Tuesday, August 03, 2010


The great American screenwriter and director Tom Mankiewicz, whose credits included several James Bond films, has died from cancer at the age of sixty eight. Mankiewicz wrote the scripts for Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die - yer Keith Telly Topping's two favourite Bond movies, incidentally - and also The Man with the Golden Gun. He worked on the first two Superman films and the TV series Hart to Hart. Mankiewicz, who died at his home on Saturday, underwent surgery to treat pancreatic cancer three months ago. He was a member of a famous Hollywood family - his father Joseph directed All About Eve and his uncle, Herman, co-wrote Citizen Kane. Tom began his film career in the early 1960s when he was hired as an assistant director on John Wayne film The Comancheros. His work on the screenplay of Diamonds Are Forever was the beginning of a long association with the Bond franchise. He also made uncredited contributions to the scripts for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. At the request of director Richard Donner, Mankiewicz fine-tuned the scripts for 1978's Superman and 1980's Superman II sequel - for which he was credited as a creative consultant. 'Making Superman was only possible because when Tom came in, he brought his sense of humour and brought those characters to life,' Donner said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press. 'A lot of people in this town have "the gift of gab." Tom's was unique; there was always a true emotional centre,' he added. In 1967, Mankiewicz joined forces with his friend, Jack Haley Jr to come up with a musical television special tailored for the then hugely popular Nancy Sinatra, Movin' with Nancy, which co-starred her father, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and Lee Hazelwood. Tom wrote the script whilst Haley won a directing Emmy. Simultaneously, producer Joe Pasternak hired Tom to write The Sweet Ride about the California surfing community. The combination of that screenplay and the TV special led to Broadway producer Fred Coe asking Mankiewicz to write the book for the musical version of Georgy Girl. United Artists production head David Picker greatly admired Tom's book of the musical and, as Cubby Broccoli was looking for a writer to do a major reworking of Diamonds Are Forever in hopes of luring Sean Connery back to play James Bond, Picker suggested that Mankiewicz might be a good choice. He was hired on an initial two-week contract and ended up staying on the film for six months, eventually receiving a shared screenplay credit with Richard Maibaum. In 1975, Mankiewicz wrote the screenplay for Mother, Jugs and Speed, a dark comedy about ambulance drivers starring Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel. He co-produced the film with Bullitt director Peter Yates who later asked Tom to come to the British Virgin Islands to do a major rewrite on Yates' next movie, The Deep, with Robert Shaw and Jacqueline Bisset. The film, and adaptation of Peter Benchley's best-seller, was a huge box office success and cemented Tom's reputation as one of Hollywood's first, and best, 'script doctors.' During this period Peter Falk asked Universal to hire Mankiewicz to read the scripts for his series, Columbo, and make plot suggestions. Tom was subsequently paid a consulting fee on each episode for an entire season although he performed no actual writing services. During the 1970s, Tom wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for some great thrillers including The Eagle Has Landed and The Cassandra Crossing. He also wrote and directed episodes of Hart to Hart and directed the 1987 movie Dragnet - starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. Tom's scripts for Diamonds and Live and Let Die had a huge influence on yer Keith Telly Topping as a young chap of, what, eight and nine when he saw those movies in the early 70s. Although they feature different James Bonds, to me they've always felt very much like part one and part two of the same movie, a significant tribute to Tom and director, Guy Hamilton. Between them, they established in the mind of an impressionable young boy from Newcastle just what America was like - really, really sleazy! It was over twenty years before I finally got to travel to the States and discover that, actually, the reality is rather different. I was so disappointed to find that every major city in the US doesn't have a Fillet Of Soul restaurant! 'Names is for tombstones, baby. Y'all take this honky out an' waste him!' Tom Mankiewicz, dear blog reader, a true giant.

Brian Friedman has been accused of being biased toward X Factor hopefuls FYE. The show's Choreographer, never usually short of a quote for the tabloids, tweeted about the boyband after their performance at Boot Camp, describing them as 'truly inspired.' His comments about the five-piece, who were backing dancers on last year's show, have been criticised by rival acts. 'FYE were communicating with the choreographers via Twitter,' a 'source' snitched to the Daily Star Sunday. 'It smacked of favouritism. People were not happy. It looked like certain people were given preferential treatment.' An X Factor 'insider' added: 'Brian Friedman has been silly but has learned his lesson.'

Elliott Gould has reportedly signed up for a guest role on CSI. According to TV Guide, the actor will appear in the second episode of the show's upcoming season. He is expected to play a casino mogul who gets involved with the CSI team when his venue becomes a crime scene. His character is said to have a big impact on Catherine (Marg Helgenberger), whose father Sam also owned a casino. The show's executive producer Carol Mendelsohn explained: 'We will find out more about the legacy Sam left Catherine in that episode.' Gould previously played Ross and Monica's father on Friends. Last year, he had a guest role on Law & Order and starred in an episode of Drop Dead Diva.

Channel Five's X Factor variant Don't Stop Believing has become 'the biggest telly flop of the year' according to the Mirror. 'The programme that everyone's talking about,' in the words of one over-enthusiastic Express stringer at the weekend, is a six million pound live show, which also takes inspiration from the US series Glee. As reported on yesterday's blog the latest episode pulled in a staggeringly poor five hundred and eighty seven thousand viewers on Sunday night and the show has been dropped from prime time with immediate effect as this Sunday's episode is scheduled to start at 5:45pm instead of 8 o'clock. The show has already lost more than half those who watched its much-hyped debut last month. And the disastrous ratings figures came as the struggling channel had its lowest all-time and prime-time audience shares for a Sunday since 1998, at just three per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively. The Mirror states that 'viewers blasted amateurish production values on Don't Stop Believing, hosted by Emma Bunton, and the blandness of the judges, including US singer Anastacia, ex-soap star Tamzin Outhwaite and Duncan James from Blue. One critic said it was so bad it must be an "X Factor spoof." Five programme boss Richard Woolfe had boasted, "Entertainment is back with a bang on Five." But an insider admitted: "Viewers stopped believing before the first episode had even finished."' For non-tabloid readers, 'blasted' means 'criticised.' Only with less syllables. And the 'insider' didn't really say that. Because, well, real people don't talk like that.

Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks has admitted that she felt 'invisible' in Hollywood prior to being cast on the AMC drama. The actress - who plays Joan Holloway on the show - told GQ that she was ignored by casting directors because of her size fourteen figure. 'I've never quite felt like I fitted in,' she revealed. 'It's as if I was invisible before Mad Men.' Hendricks, who recently received an Emmy nomination, confessed that her body shape makes it difficult buying outfits for awards ceremonies. 'It is difficult come awards season, and I need to find a gown to walk down the red carpet in, and there are only size zeros and size twos available,' she said. She also confessed that despite the flirtatious nature of her Mad Men character, men rarely approach her in real life. 'In LA you’re always in your car and you’re separated from people,' she said. 'I don't get hit on much in LA.'

And so to this week's completely bloody pointless manufactured Jeremy Clarkson tabloid story. The Top Gear presenter has 'angered' disability groups - or one spokesperson for one disability group, anyway - after he used the term 'special needs.' According to the Mirror, Jezza was comparing two Ferraris on Sunday night's show when he claimed that one looked like 'a simpleton.' He added that the vehicle, called the 430 Speciale, should be renamed 'the 430 Speciale... needs.' One Suzi Browne from the National Autistic Society, apparently, was widely quoted in half a dozen newspapers as having criticised Jeremy for his comments. 'To use terms such as "special needs" in a derogatory or flippant manner only perpetuates the prejudice and bullying which people with disabilities have to cope with,' she said. This, seemingly, was the only one of these numerous Disability Groups that the report claimed had been angered whom they could round up for a comment. Come on, Mirror, you're not trying hard enough, clearly. You said groups - plural - and yet the best you can drum up with is one measly quote. I wonder why that is? A quick check with the BBC's press office perhaps gives us an answer. A very nice lady there confirmed that, actually, ten people had contacted the BBC to complain about the comments. Ten. Out of an audience of over five million. Or, in other words less than 0.000002 per cent of the viewers. Nevertheless, that didn't stop the Mirror - oh no, they were in full-flow by now. Clarkson has already 'angered Muslim groups and gay campaigners with his remarks on this series of Top Gear' continued the newspaper with an impotent fury that would've been funny if it hadn't been so mean-spirited. Indeed. And, on that occasion, seven people complained. And, still Top Gear continues to get massive ratings. Clearly, the 'anger' of such complainees isn't hurting the programme over much. Though I imagine the publicity engendered by crass and banal press stories such as these is, if anything, dragging even more punters in. So, jolly well done there, then. The papers must absolutely love Jezza, he gives them something to fill a page up every single week regular as clockwork. They must hate it when Top Gear finishes each series - as it has this week - because that means next Monday that's one extra page where they're actually going to have to go out and report some frigging news instead of relying on their usual self-created Top Gear 'controversy' story of the week. Still, if it's any consolation, boys and girls of the British press, it will be back at Christmas. My personal opinion on Clarkson - as someone with a mild touch of Asperger's Syndrome myself - remains consistent. Whatever glakish things he says whilst he's 'in character' anybody who can manage to piss off the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Scum Mail at the same time is, clearly, doing something right. As my mate Mietek observed 'the amount of times I've missed a joke by Jezza or laughed out loud, but I've never once been offended by him in the least bit. He is who he is, he doesn't promote hate nor does he pretend to be a serious journalist. These people who look for reasons to be offended will always be happy, but surely there is a better way to spend one's time.' Indeed. And yet, of course, as we all know from bitter experience, life would not be life for some people if they didn't have something to whinge about. See this blog, for example. Guilty as charged! Next ...

Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof has revealed that he received abuse from fans of the show on Twitter after the series finale had aired. Accepting the Television Critics Association Award for Best Drama Series, Lindelof decided to read out to the audience some of the messages he had been sent. One fan reportedly posted: 'Hey, douche! Instead of backpacking in Europe or whatever the fuck you're doing, how about you give me six years of my life back?' Another wrote: 'My very first tweet. I started this account just to let you know how disappointed I am in you.' A third upset viewer accused Lindelof of being 'an emotional terrorist.'

Katie Derham has dismissed claims that female newsreaders are unintelligent. Some broadcasters, including Kate Adie, Michael Buerk, Andrew Marr and Derham's former colleague Mark Austin, have previously criticised young women working on the news. However, Derham told the Radio Times that it is 'arrant nonsense' to describe female anchors as airheads. 'Women do exactly the same as male colleagues,' she said. 'No-one should underestimate how short a time we'd last if we were dim.' She added: 'Newsreading is not rocket science. It's a craft, like being a carpenter.'

Coronation Street actress Vicky Entwistle has decided to leave the show after fourteen years playing the loudmouthed factory worker Janice Battersby. ITV said Entwistle had 'agonised' over her decision to leave the show, but felt the programme's fiftieth anniversary year was the right time to depart. Last month Coronation Street bosses said several characters would be killed off during the show's fiftieth anniversary. But ITV wouldn't say how the character of Janice would depart. Enwistle said: 'Corrie means so much to me and I could easily have continued to play Janice for the rest of my acting career. But I've been thinking of leaving for some time, and couldn't deny those feelings. I've a hankering to do other drama projects and so if I don't make this move now I never will.' She said she'd had 'a fantastic time playing an extremely feisty character. I'll miss the great friends I've made during my time in Coronation Street, but I know we'll stay in touch and I'm grateful to be part of the show's fiftieth anniversary as it's a huge landmark in British television.'

Producer Josh Reims has denied that casting two black actors in the lead roles of upcoming NBC spy drama Undercovers was an intentional move. Speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour, Reims dismissed suggestions that Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe were hired because of the colour of their skin. Suggestions from whom, exactly? The Ku Klux Klan? Hang on, this is 2010 isn't it? We haven't gone into a time warp to the 1850s by any chance? '[We] were not going to hire two black people because they were two black people,' he said. Personally, I wouldn't have even replied to such an ignorant and crassly racist question so fair play to him. 'We don't consider we are revolutionising TV [but] at the same time we realise it is a big deal.' The show stars Mbatha-Raw and Kodjoe as a married couple who quit the spy game, only to return to help an old colleague. 'When JJ [Abrams] and I wrote the script originally, we decided we wanted to write it like The Philadelphia Story, with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. But they're dead so we didn't hire them.' joked Reims. He continued: 'Boris and Gugu came in, and we sort of knew immediately, these are them. We didn't go out of our way to say we are hiring two black people to be the leads of our show, but we didn't ignore it either. ' Kodjoe admitted that casting non-white actors in lead roles is 'not the norm, but it should be the norm, because that's what the world looks like. We have a chance to be trail-blazers [but] on the other hand, let's inspire people to think of it as normal,' he said.

Sky1 has announced four new US acquisitions as part of its Autumn and Winter line-up, including The Middle. The pick-up of the family comedy, which stars Patricia Heaton, is part of channel head Stuart Murphy's ongoing strategy to make Sky1 known as a destination for comedies. The Middle returns for a second season on ABC in the US next month. Sky1 has also acquired Raising Hope, a new comedy about a man who has fathered a baby with a wanted felon. The cast includes Cloris Leachman and Martha Plimpton. From the autumn Sky1 will also premiere two new Fox dramas, including Ride-Along, a new Chicago-set police drama from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. The other is Lone Star, about a man who juggles two secret lives. Sky1 has several holes in its schedule this season following the conclusion of long-running hits 24 and Lost.

Alan Titchmarsh has hit back at critics of chat shows. The ITV presenter told What's On TV that he believes his show's 'success' - if you can actually call three million viewers at seven o'clock on a Sunday night 'successful' which, personally, I'm not sure you can - is down to his love of talking to his guests. he forgot to add, as if they're plants. 'I like talking to folk and listening to people, I enjoy conversation,' he said. 'I can’t believe it when people say the chat show is dead. The chat show will be dead when conversation’s dead and conversation will never die.' The Walks of Fame host added: 'The chat show is dead when the host doesn't actually want to know an answer to the question he’s just posed.' Titchmarsh said he is looking forward to his show's new series next month and revealed that he had so far been 'lucky enough' to have most of his wish list of guests appear on the show. 'When you're interviewing people like Julie Walters they're just good conversationalists and good entertainers, the best guests are those who realise they're there to entertain,' he said.

STV viewers will reportedly miss out on ITV dramas starring Sir David Jason and Dame Maggie Smith this autumn after the Scottish broadcaster stuck by its controversial scheduling policy. According to the Daily Telegraph, STV is forging ahead with its contentious strategy of ditching high-profile ITV Network dramas in favour of Scottish-focused programming. STV believes that the policy better serves its Scottish audience, but critics claim that the broadcaster is merely attempting to save money with cheaper content. In the autumn schedule, STV has opted against airing Sir David Jason's new drama Albert's Memorial, which is about two World War II veterans attempting to fulfil their friend's dying wish. The broadcaster will also shun Downtown Abbey, a period drama written by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes and starring Dame Maggie Smith, as well as Joe Maddison's War, which stars Kevin Whately and Robson Green. It will also not air A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, the remake of the classic 1970s psychological drama starring Trevor Eve and Hermione Norris. Instead, STV will run a new series of detective show Taggart - what a surprise - before it is aired in the rest of the UK and a second series of Australian crime drama Underbelly. Despite the scheduling strategy, an STV spokesman stressed that ninety per cent of the channel's programming is sourced from the ITV Network. He added: 'STV's programme strategy has proven to be a success and we'll continue to bring viewers a rich, varied and relevant schedule.' However, an ITV 'source' said: 'STV is opting out of a huge swathe of our autumn drama schedule. It will be interesting to see what they are going to replace them with. Will it be more local produce, imported Australian cop shows or dusty old film repeats?' Last year, viewers in Scotland were left outraged after STV dropped popular ITV programmes such as The Bill, Doc Martin and Midsomer Murders. The broadcaster replaced the shows with Scottish heritage series Homecoming, mini-series Sirens, the American Cracker remake Fitz and the surfer movie Blue Crush. Last September, ITV launched legal action against STV to recover thirty eight million pounds of alleged unpaid network budget contributions. However, STV counter-sued ITV for thirty five million on grounds of alleged airtime sales debts and unfair exploitation of video on-demand rights.

James Roday has revealed that he is excited about the upcoming Twin Peaks tribute on Psych. Roday, who co-wrote the episode, told E! Online that he was pleased with the idea. 'It's my favourite TV show of all time,' he explained. 'I think we're going to be able to deliver on a promise of several Twin Peaks [cast members in the episode].' Meanwhile, Psych creator Steve Franks said: 'We're hoping that we can somehow work Ray Wise back into it.' He added: 'There will be pie! And there will be a woman of some sort carrying some sort of log.'

The Parents' Television Council has reportedly called for a boycott of new sitcom $#*! My Dad Says. The CBS series is based on the popular Twitter feed and stars William Shatner in the lead role. According to Entertainment Weekly, the PTC has now written a letter to three hundred advertisers, urging them not to buy slots around the show. The message warned that to do so would make companies 'complicit in the effort to serve up excrement in front of children and families.' Or, serve up '$#*!', anyway. It is the second time the organisation has campaigned against the programme but co-creator Max Mutchnick laughed off the complaints. 'As a parent, it is my opinion that the Parents' Television Council has much more important shit to focus on than the title of a sitcom called BLEEP My Dad Says,' he noted. A quick message to our own dear Mediawatch. See, they have mouthy right-wing nutters in America as well. People, just like you, who are all for freedom of speech until it isn't something they want to hear, at which point they go off the whole subject. You've got a lot in common with them. Nobody takes them very seriously either. Just, you know, an observation.