Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At Midnight, All The Agents

The ninth series of the BBC's good old mad-as-toast [Spooks] kicked-off with a proper right rip-roaring rock-and-rollercoaster of an episode, the opening ten minutes of which were, easily, as good as anything they've ever done. it started with Harry and Ruth's tender, you unrequited moment of aching sadness in the aftermath of Ros's funeral, followed by Peter Firth and Robert Glenister being magnetic for one last time together before the latter shuffled off the way of all dirty rotten traitors in the [Spooks] universe. To hell. Thereafter, the episode settled down to a rather tasty, if somewhat bog-standard little piece of typical stuff-and-nonsense which involved Somali piracy, electromagnetic pulses, teenage terrorists, broody Lucas and his, suddenly, shady past, more Harry and Ruth (and Nicola Walker acting her little cotton socks off) and, err, Sophia Myles and her prominent busom. Which was, as usual, brilliant. As, indeed, was the rest of her. [Spooks], ladies and gentlemen. Back with a bang and full of the requisite high-octane, toll-stiffening violence. And, it got a rather decent review from Catherine Gee in the Telegraph. Suddenly the nights getting longer don't seem quite so bad.

JJ Abrams has reportedly reunited with Lost actors Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn for his new TV project. Emerson and O'Quinn, who played Ben Linus and John Locke in the cult time-travel series, have previously revealed that they are working on a new show. New York Magazine has now claimed that Abrams, who co-created Lost, pitched a programme to networks last week with his collaborators Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. The show, which is said to have the working title Odd Jobs, would reportedly see Linus and O'Quinn playing former black-ops agents and would have humorous elements. Because, of course, black-ops and wetworks are thigh-slapping, aren't they?

Showtime is reportedly considering a new drama pitch from former 24 showrunner Howard Gordon. The project - titled Homeland - is based on the Israeli series Hatufim, which follows three soldiers who return home after spending seventeen years captive in Syria and struggle to readjust to civilian life. Gordon's version will be a loose adaptation in which an American soldier is recovered from an Al-Qaeda safe-house and returned home. A very loose adaptation, in that case. A CIA operative subsequently receives a tip from an informant that the soldier has been corrupted by terrorists and is planning a strike on American soil. '[The show] combines some of the suspense elements of the thriller genre but it also has a wonderful family drama at the centre of it,' said Gordon. Because, of course, a backdrop of international terrorism is a terrific basis for 'family drama.' The producer co-wrote the pilot alongside his former X-Files co-writer Alex Gansa and Hatufim creator Gideon Raff. Hollywood actor Ben Affleck is believed to be interested in directing the pilot episode. The project would mark his television directing debut.

There's nowt as hilarious, dear blog reader, as seeing somebody getting hit in the face with a geet big watermelon, is there not? What do you mean, 'no'? Actually, yeah, come to think of it. Fair comment. However, we'll make an exception here. A US woman has become an inadvertent Internet star after she accidentally catapulted a watermelon into her own face on television, a report says. A clip of the incident on the reality TV show The Amazing Race has already notched up almost one and a half million hits on YouTube, Orange News claims. In the video, Claire, a home shopping network host, is trying to hit armoured knights with watermelons using a medieval-style catapult. Just before the watermelon is launched her eager coach shouts: 'Right in the kisser, show that knight who's boss.' She pulls the catapult as far back as she can, but when she releases it the contraption backfires, hitting her full in the face. The watermelon explodes sending the woman flying onto her back - but she appears to be remarkably unscathed by the incident. 'I can't feel my face - I have the worst headache,' she complained to her game show partner Brook who replies: 'You have to finish.' Claire, clearly shocked, responds: 'What? I can't even see straight.'

It doesn't get any better for Daybreak in audience appreciation terms, does it? The ITV breakfast show's AI scores since it started on 3 September have gone fifty five, fifty eight, fifty six, sixty, fifty nine, sixty two, fifty nine, fifty eight, fifty eight, fifty nine. Every single one of them a score regarded as 'very poor' within the industry. Tragedy.

Former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland has added his voice to criticism of the BBC Trust by claiming that the governing body has 'never made sense.' Last week, the Trust's chairman Sir Michael Lyons announced that he would not seek reappointment when his current term expires in April next year. In 2007, Lyons became the first chairman of the BBC Trust when the organisation replaced the BBC's governors as regulator of the corporation's activity in the wake of the Hutton inquiry. However, Bland told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'The structure, the BBC Trust, never made sense, it was wrong when it was set up. The system has been undermined.' Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously criticised the Trust for a perceived failing to hold the corporation's executive to account. However, the coalition government appears to have decided against replacing the body as was suggested before the general election. Bland said that it is not sufficiently clear if the Trust is a regulator for the BBC or a guarantor of its independence from government interference. 'Although I think Sir Michael Lyons has done as well as he possibly could, it's very difficult, being an advocate, regulator and admonisher,' he said. 'I would have stuck with the governors, at least it was absolutely clear who was responsible.' The Trust was created under the BBC's current ten-year Royal Charter agreement, which runs until the end of 2016. There has since been a gradual erosion of confidence in the organisation, which has previously been described as both 'ringleader and cheerleader' for the corporation. 'The problem is the BBC Charter has another six years to run. That's a challenge for the Trust, operating a structure no one now has confidence in,' said Bland. 'I don't see any obvious route out of it. The system is undermined.'

Labour peer David Puttnam has called on the government to intervene in News Corporation's proposed takeover of Sky. The acclaimed filmmaker, who chairs the joint parliamentary scrutiny committee for the Communications Act 2003, is concerned about the increasingly close links between media and politics in Europe. Puttnam wants the business secretary Vince Cable to use his power to refer the proposed deal to media regulator Ofcom, which could in turn lead to a Competition Commission review. He said that Cable has also previously expressed concern about the 'seduction' of politicians by lobbyists pursuing the interests of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. 'The desire of News Corporation to buy the sixty one per cent of pay-TV operator Sky which it doesn't already own goes straight to the heart of arguments about media plurality in a modern democracy,' he told the Observer. 'The scope for ensuring that news is manipulated to reflect a particular viewpoint, across different media is very considerable. Especially since, if the other shareholders were driven out, News Corporation would for the very first time have untrammelled control of Sky News.' Last week, leading media consultant Claire Enders argued that allowing the Sky takeover to go through would trigger 'a reduction in media plurality to an unacceptably low level' in the UK. Agreeing with Enders, Puttnam said that competition law and the Ofcom-administered plurality test is the 'only real safeguard we have against the abuse of media power and the continuing attempts to erode the diversity of informed opinion in our democracy.'

Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft has claimed that the TV leaders' debates were to blame for the party's failure to secure an overall majority in the general election. In April, live televised debates between Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron were aired on ITV, BBC1 and Sky News ahead of the election on 6 May. Ashcroft believes that giving a prominent platform to Clegg changed the 'narrative and rhythm' of the campaign by allowing the Liberal Democrat leader to position himself as a candidate for change, reports the Independent. The billionaire, who yesterday announced that he is stepping down from his position, also accepted blame for concentrating on attacking the then prime minister Brown in the debates rather than highlighting Tory party policy. Published yesterday, Lord Ashcroft's new book, titled Minority Verdict, gives an assessment of the party's election campaign, including his disappointment at not securing an outright victory. He claimed that the TV leaders' debates were 'arguably a tactical error which exposed a strategic problem. Three weeks before the election the market was still wide open for a party of change,' he said. 'Nick Clegg was only able to appropriate the territory of "real change" because we did not dominate it ourselves.' A Tory spokesman said: 'Michael helped to fight a great campaign and we're all extremely grateful for his tireless work as deputy chairman. This book is part of the "lessons learnt" exercise and we should welcome it. He has made a very significant contribution to the success of the Conservative Party and we thank him for his dedication.' Errr ... it's 'learned' guys. Lessons learned.

Former Coronation Street actor Adam Rickitt has, allegedly, won a role in the next series of Doctor Who. At least according to the Digital Spy website, anyway. They claim that the actor's Spotlight page suggests he will play a character called 'Ben' in the third episode of the 2011 series, directed by Richard Clark. Which is highly suspicious since, for those who've never waded in the murky depths of Doctor Who fandom, Rickitt was 'cast' by a particularly notorious fan whose screen-name is 'Sparacus' on the various online forums as part of a long-running series of - really bad, homoerotic - fan-fiction as the tenth Doctor's hitherto unknown companion Ben Chatham. For these reasons alone, treat this rumour with extreme caution until it's confirmed by sources far more official than those who've alluded to it so far. Rickitt played Nick Tilsley on Coronation Street from 1997 to 2004 and, more recently, appeared in the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street. Writer Neil Gaiman confirmed earlier this year that his instalment of the series would be broadcast third during the series.

Elisabeth Moss has admitted that she does not expect her Mad Men character to have a romance with Don. Speaking to E! Online, Moss suggested that the pair are 'very platonic. I think it's a brother-sister relationship,' she continued. 'I certainly have been playing it like that, but I think that that's always been one of the things that's more interesting. If they had just had an affair the first season, where would that have left us? [She'd've been] just one of the fifty seven women that he slept with that year, so I'd rather be the one woman that hasn't.' Moss also revealed that she tries not to think too much about what Peggy's future holds. 'I would rather be surprised what happens to her,' she explained. 'I could speculate, but to me it's more interesting to not know. I think that the only thing that I would want for her is I want her to find happiness, professionally and personally, but I suppose that's what every woman and man wants. For me, I'm not like, "Oh, she needs to run a company" or, "Oh, I want her to get married and have kids." I just want her to find happiness, both professionally and personally and equally.' She added: 'I think one of the most important things about her is she represents the question that women ask everyday, to this day, which is, "Can you have it all?" There's no difference between Peggy and a woman in 2010 in that sense.'

The Event's executive producer Nick Wauters has revealed that he wants the show to appeal to a wide range of people. The series focuses on a young man called Sean (Jason Ritter) who discovers a conspiracy when his girlfriend Leyla (Sarah Roemer) disappears. 'I wanted to create a show that had the nonstop action of 24 but also the character development and mythology of Lost,' Wauters explained. However, he promised that 'major questions will be answered every week' while new mysteries will emerge. 'I really wanted to create a show that would have a bit of everything for everyone,' Wauters said. 'It's a love story, a thriller, there's political intrigue, action.'

Being Human producer Phil Trethowan has revealed details of the character played by Robson Green. It was previously announced that Green would portray a werewolf on the show's upcoming third series. Trethowan told SFX magazine: 'We felt that we'd really explored the broader vampire world pretty extensively. So with Robson, we wanted to explore the broader world of werewolves a bit more and so he brings all that world into the show with him.' He joked that fans hoping to see the actor naked after a transformation sequence 'will not be disappointed. I can also tell you Robson's in good shape,' he said. 'He definitely works out.' Trethowan also revealed that a new werewolf costume had been designed for Green's character McNair. 'The werewolf we had before doubled as George and Nina in full transformation,' he explained. 'Now we've got a whole new werewolf. We had the idea that each werewolf lineage had a slightly different look about them. McNair looks a bit more grizzly.'

Hayden Panettiere is to portray a convicted murderer in a forthcoming TV movie for Lifetime. According to Deadline, the former Heroes actress will play Amanda Knox, the US exchange student convicted of brutally killing her British roommate in Italy. The movie is to be titled The Amanda Knox Story. The project from Ghost Hunters producer Craig Piligian will broadcast sometime next year.

Discovery has taken legal action against two of the stars of Deadliest Catch for three million dollars. The cable network claims that Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand failed to comply with an agreement to complete a spin off project for the show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Court documents filed in Maryland Circuit Court last week alleged that the pair were contracted to complete a TV special called Hillstranded, which would document their adventures in Alaska. Two weeks of photography had been completed, but work was never finished for the special. The complaint reads: 'The Hillstrand defendants determined that they would reverse course, dishonour their promises, and refuse to render the services necessary to complete Hillstranded.' The brothers were scheduled to film interviews for the spin-off, but they didn't showed up for the filming. Discovery attempted to contact them, only to receive a message from their attorney asking that the network not try to reach them again. The Hillstrands are being sued for three million dollars for breach of contract. Discovery says that the special would have generated significant ratings and profits for the network.

Kath and Kim are to be reunited in a live show, it has been reported. The fictional Australian pair, who are played by comedians Jane Turner and Gina Riley, are scheduled to headline at Sydney's World's Funniest Island comedy festival on Cockatoo Island next month. Event organiser John Pinder told AAP: 'This really is a huge comedy coup for World's Funniest Island. Gina and Jane are Australia's biggest comedy stars and they are hosting their first-ever Australian live shows with us. We're feeling a little bit special.'

Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann has criticised the BBC for marginalising smaller teams in the Premier League. According to Mirror Football, the American keeper is boycotting the BBC's Match Of The Day programme - which, we're sure the BBC are absolutely devastated by - in protest at its portrayal of his team. Hahnemann claims that Wolves are always pushed down to the latter games shown on the Saturday night show, rather than being given top billing. 'You never see any of my saves. You've got Manchester United, who've got millions of fans, they are going to get more play than us,' he said. 'But it seems like every week we're on last. It's a bit frustrating at times.' Well, you weren't on last on saturday night for a kick off, you were on third, so that's a lie for a start. Hahnemann also claimed that Wolves are 'portrayed very poorly' in general on television as being a 'dirty' team. That's what you get for having Mick McCarthy as your manager, pal. If you hire a kicker, you'll play like kickers. 'Last week against Fulham we didn't have any bad tackles in the game. How's that dirty? Yet people still say we kick everybody,' he said. Christ almighty, boo-bloody-hoo. Grow up, for God's sake you child. And, I think Bobby Zamora might just have something to say about that 'no bad tackles' thing.

And finally, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping has ploughed, in record-quick time, through The Fry Chronicles and can report that it is, pretty much, what you'd expect from Stephen Fry. It is witty, gregarious, intelligent, humane and humanistic, insightful, sharp and has a fabulous clarity and detail. It is also, in places, agonisingly self-reflective (even narcissistic in a kind-of inverse way). Sometimes over-reliant on an almost masochistic self-analysis. It is brilliant and yet it is also flawed by the fact that it knows it's brilliant and doesn't want to seem like it's bragging about that. In short, it's Stephen Fry. It is loveable because it's so utterly fucked-up! It begins exactly where Moab Is My Washpot ends, with the recently released teenage criminal offender Fry about to go off to Cambridge (after two short chapters discussing various forms of addiction - from Sugar Puffs to cigarettes). It ends, just over a decade later when Fry - now thirty, a star of Blackadder and Saturday Live, the writer of a Broadway and West End hit musical and about to start work on his and Hugh Laurie's own BBC show - has his first encounter with cocaine. Laurie, to whom the book is dedicated, and his relationship with Stephen is the warm core around which the entire book is built. 'It is a matter of extreme good fortune that, handsome as Hugh is, prodigiously gifted as he is, funny and charming and clever as he is, I have never felt an erotic stirring for him. How catastrophic, how painfully embarrssing that would have been, how disastrous for my happiness, his comfort and any future we might have had together as comedy collaborators. Instead our instant regard and liking for each other developed into a deep, rich and perfect mutual love that the past thirty years has only strengthend. The best and wisest man I have ever known, as Watson writes of Holmes.' Stephen writes, articulately - as you'd expect - and with some considerable passion (as you'd also expect) on many subjects. But his assessment of celebrity, something to which he freely admits, he craved (and, to an extent, still craves), is one of the finest moments in the book. 'I think few people are really obsessed with being famous in the way that I was. They might consider from time to time what fame would be like and conduct thought-expermients in which they feature on a red carpet, but that is no more than the normal fantasy of opening the batting for England or volleying the chamionship point at Wimbledon. For the most part, most people are for a quiet life out of the public eye and have a mostly sane understanding of how peculiar fame must be. They are sensible enough not to judge all celebrities as alike and civil enough not to despise people because they have committed the crime of being a pop singer, a golfer or a politician. Most people are tolerant, wise, kind and thoughtful. Most of the time. People like me eaten up with ambition, simmering with resentment and sullen with frustration and disappointment, we are the ones who obsess about fame and status.' The Fry Chronciles is occasionally pretentious and up its own arsehole. But only, usually, because Stephen himself seems so desperate not to be pretentious and up his own arsehole that he, actually, bends too far the other way and makes a meal of being balanced and open-minded. The book is never, however, cruel. It is never, needlessly, critical (except, now and again, about the author himself). It is never hurtful even when it, possibly, should be. What it is, ultimately, is four hundred pages of Stephen Fry in the act of becoming the Stephen Fry that we know, and love, today. And it includes, in an anecdote about his first meeting with Miriam Margoyles, possibly the filthiest two lines of reported dialogue in the history of autobiographies! Frankly, it's worth your twenty pounds for that alone. The Fry Chronicles is published by Michael Joseph and is available from all good book shops, and some very bad ones.