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.