Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Back To Reality (From Reality TV)

David Tennant's hugely popular tenure in the TARDIS has ended - you might have noticed - but the BBC said this week that it remains 'hugely committed' to the Doctor Who franchise according to Wales online. And to, you know, common sense. Given that it's one of only a handful of shows that the Beeb makes which gets not only huge ratings, but also significant overseas sales and brings in massive amounts of merchandising revenue, it's astonishing to think that anybody - for a single second - believes it isn't a huge priority for the BBC in terms of resources and profile. Tennant's final outing as the Time Lord attracted more than ten million viewers on New Year’s Day. But it also marked the end of an era for the popular series, as showrunner Russell Davies joined Tennant in severing their links with the show that both have been fans of since their childhood. The pair have been integral to Doctor Who's recent success and have been widely hailed for reviving a sleeping giant. Julian Payne, head of communications at BBC Vision, told the Western Mail it was a 'fantastically exciting' time for fans. 'Doctor Who has regeneration at its very core, and it's what provides the show with its longevity,' he said. 'We view it as a very exciting opportunity for the show. We remain hugely committed to the brand of Doctor Who in all its forms, and we have a wonderful new team in place who are very excited about taking the show on new adventures.'

Meanwhile, Murray Gold has revealed that Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts have both written episodes for Matt Smith's forthcoming first series of Doctor Who. Gattis, wrote The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot's Lantern for previous series, while Roberts was the scritpwriter of The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp and co-wrote Planet Of The Dead with Russell Davies. The show's composer told musicfromthemovies that his own approach would alter because of the exit of Tennant from the lead role and replacement of showrunner Davies with The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat. Gold said: 'In all honesty I make refinements anyway, when I score Steven's episodes, because they do come at the story from a different angle. I don't know if you can even talk about a single approach, musically, to all of the episodes as they've been done so far - there's a different approach to each one - and that'll be the same again.' He added: 'With Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts and people like that writing episodes, you know what their episodes are like from previous series. So it's going to be that, with Steven's comments, and Matt's performance are going to be different and they might be different in structure somehow... every episode might not involve so much running down corridors! I don't know.' Gold also confirmed that he had 'been working' on an update of the show's opening theme music for the next series.

Ant and Dec have been nominated for TV presenters of the year at the National TV Awards - a prize they have won eight times in a row. Two of their shows, I'm a Celebrity ... and Saturday Night Takeaway, are up in the entertainment programme category. Paul O'Grady, stand-up comic Michael McIntyre and Holly Willoughby have also been nominated. Dermot O'Dreary will host this year's ceremony, to be held on 20 January. The awards, which are decided by public phone vote, will be broadcast live on ITV from the O2 Arena in east London. David Tennant is one of three Davids nominated for the drama performance prize, with A Touch Of Frost star Sir David Jason and Shameless actor David Threlfall also in the running. Strictly Come Dancing, named best talent show at the last awards, is shortlisted in the same category, again alongside The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and Dancing On Ice. The last National Television Awards were held in October 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The event was a big news story even aside from the awards when Tennant used his appearance to announce that he would be leaving Doctor Who.

The cult TV gameshow The Crystal Maze is to be revived by ITV, a report has claimed. The new show will have a similar format to the 1990s classic but may feature Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden as host, according to the Sun. It is also believed that celebrity contestants will tackle the difficult puzzles and physical challenges rather than merely 'members of the public.' because, of course, watching celebrities making prats of themselves is something the public seems to enjoy so much more than 'ordinary people.' A source said: 'ITV are huge fans of Amanda and are looking at a number of different gameshow concepts, but this is certainly the one they are excited about. They are spending a lot of money and hope it will surpass - and blow away - the old Crystal Maze.' The original version ran on Channel 4 from 1990 to 1995. Richard O'Brien was the programme's first presenter, whilst Ed Tudor-Pole fronted the later revival.

Meanwhile, Britain's Got Talent's singing sensation Susan Boyle has revealed that she hopes to find 'the perfect man' during 2010, according to the News of the World. Stevie Wonder, maybe?

Billie Piper has suggested that some people believe she really is a prostitute. The actress, who played call girl Belle De Jour on the ITV2 show The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, lives with her husband Laurence Fox and son Winston on a West Sussex farm. Piper told Marie Claire: 'It's funny. When Laurence and I go out into the countryside, I think a few of the older locals actually believe I'm a whore. They love Laurence because he's in Lewis, and his fan club are basically in their mid-sixties and upwards. They love him. It's sickening.' She added: 'They follow him around, they want to mother him. I mean, there are places he can't go - like Mecca Bingo or the bowling green - but he loves it. Then they look at me and are like, "That slag! How could you dirty yourself with her? She's corrupted you."' Keith Telly Topping would just like to confirm that he most certainly does not believe that Billie is a prostitute ... any more than he believes that David Tennant really had two hearts and is now dead. Although he does understand that separating fact from fantasy appears to be somewhat harder for some people. On the subject of the conception of her son, Billie said: 'It was literally jet-lag sex. You do make an active decision that you're not going to use condoms or whatever. Then there's that "I am so in love, I just want to have your baby!" It's such a hot thing, it's so gorgeous. "We fell in love, I want you to impregnate me!" I don't know what's not hot about that. And also, making a child in the throes of love instead of, "Oh, I suppose we should knock one out."'

Arlene Phillips has claimed that she is not interested in returning to Strictly Come Dancing next year. Good. One viewer, at least, is very pleased to hear that. The former panellist was controversially replaced by Alesha Dixon last year after six series on the celebrity dancing contest. On a possible return to the show if Dixon should quit, Phillips told Hello: 'I never even entertain that question. It's something that'll never happen. I don't even think about it.' Tremendous. Now, like that being 'the last ever episode' of Gavin & Stacey, could you make sure you stick to that promise.

The BBC will defy recent criticism of its public value by releasing a report claiming that it generates over seven billion pounds per year for the British economy. Commissioned by chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, the detailed report will outline the four billion pounds which would be lost to the country should the BBC become privatised. To be published this month, the consultation will further claim that independent TV and radio production firms would lose £1.4bn under a non public-funded BBC, reports the Guardian. Using data compiled by accountancy firm Deloitte, the report will estimate that the BBC's involvement in driving forward digital services such as Freeview has created a new mini-industry worth up to two hundred and fifty million pounds a year. The corporation's commitment to employ around seven thousand people for production bases in Bristol, Glasgow and Cardiff brings a further two hundred million pounds to the economy. The BBC is facing widespread challenges from ignorant self-interest groups against its hold on the £3.6bn licence fee, including ongoing criticism from rival players such as Sky about its reach into the commercial marketplace. Former BBC director general Greg Dyke, who is currently conducting a review of media policy for the Conservative party, recently called for a scrapping of the licence fee to save over one hundred million pounds a year in administration costs. Under Dyke's plan, the BBC would continue to draw its funding from the public purse, either from a grant or general taxation. However, the Tories are widely expected to reduce the BBC's size and scale when the party secures power at the general election later this year. Last month, the BBC was criticised for spending almost four million pounds on art as part of an eight hundred and thirteen million pound refurbishment of its Broadcasting House headquarters. Author PD James used her guest editor spot on BBC Radio 4's Today programme to question BBC director general Mark Thompson about the 'extraordinarily large' salaries paid to top BBC management. However, the new report is designed to show that the licence fee investment actually generates double its value for the UK economy by supporting the creative industries. As independent production firms provide around forty per cent of the BBC's TV output, the document estimates that the sector would be around two thirds its current size if a public-funded BBC was not in operation. According to an insider, the report is firmly slanted towards persuading policy makers about the corporation's value to the economy during the ongoing recession. 'In tough economic times our decision makers need to find new ways of supporting jobs and businesses,' said the source. 'They need to see the BBC not as part of the problem, but as part of the solution by creating and sustaining jobs, particularly when the market falters.' In October last year, the BBC Trust backed Thompson's plans to cull over one hundred senior BBC managers and also trim top executive pay by twenty five per cent over the next three and a half years.

Davina McCall has said that journalist and critic Charlie Brooker was correct when he infamously described her as 'a shrieking Harvester's barmaid on her hen night.' Brooker later cast McCall in his E4 zombie drama Dead Set but the presenter - and failed chat show host - insisted that she would not want to lock King Charlie in the Celebrity Big Brother house and throw away the key for his earlier insult. McCall told the Guardian: 'I am like a shrieking barmaid, he's right. His casting of me as a zombie was a stroke of genius. So I certainly don't want to lock him up. He deserves a knighthood, or at least some acknowledgement from the Queen.' When asked if she would follow her fifty pound charity kiss with David Tennant with a one hundred pound embrace with a Dalek for the next Comic Relief, McCall added: 'Yeah, no problem. Snogging David Tennant was rather nice. I'm hoping they won't ask me to snog the new bloke. He's way too young. I'm probably older than his mother!' Yeah. Probably.

Delia Smith has confessed that she was reprimanded for wearing short skirts when she was a young waitress. The television chef makes the admission in a new BBC programme celebrating her career, Delia Through The Decades, which will be shown later this month. Her stint as a waitress at The Singing Chef restaurant in Paddington, London, in the 1960s was her first break in the trade. Smith, who previously had a stint as a photographic swimwear model, said: 'I used to have a miniskirt on. If I did waitressing and I couldn't pull the cork out of the bottle, I would put it between my ankles – and I used to get told off because I had a mini skirt.'

Former Dexter and Buffy The Vampire Slayer actress Julie Benz has joined the cast of Desperate Housewives, according to Entertainment Weekly. Reports suggest that the thirty seven-year-old actress has won the recurring role of Debbie, a sweet-natured stripper who befriends Teri Hatcher's character, Susan. The pair apparently bond and when Susan offers Debbie the chance to switch to a more legitimate career, she can't resist taking her up on it. Benz, who makes her first Housewives appearance in February, has been contracted for at least three episodes.

Van Morrison is to take legal action over a newspaper claim that he fathered a child with a woman called Gigi Lee. The Mail On Sunday alleged that the sixty four-year-old singer/songwriter had been in a relationship with Lee, who lives in Texas. The report came days after Morrison had denounced a posting on his official website which stated that Lee had given birth to his son on 28 December. Morrison later said that the site had been hacked. Lee is registered as a co-director with Morrison in a number of his publishing and production companies, including Van Morrison Recordings (NI) Ltd, according to reports on the Belfasttelegraph.co.uk website. Morrison, who is married, has instructed his legal team to take action against the Mail On Sunday. 'In view of an article appearing in [3 January 3] Mail On Sunday I am reluctantly compelled to make this short statement,' he explained. 'I have instructed my solicitors to institute immediately proceedings against the Mail On Sunday and will take all appropriate action to prevent repetition of these allegations.'

Three of Scotland's largest newspaper publishers have teamed up with Question Time producer Tinopolis to bid for the forthcoming regional news pilot in Scotland. DC Thomson, Herald & Times Group and Johnston Press - who collectively publish the Herald, the Scotsman and the Press and Journal newspapers - have submitted the third official proposal for the Scottish trial of the government's independently-funded news consortia scheme. First unveiled in the Digital Britain report, the IFNC project is designed to boost the beleaguered fortunes of commercial media operators and also foster a viable regional news alternative to the BBC's coverage. Broadcaster STV has partnered with ITN and Bauer Media to launch a separate proposal for the Scottish trial, while Trinity Mirror and MacMillan Media also hope to secure a portion of the estimated seven million pounds annual funding for the scheme. Last September, Herald & Times Group managing editor Tom Thomson revealed at an RTS conference that the three publishers intended to lodge a joint bid for the Scotland pilot should they be able to secure a suitable broadcast partner. In a statement, the new alliance trumpeted its 'unrivalled newsgathering capability in Scotland with some one thousand editorial staff in news bureaus across the nation.' With the addition of Tinopolis' broadcasting experience, the consortia claims that it will 'propose fresh and creative solutions for Scottish and local news on television, the Internet and other digital platforms to meet consumer needs.' In the spring, culture secretary Ben Bradshaw will announce successful bidders for the Scottish pilot, along with similar trials in England and Wales. All three pilots will then run until 2013, when the scheme could roll out nationwide.

James Bond producer Michael G Wilson has revealed that production on the new 007 movie is 'up in the air' whilst studio MGM is up for sale. The twenty third film outing for the spy is expected to begin shooting at the end of this year, but Wilson suggested that he and fellow producer Barbara Broccoli will have to wait until MGM's sale before they move forward with Daniel Craig's third Bond movie. 'Our timeline's a little up in the air what with the situation at MGM, so we have to be flexible,' website MI6 quotes Wilson as saying. 'We just don't know enough about the situation to comment, but we know it's uncertain.' He added of the movie's current status: 'We've hired the writers and we've been working with them but it's just too early to say anything. You know, often at this stage, I find myself saying, "We're gonna do this and that," then six months from now you'll say, "That isn't in the film at all - you told me it was..." I think we're at the stage where a lot of ideas are floating around that sound very good, but whether they make the final cut, who knows?'

David Beckham was rejected for a cameo in The Simpsons because the show's producers didn't think he was famous enough in the US, say reports. Executive producer Al Jean has admitted that the thirty four-year-old footballer approached the series to enquire about recording a guest appearance. 'We get a lot of requests from celebrities, and it's always a shame when we have to turn people down,' he told Live. 'We had a request from David Beckham and I had to phone him up and tell him sorry, but I didn't want him on the show right now. I didn't think he was a big enough star for an American audience. I got a lot of grief about that. Some people got really angry about it and I was told, "I bet you would have put George Best on." I can pretty much say I would have turned him down, too.'

Meanwhile, X Factor duo John and Edward - who, readers may remember, we're also claiming they were 'in discussions' to appear on The Simpsons a few short weeks ago - have vowed not to disappear from the spotlight this year. Therefore, expect to see them opening a supermarket near you, sometime during the summer. Or, possibly, working in one stacking the shelves.