Thursday, September 02, 2010


That was a perfectly extraordinary episode of Ideal this week, dear blog reader: An intricate house-of-cards of a plot - Graham Duff at his very best - mixing together a whole bunch of disparate elements: Moz's murderous dream sequence in which poor old boring Derrick got stabbed with his own pitchfork, Psycho Paul and the gang's new hair-brained get-rich-quick scheme (organ harvesting!), Brian's purchase of a new - massive - knob, a heavily pregnant Judith's plan to kill Cartoon Head, Colin's long-overdue return and Troy moving out of the airing cupboard and into the wardrobe. Plus thirty minutes of, as usual, faultless dialogue. Genius. Insane genius, admittedly, and probably not to all tastes, but genius none the less.

And, speaking of Ideal, I'm going to do a right hideous, if casual, name-drop here. I was having lunch with The Very Alfie Joey himself the other day after a short writing session (we're currently scripting 'a piece of pastiche musical theatre' - no, really - which Alf's hoping to do as a one-man show in 2011). As usual, when us two get together the subject soon turned to telly, and sport. And, in this particular case, a combination of the two. We both share something of an addiction to Soccer Saturday. But, neither of us can, quite, work out why! Let's face it, as Alf noted, nobody on there (with the obvious exception of Stelling ... and, at a push Alan McAnally) would get within a hundred miles of a job with another broadcaster; they're all far too inarticulate and unprofessional. But, put them together in a studio for five hours and what you've got is, essentially, a pub conversation. Only, without the big fight at the end. Just. It's exactly what blokes down the pub talk like when they're watching the football on a Sunday after three or four jars. There's always the loud-mouthed big-nosed Scouser with red and white eyes who thinks he knows more than everyone else put together but, actually, doesn't. There's always the little Scottish fellah who can't pronounce the word 'situation' properly. There's always the cynical cockney chancer in recovery from a coke-habit who doesn't like anybody north of Watford or south of Iceland. And, there's always a Hartlepool United fan whom all the rest of the blokes takes the piss out of. It should be horrible. It should be pandering to the worst stereotypes of every middle-class comedian who does Sky viewer/Sun reader/'The Man in the Pub' jokes. And, in a few - mostly minor and aesthetic - ways, it is. It's also more addictive than smack! Conceptually, it's like a cock fight. In practice, by not taking itself anywhere even close to seriously but, conversely, by taking the football itself deadly seriously, it manages to do a tightrope walk along the wobbly line of 'fun' and, somehow, stay on its feet. Unbelievable, Jeff.

Just a wee confirmation - yer Keith Telly Topping mentioned last week that I wasn't sure if Coast had yet been recommissioned for sixth series next year. Well, apparently, it has - a while back - and they're currently filming it. You can follow the progress on producer Steve Evanson's very entertaining Twitter feed here. The fifth series ended last night with the travelogue's highest audience of the year, an excellent 3.3m.

Simon Cowell has confirmed that upcoming contestant Chloe Mafia will not be removed from The X Factor. Mafia's future on the show was left in doubt after those nosy busybodies at the Sun claimed that she had been working as a one hundred and sixty pounds-an-hour prostitute. However, Cowell told the paper that the singer - whose audition is yet to be broadcast - would not be removed as long as she did not work whilst appearing on the ITV programme. 'We haven't banned prostitutes,' he said. 'I think you'd want to show the story if we're allowed - I want to see the story.' He continued: 'We can't just take people off the show because they might do something that upsets some people. If a person applies to be on The X Factor it's obvious to me that they want to do something better with their life.' The twenty-year-old mother-of-one previously appeared as a contestant on BBC3's Snog Marry Avoid? An X Factor spokeswoman added: 'We don't discriminate. We will look into the matter.' To quote President Bartlet in The West Wing, 'it's nice when we can do something for prostitutes once in a while, isn't it?'

A singer who punched her friend and performing partner during an X Factor audition has admitted to having 'anger issues.' College student Abbey Johnstone, eighteen, from Leamington, struck her - now former - friend Lisa Parker after their performance was branded 'the worst audition in history' by Simon Cowell. Johnstone told the Daily Scum Mail: 'Simon Cowell said we had serious attitude problems and then Lisa told Louis Walsh I fancied him. She had just started singing and I decided I didn't want to sing. I ran off stage but the X Factor people physically forced me to go back on again, and I couldn't take it anymore. I have anger issues and I couldn't take any more of the audience booing us and calling me fat. I just flipped out and now I think the whole thing's being blown out of proportion.' She continued: 'As soon as it happened I knew we shouldn't be friends after, but ever since her friends, family and other people in the street have all started having a go at me. I've had things thrown at me in the street and it has all started making me depressed. I don't want to be known as the girl who punched her mate in the face on The X Factor because that's not who I am.' Well actually Abbey, love, I'm rather afraid that you are. Not much you can do about that now. Johnstone added: 'I've tried to go round to see Lisa and sort it all out since it happened, but her family just came out and abused me and said I ruined Lisa's dream. I'd been best mates with Lisa for at least eighteen months and she said she wanted to go on the show. I didn't think she should do it on her own, so I said I'd go on with her for support. My family told me not to go on it, and now after all this I wish I'd listened to them.' And, again, to quote President Bartlet in The West Wing: ''Toby, tell me: these people don't vote, do they?'

The BBC has lost the first round of its legal fight to stop the publication of a book which reveals the identity of Top Gear's driver The Stig. The High Court in London refused to grant the BBC an injunction blocking the publication by HarperCollins of an autobiography of former Formula Three driver Ben Collins. The book claims that Collins is the mystery driver on the popular BBC2 show. Top Gear presenter James May, who was a studio guest on BBC London when High Court's decision was announced, made light of the situation. He said: 'Obviously I'm now going to have to take some legal action of my own, because I have been the Stig for the past seven years, and I don't know who this bloke is, who's mincing around in the High Court pretending it's him.' Collins, from Bristol, was in court for part of Wednesday's hearing. The first Stig, Perry McCarthy, was dropped by the show in 2003 after his identity was uncovered. During the case this week - which took place in camera - the BBC had argued that the planned book would breach contracted confidentiality obligations. A BBC statement said: 'The Top Gear audience has always made it clear that they enjoy the mystery surrounding the identity of The Stig and the BBC felt it important to do all it could to protect that anonymity. The BBC brought this action as we believe it is vital to protect the character of The Stig which ultimately belongs to the licence fee payer. Today's judgement does not prevent the BBC from pursuing this matter to trial and the BBC will not be deterred from protecting such information from attack no matter when or by whom it should arise.' HarperCollins claimed that it was 'a victory for freedom of speech' which, of course, they would say. I also imagine that the giggling slack-jawed hee-haws at the Daily Scum Mail, for instance, will be finding this all desperately amusing for having given them another stick to beat the BBC with. It may be something of a hollow victory for Collins himself, however. Widespread Internet rumours suggest that he has already been replaced in the role for filming of Top Gear's forthcoming winter series.

A Doctor Who director has revealed that Mark Gatiss has written an episode for the show's forthcoming sixth series. Richard Clark, who will direct two episodes of the drama later this year, announced on his Twitter account that he would be working on a script written by the Sherlock co-creator. He said: 'In the thick of Dr Who. New drafts coming along. Mark Gatiss story wonderful. [sic]' Clark previously directed the third series episode The Lazarus Experiment, which featured Gatiss in an acting role. The director later added that he was impressed by the quality of the scripts written by Gatiss and Neil Gaiman. 'Scripts falling into place beautifully. Mark Gatiss/Neil Gaimen - a million thanks.'

Coronation Street will broadcast another live episode to celebrate the soap's fiftieth anniversary, it has been confirmed. The plans were revealed over the weekend by cast member Keith Duffy (Ciaran McCarthy). Producer Phil Collinson previously confirmed that the anniversary week would see a tram crash on the street. 'Everyone is very excited, if not to say a little nervous, about the prospect of a live episode,' a statement said. 'But we felt it was fitting to go out live to the nation to celebrate such a prestigious anniversary.' Earlier this month, the People reported that the live episode would show the aftermath of the devastating crash. Coronation Street previously celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2000 by broadcasting an hour-long live episode.

Jonathan Ross has signed up to host the BBC4 World Cinema Awards. The move means that Ross will return to the organisation just three months after he left. The Mirror reports that Ross has previously hosted the awards, which are currently in their seventh year. BBC4 controller Richard Klein said: 'As the home of arts and culture, BBC4 is committed to world cinema. It's really important to encourage the viewing of such important stories from the world around us - this year's shortlist is further proof of an exceptional year for international film.' Nominated movies include Waltz With Bashir, the magnificent Let The Right One In, A Prophet and The White Ribbon. The ceremony will be held at the BFI Southbank on 7 October and will be broadcast two days later.

Julia McKenzie's latest outing as ITV's Miss Marple was watched by nearly five million viewers, just winning its dirty head-to-head contest with BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? featuring Jason Donovan on Bank Holiday Monday. Agatha Christie's Marple averaged 4.73 million between 9pm and 10.30pm on ITV and ITV HD beginning with a peak of 5.7m shortly after nine o'clock and falling to 3.7m by the end. Who Do You Think You Are? had 4.96 million viewers, between 9pm and 10pm, but Marple had a slight lead when the two were head to head.

ITV Studios has agreed a development deal with independent production firm Babyfoot, maker of shows such as US reality series I Survived A Japanese Game Show. Under the multi-year deal, ITV Studios will get first-look rights to develop UK versions of all new formats produced by the Scandinavian company. Led by David Sidebotham, Babyfoot makes a range of programmes for international TV networks, including ABC's Rose D'or winning I Survived A Japanese Game Show, in which American people appear on Japanese game shows, fairly obviously, and European reality series Gay Army, in which nine effeminate gay men are put through their paces by a drill sergeant. No, really, I'm not making this up. The firm also makes Bingo Banko, a bingo programme co-produced with TV2 Denmark's Keld Reinicke. Hands up everyone who thought that was something from The Fast Show's Channel 9? Okay, you can all put your hands down now, thanks. Sminky-pinky. 'We are delighted to secure this first look deal. Babyfoot is behind some of the wildest and funkiest ideas around at the moment,' said ITV Studios creative director John Whiston. Yes, John, we believe you. Gay Army sounds especially 'wild and funky.' he continued: 'Combine that with our expertise in development and production and who knows what wonderful TV will come out of this innovative collaboration.' Babyfoot managing director David Sidebotham added: 'We can't wait to get started! The deal throws the door wide open for us to work with some of the best and brightest in format development and production. Matching this with ITV Studios' ambition to bring unique and exciting entertainment to the global market means exciting times ahead.'

Channel 4 has decided to broadcast Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine's recent online show. They must be effing desperate. The series, Trinny And Susannah: What They Did Next, broadcast on the website iVillage in sixteen six-minute episodes earlier this year. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that the show, a spoof documentary, will now be adapted for a one-off programme on Channel 4. The series was a mixture between scripted scenes and ad-libs and was previously described by Constantine as 'along the lines of Curb Your Enthusiasm.' Only, you know, featuring Trinny and Susannah. And, therefore, shite.

The BBC has announced the return of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow. The six-part series sees theatres around the country play host to a night of comedy. Each episode will feature McIntyre introducing a headline guest and three stars of the comedy circuit who are not as well-known to a BBC audience. John Bishop will headline the show in Blackpool, while the night in Glasgow will feature Kevin Bridges. Ardal O'Hanlon will appear in Leeds and Sarah Millican will lead the Sunderland show, while Tommy Tiernan will top the bill in Dublin and Noel Fielding will do the same in Bristol. And, be as blisteringly unfunny as he usually is. Probably. The supporting comedians in the new series will include Daniel Sloss, Justin Moorhouse and Sean Walsh.

Adrian Edmondson has revealed that he does not plan to pursue any more comedy projects. Edmondson starred alongside Rik Mayall in Bottom and played Vyvyan in The Young Ones. However, the Mirror suggests that Ade is now happy to stop pursuing a comedy career. 'I have no real interest in comedy,' he said. 'If no comedy comes my way again it wouldn't bother me. I was working with Rik for twenty eight years and I loved everything we did. But I didn't want to get to the end of my life and think, "What did you do? Oh, I did that work with Rik and nothing else."' However, Edmondson insisted that he has a good relationship with Mayall even though they no longer work together. 'We still see each other and we keep pretending we're going to write a sitcom in ten years,' he said. 'But I don't think it will happen.'

Pakistani cricketer Mohammad Asif, who is under scrutiny after claims of spot-fixing, has been dropped from an Indian movie, its director has told the BBC. Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri said that he had hired Asif for his directorial debut, Mazhavillilinattamvare (Till the Edge of the Rainbow). Asif was due to play a Pakistani cricketer who comes to a coaching camp in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The film is about friendship told through the game of cricket. Namboodiri said he had signed up the bowler two months ago after his son conducted a screen test with the cricketer in London. 'He is a friendly and nice guy. I was shocked to hear about the allegations, so I dropped him from the film,' said Namboodiri. The director said Asif was supposed to come down to Kerala for a twenty five-day shoot next month. The twenty seven-year-old had been set for 'a major part' in the movie, which is to be made in the Malayalam language, spoken in Kerala. 'He was to play a Pakistani cricketer who comes down to India to hold a coaching camp for Indian players,' said Namboodiri. The director added he had initially contacted former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram to play the role, but he had declined. Namboodiri said he was now seeking a replacement for Asif: 'I have the names of two or three Pakistani cricketers in my mind.' Asif, along with team mates Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Kamran Akmal, have all been questioned by police over claims of spot fixing during Pakistan's ongoing tour of England, although wicketkeeper Akmal is said to be no longer under investigation.

BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow says she wants to increase the number of female comedians seen on her channel. The station has a strong track record for panel shows such as Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You and Shooting Stars, which have been criticised for being male-dominated. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Hadlow revealed that she was trying to create quiz shows 'more welcome to women,' and was exploring the idea of commissioning one with a female host. And she revealed that she had recently commissioned an improvisation format which she said had a 'strong female presence.' Hadlow said she agreed with claims made at the festival that more could be done to help funny women and said she would like to commission a landmark female-led comedy such as Absolutely Fabulous or The Catherine Tate Show. 'We are on our way, we are getting there,' she said, citing Miranda Hart and Ruth Jones as examples of 'two interesting women doing interesting things.'

Rhod Gilbert has landed his first BBC1 series. The corporation has ordered eight episodes of Ask Rhod Gilbert following a successful pilot earlier this year. Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Greg Davies and Lloyd Langford will be his co-stars. In each of the forty-minute shows, the panel will tackle questions posed by celebrities and members of the public, such as: 'Who would win in a race, Usain Bolt or a grizzly bear?' and 'Is it true that dogs cannot blow?' Gilbert said: 'I'm thrilled to be on BBC1 tackling head-on the type of baffling questions that keep me awake at night.' The show will be made by Northern Irish production company Green Inc in Glasgow, London and Belfast. It will transmit on Monday nights later this year. Gilbert recorded a pilot in March after the production company approached him with the idea. At the time, he said: 'I had a right laugh on Buzzcocks, and felt very much at home in the host role. I'm hoping that this new project will be more of the same.'

ITN is to open a new ITV News bureau in Dubai under its newly appointed international correspondent John Irvine and will downgrade its presence in South Africa. Irvine, ITV News's former Washington correspondent, will have a role covering stories across the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Gulf region. The South Africa bureau will be closed but ITV News will retain a production presence in Johannesburg. The Dubai bureau is ITV News' first new operation overseas since the opening of its China bureau in 2006. Irvine's appointment to the newly created position is part of a reshuffle of the broadcaster's foreign correspondents after a review of its international operations. ITN's former South Africa correspondent, Martin Geissler, replaces Robert Moore as Europe correspondent, with Moore switching to the Washington job, a role he previously held between 2001 and 2006.

An Iranian newspaper has called Carla Bruni, France's first lady, 'a prostitute' after she attacked Iran's intention to stone a woman to death. The president's wife is part of a campaign to save the life of forty three-year-old mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Ashtiani is accused of cheating on her husband and then helping to kill him. France has urged the European Union to threaten new sanctions over the case. There were marches in several French cities this weekend in support of Ashtiani. The protest has gained momentum with both the President and his wife voicing support. Bruni wrote an open letter to the Iranian mother of two. 'Why shed your blood and deprive your children of their mother?' she wrote. 'Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you're a woman, and because you're an Iranian? Everything within me refuses to accept it.' The responding editorial in the Iranian newspaper Kayhan titled French prostitutes join the human rights protest accuses the French first lady of being a hypocrite. It draws attention to a chequered love life and her numerous relationships with high-profile celebrities. It also singles out the French actress Isabelle Adjani, who is friends with Carla Bruni and who is also calling for Ashtiani's release. Kayhan, a state-run newspaper, acts as a mouthpiece for the country's conservative Islamic regime. But state television has also joined in, saying Ms Bruni was trying to justify her own 'immorality.' As yet, the Elysee Palace says it has no formal reaction to slurs.

A mechanic has stripped off naked and brandished a spanner in the street after being laid off. De Tseng, forty three, from Kunming, southern China, waved his tool around at passers-by in protest at his lack of employment opportunities, Metro reports. His flatmate, the brilliantly named Ho He said that Tseng was 'very angry and had a couple of drinks which only made things worse. He grabbed the biggest tool he could find in his box and took all his clothes off and marched out into the street to tell people what had happened to him. The police were very kind and waited for him to sober up and put his spanner away.'