superinjunction, which prevents even the existence of the injunction from being publicly commented upon has previously been used by the oil trading company Trafigura to stop newspapers reporting a parliamentary question concerning its involvement in the dumping of toxic materials in the Ivory Coast. At the High Court today Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the injunction was not proportionate to the damage that would be caused to Terry's private life 'and other parties involved' if the revelations were to be published. He said that the allegation had been widely circulated in the sporting world adding that he thought the 'real concern' of the applicant was the effect publication would have on his sponsorship deals.

Rockin' Ronnie Wood has complained that he is tired of seeing himself in newspapers every day. Well, the answer would appear to be relatively simple, Ron. Stop dating Russians who are young enough to be your granddaughter, then they might stop writing about you.

Elaine Paige has claimed that she was misquoted over recent comments she made about Susan Boyle. The musical theatre star, who was quoted as comparing Boyle to 'a virus,' angrily denied that she had a negative opinion about the Scot. 'I was dismayed to read the remarks attributed to me today in the Daily Mail which were incomplete and misinterpreted,' she wrote on Facebook. What, you mean that you're accusing the Daily Mail - a widely respected organ of the UK media - of lying about something someone said, Elaine? Surely not? That's a shocking accusation to make, if true.

And, finally, it's today's Kerry Katona story. The disgraceful reality TV regular and cocaine snorter has reportedly decided that she wants to hire a bodyguard following her recent stalker scare, according to claims made in the press. The bankrupt ex-singer and advertiser for a popular frozen food outlet (other frozen food outlets are available) is said to be keen to boost her security but can only afford one hundred and fifty pounds per day to do so, the Daily Star claims. It is believed, the paper continues, that most showbiz minders charge more than five hundred smackers for a day's work. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that a woman had received a 'formal warning' from police after appearing to be 'obsessed' with the I'm A Celebrity ... winner. A 'friend' of Katona told the paper: 'The stalker has really freaked her out. She bombarded her with messages then turned up at the house. That was the last straw. Police have told the woman to stay away but Kerry feels she needs protection when she is out. She said she could afford to pay one hundred and fifty pounds a day but that won't get her anything. We've warned her she'll end up with a right wimp.' Oh, I don't know, I'm sure there's one or two people coming out of the Celebrity Big Brother house who'd probably do the job for half the price.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Silly Season Stories

Producers of The Thick Of It are reported to have shelved plans for an election-night special. According to the Sun, executives are worried that they may get the outcome wrong and, as a consequence, have delayed writing the next series until after the election. James Smith - Glenn Cullen on the political series - said: 'Armando [Iannucci] wanted to do an election special but we thought that it would look foolish if we got the wrong party. We thought we could do different endings and end it on that night but that wouldn't work logistically. Then we thought, what's the point of doing that and missing the point that the show is so politically astute?' Smith added that the next series of the popular satirical sitcom will be written later in the year.

Alexandra Burke has become the latest of several pop singers to claim that she would like to play 'a hands-on role' in the Haiti relief efforts. Good. So what, exactly, is stopping you, Alexandra? Planes are leaving for Haiti every few hours. Get yourself down to Brize Norton, I'm sure that the aid relief agencies would welcome an extra pair of hands on the ground.

Chris Barrie has hinted that the cult SF sitcom Red Dwarf may return for a full series. The comedian, who played the legend that is Arnold Rimmer in the BBC comedy, claimed that he is keen for the show to continue, admitting that he loved working on three part mini-series Back To Earth last year. 'There is talk of more Red Dwarf this year and while Back To Earth was a good one-off, from the rumours I hear, we may be doing a more standard sort of series,' he told the Daily Record. 'But any new Red Dwarf is fine by me. I was surprised at just how quickly I slipped back into it. It took a couple of scenes to loosen up a bit but once you get the outfit on, you're there.' He added: 'I don't know what made the series work so well, I think the answer must be Doug Naylor. He's a genius. He is well-versed in the sci-fi world and he and Rob Grant were great comedy writers, so I think Red Dwarf is the dream marriage of those two things.'

ITV has announced that Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier is to become the broadcaster's new chief executive. The announcement marks the end of ITV's year-long search for a replacement for the departing Michael Grade, who said last April that he wished to give up the role. Prior to joining the Royal Mail, Crozier was, of course, the chief executive of the Football Association. Crozier returned the Royal Mail to profitability, but the postal service has also been hit by strike action. ITV said he is due to take up the chief executive position 'later this year.' So, having successfully screwed up football and the post industry, Adam - seen left, doing his world famous Tommy Cooper impression - is clearly going for a hat-trick. Just like that.

Pouty Avril Lavigne has claimed that she was 'really impressed' by Simon Cowell during her stint on American Idol, according to OK magazine. The singer joined Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson as a guest judge during the Los Angeles round of auditions this week. 'I was really impressed with Simon, because he would wrap it up so perfectly. I didn't think he was mean, I think he is smart. It was fun to be there and I was hoping I could give good advice,' she told Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM radio show. 'I was actually really blown away by the talent of the majority of the contestants that I saw. I thought there was a lot of really great people who auditioned. It takes a lot of guts to go up there.' She added: 'I'm definitely a very shy person and introverted. Some people are a little over the top, and then sometimes when they were dismissed their behaviour was so bizarre and strange and they didn't want to leave and I found it awkward.'

NBC has picked up a pilot from Conan O'Brien's production company Conaco, according to a story in The Hollywood Reporter. The network, which parted ways with O'Brien last week over a scheduling disagreement, has reportedly ordered the hour-long project, currently being referred to under the working-title as Justice. The show is thought to revolve around a former Supreme Court law justice who quits his job to start his own practice.

Calista Flockhart has reportedly cut her role on ABC's Brothers & Sisters. According to Entertainment Weekly, Flockhart - Kitty McCallister on the hit series - will be working a reduced schedule next season. Last week, it emerged that her co-star, the great Rob Lowe, had quit the series as Senator Robert McCallister and will leave at the end of the current fourth season. Reports are now suggesting that Lowe made the decision after hearing that Flockhart wished to cut her screen-time, fearing that his role on the show would become even smaller.

Emilie De Ravin has revealed that she believes her character, Claire, is still alive on Lost. Her alter-ego was last seen during the show's fourth season when she mysteriously disappeared into the jungle, leaving her baby, Aaron, behind. She has since been referenced and has been confirmed as a series regular on season six. Speaking to TV Guide, De Ravin said that she has filmed lots of scenes with Evangeline Lilly and added: 'I think I'm alive, as far as I know.' The twenty eight-year-old actress has previously teased that she will make a return in 'an unexpected way.'

Carlton Cuse has admitted that he is worried about Lost being pitted against House in the schedules when it returns for its final season next month. The show's executive producer compared his Twitter followers to those of Greg Yaitanes, who is the executive producer of House and joked that he feels threatened by the competition. 'Greg Yaitanes, director [sic] of House, has two hundred and fifty thousand followers,' he wrote. Is that all? Stephen Fry's got a million. So it could be worse, pal. You could be up against Bones instead! Anyway ... 'If that is any show measure, I hope they don't put House opposite Lost.' As a major fan of both shows, yer Keith Telly Topping would rather that eventuality was avoided too. But, you can't have everything. Where would you keep it?

Heroes star Hayden Panettiere has spoken about her new red hair colour. The actress, who plays Claire Bennet in the NBC drama, told Us Weekly that she was 'tired of being blonde' when she decided to swap her signature golden locks for dark red. 'You get stuck in one thing and known for one thing and as a cheerleader or whatever that image,' she explained. Yes. And very nice that image was too. 'It's fun to change things up, and I feel I don't have to overcompensate as much personality-wise when I have red hair as I do with blonde hair.' She added: 'I'm typically a very fiery person anyway, but I just feel like cute and blonde and little is just so one category and one thing and changing my hair colour, I feel like I don't have to overcompensate so much for the fact that I don't like being called cute or anything like that - especially being all five foot two of me.'

Nightmare on Elm Street actor Robert Englund will appear as a guest in an upcoming episode of Bones. Englund has been tapped to play a janitor at a high school where a murder takes place, according to TV Guide. The episode, set to air later this season, finds Seeley (David Boreanaz) and Temperance (Emily Deschanel) heading to Booth's old high school to investigate the death. Englund recently starred in the web series Fear Clinic. His next project is reported to be a feature film thriller called Good Day For It.

Former Cheers actress Kirstie Alley appears to have launched a heated Twitter campaign against The View's co-host Joy Behar. According to Fancast website, the actress seems to disapprove of Behar's coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal on her Headline News Channel chat show The Joy Behar Show. 'And WHY has Joy Behar turned into such a self righteous cooz head? OOOOoooo that's right. FOREVER!!![sic]' Alley wrote on her Twitter page. The Fat Actress leading lady's follow-up Tweet was even more pointed: 'CHEATING is between a husband and a wife. Not TMZ and Joy Bewhore & God. I want to bash her in the vagina with her microphone.' Ow. Behar ignored Alley's Twitter tirade for several days, but last Friday, she is said to responded: 'Kirstie Alley calls me Joy Bewhore. Compliments! Compliments!' I'm tempted to say 'Big fight, little people' but, have you seen the size of Kirstie Alley these days? When she sits around the house she sits around the house.

Ugly Betty has been cancelled in the US after four series, ABC has announced. The show, starring America Ferrera as a style-challenged woman working at a New York fashion magazine, was a critical success when it began in 2006. But it has struggled recently, with ratings in the US falling from an average eight million viewers to under five and a half million between the third and fourth series. ABC said the show will conclude its run in April. 'We've mutually come to the difficult decision to make this Ugly Betty's final season,' executive producer Silvio Horta and ABC president Steve McPherson said in a joint statement. That's executive-speak for 'it's been cancelled, go away.' 'We are announcing now as we want to allow the show ample time to write a satisfying conclusion.' Based on the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty, La Fea the show was adapted to a US setting by Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek, who also guest-starred in the series. Ferrera became an overnight sensation when the show launched and went on to win a Golden Globe, for best TV comedy actress, and an Emmy, for best actress in a comedy series, in 2007.

Just about every single gay guy in the UK woke up this morning to read a story that appeared to see all of their dreams come true. Liza Minnelli was being hotly tipped to join the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel for the next series. All of yer Keith Telly Topping's - many - gay mates were e-mailing this blogger in a state of some considerable squee! Bless 'em. It was quite a sight, so it was. According to the ever-reliable and truth-hungry Mirror, the show's 'bosses' (I think they mean 'producers') were said to be considering recruiting the Cabaret star and musical theatre icon as a replacement for Alesha Dixon. The Mirror went on to claim that producers believe Dixon did not appeal to 'the younger viewers she was brought in to attract.' A source told the paper: 'Alesha got off to a very shaky start but did improve. Despite this, her future is believed to be hanging by a thread. Liza has international appeal and real star billing. She is a singer and dancer, and Hollywood through and through. Her experience in the showbiz industry would be a real coup - plus she has the personality to match.' Producers were also said to be considering a five-person panel which would allow both Dixon and Minnelli to judge the dances. However, within a few hours this all proved to be nothing more than a thoroughly dodgy rumour as the BBC moved quickly to flatly deny the report. A spokesperson said 'There is absolutely no truth whatsoever in this story - Liza Minnelli is not being lined up as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.' So, that's fairly unequivocal. It only remains, therefore, for the Mirror to either produce their 'source' and confirm there was a story here in the first place, or admit that they've been had. The next few days should be interesting.

Doctor Who scriptwriter Phil Ford has penned a new SF game show for the BBC, it has been announced. The thirteen-episode series, titled Mission: 2110, is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape and sees contestants span time and space to travel to the futuristic setting of our planet to try to restore peace and stability. Executive producer Sue Morgan said of the show: 'Mission: 2110 is an exciting ambitious and challenging new fast-paced game show where the contestants will need to use all their cunning and guile to avoid elimination.' Production is due to continue until early March, which the series being eyed for a spring broadcast on CBBC.

Liam Gallagher has revealed that he would be interested in taking part in Total Wipeout or I'm A Celebrity... The Oasis frontman said that he was a big fan of reality TV, admitting that the only thing putting him off appearing on the shows was having to spend time with the other contestants. 'Big Brother, I've been watching that. The missus likes it. All that Strictly, Come Dance nonsense, I watch all of that. I like Coronation Street,' he told XFM. Speaking about the possibility of going into the jungle, the singer said: 'I'd like to do all that shit, but I would want to do it on my own. I wouldn't want to be with all those other idiots in a house or whatever.' That's, sort of, the point of the show, Liam mate. Tell you what, stick to getting the first Oasis LP without Noel into shape, I think that should be your priority. Gallagher added that his favourite TV show at the moment was BBC1 game show Total Wipeout. 'They do it in Argentina. I'd love to do it on my jaxy, with no one about,' he said.

Mel Gibson has said that he is a fan of British television. The actor returns to the big screen this month after a seven-year gap in a movie adaptation of Troy Kennedy Martin's 1985 UK masterpiece Edge Of Darkness. Gibson told Metro concerning the original show: 'I watched it religiously in the 1980s. The musical score was amazing with Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen. That was really high quality TV. It was very edgy. British television is great.'

Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are rumoured to be about to re-team for their first series together in more than a decade in a BBC2 quest to find the UK's best amateur bakers. More news when it's announced.

It has been reported that the Jobcentre has recently advertised an unusual position - the 'semi-nude' host of a pornographic TV channel. The advert apparently said that the job 'may cause embarrassment to some people' but paid two hundred and twenty smackers per shift. The winning applicant would work three days a week from 9pm until 5am but there would be no pension entitlement. The advert for the position of 'Adult TV Channel Presenter' on the Jobcentre Plus website stated: 'The successful applicant (will be) required to be semi-nude. Must have good spoken communication skills as will be taking calls from the general public live on air.' The advert for the London-based job also stated that applicants had to be aged over eighteen and added: 'There is no obligation to consider making an application for this vacancy.' A spokesman for Revolver Models, which placed the advert, said: 'We are looking for a male or a female to take this role.' The strangest job yer Keith Telly Topping ever sent somebody after when he work in job broking a decade ago was for a four day temporary job as a 'President de Gaulle impersonator.' True story.

Sky has announced that its UK-first dedicated 3D TV channel will begin rolling out in pubs from April to broadcast live Premier League games in 3D. Ahead of the launch, the firm will publicly preview the 3D TV service on 31 January for Arsenal's game against The Scum. The match will be captured and broadcast in 3D by Sky, with a group of nine selected pubs able to show live football on 3D TV for the first time ever. The unnamed venues in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin have all been fitted with 3D-ready TV sets and will supply customers with special glasses to watch the match. From April, Sky will then expand the service to 'hundreds' of pubs around the UK and Ireland in a phased launch for the 3D channel, which will carry a new 3D Premier League game every week. As 3D TV models become more 'widely available' in the consumer market, Sky+ HD customers will also get access to the channel. By then, Sky 3D will offer a wider range of content, including movies, sport, documentaries, entertainment, and the arts. Sky 3D will 'initially' be made available at no extra cost to all existing Sky+ HD customers who also subscribe to the top tier TV package and HD pack. However, they will need to purchase a 3D-ready TV set to watch the service.

Two children's TV presenters were reportedly stopped by the police under anti-terrorism powers while filming a stunt using hairdryers as weapons. Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers, who host the ITV show Toonattik, were approached by four policemen whilst filming on London's Southbank. The officers said that they were suspicious after seeing the pair running around wearing flak jackets and utility belts, reports the Daily Telegraph. The pair told officers that all they were carrying were hairbrushes, plastic walkie-talkies and blue 'spangly' hairdryers. Williamson, twenty eight, said: 'We were filming a strand called Dork Hunters, which is to do with one of the animations we have on the show. Jamie and I were kitted out in fake utility belts, we had the whole bulletproof flakjacket thing, we've got hairdryers in our belt, a kids' one pound ninety nine walkie-talkie and all that kind of stuff, and we were being followed by a camera crew and a boom mike and we get literally pulled over by four policemen and we were issued with a warning under the act of terrorism.' Mr Rickers, thirty two, who is a martial arts enthusiast, added that it was one of the most memorable moments from his time on the show in the past five years. 'We were stopped, not arrested, but they had to say "we are holding you under the Anti-Terrorism Act because you're running around in flak jackets and a utility belt," and I said "... and please put spangly blue hairdryer" and he was, like, "all right."' A - highly embarrassed, probably - spokesman for the Metropolitan Police was unable to confirm details of the incident. Come on, be honest, if you were one of the law involved when you got back to the station would you admit you'd just stopped somebody for carrying an offensive hairdryer?

Frank Skinner has claimed that fans often call him 'a fucking legend' in the street. The comedian, who was named Loaded Legend at last night's Loaded Lafta Awards, joked that he has got used to the title. 'I found out about the award about two weeks ago. And I said "yes, okay." I suppose I do feel a bit like a legend at times. Although it sounds like a very grand title, it is probably the most common thing that people like cab drivers shout at me in the street, "Oi! Skinner, you fucking legend," so I've kind of got used to it to be honest.' He added: 'I think it has a certain ambiguity to it though, it's not like being Beowulf.'

Horse & Country TV - no, me neither - has secured a global rights deal to highlights from The Badminton Horse Trials, breaking a long-running BBC exclusive on coverage from the snotty, posh-persons equestrian event. The digital channel, run by former ITV non-executive board director Heather Killen, has agreed a deal for international media distribution which runs until 2012, reports the Guardian. The BBC has previously enjoyed exclusive rights to action from Badminton, but now coverage from the event could be seen on various broadcasters around the world. H&C plans to put together a package of highlights from the trials, which this year run from 30 April to 3 May, for sale to international clients. The firm will run more extensive coverage on its own subscriber channel on Sky.

Susan Boyle's brother has expressed his ears that the singer could be assassinated. 'Like John Lennon.' And there, any similarities between the two would appear to end. Meanwhile, Boyle's music idol Elaine Paige has 'attacked' the singer, apparently calling her 'a virus' who she doesn't have any 'pride' for. At least, this is according to the Daily Mail. Personally, if they told me black was darker than white I'd want a second opinion.

Katie Price has been voted 'the most hated woman' in Britain in a new Internet poll. Price pulled in more votes than Kerry Katona and Peaches Geldof in a survey carried out by OnePoll. Price's acrimonious split from her ex-husband Peter Andre has been blamed for the backlash against her. A OnePoll spokesman said: 'Jordan put her foot in it time and again. She tried her best to discredit Peter but he has a loyal female following and is seen as one of the good guys.'

And finally, what has to be today's oddest story. It has been widely reported recently in various media outlets that a man has been arrested after obscene images were found on his computer which included unidentified individuals involved in sexual acts with a squid and cats. Which is truly, disturbingly horrible. Although, it has to be said, there's definitely an Octopussy joke in there somewhere. But, I think I'll let that one pass.