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 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 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 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.