Friday, August 20, 2010

You & I Move To The Beat Of A Different Drum

The BBC has reportedly threatened to axe Top Gear star The Stig over his plans to publish a tell-all book. In this case quite possibly literally, with a real axe. It was revealed yesterday that the racing driver, whose identity has remained a closely-guarded secret, was locked in a legal battle with BBC bosses over the publication of an autobiography about his time on the show. However, the corporation is now preparing to drop him from the motoring programme if he proceeds to release the book unveiling his true identity, according to the Sun. A 'source' said: 'Bosses are really angry. Part of the charm of the show is people don't know who The Stig is - if he revealed his identity that would be lost.' The source went on to compare the situation to that of The Stig's black-suited predecessor, Perry McCarthy, who is said to have been fired from the show seven years ago after he went public with his real identity. The BBC previously argued that the book would 'breach agreed contractual and confidentiality obligations,' but The Stig's legal team are believed to have countered this claim with what the paper describes as 'their own documentation.' Whatever the hell that means. Sources insist that only about six people - including the programme's presenters, Jez Clarkson, Jimmy May and Dick Hammond - know his identity for certain. Even Hollywood celebrities who appear on the BBC2 programme, which has a global audience, are not allowed to see his face and a strict clause in his contract prevents him revealing his identity to 'anyone.'

Celebrity MasterChef peaked with an audience of 6.7 million viewers on Thursday, overnight figures show. The cookery show's penultimate edition averaged 6.19m at 8pm, recording a huge week-on-week rise of 1.6m as viewers saw Lisa Faulkner and Chrstine Hamilton both bursting into tears at the slightest provocation and some amusing hijinx on board the Orient Express. Mistresses was boosted by having Celebrity MasterChef as its lead-in, with 4.02m tuning-in from 9pm. Earlier on the channel, The ONE Show, for the third time in four episodes this week, topped four million. BBC1 benefited hugely from the absence of ITV's usual Thursday night soap hour, which was shunted to Wednesday this week after the broadcaster's decision to show Liverpool's Europa League qualifier. The match, in which the Scousers beat Turkish side Trabzonspor 1-0, and Joe Cole continued his miserable time since moving to Anfield by missing a penalty, was seen by a meagre 3.64m between 7.30pm and 10pm, and a further two hundred and thirty thousand viewers on HD. Elsewhere last night, Channel 4's 8pm Location, Location, Location outing achieved 1.96m. At 9pm, Undercover Boss pulled in 2.24m, outperforming Five's Hotel Inspector, which had 1.91m viewers. BBC2 had respective audiences of 2.07m and 2.57m for Natural World and Digging For Britain at 8pm and 9pm.

Smouldering bad-boy icon Josh Holloway is reportedly being considered for the lead role in NBC's forthcoming remake of The Rockford Files. Dermot Mulroney was originally cast as private detective Jim Rockford, but was later dropped when NBC executives expressed dissatisfaction with the unaired pilot. Entertainment Weekly now reports that Holloway - who played Sawyer on Lost - could take over the part. Executive producer David Shore admitted that the heart-throb actor was 'a viable choice' but added that production was at 'too premature' a stage to confirm casting. 'NBC is still high on the project,' he confirmed. 'They would like it to happen. Peter Berg's involved producing and possibly directing and we will be looking for a new lead.' The previous pilot also starred Firefly's Alan Tudyk and Beau Bridges.

Simon Cowell has claimed that three-piece J'Ham are the worst ever group to audition on The X Factor. And, he should know. The trio, who reportedly met over the Internet, compare themselves to Black Eyed Peas and N-Dubz. However, they fail to impress the judges with their rendition of Lady GaGa's 'Bad Romance' in London, which ended up leaving Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole in a stunned silence. Speaking about the group's performance, Cowell says: 'Do you want me to be honest?' I think my answer at that point would have been 'no, Simon, lie to me.' He continued: 'Probably the worst group we've ever had on this show. I have genuinely never ever heard anything like that.' When the band asked for a second chance, the judge quickly added: 'No, absolutely never.' Walsh said: 'It was like three cats being strangled down an alleyway. Really, really bad. You were all out of tune.'

ITV has decided to axe crime drama Identity after only one series, a report claims. The programme - which stars Keeley Hawes and Aidan Gillen - saw a drop in ratings throughout its six-episode run which began last month, the Sun reports. It achieved a strong 5.6m viewers for its first episode but that audience fell to 3.4m for its final episode earlier this month. A 'source' told the paper: 'Executives weren't happy with the ratings and the fact they got worse as the show went on wasn't a good omen.' However an ITV spokesman said that 'no decision had been reached on the drama's future.' So, that means it's gone.

The BBC is to launch a new sitcom script competition, aimed at encouraging ideas from writers who are not white and middle-class. Fabulous. I'm white and working class, can I have a go? The idea has reportedly 'angered' rent-a-quote Tory MP Philip Davies, someone with a well-developed ability to adopt a snorting, narrow-minded Little Englander pose at the very drop of a hat it would appear. Davies said: 'Licence fee payers will be appalled to be subsidising a politically correct competition like this.' Just to repeat what we always say on this blog whenever this odious little excuse for a man makes his mouth go in public on pretty much any subject; anything that Philip Davies is against, I'm for - on general principle. Because, see me, I'm a licence fee payer, Mr MP, sir. You know, one of those people you claim to be speaking on behalf of. So, can I just inform you - once and for all - that you do not remotely speak for me. Thanks. Glad we got that cleared up, back to the subject in hand. All Mixed Up will ask entrants to submit the first ten pages of a sitcom, with the best six scripts being developed for a showcase, featuring professional actors, at the Soho Theatre in December. A panel will then choose the best of these, with the winner receiving one thousand pounds and the runner-up getting five hundred pounds. In return, the BBC will have exclusive rights to develop these two scripts, with the possibility of making them into series. The project is being run by the BBC's College of Comedy, whose creative head Micheál Jacob said: 'We hope the competition will attract entries from writers who may feel their lives are not currently reflected in television comedy, and will introduce us to funny and fresh new voices. I think there is a feeling perhaps that the BBC is a closed door for writers who are not necessarily white middle class. I wanted to say the door is open and that we want to find shows that reflect the fact Britain is a multicultural society.' The competition will be launched on the BBC writers' room website on 31 August.

Google is reportedly finding it difficult to attract US broadcast partners to Google TV, as the major networks view the service as a potential threat to their businesses. In May, Google officially unveiled the new Google TV service, which will enable viewers to browse the web whilst watching television. Powered by the Android operating system, Google TV will initially be incorporated into TV sets and Blu-ray players manufactured by Sony. The first products will launch in the US this autumn. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google has recently been meeting with officials from the major US TV networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX - to persuade them to collaborate with Google TV. However, sources close to the situation say that the content owners remain sceptical about Google's ability to create a business model that would compensate them for the expected erosion of their existing broadcast businesses. Google executives are thought to be negotiating hard to get the networks to make their video on-demand content available on Google TV. The firm also wants the broadcasters to allow Google TV to offer listings and recommendation information around their programming. Users on Google TV will be able to search for hit programmes and then browse a range of associated content, such as additional episodes and cast information. The service will also contain software that can run video from anywhere on the web - including short clips on YouTube and videos posted on company websites. However, content owners are considering blocking access to their videos for Google TV, or declining Google's request to adapt their videos for the larger television screen. Anthony Soohoo, a senior vice president at CBS Interactive, said that the company is interested in exploring opportunities with 'potential partners who value our content.' However, he added that the 'key next step is gaining an understanding of Google's business model for the product and how it relates back to content owners such as CBS.' A Google spokesman said that the search engine giant is 'excited to work with partners to help them reach more users through the web.' Google is launching Google TV as a way to attract a new audience in the living room and gain a slice of the seventy billion dollar US television advertising market.

Lie To Me actor Mekhi Phifer has admitted that he has enjoyed the development of his character Ben Reynolds throughout the show's two seasons. The actor told the Los Angeles Times that Ben's relationship with Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) has become less antagonistic. 'He's not as abrasive as he was at the beginning, because now he's starting to see that Lightman's techniques churn out good results,' he explained. 'And vice versa, he's learning to trust my character.' Phifer revealed that he particularly enjoyed exploring his character's past in the second season. 'I loved that,' he said. 'It's always a great thing when you can have a character arc, and you give the audience something different that really brings insight to the character and helps you understand their motivations.' He also confirmed that the forthcoming season finale will end on a cliffhanger. 'It's definitely a cliffhanger,' he said. 'There's a tragedy that happens that brings [Ben and Cal] closer together. It really is about us taking our relationship to the next level.'

Channel 4 is planning to launch a new nightly topical comedy series. The Late List will be broadcast each night at 11pm, with episodes recorded just hours before transmission. No hosts or guests have yet been confirmed for the show, though Channel 4 has confirmed that the presenting team will be made up of 'a mix of established and new talent.' A representative for the channel said: 'Made up of a combination of celebrity guests and comedy VTs, The Late List will bring you everything you need to know about "today," whether it's news, entertainment, sport or anything else that may prove a springboard to great comic material. Essentially, if it's not on The Late List, it's not worth knowing. [The series] will be informative, fresh and, above all, funny!' The channel's previous attempts at a topical entertainment programme include 2008's Tonightly, with current ONE Show host Jason Manford, and The TNT Show in 2009, which went down like a sack of shite, largely because it featured the two least funny alleged comedians in TV history Jack Whitehall and Holly Walsh.

Melinda Clarke has claimed that her Nikita character is 'a master manipulator.' The actress plays Amanda, a powerful woman in the mysterious Division agency which trained Nikita (Maggie Q) and which is now home to Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca). Speaking to the Zap2It website, Clarke admitted that she does not know the full nature of Amanda's history. 'I can only assume that Amanda twenty years ago was in the same position that maybe Alex was in,' she said. 'However, there's all kinds of back stories we can come up with. Maybe she's the one who actually runs Division - who knows?' Clarke added that the other characters should be afraid of Amanda, saying: 'I don't think anyone who works at Division wants to be on the wrong side of Amanda. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of Amanda. We should assume that she's a master manipulator, she's a psychologist. She can probably get anything and everything out of somebody and also brainwash them.'

Sky has today closed down the Sky Real Lives portfolio of channels and re-allocated the budget to Sky1 and Sky2. As of 5.59am this morning, Sky Real Lives and Sky Real Lives 2 ceased broadcasting on the digital satellite platform. Sky Real Lives HD and Sky Real Lives +1 have also shut down. Launched three years ago to replace Sky Travel, Sky Real Lives produced a range of real-life programmes aimed at women in the thirty five to fifty four age-range. However, Sky has decided that the channel's audience can be 'better served' by allocating the programming budget to the main Sky1 and Sky2 channels. 'By focusing content investment on those channels which offer greater reach and exposure, we believe we can better meet customer demands,' said head of Sky Real Lives Barbara Gibbon. 'There will be no compromise on-screen, nor in satisfying Sky Real Lives viewers, who'll continue to enjoy a rich diversity of high-quality pay-TV programming.'

John Leslie is reportedly in talks to be a contestant on this year's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! According to the Daily Record, the former Blue Peter and This Morning presenter is planning to relaunch his career, which pretty much ended in 2008 following a number of - unproven - rape allegations. 'John has had several meetings with ITV about taking part and it's now at an advanced stage,' a source claimed. 'He's hoping it will help get him back into telly. He thinks it would make great viewing.' However, a spokesperson for the show refused to confirm if the forty five-year-old would be part of the next line-up, saying only that no details of contestants will be released 'until transmission.'

What would happen if six celebrities in their seventies and eighties went back to 1975? Could just one week of living in the past make Liz Smith, Lionel Blair, Dickie Bird, Kenneth Kendall, Sylvia Sims and Derek Jameson physically turn back the clock; could reliving their heyday allow them to think of themselves as younger? BBC1 sends six well-loved personalities back to the badly decorated time of fondue and flares to conduct an extraordinary experiment which will change how people see ageing for ever. From the food to the clothes, the television shows to their day jobs, the group is immersed in the world of their heyday in order to discover the enormous power the mind has over the body, and to illustrate how people age in a new four-part series, The Young Ones - no, not them - which has been scheduled for Thursadays starting 9 September. Potential car-crash telly it might be but, I dunno, I have a feeling this one might actually be worth a bit of viewers' time.

The BBC has secured its first major political interview with Tony Blair since he stood down as prime minister in 2007. Andrew Marr will conduct the exclusive hour-long interview with the former Labour leader, which will be aired on BBC2 on 1 September at 7pm. It will represent the BBC's first retrospective interview about Blair's time at Number 10 since he left office three years ago. The interview also coincides with the release of Blair's memoir A Journey, for which he recently pledged all of the proceeds, including the four and a half million pound advance, to the Royal British Legion. Marr said: 'Having the chance to speak to the former PM for an hour is a remarkable opportunity to learn more about what he was trying to achieve in office and how with hindsight he now regards his record.'

Colin Morgan has revealed that new episodes of Merlin will be darker than past seasons. He told SFX that the third series of the BBC drama will see relationships between characters stretched to breaking point. 'Bad things are happening,' he confirmed. 'The third series is set a year in the future. We get straight into the action and we don't really hold back on a lot of the confrontations, and the changes in the characters are evident right from the very beginning.' He added: 'Friendships are being forged and broken and reborn and burned again.' However, producer Julian Murphy insisted that comedy will still play a big part in the programme. 'It's still a family show,' he claimed. 'We're careful about what we do. We also keep a lot of humour. There's a fantastic story where a goblin (played by Mark Williams) appears, which is probably the funniest episode we've ever made.'

David and Victoria Beckham have reportedly sacked a third of their staff, after an accountant warned them that they were wasting money. The Sun reports that the couple were reluctant to let the fourteen of around fifty staff they employ worldwide go. Victoria called in the expert when she feared that they were spending too much when others were struggling because of the economy. So, her solution to that was to put fourteen more people on the Nat King Cole just to prove how much she cares? Bloody hell, that's harsh. A 'friend' is alleged to have told the paper: 'This very no-nonsense accountant gave it to Vic straight and said, "You can afford to employ all of these people. But why the hell do you?"' The couple were told that they did not need to keep so many staff at their homes in England, Los Angeles, Dubai and France. The friend added: 'Once the accountant pointed out that level of staffing was not required Vic pushed the button. There has been a large downsize. David and Victoria are multi-millionaires but that doesn't mean they have to waste money - and they were hemorrhaging it.' The paper claims that a cleaner who worked for the couple at their 'Beckingham Palace' for eight years was replaced by two 'cost efficient' foreign staff. It also suggests that their chief gardener will now double up as a chauffeur - driving the pair to their airport. Remember to tug your forlock and genuflect before opening the door for herself, Mellors. It's how she likes it, apparently.

TV presenter Fiona Coyne, who hosts the South African version of quiz show The Weakest Link, has been found dead at her home, police have confirmed. Captain Stephen Knap, of Cape Town police, said Coyne's housekeeper found the star's body at her home in Fish Hoek on Wednesday. He refused to confirm or deny reports that the forty five-year-old had killed herself. 'We've opened up an inquest and the course of death will be determined from that,' he said. Coyne was also a playwright and actress and author, writing the book Who Moved My Ladder? The Working Woman's Guide to Success. She beat five hundred hopefuls to the job and flew to London to train with Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson in 2003.

The executive producer of The Shield has admitted that there are some things he would change about the series. Shawn Ryan told UGO that he is happy with the show but will always find room for improvement. 'I'm very self-critical, so the things I think I could be better tend to be specific things on specific episodes,' he explained. 'I actually came across an episode on Spike, where it was re-running, and I was like, "Oh, you know, which episode is this? Where in the run is this?" And it was an episode where we lost an actor at the last minute and had to do a lot of rewriting, and I was watching this and thinking, "We could have done this or that instead."' However, Ryan explained that he is pleased with the show overall, saying: 'On a whole, I'm very, very happy with it, in the grand scheme of things. I don't think there's anything I'd do different. But there's a hundred things I'd do different in each episode, if that makes sense.' He continued: 'It's very hard to make a TV show, and very hard to make them well. You're just trying to minimise mistakes - I don't think you ever completely eliminate mistakes. So if you're honest with yourself, you've never made a perfect episode.'

BBC television presenter Ray Gosling is to be charged with wasting police time after claiming he smothered a terminally ill lover. Mr Gosling, seventy one, from Nottingham, made the claims in a BBC Inside Out documentary about so-called mercy killings, broadcast in February. He was later arrested on suspicion of murder and released on bail. The Crown Prosecution Service said Gosling was due before Nottingham magistrates on 14 September. Wasting police time carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and a fine of up to two thousand five hundred pounds.

Kenny Edwards, an original member of country rock band the Stone Poneys, has died aged sixty four. A statement on his website said he died 'peacefully and surrounded by love' on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Times had previously reported that the singer-songwriter and guitarist had been rushed to hospital after collapsing while on tour. The Stone Poneys, featuring the teenage Linda Ronstadt on vocals, disbanded in 1967 after their major breakthrough hit, a quite beautiful version of Mike Nesmith's 'Different Drum' (one of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite songs as it happens, dear blog reader). Edwards went on to form the folk-rock band Bryndle with Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman and Andrew Gold. He was also a supporting guitarist and singer for artists including Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Brian Wilson and Art Garfunkel.

The makers of the Harry Potter movies are reportedly suing a Swiss prophylactic company over its 'Harry Popper' branded condoms. According to newspaper Bote, Warner Bros is taking legal action against the company, claiming that they are breaching copyright. Not to mention taste and decency! The package artwork for the 'Harry Popper' brand shows a purple, glasses-wearing condom twirling a wand with its tongue extended. 'The image of my client is in danger,' a lawyer representing Warner Bros reportedly said. 'Harry Popper' condoms have allegedly been on sale in Switzerland since 2006.

Olly Murs - remember him? - has admitted that he 'enjoys pulling girls,' according to the Sun. The opinion of the girls he 'pulls' is, tragically, not recorded.

West Midlands Police officers believe they have been given something of a bum deal by being told to wear 'sensible underwear' whilst on duty. They were informed that they should wear underwear of 'an appropriate colour' and which was 'inconspicuous' under uniforms. Some staff have described the advice, which is said to have appeared on the police 'message of the day' section on the force's internal Intranet, as 'nannying.' The police service claimed that there was no new policy on underwear but that officers had to take 'a commonsense approach.' The brief - heh, did you see what I did there? - was issued to staff to ensure that officers 'present a professional appearance to the public,' a West Midlands Police spokesman said. They denied that spot checks would be carried out to ensure that officers were complying with the instructions which include other sartorial advice, such as the suggestion that baseball caps should only be worn by officers in certain units. And that helmets should be covered in all cases. Otherwise, officers could find themselves under a vast. Under a vest, y'see, it's a ... oh, never mind. A police spokesman said: 'There's no new force policy on underwear, but all officers and staff coming into contact with the public are asked to adopt a commonsense approach when choosing what underwear is worn so they remain smart.' However, some officers criticised the move in the force magazine, Police Review, with one saying 'we are not a scouting organisation.'

A suspected bank robber has reportedly been caught by police after sending them a mocking e-mail. According to Bild, officers in the southern German city of Wuerzburg tracked down the nineteen-year-old after he sent e-mails to the police and two newspapers to correct reports of his raid in Roettingen. The young man is believed to have mocked the police for getting his age, height, accent and method of escape wrong in their description of the crime, Reuters reports. His e-mail was, of course, traced and he was arrested a few hours later in a gambling hall in Hamburg. A Wuerzburg police spokesman said: 'His game of cat and mouse went all wrong. He was completely shocked.' Only, you know, he said it in German.