Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Clowns To The Left Of Me Jokers To The Right

EastEnders' hard-hitting baby-swap-death storyline has sparked more than three thousand complaints to the BBC, it has been confirmed. In episodes which were broadcast on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, viewers saw Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) discover that her newborn son had fallen victim to cot death, before desperately swapping the child with Kat Moon's baby, whilst in her grief-stricken state. On Tuesday, the BBC confirmed that complaints about the plotline have now topped three thousand four hundred after a suspiciously concerted, agenda-flecked campaign of tutting by several national newspapers including the Daily Scum Mail and the Mirror. About the only time in your life you'll ever see those two media organs agreeing on pretty much anything. The total, it should be noted, also includes all of the complaints which have been received by the Beeb since the storyline was first announced in November. In a statement, EastEnders' executive producer Bryan Kirkwood commented: 'We appreciate this is a challenging storyline and have taken care to ensure viewers were aware of the content in advance of transmission. We also provided actionline numbers at the end of each show, offering advice and support to those affected by the issues.' While devising the storyline, the EastEnders team worked closely with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths with the aim of providing a sensitive portrayal of the issue of cot death.

Coronation Street's first Chinese resident will reportedly be introduced next month. A nineteen-year-old college graduate, Xin, will be presented as a friend of Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) and be seen moving in with the Rovers barmaid and her boyfriend Graeme (Craig Gazey), the Sun reports. Xin, who works in the Chinese restaurant The Royal Panda, will identify various Corrie residents by their takeaway orders, including Roy Cropper - whom she tells: 'I know you. You're sweet and sour chicken, fried rice and prawn crackers.' However, the newspaper claims that she will also bring some dark secrets onto the street. A show source added: 'Manchester has a big Chinatown and it's a crime that Corrie bosses have ignored it for so long. They hope Xin becomes a big character and that a whole family can be introduced.'

Jonathan Ross is reportedly in talks to find his new show for ITV. It was revealed last year that Ross will host 'a brand new show' for the broadcaster after quitting his BBC chat show. The Daily Lies claims that the presenter is now 'discussing three or four' potential programmes. However, ITV boss Peter Fincham has apparently been tasked with making sure that duo Ant and Dec don't feel put out by the efforts to secure the fifty-year-old a hit show. A 'friend' of Ross's allegedly told the paper: 'He is talking to ITV about three or four potential shows. It's undecided if he will do a light entertainment show, chat show, or a mixture of both. But one thing is clear from the talks, however - ITV see Wossy and Ant and Dec as the jewels in their Saturday night schedule. It's just got to be decided whether they will fire their big guns in the same line-up, or at different times.' A 'friend' who refers to Ross by a nickname which mocks his speech impediment. seemingly. Nice 'friend' you've got there, Jonny. This alleged 'friend' continued: 'Obviously Ant and Dec have ruled the airwaves at ITV for years but Jonathan is just as big a star too and there's hopefully room for them both.'

ITV News was today banned from a press conference by Avon & Somerset police after broadcasting a critical report on the force's investigation into the murder of Joanna Yeates. Avon & Somerset constabulary has also complained to the media regulator, Ofcom, about what it claimed was the 'unfair, naive and irresponsible reporting' of the case on ITV's News at Ten last night. The broadcaster's reporters were told they would not be allowed into today's briefing on the murder of the landscape architect in Bristol last month, but were given no further detail about why. Last night's News at Ten ran a report critical of the force's investigation into the twenty five-year-old's murder, claiming that police were no closer to finding her killer ten days after her body was found. Reporter Geraint Vincent questioned whether the Avon & Somerset constabulary's inquiries had followed procedure. A former murder squad detective, interviewed for the programme, claimed that the police were failing to conduct 'certain routine inquiries,' such as painstakingly sweeping the murder scene for fresh evidence. Vincent reported: 'There may be good reasons why certain routine inquiries may not have been followed. But while this investigation has arrested and released one suspect, ten days in it is still apparently short of evidence.' The News at Ten report also said the police were giving 'mixed messages' on the possible circumstances of Miss Yeates's death. 'We have made a complaint to Ofcom in respect of the unfair, naive and irresponsible reporting on the ITN ten o'clock news yesterday evening,' Avon & Somerset constabulary said in a statement. 'As we are still awaiting a response to our complaint it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time. A live murder investigation has been underway now for just twelve days and the media have played an important role in helping us to appeal for witnesses. While we appreciate the support we have received so far from most of the media we must step in if we feel coverage will hamper the investigation. Our primary aim will always be to secure justice for Joanna.' David Mannion, the editor-in-chief of ITV News, called the force's decision 'irresponsible' and claimed it had developed into 'an issue about the freedom of the press. We stand by our story and we also stand by the procedure which the police have now taken [to complain to Ofcom]. If Ofcom decides to uphold that complaint we will respect that,' Mannion told BBC Radio 4's The Media Show. 'There's an issue in the interim period if we have a situation where there's numbers of the press summarily banned from press conferences – and that's what happened this morning before the complaint was made,' he said. 'We made numerous attempts to contact Avon & Somerset police – between eight and ten – before the programme went out and didn't get a single response.' ITN, which produces ITV News, said it was 'hugely disappointed' by the police's decision to 'exclude' the broadcaster from its press conference. 'This decision will result in millions of viewers not being able to see new evidence or hear the latest police calls for witnesses,' an ITN spokesman said. To which one would hope that anyone with a heart beating in their chest would reply reply, so what, this is a murder investigation of a young woman brutally taken before her time, not a source of "entertainment" for your voyeuristic viewers, matey. Or, similar. 'Our coverage has helped maintain awareness of this case, and we strongly disagree with Avon and Somerset constabulary's attempt to censor what information we can broadcast. Avon & Somerset constabulary's decision to ban ITV News follows reports on last night's ITV News at Ten which raised apparent inconsistencies of the police's handling of some elements of the case. The force was contacted numerous times ahead of broadcast but Avon & Somerset constabulary did not use this opportunity to register any issues or raise a complaint with ITN.'

Meanwhile ITN and Sky reportedly discussed a merger of their news operations in 2006, revealing the multiple issues facing the review of News Corp's bid to take control of Sky. According to the Financial Times, sources involved in the 2006 talks revealed that Sky's then controller of television Dawn Airey and the chief executives of ITV and its news provider ITN came close to an agreement on sharing their resources. However, the proposed deal fell apart after Sky bought a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV for nine hundred and forty million pounds. If the deal had materialised, all television news output on ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five would have been controlled by a single company, which the sources claim would have been majority controlled by Sky. One executive present at the 2006 talks said: 'These were very serious and had major advantages for both sides in terms of the amount of money that could be saved. We discussed merging newsrooms in the UK and the merging of foreign bureaux [sic]. We could have saved a lot of money. Dawn was coming under pressure to cut costs at Sky News, which was losing tens of millions a year, and ITN was struggling to break even. It just made a lot of sense. We'll never know if the regulators would have let it happen because it just didn't get that far.' Another person involved in the negotiations said: 'Sky would have been the major partner in the deal. The talks were pretty productive and I would have expected them to reach an outcome had circumstances not intervened.' It is unlikely that the ITN/Sky merger deal will be resurrected in 2011, as ITV is now committed to controlling its own news operation. However, there is growing concern that a News Corp-controlled Sky could outmuscle the loss-making ITN. ITV owns forty per cent of ITN, with the remainder split between Thomson Reuters, Daily Scum Mail & General Trust and UBM. The news provider reported a loss of over four million pounds in last year's results. Last Friday, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Jeremy Hunt received Ofcom's final report on the proposed bid by News Corp to acquire the sixty one per cent of Sky which it does not already own. Hunt is expected to go with the media regulator's recommendation that the deal should be referred to the Competition Commission for further investigation into its potential impact on media plurality in the UK. His final decision will be announced by the end of January.

Lark Rise to Candleford's Julia Sawalha has admitted that she is unsure about continuing the series without creator Bill Gallagher. Responding to rumours that the show's fourth run could be Gallagher's last, the actress told TV Choice that the cast would be reluctant to work with a new writer. 'It sounds very diva-ish, but I think most of the cast agree we'd have to see the scripts beforehand, because we have total faith in Bill,' she explained. 'As we're filming one [script], another one's coming in, and we get it two days before we start shooting. But we have total faith because he knows all the characters inside out, and he writes for us as actors.' Sawalha added that the latest series does provide a satisfying end for her character Dorcas Lane. 'I think so, yes,' she said. 'They've tied everything up beautifully.'

Jeffrey Klarik has claimed that he got 'revenge' by writing his new show Episodes. The series, which stars Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan and Matt LeBlanc, is a scathing deconstruction of the American television industry. Speaking to the Daily Torygraph, Klarik's co-writer David Crane admitted that he was nervous about 'burning bridges' by writing the show. However, Klarik explained that he relished the opportunity, saying: 'This has given me a lot of revenge. There are a lot of people I've come after. It gives me such joy. The funny thing is the outrageousness of the reality. So much of it is stuff we've gone through. I've done pilots where I've said, "I have a script I wanted to show you" and they've said, "Great, we can't wait to see it, but could you come up with something about a girl's boarding school?" Of course you know there's been some corporate retreat where some higher-up executive goes, "I know, boarding school" and all the people below will go, "Gotcha, boarding school, gotcha."' Klarik also revealed that some of the characters in Episodes are based on real people, adding: 'Some of them have actually read it and loved it, too. So they don't recognise themselves.'

James Corden has filmed a new TV comedy-thriller for the BBC, called The Wrong Man. That'll be rubbish then. Just like everything else he's every been involved in.

Sky Atlantic has commissioned a new drama from Shameless creator Paul Abbott. Hit And Miss focuses on Chloe, a transgender woman who has not yet had a sex change operation. Chloe is working as a contract killer but her life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from her ex, Wendy, who is dying from cancer, which reveals that Chloe has a son called Ryan. Chloe travels to Yorkshire to meet her ten-year-old son and soon finds out about the rest of Wendy's family. Sky's acting head of drama Huw Kennair-Jones said: 'We're delighted to have secured Paul for the first original scripted drama on Sky Atlantic HD, especially with a project as sensational as Hit And Miss. We are already in talks with a host of other well-known on- and off-screen British talent to follow Paul's lead for future projects.' The show's executive producer Nicola Shindler added: 'I'm incredibly excited to be making such an original, provocative drama series. Paul's intricate idea combined with [writer] Sean [Conway's] fresh and, at times, shocking voice have created a strange and beautiful world. It's odd and funny and violent and moving, all in equal parts.'

Qasim Akhtar has revealed that he has been criticised for his portrayal of Islam on Shameless. Akhtar, who is Muslim himself, told the Sun that people often complain about the behaviour of his character Chesney. 'My mum understands it all and I've had no problems from my family,' he said. 'But I have had it from people in the street. They are trying to say that it isn't right to be promoting that sort of behaviour. They believe it is making a mockery by showing Muslims doing certain things on Shameless. It could be taken like that, but most people see it in a different way. Chesney doesn't give a shit about religion as he drinks, smokes weed and parties with birds.' However, Akhtar explained that he doesn't let the comments affect him. 'Why would I change what I am doing because some strangers don't like it?' he said. 'I reckon people say it out of jealousy nowadays. That is the community I live in.'

Michael Imperioli has defended the final episode of ABC drama Life On Mars. The series, a remake of the classic John Simm and Phil Glenister UK original, has a reputation lower than rattlesnakes piss in Great Britain, mostly from people who've never seen it. Which is a shame, actually, as for sixteen and three quarters of its seventeen episodes, it was a very worthwhile, respectful and interesting experiment, taking a uniquely British idea and transplanting it in New York. For the most part, it worked very well and yer Keith Telly Topping was something of a fan. Then, about ten minutes from the end of the final episode, it all was went to hell in a hand cart. The series concluded with Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara) discovering that he was really an astronaut on man's first mission to Mars in 2035. 'I really liked the ending to Life On Mars,' Imperioli told The TV Addict. 'While it's never good when you get cancelled prematurely, it was nice that the writers knew we were done so they were able to write an ending.' The former Sopranos actor added that the finale, which aired on 1 April 2009, was 'bizarre' and 'creative.' Yes. And shit. 'There were things that kind of alluded to it all the way through and it kind of tied it all up for me,' he said. 'I thought it was really smart.' He jokingly added: 'But I also loved The Sopranos ending and lots of people hated that, so maybe I'm the wrong guy to talk to.'

A federal appeals court has struck down a penalty imposed on ABC by the FCC in 2003. The twenty seven thousand dollar fine was originally charged after an episode of the crime drama NYPD Blue contained a brief shot of a woman's naked buttocks. According to the Associated Press, the Second US Court of Appeals has now ruled that since television stations are not fined for 'fleeting, unscripted profanities' in live broadcasts, the brief nudity should not have resulted in a penalty. Of course, right-wing Christian nutters the Parents Television Council has since 'slammed' (tabloid speak for 'criticised' but using less syllables) the ruling, arguing that there was 'absolutely nothing fleeting or accidental about [the scene].' What a bum deal, eh. 'ABC intentionally chose to air a scripted visual depiction of a fully-naked woman before 10pm,' it said in a statement. 'The inclusion of the lengthy and ogling scene was intended to pander and titillate.' Cracking. The FCC previously claimed that the scene 'dwelled' on the nudity of the actress, Charlotte Ross, and was 'shocking and titillating.'

The scourge of Australia's cricket team, Alastair Cook, last night turned into their best friend for an instant, leaping to the defence of Phillip Hughes after the Aussie opener was accused of cheating by the former England all-rounder Ian Botham and sections of the British press. The accusations were made after Hughes claimed a catch to dismiss Cook that, with the benefit of replays, was shown to have clearly bounced in from of him at short leg. Botham - someone seldom short of an opinion (on pretty much any subject) - was furious, commentating with David Gower for Sky Sports, said: 'That's terrible. Cheating. How much do you want it to bounce into your hands? [Hughes] knows he hasn't caught it. There's no appeal. Someone else says something and then he goes up.' Cook was on ninety nine not out at the time and went on to reach one hundred and eighty nine as England drove home in their dominance, reaching four hundred and eighty eight for seven wickets by the close of play. A lead over Australia of two hundred and eight runs. England have already taken an unbeatable two-one lead in the series and so retained the Ashes they regained in 2009. Footage showed Hughes catching the ball on the bounce and then hesitating before raising his hands and turning towards his colleagues in the slip corden. He then threw the ball skywards in celebration as the bowler, the debutant spinner Michael Beer, raced down the pitch to join him. There was unquestionable uncertainty in the Australian huddle, though. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was clearly unsure, conspicuously, not appealing to the umpire. Cook, who stood his ground, later said that the replays did not illustrate the full picture, and Hughes had told him immediately he was not convinced he had caught it cleanly. ''It was very close, and to be fair to Phil Hughes, he said straight away "I wasn't sure,"' Cook said. 'Obviously I was going to hang around on ninety nine, you've got to be dragged off, so they went upstairs and I think the right decision was made.' Cook's sympathy was not matched by sections the English media, who claimed that Hughes had tried to coax the umpires into an incorrect decision. Big fat Martin Samuel - somebody else never short of an opinion but, unlike Botham, not a former professional himself - writing in the Daily Scum Mail, said: 'Memo to Phil Hughes: sledging we can handle, cheating we can do without. On a day when Sydney turned out in its proudest pink to raise money and awareness for the breast cancer charity founded by Glenn McGrath and his late wife, Jane, the actions of the Australian opener, fielding at short leg, left only the bitterest taste.'

Two documentary film-makers arrested and held by police as they investigated complaints about Donald Trump's proposed golf resort in Scotland have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Prosecutors and police have dropped all charges against Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney after they were accused of entering and filming without permission at the US business magnate's office at the proposed resort in Aberdeenshire. The pair were arrested, held for four hours and had their photographs, fingerprints and DNA taken and their equipment confiscated after the incident on 30 July last year. They were charged with breach of the peace. The arrests led to a formal complaint by the National Union of Journalists, which accused Grampian police of 'a blatant example of police interference aimed at stopping bona fide journalists doing their job.' The force said it had no intention of preventing journalists from carrying out their duties. Grampian police have told Phinney his formal warning, arrest records and personal data have been deleted. The Crown Office, Scotland's prosecution authority, said: 'After full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances in this case, crown counsel instructed there would be no proceedings.' The Trump Organisation called the police after the two men, who have made award-winning films for the BBC and Channel Four, visited Trump's home and office on the estate. They were investigating an incident when Trump's contractors had left local residents without water supplies during their long-running project about the controversial seven hundred and fifty million pounds resort. The film-makers denied the company's allegations, saying a senior member of Trump's staff had allowed them into the building and had voluntarily given them an interview. Trump Organisation officials also alleged to a local newspaper that the two were members of the anti-golf resort campaign group Tripping up Trump. Baxter said this was untrue. He said he felt 'totally vindicated' by the decision to drop the charges, adding: 'At the time, we were astonished at what happened. Essentially, we were just carrying out our jobs as journalists and here we are, several months later, finally getting the response that we should have got in the first place.' Paul Holleran, the regional organiser for NUJ Scotland, said: 'Our concern was that Mr Trump's staff could complain to the police about being interviewed about the work being carried out on the golf development and then local police were taking their side without exploring all the facts. It is essential for a democracy that journalists are allowed to question people in power without facing arrest and seizure of equipment. I'm delighted the Crown Office has come to this decision both for the two individuals and the broader issue of press freedom.' A spokeswoman for the Trump Organisation said: 'This has nothing to do with us – it's a matter between Grampian police and the individuals involved.'

The Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty has died at the age of sixty three after suffering a long illness. His career pinnacle came in the 1970s and included the anthemic single 'Baker Street', a worldwide hit in 1978, and the Dylanesque classic 'Stuck in the Middle With You', recorded with his band Stealers Wheel five years earlier. Rafferty had battled a drink problem and spent some time in hospital in Bournemouth with liver failure. He was born in Paisley in 1947 and began his musical career as a busker on the London Underground. Rafferty died peacefully at home, with his daughter Martha at his bedside. He had recorded and toured with Billy Connolly as part of The Humblebums combining folk music and comedy during the early 1970s, before forming Stealers Wheel with his friend Joe Egan in 1972. Their second single 'Stuck in the Middle With You' was a massive hit and also enjoyed a revival in popularity in the 1990s when it appeared prominently on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. 'Baker Street' - with its memorable saxophone riff not played by Bob Holness - charted in the UK and US in 1978 after Rafferty began his solo career and still achieves daily airplay on radio stations around the world. It is understood that Gerry's funeral will be held in Paisley later this month. Gerry was the son of a Scottish mother and a reportedly abusive Irish father, who taught his young son to holler Irish rebel songs in their home on the working class Glenburn estate of Paisley. In 1963, Rafferty left St Mirin's Academy and worked in a butcher's shop and, later, as a civil service clerk. At weekends, he and his schoolfriend Joe Egan played in a local group, Maverix. Having discovered music through a love of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, Gerry began his musical career as a busker, playing to disinterested passers-by on London Underground, where the inspiration for his most famous hit was born. In 1966, Rafferty was a member of a pop group called The Fifth Column along with Egan. The group released a single, 'Benjamin Day' on EMI Columbia but it was not a hit. Back home in Scotland in 1969, the comedian Billy Connolly had formed a duo called The Humblebums with folk musican Tam Harvey, playing in pubs and clubs around Glasgow. Rafferty had begun writing his own songs and asked Connolly if The Humblebums would be interested in playing some of them. Instead, he was asked to join the band. After Harvey left and the trio became a duo, The Humblebums enjoyed some success, particularly in Scotland, touring the UK and releasing two well received LPs - The New Humblebums and Open Up The Door. However, Rafferty fell out with Connolly when the latter's jokes and stories began to take up more and more time at the band's concerts, and he quit in 1970. Transatlantic owner Nathan Joseph signed Rafferty to a solo contract and Gerry recorded his first LP – Can I Have My Money Back? - in 1971. It a critical success though not a commercial one. The following year, however, Gerry got back together with Joe Egan to form Stealers Wheel. Their eponymous debut LP was well received by both critics and the record buying public, and generated the hit single 'Stuck in the Middle With You.' Constant personnel changes and what seemed to be a never-ending series of legal wranglings stifled any more success for Stealers Wheel, and Rafferty and Egan ended their partnership in 1975. It was 1978 before Gerry was in a position to record another solo LP but he did it with style. City To City became a huge pan-conentintal best-seller. Rafferty was reputed to have earned eighty thousand pounds per annum from the royalties on 'Baker Street' alone. However turned down requests to travel to the US to promote the LP and his reluctance to make live appearances dampened record sales. His follow up, Night Owl, with contributions from Richard Thompson, was again well-received but failed to emulate the success of City To City. This was to be the high point of Rafferty's career. His next two LPs, Snakes and Ladders and Sleepwalking failed to make any impact at all. Rafferty then all but disappeared by the mid-1980s, although he did co-produce The Proclaimers hit, 'Letter From America.' By now the only stories appearing about him in the press reflected his continuing battle against the bottle. In August 2008, Scotland on Sunday reported that Rafferty had been asked to leave the Westbury Hotel in London after trashing a room during a heavy drinking binge and had then checked himself into St Thomas' Hospital suffering from a chronic liver condition. The same report went on to claim that Rafferty had then disappeared, leaving his belongings behind, and that the hospital had filed a missing persons report. However it subsequently emerged that no such missing persons report existed. In February 2009, the Gruniad Morning Star reported that Rafferty, 'who has battled alcoholism for years,' was in hiding in the south of England, being cared for by a friend. Subsequently, Rafferty's spokesperson Paul Charles told the Independent that he had been in touch with Rafferty two weeks previously and that he was alive and well but had no plans to either record or tour. This was then contradicted by a further report in the Daily Torygraph on the following day which quoted from a statement by his solicitors issued to Channel Four news: 'Contrary to reports, Gerry is extremely well and has been living in Tuscany for the last six months. He continues to compose and record new songs and he hopes to release a new album of his most recent work in the summer of this year.' These were released as Life Goes On, in 2009, his final collection.

Which means, I suppose, that sadly there's only one suitable Keith Telly Topping 45 of the Day. A prime example of a man who's swallowed too much Dylan it may well be. But, hell what a great single. Tell 'em all about it, wee Joe.