Wednesday, March 02, 2011

If It Wasn't For The MasterChef I Don't Know What I'd Do

MasterChef hopeful Kennedy Leitch suffered a setback in the latest episode of the popular BBC cookery show after he cut the top of his middle finger off during a task. And, while the injury would have been bad news for any budding chef, it was a double-blow for Kennedy, who is a professional cellist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Ow. You know when people say "don't give up the day job?" Might not be an option for Kennedy now, frankly. The incident occurred when the keen cook was chopping veg with a potato peeler while preparing a lunch of neeps and tatties for one hundred competitors at the Invercharron Highland Games last autumn and it was shown on Wednesday night's episode. Speaking about the accident, Kennedy said: 'It was the middle finger of my left hand, which is the worst hand for a cellist to hurt.' At the time, doctors treated the injury by gluing the top of his finger back on. The episode itself was another corker. The ten finalists were taken to a field north of the border and, hoots mon, they given the task of feeding one hundred hairy-arsed ravenous Scotsmen. Whilst Gregg (in his sporty cap) and John stood around like a couple of dodgy third division football club managers bellowing 'it's all about commitment,' the finalists were split into two groups. The first team comprised mumsy Annie, Jackie, the Gospel according to St James the Carpenter (who has rapidly become yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite even if he does bear an uncanny resemblance to Marc Warren), Tom and Sara. Their trio of dishes were roast beef with root vegetable broth, seafood stew containing twenty five kilos of mussels and longoustine and apple pie with custard. They worked well together under Jackie's leadership, helped each other out and produced three great dishes, although Sara's seafood stew proved to be something of an acquired taste. On the other team were Kennedy, Peter, American Tim, Alice and 'full-time mum' big, sweaty Polly (as opposed to, what, a part-time one?) Before too long, Polly predicated that they'd be fine so long as she didn't do anything like 'chop one of my fingers off.' Which, as noted, she didn't. She left that job to Kennedy. It was all a bit of a case of making a crisis out of drama for this lot - Casualty in Kennedy's case - although they did, eventually, get their shit together enough to put out their three dishes - hearty fish pie, fillet of Scottish venison with neeps and tetties and blackberry sauce, and a pear and blackberry crumble. 'This is a nightmare' said Kennedy as the end of his finger dangled, limply from the rest of it. And, Polly got in a right old tizzy about her custard not thickening quickly enough. Although most of their grub seemed to go down very well, they committed the cardinal sin in Scotland of running out of neeps and tetties halfway through. For the winners it was off to Andrew Carnegie's country pile, Skibo Castle, to cook a meal for various assorted Highland nobs - dressed up like people off a shortcake biscuit tin - under the direction of Alan Davies-lookalike Tom Kitchen. For the losers, it was back to London for a sleepless night followed by a fight to stay in the competition. Annie, Jackie, the Gospel according to St James, Tom and Sara found themselves preparing a four course gourmet meal of jumbo scallops dressed in their own shell and cooked in pastry, a deconstructed haggis, neeps and tetties with quails eggs, grouse pan friend with wild mushrooms and game crisps and cheesecake mousse with plums. And, they all did fantastically well, drawing compliments from the judges, the diners and Alan Davies his very self. Meanwhile, back in London, the losers were given the task of cooking one of John's trademark dishes - twice cooked red pigeon with Chinese gunpowder. Tim and Alice sailed through, but there were 'issues' with poor old one-damaged-finger Kennedy. The highlight came when twisty-faced Pol left some bone in her pigeon that Gregg got a mouthful of. And, promptly, blubbed. She was ultimately saved, however, because Peter's dish, although well-cooked, was considered a bit bland by the judges. Polly, madly enthusiastic as ever, went bounding across the MasterChef kitchen like a bunny rabbit with some buckshot up its jacksie almost before the door had hit poor Peter's ass on the way out. And, people will try to tell you this show isn't entertaining! A final point about episode five, Metro's coverage of the Kennedy story once again - for the third time in a little over a week - includes what is now starting to look like a vaguely sinister agenda when it notes: 'Viewers seem to have given the new format the thumbs down, however, after the show shed ratings after the opening episode.' My italics. Of course, they totally fail to mention that the ratings went back up again for episode three and stayed up for episode four. Because, that wouldn't be a story, would it?

Edinburgh Fringe institution Late 'n' Live is to be the subject of a BBC documentary, featuring a host of top comedians. Jo Brand, Johnny Vegas, Ross Noble, Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin, Ed Byrne and Jimmy Carr are among the acts participating in Late 'n' Live's Guide To Comedy. Shooting on the six half-hour episodes – to be executive produced by Gilded Balllon supremo Karen Koren – apparently begins next week. The series is scheduled to be broadcast in Scotland around August, to coincide with the Fringe. As well as including interviews with comedians and archive footage, the filmmakers are appealing for audience members and hecklers to share their experiences. First hosted in 1987 at the Gilded Balloon's former home on Edinburgh's Cowgate, the 1am to 5am show moved to Teviot Row House in 2002, only months before the original venue was destroyed by fire. Described by Jo Brand as 'Edinburgh's infamous English comic-baiting version of The Coliseum,' the night achieved notoriety for such incidents as Russell Brand pretending to carve open his arm with pint glasses hurled from the audience, Scott Capurro storming onstage to accuse Phil Nichol of homophobia for singing 'Only Gay Eskimo', Daniel Kitson and Stephen K Amos wrestling semi-naked and Johnny Vegas vomiting before crowd-surfing during his set. Yer Keith Telly Topping's only visit to Live 'n' Loud was, actually, to see Johnny the night after the crowd-surfing incident. And, trust me, I made sure I was several rows back! Johnny has said: 'Late 'n' Live could break the best the Fest had to offer, but when work was done it was where any real comic went to play. It dared you to push it or die trying. It was dangerous, at times certifiably insane, I couldn't have done what I did without that playground for the unwell.' Reflecting upon the passing of its hedonistic heyday, Tim Vine said that in the mid-90s, 'I used to think Late 'n' Live was like a time machine. Onstage it seemed as if my watch had stopped. That five minute slot never seemed to end. Nowadays it's all so much more genteel. They should call it Latte and Live.' For Jimmy Carr however, his 'happiest memory of the Gilded Balloon was sitting with Karen Koren backstage at the old Late 'n' Live show in Cowgate discussing how best we would burn the place down for the insurance money!'

Rupert Murdoch is reported to have agreed to sell off the loss-making Sky News. At least, that's the way the BBC are covering the news. The move, they suggest, is likely to be enough to win government approval for the takeover of BSkyB by his News Corp firm, according to Robert Peston. 'Some will see that as a U-turn,' Peston said, as the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Hunt had promised to heed the advice of regulator Ofcom, who wanted the deal referred to the Competition Commission. The vile and odious Hunt is expected to require a fifteen-day public consultation on the takeover. Ofcom had raised concerns about the impact on media plurality and choice of news if News Corp controlled Sky News in addition to the newspapers it currently owns. In order to make a sale of the news channel viable, the BBC says that it understands Murdoch has also agreed to provide it with a long-term contract which will have the effect of subsidising it for many years. Even if the deal gets the nod from the vile and odious Hunt, News Corp has yet to gain approval from BSkyB's board. However, the Gruniad Morning Star's take on the announcement is somewhat different. They suggest that Sky News, which is loss-making, would be 'independently governed' and funded under a long-term promise of payments from News Corporation, in an effort to ensure that its journalism would not suffer. But, 'those close to News Corp's negotiations with government' said that the complex proposal would not amount to a sale of Sky News. An 'insider' allegedly told the Gruniad: 'Would we provide funding for a rival broadcaster? I don't think so.' If approved, the agreement would pave the way for News Corp – Britain's largest newspaper group by virtue of its ownership of the Sun, the News of the World, the Times and Sunday Times – to complete the purchase of Sky, which is Britain's largest broadcaster as measured by turnover.

Fishermen have attacked EU chiefs for bending to a 'superficial' campaign by television chefs to ban the controversial practice of discarding fish. The Scottish Fishing Federation said the proposals, spearheaded by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, would 'do more harm than good' and represent a threat to coastal communities across the country. Maria Damanaki, the EU Fisheries Commissioner, is expected to unveil a proposal on banning the practice of discards, which sees millions of tons of fish jettisoned each year. It is a consequence of the quota system imposed by the Common Fisheries Policy which strictly limits how much fish can be landed in an attempt to conserve stocks. But more than six hundred and fifty thousand people signed a petition calling for discarding fish to be banned after a series of programmes publicising the issue on Channel Four. Hugh's Fish Fight disclosed that fishermen throw back about half of their catch in the North Sea to ensure they stay within the quotas. Scottish fishermen alone throw back an estimated thirty three million pounds of dead fish each year. Fearnley-Whittingstall won the backing of celebrities such as Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Paxman and the vile and odious Oliver. Damanaki has suggested that all catches should be landed and counted against quotas, but fishermen warned this would mean them running out of their annual quota very quickly. Bertie Armstrong, the SFF's chief executive, warned a total ban on discards would be 'a draconian step too far' and 'could have very serious consequences for a vitally important economic sector that supports many communities around our coasts. It is a knee-jerk response to populist TV coverage which has accurately described the problem, but which offers no solutions,' he said. 'The commissioner's measures and the timescale proposed are equally superficial and simply will not work if sustainable harvesting of fish is to be a reality.' Instead he urged the EU to develop existing schemes to cut discards, such as forcing trawlers to use more selective nets and banning fishing in certain areas. But Fearnley-Whittingstall said 'fishermen would feel the pinch' in the first few years of a discard ban but the long-term aim was to enable fishermen to land more of their catches. 'The Scottish fishermen I spoke to were unanimous that they wanted to see an end to discards,' he said. 'As the ban is phased in and fewer fish, or even no fish, is discarded, it should be possible to allocate higher quotas within the fishery.' Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Minister, has repeatedly attacked the waste caused by discards but said a blanket ban would not be 'effective or enforceable in any practical way.' He outlined his concerns in a letter to Damanaki and Richard Benyon, the UK Fisheries Minister, who is understood to be sympathetic to her proposals. The commissioner is to chair a meeting of fisheries ministers in Brussels at which she is expected to discuss her proposals. Lochhead has complained at being unable to attend but it is limited to one minister per EU member state, with Scotland being represented as part of Britain. Damanaki's plans are also thought to have the support of Danish, German, French and Belgian ministers, but they are understood to be hotly opposed by Spain and other southern European countries. This is because the reforms could mean fishermen would have to stop fishing when they have reached their quota for a particular species to avoid catching it accidentally.

EastEnders fans will see Charlie Slater make a brief return to Albert Square later this year, according to the Digital Spy website. Actor Derek Martin - who played the character for a decade - has recently been filming a two-episode guest stint with the BBC soap and viewers can expect to see Charlie back on screen in a few weeks' time. Charlie left the Square at the beginning of this year after his daughter Kat (Jessie Wallace) blamed him for the loss of her newborn son Tommy. He had failed to properly supervise the baby while a party was being held at the Queen Vic on New Year's Eve, paving the way for Ronnie Branning (Samantha Womack) to secretly swap the child with her own dead son, James. Although Kat later made peace with Charlie, he went to live with his other daughter, Lynne, after deciding that it was best for him to leave Walford.

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier has dismissed reports that the 2011 series of The X Factor could be in danger. It has been claimed that show boss Simon Cowell was 'at war' with the broadcaster, but Crozier told the Gruniad Morning Star that the three-year deal with Syco co-producer Fremantle Media still stood. Crozier said: 'I understand why this is such a sexy story, for want of a better word, but our relationship with Syco has never been stronger; we have struck the first long-term deal for BGT and X Factor. I can absolutely confirm for any avoidance of doubt that BGT will appear in the spring and X Factor in the autumn.' Regarding Cowell potentially stepping down from the judging panel to join the US version of the show, Crozier explained: 'We are not due to make decisions on X Factor yet for a couple of months, there are a number of options.' On the subject of claims that ITV had passed on Cowell's idea for a Top Of The Pops-style show, Crozier added that ITV Studios and Syco are working on further programme ideas and that one could potentially be launched during 2011.

Georgie Thompson has said that she would love to have David Beckham. As a guest on A League Of Their Own. Phew. Bet little Dec's relieved about that.

BBC trustee Diane Coyle is emerging as the leading candidate to become Lord Patten's vice-chair at the corporation's regulatory and governance body. Following the announcement that Lord Patten is David Cameron's 'preferred candidate' to become BBC Trust chairman, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has turned its attention to hiring a deputy. The post became vacant last June after Chitra Bharucha revealed she was stepping down. It is understood that economist Coyle and fellow trustee Dame Patricia Hodgson were two of the three candidates 'deemed appointable' before the interview process was halted after chairman Sir Michael Lyons announced his resignation last autumn. The process was stopped to ensure the two top posts would 'complement each other' so there was considered to be no point appointing a vice-chair until the new chairman was decided. Since Patten has been named as the in-coming chairman the DCMS has been considering whether or not to pick up the search for a vice-chair where it left off or begin again. According to sources, it is expected that it will resume the process, rather than start afresh, and that Coyle is the frontrunner to succeed Bharucha. One insider told the Gruniad Morning Star that because Patten is a Tory it would appease Labour criticism of his appointment if his deputy was 'not of the same political leaning so a balance can be achieved.' It is not known what Coyle's political allegiances are. Newnham College principal Hodgson was a Conservative candidate in Islington South in 1974 and edited the journal of the Tory Bow Group think tank. Although in her application for the post of vice-chair she has been keen to point out she left politics in the early 1980s, it is likely to count against her that she has the same Tory background as Patten. Coyle – who is married to BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan Jones – is an economics consultant and former adviser to the UK treasury. She was the economics editor of the Independent for eight years and left in 2001 to set up her own company specialising in the economics of new technologies. Coyle is a contributor to the New Statesman, a visiting professor of the Institute of Political and Economic Governance at the University of Manchester and a research committee member of the Economics and Social Research Council. She has recently published a book about sustainable economics called The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as if the Future Matters. Coyle was also a member of Lord Browne's review of higher education funding, which said the cap on student fees should be lifted. Unusually for a BBC trustee, she is a keen user of new technologies such as Twitter and Facebook.

Channel Four is understood to be conducting a strategic review of Box Television, its sixty million pound joint venture with Bauer Media that broadcasts channels including 4Music and Kiss, with a range of options being considered including a potential sale. The broadcaster bought half of what was then Emap's music television division, home to seven channels including Magic, Smash Hits, Kerrang! and The Box, for twenty eight million smackers in July 2007. The deal was struck when Channel Four was in expansion mode, under former chief executive Andy Duncan, a period which included an ill-fated nine million quid foray into digital radio. However, Box Television has proven to be a sound investment, generating £4.4m in pre-tax profits in the year to the end of December 2009, in a market hit by the downturn, according to the most recent figures available from Companies House. In that year revenues were up 7.1 per cent to £26.6m, bucking the recession, which saw a twelve per cent decline across the total UK TV advertising market, with Channel Four holding the advert sales contract. It is understood that the value of the stake is likely to be worth significantly less, relatively speaking, than if Box Television was sold as a single entity. It is not known if Channel Four has held discussions with Bauer about wider options for the business. However, a sale is thought to be merely one of a series of options being considered by Channel Four chief executive David Abraham, who may consider that the broadcaster needs to hang on to some interest in Box TV beyond just handling the advertising sales. In 2007 Channel Four was even reported to be looking to take full control of the business. Since arriving at Channel Four in May last year, Abraham has slimmed the management structure, cutting a quarter of senior managers, and axed the twenty million pound digital innovation fund 4iP as part of an integration of how the broadcaster commissions content.

Former Dallas star Charlene Tilton has admitted that she is keen to appear in TNT's forthcoming reboot of the glossy oil-industry drama. The actress played Lucy Ewing on the original CBS version of the show from 1978 to 1985, and again from 1988 to 1990. She told TV Line: 'I read the script for the first episode [of the new series] and it is absolutely wonderful. It's going to be fabulous.' Tilton added that she would be keen to join her former co-stars Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray in the new series. 'They've gotta bring me back!' she said. 'People have sent me Internet petitions to bring her back, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, thank you!"'

William Shatner has confessed that he doesn't believe he will be asked to make an appearance in the Star Trek sequel. The actor, whose former co-star Leonard Nimoy played an integral role in director JJ Abrams's franchise reboot, told the Herald Sun that the SF franchise may have gone beyond his involvement. 'I would be so interested in doing it, especially with that wonderful director JJ Abrams, but I don't see how it's possible and maybe we all have gone beyond that,' Shatner said. The seventy nine-year-old revealed that he is making a documentary wherein he talks to all the captains of the USS Enterprise to 'find a common denominator and in the meantime have some fun talking to them about their lives.' Reminiscing about his role as James Kirk in the franchise, Shatner added: 'I think of Star Trek at its best as being really good and when I was at my best I was good in it. There were some, if not many missteps, but at its best it was really terrific.'

David Letterman has chided his frequent guest Brian Williams for appearing on several rival late night talk shows. During the newsman's interview on The Late Show on Monday, Letterman remarked that he had once made a promise to longtime NBC anchor Tom Brokaw to 'look after' Williams. The TV host then admitted that he is bothered when Williams appears on other late night series such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and The Daily Show. 'I see you showing up on the goddamn Leno show. I see you on the funny boy Jon Stewart show,' Letterman said. 'I am begging you, stop doing those shows!' Williams responded by saying that he doesn't consider Stewart to be Letterman's competition because The Daily Show is broadcast on the cable network Comedy Central. Letterman retorted: 'I don't care. You don't have to go over on his show!' The banter climaxed with Letterman jokingly requesting a knife so Williams could stab him 'right in the heart,' before the pair moved on to discuss more serious issues including the crisis in Libya. Williams first appeared on the CBS late night series in 1996 and has since returned on nine occasions.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a little slice of savage funk. Bass groove. Dub time.