Friday, January 29, 2010

Premiership Latest: Never Rub Another Man's Rhubarb

That was yet another very fine episode of Mock the Week we had last night. Chris Addison's stand-up is getting a lot more assured than it used to be a couple of years ago and Wor lovely Sarah Millican is, of course, a stone dead fox (as well as being probably Britain's finest female stand-up comedian). But I must admit the star of the show for me last night was the excellent John Bishop - that's the first time I've really seen much of his comedy (although I'd heard reports that he was very good indeed). Previously, I only really knew him from Skins. It's becoming increasingly noticeable that, without Mad Frankie there, everyone does seem that bit more relaxed and eager to join in on Mock The Week these days. Don't get me wrong, there was no greater fan of Frankie Boyle than I. His surreal explosion of fury a couple of seasons back which culminated in that riff about future cities 'gaining sentience and raising themselves of hydraulic limbs to battle for resources' might, just, be the single funniest moment that television has produced in the entire decade. But, it's just possible that the show has come out of his departure as a better - and more rounded - format because it's not so dependant on one man any more. (Or, at a pinch two, if we include Dara.)

According to a thoroughly nasty, agenda-ridden 'exclusive' in the Gruniad Morning Star, Jeremy Clarkson earned 'more than eight hundred thousand pounds in the year to the end of March 2009 from the company set up to channel profits from the global exploitation of the Top Gear brand.' Well, how bastard-well dare he? Accounts for Bedder Six filed at Companies House showed an after-tax profit of just over two million pounds on a turnover of twenty four million. Jeremy, who reportedly earns around one million smackers per annum for presenting Top Gear, owns thirty per cent of Bedder Six and as a result will have collected four hundred and seventy nine thousand pounds from his share of the company's dividend. He also received a three hundred and fifty grand fee for 'payment for services.' This was more than twice his earnings from Bedder Six during its previous accounting period, when he received three hundred and seventeen thousand quid over the seventeen months to the end of March 2008. Bedder Six has nearly tripled its turnover from £8.675m during the previous seventeen months, when after-tax profit was £1.876m. Andy Wilman, the Top Gear executive producer, is a Bedder Six director along with Clarkson and will also have taken a share of the dividend. And somehow, whilst reporting all of these facts quite straight, the disgraceful Communist scum at the Gruniad still managed, in some way, to make it sound as though it disapproved of some or several aspect of all this. It's called capitalism, boys and girls. Get used to it because it's not going anywhere fast. The corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, owns just over fifty per cent of the company, which was created by Clarkson and Wilman in 2006. Bedder Six is used as the main channel for the profits for Top Gear merchandising and some of the other commercial exploitation of the BBC2 motoring and entertainment show, including foreign sales of the original UK production. So, in other - and slightly less provocative - words, a major shareholder of a business that pays the BBC for the right to distribute a brand (of their own devising) makes some money from this by being successful, internationally and the Guardian, apparently, believes this equates to a story which their left-wing readers would all like to have a right good tut at. How wonderfully, typically, scummishly, British. Clarkson has, apparently, created one of the few things this country can still export to improve the country's trade balance and the Guardian, seemingly, still disapproves. Well done, Jezza. We need more people like you. On both counts. And, the fact that you piss the Daily Mail off as well is just one more reason to add to the list.

Matthew Graham has promised fans that the series finale of Ashes to Ashes will be 'beautiful.' Well, I should bloody-well hope so. We've stuck with it this far, we don't want something that's anything less than beautiful. Writing on his Twitter account, the show's co-creator thanked the cast and crew after completing the series. 'Three nights ago I watched the Ashes finale being filmed,' he said. 'Thank you Cast and Crew for making it so transcendentally beautiful. And powerful.' He also wrote that it will be a 'super-crucial and highly charged series climax' with a 'very exciting sequence involving Chris, Ray, Shaz and a scary elevator.' Graham added that the Life On Mars spin-off will reach a 'thrilling' conclusion and commented that 'it really feels like the characters are entering their end-game.'

GMTV has reportedly sparked complaints to media regulator Ofcom after a 'programme expert' claimed that breast milk can be 'as bad as cola.' Midwife Clare Byam-Cook made the remark yesterday whilst being interviewed on-air by Lorraine Kelly, the Mirror reports. She is quoted as saying: 'Breast milk beyond the age of two isn't necessarily good because it's very, very sweet. The fact that it's breast milk doesn't make it any different to a glass of Coca-Cola.' Byam-Cook's comment was then challenged by the rest of the panel debating the subject. However, it is claimed, by the paper, that 'hundreds' of mothers have now complained about the show's content, branding Byam-Cook's views 'outrageous' in e-mails to GMTV and Ofcom. So, that'll be about four in reality, then? GMTV's ability to be impartial on the subject of breastfeeding has been called into question in the past as its weather slot is sponsored by those well-known child poisoners, Nestlé. A spokesperson for the morning programme insisted: 'This item was fair and balanced.'

Kaya Scodelario has revealed that her Skins alter ego has a 'dark' journey ahead in series four. The seventeen-year-old actress, who plays Effy Stonem on the E4 teen drama, said that her character 'loses it completely' at one point. 'Effy always go through these intense periods in her life, I've realised. This year she goes into a very deep, dark place. She goes on a cool journey in her own mind and loses it completely and needs help. It's surprising who does help her and who she does become close to.' She added that she thinks the decision to axe the cast on the show is 'brave' and 'keeps it fresh.'

Julie Walters has admitted that she almost turned down the chance to play Mo Mowlam in a new biopic about the late politician's life. The actress was confirmed for the Channel 4 drama project last June and the one-off programme, titled Mo, will be broadcast on Sunday night. Mo will tell the story of Mowlam's work in the Labour party, her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks and her battle against cancer. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Walters has now admitted that she initially felt she could not do the role justice because she considers herself to be 'a little weed who totters along.' She continued: 'Our body shapes were completely at odds. My husband Grant described her as being like a hockey mistress and, well, that's not me, is it? Then there was the way she spoke, in a kind of shrill way, with her mouth a bit puckered and squeaky, and I thought, "Oh, God! What have I let myself in for?" I rang my agent and asked him to get me out of it. He said I was talking rubbish and that once I'd put on her wig and glasses, I'd be fine. And he was right.'

BBC employees have rubbished claims by director general Mark Thompson that the corporation should pay senior executives large salaries in order to compete with the private sector. Writing in BBC in-house magazine Ariel, staff questioned why Thompson has to be paid more than anybody else, and highlighted the different rules for rank and file staff and those in top jobs. Lindsay Alexander, who works in global news, said: 'Most of us stay here because we like working at the BBC and value our output more than we value the luxuries value that high salaries can buy. What an enormous pity that the person who heads the BBC doesn't share that same view.' Andreas Gebauer, an assistant editor at the World Service, said that even if the BBC has to pay Future Media and Technology staff in line with the market to secure services like the iPlayer, 'why does it follow that [Thompson], as the DG, needs to be paid more than anybody else? There are plenty of football clubs who pay less than their star players. People who want to work here should know that their salaries will not be the same as in the private sector.' The damning criticisms come after an explosive episode at the BBC News and Sport festival this month, in which Today interviewer Stephen Sackur told Thompson: 'There are huge numbers of people in the organisation who think your salary is plain wrong and corrosive.'

The executive producers of Ugly Betty are reportedly under pressure to finish the series. Since ABC announced plans to cancel the show, the cast are said to have been 'in demand' by casting directors working on new pilots. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Betty execs are now keen to wrap production on the show before filming begins on pilot season to allow the cast time to land new roles. Production is currently scheduled to finish on 25 March, but the producers will apparently try to bring the date forward to align with broadcast pilots, which generally film between the beginning of March and the end of April.

ITV's incoming chief executive Adam Crozier will bring 'transformational change' to the broadcaster, chairman Archie Norman has pledged. Following a protracted and high-profile ten-month search for a new leader, ITV yesterday announced the surprise appointment of former Football Association chief executive Crozier. Norman said in a message to staff that Crozier is a 'terrific leader' with a track record of bringing 'transformational change in consumer businesses.' In a later statement, he further revealed that Crozier was the 'unanimous choice' of the ITV non-executive directors following a thorough selection process. He added that the forty six-year-old's first task will be to 'bring together' the talent within ITV and help drive forward the broadcaster to greater prosperity. 'In his seven years at the Royal Mail, Adam has transformed the group from a loss-making organisation into a profitable business that last year doubled its operating profits to more than three hundred and twenty million pounds,' said Norman. 'He implemented a two billion pound transformation programme and established the Post Office as a leading brand in financial services, with a fast-growing online business.' Yeah. And, had more strikes on his hand than the average box of Swan Vestas. And, what, no mention of his glorious helming of the Football Association? You do surprise me. Crozier, who will reportedly walk away from the Royal Mail with up to two million quid in bonuses, expressed his excitement at joining a company with the heritage and brand status of ITV. 'The entire media sector is going through enormous change and that presents both great opportunities and significant challenges for everyone in the industry,' he said.

ITV's director of programmes, channels and online Peter Fincham is understood to be staying put at the commercial broadcaster, following the appointment of the new chief executive. Fincham, who has helped drive a creative renaissance with an extended version of The X Factor, the drama Collision and the upcoming mini-series The Prisoner, has told senior staff he never applied for the chief executive role at ITV, or at Channel 4. A source close to Fincham said: 'He had the opportunity to apply for the role last year when Rupert Howell and John Cresswell were also in the running, but decided not to. He doesn't harbour grand ambitions to claw his way further up the TV ladder. To use a newspaper analogy, he sees himself as more of an editor than a publisher and wants to keep his hands dirty, rather than being bogged down in corporate affairs and deregulation. The only thing he wants is for [ITV chairman] Archie [Norman] and the new chief executive to let him and his team get on with their jobs of making great programmes.' Yesterday, Norman paid tribute to Fincham and his team, adding that the reason he had opted for Adam Crozier as chief executive was because he 'already had a disproportionate number of star broadcasters.' He also said the 'entire management team' were delighted with the decision.

A new UK comedy writing competition, supported by the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund, the UK Film Council and Working Title Films, has been launched to help aspiring writers break into the film and television world. Writers will be able to submit their scripts until the end of February 2010, when they will then be judged by an industry panel made up of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dan Mazer, Kenton Allen (Big Talk Productions), Sally Caplan (UK Film Council), Amelia Granger (Working Title Films) and Sarah Farrell (Comedy Central). The winning screenplay will be made into a short film, which will be funded by CTBF and the UKFC. The writer will also receive a one thousand pounds cash prize from Working Title. Norma Burke, who will be executive producing the winning short for N20 Entertainment said: 'The UK is an amazing hotbed of comedy talent and this award is a fantastic opportunity for new writers or writers from disciplines such as stand up or theatre to show their funny bones on celluloid whilst working with a team of people who will support and nurture them.'

Former Hear'Say star Suzanne Shaw has been cast in ITV soap Emmerdale. The ex-pop singer, who has established a successful theatre career in recent years, is to play Edna Birch's (Shirley Stelfox) 'feisty and flirtatious' granddaughter Eve on the long-running programme. Shaw first found fame by appearing on ITV reality competition Popstars in 2001. The show saw her winning a place in the band Hear'Say, who remained active for nearly two years before disappearing into the great reality TV music grave in the sky. More recently, the twenty eight-year-old has triumphed on Dancing On Ice and starred in a number of West End musicals, including Chicago, Summer Holiday, The Rocky Horror Show and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Speaking of her new role, Shaw commented: 'I am so excited to be joining the cast of such a popular and long-standing show. It's quite daunting to think I'll be watched by millions of people every night, but I can't wait to get stuck in to country life! Eve is going to be such a fun character to play, she's a real flirt and her arrival is definitely going to cause fireworks.' Emmerdale's series producer Gavin Blyth added: 'We are delighted to welcome Suzanne to the cast. Viewers can look forward to some explosive storylines as Eve cranks up the heat in the village and attracts her fair share of male attention!' Shaw's former Hear'Say bandmate Kym Marsh has been a cast member in ITV's Coronation Street for nearly four years.

Coronation Street producer Kim Crowther has unveiled the casting of Liz McDonald's new lover. Actor Ian Puleston-Davies will take on the role of Owen, the father of Weatherfield's first regular disabled character Izzy - played by Cherylee Houston.

EastEnders actor Scott Maslen has admitted that he would love his character Jack Branning to be unveiled as the killer of Archie Mitchell. Businessman Jack is currently one of several Walford residents who are under suspicion as the police try to determine who murdered Archie at Christmas. Maslen has now commented: 'It would be great if Jack did it - as long as he didn't get put away for years and years, never to be seen again.' He continued: 'I actually have no idea who the murderer is - I thought I did, but now I'm not so sure. It's one of those situations where your gut instinct tells you it's one person, but if you go against that and pick the least likely person, you'll probably be right!'

The BBC has defended its decision to allow Alan Titchmarsh to front a campaign for B&Q, despite him presenting a new gardening programme for the corporation. All BBC presenters must adhere to strict rules governing their participation in commercial activities to negate any potential conflicts of interest. However, gardening and DIY chain B&Q has reassured the BBC that Titchmarsh will not be directly endorsing any of its products, but rather offering advice to customers, reports The Times. 'Alan Titchmarsh is not endorsing our products. There is no plan for him to appear in B&Q TV adverts,' said B&Q horticulture manager Steve Guy. 'He's helping with information to help get people gardening. He will support us with hints and tips for customers.' Titchmarsh will once again front the BBC's coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show in May and also soon start production on new series, Alan's Garden Secrets. BBC Editorial Guidelines state that BBC programming must never be 'undermined by the commercial, business or financial interests of presenters.' Gardener's World presenter Percy Thrower was sacked by the corporation in 1976 after he appeared in an advert for a weedkiller brand. Of course, other weedkiller brands are also available. In Titchmarsh's case, though, the BBC is satisfied that its guidelines have not been broken, particularly as the presenter is not currently appearing on any BBC programming.

PACT has called for the end of BBC Worldwide's first look deal for BBC shows, claiming it is stifling competition among TV distributors. BBCW currently has first say on whether any BBC shows made in-house should be offered to the market and the last chance to outbid any competing bids. Rival distributors picking up BBC shows also have to pay for the use of the BBC brand, a charge that PACT argues BBCW should also have to pay. 'Were BBC Worldwide pay a licence fee to the BBC for the use of the name this would not result in a loss of value to the BBC – it would merely transfer the value of the asset (and thus potential sale price) into an ongoing annual charge,' it argued in a report published today. The producers' body has called for a 'sunset clause' on the scale and scope BBCW's access to, and use of, the BBC brand and for limits on BBCW's lead role in funnelling co-production monies into the BBC, which is currently the main method by which rivals can gain access to significant BBC programming assets. PACT argues that the current arrangements give BBCW unfair advantages in both the domestic and international market, as well as raising questions of transparency and value for licence fee payers. 'The current relationship between BBC Worldwide and the BBC is not appropriate for a stand-alone business, and has contributed to Worldwide being the biggest exporter of British TV in the market,' said PACT chief executive John McVay. 'Choosing not to open up the market for its programmes to competitive bidding also raises the question of whether the BBC is getting a true market value for its programmes, and ultimately, the full return on their investment funded by the licence fee payer. These are areas that need to be addressed before it can be privatized, but also if it is not.'

A martial arts expert from Barnstaple who featured in a Channel 4 documentary following the family of Michael Jackson as they planned a move to Devon has begun libel action against the broadcaster. Channel 4 is facing courts costs 'well in excess of one million pounds' during the trial, which has been brought about by thirty-year-old Matt Fiddes, a former bodyguard to Michael Jackson who was used in the documentary - The Jacksons Are Coming - as a local guide to the family. According to documents presented to the High Court, Mr Fiddes claims that the programme 'was, from start to finish, a gross misrepresentation or distortion of the true facts as they occurred.' The programme was made by production company Studio Lambert which followed the Jacksons' apparent move from the US to a small town in Devon - a tale later revealed as a publicity stunt which had been formulated by Fiddes and Tito Jackson. The deal, worth twenty thousand pounds, was made to help Tito Jackson secure a deposit to buy a house in London from which to launch his career, according to Fiddes. A spokesman for Studio Lambert said: 'Channel 4, Studio Lambert, and the producer Jane Preston completely refute these false allegations and are confident that they can demonstrate the honesty and truthfulness of this documentary.'

Steve Carell has said that he would love to remake Only Fools and Horses for a US audience. The forty seven-year-old actor, who stars in the American version of The Office, said that he would be up for playing the role of Del Boy. 'That would be my dream role,' the Sun quotes him as saying. 'The British do sitcoms better than anybody else in the world.' Really? I mean ... Big Top included? He also called for Ricky Gervais, Paul Rudd, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller to get involved in the project. 'I think with the right scriptwriters and cast we could do Only Fools and Horses justice. If anybody wants to help me do a remake, I'd love it - with Ricky as Mike the barman.'

Pete Waterman, the producer who turned Kylie Minogue into a pop star, is to produce this year's UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. As one-third of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman team in the 1980s, he was responsible for the careers of Rick Astley and Dead Or Alive, and in the 1990s he produced Steps. He was also a judge on Pop Idol and on Popstars: The Rivals, the show that created Girls Aloud. So he's got an effing lot to answer for already!

Melinda Messenger has quit magazine show Live From Studio Five after less than five months as a co-host. The former Page Three girl will bow out to 'pursue new projects' when her current contract expires in March, the Sun reports. Oh knackers, Wrighty, there goes the 'intelligent' one of the hosts. What's Plan B? In a statement, Messenger said that she has had a 'fantastic' time on Five's evening programme, which is also presented by ex-footballer Ian Wright and Apprentice finalist Kate Walsh. A Five spokesman commented: 'We would like to thank Melinda for the great job she has done.' It is thought that Messenger will be replaced by a series of guest hosts, including uppity, full-of-his-own-importance Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle and GMTV's Gloria De Piero, who have both filled in on the show before. And neither of whom, so far as can be worked out, have made it any less shit.

TV presenter Matthew Wright was left confused yesterday when he thought a caller to his show had confessed to having sex with dog. During a discussion on Five's The Wright Stuff about fulfilling partners' desires, a woman named Sue phoned up to explain that she had been willing to do 'something to do with canines' for her ex-lover. 'I gave in to his fantasy because at the time I very much cared for him and I thought maybe it's a one-off,' she said. 'Maybe it's not too bad, if this is what he wants to do once, then that's fine. It's fifty per cent of what caused the end of the relationship.' Host Wright and panellist, the comedian Jo Caulfield did not realise that Sue was talking about the sex act 'dogging' rather than actually indulging in intercourse to an animal. 'I don't know if we've got much further with this because it was such an extreme example,' said Wright. 'If somebody said that to me, that would be it, because that's the same as "I want to get involved with children," quite frankly. It's way, way, way over the line.' When the misunderstanding was cleared up during an advert break, Wright told viewers: 'It's fair to say we've been talking about nothing but our previous caller during the advert break. I think we all know now that the activity she was accusing him of rhymes with "logging," just so we're all clear about that. Shall we move on?'

John Terry, the England football captain, is bracing himself for a series of damaging revelations about his private life after a High Court judge overturned a controversial superinjunction sought by the footballer and his legal representatives. Lawyers acting for Terry had successfully applied for a High Court injunction last Friday having learned that a Sunday newspaper was planning to publish revelations about the Moscow Chelski FC captain. The so-called superinjunction, which prevents even the existence of the injunction from being publicly commented upon has previously been used by the oil trading company Trafigura to stop newspapers reporting a parliamentary question concerning its involvement in the dumping of toxic materials in the Ivory Coast. At the High Court today Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the injunction was not proportionate to the damage that would be caused to Terry's private life 'and other parties involved' if the revelations were to be published. He said that the allegation had been widely circulated in the sporting world adding that he thought the 'real concern' of the applicant was the effect publication would have on his sponsorship deals.

Rockin' Ronnie Wood has complained that he is tired of seeing himself in newspapers every day. Well, the answer would appear to be relatively simple, Ron. Stop dating Russians who are young enough to be your granddaughter, then they might stop writing about you.

Elaine Paige has claimed that she was misquoted over recent comments she made about Susan Boyle. The musical theatre star, who was quoted as comparing Boyle to 'a virus,' angrily denied that she had a negative opinion about the Scot. 'I was dismayed to read the remarks attributed to me today in the Daily Mail which were incomplete and misinterpreted,' she wrote on Facebook. What, you mean that you're accusing the Daily Mail - a widely respected organ of the UK media - of lying about something someone said, Elaine? Surely not? That's a shocking accusation to make, if true.

And, finally, it's today's Kerry Katona story. The disgraceful reality TV regular and cocaine snorter has reportedly decided that she wants to hire a bodyguard following her recent stalker scare, according to claims made in the press. The bankrupt ex-singer and advertiser for a popular frozen food outlet (other frozen food outlets are available) is said to be keen to boost her security but can only afford one hundred and fifty pounds per day to do so, the Daily Star claims. It is believed, the paper continues, that most showbiz minders charge more than five hundred smackers for a day's work. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that a woman had received a 'formal warning' from police after appearing to be 'obsessed' with the I'm A Celebrity ... winner. A 'friend' of Katona told the paper: 'The stalker has really freaked her out. She bombarded her with messages then turned up at the house. That was the last straw. Police have told the woman to stay away but Kerry feels she needs protection when she is out. She said she could afford to pay one hundred and fifty pounds a day but that won't get her anything. We've warned her she'll end up with a right wimp.' Oh, I don't know, I'm sure there's one or two people coming out of the Celebrity Big Brother house who'd probably do the job for half the price.