Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten Hours A Day I'm Grafting Under The Bosses Eye

It was pure mad brilliant, so it was, to see the new - thirty four day old - Stig on Top Gear last night. Even better was yer man Clarkson noting that Stigs tend to grow really fast and that 'soon, he'll be old enough to get a job on Countryfile'! Ho-ho. New Stig's times around the track, Jezza revealed, are 'almost exactly similar to those set by sacked-Stig.' Line of the night, however, went to Hammond when Jezza was introducing star in a reasonably priced car guest, the most Scouse man in the world John Bishop. 'He comes from the same place that Cilla Black, Jimmy Tarbuck and Paul McCartney call home.' 'What?' asked wee Richard. 'Buckinghamshire?!' All of this plus Top Gear's very own 'celeb in a glovebox,' Sienna Miller. Two national newspapers - if you can call them that - the Daily Scum Mail and the Daily Lies forewent their usual shitehawk Monday morning 'whom have Top Gear pissed off this week' exclusive (I figured that was bound to be Liverpudlians, personally) and, rather, have tried to 'out' the new Stig by claiming that his is in fact a she. Specifically German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, a long-time friend of the show who has appeared on several occasions in the past. The new racer, whomever he, she or it may be, is certainly fast, setting a new circuit lap record of one minute fifteen seconds in an Ariel Atom V8 to kick start the new series. Ah, it's great to have them back.

Being Human also returned for a third series with a splendid episode packed with guest-stars (Paul Kaye, Lacey Turner, Torchwood's Kai Owen and a great, sinister turn from Robson Green). There was also some terrific music (who spotted 'Town Called Malice' playing on the radio in the background?), an Angel-like meander through Mitchell's past, an amusing little subplot about George and Nina discovering something mutual in their latest transformation and, at the end, they got Annie back. As Howard Male noted on The Arts Desk website, 'Being Human is so much more involving than the over-ripe, self-consciously sexy (and therefore, not sexy) True Blood or the sub-Buffy hormone-charged Twilight. In fact, in spirit (pun intended) Being Human has more in common with John Landis's seminal comedy horror film An American Werewolf in London in the way it mixes incidental comedy with state-of the-art horror and has the kind of scares that are all the more effective for being rooted in the domestic: we've all lived in flats in which the taps don’t work properly (although usually the cause is plumbing rather than poltergeists).'

Sky Sports has said that off-air remarks made by two football presenters about female assistant referee Sian Massey were 'not acceptable.' As reported on this blog yesterday, hairy-handed Richard Keys and 'tek a booo, son' pundit Andy Gray commented on Massey's appointment for the game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool on Saturday. Believing their microphones were switched off, the pair agreed that female officials 'don't know the offside rule.' Which probably isn't true but, even if it is, it means they share something in common with the vast majority of fans, players, managers and indeed commentators in the game. In a statement, Sky said that the two overgrown school bullies had 'apologised' for the comments. Big of them, dear blog reader, I'm sure you'll agree. Not a proper grovelling, 'actually meant-it'-apology of course. Oh no, Sky doesn't do those. Rather it was a 'poked with a stick into the spotlight, mumbled and then shuffled away, quickly' non-apology, apology. Sort of 'we're very sorry that we got caught,' kind-of thing. The Football Association has given its total support to Massey who, on the evidence of Saturday's game seems to understand the offside rule a hell of a lot better than Mutt and Jeff over there, correctly assessing a borderline call in the build-up to Liverpool's first goal at Molineux. Speaking ahead of the match, Keys had said, when he thought no one was listening, 'somebody better get down there and explain offside to her' and Gray remarked 'women don't know the offside rule.' Keys then said 'of course they don't,' before adding: 'I can guarantee you there'll be a big one today. [Liverpool manager] Kenny [Dalglish] will go potty.' In the fifty-second exchange which is available to listen to on the Daily Scum Mail website, here, Gray also made disparaging comments about Wendy Toms, who in the late 1990s became the first female assistant referee in the Premier League, saying: 'She was fucking hopeless as well.' Keys went on to remark 'the game's gone mad,' and then made a series of comments on a newspaper article by West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady in the Sun newspaper on Saturday morning about her experiences of sexism in football. 'See charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Yeah. Do me a favour, love,' he said, entirely proving the points she made in one patronising five-word sentence. Sky said: 'The comments are not acceptable. They were not made on air but we have spoken to Richard and Andy and told them our views and they have apologised and expressed their regret.' The remarks drew criticism from across the game. 'It is absolutely abhorrent that gender is the only consideration when talking about female officials,' Brady told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'I am very interested to see what the bosses at Sky Sports think of this and then we will know whether sexism goes to the top of the game or not.' The comments were branded 'medieval' by Fare, a Europe-wide campaign group opposed to all forms of discrimination in football. 'They reveal the appalling and damaging sexist attitudes that exist across football,' said Piara Powar, its executive director. 'If they had made the same comments about a black or Asian linesman we would be looking at what happened to Ron Atkinson.' Atkinson was forced to resign as a pundit by ITV in 2004 after he made a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea player Marcel Desailly when he thought his microphone was off. An FA statement said it had made 'real strides in encouraging both male and female match officials to enter the game at every level, and will continue to offer every encouragement to all officials within the football family to progress to the highest levels possible. We are proud to have some of the world's best match officials, both male and female. Overall the number of female referees in England (Levels one to eight) stands at eight hundred and fifty three and climbing, and all of our female match officials act as fantastic ambassadors for the game. They have our wholehearted and continuing support,' it said. Referees body Professional Game Match Officials issued a statement from their general manager Mike Riley. It said: 'All PGMO referees and assistant referees are appointed on merit and ability. They are assessed on their performances only.' Former executive deputy chairman of Millwall Football Club Heather Rabbatts told BBC Radio 5Live the game needed more female officials. 'But when they're appointed, sadly, they'll get the same abuse as their male colleagues.' The story first broke in yesterday's Scum Mail on Sunday, which Gray and Keys' Sky colleague Chris Kamara had presumably read before presenting Goals on Sunday. Which made his comments on the Wolves game particularly interesting: 'She knows the game, she knows what's going on,' Kammy said approvingly of Massey. 'It's all about acceptance. You go a few rungs up the ladder now and soon there'll be one [woman] in the middle and two either side.' Nice to see somebody at Sky who, seemingly, isn't living deep in the Troglodyte era.

Jay Kay has criticised X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue after they failed to clap following his performance on the show some months ago. Prior to his appearance, the Jamiroquai front man had described the pair as 'fucking useless' and questioned their ability to judge the hopefuls on the talent contest. Subsequently Cole and Minogue both neglected to applaud the singer's performance of the song 'White Knuckle Ride'. Discussing their reception, he sarcastically told the Sun: 'Because that will really devastate me. "If we don't clap we'll make him feel so bad he'll never want to work again."' In a further dig at Cole, Kay added: 'If you're the mentor you should not mime on the show.'

Amanda Holden has claimed that Britain's Got Talent will never again discover another singer on the same level as Susan Boyle. Holden, who has sat on the show's judging panel since it began in 2007, claims that the moment that Britain discovered Boyle was unique and couldn't be repeated. 'That moment will never, ever happen again in the history of television,' Holden told the Daily Record. Holden made the comments during Liverpool auditions for Britain's Got Talent alongside new judges David Hasselhoff and Michael McIntyre. Boyle was famously discovered on the ITV show when she performed 'I Dreamed A Dream' to a standing ovation in 2009. After shocking both the live audience and the judges, the forty nine-year-old became an Internet sensation and has gone on to have two number one CDs in both the US and the UK.

The British Comedy Awards boosted Channel Four's prime time performance on Saturday night, overnight ratings data suggests. Hosted as usual by Jonathan Ross, the live ceremony - which saw Miranda Hart pick up three awards - averaged over two and a half million viewers between 9pm and 11pm, adding a further two hundred thousand on timeshift. Despite shedding 2.2m on last year's ITV screening, the rating caps a strong week for Channel Four - where Big Fat Gypsy Weddings pulled in the broadcaster's best figures since Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.

Miranda Hart has warned her fans that the third series of her eponymous hit sitcom may not be ready for broadcast this year. The comedian and writer revealed that she only discovered that the new series had even been ordered by the BBC after returning from a recent holiday. 'I actually just got back off holiday to discover there is a series three,' she told reporters. 'So I have no idea what it will be about.' She continued: 'The whole thing takes about a year. I might do a Christmas special though.' The thirty eight-year-old acknowledged speculation that her self-titled sitcom could move to BBC1 for its next run. 'I hear BBC1 are interested so that's very exciting,' she added.

Newswipe being named Best Comedy Entertainment Programme at the British Comedy Awards certainly put a spring in Charlie Brooker's step. Asked which comics he rated, the famously grouchy broadcaster gushed: 'Everyone here this evening' before having a moment of clarity and adding: 'God, what an oily answer that was.' Brooker was back on form when talking about ITV2 reality show The Only Way is Essex, whose 'stars' presented one of the awards: 'It's like a haunted waxworks museum,' he shuddered. My own favourite Charlie Brooker line, out of many contenders, came in 2009 when he won the Best Male Newcomer title at that year's British Comedy Awards. His co-nominees were Outnumbered's Tyger Drew-Honey and Daniel Roche and Charlie began his acceptance speech with the memorable line 'I've always wanted the opportunity to beat two children on television!'

FOX has reportedly picked up two new comedy pilots. Deadline suggests that the first project, Iceland, is a single-camera show about a dead fiancé. The show will be penned and executive produced by Andy Bobrow, who has previously worked on shows including Community and Sons Of Anarchy. FOX has also ordered a pilot of Tangled, a workplace ensemble comedy set at the Los Angeles County's coroner's office. The show is said to be loosely based on the life of author Shiya Ribowsky, who used to work at the New York City Medical Examiner's Office. The project will be written and executive produced by Aliens In America and Just Shoot Me producers David Guarascio and Moses Port.

Singer and actor David Essex will join the cast of EastEnders later this year, the BBC has announced. The 1970s pin-up will play Eddie Moon, the father of Michael and uncle to Alfie. 'Eddie is the head of the family and will arrive with his children in tow heralding a new era for the Moon clan,' said a BBC statement. Essex, who is himself from East London, said he was 'really excited to be joining the square. Eddie Moon is a great character and I can't wait to get to grips with the role and work and such a fantastic cast.' Essex, sixty three, has been a successful singer and actor since the early 1970s, notching up over twenty hit singles in Britain alone and noted starring roles in films including That'll Be The Day and Stardust. He first shot to fame after being chosen to play the role of Jesus in the musical Godspell in London's West End in 1971. His best known hits include 'Hold Me Close', 'Rock On' and 'Gonna Make You A Star'. He also played Che Guevara in the original London stage production of Evita. And his version of 'Oh, What a Circus' was so much better than Antonio Banderas's. In 1999 he was made an OBE in recognition of his services to charity. Bryan Kirkwood, executive producer of EastEnders, said: 'David is a brilliant signing for EastEnders. He is a unique talent with a legion of fans, and he will bring warmth and charisma to the role of Eddie Moon. His arrival, alongside the return of son Michael, brings a new generation of the Moon family to Walford.' Despite making a fresh start, the character of Eddie Moon will bring new drama to the Moon family as his fractured relationship with Michael suggests a complicated past he would probably rather forget. The Moon family is currently going through a traumatic period as Alfie and Kat struggle to get on with their lives following the apparent death of their newborn son Tommy. The couple believe their son to have died in his cot on New Year's Eve. But the baby found in Tommy's cot was that of Ronnie Branning, who had swapped her child - a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - for Kat and Alfie's baby.

The BBC is reportedly planning to develop more sitcoms about the working class. In a snooty and disgracefully prejudicial article of just the kind you'd expect from scum the likes of them, the Daily Scum Mail claims that BBC1's controller Danny Cohen has ordered a consultation and is talking to programme makers about new shows. Cohen is allegedly concerned that many of the channel's current comedies, such as Outnumbered and My Family, focus on middle class people. 'Danny is not reinventing the wheel,' a 'source' allegedly said. 'But he feels the BBC has lost its variety and become too focused on formats about comfortable, well-off, middle class families whose lives are perhaps more reflective of BBC staff than viewers in other parts of the UK. One of his priorities is getting more programming that reflects the different social classes and what he describes as "blue collar" comedies. In the past, programmes like Porridge, Birds Of A Feather and Bread were about real working families and the workings of their lives. Danny is conscious there are not programmes like that on BBC1 at the moment and is making it a priority to change that.' However, Cohen denied that he is focusing on any particular class. 'BBC is focused on working with Britain's most talented comedy writers and performers to get the best programming for our viewers,' he said. 'We will work hard to capture the lives and experiences of a broad range of British people but it's not right to suggest any one group will be given priority over others.' The article, of course, sneeringly talked about Cohen's own - decidedly middle-class - upbringing, as though that has anything to do with anything. And, as usual, included in its comments section, the sick ramblings of the very detritus of society itself, Daily Scum Mail readers. This blogger - as he has made clear on many occasions - loves the BBC and everything it stands for. For many reasons, not all of them wholly rational it should be noted. But, one of the main attractions to Auntie for me remains that if, on general principle, the sick lice who write for and read the Daily Scum Mail have a problem - any problem - with the BBC then it must be doing something right. God bless it and all who sail in it.

Now, here's a story that'll have the phlegm at the Scum Mail a-whoppin' and a-hollerin'. The BBC is to cut about two hundred websites as it reduces the amount of money it spends on its online output. The changes, which will see BBC Online's budget cut by thirty four million pounds, will also result in the loss of up to three hundred and sixty jobs over the next two years. Among the sites to close are teen site Switch and community sites h2g2 and 606. The plans are part of the BBC's cost-cutting measures to make twenty per cent savings as a result of the licence fee settlement. The BBC says the changes are intended to make its website more distinctive and reduce competition with commercial websites. Skills website RAW, creative teen service Blast and documentary website Video Nation will also be closed under the reorganisation. Other reductions include the replacement of the majority of programme websites with automated content and the automation of bespoke digital radio sites 1Xtra, 5Live sports extra, 6Music and Radio 7. There will be fewer news blogs while standalone forums, communities and message-boards will be reduced and replaced with integrated social tools. There will also be a reduction in the overall amount of sports news, live sport and showbusiness news, but also more culture and arts coverage on the news website. Local sites will additionally no longer publish non-news features content. About one hundred and eighty websites are expected to close ahead of schedule later this year. The overall changes will be made by February 2014. BBC director general Mark Thompson said: 'BBC Online is a huge success, but our vast portfolio of websites means we sometimes fall short of expectation. A refocusing on our editorial priorities, a commitment to the highest quality standards, and a more streamlined and collegiate way of working will help us transform BBC Online for the future.' As part of the BBC's Putting Quality First strategy, BBC Online will form ten distinctive areas: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, Homepage and Search. Roly Keating, the BBC's director of archive content, said the website had 'grown like Topsy' and would now be easier to navigate, doing fewer things better. Editorial focus would be on high-quality news, clearer local sites on news, sport, weather and travel and creative spaces for children. The iPlayer will also be reshaped, bringing together programming and programming information with archive content. The current BBC Online budget is one hundred and thirty seven million pounds per year.

A third major sponsor has pulled out of advertising during the US version of Skins, following the storm of controversy caused by the show's premiere. Skins launched on MTV last week but has since faced criticism from the Parents Television Council, who have labelled the show 'dangerous' for children to watch. Following Taco Bell and GM's decision to pull their advertising, chewing gum company Wrigley have now also decided to back out of endorsing the series. 'Wrigley has decided to suspend any advertising during MTV's Skins as it is never our intent to endorse content that could offend our consumers,' the company said, in a statement published by Show Tracker. Despite the controversy MTV has continued to back the series, which is based on Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain's British Channel Four series. 'We are confident that Skins will continue to connect with the audience it was created for and that advertisers will take advantage of the opportunity to reach them,' the network said, in a statement released earlier this weekend.

Mind you, if the bigotted right-wing 'Christians in search of filth' nobodies of the Parents Television Council have a problem with Skins, what on earth are they going to make of the next potential British import to the US? Mad Frankie Boyle is reportedly 'being chased' by two US television channels, it has been claimed. The 'controversial comedian' is wanted by HBO and Spike to fill their problematic late-night slot, according to the Daily Lies. Network bosses are reportedly hoping to begin talks with Boyle about the possibility of giving him his own post-midnight show without any restrictions. Errr... that's just Tramadol Nights, isn't it? Los Angeles media analyst Mike Raia reportedly told the paper: 'Frankie's outrageous style is exactly what they are looking for in a scheduling period that is posing new ratings problems. An increasing number of young adult viewers, predominantly male, are channel-surfing after midnight with very few current shows to keep them glued to the screen.'

Piers Morgan has suggested that he knows secrets about Simon Cowell that would 'end their friendship' if revealed. Well, really you should broadcast them on your chat show, Piers. Given the fact that nobody's watching it, your friendship would be safe as houses.

Sarah Ferguson's upcoming reality television series for the OWN network has reportedly been delayed because the network chairwoman, Oprah Winfrey, feels that it is 'too boring.' Finding Sarah had been expected to launch this spring on the new channel, but it is believed that Winfrey now wants to add 'more drama' to the six-part series. 'Oprah wasn't happy with the show,' an insider told the Daily Scum Mail. 'She found it boring in parts and has ordered re-shoots to make it harder hitting and more revealing. She wants the series to be the very best it can be,' the source added. Ferguson is hoping that the series will help to repair her tarnished public image, following a tabloid scandal last year in which she was caught trying to sell access to ex-husband Prince Andrew for large sums of money. Not that anything she ever does, for the rest of her life, will ever wipe away the horrorshow memories of The Duchess on the Estate. For that crime she will, quite simply, burn in hell. Or, Hull, perhaps. 'As of now we're anticipating that it will premiere in the summer,' a representative for the network has since announced, confirming the show's delay. However, the spokesperson denied that there is any truth to the rumours that Winfrey was unhappy with Finding Sarah.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day we have a bit of a conundrum, dear blog reader. In 1981, the excellent Birmingham reggae group UB40 released a - hugely influential - single called 'One In Ten' in which they complained, amongst other things, about the rank misery of being unemployed in Thatcher's Britain. Just over a year - and two singles - later, they put out the (equally excellent) 'So Here I Am.' In which they complained, amongst other things, about the misery of going to work on a sunny morning when you'd rather be doing something else. Two great songs, guys. But, hey! make yer minds up and be consistent, eh?!