Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week Thirty Six: Shake That Paranoia!

Former private investigator, jailbird and full-time sleazebag Glenn Mulcaire has reportedly revealed the names of the Scum of the World staff who instructed him to carry out phone hacking, his solicitor has confirmed. When he was, you know, 'just following orders.' For wads of cash. The information was passed in a letter to the comedian Steve Coogan's lawyers in accordance with a court order made earlier in the year. Mulcaire had applied for permission to appeal against the order, which was made in February, but this was denied and he was compelled to pass over the details by Friday of last week. His solicitor, Sarah Webb, from Payne Hicks Beach, said that she could not reveal who the Scum of the World employees were because of 'confidentiality issues.' Schillings, which is representing Coogan, has agreed not to reveal the names - yet - to give Payne Hicks Beach a chance to apply for a court order stopping their release. Mulcaire was ordered to reveal who instructed him to access Coogan's voicemails, as well as those of other celebrities including Max Clifford and Elle Macpherson. He was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages left on royal aides' phones. A spokeswoman for News International when contacted by the Gruniad said that the firm had no comment.

Adrian Chiles's agent has alleged that he spent nine months trying to persuade the BBC not to drop the The ONE Show presenter from the Friday version of the BBC1 magazine programme. Jon Thoday, who represents Chiles and his ONE Show and Daybreak co-host the orange Christine Bleakley, also disputed claims that the presenter's defection to ITV last year was 'about pay.' Thoday said that the whole issue with the BBC was not about staggering greed, that Chiles had been with the show from its 'inauspicious' beginnings and simply had no desire to cut back his involvement in The ONE Show. How ironic, therefore, that it's just been announced that he is soon to cut back his involvement in ITV breakfast flop Daybreak to - wait for it - four days. And, subsequently, no days, one imagines. 'I got a phone call from Jay Hunt [then controller of BBC1] saying we don't want Adrian to do Friday's anymore,' Thoday claimed, speaking in an interview at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday. 'Adrian wanted to do them. It had nothing to do with money, Adrian felt it was his show.' Which it wasn't, it was the BBCs. They were paying for it so, therefore, they can do what they like with it. 'Money wasn't involved in the discussion, it was just someone deciding they didn't like the way things were done. I tried to persuade Jay Hunt to change her mind for about nine months.' Hunt, who has since moved to Channel Four as chief creative officer, decided to drop Chiles from the show on Fridays, bringing in Chris Evans to co-host it with Bleakley. The BBC developed a package to try and keep Chiles - including a chat show, a panel game, The Apprentice: You're Fired! and Match of the Day 2 - only for Chiles to quit in April last year and join ITV to present new breakfast show Daybreak and be the main anchor of the commercial broadcaster's football coverage. Bleakley also quit the BBC shortly afterwards to join Chiles on Daybreak. Thoday, the founder of Avalon, a talent agency and independent production businesses, said that the moving to ITV posed more risk for Chiles's career than staying at the BBC. As, indeed, the subsequently embarrassing disaster that Daybreak has turned into has kind of proved. Which just shows that you shouldn't have been so greedy, matey. The grass isn't always greener where the fivers are. Thoday added that this risk justified the reportedly seven figure pay packet that Chiles received to move to ITV. 'If you move to ITV there are risks involved so you have to pay a lot of money,' he said. On the topic of pay he added that he believed the BBC's move to cut back on talent spending and cap the salaries for big name stars would end up costing the corporation more in the end. 'They can sustain the policy but personally I think it is to the detriment of [their] TV shows,' he said. 'You only have to see Sky throwing money around. Panel shows paying twenty thousand pounds an appearance and what have you.' He added that when stars left - or executives decided to cut back talent on strong programmes such as The ONE Show - that ultimately the BBC would end up paying more to build new formats. 'The cost of replacing a TV show is far greater than paying artists some more money,' Thoday said. 'I believe in protecting the hit. I find the talent pay thing very frustrating.' He did admit when questioned that the delicate position of the BBC as a licence-fee funded organisation put it in 'a uniquely tricky position' over how it is seen to be spending its income. 'It is difficult for the BBC. They are damned if they do, damned if they don't,' Thoday said.

And so to this week's batch of yer actual Top Telly Tips in the area, dear blog reader:

Friday 2 September
For eleven years My Family - 8:30 BBC1 - has chugged along in the middle of the road, happily buffing its awards but looking neither left nor right at faster, edgier comedies which have come and gone in the blink of an eye and never worrying about the glares from irate TV critics who'd been wanting to overtake it for miles. But tonight finally sees the end of the road, the final episode of the sitcom. Not that you'd know it from the straightforward content - Robert Lindsay recently confirmed that the plug was pulled after the episode had been written and produced. Instead Susan and Janey go on a disastrous hen night, Ben babysits grandson Kenzo and Roger's on a blind date. If the line, 'Anyone here looking for a Roger?' makes you guffaw, you'll enjoy it. My Family worked best when it forgot about any pretensions to being anything other than a joke machine. For the last couple of years it's been, frankly, running on empty and the ratings which were once in the higher seven or eight millions have dropped to less than a repeat of Miranda gets. Whether it will be fondly remembered for decades - like a Dad's Army - or quickly consigned to the dustbin of 'do you remember that sitcom with Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker in it? Oh, what was it's name again?' time will tell.

Weird, isn't it? On the same night that My Family, BBC1's old-style sitcom about the comic domestic trials of the dysfunctional middle-class Harper family, quietly - and without much fanfare - shuffles off the edge of the cliff, Outnumbered - 9:00 - BBC1's semi-improvisational and much more realistic domestic comedy about the middle-class Brockman family, starts a new - fourth - series. Over the previous three years the show's young stars have honed their adult-baiting antics to perfection, while the weary, defeated or bemused expressions on the faces of Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis ring ever more true. In tonight's episode, the family are attending Uncle Bob's funeral. 'The important thing to remember is that it's not a sad day,' Sue tries to tell Karen, who very reasonably retorts, 'Well, it is for Uncle Bob!' Ben, meanwhile, insists he's been to a cremation before - except Pete points out that it was actually a hog roast barbecue. Not surprisingly, the vicar (played by dear old luvvie John Sessions) wishes they'd never come.

You can tell PG Wodehouse is a cherished subject for Terry Wogan as he fronts the imaginatively titled tribute Wogan on Wodehouse - 9:00 BBC2. Wodehouse's work rate and exquisite style are lauded by Stephen Fry, Richard Briers (in his garden, reading from The Inimitable Jeeves), Joanna Lumley and Griff Rhys Jones (ie. The Usual Suspects!), as well as numerous biographers and surprise star expert Hanif Kureishi, but Wogan seems as much of a fan as any of them. It's no hagiography - PG's limitations, and his awful error of judgement in agreeing to do radio essays for the Nazis, are covered at length - but a recurrent theme is the sheer pleasure of reading him. There's a good helping of that joy here.

There's a new series of The Million Pound Drop Live - 9:00 Channel Four. Davina McCall presents the quiz show in which contestants can win one million smackers. They are challenged to place large quantities of the cash over trapdoors and face a series of questions, the wrong answers to which will lose them money every time they slip up. Celebrity pairs also compete for their chosen charities during the series.

Saturday 3 September
The latest episode of Doctor Who - 7:00 BBC1 - is called Night Terrors and is written by the usually reliable Mark Gatiss. A child's bedroom is turned into the scariest place in the universe when his cupboard becomes home to every kind of fear imaginable. His parents remain baffled by the problem, so the boy makes a desperate bid for help. When his cries manage to break the barriers of time and space, the Doctor decides to make a house call. Popular family SF adventure, guest starring the great Daniel Mays (sop good in Ashes to Ashes last year), with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.

In 2005, when Doctor Who returned from its decade-long hiatus, it was placed in the schedules opposite Ant and Dec's Saturday Takeaway. Tonight, the two British cultural institutions go head to head yet again. Red or Black? - 7:00 ITV - is a game show broadcast over seven nights, hosted by the cheeky chappies doon the Bigg Market. Contestants guess the outcomes of a series of challenges for the chance to win one million wonga on the spin of a wheel. Each night, a thousand hopefuls gather at Wembley Arena, before being whittled down to eight in the studio. The show closes with two finalists remaining, one of whom could end the night a millionaire. The results are at 9.15pm. Continues tomorrow, and all week. Keith Telly Topping's prediction, most people will be sick of it by about Wednesday.

If you're one of the couple of hundred thousand viewers who got completely enthralled earlier this year by BBC4's broadcast of the third series of the tense French detective drama Spiral (Engrenages) then you'll be delighted to know that the network are having a catch-up session for those who came late to the party. Tonight sees the start of a four week reshowing of the opening series (first shown in France in 2005 and in the UK the following year) - 9:00 BBC4. The detective drama follows the investigation into a woman's murder. The badly beaten body of a young Romanian woman is discovered on a Parisian rubbish dump. Her identity and past life are gradually uncovered as the various parts of the French justice system investigate her death. However, it becomes apparent that her story ties to a network of corruption touching the very people charged with uncovering the truth about her. A public prosecutor is teamed with a hardened police captain and a magistrate to identify a body found discarded in a skip. As the case unfolds, their investigation uncovers deception and political intrigue. A superb ensemble cast which includes Grégory Fitoussi, Caroline Proust, Philippe Duclos, Thierry Godard, Fred Bianconi and Audrey Fleurot star. Followed immediately by episode two. For those who get hooked - and you will - three further series have been commissioned by Canal + in France.

Sunday 4 September
World's Most Dangerous Roads - 9:00 BBC2 - is a curious conceit. Celebrities undertake journeys on some of the most perilous routes in the world. And they do this, dear blog reader, so that you don't have to. Bless 'em. In Alaska, Sue Perkins and Charley Boorman drive along the notorious Dalton Highway, a dirt track originally constructed in the 1970s as a supply road for the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The pair struggle to cope with the Arctic conditions and constant threat of avalanches, but receive help from experienced truckers who teach them some unwritten rules for surviving the road's many hazards. The rules of the road are: keep the CB radio switched on, breaker breaker, don't exceed fifty mph, and when an eighteen-wheel truck comes thundering down the rop roaring  rollercoaster of a road towards you, get out of the way. Personally, I'd like to have seen then trying to do it on motorbikes. Mainly so that I could have written about Sue Perkins with something hot and throbbing between her thighs, admittedly. But, you can't have everything. I mean, where would you keep it?

It's a big night for drama. On one side there's the first of the two part Appropriate Adult - 9:00 ITV. Controversial even before it's been shown - thanks to some scum usual suspect tabloid headlines from people who didn't even bothered to watch the thing before condemning it - this tells the story of how the serial killers Fred and Rosemary West were brought to justice. In 1994 the life of Gloucestershire voluntary worker Janet Leach is turned upside down when she is asked by police to sit in on interviews as an independent safeguard on behalf of a man they have arrested. Within minutes he makes a shocking confession of murder. Lots of them. From then on, Janet is drawn into the centre of the investigation and a complex personal relationship with West, who tells her information about other victims that she cannot pass on to the authorities because of her obligation of confidentiality to him. Starring Emily Watson, Dominic West, Monica Dolan and Robert Glenister.

Meanwhile, over on BBC1 there's a return of the popular period crime drama Inspector George Gently - 8:30. It's (still) 1966 and a schoolgirl's killing brings Gently into the alien world of pop and media celebrity when it turns out the victim's best friend is a rising TV star. Bacchus suspects the dead girl's music teacher, since rumours persist that she was having an affair with him. But when it seems everyone has a different opinion of the girl, Gently must uncover these different faces to get to the truth of her murder. Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly) guest stars in the first of two new stories, with Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby (last seen in a real gamekeeper-turned-poacher role as a psycho killer in Luther).

Monday 5 September
Tonight sees the final episode of the latest series of New Tricks - 9:00 BBC1 - back in its old Monday slot and, comfortably, the BBC's biggest drama ratings grabber. Some things, it would seem, just get better with age. Tonight, the team investigates the killing of a zookeeper, thought to have been mauled to death by a tiger in 2006. When blood found in the victim's lodgings suggests that he was actually murdered before his body was placed in the big-cat enclosure the case is repoened. However, not all the team members are happy about the new case as Brian's animal rights tendencies come to the fore, bringing him into conflict with the zoo's PR people. Alun Armstrong, Amanda Redman, James Bolam and that nice Mr Waterman who sings the theme song star.

How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring - 9:00 BBC2 - is a two-part documentary in which Mishal Husain explores the story of how revolution spread through the Arab world as the Internet and social media were used as tools to help overthrow leaders. In the first edition, she charts events in Tunisia and Egypt, meeting people who led revolts and examining the video footage captured.

Royal Navy: Submarine Mission - 8:00 Channel Five - is a new documentary series following the crew of hunter-killer class submarine HMS Turbulent. Captain Ryan Ramsey and his one hundred and thirty men prepare for a mission that could see them stay underwater for a hundred days - patrolling the pirate-infested waters surrounding the Horn of Africa. And tossing about in their bunks. As it were. But then the plan changes - the Libyan uprising means the sub has to plot a new course towards Tripoli, where she and the crew will protect civilians caught up in the conflict. On a more personal level, one young able seaman is called to a military tribunal before the captain's table.

Tuesday 6 September
Adopting Abroad: Saira's Story - 9:00 BBC2 is a two part documentary following Apprentice's Saira Khan and her husband Steve as they try to adopt a Pakistani orphan in Karachi. The pair must endure hours of rigorous checks and an eight-month wait before learning whether they will be able to welcome a new child to their family. After appearing before an independent panel, they are finally proved. Forced to leave her young son behind with Steve in Oxford, Saira flies to Pakistan in search of a baby. She has no idea how long she might be away or even if she will be given a baby at all. However, the adoption plans are hampered following the 2010 floods in Pakistan, which left twenty million people homeless. Continues Thursday.

As mentioned previously, with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity we're going to be inundated with programmes about the event which, quite literally, changed the world in the blink of an eye. The Twins of the Twin Towers - 10:35 BBC1 - is a documentary telling the story of people whose twin siblings died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. Featuring the accounts of Zachary Fletcher, whose fellow firefighter and brother Andre was killed, and Gregory Hoffman, who was on the phone to his twin Stephen when the second plane hit the towers.

Once upon a time, yer actual Keith Telly Topping used to be a punter who could boast that, on an average year, he'd have maybe six or seven of the CD's nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in his collection. Those days are long gone. In Mercury Prize: Live - 10:00 BBC2 - Jools Holland and Wor Luscious Lovely Lauren Laverne present coverage of the ceremony as the winner of this year's award is announced. Metronomy, Everything Everything, Ghostpoet, Anna Calvi, Gwilym Simcock, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, James Blake, Katy B, Adele, Elbow, Tinie Tempah and PJ Harvey are the twelve acts hoping to succeed 2010 winners the xx, and win the coveted prize for album of the year. Well, at least I've heard of the last four.

In the latest episode of Inside Nature's Giants - 8:00 Channel Four - Mark Evans and Joy Reidenberg travel to Australia to dissect a cassowary, a gigantic bird with a fearsome reputation. The duo explore its elaborate breathing apparatus and investigate the mysteries of the rainforest-dweller's mating call. Also known as 'living dinosaurs,' the creatures can be taller and heavier than a full-grown man, and have five-inch talons that could potentially kill humans.

Wednesday 7 September
Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:00 BBC1 - this week sees Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox tries to find out how far back her family's acting roots go. She also discovers her great-great-grandfather Samson made an important invention in the Nineteenth Century. Born into an impoverished family, he began work at a Leeds textile mill at age eight, but became one of the richest men in Victorian Britain. As the actress's investigations continue, she discovers how her ancestor was involved in a scandal.

There's a fascinating question posed in the latest Horizon - 9:00 BBC2. Are You Good or Evil? In as much as are some people predisposed to be one or the other. An investigation of the work and theories of researchers who have studied psychopathic killers. Professor Jim Fallon talks about how he discovered he had the profile of a psychopath, but explains how the fact he did not become a murderer holds important lessons. Another scientist discusses his belief he has found a molecule related to morality, which is being used by a man to rewrite ideas of crime and punishment.

The origins of Mary Shelley's Gothic novel is examined in Frankenstein: Birth of a Monster - 7:30 BBC4, exploring how the book drew on then cutting-edge scientific developments, radical politics and the author's own turbulent life. Using dramatic reconstructions, the film also explores the importance of the summer the writer and her husband spent with Lord Byron near Lake Geneva at the Maddest English Mad Hatter's tea party of all time. And re-creates Frankenstein's creation as Shelley imagined him - a creature very different from the monster as portrayed by Boris Karloff or Christopher Lee. Narrated by Robert Winston.

Thursday 8 September
Happy Endings - 9:30 E4 - is a new American comedy series about friends who become divided when one of them is jilted at the altar by his bride-to-be. After the wedding fiasco, the group rallies around the groom, while the bride tries to explain her reasons for her actions. Starring Eliza Coupe, 24's Elisha Cuthbert and Zachery Knighton.

As the world is plunged into recession by the Three Families, the Torchwood members find themselves defeated, powerless and wanted - forcing them to strike a bargain with the virry devil himself in Torchwood: Miracle Day - 9:00 BBC1. John Barrowman and Eve Myles star, with a guest appearance from John De Lancie (Star Trek's Q).

In tonight's Coronation Street - 9:00 ITV - Carla is guilt-stricken and decides to visit the hospital, despite Frank's objections, but breaks down when Karl refuses to let her see Stella. Chris sees his chance to spoil Lloyd's surprise date with Cheryl, Sean has bad news for Marcus, and Tommy prepares to come clean about the new girl in Tyrone's life.

After three weeks of nominations, tasks, evictions and Jedward, the nail-biting moment has arrived for the remaining celebrities as Brian Dowling announces which of them has been voted as the public's favourite in Celebrity Big Brother: The Final - 9:30 Channel Five. Be warned, however, Big Brother continues tomorrow, with a fresh set of hopeful members of the public moving in. is there no end to this misery?

And so to the news: Miriam's O'Reilly may have won her age discrimination court case against the BBC. But it appears that she found little sympathy for the plight of older presenters at a TV industry conference on Friday, with broadcasting veteran Nick Ross arguing that he has 'never worked with a minger.' The sixty three-year old former Crimewatch presenter paid somewhat short shrift to O'Reilly's talk of the need for more older female faces on British TV, arguing that being on screen is all about being young and attractive. 'Like it or not, TV is a lookism medium. The fact is that looks are important for boys and for girls,' he said, speaking as part of a panel debate at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. 'In forty years of TV I have never worked with a minger.' Ross, who in 2007 lost his presenting role on Crimewatch after twenty three years amid suggestions his age might have been a factor, said that the 'nature of the business' meant that older performers cannot live in a 'gilded cage' when the industry is awash with youthful talent. He pointed out that he landed his first network TV programme job aged twenty three he took over from a presenter in his 'late sixties.' Earlier this year O'Reilly, fifty three, won an ageism tribunal ruling against the BBC after it sacked her from its flagship rural affairs show, Countryfile. O'Reilly and three fellow female presenters were dropped from the show when Jay Hunt, then the controller of BBC1, moved it to Sunday prime time and hired two thirtysomething presenters in their place. 'The bottom line is we have got to see more older women on TV,' she said. 'They are not being given the opportunity.' However, despite the tribunal ruling O'Reilly found the Edinburgh panel stacked against her with the prevailing argument that broadcasters cannot be held hostage to having to employ older presenters as a result. Former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey, who has helped the careers of older talent bringing back Rolf Harris and choosing Bruce Forsyth to front Strictly Come Dancing, said it would be a 'terrible day for TV' if producers became 'quota driven' and had to tick boxes. 'I worry about the implications and ramifications of the decision,' she added. 'Let's not over-react to this. We have enough forms to fill in at the moment. It will ruin the creativity that makes British TV great.' Heggessey said that she also would not have hired O'Reilly for the new-look Countryfile if she had still been in charge of BBC1. 'All the time in TV decisions are made that are subjective,' she added. 'I wouldn't have put you in prime time, I don't think you are right for it. [Changes] are always the result of a lot of discussion and this thing called gut feeling that something is not right. I don't think it is fair to say I wouldn't support older people on screen. I do understand why the creative people took the decision they did.' O'Reilly pointed out that it was the process the BBC went through – or rather lack of it – that she railed against, not her suitability for the role. 'I wasn't given the opportunity [to apply],' she said. 'If [we] helped make the programme successful enough to move to prime time we should have been considered. We weren't. My career was over in six words: "Her career is mostly radio, no."' Kirsten O'Brien, the former BBC Children's presenter, asked what the tribunal ruling could mean if TV producers became fearful of making changes to older presenting line ups. 'There is a danger people could become frightened to move you on because they are frightened about what happened with Miriam [winning the tribunal ruling],' she said. Of course, from a completely subjective point of view it's worth acknowledging that Miriam's biggest problem was never her age, it was her talent - or lack of it - as her subsequent performances on Crimewatch Roadshow have clearly proved to this viewer at least. Put simply, she's a middle-average regional presenter with, it would seem, delusions of being something more than that. But she probably has a job for life at the BBC now as they're all absolutely terrified of her new bestest friends in all the land at the Daily Scum Mail. So, well done on that score, Miriam you're an inspiration to us all.

As a cosy middle class sitcom Miranda is an unlikely programme to shake the upper echelons of the BBC. But the award-winning Miranda Hart comedy, about to switch from BBC2 to BBC1, prompted discussion by the corporation's most senior executives over a scene involving a penis-shaped chocolate lollipop. Keen to avoid further controversy in the wake of the 'Sachsgate' affair, BBC management undertook a forensic analysis of the episode including whether the confectionery was too realistic and if Hart licked or sucked it. The issue was first raised by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow and brought to the attention of the then BBC Vision director Jana Bennett – number two to BBC director general Mark Thompson – after the sitcom, which was planned for a post-9pm watershed slot, was moved to pre-watershed. 'We had this hilarious meeting with Janice Hadlow where she said "It's just that the penis is a little bit anatomically correct,"' Hart told the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Saturday. 'We just laughed so much, it was the most bizarre meeting.' The BBC's head of in-house comedy, Mark Freeland, revealed that the topic was raised in a meeting with Bennett amid concern that it broke editorial guidelines and would be unsuitable for a family audience. The scene was eventually re-shot with the lollipop less prominent. 'We had to discuss whether the shot was a lick or a suck,' said Freeland. 'All of us were thinking with all this education [we had] did we really believe this was what we would be doing.' Freeland said the pilot episode of the show also featured a 'pair of comedy titties' which would not have made the cut in a pre-watershed slot. 'The great thing about Miranda is that everyone can watch it,' added Freeland. 'The biggest crime in comedy is an embarrassed family.' Written by and starring Hart, Miranda has been the BBC's most successful new sitcom of recent years with a hatfull of awards and more than four million viewers on BBC2. The third series will debut on BBC1 later this year. Hart said she did not feel any need to change the show despite the switch of channels, but admitted she did feel the pressure to deliver bigger audiences. 'Editorially we don't have to change anything because it is [still] pre-watershed,' said Hart. 'I am trying not to think about what kind of difference it could make because it is just another thing to get nervous about. But you do expect it to get two or three million more viewers. I don't read reviews but I do ask what the ratings are simply because you don't want to go from four million to two million the following week for obvious reasons.'

Peter Fincham has insisted that Simon Cowell's relationship with ITV is not 'temperamental.' ITV's director of television told journalists at the Edinburgh TV Festival that the broadcaster's relationship with The X Factor supremo is 'enormously fruitful.' Long before Cowell's departure from his on-screen role on the talent show, tabloid reports suggested that the music mogul was 'at war' with ITV. However, Fincham has said: 'Simon was in the semi-finals of Britain's Got Talent. Our relationship with him is an enormously fruitful one and will continue to be so. It's not just Simon on screen, it's Simon in different disguises. We're delighted with [this year's] X Factor launch. He's really not a temperamental character. We just had the joint biggest launch we've ever had. He's delighted about it. He doesn't need to sit on the panel.'

The television industry is 'quite corrupt' in the way it deals with people who take part in reality shows, according to a Channel Four commissioning executive. Tina Flintoff, the Channel Four features commissioning editor, said that while TV is 'more honest that it's ever been' in some areas, 'there's no point denying it's not a corrupt business. Television is quite corrupt and we are all guilty of it,' Flintoff added. Her comments came during a session on reality television and exploitation at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Flintoff and other panellists explored the legal and ethical decisions behind observational documentaries and structured reality shows such as ITV2's The Only Way is Essex and Channel Four's Made in Chelsea. Presented with a hypothetical observational documentary about a circus family called the Murdochs and a series of dilemmas and interventions by panellists posing as reckless producers, Flintoff was asked by Channel Four director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove how far she would push ethical and legal boundaries to ensure a hit show. When asked about using sex scenes filmed by hidden cameras in bedrooms, which feature in MTV's Jersey Shore, she said that 'as long as everyone is aware' the cameras were there, 'that's absolutely fine.' Discussing whether or not sex sells, Flintoff added: 'Yes, very much. The Only Way is Essex and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding without love stories, sexy girls and boobs would not have rated as well.' BBC commissioning editor Harry Lansdown said that many documentaries from TV's early years were 'exploitative' in the way they dealt with and portrayed contributors. 'We are more honest than ten years ago. Shows like The Only Way is Essex have helped,' Lansdown added. Channel Four lawyer Dominic Harrison said producers and commissioners 'have to educate themselves' about legal boundaries and be honest with participants. 'Some people love entertainment confections but it's about letting the audience know what they are getting,' Harrison said.

Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes has claimed that the BBC would have ruined the popular period drama Donwton Abbey. The Oscar-winning scriptwriter praised ITV for resisting the temptation to meddle with the show and allowing him to fully execute his vision. 'ITV wanted us to make our own show. That wouldn't have happened at the BBC,' he told the Mirra who, of course, brown-tongued that into an agenda-soaked headline. 'So I raise a glass to ITV.' Fellowes went on to describe Downton Abbey as 'a posh soap opera,' making comparisons with one of ITV's other highly-rated serial dramas. 'I live for Corrie,' he confessed. 'Like them, we tell endless stories about people to whom things happen until the audience doesn't want to see them any more.'

Sherrie Hewson is to join ITV sitcom Benidorm show 'insiders ' have allegedly suggested. The actress and presenter is best know these days as one of the regular gossips on Loose Women however in the 1970s and 80s Hewson was a regular in comedy programmes including the BBC's Russ Abbott sketch shows. She also formed a popular comic double act with Ken Morley as Reg and Maureen Holdsworth in Coronation Street during the 1990s. Now, building on Sherrie's comic past, hit comedy drama Benidorm is rumoured to have hired her to appear as a new forthright hotel manager named Joyce Temple-Savage in the next series. 'I have watched and loved it from the very beginning,' she said of the show in a statement, adding, 'My character is so brilliantly written that I can’t wait to start filming.'

On Thursday afternoon, Libyan rebels were filmed chanting 'Sky News, Sky News' during Alex Crawford's live report, fifty miles from Colonel Gaddafi compound in Tripoli. 'They like Sky News, Kay,' said Crawford sounding as surprised as everyone in this country at this revelation.
Poor deluded Arabs. See, that's what forty years of living in a repressive society gets you - a low quality threshold.

The family of the late actor Pete Postlethwaite have attended a ceremony to name a drama studio in his honour. The star's widow Jacqueline Morrish and son William were among the family members at the Postlethwaite Studio in the Pyramid Arts Centre in Warrington. Mrs Morrish said: 'I understand why he means so much to everybody in Warrington and I think it's lovely.' The Brassed Off actor was born and grew up in the Cheshire town. He died of cancer in January at the age of sixty four. Postlethwaite was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for his role in In the Name of the Father and is also remembered for films including The Usual Suspects and Jurassic Park. Postlethwaite's cousin Joe Lawless, a headteacher, recalled how the actor would take a string of co-stars to his mother's house in Warrington for Sunday lunch because he was proud of his roots in the town. Lawless said: 'I could give you a roll of honour of all the people who had Pete's mum's Sunday roast.' He added: 'He was determined, he was articulate, he was driven for perfection but he was also a very affectionate, a very loving, a very polite and kind person.' The studio in the council-run arts centre is used for training, therapy and rehearsals in the arts. Warrington Borough Council leader Terry O'Neill said it would help young performers. 'If we can put something in place where we can remember Pete and give a chance for local kids to do what Pete did, they may go on to great things,' he said.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have a staggeringly loud behemoth slap of stoned sonic-groove fourth generation Merseybeat from Apollo Four Forty. Get down and dirty, baby.