Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm Gonna Get Her Tonight I Don't Care Where She's Been!

MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace have admitted to resolving their disagreements over contestants down the pub. The duo also revealed that they once had so many drinks trying to resolve a dispute that they had to call a halt to filming. 'Once we argued so badly [about a contestant] that the next day we had a break in filming and went and had a pint - then three or four pints,' Wallace told the Sun. 'By the time we got back to the studio we were rotten. But the production team understood that we had to get back on speaking terms.' The pair also laughed off the long-running myth that they cannot stand working with each other. 'I loved the rumours that we hated each other. It was hilarious,' said Wallace. Last year it was revealed the show was putting an end to the traditional format in which a series of heats were used to determine the eight semi-finalists. This year for the first time Wallace and Torode audition the amateur cooks one by one - having been shortlisted from the initial twenty thousand applicants. Contestants have forty five minutes to prepare a dish, then a further ten minutes to finish and plate-up in front of the judges they're hoping to impress. If both judges like the dish, they'll win one of the twenty places in the MasterChef competition. But if would-be contestants are intimidated by the process, they do have one small source of comfort – they're allowed to bring their family and friends along for support. Speaking to the Sun, Wallace and Torode stated that while the format has changed, at least initially, the show itself is still about skill rather than looks or personality. Wallace said: 'We are obviously not going for personality, we are not going for looks. Some of the winners we have had wouldn't win a personality contest or a beauty contest. I don't care who they are. I only see what's on the plate.'

As for the first episode of the new series, it was rather good. In fact, as far as yer Keith Telly Topping was concerned it was just normal MasterChef, albeit with more than a little bit of the X Factor audition rounds thrown in. (Including some slightly irritating interviews with a variety of superfluous family, friends or significant others.) We also got one contestant - the delightful Charity - uttering two words that you really don't want to be hearing when you're presenting a plate of food to John and Gregg. 'Experimental trifle.' No, no, no, no, Charity my love. Never in a million years. Mind you, Paul's bread-wrapped mackerel looked good enough for this particular viewer to be licking the plate afterwards! I wonder if anybody else was getting a bit concerned by some of the very odd faces that Gregg Wallace kept pulling. I was seriously worried at one point the poor lad was having a stroke. Not only that, but then he failed to be blown away by a pudding that John Tordoe actually liked. The boy is clearly ill. Josie's 'pretty-please-please' pleading to be let through to the next round was a definite highlight of the episode. Although, maybe not quite, as much of a highlight as John and Gregg turning her down as she burst in tears. Brilliant television, ladies and gentlemen. Terry's Hollandaise shenanigans, Claudia's well fishy mash-up, John's 'it's just a bowl of soup' and Polly's struggles with her clove of garlic were further bonuses. Charity, in her low-cut cocktail frock, needed all the charity she could get from the judges for a plate of what was, essentially, yellow dribble, that couldn't even be heightend by India Fisher's forlornly dry delivery of 'and ... a cherry.' MasterChef is back, dear blog reader. I can handle the slight X-Factorisation of the show so long as Gregg and John continue to not take themselves remotely seriously and there seems to be rather more of a camaraderie between the two than in the past. (John making Gregg try that wretched-looking trifle, for instance.) And, despite all the fiddling with the format, it's still basically the same old fun and games. Children's hospital worker Paul was the first cook handed a MasterChef apron after impressing the judges with his mackerel fillets with rhubarb sauce and an apple, radish and frisée salad. He was followed into the next stage of the competition by Tim, who seemed really surprised that he got two yes votes for his cod tempura and sweet potato wedges with dipping sauces. Other success stories included cockney-geezer carpenter James, who served up roasted duck breast on red cabbage (and, had the funniest line of the night: 'If me jus dahn't come orf, 'at's me aht tha winda!'), photographer Matthew and Italian Sarah, who almost reduced Gregg to orgasm with her home-made tagliarini. Royal Scottish National Orchestra cellist Kennedy, fashion lecturer Claudia, Northampton's slightly scary Ondine and art gallery worker Elizabeth, who impressed Torode and Wallace with her 'creativity and cleverness,' were also sent through to the Top Twenty stage. Ondine managed to make it in spite of the fact that she couldn't pronounce framboise properly. Although, to be fair, neither could Gregg! The final two aprons went to former pharmacy lecturer Peter and Big Madly-Enthusiastic Polly, who both managed to prove their cookery skill after returning to serve up a second dish. Polly's pea mousse with creamed mushrooms, pancetta and melba toast and Peter's ballotine of chicken on spinach with a madeira jus were enough to persuade John and Gregg of their respective talents.

According to Mark Gatiss on Twitter, 'For those kindly asking, we start shooting the new series of Sherlock in May and will be back on TV in the Autumn.' Which is, of course, fantastic news. It was first announced last August that the detective drama, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, would return for three more ninety-minute TV movies later this year. In October, co-producer Steven Moffat implied that the second run might introduce Holmes' love interest Irene Adler, some form of adaptation of the most famous Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles and a depiction the great detective's apparent final battle with his nemesis Moriarty (Andrew Scott) at Reichenbach Falls.

BBC1's SF drama Outcasts is being moved from 9pm to a Sunday late-night slot after vastly disappointing ratings for its first four episodes. In what appears to be the first major scheduling change since new BBC1 controller Danny Cohen took over, after next Monday's 9pm instalment the series will move to 10.25pm from Sunday 27 February for its final three episodes. It is very unusual for schedulers to switch a programme from one slot to another so close to transmission and gives an idea of the lock stock that the well-trailed and promoted Outcasts currently has at the Beeb. On Tuesday night its fourth episode drew a really poor audience of just over two and a half million viewers - admittedly against tough competition from Channel Four's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and ITV's The Brit Awards 2011. But still, as noted in relation to the previous episode (when the show got three hundred thousand more viewers) Outcasts has been the lowest rated BBC 9pm drama in the last four years. Outcasts launched with 4.4 million last Monday, but the show's audience has steadily declined with each episode since then. The BBC drama controller, Ben Stephenson, said that the move did not signal that the BBC doesn't want to take risks and said the show had attracted 'a loyal, core audience.' Albeit, a small one. 'BBC1 and BBC drama support creative risk. Sometimes this means that talented people make shows that don't engage enough of the audience. I have so much respect for any writer who has the nerve and confidence to create their own original world and serve it up to an audience,' Stephenson added. 'It's highly important to me to support them no matter how the project is received, whilst primarily always trying to engage the widest possible audience.' The BBC had high hopes for Outcasts, which featured an impressive cast including former [spooks] actress Hermione Norris, Ashes to Ashes' Daniel Mays and Ugly Betty's Eric Mabius. Filmed in South Africa, Outcasts is made by Kudos, the producer of several other - much more popular - BBC drama hits such as [spooks], Life on Mars and Hustle.

Outcasts writer Ben Richards has responded to the show's critics and commented on the programme's schedule shift. Writing on Twitter about the changes, Richards remained defiant, commenting: 'I have every confidence we will rule our new slot. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! Cultdom beckons. And keep watching hardcore because remaining eps great.' Richards has also been defending the show on the Gruniad website's community section. Following a barrage of criticism from TV critics after the opening episode, he said: 'Sometimes I think it doesn't matter what you write, the same old chorus will start up like the critics on The Muppets (two of my favourite characters) "Whaddya think? I hated it!" I'm not a snob, I like action myself; I don't want to do didactic treatises, etc. The show builds. You may like it, you may not but I'm quite happy we took a risk. I'm glad the much maligned BBC did and some of the moaners would have been screaming blue murder about "just another cop show."' He continued: 'People have a right not to like things although I think many of the loudest and least interesting critics get a little bit Rumpelstiltskin about it all, stamping the little boot of negativity so hard that they get locked into a discontinuous mindset only recognising "shit" and "great" on their radars.' Richards also argued that too many critics were not giving the show enough time, claiming that some of his favourite programmes such as The Wire and Friday Night Lights had not been immediate hits. 'It really takes time to build and I'm very proud of some of the later episodes in Outcasts and I think it builds to a very moving finale,' he said. Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping has stuck with Outcasts thus far but has some problems with it - largely the pacing and the characterisation. It's got a fine cast, to be sure, but the pace of the thing is like a snail on Valium. it's all very well Ben saying it builds but many viewers these days - for better or worse - have the attention span of the goldfish and just won't sit through something deliberately underpaced. Not only that but there are some serious issues with regard to whom, exactly, the audience are actually supposed to be sympathetic towards. I really don't mind a bit of shades-of-grey in my drama but when you've got nothing but shades-of-grey you're in trouble.

ITV's coverage of The Brit Awards was seen by 4.9 million on Tuesday evening, but was, like Outcasts, totally outperformed by Channel Four's popular Gypsy Weddings series, according to overnight audience data. The music industry awards ceremony, hosted by fat unfunny tosser James Corden, averaged 4.75m for ITV between 8pm and 10pm, while a further one hundred and sixty seven thousand viewers tuned in to ITV+1 and hour later. It is the worst performance by the award ceremony since 2006. The Brit Awards audience fell off sharply in the 9pm hour, as Big Fat Gypsy Weddings captured a smidgen under six and a half million viewers on Channel Four. A further nine hundred and forty six thousand viewers watched the programme an hour later, the biggest multichannel audience of the night. Meanwhile, still on the subject of ratings, red-top tabloid rivals, the Sun and Daily Lies, had two very different takes on the debut of Channel Five's OK! TV magazine show. The Sun's TV Biz column declared Richard Desmond's latest venture 'a ratings flop,' going on to compare it – unfavourably – to other shows in its time slot. The Lies, meanwhile, alleged that OK! TV had given Five 'a boost in tea-time ratings,' adding: 'That's almost double what its predecessor Live From Studio Five used to get.' Which is isn't. OK! TV launched with four hundred thousand viewers, while Live From Studio Five ended with three hundred and twenty thousand viewers. So, not double then. The second episode of OK! TV on Tuesday, incidentally, was down to three hundred thousand viewers. Definitely not double.

Channel Four is alleged to be working on a follow-up to its ratings hit Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. According to the Daily Lies, the broadcaster wants to shoot a follow-up examining the traveller communities' 'lavish' funerals. 'If something is a hit then you need to make a sequel as soon as possible,' said a 'source.' Allegedly. 'But they can't do weddings again so they need a new topic - and what better than funerals? In the past, gypsies have built enormous resting places for the deceased that resemble bedrooms, so it looks like the person is sleeping in bed. They have huge floral tributes in all shapes, massive tombstones and hundreds gather to say their goodbyes.' However, a Channel Four spokesperson has insisted that it is 'too soon' to discuss the possibility of a sequel.

David Morrissey has claimed that his new drama South Riding is relevant to modern audiences. The BBC drama, which is set in the 1930s, follows a teacher called Sarah (played by Anna Maxwell Martin) as she becomes the head at a Yorkshire girls' school. Speaking to What's On TV, Morrissey explained that his character Robert will be unhappy about Sarah's arrival. 'Robert is a middle-class landowner who is on the local council and takes his duties seriously,' he said. 'Sarah has strong views about the education of women whereas Robert's a traditionalist, so she starts off rubbing him up the wrong way.' Morrissey described the drama as 'a rollicking great story about unrequited love and social conscience,' adding: 'It's relevant to a modern audience, too, as it's set in a time of economic hardship.'

Rupert Penry-Jones has admitted that he is keen to play less 'posh' characters in the future. I think that ship might've sailed, matey! The actor told TV Choice that he would like to play a character who is 'a bit more street. I understand why I don't get those sorts of roles,' he bemoaned. Is it because you'se black, you reckon, Rupe? 'It's not so much the way I sound, but the way I look. I just look like someone who went to public school,' he added. Well, that's probably because you did! You went to Dulwich College, pal, what do you expect?! However, Penry-Jones added that he was happy with his career so far. Despite not sounding at all like he is. 'You can't play everything,' he reasoned. 'To be honest, I like the niche that I've found.' The former [spooks] star also revealed that he would like to appear in more period dramas. 'That would be my ideal,' he claimed. 'I'd love to do another Jane Austen. I loved being in [ITV adaptation] Persuasion. It was wonderful to play someone so romantic and heroic.' And posh.

Hat Trick International has sold comedy series Episodes to one hundred and eighty six countries worldwide. Broadcasters including Channel Nine in Australia, Kanal 5 in Sweden, TV2 in Denmark, TVNorge in Norway, FOX Russia, Turner Latin America and HBO Central Europe have all picked up the rights to the first series. However, it hasn't, apparently, been sold to the Federated States of Micronesia. Which is shocking. Written by David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik, the show centres on a pair of British scriptwriters (Tamsin Grieg and Stephen Mangan) who head to Los Angeles to remake their show for US television. However, they soon end up having problems due to a controlling network boss, who insists that they give former Friends star Matt LeBlanc the lead role. 'Episodes has certainly lived up to expectations. It's been incredibly well received internationally thanks to its stellar cast and clever script,' said director of sales at Hat Trick International Sarah Tong. ;Episodes takes the lid off Hollywood in a witty and insightful way like no other show before and this has proved a topic of worldwide fascination.'

Simon Cowell is reportedly planning a new game show which will offer contestants the chance to win up to one million smackers. The Sun claims that the music mogul's lottery-style programme will see London's Wembley Arena filled with potential contestants, who will each pay one pound for their ticket to enter the draw. The chosen competitor will then stand the chance of winning the top prize by competing in a series of live challenges. Cowell has apparently signed up Britain's Got Talent duo Ant and Dec to host the show - codenamed Roulette. 'It is a big gamble for Simon as it could be telly's biggest ever turkey if it goes wrong,' a 'source' allegedly told the newspaper. 'This will be one of the most ambitious TV shows ever staged. Details are under wraps for now but the idea is that people will pay a small price - say one pound - to get a ticket which will give them a chance of taking part. Simon is confident that because millions vote for the X Factor every week they will be prepared to pay.' A pilot episode is said to have been filmed last June and the paper suggests that ITV hope to make the show 'event TV' in the summer.

Hollyoaks has announced plans to put one of its biggest ever storylines into the hands of the public by recruiting a 'jury' to decide the outcome of an on-screen rape trial. In an ambitious first for UK soap, the programme's bosses will invite twelve ordinary members of the public to look at the evidence, deliberate the case and ultimately decide whether show regular Gilly Roach is guilty or not guilty as he stands trial for raping Jacqui McQueen. As revealed earlier this month, Gilly (Anthony Quinlan) is to be arrested and charged in the weeks ahead after Jacqui (Claire Cooper) claims that he sexually assaulted her. Following the accusation, the personal trainer confirms that he had sex with Jacqui on the night in question but insists that it was consensual. The act of rape does not feature on screen and neither Jacqui nor Gilly is lying about what took place, but both are reading the same situation very differently - leaving villagers and viewers unsure of what really happened. Crucially, the storyline is not a case of a 'false accusation' but instead explores the complex and emotive subject of rape from two different perspectives. Hollyoaks producers say that they undertook thorough research while planning the storyline to ensure an accurate portrayal of the issue, consulting rape charities Rape Crisis, the Sexual Assault Referral Centre and the Don't Cross The Line campaign among others. By opening up Gilly's trial to be decided by a real-life jury, producers hope to provide an opportunity for the audience to engage directly with the complex issue at hand and give rise to debate. Production company Lime Pictures will also use multiplatform initiatives by ensuring that the process is fully documented on the Hollyoaks website.

Adrian Chiles has called on viewers who've given up on it to give Daybreak a second chance. Err ... no. I don't think so. Meanwhile, Christine Bleakley has revealed that she and Frank Lampard turned down an invite to the Brit Awards. Speaking to the Mirra, the Daybreak host said that the couple don't lead a party lifestyle. As if anybody effing well cares.

Emmy-nominated reporter Serene Branson is said to be 'feeling better' after appearing to suffer a health scare during her post-Grammy Awards coverage. The reporter had been on-air following Sunday's ceremony when she seemed unable to form sentences. However, a statement posted on the station's official website said: '[Serene] was examined by paramedics on scene immediately after her broadcast. Her vital signs were normal. She was not hospitalised. As a precautionary measure, a colleague gave her a ride home. And while Serene says she is feeling better today, she wants us to know she followed-up with a visit to the doctor for some medical tests.' The statement added that Branson sent her thanks to everyone who had expressed concern for her well-being, and that she hopes to return to reporting soon.

House producer Katie Jacobs has suggested that the romance between House and Cuddy could soon come to an end. She told TV Line that the relationship between the pair may not be 'all that it's cracked up to be. I think the exploration of the relationship is interesting,' she said. '[But] I don't think the fans are expecting it to go on forever, are they?' Greg Yaitanes, who has directed twenty one episodes of the medical drama, also implied that the couple could split in next week's episode. Writing on Twitter, he hinted: 'Yo! is next week the end of [House and Cuddy]?' Series creator David Shore also previously implied that the relationship could be doomed.

Hawaii Five-0 producer Paul Zbyszewski has promised that viewers will get answers soon to the mystery of Steve McGarrett's father. He told TV Line that McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) will make key discoveries related to his father's old case and the 'champ box' towards the end of the first season. 'I think fans will be really surprised at how deep we go and how much we learn by the end of the season,' said Zbyszewski. However, he admitted that some plot threads could be left hanging for a potential second run. 'That's not to say that we're not going to continue to explore the McGarrett mythology anymore,' he confirmed. 'There's plenty more to milk in season two.' Co-producer Peter Lenkov previously suggested that the mythology of McGarrett's family was 'added value' to the show's usual procedural elements.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day we have a brief - but necessary -celebration of one of the last great undiscovered treasures of the early 1970s good-time jug-band music scene. Pray silence, dear blog reader, for the genius that was yer Mungo Jerry. I suppose we've got to start this thing off with 'In The Summertime' even though it's not a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping. As with many bands, their biggest hit is, possibly, the most unrepresentative thing about them. Although, it must be said, Ray Dorset's total mad fuzzy-sidies in the video undoubtedly are a favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping! And the b-side's brilliant, for what it's worth! Rite on. Now, if that's all you know about the Mungoes - and you wouldn't be alone in that dear blog reader - then, frankly, you need a bit of serious educating. Their second single, the magnificent 'Baby Jump' was also a number one hit (although hardly anybody seems to remember it these days) and was a completely mad-brilliant slab of Chuck Berry-style twelve bar boogie. Play that funky pianner, kidda! The b-side of that, meanwhile, was a nine minute presentation of the live Mungo Experience and is, quite simply, among the finest artefacts of the era. Bar none. Particularly the end of an epic version of 'Mighty Man' - dedicated to Harold Wilson! - in which political correctness was still a long, long way in the future. ('Hope y'all get home safely ... and don't forget, I want all the chick t'get laid on the way home!')The band continued to have a run of smashing hits through 1972, 73 and 74, including the excellent 'Lady Rose', 'You Don't Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War' and, may own particular favourite, this crazed English-language adaptation of Jacques Dutronc's 'Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi.' Skill. Mind you, some of the German kids in the audience for this performance are looking singularly unwilling to get down and get with it, you may notice. By the time of 'Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black' they were so good they, seemingly, had Jesus playing drums with them.Fantastic clip from Top Of The Pops, even if it is introduced by the Beard of Despair.