Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Birds Of Prey With Too Much To Say

The creator of Midsomer Murders has been suspended from the production over comments he made about the show's lack of ethnic minorities. Brian True-May had described the long-running detective series as 'the last bastion of Englishness' in an interview with Radio Times, adding that if black or Asian faces were introduced 'it wouldn't be the English village' with which viewers are familiar. In echoes of Brian Clemens' notorious (if, at the time completely unchallenged) comments forty years ago about there being a deliberate policy of showing 'no lavatory, no drugs, black people or social problems' on The Avengers because, it was believed, it would 'bring the real-world in', True-May explained: 'We are a cosmopolitan society in this country, but if you watch Midsomer you wouldn't think so. I've never been picked up on that, but quite honestly I wouldn't want to change it.' He continued: 'We just don't have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn't be the English village with them. It just wouldn't work. Suddenly we might be in Slough. Ironically, Causton (the town in the series) is supposed to be Slough. And if you went to Slough you wouldn't see a white face there. We're the last bastion of Englishness and I want to keep it that way.' Somewhere, lurking in that series of crass and idiotic comments, I do kind of understand what he's trying - badly - to articulate. But if True-May doesn't want to find himself the author of the shortest TV suicide note in history then he needs to clarify his comments, forthwith. Midsomer Murders, based on the books by Caroline Graham, was launched in 1997 and has featured two hundred and fifty one deaths over the course of the show, two hundred and twenty two of which were murders. Giving it a murder rate higher than Baltimore. The producers have banned swearing, overt violence and sex scenes from the show but has tackled diversity issues other than ethnicity. 'If it's incest, blackmail, lesbianism, homosexuality, terrific, put it in, because people can believe that people can murder for any of those reasons,' True-May told Radio Times. So, now you're saying that 'being gay' is a reason to commit murder, in and of itself? Brian, mate, a tip. When you're in a hole, it's usually a good idea to stop digging. Actor Jason Hughes, who has played the programme's DS Jones, said he had pondered why Midsomer continues to have no ethnic minorities. 'I've wondered that myself and I don't know,' he said. 'This isn't an urban drama and it isn't about multiculturalism. That's not to say that there isn't a place for multiculturalism in the show. But that's really not up to me to decide. I don't think that we would all suddenly go, "a black gardener in Midsomer? You can't have that." I think we'd all go, "great, fantastic."' One has, sadly, to note that it's a little bit depressing to discover that the only position Mr Hughes seems able to conceive of having a black man in the show is as 'a gardener.' Given that the current captain of the England football team, just for one example, is of Afro-Caribbean decent, or given the number of black and Asian millionaires in this country. I'm sorry, dear blog reader, but some of these comments are getting perilously close to 'them uppity darkies, they come over here and take our stately homes. They'll be after our women next.' Sickening, dear blog reader. To quote the great Jerry Dammers, 'if you have a racist friend, now is the time for that friendship to end.' True-May has since been suspended by All3Media after outraging ITV bosses, reports the Daily Torygraph. Which appears to be jealous as it always considered itself to be the last bastion of Englishness. Mind you, even they - in a thoughtful and impressive piece by Omar Khan - question the notion that there are no ethnic minorities living in rural England. Jeez, when you spout borderline bigotry and then find that you've even lost the support of the Daily Torygraph, you know you're in trouble. Albeit, not those well known apologists for racists and blaggards, the readers of the Daily Scum Mail it would seem. An ITV spokesman said: 'We are shocked and appalled at these personal comments by Brian True-May which are absolutely not shared by anyone at ITV. We are in urgent discussions with All3Media, the producer of Midsomer Murders, who have informed us that they have launched an immediate investigation into the matter and have suspended Mr True-May pending the outcome.'

Yer Keith Telly Topping was delighted that he figured out the Münchausen-by-proxy dénouement to the latest Waking The Dead story about ten minutes before Boyd, Grace et al did on Monday night. But then, he's always been a bit precocious like that has yer actual Keith Telly Topping. Even with a head cold which makes him feel like he's walking around with cotton wool for brains at the moment. The excellent Keith Watson's review of the episode in the Metro is somewhat dismissive but touches on some good points: 'The corpses are running out (not literally, obviously) at Waking The Dead, which kicked off its ninth and final series with a grisly tale of faked cancer and child-killing. Staying true to its format of case-solving by brainstorming – everyone sits around a table shouting – it was hard to feel too sorry that Waking The Dead is winding up. Despite some impressive performances, with Genevieve O’Reilly's creepy turn as a psycho mother, pinning a plot on Münchausen-by-proxy had an air of familiarity. With so many medic dramas turfing up ever weirder syndromes, you need to stretch further than that.' He's quite wrong, of course. He usually isn't but, when it comes to those odd occasions when yer actual Keith Telly Topping and Keith Telly Watson disagree, this blogger is always right. Remember that, dear blog reader, and you won't go far wrong.

BBC1's Waking The Dead again pulled in almost six million viewers on Monday evening, trouncing Law & Order: UK on ITV, according to the latest audience data. Series nine of Waking The Dead, which premiered the previous evening, continued with 5.91m for BBC1 in the 9pm hour. The show outperformed series four of Law & Order: UK, which had 4.08m on ITV, down a massive 1.4m week-on-week. An additional one hundred and ninety one thousand watched the show on +1. Trev spanks Bradley. You heard it here first.

Matt Smith has claimed that the experiences of Christopher Isherwood echo those of The Doctor in Doctor Who. In his first appearance elsewhere since taking on the role of the time-traveller, Smith portrays the novelist in upcoming BBC2 drama Christopher And His Kind. 'He left 1930s England and arrived in Berlin, a place that in comparison was an alien planet,' the actor told the Radio Times. 'There's this burgeoning doom of Nazism emerging. It feels like there are vampires walking through the city. There are these brown shirts who are becoming more and more prominent and more and more vocal. They've started ransacking shops.' Speaking about Isherwood's experiences in Berlin, Smith continued: 'He went there because he wanted to get away from his mother and hang out with his friend [the poet] WH Auden. But he also wanted to be liberated sexually - and he was. Being gay in Berlin was very different from being gay in England.' However, the twenty eight-year-old admitted that, while challenging, he had taken love scenes for the drama in his stride. 'In the first professional job I ever did at the Royal Court [Theatre in London], I played a sixteen-year-old gigolo. I had to kiss Phil Daniels,' he told the magazine. 'So it's not my first. I guess I've never taken it as far as Christopher does. It goes beyond kissing, shall we say. It's embarrassing having to get nude in front of thirty other people on a film set. But it's not the first time I've done that. You just try to be as truthful as you can be and jump in feet first.'

You know it's really time to start worrying when the Tories are sticking up for BBC local radio. The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has 'cautioned' against reductions in the BBC's 'core services' amid fears the corporation may dramatically scale back its local radio output. Which, yer actual Keith Telly Topping railed against in one of his finest rants in some time last week, dear blog reader. You might've seen it. The BBC is thought to be considering a proposal to axe all but breakfast and drivetime programming on its local radio network, filling the gaps with 5Live for the rest of the day. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that the sixteen per cent real terms funding cut for the BBC should be 'largely about efficiency gains.' Asked about the prospect of the corporation pulling out of local radio, he said: 'I would worry if the BBC was reducing its core services, because the BBC is our cultural crown jewel.' Nice of him to remember that since he's spent the last year kicking seven grades of crap out of the corporation. Now, suddenly, he's their bestest friend. Speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, on Sunday he added: 'It's probably the most respected news gathering operation in the world, the public want that to continue, they love and respect the BBC for that, so I would be concerned if I thought any cuts were eating into what licence fee payers are saying are their core services.' This is Jeremy Hunt speaking? The Jeremy Hunt? The same vile and odious rascal who, in September 2009, broke the spirit - if not the actual letter - of British employment law by suggesting that the BBC should be employing people on party political grounds? The vile and odious rascal Hunt who imposed upon the BBC the settlement that's caused all this trouble in the first place? That Jeremy Hunt? The vile and odious rascal Hunt stressed that the local radio cuts were 'not firm proposals.' They are said to be contained in the BBC's Delivering Quality First review, which is trying to find savings in response to the six-year licence fee freeze. The National Union of Journalists has claimed the plans could lead to the loss of seven hundred jobs and the closure of some stations. The BBC said no decisions had been made. Deputy Prime Minister the vile and odious rascal Clegg has also stressed the importance of the BBC's local radio services, in a clear and desperate attempt to win back a few of the millions of friends he's recently lost since he sold out his party's soul to the Tories for a sniff of power. 'There's something authentic and real about local radio and that's something we should do everything to try and protect,' the vile and odious rascal Clegg told BBC Radio Sheffield last week. Responding to concern about separate cuts to the BBC World Service, the vile and odious rascal Hunt added: 'The BBC is a beacon for liberty and democracy throughout the world and the World Service is at its forefront. And we need to support it to continue to do that.' Really? So, when are you going to start doing that, then?

Interestingly enough, on a related point, a colleague and I were talking on Tuesday about the proposed changes to local radio (which neither of us think will come to anything, but that's beside the point). However, my colleague noted that - if anything - 5Live should be the station that has to have a good hard look at its output. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of, and listener of, 5Live, but its original remit was that it was going to be Britain's first twenty four hour rolling news station and that's now long since gone the way of all flesh. It's become a station of magazine shows with occasional outbursts of news. Many of them are good magazine shows, admittedly, but that's not, really, what it was set up for. Case in point: One day last week my colleague was giving yer actual Keith Telly Topping a lift home and, as usual, he had 5Live on in the car. It was The Richard Bacon Show and he was interviewing Jim Davidson. Now, we'll ignore for a second the fact that yer Keith Telly Topping is not particularly happy that his licence fee is going towards publicising anything that Jim Davidson has to say for the moment. As Bacon was introducing Davidson he gave a little aside to his listeners. I'm paraphrasing slightly but it was something along the lines of: 'William Hague is in the process of making a statement to the House of Commons on the situation in Libya. If he says anything interesting, we'll let you know what it was. So, Jim Davidson, what's your new play about?' That's not an exact quote but it was something similar. Now, again, this blogger has nothing against Richard Bacon or his show, it's very listenable. But, should it be on 5Live rather than Radio 2 or Radio 4? Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping believes there should be room for both 5Live and local radio in the world (particular as we noted last week there's only about a twenty per cent crossover in the listenership for both). But, if one of them has to go for financial reasons then I reckon it should be 5Live given that there's nothing so unique on 5Live that you can't get anywhere else. Contentious? Yeah, possibly. Let the debate begin.

Wales saw the biggest growth in the BBC's economic impact of all the nations and regions over the last financial year, a report published this week has shown. The BBC contributed a total of £8.17bn gross value to the UK economy in 2009-10 – 5.6 per cent more than in the previous twelve months. The biggest increase in the broadcaster's impact was in the nations, with Wales a 17.9 per cent boost, Scotland seeing a 7.5 per cent increase and Northern Ireland growing by 5.7 per cent over the same period. Regions also saw an increase across the board, with the South growing the most - 15.8 per cent - while impact in the North grew 6.88 per cent. The impact in the Midlands was in line with the average. London still accounts for sixty nine per cent of the BBC's value - the same as in 2008-9. Overall, for every pound paid towards the licence fee, the BBC created more than two pounds of economic value. The report, conducted in-house at the BBC, includes Worldwide, but not the World Service or BBC Monitoring. BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson described the figures as 'striking,' particularly given the wider economic backdrop. 'By meeting our mission to make great programmes and content the BBC also delivers broader benefits to the digital and creative industries, which in turn spill over into the wider economy,' she said. 'This evidence signals that our move to Salford Quays in the coming months will help build a more thriving creative sector in the North of England. And that growth hasn't been to the detriment of London or the South where thanks to BBC Worldwide in particular our increased commercial success has also boosted economic activity and returned profits back into programme making.' In order to maintain this impact in light of the licence fee freeze – which runs until 2016-17 and means an effective £1.3bn dent in the BBC's finances – Thomson said the BBC must 'think innovatively about how we continue to maximise the value of our investment.' The report, which was first carried out in 2007, with a second in 2010, will now be conducted every two years.

A British version of a reality TV show which will feature eight housemates living naked is reportedly being made. The Daily Lies alleges that producers have begun looking for people to take part in The Nak'd Truth. Auditions for the show, which will be filmed at a nudist resort in Florida, will be held in Blackpool next month. Where, on imagines, it'll be a bit colder than it is in Florida. 'We plan to take eight Brits and literally strip them naked. We want some seriously interesting Brits to make the line-up,' creator Harris Salomon allegedly said. 'The plan is to roll the show out across the world. Clothing is such an integral part of who we are and we don't understand how it affects us until we no longer have it on.' Tom Annandale, whose tennis court streaking has attracted sixty million YouTube views, has already been contacted about taking part in the programme. 'I have had a massive amount of attention worldwide from TV companies but this is the most curious,' he said. 'It makes Big Brother look really tame.' With hopefuls having to strip at the upcoming auditions, producer Marisela D'Baldriche told the paper: 'We want to make Blackpool the naked centre of Britain.'

Katherine Kelly has revealed details about Becky and Liz McDonald's rivalry in upcoming episodes of Coronation Street. Becky, who is played by Kelly, has been running the Rovers Return in the absence of Liz (Beverley Callard). With Liz returning to the Street on Tuesday night, Kelly has now dropped hints about the rivalry on the soap's official website. She revealed: 'War has been declared, and may the best woman win. Only one woman can win this - it's about territory, it's about the Rovers, it's about who is queen of the Rovers and there can only be one winner.' Kelly added that Becky had not expected Liz's return. She explained: 'She's got Max, that's the important thing. He is the light in her life. Her and Steve are same as ever, [relations with the] Alahans are not so good, Tracy - that's not so good, and then Liz comes back all of a sudden. It's a very timely return. When Becky is drunk, she thinks, "No, Liz, you get out. I'm the queen of the Rovers and this is my home." It is fabulous!'

For months, The Times (which used to claim it was 'the paper of record') has failed to report on the many revelations about the phone-hacking scandal at its sister publication, the News of the World. It has ignored a string of stories which totally undermined the NotW's previous defence that hacking was restricted to a single 'rogue reporter.' Nor has there been any mention of the many victims of hacking who have started legal actions against its parent company, News International. Neither has it reported on the court pressure on the private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, to reveal the names of NotW executives who ordered him to hack into people's phones. Yet on Tuesday, The Times suddenly published a page seven lead story connected to the scandal - but with an extraordinary twist. The headline, Investigator accused by BBC reporter of 'corrupt business' says he worked for Panorama, reveals much about the paper's rather sick and sinister agenda. It concerns Monday night's Panorama special, which highlighted the activities of a private detective, Jonathan Rees, who was alleged to have used a range of illegal methods to obtain information for the News of the World. The programme specifically claimed that Rees was commissioned to intercept e-mail messages by Alex Marunchak, the NotW's former executive editor. At one point in the programme, Panorama's reporter, Vivian White, confronted Rees to ask him about his work for the NotW, such as accessing people's bank accounts and paying police officers for information. A belligerent Rees refused to answer the question. Instead, he countered: 'What about the information that you've got, that your company got?' He claimed that Panorama had paid police before walking off. White, in his commentary, said: 'Unlike Jonathan Rees, Panorama had not paid any police officers for information.' In The Times article, there is no mention of Marunchak nor of the other substantive material in the Panorama documentary about Rees having been hired by the NotW even after he had served a prison sentence for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The Times chooses instead to concentrate its story on Rees's - seemingly rather throwaway - allegations about the BBC, reporting that Rees 'worked for Panorama on at least two programmes in the early 1990s.' He claims that he was once commissioned to carry out undercover work about child abductions. But he, and The Times, have no proof of that claim. The story even concedes that 'friends of Mr Rees' said 'he had no documents or invoices to prove his claim.' And the BBC cannot find any documentary evidence of Rees ever having worked for it. Note how The Times's story is angled to fit two News International agendas. It throws mud at the BBC, yet again. It also minimises the misbehaviour by the News of the World, yet again. The real story revealed by Panorama is that a sixth News of the World executive was involved in the commissioning of illegal activities. That's the story any newspaper which prides itself on being 'the newspaper of record' should be reporting, is it not? The other Wapping paper that has failed to notice the phone-hacking story is also carrying the same anti-Panorama story. The Sun's page twenty six is headlined BBC's own goal over news 'spy' and even manages to bury any mention of the News of the World until the final paragraph.

Simon Cowell has reportedly returned to the UK for talks about The X Factor judging panel. The music mogul has still not decided if he will appear on both the US and UK editions, with the Sun claiming that ITV bosses are 'having cold sweats' due to the delay in confirming the judges, especially as auditions are apparently scheduled for May. 'Simon is cutting it really fine. ITV are desperate for some concrete news,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'All this dithering is seeing them break out in cold sweats. Simon's focus is on the US series, which has nothing to do with ITV.' The 'insider' allegedly continued: 'They don't even know if he will be back on the show - at the moment they are thinking he won't be. He's back in the UK now and they are hoping to get something from him this week so everyone can sleep at night.' The paper claims that Lily Allen has now held two meetings about joining the show as a new judge, while Robbie Williams is said to have ruled himself out due to his busy schedule.

BBC1 Daytime has commissioned a new courtroom drama penned by David Allison. The Case, which has been given a five-episode run, will follow the high pressured life in and out of court of barrister Sol Ridley and his junior Julie Prior. Ridley and Prior's latest case involves defending Tony Powell, who is pleading assisted suicide against a murder charge. BBC Daytime Controller Liam Keelan said. 'A topical legal thriller, The Case promises to be compulsive viewing for our audiences. I hope this new series helps reiterate BBC Daytime's commitment to bring more unique British drama - in the same vein as The Indian Doctor, Moving On, Missing and Land Girls - to our schedules.'

Disney has reportedly dropped plans for a motion-capture remake of The Beatles' animated classic Yellow Submarine. Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis was to have helmed the project, which would have followed up his 2011 3D sci-fi film Mars Needs Moms. Speaking to Deadline, people described as 'studio insiders' have allegedly denied that the decision to pull the plug on the project was based on the diastrously poor takings for the comedy, which Zemeckis co-produced. The one hundred and fifty million dollar-budgeted movie opened in the US to just $6.9m takings in its opening weekend. So, it would seem that there is a God after all. And that Pepperland is safe. For the time being. Zemekis is still free to try and sell the project to another studio. The Oscar-winning Forrest Gump director first announced the project in August 2009. It was later revealed that Cary Elwes, Dean Lennox Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz and Adam Campbell had been cast to voice the Fab Four. Zemekis planned to use motion-capture technology similar to that used in his previous films Beowulf and A Christmas Carol.

Donald Steel, the BBC's long-serving corporate public relations executive, is reportedly leaving the corporation after more than twenty years service. Steel will step down from his role as chief communications advisor at the end of March, reports the Gruniad Morning Star. However, after a break he will return to work for the BBC as a PR and communications advisor for two years. Steel joined the BBC twenty two years ago as a local radio producer, switching to PR two years later as publicist for Radio 4's The Archers. In his eleven years as the BBC's chief media spokesman, he dealt with various high profile stories, including the murder of presenter Jill Dando and the Hutton Inquiry. He later became head of press for BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham and was appointed to the role of chief communications advisor in 2009.

The BBC has launched a new research project this week aimed at producing a more 'emotional' way of classifying the decades of content within the BBC digital archive. The online project, titled Musical Moods, involves asking the general public about the emotions they associate with certain TV and radio theme tunes from the past and present. Participants will rate the moods associated with each theme tune across a variety of categories, and the BBC intends to use this data to create a computer programme that can scan the archive to determine the moods and emotions each theme song conveys. The BBC hopes that Musical Moods, run as part of National Science & Engineering Week, will create an 'entirely novel' way of classifying its archive content. In theory, the approach would allow users to browse the archive on what is actually happening in the programmes, rather than just the factual descriptions supplied. Sam Davies, research engineer from BBC R&D, said: 'The BBC Archive records the BBC's output over the past eighty years, in the form of TV and radio programmes, news reports, written documentation, sound effects, images and programme listings. It's a rich record of recent British history, society and the relationship between the corporation and the public that pay for it. However, making the rich content available and accessible online is a difficult challenge. The Musical Moods experiment breaks new ground by examining how theme music might be used to make it easier to find material in the archive.' Trevor Cox, acoustic engineer from the University of Salford, added: 'As the pubic enjoy themselves on the website, they will be helping us answer some really interesting research questions such as how well theme tunes portray the mood of a TV or radio programme. There has been surprisingly little research into this. As well as helping us to understand theme music better, the public will give us vital data which will allow us to train computer programmes to identify the mood of theme music automatically.' Television and film producers have long used music to heighten the emotion and mood in programmes and movies. Recent research indicates that there are around eight to ten different types of moods that music can portray, sometimes changing the viewer's entire perception of what they are watching.

Here's an extra special treat, dear blog reader. For one day only we have yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, and a definite case of 'should've been a single, but wasn't.' As used for a opening sequence of the world's best ever gay porn movie, Velvet Goldmine(!), from Here Come the Warm Jets, this is Eno.