Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lost In Transubstantiation

Martin Freeman has reportedly turned down a seven-figure offer to play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. The actor declined the role in the forthcoming adaptation of JRR Tolkien's book because he had already committed to twenty weeks filming for the second series of the BBC's Sherlock, the Sun reports. 'It was one of the most difficult decisions of his career,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'MGM, who are making the film, only got a formal offer over in the last couple of weeks.' He, or she, continued (or, perhaps, didn't): 'It was too late for Martin because he had already signed up for another series of Sherlock. It was agonising but he had no other choice. All the actors had to read four pages of script to camera which is being shown to Peter Jackson. He is looking for a hidden gem now Martin has ruled himself out of the job.' Freeman will return to his role as John Watson in the next three-part series of Sherlock.

The first programme of ITV's much-hyped Daybreak with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley achieved a very disappointing average audience of just nine hundred and eighty thousand - only marginally up on its predecessor, GMTV's yearly average figure of eight hundred and eighty thousand. It was, in fact, soundly thrashed by the 1.4m audience watching the BBC's Breakfast at the same time. And if that hasn't put a smile of a few faces at Broadcasting Centre it really should have. The pair's Daybreak debut had a somewhat mixed reaction from television critics, with the Gruniad Morning Star website praising the performance of Chiles and Bleakley. But the Independent said at one point it looked 'as if the former ONE Show duo were clinging to each other for dear life.' And the Telegraph's critic noted that Daybreak 'could have been any old edition of any other breakfast show.' Meanwhile, that evening's episode of The ONE Show, incidentally, had an audience of 4.3m viewers. In other ratings news ITV's new three-part drama Bouquet Of Barbed Wire debuted to 5.2m viewers on Monday night. The programme, which stars Trevor Eve in a remake of the 1970s psychological drama about a father's obsessive love for his daughter, averaged 4.99m on ITV from 9pm and two hundred and ten thousand viewers on ITV HD. Bouquet Of Barbed Wire just outperformed Who Do You Think You Are?, after the genealogy programme took 4.91m on BBC1 during the 9pm hour.

Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has said that the man who plays The Stig has been 'sacked' and admitted he was hurt when Ben Collins decided to unmask himself as the show's anonymous white-suited driver. Clarkson said that 'Top Gear is damaged but not out,' after it emerged that Collins was planning to out himself as The Stig in his autobiography. The BBC failed last week to have an injunction granted to stop Collins, the racing driver who has played The Stig since 2003, from publishing his book. Clarkson said he felt 'a bit hurt really. It was such a shock. It was horrible actually because I liked him and he came round to my house and had drinks and all that time he was writing a book,' he added, in a video interview published online by Oxfordshire-based community news service WitneyTV. 'Put it this way, he's history as far as we are concerned,' said Clarkson, who was interviewed at a charity auction at Chipping Norton Lido. 'I've spent the last three weeks doing nothing but trying work out what out what an earth to do instead. You may remember a film called Wall Street in which Gordon Gekko said greed was good and greed works. It doesn't, if you're watching this children, greed is bad,' he added. Clarkson hinted that The Stig as a character may no longer continue on Top Gear, saying: 'Trust me, we have many thousands of people queueing up to be whatever it is we create.'

Gethin Jones has admitted that he feared for the contestants' lives on new reality show 71 Degrees North. Jones, who hosts the show alongside Kate Thornton, described the Norway-based series as 'incredibly compelling television.' The former Blue Peter presenter said that the challenges facing Shane Richie, Konnie Huq, Gavin Henson and the rest of the so-called celebrities were potentially life-threatening. Speaking about the icy fjord swimming challenge, Jones said: 'It doesn't look like much of a challenge but when the celebs get in, their faces are almost inhumane because of the way their body and mind react. It sounds dramatic but I kept thinking, "Are they actually going to live?" We had to get a rope tied to them because it would be so dangerous if they missed the hole to get out. They were under a metre of ice and it was terrifying because it's pitch black, so you can't see what you're doing. They were freezing and there was a serious chance of cardiac arrest.' He added: 'Even the strongest struggled. Rather than being a physical challenge, it was much more of a mental challenge.'

After weeks of rumours, the BBC have finally decided to let the cat out of the wheelie bin and confirm that hard-hitting panel show Mock The Week will return from its summer break on Thursday 9 September. They claim that 'several of Pakistan's top bookmakers have already ensured that episode one will feature talent such as Andi Osho, Milton Jones and Chris Addison' and that 'scurrilous Internet gossip has suggested that the likes of Ed Byrne, Kevin Bridges, Jack Whitehall and Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Russell Kane will be inappropriately sharing desks before the end of the run in October.' The series is extending later into the year than ever before, allowing the team to plunder the traditional autumn news surge and come away with more gems than a dinner party guest at Nelson Mandela's. A show 'outsider' speculated wildly: 'The next six weeks promise to be full of news. As well as three party conferences, a papal visit and a new Labour leader, there's some golf stuff happening and hopefully more weird stories involving octopuses, giant rats and Boris Johnson.' Allegedly. Russell Howard will be joining the panel for the first and last programmes and the Christmas special. But his extensive BBC work commitments – not least his wildly popular BBC3 series Russell Howard's Good News – means he has a timetable clash and won't be able to join the gang for the whole series. Russell says: 'I love being part of Mock The Week but I wanted to quash the persistent rumours that Dara and I inappropriately share a dressing room by taking a break until they blow over. '

Following the success of its Alternative Election Night, Channel 4 is understood to have signed up Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Lauren Laverne to appear in a new topical comedy series with a working title Ten O'Clock Live. Alternative Election Night, featuring the four presenters, proved a big draw for younger viewers with forty four per cent of the show's audience made up of sixteen to thirty four-year-olds. The show, made by the Alternative Election Night producer, Zeppotron, a subsidiary of Endemol UK, hopes to give a comic, fresh take on the week's issues and events. Ten 0'Clock Live has been commissioned by the entertainment and comedy commissioning editor, Darren Smith. He said: 'The success of the Alternative Election Night proved that there is an appetite for a show that mixes comedy and the news agenda together in a way that produces genuine insight as well as laugh-out-loud moments. Ten O'Clock Live will provide a fresh and unashamedly intelligent take on current affairs from a young perspective.'

In today's Gruniad Morning Star Charlie Brooker is on magnificent form over the News of the World buggering scandal and the general perception of faith in the media: I quote (at length): 'Several months ago, I read a small story about a female celebrity who'd been foolish enough to appear in public wearing the same dress two days in succession. This "style slip-up", the article stated, was "the ultimate celebrity faux pas." It described how a crowd of expectant fans was "taken aback" when the star "turned up in exactly the same dress again, accessorised with the same black skyscraper heels." The piece was illustrated with two photographs showing the celebrity sporting her incriminating outfit on two separate occasions, accompanied by the caption "Looks Familiar." But interestingly, the clothes weren't the only familiar thing in the frame. If the dates were to be believed, the strands of hair from her fringe had fallen across her forehead in precisely the same way, two days running. I don't know much about haircuts, as anyone who's ever glanced at my head can tell you. But I know that looked suspicious. Fortunately for all mankind, I knew someone who'd been present on both occasions. So I asked whether the same dress had been worn on both days. No, it hadn't. Both sets of pictures had been taken on day one. Presumably what happened is this: rather than sending a reporter to attend the event itself, the paper had received a batch of photos from a picture agency and interpreted them back in the office. But tragedy struck when someone got the dates muddled up, and a "style slip-up" was subsequently believed to have occurred when it hadn't. Easy mistake to make. But hang on: what about that description of a crowd of "expectant fans" being "taken aback" by "the ultimate celebrity faux pas"? That was just a cute detail the reporter had invented. Some people they'd wished into existence. Nothing wrong with that. After all, some of our most respected authors have built their careers on simply making stuff up. JRR Tolkein, JK Rowling, Jeffrey Archer. There's a difference between assuming most showbiz stories are bullshit, and reading one you know definitely is. No matter how small and insignificant the made-up story ultimately is, it shatters your faith in the media: faith you didn't even realise you had.'

Jamie Bamber has admitted that he was initially cautious about accepting a role in the BBC's new SF drama Outcasts. The actor - who will also appear in the new series of Law & Order: UK - told What's On TV that he was nervous about taking on a character similar to his previous role as Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. 'Initially, I wasn't sure about doing it because I didn't want to do something so similar to Battlestar Galactica,' he said. 'Battlestar was such an untouchable experience.' He continued: 'I didn't want to sully it with something else that might not live up to it.' Bamber went on to explain his role in the new BBC space drama. 'I play a pioneer on a colonised planet,' he said. 'Earth has gone kaput and there are fifty thousand people left trying to make an existence for themselves on a planet far, far away.' Hang on, that sounds madly like Battlestar Galactica! 'But he's also damaged goods - he's a like bomb waiting to go off.' Errr... ditto.

A senior police officer has said it was 'not right' that TV broadcasters covered the last hours of gunman Raoul Moat on a live rolling basis. On his blog, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said the media had a 'legitimate interest.' But, he continued, twenty four-hour news meant that officers in charge often spent more than half of their time dealing with the media. Moat, thirty seven, is believed to have shot himself in Northumberland on 10 July after a six-hour stand-off with police covered, with spectacular lack of tact or dignity by Sky News and the BBC. The former nightclub bouncer went on the run after shooting his former girlfriend Sam Stobbart, killing her partner, Chris Brown. and blinding unarmed police officer David Rathband. Moat suggested that he had 'declared war' on the police before dying by his own hand near the River Coquet in Rothbury. Writing in his blog, hosted by his force's website, the chief constable said: 'It cannot be right that the last hours of a man's life are broadcast on live television with members of his family looking on.' I believe this blogger said pretty much the same thing at the time. Not that I want to crow about that, nor nothing. But, you know, it's interesting to hear that I wasn't alone in feeling very uneasy about what took place. Mr Fahy said that the advent of rolling twenty four-hour news has had a 'profound effect' on policing, with commanding officers often spending more than half of their time dealing with requests and interviews with the media on high-profile cases like Moat's. 'This includes monitoring and reacting to what the media are saying about the case and things like the statements being made by witnesses in front of the cameras,' he said. 'It cannot be right that an officer commanding such an incident has to consider how it might look on television as if he/she was a film director.' 'Tributes' to Moat were set up on social networking sites but Fahy said that the saturated coverage was far more of a problem than a Facebook page dedicated to Moat. He said: 'There have always been some who have hero-worshipped criminals whether it is Ned Kelly, Al Capone or Billy the Kid. There has always been a section of society who hate the police as the symbol of what they see as an unfair society or just because they get in the way of their criminal business. Facebook is just a new avenue for communicating this.' Very sensible and well-articulated comments, those.

Stephen Merchant has admitted that he believes he is a 'mediocre' stand-up who hates performing on stage. The Office co-creator revealed that he often disappoints audiences who expect much of his comedy, given his track record on TV. And, he admits he gets no joy from making an audience laugh, considering a gig to be no more a cold experiment that tests his theories on whether his material is funny or not. He made his confessions in an interview with The Simpsons star Harry Shearer, to be aired on Radio 4 on Friday. In the Chain Reaction programme, Merchant said he returned to live comedy to prove to himself he was still funny without Ricky Gervais – and because he was 'frustrated' with his collaborator's success on stage. He said: 'I started doing stand-up many years ago. One of the many frustrations I have is that Ricky is now seen as one of the premiere stadium-filling stand-up comics, even though I did that many years before. So now when I do stand-up, people go, "Oh, he's trying to do what Ricky's done." The frustration is that he'd never done it before, and then instantly booked a tour, and was brilliant [but] I'm still kind of mediocre. And I'm not trying to be falsely modest, I really am mediocre. Just in case anyone sees me live – it's a real disappointment. They really think it's going to be dynamite because I've won awards and stuff, but it's a real let-down.' Merchant said he had to change his act when he made his comeback because of his fame. When he started performing, his persona was of a bitter comedian who considered himself a big star in the West Country, although no one else had ever heard of him. 'Sometimes it would go great and they would see it was postmodern. Other times they would think I was just a terrible, arrogant comedian,' he said. 'And you when you're in a character like that you can't step out and explain, otherwise it all falls apart.' So he admitted he had to 'relearn to ride the bike again' and write a routine as himself, which he said was 'a much harder thing to do. A couple of comedians said to me, "If you speak honestly and truthfully it will be funnier for the audience and it will be more rewarding for you as a performer,"' he recalled.

Stephen Fry has said that neither Alan Davies nor Rob Brydon get to see the questions in advance on Qi. The host of the popular comedy panel quiz revealed yesterday that one person, whom he described as a 'regular guest' on the show insists on seeing the questions in advance to allow them to prepare. After being quizzed by his followers on Twitter, Fry said: 'I assure you it isn't Alan Davies who sees the questions in advance.' Asked if it was Rob Brydon, he replied: 'No! Absolutely not!' Ooo, you've made a rod for your own back now, Stephen. These people won't be satisfied till they have an answer. Just tell them it's Hugh Laurie to confuse them. There have been a number of guests who have appeared on the show regularly, with Jo Brand, Phill Jupitus, Sean Lock, Bill Bailey, Rich Hall and Jimmy Carr all making more than fifteen appearances.

Some of Channel Five's longest-serving staff are taking voluntary redundancy from the broadcaster, including Nick Wilson, Chris Shaw and Robert Charles, as part of new owner Richard Desmond's cost-cutting drive. Staff were told this week that Wilson, the director of children's programming, Shaw, the senior programme controller and sport controller Charles are leaving following an invitation to apply for voluntary redundancy last month. Wilson, once described as 'the Simon Cowell of children's television,' has worked for the children's department since 1996, before Five launched, and set up the popular long-running preschool strand, Milkshake! Former ITN executive and News at Ten editor Shaw was the launch editor of the ground-breaking Five News in 1997, overseeing a more informal approach copied by other broadcasters, including Kirsty Young perching on her desk to read the news. He was later promoted to controller of news, current affairs and documentaries at Five, before becoming senior programme controller. Charles, a former controller of sport at Yorkshire Television, joined Five in 1997 and made live football a key feature of the channel's output, in addition to picking up Test cricket highlights in 2006. Others understood to be in line to be granted voluntary redundancy, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, include entertainment head Donna Taberer and head of production Nan Whittingham – who both joined Five last year from Sky. Those taking voluntary will be leaving over the next few weeks. Dawn Airey, the current chairman and chief executive, is due to leave Five at the end of the week. Airey is understood to have been asked to stay with Channel Five, but has chosen to move to the broadcaster's former owner RTL, the pan-European broadcaster which owns Talkback Thames, the London-based producer of The Apprentice and Britain's Got Talent. She is expected to be in her new role within RTL by the end of the year.

Channel Four has reportedly axed The 5 O'Clock Show after just one series. The tea-time programme was created to replace The Paul O'Grady Show and featured a series of guest presenters, including Fern Britton and Peter Andre. It had been rumoured that one of the guest hosts could land the series on a full-time basis. However, the Sun reports that the show has now been cancelled and replaced by the wretched Jamie Oliver's new cooking programme. 'It was felt the show didn't work,' an 'insider' allegedly told the paper. And, Jamie Oliver will?

BBC World Service has agreed a deal to air commentary from Premier League matches in four languages to listeners throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The three-year deal, which runs until May 2014, will enable the BBC's African multi-media services - BBC Afrique (French), BBC Hausa, BBC Para Africa (Portuguese) and BBC Somali - to broadcast live commentary of Premier League weekend games. World Service's Premier League coverage will be available in over forty African countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Uganda. The agreement also extends BBC Swahili's existing commentary rights deal, which has seen the service air live commentary of Saturday afternoon Premier League games since 2004. BBC Swahili will now cover Sunday matches as well. 'This exciting new agreement follows on from our World Cup broadcasts in English and Swahili, when we received an overwhelming response from African football fans,' said Isa Abba Adamu, BBC World Service Africa region executive editor. 'Thanks to this commentary rights agreement, BBC World Service will be bringing England's Premier League football to a combined weekly audience of eighty million, making them part of the excitement, the drama and the suspense of the English football.' Premier League head of international broadcasting and media operations Paul Molnar said: 'Africa has provided many great players for the Premier League, and we are pleased to extend the accessibility of the league through the local language radio services of BBC World Service broadcasting to this region.' BBC Swahili senior sports producer Alex Mureithi added: 'Over six years since we started them, Saturday live commentaries on BBC Swahili have become a not-to-be-missed experience for soccer fans all over East and Central Africa. The success of the Premier League commentaries led to this year's live coverage of World Cup matches in South Africa - first time ever for live commentaries of World Cup matches in Swahili. The addition of Sunday matches is in response to growing demands from the fans. We are looking forward to covering all the top weekend action.'

A shopper sparked a punch-up in a German sex shop after trying to return a gay porn film that he claimed not to have enjoyed. The man asked staff at St Pauli's Mystery Hall Sex Shop for a full refund but was refused, Croatian Times reports. He then returned minutes later to punch one employee and steal the equivalent of three hundred and fifty pounds from the shop.

Finally, here's a picture of the divine and lovely Keira Knightley with something hot and throbbing between her thighs.And, on that bombshell, dear blog reader ...