Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Get Ready To Crumble

Horribly sad news to kick-off with. Gary Coleman has died at the age of forty two. The diminutive actor - best known for his role in the 1980s US sitcom Diff'rent Strokes - was hospitalised in Utah on Wednesday after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage caused by a fall. Coleman slipped into a coma on Thursday and was taken off life support Friday morning. His wife, Shannon Price, as well as close friends and family, were at his bedside when he died. Coleman's growth was hampered from a young age by a kidney disease which meant he never grew beyond four feet eight inches and required daily dialysis. In Diff'rent Strokes, which ran from 1978 to 1986, Coleman played precocious Arnold, becoming famous for his catchphrase 'whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?' Over the years, all three of Diff'rent Strokes' child actors suffered post-fame struggles. Dana Plato, who played Coleman's on-screen adoptive sister, Kimberley, posed for Playboy in an attempt to shed her child-star image and also appeared in softcore films. She was later arrested twice (once for armed robbery, again for forging a prescription for Valium) and, tragically, died of a drug overdose in 1999 at the age of just thirty four. Todd Bridges, who played Willis, was arrested in 1994 after allegedly ramming someone's car after an argument. He also had issues with illegal drugs for several years. Coleman himself sued his parents and his former manager over misappropriation of his trust fund. Although he was awarded over one million dollars, he subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 1999. He was charged with assault in 1998 after he punched a woman while he was working as a security guard at a shopping mall.

And, another solider down. Dennis Hopper has gone at the age of seventy four after a long battle with prostate cancer. BBC News reported that Hopper died on Saturday morning surrounded by friends and family at his home in Venice, California. The award-winning actor and director, who was diagnosed with the illness last year, was last seen in public in March after being honoured on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In a career spanning fifty five years, the Kansas-born actor was best known for co-writing, directing and starring in the cult movie Easy Rider in 1969, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His first film appearances on the big screen saw him appear alongside the legendary James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause in 1955 and Giant a year later. After a quiet period, Hopper won attention for his appearance in Apocalypse Now in 1979, and garnered another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1986 basketball film Hoosiers. His TV work included playing the villain, Victor Drazen, in the first series of 24. His last role was in the drama Crash on the Starz network. A committed method actor, Hopper was often pegged as 'difficult' by various studio bosses and spent much of the first decade of his career working either in television (The Time Tunnel, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, Naked City) or with maverick outsiders of the Hollywood system like Roger Corman (The Trip). Off-screen, Hopper was an active part of the era's pop-art explosion, both as a savvy man-about-town partygoer, hanging out with all the rock groups in Laurel Canyon and on the Sunset Strip, and as a fine photographic chronicler of the mid-60s LA scene. In 1969 he directed, co-wrote, and starred-in Easy Rider, the ultimate counterculture movie. Flush with its astounding success, he went on to make the daring, self-reflexive and wilfully anti-commercial The Last Movie, the crushing failure of which alienated him totally from Hollywood's establishment. Actually, the drug-crazed abandon of the movies' shooting, in Peru, was far more interesting than the film itself. By his own admission, Hopper then wandered in a morass of drugs and drink through much of the 1970s (and, watching his manic performance in Coppola's Apocalypse Now, you can easily believe it). With one, immortal, line - 'Don't you fuckin' look at me!' - Hopper, whose movie career had floundered throughout the early 1980s, was reborn as the apotheosis of middle-American urban menace in David Lynch's classic thriller Blue Velvet. Hopper's mesmerising performance as Frank Booth led to slew of similarly over-the-top psychomaniac roles (some of them very good, like the character he played in Speed, others less successful, such as Waterworld). But it also announced the comeback of a truly gifted actor whose talents had too often been under-utilised (by both himself and others). He also become a noted director (showing a solid understanding of the mainstream in Colors and a wry appreciation of noir-irony in the erotic thriller The Hot Spot). Other important movies of this genuine Hollywood legend include True Romance ('you know something is wrong when Dennis Hopper plays the most "normal" character in a movie!' noted one contemporary reviewer), Cool Hand Luke, Hang 'em High, the truly outstanding Out of the Blue (which he also directed), True Grit, Paris Trout, Rumble Fish and Tracks. Five times married, five times divorced, and still raging to the bitter end, Hopper had been recently quoted as saying: 'Like all artists I want to cheat death a little and contribute something to the next generation.' He did not go quietly into that endless night. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Christine Bleakley apparently has 'no intention' of defecting to ITV when her current ONE Show contract finishes in September. The presenter, thirty one, is said to be 'furious' (or, you know, the Northern Irish equivalent) after her former BBC co-host Adrian Chiles said publicly that he wouldn't rule out the chances of her following his move to ITV. 'Obviously, there's no doubt, sooner or later Christine and I will work together,' he noted. 'Whether that's going to be in September on GMTV or some time in the future in a far-off time or place, I don't know.' An insider told the Mirror: 'Both Christine and the BBC are getting annoyed with Adrian. She is furious and has no intention of leaving.' Meanwhile, the News of the World has a story which suggests ratings for The ONE Show have gone up since co-host Adrian Chiles' departure. 'Shock figures prove the BBC was right to bank on Christine Bleakley to keep viewers watching the 7pm programme,' says the article, without the slightest hint of pointed agenda. Oh no. What have you done to piss off the Screws of the World, Adie? Since Chiles' exit, with various male guest hosts being used, most recently Matt Baker, the show has averaged 4.3million viewers per night - twenty two per cent of the total TV audience. During a similar period last year, with Chiles at the helm, the show averaged 3.9 million viewers, a twenty per cent share. A BBC source said: 'This shows you the star power of Christine. A lot of people said viewers would go away when Adrian left but the opposite's happened. It's a quiet time of year so ratings like this are a real achievement.' Beeb insiders believe the show will grow even more when comic Jason Manford replaces Adrian four days a week.

EastEnders producers have, reportedly, 'axed' Lucy Beale actress Melissa Suffield after she allegedly ignored numerous warnings from bosses about her 'unruly behaviour.' Not literally of course, because, using an axe in an untoward manner is illegal. According to the Daily Star Sunday, the seventeen-year-old - who has played Ian Beale's eldest daughter since 2004 - was issued with a final warning after attending a London nightclub whilst underage. Despite being reprimanded, Suffield allegedly continued to ignore warnings about her continued misbehaviour, which resulted in a string of meetings with producers and culminated in her dismissal from the role last week. A source at the soap told the newspaper: 'Melissa has been hauled before bosses on a number of occasions for her behaviour and attitude outside work. In the end they made the decision to let her go. The way she's been behaving out of work over the last few months is not acceptable. Melissa is seventeen and wants to go out, have fun and do what she likes. But that kind of behaviour doesn't work when you're on a show like EastEnders.' They continued: 'She was given a warning a couple of months back after she was photographed going into a London club. So when things didn't improve they had no choice but to write her out of the show.' An EastEnders spokesperson confirmed: "Melissa will be leaving in the summer. She's had a fantastic six years on the show and we wish her the best of luck.' Earlier this month, Devon Anderson - who plays Billie Jackson in the serial - was reportedly banned from attending the British Soap Awards after violating strict BBC rules over advertising by posting a photograph of his intended outfit on Twitter.

Coronation Street's forthcoming Siege Week apparently set producers back a total of over one million pounds, a report claims. According to the News of the World, the week's worth of episodes - following Tony Gordon's escape from prison - have left a hole in the show's budget for the rest of the year. Reported costs include two hundred and eighty thousand pounds for the factory explosion, with one hundred and fifty grand used to repair subsequent damage, and one hundred and twenty thousand on special effects. 'We wanted Tony to leave with a bang. We'll wipe the floor with the BBC,' an insider claimed.

Former Birds Of A Feather actress Pauline Quirke has joined the cast of Emmerdale as Jackson Walsh's mother Hazel. The fifty-year-old - who played Sharon Theodopolopodous for nine years alongside Linda Robson in the BBC sitcom - begins filming for the soap at the end of next month and her larger-than-life character will soon find herself at the centre of 'an enormous and gripping storyline,' according to loose-tongued sources close to production. Free-spirited teacher Hazel arrives in the Dales on a whistle stop visit to see her son Jackson (Marc Silcock), who is currently being wooed by troubled teen Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller). However, as one newly-single villager takes a keen interest in her, Hazel's jetset lifestyle is halted when she becomes embroiled in a 'hugely dramatic' plot - or, as close as you'll get to 'hugely dramatic' on Emmerdale, anyway - which affects the lives of both her son and his lover. Speaking of her signing, Quirke said: 'I'm really looking forward to joining the show, my mum was a fan back when it was called Emmerdale Farm, so it's always been a part of my life. The show has really moved on, it's consistently good, there are some great characters and great storylines, I've especially loved Aaron's story.' She added: 'I've never done anything like this before so it's something different for me and I'm very happy to be a part of it.' Series producer Gavin Blyth commented: 'I am absolutely delighted that Pauline will be joining Emmerdale at such an exciting time. She is a fantastic actor who I know will do justice to this character.' Quirke began her acting career as an eight year old, appearing as an extra in Thunderball. As a teenager, she had a part on Dixon of Dock Green and hosted two ITV children's sketch comedies You Must Be Joking and Pauline's Quirkes. Her other acting credits include The Sculptress, Missing, Skins, Cold Blood, Carrie's War, The Bill and My Family.

Karren Brady is reportedly adding the gym to her weekly schedule after seeing herself on Junior Apprentice. Brady, who replaced Margaret Mountford as Lord Alan Sugar's right-hand woman on the BBC show, said she was shocked to see herself on the TV and hear how 'posh' she sounds. 'I can't do anything about the voice but I have to start working out!' the forty one-year-old told the Mirror. Brady, who is said to be an 'old friend' with Lord Sugar, added that working on the show was 'great fun. He's so witty, I just can't stop laughing out loud. We share the same sense of humour and he's always kicking me under the table in the boardroom,' she said. Although enjoying her stint in front of the camera, Brady said it takes substantial commitment. 'For the past few months I've been filming back-to-back. First the Junior Apprentice and then the main series. The last I heard it's back in September. It's always about the candidates and I think people will love this new set,' she said.

Germany emerged triumphant at this year's Eurovision Song Contest as the UK's pitiful effort limped home in dead last place. Teenager Josh Dubovie, representing Great Britain with a song written by failed hairdo Pete Waterman, scored just ten points. Speaking after her win, nineteen-year-old Lena, who scored two hundred and forty six points with her song 'Satellite,' said: 'I am so happy and so thankful and so grateful.' Polite, these Germans, don't you think? Acts from twenty five countries took to the stage during the event, hoping to impress voters from across Europe. Turkey's MaNga was in second place, with Romania third and the much-fancied Denmark song - which sounded like a dead-ringer for 'Every Breath You Take' frankly - coming fourth. Belarus had been trailing in last place for most of the voting until the final marks saw it overtake Dubovie's wretched thing. This is the third time that the UK has finished in the bottom spot in the past eight years, following on from previous dismal performances by Andy Abraham in 2008 and Jemini in 2003. Bookmakers had made Azerbaijan the favourite to win this year's contest. Their chosen act, Safura, was the first contestant to perform on Saturday's show with her song 'Drip Drop.' The organisers also allowed Spain's Daniel Diges to perform twice during the event after a fan disrupted his first performance by jumping on stage. A man wearing a black T-shirt and red hat got onto the stage during Diges' rendition of 'Algo Pequeñito.' The invader knelt before Diges and then appeared to try to join in with the song, waving his arms energetically before he was forced off by security guards. 'We thought it was part of the show but after the security guards chased him off stage we realised it had been the best stage invader since Jarvis Cocker,' commented James Dylan from bookmakers Ladbrokes.

Pete Waterman has reportedly 'hit out' at critics who 'slammed' this year's Eurovision song and he had vowed that he will not be behind next year's entry. Is that a promise? 'That Sounds Good To Me', which was sung - if that's the right word - by Josh Dubovie, in Oslo, was written for the competition by the former Pop Idol judge and full-of-his-own-importance berk. So, it was very nice to see it fail like a big failing thing failing, through its failure. Bookies had placed record odds against the song's chances of winning, though Dubovie said that, regardless of criticism, he would perform with a smile on his face. Yes, pal. The rest of Europe wasn't laughing though, was it? Responding to Dr Fox's judgement that the tune was 'average,' Waterman told the Sun: 'When did he last write a fucking hit song?' Well, slightly more importantly, Pete, when did you last write a hit song? 'He can't even speak English, let alone write a hit song,' continued Waterman. 'Dr Fox? He is not even a real doctor. He doesn't know anything.' Waterman went on to say that Eurovision has become 'too arty,' adding: 'It's become waylaid by people trying to be serious artists. Hang on a minute, we're here to party! This isn't showbusiness, it's a song contest.'

Britain's Got Talent hosts Ant and Dec have claimed that acts on the show have a tendency to copy previous winners. Speaking to the Sun, the comic duo criticised contestants for using sob stories to progress to the next round. Ant said: 'People think they know how to play it. They watched last year's series and think, "Ah, Susan Boyle was slightly odd-looking, she didn't look like a singer. If I dress a bit like that and look like I'm not here for an audition, I'll get through." We've seen people who have a "make-under" just to try and recapture that Susan Boyle moment but it doesn't work like that. You can see straight through it when they turn up with a make-under and a story ready to pounce out. Simon Cowell on the judging panel sees it very quickly and has no patience for it.' Meanwhile, Dec added: 'In series two we got a lot of middle-aged portly gentlemen who thought they could sing 'Nessun Dorma' just to be like Paul Potts. This series we had a guy with a flat cap and oil and dirt all over his hands and he was going, "Oh my car broke down on the way here. I didn't think I was going to make it." And you're thinking, "Go and wash your hands. Stop making a big thing about it." You see it when we interview people and we say, "What have you come to do for us today?" and they say, "I've just got out of hospital." You go, "Hang on, that's not an act, what's your act?"'

Myleene Klass could be Adrian Chiles's GMTV co-host following a number of screen tests for the job, according to various - probably not very accurate - tabloid reports. Of course she has. She can, after all, read a bloody autocue. Wasn't it Natasha Kaplinsky whom Charlie Brooker once described as 'a skeleton covered by a skin of ambition'? I think we might have a new candidate here, Charles.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cold Blood: I Am The Lizard King, I Can Do Anything

'I trust the Doctor with my life.'

Cruelty, sacrifice, hurt, fate and causality, family ties and, magnificently, redemption. These are just some of the themes that Chris Chibnall explores in Cold Blood, the second of his two-part Silurians story. It's an episode that the reptile creatures creator, Malcolm Hulke - a rather lovely old left-wing hippy who wrote stories with beautifully balanced and observed characterisation - would, I'm guessing, have enjoyed and very much approved of in its world-view. Complete with plenty of continuity reference to Hulke's 1970 seven-parter Doctor Who & The Silurians, Cold Blood takes a caustic variant on an age-old Doctor Who staple - science versus the military - as the central prop for some quite beautiful scenes. 'There's always a military, isn't there?' asks the Doctor, sadly, when confronted with the familiar looking Restac. One of the best moments of the episode is when dignified old politician, Eldane, tells the hot-headed and vengeful Restac to 'go and play soldiers, I'll let you know if I need you.' It's a plot idea that finds echoes in Doctor Who as far back as The Daleks in 1963. If we stop posturing, we can start to communicate. A gorgeous example of classic theoretical McLuhanism from a series that has always worn the incongruity of its inherently pacifist leanings with considerable pride. Even, when those appears at odds with exciting an audience.

Chibnall's plot might be - necessarily - unoriginal in some ways but the dialogue in his script simply sings. From lines that appear to be little more than fillers on paper ('how does it feel, ape?'), to pointed socio-political observations that both surprise and challenge the characters, and the audiences, preconceptions ('we are not monsters. And, neither are they'), to a few necessary restatements of some of the series essential core values ('we have to be better than this') here is an episode that, in the words of one of its characters, strove to 'achieve greatness.' For the most part, it gets there, with a series of interesting character pairings - the Doctor and Nasreen, Amy and Mo, Ambrose and Rory - to the fore, and finding time for unexpected moments, key conflict and, essential resolution. There are wise and angry voices, fear as a catalyst for tragedy and, amid the cacophony of misunderstanding, moments for quiet reflection and consensus. Doctor Who at its best, as always, bearing gifts and breaking up fights. And, how interesting that - against notional dramatic typing - in a story about the wish for, and the avoidance of, conflict, it was for the most part the men who wanted to make peace and the women who wanted to fight. Subtle.

Even in an episode as full of portentous (in the nicest possible way) and deadly serious moments as this, though, there's still time for the odd click of humour. For every piece of dogmatic 'this is war' rhetoric, there are clever, witty, neatly observed little jokes. 'We're in the centre of the earth. And, there are lizard men,' might, on reflection, be my favourite line of the current series. It's certainly a classic example of Doctor Who's ability to wink in the face of those times when it's in danger of being just that bit too po-faced and serious. The saucy celery reference might have been lost on the kids, but the two allusions to 'squeaky-bum time' would have caused ripples of barely suppressed giggles right across the land, of that I'm certain. Amy's delight at 'picking the lizard man's pocket' was a joy to see. And, even a child would have be able to understand the clever double meaning to Nasreen's line 'I've got what I was digging for.' Cold Blood, like the best of Doctor Who, works on at least three levels - as surface, as subtext and as metaphor. The story's ecological elements and observations on selfishness are there if you know what you're looking for. But, if you don't, it needn't worry you, there's so much more to enjoy.

And, of course, there was the episode's other major theme, that of sacrifice in all its forms. The Doctor's entire 'there are fixed points through time' speech is, to a seasoned viewer of the show, a sinister forewarning of the personal sacrifice that is to come for the Doctor himself. 'In the future,' he tells Ambrose, sadly, 'when you talk about this, tell people there was a chance. But you were so much less than the best of humanity.' It's dangerously close the the apportioning of blame which, in retrospect, is just asking for trouble. Because, the real blame here points straight towards the TARDIS. Disastrous consequences follow the Doctor letting his curiosity get the better of him of the least appropriate time. Investigating the sudden appearance of yet another crack in the universe, we get the Matt Smith era's first major casualty when Rory dies in the worst possible way - his very existence erased from reality. Hindsight, again, loans Rory's line early in the episode 'I trust the Doctor with my life,' a horrible irony. And, events make hollow and sick, the line in the previous episode in which the Doctor says, confidently, 'nobody dies today.'

The death of a companion is always, of course, an emotional rollercoaster. Here, it's aided by delicate and nuanced performances by Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill that have everything to do with giving the audience a poke to remind them that they're watching a programme about conflict. And, that in conflicts, there are casualties. Amy's poignant 'I thought I saw someone else,' at the climax is a fitting epitaph to a character whose stay on the series was brief but whose impact upon its direction will, I expect, be significant. And the inherent tragedy that the love of his life will never remember he was even there is, possibly, the series cruelest ever departure. Gone, and forgotten, as emphatic as any cold stone epitaph. 'This ends here.' Literally.

Week Twenty Three: A Black & White World

Downing Street refused to allow a government minister to appear on Question Time unless Tony Blair's former policy adviser Alastair Campbell was removed from the panel, the BBC has claimed. The programme's editor said that the request to replace Campbell with a shadow minister was refused as 'a point of fundamental principle.' No 10 said it questioned Campbell's appearance instead of an opposition front bencher. No representatives from the coalition government appeared on the show but Tory backbencher John Redwood was on the panel. The other guests were former Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer and Piers Morgan and Max Hastings. Hang on, they complained about Alistair and not those two? Bloody hell, if I was Campbell, I'd sue. Introducing the programme, host David Dimbleby said he would have 'expected' to have had a government minister on the panel in the week that it unveiled its legislative agenda for the year ahead in the Queen's Speech. He explained that Downing Street had made it clear that a cabinet minister was 'available' to appear but only if Mr Campbell was replaced by a member of the shadow cabinet. He said it was 'up to us on Question Time to decide who should be on the programme not Downing Street.' Campbell said it was 'extraordinary' there was no member of the government on the show in the week of the Queen's Speech 'regardless of who else is on the panel.' And, so it begins ...

About twenty five thousand homes may watch the World Cup on black and white television sets, the TV Licensing authority has said. Some of the highest numbers of black and white licences are in London with - almost five thousand - and Birmingham - with twelve hundred. It is forty years since the 1970 Mexico World Cup became the first to be broadcast in colour. The numbers of black and white licences have been dwindling for decades. In 2009 the figure was twenty eight thousand, falling steadily from two hundred and twelve thousand in 2000. John Motson, the BBC's football commentator since the 1970s, said: 'Colour television had only been introduced two or three years before I joined, and many of the techniques that now entail merely the push of a button had not yet been developed. I still have memories of trying to pacify angry viewers in the 1970s who still watched black and white, and saying "for the benefit of those watching in black and white, Spurs are in the yellow shirts."' A TV Licensing spokesman said: 'Technology has come a long way since Geoff Hurst scored the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup, and people look set to view this year's World Cup in more ways than ever before. However, the law remains the same - you need a TV licence to watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV.'

And, with that, let's have a look at the next batch of yer Top Telly Tips:

Friday 4 June
When Romeo Met Juliet - 9:00 BBC2 - has an intriguing premise. One city, eight weeks and two contrasting schools coming together to put on a professional production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In a unique experiment, each school is cast as one of the two feuding families: Romeo and his Montague clan come from a Coventry city centre comprehensive while Juliet and the Capulets are from a Catholic school in the city's northern suburbs. Trying to get the show on the road is artistic director of the National Youth Theatre, Paul Roseby.

Saturday 5 June
In Doctor Who - 6:40 BBC1 - The Doctor and Amy Pond meet Vincent van Gogh in an episode hopefully written by Blackadder's Richard Curtis and not Four Wedding & A Funeral's Richard Curtis. Because, there is a crucial difference.

After weeks of highs and lows, but mostly lows, Ant and Dec present the final of this year's Britain's Got Talent - 7:30 ITV. Ten acts have made it through the auditions and semi-finals to compete for the prize of one hundred thousand smackers and the chance to appear in this year's Royal Variety Performance. And then have their lives ruined by press intrusion and, two years later, be a washed-up has-been whom Simon Cowell is suddenly no longer taking phone calls from. Each act will perform one last routine for the judges, Cowell, oily twat Piers Morgan and Big Top's Amanda Holden before the public vote. Then comes the moment that everybody has been waiting for. The end.

Sunday 6 June
Graham Norton hosts the Philips BAFTA ceremony from the historic London Palladium in The British Academy Television Awards - 8:00 BBC1. The show kicks off with all the glamour from the red carpet, it says here, as the stars arrive for one of the most prestigious TV awards ceremonies of the year. In Britain. And, since it's only got the NTVA and the Soapies to beat, that's really not saying much. The action continues inside, as Graham Norton takes to the stage to introduce this star-studded event as the awards are handed out to their recipients.

We've also got Soccer Aid 2010 - 6:00 ITV. Or, a kick-about in the park as we used to call it. Dermot O'Leary introduces the 'star-studded charity match' between England and The Rest of the World live from Old Trafford. Playing in aid of UNICEF, two squads of celebrities and ex-footballing legends will battle it out for the prestigious Soccer Aid Trophy. Taking part this year include the likes of Robbie Williams, Gordon Ramsay (seen kicking Alan Shearer up a-height at last year's event to the right), Mike Myers, Zinedine Zidane and Paolo Maldini, while Dermot is joined in the studio by Orlando Bloom and Gary Barlow. I love the way they try to build this thing up as thought it's the World Cup final, or something. Just a word to the organisers, however - it's called football, lads, not socher - that's a type of Latin salsa music. Only numpties and Americans call it 'socher'.

Monday 7 June
Father & Son - 9:00 ITV - is a brand-new 'hard-hitting' drama showing over four nights this week. Former organised crime lynchpin Michael O'Connor (played by Dougray Scott) is trying to forge a new life for himself and his pregnant girlfriend in Ireland. Things get complicated when he is called back to his old stamping grounds in Manchester after his estranged teenage son Sean is accused of murder. Barrington, Michael's former partner-in-crime, offers to look after Sean in jail - for a price. Will Michael risk his new life in order to protect his son? Written by the late Emmy-winning writer Frank Deasy and also starring Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Rea and Ian Hart. Looks excellent.

In David Jason: The Show Must Go On! - 9:00 Five - Sir David (remember him, he used to be on telly a lot) helps an amateur dramatics group stage a performance in the West End in this 'heart-warming' documentary. That presumably means that it'll be either sentimental, trite and mawkish or, that it'll give the viewer painful indigestion. The aspiring actors from Ruislip in North London have just three weeks to rehearse and prepare a one-act comedy at the Playhouse Theatre. Will Sir David's sage advice and words of encouragement be enough to marshal a professional performance from the enthusiastic but untried Argosy Players?

Police Interceptors - 8:00 Five - is a new series of documentaries profiling the work of a high-speed police interception unit in Essex. Three police units unite in an effort to stop an out of control four-by-four as it careers dangerously through the streets of Basildon. The officers also have a mystery on their hands when they investigate what appears to be a phony ambulance. As in Edgar Lustgarten's Tales From Scotland Yard, 'the police are baffled.' And the ever-reliable Eurocopter is on the trail of a pair of delinquent teenage car thieves. As usual, it'll feature at least one copper who seems to think he's missed his natural vocation in life as a sharp-talking Bradley Walsh-style cheeky chappie wit. Leave it to the professionals, guys and stick to trying to find my video recorder that got burgled in 1993.

Tuesday 8 June
Inside Nature's Giants - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a science series which uncovers the anatomical secrets of some of the animal kingdom's most extraordinary species. In this particular episode, experts travel to South Africa to dissect the corpse of a great white shark, which weighs in at almost a tonne and is nearly fifteen feet long. Joy Reidenberg uncovers the shark's incredible array of senses, including the unique ability to detect the electro-magnetic field given off by other creatures. Meanwhile, Richard Dawkins explains how sharks' teeth and jaws evolved from their outer skin and gill arches. Of course, it's worth pointing out at this juncture that shark attacks on humans are, actually, very rare and that you're more likely to be killed sitting under a tree and being hit on the head by a falling coconut than you are of being eaten by a shark. As ever with fascinating facts of this kind, yer Keith Telly Topping learned that on Qi, dear blog reader.

There's a second series of Tribal Wives starting tonight at 9:00 on BBC2 . It's a show which very much divided opinion last year, being seen as heart-warming and interesting by some and culturally patronising and rather sad by others. I was in the latter category myself but I know a lot of people who really did like it - and, interestingly, the split seemed very much to be on gender lines. Anyway, six British women swap their everyday lives for life as tribal wives with some of the most remote communities on earth. Tonight, Charlie Brades from Hampshire goes to live with the Yoruk, a tribe of nomads who live in the mountains of southern Turkey. Living in a one-roomed tent with a Yoruk family of seven - including the father's two wives - proves quite a challenge for Charlie, but ultimately forces her to confront some home truths.

Volcanic Ash: The Ticking Timebomb - 8:00 Five - is a documentary exploring the likelihood and potential global effects of the eruption of Katla, a huge volcano lurking under the Icelandic ice. Katla is five times the size of its neighbour, Eyjafjallajokull, which recently caused so much travel disruption when it blew clouds of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Historically, every time that Eyjafjallajokull has an eruption, it has been followed soon afterwards by a flare-up at Katla. If such an eruption were to happen now, it is predicted that European airspace could be closed down for as much as eighteen months. Well, plus side, at least that would sort out the BA strike once and for all.

As part of a series of programmes in the run up to the start of the World Cup BBC3 asks the question Who Is Nelson Mandela? at 9:00. Well, I think that yer Keith Telly Topping can field that one; he's the president of South Africa. The Specials did a song about him, you might remember it. 'Twenty one years in captivity, shoes too small for to fit his feet' and all that. It was pretty good. There you go, that's saved you all the trouble of watching the programme now. Anyway, in this the actress Lenora Crichlow - her off Being Human - sets off to discover the story of how Nelson Mandela brought peace to his country and what he means to people of South Africa today. She uncovers a more complex and fascinating picture of Mandela and his country than she ever imagined, discovering a vibrant Rainbow Nation but also learning more about the horrors of apartheid and the extent of poverty and violence which still exist beneath the surface. On her journey she unlocks the secrets of who Mandela really is and why his achievements are so special and so admired.

Wednesday 9 June
In Come Dine with Me: WAGS Special - 8:00 Channel 4 - the cookery-based reality show visits the glitzy world of the Wives-and-Girlfriends of some media darling footballers who could transform the English game if only they could get up off the treatment table for long enough to play a few games. Going for the charity prize are tonight are Chantelle Tagoe, Jude Cisse, Jessica Lawlor and Nicola T. None of whom I've ever heard of or know anything about so, frankly, the idea that this is some sort of celebrity special is a bit of a none-starter for me. The pre-publicity tell us that their homes feature one of the UK's largest private fish tanks, a gigantic games room and a jacuzzi. It's all right for some, isn't it? And, all because they've got a boyfriend who can - usually - kick a ball in a straight line. Mark Lawrenson must be turning in his grave. Oh, apparently he's not dead. he just sounds like it.

Florida: Paradise Lost - 8:00 ITV - is a documentary looking at the half-a-million British expats who are thought to be living in Florida. They go on holiday, fall in love with the climate and make it their home - but there is another side to the dream as, of course, there usually are with dreams. Florida may be a land of opportunity, but it is tough on economic failure - especially for those whose right to permanent residency is dependent upon continuing business success. The programme looks at some of those who are doing well and those who are campaigning to change the visa system so that they can stay in their homes.

Tonight also sees Big Brother: The Launch - 9:00 Channel 4 - as Davina McCall introduces this year's housemates direct from the Big Brother complex.

Thursday 10 June
On the eve of the World Cup, South Africa throws its biggest party ever to celebrate the greatest football show on earth and the whole shebang begins, tonight with World Cup Kick Off Concert - 9:30 BBC2. This historic concert, which we are promised will be 'the largest entertainment event ever seen on the African continent,' takes place before a capacity audience of thirty thousand punters at Soweto's Orlando Stadium. The line-up includes, according to the show's pre-publicity, 'major African artists' including Alicia Keys (born in that well-known part of Africa, New York), Angelique Kidjo, Amadou and Mariam, Black Eyed Peas (from Los Angeles which, I think, is a small town in Ghana), John Legend (from Springfield, Ohio ... which is in Mozambique, isn't it?), Shakira (see left, who's Colombian, which I always thought was in South America but, obviously I was wrong on that), The Soweto Gospel Choir, The Parlotones and Vusi Mahlasela. That's quite a line up of major African artists.

In EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Denise's suspicions are aroused when she makes a startling discovery about Lucas, and she anxiously awaits his explanation. A scheming Ryan and Janine are up to their usual tricks, and Darren hopes to get closer to Jodie.

The latest of BBC3's drama pilots is Stanley Park - 9:00 BBC3. Set in a south London suburb, this is alleged to be a character-based ensemble drama with comedic overtones about a group of young friends enduring 'poignant, painful, hilarious and confusing emotional upheavals.' Sounds suitably This Life. All living on the same street, it's hard to really keep secrets, and it seems everyone has something they're hiding, or hiding from. In a time when the temptation to focus on the negatives of young people has never been greater, it shows the more sympathetic and comedic side of the suburban youth experience. Features a good cast, including Morwenna Banks, Nick Blood, Joe Cole and Holliday Grainger (see right).

And, so to this week's Top Telly News: Charles Dance has admitted that he didn't feel under much pressure while working on Going Postal. The two-part drama is an adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel but Dance told TV Choice that he wasn't worried about pleasing the author's fans. He explained: 'It's very nice for Terry Pratchett and for us that there are so many fans of the piece, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. I believe Jeremy Irons played [my character] Lord Vetinari before, so there's probably a whole legion of fans who mourn the fact that Jeremy isn't doing this one. I'm cheaper, probably.' Dance also revealed that he likes playing a variety of roles, adding: 'The more against type the better. We're all victims of what we look like - you are what you are seen to be.'

Arthur Darvill has admitted that he feels 'privileged' to have a role on Doctor Who. Darvill, who plays Amy's fiancé Rory Williams, explained that he is pleased with the storylines he has been given so far. Speaking to TV Choice, the actor added that he is happy his character has travelled in the TARDIS. 'I feel privileged every day,' he said. 'I think Steven Moffat has written such a brilliant storyline for Rory. I was really excited every time you opened the script, because you never know what's going to happen.' Darvill continued: 'I do think it works really well. It's so different to what's come before. I wish I could tell you what happens, but I really can't!' However, dear blog reader, if you tun in tonight at seven o'clock, you'll find out.

The executive producer of Veronica Mars has admitted that he does not expect a film version of the show to be made. Joel Silver explained to MTV News that there is simply not a big enough fanbase for a movie. Aye. That's always the problem with cancelled TV shows, there'll be a clamour from fans, and possibly, from the makers, for a movie to be made to continue the story but the first question to be asked is, always, who exactly is going to watch it apart from the TV audience. Which wasn't big enough to keep it running on TV in the first place. The flop of Joss Whedon's Serenity movie should have demonstrated that there's a huge risk involved in such spin-off projects. 'It's not me, there's just nobody that wants to make it happen,' Silver said. 'I'd love to see it happen. We talked to [creator] Rob Thomas about it and he had an idea of what to do.' He continued: 'It'd still be on the air if people want to see the movie or the show. It just didn't happen.' Silver also claimed that the movie was too difficult to pitch to executives at Warner Bros. 'We analysed all these areas about it,' he said. 'I talked to [the Warner Bros.] home video people about it, because a movie like that would be driven by home video. But the home video itself didn't do that well for Veronica Mars so [the department] didn't feel there was a need or an audience for a direct-to-video Veronica Mars, which could have driven a theatrical release.'

Kiefer Sutherland has admitted that he feels 'indebted' to 24. Sutherland described working on the show as 'the greatest education [I've] ever had as an actor,' according to the Press Association. 'I don't know why, but somewhere in the early 80s the adage of less was more really took hold with regard to actors and how they would map out their careers,' he explained. 'It took something like 24 to get me out of the mindset that less was more, and the reality of working fourteen hours a day, five days a week, ten months of the year for nine years straight - it gave me everything.' Sutherland also revealed that his role on the show gave him more confidence as an actor. 'It allowed me to break down a script in a way that I certainly wasn't capable of doing before,' he said. 'It allowed me to see pitfalls and traps that I could not identify as clearly as before and then, most importantly, it gave me a sense of confidence. I will be indebted to the experience that is 24 for the rest of my life.'

CNN has apologised after it broadcast the word 'nigga' during a news report. According to the Daily Mail, the news channel was running a story about a one hundred and three-year-old African-American lady who still drives. However, the network opted to use the Coolio rap 'Fantastic Voyage' to accompany the piece. The lyrics in the record include the words: 'Ain't no punk-ass niggas set tripping.' Which, you know, fair comment I suppose. The station's anchor, Kyra Phillips reportedly apologised for the use of the song around twenty minutes after it played - or, in other words, about five seconds after the first set of complaints arrived. She said: 'We aired some music just a few minutes ago, and obviously for those of you that heard it, it was the wrong music that aired. We apologise for that. It was a terrible mistake. And we're working very hard to make up for it.' Just be thankful some of the homies didn't come round yo turf and put a cap up yo ass, whitey. They take that sort of thing very seriously down in the 'hood. With their ho. Apparently.

Adrian Chiles has revealed that Des Lynam helped him make the decision to move from the BBC to ITV. Lynam, who also defected from the BBC to ITV, urged Chiles to make the move. According to the Sun, Chiles explained: 'Des said it as it was. I've spoken to him a lot over the last couple of months. He's been incredibly supportive over my new role.' Hang on, though, Des Lyman's move from the BBC to ITV was an unqualified disaster. The programme he was poached to front, The Premiership, was a ratings disatser and ended up getting shunted from a prime time to a late-evening slot. Thereafter, the best Des could manage was a stint on Countdown and then working for a broadcaster that ended up going bust. To use him as rationale for a job-switch is like using the Duchess of York as an example of how to be finanically secure. Chiles continued: 'It was a difficult situation at the BBC. One day we were in a restaurant and he said, "You've got to be brave and you've got to do this. But don't blame me if I'm sitting in this restaurant next year and you shuffled back past with four carrier bags and a long beard and it's all gone horribly wrong."' Blimey, that is telling it like it is. Is that what poor old Des is reduced to now? 'In the end I said, "I'm going," and he said, "I think you're doing the right thing." To me, that's as good as anything.' Chiles also revealed that Lynam had congratulated him on his coverage of the England and Mexico game earlier this week, adding: 'Now he's suggested that I've kind of got it right, then the pressure is kind of off.'

Poirot star David Suchet has claimed that it is 'a great shame' when actors are branded 'luvvies.' The sixty four-year-old luvvie, who has played Agatha Christie's fictional detective on screen since 1989, said that the term is only used in England and has damaged the country's acting industry. No it hasn't! By and large it's used with affection more than anything else - except when it's in connection to John Sessions, then it's a prejorative. Speaking to The Stage, Suchet remarked: 'The worst thing that ever happened to our profession - and it's only happened in England and it certainly wouldn't happen in America - is the word "luvvie," because it's a derogatory word to denote an actor and, as a result of it, the public generally has lost a great respect for the acting profession. The role of an actor in America, Eastern Europe and in Western Europe - everywhere apart from this country - is considered a very serious job and a very necessary function. Here we are just luvvies, which is a great shame.' Interestingly the first recorded use of the word 'luvvie', according to the Oxford English Dicitionary, was in a piece in the Grunaid Morning Star by dear old Stephen Fry. 'Acting in a proper grown-up play, being a lovie, doing the West End, "shouting in the evenings," as the late Patrick Troughton had it.'

Little Britain stars David Walliams and Matt Lucas are to write and appear in a new BBC1 comedy based in an airport. Filming on the six-part series, which will feature new characters played by the pair as well as a number of guest appearances, has yet to begin. BBC head of comedy Mark Freeland said the new show, provisionally titled Come Fly With Me, would mean 'boom time for dress, wig and make-up suppliers.' The programme is expected to be broadcast later this year. Jay Hunt, controller of BBC1, said: 'It's thrilling that Matt and David's next big show will be on BBC1. They are uniquely talented comic writers and performers and Come Fly With Me is a wonderfully exciting idea.'

Georgia Bradford has been crowned the winner of Junior MasterChef 2010. The precocious thirteen-year-old secured her trophy following a final task which saw the contestants preparing a three-course meal for judges John Torode and Nadia Sawalha. Georgia's winning dishes were tomato soup with a swirl of basil pesto and mushroom fried toast as a starter, a main course of fried sea bass with salsa verde and crispy potatoes, and a stack of scotch pancakes with blueberry compote and chantilly cream for dessert. Speaking of her victory, the schollgirl from Leigh-on-Sea said: 'It means everything. This is the best time I've ever had in my life and it's going to be ever - when I'm getting married I'm not going to be able to say "I do" without thinking about this!' Ah, bless. Praising the winner, Torode commented: 'Georgia is a culinary dynamo. She has a huge amount of energy and it shows in her food. From cannelloni to salmon in a bag, right through to a classic pear, almond and blackberry tart - the girl delivers food that tastes fantastic. Georgia is a real talent, truly gifted, and this journey has been amazing.'

Terry Pratchett has described Doctor Who as 'gripping.' The author previously stated that whilst he is a fan of the show he didn't consider it to be science fiction in the strictest sense of the term. Which, to be fair, is something which the majority of the show's fans would probably agree with - it's never been SF. Pratchett has now explained his criticisms of the series in an interview with Sky. 'I keep thinking I ought to dislike Doctor Who,' he said. 'Because it's made of "makeitupasyougoalongeum" and he has a screwdriver that can repair marriages and launch boats.' He continued: 'I think there was an episode where the TARDIS towed planet Earth. What I liked was the teacups were rattling. If the teacups are rattling, how high is the tsunami in the Pacific at this point?' However, Pratchett explained that he does enjoy watching the programme. 'It's hugely gripping entertainment,' he said. 'But it's totally pants science fiction. Because there really isn't any science.'

Ben Miles has claimed that the new BBC3 pilot Pulse 'defies genre.' The drama, written by Doctor Who's Paul Cornell, follows a young woman, played by Claire Foy, who returns to her medical training after her mother's death but starts to notice strange occurrences. 'There's the central story of the cover-up, and this pioneering cancer treatment, which is obviously very controversial,' Miles told TV Choice. 'But as to who knows about it, and what side of the fence people are on, that's kind of up for grabs, which I think is a great way to leave a pilot.' Miles added that he signed up for the show because he was impressed with the script. 'When I read it, I thought it defies genre,' he said. 'I didn't know how it would look or how it would turn out. Things are often more scary if they aren't in environments like spooky houses or foggy marshes and this is set in a place that everybody knows. We've all got an opinion about hospitals - some people can't go in them because they hate them, some people like them - it's a great setting. It makes it more horrific because it's in a familiar environment but unfamiliar things are happening.'

Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, is, for the first time, to guest host Have I Got News For You for the last show in the current series, to be shown on the BBC on Thursday 3 June. He commented: 'After working with Brown and Blair for more than thirteen years, Hislop and Merton should be a doddle. I promise it will be a belter. And the show should be pretty good too.' A former seaman and union activist, John was Member of Parliament for Hull East from 1970 to 2010 and Labour's Deputy Leader from 1994 to 2007. The son of a railway signalman and Labour councillor and grandson of a miner, he left Wales at the age of four and was initially brought up in South Yorkshire. He became a steward and waiter and worked for Cunard. And, to be honest, he still works pretty hard now. What? What?

Ashley Cole has been left 'a broken man' after his wife Cheryl filed for divorce, press reports has been claimed. Oh dear. What a shame. Still ... the weather's quite nice this last week don't you think?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We're No Longer As Thick As Thieves

Bravo scored its highest ever audience on Tuesday night with the 'saucy sword and sandals' drama Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The gladiatorial blood-and-snots-splattered carnage-fest was watch by a discerning average audience of three hundred and sixty four thousand viewers from 10pm to 11.15pm on the Virgin Media-owned channel, and an additional ninety seven thousand an hour later on Bravo +1. Cor. Think about it. All those horny-as-a-polecat fourteen years olds staying up that late on a school night? Shouldn't be allowed. With a total of four hundred and sixty thousand viewers, it ranked as the top rated show on pay TV across the whole day and beat Bravo's previous best performance, when imported vampire drama Blade achieved around four hundred thousand viewers in January 2007.

As the BBC celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Television Centre next month, the corporation is to unveil proposals for a multimillion pound redevelopment of the site to revitalise west London with a twenty three-acre 'creative quarter.' Plans are still being discussed for what will be one of the biggest development projects in Europe. But the Gruniad Morning Star has learned that the BBC wants to offer independent TV production companies, performing groups, and media companies such as YouTube space at the redeveloped Television Centre. Under the proposal the BBC would sell Television Centre to developers but rent back some of the studios to continue making programmes at the site and, perhaps, lease some space to house an orchestra. The rest of the centre – parts of which are crumbling and likely to be demolished – could become home to independent production companies, other media organisations and performing arts companies. As part of his recent strategy review, the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, promised that 'partnerships with other cultural and civic institutions should no longer be peripheral and ad hoc, but strategic and central to the BBC's idea of itself.' The corporation is also said to be considering keeping a presence at Television Centre by leasing studio space for some of its music shows and orchestras and 'BBC heritage, legacy or licensing commercial activities,' such as exhibitions. Television Centre – which opened on 29 June 1960 – has been the home of some of the BBC's most important programmes, including Blue Peter, Doctor Who and Newsnight. The BBC announced in 2007 that it planned to sell off the building as several thousand staff from the news, children's, sport, learning, future media and technology departments and Radio 5 Live move to new homes at the refurbished Broadcasting House in central London and Salford Quays in Greater Manchester by 2012. However, the plan to redevelop the centre now has to accommodate the decision last summer by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to list the central ring – or 'concrete doughnut' – and Studio One of Television Centre, which were designed by Graham Dawbarn of Norman and Dawbarn. While other studios in the building, as well as the scenery block and canteen, did not meet the level of architectural or historic interest needed for listing, they will nevertheless gain Grade II status because of their 'structural attachment' to the more notable parts of Television Centre.

If anybody's still unsure as to what, exactly, the finale of Lost was all about, yer Keith Telly Topping had a go at explaining it on this morning's Jonathan Miles Show on BBC Newcastle. And, probably, ended up making things as clear as mud! If you want to have a listen, it can be heard - for the next seven days, only - here about two hours into the show, immediately after The Four Seasons! Obviously, if you're still unspoilerised then, I'd probably give it a miss!

Meanwhile, Michael Emerson has confirmed rumours that there will be extra Lost footage included in the forthcoming complete DVD box-set. The actor told Kevin Pereira on Attack of the Show! that the new scenes will focus on Hurley (Jorge Garcia). Emerson said: 'For those people that want to pony up and buy the complete Lost series, there is a bonus feature. Which you could call it an epilogue. A lost scene. It's a lot - it's twelve or fourteen minutes that opens a window onto that gap of unknown time between Hurley becoming number one and the end of the series. It's self-contained,' he said. 'Although it's a period in the show's mythology that's never been explored.'

And, Shawn Ryan has praised the end of Lost. Ryan, who created The Shield, was previously congratulated on the way that his show ended. He has now claimed that the producers of Lost should be 'very, very happy' with the end of their series. 'I have a feeling that [executive producers] Carlton [Cuse] and Damon [Lindelof] were ultimately pleased with what they did,' Ryan told Fancast. 'And that's the important thing.' Ryan advised the duo not to listen to fans' criticism of the finale, saying: 'You really and truly cannot please everyone. A lot of critics really liked the Shield finale, but I also read plenty of people online who wanted something different, or something more. [Online critiques] tend to offer extreme points of view that do a lot of shouting and don't necessarily represent the vast majority. Hopefully [Cuse and Lindelof] aren't spending all of their days reading them, good or bad.' Ryan added that people will view the episode differently as time passes. 'As finales go, time changes perspective,' he said. 'So just because [the Lost finale] might be polarising now, it doesn't mean that a year from now the majority might fall to one side or the other.'

Doctor Who is to move to a later timeslot for its ninth and tenth episodes. Cold Blood will be screened at 7pm on 26 May, while the Doctor and Amy's encounter with famed artist Vincent van Gogh in Vincent and the Doctor will air at 6.40pm on 5 June ending at half-past-seven just before Britain's Got Talent begins.

Channel 4's BAFTA-winning sitcom The IT Crowd is to get a fifth series, its creator and director Graham Linehan announced last night. Speaking at preview screening of the show's fourth season – which will be broadcast this summer – Linehan said that a fifth series had already been commissioned. Linehan, who also wrote Father Ted with Arthur Mathews and Black Books with Dylan Moran, said that after four seasons of writing The IT Crowd alone, he intended to put together a team of writers to work on the fifth series. Cast members Katherine Parkinson and Richard Ayoade described Linehan's directing style as 'chaotic, but brilliant.' Linehan himself described rewriting a major plotline in one episode only days before it was recorded.

Veteran presenter and producer Roger Bolton has called on the BBC to appoint a religion editor for news as part of measures to address the corporation's 'secular and sceptical' attitude towards faith issues. Introducing the annual Sandford St Martin Trust Awards, which recognise excellence in religious broadcasting, Bolton noted that entries had almost halved from forty three just five years ago – with no submissions from ITV, Five or Sky. Their absence could, he said, be explained by a 'lack of imagination' among commissioners as by a softening of public service regulation. But Bolton, who fronts BBC Radio 4 right to reply show Feedback, reserved most of his criticisms for the BBC. He said BBC TV commissioners 'view religious coverage as a rather tiresome obligation to be minimised rather than a rich and promising area to explore.'

The BBC has ordered more on-location shoots in the North, in a bid to 'showcase' the region to the rest of the world and drive up local satisfaction with the corporation. Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, used a Royal Television Society lecture this week, to spell out how he wants shows like Tracey Beaker Returns to be as closely associated with specific northern locations as Doctor Who is with Cardiff. 'Traditional methods of employing actors with all-purpose northern accents in programmes made and set in the south, or in a TV "no place" are just not good enough,' he will say. 'People love seeing their own home town or region on TV too, they want the BBC to provide a credible voice and iconic locations that separate the authentic from the fake. We need to be better at representing people's lives on screen, so our new base in Salford will be a filter, not a fortress, ensuring the benefits flow to places like Leeds, Liverpool, Bradford, Sunderland, Hartlepool, Hull and York.' Tracey Beaker is already based in Newcastle but the new series will feature The Angel of the North and 'other iconic landmarks' to give the show a stronger geographical identity. One episode will be set on an adventure holiday course in Northumberland. Other productions being filmed in the region include George Gently, which will be shot in Durham, and Deep North, a BBC4 documentary fronted by poet Michael Smith which will explore the North East's Baltic and Viking heritage.

Paul Weller was reunited with his former Jam partner Bruce Foxton for the first time since 1982 on Tuesday, as the two performed together in London. Weller, two days into his five-night residency at The Royal Albert Hall, called the reunion 'history in the making' as he welcomed his old band-mate to the stage. The duo – augmented by Weller's backing band – kicked off their three-song reunion with a vitriolic version of 'Fast Car/Slow Traffic'. The recorded version on Weller's latest CD, Wake Up The Nation, also features Foxton on bass. 'It's been a while hasn't it?" said Foxton afterwards. 'Twenty-eight years. Thank you for the wonderful reception!' Foxton then remained onstage for versions of the Jam classics 'The Eton Rifles' and 'The Butterfly Collector', before exiting to a huge ovation from the audience and a hug from Weller. Weller played a greatest hits set to the sell-out crowd, including songs from Wake Up The Nation alongside older material, including 'Start!', 'The Changingman' and 'Strange Town.' The singer – who was celebrating his fifty second birthday yesterday – responded jokily when the crowd sang him 'Happy Birthday', saying, 'The only thing I want right now is a cigarette.'

Sky is reportedly close to agreeing a long-rumoured deal to purchase Virgin Media's television channel portfolio. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the satellite broadcaster is nearing the conclusion of protracted negotiations to buy Virgin Media TV's channel business, which includes Virgin1, Bravo and Living. The deal, which is thought to be worth up to one hundred and sixty million pounds, could be finalised as early as next week. 'We are absolutely steaming ahead, and it should be done, if not by the end of this week, then next week,' said a source close to the negotiations. As part of the deal, Virgin Media is expected to gain a long-term carriage agreement to keep offering the Virgin Media TV channels on its cable TV platform. However, the company could also get preferential access to Sky's high definition premium sport and movie channels as part of friendlier relations between the two firms. Sky's acquisition of Virgin, which would most likely be rebranded after the change of ownership, would also bring the company a valuable slot on Freeview. It may look to use the channel slot as part of the long-planned launch of its Picnic service on digital terrestrial television, which was given the provisional greenlight as part of Ofcom's pay-TV review.

Sarah Ferguson has said that she would like to compete on Dancing With The Stars. Or, indeed, any other television show in the world that will pay her to maintain her hugely expensive, overly pampered and indulged lifestyle.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Grand Old Duchess Of York, She Had Ten Thousand Quid...

Jason Manford has been announced as the new co-host of The ONE Show. The twenty nine-year-old comedian is to replace Adrian Chiles on the programme in July, presenting alongside Christine Bleakley from Mondays to Thursdays. Manford said: 'I am thrilled to be part of The ONE Show team. My dad put ten pounds at five-hundred-to-one that I'd get the job so it just made sense.' BBC1 controller Jay Hunt added: 'Jason looked instantly at home on the ONE Show sofa. His intelligence and humour strike just the right tone for the programme and he is an exciting addition to the team.' Meanwhile, the show's editor Sandy Smith commented: 'Jason's strength is his likeability, his natural warmth and his quick wit. He's intelligent and curious about the sort of subjects discussed every day on The ONE Show and is equally at home with the light-hearted and the serious issues.'

A series of reality documentaries featuring the Duchess of York has reportedly been cancelled by ITV following her recent 'cash-for-royal-access' furore. So, there is a God after all it would seem. According to the Daily Star, Sarah Ferguson had landed a three hundred thousand pound deal for three fly-on-the-wall programmes following her daily life, which are now not expected to air. At the weekend, a Sunday newspaper reported that Ferguson had accepted a bribe to introduce a 'businessman' to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. The man in question was in fact a reporter involved in a sting operation. A TV source said: 'She recently finished filming two documentaries and was meant to be doing a follow-up. But nobody wants that now we know she has secret meetings and does dodgy deals. She's an embarrassment and has been axed. It's not clear whether she'll be able to work again.' Earlier this week, Ferguson said that she was 'very sorry' for her behaviour - or, at least, for getting caught, anyway - and 'deeply' regretted the embarrassment she had caused. What a great pity she didn't also apologise for two series of The Duchess On The Estate whilst she was about it.

A gardener due to feature on TV home makeover show DIY SOS has been found dead after apparently holding his wife hostage inside their home. Jenny Walters, had called police to report she was being held prisoner by husband Mark, at their house in Bushey Mill Lane, Watford, on Sunday. Mrs Walters managed to leave but when police arrived they found the father-of-three dead with a gun. The couple were due to feature on the BBC1 show on Bank Holiday Monday. A BBC spokesperson said the episode would not be broadcast.

BBC3 has revealed that three of its pilots will premiere online. Pulse, Dappers and Stanley Park will all be broadcast on the channel's official website a week before being aired on television. Viewers will also be able to add their comments about the shows on BBC3's blog. Supernatural drama Pulse stars Claire Foy as a woman who returns to medical training after her mother's death but starts to notice strange events in her hospital. Meanwhile, Being Human's Lenora Crichlow joins Ty Glaser for Dappers, a comedy about two single mothers, and Pulling star Sharon Horgan appears in comedy drama Stanley Park, which focuses on a group of friends living in a London suburb. BBC3's controller Danny Cohen said: 'We want to keep experimenting with the relationship between the web and TV, and these pilots provide a great opportunity to get the BBC3 audience discussing our programmes and helping to plan our future.'

ITV executives are considering a complete clear-out of GMTV's current lineup of presenters, a report has claimed. Anchors Kate Garraway, Andrew Castle and Emma Crosby, reporter Richard Arnold and weathergirl Clare Nasir are all expected to be fired in the summer as part of the programme's major revamp, according to the Daily Scum Mail. Sources say that the show's newly-appointed editor Ian Rumsey is in favour of 'a cull,' as are ITV's director of television Peter Fincham and the network's daytime controller Alison Sharman. A GMTV insider commented: 'Quite honestly, everyone is running scared. Nobody knows what is happening as they are all waiting for Ian Rumsey to arrive. But it looks like everyone will be going.' It is thought that GMTV will take a break later this year before returning with a new name - expected to be ITV Breakfast or ITV Day. As previously announced, Adrian Chiles will be the main host and is likely to be teamed with a new female co-presenter. The Scum Mail also claims that GMTV's newsreader Helen Fospero could escape the axe as she is still being considered for an anchor role.

Karen Gillan has dismissed claims that the current series of Doctor Who is too sexy. The BBC received a small number of wholly ludicrous complaints, from morons, after airing a recent episode of the show, which saw Gillan's character Amy Pond attempting to seduce the Doctor (Matt Smith). However, Gillan has now denied suggestions - made, again, by bloody idiots - that the show is setting a bad example to young viewers. 'We're not sending out bad messages because the Doctor isn't reciprocating,' she told the Mirror. 'And actually, people who do find that quite raunchy: really?' Gillan also joked that she wouldn't rule out more romantic scenes on the show after kissing both the Doctor and Rory (Arthur Darvill). 'I bring the best out in them,' she said. 'For the Christmas special? Who knows. Another kiss would be fine.'

Joanna Lumley has joined the cast of Mistresses, it has been announced. The sixty four-year-old actress and Queen of the Gurkhas, who will play Katie's mother Vivienne in the drama, is to star alongside regulars Sarah Parish, Orla Brady, Sharon Small and Shelley Conn. Lumley told TV Times: 'I'm thrilled to have been asked to join this talented cast for this finale of this hugely popular series.' Vivienne will arrive from South Africa in an attempt to help her daughter get her life back on track.

Graham Norton has criticised Ant and Dec's recent game show Push The Button. Speaking to Radio Times, the presenter also defended his involvement in last year's ratings flop Totally Saturday. He said: 'It obviously ain't nice to be involved in a big old flop. But what I do for a living isn't lifting bales or digging coal, so you just get on with it. And although the audience didn't go for it, we actually had a good time doing it. I'm just happy to have found one Saturday night hit, [Over The Rainbow] with Andrew [Lloyd Webber]. 'But look at Ant and Dec with Push The Button, Saturday night entertainment is what they do and they couldn't make that work. So it just goes to show how hard it is.'

Martin Amis has praised the adaptation of his novel Money. The Press Association reports that the author was unhappy with the first script for the BBC drama. 'The earlier script I saw was disappointing,' he said' "They took it back and worked on it and it's hugely improved. My advice was to use more of the language of the novel, the dialogue, rather than making it up.' However, Amis explained that he was impressed by the final production, which he said 'looked very expensive even though it wasn't.' Amis also congratulated Nick Frost on his portrayal of the lead character John Self. 'All the performances [were] without weak spots,' he said. 'I thought Nick Frost was absolutely extraordinary as John Self. He fills the character. It's a very unusual performance in that he's very funny, he's physically comic, but he's also strangely graceful, a pleasure to watch.' He added: 'I don't know what his secret is. I'm not surprised to learn he's a good tennis player and I have a hunch he's a good dancer, too. Some big men do have a grace and he's got it.'

Lost actors Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn are thinking about developing a new show together. The duo, who played Ben Linus and John Locke, already have some concepts for a new television series. Speaking to Access Hollywood, Emerson explained: 'Terry had a couple of really good, strong ideas and he pitched them to someone in the world of producers and they seem to respond to it.' He continued: 'I don't know where it's at or whether it'll come true but there's a good idea out there kicking around and if it comes to life, it would make me very happy.' Emerson also revealed that he became good friends with O'Quinn while they were working on Lost together. 'We were close and, as you know, we had many days where it was he and I working together,' he said. 'Those days were great working days, some of the best of my career.'

BBC Scotland has been forced to pull The Scheme. The fly-on-the-wall documentary followed a group of people living on the Onthank estate in Kilmarnock and has become a ratings-hit north of the border. however, the Daily Record reports that BBC Scotland has postponed the final two episodes 'indefinitely' as one of the participants has been arrested. The channel reportedly decided to delay the broadcast because of fears that the show could prejudice the upcoming court case. 'The Scheme really caught the imagination of the public,' a source said. 'The programme was riding the crest of a wave. There is fear that an indefinite postponement could kill that air of anticipation that viewers had waiting for the next episode. We are hoping that the court issue is solved sooner rather than later and that absence may make the heart grow fonder.' A BBC spokesperson confirmed the decision, saying: 'Someone who has not yet been seen on screen has just recently been arrested and is the subject of a live criminal prosecution. We understand that many viewers will be disappointed.'

The BBC Trust has concluded that the corporation's iPlayer video-on-demand service provides good value for money, but suggested improvements including raising awareness of parental controls to stop under-sixteens accessing unsuitable content. The Trust said it noted a 'lack of awareness and understanding' of the iPlayer's parental controls among the nine thousand responses to its public consultation on the review. 'We think that parental controls are an important part of the BBC's on-demand offering and believe that BBC management should aim to ensure that parents and carers are aware of them,' the Trust added. The BBC Trust said that the review did not include a market impact assessment of the iPlayer. 'We are clear that the BBC has an ongoing duty to consider the competitive impact of its activities as concerns have been raised in these areas by external stakeholders during this review,' the Trust added. The BBC Trust also ruled that the controversial 'series stacking' feature of the iPlayer, which allows users to view entire series of certain programmes beyond the usual seven-day catchup window, would continue to be available for up to a total of fifteen per cent of output.

Meanwhile, the BBC has today unveiled its new version of iPlayer, which incorporates social network functionality and links to other video on-demand websites. Currently in beta testing, iPlayer 3.0 incorporates a raft of new features, including a simplified user interface, enhanced personalisation options and greater content interaction functions. The BBC has also agreed a range of non-exclusive partnerships to enable users to connect with other viewers via social networking and messaging sites. Initial collaboration agreements with Facebook and Twitter will allow iPlayer users to recommend content to friends in their existing networks. The initiative is part of a wider strategy by BBC Online to introduce more social features to its operation. It is also working with other social networks to establish 'further similar partnerships.' BBC director of future, media and technology Erik Huggers said that the new iPlayer strategy is also about BBC Online doing 'fewer things even better. We must no longer try to do everything online, but focus on delivering genuinely world-class products like BBC iPlayer - which audiences love and which really embodies the BBC's core mission in a digital age,' he said. 'In two and half years BBC iPlayer has evolved to become one of our most popular websites, integral to BBC Online, and available on a wide range of Internet-connected devices.'

Amanda Holden has revealed that Piers Morgan once saw her naked in her dressing room. But, that he was too busy being his usual narcissistic, ignorant, twatty self to even notice. There's a surprise.