Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Truth Is Always The Victor. Except When It Isn't

Torchwood's Eve Myles has praised the premise of new ten-part series, Miracle Day. The actress told TV Squad that the fourth series of the popular SF drama, which will focus on a global conspiracy in which no-one on the planet is able to die, will be electrifying. 'The theme is something that's going to affect and touch everybody,' she claimed. 'Everybody's going to relate [to it]. I'm just very, very passionate about the character and very passionate about the project.' Myles explained that her character, Gwen, will quickly be drawn back into the ranks of Torchwood, despite being a new mother. 'The wonderful thing with this character is that she can't help herself but be part of Torchwood, whether she wants to or not,' Eve said. 'She's constantly drawn to Torchwood and whatever happens, it's her life. She will always be the normal person in an extraordinary situation, and she loves it.'

The opening episode of the, really rather decent, Silk - Peter Moffatt's latest drama about the legal system - on Tuesday night benefited hugely from a splendid turn from one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping favourite actors, the great Peter Vaughan. Playing a role of a victim of a particularly nasty assault, it was a million miles away from Genial Harry Grout (although, ironically, not that far removed from one of Vaughan's other finest roles, Felix in Our Friends in the North). He brought something to the drama that, for all of Maxime Peake, Neil Stuke and Rupert Penry-Jones' undoubted qualities, it had lacked until he appeared on screen. Gravitas. A good start to the show, then. The idea of a drama based on a woman trying to survive in a very dominated world isn't new, of course, but this showed some surprisingly nimble characterisation and promised much. Hope it finds an audience.

Monday saw the best House episode of the current series so far, the daft-as-a-brush Two Stories. Yer Keith Telly Topping always enjoys it when House departs from its standard medical-drama formula and does something a bit different, dear blog reader. Two Stories was the latest example of this, and the best in a while, intriguingly framed by House talking to two school kids as they all wait outside a Principal's office (don't even ask!) events are told disjointed and non-linear, and often times, House is doing something that he always accuses everyone else, lying his head off. Add to that, parts of the episode which involve House telling the young couple about his misadventures with a fifth grade class in which he's supposed to be describing a typical day, which was particularly amusing. Mixed in were several bits of narrative that he tries to pass off as reality, but were actually ripped from a variety of popular movies. The Pulp Fiction scene is especially good. 'Well allow me to retort!'

The new BBC comedy Mrs Brown's Boys debuted with an audience of 2.6 million on Monday evening, while Outcasts again lost out to The Biggest Loser, according to overnight audience data. Controversial even before it started, Mrs Brown's Boys, starring comic Brendan O'Carroll as loud-mouthed Irish matriarch Agnes Brown, was watched by 2.64m on BBC1 from 10.45pm. Now many of them will stick around for episode two remains to be seen. Yer Keith Telly Topping, for what it's worth, thought it was dreadful. BBC1's SF drama flop Outcasts slumped to 2.7m in the 9pm hour, and was - embarrassingly - outperformed once again by The Biggest Loser's 3.86m on ITV. Not that either channel will be especially happy with the majority of their audiences over the night. Earlier, The Lakes was watched by 3.64m on ITV from 8pm. The ONE Show's audience was 4.83m on BBC1 from 7pm, before Inside Out appealed to 3.66m. Panorama: How To Blow A Fortune mustered a mere 2.39m from 8.30pm.

According to 'a couple of trusted sources' the launch of Doctor Who's sixth series might - might, I said - take place on Easter weekend with part one of the opening adventure on Saturday 23 April and episode two going out on Sunday 24 April. That would place the finale of the first half of the series on May 28. Meanwhile, Alex Kingston discussed her feelings towards her character River Song with the Readers Digest: 'I'm not allowed to breathe a word about the new storylines otherwise, they take away my sonic screwdriver. When I was first offered the part, I had no idea how successful the new Doctor Who was because I was in the US. But as soon as I read the script, I fell in love with River. She provides a very complex link to the Doctor's life and ever since I saw Alien, a little bit of me has wanted to run around a spaceship shooting intergalactic monsters.'

Mad Men star Christina Hendricks has insisted that the show will return for a fifth season. Production on the AMC drama is currently on hold due to contract negotiations between the cable network, Lionsgate and series creator Matthew Weiner. Hendricks, who plays Joan, told TV Line: 'I know that there's a season five and we generally go back [to work] around May [or] June. We're just waiting for the word on when.' She added: 'I'm anxious to get back and see what happens with [Joan] and to work with all my friends.' However, the actress admitted that she is unsure as to when a fifth run might eventually air. 'I've heard just as many rumours as anybody else about the scheduling,' she said. 'It's already a long wait in between seasons for the fans, so I hope they don't have to wait any longer.'

Alex Jones has said that she has a lot to be grateful for with her ex-ONE Show co-star Jason Manford,who departed the show at the end of last year. Jones has insisted that she has no ill-feeling for the Manchester comic. 'Where Jason is concerned, I've a lot to be grateful for because he had a say in choosing me as his co-presenter. We went through a really pressurised time together - not just taking over from Adrian and Christine, but also because we moved to London at the same time and the city was new to both of us,' she told the Radio Times. Speaking about her new partnership with Matt Baker, she added: 'Jason [was] so busy with his comedy whereas Matt and I can knuckle down and concentrate solely on the show. Having Matt takes the pressure off. [He's] a lovely guy - really professional and stable. It's the start of a new chapter for the show, I think.'

Eurospectic Conservative MPs are understood to be 'at ease' with the prospect of Lord Patten becoming the new BBC Trust chairman, allaying rumours of a rearguard action to stop him getting the job according to the Gruniad Morning Star. David Cameron, who is expected to confirm the former Conservative cabinet minister as the successor to Sir Michael Lyons in a matter of days, faced the prospect of right-wing backbenchers unhappy at Patten's positive stance on Europe attempting to derail the process. However, the party's Eurosceptic lobby has scotched the talk as an attempt to drum up the issue. Colleagues of leading Eurosceptic and Mandroid, John Redwood, believe that while he and others have 'grumblings' about Patten 'there isn't anyone angry enough to try and stop him.' 'I have no strong view on which quangocrat should be the next BBC chairman,' said Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Clacton. 'What I do think is it is important for the House of Commons has [a thorough] confirmation hearing. Under the old rotten parliament these appointments went through on the nod, restoring purpose to parliament meant allowing elected MPs the final say so.' Sources close to the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Hunt last week used the notion of dissent in the Tory ranks as proof that Patten was not a 'political appointment.' Even though he obviously is. 'He is clearly qualified but remember you are talking about the former Conservative party chairman heading to the BBC Trust, there would be outrage if Labour had tried to appoint someone like Neil Kinnock so one way to make it look better was if there was some sort of fierce opposition by the right,' said one MP. Assuming Patten is confirmed as the next BBC Trust chairman the final hurdle will be an interview by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, headed by John Whittingdale, on 10 March where he can expect a grilling in a 'pre-appointment hearing.' Committee member David Cairns, the Labour MP for Inverclyde, said he would be 'tough' on Patten but could not see the point in attempting to block his appointment. 'I've never been into futile or gesture politics and voting him down would be gesture politics as we can't stop him [being appointed],' Cairns added. 'I don't have a closed mind around Patten, he is a big figure and clearly capable, but there are some very serious questions to be asked about the governance of the BBC.' Labour and the Conservatives each have five of the eleven seats on the committee with the Liberal Democrats holding one. It would take the highly unlikely event of an almost unanimous rejection of Patten by the committee to pressure Downing Street into a change of heart. 'As far as I'm aware there will be no objections from the Liberal Democrats, I believe he will be a good person to chair the trust,' said Don Foster, the former Liberal Democrat shadow lack of culture secretary.

Benedict Cumberbatch has taken issue with the manner in which he and his Frankenstein co-star Johnny Lee Miller are portrayed in the press. The Sherlock actor and Miller are currently appearing in Danny Boyle's stage adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel in rotating roles as the doctor and his Creature. Cumberbatch told Metro: 'I hate this distinction of me being some fucking academic who has just managed to escape the allure of some postgraduate course, and Miller as this mad fucking wild child with dyed hair from Trainspotting. We have different working methods but ever so slightly - we block on the same lines. We've got the same sense of humour and think much the same about what's good and bad.' Talking about playing the roles, he added: 'It's a hard ask on both fronts. You come off stage with a cut on your lip and a joint out of place, your wrists are bruised and you've just shed five pounds of body weight.'

Nadia Sawalha fell sick during day one of the fundraising Red Nose Desert Trek. The TV presenter, who is walking with Ronni Ancona, Craig David, Lorraine Kelly, Scott Mills, Olly Murs, Dermot O’Leary Kara Tointon and Peter White on the Comic Relief challenge, caught a stomach bug and didn't get any sleep on her first night in the desert. 'After a night spent more on the toilet than in my tent, it was good to get the trek underway, although I was nervous and felt unwell when I started this morning,' she said. 'The rest of the team really helped me through. It has been really tough and rocky terrain so far. The rock slide was a bit of a shock and even after all the briefings we've had about snakes I didn't expect we'd come across one in the first two hours of the trek!' Other problems the group have already faced included climbing a four thousand feet hill in thirty five degree heat and a meeting with a deadly viper snake. Speaking about their efforts so far, radio presenter White said: 'I would say that today was the most physically challenging day of my entire life so far. As a blind person, trying to combine a steep climb while dodging rock slides is really tough. Dermot and I did a difficult bit of the climb together. I held onto his rucksack and tried not to drag him down. And this is only the first day!'

BBC1's Italian detective drama Zen has been scrapped after just three episodes, it has been confirmed. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that the show - which stars Rufus Sewell - may be transmitted on a different network. Left Bank Pictures, the production team which also makes Wallander, are currently 'in discussion' with other broadcasters. A spokesman said: 'Left Bank Pictures are currently in discussion with other UK broadcasters about Zen. We were delighted that this fresh and stylish detective drama resonated with British viewers, television critics and fans of the novels alike and remain hugely proud of the three films.' However, while Zen averaged a respectable 4.7m across its January run, the programme shed viewers week-on-week.

Sean Pertwee explained to the Torygraph why he never expected to follow in his father's footsteps when David Tennant was announced as leaving Doctor Who: 'No, I never said I wanted the part, but there is a financial tale behind how the rumour started. For a laugh I tried putting a fifty pound bet on me to play the next Doctor because I thought I was in with a chance, but all the boys I knew in Islington decided I must have some inside info so they piled in behind me. When the betting shop staff asked who I was, the boys told them my father had played Doctor Who so they called head office about it and then declared all bets off. The next thing I knew I was in the news as running for the part, but I think it stemmed from trying to put fifty pounds on myself. I'd love to have a guest part, but when it comes to the main role my father was too big an act to follow.'

Phillip Schofield will reportedly lead ITV's coverage of Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming wedding. How nice it is to see them go for a proper journalist instead of some tacky talent show presenter whose best TV work was twenty years ago and involved a puppet gopher. What? Broadcast claims that the This Morning and Dancing On Ice presenter will anchor the coverage alongside News At Ten's Julie Etchingham. Other coverage on the 29 April ceremony will be provided by presenters including Mark Austin, Mary Nightingale and Alastair Stewart.

Comedian and TV presenter Jim Bowen is recovering after suffering two mild strokes. He was taken ill at his home in Melling over the weekend and is being treated at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. The seventy three-year-old suffered a stroke on Friday and then a second one whilst in hospital. The entertainer, who is best known for darts-themed TV quiz show Bullseye, is receiving physiotherapy.

Speculation continues as to whether the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious Hunt, will refer News Corporation's bid for full control of BSkyB to the Competition Commission, with a number of media experts predicting last week that the decision will go in Rupert Murdoch's favour, provided News Corp makes the necessary sacrifices. The vile and odious Hunt's decision puts under scrutiny the media public interest regime, which was included in the Communications Act 2003 following objections in the House of Lords, led by Lord Puttnam, to proposed relaxations in UK media ownership rules. From a public policy perspective, media mergers may cause concern because they reduce competition – which may lead to higher prices, lower quality or less choice for consumers – or because they reduce plurality – in the sense that they may result in fewer distinct sources of opinion. In the UK, competition concerns are dealt with under general merger control law, while plurality concerns are covered by strict media ownership restrictions and the media public interest regime. The regime empowers the government to intervene to ensure that plurality is maintained, which is what has happened in the case of BSkyB. With no statutory definition of media plurality, or indeed public interest, the vile and odious Hunt must ultimately decide for himself whether the merger will result in Murdoch having too much influence over public opinion. Having intervened, the vile and odious Hunt took counsel from Ofcom, who advised at the end of last year that the bid should be referred to the Competition Commission because of the potential impact on the provision of news and current affairs. Ofcom's advice is based on the relatively straightforward proposition that combining one of the three main providers of UK TV news (and a major provider of radio news content) with the UK's largest newspaper publisher represents a material loss of plurality. Last month, the vile and odious Hunt announced that, while he accepted Ofcom's advice that News Corp's bid should be referred to the Competition Commission for an in-depth review, he would first consider whether undertakings from News Corp would address his concerns. What is happening now is that the Office of Fair Trading is negotiating undertakings with News Corp. Assuming that the negotiations are productive, and that Ofcom agrees with the vile and odious Hunt that the proposed undertakings are satisfactory, they will be put out for consultation. Things may become complicated if undertakings cannot be agreed, as the vile and odious Hunt has made it clear that he would then need to refer the proposed transaction to the Competition Commission, which could recommend that the deal be blocked. It has already been cleared by the European Commission, however, which has exclusive competence to rule on the competition aspects of large, cross-border mergers. While the European Merger Regulation provides that EU member states may still take 'appropriate measures to protect legitimate interests,' any decision by the UK to block the transaction must not conflict with the European Commission's competition finding. This could raise issues here, as there is scope for conceptual overlap between plurality and competition concerns. News Corp is now faced with a stark choice. Either it agrees sufficiently robust undertakings – which are likely to focus on placing Sky News at arm's length from the merged entity, to ensure editorial independence while guaranteeing its funding on an ongoing basis – or it endures a full six-month review by the Competition Commission, on the basis that it may well succeed in demonstrating that there are no grounds to block the transaction or indeed to attach any conditions to approval. Given the rising share price of BSkyB, and the relatively small scale of Sky News compared with BSkyB's overall value, the odds seem to be on the former. At the moment, however, it is simply a question of waiting for the white smoke to rise from Cockspur Street, indicating whether draft undertakings have been hammered out and formal consultation can begin. What is already clear is that the media public interest review process has proved its value, as a means of enabling the public and open assessment of the potential risks for plurality posed by cross-media mergers such as this one.

Amy Childs has claimed that The Only Way Is Essex cast are hated in their local area. The socialite and reality TV regular said that Essex natives were 'jel' on their cast's fame since the ITV2 show was broadcast last year. Speaking on Alan Carr's Chatty Man, she said: 'Essex people don't like us. It's true. People in Manchester and Liverpool love us. When we go out in Essex, people are like, "'Oh it's her again!"' There was probably an 'innit' in there somewhere, too. Her friend and co-star Sam Faiers commented: 'I think people in Essex feel like they know us.' James Argent added: 'You get people who watch the show who think we are portraying Essex in the wrong way. They either take offence at it or want to be in the show themselves.'

ITV political editor Tom Bradby has questioned the reported salary of around six hundred thousand pounds being paid to BBC presenter Andrew Marr, arguing that 'no-one in ITV News is paid anything like this.' Although what the hell that has to do with him, or anyone else except Andrew Marr and his employers is, frankly, a moot point. Bradby's comments stem from the leaking of Marr's pay slip after it was mistakenly left in a BBC colleague's pigeonhole. And, of course, somebody snitched it up to the tabloids like a Copper's Nark. Because, dear blog reader, that's the sort of world we live in. Too many nosy people interested in shit that has nothing to do with them. The slip revealed that Marr received net monthly pay of around twenty seven thousand pounds for presenting The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, Radio 4's Start The Week and various TV documentaries. In a message posted on Twitter, Bradby wrote: 'I like him [Marr] a lot, think he words [sic] hard and is very smart, but six hundred thousand pounds? Seems a lot. No one in ITV News is paid anything like this, so where is the market for all these BBC figures being paid such vast sums? I mean, who else will employ them at that level?' Bradby decided to comment on Marr's pay packet - he claims - after noticing a gradual erosion of parity between the BBC and ITV news teams over the last decade. He wrote: 'During the first ten years I worked for ITN, there used to be a much greater sense of parity between the BBC and us. But over the last ten, that has gradually disappeared. It's really something when a commercial broadcaster struggles to compete against one funded by millions of people on very modest wages.' In a subsequent message, Bradby tweeted: 'No, I am not jealous.' Even thought he very much sounds like he is. Not to mention being a crap-stirring trouble-maker. Still, I'm sure his family are very proud of him. 'I get perfectly well paid. I have just really noticed a disparity opening up over the last ten years or so.' Bradby claimed that the BBC has become an 'internal market,' in which stars compared salaries to each other rather than the external market. He also estimated that Sky's political editor Adam Boulton only earns around four hundred thousand pounds a year, despite being 'by far and away the biggest name on Sky News.' Last summer, the BBC Trust ordered the corporation to publish more details about its biggest earners, but stopped short of revealing how much they are individually paid. In a statement issued to the Gruniad Morning Star, a BBC Trust spokesman said: 'Salaries of individual presenters are entirely a matter for the BBC executive, although the Trust has been clear that the BBC should look to reduce its overall talent spend, with a particular focus on the highest earners. The BBC has been responding to that.'

Mad, crazy numskull dictator Colonel Gaddafi has refused to stand down amid widespread anti-government protests which, he said, had tarnished the image of the country. In his first major speech since widescale unrest began last week, Gaddafi said the whole world looked up to Libya and that protests were 'serving the devil.' Reading from the country's constitution, he said enemies of Libya would be executed. Rights groups say nearly three hundred have been killed in the violence so far. A defiant and angry Gaddafi said that he had brought 'glory' to Libya. As he has no official position in Libya from which to resign, he would remain the head of the revolution, he said. He blamed the unrest on 'cowards and traitors' who were seeking to portray Libya as a place of chaos and to 'humiliate' Libyans. At other points he referred to them as 'cockroaches' or 'rats and mercenaries.' State TV had said Gaddafi was going to announce 'major reforms' in his speech, but the only such reference was to some devolution of power to local authorities. The protesters had been 'given drink and drugs,' he said, frequently shouting and banging his fist on the table like a crazed dog as the address continued. He called on 'those who love Muammar Gaddafi' to come on to the streets in support of him, telling them not to be afraid of 'the gangs. Come out of your homes, attack them in their dens. Withdraw your children from the streets. They are drugging your children, they are making your children drunk and sending them to hell,' he said. He urged young people to form committees 'for the defence of the revolution and the defence of Gaddafi.' He said they would 'cleanse Libya house-by-house. If matters require, we will use force, according to international law and the Libyan constitution,' he said, and warned that the country could descend into civil war or be occupied by the US if protests continued. Anyone who played games with the country's unity would be executed, he said, referring to the Chinese authorities' crushing of the student protests in Tiananmen Square among other historical events. He also railed against western countries, in particular the United States and Britain, which he accused of trying to destabilise Libya. It was unclear whether the speech, which lasted about an hour, was live or had been pre-recorded. But it was apparently filmed at his Bab al-Azizia barracks in Tripoli, which still shows damage from a US bombing in 1986. The cameras occasionally cut away to an image of a giant fist crushing a US war plane. The BBC's Frank Gardner said that even by Gaddafi's own unique standards it was 'an extraordinary speech,' full of theatrical defiance against almost everyone. 'He appears completely divorced from reality,' continued Gardner, adding that Gaddafi claimed he had not authorised the army to use force, despite opposition statements that more than five hundred people have been killed and more than one thousand are missing. The Libyan authorities have reacted fiercely to the outbreak of protests in the country, which have come amid anti-government unrest in many other countries in the region. Foreign journalists work under tight restriction in Libya, and much of the information coming from the country is impossible to verify. But witnesses say foreign mercenaries have been attacking civilians in the streets and that fighter planes have been shooting down protesters. Tens of thousands of foreigners are trying to leave the country and many oil companies are attempting to remove their expatriate staff. A BBC correspondent in Tripoli says there is a heavy police presence in the capital but that, the second city, Benghazi - where there has been intensive fighting - is now in opposition control and there is no sign of security forces. Many Libyan diplomats, including the country's ambassador to the US, have turned their backs on Gaddafi and are urging the international community to take action. The UN Security Council and The Arab League have both called emergency meetings over the crisis. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he is 'outraged' by the violence. Human Rights Watch said at least sixty two bodies had been taken to hospital morgues since Sunday, in addition to the two hundred and thirty three people it said had been killed outside the capital previously. The violence has helped to push up oil prices to their highest levels since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Jason Gardiner believes that Kerry Katona only agreed to take part in Twatting About On Ice in order to raise her profile. No shit, Sherlock! Y'think?! The reality TV regular was eliminated from the ITV show on Sunday night. Her most recent performance scored just nine points and received poor comments from the judging panel. 'Everybody could see Kerry wasn't up to scratch, she cannot skate,' Gardiner told the Sun. 'I haven't seen any improvement whatsoever. It has steadily declined. I think she was here for the exposure.' Katona had apparently booked a holiday with her children for this week, prior to her exit from the series on Sunday. 'That says to me that she didn't want to be in this competition and didn't want to stick around,' Gardiner said. 'She always turns out a performance - but Sunday was about displaying technical ability - what you could do with your ultimate skills. And she couldn't do them,' he said. 'So it's right, it's fair and it's just that she has left the competition.'

Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan has filmed scenes for a new sitcom about Seventies British wrestling called Walk Like A Panther. He plays a 'mentally-deranged' bouncer in the pilot episode, which also features This Is England's Stephen Graham and a cameo from chef Marco Pierre White. Meighan admitted he was scared about making his acting debut, telling Q magazine: 'I loved it but I was shitting myself first of all. It was more nerve-racking than playing Glastonbury.' Others taking part in the pilot – which was shot in Bradford and Leeds last month – include 300 actress Lena Headey, the great Dexter Fletcher and comedian Steve Furst. Producers Finite Films say the show 'blends comedy, heartfelt drama and ill-fitting lycra.' The film is set in modern times, with a band of former wrestlers reminiscing about old times more than twenty years after the plug was pulled on British wrestling on TV. According to one extra, one scene has the wrestlers attending a wake in a pub for a colleague called Ginger Frost. A young girl burst into the pub, screaming that she's been attacked by her boyfriend, who follows her in and starts insulting the old wrestlers. Posting on, the onlooker said: 'So they set about him, and one of them got him in a Full Nelson, they gave him the bumps, got him in a Boston Crab, dragged him across the floor and smashed him into a table, did an elbow drop on him, then threw him out.' Meighan’s bandmate Serge Pizzorno is funding the film with restaurateur Chris Jonns, a friend of Noel Gallagher. It has been written by Dan Cadan, who previously worked as an assistant to Guy Ritchie on Snatch. The comedy has yet to secure a broadcaster.

And, finally for today there's the lastest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's Big Jim Stafford and a really dirty song about nature.