Wednesday, March 10, 2010

He's Here, He's There, He's Every-Bloomin'-Where (Thanks To His TARDIS)

Now it's a case of come an' have a go if y'think you're hard enough, you Daleks. Episode eleven of the new series of Doctor Who (that's 'the one written by Gareth Roberts' if you're taking notes at home) is currently being filmed. And it's one in which, seemingly, Matt Smith gets to show off his skills in more fields than merely the scientific. Of course, Matt was a fine teenage footballer, playing at junior level for Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City before a back injury ended his promising footie career and set him on the path to another one. And, to think, once upon a time Doctor Who used to be the show that was - if you believed everything you read - popular with boys who were rubbish with girls and rubbish at football. Now the title character is, it would appear, a natural at both. If the expected schedule holds up then the episode will likely be shown on the same day that England play their opening game of the World Cup in South Africa, against the USA, on 12 June. The only downside to all this is that, tragically, the episode also features James Bloody Corden. Ah well, you can't have everything, I suppose. If you don't want to know the result, look away now. Faultess finish, that, Matthew. Eventually. Mind you, that's the single worst penalty I've seen since Beckham slipped that time and put it into row Z.

The BBC has begun filming two feature-length episodes of Inspector George Gently – the first to be shot in the North-East of England. Though the 2007 pilot episode was set in Northumberland, the drama has previously used locations in and near Dublin. The BBC recently secured money from the North East Content Fund to support the production, which will be filmed largely around Durham. The production sees writer Peter Flannery return to his roots, and to the locations made famous in his 1990s BBC drama Our Friends in the North. 'A writer gets a particular thrill from writing about the time and place which formed him,' he said. 'Fun though it was to film the earlier series in Dublin, I've long wanted the stories to unfold in the landscape in which they are truly set. I'm coming home again - and I'm bringing Inspector George Gently with me.' Jimmy Gardner, who has written episodes of The Cops and This Life, is also on board as writer for the first time. The latest episodes are set in 1966 and play out against a backdrop of the World Cup (the first episode, in particular, involves the staging of some group matches at Sunderland's Roker Park), the Moors Murderers and Harold Wilson's re-election as Prime Minister. Gently, played again by the great (if a bit grumpy) Martin Shaw, investigates the murder of an academic after a CND rally and explores the secrets of a family in an idyllic Northumberland coastal village. Lee Ingleby returns as Gently's young sidekick John Bacchus, while Melanie Pullen Clark again plays Bacchus' wife, Lisa. Guest stars include Warren Clark and Sarah Lancashire. The two films were commissioned by BBC drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson and BBC1 controller Jay Hunt.

The BBC's director general Mark Thompson has told staff that he is incandescent with rage about how the corporation's strategy review was leaked to The Times, and promised 'a full investigation' to find out who was responsible according to Broadcast magazine. The newspaper ran full details of the Putting Quality First review on its front page well ahead of the official launch, forcing the BBC to pull its announcement forward. It also meant that staff whose jobs could be lost under the plans learned about the likelihood of this from a third party – prompting anger for the unions BECTU and the National Union of Journalists. The authoritative tone of the Times report did suggest that the newspaper had sight of the strategy review and there had been some - mostly wild - speculation that Thompson himself may have authorised the leak. However, the director general has indicated otherwise in a message on the BBC's intranet, Gateway. 'I'm incredibly angry,' said Thompson. 'A full investigation is underway to identify the source of the leak,' he added. 'It's incredibly irritating and upsetting. Whether staff are going to like or not like what's said, I want to be the person who tells my colleagues what's planned.' Blimey, he does sound miffed. To the point of being really rather cross indeed. I wouldn't like to be in the shoes of the naughty grass who done the leaking. I imagine that might be one more person losing their job than anticipated. The unions have predicted six hundred jobs will go under the proposals, which include closing 6 Music, The Asian Network and axing a quarter of BBC online staff, although Thompson said that new opportunities opening up in other parts of the BBC meant that the actual reduction in head-count is likely to be much lower. The unions have vowed to fight the cuts with strike action.

Meanwhile, Radio 4 presenter Libby Purves has said that the BBC should focus on intelligent, risk-taking content rather than playing it safe in the scramble for viewing figures. Speaking to the Radio Times, Purves called on the corporation to stop 'fretting how to get an extra million idiots' watching BBC3's Snog, Marry, Avoid? on 'phone screens the size of a dog biscuit.' You've got to stand up and salute many of the people in the broadcasting industry and their crass inability to learn what the word 'tact' means. Once upon a time, you needed a lot of breeding and a first class education to be that casually - yet pointedly - bloody rude about your own customers. Either that, or be born French. Now, it would seem, any old noeuvea riche vulgarian can manage it without too much effort. Purves, who presents the Midweek show on Radio 4, said that the BBC must get over its 'failure of nerve and taste,' and stop scrambling for audience figures over excellence. In other words, we only want nice people, with clean shoes watching and listening to the BBC. Or something. She added that the licence fee 'need not be an embarrassment but a spur to exploration and risk,' while the BBC should better support its 'stonkingly good' in-house production talent. 'The minutiae of cuts are a distraction: we shouldn't be squabbling over 6 Music or bits of website but looking at the wide blue sky and asking what the BBC is actually for,' said Purves. 'It must define its function. Does the BBC want to be the fattest tiger in the jungle, or a national resource; anxious to help rather than desperate to imitate.' Purves called on the BBC to 'go for higher ground' and use the licence fee cash to back genuinely groundbreaking programme makers. 'It'll take courage, because the word "quality" gets twisted to mean elitism, snobbery, worthy droning for posh gits and stroppy minorities.' Yes, Libby love. You're doing it yourself, right here, right now. 'Yet it just means doing everything brilliantly. Not just news and documentary, but drama, comedy, music,' she said. 'Surely it is just as good to make Outnumbered or Strictly, as to unveil a scandal on Panorama or run a Prom. Conversely, it is just as unworthy to put on a dreary-but-safe bonnet drama or the umpteenth series of a stale comedy as it is to dumb down the news or copycat a format.' Purves said that the BBC 'can do quality,' but should stop paying massive salaries for top stars and instead focus on developing new talent. 'For all its failures of nerve and taste, for all the baroque absurdity of its management systems and its obsession with compliance, the BBC has some stonkingly good in-house producers and some canny commissioners who help independents to shine,' she said. 'Talking of talent, it needn't poach, bribe and overpay. From Tommy Handley to Terry Wogan, from Dimbleby to Paxman, it has a track record of finding and polishing stars. The crisis of confidence making it chase star signings is an aberration. Nobody is bigger than their programme; it's all about practice, exposure, the right vehicle and a producer with authority and nerve.'

Christine Bleakley's sponsored water-ski across the Channel has been delayed due to bad weather. The ONE Show host's attempt to stay upright for the twenty two-mile trip from Dover to Calais - which has been vastly amusing viewers of the show for several weeks - has been postponed until at least Thursday due to gale force winds. 'I've spent a lot of time bobbing around in British waters in a wetsuit in preparation for this - it would be nice to set foot on some French soil at the end of it,' said Bleakley. 'My biggest fear aside from the fear of physically trying to do it is not completing it and letting people down.' Earlier this week, Bleakley also faced the prospect of not being allowed to complete the journey by French coastguard officials, who questioned the safety of the TV presenter passing through a busy shipping lane. However, officials have retreated on their initial veto, claiming that they are satisfied with the BBC's safety precautions. 'I don't say I'm happy about this because these kinds of things are forbidden,' coastguard Francois Naduad told the Mirror. 'However, in this case the BBC has obtained authority so there is no problem.' You see, Libby - that's how you do it.

The BBC has appointed Katie Taylor as its new head of entertainment and events. Starting in the spring, Taylor will run the BBC's in-house entertainment department, including responsibility for major formats such as Top Gear, Strictly Come Dancing and Sport Relief. She will replace veteran BBC executive Jon Beazley, who recently announced his intention to leave the corporation. In her current role as the BBC's executive editor of comedy entertainment, Taylor oversees strategy, inception and production of new formats for the corporation's four TV channels. She manages relations with over one hundred studios and acts as executive producer on a wide variety of successful programmes, such as Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Qi. 'I'm absolutely delighted that Katie is taking on this role,' said the BBC Vision's chief creative officer Pat Younge. 'She is hugely talented and absolutely the right person to build on Jon Beazley's legacy and take BBC Entertainment on to the next level of success.' Taylor added: 'I am very excited to be working with so many talented BBC faces, both on and behind the screen, and look forward to both bringing on the next generation of artists and to creating brand defining and distinctive entertainment shows and events.'

GMTV chief operating officer Clive Crouch is leaving after eighteen years and the unit that makes the children's strands Toonattik and Action Stations faces the axe following the company's integration review. ITV director of daytime and factual Alison Sharman will take on full responsibility for running GMTV from April and will also chair the GMTV management board. GMTV managing editor Neil Thompson and editor Sue Walton will report to Sharman. In an e-mail sent to all staff yesterday, ITV director of television, channels and online Peter Fincham said: 'As you all know, Clive's part in the GMTV story has been invaluable, laying the foundations for commercial success and I wish him all the very best for the future.' Crouch was sales and marketing director of GMTV for fifteen years before becoming chief operating officer in September 2007. He will leave the company at the end of the month and said the time was right to move on. 'GMTV is in great shape, and I leave the business in the best possible place to meet the challenges that lie ahead. We have established our strengths across seven days of broadcasting to adults and to children, supported by our three online websites. In the multi-channel, multi-platform world, strong brands stand out and that's exactly what GMTV is.' ITV interim chief executive John Cresswell praised Crouch for 'laying the foundations for much of GMTV's commercial success.' He said: 'In the last few years, Clive has steered GMTV through some challenging times and he has been a huge source of advice and support over the last three months. Clive is a true professional, and a valued colleague and we all wish him well.' As well as Crouch's departure, ITV has placed GMTV's children's department Toonattik and Action Stations into consultation. Staff were told yesterday morning. It is understood that the shows were cancelled because of concerns about ongoing sponsorship, and the costs of having a dedicated production unit. GMTV will continue to show cartoons, but will not have the presenter-fronted studio links in between the shows. An ITV spokesman said the company's integration review concluded that the children's production unit was 'economically unsustainable' and didn't 'add sufficient value in terms of ratings and other commercial benefits. We are committed to children's programming on GMTV but we propose to cease production on Action Stations and Toonattik - effectively decommissioning these shows,' he said.

24's time is almost up according to Variety. FOX TV appears to be ready to end the long-running action-thriller after this current season, the show's eighth. Studio and network executives are remaining tight-lipped but, the magazine claims, the final decision will be made in the next day or two. 24 helped to usher in FOX's ratings surge in the early 2000s, as the franchise - along with American Idol and House, among other series - led the network's adults eighteen to forty nine demographic ratings crown. But the cost of producing 24 has continued to spiral, while ratings have dipped in recent series. A one-time critical darling, 24 has also received its share of knocks from reviewers this season. The studio is said to be considering shopping 24 to other networks - but given the thriller's age and price tag, it is believed that the interest from other outlets will be limited. But even as bell tolls for 24, the franchise seems far from over. Kiefer Sutherland and the 24 team have been keen on turning the show into a movie property for some time, and have made major strides in recent months toward making that long-term goal a reality.

Johnny Vegas has carried out a practice marriage ceremony at a comedy show in St Helens. The comedian also paid for Hazel Morrison and Jamie Morton to stay at the St Helens Park Inn Hotel with free champagne for a dry-run honeymoon. 'He started talking to the audience and when he found out we were getting married he dragged us up on stage,' Morton told the Southport Visiter. 'He pulled out a best man and bridesmaids and rehearsed the ceremony. We really enjoyed it and it was a great laugh.' He added: 'Johnny was really nice when we met him after the show and he gave us a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey. He wished us all the best with the real wedding and I think the practice has made me less nervous about the real thing. The night at the hotel was great but I think we'll be looking at going on holiday somewhere exotic with a beach.'

Jason Gardiner has hinted that there may be some truth to widespread rumours that Dancing On Ice judges Karen Barber and Christopher Dean are romancing. Over the weekend, Dean confirmed that his sixteen-year marriage to Jill Trenary was over. However, a spokesperson for Barber insisted that reports she had grown close to Dean were 'nuts.' Barber is currently married to Dancing On Ice trainer Steve Pickavance, who has previously appeared as a judge on the show's tour. Speaking about his co-stars, Gardiner reignited allegations that they are more than just friends, saying: 'There is no smoke without fire, is there?' The Australian choreographer told the Sun: 'That little minx! Her husband's a coach on the show. I'd heard talk but I couldn't say either way. All I know is that she is very much there for Torvill and Dean, probably above and beyond what you'd consider normal. Maybe she is just in awe of them. If it's true, the implications are unbelievable. But the skating world is very bizarre.'

Sky Sports News presenter Chloe Everton has been banned from posting saucy Twitter messages by her bosses. Everton was reportedly asked to take her Twitter profile down after Sky officials worried that her double entendre-filled posts may present the wrong image of the broadcaster. I'm sorry? Sky? The company owned by the man who invented the Page Three model? Has the world gone mad? Everton built up something of a fanbase on various social networking sites, who celebrated her use of innuendo when discussing sport. One famous message read: 'Still in bed, not seen any action, been hoping for a big wicket.' During a Stoke City football match, she wrote: '[Rory] Delap using a towel to mop up some of the wet' ready for those long thrusting balls into the box. When those balls of Delap's go into the box it is definitely [Ricardo] Fuller.' A Sky source told the Sun: 'It was all a bit of fun but some people high up in the company got concerned it presented the station in the wrong image. They asked her to take it down after a few complaints were made but most people found it hilarious.'

Debra Stephenson has said that she tries not to worry about how celebrities will react to her performances on The Impressions Show. The BBC sketch programme, which launched last October, sees Stephenson teaming up with Jon Culshaw to send up a number of celebrities, including Cheryl Cole, Davina McCall and Lorraine Kelly. Speaking to the Daily Record about the project, Stephenson commented: 'I've not heard of anyone reacting badly to it but maybe it's just too embarrassing for them to admit it. At the moment I'm not worrying.' The actress continued: 'Apparently Davina was really into it, which I'm so pleased about. It was so much fun and I'm hoping that it's always going to be taken in the way that it's intended. With someone like Lorraine Kelly I hope she doesn't mind because they say imitation is the highest form of flattery and it's never done in a horrible way, always a nice way, even if sometimes it was a little bit cheeky.' Stephenson first started doing impressions as a teenager and performed stand-up comedy before rising to prominence with roles in Bad Girls and Coronation Street.

Dana Delany has revealed that it is unlikely her Desperate Housewives alter ego will be killed off. The actress who has played Katherine Mayfair since 2007, told Entertainment Weekly that the show's creator Marc Cherry assured her that Katherine will not die if Dana decides to leave. 'Marc [promised] he would not kill me off and told me I was always welcome to come back to the Lane. I would love for Katherine to pop into town and say hi to the gang every once in a while,' she said. Addressing rumours that she may leave the series to star in ABC pilot Body of Evidence, she added: 'You never know with pilots. Many of them never get off the ground, so all this talk could be rendered pointless. But I am realistically hopeful. I love the [Evidence] character, so I hope it all works out.' Delany's co-star and on-screen love interest, Julie Benz, recently said that she hopes Katherine and Robin will 'ride off into the sunset together.'

A US television producer has pleaded guilty to attempting to blackmail chat show host David Letterman over his sexual affairs. Robert Halderman was charged after threatening to reveal all unless paid two million dollars. The attempt sparked Letterman to make an on-air confession about his various affairs with production staff. Halderman's lawyers had initially claimed he was attempting to sell the comedian a thinly veiled screenplay. Appearing in front of New York State Supreme Court, Halderman agreed to a plea-bargain in which he will serve six months in prison, perform on thousand hours of community service and give up his right to appeal against his conviction. He will be formally sentenced in May. He could have faced up to fifteen years in stir had the case gone to trial and he had been convicted.

Holly Valance has revealed that she is planning to quit Los Angeles to concentrate on securing acting roles in the UK. The actress first found fame playing Felicity Scully on Neighbours and has since appeared in Prison Break, Entourage and CSI: NY. However, in a new interview with TV Week, Valance confessed that her Stateside career is 'winding down,' prompting her to consider other options. She explained: 'LA's been quiet for a few years, but the UK makes things that I'd love to be a part of, so I want to get back into that.' Or, in other words, please, please, please somebody give me a job! I'll do anything!

Janice Dickinson has said that she could not masturbate during her time on I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! because of the constant presence of the TV cameras. The model and reality TV regular also told Metro that she did not get on with either cast during her stints on the US and UK versions of the competition. When asked which show she enjoyed more, Dickinson replied: 'The British one because I had no idea what the fuck I was supposed to be doing. The crew on that show were so funny. I didn't enjoy the American one as I was really sick. I had twelve vaccinations, which made me ill. I practically died and then I had Daniel Baldwin shouting at me to wash the dishes.' She added: 'I didn't like anybody. They were all like "get Janice" and colluded against me. I'm sitting there being stared at by people who hate me. No-one's beaten my record of ten consecutive Bush Tucker trials. It's not nice not to be liked. You get lonely, you can't masturbate because of the cameras and you don't even want to poo because of the microphones.' Meanwhile, Dickinson accused Katie Price of being 'a rude bitch.' Which, is probably true but it's a bit rich coming from Janice Dickinson, frankly. The former America's Next Top Model judge recently appeared alongside Price and Alex Reid on a talk show and told Metro that they did not get on. Dickinson said of Price: 'I met her at Alan Carr's chat show. She and her husband talked all the way through my part. I didn't make a peep when her cagefighting husband with his cauliflower ears was on the television. Maybe she's just jealous because I did Vogue and she only did Page Three.' Mi-oaw! Big fight, little people. Or in this particular case, big fight, plastic people.