Friday, March 05, 2010

Coded Messages

The new series of Doctor Who has Twilight and Harry Potter-like elements to it, the executive producers have revealed. Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Piers Wenger - who is working alongside fellow execs Steven Moffat and Beth Willis for series five - said that they wanted it to have 'a fairy-tale feel. We wanted to make the show look as up-to-date as it possibly could,' Wenger explained. 'One of the qualities in Steven's writing, and one of Steven's natural tendencies as a writer, is to write these strange, dark, glittering fairy tales. We wanted to give the look of the series a slightly more storybook, fairy-tale feel - within reason.' He added: 'It wasn't about suddenly becoming Tim Burton, but [about] finding a pinch of that, a pinch of Twilight, a pinch of Harry Potter - but it's still absolutely, slap-bang, mainstream Doctor Who.' Willis and Wenger, both admitted that it is often a struggle to meet deadlines and perfect scripts. 'From the point of commissioning the script for an episode of Doctor Who, it is more complex than it is on any other kind of show,' Wenger told the magazine. 'It's a bigger, more brilliant challenge. Just the stories, by nature, have to be slightly baffling, but have a really rigorous logic behind why they're baffling - and they should be baffling in a good way.' Wenger went on to reveal that he and Moffat had 'practically a year' to ready scripts for the new series, but admitted that they are 'absolutely flat out getting the last two scripts ready.' Comparing Ashes to Ashes to Doctor Who, Willis said: "It was eight episodes compared to thirteen, which I think, just in terms of stamina, is quite a different kettle of fish. She added: 'And the post-production process on Doctor Who is just so much more complex.'

A chicken seemingly defecated on Alan Titchmarsh during filming on his live ITV chat show yesterday. The Popstar To Operastar host and TV gardener - who's, therefore, well used to manure in all parts of his CV - was introducing the chickens to the studio audience when one shat all down his jacket. 'Welcome to the joys of live TV,' laughed the sixty-year-old presenter afterwards. Titchmarsh had the chickens on his show to talk about how they were reported to have grouped together with a cockerel and killed a fox in Basildon, Essex. When asked for a comment afterwards, a spokesman for the chicken said 'Bwwwwwak, bwak, wak, wak, wak.' Which, I'm sure you'll agree dear blog reader, is a pretty reasonable excuse.

The veteran actress June Whitfield is to join the cast of Coronation Street, it has been confirmed. The eighty four-year-old TV legend - whose extensive CV includes Carry On films, Hancock's Half Hour, Terry & June, Absolutely Fabulous and most recently, Doctor Who - will take the role of May, Blanche's old friend who turns up for her funeral. On Tuesday, it was announced that Roy Hudd is to reprise his role as undertaker Archie Shuttleworth for the commemorative episodes. In October, Blanche actress Maggie Jones was written out of the Manchester serial when she became ill. Two months later, she died at the age of seventy five at Salford's Hope Hospital. After Jones' final scenes had aired, writers explained Blanche's absence form the Barlow household by revealing that her friend had won two tickets for a holiday in Portugal. Whitfield begins filming her two episodes at Granada Studios in a fortnight's time and will appear on screen in early May.

A stage production celebrating half a century of Coronation Street is to go on tour across the UK, it has been announced. Coronation Street: Abridged Live! - written by one of the soap's long-term scripters, Jonathan Harvey - will condense the programme's history of births, deaths, marriages and other dramatic events into one show running for just under two hours. The Weatherfield drama's executive producer Kieran Roberts is to be the play's producer, teaming up with Phil McIntyre Entertainment Limited. Speaking of the project, Roberts commented: 'The very heart of British television has been beating with the pulse of Coronation Street for fifty years. That's a lot of memories, a lot of drama, a lot of poignancy and a lot of laughter. I'm thrilled at the prospect of bringing to life on stage all the great stories and characters of fifty years of Coronation Street and I'm sure the play will be a real treat for Corrie fans as well as a great night out in the theatre.' Although the production is expected to feature soap legends like Bet Lynch, Tracy Barlow and Richard Hillman, none of the past or present cast will appear on stage. The project is also unrelated to the planned Coronation Street stage musical. Coronation Street: Abridged Live! will launch at Salford's Lowry Theatre in August before embarking on a tour of the UK.

Jessie Wallace has revealed that she expects her EastEnders character Kat Moon to have changed when she returns to Walford later this year. The actress, who was last seen in the role in 2005, predicted that the soap's writers will show how Kat has developed but not make her unrecognisable from her previous stint. Speaking to What's On TV, she commented: 'I'm sure she has developed - this was five years ago. [But] I'm sure she's not a completely different person.' Wallace confirmed that she does not yet know what is in store for the character, nor where she has been since leaving Albert Square. The star's return to EastEnders was announced last month shortly after the news that Shane Richie has agreed to reprise his role as Kat's husband Alfie. Asked whether she is excited to soon be working with Richie again, Wallace replied: 'I am. We met up a little while ago to do a photoshoot and it was like it was yesterday. I was with him for half an hour and my face was killing me from laughing because we just have such a laugh together, so I'm really looking forward to it.'

A TV series adaptation of the 1982 sci-fi film Tron is being made by the Disney Channel, according to reports. The new show will be aimed at children aged between six and fourteen, claim the trade magazine Mediaweek. It is not clear when it will air.

The BBC has handled around three hundred acts of official staff indiscipline over the past years, including cases of bullying, drug abuse and conflicts of interest, it has emerged. According to data released under the Freedom of Information Act following a request by the Gruniad, the most disciplinary cases, eighty seven, came in the behaviour-and-conduct category. In the figures covering a four-year period since April 2006 (when the disciplinary database was first started), forty two cases were recorded for absence, twenty two for conflicts of interest, twelve for bullying and eight for poor timekeeping. Despite widespread claims of excess at the BBC, there were only nine reported cases in the category of alcohol dependence-substance abuse among the corporation's around seventeen thousand employees. Former BBC producer Sarah Graham, who claims to have used cocaine whilst she was employed by the corporation, said that the drug-alcohol abuse figure is 'too low' and 'misrepresents the BBC's cocaine culture. I am not surprised by the low figures, because BBC management are not skilled in recognising any employees who may be suffering from drug abuse or dependency,' she told the newspaper. 'There is a covert tolerance of cocaine abuse across the BBC and other media organisations. Because of the ignorance of cocaine abuse, a lot of the symptoms of cocaine abuse are regarded as "creative genius."' While giving evidence to the home affairs select committee last year, Graham claimed to have been offered cocaine on her first day at the BBC. She told the committee that there should be random drug testing for everyone working at the corporation. As mentioned the last time that Ms Graham's reported comments appeared on this blog all that yer Keith Telly Topping can add with regard to the complexities of this issue is that in the best part of seventeen years doing freelance TV reviews on my own little bit of BBC radio, the strongest substance that I've ever been offered in the office is a plain rich tea biscuit and a cup of tea. I've obviously been hanging out in the wrong parts of the Beeb. Still, at least that means I'll pass with flying colours when Ms Graham's random tests are put in place. I'm not sure that whoever dreamed up Famous, Rich and Jobless (see below) will, however cos they were clearly on drugs. In response, the BBC said: 'There is no contractual right to test employees and, as is made clear by government guidelines, any such right should only be introduced in the work-place in order to address an identifiable risk to safety. To make random drug testing the norm would be a gross intrusion into the privacy of law-abiding employees.' Discussing the disciplinary figures, a BBC spokesman said: 'The BBC makes clear the standards of behaviour expected of our employees. We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and where necessary will take disciplinary action. The HRCM database was set up to create a central record of disciplinary action. Before it was created information was held by departments locally. We never comment on individual disciplinary matters.'

Jason Manford is to host a new ITV comedy show. The Sun reports that Comedy Rocks will feature sets from the best stand-up comedians in the country. Manford, who is a regular on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, will also introduce musical guests. Further, audience members are to be given the opportunity to perform their own routines. The show will be broadcast on Friday nights.

Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are to review their support for the BBC licence fee. Each party will look again at its broadcasting policy in response to what they call a 'stitch up' over live Prime Ministerial TV debates. Plaid and the SNP believe plans by broadcasters will give 'unfair and unbalanced coverage' to other parties. The BBC say separate leader debates will be held in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Plaid Cymru and SNP Westminster Parliamentary Group met on Thursday to discuss broadcasters' plans for general election coverage. These include Prime Ministerial debates on the BBC, ITV and Sky between Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg. Plaid and the SNP are angry that they will not be represented in these debates. Plaid's Westminster Leader Elfyn Llwyd said: 'We met to discuss the unfair treatment of Welsh and Scottish licence fee payers who are being denied the opportunity by the public broadcaster to hear from their respective national parties in these set piece leaders debates. It is unacceptable for the people of Wales and Scotland to be short-changed in this way and for the leaders of London parties to be given an additional ninety minutes of prime time exposure. Canada's state broadcaster, CBC, manages to achieve balance across five parties and two languages. It is deeply disappointing the BBC currently lacks to ambition to even try.' SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson, argued that broadcasters, 'in cahoots' with the three political parties who would be taking part in the debates, are attempting to exclude entire countries from them. He said: 'A stitch up between the London based BBC management and the London parties has disenfranchised voters in three countries. With the cavalier attitude of London establishment continuing, we must devolve broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly - where the interests of Scottish and Welsh licence payers will be a priority, not an afterthought.' So, there you have it, dear blog reader. The only things it would seem that the Welsh and Scots agree on is that the BBC is an English conspiracy.

Ed O'Brien of terminal miserablists Radiohead has, apparently, written 'an open letter' to the BBC Trust in a bid to save threatened digital radio station BBC 6 Music. What the hell's the matter with you people - you're pop stars for God sake, can't you afford to buy stamps and envelopes like normal working men and women?

Channel 4 has apologised for technical glitches which temporarily stopped Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA and Desperate Housewives from being shown. Two minutes of Ramsay's show was lost and the beginning of Desperate Housewives was missed as a single still shot was broadcast for several minutes. Channel 4 said it was caused by a 'technical malfunction' and that an investigation has been launched. In a full statement the network said: 'Channel 4 apologises for the technical error last night. It was caused by a technical malfunction and we are investigating as a matter of urgency to ensure this does not occur again. A full apology was aired at the end of Desperate Housewives.' The incident affected two minutes twenty two seconds of the US drama and two minutes thirty seven seconds of Gordon Ramsay's show. It came about a month after sister station Film 4 suffered a similar technical problems during a screening of gangster classic The Godfather Part II. The incident led to an eighteen-minute segment being shown twice, before cutting to the correct point in the film - leaving many viewers confused. well, they can go out an buy the DVD, surely? It is, after all, the greatest film ever made. A message on Film 4's Twitter page offered 'huge apologies for what was obviously a really bad experience' and the film was re-shown in its entirety later in the week. And Fredo still got the Judas-kiss from Michael.

Diarmuid Gavin stayed in a hotel when he was supposed to be living on Jobseeker's Allowance for a BBC1 documentary according to claims made in a tabloid newspaper. The TV gardener along with Meg Matthews, Larry Lamb and Emma Parker Bowles are taking part in Famous, Rich and Jobless, which will place them with unemployed families in inner cities. However, according to the Sun, Gavin breached his nine pounds-a-day rule and spent at least one night in a Travelodge with a credit card that he had kept secret from the production team. The Government's Back To Work tsar Emma Harrison said: 'At the start of the show, Diarmuid was supposed to give us all his cash and credit cards. But he hid a credit card from us and when he was placed with an unemployed family he didn't like it and went and stayed in a hotel.' Gavin defended his actions, claiming that he refused to stay with the host family - who had six children and nine dogs - out of principle. 'I haven't left their home out of anger or frustration or seeking comforts. I saw something that I felt was wrong and had to take a stand,' he said. 'The children weren't brought up in a disciplined way. At 1.30am they were still running around and I don't like that - it just seems wrong.' The programme, which yer Keith Telly Topping gave a damned shoeing of a preview too on the strength of the - hideous - publicity blurb sent out last week, has already proved controversial with claims that another of those taking part, Lamb, simply refused to look for work. So, to sum up then, somebody at the BBC had the bright idea of taking four alleged 'celebrities' and making them unemployed for a fixed period of time (whether for the education, information or entertainment for the viewers, we know not) and, before the show's even started, it's been revealed that half of those taking part, seemingly, have the same contempt for the concept as, I'm sure, the viewing public are going to have. What a right, bleeding fiasco and no mistake. So, whoever thought this one up, have you got any more bright ideas?

Benicio Del Toro has signed up to be the face of a new Magnum Gold ice cream advertising campaign. The Hollywood actor will take over from Eva Mendes and Eva Longoria, who have previously appeared in adverts for the company. Del Toro's TV spots celebrating the 'indulgent' Madagascan vanilla and caramel treats will air in the UK from next month. The Puerto Rico-born actor's big screen credits include The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Snatch and The Wolfman.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has jokingly proposed a Come Dine With Me politics special. The MP revealed that he is a big fan of the Channel 4 food show and suggested that the three main party leaders should appear on the programme together. 'How about that? Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg on Come Dine With Me,' he suggested to ShortList. I dunno, I'd sooner see them all on Total Wipeout to be honest. 'Then we could all sit there in the taxi afterwards saying, "I thought his coulis was rubbish, he only gets one." Or, "I thought the paté was a bit hard. Three."' Clegg also confessed to being a karaoke regular, admitting that he is 'the worst kind of singer. I'm bad but I love doing it, so I make everyone else suffer around me,' he said.

Mark Gatiss has revealed that he was influenced to become a comedy writer and performer by the Monty Python team and Rowan Atkinson. Speaking on Radio 3's Private Passions, the League Of Gentleman star and Doctor Who scriptwriter gave special credit to the classic vinyl recordings of their work. Gatiss said: 'From the beginning my interest and bent were towards Monty Python, Not The Nine O'Clock News - the record albums particularly. Back in the days before ready access to TV repeats or even films, those albums, the Python albums, were absolutely brilliantly produced. [They were] full of - littered with - detail, tiny jokes.' He added: 'There was a particular album by Rowan Atkinson called Live in Belfast, which was a record of his show, with Richard Curtis and Howard Goodall. I just remember getting that and listening to these brilliant sketches and thinking, "That's definitely an area that I'd like to go towards."'