Monday, December 05, 2011

The Goddess Of The Eternal Court Will Smile & Tear To Tatters The Brief Of The State Prosecutor

Russell Davies has put his American projects on hold to care for his partner. The Torchwood creator and writer revealed in an interview with Pink News that his partner, Andrew, has been diagnosed with brain cancer. Following his work for the Starz/BBC production of Torchwood: Miracle Day the writer was working on a project, provisionally entitled Cucumber for Showtime. The premium American broadcaster previously broadcast a remake of Davies' Channel Four drama Queer as Folk which ran for five critically acclaimed seasons in the US. In an interview with Pink News the writer discussed how his partner hadn't been feeling well while they were living in Los Angeles - where Torchwood: Miracle Day was filmed - and when they returned to the UK they sought medical advice. 'We wondered if it was the change of city, the water or the fact he wasn’t working. It was getting bad so we decided he'd see a doctor when we came back in August for a three-week holiday. He went to the doctor, who sent him for a scan. When we got the results they told us he had cancer of the brain. They needed to operate straight away. Three days later he was having surgery.' Davies told the magazine that he had put all his work on hold, including his proposed Cucumber, to look after Andrew. 'That's where we are now. He's had thirty consecutive days of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and we've got six months of chemotherapy ahead of us. He's not allowed to drive. The lives we had in LA just sort of closed down overnight. All of my stuff, my computers and clothes were over there. We had to have everything shipped over here in crates. We were lucky we never sold our house in Manchester. Lo and behold we're now a ten minute drive from Europe's best cancer hospital. I haven't worked since August. We're lucky we've got enough money in the bank that, if need be, I can take the whole of next year off. It was a simple decision: he's more important. Who gives a fuck about writing scripts if I can stay at home with him and make his day a bit happier?' As for the future of the drama Davies said: 'It's the best thing I've written in a decade. Showtime loved it. We'd just got to the point of casting when Andrew and I came back to Britain. There's no way I'd let it happen without me. It was originally written for America, but in theory I could rewrite it for Britain. It's tricky because it's a BBC property, but it uses much stronger language and attitude than I've ever seen before on the BBC.' Davies early breaks in television drama were writing children's dramas such as his critically acclaimed creations Dark Season and Century Falls as well as CITV's Children's Ward. He moved into adult drama in the mid-90s with shows such as Revelations and The Grand but it was his Channel Four drama Queer as Folk, about the lives of gay men in Manchester, that really put the writer on the map. He wrote critically acclaimed drama The Second Coming, starring Christopher Eccleston, for ITV and Casanova, starring David Tennant, for the BBC. In 2005 he revived Doctor Who for BBC1 re-inventing the popular family SF series for the Twenty First Century. Under Davies tenure spin-offs Torchwood, starring John Barrowman, and The Sarah Jane Adventures, starring the late Elisabeth Sladen, were also launched.

Toby Jones and Sienna Miller are to star in a new BBC2 drama about the iconic film-maker Alfred Hitchcock. Toby Jones will play Hitchcock in a single film which, for the first time, tells the story of his obsessive relationship with the actress Tippi Hedren, played by Miller. The supporting cast includes Imelda Staunton as Alma Hitchcock and Penelope Wilton as Peggy Robertson - Hitchcock's loyal assistant. Writer Gwyneth Hughes has interviewed Tippi Hedren and surviving members of Hitchcock's crew at length. 'It's been the most enormous privilege to talk at length to Tippi Hedren, the last "Hitchcock blonde" in the life of Britain's most original and successful film director,.' she said. 'At the time, in the early 1960s, the American star suffered in silence. But now, at the age of eighty one, her wisdom and insights have helped me to put her real life ordeal on to the screen. I know Tippi is absolutely thrilled, as I am, with the casting of Sienna Miller to play her, and when the two of them met recently they got on like a house on fire. I've loved Toby Jones' work for years and for me, he is the perfect choice to play the tormented genius, Alfred Hitchcock. It's my dream cast, and I couldn't be happier.' Hitchcock was at the height of his fame and creativity when, in 1962, he chose an unknown fashion model to star in his most ambitious film to date – The Birds. But as he sculpted Hedren into 'the perfect Hitchcock blonde of his imagination,' on this film and his next, Marnie, he became obsessed with the impossible dream of winning the real woman's love. His failure arguably destroyed both of their careers. Julian Jarrold is directing and Donald Spoto, Hitchcock's foremost biographer is attached as a consultant. 'This wonderful film is a riveting psychological portrait of Alfred Hitchcock's obsession with Tippi Hedron, and in Toby Jones and Sienna Miller we have dream casting to bring this to life with glorious veracity,' noted Ben Stephenson, the Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning.

Footage of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi badly injured shortly before his death was not too graphic to broadcast despite hundreds of complaints from viewers, media regulator Ofcom has ruled. Ofcom said on Monday that it would not investigate complaints about the coverage, which included footage of the wounded, bloodied and beaten dictator moments before his death on 20 October and other video and photographs of his body after he died. The BBC alone received four hundred and seventy three complaints after the images were broadcast on its rolling news channel and main BBC1 bulletins in the week after Gaddafi's death, of which one hundred and ninety seven were in the first twenty four hours. A further one hundred and thirty six complaints were made to Ofcom about coverage on Sky News, ITV News, Channel Four News and al-Jazeera. Sky News prompted the most complaints to Ofcom, according to the regulator's broadcast bulletin published on Monday. Ofcom received fifty eight complaints about Gaddafi footage on Sky News on 20 and 21 October. Coverage on BBC1 and the BBC News Channel prompted thirty five whinges to Ofcom on both days, and hundreds more complained to the corporation itself. ITV News footage saw twenty nine complaints to the regulator, Channel Four News prompted seven and al-Jazeera prompted one complaint. A spokeswoman for Ofcom said that the regulator had decided not to investigate after it found that the broadcasts of Gaddafi's final minutes were 'appropriately limited both pre-and-post-watershed.' Mary Hockaday, head of the BBC multimedia newsroom, defended the corporation's use of grainy and unverified pictures of Gaddafi's body on the day after his death, saying it was 'editorially justified' to convey 'the scale' of the 'dramatic and gruesome' events. Like most major news organisations in Britain and overseas, newspapers also published the unverified pictures on their websites and in print on 21 October. The Sun's front page carried a blown-up picture of a battered Gaddafi under the - tasteful -headline That's for Lockerbie. And for Yvonne Fletcher. And IRA Semtex victims on the day after the former dictator's death. The Gruniad's front page had the same picture, with the headline Death of a Dictator.

Rav Wilding is leaving Crimewatch after seven years on the BBC1 show, it has been announced. The presenter, who fronts the programme with Kirsty Young and Matthew Amroliwala, is said to 'want to do other things.' What those 'other things' are, perhaps we'll never care. A BBC spokesman said: 'We can confirm that Rav Wilding has made the decision to leave Crimewatch after more than seven years in this role. He will leave after December's programme. The BBC is very grateful for all of Rav's work on Crimewatch and wishes him well for the future. No decision has yet been made on who will take over Rav's role in the new year.' The former policeman, who split from his girlfriend Big Brother regular Chantelle Houghton after they were spotted arguing in a park in April, took part in the 2009 series of Strictly Come Dancing. And the pet-lip he shown went being the second contestant to be eliminated won't be forgotten by any the viewers who saw it in a hurry.

It ain't easy being green, but according to Fox Business, Kermit the frog and his Muppet friends are dirty stinkin' reds. Apparently. Last week, on the network's Follow the Money programme, the host Eric Bolling went all Joe McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, The Muppets, insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood's 'so-called liberal agenda.' Bolling, who took issue with the baron's name, Tex Richman, was joined by Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Centre, who was uninhibited with his criticism. 'It's amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message,' he said. 'They've been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry,' Gainor continued. 'They hate corporate America. And so you'll see all these movies attacking it, whether it was Cars 2, which was another kids' movie, the George Clooney movie Syriana, There Will Be Blood, all these movies attacking the oil industry, none of them reminding people what oil means for most people: fuel to light a hospital, heat your home, fuel an ambulance to get you to the hospital if you need that. And they don't want to tell that story.'
Indeed, there was no mention of the benefits of oil drilling in The Muppets, but there was also no discussion of any other aspect of the industry. Richman, played by Chris Cooper, was out to destroy the Muppets theatre. Kermit and his friends, then, were not committed environmentalists but simply puppets looking to save a place they loved. Still, Gainor blamed the film, and its predecessors, for Occupy Wall Street and the environmental movement. 'This is what they're teaching our kids. You wonder why we've got a bunch of Occupy Wall Street people walking around all around the country, they've been indoctrinated, literally, for years by this kind of stuff,' Gainor said. 'Whether it was Captain Planet or Nickelodeon's Big Green Help, or The Day After Tomorrow, the Al Gore-influenced movie, all of that is what they're teaching, is that corporations is bad, the oil industry is bad, and ultimately what they're telling kids is what they told you in the movie The Matrix: that mankind is a virus on poor old mother Earth.'

Sky News has announced that it will host a month-long exhibition next year showcasing news coverage of the biggest stories of 2011. Front Line: A Year of Journalism & Conflict will look at three of the major stories of this year - the Arab Spring (with a focus on the revolution in Egypt), the conflict in Libya, and the London riots in August. The multi-media exhibition, launching on 12 January 2012 at Somerset House, will offer a 'unique insight' into these momentous events via Sky News' coverage. Walls of the gallery will feature stills taken from Sky News footage and original video will be shown on big screens, including live reports and packages, along with interviews with journalists, editors and producers. Visitors will be able to browse timelines, maps and photo galleries on a series of iPads. A specially-commissioned installation will focus on coverage of the death of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, highlighting the 'issues facing news organisations in authenticating and broadcasting often deeply disturbing images to the public.' Sky News head John Ryley said: 'This year has been an exceptional one for news. The exhibition will highlight the challenges of reporting from conflict zones, both home and abroad, and how vital a reporter's role is in revealing the truth.' Somerset House Trust director Gwyn Miles added: 'We aim to make the programme at Somerset House reflect what is happening in the world today. We are thrilled to be working with Sky News on this exhibition which will go behind the scenes of some of the past year's most dramatic news stories - from how news is captured on the front line to how it is presented to the wider public.' Front Line: A Year of Journalism & Conflict will run from 12 to 27 January in Somerset House's Embankment Galleries. It will be free to the public.

E! Entertainment has been rebuked by media regulator Ofcom for reshowing the infamous scene on Big Brother when a contestant performed 'a sexual act' with a wine bottle. A complainant contacted Ofcom over the inclusion of sexual material in compilation show Fifty Super Epic TV Moments, shown on September 7 on E! at eleven o'clock in the morning. Whether the complaint related to the perfectly hideous over-the-top title as well is not, at this time, known. Among the clips featured on the show was a scene from Big Brother in 2005 when contestant Kinga Karolczak simulated sex with a wine bottle. The programme labelled the two-minute clip as 'Penis Grigio'. Other clips included an American TV celebrity undergoing a cervical smear test; a woman on a US talent show smashing soft drink cans with her breasts; a woman apparently masturbating a man underneath a dinner table and a survival expert performing an enema on himself. Lovely. E! acknowledged that the content of the programme was 'wholly inappropriate' for the time it was scheduled and noted that the 'omission of any warning slates for our viewers only made this worse.' You think? The broadcaster 'apologised unreservedly' to viewers and said that its usual compliance processes were 'not followed in this case' due to 'a period of reorganisation.' It has since launched 'a full review of compliance processes' and 'improved staff training.' Ofcom pointed to its ruling in December 2005 that Channel Four was wrong in its decision to broadcast the wine bottle scene after it had received two hundred and fifty nine complaints from viewers. The regulator said that the Kinga scene was 'highly inappropriate' for children to watch, particularly as it was shown during the morning at a weekend. Although, it didn't speculate on what self-respecting child would actually be watching E! at such a time. Or, indeed, any time. It said that the other clips shown on Fifty Super Epic TV Moments were also 'inappropriate' for broadcast during the daytime. 'Many of the other sequences, including those listed in the introduction section of this finding, were in Ofcom's view unlikely to be suitable for broadcast at a time when children may be available to view,' said Ofcom. 'Further, the cumulative effect of the numerous clips made this programme in general unsuitable for transmission before the watershed in Ofcom's view. Ofcom acknowledges the Licensee's apologies in this case and its intention to improve its compliance arrangements. Nonetheless, these were clear and serious breaches of the Code and Ofcom does not expect any similar compliance failures by E! Entertainment in future.'

As usual, though, by a distance the funniest bit of Ofcom's regular bulletin (which you can get a copy of here) is the bit at the end where they list all of the programmes that some people - with more time on their hands than they know what to do with - have whinged about during the last month. Which they're not going to take action over. Because they've got better things to do with their lives. This month, these include one complaint about A League of Their Own under the heading 'crime' (whether somebody thought it was a crime that James Corden continues in regular employment, we can but guess), Coronation Street (three complaints about scheduling), CSI (two complaints about 'offensive or inappropriate language'), Derren Brown (three complaints about 'generally accepted standards'), Fry's Planet Word (one complaint about allegedly 'offensive' language ... in a show about language! Oh, the irony), Harry Hill's TV Burp (three complaints about alleged racial discrimination), Match of the Day (one complaint about offensive language) and Qi XL (one complaint about alleged religious or beliefs discrimination). It's always worth having a gander at this malarkey each month, dear blog reader, just to remind you that, although they're a quango, elected by no-one to tell me what acceptable standards are in the TV I watch and, frankly, this blogger would abolish them in a heartbeat if I was the lack of culture secretary, the people who complain to them are, by and large, the so of nutters you move away from on buses.

Christopher Plummer has cited his role in The Sound of Music as the 'toughest' he has ever played. 'It was so awful and sentimental and gooey,' recalled the actor of his time as Captain Von Trapp in an interview for The Hollywood Reporter website. 'You had to work terribly hard to try to infuse some minuscule bit of humour into it,' the eighty one-year-old continued. However, the Canadian actor did concede the 1965 release was 'a very good picture, for what it is.' It is not the first time that the veteran actor has criticised a film he once referred to as The Sound of Mucus. In 2009 he compared playing the Captain to 'flogging a dead horse,' while he once likened working with co-star Julie Andrews to 'being hit over the head with a Valentine's card.' The Hollywood Reporter's 'actors round table' also featured Albert Brooks, George Clooney, Nick Nolte, Gary Oldman and Christoph Waltz. Plummer has been tipped to win an Academy Award next year for his role as an elderly man who comes out of the closet in the film Beginners.

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the 'habitable zone' around a star not unlike our own. The planet, Kepler 22-B, lies about six hundred light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C. It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours - an Earth 2.0. However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-B is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid. During the conference at which the result was announced, the Kepler team said that it had spotted some one thousand and ninety four new candidate planets. The Kepler space telescope was designed to look at a fixed swathe of the night sky, staring intently at about one hundred and fifty thousand stars. The telescope is sensitive enough to see when a planet passes in front of its host star, dimming the star's light by a minuscule amount. Kepler identifies these slight changes in starlight as candidate planets, which are then confirmed by further observations by Kepler and other telescopes in orbit and on Earth. Kepler 22-B was one of fifty four candidates reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes. More of these so-called Earth 2.0 candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone's boundaries has brought that number down to forty eight. Kepler 22-B lies at a distance from its sun about fifteen per cent less than the distance from the Earth to our Sun, and its year takes about two hundred and ninety days. However, its sun puts out about twenty five per cent less light, keeping the planet at its balmy temperature that would support the existence of liquid water. The Kepler team had to wait for three passes of the planet before upping its status from 'candidate' to 'confirmed.' 'Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet,' said William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at Nasa's Ames Research Center. 'The first transit was captured just three days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining third transit over the 2010 holiday season.' The results were announced at the Kepler telescope's first science conference, alongside the staggering number of new candidate planets. The total number of candidates spotted by the telescope is now two thousand three hundred and twenty six - of which two hundred and seven are approximately Earth-sized. In total, the results suggest that planets ranging from Earth-sized to about four times Earth's size - so-called 'super-Earths' - may be more common than previously thought.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov wants the country's footballer-of-the-year poll annulling after he won it ahead of Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov. The fifty two-year-old, who plays occasionally as a striker for third division side Vitosha Bistritsa, collected forty four per cent of the votes in the fans' poll. Berbatov was second with twenty four per cent but Borisov said: 'It's a protest vote. It is a signal that Bulgarian football needs reforms and a new policy. Organisers should annul the vote.' The Bulgarian national team and domestic clubs were criticised by the country's media and supporters after a series of poor results in European competition. Bulgaria finished bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group with just five points from eight games - their worst performance in major tournament qualifying. Their solitary victory in the group came with a 1-0 win in Wales, but they lost the return fixture by the same margin and also lost 3-0 at home to England. Bulgaria's domestic sides fared little better with none reaching the Champions League or Europa League group stages. Just eight thousand supporters took part in the poll, which saw Vasil Lukaev, from amateur team Shipka Dragor, come third.

Just before we start on yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas (remember, it's a Greg Lake-free zone), we've got one more - non-Christmas Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day to offer. Nine slammin' minutes of Holly, Paul, Peds, Mark, Nash, Trevor Horn, Steve Lipson, Chris Barry, Patrick Allen, 'last voice you will ever hear'. Do not be alarmed. Queue the sirens.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping still recalls the first time he heard that particularly, jaw-dropping, nine minute 'Annihilation' mix played on the radio, by the great Annie Nightingale on her Thursday Night Request Show on Radio 1. After it finished, she had a reverential moments pause and then asked the listeners: 'Aren't you glad you weren't born in the Eighteenth Century? Cos you'd never have got to hear that!'