Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dramatic Irony

Just occasionally, dear blog reader, some bright and articulate net surfer may stumble across From The North whilst using a Goggle search for a particular phrase. Such things happen, I'm led to believe. Often it'll be for a phrase like "Laura Kuenssberg+age" for example. We've covered that one in the past. However, in just the last few days I've noticed a couple of new dear blog readers who have, it would appear - very much - arrived here because they fitted in with some of my own inherent sensibilities. Hello to "Victoria Coren+breasts", for instance. And, also to "Sue Perkins+beautiful". I'm on your wavelength.

And, speaking of wavelengths, in this particular case 95.4FM - in addition to yer Keith Telly Topping's usual Top Telly Tips (as always, broadcast sometime around 3:45 ish on Simon Logan's Afternoon Show on your BBC Newcastle) yer Keith Telly Topping also recorded a little piece for Jon and Ann's Drive-Time Show. One which will, hopefully, go out this afternoon sometime between 4:45 and 5pm on the fiftieth anniversary of The Flintstones. Which is today, as it happens. If you want to tune in, or to catch it later on Listen Again, go to this link and follow your instincts. Yabba-dabba-doo.

Tom Goodman-Hill has tweeted, apparently to confirm that Ideal has been recommissioned for another season: 'Best news of the day; series seven of Ideal on its way next year.' Yer Keith Telly Topping thinks this news is somewhat ruddy fantastic!

Tim Roth has promised that the third season of Lie To Me is a strong one. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Roth suggested that the episodes will explore more of his character Cal's past. '[It] will be our strongest [season],' he said. 'We'll go into his past more, and there are women who are going to come up in his life. The relationship he has with his daughter opens up as well as his relationship with Foster.' The third season of Lie To Me has been brought forward following the cancellation of Lone Star and Roth admitted that he feels sorry for the team behind the axed show. 'What happened to Lone Star I'm sad for those guys,' he said. 'A lot of passion goes into making a TV show, [so] it must be very heartbreaking to have that happen.'

Father Ted actor Frank Kelly - the comedy's memorably foul-mouthed priest Father Jack Hackett - is joining the ITV soap Emmerdale, producers have announced. Kelly, seventy one, is swapping Craggy Island for the Yorkshire Dales to play Dermot Macey, the father of Declan, played by Jason Merrells. But his new character is 'a pretty cool dude,' Kelly said. 'He's not that kind of guy. He wouldn't swear.' Fek. And, indeeed, arse. The Irish actor, who appeared in the 1969 British classic The Italian Job, can be seen in Emmerdale from December. His other screen roles include playing the late Labour leader John Smith in the Channel 4 political drama The Deal.

Launching the BBC's autumn and winter drama season earlier this week, the corporations Head of Drama Ben Stephenson gave a speech which had yer Keith Telly Topping actually standing on his chair applauding. You can read the full text here and I do urge that you to, dear blog reader. But, I especially want to highlight a couple of bits from it: Firstly, Stephenson noted that 'I particularly enjoyed a recent headline that said Sky's investment in drama was "Another nail in the coffin for free-to-air drama." A statement that surprised me, and I am sure my friends at ITV and Channel 4, considering that – whilst their investment is to be welcomed – it is only thirty million. A figure dwarfed by the hundreds of millions we spend on original British drama and the hundreds of millions they have chosen to spend on buying foreign shows instead of investing in British writers and original drama. There is of course no doubt that the US makes great shows. But we need to stop punishing ourselves for not being American. [My italics] There is a terribly fashionable, but naive mythology about US television. Of course they make great television. But they basically make two types of television. Thirteen-part series and twenty four-part series. Get out of the room if you want to write anything else. No Five Daughters, no Sherlock, no Dive, no The Silence, no Song Of Lunch, no Wallander. All of those writers would be told – make it thirteen or twenty four or get out. Steven Moffat would not be able to write Sherlock how he wants to. He would be biffed off and replaced with a showrunner who could give create a financially acceptable model of twenty four episodes. That financial model of thirteen or twenty four-part series where one series can cost upwards of sixty million means we can't compete with them. So let's not. Let's value the UK and the US's drama models differently for what they do, not what they can't do. We don't want the only thing that matters to be the eighteen to forty nine demographic – anyone over that and you're irrelevant. And for a cable network you need to be eighteen to forty nine and middle class. Would we really to see our drama suffer the same fate as new critically acclaimed FOX twenty four-part series Lone Star? Premiered last Monday, axed yesterday. Where are the singles? The two-parters? The three-part mini-series? The great six or eight-part series? Where are the pieces for writers who don't want to write one idea for five years – who don't feel they can spin their idea into syndication with one hundred episodes? Believe me, they simply aren't there. Whether HBO or FOX – these are terrific commercial broadcasters who make world-class shows – but they are driven by the need to make money. We have a unique opportunity to be different. We should love American TV but adore and cherish our own.' Subsequently, he continued: 'BBC Drama is going to remain defiantly British and commission the best quality drama for our audiences to watch. Crucially, we are going to give writers and directors their head and not censor them from writing their best ideas whatever their shape – be it popular drama or pieces for a more self-selecting audience. We are not going to commission twenty four-part series or classic drama because critics tell us to – but we may well if a creative has a bold idea. We are not going to have an eye on an American market, we are not going to become obsessed by co-production – we are going serve our audiences by telling the best stories our writers have to tell. We aren't however going to be Little Englanders. We want to embrace the whole of Britain, indeed the whole of the world more. We want to be the home of the best story-telling.' Yes, Ben Stephenson. I say yes to thee. At last, somebody who actually gets it. We, in the UK, are what we are and do what we do - some of it is the envy of the world. Other parts of it are not, they're uniquely British and would have the average American executive scratching their head in bemusement. But, for better or worse, they are the products of our culture and our worldview. Stick to what you're good at and make it to the best of your abilities. I'm, actually, proud to be a licence fee payer on days like today.

As part of the above speech, Ben Stephenson announced that the BBC will adapt four of William Shakespeare's plays for television. Richard II, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V will all be broadcast on the channel. Sam Mendes, who has worked on American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, has signed up to executive produce the plays alongside Away We Go and Starter For Ten producer Pippa Harris. Meanwhile, the directors working on the adaptations include Sir Richard Eyre and Rupert Goold. 'I couldn't be more delighted to be making these Shakespeare films for the BBC,' Mendes said. 'One of my earliest introductions to Shakespeare was watching the plays on TV, and it's terrific to have the opportunity to bring them to a new, wider audience.' Mendes added that he is excited about working with Eyre and Gold, saying: 'Richard's production of King Lear and Rupert's Macbeth were two of the best Shakespeare productions I've ever seen, and it's an honour to have them on board.'

Jedward are reported to have - collectively - 'brushed aside' alleged insults directed at them by Jack Dee on an upcoming episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. According to the Sun, the dry-as-a-bone comic described John and Edward Grimes as 'special needs versions of each other.' They go on to claim that Dee drove the twins 'to the brink of tears with his jibes' during recording and that the show will be edited carefully to avoid any claims of bullying. 'Jack went a bit overboard,' a nameless 'source' allegedly told the newspaper. 'It started out as good fun but soon turned a bit nasty. The boys knew they were going to get the piss taken out of them and were up for it. 'But Jack kept going at them relentlessly and it got to the point where he used some seriously strong language. The audience and other panellists got a bit uncomfortable. Even Jack realised he had gone too far and tried to pull it back towards the end.' The newspapers suggests that Jedward - presumably one of them, unless they speak in unison, which would be a sight to see, frankly - said: 'Jack Dee was a bit rude but we've had worse. At the end of the show he asked for a picture with us so we think he's secretly a massive fan.' No, I don't believe that for a single second either, dear blog reader. I also love the way that, seemingly, the Sun believes these two young men are some kind of single gestalt entity who do and say everything together. Do they have separate brains and vocal chords? I think we should be told. A spokesman for show's producer, Talkback Thames, said that Dee had only engaged in 'harmless ribbing in keeping with the tone of the show.' He then added, 'why don't you bugger off and report some real news.' Allegedly.

Coronation Street's upcoming tram crash will reportedly be the most expensive stunt in soap history, costing one million pounds. Filming of the special week of episodes to celebrate the ITV soap's fiftieth anniversary began this week in Manchester. Speaking to the Daily Lies, executive producer Phil Collinson said that he had wanted even more cash from bosses. 'We've had a significant amount of extra money from ITV for this stunt,' he said. 'It's not enough, it's never enough.' He continued: 'It's the most money we've ever spent in the show's history; it's going to be a spectacular set of episodes.' Collinson admitted that the stunt makes this year's Underworld explosion 'pale into insignificance. To give you some idea, we usually film five episodes in twelve days,' he said. 'But for the fiftieth we will be filming five episodes in ten weeks. It's basically the pace of a big drama.' He explained: 'We do all of that but the rest of the show still has to rumble on. So in the lead up to it we're having to film lots more episodes, and afterwards as well, so we can keep airing for five nights a week. It's huge.' He continued: 'They are going to make sure these episodes are like nothing we've ever seen on Coronation Street.' What, not even the previous viaduct tram crash in 1967? Or, the truck crashing into the Rovers' in the 1970s?

Alex Perry has 'hit back' at accusations that the recent blunder on the Australia's Next Top Model final was a publicity stunt. The show caused controversy - and hilarity in equal measures - when host Sarah Murdoch announced that Kelsey Martinovich had won the modelling competition, only to admit a few moments later that she had said the wrong name and the victor was, in fact, Amanda Ware. Judge Perry told 2DayFM: 'I would stake my life on it [not being deliberate]. There's no way that she would do that. I think you saw that the instant she knew something was wrong, you could see it in her eyes. That wasn't lying, that wasn't acting. Everybody wants to tag something sinister on it and say it was done for ratings [but] I know Sarah and I know the executive producer; it's just not their style. They have too much integrity.'

NBC is reportedly developing a revival - a 'reimagining', if you will - of the 1960s comedy series The Munsters. The sitcom focused on a family of supernatural folk and spawned a number of spin-off movies. NBC has now ordered a pilot of the remake, Entertainment Weekly reports. The show, which has been described as 'Modern Family meets True Blood' is being written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller. And, all of a sudden this blogger's interest in the project has just trebled. Meanwhile, rumours have suggested that Guillermo del Toro is interested in working on the project.

Nearly one-in-five people are unhappy about the depiction of gay, lesbian and bisexual people on TV and radio, according to a report commissioned by the BBC. A survey found that eighteen per cent - or, homophobes as they're also known - feel 'uncomfortable' or 'very uncomfortable' with it, even after the 9pm watershed. Just under half of respondents said they were either comfortable or ambivalent. Around a fifth of straight people said they believed there was too much content relating to gay people on TV generally, although forty six per cent said they felt the volume was about right. Many lesbians felt there were not enough gay women on TV and most were portrayed either as 'butch' or 'lipstick lesbians.' Gay men said they would welcome a more realistic portrayal of gay life and criticised a tendency to feature camp men, though they said this was improving. The research also found that landmark gay storylines were regarded as hugely important by gay respondents. The study is one the biggest of its kind, based on a survey of more than sixteen hundred people and discussion groups involving five hundred. A BBC public consultation had more than nine thousand responses. The findings will shape coverage for years to come and could lead to the introduction of more lesbian characters in the corporation's dramas. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of pressure group Stonewall, said: 'The BBC is a hugely important part of our cultural glue and belongs to everybody. It's right that everyone in modern Britain should be reflected in its output.' Tim Davie, the BBC's head of audio, who chairs a working group on improving coverage of the gay community, said the research would help achieve more 'authentic and diverse' portrayals. 'The BBC has a responsibility to serve all our audiences as best we can and there are clear commitments we are taking from this study. We have already begun to share the research with content teams across the BBC in order to continue the progress we have made towards achieving more authentic and diverse portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.' The research also found that landmark storylines and 'standout' moments on TV and radio are regarded as hugely important by gay respondents. They include a rare pre-watershed on-screen kiss on Channel 4's Brookside in 1994, now regarded as one of the most memorable scenes in British TV history. More recent examples mentioned by respondents typically took place in dramas such as Channel 4's Shameless and Skins, and the US drama The Wire, which was broadcast on BBC2 last year. Gay men regarded Russell Davies' groundbreaking Queer as Folk, another Channel 4 series, as the most influential show of its type, while lesbians cited Sugar Rush and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, among others. There was a recognition that soaps such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, which have prominent gay characters, also play an important role. Channel 4 was widely praised for its portrayal of gay men, with fifty two per cent describing its coverage as 'quite or very good' compared with forty three per cent who said the same about the BBC. Channel's 4's output was called 'ground-breaking' by forty four per cent of gay men. The BBC will now make recommendations to the BBC Trust. They include introducing 'incidental' gay characters whose sexuality is not their defining feature.

The new, and much-hyped, NBC conspiracy drama The Event shed a fifth of its viewers on its second outing on Monday night, according to overnight data. The episode attracted 8.98m to the network in the 9pm hour, a drop of over two million viewers week-on-week.

Sky News and Channel 4 News were the big winners at the 2010 International Emmys for 'News' and 'Current Affairs.' In the 'News' category, Sky News won the award for its March 2009 report Pakistan: Terror's Frontline, which featured footage of Taliban training camps. The broadcaster beat a report from the Al-Jazeera English channel on Israel's ground operations against Hamas in Gaza. The 'Current Affairs' category was won by Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Pakistan's Taliban Generation. Produced by independent firm October Films, the programme examined how Pakistan's radical Islamists were bringing violence to the country and beyond. The winners picked up their awards on Monday at a ceremony at the Frederick P Rose Hall of Jazz at the Lincoln Center in New York.

The executive producer of Bones has suggested that an upcoming episode of the drama is the most 'psychological' the series has ever been. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Stephen Nathan explained that the episode will be told entirely from Brennan's point of view. 'It's a very stylised episode where Brennan is investigating a murder of someone who appears to be her,' he said. 'It's sort of Brennan examining her own life while examining the victim.' Nathan added: 'We've never done anything this internal. It's probably the most psychologically oriented episode we've ever done.'

At first, it looked like a serious technical glitch. But once staff at Al-Jazeera Sports had checked, and then double-checked, they realised something rather sinister was happening: for nearly twenty minutes the channel's live transmission of this summer's opening match at the World Cup between South Africa and Mexico was almost impossible to watch because of blank or frozen screens or commentary in the wrong language. The second half was even worse. Technicians boosted their signal, only to see the interference grow stronger. Fans across the Middle East and North Africa, in private homes, cafes, restaurants and special screening areas, were furious – and quickly made their feelings clear. 'Al-Jazeera pisses off three hundred million Arabs with crappy World Cup reception,' fumed one. Another complained: 'AJ does not deem it necessary to issue any kind of statement about these "interruptions." Nor does it have the decency to issue an apology (let alone a refund).' Ooo, getting all uppity, so they were. Palestinians in the West Bank reportedly turned, in droves, to cheaper Israeli-based satellite sources. An audience in Dubai is said to have trashed a cinema where the matches were being screened. The beautiful game was becoming soiled and disgraced, from Baghdad to Casablanca. Advertisers demanded additional airtime. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera immediately blamed 'sabotage,' hinting at 'political' motives. FIFA was said to be 'appalled.' Egypt, on behalf of Nilesat and Arabsat, both broadcasting Al-Jazeera, complained to the International Telecommunication Union, which regulates satellite transmissions. But after the initial outrage, the story faded away. Now, however, 'secret' documents 'seen by' the Gruniad Morning Star may reveal what actually happened. International investigators hired by Arabsat monitored the final between Spain and the Netherlands on 11 July, and using geo-location technology – involving a second satellite – traced the jamming in real-time to somewhere near As-Salt in Jordan. It remains unclear whether the attack was mounted from a fixed ground station or a vehicle. But it was, in any event, 'a sophisticated operation,' one expert told the newspaper. Jamming involves transmitting radio or TV signals that disrupt the original signal to prevent reception. It is illegal under international treaties. It occurred seven more times during the tournament's biggest games. The Gruniad suggests that it is not hard to find a motive. Before the World Cup Al-Jazeera had been negotiating a seven million dollar rights deal with Jordan TV to transmit twenty two of the games on terrestrial channels. But the Jordanians balked at the last minute – complaining that the matches were from the preliminary stages and did not even include Algeria, the only Arab team taking part. Al-Jazeera's version is that this was a commercial transaction that the Jordanians did not complete. Sources in Doha, the Qatari capital, also ridiculed a request by King Abdullah of Jordan to provide free giant screens for people who could not afford seventy five pounds for a one-month subscription package or cards to see the feed. The Gruniad suggests that 'Middle East analysts say it is hard to escape the conclusion' that raw politics lie at the heart of this row. Jordan, like most Arab governments, heartily dislikes Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the fabulously rich Qatari royal family. The channel is anti-establishment and irreverent in an environment where state media fawn over unelected leaders. It also gives sympathetic coverage to opposition and, especially, Islamist movements. Its critical coverage of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its sharp focus on the Palestinian issue annoys the Americans and the Israelis. Jordan and Egypt both have peace treaties with Israel that are unpopular in both countries. Nearly every Arab regime has had its spats with Al-Jazeera in the past, so the initial assumption in Doha was that the jamming might have been carried out by Egypt, Libya, or Jordan. 'The whole idea of Al-Jazeera's exclusive control of the World Cup annoyed a lot of Arab leaders who saw it as a way to make them crawl to the emir of Qatar to let them have the games for free,' Mamoun Fandy, an Egyptian political scientist and the author of (Un)civil War of Words, a book on the channel told the Gruniad. King Abdullah of Jordan had, reportedly, sent his media adviser, Ayman Safadi, to negotiate the rights deal with Al-Jazeera, and there was 'trouble' when it did not go ahead. An official complained to the Jordan Times that the network's stance was 'based on a political agenda and has nothing to do with commercial or any other purposes.' Al-Jazeera, he added, was 'punishing the Jordanian people, who have the love of sports in their blood.' Abdullah, a keen football fan, was furious. 'The king was very angry,' one 'source' said. 'He wanted to bribe his people with the World Cup at Qatar's expense. But Al-Jazeera is a business. The message of this jamming is that "there is no limit to what we will do if we don't like you." It shows that even football can't escape politics.' Fandy agrees. 'It's a political message. The Jordanians are saying: "Screw with us and we will screw with you."'

ITV will launch a high definition simulcast of the ITV2 channel on Sky on 7 October. In August, ITV confirmed its move into pay-TV with the launch of high definition versions of ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4 exclusively on Sky. According to advanced programme listings information, ITV2 HD will be the first channel to launch, becoming available to Sky+ HD subscribers. The channel will carry a selection of programmes in native HD, including 71 Degrees North, The Xtra Factor, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. At the time of the channel's announcement, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said: 'Building new revenue streams by exploiting our content across multiple platforms is a key part of the ITV transformation plan. Pay television has seen continual growth over the last decade and this deal is a great example of how a new, subscription-based launch, can complement ITV's existing free-to-air channels.' Sky's chief operating officer Mike Darcey added: 'The subscription model best rewards those committing to HD and continues to drive its growth. We therefore welcome ITV's move to embrace pay-TV to satisfy the demands of millions who now regard anything less than HD as a compromise.'

Leading Welsh actors and musicians - including Ioan Gruffudd, ONE Show presenter Alex Jones and singer Katherine Jenkins - have written to the government to protest at the looming cuts at troubled broadcaster S4C. Actor Matthew Rhys and former Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones were also among those who signed the letter to the culture secretary, the vile Jeremy Hunt, with the Welsh-language channel facing a big reduction in its budget. 'Our careers all began, or were given a substantial boost by, involvement in productions commissioned by S4C,' states the letter, which is also backed by the Welsh independent producers trade association, TAC. 'S4C has a great pedigree in commissioning programming which is not only of benefit to Welsh speakers but, through subtitling and dubbing, audiences further afield, bringing in money to UK plc as well as providing opportunities for new local talent.' It adds: 'S4C is not another bureaucratic quango, but a serious organisation which both has and can continue to be the cornerstone of culture and creativity in Wales.' The channel already faces a two million pounds cut to its one hundred and one million pound annual budget, with warnings that it could face a further twenty four per cent cut when the government unveils the outcome of its spending review. Concerns about the cuts have already been expressed by the Welsh heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones and the Welsh Assembly's first minister, Carwyn Jones. The TAC chair, Iestyn Garlick, said: 'The concern shown by these well-known artists and presenters demonstrates that the arguments against cuts to S4C are not down to narrow self-interest, but an understanding of the key role played by S4C in bringing Welsh voices, perspectives and ideas to the UK and the world.'

Ashley Jensen and Max Beesley have signed up to star in new ITV drama The Reckoning. Jensen, who previously appeared in Extras and Ugly Betty, has joined the cast as single mum Sally Ronson. Sally is faced with a difficult decision when she is offered five million pounds from an anonymous donor in exchange for 'killing a man who deserves to die.' Beesley, who starred in Hotel Babylon and Survivors, will play Sally's boyfriend Mark, a security guard and former policeman who gets involved in finding the man that Sally is supposed to murder. Meanwhile, Sally's fifteen-year-old daughter Amanda, played by The Dark's Sophie Stucky, has a brain tumour and needs an operation in America which her family cannot afford. Sally has to decide whether to kill the man to save her daughter. The two-part thriller is currently being filmed and will be broadcast on ITV early next year.

Tony Curtis, one of the last great stars of Hollywood's golden age, died yesterday aged eighty five. His death was confirmed by a representative of his daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, following a cardiac arrest at his Nevada home on Wednesday. He made more than one hundred and twenty movies over his sixty year career. Curtis's health had been failing for a number of years and he went to hospital in July after suffering a serious asthma attack. Appearing on stage at the Guardian BFI Southbank interview in 2008, Curtis was asked by an audience member what he would like to have written on his tombstone. 'Nobody's perfect,' he said, with impeccable timing, quoting the final line of his best-known movie, Some Like it Hot in which he starred with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. He was born Bernard Schwartz, to immigrant parents in the New York district of the Bronx. His parents were Jewish refugees from Mátészalka, Hungary and Hungarian was Curtis's first language until he was five. He grew up dreaming of movie stardom and idolising the casual, easy style of his hero, Cary Grant. His mother herself had show-business aspirations having once, reportedly, made an appearance as a participant on the TV show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. Curtis said, 'When I was a child mom beat me up and was very aggressive and antagonistic.' She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, a mental illness which also affected Tony's elder brother Robert and led to his institutionalisation. When Curtis was eight, he and his younger brother, Julius, were placed in an orphanage for a month because their parents could not afford to feed them. Having served in the navy during the war, being wounded in Guam, he returned to New York and studied acting under the GI Bill with classmates that included Walter Matthau and Rod Steiger. He appeared in summer stock theatre and on the Borscht Circuit in the Catskills, finally arriving in Hollywood in 1948 at age twenty three. Handsome and with a sly, laconic New York wit, he was placed on a one hundred dollars per week contract at Universal Pictures and changed his name, taking Tony from the novel Anthony Adverse and his surname from Kurtz, his mother's maiden name. Although the studio taught him fencing and riding, Curtis subsequently admitted that he was 'only interested in girls and money.' The studio marketed him as prime beefcake fodder and used him accordingly. He made his screen debut in a minor role in Robert Siodmak's Criss Cross in 1949. One of his early starring roles was playing an Arabic noble in The Prince Who Was A Thief (1951) in which his opening line in the movie, in a broad Bronx accent, was 'Yonder lies de castle of my faddah!' His inability to do accents became something of a running Hollywood joke thereafter, although it would be vastly unfair to consider that as a sign of a lack of talent. He just couldn't do accents very well! Although often badly served by starring vehicles which didn't suit him (one thinks, for instance, of 1954's notorious The Black Shield Of Flaworth in which he was, ludicrously, cast as an English knight, or as the Cossack son of warlord Yul Brynner in 1962's Taras Bulba), he made a huge impact with his performance in Carol Reed's Trapeze (1956). When he was given a good script, he could be a fabulous actor, bringing an often pulchritudinous dash and swagger to a series of bog-standard studio pictures - like So This Is Paris and Six Bridges To Cross (both 1955) before winning critical plaudits for his role as a venal, arrogant press agent in the acclaimed 1957 drama The Sweet Smell of Success. The following year he gained his only Oscar nomination for his role as a bigoted convict opposite Sidney Poitier in the tense racial parable The Defiant Ones. His other notable films include The Vikings (1958), a magnificent performance in Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960) and, possibly, his greatest - and most sinister - role in The Boston Strangler (1968). Curtis always insisted that the latter film, in which he played the serial killer Albert DeSalvo was the finest performance of his career. His star faded somewhat in the late 1960s and Curtis, with jobs harder to find, fell into a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction. 'From twenty two to about thirty seven, I was lucky,' Curtis told Interview magazine in the 1980s, 'but by the middle sixties, I wasn't getting the kind of parts I wanted, and it soured me. I had to go through the drug inundation before I was able to come to grips with it and realise that it had nothing to do with me, that people weren't picking on me.' He recovered in the early eighties after a thirty-day treatment at the Betty Ford Centre in Rancho Mirage. 'Mine was a textbook case,' he said in a 1985 interview. 'My life had become unmanageable because of booze and dope. Work became a strain and a struggle. Because I didn't want to face the challenge, I simply made myself unavailable.' In later years he turned to painting, with some success, citing Van Gogh, Picasso and Magritte as his main inspirations. 'I'm a recovering alcoholic,' he said in 1990 as he concluded a painting in forty minutes in the garden of his Bel-Air home. 'Painting has given me such a great pleasure in life, helped me to recover.' His most enduring screen role remains that of a jazz musician on the run from gangsters, in Billy Wilder's 1959 classic Some Like it Hot. The film provided Curtis with the chance not only to appear - hilariously - in drag but, also, to channel the spirit of his idol Cary Grant - mimicking the actor's distinctive Transatlantic drawl to impersonate a stuffy oil millionaire and prove that there was, at least, one accent he could do well. 'Nobody talks like that!' retorted the disgusted Jack Lemmon. Infamously, Curtis had a bit of trouble with one of his co-stars during the making of the film. 'Kissing Marylin Monroe,' he once memorably recalled, 'was like kissing Hitler!' In 1971, after several years of depressingly formula movies, Curtis found a new lease of life on television courtesy of the glossy ITC detective series The Persuaders! This cast Curtis and his good friend, Roger Moore, as a pair of dandy playboys jet-setting around Europe solving crime. One was from the mean streets of New York, the other from the playing fields of Harrow. It sounds like a daft conceit and, in many ways it was. It was also huge fun. Four decades on, the show's opening title sequence (with John Barry's tingling theme-tune) remains virtually guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of fortysomething TV addicts everywhere. It introduced Curtis to a new audience and his character, the wise-cracking Danny Wilde, was massively popular. Michael Parkinson, who interviewed Curtis several times, said his performance in Some Like It Hot would live forever. 'He was a very fine actor. Some Like It Hot is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The man who made it, Billy Wilder, did not suffer fools, so for Tony Curtis to work with him and make that film shows just how good he was. Hollywood tried to make him into a sex symbol in the 1950s and 1960s but he was his own man. He was a great chat show guest and was wonderfully indiscreet. But, he was very bright and did not take himself too seriously.' Curtis married six times and appeared to revel in his reputation as a carouser. 'I wouldn't be caught dead marrying a woman young enough to be my wife,' he once remarked. His first, and most famous, wife was the actress Janet Leigh, to whom he was married for eleven years from 1951, and with whom he fathered two daughters - the actresses Jamie Lee and Kelly Curtis. 'For a while, we were Hollywood's golden couple,' he once said. 'I was very dedicated and devoted to Janet, and on top of my trade, but in her eyes that goldenness started to wear off. I realised that whatever I was, I wasn't enough for Janet. That hurt me a lot and broke my heart.' His son Nicholas (from his third marriage, to Leslie Allen) died of a heroin overdose in April 1994, at the age of twenty three. Curtis said: 'As a father you don't recover from that. There isn't a moment at night that I don't remember him.' Frank Sinatra once remarked that Curtis was his favourite Hollywood actor, 'because he beat the odds.' Curtis enjoyed a close friendship with The Rat Pack, some sources even citing him as an 'honorary member.' He appeared in several films with Rat Pack personnel, including Pepe (1960) and The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). One of his last screen roles was playing himself in Quentin Tarantino's award-winning 2005 episode of CSI, Grave Danger. Tarantino describe the opportunity to direct Curtis - and Frank Gorshin who also appeared in the episode - as 'one of the great moments of my life.' On 22 May 2009, Curtis apologised to the BBC radio audience after he used three profanities during a six-minute interview with presenter William Crawley. The presenter also apologised to the audience for Curtis's 'Hollywood realism.' Curtis explained that he thought the interview was being taped, when it was, in fact, live. In later years, he returned to film and television as a character actor after his battles drug and alcohol abuse. His brash optimism returned, and he allowed his once-shiny black hair to turn silver. 'I'm not ready to settle down like an elderly Jewish gentleman, sitting on a bench and leaning on a cane,' he said on his sixtieth birthday. 'I've got a helluva lot of living to do.' His health remained vigorous for all bar the last few years of his life, although he did have heart bypass surgery in 1994. He and his sixth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis whom he married in 1998, operated the Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary, a refuge for horses which had been abandoned or abused, on the California-Nevada border. Curtis took a fatherly pride in his daughter Jamie Lee's success. They were estranged for a long period, then reconciled. 'I understand him better now,' she said, 'perhaps not as a father but as a man.' The actor looked back recently on a sixty year career that had carried him from the impoverished neighbourhoods of New York to a high-life as a Hollywood superstar. 'I've made one hundred and twenty two movies and I daresay there's a picture of mine showing somewhere in the world every day of the week,' he said proudly. Tony Curtis, as he once noted, regarded his stardom as 'a way to get great tables at restaurants, have beautiful cars to drive' and receive 'the love of lots of people.'

Tony's death came just one day after we lost another legend. Arthur Penn, the director best known for Bonnie and Clyde in 1967 died at the age of eighty eight, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. Penn died the previous evening at his New York home, his daughter Molly told the paper. Penn's work is credited with ushering in a new American film aesthetic, which showed more realistic portrayals of violence rather than the idealised and antisceptic portrayals that had preceded him. Arthur Penn was born in Philadelphia on 22 September 1922, the son of a watch repairer. His parents divorced when he was three and he lived with his mother in New Jersey and New York City, returning to Philadelphia at the age of fourteen to help run his father's business. At Olney High School, he became closely involved in theatre production, responding at once to the challenge of direction. He likened it to a child playing with new toys: 'It's that impulse to record reality,' he said. 'If FAO Schwartz made a director's kit, it would be the greatest toy in the world.' When his father died in 1943, Penn was conscripted into the Army. During training at Fort Jackson he met Fred Coe, who was then running a local community theatre and who was eventually to produce much of Penn's work in theatre and television. During the war, Penn was posted to Paris, where he helped to manage Josh Logan's Army shows, staying on after his discharge to direct plays for the occupation forces. Between 1947 and 1950, funded by the GI Bill, he completed his further education, initially at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where he read Psychology, Philosophy and Literature. After studying acting with Michael Chekhov in Hollywood, he entered television in 1951 as a floor manager with NBC, rising to assistant director on The Colgate Comedy Hour. In 1953, thanks to Fred Coe, who had also joined NBC and remembered him from military service a decade earlier, he was able to direct his first live drama series, First Person. Joining Coe's staff, he went on to direct plays regularly for the Philco Television Playhouse and Playhouse 90 series, including The Miracle Worker, which he was later to stage and film. Penn made his first feature film, The Left-Handed Gun, in 1958 after directing numerous live television dramas. He got his first Oscar nomination for The Miracle Worker in 1962, in which Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both won acting Oscars. He was nominated again for Bonnie and Clyde, which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the notoriously vicious American depression-era bankrobbers. The film's ending, in which the couple die in a relentless hail of police machine-gun fire, is considered one of the greatest and most shocking moments of movie history and ignited a critical hailstorm as its violent finale drew comparisons with the contemporary Vietnam War. Penn's other films included The Chase, Mickey One, Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman, Night Moves, The Missouri Breaks - in which he achieved a long ambition of getting Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to act togehter - and Dead of Winter. 'Had he only directed Bonnie and Clyde, he'd be a director of note, the film critic Leonard Maltin told The Times. 'But that was simply the most successful of these highly individual, often idiosyncratic films that he made in his heyday.' He is survived by his wife of fifty two years, Peggy, and their two children, Matthew and Molly.

A clown has riled politicians by running for parliament in Brazil. Tiricia, whose real name is Francisco Everardo Oliveira, has gained a great deal of public support through a campaign consisting of comic advertisements and catchphrases, reports Bang Showbiz. However, opponents have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against his bid to represent Sao Paolo state, claiming that he is ridiculing the nation's legislature. Aloizio Mercadante, one of the clown's political rivals, said: 'This should not be happening. You should vote for those who have something to contribute, and who keep their promises. Don't waste your vote on jokes.' Another opponent has also tried to suggest that Tiricia is illiterate and should therefore be ineligible for candidacy. One of Tiricia's popular campaign slogans reads: 'It can't get any worse if you vote for me.' Of course, as ever we in Britain are way ahead of the game - we've been electing clowns to tell us what to do for years.

"Every Member Of Parliament Trips On Glue"

By way of a short announcement, dear blog reader. Today's blog entry is the six hundred and sixty sixth update that yer Keith Telly Topping has brought you since From The North began four years ago. Which may, or may not, be significant.

Examples of British drama including Doc Martin and Skellig are to be broadcast in Australia, following deals made by distributor DRG. Public broadcaster ABC has acquired the BBC crime drama Five Days as well as season five of ITV's Doc Martin, starring Martin Clunes, and the Sky1 fantasy drama Skellig, starring Tim Roth and John Simm. In addition, the ABC has picked up BBC Productions' six-part factual series Museum of Life and the seventeenth series of Channel 4 archaeology show Time Team.

The Panorama special The Secrets of Scientology was watched by 4.8m viewers on Tuesday night, overnight audience data has revealed. The programme, which featured reporter John Sweeney returning to investigate the Church of Scientology after his explosive examination in 2007, averaged 4.82m for BBC1 from 9pm. The Secrets of Scientology comfortably beat the 'virtually nobody's watching it now' 71 Degrees North in the 9pm hour, after the reality series managed 3.32m on ITV and one hundred and seven thousand on ITV HD.

Dita Von Teese has reportedly agreed to guest star in CSI. According to Entertainment Weekly, the burlesque performer will appear in an episode of the series early next year. The show's executive producer Carol Mendelsohn explained that she will play a femme fatale in a reference to 'the glory days of LA film noire.' She added: 'Her character is absolutely unlike what she seems. Prepare to be tantalised and tormented.' Mendelsohn also suggested that the case 'will get personal' for Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda).

Channel 4 has announced that it has commissioned two new comedy drama show. The broadcaster revealed that both of the six-part series will air next summer. Naked Apes, which will go out on Channel 4, focuses on three paramedics working in Leeds. The drama, which has been written by Excluded and An Englishman In New York author Brian Fillis, is said to explore 'love, friendship and family from the jaded perspective' of the characters Stuart, Ashley and Rachid. Meanwhile, E4 will be the home of new comedy drama Beaver Falls, which focuses on three graduates who lie about themselves to land jobs at an American summer camp. Channel 4's head of drama Camilla Campbell said: 'We're proud of our commitment to supporting the best British talent, backing innovative contemporary drama, and 2010 has been an exceptional year so far. With money freed up from the cancellation of Big Brother we are delighted that we are able to follow This Is England '86 with another new drama series for Channel 4, a further series for E4 and more to come throughout 2011. In terms of brand new originated drama, we're on track to more than double our output next year.'

The return of MasterChef: The Professionals reminds us dear blog reader that, as charming and lovely as Gregg Wallace and the great Michel Roux Jnr can be to the quaking contestants, that Monica Galetti is one really scary woman. The way she, quite literally, spat out young Charlotte's attempts at cooking a nice plate of mushrooms on Tuesday's episode was one of TV's great comedy moments of the year! And then, later on, the way that other poor lass had her sardines absolutely ripped to shreds, well, your heart bled for her. To be fair, the opening episodes have also shown up a few - sometimes very - basic flaws in the technique of many of those chefs taking part. Which is a bit worrying, frankly. I mean, come on, if you're working as a chef in a professional kitchen, you must know how to dress a chicken, surely? Mind you, watching Roux bone a Dover sole and then cooking it with a couple of mouth-watering looking prawns for the classic recipe test and, afterwards, having to follow it with 'three other blokes having a go' at the same meal was, truly, a sight to see. But, the show remains - as usual - addictive telly. If only for being the one place on the small screen where you can hear India Fisher huskily say the word 'pudding' like it's an invitation to orgasm. In Wednesday night's episode, Northumberland John and Ben the Frenchmen became the first two contestants to reach the semi-final stage. And, deservedly so from what we saw. John's starter was described by Gregg as 'fish heaven' whilst Ben's sponge-cake pud even managed to put smiles on the faces of notoriously hard-to-please critics Charles Campion and Jay Rayner. That takes some doing!

FOX drama Lone Star has, not unexpectedly, been cancelled after just two episodes, it has been revealed. Last week's opening episode drew a poor four million viewers, while the second episode on Monday night fared even worse, pulling in a meagre 3.2 million viewers. According to Deadline, FOX has decided to axe the programme with immediate effect. Its Monday night slot will now be replaced by the third season of Lie To Me, which had not been due to air until 2011. The studio has also ceased production on Lone Star, which was halfway through the filming of its sixth episode. It is not yet known what will happen to the three unbroadcast episodes. Series creator Kyle Killen recently admitted that he was 'gobsmacked' by the show's low ratings.

The Daily Lies today claimed to have 'exposed' safety fears at the three and a half million pound house occupied by The X Factor contestants. The impressively ignorant subheading suggests that 'Two foot fence will not keep out nutters' and sits well next to a picture of reporter Keir Mudie on the spot. Nutters everywhere are said to be outraged.ITV chief executive Adam Crozier has said that the broadcaster could start charging for its online content, including previews or alternate endings for Coronation Street. Speaking this week at the Royal Television Society conference in London, Crozier said that ITV had 'not invested nearly enough' in over the years, and this would have to change very quickly. Over the next year, Crozier confirmed that ITV will review a variety of 'payment mechanisms' for viewers accessing its content on the Internet. However, he stressed that the broadcaster would 'not go down the News International route' of putting all of its online services behind a paywall. Crozier said that ITV is now considering what sort of content people would be 'prepared to pay for' online, including options for the broadcaster's biggest soap opera. 'We can start to look at what kind of things can we put online that we can charge for,' he said. 'Whether that is a richer, deeper experience for Coronation Street, for instance, with alternative endings or the back stories behind certain things, we will see. It might be previewing certain things. We need to test what people will pay for and I think the truth is that people don't really know the answer to those questions.'

Discussions between Richard Desmond and Endemol UK over acquiring the rights to Big Brother are understood to have stalled, with the Channel Five owner thought to be looking at alternatives including a new reality format from the hit show's co-creator John De Mol, according to the Gruniad Morning Star. It alleges that the negotiations have ground to a halt just as a deal was close to being signed. 'The deal was quite far down the track, it was virtually agreed and then the negotiations went cold,' said one 'source' with 'knowledge of the situation.' Well, we've all got 'knowledge of the situation,' boys. Another 'source' (whether they 'have knowledge', the Gruniad don't say) added that Channel Five had also held discussions with De Mol about buying a new format called The Golden Cage. The format, which is an observational entertainment series, is thought to have the potential to run all year round. The Golden Cage was the original concept and working title for what became Big Brother, which De Mol co-created at Endemol in the late 1990s. The name has now been revived for a different reality format made by De Mol's new production company, Talpa Media. The new format puts ten contestants in a luxury villa living the life of millionaires for an indefinite period, with no nominations or voting. Contestants either walk out or are evicted for behaviour deemed unacceptable by the producers and the last one remaining gets a large cash prize. The format ran for more than eighteen months on Dutch TV. Talpa describes The Golden Cage as 'the first reality soap. The world's first open-ended unscripted reality series.' The source did not believe that Channel Five would commission both shows and thought that a Big Brother deal may not be revived. 'Channel Four comprehensively ended Big Brother, the timing of the deal should have been done on the day it was finally done on Channel Four for publicity purposes,' said the 'source.' Whose 'knowledge' is, again, uncertain. 'But as far as I understand it negotiations failed.'

BBC2 has announced a new drama series from Oscar winner Jane Campion. The Piano director will helm Top Of The Lake, which she has written with Gerard Lee. The drama focuses on the case of a twelve-year-old girl who is discovered standing in a frozen lake, five months pregnant. The investigating detective Robin Griffin is tested when she takes on the mystery and ends up learning more about herself. The series, set in New Zealand, is described as 'a powerful and haunting story about our search for happiness in a paradise where honest work is hard to find.'

His Very Lordship Himself, Alan Sugar has dismissed comparisons between The Apprentice and The X Factor, saying that the shows are too different to compare. However, he also poked fun at Simon Cowell's talent show format, claiming that it is 'old-fashioned.' When asked which of the shows is better, Sugar joked: 'That's a no-brainer - I'm far superior to Cowell.' Sugar continued: 'It's different. Simon Cowell's got that great entertainment programme, it's an old-fashioned kind of format. It's been jazzed up nicely and it's a great show. We are completely different. We are a business programme which is also quite entertaining. It's like comparing EastEnders with Match of the Day, that's how different it is.' The reality business show, which has traditionally been screened in the spring, was delayed until after May's general election as a result of Sugar's role in the last government. Commenting on the show's autumn scheduling, Sugar said: 'It's frustrating that it got delayed for the reasons it did, and I'm quite pleased that finally it's reaching the screens. It was a bit of a mess getting mixed up with all the election stuff.'

Sky has been criticised over a promotion which offered Marks & Spencer vouchers to new subscribers after more than forty customers complained that they did not arrive as promised. The satellite broadcaster ran a series of promotions offering new customers fifty pounds worth of Marks & Spencer's vouchers when they signed up online. However, forty two people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the fairness and efficiency of the promotion, because their vouchers had not arrived 'within the designated time frame.' In response, Sky argued that 'a huge number' of customers had received their vouchers without incident, while the complainants were 'in a considerable minority.' After an investigation, the company found that heavy demand over the Christmas period had meant that certain customers did not receive their vouchers within the initial thirty-day deadline. Other vouchers were not delivered due to 'human error' at call centre level or being 'lost in the post.' Allegedly. Sky said that changes made over the last couple of months to its internal procedures had meant vouchers were now being sent to customers 'well within' the new forty five-day limit. And noted that the vouchers themselves weren't just vouchers, they were Marks & Spencer's vouchers. Beggorah. However, the ASA wasn't interested in any of that crap and criticised Sky's 'failure to cope' with the high demand over the Christmas period, as well as the instances of human error that led to some customers not receiving their vouchers in time. 'Despite the improvements Sky had incorporated in the administration of the voucher promotion, we were concerned that the terms of the offer stated that vouchers would be sent within thirty days of activating viewing, which, unfortunately, Sky had not been able to meet for a number of customers,' said the ASA. 'We concluded therefore that the offer had not been administered satisfactorily and had caused unnecessary disappointment to those consumers.' The ASA said that the promotion must not continue in its current form 'unless Sky is able to demonstrate that the offer will be fulfilled within the terms specified.'

The creator of The Wire, David Simon, has received a 'genius' grant. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chicago's John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation awarded Simon and twenty two other recipients the half a million dollar grants. The stipends will be paid to recipients over the next five years. 'With the nuance and scope of novels, Simon's recent series have explored the constraints that poverty, corruption and broken social systems place on the lives of a compelling cast of characters, each vividly realised with complicated motives, frailties and strengths,' the foundation said about Simon's work. Other winners included a stone carver and a scientist working to rescue threatened bee colonies.

Paul Römer, co-creator of Big Brother, is leaving the programme's producer Endemol after fifteen years, it has emerged. In a statement this week, Endemol confirmed that Römer would step down from his position as chief creative officer of the group to 'pursue other opportunities.' Endemol has reacted to his impending departure by creating a new group creative board that will include Endemol UK chief executive Tim Hincks, global president Marco Bassetti and North America chairman David Goldberg. The company has also promoted Iris Boelhouwer to head up its creative operations. Endemol is jointly owned by Goldman Sachs, Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and Cyrte, the investment firm established by John De Mol who, as mentioned previously, created Big Brother with Römer. Earlier this month, the reality programme ended its decade-long run on Channel Four, but the show is still on air in more than forty countries, including the US. Römer, who joined Endemol in 1994, said: 'During my time here there has been a complete transformation of the TV and digital media landscape and Endemol has played a central role in that. Now, after fifteen incredible years, the time feels right for me to move on to new challenges.' Endemol Group chairman Ynon Kreiz praised Römer's 'outstanding track record' at Endemol and 'invaluable' contribution to the business. He added: 'This has included co-developing and launching Big Brother, the most groundbreaking format of the last decade, which continues to be a colossal hit in the major markets. This new structure leverages our top creative talent in the group and will add further focus and strength to the support we give our local creative teams around the world.'

Shooting is about to begin on a third series of BBC3's critically reviled youf sitcom Coming Of Age. Another eight episodes of the college-based alleged comedy have been commissioned for 2011, to be filmed in London from the end of October. Although hated by the vast majority of reviewers, the show attracts decent-ish ratings on BBC3, with the first series winning an average weekly reach of over one million. Mostly students. Which, frankly, says much about the state of education in this country. The Scotsman described the show 'the worst BBC3 sitcom yet,' the Radio Times called it 'depressing,' while The Sunday Times said it was 'as dispiriting as it is crude.' The new series features a new character, Robyn Crisp, to be played by twenty-year-old actress Minnie Crowe. Described as 'a bit of an oddball,' she is said to harbour 'a big secret.' In a recent BBC blog, twenty two-year-old writer Tim Dawson – said: 'I should begin by thanking everyone who watched Series Two for their wonderfully warm reaction to the show. I'm delighted it was so popular. This will be the best series of Coming of Age yet. I can't wait to make it.'

Katy Perry is swapping Sesame Street for The Simpsons. The singer has signed up to star in a special 'live action' episode of the longrunning TV comedy cartoon. Perry was due to make a cameo appearance in the hit kids' show alongside beloved character Elmo later this year, but the sketch was scrapped following a swathe of complaints from uptight parents over her 'skimpy outfit.' Now Perry has found herself a role in the more adult The Simpsons, in a Christmas episode which will see the famous family transformed into puppets. Perry will play herself in the unusual live action sequence and lead the cast in a spoof rendition of classic carol 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.' The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean confirmed the news to Entertainment Weekly magazine and poked fun at Perry's dismissal from Sesame Street. He says, 'In the wake of Elmo's terrible betrayal, The Simpsons puppets wish to announce they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Katy Perry.'

Brothers & Sisters' executive producer David Marshall Grant has claimed that he does not expect the show to end anytime soon. The programme received a reduced episode order for the new season and some cast members have admitted that they expect the series to conclude next year. However, Grant told TV Guide that he has not heard anything about the show's future. 'I've approached the show as if it's going to go on and on,' he said. 'I take my cue from the studio and the network, and they've given me no indication - not even a hint or a heads up - that [cancellation is] a possibility.' Grant added: 'If and when I hear different, I will adjust and make sure that we take these Walkers off the air in the style that they deserve. But I have heard nothing to suggest that I should be planning for that.'

Australia's Next Top Model announced the wrong winner during the live final of its sixth series this week. Kelsey Martinovich had been crowned champion by public vote and was making an acceptance speech when presenter Sarah Murdoch interrupted her. Shaking her head and listening to her earpiece, Murdoch said: 'I'm feeling sick about this. I'm so sorry, this was a complete accident.' She then announced the real winner was eighteen-year-old Amanda Ware. 'This is what happens when you have live TV, folks,' she said. 'This is insane, insane, insane.' Martinovich, who had been under the impression she was a winner for about a minute, appeared to take the news well, saying, 'It's OK, it's an honest mistake,' as Murdoch asked: 'How could this happen?' She attempted to explain the gaffe, saying: 'The lead kept changing. It was literally down to a couple of votes. It kept going back and forwards and we ended up with Amanda as a winner.' The two contestants embraced, before Ware gave a shocked 'Thanks' to her supporters and walked the catwalk for the final time. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Martinovich was awarded twenty five thousand Australian dollars by way of apology. Ware won an eight-page spread in women's magazine Harpers Bazaar, a contract with Priscilla's modelling agency, a twenty five thousand dollar Levi's campaign, an twenty thousand dollars cash prize, a new car and a trip to New York. The show, shown in Australia on Tuesday evening, was broadcast with a live studio audience on the FOX8 pay TV channel, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Sarah Murdoch, a fashion model and TV presenter, is married to Rupert's son, Lachlan. She replaced Jodhi Meares as host of Australia's Next Top Model last year, after Meares blundered her way through the show's 2007 final, and pulled out of the 2008 broadcast with just forty eight hours' notice. Meares later told Grazia magazine she had never agreed to present a live show, adding: 'I don't aspire to handle crowds of that level.' The hugely popular Next Top Model shows, created by supermodel Tyra Banks in the US, pit aspiring models against each other. Each week, they compete for judges in a variety of photo shoots to stay in the competition, with the eventual winner receiving a cash prize and modelling contract. There are several dozen spin-offs, including series in the UK, Brazil, China, Finland and Israel.

The divine and wonderous Catherine Dent has reportedly signed up to appear in NCIS. The former Shield star will guest in at least two episodes of the show, Entertainment Weekly suggests. She is expected to play a character named Whitney Sharp who has a history with Ducky (David McCallum). Whitney is said to be an intelligent, persuasive federal agent who used to be known for spotting talent. Her episodes are currently scheduled to be broadcast in November.

The number of gay or bisexual characters appearing on network TV in the US has risen over the past year, according to research. A report by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation claims that almost four per cent of characters appearing in primetime programming during the current season are gay, lesbian or bisexual, up from three per cent the previous season. The figure breaks down to twenty three gay characters out of almost six hundred roles, according to Yahoo. The report suggests that the greatest increase is in comedy shows, citing new series S**t My Dad Says and Happy Endings as examples. HBO apparently features the highest number of gay and lesbian roles, due largely to vampire series True Blood, which has featured six gay characters. It was recently announced that the character of Teddy Montgomery on 90210 has been upgraded to series regular and is to receive a major coming out storyline in the coming season, while Glee addition Sam Evans is rumoured to become a potential boyfriend for Kurt Hummel.

Selina Scott's return to BBC television may have been blocked by senior officials who objected to her dossier on the 'malign sexism and ageism' at the corporation, according reports. Can't imagine for the life of me why. I mean, she's always been so pleasant about the Beeb, hasn't she? The former Breakfast Time presenter, who had been filling in for Moira Stuart on Chris Evans' Radio 2 breakfast show, was allegedly approached to present a programme to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Captain Robert Scott's doomed race to the South Pole in 1911, but the move was allegedly vetoed by senior officials, according to the Daily Telegraph. 'Selina is very disappointed,' a 'friend' of the fifty nine-year-old presenter said. They don't tell us who this friend is but the fact that they are described thus suggests that it's unlikely to be anybody who actually works for the BBC. 'She has studied Captain Scott's trek and was delighted when the BBC asked her to present the documentary and she made plans to be in Antarctica throughout January.' Well, if she's bought the tickets, surely she can still go and have a holiday? 'When she was told that senior executives had stopped her from getting the job, she was very disheartened. She appreciates that her work on trying to help the BBC improve its treatment of women and older employees may have ruffled a few feathers, but she thought that, as a public service broadcaster, executives would be big enough to take the criticism on the chin. Sadly, she seems to have been mistaken.' Well, if you piss people off, Sal, you can't act surprised when they give you a taste of your own medicine back. The BBC confirmed that the former Breakfast Time presenter had been approached about the documentary, but declined to comment about why she was later overlooked. A spokesman said: 'It's too early to talk about details of a programme that hasn't yet gone into production.'

Josh Holloway has been added to the cast of the latest Mission: Impossible movie. The Lost actor will play a member to the Impossible Mission Force led by Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, says The Hollywood Reporter. Director Brad Bird is at the helm of the fourth franchise instalment, rumoured to be titled The Mission, while returning cast-members Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg will be joined by newcomers Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Vladimir Mashkov.

Katherine Heigl has revealed that she was recently injured while riding horses on a Utah ranch. The actress has begun riding competitively at her twenty five-acre farm and suffered a split knee after falling from one of the animals, reports the Daily Lies. 'I have no idea what I'm doing. It's very difficult. He [the horse] is great and he wasn't trying to kill me but I just lost control and I couldn't stop him. The more upset I'd get, the faster he'd go,' she explained. 'He was running into the walls and I just leaped off of him into these iron bars and I stood there bleeding watching him go berserk and I went, "What have I done?"' Heigl went on to admit that she was unsure about continuing with riding since the incident. '[I'm] having a hard time getting back in the saddle,' she said.

Emma Thompson has stressed the importance of speaking proper English. The actress recently visited her old school where she urged students to forego using slang in order to sound more intelligent because it 'makes you sound stupid, and you're not stupid. We have to reinvest, I think, in the idea of articulacy as a form of personal human freedom and power,' she told the Radio Times. 'There is the necessity to have two languages - one that you use with your mates and the other that you need in any official capacity. Or you're going to sound like a knob.' Thompson recently revealed plans to take her ten-year-old daughter on an educational gap year after she finishes primary school.

The BBC is looking to develop a new flagship TV music programme as it seeks to move beyond calls for the return of Top of the Pops. Andy Parfitt, the Radio 1 controller who is also the BBC's head of popular music, this week once again ruled out a relaunch of the weekly chart rundown show which ran on BBC1 and – briefly – on BBC2 for forty two years until 2006. Top of the Pops still makes seasonal end of year returns and occasional specials but will not be back on a regular basis, said Parfitt, who pointed to the BBC's music festival coverage and Jools Holland's Later on BBC2 – which recently celebrated its two hundred and fiftieth show – as evidence of the corporation's commitment to music on television. However, music festival coverage is inevitably confined to the summer months and Later has only niche appeal with around one million regular viewers. Parfitt said he was looking to develop a new music format, a project that was being led by the BBC's commissioning editor of music and events, Jan Younghusband, who joined last year from Channel 4. 'We are working on it,' Parfitt told a Broadcasting Press Guild breakfast, adding that it was 'absolute rot' to say there was no music on BBC TV. 'It would be great if we could get a new popular music-based programme with a new format, a new kind of offer that really worked for the audience,' he said. 'The work is on to try and find a format but we are not trying to relaunch or reinvent Top of the Pops. That is kind of a red herring. Should we be looking for a programme? Of course we should and we are. Would it be a good thing to try and persevere and work with producers to identify a new format? Yes. That's what television does all the time. Jan Younghusband is actually leading that process and I am closely involved with that.' Parfitt said TOTP were 'four letters that bring out immediately all levels of prejudice' from people who either harped back to a golden age of television or who thought music on TV did not work any more.

Catherine Tate has dropped out of a quirky film version of the Nativity story because of a scheduling clash. Producers had listed her in the cast of Sweet Baby Jesus alongside Sharon Stone, Bette Midler and Pixie Lott. However, the deal couldn't be signed as she was scheduled to star in Alan Ayckbourn's comic play Seasons Greetings in London at the same time as the film's shooting. It has now been confirmed that she will not be in the movie. Instead, she will be appearing alongside the League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, The IT Crowd's Katherine Parkinson and Shirley Ghostman creator Marc Wootton in the National Theatre production in December. Sweet Baby Jesus sets the Biblical story in Seventies America, when pregnant hippy Mary – to be played by Lott – travels to her mother's house for Christmas in Bethlehem, Maryland.

Work and relationship pressures make the mid-thirties the start of many British people's unhappiest decade, a survey suggests. Of those questioned, more people aged thirty five to forty four said that they felt lonely or depressed than in other age groups. Yeah, that sounds about right, actually. Yer Keith Telly Topping's over mid-life crisis occurred during the year he was thirty five. A messy break-up and a general - borderline clinical - depression followed over the next few months before I pulled my shit together. Not fun, ladies and gentlemen. The survey also suggested that busy parents were using Facebook and similar sites to stay in touch with children. Relationship advice charity Relate, which is behind the research, said it revealed a 'true mid-life crisis.' Of those surveyed, twenty one per cent of men and women aged thirty five to forty four said they felt lonely a lot of the time, and a similar percentage said that bad relationships, either at work or home, had left them feeling depressed. The same proportion said they felt closer to friends than family, and a quarter said they wished they had more time for their family.

Electra Entertainment, a UK-based IPTV service provider, has complained to media regulator Ofcom that YouView will 'damage' the UK's interactive TV sector. Electra has developed an IPTV platform, called Trove which, they state, 'brings rich media services to the TV screen.' It is currently available on Tesco-branded Freeview set-top boxes. YouView, which was formerly known as Project Canvas, will aim to upgrade the Freeview and Freesat platforms to support video on-demand and Internet services when it launches next year. However, Electra believes that 'the proposed vision, shareholder structure and aims of YouView are anti-competitive and significantly damage the UK interactive TV market.' The company said that the YouView partners - the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Channel Five, TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva - are 'all major players' in their fields and have the potential to form 'a market monopoly for the provision of free and micro-pay TV services.' Pointing to the involvement of the licence fee-funded BBC, Electra said that YouView's software architecture is 'state-aided' and its technology standards lack transparency. The firm also claimed that YouView's estimated initial marketing budget of forty eight million pounds million is 'a major cause for concern amongst venture capitalists looking to fund competing private British businesses in this emerging broadband TV sector.' Jasper Smith, Electra's chairman, said: 'We've spent many years developing our technologies and sourcing funding for Trove to be one of the most advanced connected-TV platforms available today to accommodate the changing needs of the interactive and Internet TV industry. Whilst we welcome competition with open arms, like any business, we can only compete in a fair and open market place. The actions of the YouView partners and in particular the BBC have disrupted the normal commercial and competitive cycle of innovation, investment and potential reward that is fundamental to the development of new enterprise within the capital markets. We are urging Ofcom to act.' In response, a YouView spokeswoman said: 'It is important to consider the overall market impact of YouView, in particular the positive benefits that this will bring to the wider market and the end consumer. 'YouView will create significant new opportunities for content providers and grow the overall market for connected TV, with specific benefits for the consumer electronics market. YouView is a much-needed upgrade to DTT in the UK and critical to maintaining healthy competition and a choice of TV platforms. Without it, we will fail to offer an alternative to those people that currently cannot, or choose not to pay for TV services.' This week, YouView dismissed claims that it will harm UK IPTV businesses after a study indicated that investment in the sector has declined by more than ninety per cent since the launch of Canvas in September 2008.

An advert from ASDA offering free eye tests to people from Uruguay after England crashed out of the World Cup has been cleared by The Advertising Standards Authority. of course, dear blog readers will remember that Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda failed to spot a Frank Lampard's shot was well over the line during England's calamitous 4-1 defeat by Germany in the second round. The ASA ruled that the advert would be seen as 'banter rather than malice' by anybody with half-a-brain in their head.

A cat owner has claimed that she would never hurt an animal after she dyed her pet pussy pink with food dye. The cat, named Oi! Kitty, was taken in by the RSPCA after it was found by a concerned member of the public in Swindon last week and made the front pages of several national tabloids who carried the story claiming - with no evidence whatsoever, other than its colour - that 'sick yobs' had sprayed the animal. Explaining her decision to dye the cat, its owner Natasha Gregory, twenty two, told the Sun: 'It's my favourite colour, I love it. I've dyed my hair pink and I adore pink clothes. Turning Oi! Kitty pink seemed like a good idea. I always wanted a pink animal - a bit like my hair. After I turned her pink, I was like, "Oh, she matches my hair!"' She added: 'I read the instructions on the food colouring and there was nothing that would harm humans or animals. We eat the food the dye is used on, so I knew it wasn't toxic. The cat didn't seem to be worried and she looked lovely. I would never hurt an animal. It's just food colourant. I would never put proper dye on an animal.' The RSPCA washed the cat once but its colour only faded slightly, the Press Association reports. An officer will reportedly give Gregory advice about the consequences and hazards of dyeing animals when returning the pet. Although, to be honest, unless it's illegal to do so - which I don't think it is given that, as Ms Gregory noted, the dye used wasn't harmful to the animal - then my advice to Ms Gregory would be to tell them where to go and stick their 'advice.' On the other hand, if I was the RSPCA I would prosecute the silly woman for giving the cat such a ruddy stupid name on general principle. That's yer Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, harsh-but-fair. A spokesperson for sick yobs everywhere, meanwhile, has reportedly asked the Daily Scum Mail and the Sun for an apology.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sign Of The Times

The new season of House continued this week with an episode - Selfish, written by the great Eli Attie - in which House and Cuddy's itemship became common knowledge. And, parts of it were very funny. Particularly a couple of scenes involving Wilson. Which was probably just as well because, I hate to say this but the 'disease of the week' story - a variant on Sophie's Choice - was rather dull. Not bad, I hasten to add. Just dull. On the other hand, episode two of the Hawaii Five-0 remake continued the testosterone-snorting, furious sheer bloody carnage of the pilot. Only, minus James Marsters this time. It was many things but, dull certainly wasn't one of them! I mean, Grace Park and Ivana Milicevic having a big girly catfight that ends in a swimming pool. You know, dull is not the first adjective springing to my mind here. Not even close.

Twenty-four carat gem TV comedy moment of the week so far: The best line of dialogue in the current series of Ideal, by miles. When Psycho Paul is asked by Moz whether he has a conscience about organ harvesting poor dead Steve's bits and pieces. 'Conscience is just another word for gay!' It was also nice to see dear old Jilted John himself, Graham Fellows, in a sinister little turn as a dodgy doctor. Second best moment of the episode came after Low Triad Tony has sliced off Keith's ear as a ransom demand. Carol asks 'does anybody want to listen to some Jedward?' This prompts the deliciously perfect reply from the Godlike genius that is Mick Miller, 'can you cut the other one off please?' Fan-ruddy-tastic. Next week, it's the series finale and the long-awaited fancy dress party episode.

Kate Garraway has begged viewers to give Daybreak a chance. The former GMTV presenter, who currently works in the humiliatingly demoted position of 'entertainment editor' on the ITV breakfast show, was responding to recent criticism of the programme from a number of celebrities. She wrote in her New magazine column: 'The fabulous Louie Spence of Pineapple Dance Studios said he preferred GMTV and really misses Ben Shephard. And legendary broadcaster Chris Evans also said he had reservations. While I admire both of them, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I still believe that the more people see of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, the more they will love them.' Garraway also encouraged viewers who had not yet tuned in to Daybreak to make up their own minds on the programme. She added: 'It's not easy launching a new show, so if you haven't seen it yet, watch it and let me know what you think.' Do you really want people to tell you what they think, Katie? Okay, you asked for it.

The BBC withdrew an edition of Panorama which focused on the financial affairs of the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft at the eleventh hour this week. It was due to have been broadcast on BBC1 on Monday evening. The BBC said that it had put a number of questions to Lord Ashcroft two weeks ago and had received a response on a particular issue on Monday. The Panorama team is now reviewing the programme in light of the new information given. The programme was replaced with another about UK military justice. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We put a number of questions to Lord Ashcroft two weeks ago, including one relating to a share interest transfer. We asked for a response by Friday 24 September. In a response received this afternoon we have been given information that sheds new light on that issue and we will therefore review the programme.'

The BBC has ordered two feature-length episodes of Rock & Chips, it has been revealed. The Only Fools and Horses prequel, which attracted seven and a half million viewers with a one-off episode in January, is to come back for two hour-long specials at Christmas 2010 and Easter 2011. I thought they were going to make a series? Oh well, Plan B, I guess. According to the Sun, The Inbetweeners' James Buckley will reprise his role as a young Derek Trotter. A source said: 'James is hot property at the moment. The Inbetweeners is getting incredible ratings and he is man of the moment. It'll cap off a great year for the Essex boy.' Do real people talk like that?

BBC chiefs have confirmed that a new series of popular children's TV show In The Night Garden will be made, despite reports yesterday that it was coming to an end. The managing director of Children's Global Brands at BBC Worldwide, Neil Ross Russell, said: 'The rumoured demise of In the Night Garden has been premature to say the least. BBC Worldwide and Ragdoll, with the full support of Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies, are actually in the process of developing exclusive new content which will see the characters continue in a variety of different formats.'

ITV have removed the famous Granada TV sign from the roof of its Quay Street studios due to safety concerns, but the move has been met with outrage among supporters. The red-lettered, illuminated sign was taken down on Saturday afternoon after more than forty years as a fixture on the Manchester skyline. The change was announced on the Granada Reports Facebook page after the sign had already been removed from the building. An ITV spokesman was quoted as saying: 'During routine maintenance of the Quay Street building the roof signage and its fixtures were found to be extensively corroded. As a result, the signs have been taken down for health and safety reasons.' The broadcaster has also released a timelapse video featuring the sign being taken down letter-by-letter from the building. However, the removal, which went ahead with no advance public warning, was met with anger on the Facebook page. One member described the removal as 'Vandalism, pure and simple. The main office block's a fairly ugly old pile, and that sign and the recently-removed lattice tower were the only things that made it memorable. Coming into Manchester on the train on a winter's evening, and seeing that expanse of illuminated red, never failed to give me a warm glow.' Another contributor added: 'People of Granadaland should protest to ITV and demand that the Granada Logo is replaced. It is now part of our northern identity and separate from the Southern Elite. And Granada should keep its logo after all the programmes it makes instead of the awful ITV Studios Logo. It was bad enough when they removed the aerial...'

Ofcom has today dismissed a complaint from a mother that EastEnders infringed her privacy by featuring footage of her giving birth. In episodes of the BBC1 soap broadcast on 11 and 12 May this year, the Ian Beale character showed his daughter Lucy a DVD featuring footage of one his 'employees' giving birth in an attempt to scare her into having an abortion. The BBC had obtained the footage from an educational film produced by the National Childbirth Trust of a woman, called 'Ms K' by the media regulator, during and after the birth of her son. However, Ms K submitted a complaint to Ofcom that her and her son's privacy had been 'unwarrantably infringed' by the two episodes. She claimed that her consent hadn't been sought before the footage was aired, while EastEnders had 'trampled' over the birth of her son and permanently ruined her memories of the occasion. In response, the BBC said that the footage of Ms K giving birth was placed in the public domain by the NCT with her full consent. The corporation also said that the DVD had been made freely available to 'any mum-to-be in the UK' for the past three years prior to the episodes being broadcast. Despite acknowledging that the footage of Ms K was of a 'very intimate and personal nature,' Ofcom decided to dismiss her complaint. The media regulator noted that her expectations of privacy were 'limited by her decision to permit the birth to be filmed by the NCT and disseminated to the public at large' in the first place. 'Taking into account the fact that the material used in these programmes had been so widely disseminated during the previous three years, and the nature and extent of the material used in the broadcast, Ofcom does not consider that the privacy of either Ms K or her son was unwarrantably infringed in the programmes as broadcast,' said the watchdog. 'Accordingly Ofcom has not upheld Ms K's complaint.'

Huntwatch: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to call for a 'new landscape of local TV services' around the UK. In a speech he set out his vision of stations 'broadcasting for as little as one hour a day.' He said an expansion of super fast broadband and the easing of rules on owning local newspapers, radio and TV would help encourage the enterprises. A report suggests that advertising alone will not be enough to support the stations, but corporate sponsorship might work. Nicholas Shott, of investment bankers Lazard, was commissioned by Hunt's department to investigate the local TV proposals. His interim report suggests that a multimillion-pound corporate sponsorship deal could be one way to make such broadcasters work, citing Barclays' backing of the London bicycle scheme as an example. In a letter to Hunt, Shott said that the TV stations were more likely to succeed in urban areas, but even there 'the economics of a TV business funded mainly by advertising will still be challenging' and that 'additional revenue sources' would have to be explored. He added that stations could be hosted by existing channels, and discussions had started with senior management at the BBC which were showing 'early promise.' Hunt has long believed British TV is too centralised, lacking the local stations found in the US and mainland Europe. Hunt has not convinced most media executives, who doubt local TV can flourish here, particularly since the recent slump in advertising. But the minister is said to think future generations will find the idea that the UK cannot sustain local TV 'quaint.' In his speech to the Royal Television Society in London, Hunt set out his vision of the local TV services, broadcasting via digital TV or broadband, and free to link up with each other to cut costs and appeal to national advertisers. A BBC spokesman said: 'We are exploring potential ways in which the BBC could support the planned new local TV services, and partner with them where this makes sense for licence fee payers and sustaining plurality in news provision.' Terrestrial broadcasters - specifically ITV and Channel 4 - risk losing their traditional slots on the EPG if they fail to engage with the government's local TV agenda.

EastEnders joins forces with Michael Wood and Wallace & Gromit to inspire a life full of learning for BBC audiences. The BBC yesterday launched a new strategy to put learning at the heart of the BBC and provide learning opportunities for all audiences. Utilising the power of the BBC's big brands and key talent, BBC Learning hopes to make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to learn new skills, knowledge or ideas. The BBC's learning department, which is part of BBC Knowledge, is spearheading the new strategy but all the BBC's platforms, genres, regions and nations will be involved in making it a reality. A new contestable learning fund of five million pounds is being created next year to enhance the learning impact of key content across the entire BBC whether made in-house or by independent producers. And a learning exchange will be set up with a small team being able to offer advice on education, creativity and partnerships. New initiatives announced include a new series of the EastEnders online spin-off drama E20, a new daytime literacy campaign; a new series designed to get the nation 'hands on' with history and face-to-face events for the new Brian Cox series, Stargazing. BBC Learning has also committed to spend more on television shows aimed at adults who need help with basic skills and invest in learning projects aimed at older teens on BBC3. Controller of Learning, Saul Nassé, said: 'When I was a child I was inspired to study science by Raymond Baxter on Tomorrow's World, a show I later went on to edit. I want everyone in Britain to have a similar story of how the BBC enriched their life. I want to use BBC programmes that are known and loved by audiences that can serve as springboards for learning, whether that be a drama or a documentary. Many broadcasters "inform" and "entertain" but we are the only one that has "educate" at the heart of our public purpose. We have a wealth of content at our disposal and I want to ensure we are making the most of it – making it accessible and available to all.' The new Learning Strategy aims to maximise the learning potential of all the BBC's output and provide opportunities for everyone to learn that bit more – be it simply by attending a Bang Goes The Theory roadshow or by utilising online resources to help study for a crucial GCSE. 'We'll be enlisting the help of the BBC's best talent to maximise the reach of our output; inviting key presenters such as historian Michael Wood to film pieces that can be played directly into the classroom,' Nasse added. The new strategy also seeks to target those adults who need help with basic skills. In partnership with BBC Daytime, BBC Learning is going to mount a major adult literacy event which will include factual and drama on BBC1, outreach partnerships and online elements. In the late Seventies the series On The Move, starring Bob Hoskins, was a catalyst in an extremely effective literacy campaign which helped tens of thousands of people. The BBC will be inviting television dramatists to come up with a compelling contemporary drama that will serve as the lynchpin of the new campaign to tackle adult literacy levels today. Science and History are two areas BBC Learning will be focusing their resources. BBC Learning has funded the new series Wallace & Gromit's World of Inventions (BBC1) and will be taking the show around the country with a series of roadshows and workshops, to be announced shortly, designed to inspire an interest in inventing and science. Learning will also be supporting the two new Brian Cox series' Wonders Of The Universe and Stargazing. Stargazing events will be held across the UK with science centres, observatories and national parks joining in with a series of star parties and stargazing walks to encourage public engagement. Building on the success of the new series Michael Wood's The Story Of England, BBC Learning is going to commission a new eight-part series The Story Of The Nation (BBC2). This landmark Michael Wood series will tell the story of our country through communities investigating their local history. It will be accompanied by fifteen regional programmes showcasing local places viewers can visit for themselves to get 'hands on' with history.

Emmerdale's Danny Miller has revealed that he believes next week's 'cataclysmic collision' will be among the best episodes ever seen by viewers. The storyline involves a train which will be seen smashing into a car carrying Aaron, Jackson, Paddy and Marlon as they return home from a night out. One of the four's life will be left in jeopardy. 'The stunt and the episode are both amazing,' Miller said. 'It embodies everything Emmerdale is about.' What, sheep? He continued: 'Filming for the bar was hilarious and then in complete contrast, the emotional drama on location was great to get my teeth into. It's a spectacular episode but this will only mark the start, what comes after is incredible. From watching Emmerdale since I was a child, I personally think it will be one of the best episodes viewers have ever seen.' Miller, who was named Best Actor at the Inside Soap Awards this week, admitted that Aaron won't deal with the impact of the accident well. 'Aaron keeps his cards close to his chest, he always has,' he said. 'It won't matter whether he's the one behind the wheel or not – whoever's life is in jeopardy that night, Aaron will struggle to cope with the consequences. He'll more than likely want to shut everyone else out to deal with it alone.'

Doctor Who star Matt Smith has admitted that he would love a piano to be installed in the TARDIS. According to the Daily Telegraph, Smith wants to show off his musical skills on the programme. 'I always wanted a piano in the TARDIS but that's yet to materialise, sadly,' he said. Heh! Materialise. It's a ... oh, never mind. 'I'm by no means a dab-hand but I can tinker a little bit.' However, Smith admitted that the introduction of a musical instrument is unlikely. 'I guess once the TARDIS lands you want the adventure to get started,' he said. 'You don't want to see the Doctor playing the piano.' Oh no you don't. Smith has also described the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special in glowing terms. The actor told Metro that the Steven Moffat-written episode will be full of holiday surprises. 'We've got Michael Gambon playing a Scrooge-like miser with a time travelling twist - and I think it's really, really good,' he said. 'It's particularly Christmassy, lots of snow and lots of twinkly lights.' He continued: 'I think it's full of the right heart and soul for the season. Steven has, once again, written something brilliant.' Smith also praised an additional episode that Moffat has written for the upcoming sixth series. 'God, I wish I could tell you the other thing he's just written, which is just mind-blowing. I think he's delivered his best script yet. I can't say anything about it, but it's bloody brilliant.'

CSI: Miami actress Emily Procter has reportedly said that she was prompted to take a pregnancy test following a dream. The actress, who plays Calleigh Duquesne on the CBS series, and before that was a cult favourite as Ainsley in The West Wing, announced that she is expecting her first child with musician boyfriend Paul Bryan earlier this year. 'I actually had no idea that I was pregnant, and in the middle of the night I had this dream. There was this old woman, and she said, "Honey, you're pregnant!" And I said, "No, I'm not. There's no way,"' she told Us Weekly. 'I thought that dream was so bizarre, and when it was positive, of course I told my boyfriend. We were like, "Wow! That is unbelievable."' She added that the couple have already picked 'a couple of names' but declined to reveal any details about the baby's sex. Procter previously told People that she is 'grateful' that she is getting to experience pregnancy, adding: 'I started crying the other day just thinking that the baby is going to leave me soon. You have this relationship with this person in your belly and it's really amazing.'

The embarrassment caused to newspaper editors on the receiving end of a censure from the Press Complaints Commission has the practical effect of reducing repeat offending - that is the claim of senior figures within the PCC, who were speaking in Edinburgh this week. The event - organised by the Cross Party Group on culture and media at the Scottish Parliament - was attended by PCC chair, Baroness Buscombe. Also there was one of the seven newspaper editors on the PCC, the Scotsman's John McLellan, who praised the PCC a welcome 'pain in the neck.' He added: 'The press jumps to the PCC tune, not the other way around.' Conspicuously absent from the event were newspaper editors, who will have heard a vigorous debate about proportionality, that any apology a newspaper runs is as prominent as the original, offending article. Stephen Abell of the PCC, however, did say that eighty per cent of apologies appear on the same page or earlier. But another attendee, Eshter Roberton, admitted that - during her three years as a PCC Commissioner - she could only recollect two or three apologies which had appeared on a front page. All the PCC representatives made a robust defence of their organisation, including the concept of self-regulation. Unresolved was a debate to what extent the PCC is pro-active - seeking out possible grounds for complaint - as opposed to responding only once a complaint is received. While there is some pro-activity - including making it known to possible victims of inaccuracy, etc. that they have recourse to the 'fast, free, fair and flexible' service that is the PCC - mostly they have to wait until invited. That led to Ted Brocklebank MSP, raising issues of 'press standards', which might not lead to complaints but are deemed offensive or in poor taste, nevertheless. Brocklebank feared, for instance, that 'press standards' might dissuade entering public service, because of the risk of being pilloried. He cited his own recent experience when it was announced he was standing down from the Scottish Parliament at the next election, in May. After eight years services as a MSP, the Scotsman, he felt, seemed to be more interested in a relationship he is said to have had with then ITN broadcaster Selina Scott, some thirty years ago. The article was illustrated with a photograph of Brocklebank and Scott. The MSP said he could never envisage himself complaining about anything to the PCC. Meanwhile, Edinburgh Napier University lecturer Robert Beveridge said he had stopped taking the Scotsman following a cartoon accompanying the reporting of Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon's recent marriage. He described it as 'mysogynist.' McLellan countered that Sturgeon's husband, Peter Murrell, bought the original.

And, speaking of the PCC, one Marlene Bentley of North Yorkshire complained to the Press Complaints Council that the front cover of an issue of OK! magazine – which contained a headline concerning the 'Star-studded wedding' of Wayne and Coleen Rooney – had misled readers to believe that the issue contained coverage of the couple's wedding. In fact, that issue of the magazine contained merely a full page advertisement for the wedding which was to be covered in the following week's edition. The magazine emphasised that its intention was not to mislead the complainant or any of its readers. Perish the thought. The magazine took on board the comments that Ms Bentley had made and offered her a six month subscription. Which sounds more of a punishment than a recompense but, anyway, the complaint was, apparently, resolved on that basis.

Tourism bosses have landed themselves in trouble after incorrectly claiming Stan Laurel was born in their town. Brochures designed to attract visitors to County Durham say: 'Bet you didn't know that Bishop Auckland was the birthplace of Arthur Stanley Jefferson, better known as Stan Laurel.' I didn't, in fact, know that. Because, it wasn't. He was actually born in Ulverston, Cumbria – eighty miles away. Visit County Durham has apologised for the error but says it doesn't have enough money to recall the fifty thousand leaflets. Well, you can borrow a marker pen if off me if you're that strapped for cash, lads. To be fair, Laurel did spend much of his early life in Bishop Auckland, where he parents ran the theatre. He was baptised in a local church, and attended the King James Grammar School there. He also lived for a while in North Shields before moving to London to appear in Fred Karno's theatre where, for a couple of years he and, another then geniuses of British comedy Charlie Chaplin, shared a stage. However, his birth certificate proves he was born in Ulverston in 1890. Craig Wilson of Visit County Durham admitted: 'It seems that urban myth has perpetuated an error in the Bishop Auckland town visitor map.' But, it's never been an urban myth, mate, all you had to do is look it up on Wikipedia! That's another fine mess you've gotten yourself into.

The United Nations has denied recent speculation that it is to appoint an astrophysicist as Earth's representative to extraterrestrial life-forms. Rumours had been circulating regarding the appointment of Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman - director of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs - to the role of 'first contact point for aliens.' The story, which first appeared in The Sunday Times, suggested that Othman would be the 'nearest thing we have to a "take me to your leader" person.' However, in an e-mail to the Gruniad Morning Star, Othman responded to the claims, saying: 'It sounds really cool but I have to deny it.' Pity.