Monday, April 04, 2011

And When I See The Signs That Point One Way

How fantastic it was to see not one but two of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors turning up in last night's Waking The Dead. I'd spotted in advance that the great Don Warrington was playing the father of a cold case murder victim, but - shamefully - I'd completely missed the fact that Ideal's Tom Goodman-Hill was also in the episode, playing a very shady former intelligence colleague of Sarah Cavendish.
Just shows that you should probably read the Radio Times a bit closer, Mr Telly Topping. When a missing medical student's DNA matches with that of an unidentified corpse found tortured and drowned years before, Boyd suspects a cover-up. Unmasking the fears and tensions of the post 7/7 terror attacks, the team discover the cold case victim could have formed part of a terrorist cell. The story concludes on Monday night.

The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods But He) has claimed that the new series of Doctor Who will be scarier than the last run. In an interview with the ABC TV Blog, the showrunner compared future episodes of the BBC drama to 'a ghost train. Last year we reassured you [but] this year, to hell with that, we're going to worry the hell out of you,' he explained. '[The monsters are] scary. Very scary. There's The Silence in [episodes] one and two, the Siren in episode three, the Gangers in five and six, [and] all these are more than just freaky costumes and masks. There are scary ideas here.' Moffat, who previously described opening episode The Impossible Astronaut as 'a belter,' also revealed that the next seven episodes will have a stronger overall arc. 'There's a big story being told this year, and major mysteries from the very off,' he confirmed. 'We're barely ten minutes into episode one before our heroes face a dilemma that they'll be staring at months from now. And there will be no easy answers.' The new series of Doctor Who begins on 23 April on BBC1 in the UK and BBC America in the US.

The BBC's flop talent show So You Think You Can Dance's audience slumped on Saturday night despite facing little competition from ITV, overnight data indicates. Having premiered with 4.9m viewers last week, the second auditions show was seen by a highly modest 3.81m at the earlier time of 6.30pm, a steep decline of over one million week-on-week.

There are three big stories related to media regulator Ofcom today. Firstly, Top Gear - according to those Communist lice at the Gruniad and their goosestepping thug bullyboy mates at the Daily Scum Mail - 'sparked a minor diplomatic incident when it described Mexicans as "lazy, feckless, flatulent [and] overweight."' It actually didn't do that or anything even remotely like it, much to the disappointment of the Gruniad which spent more column inches discussing this story at the time than it has on Libya in the last few weeks. Most of it vainly trying to stir up trouble and, for example, gleefully reporting the intentions of some Mexican woman or other to sue the BBC. For something. How's that going, by the way? Anyway, after all that, the BBC2 programme has been officially cleared of breaching broadcasting regulations by Ofcom. The watchdog said that the comments, in an episode of the programme broadcast on 30 January this year, did have the potential to be 'very offensive' but were justified by the programme's 'irreverent style and sometimes outspoken humour.' Ofcom said Top Gear 'frequently uses national stereotypes as a comedic trope and that there were few, if any, nationalities that had not at some point been the subject of the presenters' mockery throughout the history of this long-running programme.' As an example, Ofcom said the same edition of the programme had poked fun at Australians who were 'ridiculed for various national traits' in a competition between the programme's UK and Australian presenters - the Nigels vs the Bruces. The controversial exchange between Jeremy Clarkson and his fellow presenters Richard Hammond and James May centred around the launch of a new sports car from Mexico which they joked was called 'the Tortilla.' They went on to describe Mexican food as 'like sick with cheese on it.' Clarkson added: 'That's why we're not going to get any complaints about this – cos the Mexican embassy, the ambassador's going to be sitting there with a remote control like this [slumps in seat and snores]. They won't complain. It's fine.' But the Mexican ambassador in London - who apparently had been suffering from a severe sense of humour bypass - did, in fact, complain about the programme, branding it 'xenophobic' and 'offensive.' It was one of a total of one hundred and fifty seven complaints from viewers. Out of, please let us remember, a total audience of over six million on the night and, with iPlayer and timeshift figures taken into account, closer to eight million. If you're into extreme mathematics, dear blog reader, that's approximately 0.00019 per cent of the total audience. Ofcom said in its ruling on Monday that the programme was 'light-hearted in tone' and typically included 'quirky and humorous banter between the presenters.' Ofcom considered that the vast majority of the audience would be familiar with the presenters' approach to mocking, playground-style humour, and 'would have considered that applying that approach to national stereotypes was in keeping with the programme's usual content and the presenters' typical style,' it added. 'Humour can frequently cause offence. However, Ofcom considers that to restrict humour only to material which does not cause offence would be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of expression.'

Ofcom has, however, censured comedian Frankie Boyle and Channel Four for broadcasting 'offensive' jokes about Katie Price and her son Harvey. Ofcom upheld five hundred complaints about Boyle's routine, broadcast in December. Ofcom said it appeared to 'target and mock the mental and physical disabilities' of the eight year-old. Channel Four said the joke had been was 'wholly justified in the context.' Chief executive David Abraham personally sanctioned the jokes before they were broadcast. Katie Price was among those who complained to Ofcom about the comments in Boyle's comedy series Tramadol Nights, alleging that they were discriminatory, offensive, demeaning and humiliating. In response, Channel Four said: 'Nothing [Boyle] says is intended as a slur on any particular community - everyone is fair game in Frankie's eyes.' One remark about Harvey was not 'a joke about Harvey Price's disability, or about rape or incest - it is simply absurdist satire,' Channel Four said. 'We do not believe that any viewer would have taken this particular joke literally,' it added. The broadcaster also said Boyle's remarks on his Tramadol Nights show were meant to satirise Price's alleged 'exploitation of her children for publicity purposes. Her behaviour as a mother and her cavalier attitude towards relationships.' The show was preceded by adequate warnings for the audience, the broadcaster argued, and said it had a job to 'champion pioneering and distinctive voices in British comedy and bring them to a wider audience.' But the regulator ruled that allowing the jokes to be screened was 'an erroneous decision on a matter of editorial judgement on the broadcaster's part.' Ofcom said that Price and her ex-husbands Alex Reid and Peter Andre had all 'consciously exposed their and their children's lives to the media' and must expect to be the targets of some humour and criticism. But it continued: 'The fact that a public figure chooses to expose some aspects of his or her child's life in the media does not provide broadcasters with unlimited licence to broadcast comedy that targets humour at such a child's expense. This position applies even more firmly in a case in which the child is as young as eight years old, and has a number of disabilities which are specifically focused on as the target of that intended humour.' The ruling also said: 'Ofcom was of the view that the material in question appeared to directly target and mock the mental and physical disabilities of a known eight year-old child who had not himself chosen to be in the public eye. As such, Ofcom found that the comments had considerable potential to be highly offensive to the audience.'

Meanwhile, Zac Goldsmith has reacted angrily to another ruling by Ofcom after the media regulator rejected a complaint that he had made about a Channel Four News interview in which the MP clashed with the programme's presenter, Jon Snow. Goldsmith said the regulator had 'entirely missed the point' of his complaint and said he was 'puzzled by its workings.' Ofcom also refused to uphold his complaint about a Channel Four News report which accused the Conservative MP for Richmond of bending the rules on how much parliamentary candidates are allowed to spend on election expenses. The regulator's ruling had said Channel Four gave Goldsmith 'an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegations,' which were contained in a 15 July report. Goldsmith complained the broadcaster had conveyed the impression that he had refused to be interviewed by the programme. Ofcom considered that this was not the case. The interview between Goldsmith and Snow took place the following day, 16 July, live on Channel 4 News. Goldsmith arrived at short notice, and the extended interview became increasingly heated as Goldsmith accused Channel Four News of misleading viewers. But Ofcom concluded in its ruling: 'Given that Mr Goldsmith was able to put forward his response to all the assertions relating to his offer to contribute to the 15 July programme, the programme as broadcast was fair.' Channel Four News said that Goldsmith had spent slightly less than the ten thousand pounds legal limit on his successful 2010 general election campaign. But an analysis of those expenses suggested that he had underpaid for several items. If had paid the full price, the expenses would have come to more than ten grand, it claimed. Goldsmith said: 'Despite eight months of deliberation, Ofcom has entirely missed the point of my complaint. Given some of its recent judgments, I assume I am not alone in being puzzled by its workings. What matters is that Channel Four's allegations about my general election campaign expenditure were dismissed by the Electoral Commission.' No, pal. What really matters is that you whinged when somebody dared to criticise you and were told, effectively, to grow up. The Channel Four News editor, Jim Gray, said: 'We have always maintained that our investigation into Mr Goldsmith's election spending, and our dealings with him throughout have been absolutely fair and balanced – so it is pleasing to see Ofcom's research into his complaints reach the same conclusions.' Following Ofcom's ruling, Snow demanded an apology from Goldsmith. He used his Twitter account to say: 'Ofcom find against Zac Goldsmith on every single count of his complaint again myself and C4 News. Is an apology in the post from the MP?' In the ten-minute live interview in the Channel Four News studio, Goldsmith objected to the assertion the previous day that he had chosen to give an interview about the allegations to Sky News. Goldsmith insisted he had offered to be interviewed at 5.30pm on 15 July, ninety minutes before the programme was aired. Snow said Channel Four had been seeking a response to the accusations for a week and accused Goldsmith of 'bottling it.' He said Goldsmith's claims were: 'a travesty of the truth.' Ofcom pointed out in its ruling that six minutes of the interview were spent discussing Goldsmith's complaint about the way his offer to do an interview had been reported. 'During this time, Mr Goldsmith was able to put forward his version of events running up to the 15 July broadcast. Mr Goldsmith was able to assert that Jon Snow's version of events was untrue.' The programme's editor, Gray, added: 'When you commit to asking awkward questions you accept that your findings may provoke criticism – so we welcome Ofcom's thorough handling of the complaints, and their vindication of our journalism. At the centre of all of this remain important questions about the clarity and enforcement of campaign spending limits.' The Electoral Commission investigated Goldsmith's expenses and said in December that it would not be taking further action. However, it criticised his claim as 'unclear in places.' It also said the practice of combining expenditure on Goldsmith's parliamentary campaign with money spent on the local election campaign fought at the same time 'was not consistent with the commission's guidance or good practice.'

Love Thy Neighbour, Channel Four's townies-move-to-the-country format, has been bumped to More4 halfway through its run due to low audience numbers. The eight-part series, produced by Studio Lambert, follows twelve families competing to win over the residents of Grassington, in the Yorkshire Dales, and land a house in the village. It had been in a Thursday 9pm slot on C4 but will now be shown on Fridays at 9pm on digital channel More4. Since it started on 3 March, the series has averaged nine hundred and seventy thousand viewers across four episodes. The first episode launched to an audience of 1.14 million, but Friday's fourth episode was watched by nine hundred and seventeen thousand, well down on the slot average of 1.38 million. The fourth episode had been due to broadcast the previous Thursday, 24 March, but was postponed because of C4's order of a documentary on the earthquake in Japan. The Pioneer Productions film, Japan's Tsunami: How it Happened, pulled in an average audience of 2.25m across the 9pm hour. A C4 spokeswoman said: 'While Love Thy Neighbour has established a loyal following, the series hasn’t delivered the audience we’d hoped for. We are therefore moving the remaining episodes to More4, where we are able to offer the series a consistent Friday 9pm slot. The move will be clearly flagged on air and the series continues to be available on VoD.' The series was ordered by factual entertainment commissioning editor Dominque Walker. Executive producer Jamie Isaacs said: 'It was a very challenging series to make and we are very proud of it, but we are disappointed with the figures.'

Another - in this case, genuinely - clever April Fool has been brought to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's attention. Last Friday, the Gruniad ran a piece by Lila O'Forp (ahem) called Psychedelic footballer – the secret life of Derek Dougan which claimed, amongst other things, that the late Northern Ireland international was in the studio when the Byrds were recording The Notorious Byrds Brothers, that he was in the front row at the UFO the night Jimi Hendrix jammed with Tomorrow and that he was a close personal friend of Arthur Lee. Skill! The thing is, it all sounded vaguely plausible up to about the fourth paragraph, as all good April Fools should. Well done Gruniad, that made me smile.

According to the series website, Qi are recording the I series in May and June 2011, which will be broadcast on BBC2 in the autumn. Recordings take place in May on Tuesdays, wednesdays and Fridays from 10 May until 15 June. Well, hopefully, hore news on who's appearing in which episode a bit closer to the time.

There's a very interesting piece by David Mitchell in the Gruniad, Tory toffs should be criticised for their policies – not their backgrounds. 'The government suffers from this. There are several men in the cabinet who've inherited money and been sent to expensive schools: toffs basically. That provides comic opportunities to take the piss out of them, and the handful of true words spoken in those many jests imply that ministers' wealthy backgrounds might make them act in the interests of money and privilege, not those of the people who voted for them, let alone the broader electorate. And that their privilege-skewed life experiences mean they won't know what Britain is really like if you're poor, so that, even if they have compassionate instincts, they will never have been confronted by the injustices to provoke that compassion. So we joke about little Lord Fauntleroy sipping champagne in a cash-lined peasant-skin yacht, squeaking: "No more benefits!"' Well, they do don't they? David's temporary membership to The Establishment, meanwhile, is said to be 'in the post.'

Malcolm McDowell is to make a guest appearance in the sixth season premiere of Psych. According to E! Online, the Clockwork Orange star will play British diplomat Ambassador Fanshaw in Shawn Rescues Darth Vader. The character will hire Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) to hunt down a killer when a woman's corpse is discovered in his home. McDowell's past television credits include roles in The Mentalist, [Spooks], Heroes, Our Friends In The North and CSI: Miami. But, we'll forgive him the latter, I suppose. He has also appeared in such films as If ..., Royal Flash, Time After Time, Tank Girl, Star Trek: Generations and the 2007 remake of Halloween.

Campaigners for the AV voting system have been accused of 'airbrushing' the black poet Benjamin Zephaniah out of leaflets sent to certain parts of the country. The 'Yes to AV' campaign used his picture on literature used in the London area but featured another supporter - the actor Tony Robinson - in other parts of the UK, the Sunday Telegraph reports. The 'No' campaign said its rival was 'ashamed' of the poet's backing. But the 'Yes' campaign called the allegation 'a new low.' It said it varied the celebrity backers featured on its leaflets as there were 'a number' to accommodate. Yes to AV's literature urges people to support a switch from first-past-the-post Westminster elections to an alternative vote in the nationwide referendum to be held on 5 May. Celebrities Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, Honor Blackman and Stephen Fry appear on both sets of leaflets shown by the Sunday Telegraph. In London a picture of Zephaniah is reportedly included, with the poet quoted advocating an electoral system which 'makes everyone's vote count.' But in near-identical leaflets, reportedly sent to locations including Sussex and Cornwall, he is apparently replaced by Robinson, the star of the BBC comedy Blackadder and the Channel Four archaeology show Time Team. Terry Paul, a spokesman for the NO to AV campaign, said: 'Why are Yes to AV ashamed to have the support of Benjamin Zephaniah in places like Cornwall and Hampshire? The Yes campaign's leaflet offers a chilling preview of politics under the alternative vote. We have warned that AV would encourage parties to pander to extremist opinions in a chase for second and third preference votes, but we never imagined the first example of such outdated views would come from the Yes campaign itself.' A Yes campaign spokesman said: 'These allegations mark a new low for the "No" campaign and their increasingly desperate smears. Let's put it this way: Operation Black Vote, the Muslim Council of Britain and a host of similar groups are backing the "Yes" campaign. The BNP are backing the "No" campaign. People can draw their own conclusions.' And indeed, as Benjamin himself once said 'Me come from afar but me live hear, and aal me want is an equal share.' Damn straight, my brother.

Sky Atlantic is to broadcast a mini-series based on Robert Harris's novel Pompeii, which takes place during the seventy two hours before the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79. The BSkyB-owned pay-TV channel has acquired exclusive UK rights to the drama, scripted by Chinatown writer Robert Towne, in a deal announced at the MipTV international programming market in Cannes on Monday. Pompeii, to be broadcast on Sky Atlantic in 2012, blends fictional characters with the real life volcanic eruption that engulfed the Roman city. Much like the Doctor Who episode that covered the same subject. Only, probably costing about twenty times as much. The drama will be made by Sony Pictures Television, Tandem Communications, Peace Out Productions, Dolphin Entertainment and Leder Productions in association with Scott Free Television. Sky and German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 TV are partners on the project. Gladiator and Blade Runner director Ridley Scott is among the executive producers of Pompeii, along with Elaine Pyke, Sky's head of drama.

The BBC is to open to tender coverage of sailing during the 2012 Olympic Games. The invitation will be published on 26 April, with a deadline of 20 May for a response.

Fans of David Walliams were 'left stunned' after he 'unleashed a stream of crude and cruel "jokes" about the Royals and popular celebrities.' According to the People, anyway, which actually means that the People themselves were 'left stunned' and decided to speak for everyone else. Because they can. The Little Britain actor, along with guests Jimmy Carr, Lee Mack and Kate Garraway, apparently 'shocked the audience' as their 'so-called humour' descended 'into a string of abuse at Kate Middleton, Prince William, Victoria Beckham, Cheryl Cole and The Pope.' More than two hundred and fifty fans had turned up at Teddington studios, south-west London, last week for a Sky1 pilot episode of a comedy panel show called David Walliams' Wall Of Fame. Jimmy Carr, joined in as he 'sneered at pregnant Victoria Beckham’s weight,' saying: 'You know the way most pregnant women say they are eating for two. She is pregnant and is now eating for one because she does not normally eat for herself. I heard Victoria Beckham is so thin, she has to be careful that if she has a bath, because if the water is too hot she could turn into stock.' Walliams 'hit new depths' when he said he was looking forward to the Royal Wedding but added: 'Everyone says Kate is a commoner but she is not really. She has been vajazzled by Tiffanys – this involves putting a jewel above the pubic region. And to me William's hair is rarer than a unicorn's horn.' ITV Daybreak entertainment editor Kate Garraway – who will be covering the royal wedding – 'joined in the abuse.' Referring to a commemorative royal coin, she said: 'Kate looks demented, she has got massive teeth.' Lee Mack added: 'Finally, we have a stamp that we can wank over.' Of William’s stag night (or, 'Wills's stag do' as the People put it since, apparently, they don't believe their readers will understand any words with more than two syllables in them), Walliams said: 'If it is anything like my stag do they will drink all their Vimto and stay up until 9.30pm – by 10pm I was tucked up in bed with a rent boy.' Next in the firing line was The X Factor's Heaton Horror Cheryl Cole. Walliams referred to a court case from eight years ago in which Cheryl was convicted of assaulting a black nightclub attendant. He quipped: 'All Cheryl Cole did was punch a black woman in the face, but we have all done that.' Walliams, a friend of the Beckhams, also 'laid into David's pals in the England team,' saying: 'England boss Fabio Capello says he only needs to know one hundred words of English – that's probably more than his team know.' Katie Price and her Argentinian lover Leandro Penna were also in the firing line. Some of the audience, the newspaper claims, 'gasped' when Walliams turned his attention to The Pope and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who faces trial over claims he slept with an under-age girl. Laying into the Pope and sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic church, Walliams said: 'The Pope likes to burn things like incense and evidence. He was in the Hitler Youth, we were all in it once weren't we? The party-loving Silvio Berlusconi has also made the news. Silvio bought some hair recently. It happened to be attached to a teenage prostitute at the time.' One audience member - nameless, of course - allegedly told the newspaper: 'After a while, the smutty gags got too much for most people. One even shouted verbal abuse at Jimmy Carr which left him looking shocked.' Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons’ media select committee, and somebody always keen to get his pointless opinions into a newspaper whenever they ring him up for a quote, apparently said: 'Comedians like Walliams do like to shock people, but the broadcaster needs to take account of it.' A spokeswoman for Sky1 said: 'This was a non-broadcastable pilot. All unscripted comedy panel shows go through an editing and legal process before transmission and it is the responsibility of the broadcaster to use their discretion as to what content makes the final version.' And, most of them don't have stinking Copper's Nark grasses in the audience who run scuttling the lice tabloids to tell them what they've witnessed.

The producers of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings have been confronted by members of the travelling community angry at their portrayal in the series – in an exchange that has been caught on camera. Members of the production team including executive producer Jes Wilkins were met with a series of complaints about the programmes at an RTS production focus event held at ITV's studios. Producer directors Sam Emmery and Daniel Fromm, Jenny Popplewell producer and Vicky Hamburger series producer also attended. Jake Bowers, editor of the Travellers' Times and Joseph John secretary of the Gypsy Council were some of the people who expressed their views in the heated debate. Bowers thanked the producers for 'making it [the series] so badly' adding 'what we have got as a result of it, is a commission from another broadcaster, which will give us our chance to put your rubbish straight.' The comment received a round of applause from members of the audience. John told the panel: 'You should be a shamed of yourselves of what you have done. You have totally misrepresented the community. How does the community now trust Channel Four? If we are having an event and we would like to get some media exposure – the media come and film it – how do we trust you to do that? After what you have done. Even if it is a serious piece of film, you put a comical piece of music in the background,' he added.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Time for some Levi Stubbs tears.