Friday, February 26, 2010

Torn & Frayed

TV quote of the night: John Torode - really sticking the knife-in - on Masterchef by telling a thoroughly hapless lady contestant who'd just served him up a peach, cheese, tomato and bread abomination: 'You said you'd had something similar when you were a child and you've spent your adult life trying to recreate it? Felicity, it's time to stop!' Top bit of sarky gittery there, JT!

John Barrowman has backed Andrew Lloyd Webber's Over The Rainbow to be a success. The Torchwood actor appeared on the judging panel on Webber's three previous talent shows, I'd Do Anything, How You Solve A Problem Like Maria and Any Dream Will Do. Barrowman - seen left proving that nothing if worn under the kilt, it's all in perfect working order - admitted that he would have liked to have been involved in the search for a new Dorothy, but claimed that he is pleased for new judge John Partridge. Speaking on Richard Bacon's BBC 5Live show, he said: 'I'm a big friend of Dorothy' (yes John, we had, actually, noticed that, matey!) 'so I don't think I'd have a problem finding one! The BBC wanted me to do it, but the independent company who are producing the show for them didn't ask me until Christmas. And I had to make a decision about [appearing in] Desperate Housewives by that point, so I couldn't do it.'

Law & Order: UK actor Bradley Walsh is set to host a Zeppotron game show for ITV in which celebrities and audience members try to spot ordinary members of the public who have an unusual talent. The eight part Odd One In will be produced by the Endemol-owned production company and is set for a Saturday night slot in late summer. The show sees two pairs of celebrities guess who, from a line-up of members of the public, has an odd skill, talent or secret. For example, they have to identify which person is French, or who can balance a car on their head. Surely, spotting French people is easy? The stripy shirts, berets and strings of onions on their bikes are a bit of a giveaway. Host Walsh - seen right during a particularly strong acid trip - will give the contestants clues to help them pick the right person. Audience members will also be given a keypad to play along over the seven or eight rounds. The audience member with the most correct guesses will join one of the teams in the final, competing to win a holiday. A premium-rate phone competition is also under discussion. The show was ordered by commissioning editor of entertainment Claire Zolkwer, who said: 'Odd One In is a simple but clever concept, which I'm sure will prove a laugh-out-loud hit with our viewers.'

BBC business chief Bal Samra has denied that the BBC is experiencing cash flow problems and assured producers they can raise concerns with him without fear of losing business. 'The BBC hasn't got a policy of asking for programmes it can't pay for,' he said. 'I have an open door for [producers] to come to me with issues they want looking into. None of that will have any impact on future commissions.' Samra, BBC director of rights and business affairs and BBC Vision director of operations, made his comments after a succession of producers told Broadcast magazine that they were suffering because the BBC could not release cash for commissioned shows to go into production. None of these snitching grasses would agree to be named or identify the shows they make for fear of repercussions. Which would, hopefully, have been swift and harsh. Since then, several in-house producers have also raised similar concerns. An entertainment source told the magazine: 'There is no money for 2010-11 and they are not able to bankroll anything at the moment that's going out beyond that.' Another in comedy added: 'We are being asked "can you make it this year even though we can't find the money until next year."' The source added that the second series of Psychoville wouldn't air until 2011 for this reason, but Samra said that was a commissioning decision rather than a cash flow issue. He vehemently denied the wider allegations: 'I can imagine a conversation where a commissioner says, "I've got enough good ideas to fill a two-year slate," but the business teams who manage in-house say there isn't a problem. Delivery dates sometimes change and production schedules can shift and we then discuss the cash flow impact with producers.' He added that the BBC is further ahead on commissioning than at the same point last year, but that delivery dates have not changed.

EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer has revealed that he was once 'very keen' to bring Simon Wicks back to Albert Square. Simon, who was played by Nick Berry, left the Walford soap in 1990. Santer is about to depart his position at EastEnders after three - mostly successful - years. He will be replaced by former Hollyoaks producer Bryan Kirkwood from Monday. Speaking to Walford Web about characters he wanted to see back on the programme, Santer commented: 'Sharon [Rickman] is a great character, but I always worried about a potential overlap with Roxy and Ronnie, so we never pursued that. I was very keen to get Simon Wicks back at one stage, but it wasn't to be. I'd love to see Cindy and Kathy back, but I vowed never to revive dead characters!' Wicksy left Albert Square in 1990 following a feud with his brother, Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt).

Actors and fans of Coronation Street star Maggie Jones have celebrated her life and work at a memorial service held in Salford Cathedral yesterday. Filming on the soap was suspended to allow cast members including Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre Barlow) to attend the public remembrance. It featured an emotional address from actor William Roache, screen son-in-law to her feisty character Blanche Hunt. Jones, who died in December aged seventy five, appeared in over eight hundred episodes of the soap.

ITV has defended its decision to broadcast nude scenes before the watershed. According to the Sun, a repeat of Midsomer Murders shown at 4pm featured a naked woman - similar to the one that you can see on the right, dear blog reader, only with less shapely buttocks - posing for a painter. However, the channel insisted that the scenes had been edited to make them suitable for the afternoon. 'The scene in question featured an artist's model and was key to the storyline,' a spokesperson said. 'Careful consideration was given to its inclusion for daytime transmission and it was edited accordingly to ensure that the programme did not contain any inappropriate content.' The representative added: 'ITV has received no complaints regarding this episode.' In 2008, Ofcom reprimanded ITV for broadcasting an episode of Midsomer Murders during the afternoon because of the violent scenes it contained.

STV chief executive Rob Woodward has declared that STV 'can't lose' its two legal claims against ITV - and is threatening a third after disputing network profits from shows like ITV2's The Xtra Factor. In its annual results this morning, STV said it was poised to launch a third legal writ and has written to ITV demanding payments for its role in promoting network brand spin-off shows, including ITV2's Britain's Got More Talent and I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here Now! In the letter, STV said that despite promoting those shows, the Scottish network had received no benefit while targeting a 'key premium audience' that was 'prejudicially and aggressively scheduled.' STV is also seeking a behavioural order to prevent ITV from encroaching on STV's territory. Woodward said that the network was confident of being successful in its current claims, which seek a share of ITV's new media revenues and an increased slice of advertising revenues. He also brushed off claims that STV could be faced with hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees or damages if they did not win their claims. 'How can we be out of pocket?' Woodward said. 'From where I am sitting, it is like ITV are saying they have rights over the whole country when we are the licence holder for Scotland. Personally, I don't see how we can lose.' Now, never let it be said that yer Keith Telly Topping is someone who enjoys seeing the financial disaster of others. Unless they, you know, really deserve it. But, it has to be said, after that particular outburst it would be hugely amusing to see Rob and his armchair lawyer pals at STV lose their bloody shirts in court if the judgement goes against them. He added: 'At the heart of what we are doing is protecting value for our shareholders. We can't be exposed to what is essentially prejudicial behaviour by ITV.' Woodward said that despite sealing a new deal with ITV and Alibi to secure the future of long-running drama Taggart, animosities between the two companies still remained. 'Clearly it's a strained relationship that [the networks] have,' he said. 'Today we announced our lawyers have written to the network, which raises large questions over how the Channel Three network is run and whether the network should be run to the equal benefit of all investors,' he added. Woodward is in talks with chairman Archie Norman and with incoming chief executive Adam Crozier about having a more straightforward, commercial relationship going forward. He added that it was only because of the 'huge amount of litigation' going forward that STV could be certain its business rights would be upheld. 'It's a complicated relationship,' he said. 'ITV is our agent, and programme provider, and equally we are their programme provider. With the new ITV chairman and chief executive, we hope we can come to an amicable and sensible relationship structure going forward, but it's early days.' STV reported a fifty five per cent fall in pre-tax profits year on year in 2009, with a thirteen per cent fall in broadcasting revenues. Woodward blamed 'being decimated in the worst recession we've ever seen' for the poor profits, which fell from £12.3m in 2008 to five and a half million pounds last year.

Freelancers who worked on BBC2's Delia Through The Decades are owed a total of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds - and the cooking superstar is herself about fifty thousand pounds out of pocket. Producer Scarlet Television went into administration at the start of this month owing over half a million quid to creditors, including three hundred thousand grand to parent company Motive Television. About twenty members of the crew are affected by the collapse and it is understood that one member of the production team is owed as much as fifteen thousand pounds. Delia Smith's payment is due to her agent's company, Deborah Owen. The agent would not comment on the sum, but said Smith 'is concerned about all the people who have not been paid.' Administrator Janes Insolvency is currently negotiating with the BBC to try to recover as much of the money as possible, but confirmed the freelancers will not be paid in full. According to David Hughes, who is handling the administration, Scarlet went one hundred and thirty eight thousand pounds over budget on the five-part BBC2 series. He is trying to recoup that sum as well as a portion of the core budget, which the BBC withheld after Scarlet collapsed, in case there were copyright claims from some of the freelancers. The discussions are 'very complicated and protracted' but are expected to conclude this week, he added. The outstanding payments came to light last month and Scarlet went into administration before the last episode of the five-part series aired on 8 February. At that point, BECTU - which represents several affected crew members - called on the corporation to pull the last episode for 'moral' reasons. The BBC went ahead with the transmission as planned. The union has since criticised the BBC for handing money to a company on the brink of failure in the first place. National official Lynne Korniak said: 'You would think the corporation would make sure that the companies it is dealing with are viable and it seems that on this occasion they [Scarlet] weren't.' A BBC spokesman declined to comment on the financial details, but said: 'We are working with the administrator to make sure everyone who worked on the programme is treated as fairly as possible.' The BBC is expected to repeat the series and arrange the sale of its secondary rights to BBC Worldwide so any dividends can be used to pay back the affected freelancers.

ITV is making a surprise return to authored documentaries and has commissioned veteran film-maker Leslie Woodhead to make two new films for them. Woodhead's ITV films are part of a wider drive by ITV for signature documentaries under the theme Visions of Britain. Woodhead has forty years' film-making experience and most recently made How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin for BBC4. ITV controller of popular factual Jo Clinton Davies outlined the plan at SEE, the Brighton documentary festival. She said the broadcaster wanted 'films on subjects that will connect with all our lives.' Clinton Davies rejected criticism that serious documentary has all but disappeared from the ITV schedule in favour of celebrity-led journeys. 'There has been a trend towards presenter-led docs, but we want a mixed economy - Paul Hamann's Holloway series last year was an example of that. We've always had fine documentary-making on ITV, but it doesn't always get noticed.' She also pointed to the imminent return to ITV of radical journalist John Pilger, with a documentary on Afghanistan.

Television channels are reportedly in talks for an Australian version of The X Factor. Sydney's Daily Telegraph says that executives from Seven and Nine attended a conference about the show held in London by Simon Cowell. A source claimed that Cowell said the series will be made 'my way or the highway.' I'm sure that went down well with the Aussies! The insider added: 'He said that any other version would have to match his production values and his uncompromising vision, which could cost at least twenty million dollars for twenty one hours of television. Seven made a very aggressive play for it and Channel Nine was very interested but were more conscious of the cheque they would have to write - but one way or another, expect it to be on air around February next year.' The X Factor was previously broadcast in Australia in 2005 but was unsuccessful in the ratings.

Channel 4 has expanded its comedy commissioning team with the appointment of Miranda producer Nerys Evans. As commissioning editor, comedy, Evans will work alongside Darren Smith and report to head of comedy Shane Allen. She will focus on scripted comedy with a brief spanning sketch shows, narrative comedy and character-based series such as Fonejacker. Allen said Evans had 'proper funny bones.' He added: 'She will be a great boost to our output, it's a real coup for us.' Evans has been an in-house BBC producer since 2000, working initially on Little Britain and regularly with Jennifer Saunders on the likes of A Bucket O' French And Saunders, The Life And Times Of Vivienne Vyle and Jam And Jerusalem. But, we won't hold those against the woman. Her appointment marks a further expansion of the Channel 4 comedy and entertainment team, which will swell to six people when a new entertainment commissioning editor is appointed later this spring. The department has been tasked with building up a portfolio of new shows as part of a refreshed schedule once Big Brother goes off the air in the summer.

BBC America has announced a US premiere date for the new series of Doctor Who. New episodes of the popular time-travel drama will debut Saturday 17 April on the cable network, according to a press statement.

Channel 4 has confirmed further details on the UK version of the cult cookery show Iron Chef. The programme, which originated in Japan, airs on the Food Network in the US. Jamie Oliver famously appeared as a competitor on the American series which Charlie Brooker once describes as 'Ready Steady Cook directed by Michael Bay!' The UK version will be hosted by Saturday Kitchen wine expert Olly Smith, with Ready Steady Cook star and Michelin chef Nick Nairns as his co-commentator. Tom Aikens, Martin Blunos, Sanjay Dwivedi and Judy Joo have been unveiled as the four Iron Chefs. Aikens became the youngest ever chef to earn two Michelin stars at the age of twenty six, while Blunos is the founder of the famous Restaurant Lettonie. Delhi-born Dwivedi has toured with the Rolling Stones and Korean chef Joo worked with Gordon Ramsay for two years. The show features teams of culinary challengers taking on the Iron Chefs in high-energy cook-offs. It is held in Kitchen Stadium and presided over by a mysterious figure called The Chairman. In each episode, the contestants are given a 'Special Ingredient' by the Chairman, which must be central to their dish. The items can vary from aubergine, mince or cauliflowers to octopus. The programme will air across the week, with the best competitor and best Iron Chef battling it out on the Friday show for a one thousand pound prize.

Living has announced plans to screen a new documentary about Jade Goody. The ninety-minute show, titled Jade: A Year Without Her, will coincide with the anniversary of the reality star's death. Sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, there simply aren't enough sick bags in the world. The one-off special takes a look at Goody's life from her rise to fame through to her cancer battle, which she lost in March last year. Hopefully it will also include the bit where she and two of her mates used vile racist language on prime time TV. Exclusive interviews with Goody's mother the delightful Jackiey Budden, her former lover Jeff Brazier and her widow, Jack Tweed will be shown, as well as those who helped her with her wedding to Tweed. Presumably, the interview with Tweed will be coming direct from his cell in Pentonville where he is currently awaiting trial on rape charges. 'There hasn't been a day in this year without her that I haven't thought about Jade and her extraordinary courage,' said Living's Claudia Rosencrantz. And her celebration of her own bone-ignorance? And her racism? And her shameless manipulation of the media for profit, Claudia? Someone whom the Sun described, in 2007, as 'the most hated bully in Britain'? Forgotten all about that, had you? 'I often think about what a unique character she was, and this new film captures every aspect of what made her so special. The most heartbreaking thing is that cervical cancer is both preventable and curable, and we're honouring Jade's memory by making sure that as many young women as possible understand how they can protect themselves.' For a channel with the name Living they don't half seem to show a lot of programmes about dead people.

Sky News is celebrating after the Royal Television Society named it this year's news channel of the year. Sky's Alex Crawford was honoured as TV journalist of the year for her work on Afghanistan and the Mumbai attacks. For the second year in a row, BBC's News at Ten was named news programme of the year, while ITV's Julie Etchingham was given the presenter of the year award. The BBC picked up seven awards in total, including a special accolade for Panorama journalist Paul Kenyon. Kenyon was cited for his 'dogged coverage of African migration. Our winner has given a voice to people who don't usually get heard, and created human, engaging, compelling television in the process,' judges said.

Robbie Williams will be organising the third Soccer Aid event to take place later this year, say reports. The X Factor's Dermot O'Dreary will host the event rather than regular presenters Ant and Dec, who are too busy filming Britain's Got Talent and their new gameshow Push The Button. According to the Sun, Soccer Aid will take place at Manchester United's Old Trafford ground in June. Former footballers Alan Shearer and Zinedine Zidane are rumoured to be taking part. The event, which airs on ITV, previously took place in 2006 and 2008. Celebrities including Angus Deayton, Jamie Theakston, Gordon Ramsay and Danny Jones played in the England vs Rest Of The World matches.

Sex Pistols singer John Lydon says that he wants to produce a documentary about the Royal Family, according to ever-reliable tabloid reports. However, the veteran singer, who famously wrote the lyrics to the punk anthem 'God Save The Queen,' has apparently softened his stance on towards monarchy in the thirty years since. He is quoted by the Sun as saying: 'I'd like to get to the inner truth of the Royal Family. For years I've wanted to do a documentary asking how they got there and what makes them so superior. Now I'd like to put the other side, too. The good that they do. It's too easy to take potshots at them.'

Amanda Holden and Chris Tarrant have been confirmed as the hosts of two-part ITV gameshow The Door. EastEnders stars Dean Gaffney and Louisa Lytton, Coronation Street's Jennie McAlpline, Boyzone's Keith Duffy, GMTV presenter Michael Underwood and Saturdays star Frankie Sandford will compete in the programme, which has been billed as the 'ultimate celebrity endeavour contest.' Each contestant will venture through 'the door' and undertake challenges, which force them to face their fears. The celebrities will 'battle claustrophobic spaces, suffer shocks and have to cope with a relentless barrage of disorientating games' as they compete for charity. 'The Door is a celebrity's worst nightmare! It's going to make great viewing,' said Holden, eagerly. Sorry, Amanda, remind me, weren't you telling us all how utterly brilliant Big Top was just a few months ago? And, it wasn't, was it? So why, in the name of God, should we believe you this time around?

It has long been regarded as one of the greatest LPs of all time. Now, astonishingly, The Rolling Stones have discovered four 'lost' songs from the recording sessions for their 1972 LP Exile On Main Street. The songs – which have never previously been heard, even by many of the Stones' most rabid aficionados – were discovered after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards listened again to the original master tapes of the sessions for the double LP. The newly discovered songs are called 'Plundered My Soul,' 'Dancing In The Light' (which has been heard on bootlegs before, and is rather fine), 'Following The River' and 'Pass The Win.' An insider - who has heard two of the songs - said: ''Plundered My Soul' is a classic authentic blues riff with an unmistakable Keith lick and abstract lyrics from Mick. 'Following The River' is a ballad in the tradition of 'Wild Horses.'' Jagger and Richards found the songs when they were asked by their record company to listen to the tapes again in preparation for a reissue the ground-breaking record. Initially, the pair believed that they had used all the songs on the 1972 double LP. Jagger revealed: 'I went back in the archives and dug out a load of things. I added some percussion and some vocals. Keith put guitar on one or two.' The frontman said that he had written fresh lyrics for 'Following The River.' However, bar that, they had kept any revisions to a minimum. Richards added: 'I really wanted to leave them pretty much as they were. I didn't want to interfere with the Bible, you know? They still had that great basement sound.' In all, the band are to re-release the LP with ten unheard recordings – of which four are the newly discovered songs. These will also, reportedly, include previously unheard alternate takes of 'Soul Suvivor' and 'Loving Cup.' The new CD will come out on 17 May and will coincide with a documentary - Stones In Exile - which has used archive footage to chronicle the making of the LP. The original eighteen-song LP was recorded at a number of different studios over a four-year period. Locations included Olympic Studios in London including some leftover material from another of the band's masterworks, 1969's Let It Bleed, then later, after the release of Sticky Fingers, in 1971 at Richard's tumbledown south of France mansion, Nellcôte (once a 'place of interrogation' for the Gestapo during World War II). Also, Jagger's country house, Stargroves, in Buckinghamshire and a variety of studios in Los Angeles where the literal Main Street influenced the LP's title were used. The length of the recording - from early 1969 to 1972 - and the various locations is believed to be one of the reasons why the newly discovered songs had disappeared into the cracks of history, unlike several other Stones outtakes from this period - like the jams 'Potted Shrimp' and 'Leather Jacket' - which, whilst they have never been officially released, have at least made it into the public arena via bootlegs. The band's notorious drug use at that time is also thought likely to have made their memories somewhat hazy. Tales of the various illicit narcotic substances floating around during the sessions - particularly at Nellcôte where Keef was reportedly the Corsican drug-mafia's main source of income for a while - have filled several books. The Stones had chosen to stockpile songs at that time while they were deciding how to resolve their tax status, which eventually saw them become virtually permanent tax exiles. They also wanted to make sure that copywrite on recordings made before their acrimonious split with notorious manager Allen Klein in early 1970 didn't end up partially belonging to him (as the December 1969 Muscle Shoals recordings of 'Brown Sugar' and 'Wild Horses' do, to this day). Ironically upon its release, in 1972, the LP initially received a rather lukewarm response from the music press - and, indeed, from Jagger himself - although, the record-buying public were more savvy and it went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic. It is now considered to be an authentic masterpiece and easily the best collection of songs that the band ever released. Brilliantly described by Courtney Love as 'a bunch of rich white boys, hanging out in a French Nazi torture chamber pretending to be poor black men singing the blues,' Exile contains such classics as 'Tumbling Dice', 'Rocks Off', Keith Richards' delirious 'Happy' and 'I Just Wanna See His Face', the oddest gospel song ever written.