Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Offer Infrared Instead of Sun, You Offer Paper Spoons And Bubblegum

The BBC has - finally - confirmed what most of us kind of knew anyway, that former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Matt Baker as the new co-host of The ONE Show. The former Blue Peter presenter will team up with Alex Jones from 14 February, every Monday to Thursday. Chris Evans will continue as Jones's co-host on Fridays. 'I'm over the moon to be joining The ONE Show as a full-time presenter. The BBC has made everything possible so I can also continue presenting Countryfile,' said Baker. 'It's the ideal combination for me and I can't wait to get started.' Alex Jones commented: 'I'm so pleased to be welcoming Matt to The ONE Show as a permanent fixture. We have hosted the show together many times before, he's fantastic to work with and the perfect choice for The ONE Show.' Only, you know, she said it a bit less coherently than that. BBC One controller Danny Cohen added: 'With such a wide range of experience including Blue Peter, Countryfile and Strictly Come Dancing, Matt's perfectly placed to take his place on The ONE Show sofa alongside Alex Jones.'

The hilariously funny controversy surrounding comments by Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray took a new twist on Tuesday when reporter Andy Burton was disciplined by Sky for referring to assistant referee Sian Massey as 'a bit of a looker.' Later, it was confirmed that Gray had been booted out of the door by Sky 'with immediate effect.' Burton was stood down from Wednesday night's Carling Cup semi-final second leg between Birmingham and West Ham after footage emerged of him remarking on the appearance of Massey during Saturday's game between Wolves and Liverpool. It followed Sky Sports' decision to remove Keys and Gray from duty before Monday night's Premier League game between Bolton and Moscow Chelski FC after both were recorded making off-air remarks about Massey. Burton became implicated in the controversy after Sky Sports' sister station Sky News broadcast footage of a touchline conversation between him and Gray prior to Saturday's Premier League game between Wolves and Liverpool. Burton says: 'Apparently, a female lino today, bit of a looker according to Steve the cameraman.' Gray responds: 'A female linesman?' Before the touchline reporter adds: 'He says she's all right. I don't know if I should trust his judgment on that.' Gray then says: 'Nah, I wouldn't.' It is unknown at this time whether Steve the cameraman will face any disciplinary action. Burton has previously hit the headlines in 2007 after being involved in a pub fight with Richard Bacon. Keys and Gray were recorded before the same match questioning Massey's appointment for the fixture, claiming that women 'don't know the offside rule.' Sky Sports insisted that Keys and Gray had not been sacked for their disparaging remarks but was unable to confirm exactly when the duo - who have been the faces of the network's football coverage for two decades - would be back on the air. Hours later came the confirmation that Sky had terminated Gray's contract 'in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour.' Sky's statement continued: 'The new evidence, relating to an off-air incident that took place in December 2010, came to light after Andy Gray had already been subjected to disciplinary action for his comments of 22 January 2011.' Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis said: 'Andy Gray's contract has been terminated for unacceptable behaviour. After issuing a warning yesterday, we have no hesitation in taking this action after becoming aware of new information today.' It is not clear whether the incident in question is a YouTube clip which emerged on Tuesday that appeared to show Gray making lewd and suggestive comments to co-presenter Charlotte Jackson before going on-air. The former Everton, Aston Villa and Scotland striker, believed to be on a seven-figure salary and a key component in Sky Sports' growth story over twenty years, recently began legal action against the News of the World – another arm of Rupert Murdoch's empire – over phone hacking allegations. With this weekend being the fourth round of the FA Cup, for which Sky do not hold the live rights, the next presenting opportunity for Keys would appear to be the Premier League match between West Brom and Wigan on Tuesday week. Or, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies visit to Fulham the night afterwards. That is if he's still a Sky employee by then. Massey, meanwhile, was due to be back in the spotlight on Tuesday when she was scheduled to the line in Crewe's League Two game with Bradford. However, a few hours before the match the PMGO confirmed that Massey had been withdrawn from the fixture, whilst stressing that this decision had nothing whatsoever to do with any question about her ability. General manager Mike Riley said: 'PGMO and Sian believe that with any football match the focus should not be on the officials but on the players and the game itself. That is only fair to those connected with the clubs and their supporters. Sian is an excellent professional who has unwittingly found herself in the middle of a story that has nothing to do with her competence as a match official. Sian only wants to be notable for her performance as an assistant referee and is keen for things to get back to normal so she can return to officiating as soon as possible. Sian has the full backing of PGMO and we hope she continues her development, which has shown excellent progress so far. It is important for PGMO to have talented people from all backgrounds getting involved in refereeing. The more people are attracted to the game the better standards will be and the more everyone can talk about the football.' Old Hairy-hands Keys reportedly telephoned the official on Sunday night to apologise for his remarks. Gray did not call Massey to say sorry but Sky Sports insisted that Keys had done so on behalf of them both. A spokesman told Press Association Sport that Sian had accepted Keys' apology, adding: 'It wasn't a case of Andy not apologising. It doesn't really make sense for both of them to call.' Well to be fair, it didn't really make sense for the pair of numskull dinosaurs to make the bloody comments in the first place. But they did, didn't they? It was not known whether Burton would be making a similar apology and neither is it known whether Keys has apologised to West Ham United vice-chairman Karren Brady, whom he also disparaged for suggesting that sexism was rife in the game. Brady said that Keys and Gray's comments about Massey 'make my blood boil' and she was joined by a number of anti-discrimination groups and many others within the game in condemning the pair's remarks. Sky Sports' managing director Barney Francis issued a statement on Monday, which read: 'Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public. They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority. We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action. As with any employee it would not be right to go into detail on those proceedings. However, they have been clearly warned about their behaviour and reminded of their responsibilities.' The decision to stand the duo down from Monday night's broadcast saw Sky disband their usual Isleworth-based studio operation, with a new team sent at the last minute to Bolton. The programme was presented by David Jones instead of Keys, while Jamie Redknapp and Eidur Gudjohnsen were drafted in as pundits and Sam Allardyce joined Martin Tyler in Gray's usual place in the commentary box. Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Football Association switchboard was inundated with calls yesterday from women inquiring about becoming officials. Rumours that the first question they will be asked is 'do you understand the offside rule' cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied. Meanwhile, the Daily Scum Mail which first broke the story on Sunday was, itself, the centre of controversy after a piece on the continuing story contained a photograph of Sian Massey - apparently taken from her My Space page - which showed her dancing at a party. And, they weren't alone, either. Take the Sun, for instance. Many readers of these scum tabloids may well be asking themselves if using such an image in a context such as this isn't, in and of itself, an example of crass and exploitative sexism from a bunch of sick hypocrite lice. And wondering if, for example, a story broke about Howard Webb being criticised by two of Sky's team, whether the Scum Mail or the Sun would be quite so quick to find a topless photo of him on the beach on holiday to illustrate the story with.

Vernon Kay has reportedly rejected an exclusivity deal with ITV in the hope of replacing Bruce Forsyth as the host of Strictly Come Dancing. Forsyth is rumoured to be stepping down as the presenter of the BBC dance competition this year, and Kay has previously been tipped to replace the eighty two-year-old hasbeen whenever it happens. Kay - who agreed a nine hundred thousand pound one-year deal with ITV in 2010 - has now apparently refused to sign a similar extended contract tying him to the broadcaster in order to be in a position to secure the top role on Strictly. 'Vernon is desperate to get the Strictly job, and the BBC are very keen on him taking it,' an 'insider' allegedly told the Sun. 'Bruce is his idol but everyone knows he may be off soon. Producers keep expecting the call from him any day to say he's had enough. So Vern turned down another exclusive deal from ITV as that would have taken him out of the game if Brucie retires. He'll still do Family Fortunes but they'll just pay him a fee for every show he does.' If Kay was to be selected as the new host of Strictly, he would join up with his wife Tess Daly, who has co-presented the show since it began in 2004.

The lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious Hunt, has said that he intends to refer News Corporation's bid for BSkyB to the Competition Commission. But he has given News Corp extra time to address concerns he has regarding 'potential threats to media plurality.' These concerns were identified in a report by the media watchdog Ofcom, which also recommended referring the merger to the Competition Commission. News Corp already has a thirty nine per cent stake in BSkyB and is trying to buy the rest. It also owns UK newspapers the Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times. The vile and odious Hunt has now published Ofcom's report on News Corp's bid, which had been issued to the Department for Culture Media and Sport on the last day of 2010. He also published communications between his department, News Corporation and BSkyB, and said that he had met News Corp and Ofcom in the first two weeks of January. 'As a result of these meetings and my consideration of the Ofcom report and subsequent submissions from the parties involved I still intend to refer the merger to the Competition Commission,' the vile and odious Hunt said in a statement. 'On the evidence available, I consider that it may be the case that the merger may operate against the public interest in media plurality.' However, he went on to say that it was right that he should consider any actions taken to remedy the competition concerns raised by Ofcom. 'News Corporation says that it wishes me to consider undertakings in lieu which it contends could sufficiently alleviate the concerns I have such that I should accept the undertakings instead of making a reference. It is appropriate for me to consider such undertakings,' he said. His statement did not say what these undertakings might be or how long they would take. However, Steve Hewlett from BBC Radio 4's Media Show said things News Corp might be considering could include selling some of its newspapers, selling Sky News, or perhaps more likely finding some kind of legal framework to isolate Sky News from direct editorial influence from News Corp. He added: 'I think the process is reasonably advanced because the first letter that Jeremy Hunt sent to News Corp saying that he was thinking he was going to refer it [to the Competition Commission] was on 7 January, so the meetings they've had since have been about trying to thrash out some undertakings to remedy Ofcom's issues.' The vile and odious Hunt declined to indicate how long his decision-making process would take beyond the fifteen-day consultation, but he did say that Ofcom would be asked to review the potential impact of News Corp's undertakings on media plurality. The Office of Fair Trading, using section ninety three of the Enterprise Act 2002, will also play a part in deciding whether to accept the alternative proposals. In a statement, News Corp expressed its frustration at Ofcom's report, which it believes was 'deficient in a number of ways.' Chiefly in so much as it had dared to suggest that News Corp couldn't do whatsoever the hell they liked to and woe-betide anybody who tried to stand in their way, mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. Cough. Anyway, the company said: 'News Corporation has made a submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport setting out a number of issues with the Ofcom report. However, in the interests of progressing to a transaction, News Corporation has submitted an undertaking that we believe addresses Ofcom's concerns. We will continue to engage constructively with the regulatory process.'

The man in charge of the BBC's iPlayer has said they are developing a 'traffic light' system to tell customers if their Internet provider is restricting their access to the service - in a clear warning to ISPs not to interfere with iPlayer traffic. Eric Huggers, the BBC's head of future media and technology, said that they were working on software that would use a red, amber and green system to tell web users if their Internet provider was reducing the quality of their iPlayer stream. But in a warning to ISPs, Huggers said at a Financial Times event that the BBC would only deploy the software if a stage was reached where consumers needed to 'see that their ISP is behaving appropriately.' Internet providers have complained that the large amounts of bandwidth that video streaming sites like iPlayer use are causing them problems, with some ISPs already throttling traffic to video sites during peak hours - leading consumers to complain that the popular services are effectively unusable. Huggers' warning that the BBC is willing to fight back against ISPs by telling their customers just what kind of service they're getting comes as government minister Ed Vaizey controversially signalled plans for a two-tier Internet in which ISPs can give priority to some sites over others. Communications minister Vaizey said that ISPs should be allowed to end the principle of 'net neutrality' - the idea that all online traffic is treated equally, one of the key founding principles of the Internet - and charge companies for the privilege of having traffic on their sites prioritised. Websites that didn't pay the premium would find they had reduced levels of service. Huggers said at the Financial Times conference that the BBC would be 'highly unlikely' to pay for such service quality guarantees. Vaizey's announcement was heavily criticised, with consumer groups warning that the costs would be passed on to ordinary web users, and digital liberties campaign organisation the Open Rights Group saying: 'Removing net neutrality is likely to reduce innovation and reduce people's ability to exercise their freedom of speech.'

Actor Philip Lowrie, one of Coronation Street's original cast members, is to return to the show almost forty three years after his last appearance. Lowrie played Dennis Tanner, the wayward son of Elsie Tanner, in the soap's first episode in 1960 and remained part of the show's regular cast for eight years. ITV described Tanner, who was written out when he married and moved away to Bristol, as 'the original Corrie bad lad.' Lowrie will start filming in March and will be seen on screen from May. In the first episode, broadcast in December 1960, Tanner had recently been released from prison and was seen arguing with his mother over his reluctance to get a job. He was also seen in the Rovers Return antagonising Ken Barlow, played by William Roache - the only actor to have remained on the show throughout its history. After his character was written out in June 1968, Lowrie became a regular in theatre and had a string of roles on TV, including a number of appearances in Victoria Wood rubbish shows. Meanwhile, Coronation Street's fiftieth anniversary week is to be given a DVD release in February. The ITV soap celebrated the landmark birthday with a spectacular explosion and tram crash last month. An hour-long live episode was also broadcast during the week. According to www.play.com, a two-disc DVD featuring the collection of episodes and a host of behind-the-scenes extras will be released next month. Extras listed include The Making of Anniversary week, The Filming of the tram crash and Ken Barlow - A Life On The Street.

Professor Brian Cox has confirmed that there are plans for another Stargazing Live series. The TV physicist, who co-hosted the three-night event with Dara O'Briain earlier this year, said that he was not surprised by the success of the BBC2 project.

Convicted thug Cheryl Cole could miss out on the US X Factor after it emerged that producers are still unsure of her suitability for the role. The Girls Aloud singer was said to have been offered a place on the judging panel last year, but subsequent reports have suggested that executives would prefer to sign an established performer who is familiar to the US audience. According to the Sun, Rihanna and Katy Perry have been suggested as possible judges by FOX executives. An 'insider' allegedly said: 'Everyone thinks Cheryl has the judging job on US X Factor in the bag. The truth is, nothing has been signed and the producers still aren't convinced. They are more keen to get a big US star like Katy or Rihanna on the panel - someone who will bring credibility to the show and who is already popular in the US.' Cole is widely believed to be relocating to Los Angeles in the near future, in a move that was thought to be brought about by her involvement in the US show. However, it appears that Cole's fellow UK X Factor judge Simon Cowell is the only senior figure advocating the twenty seven-year-old for the role. 'Simon has been the only one pushing for her and trying to convince everyone that she'll be a big hit,' the source continued. 'They want to see if the American public warm to her before she takes on such a high-profile role in one of the biggest shows on US TV. There have been lots of heated conversations and debates about it.'

Billie Piper has said that the sex scenes in the final series of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl are played more for laughs than in previous years. The actress returns to the role of Belle de Jour Baxter next week in the fourth and last series of the controversial ITV2 drama. Asked if the show had moved on, Piper told Heat: 'I think it's more ambitious now. Reality and fantasy have merged a bit more, plus she's totally lost it. She has no moral compass now. And the sexy side of things is funnier. It's still quite shocking, but we play it for laughs now a bit more. It's fun. Less soft porn, more weird.' She continued: 'One of her clients like to dress up as a baby and be mothered. And these people do exist, by the way. They like to be cradled while wearing a nappy. When I first read the script I thought, "We can't do this; it feels incredibly wrong." And also, how do you do it so it's not just disgusting? But we found a way to make it work, and in the end it's very funny, I hope.' Asked if she actually stripped bare-naughty nekked for the apparent nude scenes in the series, Piper said: 'No. There are scenes of bare breasts, but I'm afraid they're not mine.'

Larry Hagman has confirmed that he will appear in TNT's update of Dallas. Recent reports had suggested that the actor might not reprise his role as ruthless oil tycoon JR Ewing. However, Hagman told TV Guide: 'I haven't signed any contract but I gave them my commitment verbally. I just told them I'd do it and my word's good!' He revealed that the new pilot, written by Cane creator Cynthia Cidre, will see JR in a catatonic state and confined to a mental asylum. 'Whatever they want is okay with me,' he said. '[But] I'll get out and cause more trouble! That's for sure!' Hagman's former co-stars Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) are also in talks to appear in the pilot. Dallas originally ran on CBS from 1978 to 1991, before two reunion television films followed in 1996 and 1998.

ITV has picked up a Scandinavian singing format from Zodiak Media Group for a prime time Saturday night slot. Sing If You Can has been greenlit by ITV's director of entertainment and comedy, Elaine Beddell. 'She ordered six episodes right there in the room as we were pitching it,' said Grant Mansfield, CEO of Zodiak, who is now trying to secure a US deal for the format. The format, known around Europe as Twist & Shout, was devised by Scandinavian format think-tank Zodiak Distillery and previously been sold in France (Virgin 17), Turkey (ATV), Indionesia (TPI), the Middle East (LBC) and Romania (Antena 1), India (Star TV) and ABS-CBN in the Philippines. The format has celebrities performing songs and dances while all the time being put off by what Mansfield describes as 'Wipeout' stunts. Sounds vulgar and rotten. Likely to be a big hit, in that case.

A look at some of Britain's most enduring fictional characters and a pan-BBC celebration of Charles Dickens will bookend the BBC's Year of Books 2011, announced this week. The initiative aims to celebrate books and their authors with a range of television and radio content, including new programmes, existing strands and archive material. Jana Bennett, director of Vision, who was at the launch event with director of A&M Tim Davie, said: 'In 2010, the BBC championed science and we know that it was incredibly powerful, increasing the reach of science on television by several million viewers. We very much hope that this year's focus on books will both enhance the enjoyment of books for fans and help to bring books to a whole new audience.' New TV programming includes Faulks on Fiction, author Sebastian Faulks' new series on the British novel, and The Book Review Show – a monthly edition of BBC2's The Review Show but with a literary focus. An Anne Robinson-hosted daytime chat show, My Life in Books, will feature personalities sharing their life stories through the books they have read and will run for two weeks in the lead-up to the inaugural World Book Night on 5 March. The night will also be marked by an evening of book-themed programming from The Culture Show on BBC2, and previewed earlier in the month on Radio 4 and Radio 7. Alongside Radio 4's regular book strands, the network also presents three new literary series for 2011 – Life And Fate, The Far Pavilions and The History Of Titus Groan, with contemporary adaptations including Stephen Kelman's novel Pigeon English, while Open Book presenter Mariella Frostrup will launch the search for Britain's Funniest Book. The Year of Books ends in December with a pan-BBC Dickens season gearing up for the UK-wide 2012 celebrations marking the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the author. BBC4 will broadcast writer Gwyneth Hughes' attempt to finish Dickens' final novel Edwin Drood, BBC1 has a new adaptation of Great Expectations, and BBC2 has Armando Iannucci rediscovering the author. Radio 4 will also bring two new Dickens adaptations to the airwaves – A Tale Of Two Cities and Martin Chuzzlewit, and Woman's Hour will feature Dickens' London, a drama written by Michael Eaton.

Robert F Kennedy Jr. has claimed that the makers of the miniseries The Kennedys have an 'ingrained hostility' towards his family. The drama, which starred Katie Holmes, was axed by the History Channel earlier this month because it was 'not a fit for the History brand.' Speaking to Access Hollywood, Kennedy admitted that he isn't aware of the details of the project but appeared pleased that it has been cancelled. 'I don't know much about it,' he said. 'My understanding of it was that it was historically inaccurate, that it was created by a group of people who had an extreme and ingrained hostility towards my family and that they, you know, they twisted history. I don't think that - in any case, whoever it's about - that we should be teaching history to Americans that is not true.' Kennedy was also asked about rumours that members of his family were responsible for the show's cancellation, but replied: 'Not that I know of.' The future of The Kennedys is now uncertain. The show's producers originally intended to find a new home for the miniseries but FX, HBO, Starz, Showtime and DirecTV have all turned down the opportunity to broadcast the programme.

BBC2 has denied rumours that it has cancelled Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield's show Harry & Paul. The ever-reliable Sun claimed that the comedy is being dropped because of falling ratings. An alleged 'source' allegedly told the alleged newspaper: 'There are no more planned now. Harry & Paul is finished. I am sure they will do other stuff for the Beeb, just not this. There simply isn't the space in the schedule.' However, a spokesperson for BBC told the Digital Spy website that the channel is hoping to recommission the show when the duo are free to make another series. 'We were delighted Harry & Paul's first series for BBC2 was bold, naughty and funny as ever,' she said. 'Nothing is confirmed yet but we're looking forward to talking to them about their future plans in due course.'

Rev and This Is England '86 have triumphed in the television categories at this year's South Bank Awards. Rev, which stars Tom Hollander as an inner-city vicar, beat Getting On and Mid Morning Matters With Alan Partridge to be named 'Best Comedy.' Meanwhile, Channel Four's This Is England '86 was named 'Best Drama' at the awards. The show beat off competition from Sherlock and Misfits. Other fields celebrated at the ceremony included classical music, opera, dance, literature, film and theatre.

Two little titbits of sark in Metro's The Green Room gossip column tickled yer auld uncle Keith Telly Topping's facy on Tuesday. Firstly there was a bit about Amanda Holden reckoning that a series of recent press photos of her have been doctored: 'I look like I have Botox,' the Big Top flop is quoted as saying. 'But, honestly, I have not had any in months.' We believe you, Amanda. Thousands wouldn't. And, in the same column, Neil Sean noted that 'it seems Liam Gallagher is so desperate for a return to the limelight with his new band he is even considering an appearance on breakfast TV show Daybreak.' Bloody hell, Liam, where's yer dignity?!

Pioneering 1980s band Big Audio Dynamite are set to reform, founder member Mick Jones has told 6 Music. The original five-piece line-up will play a series of dates in the UK in March and April, before heading to the Coachella music festival in the US. 'It's all the original guys,' Jones confirmed. 'Thank God we're still alive!' The group, formed after the dissolution of The Clash, scored hits in 1986 with 'E=MC2', 'The Bottom Line', 'C'mon Every Beatbox' and 'Medicine Show.' They were renowned for their early use of samples - orchestrated by former film director Don Letts - and a futuristic fusion of rock, reggae and hip-hop. 'I left The Clash in 1983,' Jones said. 'Club music was coming up and hip-hop was sort of just starting. I found myself in a club with Don and Leo [Williams - bass guitar] and I thought "I would really love to make the sort of music I would hear in a place like this." And I just felt like I was in a group again. I'd been through this terrible whirlwind with The Clash. We never stopped for a moment and in the end we all became infected with a madness.' Big Audio Dynamite went on to record four LPs between 1985 and 1990. Their second, No. 10 Upping Street, featured production contributions from Jones's former Clash bandmate, the late Joe Strummer. The original line-up disbanded in 1990, although Jones continued to use the name for a series of projects throughout the rest of the decade whilst the rest of the band formed the basis for another groundbreaking group, Dreadzone. The band's UK reunion tour will kick off in Liverpool on 29 March, wrapping up in Bristol two weeks later. 'We've always been well received in Liverpool, so we're looking forward to that,' Jones said. Preparations have already begun with 'a couple of weeks of pre-production. We're trying to find the old tapes and get the old samples. I'm hoping to use a lot of the old gear, as well, as it sounded very different. We still have our original bongo drums,' he added. "They are very clearly marked "bim" and "bam."'

Sting has donated a song to Flood Relief - Artists For The Flood Appeal, a charity CD aimed at aiding the flood victims in Australia. Oh God, haven't the poor people suffered enough already.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we have a classic example of how even the most drippy and sugary piece of faux country-twang tat, like thiscan, if heard on the radio during a miserable all-nighter of a drive back to Tyneside from some Godforsaken gig in the middle of nowhere, produce enough anger in Paddy McAloon, to produce one of the best records of the 1980s. 'Every other sentiment an antique/As obsolete as warships in the Baltic.' You just don't get enough pop songs that use the word 'obsolete' these days, dear blog reader. And, here's an interesting clip from German telly. Obviously Steve McQueen wasn't selling at that time as only Wendy could afford clothes. Poor old Pad, Marty and Neil had to go on stage in just their vests.