Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Watched By A Shivering Sun

The US State Department will give the BBC World Service some money to help 'promote freedom of speech,' press reports suggest. Is anybody else rather tickled by the delicious irony of the fact that they're happy to stump up some cash but the British government, seemingly, aren't? According to the Gruniad Morning Star, an agreement for a 'six-figure sum' will be signed later this month. The US investment will be used to 'teach people ways to get around the blocking of TV and Internet services in countries where state censorship exists.' The newspaper quotes the World Service's controller of strategy and business Jim Egan as saying: 'Governments who have an interest in denying people information - particularly at times of tension and upheaval - are keen to do this and it is a particular problem now.' What, like the British one, you mean? They're actively working on a daily basis to castrate the BBC. Some of the money will also be invested in developing anti-jamming technology and software. The BBC claimed last month that its Persian TV service was being jammed from within Iran during the uprising in Egypt. The US State Department reportedly believes that its prospective investment is justified because of the World Service's wide global reach. 'And nation shall speak peace onto nation.' So long as the Yanks are paying.

Julia Somerville made a return to our screens on Saturday, presenting BBC's prime time news bulletin. Perhaps someone should have told the BBC's European editor, Gavin Hewitt. Reporting from Paris, Hewitt called Somerville 'Sophie,' presumably mistaking the sixty three-year-old for fellow newsreader the younger, prettier, Sophie Raworth. 'It's Julia, actually,' came the ice-tipped reply. Twenty four years out of the picture, gone but not forgotten, eh Gavin?

Last week she was 'defending' Peaches Geldof, now Lily Allen has donned her full shining white armour to 'defend' Cher Lloyd during a recent Twitter confrontation with News of the World journalist Dan Wootton. Allen responded after retweeting a message in which Wootton claimed that the seventeen-year-old Lloyd will be 'begging to be written about in a few months.' 'You're a grown man for Christ's sake. She is, essentially, a child. Give the poor thing a break,' Allen wrote to Wootton. 'I imagine she gets enough shit from kids her own age, grown ups need not pile in. So she's going through a phase, give her a break [sic].' Wootton wasn't taking that lying down: 'She's not a "poor thing," believe me,' he responded. 'Do you have an opinion on her? She wants to be treated like an adult. What I'm doing. She's going to need support from the press.' Allen replied: 'Not really. I think she's a kid, eventually she'll find her feet and learn from her mistakes. I do think it quite strange, that someone your age would be so affected by a teenager. She's really not hurting anyone.' Lloyd's father, Darren, then tweeted: 'Why are you so negative about a pearson [sic] you dont [sic] even know? and [sic] write so much crap?' Writing to his daughter on Monday morning, he added: 'im [sic] sorry you had to wake upto [sic] this crap i only wish i know what his problem is with you. we love you.' Thanking Allen for her tweets, Lloyd commented: 'I can't thank u [sic] enough! Really appreciate it.' Defending herself against claims that she made comments about Cheryl Cole, she asked Wootton: 'What on earth have I done to light your fire? I never said anything about Cheryl, give me a break!' Wottoon responded: 'Your attitude of entitlement and arrogance about the press has lit my fire. You're in a very lucky position to even be written about. I also don't believe those quotes about Cheryl were made up.' Big fight. Little people.

Lenny Henry has been criticised for his Comic Relief sketch during which he spoofed The King's Speech. The clip, which opened the BBC charity telethon on Friday night, saw Henry grow impatient with Colin Firth's Oscar-winning portrayal of King George VI as he stammered over his speech. The Sun reports that the British Stammering Association has 'branded' the sketch 'deplorable.' Henry was digitally inserted into the Oscar-winning film, where he was shown to be getting frustrated with the Prince's stuttering, eventually shouting: 'Hurry up, we only have seven hours, you know?' The group's Norbert Lieckfeldt - dear blog readers are advised to avoid trying to say that if they have the misfortune of having a stammer - added that it was 'a gross and disgusting gleefulness at pointing out someone else's misfortune. I am sure this kind of catchphrase will be used by bullies all over the United Kingdom against children who stammer in the playground. We would like to congratulate Mr Henry, and the BBC, for joining the ranks of the bullies.' Or, you know, maybe it wasn't that or anything even remotely like it but, rather, a - very short - parody of a famous scene in a very popular movie. Still, anything that suggests Lenny Henry is a self-publicising cheb-end is all right as far as this blogger is concerned so, more power to yer elbow, Nobbie me auld china. The paper claims that 'more than one hundred viewers' have complained to the broadcaster, who has insisted that there was 'no malicious intent.' The other twelve million viewers who watched the event, apparently, did mind so much.

Former president Martin Sheen has commented on his son Charlie's battle with drug addiction, saying that he is 'living in hell.' The ex West Wing actor told the Telegraph magazine that Charlie's addiction to narcotics (including, ironically, Charlie itself) has 'stunted his maturity.' He said: 'You know, Charlie's forty five years old. He's not a kid. Emotionally he still is. When you're addicted, you don't grow emotionally. So, when you get clean and sober you're starting at the moment you started using drugs or alcohol. You're emotionally crippled.' He went on to say that he empathises with the difficulties his son is facing, as he went through his own problems in the past. He explained: 'I know what hell he's living in. I've had psychotic episodes in public. One of them was on camera - the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. I know what Charlie is going through. And when you do something like that, that is out of control, that's the most difficult thing. You have to have courage.'

Jeff Daniels has joined the cast of the tentatively titled HBO drama More As the Story Develops, it has been reported. The series was developed by The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin. It tells the story of employees at a nightly cable news show. While researching the show, Sorkin met with a number of cable newsmen, most notably Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniels is currently in talks for the lead role. Sorkin recently revealed that he was thrilled to be heading back to television. He has previously created three television series: Sports Night, the critically-acclaimed West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. In addition, Sorkin recently received an Oscar for his screenplay for The Social Network.

Bill Paxton has revealed that he would like to return to movies now that his TV show Big Love has ended. The HBO series came to a close this week and Paxton told TV Line that he is 'ready to do something else. I got a good taste of TV,' he said. 'I feel like it's a Herculean responsibility to be the lead in a television series and for right now I'm being offered a lot of stuff, but I'm taking a back seat for a while.' Paxton explained that he would not completely rule out a return to television, saying: 'I'm not going to even consider anything like that for at least a year. I would consider it, though. At the moment I'm hoping to get back into some feature work - I started directing films before Big Love, and would like to get back to doing that as well. I've got a few irons in the fire, every kind of movie you could imagine, and I'm going to see if I can get one of these things going.' However, Paxton insisted that he is happy with the work he did on Big Love, saying: 'I'm very proud of the show and I always will be. I'm proud of HBO, and I'm proud of the creators. We did five great seasons.'

Mary Lynn Rajskub has landed a role in a new CBS pilot. The former 24 actor has signed up to appear in the comedy How To Be A Gentleman, TV Line suggests. The show stars David Hornsby as 'an uptight man called Alan who learns to make the most of his life with the help of an old school friend.' Rajskub will play Alan's sister Janet, a tough lawyer. Rajskub, who played the cult role of Chloe in 24, has recently had guest roles in Raising Hope and Modern Family. She has appeared in movies such as Julie & Julia and Little Miss Sunshine.

Michaela Conlin has revealed that Angela and Jack Hodgins will face more problems on Bones. Angela is currently pregnant but she and Hodgins (played by TJ Thyne) recently discovered that they are both carriers of a recessive gene which could make their baby blind. Conlin has now hinted that there may be 'more surprises' as the season comes to a close. 'They have another scare coming,' she told Entertainment Weekly. 'It's a crazy little end of the season for them.' Conlin also revealed that she wants Angela to give birth before the end of the season but said that she does not want a traditional labour scene. 'I would do it, obviously, but I can't say that's on the top of my list of favourite things,' she explained. 'TJ and I have been joking about how hilarious that would be to shoot. I have not spoken to [Hart Hanson] about that. I would hope that it's something really unconventional, given Angela's crazy past.'

Larisa Oleynik has revealed that she does not really want a romance on Hawaii Five-0. Oleynik, who will join the show this week, admitted that some people have been suggesting a relationship between Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) and her character Jenna Kaye. 'That's certainly been the question on all of my single friends' minds,' she told TV Guide. 'The thing is, when it comes to romance with one of the leads, I kind of hope not. I really like all of their romantic storylines so far. So I don't know if it's [on] the cards, but listen, I won't complain if it is.' Oleynik also revealed that Kaye has 'a personal vendetta' against Wo Fat and suggested that she will not get along with McGarrett at first. 'We don't actually know what her plan is, but she does kind of think she's on a solo mission until she tries to get files from McGarrett,' Oleynik said. 'She's amassing all of the information against Wo Fat, trying to find out where he is, what his next move is. Kaye starts off a little bit prickly and trying to hold her own against McGarrett, having to walk into his office and kind of act like she owns the place. He calls her bluff and then after some back and forth trying to top each other, they realise they're on the same page.'

Downton Abbey writer Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes's next ITV drama is to be a mini-series about the Titanic. The story of a sinking ship. How very apt. Fellowes, who hit on a successful, Oscar-winning formula of interweaving the lives of upper and lower classes in the movie Gosford Park and repeated it for last year's ITV hit Downton Abbey, will take a similar approach in retelling the story of the sinking of the Titanic on 14 April 1912. ITV promised that viewers will be 'taken on a heart-wrenching journey through Titanic's last hours, as the drama reveals which of the characters they have come to know so well will survive and who does not. Interweaving multi-arc action, mystery and romantic plotlines and featuring fictional and historical characters, Titanic will focus on different characters ranging from steerage passengers to upper class guests,' the broadcaster said. 'Each point of view will culminate in a cliffhanger as the ship begins to founder, building to an explosive conclusion which draws together each of the stories.' The sinking of the Titanic was a key plot point in Downton Abbey, with the heir to the title of Earl of Grantham going down on the supposedly 'unsinkable' liner in the first episode. Filming will begin on the six-part, seven-hour mini-series in Hungary in the spring and the drama has already been acquired by foreign broadcasters including ABC in the US and Channel Seven in Australia. Maria Kyriacou, managing director at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, said: 'The fantastic pedigree of the production talent behind this major series has generated huge interest from our global broadcast clients and we are very pleased to announce these new partners today. Providing a vividly different experience of the ship's last hours alongside a definitive snapshot of what was a unique and uncertain moment in history.'

ESPN's decision to cancel its planned television coverage of the women's Premier League Cup final on Thursday has angered the participating clubs. Nottingham Forest and Barnet are upset at the loss of potential sponsorship income from the game being broadcast on such a high-profile platform, reports the Gruniad. 'We had two sponsorships lined-up on the understanding that the game would be on TV,' said Fay Glover, the Nottingham Forest club secretary. 'Getting to the final has helped us raise enough money to keep going until the end of the season but the extra cash we could have raised would have been a massive help.' Kelly Simmons, the Football Association's head of national game, said that ESPN decided not to broadcast the final at Wycombe Wanderers' Adams Park due to fears about a lack of interest from viewers. 'At the point a decision had to be made on whether to go ahead with the broadcast, we were concerned about low ticket sales,' said Simmons. ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin added: 'It's normal that we sometimes have changes in our scheduling, as in this case.' However, Wycombe anticipates that the crowd will be around two thousand-strong for the final, considerably higher than the forthcoming Women's Super League, which is due to be televised by ESPN.

According to both Bill Bailey and Alan Davies in separate Twitter postings, BBC4 have cancelled Jo Brand sitcom Getting On. Which would be surprising given its RTS award win recently.

Mad Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights has been cleared of corrupting children. The watchdog responsible for online video has admitted that 'many viewers may regard the material as highly offensive, including to people with disabilities,' but this week ruled that the Channel Four show did not fall foul of its guidelines. It launched an investigation after one viewer complained that an edition of the programme, broadcast in December and made available on the 4oD on-demand service, was 'atrocious, demeaning and degrading [and] entirely reprehensible.' The person who complained said that some Boyle's material was highly offensive to disabled people, citing in particular jokes about Katie Price's disabled son Harvey, Susan Boyle, and a sketch about a man with quadriplegia working as a stuntman. Unlike the strict rules enforced by broadcast regulator Ofcom for TV shows, the Authority for Television On-Demand can only determine whether the material 'might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen.' And, it ruled: 'The attitudes expressed, and the manner in which they are expressed, while objectionable to some viewers, are not intended to be taken seriously and are unlikely to have a significant impact on the beliefs, attitudes, well being or behaviour of under eighteens.' The watchdog also noted that Channel Four had gone out of its way to highlight the strong language and 'uncompromising adult content' of Boyle's show, beyond what the online rules required.

An alliance of media groups opposed to News Corporation's takeover of Sky has reportedly ruled out launching a judicial review of the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt's decision to approve the bid. Opponents to News Corp's bid to acquire the sixty one per cent of Sky which it does not already own had until midday on Monday to lobby the government to block the deal. However, a coalition of leading newspapers and BT have privately admitted that there is limited chance that they will be able to derail the takeover, and have dropped plans to launch a legal review, reports the Financial Times. Earlier in the month, the vile and odious rascal Hunt launched a fifteen-day consultation of his decision to accept News Corp's proposal to spin-off Sky News as a separate company, which was designed to address media plurality concerns about the takeover. The alliance of media groups has already sent a submission to the vile and odious rascal Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, arguing that the lack of culture secretary is about to accept the Sky takeover on flawed grounds that will not fulfil their stated aims. The firms are particularly concerned that Sky News would remain financially dependent on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp under the proposed arrangement. Sources close to the group, however, indicate that they have received legal advice that the vile and odious rascal Hunt's actions would be extremely hard to challenge in a judicial review due to the high burden of proof on the opponents. Media analyst Claire Enders, who has advised various different parties throughout the dispute, told the Gruniad: 'When the business secretary allowed the merger of Lloyds and HBOS in 2008, the judicial review of his decision failed even though he was going against the advice of his regulators. Here, Jeremy Hunt is accepting the advice of his regulators. The opposition to this bid has pretty much accepted that it is going to happen.' Meanwhile, Internet campaign group Avaaz has received more than one hundred thousand signatures on a petition opposing News Corp's takeover of Sky. Avaaz has also raised thousands of pounds in donations to pay for legal advice to strengthen its own submission to the vile and odious rascal Hunt. Despite the opposition, analysts expect formal clearance of the proposed bid to come in the next few weeks, valuing the Sky business at more than twelve billion smackers.

Meanwhile, according to one of those opponents, the Gruniad Morning Star, the vile and odious rascal Hunt is 'to consider extending the public interest rules that govern the UK media industry so that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation could face further sanctions if it becomes progressively more dominant without making any more British acquisitions.' The lack of culture secretary will, next month, publish a discussion document to kickstart a consultation with the media industry ahead of a green paper towards the end of this year. Legislation will follow in the second half of this parliament. The vile and odious rascal Hunt – speaking in an interview with MediaGuardian – said that he was sympathetic to a problem identified by Ofcom, the communications regulator, when it examined News Corp's proposed eight billion pounds buyout of BSkyB under the public interest tests. The tests, Ofcom said, could only be applied in a merger situation under current law. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said Ofcom had 'made an important point' because the public interest provision could not be invoked 'because of a media organisation's economic growth.' He said that extending the rules is something 'we should look at' in the consultation. Earlier this month the vile and odious rascal Hunt proposed that Murdoch should be allowed to go through with the buyout on the condition that Sky News is spun off, with News Corp only allowed to own up to thirty nine per cent. Those hostile to the deal – including the companies behind the Gruniad, the Daily Torygraph and the Daily Scum Mail – argue that News Corp will become progressively more dominant in Britain. Sky is growing rapidly, and by 2015 News Corp is expected to have a UK turnover of about nine billion quid, more than double that of the next biggest media group, the BBC. A YouGov poll published on Monday conducted for online pressure group Avaaz, concluded that nearly sixty per cent of the public thought Murdoch had too much influence on British politics, while sixty four per cent said that the merger will give News Corp too much power over the media. Only five per cent of the two thousand three hundred people polled backed the deal. However, despite the olive branch, the vile and odious rascal Hunt robustly defended his decision, arguing that he had to base it on the 'concentration of media ownership, not about market power' – which was why the only appropriate remedy was to keep Sky News separate from the Times and the Sun. He indicated that the controversy over phone hacking by private investigators employed by the News of the World did not influence his decision, but noted that he expected deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers heading up the latest investigation for the Metropolitan police would do 'a thorough job.' The consultation document the vile and odious rascal Hunt will launch next month will also set out three areas for discussion starting with how to foster innovation in areas such as games, telemedicine, home education and 'micro-broadcasting' or local television. It will also include a section on deregulation with the minister saying there was 'a need to look at' the rules governing how ITV is able to sell advertising space. But deregulation will not cover 'taste and decency' or quantity of advertising broadcasters are allowed to air. The final part is to create a coherent framework of content control that could see online video treated more like television. He said he was concerned about Internet content streamed onto a home television, which he said 'feels like TV' but is not regulated by decency rules.

The BBC has confirmed plans to broadcast the one hundred and fifty seventh Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge this weekend in high definition. On 26 March, the Boat Race coverage will start at 3.45pm on BBC1 and BBC1 HD. BBC Radio 5Live will also boradcast live commentary of the race, which begins at 5pm. Clare Balding will present the TV coverage, with Andrew Cotter leading the commentary team alongside former Oxford rower Dan Topolski and former Cambridge president Wayne Pommen. Sonali Shah will deliver reports from the crowd, while four time Olympic gold medallist Sir Matt Pinsent and double Boat Race winning cox Acer Nethercott will both offer expert analysis. The Radio 5Live commentary team will be led by Jonathan Legard, supported by analysis from 5Live's rowing reporters Martin Cross and Amanda Davies. The television coverage will also include a 3D map of the course showing the 'ideal racing line,' which will pop up at intervals during the race. Backing up the Boat Race coverage will be a series of TV programmes, including Dan Snow's The Sewers, taking a look at the engineering project to rebuild London's sewers under the Boat Race course. Rower For A Day will follow Irish comedian Ed Byrne as he joins a crew from one of the Thames rowing clubs to try out the boat race course. The actual Boat Race will be streamed live online and made available to watch again for seven days on BBC iPlayer. International viewers in more than one hundred and fifty countries will be able to watch the race via the BBC World News and BBC America channels. Although quite what they make of sixteen big hairy oarsmen tossing about with their cox is perhaps best left to the imagination.

Katie Price has claimed that she left ITV because the broadcaster failed to promote her. The glamour model and shameless self-publicist recently signed a deal which will see her appear on Sky Living after her long-standing deal with ITV expired last November. According to the Mirra, Price explained her decision to switch channels during a dinner hosted at her home for journalists to mark the launch of Living's Katie, which begins this week. Price reportedly said: 'I don't think I was looked after at ITV. That's why I left. I was their most successful show on ITV2 and yet they never promoted me. I wanted billboards and never got them. It's always been one of my dreams to be on a billboard and now it's come true. There's one near my old school which I am really pleased about.' She added: 'It's a big up yours to anyone who ever doubted me. It will show all those people who didn't think I'd be anyone - well, here I am.' Last month, Sky's in-house agency Sky Creative launched the promotional campaign for Katie, which included online, print and billboard adverts in addition to a forty five-second underwater promotional film clip.

A man has had his stereo and CDs confiscated after failing to adhere to a noise abatement order. The Daily Torygraph reports that the unnamed man kept neighbours awake late into the night with love songs including 'I'm Every Woman'. Noise officers from Shepway District Council visited the man's home in Folkestone to serve a noise abatement order, but they were forced to break into his flat and confiscate his stereo and CD collection after the notice was ignored. Shepway District Council environmental health officer Liam Flannery said: 'It must have been a nightmare for the other people living there. One man had to get up at 6am, and the music was often still being played at that time. It was excessive noise that could be heard throughout the building, going on all night. Unfortunately, the man concerned didn't have an extensive CD collection so it was the same few songs - girly love songs like 'I'm Every Woman' - over and over again. We've got his stuff now and the warrant's open, so if he buys any more, we'll take that too.' 'I'm Every Woman' was originally a hit for Chaka Khan in 1978. Whitney Houston covered the song for the soundtrack of The Bodyguard in 1993.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, we have a ten-song celebration of one of the golden periods of British popular music, the freakbeat and psych boom of 1966-68. Starting off with the boys who, effectively, created the scene. (And, as a bonus, here's that bit of 'Stroll On' from Blow Up!)If The Yardies (and, to an extent, The Who) were the High Priests of Freakbeat then The Creation were its definite its alter boys. Essentially, freakbeat was the point where a bunch of really fantastic Mod bands started playing five minute guitar solos - really fast - in the middle of their Motown covers, stopped shopping in Carnaby Street for shirts but went down the King's Road to Granny Takes A Trip instead and swapped their purple hearts for Adam Strange. Everybody was eating sugar lumps in those days. The Spencer Davis Group's metamorphasis into Traffic being, very much, a case in point. Out with the chunky Bo Diddley's riffs, in with a sitar, a mellotron, and lyrics about tin soliders and elephants eyes. Top of the second division of psych bands were Hounslow's The Fire who produced this little epic.Next we've got the best record ever made featuring a kazoo solo. I don't know much about The Purple Gang except that they were from Stockport and that their debut single, named after a popular King's Road fashion store where all the trendies hung out, was banned by the BBC for 'containing drug references.' Actually, it's a rather simple (and funny) little song about the singer's granny trying to become an actresses. Despite its lack of airplay, it was a popular club record and became notorious hippydrugheroes hangout the UFO Club's 'theme song' for a few months. The humorous 'period' lyrics and infectious jugband melody still stand out as one of 1967's finest moments. Their singer, Peter Walker, liked to be known as 'Lucifer', apparently and they used to dress up as Chicago gangsters during their stage act and threaten the audience with tommy guns. Great record, though - a classic example of that curious strain of British pyschedelic whimsy.Caleb was Caleb Quaye, a long-time sideman with Elton John, who released the stunning psych workout 'Baby Your Phrasing is Bad' in 1967. Jazz fusion! Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own favourite single of that year was, as it happens, this twenty four carat masterpiece. Another brilliant example of the way in which mod morphed into freakbeat which then morphed into full blown psych was the way that Zoot Money's Big Roll Band became Dantalian's Chariot. And, finally, just to provide a nasty little coda for what happened in late 1968 when the drugs finally started to wear off, here's Big Boy Pete.