Sunday, September 12, 2010

Everything Begins, And Ends, At Exactly The Right Time, And Place.

TV comedy moment of the week: In the middle of a - frankly, rather substandard and, in places almost tedious - Mock The Week segment on the current press obsession with William Hague's hotel bedding arrangements, thank God for the presence of the great Milton Jones: 'I've been reading a lot about Hague ... having to compete with Rotterdam as a port!' And, his stand-up routine about 'taking the school guinea-pig home' was just genius. 'Half the time at school I was afraid of things like fractions. Well, I say half the time ...!' Shine on, you crazy diamond. Despite the episode's less-than-successful moments, it was also hard not to snigger at Russell Howard's observation that whilst Wayne Rooney had, allegedly, paid a woman one thousand pounds for sex, there are girls in Norwich who will 'do it for chips.'

Second TV comedy moment of the week: From Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution, the Qi star's astoundingly accurate summation of the political landscape of the early 1980s: 'Mrs Thatcher was about to put Great Britain across her knee and spank it until it broke in two!'

Friday's EastEnders episode saw Peggy Mitchell bid farewell to Albert Square after deciding that her departure would be in the best interests of her troubled son, Phil. There were plenty of poignant moments in the episode - not least the scene which saw Peggy standing in the destroyed Queen Vic. It was a particularly well-acted episode with Babs Windsor giving a never less than flawless performance. That's, before she pissed off to ITV immediately afterwards to become The Queen of Bingo, apparently. Almost nine million viewers watched the episode in what was a very good night for the BBC with returning detective drama New Tricks also topping seven million.

Meanwhile, as one TV icon came to an end, so did another. Brian Dowling was crowned the Ultimate Big Brother housemate. The Big Brother II winner beat his fellow contestants after securing forty nine per cent of the final public vote, making him a two-time champion and the last person to leave the Big Brother house. Curiously, few people other than the three million viewers who watched it to the bitter end were in the slightest bit bothered about this. A far cry from the first time Dowling emerged, triumphant, from the gaff. Perhaps the sickest aspect of the entire night, however, was provided by what that great bastion of classy journalism OK! magazine described as 'an emotional tribute [to] Jade Goody.' Best known for appearing on the third series of Big Brother, in which she finished fourth, Goody become the show's first millionaire, launching perfumes, fitness DVDs and further reality TV shows on the back of her appearance in the Big Brother house. In 2007, she also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. She died from cervical cancer, aged twenty seven in 2009. The final episode of Big Brother saw a puke-inducing video montage of what were described as 'her greatest moments in and out of the house.' Davina McCall sobbed her little heart out during the tribute, saying at the end: 'How could we not remember Jade?' Well, indeed. As if any of us could ever forget. And, whilst we're on the subject, how could you completely fail to mention that the last time Jade Goody graced your programme with her presence she and two of her cackling moronic pals - Jo O'Meara and Danielle Lloyd - engaged in a sustained series of borderline racist and certainly bone-ignorant comments about the Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. A saga that ended with Goody being expelled from the show in disgrace and being described by the Sun as 'the most hated woman in Britain'? Had you forgotten about that little fiasco? Claiming that she did not know Shilpa's surname, Goody referred to her as 'Shilpa Fuckawallah' and 'Shilpa Poppadom,' later suggesting, crassly, that they were non-racist references to Indian food. The incident created an international outcry, gaining heavy coverage in the Indian media. Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was visiting India at the time, condemned the programme on the grounds that he was against anything which might damage the perception that Britain is a country of tolerance. The same Gordon Brown, incidentally, who two years later when she died was crying salt tears and claiming that she was 'an inspiration.' Ultimately Channel 4 received a rebuke from Ofcom over its handling of the affair which had resulted in more than fifty four thousand complaints. It emerged that there were various other, unbroadcast, incidents of alleged racism. They included a late night 'limerick game' between O'Meara, Lloyd, Goody and her boyfriend, the convicted thug Jack Tweed, in which the use of the word 'Paki' was allegedly implied on several occasions, but not actually said. Just in case anyone currently worshipping at the shrine of Saint Jade of the Estate had failed to remember what it was that she was famous for before she became famous for being Saint Jade of the Estate. I just thought Ultimate Big Brothers' 'tribute' was sick. And, horribly (and mawkishly) self-congratulatory too. 'Here's the woman we made. And broke. And made again. And broke again. And then we wanted nothing whatsoever to do with her until we found out she was dying from cancer and then she became our Queens of Hearts.' You know, I really could spit at whoever put that clip show together. It's a kind of neat little five minute summation of everything that's wrong with the world in 2010. Celebrity-by-non-entity. Ignorance-over-intelligence. Fame-at-all-costs. Want-want-want. Want it all. Want it now. Heaven forbid that I actually have to have some vague degree of talent to get it. Like I say, sick. Left a really sour taste in the mouth, that little scummish piece of almost Stalinist rewriting of history. Well done Channel 4. I'm sure your mothers are well proud of you.

James Corden is reportedly being lined up to replace Piers Morgan as a judge on Britain's Got Talent according to the ever reliable News of the World. Just one more reason - on a very long list, admittedly - not to watch it, dear blog reader.

ITV's new breakfast show Daybreak has, it would seem, been something of a flop with viewers in its first week of broadcast, according to figures from TV research body BARB. As this blog reported on Thursday the show only scored an audience approval rating of fifty five out of one hundred for its first programme on Monday. According to the Mirror, TV 'insiders regard a score of less than eighty as "below average" and anything below sixty as poor.' Which is just about accurate although the average score for non-drama is usually slightly lower than that - around seventy five or seventy six. They go on to state that 'An average score for BBC shows is eighty and hit series for both big networks, such as Doctor Who or The X Factor, can get marks in the nineties.' Actually, that's completely untrue, The X Factor had never had an AI score in the nineties. Although Doctor Who has. Several times. 'The only ones happy with the figures were the staff who worked on GMTV, the show Daybreak has replaced,' this very talkative 'insider' allegedly told the paper. 'To get Audience Appreciation Index scores this low was extremely disappointing and shows how much we have to improve. Hopefully things will improve when people know the brand while people here stress this is a marathon and not a sprint. But I'm sure someone like Adrian would take these figures very seriously.' Viewing figures for the show also fell later in the week to just eight hundred and seventy hundred thousand, despite big name interviews with the likes of Prince Charles and Tony Blair. Some viewers have also reportedly criticised the show for being too similar to The ONE Show according to What's On TV. And others still have criticised that particular shade of burnt orange which Christine Bleakley's face is currently as, apparently, it interferes with short-wave radio transmission and makes her look like she's been tango'd. ITV, pointedly, refused to comment on the AI figures when asked but said, 'We are pleased with the performance of Daybreak and we have had very positive feedback.' Well, it depends on who you listen to, I suppose. Nice to see the Gruniad Morning Star giving ITV a right good hard lick. Class.

The pairings for this year's Strictly Come Dancing have been revealed on the BBC1 launch show on Saturday night. All fourteen celebrities found out who they would be dancing with during the series in front of a live studio audience at Television Centre. Actress Felicity Kendall was matched with Vincent Simone, Goldie will team up with Kristina Rihanoff, Gavin Henson will perform with Katya Virshilas, whilst Kara Tointon was paired up with new dancing pro Artem Chigvintsev. Peter Shilton will be trained by Erin Boag, Patsy Kensit partners Robin Windsor and film actor Jimi Mistry gets former winner Flavia Cacace. Tina O'Brien is with new boy Jared Murillo, Pamela Stephenson with James Jordan, while Scott Maslen will partner Natalie Lowe. Destiny's Child pop star Michelle Williams will pair up with series one champion Brendan Cole, while ex-Blue Peter host Matt Baker is partnered with Aliona Vilani. The final two couples are balding former TV magician Paul Daniels, who is dancing with last year's winner Ola Jordan - and will, this blogger fully expects, be the first one eliminated - and the terrifying horroshow Ann Widdecombe, who will be trained by Anton Du Beke. It's to be hoped that Anton doesn't try any of his smooth-taking ways on auld Doris Karloff in the way that he did last year with Laila Rouass. Unless he wants smashed in the mush with a handbag, of course.

Tess Daly has admitted that it has been a difficult year since it emerged that her husband Vernon Kay had sent sex-texts to another woman. The presenter told the Mirror that although their marriage is now in a good place, she refuses to justify his behaviour because that would make her 'a doormat. You can certainly say it's been an eventful year. There's been lots to celebrate, but I'm not going to lie and pretend I wasn't absolutely devastated at the time. It was one of the toughest things I've ever had to face. But you have to make a decision. I thought, "Do I walk away, or do we decide to stick together, work it out, move on?" And we came to the decision that there was enough to stay together for - our family - and the love was still intact. Of course I was in the driver's seat at that stage! We've moved on and now we're in a really good place. It was a rough ride for a while, but now we're happy.' She added: 'He knows exactly what he did, he knows it's not okay. There are things you can't do within a marriage. He is well aware now of the framework and has grown from that. I don't want to say "nobody's perfect" because then I'm justifying what he did and I'm not willing to do that. It makes me a doormat and I'm not. Trust me.'

The finalists of The X Factor have reportedly been told to improve their behaviour or risk being thrown off the show. Bosses are introducing ten new rules to keep the singers in line, following a string of alcohol binges, fights and sex romps, according to the News of the World. Hopefuls are said to have already caused chaos at a hotel during Boot Camp and damaged a Marbella villa at the Judges' Houses stage of the competition. A source said: 'It may seem far-fetched, but this is the most out-of-control bunch of finalists we have ever had. If they don't follow the rules they'll be kicked off. Some of them have acted like wild animals. After everything that's gone on over the last few weeks, we can't face any more controversy. [Simon Cowell] has stressed that the reputation of The X Factor is at stake. He wanted the judges to pick based on talent but then ensure the contestants' behaviour improves. If someone misbehaves they will be out. Everything they do is under the microscope. It's being made clear to them exactly what the expectations are and exactly how they should behave. There will be no excuses if they break the rules.' The rules apparently include a total ban on alcohol, no relationships with fellow contestants or fans, and zero tolerance on property damage and drug use.

MPs held back in an inquiry into phone-hacking allegations for fear that their own private lives could be targeted, a former MP has claimed. The allegation was made by Adam Price, a former member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, who stood down as a Plaid Cymru MP in May. He told Channel Four News they decided not to force bosses of the News of the World newspaper to attend hearings. The chairman of the committee has rejected Price's claim. John Whittingdale told the BBC there was no truth in the claim that the committee 'backed off or were soft' on senior managers at the New of the World's owners, News International. 'I entirely reject any suggestion that the committee backed off or were soft on News International,' he said. Whittingdale added that while the issue of possible 'repercussions for members' personal lives' was discussed by the committee, it had no ultimate bearing. Price's comments follow a decision by the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee to launch a fresh inquiry into the unauthorised hacking of mobile phones. The committee will probe new claims - published in the New York Times - that the then editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, 'actively encouraged' his journalists to hack into the mobile phone voice-mail messages of public figures. Coulson who is now head of communications at Downing Street, has denied the allegations. Metropolitian Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates has said he might talk to Coulson, but only after interviewing a former News of the World reporter who made the allegations in the New York Times. Price said it was 'regrettable' that the culture committee had not been tougher last year. He said it had been wrong not to force News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks to attend a hearing. He added that he hoped the standards committee would 'stand firm where we didn't.' Price said the culture committee should have used 'the nuclear option' and forced Brooks to attend. Under parliamentary rules, MPs can compel witnesses to attend committee hearings - but they have rarely exercised that power. 'We decided not to,' said Price. 'I think to some extent because of what I was told at the time by a senior Conservative member of the committee, who I know was in direct contact with NI execs, that if we went for her, called her back, subpoenaed her, they would go for us.' He added: 'Which meant effectively that they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish them, and I think that's part of the reason we didn't do it.' Whittingdale said the committee had questioned five other senior News International executives and the reason they did not pursue Rebecca Brookes was that she was not employed by the News of the World at the relevant time. A News International spokesman said that three of its executives appeared before the culture committee, and that 'the company co-operated extensively with its investigations.'

The on-off Koran-burning stunt has seemingly got comedian Richard Herring thinking. 'It's amazing to think that in this huge world, all you have to do to get all this publicity is threaten to burn a book,' he wrote on his Warming Up blog. 'I wish I had thought of this for Edinburgh. My PR people (who measure success in column inches rather than in whether what is written is positive or constructive) would be delighted. Next year's show might be called "Burning the Koran: with the Bible for an encore."' But he also admitted: 'I suppose I committed a worse crime by ripping up a copy of Stewart Lee's book. After all he is considered by many to be a living God. I am surprised I am still able to walk the streets.'

Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan has admitted that she wants Amy Pond to 'evolve and change' in the next series. Gillan told the Press Association that Amy had 'been through a lot' and suggested that the character would continue to grow in the upcoming sixth series. 'I think that she's a completely different person at the end of the [fifth] series to when we meet her,' she said. 'She's really quite odd and a bit messed up in the first episode. I think she's much more in tune with what she understands about herself and The Doctor by the end of the series.' She also described her experience filming the last series as 'emotionally draining. All the stuff when [Amy] was crying and she doesn't know why was quite a challenge,' she explained. 'But I think there's a lot more to come in the next series. I really want to just keep on developing her character.'

One of France's best-known film directors, Claude Chabrol, has died at the age of eighty, according to the AFP news agency. Chabrol is best known for 1960s and 70s thrillers, such as La Femme Infidèle, Le Boucher and Que La Bête Meure. He was a leading member of the French new wave movement, which included contemporaries such as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer and Jaques Rivette. Christophe Girard, who is responsible for Paris's cultural matters, announced Chabrol's death on his blog. The cause of death was not immediately known. Girard described the director as 'an immense French film director, free, impertinent, political and verbose.' Born in Paris in 1930, after spending World War II in the village of Sardent - where he and a friend constructed a makeshift movie theatre - Chabrol studied pharmacology at the University of Paris. In 1957, he co-wrote with Éric Rohmer Hitchcock, one of the first serious stuies of the movies made by Alfred Hitchcock whose work was revered by the young men who would form the future of European cinema. Chabrol had interviewed Hitchcock along with François Truffaut in 1955 on the set of To Catch a Thief when the young Frenchmen, so excited at being in the presence of greatness, had accidentally walked into a fountain. Years later, when Chabrol and Truffaut had both become successful directors, Hitchcock told Truffaut that he always thought of the pair whenever he saw 'two ice cubes floating in his drink.' In 1958, Chabrol made his feature directorial debut with Le Beau Serge, a drama starring Jean-Claude Brialy partly funded by his first wife Agnes's inheritance and among the first films of what is now called the French New Wave. A critical success, it won Chabrol the Prix Jean Vigo and was followed the next year by Les Cousins, one of the New Wave's first commercialas well as critical successes. Chabrol's first colour film, À Double Tour, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, followed a year later. L'oeil Du Malin (The Eye of Evil) from 1962 was one of Chabrol's first films to include specific social criticism on what he considered to be bland bourgeoisie lifestyles, something that would become one of his trademarks in later films. By contrast, two years later the brilliant Le Tigre Aime La Chair Fraiche was a kind of French verison of the James Bond movies starring Roger Hanin and a huge box office hit all over Europe. 'I am a Communist, certainly,' he once told film critic Roger Ebert. 'But that doesn't mean I have to make films about the wheat harvest!' He also, famously, derided the term 'new wave' saying 'There is no new wave, only the sea.' A master of the suspense thriller, Chabrol approached his subjects with an often cold and distanced objectivity that led some critics to liken him to a compassionate but unsentimental observer viewing the foibles and follies of flawed humanity. Inherent in almost all of Chabrol's thrillers was the observation of the clash between bourgeois value and barely-contained, often violent common passions. This juxtaposition gave the director's work an occasional melodramatic quality but one that allowed him to drift effortlessly between the art movie world and that of popular entertainment. Yer Keith Telly Topping was a particular fan of Chabrol's 1970 astonishing psychological thriller Le Boucher, something approaching a masterpiece of sustained tension and one of several movies from this period that starred his second wife Stéphane Audran. Hitchcock himself was so impressed that he said he wished he'd made it. Chabrol's first marriage to Agnès produced a son, Matthieu Chabrol, a French composer who scored most of his father's films from the early eighties onwards. He divorced Agnès to marry Audran and with whom he also had a son, actor Thomas Chabrol. His third wife was Aurore Paquiss, who has been a script supervisor since the 1950's. Toward the end of the 1970s, Chabrol began making television films and international co-productions, something which marked a departure from the nature of his previous work. His team of regular collaborators, who included Audran, Jean Yanne, Michel Bouquet, composer Pierre Jansen, producer Andre Genoves, and cinematographer Jean Rabier, also changed — with Matthieu, replacing Jansen, and new actors such as Isabelle Huppert starring in his films. Huppert essayed the title character in Violette Nozière (1978), one of Chabrol's most acclaimed films of the decade. Based upon the true story of a nineteen-year-old girl who was convicted of poisoning her father and attempting to kill her mother, the film achieved the remarkable feat of lending its unlikeable protagonist a degree of sympathy. In 1995 he was awarded the Prix René Clair from the Académie Française for his lifetime achievements. Other important, and often controversial, works includes the extraordinary Les Bitches (Bad Girls, 1969), The Breach (1970), La Décade Prodigieuse (1971, with Orson Welles and Anthony Perkins), Madame Bovary (1991) and La Cérémonie (1995). His last film, Bellamy, starring Gerard Depardieu was released in 2009.

The Duchess of York is to make a six-part documentary show for US television about her struggle to rebuild her life after a scandal over selling access to the royal family. Because, the Americans are, basically, stupid and will watch any old crap with a royal in it. Seriously, guys, you fought a revolution to get rid of them in the first place, if you're so keen on them now, you can have them. The Oprah Winfrey Network - a new cable channel due to launch in January - said on Friday that the documentary would be called Finding Sarah and would debut in the first three months of 2011. She's not hard to find, though. In fact, it's alleged that if you wave forty grand about she can become very visible very quickly. 'Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, will share with our viewers her personal struggle to rebuild her life,' Lisa Erspamer, chief creative officer of OWN said in a statement. With the help of 'experts' Dr Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Martha Beck and others, the Duchess will 'open up about her recent public troubles' and 'explore her lifelong battles with weight, relationships and finances.' She will 'look to put the past behind her and move forward to a positive future,' Erspamer said. Christ almighty, I can hardly wait. Ferguson, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, was caught in an embarrassing newspaper sting in May in which she was filmed appearing to ask for, and accepting, forty thousand dollar in cash in exchange for 'access' to Prince Andrew, who is also a British trade envoy. The couple divorced amicably in 1996 after ten years of marriage, and have two children. Ferguson swiftly apologised for her actions and appeared, tearfully, on The Oprah Winfrey Show in June, saying that her own self-hatred, mounting debts and 'gross stupidity' had led her to fall for the sting. That didn't stop her becoming box-office poison in the UK, however, and ITV for whom she'd made several - really Christ-awful - documentaries, promptly dropped her like a ton of diarrhoea. Ferguson said that she was doing the US documentary 'because I need to heal my mind, body and spirit.' And, also, for the money I'm guessing. 'After twenty two years of raising my two amazing daughters, it's time for me to mother myself. My hope is that sharing my journey will help someone else.'

Seinfeld actor Michael Richards is being sued by a photographer whom he allegedly physically attacked. Brandon O'Neal claims that the sixty one-year-old actor, who played the eccentric Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom, approached him 'in a menacing manner with closed fists' on an Los Angeles street last month and began to beat him. According to TMZ, O'Brien details in the suit how the comedian punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and 'proceeded to kick [him] numerous times, directing the blows to [his] arms, hands, and camera,' causing him 'great mental, physical, and nervous pain and suffering.' Neither the amount of damages that O'Brien is suing for or the events triggering the incident have been disclosed thus far. Richards infamously caused controversy back in 2006 after directing a rant which included several racial slurs at two hecklers during a stand-up routine. Which, if you go over to YouTube you can probably still find.

Lee Evans is suing Jongleurs Comedy Clubs for fifty thousand pounds for using his image on a poster to promote their clubs without his permission. Evans' lawyers have lodged papers in the High Court seeking damages as well as an injunction to stop the company using any photographs of him to promote its venues and falsely implying the business has been endorsed by him. The row stems from earlier this year, when pictures of Evans, Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr were used on a fifteen foot billboard to promote the launch of a new Jongleurs night at the Waterfront Complex in Bournemouth. At the time, Evans's agent, Addison Cresswell, who also represents McIntyre, said: 'I'm livid. They are exploiting my acts. This is shocking behaviour, and I'm not having it.' So, it would seem that he's not having it. Apparently. Media industry lawyers Swan Turton have now filed papers claiming that Jongleurs' actions are 'particularly damaging' because, as a point of principle, Evans has never performed at any corporate event nor endorsed any product. According to the Daily Telegraph, Evans is seeking 'additional damages' under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 after accusing the company of flagrant infringement and of 'benefitting from his fame.' After the initial row, Jongleurs owner Maria Kempinska immediately agreed to remove the billboards, but offered as a defence: 'We have, like most other promoters, used images of all comedians who have performed at Jongleurs over the past twenty seven years.' However, Cresswell said: 'It would be like a pub advertising music nights with pictures of The Rolling Stones if they played there when they were just starting. It's bogus advertising – punters expecting those acts will be ripped off.'