Tuesday, August 31, 2010

X-Treme Possibilities

Johnny Vegas has revealed that he is fixated with daytime TV programmes. Speaking to Bang Showbiz, the Ideal actor and comedian was especially complimentary of BBC1 property show Homes Under the Hammer, which is broadcast on weekdays at 9.45am. He said: 'I don't tend to put the telly on in the morning because once it's on, it stays on. I'm not strong enough to watch half-an-hour and turn it off. If Homes Under the Hammer gets me, I'm in it for the long haul. Suddenly it's evening and I'm still sitting there. All because of my love of cheap property.'

Simon Cowell has been 'blasted' by the father of X Factor contestant Annastasia Baker. That's tabloid-speak for 'criticised' only with less syllables. After Baker's initial audition for the show, which saw her perform John Fogerty's 'Proud Mary', Cowell told the twenty one-year-old that he had 'seen trannies do better versions' of the song. The single mum later progressed to Boot Camp after a rendition of Adele's 'Let Me Feel My Love.' Ian Baker, an airport worker, told the Mirror: 'Simon used some harsh words. I don't think what was said was fair. Annastasia spent a lot of money on her image and had poured time and effort into it. No father wants to hear his daughter being called a tranny, especially after everything she has been through with the show in the past. I just want Annastasia to go the whole way this time and fulfil her dreams. She's wanted this for so long and she deserves it.' Annastasia previously appeared on the show two years ago, but was sent home at the Judges' Houses stage by Cheryl Cole. Nice to see that it appears to be The X Factor's turn to have just about every comment made on it scrutinsed for any insult - real of imaginary - by the tabloids. It's normally BBC shows which get that sort of Shock! Horror! Probe! publicity.

Melissa Suffield has claimed that she was unfairly sacked from EastEnders earlier this year. Speaking to Reveal, the young actress - who plays Lucy Beale - defended her actions, insisting that it is not abnormal for seventeen-year-olds to drink. Suffield was told to leave the soap in May after numerous warnings from producers over her 'unruly behaviour.' She explained: 'It's not like I was going out, punching photographers and being sick in a gutter. I'm only doing what every other girl of seventeen does. It's not an excuse, but out of all the things Lucy has done, the only one I've done is drink underage. They were really angry. I was apologetic and told them it wouldn't happen again.' The character of Lucy has, since, been recast and Suffield's final appearance is expected to be broadcast later this year.

Al Pacino has revealed that he would be willing to guest star in an episode of Modern Family. When asked by Access Hollywood after this week's Emmy Awards if he would like to film a one-off appearance on the show, Pacino replied: 'Sure, why not?' The Oscar-winner said that he was shown several episodes of the hit ABC comedy whilst working on a project with Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. 'I don't see Modern Family much, but a friend of mine's in it - Jesse Ferguson,' Pacino added. 'I worked with him and he showed me a couple of episodes. [It's] very funny and they're all great.'

The long-awaited final episode of long-running sitcom Last of the Summer Wine attracted 5.4 million viewers, according to overnight figures. The show's swansong picked up nearly a million extra viewers compared to the previous Sunday night's episode on BBC1. But the comedy, which has been cancelled following thirty seven years of continuous tweeness, attracted audiences of up to twenty million people in its heyday in the early 1980s. Original character Norman Clegg delivered the show's closing line. Actor Peter Sallis said: 'Did I lock the door?' in a nod to his increasing forgetfulness. The last episode culminated in a routine about a pair of trouserless policemen and a bus in the charge of a hapless driver. The Yorkshire-based serial, written by Roy Clarke, is about a group of pensioners growing old disgracefully. It ran for twenty hundred and ninety five episodes.

Kerry Katona has been photographed apparently practising for Dancing On Ice. The Sun reports that the reality TV regular and bankrupt is 'signing up for the reality show,' which will be broadcast from January to March next year. Mind you, it was also widely reported last year in tabloid newspapers - and I use that word quite wrongly - that Katona was going to be appearing in Coronation Street and Benidorm and both of those 'reports' turned out to be nothing but lies. Meanwhile, according to the tabloid, Dancing On Ice judge Nasty Jason Gardiner has insisted that he would 'quit the show' if the former Atomic Kitten singer joined the contestants. Quite where the Sun got this little gem from, they don't say. Just as the Daily Lies didn't say where they got the Corrie story from and the Mirror didn't say where they got the Benidorm story from.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Time And A Half

The next series of Doctor Who will be broadcast in two batches rather than one as presently, it has been announced. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Sunday morning, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) confirmed that the sixth series of the BBC's flagship family drama will start, as usual, in the Spring of 2011 for seven episodes and then return in the Autumn for a further six. Moffat said that the mid-season finale would be 'a game-changing cliffhanger,' and added that this would allow him to double the number of 'event episodes' in the new run. This would also mean that fans of the show would never be more than a few months away from the next instalment. 'Looking at the next series I thought what this show needs is a big event in the middle,' Moffat told the Festival audience. 'We are going to make it two series – seven episodes at Easter building to an earth-shattering climax, a cliffhanger we could never normally do because it would be too long before it came back. An enormous game-changing cliffhanger that will change everything. The wrong expression would be to say we are splitting it in two. We are making it two separate series. What I love about this idea is that when kids see Doctor Who go off the air, they will be noticeably taller when it comes back. It's an age for children. With an Easter series, an autumn series and a Christmas special, you are never going to be more than few months from the new series of Doctor Who. 'Tart that I am, we will now have two first nights and two finales, twice as many "event" episodes as we had before.' Moffat, who was also responsible for BBC1's acclaimed updating of Sherlock Holmes, took over stewardship of Doctor Who from Russell Davies last year. His first series in charge was widely acclaimed by viewers and critics alike. Apart from the Daily Scum Mail, of course. Moffat gave festival delegates a first glimpse of this year's Christmas special, guest-starring Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins. He revealed that he had chose Matt Smith as his Doctor on the very first day of casting. 'He has that air about him, he's like a young man built by old men from memory,' Moffat added. He first saw Karen Gillan on video and said that he was worried that she was 'wee and dumpy.' When he met her, Moffat said that he was 'expecting a beachball' and met, instead, 'this giant flame-haired goddess who is slightly too tall for my comfort. Standing next to her when she has heels on, you feel like the sidecar of a motorbike.' Moffat amusingly dismissed crass press criticism, early in this year's series, that Amy was too sexy. 'That's like being too funny, too nice, too enjoyable,' he said. 'I was roaring with laughter at the article in the Daily Mail, which said [since] when did Doctor Who assistants have to be sexy? Since the beginning! There was one in a leather bikini — we're in the nursery compared to that.' And, you weren't the only one either, Mr Moffat, sir. Some of us can also spot nasty, spiteful, thin-lipped anti-BBC agenda a mile away by the very stink of it. Moffat continued that the show's budget had remained broadly similar despite BBC cuts. But he admitted: 'I don't understand numbers. It's a decent budget. I beg for money and more rubber green people and eventually they say "okay, you can have a third rubber green person."' He added that he had not considered a female Doctor, which he believed would not have been appropriate at this point in the show's history. 'I think about it sometimes and maybe it will happen someday. It wouldn't have been right this time,' he said. 'A woman can play the part. You have to remember the single most important thing about regeneration is you must convince the audience and the children that's it's not a new man, it's not a different man, it's the same one. It's a bigger ask if you turn him into a woman.' Discussing his future, Moffat said he would not be leaving the show 'for a while yet.' Gillan, in the same TV festival sessions, said she that was committed to the drama for the next series and added that filming on the show, which lasts eleven days a fortnight for nine months, meant she was unable to work on other projects. 'You just have to take it series by series, you can't really look beyond that so who knows? I'm having fun right now,' she added.

The Very Moffster himself also revealed that Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes will eventually learn how to be a hero. BBC1's wildly successful modern-day adaptation portrays the detective as a somewhat thoughtless, occasionally spiteful and obsessive man with a lack of emotion. Moffat said: 'As the episodes of Sherlock go on he becomes a better man. He learns to be a hero.' He later joked: 'Sherlock's not very nice, whereas The Doctor's nice, kind, passionate. They'd probably deck each other.'

Ben Collins has been replaced by the BBC after being 'unmasked' (shouldn't that be 'unhelmeted'?) as Top Gear's The Stig according to a report in the Mirror. One of the very newspapers that did the 'unmasking' in the first place. So, no obvious staggering hypocrisy there, then. The show's tame racing driver, wearing his trademark white jumpsuit and crash helmet was seen at a Top Gear Live event at the Nürburgring racing circuit in Germany on Friday. Meanwhile, a thousand miles away miles away, Collins was busy being photographed by another newspaper pushing his two young daughters in toy cars near their home in the West Country. The replacement Stig - whose identity is being kept a closely-guarded secret ... until some scum newspaper comes along and 'reveals' it, of course - has been brought in a week after the former Formula 3 driver Collins' identity was revealed amid a High Court battle over his proposed autobiography. The BBC claim that the book - due to be published on 16 September - is in breach of a confidentiality agreement which Collins signed when taking on the role, to keep his identity a secret. The BBC insists that keeping The Stig's real identity a mystery from viewers is crucial to his role as test driver for Top Gear. HarperCollins, the NewsCorp owned publisher who intend to release the book have, laughably, accused the BBC of 'squandering licence-fee payers' money' on the legal action. But, the show's executive producer Andy Wilman in a strongly-worded reply on Top Gear's own website in turn accused HarperCollins of chasing profits and noted that 'If we lose at this stage, it won’t be over but the book will be published and the papers will have a field day with a barrage of headlines about "Humiliating Climbdowns," etc. But so be it. Do you want a BBC that runs away from a snidey headline, or one that fights to protect its belongings?' Actually, since you ask Andy I'd rather like a BBC that stands up to the Daily Scum Mail and the Gruniad Morning Star and tells the pair of them to go screw themselves and the horse they rode in on. Just, you know, for my two-pennoth. 'What's the saying?' he continued. '"It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees."' Yes. I say to thee, yes Andy Wilman. At last, somebody at the BBC with a bit of bloody backbone. As a licence fee payer, allow me to congratulate you in this endeavour. Encore.

Modern Family and Mad Men picked up the major prizes at last night's Primetime Emmy Awards, which took place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. The ABC sitcom beat the likes of Glee and 30 Rock to win 'Outstanding Comedy Series', after already taking home 'Outstanding Writing' for its pilot. Eric Stonestreet also took the 'Outstanding Supporting Actor' for his role as Cameron Tucker. AMC's Mad Men won 'Outstanding Drama Series' and 'Outstanding Writing'. Accepting the former, creator Matthew Weiner told the audience: 'We're now in our fourth season, I didn't even think we'd get through half of one.' Though Glee lost out on 'Outstanding Comedy', actress Jane Lynch picked up 'Outstanding Supporting Actress' for her portrayal of Sue Sylvester. Neil Patrick Harris's cameo slot also secured 'Outstanding Guest Actor' and showrunner Ryan Murphy collected 'Outstanding Director'. 'Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series' went to The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, and Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco received 'Outstanding Lead Actress'. Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was handed 'Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series'. Kyra Sedgwick won 'Outstanding Lead Actress' for her part in The Closer. Meanwhile, Betty White was presented with 'Outstanding Guest Actress' for her hosting stint on Saturday Night Live. Al Pacino was awarded with 'Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie' for HBO's You Don't Know Jack.

Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh has revealed that she would be happy to stay on the show 'forever.' That's a bit unlikely, though. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, love, but there's entropy and the Third Law of Thermodynamics and all that to consider. Nothing ever lasts forever. As Echo & The Bunnymen once said. And, they were right. The actress, who has played Hayley Cropper for twelve years, admitted that she has no plans to move on. According to the Press Association, she said: 'The way I feel at the moment I am happy to stay forever. It's not a very good negotiating tool to have it in print that I want to be here till I'm one hundred but I do. I'm incredibly happy here. I'm not ambitious. I am where I want to be in my life and not many people can say that.' Hesmondhalgh added that she was 'circumspect' about the upcoming tram crash, saying: 'If it's my time it's my time. But I would very much like to keep on going a bit longer.'

BBC2 has announced two new dramas have been commissioned. Controller Janice Hadlow confirmed a six-part series written by Paula Milne called White Heat. The drama will focus on the lives of seven characters whose relationships are forged in the Sixties through to the present day. The show will explore the personal and political journeys that shaped each character's destiny. Ooo ... that sounds a bit good - albeit, a bit Our Friends In The North, but, that's not a bad thing. Speaking about the new show, Hadlow said: 'White Heat is a picture of Britain through the experiences of a group of young people, as they look back at the way the world made them. When you put this alongside The Hour and The Shadow Line, you can really start to see the green shoots of the new drama strategy for BBC2.' A one-off drama has also been announced. Whistle And I'll Come To You, written by Luther creator Neil Cross is a modern reworking of the classic Edwardian ghost story by MR James. The story - which was previously, heart-stoppingly, adapted for TV by Jonathan Miller in 1968 - focuses on one man's encounter with an apparition on a desolate British beach and how it affects him, dealing with themes of ageing, hubris and the supernatural. The new adaptation will be directed by Andy de Emmony and will feature in the channel's Christmas schedule. Don't watch it alone, or at night! Trust me! The channel has also announced two new factual shows. Filthy Cities will be presented by Dan Snow and will bring to life the histories of London, New York and Paris. Snow will discover how these went from being filthy disease-ridden overcrowded towns to modern metropolises. Using CGI, he will travel back in time to uncover the battle against filth during each city's defining era - medieval London, revolutionary Paris and Nineteenth-Century New York. Snow will investigate professions such as the medieval muck-raker, responsible for clearing tons of excrement from London streets, the pig handler helping to clear the New York streets of waste and the Parisian undertaker, trying to cope with the human cost of a bloody revolution. Another new series called Oz And Hugh Raise The Bar will follow wine expert Oz Clarke and Hugh Dennis as they set up two competing bars exclusively serving local produce. The pair will travel the UK and Ireland to discover the best British drinks and snacks and purchase them as stock for their respective bars. They will also look for unusual offerings such as pub games and British spirits.

Cold Feet is being considered for a revival by ITV, according to reports. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that the romantic drama, which was a big ratings hit for the network, may return for another series next year without original cast member Helen Baxendale, whose character Rachel died at the end of the fifth series in 2003. Left Bank Pictures executive Andy Harries, who produced the show while at Granada, said: '[Cold Feet] might return. There are conversations ongoing. It would be wonderful to bring it back with the same people in a completely different political and social environment. It would depend on the scripts and the timing. It's not about to come back. I wouldn't bring it back just to get some ratings. I think you could make a really interesting show if Mike Bullen decides to sit down and write it.' The drama, which also starred James Nesbitt, John Thomson and Fay Ripley, originally ran from 1998 to 2003. It was all right. A bit arch in places, but fundamentally decent enough.

Married, Single, Other should have been recommissioned for a second series, according to a member of the show's production team. However, Left Bank Pictures' Adam Harries admitted that the storylines in the romantic drama's early episodes were 'weak' which, he believes, is why it was axed by ITV. He told the Edinburgh TV Festival: 'It averaged 4.7 million across the series, the best for an ITV drama to be decommissioned in the last four years. The audience didn't stay. I suppose the stories weren't strong enough. There were some weaker episodes. It found its strength towards the end, I think a second series would have found its feet and grown its audience. ITV disagreed.'

Presenter Konnie Huq has reportedly married Charlie Brooker in Las Vegas. According to the Scum Mail On Sunday, the pair flew to the American city ten days ago in between Huq's filming of The Xtra Factor. It is claimed that they wanted to keep the ceremony private. A 'source' said: 'Charlie didn't want a big, tacky celebrity wedding because he doesn't see him and Konnie as a celebrity couple. They are very much in love but when it came down to it, he wanted the wedding to be low-key. He is finding it hard to accept the level of interest in their relationship. If it was up to him, they would lead a totally private life, enjoying playing PlayStation games at home together and eating in. But it is different for Konnie. She is used to all the attention her job brings her and doesn't mind being in the public eye. Charlie gets frustrated when people are surprised that they are together. He doesn't understand why it is an issue. He knows that she is beautiful but he sees a different side of her that the public doesn't.'

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Pain In The Ribs

Following its 2010 success, MasterChef, with its judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace, is moving to a new kitchen studio which will accommodate a bigger group of amateur cooks all hoping to be the next champion, it was announced this week. BBC1 has commissioned Shine TV to produce MasterChef's seventh series as fifteen one-hour programmes. Kicking off the action for the first time, John and Gregg will audition amateur chefs chosen from the twenty thousand applicants. Over the course of the auditions the twenty best contestants will be chosen to don the apron and go through to the first round. Then, across the series, viewers will be able to follow the lucky hopefuls as they face more ambitious tests than ever before, designed to really develop their culinary skills and test them to limit.

X Factor judge Louis Walsh has defended the show's use of Auto-Tune in some contestants' auditions. The programme was widely criticised by fans last week after it was revealed that a number of performers had had their vocals enhanced during post-production. Walsh claims that the effect is common in the music industry and compared it to wearing make-up. According to the Daily Scum Mail, he allegedly said: 'Every pop star in the world uses Auto-Tuning. If you're a superstar you don't care. I wish I'd done it last year [during the live shows] with Jedward, it might have helped, I might have won the show. There is nothing wrong with it. I think people are making a big deal of it. Other channels are jealous of The X Factor, everyone is, it's the biggest show. It's the same as wearing good make-up and having a good make-up artist. Every successful artist in the world uses it.'

ITV's director of television has suggested that the broadcaster should hold talks with the BBC to agree a scheduling plan for The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. The two reality shows will go head-to-head in the schedules on Saturday and Sunday nights once again this Autumn if both sides are unable to reach a broadcast agreement. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Saturday, Peter Fincham said: 'We are the two [broadcasters] that are investing the most in original content, so I would hope there was a way we can do that. In a way we've done it for years, by some unwritten agreement, in that Corrie and EastEnders don't play against each other.' He continued: 'We want our programmes to reach the maximum audiences. I'm sure BBC1 want the same things. We are the only members of a very small club.'

Simon Bird has claimed that his new, utterly wretched-sounding, panel show The King Is Dead is similar to Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's Shooting Stars. Except that Shooting Stars is, you know, funny.

Steven Moffat has insisted that any cut in the licence fee is likely to hurt Doctor Who. Speaking in Edinburgh, the showrunner admitted that the BBC's showpiece family drama would be 'rubbish' without a sizeable budget from the BBC. He explained of the proposed action: 'It sounds like a punishment rather than a saving. Are licence fee payers protesting hugely? No. They shouldn't, we give them lots of rubber green people in Doctor Who. Alien invasions are accomplished by at least three of them. Any cut in the licence fee and we'd have solo invasions. That'd be rubbish.' Meanwhile, the head of BBC1 has confirmed that the channel is considering changes to the scheduling of Doctor Who. The show traditionally returns for a new run of thirteen episodes at Easter. A sixth series has been commissioned for 2011, although rumours have suggested that it could be kept back to the Autumn. Responding to the speculation, Jay Hunt said that 'We're talking about what form Doctor Who will take. I think the interesting thing with having Steven [Moffat] running that show now is it will be very much a creative decision. He will decide what he thinks is right for the show.' Of the show's recent overhaul, she added: 'It's one of the most terrifying things about being a BBC1 controller - to be in charge of a regeneration and to cast the new Doctor Who. It's one of the most exciting things you can do in a job. For Matt and Karen to have landed as successfully as they have in the audience's mind, to be as popular and to be as instantly associated with the roles is wonderful. The telling point for me was that first episode when Matt put the fishfinger into the custard and from that moment on I completely believed in him.'

Sherlock has been formally recommissioned for a second series. Jay Hunt confirmed on Saturday that the modern-day drama adaptation, which was such a success with viewers and critics alike recently, will return for three more ninety-minute stories in the autumn of 2011. Meanwhile, Luther has also been renewed, after earning a respectable, if unspectacular, audience over its six-episode run. Hunt said of the two programmes: 'Sherlock was the hit of the summer; Luther, the most memorable new detective on the block. I am delighted they will both be returning to BBC1.' Sherlock co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat added: 'We've been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can't wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There'll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies - whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?' Starring the splendid Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, the show averaged an excellent seven million plus audience over its three episodes: A Study In Pink, The Blind Banker and The Great Game.

Mistresses will not return for a fourth series, it has been confirmed. The romantic drama, which starred Sarah Parish, concluded its third series last Thursday. Prior to filming, the BBC had announced that the drama would not be renewed but the show's executives have since rallied fans to appeal for a new run. That appeal has now failed. Speaking to the Digital Spy website at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Jay Hunt said: 'After the series before last, I was in two minds about whether to bring it back, but I decided ultimately when I saw the scripts, that there was the making of a final four-parter.' She added: 'In my mind, that is the end of Mistresses, I know fans are going to miss it but I feel it's a fitting end to a great, watchable piece of telly.'

And, in further excellent news, the head of BBC1 also revealed that there are no plans to make more episodes of Gavin & Stacey. Which, frankly, is the total bollocks. 'I talked to Ruth and James a lot about Gavin & Stacey,' Hunt said. 'We've got no immediate plans to bring it back. I'm not only a huge fan of the show myself, but I know audiences in their millions loved it last Christmas.' This, truly, is wondrous news in my sight.

EastEnders writer Simon Ashdown has revealed that Peggy Mitchell was meant to be the culprit in her husband Archie's murder. Speaking at Edinburgh, Ashdown said that Barbara Windsor's decision to quit the serial last year meant that there would have been no aftermath. He explained: 'We had a list of the cast and went down it to create that "shiver" moment. Janine could have done it but she's killed before. But we settled on Peggy, but then we found out that Barbara Windsor had decided to leave. Like most of these ideas it just appeared as a notion. We settled on Stacey. It gave us loads of story afterwards.'

Channel 4 is alleged to be close to offering Jay Hunt its top commissioning role as chief creative officer according to the Telegraph. Hunt has, according to the paper, 'been viewed in TV industry circles for some weeks as the favourite to fill the vacancy,' which was created by the departure of former creative head Kevin Lygo earlier this year. The shortlist of David Abraham, Channel 4's new chief executive, is also thought to have included Julian Bellamy, who is currently acting in Channel 4's chief creative officer role, having been head of the broadcaster's main channel. Others on the list are believed to be Wayne Garvie, of BBC Worldwide, and the chief executive of independent production company Wall to Wall, Alex Graham. Abraham – whose arrival in May this year led to Mr Lygo's exit – is known to rate Hunt and the pair have, the paper claims, discussed her suitability for the role. The Edinburgh Television Festival, has 'been dominated by speculation about Ms Hunt's future.' It has emerged that she has had conversations in recent days with senior colleagues at the BBC about her future, and about how she would respond to a likely offer from Channel 4. However, no formal offer has yet been made and Abraham, the paper states, 'will almost certainly wait until Channel 4's chairman, Lord Burns, has returned from holiday in early September to make the announcement.'

A UK company is offering a service to press the ashes of loved ones into vinyl records. The firm, named And Vinyly, is offering a range of options to customers hoping to be immortalised in audio. The basic package for both people and pets costs two thousand pounds and provides up to twelve minutes of audio per side. The package also includes standard artwork and labels containing the date of birth and date of death of the deceased. Clients must supply their own audio track or may opt for silence punctuated only by the crackling and popping of their ashes against the needle of the record player. The company's website also offers the assurance that 'despite the sites light-hearted attitude to death, all our services are carried out with the utmost respect and care.'

Meanwhile, in a news update dominated by stories from Edinburgh, we end with yet another one. Katie Price cancelled a planned appearance at the International Television Festival where she was due to discuss 'the effects of fame' with a clinical psychologist. The reality TV regular had been due to take part in an interview with Pamela Connolly, who presents a series of celebrity interviews called Shrink Rap. A statement released by Price's representatives said the decision had been taken 'due to unforeseen circumstances' and that she sent 'profuse apologies' to Dr Connolly and the event's organisers.

And, finally dear blog reader, the greatest single moment in the history of televised sport. Ever. Bar none.

Week Thirty Six: Summer's Almost Gone

The executive producer of Top Gear has launched a strongly-worded - and, frankly, long overdue - attack on the publisher HarperCollins over a book which will allegedly reveal the identity of The Stig. Andy Wilman wrote on the show's website that the BBC has a right to protect The Stig's anonymity 'from a bunch of chancers' who were 'hoping to cash in on it.' Both sides appeared at the High Court earlier this week as the corporation tried to halt publication of the book. The BBC said that the planned book would breach contracted confidentiality obligations. However, HarperCollins said it would 'vigorously defend' its right to publish the book, adding it was 'disappointed that the BBC has chosen to spend licence fee payers' money to suppress this book.' In a blog post entitled The Stig. He's Ours, Wilman wrote: 'I feel the urge to add my ten penn'orth about how we see things down at the Top Gear office.' Responding to HarperCollins' comments, he said: 'The fact is, the "waste of licence fee payer's money" argument gets trotted out many times as a way of attacking the BBC, but the reality is the BBC is a massive organisation. It's naive to think it can only ever spend money on cameras, tapes for the cameras, Daleks or anything else that contributes directly to what ends up on screen. The BBC has the right to spend money on protecting the intellectual property it created. The truth is that all that stuff - The Stig, The TARDIS, the Blue Peter dog - does belong to the licence payer, and not to some opportunists who think they can come along and take a slice when they feel like it.' HarperCollins declined to comment on Wilman's blog post. He went on to argue that the reason why The Stig, who test drives the cars featured on the show, never removed his helmet was to protect the character's mystique, which the audience finds entertaining. 'HarperCollins have decided none of that is as important as their profits,' he wrote. 'So if you get your Christmas ruined by one of the best and most harmless TV secrets being outed, you can rest easy in the knowledge that by contrast, HarperCollins' executives will be enjoying a fantastic Christmas.' He also made an apparent reference to the driver who wears Stig's helmet, saying: 'It's an issue of trust. Everyone who's ever worked on Top Gear has kept The Stig thing a secret, and the person who wears the suit has signed confidentiality agreements to do the same. So talk about what you like in your own life, but not the bit you agreed not to. Your word is supposed to mean something.' He concluded by saying he would continue to fight the case because the Top Gear team had 'worked bloody hard for many years to make The Stig something worth caring about, and that includes protecting it from a bunch of chancers.' Wilman, the man credited with turning Top Gear into a TV hit, also used the blog to attack some media coverage of the legal battle. Singling out an article by the Daily Scum Mail columnist Stephen Glover, Wilman said: 'Since he can't actually count up how many shows we make a year (it's fourteen, not eight, Mr Glover), I'm not sure I'd trust the rest of his maths.' It has to be said, apart from the Daily Scum Mail and the Gruniad Morning Star's usual, wholly obvious, anti-BBC agenda, it's difficult to understand - logically - why anyone should have an argument with the BBC's position. A man has signed a contract of employment with them, one of the clauses of which is that his identity - whilst he is playing the 'part' that he's employed to play - is kept a secret from the wider world. He then announces his intention to break that contract by signing a book deal, and the BBC are - according to scum newspapers - the ones who are at fault by protecting their investment? Baffling. I always thought the Daily Scum Mail was supposed to be the natural friend of the employer when in talking sides against the bolshy employee. Of course, the fact that HarperCollins is part of the NewsCorp conglomerate and that, ultimately, its boss is Rupert Murdoch wouldn't have anything whatsoever to do with this, would it? Perish the very thought.

The BBC has started 'discussing' ideas for a new pop music show to succeed Top Of The Pops, which was axed in 2006. According to The Times, the corporation has approached independent production companies asking for help to develop 'a Top Gear for music.' In a statement, the BBC said: 'We are constantly discussing new ideas for pop music.' However, it added: 'We currently have no plans to announce [a new show] for any of our television networks.' The statement also reiterated that there were no plans to bring back Top Of The Pops. According to The Times, the BBC has approached record labels in the hope of securing video exclusives and other material to populate a new show. It speculates that the show is 'most likely' to air on BBC3, and could be launched to coincide with a planned Top Of The Pops season on BBC4. Top Of The Pops ended four years ago, after viewing figures fell from a 1970s peak of fifteen million to around one million. It was first broadcast in 1964, from a converted church in Manchester and the final edition was shown on 30 July 2006. Since it was axed, record companies, politicians and artists have called for it make a comeback. One-off specials for Comic Relief and Christmas have kept the brand alive, while editions of Top Of The Pops 2 - which uses archive performance footage - are often created to accompany seasons like Soul Britannia on BBC4. Newspaper tycoon Richard Desmond is also said to be keen to launch a Top Of The Pop-style programme following his acquisition of Channel Five. In theory, he could acquire rights to the TOTP brand from the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, but the cost is likely to be prohibitive. The irony, of course, being that when Top Of The Pops ended there was remarkably little of this wailing and gnashing of teeth. Most commentators felt that in an age of MTV and virtual blanket video, the format of bands performing live in a TV studio had run its course, something reflected by the show's declining viewing figures. As is usual in TV and, indeed, in life, you often don't know what you've got till it's gone. One for The Stig to reflect on, that, perhaps?

And, on that bombshell, here's your next lot of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 3 September
Live International Football - 7:30 ITV - sees England take on Bulgaria hoping not to get a kick in Balkans. Hoping to put their disastrous World Cup behind them, Fabio Capello's men will be keen to get their European Championship campaign to make it through to Poland and Ukraine in two year's time off to a flying start at Wembley tonight (kick-off 8.00). In last month's friendly against Hungary, the beleaguered manager gave some young players a chance to shine. Bobby Zamora nearly scored with a long-range strike and Michael Dawson provided the inevitable disputed moment, by seemingly clearing a Jagielka cross heading into the England goal before it went over the line. However, it was a brace from old boy Steven Gerard that saw the side to a 2-1 victory. Although ranked forty third in the world, Bulgaria can rely on Stiliyan Petrov whose goal in Aston Villa's 3-0 defeat of West Ham helped kick start the side's season. Although he was rather anonymous when The Toon put six past them a week later. Just thought I'd mention that. Adrian Chiles presents with, tragically, Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate. You may start your Three Stooges jokes now if you like, dear blog reader.

Saturday 4 September
Casualty returns for its twenty fifth series at 8:45 on BBC1 with a feature-length episode. Hasina Haque joins the cast as nurse Mads, who struggles to understand the stronger regional accents of her colleagues in her first job since leaving Pakistan, with serious repercussions. Two patients are admitted separately after being shot with ball bearings fired from an air rifle, but Noel's discovery of sinister footage on the Internet suggests the two cases may be linked and more attacks are imminent. The incident comes to a head at Holby College, bringing terror into the heart of the fully stretched ED. Guest starring Michelle Collins, and featuring an appearance by Holby City actress Jaye Jacobs. Nice to see that after all these years Casualty and Holby are starting to have these crossovers. They are, after all, supposed to be set on different floors of the same hospital!

102 Minutes That Changed America - 7:00 Channel 4 - uses amateur footage and audiotape recorded by people around New York to give an insight into their experiences of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. The duration of the tragedy, from the first plane hitting the north tower to the collapse of both buildings, was just under two hours minutes. During that time, many of the city's residents sought to preserve images of what was taking place. Joined together into a single, seamless historical record, the end result is an intensely personal perspective on events as they unfolded, telling the morning's events minute by minute in real time.

Sunday 5 September
ITV's much-anticipated one-off drama U Be Dead finally makes it to screens at 9:00. In January 2007, Maria Marchese was sentenced to nine years in prison for viciously stalking a London doctor, his family and his legal defence team. This drama, starring David Morrissey and Tara Fitzgerald, tells a very Twenty First Century story, of an obsession that spiralled dangerously out of control. Jan Falkowski and his fiancee could think of no-one who would send threatening texts and abusive phone calls to them and for some time they refused to take the sender's manic behaviour seriously. That is until, they mysterious texter broke into their houseboat and opened the gas taps, threatened Jan's family and attempted to cancel their wedding. Also starring Alex Lowe, Monica Dolan, Dearbhla Molloy and Lucy Griffiths.

Grumpy Old Schooldays - 9:00 BBC2 - sees the celebrity complainers return to reminisce about the more miserable side of their schooldays. I'm not sure this blogger will be able to watch this one, to be honest, dear blog reader. A bit too close to home, this if you know what I mean. Comedienne Shappi Khorsandi recalls the time she stole Neil Kinnock's daughter's school report, Mark Steel relives the horrors of his classmates' flatulence and Neil Morrissey reveals why he tried to earn a reputation for being more dangerous than he actually was. Others with tales of woe to share include Matthew Le Tissier, Penny Smith, Mark Radcliffe, Ronni Ancona and Alistair McGowan.

Monday 6 September
Bouquet of Barbed Wire - 9:00 ITV - is, of course, a much-anticipated psychological drama starring Trevor Eve and Hermione Norris, a modern reworking of an original novel by Andrea Newman, which explores the consequences of a father's obsessive love for his daughter. First made for TV in 1976, with Frank Finlay and Susan Penhaligon, it became something of a cause célèbre at the time because of its unflinching look at the last great TV taboo, incest. The successful lives of Peter and Cassie Manson are thrown into turmoil when their daughter Prue reveals she is pregnant and her teacher Gavin is the father. What's more, she wants to keep the baby, drop out of school and marry him. This leaves Peter with an intuitive sense that Gavin is on a personal mission against him, while he despairs he may have lost his daughter for ever.

In My Family's Crazy Gap Year - 9:00 Channel 4 - six British families they swap their daily lives for an adventure in a remote corner of the world. The Willmott children, Cyrus, Emile and Eliane, have lived a privileged existence and their mother, Rafia, wants to take them away from their charmed upbringing. They can borrow my gaff for a few weeks if they like. Together with their dad, John, they travel to the Himalayas - where they meet the Dalai Lama - the Mongolian steppes and deep into the Papuan rainforest to encounter one of the world's remotest tribes. So what will the Willmott family learn from their experience? And, is anybody actually bothered?

There's lots of returning series this week, as we're into the autumn season now, and this next one will be causing much celebration amongst a significant proportion of From The North's readership. Only Connect is back at 8:30 BBC4. Three old university friends with a shared love of exotic foods and fine dining pit their wits against a trio from the Northern Ireland Court Service to make connections between things that initially do not appear to be linked. The thinking chap's crumpet, that saucy minx Victoria Coren presents. And, as usual, she does so brilliantly, intelligently, and with a positively filthy chuckle every now and then!

Quite why Doctor Who at the Proms 2010 - 8:30 BBC3 - wasn't shown on Bank Holiday Monday is beyond this blogger. Seemed the obvious place for it, to be honest. Anyway, stars of the series Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill host a spectacular concert featuring Murray Gold's music for the SF family drama, including his latest reimagining of Ron Grainer's classic theme tune. Featuring performances by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the London Philharmonic Choir, and soloists Yamit Mamo and Mark Chambers. Ben Foster is the conductor. Oh, and Matt Smith might put in an appearance too. An 'extended' version is shown, also on Beeb3, on Friday at 7:00.

Tuesday 7 September
Help! I Caught It Abroad II - 9:00 ITV - is a documentary filmed at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, featuring patients who are being treated for diseases such as malaria and leprosy, as well as those who have been bitten by snakes and monkeys, and infected with parasites whilst on overseas holidays. You thought it was going to be about something else with a title like that, didn't you dear blog reader? Ah, yer Keith Telly Topping can read you like a book, so he can! During the film, there is a look at a 'secret room' that houses some of the world's most dangerous snakes - kept for producing anti-venom, which saves hundreds of lives worldwide. Of course, it's not very 'secret' now that it's been on television, is it? Bit of an elementary schoolboy-type error in their, otherwise flawlessly logical, plan there I'd've said.

Shown as part of BBC4's extended Northern season Eddie Waring: Mr Rugby League at 9:00 is a documentary exploring the life and work of the TV sports pundit and co-presenter of It's A Knockout, who aspired to take the game of rugby league beyond its heartland in the north of England to the masses. The programme explores why he proved such a divisive figure during his career, attracting praise for his warm character, but receiving criticism from those who considered him a harmful northern caricature. Includes contributions by historian Tony Collins, who argues that the current Super League owes a debt of gratitude to Waring whom, he claims, provided the inspiration for the many attractions that have transformed league match-days into family events.

Swingtown - 10:35 ITV - is a newly imported drama set in 1970s America, in which a couple move their family to an affluent Chicago suburb, only to find their neighbours are part of the prevailing social and sexual revolution. Initially bewildered by their new surroundings, the pair realise the promiscuous lifestyle on offer may provide the excitement their marriage craves. Molly Parker and Jack Davenport star. I've heard very mixed reports on this one, to be honest, but as ever it's probably worth giving the first episode a go just to see if it's your cup of tea.

This Is England '86 - 10:00 Channel 4 - sees the acclaimed film-maker Shane Meadows makes his TV debut with this four-part follow-up to his BAFTA-winning movie about the British skinhead movement, This Is England. Set in 1986, the film's young protagonist, Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), is now preparing to leave school and, with over three-and-a-half million Britons unemployed, faces an uncertain future. Elsewhere, Woody and Lol get ready to be married, but a sudden medical crisis threatens to disrupt events. Will Shaun get the girl - and scooter - of his dreams? Only time will tell. The film was great, albeit very strong stuff and hugely controversial at the time of its release. So, I'm looking forward to this.

Wednesday 8 September
In How to Look Good Naked - 8:00 Channel 4 - two years ago, Gok Wan convinced a pair of twin sisters, Jeannie and Suzy, to pose in a shop window and walk the catwalk naked. Jeannie particularly had found the challenges difficult - the mother-of-three hated her stretch marks and was envious of her twin sister's body - but her confidence grew under Gok's command. How have they fared without him? He returns to find out. Last in the current series.

As mentioned in yesterday's Top Telly Tips, it's all returning favourites this week. Or ... shows, anyway. Bang Goes the Theory - 7:30 BBC1 - is, of course, the Tomorrow's World for the Twenty First Century. In this, the first of a new series, the team investigates the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, with zoologist Liz Bonnin joining the rescue effort to protect the local wildlife in Louisiana, and Jem Stansfield building a scale model to illustrate how oil leakages happen and ways they can be dealt with. Plus, Dallas Campbell uses a jet plane and an atomic clock to explain Einstein's theory of relativity.

And, speaking of returning favourites, Mad Men is back at 10:00 on BBC4 for a fourth series. Don Draper has difficulty adjusting to being the public face of his new company and an interview with an advertising magazine does not go as well as his partners had been expecting. Meanwhile, Betty and the children endure an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner with Henry's family, and Peggy comes up with a risky publicity stunt in a bid to keep hold of a client. This is, of course, just in case you've been living on Mars for the last couple of years, an acclaimed US drama, set in a New York advertising firm in the early 1960s and starring Jon Hamm, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser and John Slattery. And Christina Hendricks whose staggering breasts, err presence, towers over the series like a colossus.

Thursday 9 September
He's had some hard challenges in the past but Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School for Boys - 9:00 BBC2 could be Gareth's biggest yet. The choirmaster takes on the challenge of teaching in a primary school for one term, hoping to re-engage boys who are lagging behind their female peers by bringing risk, competition and adventure back into the classroom. Joining the staff at a school in Essex, he sets about trying to make his pupils excited about learning by spending a day outdoors, before tackling their speaking skills by staging a boys versus girls debate.

Tonight also sees the return of a particular minor favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping Law & Order: UK - 9:00 ITV. And it starts with an episode that's been the source of controversy before even before it's been shown. Two children go on trial for killing a toddler, each blaming the other, and the case hinges on whether forensic evidence can prove who is guilty of strangling the boy to death. CPS director George Castle defies his superiors and takes instruction from the victim's mother, who has a surprising point of view on the crime. Drama, guest starring Deborah Findlay (Cranford), and with the usual impressive cast of Bill Paterson, Bradley Walsh, Apollo out of Battlestar Galactica, Freemya from Doctor Who, Harriet Whatsherface etc. etc. Good, occasionally great drama marred only by the sometimes identikit nature of the plots. But, the acting is always first rate.

The opening episode of Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution - 9:00 Channel 4 - is called The Rebel From Suburbia which is a massive claim for Alan to be making. The actor and comedian hosts what is described as 'a personal history of his formative decade' - the 1980s - a highly politicised time when radicalism was rife and race relations, the class struggle, unemployment and sexual politics dominated the agenda. In this opening episode, Alan returns to his Essex roots to rediscover his rebellious schoolboy years, and sets out to confront the leader of a local skinhead gang that terrorised him as a boy. But Alan is soon forced to face some uncomfortable truths about his own conduct. Well, indeed. One man's rebel is another man's ignorant numskull who isn't anywhere near as clever or funny as he thinks he is and whose 'rebellion' essentially adds up to 'getting on other people's tit because they can.' I know. I've both been one and, then later in life, suffered the boredom of having to deal on a daily basis with several of the next generation's 'rebels.' Nice idea for a show, I must say. And, I like Alan so this should be good.

Watchdog is also back tonight - 8:00 BBC1. Sour, twisty-faced Anne Robinson returns with the investigation show that exposes rogue traders and fights for consumers' rights, featuring airline passengers who have been wrongly charged for supposedly excess luggage, and a look at special offers in supermarkets that are not what they seem. Matt Allwright also turns the tables on a rogue car clamper. They're really doing their bit in helping Britain's small businesses in these tough economic times, aren't they? And they really think they've got their finger on the pulse of the nation. You know what this is, don't you? It's the That's Life for 2010. It'll be talking dogs and Richard Stilgoe next, mark my words.

And, so to the news: BBC4 has announced that it plans to air new US drama Rubicon. The AMC series, which is currently airing in the States, focuses on an intelligence analyst who solves codes. They subsequently get caught in a conspiracy after an untimely death. The cast includes James Badge Dale and Miranda Richardson and the show was shot in New York. BBC4 has revealed that Rubicon will air as part of its Autumn and Winter 2010-11 season. The channel already has the rights to another AMC drama, Mad Men (see above).

Next year's licence fee negotiations will be 'a moment of realism' for the BBC, director general Mark Thompson has warned. But, he said, any loss of funding would permanently damage the UK's capacity to create television programmes. In his MacTaggart speech delivered in Edinburgh, Thompson also said that Sky should be investing more in homegrown TV, which would be 'good for the public.' Last year's speech saw Sky boss James Murdoch, without any obvious and quite staggeringly sick agenda, identify the BBC as 'a threat.' The vile Murdoch the Younger said that the scale of the corporation's ambition was 'chilling' and railed, bug-eyed against the BBC's 'guaranteed and growing income.' Thompson responded to these criticisms, saying Sky was on its way to 'becoming the most dominant force in broadcast media in this country.' He suggested that the broadcaster was not doing enough to produce its own original content. 'It's time that Sky pulled its weight. Its investment in original British content is just not enough,' he told an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Thompson added that going head-to-head in this area would also be 'good for the BBC and good for the industry,' and make up a potential shortfall in the UK's programme-making capacity. ITV and Channel 4, he said, would need to remain strong to contribute to making 'great British television. The total pot of money available to invest in original TV production is shrinking, and unless something changes, may shrink further.' He emphasised that the UK's broadcasters would have to 'break the habit of a lifetime and actually work together.' The BBC boss acknowledged that the corporation was facing a tough challenge over negotiations for the licence fee, which begin in around a year's time. 'For the BBC I believe this will be a moment of realism and a recognition of the scale of the challenge facing licence fee payers and the country as a whole.' Arguing that 'a pound out of the commissioning budget of the BBC is a pound out of UK creative economy,' Thompson said it was unlikely that cuts to the BBC's funding 'could be magically made up from somewhere else.' The director general also said that making the licence fee work meant the BBC would 'have to become leaner than it's ever been before.' The BBC remained committed to reducing the management bill, he continued, promising 'simpler structures, fewer layers, fewer management boards.' He added that such reductions would enable the BBC to invest more in its core strength - making original programmes. Thompson said that 'radical and rapid' change would be necessary at the corporation in the coming years. A BBC should be 'fit and ready for this new world' and 'do all it can to help the whole industry thrive,' he concluded.

The BBC has confirmed that Merlin will begin its third series on 11 September. A broadcast time for the first of the thirteen new episodes has yet to be confirmed. Cast including Colin Morgan and Bradley James will reprise their roles. A synopsis of the untitled opening episode confirmed that the series will begin a year after the events of last year's finale. 'Within the first five minutes you catch up as to where our characters have been,' producer Johnny Capps previously revealed. 'Camelot has been very focused on the search for Morgana, and Uther has been very concerned about where his ward is. But when she comes back it's very intriguing as to where her allegiances lie and what's happened to her. She’s been on quite a journey.'

Christina Hendricks has revealed that she was dropped by her agent after filming the pilot for Mad Men. She told Newsweek that she had struggled to win a part prior to landing the role of Joan Holloway on the AMC drama. 'It was pilot season,' she recalled. '[That time] is so hard and so draining. You're going on a million [auditions] in a day and you're changing your clothes in your car. All you want to do is get that pilot.' She laughed: 'Then you get one, you shoot it, and they drop you!' Hendricks explained that her agency was not confident that Mad Men would be a success after filming on the pilot was completed. They didn't think it was going to go anywhere,' she said. 'We shot the pilot and then we had to wait a considerable amount of time before we started the next phase. We had a year where we were sitting around waiting and no-one wanted to take me on.' The actress has been nominated for her performance at this year's Emmy Awards.

Syfy has released more details about forthcoming superhero series Three Inches. It was previously reported that Torchwood's Naoko Mori and Stephanie Jacobsen will appear in the show, alongside former Buffy the Vampire Slayer star James Marsters. The network has now confirmed that Marsters will play Troy Hamilton, a former government agent and father figure to Walter (Noah Reid). Kyle Schmid, Antony Del Rio and Brandon Jay McLaren have also joined the cast. Schmid will play 'cocky team leader' Brandon, while Del Rio will portray The Human Smell, a teenage hero able to emit a pungent gas. McLaren will feature as Macklin Sportello, the best friend of Walter.

The Event star Blair Underwood has promised that viewers will be desperate for answers after watching the forthcoming drama's pilot episode. In an offical NBC video, the actor said that he is certain the new series will capture the public's imagination. 'What you see unfold before your eyes, it leaves you wanting and begging more more,' he said. Underwood - who plays President Elias Martinez - also revealed that viewers will witness the mysterious central event from several character's viewpoints. 'There is an event that happens, and you see [it from] four or five different perspectives,' he explained. 'All of these characters are rich. It's great drama, it's great mystery [and] it's great entertainment.'

A Channel 4 executive has denied that reality show Wife Swap exploited its contestants. The documentary series first aired on the channel in 2003. Speaking at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Simon Dickson argued that participants were made fully aware of the show's rules prior to filming. So, it's all their fault, apparently. 'Wife Swap was a real turn of the wheel for us,' he said. 'I don't think there can be anything more transparent than a programme with a set of rules.' He added: 'It might not be to everyone's taste, but its methodology was exceptionally transparent. It was a short, sharp and well-executed format.'

A second series of the BBC3 comedy Mongrels has apparently been commissioned. The adult puppet sitcom revolves around the lives of five talking animals who meet outside of a London pub. Dan Tetsell, who provides the voice of Marion the cat, made the announcement on his Twitter feed. He confirmed: 'Mongrels has got a second series.' The first series featured the voices of Katy Brand and Paul Kaye as well as guest appearances from Clive Anderson, Christopher Biggins and Eamonn Holmes.

BBC4 has announced that it will air a new two-hour film about the impact of teenage murders. The documentary, directed by The Fallen's Morgan Matthews, will examine the consequences of the killings on families and communities in Britain. The show has been filmed over eighteen months and includes testimony from the police, witnesses, passersby and friends and family of the victims. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, BBC4 controller Richard Klein said: 'This documentary will pose searching questions about society's attitudes towards young people, probing blanket terminology such as "gang violence" or "gang-related" so commonly used to describe teenage killings. It will challenge our preconceptions whilst connecting us directly with the tragic consequences of a violent death. I'm very pleased to be able to bring a film on such a thought-provoking subject to BBC4 viewers.'

Sky1 controller Stuart Murphy has revealed his wish-list of programming for the channel. Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Murphy explained that he wants to air four to six comedies a year. 'The Simpsons [was a] really big hit,' he said. 'We wanted other comedies that felt like that - the family could watch, but with an edge. Modern Family felt like that. We don't want a lot of surreal. At BBC3, we commissioned pretty dark stuff like Nighty Night, Monkey Dust, Shirley Ghostman. At Sky, I don't think that's going to work. It's about being optimistic, having best in show, and those values tend to clash with dark, sicko comedy.' Murphy added that he would like to air 'comedy with a capital C,' explaining that he wants to develop more sketch shows and a series similar to Star Stories. He also revealed that he is planning 'big streamed entertainment' next summer to take advantage of the end of Big Brother, saying: 'It can't be salacious or dirty, I don't want it to feel derivative and it needs a big-name, A-list presenter.' He explained that Sky also wants new dramas, including 'a big family piece' as well as kooky and edgy shows. 'We really need a strong voice that reflects Britain,' he said.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fear Leads To The Dark Side

It was an absolutely brilliant twenty-four carat episode of TV's great undiscovered comedy gem, Ideal this week on BBC3 just in case you missed it, dear blog reader. Yer Keith Telly Topping is assured, however, that the trailer for next Tuesday's episode is a bit misleading and that poor old Derrick does not, in fact, end up as part of Psycho Paul's latest madcap get-rich-quick scheme of 'black-market organ harvesting'! The episode apparently includes a lengthy dream sequence, the return of Colin (still on probation, allegedly), Cartoon Head facing trouble on two fronts when Judith and Jake embark on their ill-advised plot to murder him and yet more of the divine Janeane Garofalo. Seriously, dear blog reader, what more could anyone want?

Channel 4 has announced highlights from its new autumn schedule. Most of it's utter crap, of course, but there are one or two highlights. Peep Show will return for a seventh series, while star Robert Webb will also feature in new Internet-based comedy Robert's Web. The Inbetweeners and Misfits will also return for a third and second series respectively. New comedy projects include Mad Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights which will combine footage of the comedian's stand-up routine with brand new sketches poking fun at modern life, Daily Scum Mail get your knives out now and prepare for war, and the much-anticipated David Cross sitcom The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Alan Davies will front new series Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution, which will chart the social history of the '80s through the Qi star's teenage experiences. Other documentary projects include brand new food-based shows from Gordon Ramsay - Ramsay's Best Restaurant will see the chef seek out the finest cuisine in Britain. New drama projects include This Is England '86 - the four-part sequel to director Shane Meadows's 2006 film - and period adaptation Any Human Heart, starring Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadyen, Kim Cattrall and Gillian Anderson. Highly-trailed US drama The Event will also makes its UK premiere on the channel this autumn. Julian Bellamy, acting chief creative officer at Channel 4, said: 'This is an exciting time for Channel 4 as we enter a period of creativity and innovation with more freedom to try new things. We're putting brand new comedy talent in the heart of the schedule, we've backed major dramas including Shane Meadows's stunning TV debut and the sumptuous Any Human Heart, and we've got the hottest show from America this season, The Event.'

A sweep of BBC production teams took prizes at the Creative Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on August 21. Return To Cranford won outstanding costumes for a mini-series for Jenny Beavan and Alison Beard, costume designer and supervisor respectively. It also took the prize for outstanding cinematography, for Ben Smithard, director of photography on the programme. BBC Productions also made Emma which received the the outstanding hairstyling award for Anne Oldham, the department head, hairstyling. The cinematography team on Life won outstanding cinematography for non-fiction programming. The Tudors, made by Working Title and Peace Arch Entertainment for BBC2, won the award for outstanding costumes for a series and outstanding art direction for a single camera series. There were also awards for several US programmes which the BBC broadcasts, including the multi-award winning Mad Men and Family Guy.

Comedians Bo Burnham - in his first appearance at Edinburgh - Josie Long and Sarah Millican are among those shortlisted for best comedy show award at the city's annual festival. Long and Millican were both former best newcomer winners. Russell Kane, winning his third nomination, and Greg Davies from We Are Klang, making his solo debut, make up the quintet of potential winners. This blogger isn't familiar with Bo Burnham's act - although he's been the hit of festival by all accounts - but I've seen, and been greatly impressed by, all the other four. However, I hope that the other nominees aren't too offended when I go for geographical preference and places From The North's mighty weight firmly behind Wor Sarah in hoping she wins!

Big Brother winner Josie Gibson has walked out of the Ultimate Big Brother house just two days into the show's run. Earth-shattering. Or, you know, not. Maybe she was as bored of the whole thing as the rest of us are.

Former Lost star Josh Holloway has admitted that he would love to star in NBC's forthcoming remake of The Rockford Files. It was previously reported that the actor was being considered for the role of private eye Jim Rockford. Holloway told Entertainment Weekly that he had been interested in the show since the final season of Lost, in which his character Sawyer and Miles Straume (Ken Leung) appeared as police officers in the 'flash-sideways' universe. 'I was like, no way, don't even go there because I love The Rockford Files,' he explained. '[But] I thought Ken would be great for [Rockford's sidekick]. I would have loved that show.' Dermot Mulroney was cast as Rockford in a first attempt at a reboot, but was later dropped from the project. Holloway revealed that he had not originally considered the part, as he had been keen to concentrate on a film career. 'I wanted to give movies a shot, so I never even pursued it,' he said. David Shore, executive producer on the new pilot, previously confirmed that the actor was a 'viable choice' for the role.

Louis Walsh has reportedly continued to weigh-up his future on The X Factor. The Irish judge- and butt of one in three jokes that Harry Hill tells these days - previously admitted that he considered walking after being 'annoyed' by his mentoring category this year. A 'source' allegedly told the Daily Lies: 'Louis reckons he has an uphill struggle with the category he's been given. He thinks it's over before it has even begun. He just wants out. He hasn't won since Shayne Ward and is determined to stop Cheryl [Cole] getting a hat-trick this year.' Walsh recently revealed that he finds fellow X Factor judge Simon Cowell hard to work with. Because Cowell is an overbearing egotist or because they both are and one room's not big enough for 'em, he didn't elaborate.

Meanwhile, Simon Cowell has reportedly banned the use of Auto-Tune on The X Factor, it has been claimed. Fans reacted angrily to the use of vocal effects during auditions and accused show bosses of 'deceiving' viewers. According to the Daily Record, Cowell returned from holiday and ordered an immediate ban on the use of Auto-Tune on the show. 'As soon as he landed, he was very busy taking lots of calls from production and ITV bosses,' a source told the paper. 'He said "the shit has hit the fan," and was shocked about the fans' reaction and wanted to do something straight away.' Well stop throwing shit at the fan, then. Simple. Whether this 'source' was the same source who was getting very saucy with the Daily Lies (see above), we do not know. Or, indeed, care. The 'source' added: 'The integrity of the show is very important to him and so he told production that Auto-Tune cannot be used again.' A former member of the programme's production team has claimed that Auto-Tune was also used on contestants in the live finals although producers have denied this. Whether you believe him, them or, indeed, couldn't give a frigging stuff I leave entirely in your own hands, dear blog reader. I just report the news.

The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola is to receive a lifetime achievement Oscar later this year. It will be the sixth Academy Award for the seventy one-year-old - four of them were for his trilogy of films about the fictional Italian-American Corleone crime family. The second of which is, quite possibly, the greatest film ever made. Although Apocalypse Now wasn't bad either! Come to think of it, neither was The Conversation. Bram Stoker's Dracula, on the other hand... Honorary awards will also be given to the French director Jean-Luc Godard, actor Eli Wallach and film historian Kevin Brownlow. The awards will be given out at a ceremony in Los Angeles in November. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science said Coppola's Irving Thalberg Memorial Award was given to 'a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.' Through his American Zoetrope studio, which he established in 1969, Coppola has produced more than thirty films, The Black Stallion, The Outsiders and Lost in Translation, which earned his daughter Sofia an Academy Award nomination for best director. Godard, seventy nine, a key figure in the French New Wave movement, started out writing about cinema before impressing audiences and filmmakers with his influential first feature, Breathless. Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie) wasn't bad either! One Plus One, however, was shite. Even with the Stones footage. Long-time character actor Wallach, ninety four, appeared in The Magnificent Seven, The Misfits, Baby Doll, A Fist Full of Dynamite and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in a career stretching for more than sixty years. He is also in Oliver Stone's upcoming Wall Street sequel. 'Each of these honourees has touched movie audiences worldwide and influenced the motion picture industry through their work,' said Academy President Tom Sherak. 'It will be an honour to celebrate their extraordinary achievements and contributions at the Governors Awards.'

Red Riding and Hot Fuzz actor Paddy Considine is to star in an adaptation of Kate Summerscale's novel The Suspicions of Mr Whicher for ITV. The two-hour drama is being made by Hat Trick Productions and adapted by Neil McKay, whose credits include Mo and See No Evil - The Moors Murders. Set in 1860, the true story tells of the investigation into the murder of three-year-old Saville Kent. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher will film on location around London in October. It is being directed by James Hawes whose work on several episodes of Doctor Who was widely admired. The executive producer for Hat Trick Productions is Mark Redhead who said: 'This a very modern story. It gripped the country in the way that the case of Madeleine McCann has done in our day. It became an obsession for the press and was even debated in the House of Commons. Perhaps for the first time, the Rode Hill House murder exposed the darkness that lay behind the solid front door of the respectable English home. As a story it is riveting but also deeply touching.' The production was commissioned by ITV director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie and controller of drama commissioning Sally Haynes.

Joss Whedon has admitted that he almost quit his TV career after the cancellation of his series Firefly and Dollhouse. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that the double axe was a blow to his confidence. 'I stopped having ideas, which for me is an extremely rare experience,' he said. 'It was something much more subtle [than losing hope], it took away my ability to think in terms of episodic television. For years.' He added that that FOX's cancellation of Firefly in 2002 is 'still the greatest grief I have about my career.' Whedon explained that he had been pessimistic about his career prospects until being hired by Marvel to direct the forthcoming Avengers movie. He explained: 'Honestly, this year with my career, I've been going, "Okay, is it over? Are they done with me and is it time for me to start doing really small [projects] or make a graceful exit?" But then I got The Avengers. So, clearly, I'm an idiot.'

Timeshift channels perform significantly better if they are placed next to their primary siblings in electronic programme guides, according to research. And, in other wholly unexpected news, apparently bears do defecate in the woods. Jesus, has everybody taken the stupid pill today? Television consultants at Attentional cited the examples of UKTV Gold and UKTV Gold+1, which occupy slots 109 and 110 in the Sky EPG respectively. And they got paid for telling us what should be patently obvious to anyone with half-a-head? Nice work if you can get it, I suppose. Good luck to 'em. The audience of the timeshift is sixty three per cent that of the primary channel. Meanwhile, the audience of ITV2+1 - Sky EPG number 184 - is just thirteen per cent that of ITV2, which is located at 118. Mind you, that could always be because most viewers of ITV2 still have mastered the concept of changing channels yet. Dr Farid El-Husseini, the firm's head of econometrics, said it was 'a discrepancy which significantly exceeds any loss that can be solely attributed to ITV2+1's low EPG position. The primary channel acts as a kind of advertiser for the content of its time-shifted variant provided they are next to each other on the EPG, when viewers can switch to the +1 variant with a single press of a button,' he said. The rapid increase in channels on the Sky EPG, and the closure of the waiting list to join the service, have led to broadcasters increasingly rearranging their own channels and exchanging positions with other operators. Last month Discovery paid almost one and a half million pounds in a part-exchange deal to get the prime 144 and 145 slots from Sumo.tv operator Cellcast. Attentional believes it can also predict the effect on audience of channels moving position in the EPG. In a reshuffle in February Virgin Media TV moved Bravo2 down twenty eight places and Virgin1 up twenty nine places. This coincided with a thirty five per cent decrease in viewing for Bravo2. Virgin1's viewing increased by fifty two per cent, though the change was also fuelled by the popularity of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Positioning advantages also exist on platforms and services other than Sky, but a similar trend in exchanges and deals is not thought to have developed elsewhere.

The American songwriter George David Weiss, who helped write chart-toppers such as 'Can't Help Falling In Love' and 'What a Wonderful World', has died aged eighty nine. The composer died of natural causes at his home in Oldwick in New Jersey, his wife, Claire, said. Weiss co-wrote songs which were recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Elvis Presley. He collaborated on several Broadway musicals including Mr Wonderful and Maggie Flynn. A talent musician, he played piano, violin, saxophone and clarinet. However, his mother was always against his chosen career in the music industry and tried to persuade him to train as a lawyer. Weiss was a military bandleader in World War II, but it was at songwriting that he began to excel. Some of the other notable compositions which he wrote, or co-wrote, included 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and 'Oh! What It Seemed to Be.' But his most famous song was 'What A Wonderful World', which he wrote in 1967 with Bob Thiele. Louis Armstrong's version of the song was a worldwide hit a year later. In 1984, Weiss was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and became president of the Songwriters Guild of America until 2000.

The man who wrote the screenplay for a James Bond film was, himself, suspected of being a Communist agent, newly released Security Service files show. The MI5 file on Wolf Mankowitz, 'a convinced Marxist,' shows that he was monitored for more than a decade. Mankowitz wrote the screenplay for the unofficial 1967 Bond movie Casino Royale and was also involved in the initial drafts of the series first movie, Dr No. The files have been made available at the National Archives in Kew or online. Mankowitz, who died in 1998 whilst living in Ireland, introduced film producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to each other. He was subsequently involved in writing the draft script for their first Bond film. Born in London's East End, Mankowitz attended the University of Cambridge where he joined the university's Socialist Society and met his wife Ann, a Communist Party member and psychoanalyst. MI5 first became interested in Mankowitz in 1944, when the couple were living in Newcastle. A letter, mentioning the pair, from suspected Communist David Holbrook was intercepted by MI5, prompting the agency to ask Newcastle police to investigate them. Holbrook wrote that the couple were 'avoiding National Service and doing themselves well' earning six pounds a week lecturing for the left-wing Workers' Educational Association. Reporting back to MI5, Newcastle police said that Mankowitz 'is known to frequently discuss the theories of Marxism with his friends whilst in lodgings.' The dastardly wretch. Nobody tell the Daily Mail they'll want to hang him for that alone. Despite irregular surveillance by the authorities, Mankowitz was able to enlist with the Territorial Army. His commanding officer described him as 'a highly-strung individual of nervous temperament' who was awaiting an interview with a psychiatrist. But he doubted that Mankowitz was a subversive influence. 'Even if he possesses Communist views I do not think he has the personality or strength of character to pass them on to his fellow soldiers,' the officer wrote. 'There is no evidence that he has attempted to air these views whilst with this unit,' he added. In 1948 Mankowitz applied for a job with the Government Central Office of Information but was blocked from joining the organisation. In a letter, MI5 told the COI that he was 'known to be the husband of a Communist Party member and himself a convinced Marxist.' In 1951, Mankowitz was commissioned by the BBC to translate the Chekhov play The Bear. MI5 warned the corporation of Mankowitz's politicial leanings but suggested that his working on the translation did 'not pose a threat to national security.' Mankowitz was still of interest to the security agency into the mid-1950s, particularly after he visited the World Youth Fair Moscow in 1956 as a guest of the Soviet Union. On his return from his ten-day visit he announced to the press his ambition to set up a 'British-Soviet co-film production.' But interest in Mankowitz tailed off after he cancelled a subsequent visit to Moscow, choosing to go to the West Indies on hoilday instead. A year later, during an interview on ITV he noted that 'I'm not a Communist, I'm an anarchist' and he criticised Soviet activities in Hungary. In 1958 he wrote the book for the West End musical Expresso Bongo which was made into a film starring Cliff Richard the following year. Another of his screenplays at this time was a collaboration with director Val Guest on the science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire. During the late 1960s, Mankowitz was part-owner of the Pickwick Club, in Gt Newport St, off Charing Cross Road, Soho where the Peddlers group, led by Roy Phillips, were resident. Mankowitz and his wife, Ann, had four sons; the eldest, Gered, became a noted photographer whose work with rock musicians - particularly The Rolling Stones - was widely admired.

Crocodile Dundee actor Paul Hogan has been barred from leaving Australia over an unpaid multi-million dollar tax bill, his lawyer has said. The Australian Taxation Office served the US-based actor with the order when he returned to Sydney recently for his mother's funeral. The seventy-year-old is alleged to have put over thirty seven million Australian dollars of film royalties in offshore tax havens. Hogan denies the claim, saying he had 'paid plenty of tax' in Australia and elsewhere. The order prevents the actor from leaving Australia until any alleged tax debts are paid or arrangements made for the tax liability to be discharged. Lawyer Andrew Robinson said Hogan was 'stunned and very disappointed the government could treat him as a flight risk. He denies the liability asserted by the ATO and has filed objections which have not been the subject of any response. The process of detaining Paul in Australia away from his wife and child has devastated him and he hopes that discussions between us and the ATO will lead to a prompt resolution allowing him to return to his family,' Robinson added. The tax office reportedly served Hogan with the tax bill for undeclared income last month after a five-year long wrangle. A spokesman from the ATO told the Reuters news agency: 'As he is an individual taxpayer, we can make no comment.' A popular Australian TV comedian, Hogan hit international fame as the eponymous Mick Dundee in the 1986 film, which went on to become Australia's most successful film ever. The actor now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Crocodile Dundee co-star Linda Kozlowski.

Scottish ITV licence holder STV has reported a pre-tax profit of six million pounds in the first half of 2010, helped by growth in its content and digital media businesses. Turnover in STV's content business, which produces programmes such as Taggart and Antiques Road Trip, was up twenty four per cent year-on-year. Initiatives such as the STV Player and a content deal with YouTube helped revenue at STV's digital media division to increase by sixty per cent.

The BBC has trialled a prototype system for showing related web-links around live broadcasts as it explores options for a future of connected-TV services. Writing on the BBC Backstage blog, the BBC's Andrew Littledale said that the corporation increasingly wants to investigate 'what set top boxes connected to the Internet will look like for the user.' The BBC's R&D team has therefore mocked up a prototype application to enable the corporation to 'play around with some user interface ideas.' The Flash-based application is capable of showing hyperlinks to BBC.co.uk pages and BBC News articles dynamically related to the stories being discussed on the live News 24 channel. The links are displayed on the right hand side of the screen, with users being directed to a new web browser tab should they wish to click on them. Or they could, you know, stay and just watch the effing news like normal people. Is it just me or is anybody else remembering Mark Watson's routine on Mock The Week about people ringing you up and asking you if you want to 'watch TV on your mobile phone'? To which the answer, of course, should always be, 'no, I'll watch it on a TV, thanks. And, in answer to your next question, I don't particularly want to have a dump in my washing machine either.' At present, the application is strictly a prototype which only works with the web stream of the BBC News Channel, but Littledale believes that it could help guide future services. 'It needs a bit of work. Sometimes the concepts returned are a little random and it would be good to filter them. We also need to come up with a scalable way of using the subtitles. Both things are doable,' he said. 'It would also be possible to tailor the application to link to specific parts of BBC.co.uk. At the moment we are just linking to news but it could be that we linked to GCSE Bitesize so that students could find Learning content that was relevant to stuff they were watching on TV.' Or, they could go and read a book. Radical suggestion, I know, but that's me, see. Full of crazy, wacky ideas. 'With Google TV launching in the autumn and [Project] Canvas next year expect to see more interfaces like this soon.' This week, Channel Five - under new management and desperate for any viewers, anywhere - returned to the BBC-led IPTV joint venture Project Canvas, which aims to upgrade the Freeview and Freesat platforms to support video on-demand and Internet services.

Burger King's Whopper Bar in New York's Times Square will launch a 'Pizza Burger' in September. Has the world gone quite mad? The fast food meal, which consists of beef burgers, pepperoni, mozzarella, Tuscan pesto and marinara sauce, is the size of four Burger King Whoppers and arranged into six slices to resemble a pizza. I mean, that's just sick. One Pizza Burger allegedly contains one hundred and forty four grammes of fat and its two thousand five hundred calories is the same as the recommended daily intake for men and five hundred more than women's recommendation. I mean, that's a lot even for yer Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader. John Schaufelberger, Burger King's vice president of global marketing, said that the meal is intended as an homage to New York and is 'to be shared. [It] demonstrates the type of menu offerings our guests can expect,' he said. Plus, you know, heart attacks. Very big in New York, I understand.