Monday, August 29, 2011

Describe An Arc Of Your Own

After the high of Saturday night's ten million plus audience for The X Factor it was back down to earth with an undignified muffled crunch for ITV twenty four hours later. Their Sunday evening schedule of Joanna Lumley's Nile (1.7m), David Jason's Great Escape (2.1m) and the final episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us (1.9m) gave the channel an overnight primetime audience share of just 8.2 per cent, their lowest ever. (The channel's previous lowest was 9.5 per cent in August 2009.) Ironically, crowned earlier that day as 'Channel of the Year' at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, the brighter side had the fourth highest primetime audience share for the night out of the five main channels, only managing to beat Channel Five and being outperformed by both BBC2 and Channel Four. Frankly, the forthcoming Red Or Black?, Sunday night X Factor episodes, and the returns of Downton Abbey and Doc Martin can't come quickly enough for ITV. By contrast, it was a terrific night for BBC2 - even with Top Gear having finished its summer run. Dragons' Den pulled in 2.83m and the much-trailed - and excellent - David Hare drama Page Eight getting a whopping 3.9m. The channel's total primetime audience share was just over twelve per cent. Channel Four also scored well in the nine o'clock slot with their premier of the movie Rush Hour III getting 1.86m. Their primetime audience share was 10.2 per cent. BBC1 won the night easily with Britain's Hidden Heritage (4.28m), Countryfile (5.62m the highest audience of the night), Ocean Giants (4.08m) and Match of the Day (4.1m, with an audience peak of 5.1m in the first half-hour watching The Scum being The Shit 8-2). On Channel Five, Celebrity Big Brother was the only programme to top two million viewers (2.08m). Given that Countryfile's five and a half million was the highest rated show of the night, that certainly puts The X Factor and Doctor Who's overnights from the evening before into sharp perspective.

Doctor Who's Matt Smith hopes that a future episode will be filmed in 3D. The actor said that the fiftieth anniversary of the popular family SF drama, which he previously emphasised should be 'an event,' could be the perfect opportunity. Speaking to Bang Showbiz, Smith revealed: 'I'm interested in all the 3D stuff. If it could be filmed for 3D TV that would be fun, especially with Doctor Who. 'I love making Doctor Who and I get to be part of that fiftieth year which they'll do something mental for. You know it will be brilliant.' However, Smith admitted that the BBC may not have the budget to screen a 3D special, cautiously adding: 'But it's very expensive. I don't know how they'd do it.' The twenty eight-year-old actor also admitted that he is unaware of how the next series of Doctor Who will be scheduled. Smith explained: 'For me, it's just that I know that I'm going to shoot fourteen episodes, of which I'll be in all of them. How they'll actually schedule it, I don't know. But all I know is that we start in February.' Showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat recently attempted to clear up confusion sparked by BBC1 controller Danny Cohen in June over whether or the drama will be broadcast next year. Last week, Moffat revealed that Doctor Who would be shown 'later' in 2012, and insisted that rumours of a reduction in the number of episodes per series were untrue.

The football pundit Tony Cascarino has, reportedly, sparked 'outrage' by describing a player as having 'a holocaust' of a game. At least, on Twitter if not actually anywhere that actually matters. Cascarino made the comment on Sky Sports News during Manchester United's game against Arsenal, which saw the North London team soundly beaten 8-2. Which was, of course, funny. Discussing the defender Armand Traoré's performance on the pitch, Cascarino said: 'Poor Traoré at right-back is having a holocaust because he's finding himself against Nani, who's literally running him from everywhere and Arshavin's just not tracking his runners.' Angry fans immediately responded to his comment on Twitter. because, of course, as we all know, Twitter is now the arbiter of the worth or otherwise of all things. At least, according to some pondscum newspaper reporters who seemingly can't be bothered to get off their arses and actually do some real reporting but rather sit in their office scanning the Internet for stuff that makes half-a-dozen cretins irate to create their next 'Shock! Horror! Pictures!' story. One Twatterer - or whatever it is that these people are called - wrote: 'Tony Cascarino should be sacked on the spot. He said an Arsenal defender was having a "holocaust." Appallingly ignorant.' Another social networker added: 'I can't believe he said that!' A third observed: 'Looks like Tony Cascarino could be the next ex-pro on the persona non-gratis [sic] list after that on air comment.' Err, I think you mean non-grata there, matey. Never use Latin on the Internet unless you know what you're doing, or it'll just end in tears. A clip of the incident, broadcast during the Old Trafford match, of course, quickly appeared on YouTube. Another micro-blogger branded the comment 'horrendous,' adding: 'I hope Tony Cascarino is dealt with appropriately.' But, what is 'appropriate' in this case, young man? Having his 'nads smeared in pear juice and then let loose the bees? Sky Sports News said that the presenter Natalie Sawyer - who can, apparently, walk in a straight line and talk at the same time - had apologised straightaway for Cascarino's remarks. Which she did indeed, although with a look on her face like she'd just shat herself. It added in a statement: 'Tony Cascarino made his comments in the heat of the moment. An immediate apology on behalf of Tony and Sky Sports was made on air as soon as possible for any offence caused.' As well as being a Sky Sports pundit the forty eight-year-old former Chelsea and Republic of Ireland striker has written for The Times and presented for talksport radio.

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss have claimed that they do not worry about upsetting fans. Expect someone to start whinging about that on a Twitter near you anytime soon, dear blog reader. In a joint interview with Deadline, the pair insisted that they are 'more concerned with making a good show' than satisfying fans of George RR Martin's original novels. 'As far as pressure goes, we put our careers on the line with this series,' they said. 'After nearly six years invested, if the show had failed we would have thrown away a hefty portion of our working lives.' Benioff and Weiss also suggested that Game of Thrones appeals to viewers who were not previously interested in fantasy. 'You meet and hear about people who haven't engaged with the genre in the past who love the show,' they said. 'That is hugely gratifying.' Asked to pitch the HBO drama's upcoming second season, they spoke of: 'More characters. More locations. More dragons. Less sleep. Less Ned. Less frequent bowel movements.' Game of Thrones will add a number of new actors to its cast next season, including Natalie Dormer, Gwendoline Christie, Carice van Houten, Stephen Dillane, Liam Cunningham, Gemma Whelan, Ben Crompton and Nonso Anozie. Tom Wlaschiha, Roy Dotrice, Hannah Murray, Robert Pugh, Michael McElhatton, Patrick Malahide and Salladhor Saan are among the other actors confirmed to appear on the show.

Sky News foreign correspondent Alex Crawford has fiercely defended the organisation's editorial independence while recounting her experiences of reporting from Libya. During a session at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, chair Jon Sopel appeared to suggest that Crawford and her colleagues were 'Murdoch reporters' as he prefaced a question on the phone-hacking scandal. But the Sky correspondent, speaking via a live satellite link from Tripoli, rejected the idea out of hand. She responded robustly: 'We do not consider ourselves Murdoch journalists. We are an independent news organisation, there is no Murdoch influence.' Which is a very interesting thing to say about the people who pay your wages. Crawford added that she had only met Rupert Murdoch once and she 'accused him of nepotism' for appointing his son James as the chairman of BSkyB. The correspondent spoke candidly about her experiences of reporting from the frontline in Libya and, particularly, on her rival-beating account of the rebel assault on Tripoli last week. Asked why Sky News sometimes trumps competitors - including the BBC and ITN - to the punch, she said that the organisation is 'very small' with a 'flat hierarchy' meaning that decisions are made quickly. 'We started off as rebels in the industry. We have a "we'll prove them all wrong" approach to our work,' Crawford explained. But she also opined the values of securing a story that 'can change lives' and revealed that sometimes 'the normal rules of engagement' are dropped and the 'fiercely competitive' news organisations help each other out. Crawford gave the example of how ITV News' international editor Bill Neely helped her 'smuggle' tapes out of Zawiya by texting the location of tanks on the route out of the city. She also spoke about being a woman and a mother in the industry and admitted this had been a disadvantage when trying to become a foreign reporter. 'I got a lot of comment and a lot of criticism when I went to meet the Taliban and it's insulting. There are dangers everywhere,' she said.

Absolutely Fabulous will celebrate its twentieth anniversary with three specials on BBC1, it has been announced. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley will return to their roles as international PR guru Edina Monsoon and sex-crazed magazine editor Patsy Stone in the award-winning sitcom. Original cast members Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield and Jane Horrocks will also star in the three thirty minute episodes. Absolutely Fabulous was first broadcast in 1991 and finished with a special episode entitled White Box in 2004. The new specials will be set in the present day, where Eddy and Patsy are still working in the PR and magazine businesses. In the first episode, fans will 'rejoin the beloved ensemble in the midst of a life-changing experience for one,' while the final third episode will feature Eddy and Patsy's own special influence on the London 2012 Olympics. 'It's great that we are able to celebrate our twentieth birthday with all the original cast. Like a good bottle of champagne we hope that we have got better with time without losing any of our sparkle,' said Saunders. 'Last week when we started filming in dear old West London, it was as if nothing had changed. It was raining. Nevertheless, we are so happy to be working for an audience that has grown just a tiny bit older like us, but is still willing to let us fall over on TV in the name of PR.' BBC Comedy executive producer Jon Plowman added: 'Viewers have been fantastically loyal in their devotion to our show, so we're really thrilled to say that it's coming back for three new shows to celebrate our twentieth anniversary. All of the originals who are back together again are still truly absolutely fabulous and the new adventures of Edina, Patsy, Saffy, Bubble and Mother, plus a few surprising guests, will be a real treat for viewers.'

More Comic Strip Presents… episodes are in the pipeline following the revival of the comedy brand for a new Tony Blair spoof. Delegates at the Edinburgh International Television Festival this weekend were given a sneak peak at the new Channel Four film The Hunt For Tony Blair, which reunites the team for the first time in six years. But writer Peter Richardson revealed that other films were in the pipeline, saying: 'I think we're already planning more stuff for Channel Four.' The next will see a return to the Enid Blyton spoof which launched the series on Channel Four's opening night in 1982. Richardson said: 'I think we're already planning more stuff for Channel Four. Five Go To Rehab, we've already started working on. The Famous Five thirty years later. They all bump into each other and think it's a hotel. That will just be a one-off.' The sixty-minute Hunt For Tony Blair will star Stephen Mangan as the former Prime Minster, a deranged serial killer on the run who is seduced by Lady Thatcher. A host of Comic Strip regulars play political figures including Jennifer Saunders as Thatcher in the style of Bette Davies in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Nigel Planer is said to steal the film as a vampiric Peter Mandelson while the cast also includes Harry Enfield as Alistair Campbell, Still Game's Ford Kiernan as Gordon Brown and Morgana Robinson as Carol Caplin. An important last-minute edit to The Hunt for Tony Blair, is rumoured to be nothing to do with any legal issues – at least 'not yet,' according to Richardson – but rather the spelling of Gordon Brown's Scottish constituency of Kirkcaldy, which appears in the comedy's joke postscript. 'You've spelt it wrong,' Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark told Richardson on the way out of its world premiere in Edinburgh. Other than that, it was entirely accurate.

Malcolm McDowall has reportedly joined the cast of Syfy's upcoming remake of the science fiction classic The Philadelphia Experiment. The network have ordered a remake of the 1984 original film, about the mythical World War II-era US Navy experiment which rendered an entire ship invisible. Entertainment Weekly reports that the Clockwork Orange star has been cast in the role of the scientist who originated the experiment. McDowall will be joined by Kyle XY actor Nicolas Lea, Sanctuary stars Ryan Robbins and Emilie Ullerup and veteran actor Michael Paré. The remake will move the film's setting into the modern day, as a team of scientists attempt to replicate the original experiment with disastrous consequences. McDowall recently confirmed that he will reprise his role as cult leader Brett Stiles on the fourth season of The Mentalist.

DB Woodside has reportedly signed up for a recurring role on NBC family drama Parenthood. The Hollywood Reporter has claimed that Woodside will portray Joseph Prestige, an Ivy League graduate and potential love interest for Joy Bryant's character Jasmine. Woodside's character will appear for five episodes over the show's upcoming third season, causing problems in Jasmine's relationship with Crosby, played by Dax Shepard. The actor is best known for his recurring role in 24 (as the second president Palmer), as well as playing Principal Wood on season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Woodside most recently appeared on The CW's cheerleader series Hellcats, which was cancelled back in May. The new season of Parenthood will also feature guest appearances from Rosa Salazar, Brittany Belt and John Corbett.

How not to pitch to BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow: 'I was once pitched to when I was standing naked in the shower at Highbury baths - by a very keen female indie I might add. It wasn't my favourite experience,' Hadlow told a session at the Edinburgh International TV festival. A fully clothed Peter York made his own pitch. The broadcaster and co-author of The Sloane Ranger Handbook had a new take on class diversity, asking the BBC2 controller: 'Why aren't there more programmes about rich people for rich people?' Cue chuckles.

Channel Four chief executive David Abraham has said that the next decade in broadcasting will be all about programme makers getting 'connected' with viewers, as broadcasters search for ways to turn convergence into cash. Speaking at Edinburgh this weekend, Abraham said that the last ten years had been about broadcasters 'dealing with the fragmentation' of the digital multi-channels, video on-demand and personal video recorders. But he now feels that the supposed 'death of the TV' has proved a misnomer, as linear viewing has grown to record levels and most on-demand consumption is for catching up on the live TV schedule. Abraham said that the next ten years will be about making more 'connections' with viewers around programming, utilising the possibilities of social media, digital platforms and rich audience data. He said that the goal is getting more 'connected' with viewers, pointing to the recent series of Embarrassing Bodies, which used Skype for a remote diagnosis of medical problems, resulting in three to four hundred thousand people using the Microsoft-owned IP telephony service to contact the show. For The Inbetweeners Movie premiere, Channel Four asked a fan of the E4 show to produce red carpet reports for streaming online. Then there was The Million Pound Drop, which has won awards and plaudits for its accompanying online game enabling viewers to play along and engage. Abraham was speaking at a session discussing one of the hot topics at this year's festival - 'convergence.' Broadcasters are increasingly courting social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter - because it's the arbiter of all things, remember - to 'gain new revenue streams around TV shows.' In other words, to wallow in their own crapulence whilst making vast wads of wonga. From glakes. The panel also included Christian Hernandez, the head of international business development at social networking giant Facebook, the lack of culture minister the vile and odious rascal Vaizey and Fru Hazlitt, ITV's managing director of commercial and online. Hazlitt said that people like to share programming experiences, usually the big live moments such as The X Factor final, and now they can follow the conversation in more ways than ever via social networks and forums. However, she said the 'biggest threat' in the converged world 'is to assume consumers will just take what you give them,' meaning there has to be intelligence in the way ideas are delivered. Hazlitt said that UK broadcasters have failed to fully bring together the traditional and digital strains of their business, whereas companies in the US have embraced digital convergence, meaning subscription entertainment firm Netflix is now able to compete alongside the cable TV giants. She said that it is vital for broadcasters to 'create a format relationship that goes way beyond the legacy,' which means bringing together the commercial, the digital and the social to create campaigns that strike a chord with viewers. But the biggest hurdle facing broadcasters is how to turn the growing trend for convergence into hard cash, and Hazlitt admitted that it is still unclear 'just what content people are willing to pay for,' including micro-payment transactions for video on-demand content and mobile applications for hit shows. Broadcasters have instead made more progress in securing sponsorship deals that tap into the converged world. ITV plans to launch a multiplatform promotion for new game show Red Or Black? involving a play-along game on the Jackpot Joy website that is designed to increase integration with the show, while also featuring Red Or Black? sponsor Domino's. The commercial broadcaster recently ran a campaign with Argos for Emmerdale, in which the drama featured a particular item available in the Argos catalogue. Argos then ran adverts asking viewers to find the item in their catalogue and enter online to win ten thousand smackers worth of credit at the store. Hazlitt said that she never thought anyone would enter, but forty thousand people did, showing the potential reach of campaigns such as these. The recent series of Britain's Got Talent also featured a tie-in with Marks & Spencer, involving parents sending in videos of their gifted youngsters to appear in a new advertising campaign for the retail chain. Facebook's Christian Hernandez said that the social network is increasingly becoming a platform to bring together TV shows and brands. He claimed that during Champions League games there was an upsurge in 'Likes' on the Facebook page of sponsor Heineken. Endemol has introduced social voting with broadcaster RTL for the series of Big Brother in Germany, involving fans purchasing Facebook credits to vote on the eliminations (with Facebook taking thirty per cent and the content owner getting the remainder). Hernandez said that ten per cent of the voting on the show now comes through Facebook, suggesting a growing demand and potential revenue stream from 'social voting' on popular programmes. Discussing future developers in the TV industry, the vile and odious rascal Vaizey said that it is 'not the government's job to predict shifts or trends.' Which is true. it's also not the government's job to tell judges what sentences they should be handing out but they've been doing plenty of that recently. Is there anything else that isn't the government's job? What it can do, the vile and odious rascal Vaizey claimed, was to 'give more freedom to those who do.' He said that the proposed new Communications Bill will include measures to free up some of the regulation around the industry, but admitted that the government is 'stuck in an analogue world trying to push forward legislation in a world that is changing week by week.' Abraham said that one area where regulation should be changed is in the access to data on the viewing habits of consumers. The Channel Four chief executive has set aside a multi-million pound investment fund for compiling a database that can 'defend the power of TV' against the threat of the Internet and other competing entertainment sources. Abraham, who joined the broadcaster last year from UKTV, also repeated calls for platform holders, such as Sky - who put free-to-air content behind paywalls - to make their viewing data more widely available. In a recent Royal Television Society speech, Abraham expressed concern that pay-TV firms could be gaining commercial benefit from the audience data drawn from content that is free-to-air, or even public funded, rather than sharing the information with other broadcasters. The vile and odious rascal Vaizey said that the government is willing to 'talk about' the issue, while media regulator Ofcom is also said to be monitoring the situation.

Speaking of Abraham, he was rather more settled in his role with the broadcaster at this year's festival than he was last year, when he had been in the job for just a matter of months. 'This time last year I was shitting myself,' revealed the former UKTV man with admirable candour. Perhaps we will have to wait until next year's festival to find out what he was really thinking at this one.

Belfast-born comedian Frank Carson - it's the way he tells 'em - has had an operation for stomach cancer. He is said to be feeling 'fine' and is waiting for the all-clear, a spokesman for the comic said. Carson, eighty four, cancelled dates across the UK after he was diagnosed earlier this year. 'He had an operation which was a great success and he will be back working again,' the spokesman added. 'They have removed it and he had a test on Friday and he is waiting for the all-clear.' Carson should have been appearing in Blackpool this week for a stage version of his 1970s hit The Comedians. His place in the show was taken by former Catchphrase presenter and fellow Irishman, Roy Walker. When, at the first gig, somebody shouted 'you're not Frank Carson,' Walker replied 'say what y'see now, say what y'see.' Carson became a popular performer on Irish television before moving to England to work as a stand-up club comedian. He had success on shows such as The Good Old Days and Opportunity Knocks but is perhaps best known for The Comedians.

Rowan Atkinson's older brother has tried to take some of the credit for the Mr Bean character. Rodney Atkinson, whose famous sibling Rowan created the comedy character with writer Richard Curtis, said that he used to encourage his brother to create a 'nerd' character, but Rowan wasn't interested. Rodney told the Daily Torygraph: 'I tried for years to get Rowan to take the "nerd on a park bench eating his lunch" character, which he used in his one-man show, and expand it into a series which would "go international." This was the early seventies and I was at the time experimenting with British comedy as a teaching aid for German students at the University of Mainz. I noted that comic action - without the sound - was a good vehicle to get German students to give a [recorded] English running commentary on the action. It proved an excellent analytical teaching aid. The universal nature of silent comedy and its international appeal was obvious and Rowan had created the basic character already.' Rodney said that when he made the suggestion, his sibling responded with 'a grunt.' He said: 'Whether he took my persistent advice or made his own mind up I can't say. I received no royalty.'

A diner in Cambridge threatened to attack the staff of a local pub after they served him what he considered to be a 'below par' beef and onion sandwich. Fifty four-year-old Clive Davies vented his frustration with the food on offer at the White Horse to employees at a nearby grocery store, showing them a seven-inch blade that he claimed he would use on those responsible for his disappointing dish. Staff then contacted police and Davies was apprehended at another local tavern, the Cambridge News reports. Davies this week appeared in Cambridge Crown Court to plead guilty to threatening and abusive language, possessing a bladed article in a public place and possession of cannabis. His lawyer claimed that he had been struggling to cope with the death of his girlfriend in a road accident last year and had entered the grocers 'mumbling under his breath about how he was angry at the landlord at the pub after being served a below par sandwich.' He was sentenced to a twelve-month community order with supervision and alcohol treatment requirements, a four-month curfew and a concurrent twenty eight-day curfew for cannabis possession for the incident in May.

A signed copy of the Beatles single 'Please Please Me' has sold for nine thousand smackers at auction in Liverpool. The 'very, very rare' 1963 Parlophone red label 45 was sold by a local lady who had asked all four members of the group to sign it after watching them at the city's Cavern club as a teenager. The Beatles were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might have heard of them. They can be seen, right, captured during an intimate moment in London as they raced off in search of the hooligan who had just cut off the end of George Harrison's tie. Other items to be sold at the annual Beatles memorabilia auction included a cap once owned by alcoholic Scouse wife-beating junkie John Lennon - during his 'trying to look and sound like Bob Dylan' phase - which fetched three thousand two hundred quid, and the door of number thirty eight Kensington - where the band first recorded in 1958 - which went for two thousand three hundred pounds. Two grand for a frigging front door? Some people really do have more money than sense. Speaking of the moment the seller of the single brought it to him, Stephen Bailey, manager of the Liverpool Beatles Shop, told the BBC: 'It was just a local lady with a signed record asking: "Is this worth anything?" I said: "Yes, that's worth several thousands of pounds." And here we are, nine thousand pounds later. People often wander into the shop asking: "Is this worth anything?" There is still massive attraction for Beatles memorabilia. There are still people willing to pay fantastic prices.'

It's fascinating to speculate how much a signed copy of today's actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day will fetch in a couple of decades. I doubt The Blue Aeroplanes will command those sort of prices (although, you never know). Either for the original, or the - superior - remix for that matter.