Friday, April 01, 2011

I'm The Pain You Tasted, Fear Intoxicated

Let's start a new month with some cheerful news for a change. Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant has become a father after his fiancée gave birth to a baby girl on Thursday evening. David got engaged to twenty six-year-old Georgia Moffett at Christmas and now the couple are celebrating the arrival of daughter Olivia. A 'friend' of the couple allegedly told the Sun: 'Georgia and David could not be happier. Olivia is beautiful and their families are over the moon.' The new addition has quite the Doctor Who pedigree, of course - not only is David a former Time Lord but so too is grandad as Georgia is the daughter of Peter Davison. The couple first met on the set of an episode of Doctor Who, in which Moffett played the Tenth Doctor's own genetically engineered child, Jenny. Moffett already has a son, named Ty, from a previous relationship. You knew all that, right? I mean, those last three paragraphs were just a colossal waste of your time and energy, were they not dear blog reader?

BBC Breakfast presenter Sian Williams will not move North with the programme when it relocates to its new base in Salford, the corporation has confirmed. Just a few hours after the Gruniad Morning Star confidently predicted that She would remain with the production. Which kind of proves what some of us have long suspected, that they don't have a blithering clue about anything just like the rest of us. It's comforting in a way. Williams and fellow presenter Chris Hollins have reportedly decided not to take part in the move for 'personal reasons,' the BBC said. An aversion to life North of Watford, probably. Both Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid will stay on after the move to the BBC's new northern headquarters. Breakfast editor Alison Ford said it was 'great news' that forty six per cent of the team will relocate in April 2012. 'We always knew there would be those who wouldn't be able to make the move for domestic reasons,' she added. 'But we'll have a really strong line-up of producers and presenters working together in MediaCity.' According to the corporation, both Williams and Hollins would 'continue to be involved in the programme for the foreseeable future.' Well, till April, anyway. Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, said she was 'delighted that so many staff have decided to make the journey. I am sure it will go from strength to strength in its new home.' The BBC announced last July that its flagship early morning breakfast show would be broadcast from the MediaCityUK complex from next year. Boaden said the move was 'another important step in marking the BBC's commitment to expand its presence beyond London.'

April Fools' Day is back for another allegedly exciting installment. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping thinks it's a stupid tradition although, undeniably, it does produce the occasional gem. Back in the long, rather cool spring of 1977, the annual japery of April Fool's Day was far from a fixture in the UK's newspapers. But then the Gruniad Morning Star ran a, seemingly very plausible, seven-page feature on the remote island nation of San Serriffe, in the Indian Ocean; complete with descriptions of its two main islands, Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, its capital Bodoni, and its ruler, General Pica. Of course, it was all an elaborate joke, with most of the names being punning references to typographer's terminology. But huge numbers of gullible readers fell for it – aided perhaps by the fact that the paper managed to rope in many legitimate advertisers, including Guinness and Kodak, to play along with the gag. The Gruniad's office switchboard was, reportedly, flooded with phonecalls from readers wanting more information on the fictitious islands. The San Serriffe joke is notable not only for sparking the British press's fondness for 1 April tomfoolery, but also for being the most sustained untruth ever printed by the Gruniad that wasn't the result of a spelling error or their recent obsession with making up sensationalist stories about Top Gear. The BBC has a long - and rather charming - tradition of April Fool malarkey. A 1973 prank by BBC Radio 4, in which an academic (one Dr Clothier) warned listeners of the dangers of Dutch Elm Disease spreading to redheaded people, caused much alarm at the time. The fact that Doctor Clothier sounded suspiciously like the comedian Spike Milligan should probably have given the game away a bit sooner. The years later, the hugely respected astronomer and xylophonist Patrick Moore announced on Radio 4 that a rare planetary alignment would reduce Earth's gravity temporarily, causing people to feel a floating sensation. Once again, the BBC uses a patrician authority figure to take the piss out of its audience. If they tried that these days, the Daily Scum Mail would be calling for a national debate on the BBC 'misleading' its licence fee payers. Just in case you thought that the whole shebang was, essentially, a British thing, it's worth remembering that April Fools is a worldwide phenomena. Just for one example, the April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article which claimed that the Alabama state legislature had just voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to 'the Biblical value' of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the Internet, and then it became one of the first genuine April Fools to go viral, rapidly spreading around the world forwarded by e-mail. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of concerned calls from people complaining about the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist called Mark Boslough. Another great example came in 1962 when Swedish black-and-white-only television solemnly told its viewers that they could instantly convert their televisions to colour simply by pulling a pair of nylon stocking over the set. In case you want to try this at home, dear blog reader, it should be noted that this doesn't, actually, work although it does look pretty cool and makes your TV look like a bank robber. And then, of course, there was the grandaddy of all April Fools tricks. If the idea of a reputable newspaper like the the Gruniad pulling their legs was too much for people in 1977, then twenty years earlier the thought that the BBC – in the authoritative persona of Panorama presenter Richard Dimbleby – would tell people fibs must have seemed like Communist crazy talk. Which probably explains why, when Panorama ran a short segment about how Swiss people harvested spaghetti from trees in 1957, hundreds of people wrote in to the BBC requesting information on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The programme had shown footage with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees and laying them in the sun to dry. Dimbleby explained how each strand of spaghetti always grew to the same length thanks to years of selective breeding by generations of growers. It was comedy genius. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. To those who contacted the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own, the BBC - rather diplomatically - replied: 'Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.' In defence of those who fell for the jape, it's worth bearing in mind that a) spaghetti was comparatively alien and exotic to most British kitchens in 1957, and b) most people are, basically, incredibly stupid.

Following its appearance on US quiz show Jeopardy, IBM's Watson supercomputer has reportedly achieved the far harder task of being 'quite interesting' in a forthcoming episode of Stephen Fry's Qi series on BBC 2, according to rumours. The IBM showpiece was an obvious contender for the 'I' series of the cult comedy quiz show, due to shoot in May. Filming for one episode was, reportedly, brought forward to fit Watson's schedule. During the show, the machine passed a version of the famous Turing Test that measures not just artificial intelligence but also interestingness. According to eWeek Fry and Watson both communicated with panel members through identical iPad 2 devices, again warming to the 'I' theme, and Fry's love of Apple gadgets. After this, the panelists graded the two performances in three categories, finding Watson equally knowledgeable with Fry, albeit marginally less amusing and slightly more tetchy. Both Watson and Fry scored well in a question about hoaxes and swindles, in which each tried to convince the other that it was not who it claimed to be and that the whole show was, in fact, a fantastical hoax of some sort. Panellist Alan Davies, commented at one stage, 'this is about as convincing as one of my shows.' What do we reckon, dear blog reader? April fool? Sounds suspiciously like it to me.

From Fry, perhaps inevitably, to Laurie. House star Huge has claimed that his character's recent sham marriage will last. On the FOX medical drama, House married a Russian immigrant Dominika (Karolina Wydra) partly so that she could receive a Green Card but, mainly, to get back at his boss, Lisa Cuddy after their own spectacularly unhappy break-up. 'We may meet some other people from her life,' Laurie told Entertainment Weekly. 'She [also] expressed that for her it may be more than a Green Card marriage. That will cause problems inevitably.' However, he added that the character of Dominika will not feature in every episode. 'She comes and goes,' he confirmed. 'We have no definite arrangements there.'

Although the current series of MasterChef is still going along nicely, a stray story in the Daily Record this week suggests that filming on the next series of Celebrity MasterChef has already begun. The story focuses on that pair of camp interior designers Colin and Justin who both, it would seen, filmed an appearance on the show. Just as they both appeared together in I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... It does beg the question, are this pair of clowns actually joined at the hip or do they, you know, do stuff on their own? Anyway, the story notes that 'Justin Ryan has revealed his first dish on Celebrity MasterChef was branded the worst-ever by judges.' it goes on to note that Ryan 'and his partner Colin McAllister,' competed against each other 'in a new series of the hit show.' But it all went horribly wrong it would seem. Ryan admitted: 'John Torode and Gregg Wallace said that never, in several series of MasterChef, had they ever seen something go as tragically wrong as it did with me. They said it was the worst ever dish they'd seen and tasted. John said "maybe you'll be redeemed because it'll taste good." But he tasted it and his eyes crossed and he said there was nothing he could say in my defence.' Justin said the 'simple meat dish' ended up as 'utter carnage' because of his nerves. He and Mc Allister will, the paper reveals, 'compete against Aggie MacKenzie and Coronation Street's Margi Clarke in the show,' to be screened on BBC1 this summer. So, that's an episode which is probably going to be worth avoiding.

Colin Morgan has revealed he would love for Bill Bailey to appear in Merlin as his 'crazy uncle.' The Northern Irish actor - who plays the title character in the BBC series based on the Arthurian legends - revealed as he can't work with his first choice, the late US star Paul Newman, he would love to see the Black Books actor on set. He explained: 'I've always said I'd love Bill Bailey to be Merlin's crazy uncle or something like that, I think that would be great. But if I were to go really out there and pick anyone that I could ever want, I'd probably want Paul Newman to be a wise sage to Merlin. Although there's no chance of that happening now.' Well no. He's dead. The BBC can do many things, Colin, but raise corpses probably isn't one of them. While Colin admitted it has been a challenge to move past people's perceptions of Merlin as the old wizard from the legend, he is relishing the physical challenges of the role, including horse riding and doing some of his own stunts. He said: 'As soon as you hear the word Merlin that's the image that's immediately conjured into everyone's head, is an old man. Every person has their beginning and I've been given the opportunity to play a legendary character. I've loved working with different scripts, I've gotten to do comedy scenes, action sequences, work with green screens, there has been horse riding and action stunts. It's basically a bit of an actor's dream.'

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has revealed that he plans to end the show after seven seasons. Weiner's future on the show had been in doubt recently because of the difficult negotiations between him and the programme's network AMC. Weiner has now signed a deal to produce two more seasons of the show, although it will not return until 2012. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Weiner revealed that he is 'pleased' that the talks were successful. He added that the product placement policy will remain the same and cast changes will be made for creative reasons, not financial ones. Meanwhile, the seasons' premieres and finales will remain at the normal length. The other episodes will be shortened slightly but a 'final cut' will be available digitally just over a week after the television broadcasts. He said: 'All I wanted to do was to continue making the show the way it is because it was my belief, both commercially and creatively, that its success was because of the form that it is.' Weiner also revealed that he is pleased that the deal will allow him to end the show properly. 'I've never known, even the first season, if I was going to be back,' he said. 'I'm still going to put everything I have into every episode, but seven seasons seems like the right length for the life of the show and I'm very excited knowing that I have that canvas to paint on.'

Broadcasting legend Danny Baker, who is suffering from throat cancer, has not had 'a thing pass his lips since Christmas Day,' according to his friend Chris Evans. Baker, fifty three, has been battling cancer for eight months enduring chemotherapy and radiotherapy. TV presenter Evans, said in a magazine column: 'There’s no point sugar-coating it. He’s been through hell.' But, Evans added, the father of three is fighting back. He noted: 'Eight months later and it looks like he's won, but as with all battles there is an aftermath.' The two became friends when Baker helped to write comedy scripts for Evans's 1990s TV hit TFI Friday. And, as ever, on the million to one chance that Danny might be reading this, everyone at From The North sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery, Candyman. The nation needs you.

The creator of Charmed is reportedly suing CBS Studios for breach on contract. Constance Burge filed a lawsuit on Wednesday which alleges that faulty accounting cheated her out of millions of dollars, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She claims that her original contract guaranteed fixed compensation and seven and a half per cent of the 'adjusted gross receipts' from the show. The lawsuit suggests that CBS Studios failed to allow a complete audit of the series and substantially shortchanged Burge. The writer insists that her auditors have 'uncovered substantial underreporting of income' due to her. CBS Studios has so far declined to issue a statement on the matter. Charmed - the story of three sister witches - originally ran on the WB from 1998 to 2006 and starred Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty and later the Goddess-like Rose McGowan.

ESPN has reportedly agreed an archive programming deal with the BBC to show sporting events on its ESPN Classic channel, including the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany. As part of a channel revamp, the first since sister channel ESPN launched in the UK in 2009 with live FA Premier League football, ESPN Classic will show about eighty hours of BBC archive footage, along with unveiling its new look. The BBC deal includes archive footage from FA Cup matches, international football, Formula One, Test cricket, international rugby, horseracing and sports documentaries. New on-air graphics and music will accompany the revamp, with five artists portraying twenty of the most famous sporting stars of all time. Other new series on the channel include Legends of the Barclays Premier League, focusing on the finest footballers to have played in the top flight, and UEFA Euros: The Official Story. Ross Hair, the managing director of ESPN Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: 'It reinforces ESPN Classic's position as a part of the growth and vision of our business in the region and our ongoing strategy to create more continuity between the channels and brands in our portfolio.'

McFly have signed up to appear in a new reality show. McFly On The Wall, which will air on Channel Five's digital channel 5*, will follow the band as they perform on their UK tour. Band member Tom Fletcher said: 'We're all really excited to have the chance to show our fans what it's really like being in McFly! We'll have a camera crew following us everywhere, so viewers will get a real insight into what goes on behind the scenes.' Meanwhile, Channel Five's head of digital channels Kate Barnes said that she is 'delighted' that McFly have agreed to give the programme's producers 'no-holds-barred access.' She said: 'McFly are without a doubt one of the most popular bands in the country, and this series will give 5* viewers a unique perspective on what it's like to live through the highs and lows of life on the road.' McFly On The Wall is expected to be broadcast later this spring on 5*.

Meanwhile, Richard Desmond's Channel Five is poised to sign a two hundred million pound five-year deal to bring back Big Brother following months of tortuous negotiations between his company and the programme's producer, Endemol. There were hopes that the deal could have been announced this week, but 'last-minute legal wrangles' continue to delay the announcement of a plan that has been mooted since Desmond bought the channel last summer. Because of the time taken by the talks, the earliest Big Brother could return is understood to be August. A three-week run of Celebrity Big Brother is expected to be followed by a series of Big Brother in the autumn and winter. Desmond is, according to tabloid speculation, hoping that he could lure Cheryl Cole into hosting Big Brother – an effort fuelled by yesterday morning's Daily Lies splash Cheryl's New B Bro Babe – but the singer's camp have, according to the Gruniad, 'totally dismissed' the public overtures. 'Cheryl has not been approached, and she has no interest in presenting Big Brother,' said a spokesman for the singer, noting she was 'still waiting to hear whether she would be able to present The X Factor in the US.' So difficult have the Channel Five-Endemol discussions been that Desmond and Ynon Kreiz, the Endemol chief executive, are said to be 'no longer speaking.' That led to talks collapsing in the autumn, and the negotiations only resumed with the intervention of Michael Sherwood, the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, whose bank is a one-third shareholder in Endemol. After the falling-out, Desmond – who still wants Big Brother for the ratings he believes it will bring – delegated responsibility for the negotiations to Jeff Ford, the Channel Five director of programmes. Should negotiations conclude to the satisfaction of all sides, then in 2012, Big Brother could return to its traditional schedule – running the celebrity show in January, before reappearing with the traditional group of desperate wannabes during the summer months. That would mean an almost continuous run of Big Brother programmes – running night after night – on Channel Five from August to January. At the same time, the channel plans to revamp its schedule, with programmes such as Candy Bar Girls, a reality show documenting the 'life and loves' of six lesbians who work in a bar in London's Soho. And, to think, there were people who said when desmond bought the channel that he would take it downmarket. Channel Five was expected to generate two hundred and sixty million pounds in revenues in 2010 at the time of its sale by RTL to Desmond for one hundred and three million pounds in July of last year. But the upturn in the advertising market has taken that figure to closer to three hundred million and the channel is generating an estimated three million pounds of operating profit a month. This year, Channel Five is aiming to generate three hundred and fifty million in turnover, again helped by a strong start for TV advertising in 2011. But, the anticipated spend on Big Brother and other new programmes may mean that profit growth is not as rapid as the turnover growth implies.

The classic gangster movie The Long Good Friday could be remade as a television series. The 1980 film - produced by George Harrison, fact fans! - starred Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, a London gangster who has aspirations to become a legitimate businessman and Helen Mirren as his wfie. Variety reports that Sherlock director Paul McGuigan is in talks with former HandMade Films executives Guy Collins, Michael Ryan and Fred Hedman about the television adaptation. Collins and Ryan previously abandoned plans to remake The Long Good Friday for cinemas with Resident Evil director Paul WS Anderson. Ray Winstone is reportedly interested in playing the lead role of Shand in the new television version. In October last year, the actor lamented the removal of swear words from a screening of the original film. Which was, and Shand himself would have noted, 'a diabolical fakkin' liberty!'

Ofcom has confirmed plans to cut its £142.5m budget by more than twenty per cent this year under a four-year cost-saving plan to meet government spending targets. Over the four years to 2014-15, the media regulator will slash its total spending by 28.2 per cent in real terms by reshaping and refocusing the organisation. The majority of the cuts will come in year one, 2011-12, when Ofcom's budget will be trimmed to £115.8m, down twenty two and a half per cent year-on-year. Savings will be made across the entire Ofcom operation, mostly identified in a strategic review of the organisation in summer 2010, implemented ahead of the government's spending review last October. Ofcom said that its early planning initiative has helped it to save £14.9m against its budget for the 2010-11 financial year. Other savings have resulted from changes to the delivery of Digital Participation and delays to the implementation of measures in the Digital Economy act. The watchdog has also cut its eight hundred and seventy-strong workforce by nineteen per cent, representing a loss of around one hundred and seventy employees. It is understood that most of the job cuts have already been completed. Also, Ofcom proposed new wholesale prices for Openreach, British Telecom's division for enabling other telecoms service providers to use its UK network. Ofcom said that the proposed price reductions, affecting local loop unbundling broadband and wholesale line rental telephone services, will lead to a real-terms reduction in prices for consumers.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, there's something evil lurking in them there dark places of the interior. Liam, to the sampling equipment. And take our brain to another dimension. If nothing else - apart from releasing a couple of the most mind-blowingly influential records of the last decade of the Twentieth Century, and an astonishingly live show that - quite literally - dropped an atom bomb on Glastonbury in '95 - The Prodigy made some sodding terrifying videos! Here's another menacing classic which brought a whole heap of complaints from 'concerned viewers' when it was shown on Top of the Pops. (I don't think it was, so much, Kool Keef's totally off-it schtick that got on the viewers' tits quite so much as those contact lenses which Maxim wore that made him look like Satan! Both in this, and the follow-up, which is even more scary.)And, to finish, The Prodigy deliver some genuinely sensible advice to listeners if their dog is misbehaving.