Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Victoria's Cross

Yer Keith Telly Topping rather enjoyed Sunday night's Inspector George Gently - with its chilling echoes of the very real, and geographically neighbouring, 1968 Mary Bell case. He particularly admired the outstanding performance in the episode by Natalie Garner. There's a young lady to keep on eye on for future stardom. (There's a very good piece Natalie in the Teesdale Mercury which you can check out here and another in the Gazette, here.) Of course, the story was written by Our Friends In The North's Peter Flannery so, you know, one didn't expect it to be substandard. And, it was particularly nice to hear a few audio clips from The Daleks in the background whilst some of the characters were watching TV. (Albeit, that particular Doctor Who episode was shown in 1963, so what it was doing on TV in 1966 is anyone's guess.)
It must be said, however, that for the most part I agree with the reviewer in Monday's Metro who dished the praise but, also, spotted the flaws: 'Although it's set in 1966, this competent yet curiously anonymous programme felt far more dated than Downton Abbey. Let's face it, we’re not exactly lacking in TV detective dramas and in a crowded marketplace, Inspector George Gently struggles to stand out from the crowd. It’s got a neat sense of time and place, with the North East gently evoked without shoving flat caps and Geordie accents down our throats. And Martin Shaw as Gently and Lee Ingleby as young side-kick Bacchus make a fair pair of chalk and cheese cops, the former all-knowing and worldly wise, the latter a pent-up accident waiting to happen. But there's nothing to sink your teeth into. Young Natalie Garner made a good job of portraying demon child Agnes but the half-hearted debate about the nature of good and evil that her case prompted seemed token, with Twenty First-Century politically correct sensibilities trowelled on. Stranded between Heartbeat and Life On Mars, George Gently is a show with a personality crisis.'

Meanwhile, over on ITV, Downton Abbey was getting over seven million in the overnight ratings, which I'm sure ITV will be delighted with. However, the audience's fifteen minute breakdown tells a slightly different story, with the episode beginning with a huge inherited audience from The X Factor of over eight million but losing two million of those over the course of the episode's ninety minutes. Of course, even its last quarter hour figure of six and a half million, if maintained, is an excellent audience for any drama in this day and age. But, it'll be interesting to see what the show gets next week when it doesn't have X-Factor on immediately beforehand.

Monday night's high-octane episode of [spooks] - with its Lost-style flashbacks, and flaming outrageous blood-splattered mayhem - was close to being an erotic experience for yer Keith Telly Topping. Oddly structured the episode might've been but, let's be fair, anything with Sophie Myles wearing a tight sweater has got a couple of things going for it, if nothing else.

The executive producer of Seven Days has defended the decision to locate the show in Notting Hill. The Channel 4 series focuses on different people living in the area and allows viewers to communicate with them over the programme's website. Some members of the public have criticised the show's makers for choosing a London location which is already frequently featured in the media. Stephen Lambert, who produces the show, has now told the Gruniad Morning Star that 'one of the reasons' Notting Hill was chosen is that residents there are not fazed by cameras. 'People [there] are probably more used than most in the UK to seeing TV cameras and they take it in their stride,' he said. However, Lambert also claimed that Notting Hill was chosen because people of different economic backgrounds live 'cheek-by-jowl' and insisted that the team behind the show had investigated other areas, including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Speaking about the possibility of the show being renewed, he continued: 'We did look at many other places and if someone can suggest somewhere else then please, I'd be glad to hear about it. But the logical thing would be to carry on in Notting Hill. Our experience was that wherever we went most places are simply less diverse and you can't get away from that fact.'

FlashForward star Dominic Monaghan has admitted that he was not surprised by the show's cancellation. Me neither - no bugger was watching it and that's usually a bad sign for a TV show. He told SFX that studio politics at ABC were to blame for the demise of the series. Well, that and the fact that no bugger was watching it. '[It] wasn't that much of a shock,' he said. 'I thought it would go on a little longer. There's a lot of stuff that went on with FlashForward that wasn't anything to do with the ratings. It was to do with [what was happening] inside the studio and changes that were taking place.' However, Monaghan confessed that he had been disappointed by the decision to axe the show. 'I just thought it was really well-written,' he said. 'I played a very sweet, cuddly, nice character in Lost [so] I wanted to play a character who wasn't sympathetic. Not an easy character for an audience to like." The actor added that he had enjoyed exploring the dark side of his character Simon Campos. It doesn't sound very nice, but I really liked doing the scene where I strangled a guy to death,' he said. 'That was really fun for me. I went somewhere a little different and enjoyed the final result.'

And, speaking of pale - though not entirely unentertaining - Lost rip-offs, Scott Patterson has suggested that the characters are the most important thing in The Event. The actor, who plays Michael, told TV Guide that the series is only partly science fiction. As though that's something which is liable to get more, rather than less, people watching. 'They're not going to hit you over the head with it throughout the whole episode,' he said. 'If it gets too big and fancy for its britches, you forget about the characters and how the events are affecting the characters in a very deeply personal way.' Patterson also revealed that the various storylines introduced in the pilot will begin to connect as the series continues. 'The real power, to me, is the interrelatedness and interconnectedness of these characters and how these mini-events that keep happening through the series are going to affect these people and their relationships going forward,' he said. 'That's the glue that holds it together.'

Somebody else whinging because their show got the bullet is Zachary Quinto. The actor has admitted that he is disappointed there will not be a special movie to wrap up Heroes. That's because no bugger was watching it by the time it finished, mate. We've been here before, haven't we? The show's executive producer Tim Kring previously suggested that a feature or miniseries could be made to tie-up the storylines on the programme, which was cancelled by NBC earlier this year. Which is the kind of thing that producers often say when their show has just been cancelled in the hope that it'll placate fans without bothering to engage their brain and work out who, exactly, is going to pay for this mythical TV movie. The network, of course, recently announced that it has decided not to pursue the project. Quinto, who played Sylar, told Entertainment Weekly: 'It's disappointing that there was such a lack of resolution. But unfortunately that's just the nature of network television. Nothing really surprises me in terms of network and studio bureaucracy. It's the way it goes. If it was in their best interest I'm sure they would have done it. And for whatever reason, they didn't think it was. So that's a bummer. But we just have to accept it and move on.' Quinto added that he loved working on the show and explained that he is pleased that his co-stars are finding new projects. 'I have nothing but fond memories and fondness for the people who gave me that opportunity,' he said. 'I miss everybody, but I'm also glad to know that everybody is moving forward with as much momentum as possible.'

Summer Glau is to make a guest appearance in the new season of Chuck. Entertainment Weekly reports that the actress will play undercover CIA agent Greta in the eighth episode. Each new episode of Chuck will feature a different actress as Greta. Olivia Munn played the role in the season premiere, while Stacy Keibler and Isaiah Mustafa will feature in future episodes. Glau previously starred in Firefly, Dollhouse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and will next be seen in NBC's upcoming superhero drama The Cape.

Spartacus: Blood and Snot's executive producer Steven S DeKnight has admitted that he has not yet made any decisions about the show's future. The second season of the programme was placed in doubt earlier this month when star Andy Whitfield was forced to leave the series after learning that his non-Hodgkin lymphoma had returned. DeKnight has now told Entertainment Weekly that the team behind Spartacus have to decide whether to continue the show with another actor or bring the series to an end. 'The two main options are to close up shop or recast,' he said. 'I want to talk to Andy and find out how he feels about the options. That's obviously very important to us.' DeKnight continued: 'We're still absorbing what's happened. I think it's going to be a little while before we reach any conclusions.' DeKnight also revealed that his main concern at the moment is Whitfield, who is currently having 'aggressive treatment' to fight the cancer. 'He's a trooper,' he said. 'He has a very positive outlook.'

Elisabeth Moss has suggested that Mad Men focuses more on its characters than on history. The series, which is set in the 1960s, has previously included references to a number of historical landmarks. However, Moss told Entertainment Weekly that the events only happen in the background of the programme. 'I think that one of the great things about our show is that it's very true to life in that, for most people, historical and political events are things that sort of happen around you,' she said. 'Not everybody is a part of them every single day. We look at actual people and people's real lives. Sometimes people are affected by huge historical [or] political events - obviously something like Vietnam would be a huge effect and already has been addressed on the show - at the same time often you read about something in the newspaper and that's all you ever hear about it, if you manage to read it in the newspaper. I'm much more interested in seeing where the characters go personally.' Moss also admitted that she is not very knowledgeable about history, saying: 'I still don't know anything about the sixties - only what [Peggy] has experienced and what I've seen on the show. But I think as far as having to explore a character who has lived in the sixties, I think I know more about that time than someone who has read a bunch of books.'

Eliza Dushku has revealed that she seriously considered starring in a spin-off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The actress told SFX that she had entered discussions with Buffy creator Joss Whedon about a new series featuring her character Faith. 'I met with Joss and Tim Minear and spoke about the potential for a Faith spin-off,' she explained. 'But Buffy had gone seven years and Joss [said] he couldn't play the kind of day-to-day role he had.' Dushku admitted that Whedon's decision impacted her own choice not to pursue the project. 'It wasn't that I felt it wasn't right [without Joss] but it was a contributing factor,' she said. 'On top of it, I had just played this character for almost five years [and] it felt like time to explore a different role.' She added: 'I ended up making a decision I don't regret. In hindsight maybe the talks could have continued a bit longer.'

The BBC has confirmed a transmission date for the fourth series of Sarah Jane Interferes. Doctor Who Magazine reports that the spin-off will return for a new twelve-part run on 11 October. Two new episodes will air each week, debuting on the CBBC channel every Monday and Tuesday. The same instalments will then be repeated on BBC1 on Thursdays and Fridays. The series will be comprised of six two-part adventures. Broadcast dates are still subject to change and will be finalised on the week before transmission. Matt Smith will make a guest appearance as the Doctor in the third two-part story, Death of the Doctor.

Stephen Fry is to play the brother of Sherlock Holmes in the sequel to Guy Ritchie's 2009 film about the sleuth. The actor told The Danny Baker Show on Radio 5Live on Saturday morning that he would be playing Mycroft Holmes - older brother of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective. Robert Downey Jr will again play the lead character with Jude Law reprising his role as Watson. The as-yet-untitled sequel, directed by Ritchie, is scheduled for release in December 2011. 'I'm playing Mycroft in the sequel to the Sherlock Holmes film Guy Ritchie directed with Robert Downey Jr and that sort of part is fun,' Fry told Dan, Dan, Dan The Man. Mycroft is depicted in Conan Doyle's books as the more intelligent but lazier older brother who, effectively, runs the British government. He was recently played by League of Gentlemen actor Mark Gatiss in the BBC television adaptation, Sherlock. The role has also been played by numerous other actors over the years although Keith Telly Topping's particular favourite was Christopher Lee in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Ritchie's sequel will also feature Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Stephen's appearance on Baker's show ended, hilariously, with Danny managing to get the notoriously shy-of-singing-in-public Fry to rap along with Jimmy Dean's 1961 hit 'Big Bad John.' ('He stood six-foot-six, weighed two-forty-five...') The campaign for it to be released as a Christmas single to challenge The X Factor winner starts, frankly, here! And, for the next few days, you can catch the entire show on Listen Again.

Victoria Wood has expressed her frustration at BBC executives whom, she claims, don't trust her to make decent programmes. The comedian said that the corporation has become 'a faceless hierarchy' which does not respect or value its writers and performers. And she added that the constant battles with executives leave her demoralised to the point of quitting. Personally, this blogger finds Victoria Wood about as funny as a kick in the knackers at the best of times and so, frankly, he's with the executives in every respect on this matter. In an interview with, of course, the Gruniand Morning Star who just love getting a whinging over-paid luvvie in their interview seat, Wood said: 'There are great hierarchies and you can't have a personal relationship. So it's just defeating because it becomes faceless. Now it's so prescriptive and everyone's chucking in their two penneth. I want to be reasonable, and I want to be cooperative. But I want there to be mutual respect, and there isn't any.' Oh, cheer up y'miserable cow. On the subject of executives giving out advice she said: 'And you think, well that's fine, but what's your qualification for telling me what's funny? Please don't tell me what's funny, cos I know what's funny. And you probably don't. That's why I'm on television and you're not.' Victoria Wood, ladies and gentlemen. She's on TV and, therefore, she knows what's funny. Allegedly. And, of course, the Gruniad Morning Star were just lapping all this up, because they just lurv anybody who slags off the BBC. So, they had their collective tongue rammed so far up Wood's arse there was no room for anyone else. 'I just find the layers of people you have to deal with tiresome. And you think, "Well, fine, you make it then, I won't make it at all. I'll go home and put the washing on, fine."' If you could, Victoria, that'd be lovely. 'You used to be trusted and now I feel like I'm not trusted, and I don't like it. Not valued, not needed on voyage – that's what it makes you feel like. I'm not trying to pull a big huff it's on behalf of all of us who feel miffed and sidelined and overly interfered with.' Wood – who is currently working on a BBC biopic about Morecambe and Wise – also branded corporation executives 'rude' over their decision to move last year's Victoria Wood's Midlife Christmas from an, alleged, 'promised' prime-time Christmas Day slot to Christmas Eve. 'The woman who made the decision' didn't even bother to tell her, she claimed. That'll be Jay Hunt, Victoria. You know, your boss? The person who gives you money to go and make your shitty little shows in the first place? She doesn't owe you anything and the sooner you get that sodding chip off your shoulder, the better. Wood also said that the big salaries paid to Jonathan Ross and the like would be 'better off spent' on 'higher production' values for 'prestige' shows. Like hers, presumably. She said: 'I'm not envious of people's money, but if I'm told I can't have a wig, I can't have a costume. Well, when I see big sums, to me that's wig money, it's the score for your drama, it's all the things that make television so brilliant.' Okay. So, are we finished? Good. With regard to this alleged 'promised' prime-time Christmas Day slot, it's difficult to see where on earth Wood imagines that her show - regardless of quality, or lack of it - could have been scheduled, given that BBC1's prime-time schedule for Christmas Day was Doctor Who, two episodes of EastEnders, Strictly Come Dancing, Gavin & Stacey and The Royle Family all of which are pretty much BBC Christmas staples and all of which entirely justified their position in the schedules by getting far better ratings than Wood's own, piss-poor, offering the night before. I don't know if it's just me, dear blog reader, but there is quite literally nothing that pisses this licence fee payer off more than seeing people with a hugely inflated sense of their own importance and in a hugely privileged position whinging about their sorry lot in life. Victoria Wood is paid a great deal of money (more money, I'll wager, than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes) by the BBC to make television programmes for them - although why, is a very good question - at a time when many people can barely afford to eat. And yet still she complains that things aren't just so. Maybe it's about time the BBC started to get a bit righteous on the asses of a few of those who, seemingly, don't appreciate just how sodding lucky they are in life. A decent round of swingeing 'shut your mouth and do what you're told or you'll never eat lunch in this town again'-type conversations might be the very answer. If I get picked as Jay Hunt's replacement, that's what I'll be doing. Course, it's unlikely I will ... But that's a minor flaw in yer Keith Telly Topping's, otherwise, perfect plan. Next ...

The Saturdays have announced that they will feature in a TV series about ghosthunting. They will appear in an episode of Ghosthunting With... to be broadcast on ITV2 later this year. The group revealed the news on their official Twitter page, posting: 'The Sats will soon be on ITV2's paranormal series Ghosthunting With... Slightly nervous!' The message then linked fans to a video blog filmed on their way to star in the episode. Una Healy said: 'These are the windiest roads. We're in the middle of nowhere, and Rochelle [Wiseman] says there is no John Lewis, not even a Waitrose, Selfridges, not even a Co-op.' Blimey. Nowheresville. Wiseman added: 'I'm not scared, but I'll probably be scared once I'm in there.' Previous participants in the programme, which is hosted by Big Fat cuddly Yvette Fielding, include Girls Aloud, McFly and Boyzone.

Mariah Carey has reportedly fallen on stage during a gig in Singapore. The singer was performing to over one hundred thousand guests at the Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix event yesterday. In a YouTube clip, she is seen singing 'Make It Happen' when she slips over in her stiletto heels. Tragically, she didn't plummet hundreds of feet into shark-infested waters, below. Still, there's always next time.