Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Won't Have Met Me And You'll Soon Forget, So Dont Mind Me Tugging At Your Sleeve

It's been confirmed that Friday 29 April is to be the date of the Royal Wedding and it will be an extra Bank Holiday. The weekend before is Easter, so as a result it will be a three day working week for many. Course, that's most weeks for the self-employed among us. I'm just saying.

Yer Keith Telly Topping isn't a big fan of Twitter, dear blog reader, I've probably mentioned that in the past. It's a good source of pithy one-liners for the blog, of course, and also a terrific source of celebrities thinking that they're talking to four people instead of The Entire World and getting themselves into bother because of it. Yes, you Stephen! You're an intelligent man, you shouldn't be bothering with trivialities! Personally, I find it all pretty pointless and it seems that I'm not alone. Sean Lock used an interview with Metro to say: 'I know loads of people who do it and I don't understand it. It's a medium for comedians to get rid of shoddy, half-baked ideas that wouldn't make it into a comedy set. It seems like it's for sad, needy people who should have a word with themselves. There's something very macho about how many followers you have. Jesus had followers but he had something important to say, not: 'Had a bath, watched Sex In The City.' It's not healthy. All these people who are receiving your messages - sitting at bus stops, or at home with the family - they're not engaged with the world, they're checking their fucking phone and you're just adding to that white noise of bullshit! There's someone on Twitter who pretends to be me but as long as he doesn't say anything damaging, I don't care. Let him get on with it.'

The Metro's excellent Keith Watson has had a right go at Monday night's episode of Accused: 'Jimmy McGovern's story was so ludicrously one-sided you couldn't believe a word of it. Kicking off with the risible idea that the Army is the modern-day equivalent of sending criminals to Australia, a refuge for violent yobs who'd otherwise be doing a stretch in prison, Accused centred on the story of mates Frankie and Peter ... What really got under the skin was that the story came wrapped in the flag of a moralistic code that dictated Frankie didn't tell his story in court. If he had he could have reduced his sentence and revealed the horrors of his experience. But the truth about his dead mate's demise would, in the words of the deceased’s father, "break his mother's heart – and his sister's." Women are to be protected and impregnated, shielded from the world. What sexist tosh. It was a waste of some powerful performances: Mackenzie Crook put in a blistering turn as the spiteful corporal, and Benjamin Smith and Ben Batt were laddily convincing as the two mates. They deserved better.' Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping gave up after ten minutes. Too much like hard work, frankly. I mean, yer man in the Metro is right, it was well-acted and - probably - well-written too. But it was just so unremittingly grim that it was impossible to actually like. It's also interesting to note that despite all of the pre-publicity the drama received from stories about the MoD being 'outraged' by it, its audience was a meagre 3.4m viewers. Or, to put it another way, just one hundred thousand and three hundred thousand more than University Challenge and Miranda were getting - respectively - on BBC2 an hour earlier and almost two million less than The ONE Show. What was it yer man Jimmy McGovern was whinging about the other week? TV executives who 'think they are better than the average television viewer.' They might do that, Jim, but they seem to have a far better idea than you about what the average television viewer wants to watch.

Meanwhile, a former head of the army accused BBC1 of 'gross insensitivity (and) gross arrogance' for screening the drama. Oh great, another solider who reckons he's a TV critic! Listen, mate, leave that job to the professionals, eh and you get on with whatever it is that you're supposed to be getting on with. Writing autobiographies about killing people, probably. General Lord Dannatt said Accused was 'a nasty programme inappropriately aired while the Army is conducting difficult operations in Afghanistan.' As we asked the other day, don't you have anything better to do with your time, sir? Or, do you not know how to operate your remote control so you can avoid watching programmes you don't like? You just push a button and stuff happens, you're ex-army, you'll like that. Dannatt told Radio4's Today programme: 'Accused portrayed bullying that has got no place in fact or fiction in the Twenty First Century, it portrayed a warped loyalty that is completely unrecognisable in the Army.' Dannatt added the drama failed to challenge the level of bullying portrayed on-screen or the idea that it would be tolerated by commanders and showed alcohol being drunk on the front line in a way which did not happen in reality. It showed a cover-up being staged to pass off a suicide as a result of enemy action. Asked whether the BBC should treat the army differently from other institutions in society in works of fiction, Dannatt - ludicrously - replied: 'You could make a case to say that, while the army is conducting difficult and dangerous operations on behalf of the nation.' Bollocks. Absolute horseshit of the worst kind, General. Isn't what we're supposed to be fighting for in Afghanistan, in part, the concept of the freedom of speech, freedom of belief and freedom of expression and the total rejection of ignorance and bigotry? That's certainly how the conflict was sold to the British public in the first place. Jana Bennett, the director of BBC Vision, said: 'This wasn't in any way a docu-drama or documentary nor a campaigning piece. It was a piece of fiction, written about different elements of moral issues like loyalty, guilt, the nature of being able or not able to kill and something that spirals out of control. The test this drama should be put to is whether it is a good piece of fiction or not.' Which, as it happens, it wasn't. But, I'll defend Jimmy McGovern's right to make it.

A notice from the Met Office has warned for snow on Saturday across the East of England - including the South East and London. It's not supposed to be a lot - with between one and five cm expected - but that's usually more than enough to ensure total ruddy chaos, particularly when London, and them there soft southerners, are involved. If the snow does come, there could be some very hefty TV ratings over the weekend. Excellent. You know what this means, don't you? Snowball fight!!

The latest episode of House - Small Sacrifices - balanced clever character-based plots for several of the regulars with a central theme of faith versus science and a restatement of one of the series' long-term observations on the human condition; that everybody lies. And, those that don't, generally, tend to have a really rotten life. Science and faith are called into question when a patient is admitted to the hospital following his reenactment of The Crucifixion. The patient, Ramon Silva, refuses to undergo the prescribed treatment, and the team learns that after his daughter's cancer was cured four years ago, he pledged an annual oath of self-sacrifice to God. With little time to save Ramon's life, House and his team struggle to understand his reasoning and seemingly extreme religious convictions, but eventually discover that faith, in and of itself, is not an argument. Meanwhile, Taub questions his wife Rachel about her relationship with an infidelity support group member. Cuddy still hasn't forgiven House for lying to her and the team attends a co-worker's wedding where Wilson's relationship with Sam takes a very unexpected turn.

Sky has confirmed the closure date for the Bravo channels, which it acquired in June as part of the one hundred and sixty million pound deal to purchase the Living TV Group. From 1 January next year, the Bravo family of channels - including Bravo, Bravo+1 and Bravo2 - will cease broadcasting on all digital TV platforms, including Sky and Virgin Media. In September, Sky opted to scrap long-running cable channel Bravo because it serves a similar demographic to Sky1. The company also announced the closure of Channel One, previously Virgin1, as part of plans to concentrate on the Living brand, which gives Sky a vital foothold in the female market after it shut down the Sky Real Lives channels in August. Living's programming budget will be increased by twenty five per cent to enable the broadcaster to build on its recent successes, including a two-year deal with Katie Price. Sky also confirmed that Bravo's most popular programmes will be moved to other Sky channels before the network is officially closed down. Shows to be preserved include Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Chuck, Leverage, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Star Trek, TNA Wrestling, Sun, Sea and A & E, Motorway Patrol, Highway Patrol and Caribbean Cops. Sky said that full details of the new homes for all these shows will follow in 'due course.'

The Church of England has urged Ofcom to block News Corporation's proposed bid to take full control of pay-TV operator Sky on the grounds of public interest. Nigel McCulloch, the bishop of Manchester, claimed that the takeover would enable Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to 'dominate both the television and newspaper landscape.' McCulloch also expressed concern about the takeover's potential impact on the integrity of Sky News, as it is one of the BBC's main competitors in the twenty four-hour rolling news market. He said that a News Corp-controlled Sky News would always 'have the potential for the exercise of subtle editorial influence, not least in the process of selecting which news items are to be covered and which left out.' Last month, News Corp informed the European Commission that it wants to acquire the sixty one per cent of satellite broadcaster Sky which it does not already own. The move triggered UK business secretary Vince Cable (Lib Dem. Allegedly) to task Ofcom with investigating the deal on grounds of its potential impact on media plurality, chiefly because it would bring together Britain's biggest pay-TV firm with its largest newspaper group. McCulloch stressed that the Church's concerns were not about News Corp as an organisation, but rather about too much power being given to one player. 'Our concerns are not about the nature of News Corp. Indeed, we would make these comments whichever commercial organisation might find itself in a potentially dominant market position,' McCulloch said. 'A News Corp in full control of Sky would combine one of the three significant suppliers of TV news (BBC, ITN and Sky), one of the two suppliers of radio news (BBC, Sky) and the group with the biggest market share of national press in the UK. It would dominate both the television and newspaper landscape.' Should the deal be allowed, McCulloch said that 'the public have a right to expect, at the very minimum, an assurance that the independence and editorial integrity of Sky News will be preserved.' What independence and editorial integrity? This is Sky News we're talking about, it hasn't got any independence and editorial integrity! In a separate submission to Ofcom, Sky's independent directors warned that Sky News could be put at risk if the media regulator finds due cause for concern with the News Corp takeover.

Matt Smith has promised that the upcoming US-filmed episodes of Doctor Who will feature the drama's scariest monsters yet. During an interview for the Nerdist podcast, the actor admitted that he was terrified by the villains that were created for the sixth series. 'The ones we've come out here to film, I think the monsters are on par with the Weeping Angels,' he said. 'It's the most hideous thing in the world.' Smith also suggested that comic legend Peter Sellers would have been a terrific choice for the role of The Doctor during the early years of the BBC show. 'He'd have been amazing. He'd have been really, truly brilliant, I think,' he explained. Smith continued: '[He] totally has a coldness about him. I think the darkness of Sellers would have been really interesting.'

Jason Manford has announced details of a new nationwide tour days after quitting The ONE Show over an Internet sex scandal. The new tour will see the stand-up comic play venues in cities including London, Liverpool and Belfast in October and November next year.

Channel Four has again raided the BBC for a key executive, hiring George Dixon to replace Rosemary Newell as controller of channel management. Negotiations are underway over when the BBC Vision head of scheduling will start at Horseferry Road, where he will report to incoming chief creative officer Jay Hunt, who worked closely with him when she ran BBC1. He will be responsible for scheduling activities across the whole of the C4 channel portfolio as well as the broadcaster’s digital services and 4oD. Dixon will also work with head of acquisitions, Gill Hay to lead and develop an approach for acquired programming across all C4's platforms. Channel Four chief executive David Abraham picked out the relaunch of Top Gear, the UK premiere of 24 and the BBC strategy of stripping drama across weeknights - as with Five Days, Torchwood and Occupation - among Dixon's key achievements. He said: 'George is a creative at the top of his game and I look forward to him leading the scheduling strategy for the entire Channel Four portfolio across linear and interactive media.' Dixon has held multiple roles in scheduling across the BBC over the past five years. As head of scheduling for BBC Vision, he was personally responsible for the scheduling and commissioning strategy for BBC1. Dixon said: 'After five absolutely fantastic years scheduling BBC1 and having worked across all of the BBC Vision channels, now is the right time for me to take on this exciting new challenge. The chance to join an iconic broadcaster such as Channel Four as it embarks on the next chapter was an opportunity too good to miss.'

Nigel Havers has claimed that he has formed a lasting friendship with Shaun Ryder on I'm A Celebrity ... The veteran actor, who walked out of the jungle on Monday morning, insisted that he would be meeting up with the notorious Happy Mondays singer outside of the show. 'By some quirk of fate - and these are the things that make this programme so unique - you will find that people bond with other people. And I did, out of the blue, strike up this amazing relationship with Shaun,' Havers told the official website. 'There was something about the two of us and we are going to be great friends. I am going to go to one of his concerts and hang out on the tour bus for a bit. And then I'm going to drag him to the theatre to see me.' You're twisting my melon, man?!

BBC3 is retell the classic story of Frankenstein in a live music and drama show, it has been announced. Frankenstein's Wedding Live in Leeds will take place in March next year against the backdrop of Kirkstall Abbey in the city. The corporation said the project would be a 'bold and ambitious music and drama event.' It will feature light projections and audience participation. Casting has yet to be announced. The event follows on from the previous live events Manchester Passion and Liverpool Nativity. The BBC said it would 'explore the iconic story through contemporary performance and cutting-edge musical content.' BBC North director Peter Salmon said: 'Not only will the audience be able to get involved on the night itself, but in the weeks leading up to the event they will be encouraged to rediscover this classic novel.' Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1 and BBC3, said it was 'the kind of arts television for young viewers that only the BBC would provide.' The project is being supported by key organisations within the city, including Leeds City Council, Welcome to Yorkshire, Marketing Leeds and Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Nicolo Festa has criticised the X Factor charity single 'Heroes', describing it as 'ignominious.' The Italian-born singer, who was the first act to be voted out of this year's live shows, was involved in the recording of the song and the debut performance of the David Bowie cover on Sunday's results show. However, acting as the guest singles reviewer for Viceland.com, Festa mocked the single, joking that The Great Dame herself would 'chop his balls off' if he ever heard it. 'The X Factor charity single is out. I really don't know what to say. Personally I find the whole thing ignominious and I'd expect the Thin White Duke to chop his balls off after hearing it,' he wrote. 'However, the gun pointed at my balls right now though is telling me that I thoroughly enjoyed it. So yeah. I'm undecided.' Festa also ridiculed last year's X Factor runner-up Olly Murs, describing him as being the 'human equivalent of Snow White's Dopey. Dear Mr Murs, please decide what you want to be already,' he said. 'Do one thing, try to do it well, and please let that not be music. Because one Jason Mraz is enough.'

Simon Amstell has been criticised by several tabloid newspapers after making a flippant comment about tumours on BBC Breakfast on Monday. The comic - whom yer Keith Telly Topping admittedly finds an acquired taste that I haven't yet acquired - was branded 'sick' by both the Sun and the Daily Lies after making a - rather throwaway - reference to singer Russell Watson's fight against cancer. His comment came after hosts Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams tried to wrap up their interview with him during which Amstell kept trying to interject, presumably for comic affect. Turnbull told him: 'We're finished now.' The former Never Mind The Buzzcocks host, most recentlt seen in his sitcom Grandma's House reacted by saying: 'Stop talking! We're finished! Got to get Russell on with his tumour!' After being told Watson was 'right there' off camera. Amstell added: 'He sings better now.' Not particularly funny but, to be fair, Watson himself didn't seem too bothered by the comments. Turnbull and Williams also appeared to take them in the spirit that they were intended, and laughed – although the tabloids claimed that both were 'angry' and 'left squirming.' Though they all pointedly failed to provide any direct quotes from anybody connected to the show to actually prove this. Watson was the next guest on the programme, and did, indeed, speak about his fight against cancer. He recently revealed that he contemplated suicide during his treatment for the pituitary tumours which were discovered in 2006 and 2007. Happily, he's now in full recovery. None of the newspapers which criticised Amstell's comments linked to the video clip of the incident to allow their readers to make up their own minds – even thought it was freely available on the BBC News website here. However, their stories prompted indignation - and desperately unbecoming comments - from some of their readers. One woman posted on the Daily Scum Mail website that she prayed Amstell himself would get cancer. In a statement far more offensive and, apparently intentionally spiteful, than the original comment, 'Liz' from Bristol posted: 'My prayers are going to whatever gods there are that one day, this vapid man will know what it's like to live in Cancerland.' Lovely. Another poster, one Grant P of Wiltshire, added: 'This will only be hilarious when Amstell gets a brain tumour. Can't wait for that punchline.' Frankly, I don't think any editorialising would do any good concerning this particular story. I'll leave you, dear blog reader, to make up your own mind about the rights and wrongs of this one.

Bill O'Reilly has complained about a recent episode of The Simpsons. On his show The O'Reilly Factor, the right-wing columnist showed a clip of the cartoon which pokes fun at FOX News. In the video, a FOX helicopter hovers near the Statue of Liberty with the motto: 'FOX News: Not Racist But #1 With Racists' painted on the side. The helicopter also begins to crash and the pilot shouts: 'We're unbalanced! It's not fair!' O'Reilly criticised the joke, saying: 'Continuing to bite the hand that feeds part of it, FOX Broadcasting once again allows its cartoon characters to run wild. Pinheads? I believe so.' Yeah. It's called 'freedom of speech', mate. Tends to happen when the, pesky Democrats are in power. You'd better get used to it.

Joss Whedon has admitted that he has 'mixed emotions' about Warner Bros' planned big screen remake of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Whedon wrote the script for the 1992 Kristy Swanson movie before creating and showruning the 1997 TV series, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular teenage Chosen One. 'This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths - just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself,' he joked to E! Online. Whedon explained that he had 'always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, after. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was,' he continued. 'And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill.' Yes Man actress Whit Anderson will reportedly write the new Buffy movie with Charles Roven (Batman Begins) producing. Buffy the Vampire Slayer without Joss Whedon? Isn't that a bit like Jaws without the shark?

Some sad news now. Ingrid Pitt, best known for her starring roles in cult horror classics like Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers has died at the age of seventy three. The Polish-born actress died at a hospital in South London after collapsing a few days ago. Her death comes just a matter of weeks after Roy Ward Baker, who directed Pitt in The Vampire Lovers, died at the age of ninety three. Pitt's daughter, Steffanie Blake, told the BBC News website that despite having had a couple of bad years healthwise, her mother's death had come as 'a huge surprise.' After the actress has collapsed recently, doctors told her was she suffering from heart problems. 'She could be incredibly generous, loving, and she'll be sorely missed,' Mrs Blake said. She added that she wished for her mother to be remembered as Countess Dracula 'with the wonderful teeth and the wonderful bosom.' Which is how this blogger will always remember her. Ingrid was born Ingoushka Petrov in 1937 in Warsaw to a German father and a Polish Jewish mother. During World War II she and her family were imprisoned in Stutthof concentration camp. She survived and in Berlin in the 1950s she met and married an American soldier and ended up living in California, where she worked as a waitress whilst trying to make a career in the movies. After her marriage failed, she returned to East Germany and was a member of the prestigious Berliner Ensemble, under the guidance of Bertolt Brecht's widow Helene Weigel. In November, 1962, Ingrid learned that she was due to be arrested by the Stasi after a performance because of her public criticism of the political system. She escaped to the West by swimming across the River Spree at night. Ingrid then moved back to America to visit her sister and joined the Pasadena Playhouse in 1963, touring America playing Blanche du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Whilst in the States she gave birth to her daughter, Steffanie. In July 1964 she settled in Spain, appeared with the National Theatre in Madrid, and made her film debut in the zero-budget shocker El Sonido De La Muerte (The Sound of Horror). She also had small uncredited roles in much bigger movies - Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight and David Lean's Doctor Zhivago (both 1965), followed by a couple of paella westerns. In 1968 she co-starred in the small SF film The Omegans and, in the same year, appeared in her breakthrough role in Where Eagles Dare opposite Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. But it was her subsequent performance in the Hammer movie The Vampire Lovers as the vicious lesbian vampiress Camilla Karnstein, that made her into a star. The film was a huge transatlantic box office hit in 1970. Her other movie credits included a great comic turn opposite her friend Jon Pertwee in Amicus's The House That Dripped Blood (1970), a fine performance in the cult classic The Wicker Man (1973) and, later, Who Dares Wins (1982) and Wild Geese II (1985). Ingrid subsequently founded her own theatrical touring company and starred in successful productions of Dial M for Murder, Duty Free and Woman of Straw. She also appeared in many TV shows in both the UK and America - Ironside, Dundee and the Calhane, Smiley's People, Jason King, The Zoo Gang, Bulman and - twice in - Doctor Who (The Time Monster and Warriors of the Deep). One of her last starring roles was as the lead's aging aunt in Steven Soderbergh's 1995 movie Underneath. Her very entertaining autobiography, Life's a Scream was published by Heinemann in 1999. Ingrid was also a prolific journalist, writing regular columns for various magazines and periodicals, including Shivers (at the same time that yer Keith Telly Topping was working for them, when I had the good fortune to, briefly, meet her), TV & Film Memorabilia and Motoring and Leisure. She also wrote a regular column, often about politics, on her official website and, famously, had a black belt in karate having practiced the martial art with her friend Elvis Presley. Class act, Ingrid. She will be greatly missed.

And, so we come to the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, we're gonna hang around the early 70s for a wee bit longer. For what Hawkwind (see yesterday's blog) were to Ladborke Grove (and, later, the West Country) so, Lindisfarne were to the bonny North East. The real deal. I've always loved 'Meet Me On The Corner.' It sounds, on the surface, like a man who's swallowed too much Dylan ('Hey mister dreamseller/where have you been?'). But, actually Rod Clements' song is far cleverer than that and the bittersweet lyrics - perfectly interpreted by Ray Jackson - have a genuine world-weary quality which rise a simple song way above its station. Love Alan Hull's barrelhouse piano in the chrous too. From the best selling British LP of 1972 (which actually sounds better now than it did then!), the use of the song in the last scene of the final episode of the first series of Life On Mars is one of TV's greatest ever marriages of images of music. Camera poetry, no less.