Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sign Of The Times

The new season of House continued this week with an episode - Selfish, written by the great Eli Attie - in which House and Cuddy's itemship became common knowledge. And, parts of it were very funny. Particularly a couple of scenes involving Wilson. Which was probably just as well because, I hate to say this but the 'disease of the week' story - a variant on Sophie's Choice - was rather dull. Not bad, I hasten to add. Just dull. On the other hand, episode two of the Hawaii Five-0 remake continued the testosterone-snorting, furious sheer bloody carnage of the pilot. Only, minus James Marsters this time. It was many things but, dull certainly wasn't one of them! I mean, Grace Park and Ivana Milicevic having a big girly catfight that ends in a swimming pool. You know, dull is not the first adjective springing to my mind here. Not even close.

Twenty-four carat gem TV comedy moment of the week so far: The best line of dialogue in the current series of Ideal, by miles. When Psycho Paul is asked by Moz whether he has a conscience about organ harvesting poor dead Steve's bits and pieces. 'Conscience is just another word for gay!' It was also nice to see dear old Jilted John himself, Graham Fellows, in a sinister little turn as a dodgy doctor. Second best moment of the episode came after Low Triad Tony has sliced off Keith's ear as a ransom demand. Carol asks 'does anybody want to listen to some Jedward?' This prompts the deliciously perfect reply from the Godlike genius that is Mick Miller, 'can you cut the other one off please?' Fan-ruddy-tastic. Next week, it's the series finale and the long-awaited fancy dress party episode.

Kate Garraway has begged viewers to give Daybreak a chance. The former GMTV presenter, who currently works in the humiliatingly demoted position of 'entertainment editor' on the ITV breakfast show, was responding to recent criticism of the programme from a number of celebrities. She wrote in her New magazine column: 'The fabulous Louie Spence of Pineapple Dance Studios said he preferred GMTV and really misses Ben Shephard. And legendary broadcaster Chris Evans also said he had reservations. While I admire both of them, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I still believe that the more people see of Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, the more they will love them.' Garraway also encouraged viewers who had not yet tuned in to Daybreak to make up their own minds on the programme. She added: 'It's not easy launching a new show, so if you haven't seen it yet, watch it and let me know what you think.' Do you really want people to tell you what they think, Katie? Okay, you asked for it.

The BBC withdrew an edition of Panorama which focused on the financial affairs of the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft at the eleventh hour this week. It was due to have been broadcast on BBC1 on Monday evening. The BBC said that it had put a number of questions to Lord Ashcroft two weeks ago and had received a response on a particular issue on Monday. The Panorama team is now reviewing the programme in light of the new information given. The programme was replaced with another about UK military justice. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We put a number of questions to Lord Ashcroft two weeks ago, including one relating to a share interest transfer. We asked for a response by Friday 24 September. In a response received this afternoon we have been given information that sheds new light on that issue and we will therefore review the programme.'

The BBC has ordered two feature-length episodes of Rock & Chips, it has been revealed. The Only Fools and Horses prequel, which attracted seven and a half million viewers with a one-off episode in January, is to come back for two hour-long specials at Christmas 2010 and Easter 2011. I thought they were going to make a series? Oh well, Plan B, I guess. According to the Sun, The Inbetweeners' James Buckley will reprise his role as a young Derek Trotter. A source said: 'James is hot property at the moment. The Inbetweeners is getting incredible ratings and he is man of the moment. It'll cap off a great year for the Essex boy.' Do real people talk like that?

BBC chiefs have confirmed that a new series of popular children's TV show In The Night Garden will be made, despite reports yesterday that it was coming to an end. The managing director of Children's Global Brands at BBC Worldwide, Neil Ross Russell, said: 'The rumoured demise of In the Night Garden has been premature to say the least. BBC Worldwide and Ragdoll, with the full support of Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies, are actually in the process of developing exclusive new content which will see the characters continue in a variety of different formats.'

ITV have removed the famous Granada TV sign from the roof of its Quay Street studios due to safety concerns, but the move has been met with outrage among supporters. The red-lettered, illuminated sign was taken down on Saturday afternoon after more than forty years as a fixture on the Manchester skyline. The change was announced on the Granada Reports Facebook page after the sign had already been removed from the building. An ITV spokesman was quoted as saying: 'During routine maintenance of the Quay Street building the roof signage and its fixtures were found to be extensively corroded. As a result, the signs have been taken down for health and safety reasons.' The broadcaster has also released a timelapse video featuring the sign being taken down letter-by-letter from the building. However, the removal, which went ahead with no advance public warning, was met with anger on the Facebook page. One member described the removal as 'Vandalism, pure and simple. The main office block's a fairly ugly old pile, and that sign and the recently-removed lattice tower were the only things that made it memorable. Coming into Manchester on the train on a winter's evening, and seeing that expanse of illuminated red, never failed to give me a warm glow.' Another contributor added: 'People of Granadaland should protest to ITV and demand that the Granada Logo is replaced. It is now part of our northern identity and separate from the Southern Elite. And Granada should keep its logo after all the programmes it makes instead of the awful ITV Studios Logo. It was bad enough when they removed the aerial...'

Ofcom has today dismissed a complaint from a mother that EastEnders infringed her privacy by featuring footage of her giving birth. In episodes of the BBC1 soap broadcast on 11 and 12 May this year, the Ian Beale character showed his daughter Lucy a DVD featuring footage of one his 'employees' giving birth in an attempt to scare her into having an abortion. The BBC had obtained the footage from an educational film produced by the National Childbirth Trust of a woman, called 'Ms K' by the media regulator, during and after the birth of her son. However, Ms K submitted a complaint to Ofcom that her and her son's privacy had been 'unwarrantably infringed' by the two episodes. She claimed that her consent hadn't been sought before the footage was aired, while EastEnders had 'trampled' over the birth of her son and permanently ruined her memories of the occasion. In response, the BBC said that the footage of Ms K giving birth was placed in the public domain by the NCT with her full consent. The corporation also said that the DVD had been made freely available to 'any mum-to-be in the UK' for the past three years prior to the episodes being broadcast. Despite acknowledging that the footage of Ms K was of a 'very intimate and personal nature,' Ofcom decided to dismiss her complaint. The media regulator noted that her expectations of privacy were 'limited by her decision to permit the birth to be filmed by the NCT and disseminated to the public at large' in the first place. 'Taking into account the fact that the material used in these programmes had been so widely disseminated during the previous three years, and the nature and extent of the material used in the broadcast, Ofcom does not consider that the privacy of either Ms K or her son was unwarrantably infringed in the programmes as broadcast,' said the watchdog. 'Accordingly Ofcom has not upheld Ms K's complaint.'

Huntwatch: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is set to call for a 'new landscape of local TV services' around the UK. In a speech he set out his vision of stations 'broadcasting for as little as one hour a day.' He said an expansion of super fast broadband and the easing of rules on owning local newspapers, radio and TV would help encourage the enterprises. A report suggests that advertising alone will not be enough to support the stations, but corporate sponsorship might work. Nicholas Shott, of investment bankers Lazard, was commissioned by Hunt's department to investigate the local TV proposals. His interim report suggests that a multimillion-pound corporate sponsorship deal could be one way to make such broadcasters work, citing Barclays' backing of the London bicycle scheme as an example. In a letter to Hunt, Shott said that the TV stations were more likely to succeed in urban areas, but even there 'the economics of a TV business funded mainly by advertising will still be challenging' and that 'additional revenue sources' would have to be explored. He added that stations could be hosted by existing channels, and discussions had started with senior management at the BBC which were showing 'early promise.' Hunt has long believed British TV is too centralised, lacking the local stations found in the US and mainland Europe. Hunt has not convinced most media executives, who doubt local TV can flourish here, particularly since the recent slump in advertising. But the minister is said to think future generations will find the idea that the UK cannot sustain local TV 'quaint.' In his speech to the Royal Television Society in London, Hunt set out his vision of the local TV services, broadcasting via digital TV or broadband, and free to link up with each other to cut costs and appeal to national advertisers. A BBC spokesman said: 'We are exploring potential ways in which the BBC could support the planned new local TV services, and partner with them where this makes sense for licence fee payers and sustaining plurality in news provision.' Terrestrial broadcasters - specifically ITV and Channel 4 - risk losing their traditional slots on the EPG if they fail to engage with the government's local TV agenda.

EastEnders joins forces with Michael Wood and Wallace & Gromit to inspire a life full of learning for BBC audiences. The BBC yesterday launched a new strategy to put learning at the heart of the BBC and provide learning opportunities for all audiences. Utilising the power of the BBC's big brands and key talent, BBC Learning hopes to make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to learn new skills, knowledge or ideas. The BBC's learning department, which is part of BBC Knowledge, is spearheading the new strategy but all the BBC's platforms, genres, regions and nations will be involved in making it a reality. A new contestable learning fund of five million pounds is being created next year to enhance the learning impact of key content across the entire BBC whether made in-house or by independent producers. And a learning exchange will be set up with a small team being able to offer advice on education, creativity and partnerships. New initiatives announced include a new series of the EastEnders online spin-off drama E20, a new daytime literacy campaign; a new series designed to get the nation 'hands on' with history and face-to-face events for the new Brian Cox series, Stargazing. BBC Learning has also committed to spend more on television shows aimed at adults who need help with basic skills and invest in learning projects aimed at older teens on BBC3. Controller of Learning, Saul Nassé, said: 'When I was a child I was inspired to study science by Raymond Baxter on Tomorrow's World, a show I later went on to edit. I want everyone in Britain to have a similar story of how the BBC enriched their life. I want to use BBC programmes that are known and loved by audiences that can serve as springboards for learning, whether that be a drama or a documentary. Many broadcasters "inform" and "entertain" but we are the only one that has "educate" at the heart of our public purpose. We have a wealth of content at our disposal and I want to ensure we are making the most of it – making it accessible and available to all.' The new Learning Strategy aims to maximise the learning potential of all the BBC's output and provide opportunities for everyone to learn that bit more – be it simply by attending a Bang Goes The Theory roadshow or by utilising online resources to help study for a crucial GCSE. 'We'll be enlisting the help of the BBC's best talent to maximise the reach of our output; inviting key presenters such as historian Michael Wood to film pieces that can be played directly into the classroom,' Nasse added. The new strategy also seeks to target those adults who need help with basic skills. In partnership with BBC Daytime, BBC Learning is going to mount a major adult literacy event which will include factual and drama on BBC1, outreach partnerships and online elements. In the late Seventies the series On The Move, starring Bob Hoskins, was a catalyst in an extremely effective literacy campaign which helped tens of thousands of people. The BBC will be inviting television dramatists to come up with a compelling contemporary drama that will serve as the lynchpin of the new campaign to tackle adult literacy levels today. Science and History are two areas BBC Learning will be focusing their resources. BBC Learning has funded the new series Wallace & Gromit's World of Inventions (BBC1) and will be taking the show around the country with a series of roadshows and workshops, to be announced shortly, designed to inspire an interest in inventing and science. Learning will also be supporting the two new Brian Cox series' Wonders Of The Universe and Stargazing. Stargazing events will be held across the UK with science centres, observatories and national parks joining in with a series of star parties and stargazing walks to encourage public engagement. Building on the success of the new series Michael Wood's The Story Of England, BBC Learning is going to commission a new eight-part series The Story Of The Nation (BBC2). This landmark Michael Wood series will tell the story of our country through communities investigating their local history. It will be accompanied by fifteen regional programmes showcasing local places viewers can visit for themselves to get 'hands on' with history.

Emmerdale's Danny Miller has revealed that he believes next week's 'cataclysmic collision' will be among the best episodes ever seen by viewers. The storyline involves a train which will be seen smashing into a car carrying Aaron, Jackson, Paddy and Marlon as they return home from a night out. One of the four's life will be left in jeopardy. 'The stunt and the episode are both amazing,' Miller said. 'It embodies everything Emmerdale is about.' What, sheep? He continued: 'Filming for the bar was hilarious and then in complete contrast, the emotional drama on location was great to get my teeth into. It's a spectacular episode but this will only mark the start, what comes after is incredible. From watching Emmerdale since I was a child, I personally think it will be one of the best episodes viewers have ever seen.' Miller, who was named Best Actor at the Inside Soap Awards this week, admitted that Aaron won't deal with the impact of the accident well. 'Aaron keeps his cards close to his chest, he always has,' he said. 'It won't matter whether he's the one behind the wheel or not – whoever's life is in jeopardy that night, Aaron will struggle to cope with the consequences. He'll more than likely want to shut everyone else out to deal with it alone.'

Doctor Who star Matt Smith has admitted that he would love a piano to be installed in the TARDIS. According to the Daily Telegraph, Smith wants to show off his musical skills on the programme. 'I always wanted a piano in the TARDIS but that's yet to materialise, sadly,' he said. Heh! Materialise. It's a ... oh, never mind. 'I'm by no means a dab-hand but I can tinker a little bit.' However, Smith admitted that the introduction of a musical instrument is unlikely. 'I guess once the TARDIS lands you want the adventure to get started,' he said. 'You don't want to see the Doctor playing the piano.' Oh no you don't. Smith has also described the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special in glowing terms. The actor told Metro that the Steven Moffat-written episode will be full of holiday surprises. 'We've got Michael Gambon playing a Scrooge-like miser with a time travelling twist - and I think it's really, really good,' he said. 'It's particularly Christmassy, lots of snow and lots of twinkly lights.' He continued: 'I think it's full of the right heart and soul for the season. Steven has, once again, written something brilliant.' Smith also praised an additional episode that Moffat has written for the upcoming sixth series. 'God, I wish I could tell you the other thing he's just written, which is just mind-blowing. I think he's delivered his best script yet. I can't say anything about it, but it's bloody brilliant.'

CSI: Miami actress Emily Procter has reportedly said that she was prompted to take a pregnancy test following a dream. The actress, who plays Calleigh Duquesne on the CBS series, and before that was a cult favourite as Ainsley in The West Wing, announced that she is expecting her first child with musician boyfriend Paul Bryan earlier this year. 'I actually had no idea that I was pregnant, and in the middle of the night I had this dream. There was this old woman, and she said, "Honey, you're pregnant!" And I said, "No, I'm not. There's no way,"' she told Us Weekly. 'I thought that dream was so bizarre, and when it was positive, of course I told my boyfriend. We were like, "Wow! That is unbelievable."' She added that the couple have already picked 'a couple of names' but declined to reveal any details about the baby's sex. Procter previously told People that she is 'grateful' that she is getting to experience pregnancy, adding: 'I started crying the other day just thinking that the baby is going to leave me soon. You have this relationship with this person in your belly and it's really amazing.'

The embarrassment caused to newspaper editors on the receiving end of a censure from the Press Complaints Commission has the practical effect of reducing repeat offending - that is the claim of senior figures within the PCC, who were speaking in Edinburgh this week. The event - organised by the Cross Party Group on culture and media at the Scottish Parliament - was attended by PCC chair, Baroness Buscombe. Also there was one of the seven newspaper editors on the PCC, the Scotsman's John McLellan, who praised the PCC a welcome 'pain in the neck.' He added: 'The press jumps to the PCC tune, not the other way around.' Conspicuously absent from the event were newspaper editors, who will have heard a vigorous debate about proportionality, that any apology a newspaper runs is as prominent as the original, offending article. Stephen Abell of the PCC, however, did say that eighty per cent of apologies appear on the same page or earlier. But another attendee, Eshter Roberton, admitted that - during her three years as a PCC Commissioner - she could only recollect two or three apologies which had appeared on a front page. All the PCC representatives made a robust defence of their organisation, including the concept of self-regulation. Unresolved was a debate to what extent the PCC is pro-active - seeking out possible grounds for complaint - as opposed to responding only once a complaint is received. While there is some pro-activity - including making it known to possible victims of inaccuracy, etc. that they have recourse to the 'fast, free, fair and flexible' service that is the PCC - mostly they have to wait until invited. That led to Ted Brocklebank MSP, raising issues of 'press standards', which might not lead to complaints but are deemed offensive or in poor taste, nevertheless. Brocklebank feared, for instance, that 'press standards' might dissuade entering public service, because of the risk of being pilloried. He cited his own recent experience when it was announced he was standing down from the Scottish Parliament at the next election, in May. After eight years services as a MSP, the Scotsman, he felt, seemed to be more interested in a relationship he is said to have had with then ITN broadcaster Selina Scott, some thirty years ago. The article was illustrated with a photograph of Brocklebank and Scott. The MSP said he could never envisage himself complaining about anything to the PCC. Meanwhile, Edinburgh Napier University lecturer Robert Beveridge said he had stopped taking the Scotsman following a cartoon accompanying the reporting of Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon's recent marriage. He described it as 'mysogynist.' McLellan countered that Sturgeon's husband, Peter Murrell, bought the original.

And, speaking of the PCC, one Marlene Bentley of North Yorkshire complained to the Press Complaints Council that the front cover of an issue of OK! magazine – which contained a headline concerning the 'Star-studded wedding' of Wayne and Coleen Rooney – had misled readers to believe that the issue contained coverage of the couple's wedding. In fact, that issue of the magazine contained merely a full page advertisement for the wedding which was to be covered in the following week's edition. The magazine emphasised that its intention was not to mislead the complainant or any of its readers. Perish the thought. The magazine took on board the comments that Ms Bentley had made and offered her a six month subscription. Which sounds more of a punishment than a recompense but, anyway, the complaint was, apparently, resolved on that basis.

Tourism bosses have landed themselves in trouble after incorrectly claiming Stan Laurel was born in their town. Brochures designed to attract visitors to County Durham say: 'Bet you didn't know that Bishop Auckland was the birthplace of Arthur Stanley Jefferson, better known as Stan Laurel.' I didn't, in fact, know that. Because, it wasn't. He was actually born in Ulverston, Cumbria – eighty miles away. Visit County Durham has apologised for the error but says it doesn't have enough money to recall the fifty thousand leaflets. Well, you can borrow a marker pen if off me if you're that strapped for cash, lads. To be fair, Laurel did spend much of his early life in Bishop Auckland, where he parents ran the theatre. He was baptised in a local church, and attended the King James Grammar School there. He also lived for a while in North Shields before moving to London to appear in Fred Karno's theatre where, for a couple of years he and, another then geniuses of British comedy Charlie Chaplin, shared a stage. However, his birth certificate proves he was born in Ulverston in 1890. Craig Wilson of Visit County Durham admitted: 'It seems that urban myth has perpetuated an error in the Bishop Auckland town visitor map.' But, it's never been an urban myth, mate, all you had to do is look it up on Wikipedia! That's another fine mess you've gotten yourself into.

The United Nations has denied recent speculation that it is to appoint an astrophysicist as Earth's representative to extraterrestrial life-forms. Rumours had been circulating regarding the appointment of Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman - director of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs - to the role of 'first contact point for aliens.' The story, which first appeared in The Sunday Times, suggested that Othman would be the 'nearest thing we have to a "take me to your leader" person.' However, in an e-mail to the Gruniad Morning Star, Othman responded to the claims, saying: 'It sounds really cool but I have to deny it.' Pity.