Thursday, October 28, 2010

X Offenders

Emma Bunton is reported to be 'furious' that she is 'getting the blame' for the abject - albeit, very amusing - ratings failure of Five's byword for crass, dumbed-down, paint-by-numbers television Don't Stop Believing. Ooo, pure mad-vexed so she is, by all accounts. Getting all stroppy and agitated and causing a right commotion in her foot-stomping fury. 'There were a lot of other factors involved, not just me,' Bunton - seen right, up to her neck in hot water - wailed to Metro. Yes, love. But, it was mainly down to you.

Short, football-related, side hop for you now, dear blog reader. All right, wake up at the back, it'll be over shortly. As some of you may know this Sunday coming will see the local derby between my beloved (though, still unsellable) Magpies and 'them lot from doon the road' (Sunderland, for the uninitiated). Well, yer Keith Telly Topping had a very nice e-mail the other day from Mackem Colin, the lad who runs the independent Sunderland website, Salut! Sunderland to ask me if I'd like to do an interview with them in a semi-regular slot where they talk to a fan of their next opponents about all-things-f-word-related (Who Are You?). A sort of 'be nice to a tame Magpie for the day', if you like! Which I was delighted to do. Check it out, it's one of yer Keith Telly Topping's - slightly - more articulate rants than usual on the subject of his beloved (though, still unsellable) Magpies. I'd previously talked to Colin's website a couple of years back when the age old story of when, exactly, Tony Blair started supporting Newcastle came up yet again.

The BBC have, reportedly, received 'a number' of complaints after the Look North presenter Dawn Thewlis described a group of people waving into the camera behind her during a live report from outside St James' Park, where Newcastle United were hosting a Carling Cup match against Arsenal, as 'probably special needs.' The BBC, of course, quite rightly and swiftly apologised for any offence caused and, Thursday night's episode of the popular local magazine programme also featured a spoken apology by Look North anchor Carol Malia. Ooo ... awkward. At any other time, this story might have gone away quietly without much comment. But, coming as it does in the same week as all of the quiet ludicrous press coverage of Ofcom criticising Jezza Clarkson for using exactly the same phrase (to describe a car, not a person) then, I sense a potential witch hunt in the offing. I really hope I'm wrong and that a bit of common sense is applied by everyone because I don't believe, for a single second, that Dawn meant the comment in a mean-spirited, bigoted or discriminatory way. We've all, I think it's fair to say, probably said things in the heat of the moment in our lives that we've instantly regretted. The important thing, I guess, is to acknowledge what you've done and not to try and hide behind excuses. Hopefully, the apology - which does seem fully contrite, sincere and timely - will go much of the way to satisfying anyone who was offended by what she said. Which was, as the BBC's statement notes, highly inappropriate, there's no hiding from that. And, in this particular case - unlike the Top Gear story, which was all about some people claiming to be offended because they wanted to be - the comment, and the context that it was used in, certainly had the potential to offend some viewers. But, see, that's the world we live in, dear blog reader. Complaining about stuff is really easy these days. Easier than ever before because of the instantaneous nature of the Internet. Perhaps, it's too easy. Look at this blog for a kick-off. We do it all the time and about all sorts of stuff - some of it far more worthy than others. No one is innocent, there's no such thing as original sin and various other rock and roll clichés.

The last time Barack Obama appeared on The Daily Show, he was an up and coming senator vowing to change the way politics was done in Washington and trading wisecracks with the show's presenter, Jon Stewart. Last night however, in making history as the first US president to be interviewed on Comedy Central's satirical news show, he struck a more sombre figure. Obama appeared to have decided that in the present political climate, with unemployment high and many voters expressing disappointment with his performance, humour would be inappropriate. Even Stewart was more subdued than normal and generally respectful of the president, referring to him as 'sir,' throughout except for one reflex moment when he could not help himself and called Obama 'dude.' It was also the first time that the thirty minute show had devoted an entire episode to a single interview, with no opening monologue from Stewart or any satirical sketches. Stewart repeatedly contrasted Obama's heady campaign trail rhetoric, of hope, change and audacity, with what he called the 'timidity' of his legislative programme. Obama appeared somewhat agitated. Having been leaning back in his chair, he sat forward, pointing his finger at the desk separating him from Stewart. 'Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you,' Obama said. 'And I don't want to lump you in with a lot of other pundits, but this notion that health care is timid.' It produced a rare rejoinder from Stewart – 'I'll tell you what I mean, and I don't mean to lump you in with other presidents' – which won a hard-earned laugh from the audience. The show, normally recorded in New York, was shot in Washington because Stewart and his crew had moved to the capital in preparation for his 'Restore Sanity' rally on Saturday, a liberal riposte to recent conservative gatherings on the Mall sponsored by FOX News. The audience of five hundred and fifty was more partisan than the New York audiences and gave Obama a long standing ovation when he entered the studio. Obama stuck with two key messages throughout the interview: that he had done a good job in getting healthcare reform through Congress, and passing financial regulation laws. The White House said his appearance was mainly aimed at winning over young voters ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections. The one news point in the interview was a hint that he favoured reform of the Senate's filibuster tactic which frequently obstructs legislation. But he did not tackle it when the Democrats had a big majority in the Senate and the chances of doing so in the next Congress, in which there will almost certainly be more Republicans, are slim. Stewart teased the president about his campaign slogan 'Yes, we can,' suggesting that these days it was 'Yes, we can, with conditions attached.' Obama replied: 'When I say that when we promised during the campaign, change you can believe in, it wasn't change you can believe in in eighteen months. What I would say is, "Yes, we can," but it is not going to happen overnight.' Stewart suggested one of the problems was that far from bringing about change, Obama had brought into power many of the same old faces, such as his economics adviser, Larry Summers, who is about to leave the administration and has been heavily criticised over the lacklustre state of the economy. 'In fairness, Larry did a heck of a job,' Obama said. Stewart interjected: 'You don't want to use that phrase, dude.' George Bush had infamously used the same phrase to describe the hapless Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during hurricane Katrina.

Few TV programmes are now shown live – since the Jonathan Ross scandal, the BBC prefers to pre-record almost all of its talk shows (The ONE Show is the obvious exception). So, there is a genuine shock value when we see a familiar TV host appear to go off on one, as happened during the most recent episode of Paul O'Grady Live (ITV). When, in a moment reminiscent of Peter Finch's character being 'mad as hell and not going to take it any more' in Network, O'Grady ranted at the Conservatives (whom he distinguished from the coalition) for being 'bastards' who took quite obscene pleasure in cutting welfare benefits for those who can least defend themselves. Parts of the speech were clearly pre-rehearsed – evident because of a music cue which was ready to roll at the climax – but the most eye-popping sections were clearly off-script: O'Grady broke off to apologise to his audience for swearing, presumably on a producer's orders, and to harangue the floor manager, off-screen, who was apparently holding up cue cards telling him to move on. 'I bet when they were children they laughed in Bambi when his mother got shot!' Rite on, brother! Ofcom said yesterday that several complaints about the programme have been received - I wonder from whom? - and will be measured against the existing political impartiality rules. These, though, set a high hurdle and require only fairness 'across a range of programmes.' Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping agreed with every single word that O'Grady - a passionate man with a clear pride in his working class Birkenhead heritage - said. Good on yerself, Big Man. I've always rather liked O'Grady but my respect for the chap has just gone through the roof, frankly. Life's too short for always minding your Ps and Qs. Sometimes, you've just got to say what's on your mind. No matter whom it upsets and however big they are in the running of the country. Because, it's the right thing to do, even if it isn't the easy thing to do. Take this blog, for instance. Oh, we've done that one already, haven't we?

Ben Miller has claimed that his friendship with Alexander Armstrong is the reason their comedy is so successful. Speaking to TV Choice, Miller said that the pair have a good chemistry because they know each other well. 'I think it's our long-running friendship,' he said. 'The friendship is more important than comedy. Most of what Xander and I talk about is not comedy, it's just normal everyday stuff, friends we've got in common, things like that. Our experiences are quite common because we have both got young families. There is lots of shared history, so I think it's that.' Miller also revealed that he expects to work with Armstrong for some time. 'It's very hard to think beyond where you are at this moment,' he said. 'I think we certainly feel like there is plenty of lead in our pencils. We certainly feel there is a lot of stuff we want to do.'

This year's Children in Need appeal show will include a new clip from the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, it has been confirmed. Hurrah! A BBC press release has announced that the televised charity event will include 'a sneak preview' of the Steven Moffat-written episode. The festive special will feature The Singing Detective's Michael Gambon and singer Katherine Jenkins in key roles. Last year's Children in Need also included a special Doctor Who preview clip from David Tennant's penultimate episode, The End of Time - Part One.

The X Factor hopefuls have reportedly begged producers not to put them in the 'cursed' performance slot next to Mary Byrne. The Daily Lies claims that the remaining acts are worried after seeing Treyc Cohen face the judges in the sing-off last week, having performed in the same part of the show as Byrne. On the first week, Nicolo Festa and Katie Waissel sang in part six with the fifty-year-old. Waissel was saved in the sing-off while Festa exited the competition. Week two saw the former Tesco worker Byrne and Belle Amie perform in part eight. The girl group (although yer Keith Telly Topping remains convinced one of them is a bloke) then faced the judges' vote in the results show. According to the paper, Byrne has not been out of the top two with the public vote and was 'the runaway leader' in the first week's vote. 'You know the phrase "follow that" - well that's how everyone feels coming on after Mary,' a source said. 'She's pulling votes in by the million and is the surprise package of the show so far. It's spelling bad news for anyone who has to compete with her for the audience's attention. After all four of her rivals being jinxed, there's certainly no rush to be the one who tries to break the hoodoo.' They added: 'It used to be going first that was seen as the worst slot but many acts would happily go first if it meant keeping Mary away from them.'

Katie Waissel's father has revealed that The X Factor hopeful is 'at breaking point' after receiving death threats. The singer has previously is alleged to have said she would quit the show due to negative public feeling against her, and last week she collapsed while on a shopping trip. With a suspicious number of photographers close by. 'I've had Katie sobbing on the phone to me every night,' Maurice Waissel told the Daily Scum Mail. 'She's had death threats sent to her over the Internet, and we've had to ask the police to intervene. Only the other night, Katie said to me, "Dad, what's the point in going on if everyone hates me?"' He added: 'Let's face it, X Factor has become a ­circus where only the strongest survive.' Gabi Dee, described by the papers as 'a friend and former work colleague' of Waissel said: 'People assume she can take all the criticism because she comes across as so strong - but she is still just an ordinary girl. It hurts her.' A 'source' on ITV show added that Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole were aware of Waissel's feelings. 'Both Simon and Cheryl have had to give her almost constant counselling,' they said. 'She's also been given a bit of time to see friends and family, to keep her spirits up.'

BBC2 has reportedly ordered Towns, a four part documentary which is being touted as a potential follow-up to long-running series Coast.

Fired Apprentice candidate Melissa Cohen from London has said the show had turned her into a 'monstrous warmonger,' but taught her to change her ways. The twenty four-year-old former hairdresser was fired by Lord Sugar-Sweetie after a series of confrontational clashes with her competitors and was told by Karren Brady that her self-claimed 'excellent' sales pitches were 'very annoying.' Cohen, who huffily refused to shake hands with rival candidates Jamie Lester and Stuart Baggs after she was fired and accused both of stabbing her in the back, told Dara O'Briain on You're Fired: 'I regret that I didn't act with a bit more decorum in terms of my sportsmanship.' She added: 'I am a confrontational person, but far more affable and not monstrous in my daily life. I'm not such a warmonger. But when you're put in a competitive environment certain aspects of your personality can come out that aren't normally there.' Her team Apollo, lead by Lester, lost this week's task - despite selling more than seventy six thousand pounds worth of eco shower-heads and double-handed spades - after rival team Synergy sold over one hundred and twenty thousand pounds worth of their product, Baby Glow. Apollo had pitched to the inventor of the Baby Glow to sell her product, but Baggs's blunt line of questioning put her off. Cohen said: 'Stuart had been in the boardroom already, I hadn't and he did lose us the winning product. We would have won if we'd had that product, it's as simple as that. But I do feel that he should have gone. He'd already had one go at the boardroom, it was my first time in.' The Business Food Manager had claimed she could 'sell ice to the Eskimos' but her sale pitches came under fire on more than one occasion during the show. She admitted: 'You don't want the thing that you think you're most good at to be completely vilified by the people that you've come to get agreement from, but I'm okay with it. You have to take the advice that is given to you and Lord Sugar-Sweetie is probably best poised to give that advice.'

Wayne Knight has signed up for a guest role in Bones. The former Seinfeld actor will play a businessman involved in confectionery, Entertainment Weekly reports. The show's executive producer Stephen Nathan claimed that the episode features 'one of our most revolting body finds ever.' You certainly know how to sell your show, don't you Steve? He added: 'A body is discovered inside one of the world's largest chocolate bars. It's delightfully revolting.'

BBC3 has commissioned a second series of its comedy Him And Her, its most successful sitcom to date. A seven-part series will be filmed next year, although a broadcast date has not yet been set. The first series, which launched last month, attracted around six hundred and sixty thousand viewers a week. With repeats and iPlayer views added the show, starring the excellent Sarah Solemani and Russell Tovey, attracted more than two million viewers per episode. Producer Kenton Allen said: 'The tremendous support that BBC3 has given to a lo-fi romantic comedy in which nothing much ever happens has been amazing. We are delighted that their faith has been repaid with a brilliant reaction from audience and critics alike, and we can't wait to return to the tea, toast and unwashed bed linen of series two.' The show is written by Stefan Golaszewski and also stars Joe Wilkinson.

David Suchet has admitted that he would feel 'emotional' if Poirot ever came to an end. Well, it's going to have to some time, David. There are a finite number of stories and, neither you nor, indeed, the audience are immortal. Unless, of course, you are and you just haven't told us yet. Which, I think it's fair to say would certainly qualify as 'news.' Speaking to What's on TV, Suchet explained that he would have positive and negative thoughts if he ever finished filming all of the Poirot stories. 'I think there will always be mixed feelings playing the last one - that I now have to put him to bed after all these years,' he said. 'It would be a great loss to me, but at the same time a great sense of achievement and a sense of closure on an iconic character that has been so successful. There would be a cocktail of emotions.' However, Suchet revealed that he would love to be able to film television adaptations of all Agatha Christie's Poirot stories. 'I would feel more than privileged to be able to say that I have left behind me the complete works,' he explained. 'Times are hard, so we wait and see, but it would be a shame to get so near and not complete them all, wouldn't it? That's my feeling, but I am very biased!' Everybody's biased about something, David. Take this blog, for instance.

Conan O'Brien has promised that he will use characters on his new TBS talkshow that were originated during his stints as host of NBC's Late Night and The Tonight Show. The comic told Rolling Stone that he would be pleased if NBC tried to sue him over intellectual property rights regarding popular characters such as the Masturbating Bear, Pimpbot 5000 and Preparation H Raymond. 'If there's something we did for a long time that we've established as ours, we'll figure out a way to do it,' he said. 'I won't be denied my Masturbating Bear!' He continued: 'What I really wanna do is be sued over the bear and then appear in court with the Masturbating Bear. "Your Honour, this bear can't help himself!"' O'Brien previously admitted that he was shell-shocked following his sacking as host of NBC's Tonight Show in January.

BBC Worldwide's radio sales business is working with Spafax to offer British Airways passengers some of the best BBC Radio, including rock concerts, classic comedy, backstage Top of the Pops interviews, and the Last Night of the Proms. BBC Radio International, part of the corporation's commercial arm BBC Worldwide, has completed a deal with in-flight entertainment company Spafax to create four audio channels for British Airways in-flight entertainment service, Highlife. The four channels provide British Airways long haul passengers with some of the best of BBC Radio, including two channels of live recordings of rock and classical concerts, a dedicated Top of the Pops channel featuring chart tracks and pop gossip and backstage interviews, and an entertainment features channel which includes comedy, such as the award-winning Little Britain series, as well as short plays, documentaries and quiz shows. Daniel Dearlove, BBC Radio International's General Manager, said: 'This is an exciting step for us. Through this deal, BBC Radio International and Spafax have combined to create the BBC's largest radio presence on any in-flight service ever. By creating channels from the wealth of high quality BBC content, we've delivered a great product that promises to keep passengers entertained.' Dee Brady, Entertainment Programming Manager at British Airways said: 'We're always looking to ensure that our inflight entertainment for British Airways delivers the highest quality programming to satisfy our diverse passenger demographics. With this in mind we see a relationship with BBC Radio International as extremely important and look forward to adding these exciting new channels to British Airways High Life Entertainment, starting in September.'

Chris Moyles, the controversial BBC Radio1 presenter, has lost hundreds of thousands of listeners in just three months, official figures have shown. The Breakfast Show host, who launched an extraordinary on-air tirade against his BBC bosses last month in a row over pay, lost more than half-a-million listeners in the third quarter of this year, the figures showed. According to the latest ratings from Rajar seven million weekly listeners tuned in to his show compared to 7.7 million people the previous quarter. The figures do not cover his outburst on 22 September - three days after the measuring period ended. One station insider said the figures were 'an expected seasonal fluctuation' caused by the school holidays. Moyles, who is understood to earn nearly six hundred grand a year, and is worth, at most, four pence, was comprehensively beaten by Chris Evans, his Radio2 morning rival.

The Daily Lies is, as regular readers of this blog will be well aware, notorious for poor reporting, inaccuracies, exaggeration, pure invention, libel payouts and gross lapses in taste, decency and humanity. But even by its own, quite extraordinary, standards the paper plunged the depths to scrape the very bottom of the barrel on Thursday of this week. Reporting on the ongoing 7/7 bombing inquest, the Lies story contained a quote from a policeman who had described in emotive detail what the dazed survivors looked like as they emerged from Aldgate station: 'It was like Michael Jackson's Thriller video. They were just covered in soot, their hair was all over the place, you just basically saw the whites of their eyes.' Horrific stuff, of course. But this quote must, obviously, have set off a lightbulb marked 'BRIGHT IDEA!' in the head of someone at editorial level at the Lies: 'Get me a still of Thriller and we got us a scoop!' So there you have it, dear blog reader; a photograph of an injured and clearly traumatised woman being assisted from the horror of what went on that day in that tunnel by police officers with an insert photo of the late Michael Jackson and two 'zombie' dancers from what the paper's caption calls his 'creepy Thriller video.' The really, genuinely sick thing here is that someone within the Lies actually thought this was, in any way, an appropriate, respectful way to publish a story about an inquest into the deaths of fifty two people at the hands of terrorists. As previously noted on this blog, it is yer Keith Telly Topping's sincerely held belief that there are a few good people in this world. That there are some bad people but that most of us are somewhere in the middle, just trying to get through life without messing up too badly and hurting anyone else in the process. And then, there are some people who are just, quite simply, scum.

A seaside city in Italy has banned revealing clothing. The rotters! Under new legislation passed on Monday, women wearing 'very scanty clothing' - such as short skirts, low-slung jeans and low necklines - can be fined by the authorities in Castellammare di Stabi, AFP reports. Regarding widespread reports that miniskirts were forbidden under the new law, Mayor Luigi Bobbio of Italy's ruling People of Freedom party said: 'Miniskirts are not included in the ban. Miniskirts are not considered very scanty clothing unless they're so small that they are no longer a skirt and they leave the undergarment showing.' Female opponents from the Democratic Party had held a Miniskirt Day rally in opposition to the blow. The new rules, which Bobbio claimed will make Castellammare 'a civilized city,' also ban sunbathing in public, blasphemy and playing football in some areas. That's good old rock and roll, footie-playing, scooter-driving, ciaaaao! Italy for you, dear blog reader!

A judge has relaxed the bail conditions for a woman accused of wounding her partner with a knife, in order to allow her to attend a Lady GaGa concert. BBC News reports that thirty two-year-old Hayley Mitchell is accused of attacking the man in two separate incidents on 1 and 10 October, and has been charged with grievous bodily harm and common assault. As part of her bail conditions, Mitchell was ordered to live with her mother and accept an 8pm to 8am curfew. However, the curfew has been briefly lifted to allow Mitchell to attend the concert in Belfast on Saturday evening.

And, lastly, dear blog reader, part the third of our new series, yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, for the first time so far, we leave the 1970s behind and go back, back, back to the dawn of time. When the world was so much younger than today and Detroit was right at the slap-bang centre of it: One of the rarest - and most brilliant - dance records ever made. A diamond-bright memory of all those Mod and Northern Soul all-nighters at the Greenford and the Bostie. 'As long as there is life in me/I'll fill your heart with ecstacy.' If you can't get yer boogie shoes on to this little baby then, sadly, you're probably clinically dead. In which case, you have my sincere sympathies.