Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Science Of Dance

Bob Mortimer has launched a search for the next generation of comedy talent from the North East. Jesting About will give performers, writers, film makers and animators from the region the chance to pitch comedy ideas, scripts and sketches to a panel of BBC commissioners. Middlesbrough-born Mortimer said 'Some of the funniest people I have ever met come from the North East, but not enough of them are recognised – let's try to change this and make the North East the comedy capital of the UK.' Would-be comedians can submit their funniest ideas for TV, radio and online through the BBC Comedy website from next week. BBC comedy online is looking for humorous short-form videos, virals and animation, while the local radio network is offering the chance to be part of a half-hour sketch show, made up of two-minute mini-episodes, for broadcast to the North East. For more experienced comedy writers, there is an opportunity to join a writing team piloting a new BBC1 comedy series. During February and March, successful applicants will attend workshops and receive support to help develop their ideas into pilots. This final content will be presented at a showcase in April for commissioning editors. Helen Bullough, the BBC's head of entertainment production for the north said: 'Jesting About presents a unique opportunity both for the BBC and the comedy community here in the North East. We want to delight audiences everywhere by finding more iconic voices and faces to star online, on screen and on air.' Bob also met with students from five North East universities at a special event prior to the launch. Undergraduates heard from key speakers - Jon Mountague, the executive producer for BBC Comedy North, Martin Trickey, the commissioning executive for Comedy multiplatform and Alfie Joey – stand-up comedian, BBC Newcastle breakfast presenter and yer Keith Telly Topping's some-time partner in comedy crime, encouraging aspiring comedians and future producers to get themselves involved.

Yer Keith Telly Topping very much enjoyed Mad And Bad: Sixty Years Of Science On TV on BBC4 last night. In particular Robert Webb's pithy commentary: 'In many ways The Sky At Night was Britain's contribution to the space race. It was cheaper than sending rockets up and we didn't have to bother starting off with dogs and monkeys, we had Patrick Moore from the beginning!'

Also last night, and also on the never-less-than-fascinating BBC4, was a repeat of the excellent documentary Still Folk Dancing... After All These Years featuring Rachel and Becky Unthank. In this, the young Northumbrian folk-singing siblings took a journey around England from spring to autumn 2010 to experience its living folk dance traditions in action. In the process, they lead viewers through the back gardens and narrow streets of towns and villages from Newcastle to Penzance to discover the most surprising of dances, ceremonies, rituals and festivities that mark the turning of the seasons and the passing of the year. On their journey the Unthanks learned about the evolving history of the dances, whether connected to the land and the cycles of fertility or to working customs and practices in industrial towns. The girls talked to local historians and visit Cecil Sharp House to explore the dances' Twentieth Century revival and codification through archivist Sharp and others, and we get to enjoy extraordinary film archive of the dances through the decades which show that although the people have changed, the dances have often remained remarkably constant. Rachel and Becky grew up clog dancing in their native Northumberland and now they had the chance to observe and try other English dances, including travellers' step dancing in Suffolk, horn dancing with huge antlers in Staffordshire and stick dancing in Oxfordshire. This curious but vibrant world of local dances flies in the face of modernisation, and sometimes of ridicule, to keep the traditions and the steps alive. What I particularly liked about this - apart from Rachel and Becky's easy narrative style and genuine enthusiasm - was the honest presentation of some of the traditions that, actually, aren't as old as you might expect.

News Corporation has reportedly been sent an 'issues statement' by Ofcom laying out the questions that must be answered in the regulatory review of its proposed bid for Sky. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the document contains questions based on objections raised by rival media firms during Ofcom's investigation into the impact of the takeover on media plurality in the UK. News Corp will have to respond to the questions before Christmas, as Ofcom must submit a final report to business secretary Vince Cable by 31 December. Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards is personally overseeing the inquiry due to the highly sensitive nature of News Corp's bid to acquire the sixty one per cent of Sky that it does not already own. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp argues that the deal is motivated purely by financial considerations, but opponents claim that it will create an overly dominant media player in Europe. After Ofcom submits its final report to Cable, the business secretary will have to decide what action to take, including a possible further review at the Competition Commission. However, senior sources within News Corp remain confident that the takeover will ultimately be given the go-ahead. News Corp also recently submitted a potential remedy solution to the European Commission in an attempt to smooth through the organisation's own review of the Sky bid.

Janeane Garofalo has admitted that she has doubts about her new show Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour. The actress, who plays Agent Beth Griffiths, told TV Guide that she is unhappy about the level of violence on the show. 'I don't mean to be a Puritan about this, but if I had kids, I would not allow them to watch,' she said. 'So why would I be doing a show that I would not allow my kids to watch? That's an issue I grapple with.' She continued: 'Before I was going to do the show, I had discussions with the producer [and] creators and was led to believe they would not be so violent. I don't believe we need to find these clever ways for somebody to slice somebody up. On network TV too many women are being killed - that's every show, across the board - and too many women who seem to look great in their underwear. And I don't like it. Are we really masquerading as a crime show, but really what we're doing is showing a girl in her underwear? I don't like that, and if that's the case, it doesn't square with my conscience.' However, Garofalo explained that she has talked to the producers about her worries and emphasised that she is thrilled to have landed the role. 'To their credit, they'll let me sit in their office and say this,' she said. 'They're very open to it. I don't mean to sound like I'm criticising the show, because I'm thrilled that they want to hire me. I'm still surprised by it.'

Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright has admitted that he would be keen to work on an episode of Doctor Who. Wright told the Digital Spy website that he had been a fan of the BBC family drama when he was a child. 'I was a huge Doctor Who nerd as a kid, to the point where I dressed up as Peter Davison's Doctor,' he admitted. 'The last time I saw Steven [Moffat], he said "Any time you want to do a Doctor Who, just shout."' Wright added that he had previously been approached to direct an episode of the show in 2005. 'I got offered to direct one of them when Russell T Davies was doing it, during the Christopher Eccleston series, and I wasn't really available to do it,' he explained.

Channel Four has defended Countdown's decision to feature what appeared to be a conjunction of 'Large Baps' as its Conundrum this week. The contestants stifled giggles when host Jeff Stelling revealed that the solution to the ten-point final round was an anagram of 'LARGEBAPS', the Daily Scum Mail tutted. When one competitor buzzed in with the seemingly appropriate solution 'Graspable,' Stelling said: 'That's quite brilliant. I thought that was an impossible conundrum.' A Channel Four spokesman said: 'I think viewers will be aware of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show. It's up to the viewer to construe whether they think the combination of clue and answer was inappropriate.' He continued: 'All of the show's content is carefully considered to make sure it is suitable for broadcast at that time of day. If those two words were put together intentionally, they certainly were not meant to cause offence. The conundrum is always decided by producers. I think it is fair to say the staff on Countdown have a great sense of humour.'

It is believed that BBC bosses are lining up former politician, horrorshow, faceache and drag Ann Widdecombe as a new presenter for their long-running show Songs of Praise. Widdecombe has seen a (baffling) upsurge in her popularity - largely from glakes with very short memories it would appear - following her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing this year, and the BBC reportedly wishes to capitalise on this. 'I would truly love to present Songs of Praise and hope it will happen,' Widdecombe told the Mirror about the rumours. 'I think the show is just fantastic. Aled [Jones] is a fantastic host and the last thing I want to do is replace him,' Widdecombe said. 'I would not mind sharing the spot with him.'

Channel Four scheduling news - Undercover Boss, The Fairy Jobmother and Four In A Bed will all be returning in 2011.

BBC3 has unveiled two new documentaries about the army and war in Afghanistan. Would You Join The Army? and Our War – Ten Years In Afghanistan have been commissioned by BBC1 and BBC3 controller Danny Cohen. Would You Join The Army? is a five-part series following the experiences of new army recruits, from training to frontline combat. During each hour-long episode, the recruits discover if the dangers of army life are really for them and the show explores the impact on their families. Our War – Ten Years In Afghanistan marks a decade of UK involvement in the conflict. It looks at the history of the war through footage of young soldiers in three hour-long episodes. Cohen said: 'We believe that these two projects will be a powerful way to engage young people with the bravery and sacrifice of British soldiers – many of whom are in their teens and twenties themselves.' The BBC Vision director, Jana Bennett, added: 'BBC3 has proven that serious factual content is in demand and as a channel it is not afraid of asking important questions, shining a light on serious issues through challenging factual programming.' Would You Join The Army? is being made by Lion Television, while Our War is being made in-house by BBC Vision. BBC3, along with other BBC TV, radio and online services, is facing a budget cut next year as the corporation launches a new round of belt-tightening in the wake of October's licence fee settlement – a sixteen per cent reduction in real terms. The BBC Trust outgoing chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, yesterday said he could not rule out the closure of some services as part of the cost savings.

ITV has confirmed that Dancing On Ice will return on 9 January. The celebrities will compete on a brand new set as the show moves to its new home at Shepperton Studios. Hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby will also present the show in HD for the first time. The two-hour launch show will also see a change on the judging panel following Nicky Slater's exit. Kerry Katona recently hinted that she will be amongst those competing to follow in the footsteps - or, rather, skate tracks - of last year's winner Hayley Tamaddon.

The Devil's Whore actress Andrea Riseborough is to be honoured with a Shooting Star award at the Berlin Film Festival next year. The twenty nine-year-old is one of ten European newcomers being recognised 'for their outstanding work in feature films.' The jury praised Riseborough as 'one of the biggest talents of her generation.' The actors, who hail from countries including Croatia, Germany and Sweden, will receive their awards at the Berlinale on 14 February. Ireland's Domhnall Gleeson, the son of actor Brendan Gleeson, will also receive a Shooting Star award. Currently starring in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Gleeson also stars in the upcoming Coen Brothers' western True Grit opposite Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Riseborough, who was BAFTA-nominated last year for her role as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley, was recognised for upcoming film Brighton Rock. 'With a magnetic screen presence and amazing technique, her ability to totally immerse herself into a character makes her naive, love-struck waitress in Brighton Rock a touching and tragic victim,' the jury said.

In today's 'some people will believe anything if you've got a picture to "prove" it' news, it has been alleged that 'Fuck Off Harrods' was spelled out in twenty foot high letters on the store's neon display by a disgruntled employee, fired from his job as the toy department's Father Christmas. I say alleged because, tragically, the story isn't true. The tale, currently sweeping the Internet, is that the man - named as one Lloyd Hudson - gained access to a maintenance control room. Hudson, supposedly 'aged thirty five and from Ilford,' was reported to have 'located the chart and corresponding switches for Harrods' ten thousand external lights.' Barricading himself in, the report continues, Hudson disabled the correct lights until he could 'spell out his feelings to Harrods bosses and Christmas shoppers alike.' He was, the report claimed, subsequently removed by security guards after an hour-long stand-off, then handed over to police. 'He had drunk the best part of two bottles of whisky,' a spokesperson for the Kensington store was alleged to have told the press. 'It's that kind of behaviour that got him the sack in the first place.' Visitors to the store were also quoted as being somewhat discombobulated by this series of events. 'Honestly, I am disgusted, ' said allegedly disgusted Irene Rider, allegedly from Gary, Indiana. That's not allegedly, Gary really is in Indiana. There's a song about it, and everything. 'I was with my grandchildren. We had just gotten off the bus. I said "look everybody" and pointed up to the lights – but you know what the lights said?' Yeah, they said 'fuck off.' Allegedly. Anyway, now we know this is all made up, no American tourist would ever lower themselves to use a London bus - that's just silly talk! 'That is not an appropriate message for a child,' she allegedly continued. 'At least, not at Christmas time.' Of course some people may argue that sacking people isn't particularly 'appropriate' either. Not least, at Christmas time. Except that, as noted this didn't happen. It's a hoax by The Poke website. Seems to have taken a lot of people in, however. Indeed, I'd expect to see at least one tabloid pick up on it and run the story anyway.

Facebook intern Paul Butler has been poring through some of the data held by the social networking firm on its five hundred million members. The map above is the result of his attempts to visualise where people live relative to their Facebook friends. Each line connects cities with pairs of friends. The brighter the line, the more friends between those cities. After tweaking the graphic and data set it produced 'a surprisingly detailed map of the world,' he said in a blog post. 'Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well,' he wrote. 'What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships.' However, large chunks of the world are missing, such as China and Central Africa, where Facebook has little presence.

For the latest splash of yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's one for everybody who find finds themselves stuck in a taxi queue just after last hoy-oot and the natives are getting restless.'There's gonna be a pool of blood on the dancehall floor!'