Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brandish Your Crystal Tresses In The Sky And With Them Scourge The Bad Revolting Stars

The return of crime drama Whitechapel was watched by 5.6 million viewers on Monday night, according to overnight ratings data, a huge drop on the seven million plus audience the show averaged on overnights during its first series in February 2009. The new three-part mini-series, which focuses on the Kray Twins, debuted to 5.42m on ITV from 9pm, whilst just over two hundred thousand additional viewers watched the episode on ITV HD. Whitechapel did, marginally, outperform [spooks] in the 9pm hour, with the espionage drama being watched by 5.22m on BBC1. But, given that [spooks]' average weekly audience has gone up a couple of hundred thousand from its 2009 series whereas Whitechapel appears to have lost a quarter of its audience, I know which will be the happier of the two networks with these figures.

Monica Galetti made yet another female contestant cry on Tuesday night's MasterChef: The Professionals. Which, is always funny.

Matt Smith has discussed how he approached playing the role of author Christopher Isherwood in upcoming BBC film Christopher and His Kind. The actor will star alongside Lindsey Duncan, Toby Jones and Douglas Booth in the ninety-minute adaptation of Isherwood's biography. He explained that as well as spending time in Berlin in preparation for the part, where Isherwood spent his formative years, he also visited Isherwood's partner Don Bachardy. 'I went to meet Don who was very charming and inviting, and he said to me that one of Christopher's most memorable qualities was the fact that he was very quiet and very at ease,' Smith said of the meeting. 'I think it's very ambitious as a piece of filmmaking. I'm very grateful for them giving me the platform and the opportunity to do it. I think that's one of the things about being an actor, you can be anything!'

Sir Michael Parkinson has 'slammed' (or, you know, criticised as normal people say) the 'foolish ambition' of celebrity talk show hosts. The veteran broadcaster and embittered old grumpy cynic said that a large number of the current crop of chat show hosts did not know how to perform in the role, singling out Graham Norton for praise but admitting that he was the perfect example of the current problem. Parkinson lamented in the Radio Times: 'Sadly, I think the conversational talk show has had it. It's not what today's commissioners want. Graham Norton perfectly demonstrates the kind of talk show where the host has more to say than the guests and ITV may have made a mistake moving Paul O'Grady into a 9pm slot. What was perfect at 5pm sits less comfortably at peak time and gifts a sitting duck for competing schedulers.' The seventy five-year-old added that television producers were to blame for promoting even 'fringe' celebrities to the chat show host role - despite their inability to get the best out of their guests. He probably also went on to mention how he, himself, once interviewed the late, great Gene Kelly in there somewhere but, to be honest, this blogger had nodded off by that point. He said: 'The trouble with the talk show is everyone fancies their chances. Even those on the extreme fringes of the ever-expanding world of modern celebrity reckon it's a doddle. They are encouraged in their foolish ambition by television executives who really ought to know better than to entrust the job to people who, more often than not, neither know how to ask a question nor listen to the answer.' However, Parkinson did, eventually, admit that some hosts deserved praise for their stints as interviewers. He said: 'For some, like Russell Harty, Clive James, Michael Aspel, Terry Wogan, Clive Anderson, Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and Piers Morgan, it proved the perfect showcase for their disparate talent. For others it became the Bermuda Triangle of television.'

Graham Norton himself, meanwhile, has said that he is not interested in interviewing soap actors on his chat show. The comedian's show will move to Jonathan Ross's Friday night slot when the new series begins later this month. 'Shows have now been taken over by comedians and the like, who have big personalities of their own,' Norton told the Radio Times. 'This evolution was inevitable.' He continued: 'It's fine to have a show all about the guest if you're talking to Bette Davis or Frank Sinatra, but if you are talking to someone from Emmerdale - I mean, I am not that interested, are you?' The Irish presenter also added that he was under more pressure in his new time slot, but faced no competition from ITV. 'The good thing is that it seems ITV have stopped spending any money after 10pm so the slot isn't that competitive any more,' he said. 'Having said that, we will probably be beaten by a repeat of Ice Truck Drivers Uncovered on Sky4.' There, actually, isn't a Sky4, Graham. But, heh.

Goldie has admitted that he feels bad for Kristina Rihanoff after becoming the first contestant to be voted off Strictly Come Dancing. The DJ, who scored forty six points for his two dances, exited the show on Sunday night, despite finishing well above Paul Daniels, Ann Widdecombe and Peter Shilton on the judges' leader board. Speaking about his departure on spin-off show It Takes Two, he said: 'It's water off a ducks back to me. It's an entertainment show and that's how it is. But I feel really bad for Kristina because what is she going to do now? For me it was a bit of a shocker.' Goldie revealed that he had heard a lot of anger from viewers who thought he would have fared better under the old Strictly system, which featured the bottom two acts performing in a dance-off for the judges. His dance partner Rihanoff agreed, commenting: 'He worked really, really hard, working and training, putting in the hours. He wanted to prove that he was trying his best. I think the show went really well. It's just sad that it's all over, so quickly.' She added: 'It would have been better for us if we had been in a dance-off.'

Martine McCutcheon has revealed that she wants to appear in Desperate Housewives. Well, for that matter yer Keith Telly Topping would really rather like to play rhythm guitar with The Who on their next world tour. But that is somewhat unlikely to happen as well. The former EastEnders actress - seen, looking all hot and sticky, right - said that she is a fan of the American show and thinks that she would fit in with the cast. And, I'm sure lots of other delusional soap wannabes do too. You know, just like Michelle Collins was bragging that she had auditioned and would be getting a part on the show around this time last year? 'I'd love to do Desperate Housewives,' McCutcheon allegedly told the Daily Lies. She added: 'I'm a jobbing actress - I'd do anything I think I'd be good in.' Or, indeed, anything that pays slightly more than Jobseeker's Allowance, I'll wager. McCutcheon also confirmed that she is currently preparing for a musical comeback. 'It's been a while but I'm recording at the moment and next year an album will be ready,' she said. So, that'll be worth looking forward to.

Good old made-as-toast John Hurt has signed up to appear in the BBC's latest adaptation of Whistle And I'll Come To You. The Mirror reports that Hurt has been cast in the forthcoming BBC2 adaptation of the MR James classic chiller. The story focuses on a man who comes across a ghost on a beach and the part that Hurt will be taking was previously played by Michael Horden in Jonathan Miller's 1968 Omnibus adaptation. Hurt revealed that he is 'thrilled' to be working on the programme, adding: 'Particularly as I've never done a ghost story before and I love to have new territory to walk.' Filming for the drama, which will also star Leslie Sharp and Gemma Jones, is expected to begin later this month with a probable broadcast date around Christmas.

In the most unsurprising bit of TV news of the week, if not the entire decade, ITV has ordered a second series of Downton Abbey. The period drama, which was written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes, focuses on the Crawley family and the servants working for them. It has been a massive ratings success for ITV. The third episode - which broadcast on Sunday night - picked up overnight ratings of over eight million viewers. ITV has now announced that it has recommissioned the series, which stars Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt and Elizabeth McGovern. ITV's director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie said: 'We're delighted with the audience response to Downton Abbey and the positive critical reaction. We're extremely proud to have commissioned a series which has clearly captivated ITV viewers. Consequently, we're thrilled to be announcing the recommission of a new series for 2011 which will allow us to spend more time with the Crawley family and their servants.'

Bravo has announced that it is currently developing a number of new reality shows following the recent promotion of vice-president of development Eli Lehrer. The first new show, called Dean's List, will focus on Hollywood hair stylist Dean Banowetz as he attends to a number of high-profile clients in his Los Angeles salon. Roble & Co. sees celebrity chef Roble Ali attempting to launch a new catering company in Brooklyn, New York. The cable channel is also developing a show about former Project Runway star Chris March, which will see him creating designer clothing pieces for celebrities ranging from Madonna to Meryl Streep. The final new project is a documentary series called Thicker Than Water, which will follow the lives of a larger than normal family. 'We're specifically developing around our five passion potions; food, fashion, beauty, design, and popular culture,' The Hollywood Reporter quotes Bravo president Francis Berwick as saying. 'We have found that we make our own celebrities.'

Comedy is set to come under even tighter scrutiny at the BBC after new guidelines banning 'derogatory remarks' come into force. The restrictions compiled in the wake of the media furore over Sachsgate and Frankie Boyle's jokes about Rebecca Adlington on Mock The Week are to be introduced next week. The clause most likely to cause headaches for comedians is one, which stages: 'Unduly derogatory remarks aimed at real people (as opposed to fictional characters or historic figures) must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. Care should be taken that such comments and the tone in which they are delivered are proportionate to their target.' So, in other words Mad Frankie's jokes about Kerry Katona's vagina would probably have been okay, but the ones about Rebecca Adlington being 'really dirty' (allegedly) wouldn't have been. Clear as mud, eh? The guidelines, published this week, also urge caution when using stereotypes for comedy, saying: 'We may feature a portrayal or stereotype that has been exaggerated for comic effect, but we must be aware that audiences may find casual or purposeless stereotypes to be offensive.' David Jordan, the director of BBC editorial policy and standards insisted: 'These guidelines can ensure that we continue delivering edgy comedy.' But he added that any jokes must be 'consistent' with the BBC's enduring editorial values. 'We recognise the need for the BBC to be original, surprising and sometimes edgy,' said Sir Michael Lyons, soon-to-be outgoing chairman of the BBC Trust and, seemingly, a completely spineless coward who is petrified of annoying the Daily Scum Mail. 'At the same time it must be fair, accurate, impartial and avoid giving broad offence. The need to get that right lies at the heart of these editorial guidelines – it's always been clear that the public expects the very highest standards from the BBC, and the editorial guidelines are a vital tool in achieving that.' The guidelines are reviewed every five years, but for the first time the BBC Trust has asked licence fee payers for their views. It received more than sixteen hundred responses. The views of the BBC's other forty odd million viewers and listeners, seemingly, were not sought.

Phil Collinson, the producer of Coronation Street, has criticised the use of plot leaks by the media. Viewers of soaps are used to the tabloids releasing details of the soap's plots to come weeks ahead. 'I want people to settle down in front of their telly on 6 December and let us tell them a story they haven't heard told in advance via the media, told in a spectacular yet human way,' Collinson told the Yorkshire Post. 'I hate leaks, and although I've told you a few things to create excitement in advance, there will be utter secrecy from now on because I think the drip, drip of leaks to the press just cheats the viewer. My heart sinks when I open a paper and see the stories.' Filming has already started on the tram-crash in Coronation Street which will mark then soap's fiftieth anniversary. Secrecy surrounds the crash with Collinson keen to keep secret which cast members will survive the devastation and which ones will die the death. ITV have released a few photos of the filming-in--progress of the one million pound stunt, but actors on the soap are only be issued with their own lines and are being kept in the dark by producers over the specific outcome of the storylines in a bid to stem any media leaks.

Louis Walsh has defended his outbursts on The X Factor and Xtra Factor about Cheryl Cole. Walsh criticised his fellow judge during the Saturday night live show, shouting across the judges' table: 'It's not all about you, Cheryl.' He continued his rant on Sunday's Xtra Factor, claiming that his show rival 'always gets all the attention.' Speaking to X magazine about his anger with Cole, the Irish music mogul said: 'She's the nation's sweetheart and I'm not. So, I'm thirty years in this business, I've sold one hundred million records, I know what I'm talking about, I have an opinion, and I'm entitled to speak my mind, you know? I don't care [if I upset her]! I'm not here to keep her happy. It's not my job. I'm fed up listening to her! It's not her show.' Speaking about his criticisms of Cole's act Katie Waissel, he added: 'There's something about Katie I do like, but I just don't think the public get her. That was my problem. There are so many brilliant girls in the show, I don't know how she's going to be better than the other girls. It's my opinion. Simon hired me for my opinion. I'm very honest. What you see is what you get. Be it right or wrong, I don't care. I'm not going to change for Cheryl.' A 'source' who is described as 'close to Walsh' allegedly told the Daily Scum Mail: 'Louis has been bubbling with rage. He thinks Simon Cowell unfairly helps her out - to the extent of picking the songs for her contestants to sing. What really gets Louis's goat is that she does this poor-little-me act but inside there's a heart of stone.'

Claire Rayner has died at the age of seventy nine. The writer, broadcaster and agony aunt failed to recover after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in May, the Press Association reports. Rayner died on Monday in hospital near her home in Harrow. She is survived by her husband of fifty three years Des, her three children - including the food critic and ONE Show regular Jay Rayner - and four grandchildren. Des said: 'I have lost my best friend and my soul mate. I am immensely proud of her. Through her own approach to life she enabled people to talk about their problems in a way that was unique. Right up until her death she was being consulted by both politicians and the medical profession about the best way to provide the health services the nation deserved and nothing mattered to her more than that. Her death leaves a vacancy which will not be filled.' Over the weekend, the former nurse and patients' rights campaigner told her family that she wanted her last words to be: 'Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I'll come back and bloody haunt him.' Claire will be given a humanist funeral service for close friends and family only.

John Simpson, the BBC veteran World Affairs editor, this week attacked Mark Thompson for claiming that corporation used to be left-wing, insisting that its news coverage has always been 'straight as a die.' The sixty six-year-old broadcaster criticised his boss, the corporation's current director general, for questioning the independence and impartiality of staff. He also condemned the sacking of former director general, Greg Dyke, as 'an outrage.' Speaking to the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simpson said: 'I was really cross with Mark Thompson for saying the other day that when he joined the BBC thirty years ago it was very left-wing in its political coverage. Thirty years ago I was the BBC political editor and there was absolutely nothing either left-wing or right-wing about our coverage. We were as straight as a dye then and I think it is absolutely as straight as a dye now. I don't know why Mark said that. Maybe he had some particular people in mind on some of the programmes but in terms of the BBC's core coverage that was not the case and I don't know why he chose to say that.' Simpson went on to criticise the sacking of Dyke in the wake of criticism of the corporation's coverage of how Britain was led into the invasion of Iraq. He said: 'I think Greg Dyke was, by some way, the best director general I have ever served under, with the sole exception way back in the Sixties of Sir Hugh Green who was absolutely magnificent and had to fight almost daily battles against Harold Wilson's desire to change things. I loved old Greg and I still think he is fantastic. He did wonders for the BBC and for the staff image and he should never, never, never have gone. It was an outrage.' Simpson also said that he less confident about the future of the BBC than Mark Thompson. 'They have got an existential problem. We are getting into new ground, new territory, with the BBC. It is an area Mark disagrees strongly with me about. He thinks the BBC's future is much more secure than I believe it to be. The reason why I am worried about it and nervous about it is because politicians of both the main parties have discovered a real weakness of the BBC and that is the licence fee. The act of cutting the licence fee is a political act which increases political control over the lifeblood of the BBC.' He said the way to 'scare' or control the BBC would be to cut the licence fee – or even merely threaten to cut it. Politicians had always complained about the BBC and wanted to find ways of controlling it but even Margaret Thatcher and other recent leaders until Tony Blair had realised that it would not go down well with the public, he said. Now, however, he believed that Government concern for public opinion on the issue had faded, he said. The last Labour government had wanted to take some of the licence money and give it to Channel 4. 'But once the government takes money away from the BBC it ceases to be independent,' he warned. 'It becomes desperate to keep its lifeline. It's like being water-boarded by the CIA. As your head goes down for the fourth or fifth time you are desperate for the air. Who knows, you might do anything then. You might lay off a programme you have made which has irritated the government in power. You might go easy. And that's just the beginning of a slippery slope. The present government contains people who are ideologically opposed to the BBC and don't think it ought to exist or be funded in the way it is.' Simpson ended his talk by appealing to the public to keep a 'weather eye out' for the BBC and for any attack on its independence or finances. Revealing that he has just signed a new three year contract to stay in his job until he is seventy, he said that he was now 'too old to care' about rubbing senior BBC figures up the wrong way and would have his say whether they liked it or not. The BBC was the world's premiere broadcasting organisation, often with an audience of two hundred and fifty million for its programmes worldwide, and poll after poll had found that seventy to seventy five per cent of the British public supported it, he said. 'I am not going to pretend everything is all wonderful because it is not what I am paid to do,' he concluded. 'I am paid to tell the truth.'

A squirrel has made a new home for itself in a pair of Homer Simpson slippers. The creature, named Barney after Homer's alcoholic best friend in the animated sitcom, befriended sixty four-year-old Roger Boughen in his back garden according to reports. Boughen said: 'It came out from the bushes and didn't seem scared at all. As I walked away, it followed me. Every time I stopped, it sat on my foot. I was walking round the garden, hoping to find where it had come from but I could not see anything. It seemed like it was always going for my slippers. I took one off and it went inside. I left if for three hours and it was fast asleep. He's a very tame squirrel and doesn't even seem scared of the local cat.'