Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Enemy of My Enemy Is, Grudgingly, My Friend

As noted in From The North's reply to Our Deborah's keenly-observed comments on yesterday's blog update, the Gruniad Morning Star does seem to be running rather of a lot of 'we just lurv the BBC, like, the mostest, baby' op-ed pieces at the moment. A suspicious number, in fact. Which is all very odd given that, for the last couple of years they've hardly had a decent word to say for the corporation on just about any subject. And, have collectively hopped right into bed alongside the Daily Scum Mail over numerous issues of BBC-slagging. Particularly anything involving Top Gear. So, could all of this sudden infatuation with Auntie, one has to wonder, have anything to do with the fact that BBC criticism's current major cheerleader is Rupert Murdoch and his grubby spawn? Case in point, take this Diary piece by Hugh Muir on Tuesday as a classic example: 'And so to war. It took exactly one year for the BBC director general Mark Thompson to respond to the attack from James Murdoch at last year's annual MacTaggart lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh television festival. A year spent marshalling the forces, harvesting supplies. On Friday at the same event, the uneasy truce was ended. Murdoch is too powerful, Thompson said. His television stations threaten to overwhelm the BBC and all the others. And his newspapers provide them with formidable artillery support, despite the fact that their readers support the BBC just as much as any other section of the population. Stirring stuff. Significant stuff you might think. But there was no mention of it on that night's newspaper round-up on Sky (prop: R Murdoch) or in the next day's Sun or Times (prop: R Murdoch). Or in the News of the World (prop: R Murdoch). The Sunday Times (prop: R Murdoch) did have a story from Edinburgh. It told of John Simpson criticising his BBC bosses and their "fat-cat" salaries. "Times (print) still pretending Mark Thompson didn't say a word about Sky. What does this say about their journalism?" asked Brian Cathcart, the writer and professor of journalism at Kingston University, on Twitter yesterday. What indeed? For the only obvious reference we could find was a piece on the Sky website posted on Saturday lunchtime by the Sky News Scottish correspondent, James Matthews. "Sky Rejects BBC Boss' Lecture Criticism," it said. Brave move James.' Well said, Hughie and most of it spot-on true. What a pity, however, that you and a few of your red mates at the Gruniad weren't saying stuff like this a year ago when James Murdoch was treating the BBC as his own, personal, punchbag.

Doctor Who 'bosses' are 'planning to kill off Amy Pond mid-way through the next series,' according to a tabloid report. The Sun, with no supporting evidence whatsoever other than Steven Moffat's statement that there will be a mid-season cliffhanger in the two-part 2011 series, suggest that the companion will die as part of a 'devastating plot twist'. They do, admittedly, refer to a 'source' - nameless, of course - whom, they claim, 'told TV Biz that Karen Gillan WILL leave before the end of the next season.' But they don't actually offer any quotes - anonymous or otherwise - to support this claim. So, do we file this one away with their claim in 2006 that Zöe Lucker was being 'lined-up to play the Rani'? Or, from a year later, that David Bowie was going to be appearing in the show? We'll find out one way or the other sometime around the end of May next year, I expect. Moffat revealed over the weekend that the next thirteen episode series would be split into two, and suggested that the first half would conclude with 'one of the most exciting cliffhangers and plot twists ever.' The BBC has yet to comment on the Sun's report.

TV viewers want to watch more dramas and documentaries and less reality and celebrity shows, according to a survey. A third of viewers - thirty one per cent - want more drama, while thirty per cent would like to see more documentaries, the poll suggests. Only two per cent of the two thousand people surveyed wanted more celebrity shows, while just three per cent wanted more reality programmes. A total of forty four per cent said that Big Brother was the show they were most likely to avoid, according to the joint poll by and the Radio Times. Top Gear was named the nation's favourite show. The survey also showed how viewing has changed in recent years, with fifty six per cent of students saying that they watched TV online. Ben Preston, the editor of the Radio Times, said: 'The couch potato is dead, the age of the hunter-gatherer is nigh. Technology means television isn't a passive activity any more. We hunt down what we want to watch,' he added.

A court case to prevent the identity of Top Gear's The Stig from being revealed is to continue being heard in private. The judge at the High Court said the case should proceed behind closed doors, as publicity would defeat the purpose of the hearing. The BBC began legal action last week to block HarperCollins from publishing an autobiography which would unmask the white helmeted character. The BBC say that the planned book would breach confidentiality obligations. Arguing for HarperCollins, Hugh Tomlinson QC said the press and public should be allowed to hear the legal arguments. He added the press could be subject to extensive restrictions to prevent any confidential information being revealed before the conclusion of the case. But Mr Justice Morgan said: 'It seems to me that having the hearing in private is a much more effective barrier to information which might in due course be the subject of an injunction passing more widely into the public domain.' He said the public interest in 'having justice in open court for all to hear' could be dealt with by a public judgment given 'in due course.' Last week, HarperCollins said it would 'vigorously defend' its right to publish the book, adding it was 'disappointed that the BBC has chosen to spend licence fee payers' money to suppress this book.' However Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman - magnificently - attacked the publisher for talking absolute drivel, writing on the Top Gear website that the BBC had a right to protect Stig's anonymity 'from a bunch of chancers' who were 'hoping to cash in on it.' The BBC has never confirmed the identity of The Stig - who test drives cars on the show. It maintains that unmasking him would spoil viewers' enjoyment.

ITV is launching a Sunday night documentary strand called Perspectives and dramas by three of yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite dramatists Peter Morgan, Anthony Horowitz and Sally Wainwright. Perspectives will begin in 2011 with five films by leading film-makers such as Brian Hill and Antony Thomas. The new documentary strand will also feature Andrew Lloyd Webber on Pre-Raphaelite art, while Robson Green, directed by the Oscar-winning Jon Blair, will explore the story of the Pitmen Painters. Horovitz, the creator of Foyle's War and Collision, has written Injustice, which will star James Purefoy as William Travers, a criminal barrister who is recovering from a traumatic series of events. Wainwright – whose credits include At Home with the Braithwaites – has written a police drama, Scott and Bailey, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp. From Morgan, writer of Frost/Nixon and The Damned Utd, there is The Jury, a drama about people who find themselves at the centre of a retrial. Speaking at his Edinburgh Television Festival controller session over the weekend, Peter Fincham said of the row over using Auto-Tune technology on The X Factor that he had 'not issued instructions to the producers.' He added that he thought producers would 'deliver a show that faithfully represents' the contestants. When asked about BBC director general Mark Thompson's idea of Sky paying retransmission fees to carry ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, Fincham said: 'We're not going to complain if they do. It's a fresh idea.' He said he would have to see if Thompson's prediction that many ideas floated in MacTaggart lectures disappear by the following Tuesday: 'We'll have to see whether the proposals take root and gain direction.'

Eddie Izzard will play a recurring role on the forthcoming third season of United States of Tara. Deadline reports that the actor will play a psychology professor who is sceptical about Dissociative Identity Disorder, the condition afflicting Tara (Toni Collette). As Izzard's character becomes more fascinated with Tara, he will begin to explore the disorder further. Izzard previously starred in the acclaimed FX drama The Riches and more recently made an appearance on Showtime series The Green Room with Paul Provenza.

Former Lost star Henry Ian Cusick has revealed details of his forthcoming guest role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The actor - who played Desmond Hume on the ABC drama - told Fancast that his character Erik Weber would become romantically involved with Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). '[They] first meet in a train station,' he explained. 'There's sort of a flirtation, and it goes on from there.' Cusick also confirmed that he would appear in both the first and second episodes of the forthcoming twelfth season of the drama. 'It's going to be an interesting role,' he added.

The BBC has passed up the opportunity to commission Paul Cornell's Pulse as a series according to the Bleeding Cool website. Based on a screenplay by the DC Comics author and, a long time ago, one-time writing partner of yer Keith Telly Topping his very self(!), Paul's hospital SF-horror-dramady gestalt failed to impress the network sufficiently with its pilot episode, broadcast in early June, to go to a full series commission. 'The decision about which series to commission was not determined solely by audience numbers. BBC3 looks hard at Appreciation Index responses, how good they thought a series might be,' said BBC3 controller Danny Cohen. 'Pulse got an okay AI. There's a range of reasons. It's about which one you think creatively - instinctively - has the most mileage.' A pity, that, as yer Keith Telly Topping rather enjoyed it.

Adrian Chiles has admitted both he and co-host Christine Bleakley were 'gutted' over the way they left the BBC's The ONE Show. Chiles announced his departure in April following the news that Chris Evans would take his place on Fridays. Bleakley followed suit in June, and the pair will now front ITV's new breakfast show Daybreak. Speaking at the show's press launch, Chiles called the end of his seventeen-year BBC tenure 'an awful, awful business. We were both very happy to stay,' he said. This, seemingly, despite the revelation that he'd been in discussions with ITV for up to two years prior to signing up with them. 'Nothing needed to change - but obviously change was suggested on The ONE Show I couldn't live with and that's why I left. We were both gutted the way things started to unfold,' he continued. The forty three-year-old, who has already been seen on ITV's World Cup coverage, said he and his co-host had been put under 'intolerable pressure' while negotiating their future. 'We were both criticised for the way we conducted ourselves, but I challenge anyone who is in that position to not end up pissing off one or more people,' he said. 'It was such a long, stressful time. You've got no idea. The bottom line is it's your livelihood is on the line and something that was very precious to us both - The ONE Show - had been basically taken away from us to a lesser or greater extent.' Asked about his current relations with the BBC, Chiles characterised them as 'fine.' The BBC, it would appear, beg to differ. He added: 'When you think of the BBC, you think of all the bosses, but I think of all the people I've worked with over the years and I see them all all the time anyway. We've got very, very few enemies there and they'll move on before long.'

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has revealed that he would like to set an end date for the series. Earlier this year, Weiner reportedly suggested that he wants the show to finish in 2012. However, the programme's network AMC later played down the speculation. Weiner has now told Fancast that he still wants to know when the series will end. 'And I don't know what it is yet. We're all enjoying [the show]. So I don't know what [the end date] is yet.'

Simon Cowell was reportedly furious with the behaviour of X Factor hopefuls in Spain. Cowell had taken his category to Marbella and was using a fifteen thousand pounds-a-night villa for the Judges' Houses stage of ITV competition. However, the Mirror reports that problems began when excited members of his group arrived at the property on Sunday morning and woke the 'furious' judge at 8am. An 'insider' told the paper: 'Cowell was far from impressed as he had only been sleeping a couple of hours. He certainly won't be holding back on the harsh comments if anyone messes up an audition. He really will turn into Mr Nasty if this partying affects performances.' The hopefuls - who were staying in a nearby hotel - allegedly then found a drinks cabinet in the twenty-bed villa. 'The contestants really let their hair down when they got to the villa on Sunday and they were drinking, singing and partying,' a source said. 'They even got stuck into Simon's beer, so he wasn't happy at all when he went to the fridge for a drink the next day. They continued: 'To make matters worse they damaged antiques in the villa and ruined a rug.' Cowell is said to have insisted that those responsible for the damage would cover the costs. 'Yes, they did wake me up. And any damage will have to be paid out of their first royalty cheque if they make it - to teach them a lesson,' he reportedly told the paper. In July, police were called to a hotel after contestants partied during Boot Camp.

A billboard campaign featuring Julianne Moore has been banned from display in Venice, after city officials deemed the image to be 'inappropriate.' The advert shows the actress lying naked on a divan, covered by a Bulgari handbag and posing with two lion cubs. It was expected to be displayed on Doge's Palace at St Mark's Square. However, recently elected mayor Giorgio Orsoni has blocked the use of the billboard on the city's famous landmark. He told Italian newspapers: 'An advertisement showing a nude woman on a divan is not appropriate for St Mark’s Square.' The advert will now feature an image of Moore fully clothed wearing Bulgari jewellery.

Richard Desmond has reportedly offered Katie Price a ten million pound contract. The Channel Five boss is said to be keen to lure the glamour-model-turned-reality-TV-regular away from her new deal with Virgin Media Television, the Mirror reports. Price's production company signed a reported three million pound deal in June. A new programme on Living TV is due to begin in November when her ITV2 contract expires. The report claims that Desmond is so keen to land Price that he has offered to better the deal. 'Money is no object for Richard and he thinks Katie would be the perfect person to help kick start Channel Five in a new era,' an 'insider' allegedly said. 'It's vital he relaunches the channel with a bang.' Price is said to be considering the offer and consulting with lawyers.