Friday, January 08, 2010

Biting The Reality Sandwich

And so, dear blog reader, the weather continues to be spectacularly rubbish here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Here we all sit, in our chilly drums, burning the last remaining supplies of the country's gas reserves in the hope of maintaining a bit of warmth for a few, brief moments before we crawl off to shiver ourselves to sleep in our cold beds. There's no grit for the roads and, even if there was, there's nobody to do anything with it because all of the gritters, like all of the teachers, and all of the people who work in shops and more or less everybody else is snowbound and stuck in their gaffs. The only boom industry in the country seems to be daytime TV which is getting record viewing figures. All the football's off, we can't even get to the shops for a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk. Not that the shops have any of these items, of course, due in no small part to the panic buying of utter glakes and the fact that most of the lorries bringing in fresh supplies are snowed up and stuck of the side of motorway, somewhere. Because there's no grit for the roads. Y'see where I'm going with this? I really don't want to go off on a Mad Frankie Boyle-style 'we are clinging to the last vestiges of life on a dying planet' prophecy of disaster. But, you know, it's hard not to feel a bit pants-and-vest at such an utter shite state of affairs. Here's a thought for you, however. Probably the harshest winter in Britain since the war was in 1962-1963 when just about the entire country was under a couple of feet of snow from shortly before Christmas until the first week of March (such was the chaos that the third round of the FA Cup didn't get underway until 9 March). By a very curious co-incidence one of Britain's biggest baby booms since the end of the Second World War occurred during September to December 1963. Just as Doctor Who was kicking off. He said, bringing all this vaguely back on-topic. Well, the telly used to closedown at 10:30 in them days and they needed to do something to keep warm. Just thought I'd mention it. Of course, it's all different these days. According to this report, with millions of Britons unable to make it into work because of the snow and ice, one of the unforeseen effects has been a reported surge in the number of people exploring website dating agencies. This was Keith Telly Topping. Born October 1963. Reporting from The End of the World.

Still ... Excellent episode of Qi tonight, I thought!

Jonathan Ross decided to quit the BBC after hearing that he was to be dropped by the corporation, reports have claimed. The chat show and radio host is said to have 'jumped before he was pushed' after the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, chose not to renew his current current contract, which ends in July. It has been alleged that the development came following pressure from the BBC Trust and was influenced by the controversy surrounding Ross's prank calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs in 2008. One anonymous BBC source told the Mirror: 'Forty eight hours ago we had a deal in place. We were happy, Jonathan's people were happy. Mark Thompson capsized the whole thing because he's running scared of the Trust. This is a purely political act to try to appease the BBC bashers.' Meanwhile, another insider told the Sun: 'The Sachsgate thing just brought it all into focus and made Ross a stick to beat the BBC with. The feeling from senior people at the BBC was that having Jonathan on board meant we were always going to get flak.' Personally Keith Telly Topping believes that Ross was - very much - de facto pushed if not out of the door then, at least, towards it. The writing was, clearly, on the wall for him when Graham Norton was handed a new, only slightly lesser deal than that which he was already on but there was talk about Ross getting his salary halved. It's fairly common knowledge within the BBC that members of the Trust really dislike Jonathan Ross - and pretty much everything that he stands for. They think that, in terms of negative publicity, he's a liability to the BBC and that, despite the strong audience figures he pulls in for all of his shows, they're not going to stop getting grief from the likes of the Daily Mail until he's gone. Not that they're going to stop getting grief from the likes of the Daily Mail even then. But that, clearly, hasn't sunk into their massive brains yet. There is also a feeling among some BBC management that the sort of people whom Jonathan brings to the BBC aren't really the sort of people that the BBC wants listening to or watching its shows. I'm not sure how widespread that feeling is, but I know that it does exist, however peripherally. And, it appears, Mark Thompson - whom we already suspected had a backbone not unlike jelly - has caved in to this tidal wave of umbrage hoping to keep the Trust off his back. Personally, I believe that's all flawed thinking. I'm not the world's greatest fan of Ross's chat show, which I often find to be quite juvenile and somewhat crude, but there's no denying that he has a dedicated and appreciative audience. In addition, he's a fine presenter of Film 2010 and his radio show is, genuinely, innovative and popular. I think what this proves over all is that BBC seem to be stuck in a linear frame of mind. Curled up in a little metaphorical ball in the corner whilst crass sixth form bullies like the Mail and the various other scum tabloid-lice kick them as they pathetically cry 'please don't hurt me any more.' I genuinely believe that nothing the BBC are doing now or will do in the future is going to please some of these scummish right-wing organs of the media. So, basically, sod 'em. If they're going to criticise everything the BBC does then let's give them something to really get upset about. Unfortunately, nobody within the BBC seems to be brave - or stupid - enough to take on these cowardly bastards in a fight. So, ultimately, we get Friday Night Graham Norton (or Paul O'Grady, or whoever) and Mark Kermode presenting Film 2010. Okay, could be worse. Could be much worse. But it leaves a sour taste in the mouth because it proves, yet again, that bullies do get results. And that sickens me.

John Barrowman and Russell Tovey have claimed that they found it easy to work together on Doctor Who. Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, the pair suggested that they had a natural on-screen chemistry in the Christmas special. 'You don't have to think about it much,' Barrowman said. 'I can tell that Russell is probably flirtatious in real life.' Tovey added: 'It's in the writing as well, isn't it? The dialogue between us is only four lines, but you know that Captain Jack and Midshipman Frame are flirting outrageously.' Followed, presumably, by some sodomy. Good on 'em, I say. Again, if nothing else, that'll give the BBC-bashers something to get their knickers in a twist about. The Being Human actor added that he was impressed by Barrowman and found him 'very professional.' Barrowman described Tovey's character as 'the perfect companion' for Jack. 'What I'd love, what I think would be great, is if Midshipman Frame became Jack's companion in Torchwood. It'd be like Batman and Robin. Of course I'm Batman. He's Robin.' Torchwood's third series - which aired in July last year - saw fan-favourite Ianto killed off in the penultimate episode, leaving just Captain Jack and Eve Myles's Gwen on the team. Make of these comments what you will.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games has awarded the UK broadcast rights to Channel 4. The deal will deliver over one hundred and fifty hours of television coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Channel 4 has also agreed to be completely rebranded with a Paralympic theme after the Games finish.

Ryan O'Neal has joined the cast of 90210, it has been confirmed. The sixty eight-year-old actor has landed the role of Teddy's father, who has been referenced several times on the CW series as 'a really famous actor.' Teddy - played by Trevor Donovan - has emerged as a central figure in the show's second season after becoming briefly involved with his ex-girlfriend Adrianna Tate-Duncan. According to Access Hollywood, O'Neal, who was engaged to the late Farrah Fawcett, is due to begin filming his scenes in April. O'Neal's previous small screen credits include Bones and Desperate Housewives.

The House of Commons health select committee has called for all alcohol advertising in Britain to be banned before the 9pm television watershed to benefit the public health. A report compiled by the committee argued that current alcohol advertising regulation does not go far enough, with problems primarily due to the quantity of adverts being allowed rather than their actual content. The MPs even suggested that twenty per cent of all TV advert run by alcohol firms should be dedicated to delivering health messages to increase awareness about the problems of heavy drinking. They further want alcohol adverts to be banned from all films with under-eighteen ratings and removed from social networking sites, which are becoming emerging platforms for the promotional material. As sporting events are often used to carry alcohol sponsorship, the MPs want new rules to specify that no event should be sponsored 'if more than ten per cent of those attending are under eighteen years of age. The current system of controls on alcohol advertising and promotion is failing the young people it is intended to protect,' said the report. 'The problem is more the quantity of advertising and promotion than its content. This has led public health experts to call for a ban. It is clear that both the procedures and the scope need to be strengthened.' The report also called for a major revamp of the regulation framework for alcohol marketing, which is currently conducted by the Advertising Standards Authority and the industry-funded Portman Group. However, ASA chief executive Guy Parker told the committee that its guidelines for alcohol advertising are robust and that there is not a widespread problem among viewers. 'We received just short of four hundred complaints about advertising last year. Those complaints were not just about alleged problems under the specific and strict alcohol rules; most were complaints that ads were misleading or offensive under the general rules in the codes,' he said. 'Of those four hundred complaints two hundred related to alcohol ads or campaigns. Those two hundred cases represent about one per cent of the total and equate almost perfectly with the proportion spent on alcohol ads.'

Watchdog editor Rob Unsworth has stepped down from the role to join the BBC's editorial policy unit. Unsworth, who has overseen the last four series of the BBC1 consumer affairs show, will become the lead advisor on all in-house factual programmes with effect from next month. During his time on Watchdog, Unsworth oversaw a string of stories that triggered significant policy changes or product recalls by major UK brands. In February, eBay banned the sale of knives from its UK site after Watchdog revealed a loophole which made it possible to sell illegal weapons and Vauxhall recalled two hundred and fifty thousand Corsas in 2007 after the show found there was a risk the cars could catch fire. Unsworth also oversaw the recent revamp of Watchdog, which saw the return of sour-faced Anne Robinson as host and a move to a higher profile 8pm, hour-long slot. The changes brought a drop in ratings from an average of four and a half million viewers for the half-hour episode to four million for the longer programme - with a low of 3.3m for one episode in October. An insider pointed out that although ratings had decreased the new Watchdog is watched by more young people than before. And, of course, as we all know, most people working in television believe that no one over the age of thirty watches TV. Nobody that matters, anyway. Nonetheless, the format is now being revised ahead of a spring relaunch, when it is expected to go live. Unsworth has also run a range of other consumer shows including Rogue Traders, Brassed Off Britain and Old Dogs New Tricks.

A former adviser to Michael Jackson has taken legal action against Fox News for alleged copyright infringement. According to the Associated Press, producer F Marc Shaffel is seeking damages after the network aired a 2003 interview with Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe, following the singer's death in June, without proper payment or permission. Schaffel, who once won a judgement against Jackson himself, owns the rights to the interview, which was intended to balance an earlier interview that damaged the late star's reputation at the time. A spokesman for Fox News said that the channel does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit states that the network claimed a 'fair use' right to air the footage as part of news programming. The suit suggests that Fox News 'sanctimoniously operates unencumbered by the very copyright restrictions it seeks to impose on its competitors.'

Nasty Nigel Lythgoe has defended the appointment of Louise Redknapp to BBC talent competition So You Think You Can Dance. Redknapp will join Lythgoe and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Bitter, Twisty-Faced Arlene Phillips on the panel for the live shows, which start on BBC1 tomorrow night. Speaking to the Digital Spy website about Redknapp's hiring, Lythgoe insisted that the ex-Eternal singer has the right credentials to work on the programme. 'The funny thing about Louise is that she was actually trained as a dancer by my wife. She is a fully trained dancer,' said the sixty one-year-old. 'Me and Arlene have lots of experience and go way back together, but she is young and has performed with a band. She understands current dance and everything that is very now because she has done it all herself.'

Patsy Kensit's marriage to DJ Jeremy Healy has reportedly hit the rocks after eight months. According to the Sun, Kensit has had a series of 'blazing rows' with her fourth husband, causing the relationship to 'hit crisis point.' A source said: 'The marriage is volatile. Things hit a rocky patch before Christmas and it just isn't working. Patsy has taken it hard and is struggling to cope. She is deeply depressed and it's not a happy house at the moment.' The paper suggests that the couple went away for a break together over Christmas but failed to patch up their differences. The pair have known each other since 1980 and first became romantically involved in 2007. Kensit has previously been married to Dreadzone keyboardist Dan Donovan, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr and Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. A spokesman for Kensit refused to comment on the rumours.

Katie Price has launched a furious verbal attack on model, photographer and make-up artist Chelsea White. Writing on her Twitter page, Price claimed that White was untrustworthy and would exploit friends for money. Price said: 'NEVER trust as a friend she is disloyal cant [sic] be trusted shes [sic] a grass she will make a quick buck off anyone a parasite [sic].' It's a once-in-a-generation mind that lady has, isn't it? It has been suggested in various media reports that Price believes White sold a video taken at Price's New Year's Eve party to the media. However, White responded on her official website: 'No video or story was EVER sold on my behalf to any Newspapers. The innocent video of me and my friend Imogen dancing at Katie's New Years Eve Party, has been taken from youtube, and has been edited to a much shorter version, which doesn't show the full four minute version of me and Imogen dancing and singing.' She added: 'I cannot believe Katie Price, a woman in her thirties of [sic] three children has decided to start a hate campaign against me on the likes of facebook, twitter etc for something that I haven't done. I have only ever put the video on youtube, like I do with all my videos as this is a new venture for me, to go on top of my photography. Statements that Katie is making are nothing but false accusations.' Big fight. Little people. One of whom has, seemingly, never heard of the existence of captail letters.

Heather Mills has criticised Celebrity Big Brother, ranting like a demented gibbon that she would rather 'clean the streets with a toothbrush' than go on the show. That sounds like a great idea. Could some enterprising broadcaster please film that and show it every Christmas?

Kerry Katona has travelled to Kent in order to lose weight at a fitness camp. Earlier today, the reality TV regular was pictured 'braving snowy conditions' as she joined her trainer for a cross-country walk after spending her first night away from home. According to a report in the Daily Star, Katona hopes to shed three stone during a two-week stay at the camp. A source told the newspaper: 'She's tried to keep a low profile over the last few months in the hope that people will forget about her indiscretions over the last year.' A low profile? There's been a story about her in one of the tabloids an average of twice a week. If that's a low profile I'd hate to see what it's like when she's on a media blitz. 'She wants that to stop and to be seen as the attractive girl-next-door she was once famous as,' the source continued. I'm not entirely sure that's an accurate statement either but, never mind. 'Her advisers have told her to clean up her image and by going to fat camp and getting fit, it will give her the boost she needs.'

And finally, something especially for all of the ratings nerds among From The North's dear blog readership. BARB's Top One Hundred Most Watched TV Programmes of 2009:

Note: Most networks include figures for simultcasts on their HD channel along with the main ratings. However, the BBC - for reasons best known to themselves - do not, hence their HD figures are noted in brackets afterwards, where available. If BBC HD audiences were to be included along with BBC1 (or BBC2) ratings then the most significant change to the list below is that Doctor Who would leapfrog both EastEnders and The Royle Family to become the fifth most-watched programme of the year - rather than, merely, the seventh - with a total audience for The End of Time Part 1 of 12.04 million.

01. 18.29m - BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT - FINAL RESULT (30/05) - ITV
02. 16.36m - BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT (30/05) - ITV
03. 16.28m - THE X FACTOR RESULTS (13/12) - ITV
04. 14.03m - THE X FACTOR (21/11) - ITV
05. 11.74m - THE ROYLE FAMILY (25/12) - BBC1 (0.18m HD)
06. 11.67m - EASTENDERS (25/12) - BBC1
07. 11.57m - DOCTOR WHO (25/12) - BBC1 (0.47m HD)
08. 11.46m - CORONATION STREET (02/02) - ITV
09. 11.31m - DANCING ON ICE (22/03) - ITV
10. 11.29m - STRICTLY COME DANCING (19/12) - BBC1 (0.25m HD)

11. 10.86m - I'M A CELEBRITY ... GET ME OUT OF HERE! (21/11) - ITV

13. 10.28m - DOC MARTIN (08/11) - ITV
14. 10.08m - CHILDREN IN NEED (20/11) - BBC1 (0.23m HD)
15. 10.00m - GAVIN & STACEY (25/12) - BBC1 (0.18m HD)
16. 9.91m - JONATHAN CREEK (01/01) - BBC1
17. 9.84m - COMIC RELIEF (13/03) - BBC1
18. 9.80m - THE GRUFFALO (25/12) - BBC1 (0.28m HD)
19. 9.76m - THE APPRENTICE (03/06) - BBC1

21. 9.26m - WHITECHAPEL (02/02) - ITV
23. 8.92m - DANCING ON ICE - THE SKATE OFF (08/03) - ITV
24. 8.78m - NEW TRICKS (16/07) - BBC1
25. 8.54m - WIMBLEDON: Murray v Wawrinka (29/06) - BBC1
26. 8.54m - EMMERDALE (02/02) - ITV
28. 8.52m - WILD AT HEART (08/03) - ITV
29. 8.46m - CATHRINE TATE: NAN'S CHRISTMAS CAROL (25/12) - BBC1 (0.11m HD)
30. 8.44m - LET'S DANCE FOR COMIC RELIEF (07/03) - BBC1

31. 8.40m - COLLISION (09/11) - ITV
32. 8.35m - QUESTION TIME (22/10) - BBC1
33. 8.31m - CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Barcelona v Man Utd (27/05) - ITV
34. 8.23m - TEN O'CLOCK NEWS (20/11) - BBC1
35. 8.07m - WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: England v Croatia (09/09) - ITV
36. 8.00m - ABOVE SUSPICION (05/01) - ITV
37. 7.94m - ANTIQUES ROADSHOW (04/01) - BBC1
38. 7.91m - ASHES TO ASHES (20/04) - BBC1
39. 7.91m - EUROVISION SONG CONTEST (16/05) - BBC1 (0.12m HD)
40. 7.87m - HARRY HILL'S TV BURP (14/02) - ITV

41. 7.86m - TOP GEAR (21/06) - BBC2
42. 7.82m - UNFORGIVEN (12/01) - ITV
43. 7.81m - THE NATIONAL LOTTERY - IN IT TO WIN IT (07/02) - BBC1
46. 7.56m - ALL STAR MR & MRS (30/05) - ITV
47. 7.54m - LEWIS (22/03) - ITV
48. 7.53m - I'M A CELEBRITY…COMING OUT (07/12) - ITV
49. 7.51m - WAKING THE DEAD (14/09) - BBC1

51. 7.46m - ANT & DEC'S CHRISTMAS SHOW (26/12) - ITV
53. 7.41m - ALL STAR FAMILY FORTUNES (25/10) - ITV
54. 7.36m - CASUALTY (07/02) - BBC1
55. 7.32m - MURDERLAND (19/10) - ITV1
57. 7.09m - COMIC RELIEF (13/03) - BBC2
58. 7.08m - BBC NEWS (01/01) - BBC1
59. 7.05m - SIX O'CLOCK NEWS (02/02) - BBC1
60. 7.02m - CRANFORD (20/12) - BBC1 (0.17m HD)

61. 6.96m - LAW & ORDER: UK (23/02) - ITV
62. 6.92m - WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? (15/07) - BBC1 (0.10m HD)
63. 6.90m - MIDSOMER MURDERS (29/07) - ITV
64. 6.90m - COUNTRYFILE (01/11) - BBC1 (0.12m HD)
65. 6.84m - LIFE (12/10) - BBC1 (0.25m HD)
66. 6.80m - TOTAL WIPEOUT (07/02) - BBC1
67. 6.80m - BENIDORM (06/11) - ITV
68. 6.78m - LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD (08/03) - BBC1 (0.10m HD)
69. 6.76m - TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF EARTH (09/07) - BBC1 (0.16m)
70. 6.72m - MY FAMILY (02/04) - BBC1

71. 6.71m - FOOTBALL: Spain v England (11/02) - ITV
72. 6.71m - THE ONE SHOW (02/02) - BBC1
73. 6.67m - HARRY HILL'S THE BEST OF TV BURP (05/12) - ITV
74. 6.67m - RUGBY: Wales v England (14/02) - BBC1 (0.11m HD)
75. 6.64m - MERLIN (19/12) - BBC1
77. 6.59m - CELEBRITY MASTERMIND (01/01) - BBC1
78. 6.55m - [SPOOKS] (04/11) - BBC1
79. 6.59m - NEW YOU'VE BEEN FRAMED! (10/01) - ITV
80. 6.50m - CHILDREN IN NEED ROCKS THE ALBERT HALL (19/11) - BBC1 (0.20m HD)

81. 6.48m - THE NATIONAL LOTTERY DRAWS (07/03) - BBC1
82. 6.47m - INSPECTOR GEORGE GENTLY (03/05) - BBC1
83. 6.47m - TORCHWOOD: CHILDREN OF THE EARTH (06/07) - BBC1 (0.14m HD)
84. 6.37m - HOLBY CITY (03/02) - BBC1
86. 6.34m - CHARLES DARWIN & THE TREE OF LIFE (01/02) - BBC1 (0.11m HD)
87. 6.30m - DOCTOR WHO CONFIDENTIAL (03/01) - BBC1
88. 6.30m - HUSTLE (22/01) - BBC1 (0.10m HD)

90. 6.29m - TRIAL AND RETRIBUTION (09/01) - ITV
91. 6.27m - DEMONS (03/01) - ITV
92. 6.26m - ITV NEWS AT TEN (28/05) - ITV
93. 6.25m - HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU (15/05) - BBC1
94. 6.25m - HOPE SPRINGS (07/06) - BBC1
95. 6.24m - HEARTBEAT (19/04) - ITV
96. 6.23m - FILM: SHREK 2 (24/12) - BBC1
97. 6.20m - ROBIN HOOD (28/03) - BBC1
98. 6.16m - Qi (24/12) - BBC1
99. 6.15m - THE NATIONAL LOTTERY - 1 VS 100 (28/03) - BBC1
100. 6.06m - WATCHDOG (02/02) - BBC1

Note, also, that programmes with a different title to the core show (i.e. the results shows for X Factor and Britain's Got Talent) qualify as seperate entities. Which also explains why Harry Hill's TV Burp has three different episodes in the Top 100 due to Best Of and Compilation episodes being titled differently. There's also about three different variations on The National Lottery Show. As to why there's two episodes of Torchwood listed, it appears that somebody at BARB screwed up in July and listed one loone episode as Torchwood: Children Of The Earth rather than just Children Of Earth and nobody has picked up on it since! It'd be brilliant to know what programme 101 is and whether its producers are currently shaking their fists and shouting 'Barrowman!' just like David Tennant in the Never Mind The Buzzcocks Christmas Special. For those who are interested - and that'll probably be about two of you - the Top Ten BBC HD Programmes of the Year were:

01. 550,000 - TOP GEAR (20/12)
02. 470,000 - DOCTOR WHO (25/12)
03. 288,000 - LIFE (14/12)
04. 279,000 - THE GRUFFALO (25/12)
05. 270,000 - WIMBLEDON: Federer v Roddick (05/07)
06. 263,000 - STRICTLY COME DANCING (14/11)
07. 230,000 - CHILDREN IN NEED 2009 (20/11)
08. 228,000 - GAVIN & STACEY (17/12)
10. 183,000 - THE ROYLE FAMILY (25/12)

And with that, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping is going to power down his PC and go and rediscover the pleasures of a nice warm duvet on a bone-chilling night, away from the howling wind and sheet ice. Wrap up warm, wherever you are.