Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Heat Is On

A necessary difference between the BBC and ITV coverage of the World Cup was highlighted last night. After the BBC had shown the - in patches very good - Spain vs Portugal match they broadcast one of a series of little vignettes that their panel of ex-footballers have been making out in South Africa. It was a Mark Lawrenson think-piece on the horrifying battle of Spion Kop (1900) and how it provided the inspiration for why Liverpool's famous terracing at Anfield was thus called. It was historically fascinating and, as far as my own limited knowledge of the second Boer War goes, factually accurate. More importantly, it was beautiful - the latest in a series of gorgeously shot, well thought-out, humane and impressive bits of TV reportage which had previously included Garth Crooks on the 1976 Soweto massacre, a series of short pieces on a variety of different subjects by the very impressive Clarence Seedorf and a rather moving moment when the normally glacial Alan Shearer reported from a poverty-stricken township on the development of South African youth football. When the BBC do this sort of thing, they usually do it right. It has some gravitas, some depth. Some dignity. Some heart. Compare and contrast this with ITV's often pathetic attempts to do human interest stories between their - largely dreadful - coverage of matches so far in the tournament. 'We need something quick to fill the five minutes between Chiles cracking a few blokey one-liners and the next showing of that Telly Vegetables-murders-Elvis advert for the Sun. Let's send Kelly Dalglish to a township where they've only just got electricity so she can be patronising to some Africans.' It really is astonishing that a major broadcaster can get it wrong so often and on so many levels as ITV have conspired to do over the last half-a-dozen major football championships, culminating in this one. Every attempt they make to produce something a bit more serious or thoughtful has been undermined by their own reporters' unflappable ability to trivialise and tabloidise the subjects which they're covering and the often crass links they use to get into and out of these items. Wretched. Absolutely horrible. I know we traditionally expect the BBC's coverage of the actual football itself - in terms of commentary, analysis and presentation - to be better than their commercial rivals. Always has been, probably always will be. They were - marginally - better when it was a choice of David Coleman versus Brian Moore back in the 1970s and it's been getting wider and wider ever since. But this World Cup has highlighted, for me anyway, just why the BBC is a respected broadcaster worldwide whose only lack of appreciation seems, ironically, to be in its own back yard. Whereas, ITV is the producer of banal, characterless programmes of mass consumption like The X-Factor and that everything they do is trivialised, patronised and followed by some crass comment by that bellowing non-entity, Andy Townsend. One sells advertising space, the other sells ideas to the world. And nation shall speak peace unto nation. A significant and necessary difference. Forty years ago when they still knew how to create proper, socially-relevant TV shows ITV was the network that made The World At War, quite possibly the greatest single documentary strand that any television producer has ever produced. What's happened to ITV over the last couple of decades is a national disgrace. This is the network that once gave us World in Action, This Week, Coronation Street, The Sweeney, Rising Damp and The Avengers. Now, it can't even get the tone of a simple World Cup reportage piece right. It's shameful.

Bravo has acquired the UK rights to the upcoming remake of Hawaii Five-O. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the channel bought the exclusive pay-TV, Freeview and digital rights. The show, which was picked up by CBS in the US, focuses on police officers working in Hawaii. The cast includes Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. Virgin Media TV's head of acquisitions Amy Barham said: 'Hawaii Five-O was the standout show at this year's LA screenings and securing it exclusively for UK audiences demonstrates yet again Bravo's commitment to owning the very best in prime time US dramas.' The series is expected to premiere in the US and the UK in the autumn.

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson will reunite for a BBC2 drama later this year. The pair, who starred together in Sense And Sensibility, will both appear in The Song Of Lunch. The one-off drama is based on the poem by Christopher Reid and is being made to celebrate National Poetry Day on 7 October. The show follows a book editor, played by Rickman, who meets his former girlfriend for lunch at the restaurant they used to go to together. However, the woman has a successful life while the man's career has failed. BBC2's controller Janice Hadlow said: 'To mark National Poetry Day, BBC2 will be bringing this art form to life with a truly ambitious project and a stellar cast. We hope that audiences will enjoy this dramatisation of Christopher Reid's touching and witty poem and maybe feel inspired to indulge in a little more poetry themselves.'

Tess Daly has been interviewed for the role of The ONE Show presenter, according to 'sources.' The Strictly Come Dancing host is allegedly competing for the position against current ONE Show reporter Angellica Bell and BBC newsreader Kate Silverton, says the Sun. The new presenter will replace Christine Bleakley on the daily consumer programme. Daly previously insisted that she would not be leaving as the host of Strictly when Bleakley herself became linked with the job.

Larry King has announced that he is ending his CNN show Larry King Live. The seventy six-year-old began the programme in 1985 but said that he is leaving in order to spend more time with his family. 'I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this fall and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' little league games,' he wrote on his website. 'I'll still be a part of the CNN family, hosting several Larry King specials on major national and international subjects.' He continued: 'I'm incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot. With this chapter closing I'm looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it's time to hang up my nightly suspenders.'

Steven Moffat has said he believes that overnight television ratings are no longer important. The Doctor Who executive producer made the comments in a YouTube video posted by his son after they watched series finale, The Big Bang on Saturday evening. Overnight ratings for the current series have been marginally down on previous years - particularly David Tennant's third season in 2008. But 'timeshift' data for the show - viewers recording episodes to watch later on videos, DVD recorders and Sky + boxes - has been far higher than ever before whilst the show's BBC iPlayer figures have been astonishing. Of course, that hasn't stopped the Daily Scum Mail from pulling out a shitehawk 'exclusive' about the ratings 'drop'. Nice to see a few of their readers setting them right in the comments section, though! And, just to put even those 'poor' ratings figures into some context, on the same night that The Big Bang was watched by over five million viewers, James Corden's World Cup Live - described yesterday as 'a success' and 'a smash hit' by ITV 'sources', let's remember - was being watched by 2.7 million. Context. Something your average national tabloid newspaper believes is an article about benefit fraud. So, to sum up Doctor Who's ratings are 'poor' according to the Daily Scum Mail and James Corden's are 'a smash hit' according to the Mirror. Did I fall asleep and wake up in a parallel universe, or something? Next we'll have somebody trying to convince us The Ludicrous Ms Dahl was a ratings success, mark my words. Oh, hang on... Anyway, The Lord Thy Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) stated that he believes the way people consume TV is changing. 'That is something that's becoming very, very important to television,' something which has become increasingly evident to incredibly sad ratings watchers like this blogger over the last year or so. 'Everything in television used to be about the overnights and the ratings the following morning, the rating that we'll hear tomorrow morning used to be so important and now it isn't because so many people are watching on iPlayer, so many are catching it up later. They no long think they have to watch when we tell them so if it's hot outside like it is now - damn you! - then people stand there with their barbecue forks and say, "Ah, let's toss some more hamburgers and we'll watch it later," and quite right too,' he said. 'Obviously being a long-term Doctor Who fan I go inside and watch it and get very grumpy if people interrupt me!' Same with me, pal! Steven also revealed that he could not choose a favourite episode as he changes his mind after each one. 'That's not my judgement, other people make that judgement. Other people decide if it was good or not and that's quite a nerve-wrecking feeling, so suddenly it's out of your hands. An hour ago that felt like all mine, my secret, now everybody else has seen it and I don't know what they're going to think. I hope they are going to like it.'

ITV Studios has announced plans to launch a new range of lifestyle products branded around ITV's This Morning programme. The long-running daytime show, which is currently fronted by Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, will give its name to a line of cookery and homeware products designed to 'make life a little easier.' ITV bosses have signed up a range of brands to the initiative, including pans and ovenware from Prestige (under the Meyer brand) and soft furnishings from textiles firm Turner Bianca. There will also be a This Morning-branded patio gardening kit for people to grow vegetables or flowers at home. 'ITV Studios Global Entertainment is dedicated to strategically exploiting our vast portfolio of content across a range of platforms,' said ITV Studios managing director Lee Bartlett. 'This Morning connects with over one million viewers every morning with lifestyle features which have a strong emphasis on "making life a little easier." Extending this much-loved brand into products that consumers can take into their own homes will help do just that. By partnering with well established market leaders such as Meyer, Turner Bianca, and Thompson & Morgan, we are introducing consumers to a range of beautifully designed and easy to use products which offer everything they would expect from the This Morning brand.' What next, Britain's Got Talent lavatory seats?

Former ITV chairman Michael Grade is under pressure to quit the board of the company that owns the Pinewood and Shepperton film studios. Crystal Amber, an activist investment fund with eighteen per cent of the shares in Pinewood Shepperton, targeted Mr Grade's 'poor stewardship' as chairman of the company and said the board needed fresh leadership. The call was made ahead of the company's annual meeting in London today, when the majority of shareholders are expected to back Grade. The former ITV boss said: 'Our latest discussions with our other major shareholders, representing a clear majority, give us confidence that they support the board, its stewardship and strategy.' Grade has been on the board since his involvement in a management buy-out from Rank in 2000. Profits have fallen by half since flotation in 2004 but Crystal Amber invested in Pinewood eighteen months ago because it said there was underlying value in the business not appreciated by the market. Crystal approached the board with proposals of its own to enhance perceptions of the value in the business, which is best known for the James Bond films. Crystal's investment adviser Richard Bernstein said: 'Although these proposals were initially received well by management, we have seen no action and subsequent meetings with Mr Grade have been unproductive. We have experienced his poor stewardship of shareholder interests at first hand and have regrettably come to the conclusion that he has neither the desire nor the wherewithal to deliver. We do not believe it is in the interests of shareholders that he continue to lead the board.'