Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He Gives Everyone A Fright. This Man's Really Outta Sight

Grumpy old so and so Keith Allen has 'blasted' (or 'criticised' as normal people describe it) the TV critic and Screenwipe presenter Charlie Brooker. And, to think, yer Keith Telly Topping assumed them two would've got on like a house on fire. Just goes to show. Allen, who is currently promoting his new Sky1 drama The Runaway, described Brooker's programmes as 'vacuous nonsense.' Speaking to the Radio Times, the actor listed Brooker as the one thing which would make him change the channel when watching TV. 'There is nothing that would encourage me to watch that man. He's a type, and I can't bear what those people do. It's a modern creation,' he said. 'I'm not interested in your opinion, mate. There seem to be lots of people like that, in print as well as in television.' Aye. Guilty. He also took a swipe at TV shows about 'the coastline.' So, that'd be Coast, basically, cos I can't think of another one. 'I get physically ill now when another young man who's been to university with a northern voice starts telling me about the coastline. It's just space and rocks. Shut up!' Gosh, grumpy Keith Allen was in an especially grumpy mood that day, wasn't he?

Hackney shoppers were shocked to see Stephen Fry filming his new BBC documentary outside the Monster Supplies shop earlier this week. Stephen went to the home of the Ministry of Stories, where volunteer mentors inspire a love of books and writing in youngsters, to film part of his BBC2 documentary about language, Planet Word. Canned items on sale in the shop front – like Tinned Fear, Fang Floss and Jars of Human Snot - act as inspiration for the stories that teenagers create after passing through the shop's secret door. Stephen visited the shop and met up with Fever Pitch and High Fidelity author Nick Hornby who had helped launch MoS last November. They collaborated with 'Junior Story Ministers' from St John the Baptist School in Crondall Street, Hoxton on the tale, The Witch That Wanted To Rule The World. Stephen also launched the MoS Favourites Fund, which aims to raise three thousand pounds by inviting everyone to donate the value of their own particular favourite book. He picked A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and Nick Hornby chose I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

BBC Books have to announced the forthcoming publication of a novelisation of the great 'lost' Doctor Who serial Shada. Written by the show's then script-editor, Douglas Adams, Shada was one of the Doctor's adventures which, notoriously, never made it to the screen. Production of the planned six-episode finale to the 1979-80 season of Doctor Who was halted part-way through due to industrial action at the BBC, and the story was never completed. Now, drawing on drafts of the script and production notes as well as original designs and the material that was completed, prolific Doctor Who TV script writer Gareth Roberts tells this unique story, featuring Tom Baker's Doctor, in full for the first time. Published with the full support of the Estate of Douglas Adams and Adams' agent Ed Victor, Shada will be the first ever novelisation of Douglas Adams's work on Doctor Who. Albeit the surviving footage was released on video in 1992, Big Finish used some of the surviving audio recordings to create a radio version (released on CD in 2003) and Adams himself reused elements of the story, and some of its characters, in his 1987 novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

Neil Dudgeon has revealed that he isn't prepared for any 'sex symbol' status which may result from his role as John Barnaby in Midsomer Murders. The actor, who previously played Jim in BBC sitcom Life of Riley, told the Mirra that he doesn't think he will attract the same kind of attention from fans as his predecessor John Nettles. He said: 'Trust me, I won't be sent any racy underwear like John. Maybe some biscuits for my on-screen dog if that. But if I have to give myself to the nation as a sex symbol for ratings, then it's a filthy job but somebody has to do it.' Dudgeon also added that changes will be made at the established ITV prime time drama. 'A lot of people say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it,"' he explained. Yes. Including your producer, it would seem, matey. 'They can't keep it exactly the same but they don't want to change it too much as it's very successful as it is. Everyone has taken this as an opportunity to try new things. Things are going to be different and we should make something of that.'

And, speaking of the dog, dear blog readers are advised to keep your mincers peeled on the next Midsomer for the debut of Dudgeon's scene-stealing canine sidekick, Sykes. If you think that you recognise the Jack Russell cross that's because you might have spotted him in the TV advert for Thinkbox, Every Home Needs A Harvey. It shows Harvey, a down-on-his-luck mutt in a rescue centre kennel, who grabs prospective owners' attention by running a video of himself doing a series of clever household chores. The advert promotes the effectiveness of commercials in selling products. Now, the dog will join Dudgeon and former Heartbeat actress Fiona Dolman to help tackle the alarmingly high murder rate of nice white people with good teeth in the leafy lanes of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Waking The Dead again passed the six million mark on Monday evening, and again totally outperforming Law & Order: UK on ITV, according to the overnight audience figures. Series nine of Waking The Dead averaged 6.01m for BBC1 in the 9pm hour, trouncing Law & Order: UK's 3.6m on ITV and one hundred and ninety seven thousand on ITV+1.

Meanwhile, here's the Top Twenty programmes week ending 13 March 2011:
1 Coronation Street - ITV - 10.75 million
2 EastEnders - BBC1 - 10.11 million
3 Twatting About On Ice - ITV - 8.60 million
4 Emmerdale - ITV - 8.05 million
=5 Wild At Heart - ITV - 7.42 million
=5 Let's Dance For Comic Relief - BBC1 - 7.42 million
7 Waking The Dead - BBC1 - 7.11 million
8 Benidorm - ITV - 7.06 million
9 Casualty - BBC1 - 6.69 million
10 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 - 6.47 million
11 Monroe - ITV - 6.32 million
12 Champions League: Tottenham vs AC Milan - ITV - 6.20 million
13 Holby City - BBC1 - 6.11 million
14 National Lottery: Secret Fortune - BBC1 - 5.99 million
15 BBC News - BBC1 - 5.86 million
16 FA Cup: Manchester United vs Arsenal - ITV - 5.81 million
17 Silk - BBC1 - 5.80 million
18 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 - 5.73 million
19 Six Nations Rugby: England vs Scotland - BBC1 - 5.66 million
20 Countryfile - BBC1 - 5.44 million

On Sunday, BBC1's Antiques Roadshow defeated, if you will, ITV's antiques rock show, as a Duran Duran 'special' rather underperformed for the commercial broadcaster. The Roadshow travelled to West Yorkshire where Fiona Bruce encouraged local people to dig out their old plates in front of an average audience of a fraction under seven million viewers over the 8pm hour on BBC1 and BBC1 HD, according to overnight BARB figures. It was the popular factual show's biggest audience of the year and beat BBC1's slot average of 6.49m viewers. It also topped ITV's Duran Duran: One Night Only, which was hosted by an oranger-than-usual Christine Bleakley and included performances from the band. The entertainment show - if that's the right word - drew an audience of 3.91m over the hour from 8.30pm, averaging 4.28m in the half-hour that it overlapped with The Antiques Roadshow. Over the total period it was on, the ITV HD simulcast entertained just under two hundred and ten thousand viewers, whilst a repeat an hour later on ITV+1 drew eighty six thousand. The show's performance was well below ITV and ITV HD’s slot average of 6.55m viewers for the past three months.

The BBC have responded to the inevitable complaints they received over Saturday's sport-heavy programming. They state: 'While the football programming was the same as normal, Saturday was the climax of the Six Nations tournament, with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all playing. The BBC broadcasts all Six Nations matches live every year and they are very popular with our audience. In the last few years the final weekend's fixtures have all been played on the same day and this concentration of sport on BBC1 is a rare exception to our usual Saturday schedule. We did have a wide range of programmes that day on other BBC channels and hope there was something for everyone. Highlights at the weekend included the new Matt Smith drama, Christopher and His Kind on BBC2 and a live musical on BBC3, Frankenstein's Wedding.'

Every pie shop's bestest friend Eamonn Holmes has confirmed that he will host the Sky News coverage of Prince William and Kate Middleton's forthcoming wedding. So, along with the fact that ITV's coverage is being fronted by that well-known TV journalist Phillip Schofield, that's another good reason why, if you're going to watch the over-hyped event at all, you should probably stick with the BBC.

As rumoured last week on Facebook, BBC1 have confirmed that they've ordered a second series of the post-Watershed sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys written by and starring Brendan O'Carroll. While the series has met with mixed reviews from critics it has been a definite hit with viewers in the UK and Ireland. The series was based on the sell-out theatre show which stars Brendan as Agnes Brown, a Dublin matriarch who just can't resist interfering in the lives of her family and friends. And, saying 'fek' a lot. Which, to be fair, can be really funny. The cast of the television show features the regular cast of Mrs Brown's Boys on stage, and includes Brendan's real-life wife Jennifer Gibney as Cathy, his daughter Fiona O'Carroll as Maria, his son Danny O'Carroll as Buster, and his sister Eilish O'Carroll as Winnie McGoogan. 'This is unbelievable!' O'Carroll noted. 'I'm just thrilled that the BBC continues to have confidence in the show. The support we have had from all involved, from Danny Cohen and Mark Freeland and BBC Scotland makes us just so excited to get back there and do it all again. Producer Stephen McCrum promised me that he would be faithful to the stage show and he has gone beyond this in making the show the success it is. I am living the dream.' The six-part series, produced by the BBC's in-house comedy department out of Pacific Quay in Scotland, has become a success, growing week on week, and is currently playing to audiences of over three and a half million. It is up twenty eight per cent on the slot average. 'Mrs Brown has been a big hit with BBC1 viewers. It's a laugh-out loud funny show with wonderful performances at its heart,' said Danny Cohen.

Helen Mirren and Romola Garai have been linked to ITV's new drama Titanic. ITV Studios announced that the project had been given the green light on Monday. The drama, which will also broadcast on ABC in the US and on Channel Seven in Australia, has been written by Downton Abbey creator Lord Snotty Julian Fellowes. The Mirra claims that Mirren and Garai are now in talks for roles in the programme, although details of their potential characters have not been revealed. The drama has already been described as a 'heart-wrenching journey' and is expected to include 'multi-arc action, mystery and romantic plotlines.' And, probably, 'cheaper than the movie.' Filming for Titanic is due to begin in Hungary in the spring. The drama is scheduled to be broadcast next year to mark the centenary of the ship's sinking.

Simon Cowell has confirmed that Mariah Carey will not become a judge on X Factor USA. The music mogul - who recently promised to reveal the line-up of the show's panel this month - told the Los Angeles Times that the singer's pregnancy would prohibit her from taking on such a role. 'I can tell you, officially, that Mariah will not be on the panel, mainly because I think she's still gonna be pregnant at the time we start filming and she's gonna need some time off,' he explained. 'She couldn't start working straight away, and they're long days. But we're hopeful there will be a role for her - and I'm not sure what yet - on the live shows. She wants to be involved.'

BBC staff have peppered the Ariel letters page with criticism of proposals to cut BBC local radio output, describing them as 'a travesty' and stressing the service's 'incalculable value.' The letters to the corporation's in-house magazine urge management not to pursue these plans, which have emerged as part of the BBC's Delivering Quality First workstreams. Tim Lloyd, of BBC Essex, wrote: 'Let's improve local radio, not weaken it. Stop bleating on about the declining audience. If audience is so important, stop hindering us. Let station bosses run their own output according to area and circumstance, focus on our USP and please put some music back into Breakfast. Cut out the heavy-handed on-air bureaucracy. BBC Local Radio provides a unique service to an audience who recognise the merits of what we deliver on a day to day basis. Downgrading it would be a travesty.' Word, my brother! Pauline McAdam, a senior broadcast journalist, added: 'Unlike swathes of the BBC, across swathes of the nation, we are relevant in [our listeners'] lives. In a caricature of this organisation's Londoncentric horizons, and at a time when the UK's jobs and communities are under threat, the BBC suggests finally taking their voice? Go ahead, move programmes "up north" – but the UK is a lot bigger than Salford. Do not underestimate the incalculable value, not merely the cost, of these listeners in the Nations. And if you do, good luck arguing the relevance of the BBC come the next licence fee settlement.' Manchester production staff wrote: 'We understand money needs to be saved; there are opportunities to be explored about station structures, sharing regionally and networking night time hours, but content between 6am-6pm should be locally produced. BBC journalism and content will suffer without local radio.' The BBC's chief operating officer Caroline Thomson replied stressing that 'no decisions have been made yet. I can't pretend there aren't difficult choices and painful decisions to be made but I'm hopeful that by continuing our dialogue and being honest with each other the decisions we make will be in the best interests of the BBC and its audiences,' she said.

Pat Younge has revealed that BBC1 could well be ring-fenced as he outlined the main themes to have emerged from talks over how the corporation can save £1.3bn over four years from 2013. Speaking to Ariel, the BBC Vision chief creative officer said staff in Delivering Quality First had prioritised quality in peak time, and questioned whether origination was necessary on both terrestrial channels. Initially it appeared he was suggesting BBC2's orgingations across its schedule, but the BBC has since clarified that he was talking solely about daytime. Finding a way to ring-fence spend on BBC1 has also materialised as a key priority. Last year its content budget was more than £1.1bn. Younge, who was promoting the launch of new Intranet site Yammer - designed to encourage more junior staff to engage with DQF - told Ariel that senior managers would share more details at the next series of town hall meetings. 'When people see the emerging themes they'll realise they are themes and some could go in one or more directions - so even if you took a decision, for example, to do something different on BBC2 Daytime, here's a whole list of ways you might do that. I can assure people - if there was a blueprint we would just share it, because frankly, it would be easier.' He urged staff to get involved in the process. 'We can't take twenty per cent out of the BBC without it touching your area, and the more you are in the conversation the more your voice will be heard. We are going to be as open as we can. We think if we share the emerging themes we'll get even more directed feedback, both from town halls and the DQF Yammer site.' Younge said he acknowledged the drip-feeding of stories to the press – such as the closure of local radio – could be 'unsettling' for staff. 'But I would prefer we had these occasional blips than the process we had over pensions, where a small group of us tried to come up with an answer, than sprang it on the organisation.' Director general Mark Thompson is set to reveal the workstreams' initial ideas at an all-staff event on 7 April. All proposals will be judged on the basis of three criteria: reach, value and quality. The BBC could axe overnight programmes on BBC1 and BBC2 under the latest proposals being considered to cut costs at the corporation. The BBC director general, said that around one hundred and fifty million quid could be saved from the BBC's budget by reducing the programming aired between 10.35pm and 6am on the main BBC channels. Thompson said that it is necessary to review whether the corporation could 'put something else on' during the overnight schedule as a way to save money. 'In a sense, it's more of a question it seems to me of how much money, how much of the licence fee, should you direct to this part of the schedule given the people available to view?' he asked. 'Why is the money where it is? Is there a way of filling this part of the schedule for less money?' Another proposal under consideration suggests that BBC2 could cut its original daytime shows, while BBC1 could rebroadcast dramas and natural history programmes, possible even in prime time. The ideas are a number of suggestions being discussed under the BBC's Delivering Quality First project, a new phase of the Strategy Review process launched last year. The director general said that twenty one different cost-saving proposals have been put forward by BBC staff, although he admitted that some of the ideas 'aren't going to fly.' Despite the proposal for cutting overnight programming, Thompson said that the approach would not include 'important' late night shows, such as BBC2's Newsnight. He said that the BBC wants to become more 'decisive' in its approach, but he again stressed that service closures are 'unlikely' in the cost-saving drive.

A rector has reportedly banned church committee meetings – so that the faithful can watch the sitcom Rev instead. Reverend Trevor Donnelly has given up the meetings for Lent, replacing them with screenings of the BBC comedy, starring Tom Hollander as an inner-city vicar. His congregation in Blackheath, South-East London, will enjoy each episode over a glass of wine, before a discussion about the programme. Rev Donnelly, from the parish of the Ascension, told the local News Shopper newspaper: 'While the script naturally exaggerates incidents, some of the events and attitudes it portrays offer striking modern-day parables. It's a comedy show, but it contains some important and painful truths.'

Former Lost star Josh Holloway has claimed that he is not interested in returning to television. The actor told TV Guide that his upcoming guest spot on NBC's Community will be his last television role for the foreseeable future. 'Right now I'm giving it a break because you have to sign that rather lengthy contract,' he explained. 'But I'm open with TV still. TV has changed quite a bit, even since Lost. There's a lot of great TV out there now, but I'm giving movies a shot while I can.' Holloway added that his Community character, rumoured to be an homage to Clint Eastwood's Western persona, is 'a fun role. I loved those guys,' he said. 'I had a really good time and they were so awesome. I'd worked with Chevy [Chase] before on a movie so I was honoured to get to work with him again, and the rest of the cast.' He continued: 'They're really tight with their comedy, it's rhythmic. It makes me feel so not very funny being around them!'

It would be 'fanciful' to expect a separately owned Sky News to be properly independent of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, according to lawyers acting for a group of four normally competing newspaper owners in a submission opposing the media mogul's eight billion smackers buyout of BSkyB. Writing on behalf of the companies behind the Daily Torygraph, the Daily Mirra, the Daily Scum Mail and the Gruniad Morning Star, Slaughter and May said that a proposal to split off Sky News would not be enough to address fears that Rupert Murdoch would dominate British media once his NewsCorp bought all of the satellite broadcaster. The joint submission – also supported by BT – said that NewsCorp's offer would 'make Sky News almost entirely dependent on News Corporation' and that 'it would be fanciful to expect that Sky News will enjoy any meaningful independence' that would allow it to contribute to diversity in news provision in the future. As a result, Slaughter and May said, it would be 'clearly unrealistic' to expect that Sky News would 'rigorously investigate' if, for example, another News of the World phone hacking scandal emerged. The lawyers also questioned whether, if all Murdoch's newspapers supported one political party in a future election campaign, it would be 'realistic to expect that Sky News would rigorously investigate and report on a major scandal affecting that party.' Earlier this month, the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, said that, in principle, he would allow NewsCorp's bid for BSkyB to go through if Rupert Murdoch were to agree to the spinning-off of Sky News. NewsCorp's holding in Sky News would be capped at thirty nine per cent – equivalent to its current ownership of BSkyB – for at least ten years. On Monday was the last day for anybody objecting to that plan to register their concerns formally with the vile and odious rascal Hunt. The newspaper owners and BT had long been unhappy about the bid which, they argue, would lead to the creation of a powerful integrated media group combining more than one in three of every newspapers sold in the UK with the largest broadcaster as measured by turnover. Sky News would be financially dependent on NewsCorp because it would rely on the media group for an estimated eighty five per cent of its revenues under the spin-off plan, the submission said, meaning that Sky News 'cannot be considered financially or commercially independent of News Corporation where the latter is by far its largest customer.' Sky News would therefore be unable to disgregard News Corp's views as a result, the document added. The news channel would also be dependent on News Corporation for its distribution – although the draft undertaking proposed by NewsCorp gives no details as to how this would work in practice. In addition, Sky News would be dependent on winning a renewal of its contract with News Corp, an 'absolute imperative' that 'will profoundly influence decision-making at all levels within Sky News.' There was also criticism that there would be only weak safeguards of editorial independence, because the directors who were given that job would have other legal obligations requiring them to maintain the financial health of the business. Slaughter and May noted that separate editorial undertakings given to safeguard the independence of The Times and Sunday Times when they were purchased by Murdoch in 1981 were ineffective, according to evidence previously provided to Ofcom, the communications regulator, by Harold Evans, a former editor of The Times, and Andrew Neil, who previously edited The Sunday Times. A spokeswoman for News Corporation said the company 'had submitted a comprehensive proposal which, Ofcom has acknowledged, addresses the plurality concerns identified. We remain committed to engaging in the regulatory process.' The department of culture said that it would not comment on individual submissions while it was still deciding whether to accept the proposed remedy. The vile and odious rascal Hunt is expected to make his final ruling on whether to formally accept the Sky News spin-off plan in April.

Bruised by Panorama's revelations last week about private investigator Jonathan Rees's close relationship with the paper in years gone by, the News of the World has fired off a freedom of information request to the BBC. It demands to know which PIs the BBC has used over the past three years and the nature of the work they carried out, a request which is clearly intended to embarrass BBC bosses. News International sister paper, The Times, helpfully claimed last week that Rees once worked for Panorama itself, although that was two decades ago (and the BBC denies he ever did). Mark Thompson admitted in Saturday's Times that the corporation did sometimes use private investigators. The only flaw in the News of the World's plan, a BBC insider told the Gruniad 'with barely disguised glee,' is that the corporation is officially exempt from FOI requests pertaining to its journalistic work. So the NotW won't be getting an answer to its question.

The BBC has apologised for broadcasting images of a protester with a swear word on his forehead, saying the producers had not noticed it until after transmission. Ofcom received seven complaints about the footage, which appeared on the BBC's News at Six bulletin on 10 November last year, during a piece about the protests over the government's plans to increase university fees. The protester was sitting next to another student, who was being interviewed for the programme. In response to Ofcom's investigation, the BBC said: 'It was not noticed at the time of filming, or in the subsequent edit, that this man had the word "fuck" written on his face.' In light of the early evening broadcast, the BBC acknowledged it had been 'inappropriate' and apologised for any offence caused by the incident, which 'arose as a result of human error,' the regulator said. The human who erred has now, apparently, been dealt with. Staff have been reminded of the importance of ensuring the suitability of contributors interviewed for pre-watershed programmes. As a result, Ofcom said it considered the matter resolved.

Horsey Tory yummy-mummy property expert-cum-TV homemaker and designer lifestyle guru Kirsty Allsopp was at Thursday's Hodder dinner at Café de Paris to promote the new paperback edition of Kirstie's Homemade Home according to the Independent. Deciding, however, that the subject of craft would yield few gags, she chose to recount a racy anecdote from her youth. During the early years of her career, when her salary was a mere nine grand per annum, Allsopp rented a bulky video camera to record a friend's hen party for posterity. Several Bacardi Breezers later, the young ladies were playing a game of 'upside-down topless confessions.' The next day, the impoverished Allsopp was so keen to return the camera to the rental store in time to get back her one hundred and fifty smackers deposit that she mistakenly left the cassette, featuring the aforementioned game in the machine. Somewhere out there, a middle-aged - and traumatised - former electronics shop assistant is probably compiling a list of tabloid news desk telephone numbers, and biding his time.

The Football Association has agreed to allow UEFA to sell its international television rights from 2014, despite initial reservations that it would lose money under the system. UEFA president oily little twat Michel Platini confirmed that all fifty three member associations, including the FA, have signed up to a new scheme for centralising the sale of international television rights, including qualifying matches for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. The FA was understood to have been initially concerned about being disadvantaged under the new system only to be convinced by guarantees from UEFA that it would earn around twenty five million pounds a year from the plan. Speaking at the UEFA Congress in Paris, FA general secretary Alex Horne said: 'We thought it through long and hard and we have got a good deal for ourselves out of it. It is higher than the current valuation of our rights. We have gone into this with our eyes wide open. It is a creative idea and we believe it will work.'' What will happen with the sale of FA Cup rights has not yet been agreed, but the FA is thought to want to sell them alongside England rights in the future. At the height of the sports rights market in 2008, four-year deals for England and FA Cup TV rights generated around five hundred and seventy five million smackers in domestic and international revenue for the FA, including one hundred and fifty million from Setanta. After the Irish sports broadcaster went bust in late 2009, the FA agreed a four-year deal with ESPN, which was understood to be considerably less lucrative. Also speaking at the UEFA Congress, Platini said that it is now 'essential' to centralise the way international television rights are sold. 'It is a project aimed, above all, at protecting and developing national team football. And, what is more, the knock-on effect will be guaranteed revenue for each association,' he said. 'You will therefore all be able to concentrate on the football without having to worry what the draws might throw up and whether their outcome will be favourable - or not - in terms of TV rights.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This epic slab of 70s funk from 'Kung-Fu Fighting' Big Boss dude Carl Douglas is hilariously dated. Sample lyric: 'Says he's got a thing about burnin' witches/And some of these, they were mighty fine bitches.' You'd never get away with it these days!