Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sinking In This Silence

We begin today's blog entry with a short query. Just how will the Daily Express try to spin the Don't Stop Believing finale's piss-poor ratings? Eight hundred and forty two thousand viewers for 'the show everyone's talking about ... but, nobody's actually watching.' Something along those lines, perhaps?

In just about the worst-kept 'secret' in TV, the identity of Top Gear driver The Stig may have been revealed. The Sun are one of several papers to report that documents have emerged linking Formula Three driver Ben Collins to the helmeted character. Papers issued by his company, Collins Autosport, allegedly show that Collins signed up to the show in 2003, the same year that the current white-clad Stig made his first appearance. The contract apparently states that 'driving services were also provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme.' Collins was previously rumoured to be The Stig last year, although a later report suggested that the job is actually taken on by up to four different drivers depending on availability and the locations where segments are to be filmed. The BBC is currently involved in a legal dispute with The Stig, whoever he is, over the driver's plans to release an autobiography in which his identity would be unveiled. Accounts for Collins Autosport Ltd from 2003, the year the present Stig first got behind the wheel, describe it as 'a cornerstone year.' They say the company, which relies 'on the driving services of Ben Collins,' benefited from his track success. They state: 'In addition, driving services were also provided for the BBC, mainly in the Top Gear programme which promotes Ben's driving reputation and offers good long-term prospects for continuing income.' Collins, described on his website as 'an endurance racing specialist,' is also a leading stunt driver for various film and television companies and appeared on-screen in the last Bond film Quantum Of Solace. Collins, was first rumoured to be The Stig when reports last year said that a builder working at his house had found The Stig's trademark white suit and gloves on display in a cabinet and promptly run straight to tabloid to grass him up.

In related news Publisher HarperCollins has announced that they are in a legal dispute with the BBC over the book that will reveal the identity of The Stig. According to BBC News website both sides appeared in London's High Court on Monday after the BBC confirmed it was trying to halt publication. They said that publication of the book would breach contractual and confidentiality obligations. HarperCollins declined to give any official comment. The publisher did, however, attack the corporation for using licence fee cash on legal moves to block the book. Oh, that's classy - playing the 'concerned licence fee payer' card - I'll bet the Daily Scum Mail and Gruniad Morning Star just love that. Of course, it is worth remembering at this point that HarperCollins is a part of the NewsCorp group and, as a consequence, ultimately owned by Rupert Murdoch. So, no obvious and wretchedly sinister lice-scum agenda going down there, then. Oh no, perish the very thought. A BBC spokesman said: 'This situation has come about as a result of an attempt by an external party to profit from unauthorised use of the Top Gear brand, one of the BBC's biggest and most watched shows in the UK around the world. It is also worth stating that the overwhelming majority of Top Gear's viewers tell us they want The Stig's identity to remain under wraps as it is a key part of their enjoyment of the show.' So, anyway, what's the betting that there'll be a - let's say red - coloured Stig taking over the wheel of the reasonably priced car come the next series.

Jack Duckworth's last words in Coronation Street will reportedly see him ask the ghost of his wife, Vera, if it is hot where she is now. The Daily Star Sunday reports that Bill Tarmey has recently filmed his final scenes for the ITV soap. He announced in April that he was quitting the role after three decades. It was previously claimed that 'bosses' (tabloid shorthand for 'producers' only with less syllables) planned to have the spirit of his deceased wife Vera (Liz Dawn) appear. Which would, technically, make Corrie into a Telefantasy show, even if only for one episode! Well, it worked for Bergerac. The report suggests that Dawn has agreed to return for the one-off appearance. 'Liz has already agreed and will be back on set in the coming weeks,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'They always had the comedy element as a couple and the scriptwriters get the balance just right.' They added: 'Vera will try to persuade Jack to join her and reassure him he'll be okay.' Viewers will apparently see Jack ask his wife: 'Is the place where you are now hot?' A Corrie 'insider' - possibly different from the 'source' although the paper is rather vague on this matter - said that the 'heartbreaking' scenes had 'left cast and crew fighting back tears. There are people who have been working on the show for more than forty years who have never seen anything like it,' the 'insider' said. Allegedly. 'The scenes of Jack coming to terms with his illness and accepting that he is going to die soon have left even the hardest of us with a lump in our throats.' The 'source' added: 'Bill is playing the scenes brilliantly. But there was no way the bosses would let Jack die without one last scene with Vera.'

Details of Janeane Garofalo's role in Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour have been released. The former West Wing and 24 star signed up for the spin-off earlier this year. TV Guide claims that Garofalo will play a character called Beth Griffith in the show, which focuses on a team of agents in the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit. Beth, who is described as strong-willed and outspoken, joins the team from the FBI Threat Assessment Task Force. Cooper (Forest Whitaker) specifically asks for her despite her reputation as a difficult colleague.

Ofcom has cleared ITV over the 'unfortunate error' which led to viewers on ITV HD missing England's opening goal at the World Cup. On 12 June, over a million viewers were left 'outraged' when ITV HD switched to a Hyundai advert and then a blank screen just as Steven Gerrard scored in the fourth minute against the USA. The fifteen million viewers on normal ITV were unaffected and, as consequence, found the whole thing bloody hilarious. Despite receiving eight hundred and twenty three complaints about the incident, media regulator Ofcom has opted against imposing sanctions on ITV over what was deemed an 'unfortunate' mistake. ITV said that it 'deeply regretted' the incident, which was caused by 'human error' in the master control room operated by its transmission provider, Technicolor. The human who erred has now, reportedly, been terminated. With extreme prejudice. The broadcaster said that a 'take-next' switch had been 'inadvertently activated which led to the next scheduled item, a Hyundai sponsorship bumper, being transmitted prematurely.' In response, ITV has hired external consultants to run an operational review within Technicolor to introduce extra precautions against such an incident occurring again. Despite accepting that the error was 'inopportune and regrettable,' ITV expressed its belief that the situation only affected a minority of the game's total audience, as over ninety per cent of viewers were watching in standard definition on ITV. After reviewing the situation, Ofcom acknowledged the frustration of ITV HD viewers at the transmission break, but decided that ITV's actions to resolve the situation had been sufficient. 'The inclusion of an unscheduled break at a crucial point of the game was understandably disruptive and we appreciate the frustrations of many viewers who complained to Ofcom,' said the watchdog. 'Ofcom notes ITV's acknowledgement of this error and that during half-time coverage of the match, an apology was broadcast to viewers by presenter, Adrian Chiles. Ofcom is also aware that following the match, both ITV and Technicolor apologised for the incident. Ofcom accepts that the incident was an unfortunate error and ITV made no commercial gain from it. We note the operational review ITV is carrying out and the immediate action taken both by ITV and Technicolor, including specific measures to avoid this type of incident recurring. In view of this, we consider the matter, on this occasion, to be resolved.'

Sky Sports News has left Freeview and become exclusively available on pay-TV platforms, including the launch of its new Sky-exclusive high definition channel. From Monday, Sky Sports News has been replaced on digital terrestrial television with Sky3 +1, which offers an hour time shift of the already available Sky3 channel. Sky Sports News will now only be available on Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk TV, along with Sky's online and mobile platforms. Sky customers taking any Sports Pack - like yer Keith Telly Topping - or the News & Events Pack will be unaffected by the switch. All other Sky TV customers will receive Sky Sports News as a six-month bonus channel until 23 February 2011 after which they will be cruelly deprived of their daily dose of Georgie Thompson. Under the changes, Sky Sports News HD has also launched exclusively on Sky channel 455. Available to all Sky+ HD customers, the channel offers sharper picture quality and HD highlights in a new widescreen format. For the launch of Sky Sports News HD, a raft of new programmes has been commissioned, including First, Fast And Now running a daily sports news round-up every morning from 10am to 1pm. The news broadcaster has also hired more reporters, presenters and production staff to provide deeper coverage of the big stories in sport. Also today, Sky Sports News has launched a dedicated iPad application offering 'breaking news, views and opinion from the world of sport.' The app also hosts live streaming of Sky Sports News Radio, a brand new service broadcasting rolling sports news coverage. The radio service is also available online from the Sky Sports website. The launch of Sky Sports News HD is part of Sky's strategy to give its new and existing subscribers additional premium sports content in the face of strong competition from BT, which now offers Sky Sports 1 and 2 on its BT Vision service.

Neil Gaiman has posted a deleted scene from his Doctor Who script online. The brief preview, cut from the final draft of his forthcoming episode, features the Doctor and Amy investigating a mysterious bowl of food. 'The Doctor has just been given a bowl of something to eat,' wrote Gaiman on his blog. 'Something possibly alien.' The writer also revealed that the tenth draft of the script was rewritten by showrunner Steven Moffat. Gaiman said: 'Steven came to my rescue when I felt like I couldn't even pick it up again, and for that, he is a hero.' He added: 'It hasn't really changed that much. It just gets tighter and, I hope, more like itself.' He explained that the episode is now nearing the production stage, with a table read through 'about ten days away.'

Miranda Hart has admitted that she is still shocked at the success of her BBC2 sitcom. The comedy actress is currently writing the second series of Miranda after the BBC recommissioned the show following its first six-episode run. 'I might fall over, I can reveal that exclusively!' she told What's On TV of the new block of episodes. 'We're filming in October, and I feel a lot of pressure, because I can't believe how well it went down. I'm still in shock!' Hart went on to explain the inspiration behind the series and admitted that it had been a risk. 'I always hark back to the '70s, Eric Morecambe would be my complete hero,' she said. 'Seeing him looking to camera and doing something silly with his glasses, I remember thinking how I would love to do that one day.' She added: 'I want to bring that light entertainment into a contemporary sitcom, although it was risky to do it in 2010 when it feels so old-fashioned.'

David Mitchell and Robert Webb have revealed that they have started filming new episodes of Peep Show. The double act announced that they had started the seventh series on their Twitter pages. Webb, who plays Jeremy, posted a link to his Daily Telegraph column on Saturday, adding: 'Last column before seven weeks off to make Peep Show. Will try to do updates i.e. "just did another scene," "am tired" etc.' Meanwhile, Mitchell updated his followers this morning, saying: 'Peep Show series seven shoot starts today. I don't want anyone to get over-excited but this morning I think we're filming in a KFC!'

The mother of James Bulger has criticised the ITV drama Law & Order: UK for featuring a storyline involving the murder of a young child. The Sun reports that an episode of the programme's third series will show two young girls kidnapping and killing a young boy. Bulger's mother Denise Fergus said: 'It's virtually a direct copycat of what happened to James. I'm certain they knew it would rub salt in the wounds for me and my family.' She added that she was 'appalled and disgusted' by the plot, calling it 'shock-value' drama. However, an ITV spokesperson denied that the episode was inspired by Bulger's murder. They insisted that the story was 'based loosely' on the case of Mary Bell, the ten-year-old Newcastle schoolgirl who killed two toddlers in 1968. The programme features CCTV footage of two girls aged thirteen and ten leading a young boy by the hand, before strangling him to death and leaving their initials on his chest. DS Ronnie Brooks, played by Bradley Walsh, sees the film and says: 'Please don't tell me this is what I think it is.'

Syfy has ordered the ninety-minute pilot Three Inches from writer Harley Peyton it was announced yesterday. The action-adventure-fantasy will be produced by FOX Television Studios and Executive Producer Bob Cooper, whose Landscape Entertainment is producing. Peyton also serves as executive producer. In Three Inches, professional daydreamer and underachiever, Walter, is struck by lightning, and develops a unique super power — the ability to move any object using just his mind. But only a distance of three inches. So, not that 'super' you might think. He's soon recruited by a covert team of superheroes each gifted with their own extraordinarily ordinary abilities. Together, the unlikely band of heroes proves that 'super' is simply a state of mind. 'Three Inches is a fun, smart, off-beat spin on the superhero genre. It introduces a new group of crime fighters who possess some imaginative – if not all that super – powers,' said Stern. 'We look forward to working with Harley, Bob, and FOX Television Studios on this project.' Peyton was producer and/or writer of more than twenty episodes of Twin Peaks, for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for Drama Series (1990). He also wrote the screenplay for Less Than Zero based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. He is currently working on a follow up to the feature film The Thomas Crown Affair. And, the most exciting thing about this project is the casting of James Marsters as Troy, the leader of the team. Yep, I think I might watch that one.

Channel 4 has been criticised for developing a new reality series about physical deformities. Beauty And The Beast will see an 'attractive person' and someone with 'different types of disfigurement' share a house together, the Daily Telegraph reports. The home will allegedly be filled with mirrors to highlight the difference between the participants' appearances, while the duo will be followed as they go on trips in London. The programme's producers described the show as 'an immersive lifestyle experience that uncovers attitudes to looks and beauty,' and not in the least bit a dubious freak show. Oh no, definitely not that. Of course, MediaWatch director and gobshite Vivienne Pattinson criticised the concept. She ranted some bollocks or other but, frankly, this blogger is getting rather tired of giving the oxygen of publicity this woman - elected by no one - who, as far as I can work out, speaks for herself and about ten other nutters but nobody else that actually matters. The programme's production manager, Nadia Afiari, defended the concept, saying: 'The show is looking at society's thoughts towards beauty and how we're driven by beauty, and as part of it we're looking at disfigured people in society and how they cope on their day-to-day basis in comparison with someone who's quite obsessed with beauty.' Sounds a bit dubious to me but, to be honest, if MediaWatch are against it then, frankly, I'm for it. On general principle. A spokesperson for Channel 4 added: 'It is part of our remit to tackle difficult and often marginalised issues and open these up to a mainstream audience and debate. The series aims to challenge people's narrow definition of beauty in a frank and engaging format and will be key to our public service offering next year.' Filming for the six-part series is expected to begin next month, while the show is currently scheduled to air in 2011.

Viewers are reported to have criticised The X Factor for its production work on acts' vocals. Viewers quickly picked up on the use of vocal effects on performers from Saturday's launch show, including Zimbabwe-born Gammu, duo G&S and Shirlena Johnson. Fans reportedly 'filled the Internet' accusing the show's producers of 'deceiving' the public by using techniques such as auto-tune to resolve weak or poorly pitched vocals. Representatives for the reality series have denied that auto-tune was used, but did admit that alterations had been made during the production process to ensure 'an entertaining experience' for viewers. An official show spokesperson told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'The judges make their decisions at the audition stage based on what they hear on the day, live in the arena. The footage and sound is then edited and dubbed into a finished programme, to deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers.' Meanwhile, an 'inside source' told the Mirror: 'Auto-tune is not used in the live shows but purely for the audition phase. It has always been part of the show for pre-recorded items. Whether people are more savvy to auto-tuning now than they have been, we're not sure. Every contestant is treated in the same way, if they have a dreadful voice, they still have a dreadful voice.' X Factor bosses have admitted using what they describe as 'vocal enhancement processes' on the ITV talent show.

Hermione Norris has admitted that she worried about leaving [Spooks]. Norris's character Ros was killed off at the end of the last series but the actress has now explained that she didn't know whether she would land any more television roles. 'It wasn't easy because Ros may well be the most favourite character I've ever played,' she told the Daily Telegraph. 'And being so physical on that show was just great fun. But you have to take a leap of faith, and I knew I had to stop her before she stopped me.' However, Norris revealed that she enjoyed her new role in ITV's remake of Bouquet Of Barbed Wire. 'By the end, everyone has slept with somebody else and yet it doesn't seem salacious or gratuitous, just rather heartbreaking,' she said. 'It's a drama about people and humanity and how those who are hurt go on to hurt others. You watch a family imploding and disintegrating and everything just breaking apart.'

John Glover will return to Smallville for the show's tenth and final season. Entertainment Weekly reports that the actor will reprise his role of Lionel Luthor for multiple episodes. The character was seemingly killed off in the season seven episode Descent. However, Glover will now appear in at least two new episodes, both scheduled to air in November. Other past Smallville regulars expected to return for the final season include John Schneider (Jonathan Kent), Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl) and James Marsters (Brainiac). Last month, the series' lead Tom Welling also claimed that Glover's on-screen son Michael Rosenbaum was considering returning to the series.

Fern Britton has been ditched as the face of Ryvita with the firm trying to make its advertising 'relevant' according to press reports. The presenter’s six-year association with the crispbread maker has looked an awkward fit since she admitted she had a gastric band to aid weight loss. Ryvita executives hired a new advertising agency to revamp the image of the low-fat snacks and they opted to drop Fern. The former queen of daytime TV was forced to reveal in 2008 that she secretly had the stomach band fitted two years earlier. She told This Morning viewers live on air: 'There are some things a girl likes to keep to herself.' It helped her lose five stone and drop from a size sixteen to a size twelve. Or fourteen, depending on which paper you read. But the admission caused great embarrassment because she had been advocating natural weight loss and was the face and body of Ryvita for two hundred thousand pounds per year. The company stood by Fern and insisted that despite the band, the main cause of her slimming was 'healthy eating and exercise.' But now Ryvita have admitted: 'We met her and her agent and decided it's better all round that we go separate ways. The message she was endorsing wasn't getting across. We needed to refresh the product and take a different approach. With any advertising campaign we need to ensure people take note of it. It's not that people were switching off, it's that they weren't switching on. We needed to adapt our advertising to make it relevant for each generation.'

A twenty one-year-old woman with a fear of bananas has been diagnosed as suffering from Bananaphobia. Expect the movie in a cinema near you within six months. Fran Dando is so scared of the fruit that even seeing one causes her to shake, sweat and sometimes vomit. Yeah, I'm a bit like that with broccoli myself. I didn't know there was a name for it. 'It began when I was seven and my brother put a banana in my bed as a joke,' Metro quotes her as saying. 'I felt his horrible, slimy thing underneath my body.' Are you sure this was a banana, love? 'I was frozen in panic and hyperventilating. Ever since then, if I see one the same feeling comes back,' she added. The children's worker admitted that she is embarrassed by the fear. 'I generally do not explain my fear unless a situation comes up,' she said. 'Then I will say, "Sorry I am going to have to leave the room." It is embarrassing - it is such a nonsensical fear.' Well ... phobias are like that - they're irrational but cause extreme anxiety. Don't sweat it, love, we've all got something we're terrified of. However, Dando's two-year-old son has not developed the phobia and loves bananas, which means she has to come into contact with them. 'I have to use a blanket to pick them up and put them in the trolley and then when I am at home I have to wear rubber gloves and use a tea towel to open one and give it to him,' she said.