Monday, April 11, 2011

Fallin' Free

When it was announced late last year that the BBC's popular and long-running cold case detective drama Waking The Dead was to end after the current, ninth, series much of the media focus - and, indeed, much of this blog's focus - was on the fact that the BBC, quite simply, couldn't afford to make any more episodes. Well, they could, but it would have meant some major changes to the series that we'd grown to know and love. This was said to be not wholly unconnected to the size of salary that its male lead, Trevor Eve, was taking home. Eve was reported to be the highest paid actor at that time employed by the BBC pulling in a cool one million smackers per series. (This was all according to the Sun, of course, so as ever, it's probably wise to take some of these 'facts' with a sack full of salt.) Now, Eve has always been one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors - going all the way back to Shoestring thirty years ago. However, according to some rumours (quite possibly inaccurate, I'll willingly concede) Trev is alleged to be not a particularly popular man within sections of the industry at large. According to such gossipy hearsay and whatnot, yer actual Trev is said to be one of those actors who - how, can we put this in as nice a way as possible? - 'doesn't suffer fools gladly.' Another suggestion is that he has something of a reputation for wanting things done 'just so' and, if they are not, then he's usually alleged to be not best pleased by this kerfufflement. He's one of those rather 'intense' actors whom the viewer is never quite sure where the character ends and the actor himself begins - if you check out either of his two appearances on Top Gear, for instance, you'll see exactly what I mean. Trevor Eve has always struck me as, frankly, the sort of bloke who could manage to get into an argument with himself in a telephone box. Let's be fair, however, he's hardly alone in that ... if it's true. (Which it might not be.) The industry is full of earnest chaps with towering egos who take themselves - and their work - very seriously. And that's not, necessarily, a bad thing. Plenty of other actors have a similar perceived reputation of being, perhaps, a touch high-maintenance but are generally considered to be worth going that extra mile for. Because they are, quite simply, brilliant. On the other hand Trevor has made something of a rod for his own back by publicly criticising the BBC for spending 'all of its money' (allegedly) on shows other than his and, simultaneously, managed to criticise their decision to end Waking The Dead yet also criticise the decision to keep it going for nine seasons. You can't have it both ways, surely? He appears to be, in short, a curious chap and, by the sound of it, something of a contrary sod. He is also - and this is hugely important - a fantastic actor as the first episode of Waking The Dead's finale, Waterloo, proved on Sunday night. Trevor, seen right with the episode's guest star Paul McGann, put in a performance that was little short of mesmerising in a genuinely tense, complex and disturbing opening episode of the two-parter. A necessary reminder that he might, just, have been worth all that money the BBC are reported to have spent on him over the years. If you want the best, you've usually got to pay for the best. A couple of weeks ago in Radio Times, that awful Allison Graham woman, a frightful TV critic with ugly trenchant views, described herself as murmuring 'a silent thanks' for the passing of Waking The Dead; a drama which she described as indulging in 'vile and unflinching make-believe sadism.' One glance at Ms Graham's scowling boat-race in the pages of Radio Times itself is, frankly, far more terrifying than any blood-soaked carnage Waking The Dead has rammed down its viewers throat over the years. But, such crass and bell-end nonsense passing itself off as reasoned 'critique' must be challenged and slapped down. Harshly. Whatever else Waking The Dead has been over the last decade, its storylines have - on almost every occasion - been dramatically justified by the end product. When it reaches it climax, tonight, it will end as probably the best sustained drama British TV has produced in the period. It's been that good. Here endeth the lesson.

So You Think You Can Dance's highly amusing ratings slide continued on BBC1 on Saturday, as the latest edition of the much maligned dance show managed an appallingly poor audience of 3.43m at 6.30pm. Now might, possibly, be the time to quietly take it out the back with a twelve bore and put it out of its misery, Beeb. You can tell the viewers that it's gone to live on a farm if you like, just do the decent thing.

The Big Brother voiceover chap, Wor Geordie Marcus Bentley, has revealed that he wants to continue narrating the show on its new home, Channel Five. And continue to say things like 'Dayyy Ayyte in the Big Brutha Hoose' for a living.It was announced earlier this month that Channel Five had signed a two year deal with Endemol to broadcast Big Brother, beginning with an alleged celebrity series in August. Bentley's distinctive North Eastern accent - known as 'The Voice Of Big Brother' - became synonymous with the reality show and he has admitted that he wouldn't like to see someone else take the job. According to the Daily Lies Sunday, he said: 'All you need are great housemates and amazing tasks! The thought of somebody else doing it would break my heart.' Writing on Twitter, he added: 'I've got no news on BB at the moment guys! I'm chuffed to bits that it's back on Five! Any news + my followers will be the first to know![sic]'

In one of a final round of interviews before stepping down from the BBC Trust at the end of this month, Sir Michael Lyons said that his attendance at the boat party on the Thames on the night of the general election had been his 'most uncomfortable' moment during his four years at the helm of the Trust. The fact that Sir Michael ranked the election night fiasco - which saw the corporation criticised for 'dumbing down' by inviting guests such as Bruce Forsyth, Joan Collins and Dom Joly - as a worse experience than scandals including Sachsgate and Queengate, will come as an embarrassment to Craig Oliver, who led the BBC's election night coverage. The event took place on a barge moored near Westminster and was presented by Andrew Neil, the host of BBC programmes The Daily Politics and This Week. Estimated to have cost thirty thousand smackers, it was hit by repeated power cuts, leaving the guests unable to watch the night's results as they came in. After the election, Oliver was promoted to head the BBC's global news output in English, before being poached by the prime minister to replace Andy Coulson as the Downing Street director of communications. Sir Michael told The Media Show on Radio 4: 'I think the moment that I felt the most uncomfortable was on the famous barge just after the elections, which I thought was a misdesigned initiative if ever there was one. I didn't have a great evening. There have been a few challenging times, but you don't take on these jobs without expecting that.' Sir Michael is a former Labour councillor, but a 'source' close to him denied to the Daily Torygraph that his comments had any political motivation. Unlikely just about anything the Daily Torygraph has to say on just about any subject but, especially, the BBC. The alleged 'source' also dismissed suggestions that Sir Michael had approved the corporation's election night plans, saying that he did not get involved in such detailed operational decisions.

Robert Sheehan will not be returning for the third series of Misfits. The drama's executive producer, Petra Fried, announced the news at the Kapow convention in London this weekend. Sheehan's character Nathan, who has appeared in the show since it began in 2009, will now be replaced by a new character called Rudi. Casting for Rudi is said to be currently ongoing. Nathan's departure and Rudi's arrival are expected to be dealt with in short films posted on the E4 website before the third series begins. Sheehan can currently be seen in the movie Killing Bono and also worked on the film Season Of The Witch, which was released earlier this year.

Alan Cumming is urging men everywhere to try dressing in drag after playing a transvestite on TV and gaining a new-found respect for the 'torture' women endure to look good. Cumming used 'smelly' creams to get rid of his body hair and donned make-up and tight dresses to play Desrae on the series The Runaway. Now the Goldeneye star is convinced more men should get in touch with their feminine sides too - so they can understand the lengths women go to impress. He told Fern Britton, 'I think it's probably quite a good thing for every man to have to do that at one point, just to see what girls go through. I decided to go with this [cream] called Veet, or Nair. You put it on and it dissolves your hair off. Disgusting. It smells like a rancid, radioactive pool. It makes all the hair just disappear, like a torture thing. And then you've got to keep loofah-ing all the time otherwise you get ingrown hairs. You saw my bum, so I had to do it everywhere. Desrae is smooth as a baby's bum. That was bad. Even things like the clothing was very restrictive and uncomfortable and I had acrylic nails painted on. In the middle of filming, I came back to Britain to do that Who Do You Think You Are? show for the BBC. When I see the show, it's so funny because I have no body hair at all and I'm actually quite hairy, but I was there like a plucked chicken.'

Miranda Hart has revealed that her sitcom Miranda will begin filming its third series 'sometime in 2012.' Posting on her official website, the comedienne told fans, who were expecting the recordings to start much earlier, that firm dates for the award-winning show have not been arranged yet. She wrote: 'Thank you for all your enquiries about being in the audience of the sitcom recordings of series three. It won't be filming until sometime in 2012, dates yet to be arranged, but there might be news at the end of this year about it. So keep popping back.'

John Torode has said that he thinks MasterChef's revised format makes it harder for people to 'beat the system.' Speaking to the Sun, the chef said that the new format - a move which encountered some initial criticism from some regular viewers of the BBC1 show - rewarded people with a breadth of knowledge about cooking. He said: 'People try to beat the system. It's human nature. Then you don't end up with a competition because they will try to work out how the format works at each stage. In the last series people would do that and you would then find they didn't have the breadth of knowledge to back it up. That's what we don't have this series.' Torode has previously said that under the previous format, some promising contestants had 'lost their nerve' during the invention test. Four contestants - research analyst and drama queen Jackie, intensive care nurse Riviera Sara, food buyer and Mad Professor Tim and advertising account director Tom - currently remain in the competition. Yeah, Tim's gonna win that.

One of Nick Clegg's closest advisers has threatened to quit unless ministers make substantial concessions to a proposed overhaul of the NHS. Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said the plans posed a major 'financial risk' to the NHS and patient care could suffer. He said he would quit as Clegg's chief political adviser - which will come as a considerable surprise to many people in the country that he had anybody advising him at all. Can we all just say you've done a bang-up job so far, Norman? - unless NHS professionals were 'on board.' Ministers have pledged to listen to public concerns, but insist that the NHS cannot be allowed to stand still. The government is consulting further on plans to overhaul the NHS, under which GPs are to be given control of much of the budget, tiers of management axed and the service opened up to more competition. The 'listening exercise' was launched following widespread criticism of the plans by opposition parties and medical professionals, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing. Lib Dem activists have also aired their concerns, voting against the restructuring at their Spring Conference and urging ministers to rethink. Lamb, who was the party's health spokesman in opposition, said the proposed changes carried an 'enormous political risk.' Slightly more importantly, they also run and enormous health care risk too, mate. I think a few more people are bothered about that than whether you and your party end up looking bad for supporting the measures. He told the BBC's Politics Show that the government was 'on the hook' over the issue and the proposal to give GPs control of budgets should be phased in. 'The sensible thing to do is to test it and see how it works,' he said. 'To do it in one fell swoop is very risky.' Lamb said he felt 'very strongly' about the issue - although, seemingly, more strongly about not losing his seat at the next election. he also noted that if aspects of the changes were not modified he would feel it 'impossible' to stay in his post.

Danny Glover will make a guest appearance on the new season of TNT's drama series Leverage. Glover will appear in the fifth episode of the upcoming fourth season, which is due to launch on the channel this summer. The actor will star as a retired war hero, who comes into possession of a piece of art which is at the centre of the episode's mystery. 'We get involved to try to help him recover it,' Leverage star Aldis Hodge told TV Line, regarding Glover's character. The actor also teased that Glover's appearance will see a huge departure for the series, as the episode in question will be narrated by his character. 'We see the majority of the story through his eyes,' he added. Glover has made a number of television appearances in recent years, including extended appearances on both Brothers & Sisters and ER, but he remains best known for his role as Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon movies.

Amanda Holden has declared that she is now 'top dog' on the Britain's Got Talent judging panel. Which, presumably, means that if the new format is a failure, she'll be the one taking personal responsibility for it?

A Buckinghamshire computer software company is looking to recruit female web coders who are prepared to work naked. Nude House, where staff work as nature intended in a 'warm and private' naturist office environment in Amersham, also wants naked male and female sales staff. Company spokesman Chris Taylor told The Register: 'As far as I am aware this is not only the first UK office job for naturists in web-coding or web-selling, but is also the first worldwide facility for naturists to earn substantial sums of money from work that incidentally provides them with the capability to work entirely without clothes. Because it is the first establishment in the world it is difficult to advertise - many seem to confuse the issue of being without clothes as being a place without concerns for personal freedom, where sex is paramount in its many varied forms. Sex does not play a part in naturism - yes one is aware of differences in sex and size and shape and age of everyone, but the concern is on sales and technical ability, not availability.' Personally, this blogger is all for such initiative but won't be apply for a job himself. Largely because of ther size issue. Taylor admitted that a naturist office offers 'no benefit to business productivity other than providing a nice facility for the staff.' There's no benefit for customers, either, since they'll 'never know that the provider is nude.' The company website says: 'New applicants will be required to work in the nude from the time they arrive at work until they leave to go home. Nude means no clothes whatsoever and no shoes either.' Cos, of course, wearing shoes makes all the difference. 'All new applicants will be naturists and could be males or females.' Nude House has a sister company - Songbird - where staff peform exactly the same tasks but fully clothed.

Footballers have told how they were pulled over by a police car with sirens blaring - so they could sign autographs for a besotted WPC. German Bundesliga side Hamburg SV were in the team coach on their way to a match when they were forced off the autobahn by traffic police. But instead of getting a ticket, all they got was a demand from a female officer for star striker Mladen Petric's autograph. 'All the other players were smiling. I thought they were taking the piss, so I didn't move at first,' he said. 'Eventually I realised they really wanted me to go to the front. When I got there a young policewoman told me she was a big fan of mine, got out her autograph book and asked for my autograph,' said Petric. The bizarre demand emerged when the club Tweeted the encounter with a picture after the match. 'Our team bus stopped by the police because [the] cop wanted an autograph,' they said on Twitter.

The first recording and publishing contract signed by The Beatles is to be auctioned in London this week. The seven-page document, whose existence was previously unknown and details of which are published for the first time this week, turned up in Switzerland earlier this month. The contract, which is expected to fetch at least fifty thousand pounds, was believed to have been lost until its owners recently decided to part with it. The signing by the young band in Hamburg, Germany, on 19 June 1961, was risky as none of group knew exactly what they were getting into. The contract was written in German, with no translation made available. But so keen were the band to have a recording contract, that they signed anyway. There are five signatures: John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison (then only eighteen) and the group's drummer, Peter Best. He was, of course, sacked a year later to make way for Ringo Starr. The fifth signature belongs to the German band-leader Bert Kaempfert. At the time, he was also an arranger and producer and had hired The Beatles - then playing a residency at the Top Ten Club on their second trip to Hamburg - under the auspices of Polydor Records to back the English singer and guitarist Tony Sheridan. It is believed that the contract was passed from Kaempfert to a friend, another German producer, who then gave it to his daughter. She has held on to the papers at her home in Switzerland until now. Mark Lewisohn, the Beatles historian and widely regarded as the world's leading authority on the band, said this weekend: 'It's a unique document. The recordings we've had for fifty years, but the contract which allowed those recordings to be made has never been seen, and it's the only Beatles recording contract that's ever come up for auction. They only found out six or seven months later what it was they had signed. Fortunately, Kaempfert was a fair man.' Originally, as they began their career in Hamburg, the Beatles were far more popular in the German port city than they were in the UK – where they were virtually unknown outside of Liverpool at the time. The agreement covered a set of recordings made over three days in late June 1961 on which the band backed Sheridan on five numbers, including his raucous adaptation of 'My Bonnie.' They were also given time to make two recordings on their own; a cover of the 1920s standard 'Ain't She Sweet' with John Lennon on vocals and the Lennon-Harrison Shadows-influenced instrumental 'Cry For A Shadow.' All of the Hamburg recordings, including one further session from early the next year, were subsequently re-released many times by Polydor during the 1960s and beyond. The document states that the band would receive royalties of two per cent from sales and twenty five German marks (roughly eight pounds) each per day, including the cost of a first-class rail ticket. It also states that Lennon would receive the payments on behalf of the band, as he was then the 'representative' of the group. The names and addresses of each of the four members are printed on the front of the document, though some spellings appear to have become lost in translation. John Lennon's address is given as '251 Manlove Ave,' when it was in fact 'Menlove Ave,' and Paul's surname is spelt 'McCartuey.' These minor errors are unlikely to have an adverse effect on the price the contract realises at auction, in fact, if anything they add to the authenticity of the thing. It also reveals what little creative control they had with their music during their formative years. It states: 'The songs are to be chosen by mutual agreement. If no agreement can be reached, the decision is to be made by the production team.'

A stand-up comedy gig featuring former Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones had to be cancelled after just five tickets were sold for the event. The actor, who played Les Battersby in the ITV soap, was due to perform at a hotel on the Costa del Sol. Tickets were twenty two pounds and included a Corrie-themed menu of chicken in a basket and Lancashire hotpot. However, Jones, who opened a comedy club in Sunderland last year, failed to attract enough customers to cover the cost of hosting the event. A 'source' allegedly told the People: 'Poor Bruce must be mortified. He was watched by millions on Corrie, now he can't even fill a hotel bar.' A club spokeswoman added: 'We had to call it off as five customers would barely have filled one table and we needed to have at least twenty five to make a profit. We may reschedule the event next year.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. The story goes that one day in early 1977, David Bowie was busy recording Low, or Heroes in Berlin when ... 'Eno came running in and said, "I have heard the sound of the future." He puts on 'I Feel Love', by Donna Summer. He said, "This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years." Which was more or less right.' Damn right, it was!