Thursday, April 14, 2011

How Can You Lie There And Think Of England When You Don't Even Know Who's In The Team?

The BBC press office update for the week of 30 April to 6 May (Week Eighteen) has some interesting little titbits. Waterloo Road is back that week (not that it's been gone long) but Life of Riley is scheduled for 8.30 so, presumably, Waterloo Road must kick-off at 7.30. Two new dramas start; Exile on BBC1 and The Shadow Line with Christopher Eccleston on BBC2. The new series of Psychoville is als down to start that week as well.

A married actor - who may or may not exist - has reportedly won a gagging order (which also may or may not exist) to stop the media (which, sadly, does exist) from printing allegations about his purported relationship with a prostitute whose other clients allegedly included Wayne Rooney. Who definitely does exist because I've seen him playing for The Scumchester United on telly. Oh, this story has got, quite literally, everything the tabloids could want. Sex and football ... well, sex, mainly. Or not, as the case may be. The injunction, which may or may not exist, protects the actor's anonymity, or otherwise. It was upheld on Wednesday at the High Court. Which may or may not exist. But the judge, who also may or may not exist, lifted a ban on naming twenty four-year-old escort Helen Wood, who it would seem does exist. Wood reportedly had a 'three-in-the-bed-sex-romp' with Rooney and another call girl, Jennifer 'Juicy Jeni' Thompson, when the footballer's wife, Coleen, was pregnant in 2009. Coleen exists, although some may wonder why. I'm not getting into all of that malarkey right now. Dear blog readers may also remember that Thompson definitely exists because, last year, the Daily Lies (which also, sadly, exists) claimed that she had been 'targeted' to 'spice up' I'm An Alleged Z-List Former Celebrity ... A story which, as with virtually everything else the Daily Lies prints, turned out to be total and utter bollocks of the first order. Wood, a single mother from Bolton, which tragically does exist, claims to have had 'a sexual relationship' with 'a leading actor and/or world-famous celebrity who is married and is a father.' Or not, as the case may be. That's if he exists. Which, for the purposes of this injunction, he may not. This blogger couldn't possibly say one way or the other. Even if I knew. Which I don't. Just so we're all clear on that. According to the Sun, which exists though we all probably wish it didn't, Wood was paid one hundred and ninety five pounds for the encounter. Which, you may regard as a bit on the pricey side, dear blog reader. But, I'm guessing that the going rate is probably two hundred knicker and she knocked a fiver off in discount. Which some may consider a bargain, frankly. Proceedings, which may or may not exist, were rushed through the court in the last few days after the actor, who may or may not exist, discovered that Wood had spoken to a newspaper. Which may or may not exist. Challenging the temporary injunction granted earlier, Richard Spearman QC who may or may not exist argued on Wednesday (which yer actual Keith Telly Topping thinks probably did exist although he personally spent most of it in bed watching The West Wing because he had a bad back) that Wood should be allowed to tell her story. But Mr Justice King, who may or may not exist, ruled that the ban, which may or may not exist, on naming the actor, who may or may not exist, should stand. Or not. Whichever. The mystery man, identified only by the letters 'NEJ' in court papers which may or may not exist is one of around thirty high-profile figures, who may or may not exist, including Premiership footballers, to have won injunctions banning the publications of potentially embarrassing revelations. Or, indeed, not. MPs, who may or may not exist, have warned that the trend represents a threat to freedom of speech. Which, in this particularly case, seems to very definitely not exist. And the government - which we all wish didn't exist but, sadly, does - has said it is 'very concerned' about super-injunctions which prohibit even mentioning that an order has been obtained. Or not, as the case may be.

There's a splendid think-piece by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville about his love for his home boy turf, Winchester in the Telegraph this week. Hugh, soon at be appearing in Doctor Who of course, reveals his love for the city's architecture and 'vibe.' Check it out. The article, that is, not Winchester. Although, if you're down in the area, check that out as well, it's very pretty by all accounts.

Broadcast are reporting that Channel Four's rights to Glee expire at the end of the current series and that Sky may be prepared to bid up to five hundred thousand pounds per episode to poach it. Just as they previously nabbed 24 from the BBC, House from Five and Lost from Four.

The BBC's 'rather average but watchable' comedy Life Of Riley returned with almost four and a half million viewers on Wednesday night, but The Crimson Petal And The White suffered a big audience dip, the latest overnight audience data has revealed. Life Of Riley, a sitcom starring Caroline Quentin and Neil Dudgeon, averaged 4.46m for BBC1 from 8.30pm. Following that, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef then cooked up 5.12m in the 9pm hour. The two shows performed admirably against live coverage of Tottenham Hotspur's aggregate five-nil Champions League exit to Real Madrid, which pulled in 5.32m on ITV between 7.30pm and 10pm. The Crimson Petal And The White, the four-part psychological thriller starring Chris O'Dowd, Gillian Anderson and Richard E Grant, continued with 1.6m on BBC2 in the 9pm hour, down just over five hundred thousand on last week's debut episode.

Speaking of Richard E Grant, and the Torygraph as we were earlier, there's a very fine interview with this most interesting of actors in the rabid right-wing broadsheet this week. Turns out Richard is something of telly addict himself. 'He has none of the usual actors' snobbery about the small screen,' the article notes, quoting him as saying: 'I watch TV all the time. Everything. Celebrity Jungle [sic]? Gillian McKeith? I wanted to kick the television in. Which is a good thing. Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, The Wire, The West Wing. Jimmy McGovern's The Street and Accused are as good as it gets. I could quote you almost every episode of Gavin & Stacey verbatim. But I can't do a Welsh accent. If Jimmy McGovern reads your paper, tell him to get the perfumed ponce with his middle-class vowels into The Street.'

Sony Pictures has reached an agreement to co-finance and distribute the twenty third and twenty fourth James Bond movies. The studio, which also backed Daniel Craig's Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, will release the Sam Mendes-directed Bond 23 (working title, of course) on 9 November 2012. The future of the 007 franchise had been cast into doubt following the recent financial plight of MGM, but the company emerged from bankruptcy with Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum taking over as co-chairmen and chief executive officers of Hollywood's oldest studio. 'Sony Pictures is the ideal studio partner for us as MGM re-enters the filmmaking business. We have longstanding relationships with Michael and Amy and look forward to what promises to be a prosperous future together,' said Barber and Birnbaum.

Joan Collins has been tipped for a celebrity guest appearance in the next series of Benidorm. According to that bastion of totally honest and accurate reportage, the Sun, Collins' sister Jackie used Twitter to reveal the former Dynasty star's interest in the award-winning sitcom. She wrote: 'Benidorm is totally fab. My sis Joan Collins would love to do a guest shot on it. I got her addicted!!! [sic]' After a peak audience of 7.3m viewers this year, ITV is likely to recommission Benidorm for a fifth series - although no formal announcement has been made yet. Meanwhile, writer Derren Litten - who had previously confirmed his departure from the show - wrote on the social networking site: 'Joan Collins in Benidorm??!! I ain't gonna let anyone else write that. Looks like I'm coming back. [sic]' Later he added: 'Head swimming with storylines. Of course ITV haven't announced a recommission yet. Somehow don't think we need to worry!' However, Litten was swift to dismiss reports in this morning's newspapers which claimed that he had made the U-turn based on the programme's popularity. The forty-year-old wrtier also added, helpfully: 'Don't forget when you read about Benidorm in the Sun tomorrow, the tabloids never let the truth get in the way of a good story.'

The police investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World took a dramatic turn on Thursday with the surprise arrest of James Weatherup, a senior journalist at the paper. Weatherup, who has not previously been named in connection with the scandal, was arrested early on Thursday morning. The arrest is expected to trigger further searches of the News of the World offices in Wapping. It is thought that police felt the paper had failed to be fully co-operative during searches last week and are determined to be more robust. As assistant news editor at the News of the World between 2004 and 2006, Weatherup was one of the inner circle of executives under the then-editor, Andy Coulson, who later became David Cameron's director of communications until earlier this year. As the third news editor at the paper under Coulson, Weatherup was one of a handful of senior employees who would, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, 'take part in private discussions of major news stories with other senior members of the paper.' Weatherup subsequently returned to being a senior reporter on the newspaper, but continued to hold his job title. He was a close colleague of Ian Edmondson, who was also arrested last week and in connection with the investigation. A police spokesman said that Weatherup was detained by Scotland Yard's Operation Weeting team at 8am and taken to a police station in London. 'He remains in custody for questioning after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to unlawfully intercept communications,' he added. 'The Operation Weeting team is conducting the new investigation into phone hacking. It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding this case at this time.'

David Abraham has reportedly 'tasked' Jay Hunt with 'increasing the volume of controversial output on Channel Four,' the chief creative officer revealed at her first out-of-London meeting. According to Broadcast magazine, Hunt told a group of around twenty independent producers in Manchester that C4's chief executive had requested edgier programming and that he expects to see a lengthier 'risk register' in the future. The register is a weekly round-up of the broadcaster's potentially controversial content that is shared among top-level management. Abraham is understood to have communicated to Hunt that the broadcaster needs to be 'pushing more buttons,' a request she says that she has welcomed. A 'source' backed the idea, telling Broadcast: 'C4's remit is to push the boundaries and that anecdote illustrates that there is a top-down initiative to fulfil it.' Channel Four director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove and scheduler Richard Brent also attended the meeting, which included a roundtable discussion followed by a series of one-to-one sessions. Hunt used it to tackle criticism levelled at the network, and admitted that lack of access to commissioners had led to a feeling that it is 'the Oxbridge of broadcasters. That comment summed up the elitist attitude that some people have experienced,' said a second - nameless - source. Channel Four has already affirmed its commitment to greater accessibility, and the meeting itself, which was attended by producers from across the North and several from Wales, was described by one as 'a very real, hands-on attempt to improve things.'

Angus Macqueen and Henry Singer are to investigate the experience of the trapped Chilean miners and Wootton Bassett's emergence as a symbol of servicemen killed in conflict, in new documentary films for the BBC. BAFTA winner Macqueen (Cocaine, Gulag) is to direct Seventeen Days, an exclusive look at the period the Chilean miners spent underground, cut off from the outside world. The miners had made a pact not to talk about what happened during that time, but six of the men have now spoken to Macqueen about the days before the rescuers first made contact, when they had limited food and water, and no light. The programme will be produced by Macqueen’s Ronachan Films and is scheduled to broadcast on BBC2 later this summer. Separately, Singer, who directed the acclaimed 9/11 documentary The Falling Man, is making In Wootton Bassett - The Town That Remembers, about the town's community. It has become well known because of its repatriation ceremonies for those killed in military service, and the film focuses on the events of a single day - the repatriation of Ranger Aaron McCormick last November. The programme will be executive produced by Julian Mercer for the BBC in Bristol, and is set to go out on BBC1 also in the summer.

A Brazilian journalist who had received several death threats was shot dead on Saturday while eating in a restaurant. Luciano Pedrosa, who worked for Metro FM and Vitoria TV in Vitoria de Santo Antao, covered crime and news about local authorities. It is not yet clear why he was murdered, or who was responsible. Police are investigating the possibility that it was a contract killing

Sky One has ordered a comedy set in a budget supermarket in the North-West of England, featuring bored checkout assistants, ineffectual managers and angry customers. The eight part Trollied is being produced by Roughcut TV. The executive producer will be The Office's Ash Atalla. The characters who inhabit the local Valco supermarket will be played the likes of the thoroughly annoying Jane Horrocks and her horrible whiny voice which gets right on yer actual Keith Telly Topping's tripe (because, of course, by law nothing can be produced about people in the North West without Horrocks getting herself involved), Mark Addy and Jason Watkins. Trollied began production earlier this month and is due to be broadcast in July. At time when just about no one is watching telly. Which is probably a good thing.

Virgin Media has revealed plans to launch a lower-capacity set top box next month for its new converged TV service powered by TiVo. Launched last December, the TiVo platform uses the conduit of a high-powered set top box to offer one hundred and sixty television channels, four thousand six hundred hours of standard and high definition on-demand content, and a variety of apps and games for the TV screen. The system, which also actively learns each user's TV preferences, currently comes with a receiver featuring a massive one terabyte hard drive and three separate tuners. The new set top box will also have three tuners, but offer a smaller five hundred gigabyte storage capacity and a reduced price to attract a broader range of customers beyond the early adopters. Exact pricing and a release date for the lower-capacity box have not yet been announced, but Virgin Media is expected to reveal more details closer to the launch. The cable operator also plans to start aggressively promoting the TiVo service in the second quarter of this year, with a focus on upgrading existing customers. Virgin Media's head of corporate relations Gareth Mead recently said that the TiVo system requires much more explanation to customers than traditional digital TV services.

There's a very interesting piece by the Gruniad's Roy Greenslade on the Hugh Grant 'bugging the bugger' story: 'It was a clever wheeze and Grant appears to have carried it out with the self-deprecating style we associate with the characters he plays on film. It was a scoop of sorts and certainly merited its place in the Statesman issue guest-edited by Grant's long-time friend, Jemima Khan. But it is the reaction to that publication that has been extraordinary, and offers further proof – as if any more were needed – that celebrities pack a media punch like nobody else. Moreover, it also illustrates how online publication scores over print. Note first how the story has been presented as if Grant's act of subterfuge trapped McMullan into being indiscreet. That is preposterous. It is like accusing Jordan of being publicity-hungry or Piers Morgan of being arrogant. McMullan, the former News of the World features editor, has been making allegations about his former employers openly for months – in TV interviews, to other reporters and on public platforms. It is true to say that he has been less forthcoming about Brooks, but he didn't say much about her to Grant either.'

ITV and Channel Five are said to be 'accelerating plans' for file-based delivery of HD programmes if stocks of Sony's HDCam SR tape run low following the Japanese earthquake. Facilities trade association UK Screen has canvassed broadcasters for advice on delivery amid what it described as 'continued anxiety about the decreasing levels of HDCam SR tape stock' and 'conflicting messages coming from production.' Channel Five's head of broadcast operations Dominic Selby told UK Screen that the broadcaster would accept programmes delivered in HD pro-res HQ 422, but warned the format is not recognised by other broadcasters. Channel Five also said that it would accept hard-drive discs, but there may be a charge to process the files. ITV is advising producers to contact broadcasters to discuss individual cases, but a spokesman told Broadcast: 'We are actively investigating the opportunity for file-based content delivery as well as the possibility of reusing existing stock.' The BBC's head of technology HD Andy Quested told UK Screen it was prioritising existing projects for HD in line with the tape stock available. A BBC spokeswoman added: 'We are in contact with Sony and are discussing the situation with other UK broadcasters. We currently have sufficient stocks of HDCam SR tapes across the BBC and are confident that through sensible management there will be no disruption to delivery of programmes. We will continue to keep the situation under review.' Channel Four's chief technology officer Kevin Burrows said that production companies should contact individual broadcasters 'as there is no single option for all situations.' The factory in Japan where Sony manufactures HDCam SR tapes, the only format accepted by UK broadcasters for delivery of HD programmes, remains closed after being damaged in last month's earthquake. Sony this week said that production at the Sendai plant would resume in 'early summer.' Whatever that means.

The vile and odious rascal Hunt is poised to, if you will, kick-off his new role next month – as a football referee. The lack of culture secretary was mocked after revealing he didn't know the offside rule, and said that he would take a course in refereeing. Now he won't tell colleagues the location of his first fixture, a juniors' match in London. 'He seems to think we'll use it as an excuse to simply ridicule him,' one colleague told the Express. Hang, on, one needs an 'excuse' these days to ridicule the vile and odious rascal Hunt? What the hell is this world coming to? Some might say that the vile and odious rascal Hunt has a tougher fixture to deal with first – but will he dare to give the red card to News Corp's BSkyB takeover? No, of course he wont, because he's got his tongue rammed up Uncle Rupert's chuff, same as it ever was.

Not content with having pissed off the populations of Britian and America, that vile Jamie Oliver fellow is reported to have launched a Ministry of Food in Australia. Yeah. Good luck with that one, digger.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, a - very apt, in Helen and Juicy Jeni's case - three minute tone poem about the realities of love from the very Bard of Barking himself, yer actual Lord Billy Bragg. Ably assisted on this one by the Prince of Pluckers, Johnny Marr, and Her Holiness the late Saint Kirsty MacColl. 'How I love those evening classes.' Love the footage of the home-made Dalek towards the end, by the way!