Friday, December 02, 2011

In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has insisted that the proposed movie adaptation will be faithful to the TV show. Moffat took to Twitter to clear up fears that the BBC show would be 'completely rebooted' by a Hollywood team, adding that Matt Smith or any other actor playing the Doctor when production begins would star in the film. 'To clarify: any Doctor Who movie would be made by the BBC team, star the current TV Doctor and certainly not be a Hollywood reboot,' he wrote. Moffat apparently tweeted in response to 'off the cuff' comments made by the proposed Doctor Who movie director David Yates about his plans to begin casting the picture. 'David Yates, great director, was speaking off the cuff, on a red carpet,' Moffat explained. 'You've seen the rubbish I talk when I'm cornered.' Yates has stated that a Doctor Who movie will take years to reach the big screen, adding: 'It's a long journey and we're going to take our time with it.' This blogger personally, knowing a wee bit about the idiosyncrasies of the film industry, still has severe doubts that this project will ever see the light of day as maybe one in five or six 'idea'-based movie concepts ever make it past the 'wouldn't it be cool to do a movie about ...?' discussions. We've been here several times before and on each occasion a Doctor Who movie has, spectacularly, failed to happen. The usual sticking point is exactly the issue The Moffster's highlighted here; Doctor Who is a just about wholly BBC-owned format and the amount of independence from the Beeb that any movie writers or directors would have is the key to whether a film ever gets off the ground or not. But, time will tell. It usually does. Small boys. In the park. Daleks for goalposts. Enduring image, isn't it?

There was plenty of fun and games in the last quarter final of MasterChef: The Professionals on Thursday night. Tears, tantrums and a bit of comedy hijinx, to boot. In the opening round, six chefs had to prove to Michel and Gregg that they had 'what it takes' with a recipe of their own devising. Choosing from a beautiful array of fresh produce including clams, whiting, john dory, poussin, fennel, girolles and thyme, they had to 'dazzle' the judges with just one course. Only the best four chefs would then go on to showcase their skill to three of the UK's toughest restaurant critics. Allison, who looked like she was about to cack in her own pants, managed to produce one of the great one-liners in MasterChef history. She was asked how much she 'wanted' to progress. 'I want this more than anything I've ever wanted in my life. Except when I wanted a horse when I was fifteen!' she added with perfect comic timing. Despite being so nervous that she could barely form a coherent sentence, she made poussin with spring green vegetable risotto. Young Cornish Josh created pan-fried whiting with razor clams and panache of summer vegetables. Gregg Wallace noted that he liked a panache - although, to be fair, Gregg likes pretty much everything that's put down in front of him - but that Josh didn't have the sort of plate which you would normally serve such a thing on. 'No, but I've got something funky, as opposed to a panache dish.' Gregg confessed he was 'too old to have anything funky.' Fair comment, I guess. Josh also got a laugh out of Michel and Gregg when he noted that he could cope with pressure, both at work and on his days off. 'Do you go cooking on your days off?' asked Michel. 'Yeah, I'm in this competition called MasterChef: The Professionals. Lot of pressure in that.'
Michel then clarified that Josh's boss hadn't even given him the day off to take part in the competition, he'd had to use up his holidays. Now that's dedication. Chris, Gregg said, created food that made Gregg 'want to swoon.' But, Michel added, presentation had been an issue in earlier rounds. Chris, from Buckingham, made pan-fired john dory with spicy lamb sausage and clam velouté. Aussie Ash, fast becoming yer actual Keith Telly Topping's new favourite for the entire competition, appeared the calmest and most laid back of the chefs in such pressurised conditions. Previously his food had been something of a triumph of style over substance but, this time around, he shone with a dish of pan-seared whiting with a parsley and clam risotto. Scouse Ursula, who'd looked so good earlier in the week but had scraped into the quarter-finals on Wednesday by her fingertips reckoned she might have made a mistake by cooking lamb again, as she had in the previous round. 'I love a bit of lamb,' said Gregg, helpfully. 'If I was to go home today, I'd be gutted,' she noted. Then there was Ben, from a celebrated family of chefs. 'Who does the cooking at home, you or your missus?' asked Michel. 'We split it,' Ben confessed. He then added: 'Mostly we go out for a curry, to be honest!' A chef after my own heart, dear blog reader. His dish was john dory pan-friend, supposedly with saffron potatoes and a white wine oyster sauce. In the end, neither of the last two elements survived to the final plate, much to Ben's obvious disappointment. With only four places available for the next stage there were, clearly, two stand-outs: Ash ('I love the look of your food,' said Gregg. 'I'd let you decorate my lounge!') and Josh. A particular highlight here occurred after Gregg had taken a mouthful of Ash's dish, made a couple of almost orgasmic moans and then said 'talk among yourselves, everybody, I may be a while! That's like a big kiss off a sea monster!') There was only one, real, disaster in Ursula's roasted lamb dish - the meat was fine, by all accounts but the vegetables were undercooked ('almost raw' claimed Michel) and the red wine jeu was considered to be too thin. 'Schoolgirl errors,' Ursula muttered as the waterworks started. 'Could cost me the competition.' And indeed, sadly, they did. Of the other three, Allison slightly overcooked her risotto, although both judges by and large enjoyed her dish. 'To go out because people are better than me is one thing, to go out for a silly mistake,' she said through gritted teeth. Chris's simple, but effective, presentation impressed ('towers are difficult for the customer to approach, but it's very neat' noted Michel) but his fish was 'ever so slightly' overcooked and Gregg was a bit confused by all of the various flavours on the plate. Lots of things worked well with lots of other things, he said, but all together it appeared as though there was almost too much going on. 'I think I know where you wanted to go with it, but I don't think you've quite pulled it off,' said Michel. Ben's dish looked good but was somewhat rushed and missing some key ingredients. Michel said he also found the sauce 'a bit underwhelming.' 'If I was to do that at work, it wouldn't leave the pass,' Ben confessed. Somewhat to the surprise of this viewer it was Chris rather than Ben who went out along with Ursula. The remaining four were then tasked with preparing a two course meal for three of Britain's most celebrated restaurant critics, Jay Rayner, William Sitwell and Peter Griffin-lookalike Charles Campion. Who said 'what I want is nice stuff to eat.' No shit.
Now the pressure was really on. Even Ash was starting to look a bit flustered. Ben cooked pan-fried fillet of gurnard with a selection of shell-fish on a risotto base ('kind of paella-like but served with a chorizo sauce') and, for dessert a vanilla panna cotta, dark chocolate mousse, poached figs and a port wine reduction. 'The idea of putting a sauce with a risotto sounds a bit dodgy' said Jay Rayner. Lard bucket Campion whinged about how small his piece of gurnard was. Greedy sod. The critics, on the whole, weren't impressed and neither was Gregg. 'It tastes just like a paella,' he said. 'It really doesn't excite me,' added Michel. The desert, Stiwell noted, had rather a lot going on 'and rather a lot that could fail.' He was dead right. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The panna cotta didn't quite set, the chocolate mousse collapsed and the figs were undercooked. 'He hasn't had a great day at the office,' Jay noted, sadly. 'Fight of the blobs' Gregg added. Allison's main course was a delightfully simple lamb and beetroot dish with a lamb sweetbread and spinach. And raspberry souffle with summer berry compote for pud. She informed Gregg, Michel and the viewers of this between hyperventilating gasps of air. She looked, frankly, as though she was about to faint. Nevertheless, despite being late with both dishes (very late in the case of the pudding), Allison wowed both the critics and the judges with her food. 'Wholly successful,' said the never-easy-to-please Campion. 'Sometimes you just look at something and you know it's going to be good,' added Jay with a big kid-like grin on his face. Although Gregg would subsequently note that he thought if the dessert had been much later the other two would have started taking bites out of William Sitwell. Josh prepared turbot with summer truffle and baby gem lettuce and a glazed almond sponge slice and rhubarb (infused with basil) with vanilla mascarpone and amaretto syrup. Asked to speculate where he saw himself in twenty years time, Josh said he'd hope to be 'happily fat somewhere eating a nice bowl of food in the sun.' 'Is he talking about me?' asked Gregg. The main course, sadly, was a bit of a washout. 'The remarkable thing about this dish is that none of it tastes of anything,' opined Sitwell. Michel thought the vegetables 'a bit bland' and Gregg considered that the moisture in the baby gem was 'washing out the flavour like a tidal wave of lettuce juice.' Josh's dessert was better but what Jay liked about it was exactly what Michel didn't, that it 'looks like a proper dessert.' Which it was, but it wasn't really 'fine dining' of the kind that you'd expect in a Michelin restaurant. Josh seemed to sense this: 'I don't know if they came here for a good feed or for some fine dining,' he said. Ash, the Aussie with a self-appointed mission to introduce the world to Basque cuisine, produced a pan-fried turbot with a truffle crust and a white Asparagus velouté followed by a warm chocolate brownie with Patxaran liquor-poached cherries. 'He looks to be on the edge of panic,' said Gregg. 'I've never seen him like that and I'm slightly scared.' But, he delivered, bang on time and beautifully presented, as always. The critics seemed less than blown away by the main course (although Sitwell was a notable exception) but the judges most definitely were. 'This is a very, very good dish,' said Michel. Even worse was to follow from the critics over what appeared to be a delightful dessert. They whinged about whether the brownie was a brownie or not and didn't like the Patxaran boozy sauce. 'If I had a nasty, chesty infection, this might solve it,' said Jay snootily. 'But if I'm going out for dinner no, no, no, no and no!' Fortunately, Gregg Wallace was having none of such nonsense and slapped it down into the gutter where it belonged. And neither was Michel. 'That is divine!' In the end, Ben and (sadly) Josh were the unlucky two to miss out as Allison and Ash went through to the semi-finals.
The BBC has faced further calls from MPs to reverse its controversial and numskull proposed cuts to local radio, which they said would deal the stations 'a crippling blow.' Austin Mitchell, the former TV presenter and Labour MP for Grimsby, said that BBC director general Mark Thompson's six hundred and seventy million quid package of cuts, of which the local radio proposals are a part, would be 'deeply damaging' to the corporation's output. Around fifteen million smackers will be cut from the budget of the forty local radio stations in England - including yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved BBC Newcastle - with the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs. 'It is going to be a crippling blow,' said Mitchell, who called a debate about the cuts in the Commons on Thursday. 'There are very strong feelings among our members that the cuts in local radio go too far and are too damaging. The BBC must consider the kind of objections coming from us and the rest of our society.' Another dozen MPs were due to speak at the debate, attended by the lack of culture minister the vile and odious rascal Hunt. Mitchell accused the government of 'bullying tactics' over the way it negotiated last year's licence fee settlement, which necessitated the BBC's latest round of savings, and said the government should be ready with a 'supplementary licence fee' if the corporation's output deteriorated. 'Another seven pence on the licence fee [a day] and these cuts wouldn't be necessary,' he added. Mitchell said Thompson's Delivering Quality First initiative was 'playing into the hands' of one of the corporation's fiercest critics, the vile and odious - and possibly jailbound - James Murdoch. 'The programme has an amazing resemblance to what Murdoch wanted in [2009's MacTaggart Lecture],' he added. Lib Dem MP Don Foster said the impact of the cuts on local radio station budgets would be 'very significant' given their high level of fixed costs. 'I simply do not understand why something that is so important to so many of our constituents is under attack in this way,' said Foster. 'It is worth remembering that something like twenty per cent of people [who listen to BBC local radio] only listen to local radio. It is a lifeline for older people and the disabled and so on. I hope again the BBC will look at it agin, just as they will look again at the issue of regional TV.' Foster said it was wrong of the government to expand the remit of the Leveson inquiry to include broadcasting, which he said was another distraction for the BBC at a time when it was having to make big cuts. He also added his voice to calls that the BBC should not have to pay transmission fees to BSkyB for the satellite broadcaster to carry its forty nine radio and TV channels. The BBC pays about ten million smackers a year in transmission fees. This Commons debate, sadly, was somewhat sparsely attended in comparison to a Westminster Hall discussion of the cuts in October, which attracted more than fifty MPs. There have been hints - from the Gruniad if not from anywhere that actually matters - that the BBC may 'scale back' its proposed local radio cuts, which have also been criticised by senior church leaders and the Salvation Army. As though that's going to have any effect on the decision.

The BBC's line-up for the 2012 Olympics will see the Match of the Day presenter, Gary Lineker, anchoring BBC1's primetime evening coverage, with Sue Barker in the late afternoon slot and Jake Humphrey, Hazel Irvine and Clare Balding in the studio to guide viewers through the day. The London Games will be broadcast live on BBC1 and BBC3, as well as on the radio, and the corporation has announced plans for its television presenting team on Friday. Jonathan Edwards, John Inverdale and Matt Baker will be among those reporting live from venues such as the Olympic Stadium, Dorney Lake and the O2 Arena. Balding will also leave the studio to cover diving, equestrian and swimming, while Humphrey will be on site for the cycling at the velodrome. The BBC's Breakfast team will kick-off the schedule at 6am in the morning, with Gabby Logan bringing a close to eighteen hours of coverage with a wrap of each day's events from 10.35pm. On BBC3 a combination of Manish Bhasin, Rishi Persad and Sonali Shah will anchor rolling coverage throughout the day until 7pm, when Humphrey will take over. Huw Edwards will present the opening and closing ceremonies.

Robbie Savage has said that he will dedicate his Strictly Come Dancing performance on Saturday night to his late friend Gary Speed.

The new Nando's advert, titled Last Dictator Standing, has proven a huge viral hit for the fast food company after the new campaign was launched last Friday. The advert, which sees a lookalike Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe reminiscing about happier days with a variety of fallen dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi was directed by Dean Blumberg and has been viewed over four hundred thousand times on YouTube since going live last week. The video earned itself a mention on Time magazine's Newsfeed online feature. An extended version of the advert, featuring a lookalike Chairman Mao, was also released. Actor and writer Stephen Fry tweeted a link to the video to his nearly three and a half million followers, adding: 'Well, that's one way to sell Nando's.'
The BBC has been challenged to cast more disabled actors in primetime drama, to reflect better the make up of its audience. At a meeting at Television Centre on Wednesday evening, organised by staff group BBC Ability, programme makers were urged to be 'less scared of difference' and to broaden their search for acting talent. 'Around ten million people in the UK have some kind of disability but that's not mirrored in the drama they see,' said Martyn Sibley, social media entrepreneur and co-editor of online magazine Disability Horizons, who himself has spinal muscular atrophy. Shannon Murray, who works full time in the BBC's legal department and is also a model and a trained actor, thought that soaps, one-off dramas and continuing series should include, as a matter of course, more main characters who just happened to be disabled. So, in other words, we're back to tokenism again. Rather than people being given parts because they're good actors. Highlighting her own experiences, she said: 'An accident at fourteen put me in a wheelchair when the only representation of disability on TV seemed to be Ironside, and I'm not sure we've moved on much from that.' Although she had had odd parts in TV drama, they tended to be as 'a nice disabled woman who has been a bit hard done by' whereas she was 'dying to play a complete bitch' and to land a regular role in a high profile 9pm programme such as Waking the Dead. A suggestion that the reason there were so few disabled actors on screen was because few TV executives were disabled, was denied by Ben Stephenson, controller of drama commissioning, who said the problem was simply a lack of scripts featuring people with disabilities. He received hardly any, he explained. 'The big thing we need to tackle is how we get writers to include a whole range of people,' he said. 'Any barrier can be broken down by a brilliant script.' He thought the BBC should organise another event, similar to the one held on Wednesday, at which 'the best writers in the country' would be invited to discuss the issue of disability portrayal. 'I think that could make a radical difference and that we could suddenly have a script with a disabled character who's a computer nerd or a spy in [spooks] or a forensic scientist in Waking the Dead.' Both of which have been cancelled in the last year. Nice to see BBC staff keeping up with their broadcaster's output.

'Sources' have now claimed that Grumpy Adrian Chiles and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley will present their last Daybreak on Monday 5 December. And, there will be parties throughout the land. 'It was felt that Adrian and Christine were better off out of there now that everyone knows they are going,' an alleged 'insider' allegedly told the Mirra. 'There's nothing to be gained by keeping them on the sofa.' Oh, if only somebody had thought of that idea fifteen months ago.
Sir Arthur C Clarke predicted in a long-lost BBC interview that the Russians would win the space race by landing the first man on the moon in 1968, probably on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution. The late science fiction author made his confident forecast to his friend Sir Patrick Moore in a 1963 episode of The Sky at Night, the world's longest running television science programme. The broadcast was thought to be lost, but has just resurfaced from a television station archive in Africa. Clarke, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, was introduced by Moore as 'a pioneer space research thinker.' He was sure that the Americans would lag behind the Russians but would reach the moon two years later. 'Around 1970, if you want to pin me down,' he said, his native Somerset accent more pronounced than it would be by the end of his life after decades living in Sri Lanka when he was presenting Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. 'The American moon project is a colossal thing, costing ten million dollars a day. I believe they will succeed in getting a man on the moon – and back again, which is equally important – not before 1970, but it will not be much after that.' Moore agreed: 'I personally haven't much doubt that the first man will set foot on the moon in the foreseeable future.' It was, in fact, only two years since the Soviets had placed the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in April 1961, but the Americans would eventually get to the moon first. On 21 July 1969 to be exact. So, Clarke wasn't far off. 'We got some right, some not so right,' Moore told the Gruniad after seeing film of the interview again after almost half-a-century. 'I don't think we did too badly.' The film was discovered in an African television archive by one of a group of collectors who scour redundant or obscure archives across the world for lost British TV programmes. Their prime target is missing episodes of Doctor Who, but they immediately recognised the exceptional rarity of the 1963 Sky at Night. The collector who bought it from Africa sent it back, still in its original film can, as a gift to the current Sky at Night production team. Extracts will be seen in the December Sky at Night on BBC4 next week. The film was particularly moving for Moore as it is the only record of the sole programme which he and his lifelong friend Clarke made live together in a studio. Although he did interview Clarke again, several times, it was always either through filmed inserts or taped phone interviews. The Sky at Night began in 1957 when Moore, a writer, musician and passionate amateur astronomer, was invited to fill a hole in the BBC schedule by presenting one live astronomy show a month for three months. The moment Moore lifted one eyebrow and barked an observation straight to camera, a TV star was born. In April 2007 the six hundred and fiftieth monthly episode was broadcast from Moore's home in Selsey, West Sussex. Moore, now eighty eight and somewhat frail but dauntless, has no intention of retiring, and plans are being made for the fifty fifth anniversary programme. Filming was always on a shoestring, with world famous astronomers queueing up to make unpaid guest appearances. Charts fell off walls, string and paper clip models disintegrated, and the reliably unreliable British weather destroyed many outdoor broadcasts including the 1999 solar eclipse. 'Its longevity is certainly down to Patrick himself – and to the time slot,' said Mat Irvine, a former BBC special effects engineer who regularly drove to Moore's house with a car boot load of model planets and space probes. 'It had to be done after dark, and it always went out at the very end of the night, sometimes toppling over into the next day, just before the national anthem and closedown. It wasn't a slot that anyone else was clamouring for. If he'd had a better slot he'd have been shoved aside years ago.' Jane Fletcher, only the sixth producer in the programme's history, says that scores of the earliest programmes are missing. Most went out live, and very few were telerecorded. Some of those which did survive were wiped, or just thrown away. 'They were seen as over and done with, and not having any special importance, so there was no great concern about preserving them.' Irvine believes this particular episode survived because it was filmed as it went out live, and then probably sold to an overseas station. The man on the moon forecast came at the very end, when Moore challenged Clarke to make predictions about the coming years in space research. In 1963 Moore and Clarke's views of the Russian space programme were based on inspired guesswork, and occasional reports smuggled out to Moore by friends in the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. However, one of Clarke's predictions proved very wide of the mark. There would be a permanently manned space-base on the moon, and possibly a man on Mars, 'before the end of the century,' he said. The world is still waiting.

A corruption watchdog which was advising FIFA after a series of bribery and corruption scandals, has cut its ties with world football's governing body. An official with Transparency International said that two of its key recommendations had been ignored. TI said FIFA paying an expert to oversee major reforms to how it is run would jeopardise his independence. The expert, Mark Pieth, said he would not re-examine old scandals, another recommendation of TI. The move is being viewed by many as a blow to the credibility of FIFA's reform process, which has been led by its President Sepp Blatter. Fifa has declined to comment on TI's move. Sylvia Schenk, TI's sports adviser, said Pieth could not remain independent of FIFA if he was being paid by the organisation. 'We believe that someone paid by FIFA cannot be a member of the independent commission,' Schenk told the Press Association Sport news agency. 'He has a contract with FIFA so he is not independent in that sense.' Pieth said it was 'common' for firms to pay outside advisers to 'evaluate their business practices. We can't start asking audit firms to do their job for free just to make sure they are independent,' he told the Bloomberg news website. TI had been invited by Fifa to sit on an outside panel headed by Pieth to advise on reforms. Fifa has been embroiled in scandals that have seen four members of Blatter's ruling executive committee banned or resign over allegations of bribery.

A regional morning bulletin for the Borders on BBC Radio Scotland was laden with technical glitches - leading to a rather frustrated tirade by a member of production staff being broadcast...

An American man has been hospitalised after his dog shot him in the buttocks. No, honestly, that's his story and he's sticking to it. The forty six-year-old, who has not been named, was struck by his own gun near Brigham City in the state of Utah. Local sheriff Kevin Potter said that the man was duck-hunting with a friend at the Great Salt Lake when the accident occurred. The man's canine companion apparently tripped on the twelve-gauge shotgun, causing it to strike him ten feet away. 'The dog did something to make the gun discharge,' Potter said. 'I don't know if the safety device was on. It's not impossible the dog could have taken it off safety.' The sheriff revealed that the man escaped serious injury, and medical crews were later able to remove twenty seven birdshot pellets from his arse. The dog, meanwhile, has been charged with being too clever for his own good. And that of all mankind.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's a classic slab of yer actual Boards of Canada. Can we have a new CD sometime this decade, lads, it's been five years since the last one.