Friday, January 08, 2010

Pro-Celebrity Ginger Shocker

Yer Keith Telly Topping has been very much enjoying Celebrity Mastermind this last few days and it seems that he's not alone. Almost seven million viewers watched Wednesday night's episode. Most of the country being under four foot of snow, notwithstanding, that's a quite staggering audience. It's nice to know that in this foul and arctic weather we've been suffering, at least one TV show is trying to stimulate the nation's collective mind. I must say, too, that I was chuffed as hell to get more points than John Thompson on Bond villains. Slightly more worryingly, I also got more than Tony Parsons on the subject of punk rock. And he was there!

Filming on the new series of Doctor Who is going ahead despite the heavy snow in Cardiff. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were spotted filming in Wales this week as the BBC prepares to release a new publicity image for the forthcoming series five. The Sun quotes a show insider as saying: 'Snow might stop mere humans but not The Doctor.' Ordinarily, I'd suggest that was a made-up quote but, actually, thinking about it, that sounds like just the kind of thing somebody at Upper Boat would say if the Sun asked them a ruddy stupid question. Meanwhile, Karen Gillan has claimed that she was intimidated when she was first introduced to the eleventh Doctor. The twenty two-year-old actress who will play the new Doctor's assistant, Amy, described her first meeting with Matt Smith as 'very scary. I was actually quite intimidated, because, you know, he's Doctor Who,' she told Doctor Who Magazine. 'It was all very scary. But he was very friendly and made me feel at ease.' Smith himself added, jokingly (well, at least, we assume he's joking): 'I do the reverse of that now - I'm a complete git.' Smith has said that he will play the role in a different way to his predecessors. The actor hopes to bring a new chemistry to the role. 'My character will be less tolerant than a lot of those who have gone before him,' he said. 'And Amy's got real fire in her belly. But there's also great affection and love there, and we're developing that all the time.'

Tragically, the BBC has been forced to deny suggestions that it is pursuing an 'anti-ginger agenda' in Doctor Who. According to The Times, the broadcaster received over one hundred complaints after Matt Smith exclaimed 'I'm still not ginger' among his first words as the new Doctor. One - nameless - mother reportedly commented: 'I think it is totally inappropriate for The Doctor to make fun of people with ginger hair - it is a programme children watch and I think it will encourage bullying.' An - admittedly quite funny - BBC statement read: 'We've received complaints from viewers who believed a line in Doctor Who: The End of Time was insulting to people with ginger hair. We would like to reassure viewers that Doctor Who doesn't have an anti-ginger agenda whatsoever.' It continued: 'This was a reprise of the line in The Christmas Invasion episode in 2005, when David Tennant discovers that he's not ginger. Here he is, missing out again - disappointed he's still not ginger. In addition, the Doctor's previous companion Donna Noble [Catherine Tate] and his new one Amy Pond [Karen Gillan] are both redheads.' Jesus, the utter crap that some people choose to care about. Speaking as someone who has been ginger for forty six years and, as a consequence, heard just about every insult under the sun, please allow me to say 'grown up, fer Christ sake, you silly glakes.'

Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye has joined the roster of writers on the next season of Doctor Who. Nye, whose other credits include co-writing the revival of Reggie Perrin - although, he tends to keep quiet about that one - and an upcoming adaptation of Just William, will write one episode of the upcoming season. Nye and fellow comedy scribe Richard Curtis are the only writers on the new series not to have previously worked on the show since its revival in 2005. Incoming showrunner Steven Moffat is writing six of the thirteen episodes, according to the show's official magazine. Other scripts come from The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, marking his third contribution to the show, Gareth Roberts, who has written for the series and for spin-off show Sarah Jane Interferes, Being Human creator Toby Whithouse, who has written one previous episode and Chris Chibnall, who has written for both Doctor Who and Torchwood and was showrunner on series one of Law & Order: UK.

And so to today's big news. Just in case you haven't heard the sound of crowing coming from the direction of the Daily Mail, Jonathan Ross has announced that he is to quit the BBC. The Film 2010 host's current three-year expires in July and it was believed that he was likely to take a pay cut as part of BBC budget restructuring. But according to the Press Association news agency, Ross is to leave the corporation. 'Although I have had a wonderful time working for the BBC and am very proud of the shows I have made while there, in the last two weeks I have decided not to renegotiate my contract,' Ross said in a statement. He stressed he had not been involved in contract talks with the broadcaster and said the decision was 'not financially motivated.' A high-profile user of microblogging site Twitter, Ross had not confirmed the reports but did allude to possible news in the near future. Writing on Thursday morning, he posted 'Good morning. My day is turning out to be far more interesting then I had anticipated! See you later - have a good one.' Ross was infamously suspended from the corporation for three months in 2008 after he and Russell Brand left offensive voicemails for the veteran actor Andrew Sachs on Brand's Radio 2 show. Ross's BBC salary, rumoured to be worth around six million pounds a year, had been widely criticised in the wake of this so-called Sachsgate scandal and it emerged on Wednesday that his position at the BBC could be in jeopardy when his fellow chat show host, Graham Norton, agreed a lucrative two-year deal. It is believed that Norton could take over Ross's Friday night slot while The Culture Show presenter and film critic Mark Kermode has also been linked with hosting Film 2010. Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said she could 'understand' Ross's decision 'following a difficult year.' She said: 'Jonathan has told us that he's decided not to pursue the renewal of his contract with the BBC. Jonathan is an extremely talented broadcaster and his programmes for BBC TV and radio have been a great success. However, it's been a difficult year for him and I understand why he feels it's the right thing to do. I'm pleased that Jonathan will continue to apply his considerable abilities to the remaining six months of Friday Night, Film 2010 and his Radio 2 show, and I'm delighted that he will continue to present the BAFTA awards and Comic Relief for BBC Television.' Yesterday, Ross wrote on his Twitter page that he was meeting someone from Los Angeles. This followed speculation that the star would go to work in the America. He wrote: 'It's annoying but someone has flown in from LA so it would be rude not to show up!'

Channel 4 has expanded its drama commissioning team, making two appointments as it gears up to spend its post-Big Brother cash windfall. Prime Suspect script editor Roberto Troni will be one of two commissioning editors reporting to new head of drama Camilla Campbell, who was promoted to take over from Liza Marshall at the end of last year. Troni joins from Ecosse Films, where he was a TV development producer and previously developed and produced Saddam's Tribe for World Productions. As well as script editing Prime Suspect 6, he also developed ITV's Murder City and the pilot of BBC1's Murphy's Law. Campbell was previously the sole drama commissioning editor under Marshall, but with an extra twenty million pounds ringfenced for drama in 2011, Channel 4 is keen to bolster the department's commissioning power. Troni will be joined by Robert Wulff-Cochrane, who is promoted from head of development. As well as looking after new talent strand Coming Up, Wulff-Cochrane's development credits include recent hits such as Red Riding, The Unloved, Cast Offs and Misfits, plus the upcoming Mo Mowlam biopic Mo.

EastEnders newcomer Sam Attwater has admitted that he was surprised to discover that long-standing cast member Adam Woodyatt is 'a really nice guy.' The actor, who plays Leon Small in the soap and its online spin off E20, confirmed that Woodyatt is nothing like his character Ian Beale. Well ... yeah, that's because he's 'an actor' Sam. Hate to be the one to break this to you. God, has everybody taken a dose of stupid pills this week, or what? Attwater also praised another co-star, Steve McFadden, confirming that he does not have a hardman reputation like his alter ego Phil Mitchell. Again, Sam, y'see there's this thing called 'fiction' ... Speaking to the Press Association, Attwater explained: 'Adam is brilliant, and Steve as well - of course as Phil Mitchell he's very intimidating, and when I first came in I kept on seeing him around and going "all right?" and kept on walking straight past, but then as soon as you get chatting to him, he's lovely as can be.' He added: 'But Adam especially, I was really quite shocked at. A really nice guy.'

Coronation Street newcomer Nigel Havers has warned that his character Lewis Archer has a dark side. The veteran actor, best known for playing Lord Lindsay in the 1981 movie Chariots Of Fire, signed up for his role in the ITV soap last October and was recently seen on screen for the first time. Lewis has been introduced as a new love interest for long-standing Weatherfield resident Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls), who was bowled over by his charming ways when they met at a ball last month. Discussing the part in an interview with This Is Nottingham, Havers revealed: 'I couldn't resist the idea of doing Coronation Street. I loved the idea of being Audrey's new man. I'm a huge Corrie fan.' He added: 'I started in Corrie a month ago and I'm there until July. I gather my character has a real dark side but I don't know what it is yet.' Havers is currently juggling his role on the programme with a part in Jack And The Beanstalk at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.

ITV and PACT have joined forces to slam the 'alarmist hype' around product placement, urging the government not to be swayed by the views of 'ill-informed' opponents. The DCMS consultation on product placement concludes this week and an unlikely coalition of opposition to it has emerged, including the Church of England, the National Union of Teachers, advertising body ISBA and the British Medical Association. The former is worried that product placement could undermine 'public trust in the editorial integrity of TV programming,' while the latter is 'deeply concerned' by the prospect of product placement featuring alcohol, gambling and junk food, as it would 'reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health.' But ITV and PACT have insisted the fears are misguided and that the ailing commercial TV sector could miss out on an important new revenue stream if the opponents get their way. ITV brand and commercial managing director Rupert Howell told Broadcast magazine: 'The hype surrounding the possible introduction of controlled product placement in the UK is sensational and alarmist.' He added that the audience index that prohibits junk food spot ads from airing around shows that are popular with children could also be applied to product placement. Moves are also afoot to reassure the government that product placement could be flagged up to viewers in a transparent way.

The producers of House are apparently considering airing a new wedding plot on the show. The season five finale saw Cameron and Chase - played by Jennifer Morrison and Jesse Spencer respectively - tie the knot and the producers are, reportedly, toying with the idea of another pair of characters going up the aisle. According to Entertainment Weekly, a marriage proposal will feature in the second half of the show's sixth season, which currently airs Monday nights on FOX. Given that Cuddy and Lucas are currently the only couple on the show - following Thirteen and Foreman's breakup last year and Jennifer Morrison's departure from the series, which marked the end of Cameron and Chase's marriage - that sort of narrows the potential candidates down to one. But, you never know, they might surprise us.

The new ITV chairman Archie Norman has said that the commercial broadcaster must be 'a very different business in three years' time,' it has emerged. In a leaked e-mail sent out to ITV staff, Norman said that he will launch a strategy review this month to 'define the journey ahead.' The former ASDA chief executive praised ITV's strong closing period in 2009, but warned that 2010 will be 'another difficult year,' reports the Guardian. Even before his reign as Michael Grade's successor officially began on Monday, Norman had already conducted discussions with senior executives and programme makers about their plans going forward. In his first message to employees, Norman said that ITV will be rejuvenated to 'not just survive but prosper in the new media world.' He told staff that they are 'now embarking on a programme to accelerate the transformation of ITV,' which will build on its strong brand and content to become 'once again a growth business.' Norman expressed pride in the massive popularity of the The X Factor, along with critical acclaim for sitcom Benidorm and drama series Collision. However, he stressed that radical change is essential for the broadcaster as it struggles to deal with a sluggish advertising market and new challenges in the digital world. 'We know that ITV cannot remain as it is. "No change" is not an option. We need to be a very different business in three years' time,' he said. 'We need to continue to improve our content while living within our means on costs.' Meanwhile, as mentioned on this blog yesterday, GMTV bosses are reportedly expecting cutbacks in the show's presentation team as part of efforts to slash costs by twenty per cent following ITV's takeover of the breakfast broadcaster in November last year.

The season six premiere of Lost may be delayed after a potential clash with President Obama's State of the Union address. The White House is said to be considering either Tuesday 26 January or 2 February - the night of ABC's two-hour premiere - for the speech. If the second date is selected, ABC may be forced to postpone Lost until February 9. The White House has refused to comment on the scheduling matter.

Fifty Cent, who is a 'Rap Artist,' apparently (no, me neither), has revealed that he is keen to appear in Shameless. The rapper was apparently impressed by how 'real' the series is when he watched it in a London hotel room last year. 'I just thought it was a very real show, with real people,' he told the Sun. 'The US like to portray the English as all drinking tea and speaking like the Queen, but this was real. It was really funny as well. I won't pretend I understood all the English humour, but I got more than enough to know its writers know their game.' He continued: 'I was laughing out loud in my hotel room watching a show that I had never heard of. I have bought the DVDs since I've been back in the US and I'd be up for doing a cameo. 'I am sure their writers could dream up some bad ass character for me.'

Ratings news. And weather: Over ten million people watched the BBC's regional news and weather at 6:30 last night. Isn't it interesting that, in times of ... is this a crisis per se? Certainly difficulty anyway, it's the BBC that most people in this country turn to for information and for entertainment. Something that, possibly, a few lice journalists might like to consider next time they're running one of their shitehawk 'exclusives.' But, of course, they won't.

Martine McCutcheon has said that she was upset by critics who attacked her writing without reading her work. The former EastEnders acrtess told Metro that her career as a novelist sprung from a script synopsis she had written for a planned ITV show. McCutcheon said: 'Somehow the publishing world found out about it and asked me to write the first chapter. I didn't think it would become a book. I was really honoured. They didn't suggest a ghostwriter, as they had complete faith in me as a writer myself. These days if you're a celebrity, it's unusual for people to give you that respect.' On the subject of negative reviews for her novel The Mistress, she continued: 'I don't mind it when it's constructive or if people have bothered to read the book. The reviewers who upset me most were the ones who hadn't read it and had jumped on the bandwagon to be negative about me as an artist, rather than looking at my work as a writer.' She added: 'I can't be bothered to feel anything other than annoyed when people haven't done their research because I just end up having to comment on the criticism in interviews later. I'm proud of the book. I haven't always been the critics' darling, and that's across the board with everything I've done. If I had listened every time someone told me I couldn't do something, I'd never have achieved anything.' My heart bleeds for you, chuck.

The return of Being Human, Robert Peston talking about money, a new lesbian drama and adult comedy from puppets are some of the highlights of Danny Cohen's eclectic winter/spring season on BBC3. The wretched-sounding show Dancing on Wheels - in which alleged celebrities including the earache inducing Heather Small, Mark Foster and Caroline Flack - are paired with six wheelchair users as they compete to represent the UK in the European wheelchair dance championships - is confirmed in the schedule. Strictly's James and Ola Jordan and paralympian Ade Adepitan will be the judges sending one couple home each week. Pass me the sick-bag, please. Original factual output includes a season of documentaries about young people living with autism and an investigation of stag weekends by BBC reporter Simon Boazman in the channel's Dangerous Pleasures season. The BBC's multi-award winning business editor Robert Peston targets BBC3's young adult audience with six short online films about the financial crisis and chairs an audience debate about issues like why debt is dangerous. And there's shock value in Only Stwpd Cowz Txt N Drive, a budget film produced for the Gwent police force about an horrific car crash caused by texting at the wheel, that has already become an Internet sensation. On the comedy front, the best news of this press release is that Johnny Vegas and co are all back in Ideal - and we'll have much more on that a bit closer to the time - and stand-up Simon Brodkin's London Geezer gets his own TV gig with Lee Nelson's Well Good Show. The unlikely-sounding We Are Mongrels, about streetwise urban animals who hang out in the yard of an inner city pub, is the channel's first adult puppet comedy. The upcoming climax of Being Human series two triggers a relocation for the housemates, from Bristol to Cardiff, for a planned third run of episodes. While Kudos Film and Television's Lip Service, from Mistresses author Harriet Braun, follows the lives of a group of twenty-something lesbians living in Glasgow. Bet that gets an audience. Unveiling the new season in London yesterday, BBC3's controller Danny Cohen - whose channel is now the most watched amongst sixteen-thirty fours, with nearly five million viewers tuning in each week - said BBC3 had grown its audience by almost thirty per cent in the two years since its relaunch. The new line-up would continue hopefully that growth, he predicted by delivering 'thought-provoking and entertaining programmes for young viewers, featuring young British talent.'

Vinnie Jones has admitted that he thought there would be more 'A-listers' in the Celebrity Big Brother house this year. According to the Daily Star, the former footballer revealed that he had not heard of most of his fellow housemates before the series began. 'Some have worked hard but others have fallen into fame without any skills,' he mused. 'I don't really know any of them and some are trying a bit too hard in here.'

Meanwhile, a real hard man, Ray Winstone has criticised Celebrity Big Brother, claiming that it should not be classed as a reality series. The Beowulf actor suggested that those taking part in the series are 'acting like idiots.' The Mirror quotes him as saying: 'Do we care about anyone on Big Brother, really? These people are pushed into acting like idiots and then they're just dropped. I always think the programme should have a responsibility to look after them. I'm surprised there hasn't been some sort of tragedy on one of these shows, someone really hurting themselves.' He continued: 'It pisses me off. Who wants to fucking watch it, anyway? Also, how can it be reality when they know that there's a camera on them?'

A series of classic LP covers including The Clash's London Calling and Parklife by Blur has been issued as a set of stamps by the Royal Mail. Other well-known record sleeves to have been made into first-class stamps include Primal Scream's Screamadelica and New Order's Power Corruption and Lies. The design on each of the ten stamps shows a vinyl record coming out of its recognisable LP cover. The Post Office said the issues had transformed each record sleeve into 'miniature works of art.' Julietta Edgar, Royal Mail's head of special stamps, said: 'This issue celebrates this unique art form and some of its greatest examples.' Thousands of LP covers from the past four decades were scrutinised before the final ten were chosen. There were no Beatles covers featured as the band had already been the subject of another series of stamps in 2007. (Which, yer Keith Telly Topping actually has a first day cover of, fact fans!) The artwork, and not necessarily the music, was at the forefront of the selectors' minds. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who helped design the cover for the band's LP Four Symbols - now transformed into a postage stamp - launched the new issues in London yesterday. Page spoke about the cover, which features an old man weighed down by a bundle of sticks. 'Almost forty years after the album came out, nobody knows the old man who featured on the cover, nor the artist who painted him. That sort of sums up what we wanted to achieve with the album cover, which has remained both anonymous and enigmatic at the same time,' he said. The Rolling Stones' 1969 LP Let It Bleed, meanwhile, features a cake on the cover which was baked by the then unknown Delia Smith.

Coleen Nolan has praised Heather Mills's decision to compete in Dancing On Ice. The Loose Women panellist, who was a contestant in last year's series, admitted that she has not always been a fan of Mills due to her 'public histrionics' in the past. Well, many people haven't been a fan of Coleen Nolan in the past because of the dreadful bollocks she often comes out with. And for crimes against music. However, writing in her column for the Mirror, Nolan added: 'But there was one thing Heather Mills was never in short supply of - balls.' Err ... beg to differ with ya, Coleen. And I think there's a few anatomists who'll back me up on that. 'Nothing has proved that so well as her taking part in the new series of Dancing On Ice.'

Former glamour model Abi Titmuss has admitted that she is not very good at reality TV. She forgot to add 'or much anything else, come to that,' it would appear. Titmuss, who will appear in comedy play Stage Fright next month, revealed yesterday that she had turned down the opportunity to enter Celebrity Big Brother. The thirty three-year-old's reality TV credits include Celebrity Love Island, Come Dine With Me and Hell's Kitchen. Explaining her decision on Twitter, she wrote: 'I'm looking at my flat and thinking of all the things I could have done if I'd taken the cash and done BB instead of sticking to my guns and acting in a play. It was a choice between instant fame and money versus continuing the hard way. To be honest I was scared of BB... 24/7 surveillance anyone? I did that on Love Island in the lap of luxury on an idyllic beach and I still found it really hard. I'd have no chance in a house in Elstree!' She added: 'I'm not great at reality. As the old actor's adage goes, it's when I'm playing someone else that I can really be myself. Strange but true.'

Charlie Sheen has reportedly been dropped from an underwear advertising campaign in the US following his arrest for allegedly putting a knife to his wife's throat. There's a really obvious joke about dropping underwear there, but we'll let it pass, the guy's probably suffered enough. Clothing brand Hanes said it was a 'straightforward call' given the 'magnitude' of the allegations. The actor, forty four, spent much of Christmas Day in jail after his wife told police that he had threatened to kill her during a row in the ski resort of Aspen. A decision on whether charges will be filed is not expected before February. Hanes spokesman Matt Hall said: 'It's a pretty standard, straightforward call when somebody who's in your commercials is arrested on suspicion of something of this magnitude. And we would suspend the ads, both for the company and, really, for Mr Sheen and his family as well.' Yeah. But, mainly, for the company I'm guessing.

And finally, The X Factor runner-up Olly Murs has admitted that he is 'keen to hear' whether Simon Cowell has any plans for his future. Err ... that's gonna be a 'no,' Olly. Back to stacking shelves at Morrison's with you.