Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Disturbed A Burglar, Once. I Said "There Is No God."

As chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons is expected to do his share of meet-and-greets. And, last summer was no exception, with his engagements including the Glastonbury Festival, the Spectator summer party – and a visit to Lord's to watch an Ashes test match, as a guest of Channel Five. Nice work if you can get it. Details of Lyons's BBC-related social engagements for the summer are included in the Trust's hospitality register for the six months to the end of September, which has been published today. The BBC Trust has also published details of trustees' personal expenses for the period, showing that Lyons claimed twenty nine thousand pounds. Or, if you like, three-fifths of what the average MP thinks is permissible for cleaning out their moat. Last year the Trust also ran up almost six thousand five hundred pounds in expenses on lobbying lunches, co-hosted by Lyons, for the three main political parties during party conference season. Now that is disgraceful. All three have used the BBC as a political football to kick around for the last few months so why the hell should licence fee payers money be used to wine and dine such scum. Let them foot the bill and the BBC can make a meal out of them for a change.

Billy Connolly - 'a well-known Scottish comedian,' if you didn't know - has spoken out against censorship, complaining that comedians who swear on stage are unfairly branded 'vulgarian and foul-mouthed.' The veteran broadcaster and actor, who is currently performing a string of stand-up dates at London's Hammersmith Apollo, said that comedy was not about causing offence to people. 'I don't offend, that's not my job. My job is to make people laugh,' he said. The sixty seven-year-old added: 'There's a lot of deep and desperate unfairness been going on.' Connolly himself is no stranger to controversy, after he was criticised in 2004 for making a joke about British hostage Kenneth Bigley - prior to his murder in Iraq - on stage. Connolly has always maintained that he was misquoted over the content of the joke. Speaking at Tuesday's South Bank Awards, he said: 'I think it was [the US comedian] George Carlin who said, "the job of a comedian is to know where the line is and to step over it." We will dictate where that line is and where it should be. If you swear in a book, you're some kind of clever guy, if you swear in a poem, oh how dangerous he is, you swear in a song - oh my God, what a ground breaker! You swear as a comedian, and you're a vulgarian and foul-mouthed. When did this happen? Who's doing the judging?' That'd be the Daily Mail, Bill. They do it a lot, you might have noticed.

Amanda Holden's Fantasy Lives was - amusingly - rather more of a nightmare for ITV last night, whilst Shameless marched defiantly back into Channel 4's schedule with its audience in tact. According to overnight figures, Fantasy Lives drew a hugely disappointing 2.48m viewers between 9pm and 10pm, scraping into fourth position for the 9pm hour, ahead of Five by just seventy thousand viewers. Although Holden's attempts to become a Parisian showgirl kept a fairly stable viewership throughout, the first of the three-part series rated well below Holden's previous solo effort, Out of My Depth, which managed 4.2m on ITV on 14 December last year. Albeit, since then viewers have had to suffer six episodes of Amanda's (alleged) sitcom, Big Top. So that might explain a lot. Last night, Holden's show was beaten by every other terrestrial channel except Five, and even that was only just behind, with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation scoring 2.41m. BBC1 won the 9pm hour - albeit rather unconvincingly - with Survivors achieving a below slot-average of 3.6m. Pity, actually, as it was a very good episode. BBC2 was the moral winner of the hour, with How Earth Made Us being watched by a huge 3.1m, up from the usual slot average of 1.9m.

Coronation Street veteran Rita Sullivan will be at the centre of a love triangle plot after she returns to the soap next month, it has been revealed. The Sun reports that the Weatherfield shopkeeper, played by actress Barbara Knox, is to compete against Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) for the affections of the charming Lewis Archer (Nigel Havers). It is thought that Rita secretly decides to hire the male escort for an upmarket ball, even though she knows that her friend has fallen for him. Audrey is then left disappointed when she tries to book Lewis for the same event. A source said: 'He has to explain he's already booked. But Audrey still goes with a pal and is gobsmacked when she sees Lewis and Rita canoodling. They exchange insults - before Rita and Lewis storm out.'

Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow will return for a second series, the BBC has confirmed. A spokeswoman said the BBC was 'absolutely delighted to continue working' with the bland-but-popular comedian and that the show had been 'such a big hit for us.' She added that McIntyre would not be working with any other channels and that it had 'a great relationship' with him. She would not comment on a scummy Daily Mail 'exclusive' that he had signed a twelve-month contract worth half a million smackers. In the first series, shown last summer, McIntyre (whom yer Keith Telly Topping thinks is all right. In small doses. But, don't overdo him or you'll be needing the services of a real comedian thereafter) visited six theatres across the UK, acting as compere to a series of stand-up comedians. Ranging from the really very good indeed to ... Al Murray. The show regularly pulled in audiences of more than five million viewers on Saturday nights - way above the BBC's expectations. In November, McIntyre, who has filled venues including Wembley Arena, told the BBC News website that he believed his comedy worked better in front of bigger audiences. 'I did the driving around the country, playing small rooms and adapting to different audiences,' he said. 'So, it's taken me this long to get there, but it's where I feel most comfortable in big arenas. I love running round the stage.'

David Threlfall has claimed that he is nothing like his Shameless alter ego. To be honest, Dave, we'd all be rather worried if you were! The fifty six-year-old actor, who plays the alcoholic council house dad, Frank Gallagher, on the Channel 4 series, has described Frank as 'lost.' He added 'I can't imagine getting up in the morning and taking a drink,' he told the Mirror. 'My body doesn't take more than four pints. I was doing a scene yesterday where he was drinking cough medicine.' Threlfall also said that he 'loves' his job and has no intention of leaving the series.

BBC4 has ordered two documentary series about the history of maps to coincide with a major British Library exhibition. In-house production Mapping the World and Tern Television-produced The Art of Maps will air later this spring under the billing of A Maps Moment. BBC4 controller Richard Klein said the subject played to the channel's strength as they embraced the disciplines of art, science, history and culture. 'BBC4 continues to be fascinated with the exploration of all things cultural and maps have contributed to culture in a unique way,' said Klein. 'Beyond their function maps are also fascinating works of art in themselves and through our Maps Moment we hope to go someway towards illustrating their true meaning and beauty.' The three-part Mapping the World will document the history of cartography from hammered rock art to the advent of Google Earth. Professor Jerry Brotton will explore how maps are connected to broader issues of power, romance, wars and exploration. Each episode of the four-part The Art of Maps will focus on a single map, using human stories and testimony, original sketches and artistic impressions, private journals and historic archive sources to tell its story. The series will address the cartographers' role and the impact their creations have had within the art world. The British Library's head of map collections Peter Barber will act as series consultant.

Kathryn Prescott has vowed never again to work with her sister Megan. The twins, who play Emily and Katie Fitch on the E4 teen drama Skins, have admitted that they find it hard working alongside each other. 'It is trying working with Megan because it's very full on,' Kathryn told the Sun. 'We're not very close twins - we went to separate schools and never wanted to do the twin thing in our careers, but Skins was too good an opportunity to miss.' She added: 'Now we will definitely go our separate ways again.'

Standard Life is to run a three-month sponsorship of digital channel Dave in a bid to target its younger viewers. A total of two million pounds will be spent on an advertising campaign, with around three hundred thousand pounds of the budget set aside for sponsorship of the popular comedy channel. As viewers enjoy programmes such as Top Gear, Qi, Little Britain, Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week, the life insurer will be encouraging twenty eight to forty-year-olds to 'reality check' their finances and think about saving for the future. Jo Coomber, head of marketing operations at Standard Life, said: 'We needed an entirely new way to talk to what will be our customers of the future and help them engage with saving. We are really keen to understand and talk to this target group and have planned the campaign accordingly.' The campaign is being launched to coincide with introduction of the group's active money personal pension, an entry-level product aimed at the younger viewers.

The BBC was accused of 'culturally neglecting' its public service broadcasting duties in Northern Ireland. Jeez. They've got Christine Bleakley already, what more to the silly sods want? MPs said it was easier for Northern Irish independent television companies to obtain commissions from New York or Los Angeles than it is from London. In a report, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said: 'Of all the public service broadcasters, it is the BBC that retains primacy. We believe that it has not adequately discharged its responsibilities in Northern Ireland.' It found coverage of the Province was limited and 'concentrated largely on the Troubles and little else.' Dramas such as Bloody Sunday on ITV and Five Minutes of Heaven, starring James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson on BBC2, have been highly acclaimed. However 'stereotypes' focusing on the Troubles have defined the region, according to the report Television Broadcasting in Northern Ireland. Well, is that really TV's fault or that of successive British governments going back at least a couple of hundred years in failing to satisfactorily address the Irish question? Answers on a petrol bomb. The report added: 'This short inquiry has clearly demonstrated that Northern Ireland is culturally neglected by the BBC, Channel 4' and 'those with ministerial responsibilities in the UK Government.' One production company, Below the Radar, told the committee: 'We have lost all faith in London-based broadcasters, particularly BBC nationally and Channel 4, to deliver on their targets for production in and portrayal of Northern Ireland. Our experience has been of a profoundly rigid mindset which considers events and cultural expression outside the M25 as inferior.' Ofcom, the media regulator, said that Northern Ireland has the lowest national programming spend in the UK at three pounds eighty five per person compared to a UK average of thirty two pounds. The BBC's governing body said in 2008 that the viewers outside of London were getting a second-class service. News bulletins such as the Six and Ten O'Clock News did not provide sufficient coverage of events outside of the South-East, according to the BBC Trust. The corporation has announced a commitment to increase its network programming from outside London to fifty per cent, including at least seventeen per cent from the nations. It is expected three per cent will be from Northern Ireland by 2016. The report finds the BBC is 'moving too slowly' and target should be met sooner and at least one programme commissioner should be based there. It's remarkable, isn't it? You never get any of these sort of whinges from the Welsh?

BBC3 has ordered a second series of Lunch Monkeys – despite a weak first run for the office-based sitcom. The show - which stars Nigel Havers and Sian Reeves - was written by former lawyer David Isaacs and follows a group of slackers working in the post room of a personal injury firm. It was produced by Channel K with Matt Lipsey as director. The first series averaged three hundred and thirty thousand viewers at 10.30pm on Thursdays, marginally below the slot average of four hundred and ten thousand and it lost more than a quarter of its audience throughout its run. It was also poorly received by critics, with The Times dismissing it as 'a dull sitcom in which Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps entered into an unhappy marriage with a sub-standard retread of The Office.' For what it's worth, Keith Telly Topping thought it was pretty dreadful too.

Penny Smith has admitted that she is unsure over her future at GMTV. Earlier this week, reports surfaced which suggested that Smith and John Stapleton are facing the axe as ITV aims to save costs. A source said: 'They are both big earners and it may make sense to just use ITN newsreaders and journalists to front the show at a much lower cost.' Speaking on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, Smith said: 'D'you think I should knit a safety net? Anything could happen.'

A radio presenter sacked after calling a Conservative councillor 'a Nazi' and 'an ignorant pig' live on air launches a High Court action today over his right to free speech. Jon Gaunt (seen, to the right - indeed to the very right - strangling Basil Brush ... So, clearly, he's not all bad), who made the comments on his Talksport radio show in November 2008, is seeking to challenge a decision by Ofcom upholding complaints against him under the Broadcasting Code. The case arises out of an interview by Gaunt with councillor Michael Stark about Redbridge Council's decision to ban smokers from becoming foster parents. Stark defended the decision on the grounds that the welfare of young children should be put ahead of the needs of foster families. But Gaunt, who was in care as a child, accused his interviewee of being 'an ignorant pig' and also 'a health Nazi', arguing that children in care would be deprived of the chance of finding a foster home under the new policy. At the end of the show, Gaunt made an on-air apology to his guest and was suspended pending an investigation. Talksport later announced that it had terminated his contract. Gaunt is seeking a judicial review claiming his fundamental right to free speech and to criticise a professional politician has been infringed by Ofcom's findings. This blogger is all for the concept of freedom of speech, personally. Particularly when the organ which is attempting to dictate what is, and isn't, morally acceptable is an unelected quango full of nonentities. But, you know, there is such a thing as 'tact', mate.

Sky has won a long-running legal action against Electronic Data Systems over a collapsed multi-million customer relationship management contract. In summer 2000, Sky selected EDS for a forty eight million pound contract to design, build and implement a CRM system in its Scottish contact centres in Livingston and Dunfermline. Sky subsequently terminated the relationship in March 2002 after EDS failed to meet its obligations, leading to the satellite firm having to bring the project in-house. After launching a legal action against EDS in August 2004 for over seven hundred million pounds in damages, the case eventually reached the high court in October 2007, before concluding in July the following year. In a judgement at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, Justice Ramsey found that EDS, now owned by Hewlett Packard, is indeed liable to Sky for 'fraudulent misrepresentation giving rise to damages.' During the hearing, the judge was told how it took four years for Sky to successfully roll out the CRM system at a reported cost of two hundred and sixty five million pounds. The firm said that it would have opted for a different provider if EDS had been more honest about its limitations. In a statement, Hewlett Packard said: 'This is a legacy issue, dating back to the EDS business in 2000, which HP inherited when it acquired EDS in 2008. We are pleased the court dismissed the majority of the allegations made. While we accept that the contract was problematic, HP strongly maintains EDS did nothing to deceive Sky. HP will be seeking permission to appeal.' Final costs and damages will be decided at another hearing in February, but Sky expects that HP will have to pay out at least two hundred million pounds from the settlement. Ouch. Expensive acquistion, that.

The Irish broadcasting watchdog has upheld a string of complaints from angry viewers who claimed that a late-night quiz show on Ireland's TV3 channel was 'misleading, dishonest and unfair.' Among the complaints made against Play TV were that viewers were misled that there was a thirty two thousand Euro jackpot up for grabs, when the eventual winner won a prize of only one thousand Euros. The complaints committee of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld ten complaints against Play TV but rejected a further three. One viewer, Mark Nagle, told how he spent nearly twenty Euros calling the show - at €1.50 a time - to answer a riddle correctly, but was never given the chance to answer the puzzle on screen. Each time, he was informed by a recorded voice that he was 'very close' to having his call answered by the studio and to 'please try again.' The call was then disconnected. Mr Nagle said that during the fifteen minutes he was repeatedly calling the show, not one call was answered on air, so his calls were not being blocked by others. A winner was only heard on-air in the show's last seconds. In its response, TV3 said an on-screen ticker made it clear to viewers that more than one call might be required to get through to the presenter live on air. It added that since May 2009 the programme had given out four hundred thousand Euros in prize money. The station also claimed that the format of using a premium-rate telephone line and answering a question was used by a large number of other shows and cited RTE's The Late Late Show as an example. However, the BAI found that there was 'a fundamental difference' between the two as on The Late Late Show a winner was selected at random, whereas on Play TV a random selection determined whether a viewer got to participate or not.

Teri Hatcher has reportedly filmed a lesbian kiss as part of an upcoming Desperate Housewives storyline. Yer Keith Telly Topping is willing to bet that'll be popular with her fanbase! According to TV Guide, Hatcher's character Susan Delfino will have a brief encounter will another female character in an episode to be screened later this season. Last season, Susan shared a kiss - with tongues - with fellow Wisteria Lane resident Gabrielle Solis, which Eva Longoria claimed she 'hated' filming.

Steve Jones has been confirmed as the host of new BBC1 quiz 101 Ways To Leave A Gameshow. The T4 presenter's latest format, which is being produced by Endemol, will involve eight contestants answering general knowledge questions inside a large tower. When a player loses a round they will either be ejected by cannon, rocket or catapult into mud and ice-cold water. Every time you think television has reach the bottom of the metaphorical barrel, along comes something else to prove you wrong. 'This is one of the most original gameshows to have come out of the UK in recent years,' executive producer Mark Linsey told the Sun. 'There is nothing quite like it on television.' The programme will be filmed in Argentina, near the set of hit BBC gameshow Total Wipeout, and there will be a ten thousand pound prize for the eventual winner.

The BBC has revealed plans to broadcast every game from the Six Nations Championships in high definition for the first time ever. Starting on 6 February at 2pm for Ireland's game against Italy, all matches from the tournament will be simulcast live on BBC1 and BBC HD (apart from France vs Italy on 14 March, which will be shown on BBC2). The Six Nations, featuring England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy, runs from 6 February to 20 March 2010. All games will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website, and made available on-demand via BBC iPlayer for a week after transmission. John Inverdale and Gabby Logan will present the BBC's TV coverage, with in-game commentary coming from Eddie Butler, Andrew Cotter and Nick Mullins, along with Jonathan Davies, Phillip Matthews, Brian Moore and Andy Nicol. Logan and Inverdale will be joined in the studio for match analysis by Lawrence Dallaglio, Jonathan Davies, Jeremy Guscott, Raphael Ibanez, Andy Nicol, Keith Wood and former Wales captain Colin Charvis. Games held on 7, 14 and 27,February along with the tie on 13 March will all be available to watch on BBC Sport's interactive service via The Red Button.

Ian Wright has criticised Cheryl Cole's public plea for support to win a Brit Awards. The Girls Aloud singer recently posted a video message on her website, which sees her asking fans to vote for her song, 'Fight For This Love', in the Best British Single category for the forthcoming Brits. Speaking on his magazine show Live From Studio Five last night, Wright commented: 'I can't understand why she's done that. She performed on The X Factor - she didn't sing great but she performed brilliantly - and she got to number one. Does she need to do that? She's one of the most popular people I've seen for ages.' And, the thirty seven people who are still watching Live From Studio Five probably all agreed with him.

Cole herself, meanwhile, reportedly 'nearly broke down in tears' as she listened to the Haiti charity song for the first time. Nearly. But not quite. Why does that not surprise me? The singer Mika - who is also said to be involved in Simon Cowell's charity version of 'Everybody Hurts' - revealed that relatives of some of his friends have been affected by the recent disaster. 'I have friends from France whose families have been directly affected in Haiti. They lost relatives and their homes,' he told the Daily Star. 'I have a collection of Haiti paintings in my flat, so it's a place close to me.' Jeez, talk about stretching a point for a bit of reflected sympathy. 'I've got Haitian art so I know all about the place.' Next, presumably, we'll have a tear-jerking 'I know someone, who knows someone, who once got beaten up by the Tonton Macoutes' exclusive from a third division chart singer in a desperate attempt to, somehow, link themselves to the horrific events in the Caribbean and to show how much they, you know, care. Listen musicians, if you really do want to help people - and I'm quite prepared to believe that many of you genuinely do - then for God's sake just give some of your vast wads of income to the very hard-working aid charities who are already there on the ground. Or, how about donating the receipts from the next gig that you do to them? Or, better still, you can always get on a plane and go to Haiti (but, don't tell the press you're going) and, when you get there, help the UN relief agencies to hand out food and blankets and tents to people in desperate distress. But don't, please, sell a sob-story to the flaming tabloids containing some hugely tenuous link you have to a country that, ten days ago, you'd probably never even heard of. Because that's sick.

Christine Bleakley has decided that she wants to launch her own chat show, according to a report. The ONE Show host believes that it is time to branch out following the recent attention surrounding her romance with Frank Lampard, the Daily Star claims. A BBC source said: 'Christine wants to cash in on the limelight. She hopes to pick up where Davina [McCall] left off with that chat show which flopped a few years ago.' Well, that's setting your sights really high, isn't it? Bleakley was recently tipped to leave The ONE Show after reportedly receiving a string of other offers from broadcasters. The star has previously boosted her profile by appearing as a contestant on BBC reality show Strictly Come Dancing.

Police were reportedly called to Susan Boyle's home in Scotland last night after the Britain's Got Talent runner-up disturbed an intruder inside the property. Well, with a boat-race like that, I'm not surprised the poor bugger was disturbed. I'd've been downright terrified.