Monday, October 25, 2010

This Is Joe Public Speaking!

Good news today for fans of Merlin, which has been recommissioned for a fourth series by the BBC. The current series is being watched by an average of over six million viewers, even though it has been pitched into direct battle with the ITV ratings juggernaut The X Factor. Ten new episodes will begin filming next March for screening in the UK later in 2011. The plotlines will include the arrival of The Knights of the Round Table. They dance when'eer they're able. Apparently. Colin Morgan (Merlin), Bradley James (Prince Arthur), Tony Head (Uther) and the rest of the cast are now a global hit in one hundred and eighty three countries, according to the producers. Although, I'd take that with a bit of a pinch of salt since being shown at 2am on a Sunday night in Vanuatu does not make you a 'hit' in that country. The new series, as noted will be three episodes shorter than the thirteen broadcast in each of the previous seasons of the fantasy drama - the first sign, perhaps, of where some of those 'sixteen per cent real term' cuts are going to start biting? Or, maybe it's just that with six episodes of Doctor Who to also fit into next year's autumn schedule, that's as many as the BBC could handle. The BBC's drama boss Ben Stephenson, said: 'Merlin continues to perform outstandingly well against The X Factor and offers audiences an alternative treat on Saturday nights. I'm pleased to confirm that the magical world of Camelot will be returning next year for a fourth series of this fresh and modern retelling of a classic British legend.'

Benedict Cumberbatch has revealed that it will be challenging to find time to film the second series of Sherlock. Cumberbatch admitted to the Wall Street Journal that it will be difficult to shoot more episodes, but said he was delighted about his co-star Martin Freeman getting the lead role in The Hobbit. The actor said: 'It's great simply knowing that we're going to do more episodes. I get peeved when people say that the show's being pushed back because of Martin’s work on The Hobbit. We would both happily return to working on Sherlock and Martin actually initially said no to doing The Hobbit because he thought it would conflict with shooting Sherlock. Now, they're working around his schedule. I obviously want him to have the experience of being the hairy-footed one!' Benny also emphasised that he loves working alongside Freeman on the show. 'He's extraordinary,' he added. 'During auditions, the minute he stepped into the room I said to the producers, "I don't know if you want my opinion, but I want to work with him, because he makes my game better." I honestly felt myself get better as an actor playing scenes opposite him. He has a brilliant level of humanity.'

On Saturday evening, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping was, for once, dragged away from the charms of Qi: XL and, along with Mama Telly Topping spent a splendidly civilised evening around at his brother and sister-in-law's gaff with Our Colin and Our Maureen. At which, he drank far more Baileys than was, probably, good for him. Still, thanks to his niece, Our Aly, he now knows more than he ever thought possible about the current series out X-Factor. And he wants young Matt to win. I think. Was he the lad that did 'Baby One More Time' on the acoustic guitar? Yeah? He was good. I learned a lot from the experience, though. I also, for instance, that 'that Cheryl Cole is a right bitch.' I learned that Aiden is 'cute-but-probably-gay' - and, to be fair, his song choice - 'Diamonds Are Forever' - was a right give-away. I learned that the big fat lass from Tescos has got a really good voice but, I'm forced to agree with Simon that she needs to sing something different next week. I also enjoyed the bird who was trying desperately to look like Tina Turner and sang 'Whole Lotta love'. Additionally, I continue to be in utter awe of Louis Walsh's ability to wind up pretty much everyone, reckon there's at least one bloke in Belle Whatschermacall'em, think that if Dannii had said anything less in this episode she'd have disappeared in a puff of inconsequence and, finally, believe that Wagner had a great future. In stand-up comedy. Gosh, it's really addictive, isn't it? I can see why people get so worked up about it. Mind you, that might be the Baileys talking. On Sunday night John got kicked out of the gaff, which was only right and proper, frankly. If you do that to Fat Larry's Band's 'Zoom', you accept the consequences.

One of the highlights of the episode was Simon Cowell responding with supreme lack of tact or, indeed, understanding, to Elton John's comments about TV talent shows. Last week, the ennobled singer - he's got more knighthoods than you, Si - described Cowell's musical TV formats as 'boring, arse-paralysingly brain-crippling.' Cowell responded with disdain which, it it hadn't been so predictable might have been a touch more convincing, highlighting Rebecca Ferguson's performance of 'Why Don't You Do Right?' as an example of "a star act" on the programme. 'I read some stuff in the papers this week that Elton John said about this show,' commented Cowell. Not very closely, it would seem. 'Well, I hope that Elton was watching that performance tonight. If he wasn't I'll send him a tape of that.' Err ... I don't think Elton John needs any lessons in star quality from the likes of you, Si. Cowell also mocked Louis Walsh on Xtra Factor, calling him 'smug' and 'arrogant.' Which are both true statements but that's a very definite black-kettle-black-type situation, there me auld beauty. The record producer and British smungess all-comers record holder bitched about his rival following the elimination of John Adeleye. Walsh now only has two acts to mentor - Big Fat Cuddly Mary from Tescos and Wagner Carrilho. Speaking about Adeleye's departure, Cowell told Konnie Huq: 'I just said to Louis, you are not quite as smug as you were last night. I had a feeling watching the show last night, the boys and girls did enough. Louis is a little G-R-U-M-P-Y tonight. I think Louis learnt a lesson - not to be too smug and not to be too arrogant. I think it has taken him down a peg or two.' Offering some words of comfort to Adeleye, he added: 'I feel sorry for John and he is a great guy. But it's been great exposure for him and he'll do really well.' Responding to criticisms of his mentoring skills, Walsh said: 'I know what I'm doing, that's why I'm a judge. I still have two acts left. I'm happy-ish.'

X Factor hopeful Katie Waissel has spoken of her 'unexpected collapse' during a shopping trip last week, and has insisted that it had not been faked. And, some people apparently believe her. Waissel fell to her knees during a trip around Topshop's Oxford Street store on Wednesday, after reportedly feeling ill. However, the Mirror has reported that onlookers 'became suspicious' after her 'funny turn' coincided with the arrival of a number of photographers. Speaking of the incident, Waissel claimed: 'It was pretty scary to be honest. One [moment] I was talking to people and smiling for the cameras and the next I was really struggling for breath. The next thing I knew I was on the ground. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before and I really have no idea what happened.' When pushed to further explain her collapse, the twenty four-year-old theorised that the negative press surrounding her selection for the live finals may have finally got the better of her. She said: 'I think everything that has happened over the last few weeks just came to a head and it all got too much for me. There were first-aiders on hand and they checked me out.'

On Sunday night's Strictly Come Dancing results show, Peter Shilton summoned up some wonderful memories of that night when he dived over the ball against Poland at Wembley in 1973 by shuffling off the show with his tail well and truly between his legs. And this time, he didn't even have the consolation of knowing that Norman Hunter would get to take a share of the blame too. Tragedy. Also a tragedy, frankly is the general public's continued obsession with Ann Widdecombe which brought a really predictably huffy response from Craig Revel Horwood who described the former Tory lardbucket MP as 'like a dancing hippo.' Oi! Cut that right out, matey boy. That's rude. To hippos everywhere.

And, still on the subject of over-rated goalkeepers. You may remember a few weeks ago, dear blog reader, that it was widely reported in the sports media - and, indeed, on this blog - that whinging Yank Marcus Hahnemann had claimed his team, Wolverhampton Wandering Stars, were 'always' one of, if not the, last club to be featured each week on Match Of The Day. And, what a right damned-bugger disgrace this was and how, if he was in charge of US foreign policy he'd round 'em up, put in a field, and bomb the bastards. A patently ridiculous comment, of course, as anybody who has ever watched the programme will know. However, when a loud mouthed berk - particularly an American one - makes such a daft statement it's always pure dear nice, so it is, to be able to provide an shining example to the contrary. Imagine, therefore, yer Keith Telly Topping's delight, when the opening game covered on Saturday night's Match Of The Day was Chelsea versus, wait for it, Wolves. Bloody Americans - they can't get anything right! I mean, look at CSI: Miami. For one.

A number of rumours have surfaced over the last few days surrounding casting for the upcoming transatlantic series of Torchwood. Entertainment Weekly has claimed former One Tree Hill actor Chad Michael Murray may be up for the role of 'funny-but-tough' CIA agent Rex Matheson. Also under consideration, according to the article, is Enver Gjokaj, whom dear blog readers will probably know as Victor in Joss Whedon's recent series Dollhouse. Ooo, good actor. The final piece of casting news is that Greek actress Amber Stevens is suggested to be production's first choice for the role of another CIA operative called Esther Katusi.

Steve Jones is to leave Channel 4's Sunday morning show T4 after seven years it has been reported. The thirty three year old, who was a male model before finding TV fame, will leave after T4's Stars 2010 event at London's Earls Court on 21 November. T4 helped to launch the broadcasting careers of Radio1's Vernon Kay as well as Dermot O'Dreary and Ben Shephard. Channel 4 says that Jones will now become part of that tradition. Or, he might just disappear like many of the other bright young things who've fluttered across Channel 4's radar over the past decade have. Jones has also had presenting stints on BBC1's wretched Ninety Nine Ways To Leave A Gameshow and Let's Dance For Comic Relief. In 2008 he appeared in the British film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

Filming on the set of Coronation Street was reportedly halted last week after a fault was noticed within the tram crash set. According to the Sun, one of the show's 'biggest characters' was about to film their final scenes when the temporary scenery began to wobble. Which, once upon a time was a daily occurrence on Crossroads. How far we've come. A 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'The lighting was attached to scaffolding but it got overloaded. There was a danger of the actor being crushed to death. Fortunately it was spotted in time.'

Coronation Street star Jack P Shepherd has called in the police after reportedly receiving a number of letters and photographs from a man who claimed to be his father. According to the People, the letters have been forwarded to Manchester detectives. Shepherd, who plays David Platt, said: 'It's scary. This man says he's a priest and is adamant he was my real dad. He keeps saying how proud he is of me and how he wants to get back in contact. In the end I asked Corrie to call in the police. This man is really odd. He's been sending old pictures of a young couple, saying it's him and my real mum when I was born. He seems obsessed, absolutely convinced he's my father. He said he had to give me up because he was a priest. I'm a dad, so I started to worry. You don't know what these kind of people will do. You don't want someone like that out there.' A show 'source' allegedly added that the man has 'given the cast the chills.' Which sounds like just the sort of thing that a show 'source' would tell a tabloid stringer about a potentially very disturbed individual.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch has admitted that the satellite broadcaster could agree a deal with YouView, despite previously opposing the BBC-backed IPTV service. On Tuesday of last week, Ofcom opted against launching an investigation of YouView, which aims to upgrade the Freeview and Freesat platforms to support video on-demand and Internet services. In doing so, the media regulator rejected a number of complaints from industry stakeholders, including Virgin Media, IP Vision and Sky. Speaking as Sky announced strong financial results for the third quarter of 2010, Darroch remained critical of YouView, but also cautiously acknowledged the huge benefits it could herald, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. Around ten million households in the UK currently receive Freeview on their main set, while early estimates suggest that the market for YouView devices could be around seven million consumers. 'We expressed our views to Ofcom - we have two broad concerns about YouView or [Project] Canvas, as it was known,' said Darroch. '[With] leading broadcasters and ISPs in a consortium there is a risk of stifling choice and there is also the inappropriate use of public money [by the BBC].' He added: 'Ofcom made its decision and we will move on. I think generally when you look at what we are doing at Sky we are broadening out our content business. We always look at new distribution opportunities. We will look at it [YouView], but it is too early to say what our involvement will be.' Despite opting against an investigation, Ofcom said that it will closely monitor YouView as its impact on the UK IPTV market 'will not be known with any confidence for some time.'

A smart, confident and articulate teenager has stunned viewers by smashing the total points record on TV's Countdown and is now having to get used to a bunch of tabloids calling him 'a genius.' Poor lad. Jack Hurst racked up nine hundred and forty six points over his eight-day winning run. The eighteen-year-old, from Desford in Leicestershire, found six nine-letter words and won each game with a clear majority. He said: 'It was a really good feeling. After Wednesday's show a producer told me I only needed one hundred and fourteen points in the last two shows to get the record. Then on Thursday's show I got one hundred and thirty three, which was the highest score in the series.' Hurst will return to Manchester next month where he will compete in the final, but has said that he will be going there with the intention to lose. 'I'm actually going for second place because the runner-up gets a thousand pounds and I'd rather have that,' he said, saying he'd rather have the money than a twenty-volume gold-leafed dictionary set. Good on yerself, Jack. I'd be the same!

American channel Syfy has reportedly ordered a new pilot based on the popular science fiction franchise Battlestar Galactica. The Hollywood Reporter claims that the channel have ordered a two-hour pilot as the basis for a new series, which will follow original protagonist William Adama. The report claims the new series, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, will take place during the early years of the Cylon war when a young Ensign Adama is assigned to the newly-built spaceship Galactica. 'We jumped at the chance to revisit the Adama character and explore this exciting chapter in the Battlestar Galactica narrative which falls between the events of the original series and the prequel Caprica,' Syfy head of programming Mark Stern said of the new series. Earlier this year Syfy launched another prequel series in the form of Caprica, which is set almost sixty years before the events of Battlestar Galactica and follows the creation of the show's main antagonists, the robot Cylon race.

Sylvester McCoy has told fans he has been cast as Radagast the Brown in the upcoming film The Hobbit. Rumours of the former Doctor Who actor's involvement in the Peter Jackson film have been circulating among fandom for a while but this is the first concrete conformation from the actor that he has been offered a role. McCoy was speaking at the Armageddon Expo in Auckland over the weekend. It is understood from comments made that McCoy had meetings in Wellington with Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens last week, where he was offered the role, but that no contracts have yet been signed.

Thinkbox has reacted with disappointment at Channel Five's decision to quit the commercial television marketing body. The broadcaster, now run by Daily Express owner Richard Desmond, has opted to relinquish its shareholding in Thinkbox from January 2011. That means it will no longer financially support the organisation. Desmond recently launched a major process of cost-cutting at Five, including the loss of up to eighty jobs as he seeks to make around twenty million pounds of operational savings. Responding to Channel Five's departure, Thinkbox chief executive Tess Alps said that it was 'a disappointing decision' by the firm's new management, but maintained that 'the door is always open' for the broadcaster to return. 'Inevitably, the loss of financial support from Five will limit the amount of work we are able to do, but, as far as possible, it is business as usual and we will continue to work hard for our shareholders and help advertisers get the best out of TV,' she said. 'Thinkbox represents the vast majority of the TV advertising market in the UK and we are looking forward to welcoming UKTV as a new member in January.' Following the withdrawal of Channel Five, the Thinkbox shareholders will be Channel Four, GMTV, ITV, Sky Media and Turner Media Innovations. UKTV has agreed to join the shareholders in early 2011, with Julia Jordan - UKTV's executive director of operations - due to take a seat on the Thinkbox board. Despite Five's departure, Thinkbox still represents more than ninety per cent of the UK's commercial TV market via the shareholder's owned or partner channels. Andy Barnes, Channel Four's sales director and the Thinkbox chairman, said: 'We're very disappointed by Five's decision, but the rest of Thinkbox's shareholders are one hundred per cent behind the organisation and the magnificent work it does. Thinkbox makes a genuine, clear impact on the fortunes of the TV advertising industry; it doesn't make sense to undermine that.' Hmm... Channel Five doing something that doesn't make sense4. How unusual? I mean, this is the company that gave us Live From Studio Five and Don't Stop Believing.

The creators of South Park have issued an apology after mistakenly copying dialogue from a comedy website, The Hollywood Reporter reveals. The South Park episode Insheeption parodies the theories behind the recent Christopher Nolan film Inception, and includes the line 'Sometimes my thoughts of my dead wife manifest themselves as trains.' However, it was revealed that creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had copied the line, seemingly, from a piece on the website CollegeHumor, after apparently mistaking it as being a direct quote from the movie itself. 'It's just because we do the show in six days, and we're stupid and we just threw it together,' Stone explained. 'But in the end, there are some lines that we had to call and apologise for.' Dan Gurewitch, a co-writer of the CollegeHumor sketch, later confirmed on his blog that Stone had apologised and claimed that 'all is well.'

The BBC has announced plans to broadcast live competitive amateur boxing for the first time with coverage of the GB Amateur Boxing Championships. Created by the British Amateur Boxing Association, the new competition aims to showcase the best male and female boxing prospects in the UK ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Staged at Liverpool's Echo Arena, the finals of the Championship will be broadcast live on the BBC Red Button on 13 November, with a highlights package aired on BBC2 on 14 November between 2.30pm and 4pm. Commentary from the finals will come from Jim Neilly and Richie Woodhall, with punditry from Steve Bunce. 'This is great news for boxing and great news for sport on the BBC,' said Woodhall, a former Olympic Bronze medallist and WBC World Super Middleweight Champion. 'It will be a chance for the wider public to witness the talent that exists in Great Britain and get a first chance to watch some of the athletes they will be cheering on when the Olympics get under way in 2012.' BBC Sport's Olympics editor Claire Stocks added: 'We hope that sports fans will enjoy the chance to watch live amateur boxing on the BBC and get behind our Olympic hopefuls. The depth of talent among the men, who won eleven medals at the Commonwealth Games including three Golds for England's Simon Valilly and Tom Stalker and Scotland's Callum Johnson, as well as five medals at the recent European Championships, and the promise of our women, two of whom won silver medals at the Women's World Championships in June, bodes well for the 2012 Olympics and beyond.'

Colin Firth has welcomed the British Board of Film Classification's decision to lower the rating of his new film The King's Speech from 15 to 12A. 'It's wonderful news,' said the actor at the film's London premiere. 'They did the right thing.' The film's UK distributors had launched an appeal after the BBFC rated it 15 for its use of strong language. Tom Hooper's film shows King George VI being encouraged by a speech therapist to swear to overcome his notorious stammer. The BBFC said it had 'applied its formal reconsideration process' and decided the language was not aggressive or directed at any person. The film has been reclassified as 12A with the consumer advice that it 'contains strong language in a speech therapy context.' Speaking on Thursday night, Hooper said he was 'elated' by the BBFC's move, which he called 'a triumph for the fact you have to make a decision in context. I'm incredibly thrilled and incredibly grateful and I hope it means more people will go and see the film,' he continued. The director had earlier attacked the original ruling at a press conference for the film, saying 'my head is in my hands about it.' Firth had also expressed dismay over the 15 rating, which was originally passed on 15 October. 'It would be very interesting actually for somebody to do a study as to who the people are that would complain about that stuff (bad language), before they would complain about violence,' he told reporters on Thursday morning. It was subsequently reported that the BBFC had reclassified The King's Speech following the comments. But the BBFC said the rating was changed before the press conference took place and that it had informed the film company of its decision on Thursday morning. Actor Geoffrey Rush, who plays the monarch's unconventional therapist, said the swearing was 'not [used] in any abusive or hurtful context.' The BBFC's language guidelines for a 12A release say that the use of strong language must be infrequent. Helena Bonham Carter and Timothy Spall were among other cast members to attend the film's premiere, held in London's Leicester Square.

President Robert Mugabe has reportedly given a cash prize to Zimbabwe's representative on Big Brother Africa, who came second. According to AFP, Munyaradzi Chidzonga was given a three hundred thousand dollars cheque from President Mugabe after losing to Nigeria's Uti Nwachukwu, who won the two hundred thousand dollar prize. It is claimed that businessman Phillip Chiyangwa, a relative and ally of Mugabe, started a campaign for the reality star because he thought the voting system was unfair. Mugabe apparently told Chidzonga: 'I didn't think you would survive because you looked so young, perhaps the youngest of them all. It was Nigeria versus Zimbabwe and Nigeria is a very big country, so you deferred to Nigeria. But both of you won and from our point of view, for us, you were the winner.' Some residents of the country have reportedly written to the privately-owned newspaper News Day condemning the decision.