Thursday, December 09, 2010

Late Night, Maudlin Street

The then-head of the BBC believed that a 'miserable, second-rate American woman' was behind the abdication of Edward VIII, archive documents reveal. The corporation's first director general Sir John Reith made the comments after Edward's historic 1936 radio address in which he told the nation that he was giving up the throne for 'the woman I love.' Reith's diary extracts are among material surrounding the event going online on the BBC Archive website. Reith introduced the abdication broadcast as Edward renounced the throne for US divorcee Wallis Simpson. Sir John - later Lord Reith - did so on 11 December 1936 by saying: 'This is Windsor Castle. His Royal Highness Prince Edward.' Radio broadcasts and television footage recounting the story of the abdication also form part of the collection. The material coincides with a new three-part BBC period drama Upstairs Downstairs, set against the dramatic events of the time, starting over Christmas. The archives include an internal BBC memo from 1936 in which the director of the BBC Empire Service wrote to the controller of programmes. It states the need for a special news broadcast to counter the rumours circulating about the new king's affair with Mrs Simpson. After introducing Edward's broadcast, Sir John wrote: '[Edward's former private secretary Sir Clive] Wigram told me of the amount of time he had spent with Edward and Albert [his brother, who would became King George VI] both in the last week. He said that the King simply wasn't sane. He was going to realise later what he had done.' Sir John describes how he spoke to Edward's legal adviser, Sir Walter Monckton, about Mrs Simpson a few minutes after the broadcast. The director general wrote: 'He said he couldn't find words for her. I said it was awful that all this crisis was caused by a miserable, second-rate American woman.' And they were friendly with Hitler was well. Allegedly. Before leaving, Sir John told Edward 'Good luck, Sir' and shook his hand and bowed. Sir John wrote: 'What an occasion. What that young man has thrown away - a greater opportunity than any King or any man ever had.'

Ben Stephenson, the commissioning controller of BBC drama, has ruled himself out of the race to become the new controller of BBC3. Sources within the BBC had recently tipped Stephenson to take over running the digital channel from Danny Cohen, who has moved to head BBC1. However, Stephenson said in an e-mail sent to independent production companies last week that he wanted to 'set the record straight,' reports the Gruniad. Stephenson told the producers that he has 'ambitious plans for the next few years,' and that he is happy to remain at BBC drama. He acknowledged that it was an unusual approach to send the message, but he wanted to assure the sector that he had not applied to lead BBC3. A 'source' at an independent production firm said: 'There have been rumours about Ben and the BBC3 job but drama seems a bigger role to me. It seems to be a bit soon for him to move on with so much going on in BBC drama.' The second round of interviews for the BBC3 job is said to be going ahead this week, managed by the outgoing director of BBC Vision Jana Bennett. Last week, it was reported that BBC entertainment commissioning editor Karl Warner was the frontrunner for the two hundred and twenty five thousand pounds-a-year post. However, several external candidates are also thought to be in the running, including ITV director of digital channels and acquisitions Zai Bennett, UKTV controller Matthew Littleford and E4 controller Angela Jain.

On Wednesday morning, the Sun outrageously claimed that security had been increased around the Coronation Street set, over fears that it could be 'targeted by terrorists' during Thursday's live episode. According to the alleged newspaper, Greater Manchester Police had confirmed that they were taking the intelligence seriously by sending in private security staff. 'This is a public, high-profile event,' a - nameless, of course - alleged spokesman for the police allegedly said. 'The risk is consistent with the UK terror threat, which is currently severe. ITV have taken on a private security firm and our officers will assist them.' The newspaper claimed that this source added: 'Al-Qaeda are desperate to pull off a "spectacular" in Britain. The police clearly are acting on fears that a strike on the Corrie studios is a very real possibility.' The cast and crew, the newspaper suggested, would 'apparently' undergo full body searches prior to entering the Manchester set. A 'show source' was also quoted in the article, saying: 'It's a nightmare scenario. For Corrie bosses there is the possibility of this tragic episode turning into a real-life tragedy. Everybody involved in the show - from cast to runners - will have to pass through a load of rigorous security checks. They'll be individually body-searched and will have to pass through airport-style metal detectors.' They continued: 'The bosses have spent tens of thousands on security for the safety of everyone on the show. Cast members have been told the live broadcast is a potential terror target. But they've all vowed, "The show must go on." Everyone is on edge anyway because it's so rare to film Corrie live. This has only heightened the air of tension around Weatherfield.' Which is a fictitious suburb of Manchester so the 'air of tension' around there is, surely, illusionary? However, the police have subsequently moved to dismiss the claim. According to the Bolton News, the force says it has not received any word of a threat by Muslim fanatics (or any other terrorist organisation for that matter). The 'downmarket tabloid' (the Bolton News's description of the Sun, not mine. Although, actually ...) reported that police were 'throwing a ring of steel' around the live episode, having been 'tipped off that the soap's historic fiftieth anniversary broadcast from Manchester could be hit by a terror strike.' Despite the Sun quoting from an unnamed police source who appeared to confirm the threat, Superintendent Jim Liggett, said: 'I want to clarify that we have categorically not been made aware of any threat from Al-Qaeda or any other proscribed organisation. Quite simply, Granada approached GMP to inform us they were employing a private security firm to help ensure tonight's live programme went ahead without outside interference. As part of their operation they asked for police assistance and we agreed to deploy a very small number of officers and PCSOs to help patrol the set's perimeter fence. This small police operation will be paid for by Granada and will not cost taxpayers a extra penny. To reiterate there is no specific intelligence threat to Coronation Street or any such event. However, the UK threat level remains at severe and people are encouraged to be vigilant.' So, it would seem that one of either a tabloid newspaper or a high ranking police officer is lying. Which is, frankly, shocking. What's even more disquieting is that, seemingly, one of them is telling the truth.

In the event - astonishingly - no terrorists struck, Peter Barlow's life hangs by a thread, Molly popped her clogs having told Sally that Kevin is Jack's real father, Charlotte (shockingly) isn't quite as dead as we all thought and the whole thing seemed to go off without any obvious glitches. Albeit, Fiz was screaming so much at one point I thought I was watching a Texas Chainsaw Massacre marathon.

Steven Arnold has thanked Coronation Street fans and wished the soap well following the screening of his final episode. On Wednesday evening, fans saw the actor's character, Ashley Peacock, die tragically crushed by falling debris at the destroyed Joinery bar as he helped to rescue his friends, Nick Tilsley and Peter Barlow. In a pre-recorded message released on the show's official site, Arnold has expressed his gratitude to viewers following his fifteen-year stint on the ITV show. He commented: 'I'd just like to say thank you for all the support I've had over the years - everyone's been great. Thanks for all your letters. And thanks for watching - I just hope the programme keeps going and does as well as it's always done, which I'm sure it will. So thanks very much and I hope to see you soon!' Footage on the website also shows Arnold bidding goodbye to his fellow cast members after filming his final scenes. In a tearful goodbye speech, he paid tribute to his screen wife Julia Haworth, describing her as 'really special' and 'probably the nicest person I've ever met in my life.'

ITV has reportedly charged one hundred thousand pounds for each advertising slot during Thursday's live episode of Coronation Street, generating four million pounds in revenue. According to Media Week, thirty-second slots on the hour-long show were sold for significantly more than the approximate sixty five thousand pounds charged for standard episodes of the soap. Media agency traders claimed that ITV initially quoted advertisers wanting to buy slots on the live show prices fifty per cent or even one hundred per cent above the standard rate. Advertising spots aimed at housewives and children but not covered by agency deals could fetch as much as one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, the traders said. Another source at a media buying agency quoted by the magazine estimated that ITV's total income for the live episode could be more than four million pounds. On Monday, Coronation Street's tram crash episode was seen by 13.74 million viewers on ITV, commanding a forty eight per cent audience share in its timeslot. The live episode, timed to mark the soap's fiftieth anniversary, is expected to attract an equally massive audience.

Lacey Turner has revealed that she will miss EastEnders after six and a half years of playing Stacey Slater. The twenty two-year-old, who will be leaving the show at Christmas, said that she has 'grown up' on the soap. She told TV Times: 'Now I've got to the end, I don't know why I'm going. I feel like I've grown up here, so I'll miss it all. The people, the buzz of it; everything. I might cry in a minute.' When asked what her favourite storylines have been, Turner replied: 'I loved all the Bradley and Stacey stuff from the beginning. The fact that the geek falls in love with the tart; I just love the way their relationship went. I also liked Max and Stacey's affair because it was spread out over a year, so I got the chance to play a lot of different emotions. And the bi-polar storyline was great because of the effect it had on so many people; I learned so much doing that.' The actress explained that she decided to leave the show because she feels ready to 'move on.' She added: 'I've been here for six and a half years and I feel like it's time to move on and try something else. But I don't have a plan. I'm terrible at making decisions so I don't know what I'm going to do yet.'

Former EastEnders writer and Life On Mars co-creator Tony Jordan is to executive produce a nine million pound police drama set in the Caribbean, which will be co-produced for BBC1 and French broadcaster France Televisions. Death In Paradise focuses on Detective Inspector Richard Gill, who is sent to the island of Sainte Marie. Gill hates the sun, sea and sand and is unhappy with the style of policing in Santa Marie, but he works with local resident Camille to investigate murders. BBC executive producer Polly Hill said: 'Death In Paradise is a wonderful mix of a fish out of water tale and great crime puzzles. We are thrilled to be making this with [production company] Red Planet and FTV and to be bringing Robert [Thorogood]'s wonderful scripts to screen. We hope it will prove a real treat for the BBC1 audience next year.' Filming will begin in Guadelupe next spring and the show will be broadcast in both the UK and France.

Being Human actor Aidan Turner has revealed that he was initially unsure about the look of his character Mitchell. In an interview on the show's official site, the actor admitted that he used to be concerned by the vampire's 'camp' dress sense. 'I always looked a little less camp than I thought I would look,' he explained. 'The jeans feel tighter than they look sometimes, and with the boots and things, you pull them all on, look at yourself in the mirror sometimes, and go, "Oh, it's a disaster."' However, he confessed that he had grown to like Mitchell's style. He said: 'You look back when it comes out, and you go, "Actually, Mitchell is a little bit cool." I like his style [now].' Turner also praised the performance of his co-star Jason Watkins, who will return in the forthcoming third series as the vampire Herrick. 'Jason Watkins's performance can be so throwaway, casual and nonchalant and then [there is] heightened vamp-y stuff where he's just massive,' he said. 'It's because Jason commits to it one hundred per cent. He's always in it, so it's a never a facade and it's never fake.'

Phyllis Frelich has reportedly signed up for a role in CSI. Entertainment Weekly suggests that the actress will play Gil Grissom's mother in the show. The episode, which is expected to be broadcast on 3 February, focuses on a murder at the school for the deaf where Grissom's mother works as a professor. Grissom's wife Sara (Jorja Fox) goes to investigate the case but struggles to get on with her mother-in-law, who was unhappy about the marriage. The show also stars The West Wing's Marlee Martin as a colleague of Frelich's character who used to date Gil. Frelich has previously appeared in shows including ER, Diagnosis: Murder and LA Law and won a Tony Award for her performance in the 1980 Broadway production of Children Of A Lesser God.

Ant and Dec's Push The Button will reportedly be broadcast live during its second series. The ITV game show, which pits two families against each other in different challenges, achieved mixed reviews from critics and viewers on its first run earlier this year. Which is a nice way of saying that it went down like a bucket of cold diarrhoea with many viewers. The duo were forced to defend the show when ratings fell week after week. 'Live TV is always exciting and unpredictable,' Dec Donnelly said. 'With all the new twists and turns, the second series of Push The Button will definitely liven up people's Saturday nights and start the Spring with a bang!'

Ricky Whittle has claimed that Strictly Come Dancing is 'fixed' and that the contestants are 'manipulated' by the show. The ex-Hollyoaks actor competed in the show last year and came second to the eventual winner, Chris Hollins. However, according to the Daily Star, Whittle has 'hit out' at the BBC show for making it appear that he was having an affair with his dance partner Natalie Lowe. 'They didn't intend for me to get past the opening stages,' he said. 'We were there to be "the affair" and leave pretty quickly, but our routines were too good. They never expected me to reach the final. You get there and they tell you not to worry about a thing, not to worry about reports in the press, but then they manipulate it all themselves.' He continued: 'There is going to be obvious chemistry when you dance. You have to touch one another like lovers, but Natalie and I were just doing our job. It's all fixed, you know, the way they edit it to sway the audience.' The twenty nine-year-old discussed one session during which he claimed that his comments about Lowe had been 'taken out of context.' He explained: 'One time they made it appear as if I was discussing my love for Natalie. It just cut to me saying, "She's the whole package." That was totally out of context. It was as a teacher and dancer that I was describing her as the whole package.' He also recalled: 'Following one rehearsal, Natalie and I ate together with her parents, who had flown in from Australia. The reports in the press described it as a romantic meal. They all mentioned my quote from the show. It was all so nicely designed. But they didn't bargain on our routines being so strong or me being as respectful on the show, and popular with all age groups.' He added: 'It's totally rigged, but at least I came out well.' Whittle, who will take part in next year's Strictly Come Dancing live tour, revealed that he has been approached to appear in an American reality show. 'They want me to do reality because I did well as myself on Strictly,' he said. 'The idea of following an Englishman in LA appeals to them.'

Cheryl Cole has reportedly turned to religion for reassurance after her 'worst ever year.' This year has seen the X Factor judge divorce her shit of a husband, Ashley, being struck down with malaria and face a backlash over some of her decisions on the ITV show. The Sun claims that Cole has now sought guidance from 'higher powers.' Unfortunately, Simon Cowell was a bit busy at that particular moment, so she's having to make do with Jesus instead. Allegedly.

Russell Brand is being lined up to star in a Hollywood movie remake of classic children's TV show Rentaghost, it has been revealed. Warner Bros has, apparently, acquired the rights to the cult BBC show with a view to producing a Beetlejuice-esque comedy for the actor, according to Deadline. Brand will play lead character Fred Mumford, a recently deceased slacker who attempts to make more of himself in the afterlife than he did in his actual life by setting up a temp agency for the dead. Kevin McCormick - who worked with Brand on upcoming film Arthur - will produce the picture along with Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. Rentaghost ran on the BBC between 1976 and 1984 and starred Michael Staniforth, Molly Weir and Anthony Jackson. It'll be Lizzie Dripping: The Movie next, mark my words.

TV licence fee evaders have been particularly inventive over the past twelve months in the excuses they have offered for not paying their dues, licensing chiefs have said. Alongside the usual attempts to blame relatives or animals, bizarre logic and a lack of common sense ruled the list of implausible pretexts. They included: 'I've got no licence because when I called TV Licensing they refused to barter with me. Everything should be up for negotiation,' and 'I don't watch the television; I just use it as a light in the dark.' Investigators faced an array of strange tales and delaying tactics, with one person declaring: 'Can you call back later? I want to finish watching the end of this TV programme.' TV Licensing caught more than three hundred and thirty thousand naughty people watching TV without a licence over the first ten months of this year. Ian Fannon, TV Licensing spokesman, said: 'No matter how creative people get with their excuses, watching or recording live TV without a licence is against the law. In fairness to those who pay the fee, we will prosecute those who try to avoid it, including the likes of the gentleman who refused to buy a licence unless we bartered with him. He was found guilty and fined by unimpressed magistrates. We're effective at catching evaders, but we would always rather people pay than risk a fine of up to one thousand pounds. To help those that may find it difficult to pay in one go, we offer a range of payment options to help spread the cost - all of which can be set up quickly and easily online or by phone if you prefer.' Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, added: 'Your TV licence should be treated as a priority debt, alongside expenses such as your mortgage or rent, council tax and gas and electric bills. Those struggling with their finances should seek free, independent advice from a charitable organisation such as National Debtline or Citizens Advice. It is also worth noting that it is possible to pay your TV licence in weekly instalments at a PayPoint outlet, over the phone, online or via SMS by joining the cash payment plan.'

A trio of 24 fans have set a new record for the longest continuous period spent watching television. Kevin Coon, Farris Hodo and Victor Lopez achieved a Guinness World Record by taking in eighty six hours, six minutes and forty seconds seconds of the Jack Bauer drama as part of a marathon screening event in Hollywood. The event - organised by FOX - started out with one hundred fans but only three managed to make it through the first six seasons of 24, upon which they were informed that they had surpassed the previous record. Luckily for them, they were spared having to watch the - crap - season's seven and eight. 'It did get kind of crazy towards the end,' Coon told the Los Angeles Times. 'There were nights when you just said, "Why am I doing this?" Slapping yourself like Jack Bauer.' Hodo added: 'I felt strong. But it felt good being done. It was down to four yesterday, and one guy fell asleep. I felt so bad for the guy 'cos he sat right next to me. We were all trying to look out for each other.' Lopez declared: 'When they announced that they weren't gonna show [24] anymore, I kind of cried. My friends were like, "Come on, man! Stop being a little girl." I was like, "You don't understand, man. That's Jack Bauer. He's everything!"' Is that what you were 'like' is it, Victor?

Nicole Kidman has revealed that she would love to get a pet snake. You had one of those, love. But, you divorced him.

And, so to yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Nothing else it could be, today, really.It was fifty years ago today ...