Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baby Said She's Had It With Me

As rumoured some days ago, BBC Worldwide is to sue an Italian television network owned by Silvio Berlusconi over claims that it has copied Strictly Come Dancing. A hearing is due to take place on Friday about a new show called Baila!, which is set to debut on Mediaset's Canale Five later this month. BBC Worldwide contends that it copies Strictly's format, which has been called the most successful reality format in the world. Mediaset has denied the accusations. In a statement to BBC News, Mediaset said: 'This is perhaps the first time in the history of television that an accusation of plagiarism is levelled against a programme that hasn't even yet been broadcast. It will be the judge to make the final decision, but Mediaset remains convinced that Baila! is a different programme to the BBC's format and that of Rai's Dancing With The Stars. We simply want the opportunity to show this to the public as well.' Strictly Come Dancing, which pits celebrity amateurs against each other in a weekly ballroom dancing competition, has been sold to more than thirty five countries. In many of them, including the US version, it is known as Dancing With The Stars. An authorised Italian version is already run by another broadcaster, Rai, which took Mediaset to court in Rome over the format earlier this year. A separate hearing for that case has been scheduled to take place on 23 September. Mediaset contends it based its programme on a different format - Mexican show Dancing For A Dream - which has become renowned for its racy, sexualised dance routines. As well as Mediaset, BBC Worldwide has also accused Televisa Mexico and Endemol, the company producing Baila!, of being in breach of copyright. 'It is very important to BBC Worldwide and its international licensees that the format is protected from infringement,' a BBC Worldwide statement said. Baila! features celebrities partnered with members of the public, while Dancing With The Stars features celebrities paired with professional dancers.

Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart have been announced as the hosts for The BT British Olympic Ball. The pair will front the fundraising event for Team GB ahead of the London 2012 Olympics on Friday 7 October at Kensington Olympia. Strictly Come Dancing contestant and impressionist Rory Bremner will also take part in hosting duties on the day. Rappers Tinchy Stryder and Dappy will perform on stage, while Sir Tom Jones has already been previously announced as the headlining act. Qi host and national treasure Fry said: 'I am absolutely delighted to be involved with this year's BT British Olympic Ball as it plays such a crucial role in providing our athletes with the ultimate preparation, from training camps to medical and logistical support. 'The funds raised will help to ensure we can all rejoice as we watch Team GB's athletes unite the nation with their inspirational performances next summer.' Meanwhile, Hart said: 'I feel very honoured to have been asked to present the BT British Olympic Ball. It's lovely to feel in some way part of Team GB, particularly since they didn't let me compete in any category, even the high jump where I am naturally gifted.' Bremner added: 'I'm pleased to be involved with the event; it will be a fantastic evening for everyone attending.' Whether he said this in his own voice, or Roger Moore's, we just don't know.

The darts broadcaster Sid Waddell has been diagnosed with bowel cancer, his manager has confirmed. Waddell, seventy one, has been a central part of Sky Sports's coverage of Professional Darts Corporation events since 1994 after many years with the BBC and is known for his colourful and excitable commentary style. His manager, Dick Allix, said: 'Following recent tests, Sid has been diagnosed with bowel cancer. He is now undergoing treatment and during this period will be focusing on his health. I would ask that everyone respects his privacy at this time.' Dave Clark, Waddell's colleague, said: 'Everyone at Sky Sports wishes Sid all the very best. We'll miss him and look forward to having him back with us whenever he is ready.' Waddell's commentaries have become synonymous with the sport, with his best-known lines including: 'That's the greatest comeback since Lazarus.' A history scholar at Cambridge, Sid is often known to pepper his commentary with classical allusions. Whilst watching Eric Bristow become world champion for the third time in 1984, he famously said: 'When Alexander of Macedonia was thirty three, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer. Eric Bristow's only twenty seven.' Beyond his commentary work, Sid has written eleven books and wrote the sport-based BBC children's programmes Jossy's Giants and Sloggers, receiving a Screenwriters Guild nomination for best scriptwriter for the latter. He began his career in as a producer at Yorkshire Television in 1970s on the popular lunchtime programme The Indoor League. 'Ah'll si-thee.' The PDC chairman, Barry Hearn, said: 'Sid is a hugely popular character throughout the sport of darts and I'm sure I speak on behalf of the PDC, our players and fans in wishing him a speedy and successful recovery. Our thoughts will be with him and his family as he begins his treatment.' Everyone at From The North wishes Sid a speedy recovery.

Over the weekend ratings for Big Brother dropped below one million viewers for the first time. The standard version of Big Brother isn't performing well for Channel Five. While the Celebrity version, which finished two weeks ago, attracted decent - although hardly earth-shattering - ratings for the broadcaster Big Brother itself has proved to be a turn off for viewers. Average ratings for the new series are around 1.4 million viewers but on Saturday evening ratings dropped to below one million. An average of just over nine hundred thousand viewers watched an hour long edition making the figure for the lowest ever for Big Brother. Even during its dying days on Channel Four the series still managed to keep its head above a million. Time for a rethink, Mister Desmond?

Ringer producer Eric Charmelo has hinted that Bridget's secret may already have been exposed. In the CW drama, fugitive Bridget (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is posing as her socialite twin sister Siobhan. 'Someone may have figured out [the switch] already and you just may not know,' Charmelo told TV Guide. The executive producer noted that 'everybody is playing everybody' on the show, which also stars Ioan Gruffudd and Nestor Carbonell. 'It becomes a mental chess game,' he suggested. 'Just because you have a piece of leverage doesn't mean somebody else has something that couldn't trump your card.' Ringer star Kristoffer Polaha recently claimed that his adulterous character Henry will be 'redeemed' in future episodes.

Australia's national broadcaster is in hot water over a sitcom scene showing Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a 'sex scene.' Even opposition MPs are calling for a review of the ABC's taxpayer funding after the comedy At Home With Julia depicted the leader (played by Amanda Bishop) naked on her office floor with her boyfriend under an Australian flag. One – Nationals MP John Forrest – said the show 'demeaned the office of Prime Minister and desecrated the flag.' But then he went and spoiled it by calling for a return to the values of seventies sitcom Are You Being Served? – which, of course, infamously featured regular jokes about Mrs Slocombe's pussy and a stereotypical portrayal of gay men as camp and effeminate. 'I've had enough,' he told the Australian. Blimey, mate, calm down. You sound like Ricky Ponting after he's been run out. 'It's nothing to do with Julia Gillard. I'm not trying to defend her. It's the office of Prime Minister and it's not even funny. The old English traditional shows like Are You Being Served? – they were funny, but this isn't. And to desecrate the flag dishonours what my dad did. This is our taxpayer-funded national broadcaster.' Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro also said she was 'disgusted,' suggesting that the national broadcaster's funding should be reviewed. And calling for someone to have their bottom smacked over this malarkey. Probably. Gillard herself said that she had no plans to watch the show, saying: 'I'm not intending to comment on it. I've got some bigger things on my mind.' The Prime Minister had initially expressed enthusiasm for the series, saying as the show launched: 'I think people who know me well know I've got a pretty good sense of humour, so I expect to be laughing when I watch it.' However, she was more dismissive in a tetchy interview ABC Radio this week, saying: 'I think aspects of that first episode were funny but I've got more to do than sit around watching ABC TV. I'm not engaging in commentary about this and I'm not going to help you with a cross-promotion.'

This year's Christmas list is hurriedly being revised after the shocking news that the Blue Peter annual is being scrapped. The reason is apparently, sales of the festive feast of sticky-backed plastic have fallen faster than John Noakes and Shep out of an aeroplane. Tragedy. As the Gruniad notes, a particular favourite of many in the media was the 1998 Blue Peter Annual, which appeared the year before Richard Bacon resigned after it emerged he had taken cocaine. Mystic Meg-style headlines in that year's book included Stone Me! (a feature about statues), Blue Peter in the Snow (a story about the Cresta Run), Racing the Dragon (Chinese rowing of course) and a horticultural feature by Bacon himself called Pot It! Skill.

A lost novel by a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, James M Cain, author of Mildred Pierce, Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, has been re-discovered and will be published in autumn 2012. The Cocktail Waitress, about a young widow whose husband dies under suspicious circumstances, was the last book written by Cain, who died in 1977. Publisher Hard Case Crime said it took nine years to track down the manuscript and arrange publishing rights. For fans of the genre, The Cocktail Waitress 'is the holy grail,' it said. Hard Case Crime founder and editor Charles Ardai said he was told of the book's existence by Road to Perdition author Max Allan Collins. He said Cain, whose other works include Serenade and Rainbow's End, worked on revisions to the novel until close to his death and that handwritten changes appear in margins of the manuscript. 'Together with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, James M Cain is universally considered one of the three greatest writers of noir crime fiction who ever lived,' said Ardai. He compared the novel's re-emergence to finding a lost manuscript by Ernest Hemingway or a lost score by George Gershwin. The Cocktail Waitress tells the tale of Joan Medford who, following her husband's death, takes a job in a cocktail lounge where she meets both a wealthy older man, whom subsequently she marries, and a younger man, whom she falls in love with. Cain's Double Indemnity was adapted for the big screen by Billy Wilder in 1944, while The Postman Always Rings Twice was made into a 1946 film starring Lana Turner, as well as a 1981 remake featuring Jack Nicholson. Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce won Emmy Awards on Sunday night for their appearances in HBO's TV adaptation of Mildred Pierce which was also made into a 1945 film starring Joan Crawford.

Newcastle defender Danny Simpson believes the club can 'do a Birmingham' and win the Carling Cup because the top clubs' current interests lie elsewhere. Hopefully, they won't also 'do a Birmingham' and, get relegated.

R.E.M. have announced that they have broken up after thirty one years together. 'As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band,' they said in a statement on their official website on Wednesday. 'We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.' The group - Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry - played their first gig in a church on 5 April 1980. That night they were still called Twisted Kites, and they played a mixture of original material and covers, including the Sex Pistols' 'God Save the Queen' and Jonathan Richman's 'Roadrunner.' 'It was really fun,' Stipe said later, 'but I don't remember the last half of it.' The band quickly found a following, their mixture of post-punk poise and jangly, Byrds-esque guitar making them seem simultaneously cutting-edge and a romantic reminder of rock's past. A sort of American version of The Smiths, if you like (which is, interesting, almost exactly how they were presented by the music press when they first arrived in the UK in 1983). Mike Mills said the sound was explicitly informed by their small-town surroundings in the 'out-of-the-way' town of Athens, Georgia. 'If you grew up in New York or LA, it would change your viewpoint on just about everything,' he wrote in a 1985 edition of Spin Magazine. 'There's no time to sit back and think about things. Our music is closer to everyday life - things that happen to you during the week, things that are real. It's great just to bring out an emotion. Better to make someone feel nostalgic or wistful or excited or sad.' Pathologically shy, Stipe's vocals were largely unintelligible on the band's debut EP Chronic Town and on early singles like 'Radio Free Europe' and 'So, Central Rain.' You can sit an listen to a song like 'Carnival of Sorts' or 'Harbourcoat' for days and never, quite, catch the words he's singing. Which was, initially, part of the attraction. But, as the band found their footing musically, so did he as a lyricist. In just over three decades together as a band, R.E.M. released fifteen LPs including some really very good ones indeed - landmark works such as Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction (recorded in London with Joe Boyd), Life's Rich Pageant, Document, Green, Out of Time, Automatic For the People and The New Adventures of Hi-Fi. The band's final CD, Collapse Into Now, was released in March of this year. There were reports over the summer that the band had spent some time in an Athens studio, but it is unclear whether anything will come of that session. Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills also shared their own thoughts on the split. 'A wise man once said, "The skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave,"' said Stipe. 'We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realise this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these thirty one years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping first saw R.E.M. live in 1983 at a tiny nightclub in Newcastle called Tiffany's. They were stunning. Okay, so most of their records since the mid-90s might not have been up to the extraordinary standard of the work of their first fifteen years but they were still a band whose songs could influence who generations of guitar bands. I'm sorry to see them go.

I know we've actually done R.E.M. on Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day before - some months ago - so, whilst some of these may be getting an airing for a second time, that's no reason not to allow yer actual Keith Telly Topping to, briefly, wallow in some pointless nostalgia for a group he had a lot of time for. Here's some of their finest moments, starting with the song that they played as the final encore the first time I saw them. And the crowd - all forty of them, or so - went wild.
Next, another little early classic. I always liked Elvis Costello's comment that he liked R.E.M. the most during that period when the words Michael Stipe were singing 'weren't recognisably English!'
For a couple of years in the mid-80s, they actually had a marginally larger fanbase in the UK than in America - where they still hadn't really broken much wider than college radio. Hence that Whistle Test performance of 'Pretty Persuasion.' As Andy Kershaw said at the end: 'Sharp!'
I love 'I Believe' from Life's Rich Pageant. Probably my favourite R.E.M. song. I even used 'Time As An Abstract' as a chapter title in a novel I once wrote in tribute to a song that seemed to speak of infinite possibilities. Here's the extended version from Tourfilm.
Of course, they got huge in the late eighties, firstly with 'The One I Love' single and then with the Green tour and, subsequently, Out of Time. From which comes, possibly my second favourite R.E.M. song. A curious little tale of paternity denial.
The last truly great record they made was this masterpiece. The greatest song about Los Angeles ever written.
After that, with Bill Berry's departure, they were never quite the same band. They still made the odd good record, on stage they were still often untouchable. But they seldom burned again. So, there you go, R.E.M's career dismissed in less than one hundred words and six songs. Six bloody good songs. Oh, stuff it, here's another particular favourite of this blogger - from Unplugged. And, 'Can't Get There From Here' on The Tube. And, the time Johnny Marr joined them on-stage for 'Fall On Me.' And, one of the hits!

As Michael says at the end of 'Electrolite', 'I'm outta here.'