Friday, April 08, 2011

Week Sixteen: You Can't Understand A Word I Say

New episodes of both CSI and Bones appeared in the US this week. The former - Unleashed - was a really rather curious conceit and a very definite game of two halves. There was the much trumpeted return of the character of Lady Heather (the fabulous Melinda Clarke) helping out a very impressed Ray Langston and a very unimpressed Sara - wife, let's remember, of Heather's former boyfriend Gil Grissom - in the case of a woman with some odd feline tendencies. Who eventually found herself mauled to death by a mountain lion after having already suffered serious injuries somewhere else. But where? And how? And why? These questions, and others, were - mostly - answered. The story also featured a rather smooth and velevety guest appearance by Tony Curran (who was so good as Vincent in Doctor Who last year). And, as if all that wasn't bonkers enough, there was also a secondary plot about cyber-bullying, teen suicide, killer cheerleaders and Nick helping Doc Robbins delivery a baby from an already dead mother. Some of the very pointed 'parents - you don't know what your kids are up to' posturing was laid on a bit thick for this blogger's tastes. (Particularly as that sort of thing has been done far better before in previous CSI episodes, notably season four's Coming of Rage.) But, overall the episode was a more than decent one and, as always, highly aware of its own silliness in places. Which is always healthy. Bones, meanwhile, was having a lot of fun in an episode called The Feet on the Beach. The premise largely focused around a Body Farm and some jealous PHD candidates but the real meat lay in a subplot about a shy, retiring Canadian foot expert called in, reluctantly, by Brennan because the murders took place literally on the US-Canadian border and there were jurisdictional issues. But, when he gets to the Jeffersonian, Dr Filmore (Queer as Folk's Scott Lowell) has a problem. Brennan has recently written a scathing review of his 'so-called science' and the poor man is so intimidated by her that he's having a severe psychosomatic reaction that even Sweets can't help him with. His right arm won't work! It was very interesting, for once, to see Temperance portrayed as something of a rather crass and thoughtlessly spiteful bully, and instead of just Booth being her humanising element, everybody else having to join in as well. And, there was quite a fun little cul-de-sac of a side plot about Cam getting in hot water when she makes college plans for her stepdaughter behind her back. It's been a bit up and down this series, has Bones but, when it gets it right, it's still one of the best things on US TV.

During a recent e-mail discussion with a friend of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, the subject of Matey®™ bubblebath came up. Don't ask why, dear blog reader. It's one of those things, trust me, that's probably best to be in ignorance of. Anyway, you remember Matey®™ bubblebath, surely? 'Yer Matey's a bottle of fun, y'slips me in the bath/I'm loved by everyone, I'm always good for laugh'. The discussion eventually turned to whether Matey®™ is still available and, lo and behold, it turns out that it is indeed. Therefore, a certain person who shall remain nameless - hello Deborah - only went and sent me a bottle, didn't she? Which, he’ll have you know, yer actual Keith Telly Topping intends to use on his poor tortured bad back this very evening. The package arrived this morning in a large parcel which, clearly, yer Keith Telly Topping's somewhat startled postman thought was the sort of thing that the anti-terrorist branch should be handling with a controlled explosion. I am also reliably informed that you can these days get pink bottles of Matey (called Molly Matey®™) for, ahem, female sailors. That's just wrong on so many levels, is it not?

There is currently a fierce argument raging on the BBC's potential future role in the shadow of a hostile Tory-dominated government. You might have noticed, dear blog reader. Something which you will often hear from the scum right of the political spectrum - both inside and, especially out of, parliament - is the notion that the BBC is 'not supposed to chase ratings.' They have a public service mandate, this faction continues, and therefore they should be producing high-end drama, documentaries and educational-type programmes which would not be produced by the market if the BBC was not there to make them. So, if it's going to make populist TV - Strictly, Doctor Who, Top Gear, and so on - then it needs to have its licence fee taken away and let it sink or swim in a free-market economy. Of course, sadly for those making this argument, such sentiments only describe a part of the BBC's mandate; the full mandate (created, ironically, under a previous Tory government - something which David Cameron said last year when he was electioneering that his party should be very proud of) is summed up in a concise mission statement: 'To enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.' People critical of the BBC - yes, you Rupert Murdoch and your grubby spawn, yes you goosestepping bullyboys at the Daily Scum Mail, yes you hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star - often focus on the first two parts of this equation and completely ignore the third. (For example, as recently as Thursday of this week, in a Gruniad think-piece about David Attenborough, the newspaper affected to wholly misunderstand the nature of the BBC's purpose when it noted that: 'Few, if any, broadcasters embody the BBC's mission statement to educate and inform more fully than [Attenborough] does' whilst ignoring the 'entertain' part entirely.) The BBC's Royal Charter actually breaks down the delivery of the mission statement into six 'Public Purposes' categories. These are:-
* Sustaining citizenship and civil society.
* Promoting education and learning.
* Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence.
* Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities.
* Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK.
* Delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services.
The third aspect, that of 'Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence', breaks down further into a number of sub-categories:-
* Establish a leading reputation for creative and innovative programming.
* Ensuring enrichment for all audiences by covering a wide range of cultural activities.
* Encouraging active participation in cultural activities.
* Provide a wide range of enjoyable and entertaining content.
* Foster creativity and nurture and support UK talent across a wide range of genres.
And, when you think about it, just about every programme that the BBC makes, no matter how strange or alternative could be argued to fall into at least one of those categories. There is absolutely nothing in the BBC's remit anywhere which argues that the BBC exists only to 'fill the gaps' or 'produce what wouldn't be there without the market providing it.' Or whatever other nonsense various right-wing thugs on the Commons select lack of culture committee might suggest to the contrary. There's also nothing which suggests that 'public service broadcasting' equates to 'stuff I want to see,' despite just about everybody whom you'll ever hear using the phrase doing so in exactly that selfish context. Indeed, the BBC could easily justify making a Britain's Got Talent or an X Factor, say, though probably not at the expense of something like Strictly Come Dancing - which arguably meets a greater range of its mission statement targets than the Cowell formats do. The idea that the BBC should leave populist shows to ITV is nonsensical. The BBC, after all, invented TV light entertainment in the first place - a decade or more before ITV even existed. It's the network which created The Billy Cotton Band Show, The Black & White Minstrels (for which we must try to forgive it), The Morecambe & Wise Show, The Generation Game, et cetera. Just something to bear in mind the next time you hear some witless old gobshite Nazi droning on about what the BBC should, or should not, be forced to make.

And, on that stroppy bombshell, dear blog reader, here's your next lot of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 15 April
Friday night is chat show night from now on. But, especially this week of all weeks as we have not one but two returning favourites fronted by camp funny men. In Paul O'Grady Live - 9:00 ITV - the Scouse comedian and champion for the poor, features guests Charlotte Church, Rupert Everett, John Cleese and Amanda Holden dropping in for what the pre-publicity describes as lively chat and 'a taste of Paul's unique brand of mayhem.' Meanwhile, The Graham Norton Show - 10:35 BBC1 - also returns with Graham welcoming former Doctor Who double-act David Tennant and Catherine Tate. He also introduces music by Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Josh Groban.

In Monty Don's Italian Gardens - 9:00 BBC2 - the popular horticulturist visits some of Italy's most interesting and impressive gardens, from lavish hideaways in the south to luxurious retreats in the north. In the first edition, Monty heads to the capital, Rome, (just in case you thought it was ... I dunno, Foggia, or something) and the immediate surrounding area, where he explores some of the most extravagant gardens ever created.

Saturday 16 April
Well, there's no longer any putting it off. The King is Dead, long live The Hoff. Britain's Got Talent returns tonight - 8:20 ITV. Ant and Dec kick-off another search to find the nation's most impressive exhibitionists, sorry, performers. The format is the same as previous years, but there are two major differences - no Piers Morgan on the judging bench and Simon Cowell is absent until the live semi-final shows. Joining tearful sitcom failure Amanda Holden are the comedian Michael McIntyre (very popular with some but, personally, I find him a bit bland) and US actor, singer and chest-wig model David Hasselhoff, a veteran of America's Got Talent. Together, this extraordinary trio must decide which acts they think are worthy of a place in the live heats - with the dreaded buzzer sounding to anyone deemed not good enough. Which, let's face it, is most of them. At stake is a cash prize of one hundred thousand smackers and the chance to appear at this year's Royal Variety Performance. Which is, of course, nice but I think most of those entering are slightly more interested in the hundred thousand smackers. Two years ago the show was a phenomena thanks to Susan Boyle. Last year it was, merely, a hugely popular TV show. What will this year hold in store? If you care, you can watch it and find out. Personally, I'll be over on BBC4, instead.

If you actually have a functioning brain in your head, then you may prefer a further two episodes of the superior French crime drama series, Spiral - 9:00 BBC4 - which we talked about at length last week. In the latest episodes, the police team manage to remand their prime suspect in custody, but a series of revelations threatens to jeopardise the solidity of their case. Meanwhile, Judge Roban's uncharacteristically hasty actions look set to compromise his impartiality, and Pierre Clement finds himself roped into dealing with an unusual case. Roban eventually transfers the case to the Crime Squad after an alarming number of procedural blunders occur, while the Berthaud's team are due to release the main suspect. Laure's reaction is surprising, but she remains determined to catch the killer, and Gilou finds himself in a spot of bother. That'll be all the cocaine and hookers, probably. Spectacularly fine French drama with English subtitles, which I know is likely to put some people off on cultural grounds but that's a real pity. Give it a go, seriously, you won't regret it.

Elizabeth Taylor: A Tribute - 7:50 BBC2 - is, as the title may just suggest, a programme dedicated to the Oscar-winning actress, who died last month. Friends, family, colleagues and co-stars share their memories and look back on Liz's career, as well as her humanitarian work and a much-publicised personal life. Featuring contributions from Liza Minnelli, Joan Collins, Pierce Brosnan, Angela Lansbury, David Frost, Larry King, Robert Hardy, Barry Norman and Richard Burton's nephew Guy Masterson.

Sunday 17 April
In an episode that was actually made nearly two years ago and should have been part of the last series, Time Team - 5:30 Channel Four - are back at what they do best, Rooting for the Romans. Tony Robinson and the team travel to Bedford Purlieus Wood near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, where a set of Roman building foundations has been spotted poking through the forest floor. Aerial visualisations suggest that the area was home to several structures - but the experts' attempts to find out more are hampered as the diggers struggle to get to grips with the cramped woodland environment. The diggers, quite literally, can't see each other's trenches for the trees and a thick layer of autumn leaves add to the general disorientation. But the team manage to uncover substantial buildings, intricate finds and what looks suspiciously like a statue. Over three days they piece together a tale of Roman industry and trade, and what may be the key to understanding the site: the presence of a fancy bath-house. Oh, they liked their baths did the Romans. That, and marching across a third of the world ruthlessly oppressing the indigenous population.

There also a very welcome repeat of last year's Alex Higgins: The People's Champion - 7:00 BBC2. James Nesbitt narrates a look back at the often controversial life of The Hurricane, the two-time world snooker champion, who was widely regarded as one of the most naturally gifted players in the history of his sport. With contributions by members of his family, as well as fellow snooker greats Jimmy White, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor.

The Hotel - 8:00 Channel 4 - is a new documentary series following life at the Damson Dene, a three-star hotel in the Lake District, as staff try to keep holiday-makers happy during a busy summer season. A man from Essex nervously prepares to propose to his girlfriend, and a fellow guest awaits the results of a test for cancer. Meanwhile, manager Wayne is at a loss as he tries to deal with new assistant Amos, whose enthusiasm greatly outweighs his abilities.

In tonight's episode of Hawaii Five-0 - 9:00 Sky1 - Victor Hesse, the curiously accented Germanic-Irish killer of Steve McGarrett's father resurfaces and immediately makes his presence known, kidnapping poor old Chin Ho and using the detective to demand a ten million dollar ransom. Amid the ensuing chaos, Danno tries to prepare the perfect Christmas for his - really very annoying indeed - daughter. And, as usual, Grace Park stands around looking very pretty and pulling a few karate moves which usually have the effect of making thirtysomething guys think about taking a cold shower. Which is nice. Guest starring the great James Marsters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Torchwood with his cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin and all that. (I hope the cheque's in the post like the Matey®™ was, Deborah?) Yes, I am expecting a sudden influx from all the fan girls over at Cold Dead Seed, why do you think I chose this particular photo to illustrate the episode? If yer actual Keith Telly Topping knows one thing about the naked value of publicity, dear blog reader, it's how to use James Marsters effectively.

Monday 18 April
Yer Keith Telly Topping is, as you may know dear blog reader, currently co-writing a one-man stage musical with the legend that is Alfie Joey. One of the songs includes the following lyric:-
'Claire Sweeney! Claire Sweeney!
For me she has the edge on Sarah Beeny!'
All right, all right, I didn't say it was a good one-man stage musical, did I? I mention all this because Help! My House Is Infested - 8:00 Channel 4 - sees the afore-mentioned Ms Beeny (seemingly in a state of non-pregnancy at the moment although how long that'll last in anyones guess) and a team of pest controllers coming to the aid of homeowners with infestations. They will, they claim, combat problems using the latest technology and gadgets. And, if that doesn't work, you know, using hammers. The series features advice on how to prevent pests inhabiting homes, the dangers they pose, and how they behave. Like pests, usually. Hence the name, I'm guessing.

There's a new drama on ITV tonight which is good news since most of the ones they've made recently have been rather good. The Reckoning - 9:00 - is a two-part story about single mother Sally Wilson's daughter Amanda. She has a brain tumour and will die within months without radical surgery which is only available in America, and at a huge cost. When Sally is invited to attend the offices of London solicitor Frederick Taylor, he tells her she has been left five million pounds by an anonymous benefactor - but a condition of the bequest is that she should kill a man who allegedly deserves to die. Sounds a bit illegal to this blogger but, hey, I'm not a legal expert. Thriller, starring Ashley Jensen, Max Beesley, Sophie Stuckey and Peter Wight. Concludes tomorrow. Looks rather good, this one.

Game of Thrones - 9:00 Sky Atlantic - is a new fantasy drama, based on George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire trilogy of novels. Lord Eddard Stark is torn between his family and an old friend when he is asked to serve at the side of King Robert Baratheon. However, neither man is aware that their country is on the verge of a bitter power struggle that could lead to its destruction. Starring Sean Bean, Mark Addy, Lena Headey and Emilia Clarke.

Alex Polizzi is a curious woman, don't you think, dear blog reader? Somewhat sinister, I reckon. Very cruel earrings. Anyway, The Hotel Inspector returns tonight at 9:00 on Channel Five. Alex decides to visit the First In Last Out, a Seventeenth Century B&B with a pub in Winchester, which has recently had a number of negative reviews. Personally, if I'd've been the management I'd've refused to let her stay there and given her a ruddy good slap for her impertinence but they, seemingly, are more tolerant of interfering busybodies than this blogger. Alex, of course, is a drama queen of extraordinary proportions and promptly refuses to sleep at the B&B after a run-in with a shower room. She then tries to 'help' owner, Jon Sweeney, realise how budget accommodation should not mean low quality, and demonstrates the importance of cleaning. Yeah. I'm still thinking a damned good hard backhander wouldn't go amiss here, personally.

Tuesday 19 April
In The Sex Education Show: Stop Pimping Our Kids - 9:00 Channel Four - Anna Richardson campaigns against the sexualisation of children. And, good for her. In the first programme, she tackles two major high-street retailers that she claims are responsible for selling risqué clothing to youngsters, and arranges a myth-busting workshop to counter some of the rumours circulating in the playground. Dr Radha Modgil also visits the nation's schools to question teenagers about their opinions on sex.

Tonight's episode of EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - is the four thousand one hundred and ninety seventh in the series. Which in an of itself isn't so remarkable much as the fact that someone, somewhere is counting them. A devastated Jack makes a final bid to get Ronnie to tell him the truth. Journalists descend on Walford - and though Mo finds an ingenious way to get them all looking in the wrong direction. But, a local reporter persuades Whitney to give him an interview. Meanwhile, the return of a familiar face delights Kat, and Fat Boy is unnerved by Ashley's gossip.

Two words, dear blog reader, suggest that Military Driving School - 7:30 ITV - might be a programme worth avoiding like it's a contagious disease. And the two words are Jeremy Kyle. The vile and loathsome oily reptile spends twelve weeks at the Defence School of Transport in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, following new drivers assigned to 110 Squadron, part of the Royal Logistic Corps, which trains soldiers for the front line. Why he does this, no one knows. He begins by meeting young servicemen and women at the centre and gets on board flagship vehicle the Mastiff to learn first-hand how it helps save lives in Afghanistan.

The Baby Born in a Concentration Camp - 10:35 BBC1 - is a documentary broadcast to mark the beginning of the Jewish festival of the Passover. The programme tells the story of Anka Bergman, who endured six months of forced labour at Auschwitz during the Second World War, all while concealing the fact she was pregnant from the Nazis. Anka reveals how she survived starvation to give birth to her baby Eva, and the pair - now living in Cambridge - explain how the ordeal shaped their lives.

Wednesday 20 April
Things are starting to settle down on Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV now. And, Neil Dudgeon is looking like he's lived there all his life. Well, he's a middle-aged white man, he would, wouldn't he? When a twenty three-year-old woman is made to look like a bride and drowned in a bath, with a chilling lipstick message on the bathroom mirror, it triggers a spate of ghoulish wedding-themed murders in Great Worthy. The case takes Barnaby and Jones to a donkey sanctuary, a heritage steam railway and a pub run by an ex-policeman and a former brothel madam as they try to identify the killer. Guest starring Pam Ferris and Kacey Ainsworth (formerly EastEnders' Little Mo).

Farewell Liz - 7:30 ITV - is a tribute to the actress Beverley Callard, who left Coronation Street last week after twenty two years pouring pints behind the bar of the Rovers playing the role of Liz McDonald. The programme looks back at the popular character's most memorable storylines and examines how the McDonald family was created. Featuring contributions from fellow soap stars past and present. Narrated by Denise Welch.

We're at the semi-finals stage of MasterChef - 9:00 BBC1. The four remaining chefs - Mad Professor Tim, Big Tom, Riviera Sara and Bolshy Unpleasant Jackie face another set of challenges as they battle for a place in the final three. Cruel wicked svengali John Torode and sly, vicious Velociraptor of the unwary, Gregg Wallace begin by sending the quartet off to Madrid where they will learn a more scientific approach to cooking from a master in the art of molecular gastronomy, Paco Roncero. And, where Jackie will, hopefully, learn how to throw a girly strop in Spanish. That'll be novel. Back in London, they then have to put their new skills to the test when preparing a four-course dinner with a scientific slant for members of the Royal Society. Finally, the four will have to prepare one last show-stopping dish for the judges, who then decide which of the hopefuls is out of the competition. Two episodes then remain before India gets to say, in that husky voice of hers 'the new MasterChef champion is ...' And we can all have a few weeks off before the Celebrity version begins!

Essex Jungle - 8:00 Channel Five - remarkably isn't another show about chavs getting bladdered on Baileys in Romford. Instead, you'll be very happy to know, it's a documentary about people who sell, own and rescue reptiles and exotic animals in Essex. Iain Newby, founder of the Dangerous Wild Animals Rescue Facility, removes a deadly nine foot boa constrictor from a terraced home in Dartford, while a pet shop owner in Leigh-on-Sea feeds a dangerous collection of rattlesnakes. Plus, a reptile enthusiast hopes to find a mate for her bearded dragon. I think I went out with her once.

Thursday 21 April
In A History of Celtic Britain - 9:00 BBC2 - Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) charts the brutal battles that marked the beginning of Roman Britain, discovering evidence of the empire's artillery and its first roads and forts. He examines the rebellion led by the Icini queen Boudicca, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Romans in St Albans, London and Colchester, and learns more about the creation of Hadrian's Wall.

Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell present Long Lost Family - 9:00 ITV. A new series which aims to help people reunite with long-lost relatives. Jennifer Wilson from Rotherham tells of her search for the twin sister from whom she was separated at birth, and Karen Lloyd from Warwickshire discusses how she has spent the past 20 years trying to track her father down. So this is ITV, essentially, doing Who Do You Think You Are? as an extension of Blind Date. I think this is going to be horrible. I think it looks mawkish, trite and manipulative and whilst I'm sure the people taking part will get something out of it I'm not sure if the viewer will.

Tonight's episode of House - 10:00 Sky1 - The Dig is shown in the UK just a matter of a couple of days after its US debut. Thirteen (the gloriously spunky Olivia Wilde) is surprised to see House waiting for her on her release from prison, armed with plans for the two of them for the next few days. But, what was she in for and how did House know about it? Back at the hospital, meanwhile, the rest of the team attempt to treat a science teacher suffering with a severe respiratory illness, and Taub tries to get back into the dating scene. With hilarious consequences, no doubt.

Just as Channel Four have announced that they're stopping making any more of those crass, obvious 'talking head list shows', Channel Five seem to have discovered them with a vengeance. Most Shocking Talent Show Moments - 9:00 is, they claim, a countdown of three hours plus of the most - allegedly - 'memorable incidents' from reality shows and the contestants who created controversy and hit the headlines both on and off the screen. Including Susan Boyle's audition on Britain's Got Talent. Featuring clips from The X Factor, The Apprentice, Strictly Come Dancing and I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!

And so to the news: The owner of the News of the World is to admit liability in a number of cases brought against the paper for alleged phone hacking. News International says it has approached some - although not all - claimants with an 'unreserved apology.' It will also establish a compensation fund, with a view to 'dealing with justifiable claims efficiently.' A News of the World reporter and an ex-news editor were arrested earlier this week over the allegations. The BBC's business editor Robert Peston called it 'an absolutely dramatic development.' He said that the company believed most claims will be settled for less than one hundred thousand pounds each. 'I understand the company's hope would be that in total it will pay out less than twenty million pounds,' he added. There are twenty four active cases and they include claims of breach of privacy brought by the actress Sienna Miller, the former lack of culture secretary Tessa Jowell, football commentator Andy Gray, and the designer Kelly Hoppen among others. News International, which also owns The Times and Sun newspapers, said: 'Past behaviour at the News of the World in relation to voicemail interception is a matter of genuine regret. It is now apparent that our previous inquiries failed to uncover important evidence and we acknowledge our actions were not sufficiently robust.' News International, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, said it would continue to co-operate with the Metropolitan Police inquiry. On Tuesday, the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former news editor Ian Edmondson were arrested on suspicion of having unlawfully intercepted voicemail messages. There were released on bail until September. The latest arrests are the first since the Met Police reopened its inquiry - known as Operation Weeting - into claims that staff at the Sunday tabloid had hacked into the phone messages of celebrities and other public figures. In 2007, the first police investigation into phone hacking led to the convictions and imprisonment of then News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by the paper. Four alleged victims have reached out-of-court settlements with the newspaper, including celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who received a reported one million pounds.

Neil Gaiman has revealed that around thirteen minutes of his upcoming Doctor Who episode had to be left out of the final cut. Gaiman's Doctor Who story, set to be broadcast as episode four when the show returns later this month, stars Suranne Jones as a character named Idris. Speaking to Newsarama at WonderCon in San Francisco, Gaiman revealed: 'What's glorious about the finished episode for me is, I don't look at it going, "Oh my God, I miss that scene" or "I miss this bit" even though I know that there were scenes we shot, the finished episode from the first cut was fifty six minutes long and they had to take it down to about forty three.' He continued, describing the lost scenes: 'Uncle and Auntie, played by Adrian Schiller and Elizabethe Berrington, they were wonderful, they were so funny, they were so brilliant, they had all this great stuff and it's not really there anymore. There's a flavour of it and you can get to see it, but their scenes wound up going because other stuff was more important. But there's no sense that you're going to walk away from the episode going, "Ah, I wish we had more Uncle and Auntie stuff" - you walk away going, I hope, "What a great episode!"' The episode's title, The Doctor's Wife, was announced last week. The author also discussed adapting his script for Doctor Who's budget: 'There’s a lot of CGI. I remember handing in the first draft to them and having a dinner afterwards at Steven Moffat's place where they said, "Look Neil, we love the first draft. It's brilliant, it's funny, it's clever, it's wonderful. Just so you know, each episode of Doctor Who has..." I forget what the exact numbers were, I think they basically said one hundred man-hours of CGI - "You have six hundred and forty!" So there was a level on which lots of things went away.' He added: 'They still wound up essentially taking other episodes out around the back of the bike sheds, beating them up and taking their lunch money and giving it to me. All I know is the finished episode looks beautiful and it has, like I say, it has everything I would have wanted and it takes you places you've never been before.'

ITN has agreed a deal to supply the Independent with video content for its website, following recent similar arrangements with other media groups. Under the deal, ITN will provide UK, world, entertainment, business and financial news clips for the video player on, reports the Press Gazette. The news broadcaster, which produces ITV News and Channel Four News, already delivers video news to the Metro website and the AOL content portal. ITN also supplies video content to the websites of the Torygraph, the Daily Lies, the Daily Scum Mail and Daily Express, along with a range of regional publications. Mark Browning, ITN Productions managing director, said that the Independent 'shares the same news values as ourselves regarding the quality, distinctiveness and accessibility of content.' He added: 'ITN Productions looks forward to [helping] the Independent evolve its multimedia news offering and we look forward to a long and prosperous partnership between our mutual news teams.'

Jon Stewart had his own take on the reason for Glenn Beck's 'transition off' from FOX News in his Comedy Central Daily Show on Thursday: 'Glenn Beck still had the third highest show in cable news. Maybe Fox News thought it would be useful to pick some random talk radio host rehashing all same tired old John Birch Society conspiracy theories to seed ultra-conservative viewpoints into the news cycle, while making the rest of the network seem centrist by comparison. But, he then began to believe his own messianic delusions and became a giant pain in the ass. So they dropped his ass.' For his farewell to Beck, Stewart once again adopted his trademark glasses and chalk boards for an extended spoof, including a clip of the FOX News presenter explaining his departure from the network by way of a comparison with Paul Revere. Stewart wasn't going to let that pass without comment: 'Glenn could've likened himself to any character from the American revolution. But he decided to go with the first and loudest character. And the only real difference between Glenn and Paul Revere is that when Paul Revere told you the British were coming, they were in fact coming.' Stewart himself must be at least a teeny bit sad that Beck is leaving Fox News, given how much material he has provided for Stewart and other satirists over the past couple of years. Perhaps most memorably, in March 2010 the first half of the Daily Show was given over to a fifteen-minute spoof by Stewart of Beck's presenting style and love of complex conspiracy theories.

Bill Pullman has revealed more details about his character in the new series of Torchwood. The Independence Day actor will play convicted child murderer Oswald Danes in the ten-part run, subtitled Miracle Day. He told MIPTV: 'There is something kind of wonderful about this role, in that I climb from a relatively dark, little, nasty corner into a global spotlight, and look to morph myself to accommodate that stage. It's about someone who is recognising the need for a leader and becoming the person he has to become, more out of opportunity, and then waiting to see what happens internally. [Oswald is] not just a villain.' Pullman admitted that he had enjoyed the opportunity to explore his character in depth over the ten episodes. 'I'm in a big part of it,' he explained. 'In that arc over ten episodes, you can make a different kind of character than you can in a two-hour movie.' He added that he is expecting Danes to be killed off in the final episode, but confessed that he is still uncertain of the character's ultimate fate. 'I haven't seen [episode] ten,' he said. 'I don't know how it's going to end, but I have a feeling that the lawyers have determined that I'm going to be gone!'

Meanwhile, John Barrowman has insisted that the show's fourth series will not be toned down for US audiences. The new ten-episode series will be broadcast on BBC1 in the UK and on cable channel Starz in the US. 'Nothing will be toned down for Starz,' Barrowman told Access Hollywood. 'If anything, we're pushing the boat [out] a little bit more.' He continued: 'We have the freedom in the UK to do a lot more things on the main channels, [whereas in the US] you can only do it on cable. The thing that's great about Starz is that we can push the envelope a little bit more.' The actor also suggested that Miracle Day will appeal equally to long-term fans and new viewers. 'As a fan, you can to continue to watch the show,' he explained. 'It picks up where we left off and you can still follow along what's happening. But having said that, [for] the new people who are going to watch it, it's going to be a brand new thing for them. You will be able to start off with this series and feel like you're joining in at the right time, at the beginning of a new show.'

Kate Walsh has admitted that she cringes when she thinks about her first shows on Live From Studio Five. That's all right, love, most viewers cringe when they think about Live From Studio Five. And OK! TV for that matter. Walsh, Melinda Messenger and Ian Wright launched the wretched tea time magazine show in all its gory horror in 2009, but the programme struggled with ratings and was - rightly - savaged by TV critics who described it as being like an afternoon at the genital torturers. Only more painful. Speaking to Celebritain about the opening episodes, she said: 'I have to be honest, I look back at the first few weeks of Live From Studio Five and cringe. Three big personalities trying to get their opinion across, it was loud, chaotic with a lack of structure or control to the chats, and I could see how that could be annoying to the viewer.' She added: 'That being said, the production team who worked on the show were amazing and after the initial period, lots of changes were made to the show and as it ended almost eighteen months later it was totally different. But a lot of viewers had decided it wasn't for them and then it's difficult to get them back.'

A pregnant woman laughed so much while watching an episode of Friday Night Dinner that she went into labour, it has been claimed. She should think herself lucky, a chap once died whilst laughing at The Goodies. The Channel Four sitcom's writer Robert Popper revealed the news when he received a message from the new father on Twitter, the Mirra reports. 'My wife and I sat down to watch Friday Night Dinner and laughed so much her waters broke right afterwards,' the message said. 'He's a little cracker. Thanks for your help getting the whole thing started.' The writer noted: 'I was so shocked I almost went into labour myself.' Channel Four recently ordered a second series of the sitcom, which centres on two young men - played by Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal - who return home every Friday night to see their parents (played by Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter).

The cast of The Only Way Is Essex are alleged to have turned to 'blagging free items' in return for featuring them on the programme. The people featured in the ITV2 series including Lauren Goodger, Sam Faiers and Amy Childs - who allegedly receive just fifty pounds to cover their expenses when filming - have collected tens of thousands of pounds worth of goods, according to the Mirra. However, the paper claims that Goodger could face legal action after a Kia she received failed to appear in the show. 'Lauren's scenes in the Kia keep getting cut,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'She's used it while filming but so far it hasn't appeared in the show. Kia is demanding the car back because they had an unofficial agreement that hasn't worked out.' The insider added: 'There's even some talk of them threatening legal action.' Product placement in shows was allowed by Ofcom from February. However, when the arrangement is unpaid, the programme does not have to display the official P logo.

Annabeth Gish has signed up for a role in Pretty Little Liars. The New York Post reports that Gish will appear in the show's second season. She is expected to play Anne Sullivan, a mysterious therapist who tries to find out the characters' secrets. The show's executive producer Marlene King explained: 'The police wind up thinking the girls are lying about Ian. [So] their parents get together and insist they see someone to deal with these seemingly obsessive thoughts about pinning Allison's murder on Ian. The therapist is going to play a very important part of season two and in the girls' hunt for A.' Gish has previously starred on The X Files, The West Wing and Brotherhood. She also appeared in several episodes of FlashForward.

A ballet production of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland is to air on BBC2 later this month under a strategic partnership between the BBC and the Royal Opera House. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon with music composed by Joby Talbot, has proved a huge hit following its premiere at the Royal Opera House in February. The production will be broadcast on BBC2 on 23 April at 2.30pm, preceded by a documentary exploring the making of the ballet. Under the new partnership, the BBC and the Royal Opera House will co-produce commissions for 2012, including programmes specially created for TV prior to live performances on stage. The BBC will also continue to showcase some of the world's finest opera and ballet, including a series on classical masterworks presented by Royal Opera Music director Antonio Pappano, beginning with Pappano's Essential Tosca on BBC2. Radio 3's relationship with the Royal Opera House will include up to fifteen works being broadcast each year in Opera On 3. The station's Music Matters and In Tune programmes will also reflect the work of both The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera House. Jan Younghusband, commissioning editor of BBC Music & Events, said: 'This is a hugely exciting development for both organisations. We have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years now and this new creative relationship means we will not only continue to bring great performance to the viewers, but co-commission new work with the Royal Opera House especially for TV.' Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, added: 'I'm delighted that we're entering a new stage in our relationship with the BBC to make innovative programmes on both opera and ballet, as well as to show some of our productions on television.'

An Israeli businessman is planning to launch an international TV network to rival Al-Jazeera. Alexander Machkevitch, reputed to be one of the world's richest men, revealed his plan at an annual meeting of Jewish leaders in Washington this week. He said that he and a group of unnamed partners are in the early stages of developing the not-for-profit venture. It had no name, nor any agreed location. Machkevitch said the network's editorial direction would be independent of any government or special interest. A Kazakh-Israeli mining mogul, Machkevitch is ranked at two hundred and ninety seven in the recent Forbes magazine list of the world's richest people, with an estimated fortune of $3.7bn

Comedian Tracey Ullman is returning to the London stage for the first time in twenty years to star in Stephen Poliakoff's new play at the Almeida Theatre. My City, in which Ullman appears as a former school headmistress, is the playwright's first work for twelve years. 'I am thrilled to have been offered this role by Stephen Poliakoff whom I have always admired,' Ullman said. She last appeared on the London stage in the original production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too at the Royal Court in 1992. More recently she appeared in New York opposite Morgan Freeman in The Taming of the Shrew. My City tells of a man who becomes reacquainted with his old primary school headmistress after finding her lying on a park bench. Poliakoff will also direct the play, which runs from 8 September to 5 November. The announcement comes a week after the Almeida Theatre had about more than thirty per cent of its Arts Council funding cut. Ullman is best known for her TV appearances in British sketch comedies A Kick up the Eighties, Three of a Kind and Girls on Top. After moving to the US, she launched her own hit comedy series The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 which spawned The Simpsons as cartoon shorts. She has also appeared in films including Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway and Small Time Crooks. It was also recently announced that the comedian has signed on to comment on the royal wedding for a Canadian news network.

Former Star Trek actor Jonathan Frakes has revealed that he once launched a failed attempt to bring the franchise back to television. Frakes, who played Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, told UGO that his pitch was turned down by CBS and Paramount. 'I had a Star Trek [project] that I developed for TV, and we were told in no uncertain terms that they said no to [a] Bryan Singer television Star Trek [and] they said no to a William Shatner television Star Trek.' He explained: 'They feel at CBS Paramount that they don't want to make the same mistake that's been made before, which was watering down the brand by having a TV show and a movie [out at the same time].' Frakes praised JJ Abrams for avoiding the trappings of 'classic corporate greed' with the new Star Trek film franchise. 'I think what they've done by taking time off before the Abrams Star Trek, and [then] doing it again [before] the second one, is a much smarter business plan,' he suggested. 'Not that I wouldn't love [my project] or any of those shows on the air.' The last Star Trek television series, Enterprise, was cancelled in 2005. The next Star Trek film is expected to begin production this autumn for a release in June 2012.

Channel Four has announced that it will air a documentary about the National Theatre's production of Frankenstein. The play, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, has been a huge success since it opened earlier this year. Frankenstein was also screened live via satellite in cinemas around the world. The Stage reports that Channel Four now plans to broadcast a programme featuring footage from the production's rehearsals. Frankenstein: The Making Of A Myth will also include an interview with the play's director Danny Boyle. Channel Four's arts commissioning editor Tabitha Jackson said: 'What makes great literature great is that it captures a truth about humanity that can still speak to us across generations. Danny Boyle's recent reimagining of Frankenstein gives us a great excuse to interrogate what the truth is.'

Steve Coogan reportedly went to Prime Minister's Questions last week as the guest of Labour MP and former TV presenter Gloria De Piero. But, apparently, he turned up to the mother of parliaments, shockingly, in jeans and without a tie – both severe transgressions of Commons laws. Luckily, he managed to blag a tie from someone (presumably after he'd done a few 'A-ha!'s) and officials ordered him to remain seated to obscure MPs’ views of his offending trousers.

Katie Price has reportedly been compared to Argentinean showgirl Silvia Suller while visiting the country with Leandro Penna. The former glamour model recently spent some time in Argentina with Penna but flew back several days early, scrapping plans to meet Penna's parents over the weekend. According to the Sun, Price has been compared to Suller who has tried her hand at a music career, various reality television programmes, appeared in soft porn and 'become known for her boob jobs.' 'Silvia is the only comparison locals have been making,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'They think Katie is trashy and fake just like Silvia and that she is only famous for her enhanced chest. Argentineans are completely confused about the relationship and don't understand why he would get involved with her.'

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