Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Line Of Succession

The BBC have, reportedly, been 'inundated' with complaints about a question during a recent episode of University Challenge. More than twenty viewers are said to have contacted the Beeb over the question 'Which of Edward IV's sons, who also became King, used the emblem of a white boar?' The answer given by Jeremy Paxman, Richard III, apparently infuriated these viewers as Richard was, of course, Edward's brother not his son. Beware the wrath of annoyed historians. Now is the winter of their discontent, it would seem.

Yer Keith Telly Topping picked up the DVD of Sherlock today and, of course, being the insufferable nerd he is, immediately watched the untransmitted pilot version of A Study In Pink. You know, the one that a lot of lice-scum newspapers tried to kick up a stink about a few months back when the BBC decided to remake it? Watching the sixty minute version, directed by Coky Giedroyc, next to the eventually transmitted Paul McGuigan-directed ninety minute episode, is a really fascinating little intellectual exercise. The main differences are in the jettisoning much of the scene-setting in the opening ten minutes of the full version, Lestrade's press conference, the entire Mycroft subplot, the 'drug bust' scene and a few other minor scenes towards the end. Otherwise, the script is, essentially, the same - the locale of the climactic scene between Sherlock and Jeff the Cabbie notwithstanding. Most of the actors are also the same. And almost all of the dialogue from the original was kept in the remake. And yet, the two versions feel, quite literally, worlds apart. Whereas the broadcaster version won much widespread praise for its sweeping, almost movie-like scope and depth, the untransmitted pilot feels much more like, merely, an episode of new TV show. It's not that it was made cheaply, necessarily, it just lacks the richness of texture that McGuigan and Steven Moffat were able to give the finished product. In effect, that extra thirty minutes is the difference between the perfectly acceptable and ordinary of the original and what turned out to be the subtle and quite extraordinary of the remake. Mark Lawson in the Gruniad Morning Star has done a very interesting compare and contrast exercise and comes to the conclusion that 'Media studies courses should clear space on the syllabus for a remarkable illustration of the differences that creative rethinking and editorial intervention can make.' The interesting thing, however, is that the decision to completely junk the pilot and reshoot it - the one that all those scum tabloids had such a field-day over and took such exception to, accusing the BBC of 'wasting eight hundred thousand pounds of licence fee payers money' - was taken not by Moffat and Gatiss. But, rather, it was Jay Hunt and Ben Stephenson and it was less a creative decision than a conceptual one. For whatever reasons, it worked. The three part series made in the pilot's wake was a huge artistic and commercial success for the BBC and is now, along with the pilot, easily recouping every single penny spent that was on it, and more besides, in terms of both overseas and DVD sales. Not that you're likely to see the Daily Scum Mail, the Sun, the Daily Lies or any other tabloid clearing a bit of page space to say 'Hey, d'you know what? We might've been a bit previous here. Well done to the BBC for getting something right.' They don't do that. Because they're scum. Incidentally, as a side point and one more reason to buy the DVD if you haven't got it yet, the commentary on A Study in Pink is, quite simply, a thing of beauty. A ninety minute conversation by Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Sue Virtue not only on the making of the episode itself (Moffat confirming, for instance, that Matt Smith read for the part of Watson), but also a thoroughly fascinating discussion about what makes Holmes the cult that it is and Moffat and Gatiss' chosen templates for the drama. (Not just the original novels but also the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies and, especially, Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.) It's just like being a casual eavesdropper on the best Fitzroy Tavern conversation ever. That Steven Moffet, eh? He gets all the best jobs!

Scheduling news, now: Qi returns to BBC1 for their 'G' series at 8:30 on 17 September. Like last year it'll be sixteen episodes. No news yet on whether Qi: XL will be back the following day. [Spooks] also starts during week commencing 18 September but the BBC haven't nailed down exactly which day yet! And, ITV's much-anticipated final TV drama by Alan Plater Joe Maddison's War will be broadcast on Sunday 19 September. Set in Newcastle in 1939, Joe Maddison's War features shipyard worker Joe (Wor Kevin Whately) who feels emasculated and past his prime, too old to serve in the war he's shocked when his wife leaves him for a younger naval officer. Needing a new challenge, Joe and his friend Harry (Wor Robson Green) reluctantly volunteer to join the Home Guard. A decision which leads Joe on a journey of self discovery, learning lessons of heroism and friendship, and also love. The two hour single drama also stars Wor Derek Jacobi, Wor John Woodvine and Wor Melanie Hill. And, for dramatic, geographical and more than a few personal reasons, Wor Keith Telly Topping is very much looking forward to that one. Meanwhile, ITV have launched the press pack for their autumn and winter seasons. Still no news yet on when the excellent Whitechapel's second series will begin, although a trailer for it is doing the rounds already. But, as ever, From The North will seek to bring you the news as soon as we get it, dear blog reader.

The Strictly Come Dancing series eight launch show will not clash with The X Factor. Last month, the BBC revealed that the ballroom dance reality TV show would be returning with its first ever red carpet opening episode on 11 September. Unlike last year's series opener, it is not scheduled to overlap with the X Factor auditions on ITV. Tess Daly and Bruce Forsyth will return to reveal the fourteen celebrities who are taking part in this year's competition in a one-hour special at 6.25pm on BBC1. The X Factor airs on the same evening at the slightly later time of 7.45pm. The Strictly launch show will unveil a new set, three new professional dancers and for the first time the celebrities will discover who their pro partners are in front of a live studio audience. Strictly lost out in the ratings battle with The X Factor last year when the two shows went head-to-head on most weeks, despite posting its own second-best viewing figures in the show's history.

Meanwhile, that crass egomaniac Simon Cowell has advised the BBC to show Strictly Come Dancing in an earlier timeslot so that its 'older' audience can 'have a nap' before The X Factor. Cowell also criticised the BBC for playing 'childish and pathetic' games by scheduling Strictly at the same time as The X Factor. Isn't that a bit of a 'pot-kettle-black' scenario after rude, spoiled brat comments like those reported here? I mean, how dare any network put anything on opposite one of your shows. You wanker. He told the Sun: 'I'd suggest they show Strictly a bit earlier in the afternoon because their audience is older. I'm serious. Then they can have a nap if it finishes at six and watch X Factor later.' Cowell added: 'We don't pay the licence fee for people to play games with ratings. We gave the BBC a choice last year about different timeslots but they have this obsession with competing with us. If X Factor and Strictly are first and second, why would you want to put them on at the same time? It's not fair on licence fee payers.' I just love the megalomania in this man that he believes he can dictate to other broadcasters what they can, and can't, show opposite his programmes. However, a BBC spokeswoman added: 'We're happy to discuss the scheduling, but as far as we're aware it is ITV boss Peter Fincham and not Simon Cowell who makes this decision, so it would be best that we talk with him. Any decisions we make will be taken with licence fee payers' best interests at heart.' Fincham recently suggested that the two broadcasters should hold talks to resolve the Saturday night scheduling conflict. Of course, heaven forbid that anything should be scheduled against The X Factor otherwise Mr Cowell might take another hissy fit and spit his dummy out of his pram in a temper. Jeez, what a genuinely horrible, nasty, spoiled-rotten, individual that man is.

Which brings us nicely to Britain's Got Talent contestant Emma Czikai who has failed in her attempts to get a tribunal case against Simon Cowell. The fifty four-year-old was denied permission to pursue a case against Freemantle Media and Cowell's TV company Simco for discrimination. Czikai claimed that her performance on the reality show should not have been shown because the programme makers were aware that she suffers from fibromyalgia. The illness causes painful swelling all over the body, tiredness and spondylosis in the neck. She also claimed that following surgery to remove excess skin from her arms, she was struggling in pain to hold the microphone near her mouth when she auditioned. Speaking after the pre-hearing in central London, Czikai told the Press Association: 'My life has changed so markedly, now all I want to do is just forget about everything. I would rather walk away from it. I've done as much as I can to bring it to the public's attention.' She added that she was pleased the case had been dropped because she 'sick of the whole thing.' Well, you brought it in the first place, hen. Previously, Czikai said that she had held Cowell responsible for her 'public humiliation' and argued that neither Freemantle Media or Simco did enough for her after she auditioned. The pre-hearing dropped the case because, they decided, too much time had lapsed since the audition and that Cowell was never Ms Czikai's employer.

Top Gear producers are reportedly considering killing off The Stig. The Daily Lies claims that the BBC is 'concerned' that the character can no longer appear on the show since he was revealed to be racing driver Ben Collins. Collins was named as The Stig earlier this week when the BBC lost a court case which aimed to stop him releasing a book about his time on the show. A source reportedly claimed that Collins has already been sacked from the series and added: 'Our viewers love not knowing who The Stig is and this action has spoiled that and made Ben's position untenable. We've now got to decide whether The Stig remains on the show or goes. No decision has been made yet on the character. We've got to consider whether it's been ruined for our millions of viewers, or can be salvaged.' This blogger is pretty certain that they will and that the new series of the popular motoring show, which begins filming in a few weeks, will feature someone in the trademark helmet. Certainly, James May seems to think that producers will merely recast the role. The presenter expects bosses on the BBC show will employ a new driving expert: 'We can get another one. There may be many more Stigs in many more galaxies. You see, the world is full of interesting myths about The Stig. There was a previous Stig, there was black overall Stig, who had to be "dealt with." It is a shame. The whole point of being The Stig is that you are nobody. The Stig is a character. It's like, you know, it has to have a person in the suit, obviously, and it is always the same person, always has been because that way we get consistency, and Stig is anonymous because its good fun. It's a testing device and it protects it from corruption if nobody knows who it.' James, also joked that the upcoming season will see the three presenters get their revenge on Collins. Discussing plans for the new series with Absolute Radio host Christen O'Connell, he said: 'I think I'm still in it, and we're starting to do some filming next week and I can't really tell you too much about what we're doing. Driving round to The Stig's house and nailing his head to the table was one of them, going and getting our overalls back because they're not his, they're ours, we only leant [sic] them to him, and that helmet.'

Hugh Laurie has claimed that it was the right time to introduce a romance between House and Cuddy. The duo kissed in the last season finale and will be involved in a relationship when the show returns later this month. 'I'm scared for him,' Laurie told Entertainment Weekly. 'Terrified. But so far so good. Baby steps.' Laurie added that he supports the decision to pair up House and Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), saying: 'I care less about what happens than how it happens. And if you do it right, it will work. And if we don't do it right, nothing works. But I think we've danced around the idea long enough - it was time to take some action.' However, Laurie admitted that it is a 'possibility' that if House's relationship with Cuddy does not work then he may never find romance. 'He might be fatally flawed,' he said.

The executive producer of Bones has revealed that Brennan's feelings for Booth may change in the new season. Stephen Nathan told Entertainment Weekly that Booth (David Boreanaz) will have started to move on from Brennan (Emily Deschanel) when the show returns. 'What happened at the [end of last season] was that we saw Booth move on and not have any regrets,' he said. 'He did his best. He professed his love, and when she couldn't reciprocate he realised at this point, "This is now crazy, I have to be happy. I have to try to make a life for myself." And he's moved on.' However, Nathan explained that Brennan may begin to question her choice not to pursue a relationship with Booth. 'Brennan - who felt very secure in her decision last year - has had seven months alone to think about this,' he said. 'And we think that she's come back re-evaluating her situation and the choice she made with Booth. Brennan is seeing things differently. She seemed to have one take for five years, and I think the time away has made her re-evaluate what she wants from life and perhaps a relationship with Booth.' Nathan added: 'I don't think this is something she has an easy time admitting to herself. And perhaps it hasn't even bubbled up from her subconscious yet, but it's something that's real this season.'

DC Comics/VertigoWarner Bros has begun the process of acquiring the rights for a Sandman television adaptation. The Hollywood Reporter says that Warner is in talks with sister company DC Entertainment about the format, which is published under the Vertigo imprint. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke is attached to head the proposed series. HBO was in talks with DC about the programme until Warner stepped in a few months ago. A movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's legendary series has been in development since the mid-90s, but plans for the film have cooled in recent years. Sandman followed the adventures of Morpheus, the King of Dreams, and his dysfunctional family The Endless.

Universal Networks International has today confirmed plans to rebrand the Hallmark Channel as the Universal Channel in the UK. On 18 October the pay-TV channel and its high definition variant will become the Universal Channel and the Universal Channel HD on Sky and Virgin Media. To celebrate its launch, the Universal Channel will give UK premieres to cop show Rookie Blue and legal drama Facing Kate in the autumn/winter season. It will also air Shattered, which stars 24's Callum Keith Rennie as a homicide detective suffering from multiple personality disorder. 'The Hallmark Channel has a loyal audience in the pay-TV market and already offers a strong lineup of great content including the Law & Order franchise of shows,' said Laurence Dawkin-Jones, Universal Networks International UK managing director. 'This rebrand will allow us to enhance the channel by adding fresh, new content to the best of the existing line-up of series under a channel name that is instantly recognisable, has an exceptional global heritage and feels very contemporary. We know it will appeal to both our existing fan base and a whole new audience who may not have previously been familiar with the Hallmark Channel brand.' Sky's director of channels and operations Rob Webster said: 'Sky has enjoyed a distribution relationship with the Hallmark Channel dating back over many years. The channel occupies a distinctive place in UK pay-TV and we believe this will only be enhanced through rebranding as the Universal Channel. With fresh impetus and wider appeal, this is good news for Sky customers.'

Roger Moore is to guest star in the next series of the ITV comedy Benidorm, it has been revealed. The eighty two-year-old was offered the part of a local dignitary after producers discovered that he was a huge fan of the show, reports the Sun. An 'insider' allegedly said: 'Roger is a massive fan so we thought it would be fun to get him involved. Producers approached his people and they said he'd love to, so we came up with a role for him. They've gone for something which they think he'll be comfortable with - a local dignitary. He's known for playing smooth and authoritative characters so it is right up his street.' They supposedly added: 'You could hardly have him sitting around the pool in a wife-beater vest drinking lager all day.' Well, that'd certainly have the audience shaken, not stirred. Moore is apparently due to fly out to the Spanish holiday resort in the next few days to film his scenes for the show's upcoming fourth series. Katie Price, Cilla Black, Louie Spence and 4 Poofs and a Piano are also believed to be appearing in future episodes of the sitcom.

Film-makers have rallied to support Brian Woods' claims that 'self-censorship' is creeping into BBC documentaries after the BAFTA-winning director confronted Mark Thompson over compliance. At the Edinburgh TV Festival, Woods asked the director general to address the 'huge increase in the influence and power' of the BBC's Editorial Policy Unit, citing 'endless forms and meetings and proposals. One of the consequences, when we're coming up with ideas, is that there's a degree of self-censorship,' he said. Thompson defended the BBC's commitment to 'bold, creative, edgy, controversial programmes,' and said he saw no evidence of a 'pre-emptive cringe.' But he vowed: 'If there are ways we can achieve what we need with compliance but make it less onerous, and make sure that indies and in-house producers feel emboldened to do really brave and exciting stuff, then we should do that. I'll take that away.' The BBC declined to comment on whether it will take action, but producers welcomed Woods' attempt to tackle Thompson head on. Hardcash Productions managing director David Henshaw, who worked for the BBC for fourteen years, described the move from a single editorial policy controller to a whole team as 'possibly the most malign consequence of the Hutton report.' He added: 'The BBC exec producer should be up to speed with editorial policy. This is a wholly unnecessary doubling-up of functions. You feel like you're in a parallel universe where programme-making exists only in theory.' Woods and Henshaw also contrasted the BBC's Editorial Policy Unit with Channel 4, where legal and compliance are merged into one team and independent production companies are not expected to do their own legal work. Simon Ford, who made The Tower: A Tale Of Two Cities and The Secret Policeman, said: 'It's not so much Editorial Policy itself, as the fear of Ed Pol. It has a chilling effect. Producers are terrified of making risky films, and as an exec producer I find myself egging them on. When you talk to legal they often feel the same, but a self-denying culture is emerging.' Directors UK repeatedly highlighted concerns over the BBC's compliance culture in its submission to the corporation's strategy review, and board member and October Films founder Tom Roberts said: 'It's the industry's Achilles heel and it's reached an absurd position. We need to stop with the bureaucracy and hand power back to people in the field, and trust their judgement.' The challenge follows Broadcast's Producers' Perspective Survey last week, which found that eighty eight per cent of leading producers across all genres felt compliance had worsened in the past two years, with the BBC the worst offender.

A gunman who took three hostages at the Discovery Communications headquarters in the US has been shot dead by police and his captives set free. The man had canisters strapped to his chest and a handgun when he entered the building near Washington DC, police said. Officers opened fire because they thought the gunman was about to detonate his explosives, they added. The police had held several hours of talks with the man. Discovery employees were evacuated from the building shortly after the incident. The area around the building in Silver Spring, Maryland, was sealed off as police negotiated with the man. After several hours, police began to fear for the safety of the hostages, said Montgomery County Police Chief J Thomas Manger. He said a man had entered the Discovery headquarters through the main entrance wearing what appeared to be 'metallic canisters' on his clothes. The man then pulled out a handgun and told everyone to remain still. Unnamed police sources, quoted by the US media, named the gunman as James Jay Lee, a man in his forties known for protesting outside the building. The US broadcaster NBC reported that one of their producers had a brief telephone conversation with the gunman while he was holding the hostages. The man came on the line unexpectedly when the journalist called the Discovery Communications building to find out what was going on. NBC reported that the gunman identified himself as James J Lee and said: 'I have a gun and I have a bomb. I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off.' A man called James Lee of San Diego, was arrested outside Discovery's headquarters in 2008 after throwing thousands of dollars into the air in protest against the network, according to the Gazette, a local newspaper. Lee said he had demonstrated because Discovery's programming had little to do with saving the planet. He reportedly was also the author of the website, where the author, idenitifed only as 'Lee' demands that the Discovery Channel broadcast programmes that would help to save the planet. And that 'Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is.' Rite on, brother. A spokesman for Discovery Communications said the company had known the gunman before this incident but 'not taken his threats or demands seriously.' Discovery Communications reaches one and half billion subscribers in one hundred and eighty countries through networks like the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and the Science Channel.

Billie Piper has reportedly started filming for the new series of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. According to the Sun, Piper's character, Belle De Jour, will face some unusual requests in future episodes. In one scene, Belle is allegedly asked to mother a man dressed as a baby. 'The scenes were very fun to film,' a 'source' said. 'Everyone was in stitches.' No, that's a completely different sort of fetish you're describing there, pal. Munchausen by proxy, probably. 'Billie was surprised when we told her but knew the show had to top the last series where she made farmyard noises during sex.' The 'insider' added: 'She even filmed one scene where the client got her to put baked beans down her pants.'

Celebrity MasterChef winner Lisa Faulkner has been offered a job by the show's hosts John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Actress Faulkner said that she was tempted to take the duo up on their offer, admitting that she is eager to learn more about working in a professional kitchen. Speaking to Christian O'Connell on Absolute Radio, she revealed: 'They said that I could come and work in their kitchens, so I'd love to take them up on that, but I'm hoping that it doesn't mean just chopping veg or washing pots! I think the thing is that I'm desperate to just keep learning, because I've got this whole passion for cooking and I just want to keep doing it, and so they've said "Come and work in the kitchens if you want to do that," because I just go into restaurants now and go, "Can I come and see the kitchen, can I do some work in there?" because it's just amazing.' Joking about facing Torode and Wallace's verdicts on the cookery reality show, she added: 'They were lovely, but they were a bit scary. They are like good cop, bad cop, so if one of them is going to be mean the other's going to be really nice that day.'

Christine Bleakley has revealed that she believes she does look like her ONE Show successor Alex Jones. Well, she does. I mean, it's a fact. The Daily Record reports that Bleakley was eager to see what Jones looked like when people told her that they are similar. 'I think she does look like me,' she said. 'My friends on The ONE Show were texting me to say, "Alex is really, really like you." I couldn't wait to see what she looked like.' Bleakley added that she is pleased with the comparison, saying: 'I have lots of male friends who said, "Phwoar, you're lucky to be compared with her," so I'm very grateful actually.' That's twice in a paragraph that Bleakley has alluded to having friends. A psychologist would have an absolute field day with that. Bleakley also revealed that she has been watching Jones and her co-host Jason Manford on The ONE Show. 'I have watched the show a couple of times and I think it's very natural,' she said. 'I think it's very good. A lot of people wanted this sort of battle between us and them and it's not like that at all. We worked so hard to make The ONE Show successful and I think it's up to the new team to take it to the next level, I really do.'

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan have admitted that they don't miss the pressures of having their own TV show. The couple told the Mirror that their year off had been 'enjoyable' and that they have no plans to return to presenting. 'The way I feel at the moment, I'd be perfectly happy if I don't do it ever again.' Judy said. 'I know it's a year since we stopped doing our show, but that isn't very long when you compare it to a swathe of your life dominated by it.' She continued: 'I'm enjoying the freedom. But I might change my mind, you never know. I've loved all the people we've interviewed but you get to a point where you're interviewing the same people year in year out and it's not a challenge anymore. I'm glad to be out of it for as long as I want.' Richard added: 'Both professionally and personally, this has been the best year I can remember. I've been so happy and unstressed, just cherry picking what I want to do,' he continued. 'Not doing a daily show means I can say yes to things I've always had to say no to before which I know I'll love. Like I can go on Question Time and I'm doing Who Do You Think You Are? next month.' He added: 'I don't ever want to go back to doing a daily or nightly talk show - there have been some suggestions I do that on my own but I don't want to because I'm having a lovely time. Having your own show is a big responsibility. You're supporting a team of one hundred-plus people and you're only as good as your last figures,' he said.

UEFA has announced a ban on the vuvuzela in European football competitions. The plastic horns proved controversial at this year's World Cup and UEFA has now informed all fifty three of its member associations of the ban. A statement read: 'UEFA has decided that vuvuzelas - the trumpet that came to prominence at games during this summer's FIFA World Cup in South Africa - may not be brought into stadiums at matches in UEFA competitions. It has taken the move for reasons related to Europe's football culture and tradition, saying that the atmosphere at matches would be changed by the sound of the vuvuzela. The World Cup was characterised by the vuvuzela's widespread and permanent use in the stands. In the specific context of South Africa, the vuvuzela adds a touch of local flavour and folklore, but UEFA feels that the instrument's widespread use would not be appropriate in Europe, where a continuous loud background noise would be emphasised.' It continued: 'The magic of football consists of the two-way exchange of emotions between the pitch and the stands, where the public can transmit a full range of feelings to the players. However, UEFA is of the view that the vuvuzelas would completely change the atmosphere, drowning supporter emotions and detracting from the experience of the game. To avoid the risk of these negative effects in the stadiums where UEFA competitions are played and to protect the culture and tradition of football in Europe - singing, chanting etc. - UEFA has decided with immediate effect that vuvuzelas will not be allowed in the stadiums where UEFA competitions matches are played.'