Friday, December 17, 2010

If You Want To Know What's In It, Check The Label

Yesterday, just in case you weren't aware of the fact dear blog reader, was the sixty fourth birthday of the ABBA keyboard player and songwriter, the legend that is Benny Andersson. As ever, we at From The North consider it to be our mission in life to increase your thoroughly worthless knowledge of pop culture subjects. So, did you know dear blog reader, that ABBA were one of the first bands ever to have their own range of action figures made and marketed? And, that the Benny doll outsold those of Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Fred put together by a quite considerable distance? Which isn't really surprising when you think about it. After all, who doesn't want a twelve inch pianist? Anyway ...

Yer Keith Telly Topping has to confess that he really rather enjoyed BBC4's long-awaited adaptation of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently on Thursday night. I didn't expect to, to be honest. Yes, large chunks of the book's extremely complex narrative were jettisoned in favour of a more linear approach by writer Howard Overman. And yes, it did have that bloody annoying Baxendale woman in it. Being bloody annoying, as usual. But, the production benefited from a marvellously twitchy and manic performance by Steven Mangan as the 'Holistic detective' whose investigation into the curious case of a missing cat is, somehow, linked to an encounter with an old friend, an exploding warehouse, a missing billionaire, some chocolate biscuits and East 17. Yer Keith Telly Topping has never been that big of fan of Mangan's work in the past, although he was undeniably very good in Green Wing. But, this could almost be the part he was born to play. 'I find men with moustaches to be particularly dishonourable beings. Hitler and Tom Sellick being cases in point!' Hopefully the critical reaction - which seems to have been mostly positive - will persuade the BBC to consider adapting the second Adams novel featuring the character, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. 'I have no idea how loyal the makers of BBC4's Dirk Gently were to Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, though I'd hazard a guess that a few liberties have been taken,' noted Alice-Azania Jarvis in the Independent. 'The iPhones and Blackberrys were one giveaway; the various references to East 17 another. Does it matter? Probably, to some of Adams's more devoted fans. In the context of last night's viewing, though, I'm inclined to think that for most of us it doesn't. Gently was so jolly, so rollickingly good natured, that to complain over such trivialities seems terribly poor form.'

Channel Four has opted to recommission Peep Show for a further two series, a report has claimed. The British Comedy Guide says that it understands the broadcaster's head of comedy Shane Allen has given the long-running sitcom the greenlight for an eighth and ninth run. This comes despite a fall in ratings for the show's current seventh series. However, fans will apparently have to wait until at least spring 2012 for the new episodes due to the busy schedules of writing duo Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain.

Zai Bennett, the director of ITV's digital channels and acquisitions, has been named the new controller of BBC3. The thirty six-year-old replaces the outgoing Danny Cohen, who was appointed the new controller of BBC1 in October. Controller of ITV2 from 2006-2009, Bennett took on responsibility for ITV's other digital channels in April. He said that he was 'delighted' to join BBC3, adding the channel was 'on fire at the moment.' Either he means that it's making some decent programmers - which it is - or he's revealing that somebody from the Daily Scum Mail broke in overnight torched the place. Under Bennett's stewardship, ITV2 had some successes - commercially, if not necessarily artistically - with original shows including Secret Diary Of A Call Girl starring Billie Piper, Katy Brand's first comedy show, Celebrity Juice with Keith Lemon and The Only Way Is Essex. Outgoing director of BBC Vision, Jana Bennett, called her namesake 'one of the most energetic and creative leaders working in television today. His experience in developing original scripted drama and comedy, along with his fantastic relationship with presenters and performers, makes Zai perfect for this role,' she added. The BBC said that Mr Bennett's start date would be announced shortly.

Bill Pullman has joined the cast of the upcoming fourth series of Torchwood. Deadline reports that the Independence Day actor will play psychotic murderer Oswald Jones in the ten-part run. A dangerous and clever criminal, the character will escape from his prison sentence and become involved in a worldwide crisis. Pullman's film roles includes appearances in Sleepless In Seattle, Casper and The Killer Inside Me. He also starred in NBC mini-series Revelations and made a guest appearance in a 2008 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Hawaii Five-0's producer Peter Lenkov has confirmed that viewers will learn more about the death of Steve McGarrett's mother in a future episode. He told The Futon Critic that the show's twelfth episode - broadcast this week - sees the former Navy SEAL (played by Alex O'Loughlin) explore one of his cop father's old cases. 'When we come back in the new year, the first episode is really going to delve into the Champ box and one of the investigations his father was worked on,' Lenkov explained. 'There's a lot of evidence so one of those mysteries is going to be solved.' He continued: 'We're really going to dive into what happened to McGarrett's mum and answer that question, but with that we open up a whole other mystery which will drive us through the second half of the season.' Lenkov added that the mythology of McGarrett's family was 'added value' to the usual procedural elements. 'It's a procedural show and people are going to tune in if they like the characters,' he suggested. 'I think the surprise is that we spend a lot of time getting to know our characters. [In our last episode] it was a little bit of McGarrett mythology [and] knowing that Chin Ho had a fiancé. Those takeaways are really valuable to us because that's the reason the show is going to live.'

Sarah Millican has signed up to become a panellist on Loose Women. Why, Sarah? Why, for the love of God, why????? The comedian will make her first appearance on the show when it returns from its Christmas break in January. In her role on the panel, Millican will give viewers her opinions on the topics of the day. Appearing as a guest on Thursday's edition of Loose Women, she said: 'I'm thrilled to be joining an esteemed panel of loose ladies. From someone that was a prude as a teenager, it's nice to finally become a loose woman! I get my own mug with my name on as well. I'm told it's already been ordered - it's just a mug but I'm really excited.' Millican won the 'Best Newcomer' award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008 and has appeared on shows including Have I Got News For You, Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Bubble.

Bruce Forsyth has said that he has 'loved' working on the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing. The veteran presenter added that the programme had been hugely improved from last year and that the addition of well known faceache, horrorshow and drag Ann Widdecombe to the line-up had been excellent decision. Beg to differ with ya, bro. 'It has been so much better than last year in so many ways. We got off to a much better start, the people are much more varied and it has buzzed along,' he told Claudia Whatsherface on It Takes Two. 'And although there was a lot of talk about Ann Widdecombe and it being a dance show. We all know it's a dance show, but Ann Widdecombe brought more laughs than any other celebrity down the last seven years. She was a valuable asset and a lot of people were tuning in just to see her.' Which, in and of itself, is a sick and sorry metaphor for the depths to which our society has plunged. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?

24 star Mary Lynn Rajskub has admitted that she was conflicted about the show's conclusion. The actress told the New York Times that the drama 'could [have] gone on forever. It's a strange thing,' she explained. 'In some ways, you're like, "Why couldn't they make this work?" But then, on the other hand, we've had our time and why push it further? Let's make the ending work the best that it can.' She added that the decision not to continue the show for a ninth season went 'down to the wire. We all kind of knew, we all felt it coming,' she said. 'From the little that I heard on the business side of it, I think it was something they were grappling with.'

Karen Gillan has revealed that she wants to work with Oscar-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen. Hey, learn to walk before you try to run, Kaz! The Doctor Who actress told Shortlist that she is attracted to movies with 'a bit of a darker side to them. I'd like to do something with the Coen brothers,' she said. 'I love No Country For Old Men. And I love Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?' Discussing her future acting plans, Gillan said that she just wants to be a part of 'good projects in all honesty' and is keen to do more theatre. 'I went up to the Fringe in Edinburgh and realised how much I want to get back in to doing theatre,' she explained. 'Doing some sort of one-woman show would be cool. I really want to do a big range of good stuff. But there are some great Hollywood films out there that I wouldn't say no to doing.' Gillan will lead the cast of David Baddiel's directorial debut Romeo And Brittney and has a small role in horror film Outcast, currently playing in UK cinemas.

Alan Titchmarsh was forced to apologise when the word 'tits' was used - repeatedly - on his afternoon show. The Mirror reports that horrorshow guests Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine used the word while discussing lingerie on the programme. Or, possibly as a description of themselves. Or, maybe, another alternative is that they used the word in the phrase 'tits up' which is, as it happens, a pretty accurate assessment of their career of late. Perhaps, we'll never care. A number of viewers are thought to have complained about the use of such bad language. 'Alan didn't expect them to keep using the word,' a 'source' allegedly told the tabloid. 'There were a lot of complaints. You could say it was a bit of a boob on their part.' The source, a Mr Wally Jumblat, apparently, continued that he would be keeping abreast of the situation and that although Titchmarsh himself has his knockers - particularly when he's in his garden, watering the melons - the show would continue to squeeze their guests for any juicy stories. But that if any of them went rogue then he, personally, would have no hesitation in nipping it in the bud. Apparently.

US channel Syfy has announced plans to begin making films in conjunction with sister company Universal Pictures. The channel is best known for shows such as Warehouse 13 and Ghost Hunters as well as airing cult series' like Battlestar Galactica. Syfy, a part of parent group NBC Universal, announced yesterday that it will begin releasing up to two films a year under the name Syfy Films. 'First and foremost we're looking for new projects,' channel president Dave Howe told Yahoo News, before confirming that Syfy won't be involved in the recently announced Battlestar Galactica film. The channel will produce the new project on budgets of between five million and twenty five million dollars while Universal will handle the distribution of the films.

ITV has announced a deal to move its Northern operations to the new MediaCityUK complex at Salford Quays, including flagship soap opera Coronation Street. The broadcaster has reached the conclusion of protracted negotiations with MediaCity developer Peel Media to relocate its Manchester base to Salford in 2012. A dedicated site has been earmarked for ITV across several floors of MediaCity's Orange Building, providing modern accommodation for production arm ITV Studios. All ITV's regional news teams will eventually broadcast from a dedicated studio in the building. Coronation Street will move from its long term base at Quay Street Studios in central Manchester to MediaCityUK, subject to planning consent from Trafford Council. A dedicated complex will be established for the soap alongside the Manchester Ship Canal on a seven acre site at Trafford Wharf, adjacent to the Imperial War Museum North and accessed by a new bridge from the main MediaCityUK complex. This will include new production facilities and an external film set built to a 'greater scale than before to equip the soap for the demands of future broadcasting developments, whilst also replicating the original appearance of Weatherfield.' The production centre will also include two sound stage buildings, specialist production facilities and offices, dressing rooms and meeting space for production staff and cast. 'It's terrific news for ITV and all of our people based in Manchester that we have agreed this deal with Peel Media. This continues our long and successful relationship with the region which has played such a key part in ITV's heritage as a programme maker,' said ITV chief executive Adam Crozier. 'ITV is already one of the UK's biggest investors in original content and as we progress our Transformation Plan, which is focused on growing our national and international production and broadcasting business, it is vital that we have a modern, fit-for-purpose, creative hub outside of London. Coronation Street is an incredible brand and as we celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, it's fantastic news that we are able to invest in the construction of a modern production centre to ensure that the nation's best-loved soap remains at the top of its game for another half-a-century.' John Whittaker, the Peel Group chairman, added: 'ITV is an outstanding international brand producing a fantastic range of popular programmes and I am delighted it has taken a strategic decision to move to MediaCityUK. This is a landmark deal for both MediaCityUK and The Peel Group, and is critical in helping to deliver the long-term vision that we share with all our partners.' Following the announcement, ITV will work on a strategic disposal of its Quay Street base towards the aim of vacating the site by early 2013.

E4 has revealed details of the characters in the new series of Skins. The channel unveiled the third generation cast in August and has now provided further information about the show. The female characters are led by Mini (Freya Mavor), who is described as strong and controlling but also vulnerable. Her friend Liv (Laya Lewis) is said to be a 'clumsy but beautiful' party animal, while Grace (Jessica Sula) appears 'pure' but has a hidden side. Franky (Dakota Blue Richards), a 'super-intelligent, strange, androgynous' girl, 'crashes' into the group. Meanwhile, the male characters include 'cynical metalhead' Rich (Alexander Arnold) and his best friend Alo (Will Merrick), a farmer and marijuana smoker. Both are said to 'fear and adore' the girls. The cast is completed with 'good-looking, popular, arrogant and unhappy' rugby captain Nick (Sean Teale), who is dating Mini, and mysterious ladies' man Matty (Sebastian De Souza).

Some absolutely terrible news, now, dear blog reader. I'm afraid that frightful Sophie Dahl woman has signed up to present a new BBC2 documentary about Mrs Beeton. Yes, I know, it's a sick and sad world we live in. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that Sophie Dahl on Mrs Beeton will see Dahl test out some of the Victorian writer's recipes and explore her life. Dahl said: 'I have been a long-time devotee of Mrs Beeton and leapt at the chance to learn more about her extraordinary life through this programme. People have an image of her as a starchy, Victorian matron but she was actually a startlingly modern woman who wrote her famous book at the age of twenty three.' BBC1 and BBC2's commissioning editor of factual formats and features Alison Kirkham added: 'We're thrilled to have Sophie back on BBC2, fusing cookery with social history to see what we can learn from Mrs Beeton in today's age. It's the perfect subject matter for a talent like Sophie to bring to life for a BBC2 audience.' Dahl previously fronted the alleged cookery show The Ludicrous Miss Dahl on BBC2 but it was axed after one series. Sadly, not with an actual axe. Because, it was horseshit.

The BBC Archive has released a collection of rare television and radio items examining the enduring popularity of British superspy James Bond. The collection, titled The Changing World of 007, features various items tracking the evolution of Bond from Ian Fleming's literary creation to the most financially-successful English-language movie franchise to date. The key piece of the collection is an episode of Whicker's World from 1967, which provides a rare behind-the-scenes view of life on the set of a Bond film. The episode, filmed on location during the filming of You Only Live Twice, has not been made publicly available since its initial broadcast. Various radio items in the collection give a unique insight into Bond creator Fleming, including a 1958 BBC Home Service broadcast in which he and Raymond Chandler - creator of the cult detective Philip Marlowe - discuss the ingredients which make up the perfect thriller. Another item features Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton discussing the challenges of taking on the Bond property, including the need to deliver 'adventure, excitement, pretty girls, laughs, thrills, [and] suspense.' A 1990 edition of Radio 5's Cult Heroes focuses on the importance of cars, clothes, gadgets and gastronomy in the series, while a 1995 discussion on Radio 4's Woman's Hour considers the changing role of the Bond girl. Julie Rowbotham, BBC Archive executive producer, said: 'James Bond is such an iconic part of British culture and we are thrilled to be able to release these programmes re-examining the legend and exploring why successive generations have taken 007 to their hearts.' The James Bond collection of programmes and images is available at a dedicated section of the BBC Archives website. It follows recent releases of rare BBC footage featuring science-fiction author HG Wells and the historic abdication speech of Edward VIII.

A BBC 'insider' has reportedly complained about an Argentinian version of Strictly Come Dancing which features simulated sex and topless dancers. Gosh. How startling. I wonder if you can get clips of that on You Tube? According to Metro, the broadcaster wants Bailando Por Un Sueño taken off the air. In one recent episode, model and actress Silvina Escudero took off her her bra before her partner played with her breasts. Silvina, apparently, has her knockers. Oh, sorry, we've done that one already, haven't we? Fellow dancer Jesica Ciro reportedly bared her bottom while dancing on a stripper's pole. A Broadcasting House 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'This programme verges on pornography. Strictly Come Dancing was developed as a show which is fun for all the family. We are extremely unhappy and are considering taking this matter further,' before adding: 'They have pinched the idea and made it extremely sleazy. We are looking into all options to protect the Strictly brand.'

Matt Lucas has obtained undisclosed - although hopefully bowel-shatteringly massive - damages and an apology over a disgraceful article published in the Daily Scum Mail after the death of his former civil partner Kevin McGee. The Little Britain star said that the piece, published in March, had impinged upon his grief and invaded his privacy. The thirty six-year-old comic actor said in a statement the Scum Mail's reporting had been 'intrusive and defamatory.' He added: 'I had no choice but to bring these proceedings to protect my private life and my right to grieve in peace.' The entertainer said that he took 'no pleasure or sense of triumph' from the settlement and was 'just relieved' the matter had been resolved. Lucas and McGee had a civil partnership between 2006 and 2008. Kevin McGee committed suicide in October 2009. According to law firm Schillings, the Scum Mail's article - entitled How Matt Lucas Learnt to Laugh Again - contained a number of false allegations and had caused the star 'considerable upset and distress.' Not to mention the appallingly poor use of English in the title. It's 'learned' not 'learnt.' Jesus, didn't you people go to school? Lucas accepted damages from the Daily Lies in March for its reporting of his private life.

Complaints to Ofcom about the raunchy performances of Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on Saturday's X Factor final have reached the one thousand mark. Which is a lot although it's still far less than the number of people who complained about Cheryl Cole refusing to vote on whom to boot off the show earlier in the year. Both performances featured the scantily-clad artists and female dancers gyrating on stage. And, very eye-catching ti was too, if you like that sort of thing. ITV has also received around the same number of complaints. 'We are confident that the performances given by our guest artistes on Saturday were appropriate for the show,' an ITV spokeswoman said.

Filmmaker Blake Edwards has died at the age of eighty eight. The writer-director died on Thursday morning with wife Julie Andrews and his children at his bedside, reports Variety. Edwards was best known for the success of his Pink Panther film series starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. His other classic films include Breakfast at Tiffany's, Days of Wine and Roses and the 1979 box office hit 10, starring Dudley Moore, Andrews and Bo Derek. Edwards received an Academy Honorary Award in 2004 in recognition of his work as a writer, producer and director. Edwards had been in hospital for about two weeks. He had knee problems, had undergone unsuccessful procedures and was 'pretty much confined to a wheelchair for the last year-and-a-half or two,' his publicist said. One of Hollywood's most successful specialists in comedy, Edwards was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1922 and started out as an actor. After appearing in about thirty movies, he worked as a TV scriptwriter before becoming a director. His first significant success came with the 1959 film, Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. He then charmed audiences with his adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, which gave Audrey Hepburn one of her most memorable roles. In 1963, Edwards created one of film comedy's classic characters. After Peter Ustinov dropped out before production, Edwards persuaded Peter Sellers to play the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther. His last major success came in 1982 with Victor/Victoria, a musical comedy that saw Julie Andrews play a starving singer who pretends to be a homosexual Polish count masquerading as a female impersonator. Andrews and Edwards married in 1969. He is survived by her and his four children - two from his first marriage to Patricia Walker, and two whom he adopted with Andrews.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self has decided to go for another 'theme' day. This time, quite literally. It's four of the best TV theme-tunes in the history in the medium with their corresponding title sequences. Nice idea, I hope you agree. I thought of it whilst I was in the bath the other night, as it happens. And, where better to start than on the 23 November 1963? When the world was very, very, very young and so was everyone in it, yer Keith Telly Topping much included. In fact, the only person that wasn't, was William Hartnell. Take it away, Delia. Diddly-dum, diddly-dum ...
Of course dear blog reader, there is, literally, only one way to follow something as ground breaking and extraordinary as that - and it's to move swiftly into garish technicolour and queue the trumpets, Laurie. Nice. You wanna be careful with that revolver, Mrs Peel, you could have someone's eye out. Following on from The Avengers, of course, the next effort presented by yer Keith Telly Topping couldn't be merely ordinary, it had to be phenomenal. And, the song's not bad, either.And, finally, there's a simple story of Northern Folk!We now return you to your normal programme. Do not be alarmed.