Friday, February 25, 2011

And What Will She Do With Thursday's Rags When Monday Comes Around?

A Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder which used to belong to Jezza Clarkson can be yours for a mere ninety grand. Jeremy bought the car in 2007 having, famously tested it on Top Gear and declared it to be 'the greatest car ... in the world!' He also noted, when reviewing the car in the Sunday Times, that 'when you go above three thousand five hundred rpm it makes a noise like a punctured sumo wrestler!' However, his love for it eventually cooled and he sold it a year later. The car's second owner has now also put this car up for sale. It is priced quite well for such a model with just over nineteen thousand miles on the clock. The topless supercar comes in a grey exterior finish, with an orange interior. Tasteful. So if you're looking for something to buy that Top Gear fan in your family and you happen to have ninety thousand smackers lying about the house, this is clearly the very thing for you.

Matt Smith has described Doctor Who's upcoming sixth series as 'harrowing' for the Time Lord and his companions. Bang Showbiz quotes the twenty eight-year-old actor as saying that the TARDIS crew will be facing several very dangerous adventures when the family drama returns this spring. 'The Doctor and Amy are going to be faced with some really harrowing and seismic choices about their relationship and who they are, and why they are important together,' he said. Smith also promised fans that the new series is to feature a terrifying new enemy who he predicts will rank among The Doctor's most menacing foes. 'I do think we've got one of the greatest monsters, especially during my tenure on the show, but I think in the history of it. It's a real cracker,' the star remarked.

As noted in the last blog's late edition, MasterChef continued to prove popular on Wednesday evening, despite stiff competition from Champions League football. The third episode of the cookery competition's seventh series averaged a solid 4.94m on BBC1 in the 9pm hour, peaking at 5.61m for the final fifteen minutes. Live coverage of Manchester United's tedious draw with Marseille, pulled in 5.75m on ITV between 7.30pm and 10pm, whilst a further thirty eight thousand viewers watched it on ITV+1.

Thursday night's 9pm choice of viewing was, essentially, Mad Dogs on Sky1 or MasterChef on BBC1. So, an everyday tale of mayhem, chaos, butchery and murder ... or, some drama with John Simm and Phil Glenister in it? Hmm, let me think! 'How do you impress those that have been there and done that?' ask the BBC continuity announcer before MasterChef kicked off. Tonight, Gregg and John had set the final twelve a cunningly nasty little test to whittle them down to a final ten. Cook for all of the previous winners and finalists of MasterChef. (Or, at least, all of those going back to 2005 and the start of the current version of the show, anyway.) For once, Gregg didn't need to say 'cooking doesn't come any tougher than this,' he left that to someone else. Sara as it happens. It was, of course, very nice to see some familiar faces like Dhruv, Tim and Alex from last year. Each of the twelve remaining contestants had to design one dish for the menu and then have them pass the Torode inspection before being eaten by professionals. The first round saw Alice, Claudia, James and Kennedy do the starts. Part-time model Alice's lasagne with scallops topped with a Parmesan crisp proved to be very popular. Too popular, in fact, as poor old Alice ended up having to make nine of them. 'Next time, don't bite off more than you can chew' chided John in the episode's first troweled on dining metaphor. That, of course, should've told her there was going to be a next time. John was stationed on The Pass, giving out the orders and checking them before they went to the table. You can tell it's what he does for a living by the way he bellowed 'WHERE'S MY FOOD!' at one point, for example. Meanwhile, Gregg was inside the restaurant, eating the meals with the past finalists and looking like he was having his Best Day Ever. 'I'll be interested to see what Mr Wallace says whiklst I've been sweating. He gets all the good jobs' noted an exhausted John towards the end of service. Cellist Kennedy also impressed with his halibut, smoked haddock and mussel dish. 'That's what we, technically, call "mmmm!"' said Gregg, milking it, somewhat. James the Carpenter (seriously, we're going to have to find another name for him, he sounds like someone from the New Testament at the moment) was also bang on the nail with his pan-fried scallops with crispy bacon and a cider beurre-blanc sauce. Oh yes. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping could've quite nicely eaten that himself. Claudia's chicken livers with Caribbean bread, on the other hand, brought a few twisty faces. The Total Drama Queen round turned out to be that producing the main course; Sara, who seemed ready to burst into tears about every thirty seconds, nevertheless managed to get out a rather fine-looking wood pigeon and pancetta risotto which went down well with pretty much everyone. 'Competitive' Peter's T-smoked duck breast with juniper jus also had them purring in the restaurant although, sadly, his dish was let down by him burning his Rösti. Big sweaty Polly the pudding queen delivered a decent enough cannon of venison with asparagus but, as one of the guest noted, 'it's a bit meat-and-two-veg for me.' Tom, meanwhile, gave himself the most work and was constantly being scolded by John for his messy work area. But his pan-fried fillet of brill with crab bonbons and octopus crisps was a positive triumph with the diners. As was the first of the desert offerings, Annie's orange and pomegranate cake and ice cream. Simple but, it seems, massively effective. 'I want her to be my mum,' said Gregg in a worryingly oedipal confessional moment. That's a little bit too much information, mate! Then 'American nutty professor' Tim produced the expected weird highlight of the night, a Hawaiian-rum-pineapple-rice-pudding-layered-stacked ... thing. John and Gregg sniffed and were clearly doubtful he could pull it off. And, almost uniquely, Wallace found himself with a pudding that, he claimed, he didn't like. Expect tidal waves to sweep away much of western civilisation the next time that happens. Happily for Tim, all the rest of the guests who had his dish, adored it. Jackie, who'd been a whirlwind of manic energy in the previous two episodes said she'd been meditating to try and stay calm. It seemed to have a detrimental affect on her grub, however. Her spiced rice pudding with pineapple was a definite game of two halves with some impressive bits but lacking in terms of presentation. Finally, there came Fiona, the biggest divider of opinion on the show so far. Actually, to be fair, I was rather starting to warm to her - particularly as she avoided mentioning her late father for the entire episode. However, her bread and butter pudding with pear looked good but turned out to be, according to those who ate it, a stodgy mess. And that - amazingly - included Gregg Wallace a man not known for his penchant for dissing puds. In the end, it was Fiona and Claudia who got the short straw and went home. Jackie, Peter and Polly, who'd also been under consideration for the bullet, survived. Cue group hugs. Meanwhile, over on Mad Dogs ... the drama wasn't nearly so tense and exciting!

The BBC has recommissioned whinging bitter old Red Jimmy McGovern's ladgeful dramatic celebration of misery, Accused - despite hugely disappointing ratings for the first series and criticism of its portrayal of the armed forces. And, yet they've cancelled Zen and Lark Rise to Candleford. Yeah, that makes complete sense. Drama controller Ben Stephenson and BBC1 head Danny Cohen - both of whom yer Keith Telly Topping has a lot of respect for, usually - seem to have taken leave of their senses in ordered a further four episodes of Accused for broadcast in 2012. Each will, as with the first series, focus on an ordinary person who ends up in court, with a multi-layered story gradually unravelling to reveal the chain of events that led to their trial. And, by about the forty five minute mark you'll be looking for a razor blade. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like a bit of sustained ennui in my drama. But Accused was just miserablism for the sake of it. The first series, which was shown in November, lost over one and a half million viewers during its six-episode run (from 4.7m for the opening episode to 3.2m for that last), and one episode drew criticism from MPs and senior military figures including former army head General Lord Dannatt, who described it as 'a nasty programme.' Which is was, although not for the reasons that he meant. In defending McGovern's right to create drama about whatever the hell he liked, Jana Bennett, the then director of BBC Vision, said: 'This wasn't in any way a docu-drama or documentary nor a campaigning piece. It was a piece of fiction, written about different elements of moral issues like loyalty, guilt, the nature of being able or not able to kill and something that spirals out of control. The test this drama should be put to is whether it is a good piece of fiction or not.' Which, as it happens, it wasn't. Not even close. At least, not for this reviewer. This was especially ironic as McGovern had used a number of interviews in which he was supposed to publicise the series to criticise just about every other TV show on the planet. And then, he went and produced something so uniformly ordinary and paint-by-numbers as Accused. Unremittingly grim and, frankly, very uninvolving. Stephenson justified his decision, saying: 'Many factors go into the process of recommissioning on BBC1, and although the first series rated modestly, we feel it has potential to find a broader audience.' He added that the series was 'unique' on British TV. No it isn't, Ben. There's plenty of other examples of rubbish drama out there if you know where to look. The decision is the latest in a series of what Broadcast magazine describes as 'big calls' by Stephenson and Cohen. Popular period piece Lark Rise To Candleford has been cancelled after four series, while flagging Kudos SF drama Outcasts has been moved from its peak Monday and Tuesday 9pm slot to Sundays at 10:25pm, after its ratings almost halved in a week. Cohen and Stephenson also opted not to bring back the Left Bank detective series Zen, which had averaged 5.7 million viewers and had Audience Appreciation Index figures of 87. Stephenson said: 'We are very proud of the first series, but have a lot of good scripts coming through, which we are excited about. It's never an easy decision, but ultimately we had to ask whether we should not progress one of those in order to bring back Zen, and decided not to.' But Stephenson stressed there was 'no particular strategic message to take away from these decisions,' adding there were no plans to 'take a scythe' to the schedule.

According to the BBC press office update for Week Eleven (12 to 18 March) the final series of Waking the Dead starts that week. Most likely on Monday.

Luscious, pouting Melinda Clarke has signed up to return to CSI in the near future. The Nikita actress will reprise her role as Lady Heather in an episode of the show in April. Speaking to E! Online, Clarke revealed: 'It hasn't happened yet, but I'm scheduled to shoot another CSI in a few weeks.' Clarke explained that she will not be working with William Petersen, who recently returned to the show in a cameo appearance as Gil Grissom. However, she added: 'Fortunately, I think the storyline's pretty interesting.'

The next series of Have I Got News for You is going to be back on Fridays it would seem since the shows are being recorded on Thursday evenings from mid-March.

Scottish broadcaster STV admitted on Thursday that its legal dispute with ITV could cost it over twenty one million pounds if it loses all three claims. STV, which owns the STV and Grampian ITV licences, spent three and a half million quid last year on litigation costs relating to the three disputes with ITV plc and if no settlement is reached the first of the cases will reach court in May. Rob Woodward, the STV chief executive, said that the company has the full support of shareholders in its protracted legal dispute with ITV, despite the fact that the return of dividend payments after almost four years have been put on hold until the cases are resolved. STV on Thursday reported an 'exceptionally strong' set of results for 2010 thanks to the resurgence in TV advertising. According to preliminary results for last year, STV's broadcasting revenue was up sixteen per cent to £90.3m, but it was digital revenues which showed the most growth. STV's digital content business was up twenty one per cent year-on-year to £9.8m, while overall digital revenue grew fifty per cent to £4.2m. Average monthly unique users to STV's online services grew to a record high of 2.2m in the fourth quarter of last year, representing more than half of its broadcast audience. Total STV group revenue rose marginally to £111.7m from £110m, while pre-tax profits were up to £12.5m. However, group performance was buoyed by the disposal of the loss-making cinema advertising business Pearl & Dean last May. The company added that given the continued strong climate – the UK TV advertising market is expected to be up ten per cent in the first quarter of 2011 and double digits in April – it would 'normally expect' to reinstate dividend payments this year. However, the board is holding off until the legal battle with ITV is resolved. 'We have complete backing from everyone to protect our position,' said Woodward, pointing out that investors are more than happy with the state of the company following a dramatic turnaround. 'You have to put the clock back two or three years and think where we were then, what we were facing. The company is at a very different level.' The two sides have been unable to reach agreement in the long-running dispute, which kicked-off in 2009, despite a change in management at ITV. In November 2009 STV launched a thirty five million pound action against ITV. This came on the heels of ITV launching a thirty eight million pound claim for alleged unpaid network programme budget contributions, which included grievances over TV advertising sales and video-on-demand rights. STV is also preparing to launch a third claim in relation to 'significant prejudicial behaviour' by ITV. 'We have locked onto a course set some eighteen months ago,' Woodward added. 'We have a very strong case and we continue to defend our position and will continue to do so vigorously. We would be open to finding an amicable solution so both companies can go on and build value.' The company believes it has a 'potential contingent asset' of £7.3m if it wins the first claim and an unstated amount more if it triumphs in all three disputes. 'However it is not practicable to quantify the potential effect of these claims and potential claim at this stage,' the company said. Woodward also said that STV intended to be involved in the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Hunt's plans for local TV. 'We are a local media company and it would be somewhat surprising if we were not involved in the initiative,' he added. 'The details are under wraps. We are in active discussions with a number of people.'

Olly Murs has faced new difficulties as he continues the Red Nose Desert Trek. The group added another sixteen kilometres to their total as part of the fundraising challenge across the Kaisut Desert in Kenya. Singer Murs has suffered with a painful case of chafing on his legs and groin, which he described as 'a severe case of nappy rash. I've got a lot of chafing on my legs and it's really painful,' he said. Now you know how we felt listening to 'Please Don't Let Me Go' matey boy. 'I keep applying lubricant and cream to soothe it each morning but as soon as I put it on, we've got to start walking and the chafing starts all over again,' he said.

Channel Five bosses are allegedly planning their own big fat gypsy reality series. And they have promised travellers they will show the 'real' side of the lifestyle after the community criticised the hit Channel Four show Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Some gypsy groups have claimed that the show 'made a mockery' of their culture, with many refusing to be involved in future documentaries shot by Four. But Jeff Ford, Channel Five's director of programmes, said: 'We've been looking at a series based on gypsies for some time. Obviously the Channel Four series has been a huge hit so there is clearly something in it,' Ford told the Daily Lies. 'But we don't want to just follow what they have done, we want to lead. We want to really get under the skin of their culture and give a true insight, rather than a piss-take.' Yvonne MacNamara from The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain said: 'If new programmes are made I urge them to examine other areas of traveller life, such as the fact that they are among the most discriminated against in our society.'

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret has, reportedly, been commissioned for a second series.

Academic and TV presenter the great Simon Schama is to front a new series on BBC2 documenting the incredible history of the Jews. In the five-part series, The History Of The Jews, Schama will explore the four thousand years of Jewish history from the Ancient Israelites to the impact of the Jewish people on the modern world. Discussing the series, Schama said that any historian would want to tell 'the epic story' of the Jewish people on Earth. 'From the invention of the single faceless God to the invention of psycho-analysis, the Jewish story brims with illumination; ordeal and cultural revolutions; with poetry, politics and picturing,' he said. 'One of the first American presidents said that from their mere numbers the Jews ought to have been no more than a mere puff of stardust amidst the constellations; but they have been more like an explosive sunspot that never dies down. Coloured by passion and pathos, populated by troublemakers, and visionaries, I've always wanted to bring this story to a contemporary television audience and since Jews have shaped the world as much as they have been shaped by it, their experience will, I hope, become part of everyone's story.' The BBC's Martin Davidson, who commissioned The History Of The Jews, added: 'From the Diaspora right through to the present day, the history of the Jewish people is fundamental in the history of civilisation. I am delighted that Simon Schama, with his expertise, is returning to BBC2 to present such an important and wide-ranging authored series.'

Sky News was this week named News Channel Of The Year for the second year running at the 2011 Royal Television Society journalism awards. Sky's rolling news network staved off strong competition from Al-Jazeera English and the BBC's News Channel to scoop the prestigious award, marking the eighth time it has won the accolade in the last ten years. The RTS judges said that 2010 was 'a vintage year for Sky News, which exhibited outstanding range and depth.' They also praised the channel for its 'bold and brave' approach to showing foreign coverage and breaking news. Sky News specialist correspondent Alex Crawford was named RTS Television Journalist of the Year for the third time, and the broadcaster's coverage of the student protests in London took the Home News Coverage award. Speaking at Wednesday night's ceremony, head of Sky News John Ryley paid tribute to 'the brilliant men and women of Sky who over the past twenty two years have made the channel the success it is today.' He added: '2010 has been another exceptional year for the Sky News team - from the success of our historic Leaders' Debate campaign, to the launch of HD, to our outstanding foreign coverage - we continue to push bold, exciting and innovative storytelling.' Elsewhere, the BBC picked up four awards, including a lifetime achievement accolade for David Dimbleby, the face of the corporation's political coverage. The Channel Four News anchor Jon Snow was named Presenter Of The Year and the broadcaster's political editor Gary Gibbon won Specialist Journalist Of The Year. The ITN-produced ITV News at Ten won the coveted News Programme Of The Year prize, while ITV was also recognised for its international coverage of the Haiti earthquake. ITV Border's coverage of the Cumbria shootings scooped the best nations and regions news programme prize. The Judges' Award was shared between Sky News, the BBC and ITV for negotiating the landmark televised Leaders' Debates for last May's general election. CNN International took home the Innovative News Award for its World Cup Twitter Buzz visualisation.

John Lydon has said that the US version of Skins is not as good as the UK original. Meanwhile, Keith Telly Topping notes that This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get isn't as good as Metal Box. Which it isn't, but it's hardly frigging news, is it?! The Public Image Ltd frontman presented the Best TV Show award to the E4 drama at this week's Shockwave NME Awards. Lydon said: 'It was all right to meet Skins, I'm really pleased it did [win] because I've seen the uproar created in America. The American version is really naff and yet there's this huge outcry. It seems to be almost political now that anything from the Brits is going to be offensive, rude and vile. It really isn't, it's reality.' He added: 'But then again the English kids act it so much better. There really is a difference. Americans being upright and forthright and honest and true to themselves is a very hard concept. Something went wrong there. But I like the English show, I do. It's like Emmerdale Farm [sic] on ecstasy, it's totally alright.' I'll sat this for auld Mad John, mind, that is without doubt the single best description I've heard for Skins in a long, long time!

Victoria Beckham reportedly switched flights on Wednesday when she discovered that she would be sharing the trip to Los Angeles with Katie Price. Presumably because she didn't think one 747 would be big enough to contain two egos of that size. Egos, I said. A tabloid report had claimed that the two would be seated near to each other in first class luxury on board the Virgin flight from Heathrow to the US. However, the Mirra says that Beckham decided to board an Air New Zealand flight half an hour later along with Cheryl Cole. Price wrote on Twitter: 'Taking off people saying Victoria on flight this is not true [sic].' Beckham was, the newspaper claims, 'irked' to discover that Price was on the same flight and decided that she did not want to be part of the 'circus' which follows Price. Speaking at the launch of her Day Twenty Two fashion range, the former glamour model had praised Beckham while appearing to put an end to their long-running feud. A spokesman for the Beckhams added: 'We don't comment on the family's travel details. However, we had several flights on hold for yesterday and today for convenience and for security reasons.'

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has told state TV that Osama Bin Laden and his followers are to blame for the protests taking place in his country. And, the BBC. And, the Saucer People. And, the Reverse Vampires. Mad. As. Toast. In a phone call addressed to residents of the town of al-Zawiya, Colonel Gaddafi said young people were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in 'destruction and sabotage.' Gaddafi is battling to shore up control of Tripoli and western areas. Protesters have been consolidating gains in cities in the east like Tobruk and Benghazi. Opposition politicians and tribal leaders have held a key meeting in the eastern town of al-Bayda to show a united front against Gaddafi. He said the young protesters were 'trigger happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned with drugs.' He added that Libya was not like Egypt and Tunisia, which have seen their leaders deposed, because the people of Libya had it in their own hands to change their lives through committees. 'This is your country and it is up to you how to deal with it,' he said. Oh, this is not going to end well or without the shedding of blood.

Reports that a woman was claiming Downing Street's new cat was actually her lost pet have been revealed to be a - rather good - hoax. Larry the cat was unveiled at Number 10 earlier this month, but according to various news reports, including one that has now disappeared from the Daily Scum Mail's website, a woman named Margaret Sutcliffe claimed that the feline was Jo, a pet she had adopted as a stray. According to the hoax - originated by Starsuckers director Chris Atkins - Sutcliffe's nephew Tim started a Facebook group urging people to contact Prime Minister David Cameron and ask for the return of the cat. Faked images purporting to be screencaps from the page were published along with quotes from 'Margaret' and were picked up by several sources who had not properly checked the story. Including, it should be noted in the interests of fairness, this blog! Nice one. It's always good to see something like this if it's done with some wit.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, is one which, I dare say you'd have to pay a lot of money (and, probably, your granny) to obtain dear blog reader. Lou, John, Stirling, Mo and Nico and a hymn to the New York scene of 1966. Play loud.