Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Harry's Skybound Train

Harry Hill is alleged to be 'weeks away' from agreeing a deal to move TV Burp from ITV to Sky, a report has claimed. According to the Sun, the comedian is seriously considering accepting an eighty thousand pounds-per-episode contract with the satellite broadcaster. It is thought that the new deal would see Hill securing an annual pay packet of more than three million pounds, as Sky is hoping for a larger number of episodes and also considering him for other projects. TV Burp regularly brings in more than six million viewers for ITV, and Hill's contract with the broadcaster is set to end in April. There has been speculation since last summer that Hill, forty four, might look to move to a better-paying broadcaster. An insider told the newspaper: 'Sky is very confident of getting Harry. He's very tempted by their offer. They want him to do TV Burp and have other ideas for him. A deal could be just weeks away now. ITV is trying really hard to keep him but is under serious pressure to reduce costs.' Interstingly, all of this comes at a time when Hill is also being touted strongly in the media as a potential replacement for Jonathan Ross on the BBC.

Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, is said to be poised to cull a number of BBC1's long-running dramas in order to free up funds and airtime to commission new shows. Speaking as he unveiled the BBC's winter and spring drama line-up, Stephenson said the strategy was a 'huge risk ... a bloody terrifying decision' but it was the only way to change what was considered mainstream. Though unwilling to be drawn on exactly which series may not be recommissioned the Guardian - of course - was quick to speculate that Holby City, Casualty and Waterloo Road were 'thought to be safe.' Investment in period/costume drama, the report suggested, would be sparing and shows such as Bleak House or Little Dorrit are unlikely to be commissioned for the 8pm slot. A ninth series of [Spooks] is already underway and BBC1 controller Jay Hunt is said to be a particular fan of the espionage drama. It has also been suggested that both Waking the Dead and New Tricks' immediate futures are also safe as both have recently been recommissioned (in the case of the latter, for both 2010 and 2011). For some bizarre reason the original Guardian article specifically mentioned New Tricks as a series which - for whatever reason - they believed may have been under threat. It was noticeable, however, that within a few hours this statement had disappeared from the paper's website. But there are said to be no firm plans for a third run of Criminal Justice and it is widely believed within the industry that Silent Witness may also get the push sooner rather than later. BBC2 is also on the cusp of change, after receiving extra funds. Ambitious new BBC2 dramas, including one about the Medicis, with an Italian partner, are in development. Stephenson said there had to be a way in future to evaluate the success of BBC drama that did not rely on the size of audiences. 'Success at the BBC is much more complex,' he added. These comments must be set in the context of criticism from the BBC Trust, whose members are said to be pushing for more distinctive pieces and authored works. New dramas scheduled for 2010 include A Passionate Woman, starring Billie Piper and Sue Johnston, written and produced by Kay Mellor, Luther, a new police drama and a further series of the BBC's drama showpiece, Doctor Who, with Matt Smith replacing David Tennant. The BBC is also currently completing a three-part drama, Five Daughters, written by Stephen Butchard, about the young women lured into prostitution by drug addiction and then murdered in Ipswich by Steve Wright. BBC2 is running an eighties-themed season of one-off dramas ranging from Money, an adaptation of Martin Amis's novel; to Abi Morgan's Royal Wedding, about life in a Welsh village at the time of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer's wedding; and Dominic Savage's first scripted drama, Dive, featuring Olympic hopefuls. A third series of hit BBC3 drama Being Human has been commissioned for the autumn, after the second series debuted this week with an audience of almost one and a half million, double that of the first run. BBC3 also will screen Lip Service, made by Kudos, featuring the lives of four young lesbians in Glasgow. Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, which completes its three-part second run on Sunday on BBC1, has been recommissioned for a third series. Stephenson said he was guided by the fact that the keynote dramas of 2009 had included Iraq film Occupation which, though it averaged a modest three and a half million viewers, had dealt with a key contemporary subject and Small Island, the adaptation of Andrea Levy's novel about the experience of West Indians coming to the UK during and immediately after the second world war. He added that the BBC now had a very clear positioning for its output, 'as the home of Britain's most creative and exciting dramas,' compared with the commercially driven ITV, while Channel 4 and Sky were turning to adaptations of successful novels. Key drama producers supplying the BBC - including Kudos and Left Bank Pictures - are rumoured to be concerned, however, about the comparatively low tariffs the BBC is prepared to pay. There are also reports that cash-rich Sky1 is now starting to outbid BBC1 for some new dramas.

So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe has predicted that Strictly Come Dancing will soon go off air. The reality TV star argued that the BBC ballroom dance contest has reached burnout. 'I think that in the UK once something's successful it's wrung out like a sponge and gets overdone,' the sixty-year-old told the Guardian. 'There were too many episodes of Strictly. There's burnout. I imagine Strictly will go off air, and come back in ten or twelve years.' He also blamed the disappointing ratings on the recent series of Strictly on the celebrities they picked to take part. 'I don't believe the poor ratings were because of the judge, I think it's that the stars weren't strong enough,' he said. 'It's always difficult, isn't it? You start to run out of celebrities that people are interested in. Or you pay them a fortune to go into the Big Brother house.' It is worth pointing out, of course, at this juncture that those 'poor' ratings for Strictly were still a couple of million more than So You Think You Can Dance is currently achieving. Just, you know, for a bit of perspective.

ITV has insisted that it has no plans to reschedule the date The X Factor airs in the UK. Yesterday press reports had speculated that the broadcaster may shift its major reality shows - Britain's Got Talent, Dancing On Ice and The X Factor - following Simon Cowell's announcement that he is taking the music talent show to America. Cowell's first series of the US X Factor will air on Fox in autumn 2011, which will clash with the ITV show. However, an ITV spokesperson claimed that Cowell's announcement at the TCA press tour on Monday came 'as no surprise. We are absolutely planning for The X Factor to return this autumn and next,' they told the BBC. They also confirmed that Cowell will continue with his 'on-screen and production role' in the UK. It is not clear how Cowell will have the time to act as a producer and judge on both shows, while continuing to mentor his acts. His role could potentially include two lives shows in both the UK and America every week. ITV would only reveal that it has 'plans' to resolve the issue.

The BBC has reportedly apologised to Ronnie Corbett after The ONE Show's editor, Doug Carnegie, allegedly made a foul-mouthed jibe about him in an e-mail to colleagues. According to the Daily Mail, Carnegie described Corbett as 'a little shit' last month after hearing that the seventy nine-year-old comedian had pulled out of a planned appearance on that evening's programme. Sources have suggested that the e-mail was sent to the show's celebrity booker but was later forwarded to the entire production team. An insider - one Mr Copper's Nark - commented to the newspaper: '[Ronnie] gave a very reasonable eight days notice but Mr Carnegie's response was to describe him as "a little shit." I am not the only member of the team who was disgusted by this email from a highly paid BBC manager.' So disgusted that you ran straight to the Mail about the matter, it would seem? Hope your thirty pieces of silver from The Scum don't weigh too heavily in your pocket. It is believed that Carnegie, who was already due to leave his post at The ONE Show in a few weeks, yesterday sent a message of apology to the star's agent after hearing that his e-mail had been made public. A BBC spokesman said that the corporation would not comment on 'private and leaked correspondence.' There's a joke in there beginning with the line 'My producer said...' But I'm not going there, dear blog reader.

Jesse Spencer has revealed that his House character has a 'dark' story ahead in the near future. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the actor - Dr Chase on the medical drama - said that he is looking forward to the upcoming season six finale. 'Season six has been awesome and they've been writing some really good stuff for me,' he said. 'It's been quite dark, but it's been really fun to play. We're coming to the end of season six now ... It'll be good. It'll be fun.' Spencer also described the 'new energy' on set since his co-star and ex-fiancée Jennifer Morrison departed the show last year. Ouch. 'We've got a new team now so it's different. But there's a new energy and it's good. She might be coming back at some point,' he said. Don't hold your breath, Jess.

Coronation Street's feisty factory boss Carla Connor is to start dating a binman, it has been revealed. According to the Daily Star, Carla deceives Weatherfield newcomer Trevor Dean by pretending to be a cleaner after he catches her eye during a visit to Underworld. She decides to keep her true occupation a secret to avoid scaring off her new love interest. Carla, played by thirty six-year-old Alison King, goes on to enjoy drinks with Trevor (Steve Jackson) and is amused when he describes her as the 'best-dressed' cleaner he has ever dated. However, it is thought that the businesswoman's new romance upsets machinist Janice Battersby (Vicky Entwistle), who also had her eye on the randy refuse collector. Trevor is later hurt when he discovers that Carla has been lying and asks her: 'So are you planning to dump me after your social experiment to date a lowly binman?' However, she reportedly replies: 'I think our experiment has only just begun, so fasten your seatbelt, lover‚ we're about to take off.'

According to the Mirror, Billie Piper is still said to be 'red cheeked' after filming scenes for the new series of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Billie reportedly told the paper: 'My most embarrassing scene? Being done from behind while pretending to be all sorts of farmyard animals.' I imagine that one'll go down quite well in the viewing room at a few Doctor Who conventions over the forthcoming years!

Springwatch host Chris Packham has joked that he will have to stop 'panda-bashing' in order to avoid upsetting BBC bosses. Just stop using a hammer, Chris. It's disturbing.

Eddie Izzard has said that comedy should have its own festivals that are separate from music. The stand-up and actor told The Quietus that he wants to set up his own outdoor event focused only on comedy. Izzard said: 'I want us to do comedy festivals. Because it's a "mind" gig, and at music festivals everyone's completely off their faces so if and when they come to the comedy tent, we're always a poor relation. You never get good fees at the festivals because it's all about the music, which is great but comedy should have its own. That's what I want to get out and do.' When asked what comedians could learn from musicians, he added: 'How to own it. We use PAs, like the lead singer we sing down the microphone to connect with the audience, but we are putting forward ideas, and I'm acting out weird scenes, which is a different place. But it's about owning the stage, that's what you can learn. We have to own the stage, because we've got no fucking back up, we're just naked. You've got to be so big, so confident, and have it in the pit of your stomach, that's where you've got to send out the confidence from.'

Steve Penk, the owner of North West radio station Revolution 96.2, has written to the BBC Trust complaining about 'unfair cross-promotion' of Chris Evans's new Radio 2 breakfast show. Penk, who presents his own breakfast programme on the Oldham-based radio station, said that he was 'quite appalled' by the quantity of BBC television promos for the show, in which Evans took over from Sir Terry Wogan. According to reports, the DJ pointed to plugs for the programme on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, The ONE Show and The Andrew Marr Show, and joked that he was 'half expecting' to see Evans on Songs Of Praise. 'Chris Evans is a former colleague and an old friend of mine and I wish him well, but as a licence payer and radio privateer I am quite appalled at the sheer scale of this unfair cross-promotion,' he said. 'The lavishly-produced promotional trailer must have cost a king's ransom to make and it ran to some sixty seconds. It was on all over the weekend.' Penk said that the BBC's 'unashamed promotion' of The Chris Evans Breakfast Show 'flies in the face' of its own cross-promotional codes.

The BBC has confirmed presenters for each regional variation of its new Monday night English Football League show Late Kick Off. Starting simultaneously on 18 January at 11.35pm, a tailored-made version of the programme will be broadcast in the North West, North East and Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, West and East Midlands, the East, London and South East, and the South and South West. The programme, aired on BBC local services in each region, will feature match highlights from non-Premiership clubs, along with 'in-depth coverage' from behind the scenes. Match Of The Day commentator Guy Mowbray will front the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire version, with coverage from twelve teams - Chesterfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Barnsley, Rotherham, Doncaster, Leeds United, Huddersfield Town, Bradford City, Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United and Lincoln City. Mowbray, who still lives in his home city of York, said: 'Us football commentators lead quite a nomadic existence at times, so it's great to be closer to home and getting stuck into what's happening in our region. The football will be taken very seriously - I do live by Bill Shankly's famous quote myself - but we're going to have a lot of fun with it as well. We're definitely not Panorama!' The Midlands edition will be fronted by BBC Football League Show presenter Manish Bhasin and feature action from Burton, Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Coventry, Derby, Hereford, Leicester, Lincoln, Notts County, Nottingham Forest, Port Vale, Shrewsbury, Walsall and West Bromwich Albion. Bhasin, who will be joined in the studio by Derby midfielder Robbie Savage and former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers, said: 'It's always exciting to be part of something that is completely new and its good news for Football League fans who'll get to see more of their local teams on television but in a way they may not have seen before.' Commentator Jonathan Pearce will present the South and South West edition, with action from Aldershot, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham, Exeter, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Swindon, Torquay, Wycombe and Yeovil. 'The show will bring you all the updated news from your local Football League teams with interviews, goal action and thought-provoking comment from our guests,' said Pearce, who lives in Sussex. 'Football has been my life since my first connection with Bristol City when I was twelve. I am lucky enough to be able to commentate on matches and now returning to studio presentation is a bonus on top.' Taking charge of the London and South East edition will be 5 Live presenter Mark Chapman, who will discuss events affecting Crystal Palace, QPR, Millwall, Charlton, Leyton Orient, Barnet, Watford, Brentford, Brighton, Gillingham, Dagenham & Redbridge and Wycombe. 'I have been given the chance to watch football, talk football and meet some of the region's biggest football names so there aren't many supporters who wouldn't want this job,' said Chapman. Former Ipswich Town and Republic of Ireland international Matt Holland will oversee the East edition, with action from Norwich City, Ipswich Town, MK Dons, Colchester United, Peterborough United, Southend United and Northampton Town. 'I'm hoping as an ex-player to provide fans with in-depth match analysis but, also, to go behind the scenes at their club and give an insight to life outside the ninety minutes!' said Holland, who will be joined in the studio each week by expert guests. North West Tonight host Tony Livesey will front the North West edition covering eleven teams, including Stockport County, Accrington Stanley, Macclesfield Town and Tranmere Rovers. Morecombe manager Sammy McIlroy will join Livesey in the studio for the first programme, which will also feature never before seen pre-war footage of Stockport County. However, the presentation team for the Cumbria and North East programme - the only one that yer Keith Telly Topping is actually interesetd in since it'll be covering his beloved, though seemingly unsellable, Magpies has not yet been confirmed by the BBC. Although if I had to bet I'd say Mark Clemmit was a likely candidate.

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have been discussing their television viewing habits. The couple, who are parents to Malia and Sasha, told People that their children are only allowed to watch television at the weekend. 'They can only watch the kid-TV channels for the most part, because you just never know,' said Mrs Obama. Her husband added: 'Unless they want to watch football with me, which they're always welcome. But somehow they haven't been drawn to that yet.' The president went on to say that he liked watching ESPN's SportsCenter while he worked out in the mornings alongside his wife. 'I tend to be much more informed about sports than I'd like,' she joked, prompting the president to reply: 'No, that's not true. Michelle actually knows her sports, which is important in our marriage.' When asked if they watched MTV's Jersey Shore, Mrs Obama said: 'I've heard about it. Not seen it.'

Victoria Beckham's appearance on American Idol has been heavily criticised by US critics. The former Spice Girl was described as 'crazy' and 'a failure' after clashing with judge Simon Cowell on the opening show of the ninth series. New York's The Village Voice wrote: 'Victoria Beckham does look sharp, if rather Jackie O. Barbie, tonight in a trim red suit. But her face is just too crazy for the close-up, and she has nothing to add to the commentary. I always thought a British accent made people sound smart but I guess I was wrong. Simon really does have that X Factor.' The Los Angeles Times claimed that Beckham's appearance on the panel was off-putting. 'The night's saddest failure was guest judge Victoria Beckham, who actually made plenty of appealing comments and bonded beautifully with fellow judge Kara DioGuardi but whose gaunt appearance was so off-putting it might have cost her the slot DeGeneres eventually won,' the review read. Elsewhere, the Washington Post criticised the thirty five-year-old for wearing a lace headband on the show. 'Beckham-Spice appears to have cracked open her head, because it seemed to be held together with a strip of lace she found in her granny's closet. The other Idol judges politely pretended not to notice,' the paper wrote. Beckham is to appear as guest judge on the first two episodes before comedienne Ellen DeGeneres takes over full-time.

Dannii Minogue has confirmed that she is expecting a baby with model Kris Smith. Rumours surfaced online last week that the Australian pop singer and X Factor judge was pregnant, but Minogue denied the allegations, which came before her twelve-week scan. Meanwhile, representatives of reality TV regular Kerry Katona have denied reports that she is pregnant. It was claimed that the twenty nine-year-old former Atomic Kitten singer was expecting her fifth child - her third with husband Mark Croft - the Daily Mail reports. However, agents for Katona have said that she is 'definitely not' pregnant. Just fat.