Friday, January 07, 2011

She Said I Had It Coming To Me, But I Wanted It That Way

BBC4 will examine the influence of reggae on Britain in four programmes to be broadcast on two consecutive Fridays in February. In a rub-a-dub-style. Jan Younghusband, the commissioning editor for BBC Music and Events, said the programme came 'in the great tradition of BBC4 musical treats.' She said the channel would celebrate UK reggae with two new documentaries, a special Barbican concert and items from the BBC archive. The programming includes: Reggae Britannia, a documentary examining the influence of the Jamaican music on British music and culture from the sixties to the eighties, including contributions from members of The Specials, UB40, Chris Blackwell and others. Broadcast on 11 February, the programme will be followed by a special concert, recorded at the Barbican a week earlier, featuring some of the most important reggae musicians in the British scene, such as Dennis Alcapone and Winston Reedy, Dennis Bovell, Dave Barker and Pauline Black. On 18 February, BBC4 will broadcast the documentary Toots and the Maytals - Reggae Got Soul. The programme features intimate performances from yer actual Toots Hibbert his very self, rare archive from his career and interviews with Toots, contemporaries and well-known fans. It will be followed by Reggae at the BBC, a compilation of performances by leading reggae artists on a wide range of BBC shows, including Bob Marley and the Wailers (one presumes that'll include their astonishing and legendary performance of 'Stir It Up' on The Old Grey Whistle Test) and Prince Buster. Don't argue.

Michael McIntyre has revealed that he was mooned at on his first day judging Britain's Got Talent. Disgusting insult or fair critical comment on a career that takes all of the messy unpredictability out of comedy. McIntyre made his debut on the show's new-look panel in London earlier this week. He was joined by a heavily pregnant Amanda Holden and Louis Walsh, who was standing in for David Hasselhoff. Speaking to the Sun, McIntyre explained that one of the acts saw the hopeful appear on stage wearing five pairs of Y-fronts. He then proceeded to remove one pair at a time until he was naked, dip his nadgers in paint and draw a picture with them. Quality act. Just somebody trying to get their big opening, it would seem, and crack their way into showbusiness. The thirty four-year-old also confessed that he was going to start being harsher with his judging. 'I started off being quite nice to the people who weren't very good,' he told the paper. One hopes this includes the y-pants punter. 'That's a decent likeness,' sort of thing. 'But that's all going to change. I find the power very thrilling!' Another act to face the panel included a mother and daughter duo, who 'miaowed' an opera aria. The new judge apparently told them: 'When it comes to the very niche area of cat singing you were very good.'

Television astronomer Mark Thompson was left somewhat embarrassed after missing a meteor during Tuesday night's episode of Stargazing Live. Several eagled-eyed viewers spotted the incident and contacted the BBC show whilst Thompson was still addressing the camera explaining how disappointing it was that there was a lack of activity across the cloudy night sky. He said: 'I must admit I was oblivious to it. I think I'm probably the only person in the entire country who didn't see it.' The astronomer was doing a piece to the camera when the meteor appeared in the sky above his right shoulder. He was live in Macclesfield at Jodrell Bank and had just told hosts Dara O'Briain and Brian Cox back in the studio that there wasn't much happening in the skies.O'Briain confirmed the shooting star was in fact a meteor from the Quadrantid meteor shower. The BBC's Stargazing Live offered three consecutive days of live astronomy and ended with an average over audience of over three million for each of its three nightly episodes.

Meanwhile, O'Briain has responded to a complaint that he has featured on too many BBC programmes recently. In today's Daily Scum Mail, Ephraim Hardcastle (actually a man named Peter McKay - Hardcastle is just his pen-name. He was once described by Taki Theodoracopulos as 'a scandal-purveyor of talent, malice and unparalleled mischief' and with considerable previous over 'talking bollocks', like this for instance) questioned why the broadcaster had 'developed a crush' on the 'burly Irish comedian.' Oh, stoutist and racist. Two-for-the-price-of-one from yer actual Scum Mail, ladies and gentlemen. The thirty eight-year-old Dara has presented five shows for BBC1 and BBC2 recently, including The Apprentice: You're Fired and Stagazing Live. Albeit, one or those - Mock The Week - was actually a compilation clip show from episodes shown six months ago. Writing on Twitter, O'Briain commented: 'Happy to say that the recent confluence of telly shows featuring me is now finished. Not on again (bar repeats) until at least March,' he added. In a reply, Lord Alan Sugar told the Mock The Week host to 'get ready' for the next series of You're Fired.

Two more actors have signed on to play guest roles in the next series of Doctor Who. Leon Vickers and Mark Bonnar will both appear in episodes five and six of the new run, according to The Doctor Who News Page. Vickers, who is believed to be playing a character named 'Clone Worker' in the two-parter, previously appeared in an episode of Garrow's Law and will also appear alongside former Torchwood star Burn Gorman in the 2011 film Laid Off. Bonnar recently starred in time-travel drama Paradox and has played recurring roles on The Bill and Casualty. His part in the Doctor Who episodes is currently unknown. The pair will join Sarah Smart and Ashes To Ashes actor Marshall Lancaster in The Rebel Flesh and Gangers, which have been written by Life On Mars co-creator Matthew Graham. Graham recently confirmed on Twitter that filming on the story was nearing completion, writing: 'My DW two-parter finishes shooting end of this week. They will be glad to come in out of the perishing cold. Poor dears. [sic]'

Meanwhile, Alexa Havins and Dichen Lachman have joined the cast of Torchwood: The New World. TVLine reports that Havins will play the regular role of CIA analyst Esther Katusi in the ten-part series. The character was previously described as 'an optimist' and a Christian with 'a strong faith in mankind.' Havins previously starred in the ABC soap opera All My Children and has recently featured in episodes of CSI: Miami and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Former Dollhouse star Lachman will make a guest appearance in the season premiere as a fellow CIA agent. The actress has made recent guest appearances on Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Yer Keith Telly Topping was, he has to admit, slightly startled to discover that on Thursday one dear blog reader - from South Korea, as it happens - arrived on From The North directly from doing a goggle search for the words 'Faith spanked Buffy.' Tragically, I have to clue you up on this one my friend, I don't have what you're looking for. But, hey, jolly good luck in your search. And, if you do happen to find a website catering for your very tastes, be sure to let us all know its whereabouts. Next ...

Samantha Womack has reportedly quit EastEnders allegedly after deciding that her recent cot death storyline 'went too far.' Allegedly. According to the ever-reliable Sun, the actress resigned last November upon receiving the initial script for the plot, which has seen her Albert Square character, Ronnie Mitchell, deal with the loss of her baby son whom she then switched with that of Kat Slater. The BBC has now confirmed that Womack is to leave the show at the end of the current baby swap storyline. 'The last couple of months at work have been awful for Sam,' a - nameless, of course - 'source' allegedly explained. 'The first time she read the script, she thought it was wrong and pushed boundaries too far. It was such a sensitive issue, she knew it would cause a huge backlash. She wrote a letter on the day she read it and made it clear to bosses she thought it was wrong. They persuaded her to stay and film the scenes, but she will leave in May. It was draining for her filming the scenes and incredibly difficult emotionally.' The newspaper claims that the 'insider' also told them: 'All she could think about was the reaction of parents, especially mothers, who had lost children to cot death.' The Sun states that 'show execs' (or 'producers' as normal people call them) are said to have offered Womack a higher salary as well as a promise of lighter storylines in exchange for her continuing on with the show, but the thirty eight-year-old insisted that she had made her decision 'as a mother first and an actress second' and that things had 'gone too far.' An EastEnders spokesman said: 'The current storyline allows an exit for Ronnie Branning. Samantha Womack has been a major part of the show's success in recent years and she will continue to work with us until her departure later this year.' Expect a statement from Sam herself denying that the reason she's leaving Easties is anything to do with impotent tabloid fury over a plotline tomorrow, dear blog reader.

And, indeed, almost before I'd finished writing that last sentence, there came the news that Womack's agent has, indeed, dismissed suggestions that the actress's decision to leave EastEnders was influenced by her current baby swap storyline. Michael Wiggs has insisted that that the current speculation surrounding her decision is untrue. In a statement, Wiggs explained: 'There's no truth whatsoever in any suggestion that Sam is "quitting" EastEnders over the current storyline. Sam's contract comes to a natural end later this year and she will be taking a break from the show - this has been agreed with the producers for several months. Sam has had an incredibly happy and fulfilling time on EastEnders over the last few years. She has huge respect for the show, writers and producers and has thoroughly enjoyed playing such a complex role that has been involved in so many tough and challenging storylines.' John Yorke, Controller of BBC Drama, added: 'Sam is a much loved member of the cast, who has consistently given truthful and brilliant performances as Ronnie Branning. When she leaves at the end of this storyline, she'll be much missed - and the door will be open for her return.' So, it would seem that, yet again, a tabloid's mysteriously nameless 'insider' has told then a whole bakery shop full of pork pies. Would've thought it, eh?

Lost actor Jorge Garcia has posted a message for the nine thousand people who recently won the lottery using the mysterious numbers from the show. On Tuesday night, Mega Millions Lottery winners who picked the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 - the numbers that Garcia's character used in Lost to win millions - scooped one hundred and fifty dollars each for matching four of the six winning jackpot numbers. In a post on his blog, titled When will you people learn?, Garcia wrote: 'The numbers are bad,' and posted a picture of a one hundred dollar bill and a fifty dollar bill with the word Cursed stamped over it. Commenting on the lottery story, Lost executive producer Damon Lindeof tweeted: 'Nine thousand a seventy eight people played Hurley's numbers in the Mega Millions tonight, each winning one hundred and fifty dollars.'

Nigel Morris, the investigations producer for BBC London, died just before Christmas from cancer aged forty four. Over the last fourteen years Nigel had worked on many of the UK's flagship investigative journalism programmes including Panorama, Dispatches and ITV's The Big Story. For the last three years he was investigations producer for BBC London – heading up the team's award-winning journalistic coverage that saw it twice win the Prix Circom, the European award for best regional news programme. His work included an exposé of the former head of Albania's secret service, wanted for torture and kidnap, and found living under an assumed name in London, along with immigration scams at a London hotel and revealing how banned dangerous dog breeds could still be bought on the streets of London. BBC London editor Antony Dore said: 'Nigel was an old fashioned news journalist who just loved the story. He did some outstanding stuff for us in investigative journalism. Nigel brought something to the team that we'd never had before and his skills and experience were behind many of the best stories we've done over the last few years. We won awards for stories we would never have got without Nigel.' Morris's career began in local newspapers where he worked on a number of titles including the Grimsby Evening Telegraph and Sheffield Star. He was a member of the team responsible for the Star's award-winning coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. Eventually he moved into freelancing as an investigative journalist writing for the Sunday Express including looking at student grants before moving into television journalism, first as a researcher on youth programme Speakeasy before he joined Twenty Twenty's Big Story for ITV in the mid-90s. He then joined Ray Fitzwalter Associates and spent 1998 working on a number of investigative documentaries for Channel 4's Dispatches strand. During the next few years Nigel worked on a range of TV programmes from ITV's House of Horrors to Sunday Morning with Gloria Hunniford. Among Nigel's many other broadcast credits include To the Ends of the Earth: The Real Bravo Two Zero for Fulcrum. In 2003 he worked on Panorama, returning to the programme in 2007 to work with director Andy Bell on a BAFTA-nominated film about dog fighting. He also worked on John Pilger's 2004 RTS winning feature documentary Stealing a Nation, the story of the US occupation of Diego Garcia, produced by Granada for ITV. Nigel was an experienced marathon runner and after completing last year's London Marathon in April, and raising money for the charity War Child, he felt unwell and visited his doctor. He was told he had stomach cancer and underwent chemotherapy for several months. Nigel leaves a wife Marie and two children, Amelie and Noa.

Multi-BAFTA winning screenwriter Jimmy Gardner died on 14 December 2010 aged fifty three of heart failure. Though best known for the hard hitting and highly acclaimed British television dramas The Cops and Buried, in person Jimmy was a kind, thoughtful, humorous and modest man, qualities not always associated with the television industry. Brought up in Edinburgh, Gardner later studied at Kent University for a BA Hons in English and American Literature. Subsequently, he led a somewhat peripatetic life with an eclectic range of jobs in London, New York and Lisbon before returning to Edinburgh. In 1992 he graduated from the screenwriting course at the Northern Film School with Borderland which won the Best British Student Short Film Award was shortlisted for the 1996 Dennis Potter Award after a recommendation from Tessa Ross, then at BBC Television. As Ross recalls 'I still remember well how exciting it was to read Jimmy's submission - here was an honest and clear original voice, a voice with grit and humanity and a clear sense of purpose. Jimmy was quiet and serious, unshowy and very unusual - just like his writing. Working with him and the team on Buried was a great highlight and Cops remains one of the true inspirational, unforgettable pieces of television drama. I am very sad to hear of his death.' Following a BAFTA nomination for his short film The Butterfly Man, Gardner began his television career writing episodes of The Bill. Having written for the second series of This Life Gardner, together with Robert Jones and Anita Pandolfo, developed The Cops with producer Francis Hopkinson which went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 1999 and 2000 and the Royal Television Society’s Best Drama Series Award in 2000. The Cops was described by Executive Producer Tony Garnett as a 'Trojan Horse drama,' a critique of life on a northern sink estate and of the realities of policing in this milieu. Francis Hopkinson described Gardner's first script for the series as a perfect opener and launched the show that boosted many careers – so we all owe Jimmy'. On learning of his death, producer Tony Garnett said 'Jimmy was a real talent, perceptive about people and angry at injustice. It was a privilege to work with a writer of such integrity.' Gardner went on to co-devise and write (with Robert Jones) the critically acclaimed series Buried and this uncompromising, harsh and violent portrayal of prison life won the 2004 BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series. He also wrote the screenplay for a feature film Outlanders based on a story by Dominic Lees which was released theatrically in 2009. Gardner created and was the lead writer for the darkly comic family saga Goldplated; a prescient tale of unsustainable avarice set around a nouveau riche family of property developers in Manchester. More recently he had written an episode of the period cop drama George Gently starring Martin Shaw and at the time of his death was writing another episode, along with developing a number of original drama projects. Gardner was born with a congenital heart defect, which required surgery at different stages of his life, together with ongoing treatment, all of which he bore with characteristic good grace and wry humour. He is survived by his wife, Claire Russell, three brothers, his son, Eugene, and his parents.

BBC Worldwide will not sell off Top Gear, Good Food and other key titles, despite the ongoing sale of its magazines division. According to the Daily Torygraph, sources close to the sale process claim that Worldwide is keen to retain ownership and control of its most high profile publications. Initially, it was thought that Worldwide would offload up to eighty five per cent of BBC Magazines, but there are complexities around titles derived from certain BBC television shows. The organisation is understood to be offering some BBC publications under ten-year licensing deals and others, such as Top Gear, under specific contract publishing agreements. Bauer Media, the publisher of magazines such as Closer and Heat, is on a four-strong shortlist vying to agree a deal for the BBC's magazines portfolio. However, other bidders such as Cosmopolitan-owner Hearst are thought to have dropped out of the running due to concerns about the restrictions of the deal. The Torygraph's - again, anonymous - sources revealed that the information memorandum for the sale, which is being handled by KPMG, has split the BBC's magazines into three blocks. The first block contains magazines available for sale, including the Radio Times and a few smaller titles, while the second block contains BBC-branded titles, potentially including Good Food, that are available under a ten-year licence agreement. The final block contains Top Gear magazine and several other titles, of which the BBC wants to retain ownership, but will offer under a contract publishing deal. A BBC Publishing Board could also be established to have the final say on the content produced by third-parties for certain BBC publications.

Sir David Attenborough, the face of the BBC's landmark natural history programming, has said the corporation's 'sails need to be trimmed' and that it has 'strayed from the straight and narrow.' Well, how very dare it. Attenborough, presenter of major BBC natural history series including Life and Planet Earth, added that the corporation was 'crucially important' to society, but it 'needs to be refocused.' In an interview for this week's edition of the New Statesman, the former BBC channel director also warned that the broadcaster would be 'gone in a decade' if it was stripped off its licence fee funding. 'I think the BBC has strayed from the straight and narrow on a number of courses at the moment. The sails need to be trimmed and needs to be refocused,' Attenborough said. 'But it is crucially important in our society and [represents] the highest aspirations of our society. I'm appalled anybody thinks otherwise.' In an apparent warning to the government, which in October negotiated a hasty licence fee settlement that will see the BBC's income cut by sixteen per cent in real terms, Attenborough said: 'If you remove the licence fee, the BBC would be gone in a decade, finished.' Attenborough has spent more than fifty years at the BBC, and is credited with bringing colour television to BBC2 in 1967 while he was channel controller. In 1969, he became director of programming across BBC television, before leaving four years later to take up programme making again. 'It was very nice for me running a network for a few years, in the sense that it was very flattering for one's ego. But it's not much fun,' he told the New Statesman. Asked what he would be doing if he were back behind a desk at the corporation, Attenborough jested: 'Resigning, I think.'

Sky News has handed new shows to presenters Adam Boulton and Dermot Murnaghan, and appointed new political and royal correspondents. From 17 January, Boulton & Co - the blog run by Sky News political editor Boulton - will be transformed into a new weekday programme. From 1pm to 2pm, Boulton will be joined by Sky News royal correspondent Sarah Hughes at the broadcaster's state-of-the-art Westminster studio for 'forensic interviews and hard hitting debate on the day's breaking news stories.' Murnaghan will present a new Sunday morning programme from 10am to noon, starting on 9 January. Titled Murnaghan, the show will offer a mix of 'agenda-setting politics, business and sport with a focus on sharp interviewing and pithy opinion.' Sky said that the two shows will exploit the capability of its new high definition production resources, including side panels to display extra detail and information. There will also be the chance for viewers to engage with the debate online and via social networks. 'These shows see two of Sky's major talents in hugely exciting new programmes,' said John Ryley, the Head of Sky News. 'They will reinvent traditional formats, engaging with viewers via social media, and capitalising on all the benefits of HD. They will not only be must-sees for breaking news, but controversial debate and expert analysis.' Sky News has also appointed Paul Harrison as a new royal correspondent to work alongside Hughes and provide royal news in the run up to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April. News Of The World reporter Sophy Ridge will also join the Sky News team as a political correspondent, with 'a strong presence' on the Sunrise programme.

Anthony Stewart Head has become the latest former member of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer cast to publicly state his aghastment at the proposed big-screen remake the series, describing it as 'a horrible idea.' It was announced in November that Warner Bros is developing a feature film based on the series, but without the involvement of creator Joss Whedon. Head told The Huffington Post: 'It's a horrible idea in as much as Buffy was a great conceit. It was a great story. A great idea. I don't feel that you can then remake that without the original creator on board. It doesn't make sense.' He argued that the new adaptation was inspired only by a desire to 'make money. Somewhere down the line, I suppose you could [do a remake] but it never sits very comfortably,' he said. 'With someone like Joss, why would you want to?' Head's former co-stars Nicholas Brendon and Eliza Dushku have both criticised the decision to remake the show, while Whedon himself has admitted that he has 'mixed emotions' about the project. That's the tactful way of saying he thinks it's going to be shit as well.

According to Metro, Adrian Chiles says that his new ITV Sunday night chat show won't get the same dismal response as Daybreak. A foolishly optimistic prediction, I feel. 'Ideally they have nothing to compare it too,' he reasons. Emphasis on the world 'ideally.' When have you ever known TV to be an ideal world, pal?

Don't expect Dragon's Den's Duncan Bannatyne to turn up on Chris Evans' new Channel Four show, Famous and Fearless any time soon. That's not to suggest he, himself, isn't famous (or fearless for that matter), he just doesn't like it very much it would seem. And, he's not alone in that opinion either. Yer Keith Telly Topping watched the first episode and was shocked to discover the production's idea of the concept of fearless is Rufus Hound BMXing around a small indoor track. Err... tame. 'Sorry mate but F&F is terrible,' Bannatyne tweeted Evans. 'FF is a Marmite show. Love and hate. Figures build as show airs,' replied Evans. 'Appreciate honesty. Duncan is a really nice bloke, just cracking out his opinion.'

Comedy legend Billy Connolly last night led tributes to Gerry Rafferty as his former band-mates spoke of their frustrated attempts to help him overcome alcoholism. The Glaswegian comic, who performed with Rafferty in folk group The Humblebums, described his late friend as 'a hugely talented singer-songwriter who will be greatly missed.' He added: 'I was privileged to have spent my formative years working with Gerry and there remained a strong bond of friendship between us that lasted until his untimely death. Gerry had extraordinary gifts and his premature passing deprives the world of a true genius.' Rafferty died on Tuesday, aged sixty three, after fighting a long-standing alcohol problem and persistent liver diseases.

And, finally for today, Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, it's yet another massive slab of big dumb seventies rawk. This one, from yer actual Mr Bachman, Mr Turner and, indeed, The Right Reverend Overdrive. Let's rock! Also used, incidentally, in the best TV advert of the last six months.'You need educatin', Gotta go to school!' Stylish threads, Mr Bassman. And, I like the beard!