Monday, September 19, 2011

Tonight, Matthew, I'm Gonna Be Watching Something Else

Best moment of the opening episode of the tenth and final series of [spooks] was, unquestionably, when Ruth (the brilliant as always Nicola Walker) interrupts a serious conversation with the newly reinstated Harry (Peter Firth) to ask - matter-of-factly - about a report he's written to the tribunal considering his future saying lots of very nice things about her. Could she, perhaps, see it? 'Not while I draw breath' says Harry, stalking off for his latest showdown with the Home Secretary!
ITV drama Downton Abbey has won four prizes and Kate Winslet the best actress in a mini-series honour at the annual EMMY Awards in Los Angeles. Winslet won the award for her role in Mildred Pierce. Downton Abbey's recognitions included best mini-series and best supporting actress for Dame Maggie Smith. The big controversy of the night was when a taped comedy routine by Alec Baldwin was cut as it contained a joke about the News Corp phone-hacking scandal. News Corp, of course, owns FOX, which was broadcasting the awards. FOX called the joke 'inappropriate,' the Associated Press reported. A far better response might have been to call the actions of its own journalists in hacking the phones of murdered schoolgirls and the families of the victims of crime 'inappropriate' but, hey, it's their network, they can do what they want with it. Accepting her award, Winslet - who managed (just) not to burst into tears this time - said that she wanted to share the honour with her mother. 'It doesn't matter how old you are or what you do in your life, you never stop needing your mum and I will never stop needing mine, so thanks mum,' she said. Downton Abbey's writer, Lord Snooty Julian Fellowes, was honoured for 'outstanding writing in a mini-series,' (and, outstanding snobbery, too). Accepting his award, Fellowes said: 'When we were in the hotel a bit earlier, my wife said to me, "I think we should just relax and enjoy the evening, because I don't think we're going to win." Well, we're going to enjoy the evening now.' He then added that it was a 'first class hotel' and that they were staying in the most expensive room before flying back - first class - to London. 'Where all the upper class people live.' Or something. He added: 'And at the risk of sounding grandiloquent, I would like to thank you, the American industry. Ten years ago you kick-started my second career with an Oscar, tonight you have nurtured it, I am very grateful, thank you.' Lord Snotty sounding 'grandiloquent'? Perish the very thought, dear blog reader. Brian Percival also won an award for directing the hit period drama, which celebrated its successes on the same weekend as the second series of the show began in the UK. Luther actor Idris Elba lost out to Barry Pepper of The Kennedys for lead actor in a mini-series or movie. Martin Scorsese was named best director for a drama series for his pilot episode of Prohibition-era drama Boardwalk Empire, which dominated last week's arts and crafts EMMYs, taking home seven prizes including outstanding cinematography. The HBO programme was pipped by advertising drama Mad Men for the title of best drama series, its fourth successive Emmy. Mad Men, which has spawned a host of lookalike shows, fought off notably the strongly-tipped Boardwalk Empire to take the best drama award at the climax of the annual show in Hollywood. The brilliantly-stylized AMC series, about a 1960s New York advertising agency, took the prize even though the show is not back on screens until next March, after a painfully long seventeen-month break. Other nominees in the category were The Good Wife, Dexter, Friday Night Lights and Game Of Thrones. In HBO's Mildred Pierce, Winslet plays a divorced single mother who decides to open a restaurant business during 1930s Depression-era California. The role was famously played by Joan Crawford in a 1945 film noir. Winslet beat Elizabeth McGovern, who plays the Countess of Grantham in ITV's Downton Abbey, in the category of best actress in a mini-series. Jean Marsh was also nominated in this category for her portrayal of former parlour maid Rose Buck in the BBC's update of Upstairs, Downstairs. Marsh, who co-created the series, played the same part more than forty years ago and was nominated for an EMMY in 1974, 1975 and 1976. House's Hugh Laurie lost out to Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights in the lead actor in a drama series category. The awards were hosted by Glee's Jane Lynch, herself shortlisted for best supporting actress in a comedy series. Comedy programmes took the early EMMYs, with Melissa McCarthy taking the best actress in a comedy series and Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory being honoured best actor in a comedy. Modern Family won four awards while The Daily Show With Jon Stewart won for best writing and best variety, music or comedy series. Julianna Margulies won the EMMY for best dramatic actress for her role in The Good Wife. Presenters at the ceremony included Zooey Deschanel and comedienne Amy Poehler. At Saturday's run-through, Poehler jokingly presented her EMMY to Barack Obama, 'for this rehearsal only.' When producers asked her to practise accepting the award, in case the recipient was absent, she playfully admonished: '[He] thought he was too special to come tonight. Bad move.' Meanwhile, stars attending the ceremony were being lavished with the customary gift bags. Despite the economic downturn, freebies were in great abundance with notebook computers, designer sunglasses, handbags and even high-end baby strollers on offer. But these were all distractions from the night's main prize - a golden EMMY statuette. Shows with multiple nominations this year included Tina Fey's comedy series 30 Rock, and legal drama The Good Wife, both of which had six nominations. So, too, had Too Big To Fail, a dramatisation of the 2008 financial meltdown by LA Confidential director Curtis Hanson.

And now, to fulfill the great Bill Bailey's prediction on this week's Qi that 'that moustache is gonna have its own website,' we at From The North are always keen to oblige.
Time for some ratings figures. Top Nineteen BBC1 shows w/e 11 September
1 New Tricks - Mon - 8.62m
2 EastEnders - Mon - 8.40m
3 Strictly Come Dancing Launch Show - Sat - 8.31m
4 Doctor Who - Sat - 7.60m
5 Inspector George Gently - Sun - 7.20m
6 Countryfile - Sun - 6.32m
7 Who Do You Think You Are? - Wed - 6.06m
8 Ten O'Clock News - Sun - 5.80m
9 The ONE Show - Tues - 5.48m
10 Watchdog - Thurs - 5.42m
11 Outnumbered - Fri - 5.37m
12 Holby City - Tues - 4.78m
13 Torchwood - Thurs - 4.63m
14 Six O'Clock News - Tues - 4.61m
15 Last Night of the Proms - Sat - 4.46m
16 Match of the Day - Sat - 4.32m
17 Formula One: The Italian Grand Prix - Sun - 4.23m
18 Would I Like To You? - Fri - 4.22m
19 Nature's Miracle Babies - Sun - 4.04m
Curiously, BARB have 'no data available' for ITV this week on their website. Too embarrassed to reveal what Red or Black? got in the consolidated finals? Perhaps we'll never care. BBC2's highest rated were: The Great British Bake Off's 3.6m and Qi's 3.45m.

And, still on the subject of ratings, on Sunday night Downton Abbey's second series debuted with 8.9m (inc HD) - nearly double [spooks]'s overnight of 4.6m - but not quite topping the popular costume drama's best ever overnights (10.08m). There are rumours currently sweeping the industry that there has been what's described as 'a crisis meeting' between Channel Five and Endemol over ratings for Big Brother and its current performance. It has an overnight of 1.24m on Sunday.

The royal wedding and documentaries about children's craniofacial surgery and the war in Afghanistan helped spur BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3 to their highest quality scores of all time this summer. AI figures released on Monday by the BBC show that, for the April to June quarter, audiences gave three of the corporation's four television channels their highest appreciation figures since new methodology was introduced five years ago. The BBC collects appreciation index figures from an online panel of nineteen thousand adults, who are asked to score programmes they have watched or listened to out of ten. Responses are then averaged into a score out of one hundred. The AIs for BBC1 and BBC2 rose on average by a point each on the last quarter, to eighty two and eighty four respectively, while BBC3, the digital youth channel, remained static on eighty four. BBC4, the arts and culture outlet, was previously the highest-scoring of all the corporation's channels, but dropped one point to eighty four. Such incremental quarter-on-quarter shifts are not considered statistically significant, compared to overall trends. Among the shows that scored particularly highly during the period were Our War, the BBC3 documentary following British soldiers on the front line, which has subsequently been shown on BBC1, as well as the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, on BBC1. The two shows, along with Children's Craniofacial Surgery, a BBC2 documentary following patients at the Oxford Craniofacial Unit, were awarded AI scores of more than ninety, which is considered exceptional. In radio, 6Music, the digital music station that was saved from closure last year, and Radio 5Live Sports Extra, which broadcasts Test Match Special, are the top performing outlets, with AI scores of eighty four. 1Xtra, the urban music station, recorded a surprise four-point drop, to seventy six, which executives said was due to variance from a small sample size. The BBC began releasing AI figures for channels on a quarterly basis earlier this year, but seldom officially publish individual programme scores - although they are usually available, on request, from the press office. Digital channels tend to score higher AIs, as their niche audience base is more engaged with the output than those who watch or listen to mass-audience outlets. James Holden, the BBC's head of audiences, said: 'We are pleased with this recent set of figures. The BBC constantly strives to deliver a range of content and services that licence fee payers will choose and enjoy. These figures show that they continue to do so despite the wide range of media options available.'

Want to see a picture of Alex O'Loughlin and Sweet James Marsters from the new series of Hawaii Five-O, dear blog reader? Your wish, and all that ...
With viewing figures of almost ten million, New Tricks is - definitely - the BBC's most popular drama. However, just days after the corporation announced that it had commissioned the show for two more series with its current cast, it has been thrown into turmoil. James Bolam, who has appeared in all eight series, it appears, will be leaving the production. 'James Bolam is not doing another series of New Tricks,' confirms his agent. The former star of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? - the greatest TV show in the history of the world ... that hasn't got the words 'Doctor', 'Who', 'West' or 'Wing' in the title -  is said to have 'told friends' that the programme, in which he, Dennis Waterman and Alun Armstrong play trio of old-school police officers brought out of retirement to work on unsolved and open cases for the delicious Amanda Redman, has 'gone stale.' Which is a valid critique although not one that's, seemingly, shared by the viewers. Anyway, according to a rather shit-stirring article in, of course, the Torygraph, 'the producers are now desperately trying to persuade Bolam, seventy six, to return' for at least a cameo appearance. 'We are very sorry to see him go, but fully understand that the time and commitment involved in filming are quite considerable,' says Richard Burrell, the executive producer. 'We are in talks with James about him returning for one episode next year. We are very excited about the return of the rest of the cast.' Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, said earlier this month: 'Amanda, Dennis, Alun and James are a dream team that BBC1 viewers have taken to their hearts.'

Simon Cowell has described Tulisa Contostavlos as 'a lippy brat.' The fifty two-year-old media mogul, who chose N-Dubz singer Contostavlos as a new judge on the UK version of The X Factor earlier this year, said that he thinks she is entertaining because she is 'so bolshy.' Cowell turned up on the set of the reality TV show this weekend and was impressed with Contostavlos and fellow new judges Kelly Rowland and Gary Barlow. And that everybody round there remembered who who is, probably. The Sunday Mirra quotes him as saying: '[Tulisa is] a lippy brat. I like that. She's bolshy. She's got a good ear.' He said of Rowland and Barlow: 'Gary's like a producer and he knows how to spot a star. He'll want to come in on his first year and win. Kelly, she's like an athlete and it's this American professionalism - she's always, always on it.'

Alexander Armstrong has apologised for cracking an 'insensitive' joke on television. The TV presenter and comedian, who hosts Pointless alongside Richard Osman, said that the episode of the show broadcast on the same day that four Welsh miners died in a tragedy that showed him making a gag about mineshafts must have seemed 'sick' to some viewers but insisted that the episode had been filmed much earlier this year. As anybody watching with even so much as half-a-brain in their head would have probably realised. Armstrong wrote on his Twitter page: 'I gather there was a joke on Pointless today about mineshafts which must've seemed horribly insensitive in light of the Welsh mining tragedy. Obviously we filmed this series months ago. But even so it will have upset some people for which I apologise sincerely.' One Twitter user - who seemingly had nothing better to do with his or her time than stir up trouble where there didn't need to be any - wrote to Armstrong on the microblogging site: 'I'd like to point out that the joke just made about mineshaft was awful, considering there are Welsh miners trapped,' to which Armstrong replied: 'Sorry, that introduction was filmed some time ago, but someone should have remembered and cut it out. Apologies to everyone.'

The BBC Trust's chairman Lord Chris Patten has revealed that he thinks Britain needs more women on television. The former Conservative politician, who was named as the head of the Trust earlier this year, said that there are plenty of 'good' presenters such as Sarah Montague and Martha Kearney on air at the moment. Patten told the Observer: 'We should have more mature women on radio and television. I'm sixty seven, for heaven's sake, and I'm married to a charming and beautiful sixty six-year-old, and I would be delighted if she was the face of anything on television.' Patten described Antiques Roadshow host Fiona Bruce as a prime example of the kind of women he wants to see at the BBC, saying: 'I saw her programme on royal palaces, which she wrote as well as presented. I thought she was terrific. But there should be more.'

A tabloid report claims that ITV is seeking to revive its Saturday evening entertainment series Stars In Their Eyes. The talent show - in which contestants perform hit songs of musicians in best karaoke style whilst trying, in vein, to look a bit like them - was a huge hit for ITV the first time around when it was broadcast between 1990 to 2006. Stars In their Eyes was originally presented by Leslie Crowther until 1992 when Matthew Kelly took over and he remained with the series until 2004 when Cat Deeley replaced him until the series ended. Davina McCall presented several specials of the show as well during its original run. 'Instead of the star coming out and saying, "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be..." they perform a song, and the audience has to work out who they are. They're tweaking the old show and calling it Guess the Star' an alleged 'source' was quoted as saying in the Mirra. So, that's not really 'bringing back' Stars In Their Eyes then, is it? It's creating a show that's 'a bit like' Stars In Their Eyes but with one crucial different. Typical Mirra, good for fish and chips and sod all else. The alleged newspaper reports that a pilot 'was filmed in Manchester earlier this month' but offered no further details on when or even if Stars In Their Eyes might return or who would present it.
Hugh Grant has accused the Metropolitan police of behaving in a 'worrying and deeply mysterious' way after Scotland Yard invoked the Official Secrets Act to demand journalists reveal their sources. In an appearance at the Liberal Democrat conference, the actor - revelling in his latest role as our nation's moral compass - warned that police were turning on the 'goodies' after Scotland Yard applied for an order under the 1989 act to require the Gruniad to identify its sources on phone-hacking. Grant, who is speaking at all three party conferences on behalf of the Hacked Off campaign during the next month, said: 'It is a very worrying and upsetting development. A lot of us victims and campaigners had come to the view that the new police inquiry – [Operation] Weeting under Sue Akers – were good cops. It was a new investigation. They were embarrassed by the behaviour of their predecessors and colleagues. So, for them, to suddenly turn on their fellow goodies in this battle is a worrying and deeply mysterious.' The actor met Nick Clegg in Birmingham at lunchtime on Sunday as he began a tour of the three party conferences to ensure that politicians continue to show 'balls' on hacking after the establishment of the Leveson enquiry. 'Ultimately it is going to be politicians who get the job done, who get the thing fixed,' Grant said. 'So I am here with Hacked Off to have a look at the politicians in all three parties and see which of those politicians who appear to have grown balls in July actually still have them and get something done. The judgment is yet to be made. They had no choice back in July. The revelations were so shocking to the whole country that they had to talk a good game. Whether or not they will now play a good game really remains to be seen. That is one of the reasons we are going to these conferences – to put pressure on them to make sure they do as they said they'd do.' Grant was critical of the House of Commons culture select committee for its cross-examination of Rupert and James Murdoch. 'I am just slightly disappointed in them. I thought their cross-examination was disappointing,' he said. 'I am still waiting for their report. Where the hell is that report?' Evan Harris, the former Lib Dem MP who speaks for Hacked Off, intervened to tell Grant that the report had been delayed because the committee was demanding the return of James Murdoch. Grant said of his criticisms: 'Maybe that is unfair.' The actor launched a scathing attack on the tabloids as he called on quality journalists to 'get out of the fucking bath' and disassociate themselves from the tabloids. Challenged by the BBC's John Pienaar on how he likes to promote his own films in the tabloids, Grant said: 'That is a great myth propagated by the tabloid industry – the privacy invaders – that people like me need or want or thrive on publicity. It is actually not true. My business is entirely making films. With good films people go and see them. With bad films they don't. The fame comes from whether the films are any good or not.' Grant illustrated his point by criticising the model Katie Price. 'You can be a Big Brother star or Jordan and have an immense amount of publicity – way more than me – and be front to back of Closer. But it won't get you a big film fee. The two things are totally unrelated. It always slightly saddens me when I see people buying this propaganda because it is simply not true. It is true there may be the Jordans of this world, the Big Brother contestants, who enjoy their moment in the sunlight. But for the vast majority of people who go into music, acting, film-making – publicity is not what you making your living off. You make your living of being either being good or bad at what you do. It is a form of conceit, it is a form of arrogance on the part of the tabloids to assume it is they who make or break these people. They are almost entirely irrelevant to it. Anyone who is written about in the parish magazine for the jumble sale where their bottle stall gets a good review feels chuffed. But it doesn't mean to say it is important for their career.' Grant, who famously posed as a journalist from Horse and Hounds in the film Notting Hill to interview Julia Roberts, said that granting an interview does not give the media a right to pursue a celebrity. 'The papers don't give people privacy for free. It is done as a sort of barter when it is done. If I give an interview to a magazine they get something out of it, I get something out of it. But the deal is over. If I have sold you a pint of milk for fifty pence you can't come to me forever after saying you once sold milk, I can help myself to your milk for free. It is patently absurd.' There was a lighter moment when Pienaar asked Grant how he would play David Cameron. 'I only ever play one part. Don't be ridiculous.'

Russian media mogul Alexander Lebedev, who owns two UK newspapers, has punched a fellow guest off his seat during a televised economic debate in Moscow. Lebedev, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard, hit former real estate businessmen Sergei Polonsky with two right hooks, sending him off the back of the platform. Lebedev said Polonsky had been 'aggressive' throughout the debate, which was broadcast on NTV on Sunday. 'I neutralised him,' Lebedev said. Just prior to the attack, Polonsky told the other guests he wanted to 'stick one in the mouth.' Lebedev stood, turned to the audience and then sat back down, only to launch immediately into a two-punch attack that sent Polonsky sprawling. Lebedev, who also co-owns the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and is the largest private share holder in Aeroflot, used his blog to try to justify the assault. 'In a critical situation, there is no choice. I see no reason to be hit with the first shot. I neutralised him.' Polonsky did not appear to be harmed but pictures posted later online seemed to show a cut arm and torn trousers. The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says Polonsky is considering legal action. But Polonsky's complaint about ripped trousers drew short shrift from Lebedev. 'Now he's showing his ripped pants, and it is hard to say anything about that. He was hit in the face and he's showing off a hole in the backside of his trousers. Strange,' Lebedev wrote. Polonsky headed the Mirax Group, worth $1.2bn in 2008, but it was hit hard by the financial crisis and had to stop construction. He once said: 'Those who don't have a billion can go to hell.'

Thousands of people have taken part in this year's Great North Run. The famous half marathon, which attracted fifty four thousand entrants, was started by the newly crowned world five thousand metre champion Mo Farah. He was joined by Emma Egging, the widow of Red Arrow pilot Flt Lt Jon Egging who died in a crash in August. The runners watched as the Red Arrows flew over the start line and later over the Tyne Bridge. They flew over the bridge in the 'missing man' formation in memory of Egging, thirty three, from Rutland. His wife also joined the thousands running. She ran with the Red number four on her vest, reflecting the position her husband flew with the team. The first to start the course from Newcastle to South Shields were the elite wheelchair athletes. The men's wheelchair race was won by Canadian Josh Cassidy and the women's by Britain's Shelly Woods. The women's race was won by Kenya's Lucy Kabuu and the men's by Kenyan Martin Mathathi. Following the start, Mo Farah shook hands with hundreds of runners as they went past. Thousands of people were running for a wide range of charities and causes. Among them was Mark Allison, from County Durham, who ran three thousand one hundred miles across the US in a hundred days raising thousands of pounds for charity. Organisers gave him the number 3,100 to wear on his vest. A number of celebrities also took part including Nell McAndrew, boxer Tony Jeffries and BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth. Motorists were warned roads along the route and surrounding areas were closed. Diversions were set up.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's a piece of stunningly, uniquely British weirdness from The Blossom Toes.