Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

One of Keith Telly Topping's favourite shows, Qi, aired pre-watershed for the first time on Friday, and promptly achieved some of its best ever viewing figures. With Silent Witness taking the 9pm slot, the Stephen Fry-fronted panel quiz show switched to 8.30pm for the first time. It held up well, performing in line with the slot's average with an audience of 5.2m – its best ratings after last Christmas Eve's 5.7m. At 9pm Silent Witness saw its audience drop from an opening night 7.3m to 6.6m for its second episode, but it still won its slot, outperforming ITV, where a preview of Dancing on Ice was watched by 6.3m.

BBC bosses have reportedly banned their stars from discussing Jonathan Ross's forthcoming departure from the corporation. The news emerged after So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe was instructed not to mention Ross in Saturday's live show, according to the Sun. Lythgoe said: 'I have already been told, "No political jokes and don't make a joke about Jonathan Ross."' Last week, Ross announced that he was to leave the BBC after thirteen years. A source commented: 'Executives here just want the whole thing to quieten down - and that won't be helped if everyone keeps commenting on the situation.' Yeah, like that's going to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, the vultures are already circling, it would seem. Chris Evans has said that he would be interested in taking over Jonathan Ross's Friday night talkshow, but does not think that he will be offered the slot. According to Metro, Evans told The Andrew Marr Show: 'I would be lying if I said that if I was offered it I would say no, but I don't think I will be offered it. Jonathan parting ways with the BBC, I said last week I think it was inevitable in many ways. I thought the shadow and the cloud from what happened in October 2008... just couldn't get away.' Evans added: 'One thing I would say about Jonathan's situation is I just wish he had kept one foot in the camp so maybe kept his radio show. Maybe dropped the Friday night show because that's the one that's caused the fuss.'

Alesha Dixon has revealed that she is 'in discussions' to host her own talk show, while also suggesting that she will return to Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. Yeah, why not? She's got a once-in-a-generation mind, that one, so that should definitely be worth watching. The former Mis-Teeq singer told Metro that were she to secure her own programme, she would want to interview US president Barack Obama. Oh, this just gets better and better. Dixon said: 'I wouldn't talk to him about politics. I'd ask him about food and what he does in his spare time.' What's that sound yer Keith Telly Topping hears? Why, it's Michael Parkinson and Russell Harty turning in their graves. Yes, I know Michael isn't dead yet. Technically. But if anything's going to finish him off, it's the thought of some simpering bloody airhead getting a chat show and the most relevant thing she can think of doing with it is asking the most powerful man in the world about what sort of food he likes to eat. Of her plans for 2010, Dixon added: 'I'm going back in the studio to record my second album. I'll probably do another documentary [and] there's Strictly.' That's a mad-full schedule, Alesha. Maybe you might want to stick to that instead of trying your hand at interviewing any presidents just yet.

The post-apocalyptic drama Survivors returns this week, with the cast and crew counting themselves fortunate that 2009's swine flu outbreak didn't wreck the making of the second series. 'Amazingly, we were filming in the Midlands where all the swine flu was happening,' says actress Julie Graham, who plays the series' heroine, Abby Grant. 'I was convinced that somebody was going to get it, because we all work in such close proximity, and we were all going to go down with it and it would a make a fabulous story. And nobody got it!'

Ricky Groves has admitted that he has been left 'heartbroken' about the breakdown of his marriage to Hannah Waterman. The former EastEnders stars announced their decision to split after three years of marriage last week. In an interview with the News of the World, Groves blamed Waterman's weight loss for the problems in their marriage. He added that she told him she didn't love him any more on Christmas Day, but later invited him to a New Year's Eve party. 'We weren't at the stage of throwing things at each other,' he explained. 'It gave me hope that she wanted to be with me. But I was blaming myself and wondering if there was somebody else involved. It was good to see her. Part of me still thought she'd come round. I had to talk to her, to see if there was another reason for the way she was towards me. All I said was, "Is there someone else?" I knew from her body language, the way she stiffened, that I didn't need to hear her answer. Then she looked up at me for a couple of seconds, straight in my eyes and said, "Yes, I have. I'm so, so sorry." I think she'd been desperate to tell me for a while. And I think she was glad when I finally confronted it. She didn't hesitate for a second in responding. And to be fair to her, she hasn't lied to me. Her eyes welled up. I knew she was hurting too, having to tell me. We'd been so in love and she'd destroyed our marriage vows. I said, "That's adultery" and stood up. I remember feeling as though there was nobody else there, like I was in a strange zone. I didn't speak or look at anybody. I just got my coat and walked out.' Groves added that he has been depressed recently and said that the breakdown of his marriage has knocked his confidence. 'I am devastated,' he added. 'I feel like a failure. I'm very down. I never thought it could end. And certainly not like this.'

Simon Cowell has confirmed that the current season of American Idol will be his last. The music mogul has quit the show after nine seasons in order to launch a US version of The X Factor in 2011. Appearing at the FOX executives session at the TCA press tour yesterday, Cowell confirmed that he would serve as judge and executive producer on the new series. Cowell told reporters that it would have been 'impossible' for him to continue on Idol alongside The X Factor. He also serves as a judge on the original UK version of The X Factor as well as Britain's Got Talent. On his potential replacements on Idol, Cowell commented: 'I've had the best eight or nine years of my life doing this job. The most important thing is [for FOX] to get someone who knows what they're talking about. I want to leave Idol this year bigger and better than ever before. I hope it'll be higher-rated than it was last year.'

Channel 4 is considering making a provocative documentary in which a terminally ill person would volunteer to be mummified immediately after their death. Fulcrum TV has secured development funding from the broadcaster for the project, which would follow the volunteer's 'emotional response' to the embalming process. It is also keen to display the embalmed body in a museum for up to three years before regular funeral arrangements are made. The independent company, whose credits include Black Market Britain, broadcast on ITV last week, and the Discovery Channel documentary Jack the Ripper in America, has placed an advert in spiritual magazines appealing for volunteers. The Egyptian mummification process dates back to three thousand three hundred BC. At the time, it was believed to help the spirit travel to the afterlife, involved the removal of the body’s organs, which were stored in jars. The only exception was the brain, which was deemed useless, removed, via hooks inserted up the corpse's nose, and thrown away. The body was then dried out with natron (a mixture of salt and baking soda), wrapped in cloth and placed in a sarcophagus. And then made into a movie starring Christopher Lee five millennia later.

World famous (in Leeds anyway) Jimmy Saville impersonator, Mel B, has refused to be drawn on whether she will join The X Factor's judging panel this year. The former Spice Girl was recently tipped to replace Dannii Minogue on the ITV show following reports that the Australian singer planned to quit. Responding to the rumours in an interview with Hello, Mel commented: 'That's funny! Who knows what's going to happen? We'll see. That's something I can't talk about.' She continued: 'I think the show's great. I've seen Simon [Cowell] a few times. I think he's an amazing businessman. And I've met Cheryl [Cole] a few times. She's a really lovely lady.' The singer's comments come despite X Factor creative director Brian Friedman's recent claim that she would not be chosen for the panel. Maybe he knows something she doesn't?

Coronation Street actress Helen Flanagan has admitted that she 'can't imagine' ever quitting the soap. The nineteen-year-old has played the role of mischievous Rosie Webster for the past ten years and been handed a number of high-profile storylines during her time on the programme. In an interview with This Is Lancashire, Flanagan commented: 'I feel so lucky to be in Coronation Street and to have been given the opportunity when I was little to grow up as part of such an amazing institution.' She continued: 'My goal is just to be a successful actress. Coronation Street is everything I've known. I can't imagine leaving.' Flanagan confirmed that she is 'nothing like' her character and sometimes struggles with Rosie's bitchy behaviour. She said: 'It's a fun role because I get to do things that I normally never would. Although sometimes it can be hard to get the energy to be horrible.'

Meanwhile, in further Coronation Street news, the soap may move to a new home after ITV re-entered talks with The Peel Group over a possible relocation to Salford's MediaCity UK development. The proposal to move ITV's Manchester operations, mentioned in yesterday's blog, is now believed to be back on the table after previously being scrapped in March last year. Coronation Street's current base is at Manchester's Quay Street, which was chosen as the location of a studio complex for Granada in the 1960s. Bryan Gray, chairman of MediaCity UK's developers Peel, explained that the Weatherfield soap has a 'pre-allocated' space next to the Imperial War Museum North ahead of a possible move. Speaking to the Guardian, he explained: 'We had some quite detailed discussions but they came to a halt with the management of ITV changing. Since the appointment of Archie Norman as chairman and John Cresswell as acting chief executive we've started discussions with ITV again.' Meanwhile, an ITV spokesperson confirmed that talks are taking place, but firmly denied suggestions that the current Quay Street set would be destroyed.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced that he is hoping to find a Dorothy with attitude on his new Wizard Of Oz talent search show. As he launched auditions for the programme in Scotland at the weekend, Lloyd Webber advised hopefuls not to imitate Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum's classic novel. The new show, which is to air on the BBC, will follow the theatre legend as he searches for the perfect actress to take on the role of Dorothy in a new stage production. Lloyd Webber told the Sun: 'I want a Dorothy with attitude! She'll be more Avril Lavigne than Judy Garland. Of course, Judy Garland made the role famous but I'm looking for a Twenty First Century Dorothy. Okay, she probably won't have strange green hair or anything, but she'll be someone who would fit in on the streets here. She'll have attitude and probably have an iPod.'

Strictly Come Dancing may be split into two with a Saturday and Sunday night show this year, according to press reports. The Sun claim that BBC bosses want the programme to return to the format that was used in 2008 to avoid overly long Saturday shows. However, executively apparently want the Sunday instalment to be filmed live, which may cause problems due to financial implications. 'We really want to take Strictly back to a Sunday night, but we would have to do it live and that takes more money, which is pretty tight at the moment,' said a source.

Jason Gardiner has criticised Nigel Lythgoe's judging on BBC talent show So You Think You Can Dance. The Dancing On Ice judge tweeted about Lythgoe during the first SYTYCD live show on Saturday night. 'Is it just me or does Nigel Lythgoe like the sound of his own voice?' asked Gardiner. Aye. It's a common thing in TV, matey, you'll get used to it. The thirty eight-year-old choreographer also defended his decision to vote off X Factor's Sinitta from the first episode of Dancing On Ice over the weekend, claiming that it was a tough choice based on the skate-off performances. 'Understand as judges we can't overlook mistakes in the skate-off,' he said. 'Sinitta is a mate so it was a very hard decision for me. Believe me!'

Former ITV current affairs chief Jeff Anderson is to be the new editor of Watchdog.

MTV has been criticised by broadcasting watchdog Ofcom after Lady Gaga swore during a televised performance of the Isle of MTV music festival where the singer used the word 'motherfucker.' One viewer complained about the singer's language during the broadcast at 16:00 on 2 November, 2009. Meanwhile, the BBC escaped censure from Ofcom after Formula One world champion Jenson Button said 'fuck' in front of cameras during a chat with other drivers. As in the MTV case, one viewer had complained that the language was inappropriate given that the Abu Dhabi grand prix was broadcast in the daytime and Jenson swore at 12.10pm. MTV 'unreservedly apologised' to Ofcom for the unedited broadcast of Lady GaGa's performance and blamed a mistake at their offices in Italy for the mix-up. Ofcom ruled the channel was in breach of the broadcasting code, which states that the most offensive language must not be heard before the 21:00 GMT watershed. The BBC received one complaint after capturing Button swearing during a conversation with fellow F1 drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, immediately after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It told Ofcom the 'non-aggressive banter' had been part of the post-race coverage, which was supplied by a third party - meaning the BBC had limited control over the output and the conduct of the drivers. The BBC regretted the broadcast of the word, but said live coverage of 'highly charged sporting events' may occasionally contain strong language.

Welsh broadcaster S4C has paid tribute to a former commissioner whose body was pulled from the sea in the early hours of Saturday morning. Angharad Jones, forty six, was commissioning editor for drama and film at the Welsh-language channel between 1996 and 2007. The coastguard recovered her body close to Penarth Pier, near Cardiff. South Wales Police said her death was not being treated as suspicious. During her time at S4C, Jones was responsible for Welsh-language drama that would go on to win multiple awards including Caerdydd and Con Passionate. She also commissioned multi-award wining film Eldra and political drama Llafur Carid. Most recently she had worked as a consultant for Cardiff-based independent producer Calon, which produces Five's Hana's Helpline. A spokeswoman for S4C said: 'It was with great sadness that we heard of the tragic news of Angharad Jones' death. Angharad made a major contribution to drama in Wales.'

Paramount has announced the release date for its Star Trek sequel. The follow-up to JJ Abrams's franchise reinvention will open in cinemas on 29 June 2012. Abrams is expected to return to the director's chair working from a script by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof. The enterprise crew cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg will all reprise their roles in the next film.

NBC has described the chances of Heroes returning for a fifth season as 'very good.' The once popular SF series, which recently dropped to a low of just over four and half million viewers in the US, has been widely tipped for cancellation. However, speaking at the TV Critics Association press tour, the network's president Angela Bromstad revealed that the show's creator Tim Kring will be pitching his ideas for a new season in the coming weeks and she believes it stands a decent chance of coming back.

The network have also announced plans to develop yet another new Law & Order spin off. According to Bromstad, the latest from the franchise is based in Los Angeles and could co-exist with the other L&O shows. The idea came from NBC, who pitched the new show to Law & Order creator Dick Wolf earlier in the season. NBC Universal chairman Jeff Gaspin said that Wolf is keen on the project and refers to it as 'Lola' - short for Law & Order: Los Angeles. The network currently airs the regular Law & Order and its most successful spin off, Special Victims Unit. NBC recently unveiled six new drama pilots for the 2010-11 television season, including Jerry Bruckheimer's Chase and The Rockford Files, from Steve Carrell's Carousel Productions.

Former ER star Maura Tierney is said to be doing well as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer, according to a producer from NBC's Parenthood. The actress, who played Abby Lockhart in the medical drama, announced that she was leaving the upcoming series last September after discovering a tumour in her breast. Speaking at the TCA Panel this weekend, producer Jason Katims said: 'She's doing well … She's in treatment and I spoke to her a few weeks ago and she's doing good.' Former Gilmore Girls actress Lauren Graham was later confirmed as Tierney's replacement in the show, based on the 1989 movie starring Steve Martin and Keanu Reeves.

David Goyer has revealed what will happen if FlashForward is commissioned for a second season. The first run of the ABC drama, which stars Sonya Walger and Joseph Fiennes, has failed to perform well in both US and UK ratings, and it has been speculated that it may not return for a second run. However, Goyer remains optimistic about season two and teased fans about the storylines going forward in a recent group interview. 'You're going to start meeting some of the faces of the enemy, starting with episode eleven,' he said. 'We'll meet a bunch of them in the second half of the season. One of the other interesting things is we'll start to let you in on who the people that engineered the blackout are and why. There are a couple more that are coming and assuming we go into season two, one of those guys will be a series regular in season two.'

Sarah Palin has taken a new job as a commentator for FOX News. According to the Associated Press, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate confirmed the move through her attorney. Thomas Van Flein said that Palin will provide some commentary for the network, but refused to elaborate. The last time Palin was last involved in broadcasting as a weekend sportscaster in the 1980s for KTUU-TV in Anchorage.

Simon Mayo has expressed concern that the BBC is pushing religious coverage and topics to the margins of its output. Mayo, who replaced Chris Evans yesterday as presenter of Radio 2's Drivetime show, claimed that issues connected to religious beliefs are not being fairly dealt with by the corporation. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, for which he recently become a regular columnist, Mayo said: 'I've just listened to David Tennant on Desert Island Discs. His father was a minister and that was seen to be a problem [by show presenter Kirsty Young]. Religion is increasingly driven to the margin. I was listening to a BBC News bulletin during Easter 2008 about services to mark "the rebirth of Christ," a line clearly written by someone who had no contact with or understanding of the concept of resurrection. My brother works for the BBC religious affairs unit and [I] told him I couldn't believe it.' Last May, the BBC received one hundred and fifteen complaints after it appointed Channel 4 executive Aaqil Ahmed, a non-Christian, as its new head of religion and ethics. However, the corporation stressed at the time that 'Christians are and will remain the key audience for the BBC's religious television output.'

Davina McCall and Vernon Kay will reportedly battle it out to take over Paul O'Grady's Channel 4 chat show. Hopefully, to the death. Of one or, indeed, both. That, I'd watch. According to the Mirror, both presenters have been lined up for 'live auditions' along with Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp. Reports claim that up to ten potential hosts have been approached by producers to host the show one week at a time. Whoever appeals the most will then go on to become a permanent replacement for O'Grady. 'We have been inundated,' an insider is quoted as saying. 'The teatime slot is a real favourite because it means they can be on telly every day but there is less pressure than with a prime time show. We plan to have eight to ten presenters for a week each in spring. Then we'll decide whether to give the gig to one or carry on with rotating names. It's a bit like staging live auditions. People are desperate to get involved - having a chatshow is the Holy Grail for lots of these presenters.'

A director of Liverpool Football Club has resigned after sending an abusive response to an e-mail from a fan. Tom Hicks Junior, the son of co-owner Tom Hicks, initially sent a message to supporter Stephen Horner reading 'idiot,' The Times reports. He followed this with a further e-mail stating: 'Blow me, fuckface. Go to hell, I'm sick of you.' Nice. Mind you, I'm surprised that anybody's surprised by this. Football directors at every club have pretty much spent the last hundred years treating their customers with exactly that level of contempt. Horner had sent Hicks a copy of an article in local newspaper the Liverpool Echo, which raised issues regarding the finances at the football club. James McKenna, a spokesman for fan group Spirit of Shankly, which is committed to removing Hicks Sr and George Gillett from the club, said: 'Is this what the club has come to, that a board member can speak in such derogatory terms to a supporter but can go without censure or any public criticism? The conspiracy of silence which has followed this unsavoury incident is totally unbecoming of a club which has always prided itself on its relationship with the fans.'

The scripts for the Doctor Who Christmas special were almost leaked. According to the Digital Spy website Sinead Keenan, who played Addams in David Tennant's final outing, has revealed that she left her scripts in a pub shortly after reading them. 'We had to return the scripts to the production office once we'd finished with them,' she said. 'After I'd got the part and I'd read through the scripts, I was with my boyfriend at the time and we were having lunch in a pub, and I left them on the seat! He went, "Sinead - where are your scripts?!" and so we went back and got them and luckily it was fine. It was all very confidential and hush-hush.' Goodness only knows what would have happened to Sinead if they had been stolen. Probably a jolly good spanking off Julie Gardner, one suspects. Which, to be fair, if they'd filmed it would have been a very welcome extra on the next DVD box-set. Recalling the secrecy around the Christmas specials, Sinead added: 'It was one of those things that you couldn't tell anyone. Besides, when you get your scripts, every one was watermarked with your name and the date in case it got out.'

GMTV bosses are reportedly hoping to introduce a more serious tone when the morning show is revamped. It is thought that executives plan to emulate the style of Sky News and could approach the channel's Afternoon Live anchor Kay Burley with a possible presenting deal. Producers recently confirmed that 'all areas' of the programme are currently under review, sparking speculation over the future of long-running hosts like Kate Garraway. A source told the Daily Star: 'Sky is the one people turn to for the big breaking news stories. We want that reputation. Kay Burley would be a great coup for us if we got her. Viewers like her and maybe she'd fancy moving back to terrestrial TV.'

Mystery surrounds Kerry Katona's future in a fitness camp after she was pictured back in her hometown of Wilmslow. The reality TV regular and former spokesperson for Iceland (the crap superkmarket, not the country) was seen picking up her children - and a bag of food - from the home of her mother, Sue, at the weekend. A report in the Daily Mail has suggested that Katona decided to leave the camp for the weekend, while the Sun claims that she has quit altogether after struggling to cope with the strict regime. A source told the tabloid: 'She'd called Sue every day saying she was starving. Boot camp is Kerry's idea of hell. Sue has been worried sick about Kerry and told her she was being stupid staying there. She told her there was no need for her to be starving and flogging herself, because she doesn't need to lose weight.' Katona's husband Mark Croft, meanwhile, is said to be furious over her decision. A source - I'm guessing a different one - told the Daily Star: 'Mark was fuming with her for giving up so quickly and went mad when she got home. He stomped off calling her useless and lazy and spun off in his Hummer - even running over the children's snowman on his way!' The cad. 'Kerry was crying, saying it wasn't fair putting her through this in such horrid weather. She's vowed to go back when it's warmed up. Now she's tucked up in her pyjamas eating curry.' Come on, be fair - you just can't write comedy like that!