Monday, March 14, 2011

You're A Big Man, But You're In Bad Shape!

Writer Tom MacRae will script episode ten of Doctor Who's upcoming sixth series, it has been confirmed in the latest issue of the Doctor Who Magazine. MacRae previously wrote the two-part series two story Rise Of The Cybermen and The Age Of Steel for David Tennant's first series in 2006. The magazine also reveals that the new episode, as yet untitled, will be directed by Nick Hurran (who worked on both the remake of The Prisoner and Bonekickers, though I suppose we'll just have to forgive him both of those, I guess). Hurran is also directing Toby Whithouse's episode, number eleven (the title for which had now been confirmed as The God Complex), guest starring David Walliams. The magazine further suggests that MacRae's episode has already been filmed in a previous recording block. The two remaining episodes of series six still to be filmed in the final block will be episode eight and episode thirteen, both written by showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He).

As his dear Facebook readers will already know, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's been a bit poorly with the lurgy over the last couple of days, what with the snots, and the headache and the feeling aal rotten, like. To such an extent that he spent most of Monday on the couch sipping mugs of steaming hot cocoa, taking paracetamol and watching old episodes of Waking the Dead just to remind himself that some people do have it worse than he. Trevor Eve, mainly. Or, indeed, those that Trevor Eve investigates. However, during the afternoon, whilst channel surfing, yer actual Keith Telly Topping stumbled across the BBC Parliament channel's coverage of last week's Culture Select Committee session with Lord Patten. And, do you know what, dear blog reader? Almost in spite of himself, yer actual Keith Telly Topping found that he rather warmed to the disgraceful auld Tory bigot. Mainly, I think, because of the highly impressive way in which Patten slapped down a bunch of annoying, nasty and spiteful questions posed by that shit-stirring right-wing louse Philip Davies MP, whose sick anti-BBC agenda we've come across before. Patten defused the scum's crass dogma with a calm dismissiveness that you'd kind of hope for in somebody who negotiated the return of Hong Kong to those responsible for the Tienanmen Square massacre. Wiped the floor with him, so he did. Far more relevant - if much much less amusing - was the gentle and impressive probing of Patten's knowledge of BBC programming carried out by Labour member David Cairns who asked many of the questions that had most troubled yer actual Keith Telly Topping over Patten's lack of media industry experience. And, to be fair to him, he actually made more or less all of the right noises. Time will tell, I suppose, it usually dose.

Professor Brian Cox has said that the BBC made a mistake by agreeing to turn down the music volume for his scientific series Wonders of the Universe. The BBC agreed to lower the sound after receiving a mere one hundred and eighteen complaints about the background music on the first episode being too loud and/or intrusive. Speaking on Radio 4's Start the Week, Cox said he thought this was an error. 'We can sometimes be too responsive to the minority of people that complain.' Oh, Brian, if only you knew. Have a word with your BBC2 colleagues at Top Gear about that. 'It should be a cinematic experience - it's a piece of film on television, not a lecture,' Cox added. 'I once worked on a film with Danny Boyle called Sunshine, before he won the Oscar, and he always said that the music is an integral part of the emotional presentation of a film. He always ring-fenced the budget for music, unusually for a British film maker, and I think that's the case with these documentaries.' In the BBC2 series, Cox reveals how the most fundamental scientific principles and laws explain the story of the universe and humanity. Each of the two episodes of the series so far has been watched by an audience of more than three million people. Of whom, just to rpeat, one hundred and eighteen felt this issue was worth bothering with. The four-part series tackles life's big issues, such as what we are and where we come from, as well as how gravity sculpts the entire universe. And, seemingly unwittingly, the shit some people chose to care about. Cox, of course, began his career as a pop star, when his band Dare signed a deal with A&M records in 1986. Cox then joined D:Ream, whose song 'Things Can Only Get Better' was famously used as the Labour Party election song in 1997. He studied at Manchester University while he was in the band, and later became a professor of particle physics at the same university. He has since gone on to become a radio and TV presenter. His credits include BBC2's Stargazing and Wonders of the Solar System.

Some good news now, the BBC has commissioned a fourth series of Being Human, which will be broadcast in 2012. Last night's series three finale picked up just over one million viewers for BBC3, according to overnight ratings, and the show was once again critically acclaimed. The fourth run of Toby Whithouse's drama will apparently pick up with the aftermath of Sunday night's finale as the housemates return to Barry Island. There are also plans for further guest roles following the appearances of Lacey Turner and Robson Green during the recent run. BBC3's acting controller Harry Lansdown said: 'Being Human's brilliant mixture of fantasy and everyday life continues to provide must-see, ground-breaking drama for BBC3, and I'm delighted to announce a fourth series for 2012.' Whithouse added: 'We were overwhelmed by the response to series three, and so we're absolutely thrilled that the BBC have given us this opportunity to continue our show into a fourth year. We've got another intense and epic story lined up for you, with some new faces and old, and even more horror and mayhem and mugs of tea. I can't wait to get started.' Series four, which was given the green light by controller of BBC drama commissioning Ben Stephenson, will include eight sixty-minute episodes.

Waking The Dead returned with almost six million viewers on Sunday night, although it was ultimately beaten in its slot by the season finale of Wild At Heart, overnight audience data has revealed. Series nine of Waking The Dead, the popular cold case crime drama starring Trevor Eve, Sue Johnston, Wil Johnson, Eva Birthistle and Tara Fitzgerald, averaged 5.87m viewers for BBC1 in the 9pm hour. However, the show was outperformed by the final episode of series six of Wild At Heart, which had an audience of 7.22m on ITV from 8.30pm and a further one hundred and forty five thousand an hour later.

And, speaking of ratings, here's the consolidated figures for the Top Twenty shows week ending 6 March 2011:
1 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 10.30m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 10.09m
3 Twatting About On Ice - Sun ITV - 8.34m
4 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.95m
5 Wild At Heart - Sun ITV - 7.43m
6 South Riding - Sun BBC1 - 6.99m
7 Benidorm - Fri ITV - 6.92m
8 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 6.75m
9 Marchlands - Thurs BBC1 - 6.66m
10 Let's Dance For Comic Relief - Sat BBC1 - 6.65m
11 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 6.57m
12 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.23m
13 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 6.02m
14 The National Lottery: Secret Fortune - Sat BBC1 - 5.98m
15 MasterChef - Wed BBC1 - 5.69m
16 Silk - Tues BBC1 - 5.67m
17 Waterloo Road - Wed BBC1 - 5.53m
18 Ten O'Clock News - Wed BBC1 - 5.22m
19 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.04m
20 Take Me Out - Sat ITV - 5.02m
South Riding, you'll note, ended its three-episode run with an audience for its finale of 6.99m (and a series average of 7.29m). Earlier in the week, Mad Dogs ended with a series high of 1.77m (series average: 1.59m) for Sky1. Just missing out on the top twenty were two of BBC2's big hitters, Wonders of the Universe (4.41m) and Attenborough and the Giant Egg (4.10m) - both including BBC HD figures.

In the least surprising development since the guy who built the Titanic said 'maybe I might've used a few more rivets there,' the BBC has confirmed that it has cancelled the flop SF drama Outcasts. The programme, which starred Hermione Norris, Daniel Mays, Liam Cunningham and Eric Mabius, limped to the conclusion of its eight-part series on Sunday night. Faced with falling ratings, the broadcaster shifted the show to a late slot on Sunday nights midway through its run. Following the final episode - watched by an audience of 1.56m - the official Twitter account retweeted a number of messages praising the drama and calling for a second series. However, on Monday morning the feed announced that a second series will not be made. 'No series two Outcasts - we're sorry,' it stated. 'Thanks so much for all your support over the past three months.' Writer Ben Richards added: 'To those asking - there are still some ideas about the "missing" series two floating about - you'll be first to know!' Richards had previously revealed that a second series would look at the the mystery surrounding the human survivors on Earth, as well as resolving the cliffhanger ending of episode eight.

The alliance of media companies opposed to News Corporation's takeover of BSkyB has written to MPs and peers urging them to lobby the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt to reconsider his decision not to refer the deal to the competition regulator. In a letter sent on behalf of BT and the publishers of the Gruniad Morning Star, the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Mirra and the Daily Torygraph, the alliance said that News Corp's proposals to spin-off Sky News from BSkyB were 'ineffective' and 'will not achieve their stated aim of protecting plurality in news media.' The companies added that the News Corp/Sky deal should still be referred by the vile and odious rascal Hunt to the Competition Commission and urge parliamentarians to write to the lack of culture secretary making this argument. The letter has been sent to MPs and some members of the House of Lords. Earlier this month the vile and odious rascal Hunt said he would grant regulatory approval for the deal, after News Corp proposed spinning-off Sky News into a separate company, in order to deal with plurality concerns. News Corp would retain a thirty nine per cent stake in Sky News – the same as its current holding in BSkyB. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's decision to accept News Corp's undertakings and not refer the deal to the Competition Commission is the subject of a fifteen-day consultation, which ends on Monday 21 March. 'We regard the proposed undertakings as being fraught with uncertainty and unlikely to safeguard plurality. We do not believe that, given these concerns, and those of many others in civil society, the culture secretary should accept these undertakings, but should forward the matter to the Competition Commission for a full investigation,' the letter stated. The alliance said that the Sky News plan was ineffective because the new publicly listed holding company for the channel would still be economically dependent on News Corp, relying on it for eighty five per cent of its revenues. They added that safeguards for Sky News' editorial independence proposed by News Corp were 'weak' and the sort that Rupert Murdoch's company 'has previously been adept at undermining.' The letter also points out that neither Ofcom nor the Office of Fair Trading, the regulators that advised the vile and odious rascal Hunt on the Sky News spin-off plan, 'regard this remedy as a sustainable plan.'

Lord Sugar's effort to turn the country into a nation of armchair entrepreneurs with his BBC1 series The Apprentice has come up against an unlikely foe – EastEnders' Ian Beale. Government-commissioned research published on Monday suggests that the new breed of 'business reality programmes,' including The Apprentice and BBC2's Dragon's Den, have encouraged people to think positively about starting a new business. But BBC1's EastEnders was blamed by viewers for portraying entrepreneurial characters in a negative light, the most famous of which, the long-suffering Beale – played by Adam Woodyatt – has tried his hand at running a knitting company, a cafe, a fish and chip shop and motor repair company before becoming a property tycoon. The Apprentice was among the most popular of the current crop of TV business programmes but only a small proportion of people who did not already run their own company – just 6.6 per cent – thought it offered a realistic depiction of what it is like to start a new business. Channel Four's Country House Rescue, in which hotelier Ruth Watson attempts to turn around the fortunes of struggling country hotels, was judged the most authentic. Half of the respondents said EastEnders portrayed entrepreneurs negatively, significantly more than the third of people who felt the same way about rival ITV soap, Coronation Street. Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk said: 'The media has such an important role to play in creating a positive image around entrepreneurship and starting your own business. It is very encouraging to see such a dramatic shift in recent years. And I hope this trend continues.' Other popular business programmes highlighted in the research, which was commissioned by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, included Channel Four's Secret Millionaire, BBC2's Mary Queen of Shops with Mary Portas and BBC1's Apprentice spin-off, Junior Apprentice. Nine out of ten established entrepreneurs felt that the current crop of TV business programmes made people think more positively about people who start their own company, and around the same proportion felt that they made people want to begin their own business. Among non-entrepreneurs, around half said the programmes made them feel more positive about entrepreneurs, and one in five said they felt motivated to start their own business. The research involved a survey of twelve hundred and fifty people.

Ant and Dec spent most of Monday in the business of charity 'gatecrashing', blagging their way onto numerous TV and radio shows to raise money for Comic Relief. Their first port of call was Daybreak where they nabbed a sofa to auction. Although, to be honest, when most people in the street saw furniture being carried out of Daybreak's studio their reaction was, in the main, 'it was only a matter of time before that happened.' The cheeky chappies doon the Bigg Market duo were attempting to make their way on to as many shows as possible throughout the day in an effort to scrounge items for a fundraising sale. And the Push The Button hosts found success at their first attempt by persuading ITV breakfast show hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley to hand over their couch. The purple sofa has provided a perch for famous figures as diverse as Ben Affleck and Tony Blair. The Geordie pair had already managed to get Chiles and Bleakley's shoes, but wanted more as Ant asked: "I'm thinking of something slightly bigger because this is going to get auctioned for Comic Relief. How about your sofa?" Bleakley responded: 'Are we allowed to give the sofa away? Let's just say yes!' But Chiles pointed out that necessity would mean a little delay. 'You can't have it now because we can't sit on the floor, but if you send the boys around after Friday, you can have the sofa,' he said. The pair notched up their second morning TV sofa of the day a little later when they took the settee from BBC Breakfast after making an appearance on the show. Presenters Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams let them carry the seat out of the studio along with an umbrella and a clock. Ant and Dec also visited Lorraine Kelly's dressing room and the presenter handed over two sets of tartan bras. Worn. 'I gave them one set each, which I thought was only fair,' she said. The boys have also visited Loose Women and Sky's At The Races. Ant and Dec were aiming to pop up in unexpected places all day and concluded their celebrity scrounging twelve hours later when they barged onto The ONE Show set and made off with Ronan Keating's dressing room door. Their exact route for the Big Red Nose Broadcast was a closely guarded secret, but footage of the pair's challenge will be shown during Friday's Comic Relief: Funny For Money broadcast on BBC1. All the money raised by the public will be spent by Comic Relief to help vulnerable people in the UK and Africa.

Larry King may be about to join The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. According to 'a source' for the New York Post, the show have spoken to King about making occasional appearances on the Comedy Central programme. 'The possibility [of King joining the show] has been discussed,' claimed the 'source.' Insiders claim that King could become a semi-regular Daily Show contributor like Lewis Black or John Hodgman. 'A single conversation has happened. It's still extremely preliminary. He'll be on every now and again, like Lewis Black. He's not joining as a correspondent but a contributor,' said the 'source' about King's possible involvement with the show.

A woman has given Stephen Fry a ukulele serenade asking him to let her act as a surrogate and have a baby for him, so that his DNA can continue. Classy! So, essentially, she wants to have his Fry babies. Do you see? Oh, suit yerselves. Molly Lewis made the unusual request to the actor as he was being awarded the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University. Getting up during a question session she sang to him about the various reasons that he should have a child and why she would be an ideal surrogate mother. Of course Stephen hasn't officially responded to her appeal; 'It's rhetorical, obviously' said Molly - but From The North suspects that, in his heart of hearts, he really wants to.

Supernatural producer Eric Kripke has said that a planned TV series based on Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics has been shelved. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Kripke, who was attached to develop the series, admitted that the show is no longer in pre-production. 'Unfortunately, for a lot of varying reasons, Sandman is not in the works, at least for this season,' he said. Kripke expressed hopes that the show would eventually make it to the small screen. He said that the project 'just didn't quite happen this season through nobody's fault,' but added: 'Hopefully we can do it again in the future.' Gaiman's acclaimed, award-winning comic centred on Morpheus, the Sandman of legend, who is captured by humans on Earth. Kripke explained: 'When I saw [Neil], I said, "Just so you know, I rip you off all the time for the show," and he said, "I really appreciate that because you and Kevin Smith have both been very public about ripping me off, and I don't mind if people rip me off, I just want them to be public and admit it."'

Police have arrested a man who allegedly kidnapped a drug trafficker and interrogated him by sticking his head in a bag of onions. Erick Mejia and his criminal compatriots are accused of setting up fake police road blocks to intercept drug-runners on America's East Coast. It is alleged that they kidnapped a gang member and shoved his head in a sack of chopped onions until he agreed to tell them the way to his stash. 'The crew placed a bag of onions over the head of one of the male victims to induce him to reveal the location of narcotics,' said NYPD detective Therone Eugene. 'The bag filled with cut-up onions caused the victim to experience a form of asphyxiation.' The gang, who are believed to have carried out over one hundred similar robberies across the US, escaped with twenty four thousand dollars worth of drugs. It is also believed they used the onion interrogation trick in the robbery of a drug dealer in Georgia that saw them make off with seventy five thousand smackers and thirty five kilos of cocaine.

The classic British gangster film Get Carter is celebrating its fortieth anniversary this week. Set in the yer Keith Telly Topping's very North East of England, after its initial release in 1971 - when it did okay the box office, but nothing special - Get Carter has become one of the touchstones of British post-war cinema and has made several locations used in the movie iconic with fans and tourists alike. Its anniversary is now being celebrated in Newcastle with a series of special events at the Tyneside Cinema and, across the Tyne in Gateshead with at an event at the Sage. Among the guests will be the movies director Mike Hodges and the actor Alun Armstrong who, as a twenty three year old, made his debut in the movie. The thriller, filmed in the autumn of 1970, starred Michael Caine as cold-eyed assassin Jack Carter - a London gangster who comes home to Newcastle after the death of his brother to seek revenge. It put many places in the region on the map - including the Trinity Square multi-storey car park in Gateshead which was recently demolished. The film was directed by Hodges and the script was written by the North East's Michael Chaplin. They are both returning to Newcastle to hold a question and answer session before a screening of the film at the Tyneside. Hodges said: 'It was important that Jack Carter came from a hard, deprived background, a place he never wanted to go back to. The only place that had survived the developers was Newcastle. The visual drama took my breath away. Seeing those great bridges crossing the Tyne, the waterfront, the terraced houses stepped up each side of the deep valley. We'd got there in time. But only just.' The original source novel – Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis, published in 1970 – found Carter travelling to an unspecified town in South Yorkshire, but on account of his own history, Hodges had other ideas. 'I did my national service on the lower deck of a minesweeper,' he recalls, 'and I went all the way up the east coast: Lowestoft, Grimsby, Hull, North Shields. I would go ashore, and although I came from a sort of lower-middle-class family, I was in disguise, really. I would go into all these pubs, and witness all these extraordinary Hogarthian scenes. And a lot of things described in the book reminded me so much of those places. I felt comfortable with the kind of locations in the novel: although it was set in a different place, it was a milieu that I knew.' Having resolved to direct the film, he duly set out looking for some of his old haunts. 'But when I went up the east coast, looking for locations, each one of the places I had in mind had gone. They weren't gentrified, but they'd been demolished and rebuilt. And as I went further north, I was in despair because all the places that I'd imagined and experienced had all vanished. Then I thought about North Shields, and set off to go there – but this time, I was coming by land. And I came across Newcastle, which I'd never been to before. As soon as I saw it, I knew that's where I wanted to shoot. It was such an incredibly visual city. It didn't look like a British city. It looked like Chicago or New York. There were those extraordinary bridges and, of course, the other element was the huge ships, which were a kind of architecture in themselves. The river was just amazing: hard, and rusty. And with all the houses that ended up in the film, you felt you could begin to understand why someone as psychotic as Jack Carter had ended up the way he was.' Locally, the film drew on plenty of intrigue. Most notably, there was an infamous 1967 murder case known as The One-Armed Bandit Murder, in which a money-collector - Angus Sibbet - who worked for a firm that supplied fruit machines to working men's clubs in the area was killed, shining a light on the trade's links with organised crime. There was also the story of T Dan Smith, the legendary Newcastle council leader who imagined the city rebuilt as the high-rise 'Brasilia of the North,' and who was eventually jailed for corruption, later inspiring the character of Austin Donahue in Our Friends in the North - ironically, played by a much older Alun Armstrong. Get Carter alludes to both of these themes: pointedly in the case of the murder; more subtly in its portrait of a cityscape being rebuilt in line with modernist brutalism. Hodges explained how Get Carter came to draw on the one-armed bandit murder. As suggested by the film's arresting sense of reality, Hodges had cut his teeth as a documentary maker for Granada Television's World in Action and when he settled on filming in Newcastle, he begin to investigate the story of Sibbet. He had an instant sense of common themes and brought fiction and fact together via his use of the country house of the film's smooth-talking gang boss Cyril Kinnear (played by the writer John Osborne). In real-life the house had recently belonged to Vince Landa, a big player in the fruit-machine trade to which the killing was linked (one of the men convicted of Sibbet's murder was Landa's brother in law, Michael Luvaglio), and which, according to Hodges, hosted exactly the kind of orgiastic parties recreated in the film. 'At the end of Get Carter,' he explains, 'there are tracking shots across the faces of all these people at the house after it's been raided by the police. A lot of them were the actual people who'd been up to the house for Vince Landa's parties.' Although the landscape of the region has changed dramatically over the past four decades, many fans of the film still visit the sites used in the movie. Cliff Brumby's house in the film for example is still standing in Belmont, County Durham, as well as Dryderdale Hall the location used for Kinnear's country pile. Chaplin, said: 'If you watch it again now, it is the most exciting film, you embrace this story. It did represent the city on a kind of cusp of change, just as we were beginning to lose our heavy industry. That all began to unfold over the following decade, but there are hints of it in the film.' One local who remembers the film well is Bill Reeve from Houghton le Spring. Bill was the director of Beverley Artistes, a casting company which started in the early 1960s. They were approached by the Get Carter team to supply people from the region to be extras and have small acting parts in the film. Bill said: 'Get Carter was the very first film we ever did and it came right out of the blue. We knew nothing about it, but as soon as we found out Michael Caine was the star, we knew it was going to be big. There was no script when we were asked so we just sent as many as we could, we sent almost everybody on our books for interview.' One of their clients, Deana Wilde, was given the role of the singer for the opening seen in the film, which was set in the Victoria & Comet pub near Newcastle's Central Station. Several of their actors were also in background shots in the film including the Oxford night club, streets, bars and the police raid sequence. He said: 'It was massively important. They wanted an injection of local people and local ideas and we provided that for them. They're [the iconic places] there for prosperity forever in the film, the film won't be lost it will be there forever, these areas, scenes and places will always be there.' The various events will mark the film's contribution to the region's production sector with a special performance of Roy Budd's legendary Get Carter theme by the Streetwise Opera. They'll sing the piece acapella alongside a new film version of the thriller's title sequence. The new footage has been created by graduates of the Northern Stars Academy based at Newcastle's Tyneside Cinema - organisers of Carter Is Forty, a season of events celebrating the anniversary of the film. The event - hosted by BBC presenter Kirsten O'Brien - will also showcase television and on-line productions from the North East and Borders over the past twelve months. Stars and production teams from shows including Tracey Beaker Returns, Joe Maddison's War, Inspector George Gently, North East Tonight and Inside Out will be out in force to find out who's won in the twelve production categories.

Therefore, for the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, the only place to kick off is with Roy Budd's stunning opening music from the movie.And then, following that, here's the James Taylor Quartet and their epic version of Herbie Hancock's 'Blow Up.'