Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: It's Clichéd To Be Cynical At Christmas

Cuts to BBC local radio could jeopardise emergency broadcasts during civil crises, councils claimed earlier this week. The corporation is proposing cuts to medium-wave output in parts of the country where alternative FM services are available. But the Local Government Association said that the moronic and pointless plans would 'threaten advice messages' during floods, heavy snowfall and major traffic accidents. The LGA, which represents more than three hundred and fifty councils in Wales and England, said the FM frequency often broadcast 'crackling static' rather than clear sound. Its culture board chairman Chris White said: 'Local radio plays a key role in how councils manage an emergency and the BBC regularly sits on resilience planning panels along with police and fire authorities. Time and time again these arrangements have proven invaluable to local communities, from updates about school closures, heavy snowfall, road accidents and flooding, to bulletins about more unforeseen emergencies such as train crashes or dangerous criminals on the loose. People rely on councils for the latest information in many circumstances, and in turn we rely on local radio.'
Now, as you'll well know, dear blog reader, this blogger is as big a supporter of local radio as there is. But, even I think that's overstating the matter, somewhat. White said that he feared the BBC was 'underestimating the serious implications and risks to people's safety' and called on it to 'remember its public service duty.' He added: 'Its proposed contingencies barely sound adequate on paper and in the reality of an emergency could well be found wanting. Residents may end up with confused broadcasts from inexperienced journalists reporting on places they know nothing about, while others with no medium-wave service could be left entirely in the dark. Both are unacceptable.' A BBC spokeswoman said: 'BBC Local Radio will continue to be local in times of crisis or emergency, that will not change. The proposal is to end medium-wave transmissions, except for stations where listeners depend on medium wave as an alternative to FM. We will consider carefully submissions from those areas that can show they would be disadvantaged by the withdrawal of medium wave. The BBC Trust is consulting on these proposals and no decision has as yet been made.' Consultation on the BBC's controversial Delivering Quality First proposals, including those concerning local radio, ended on 21 December.

You want an on-set photo from the forthcoming second series of Sherlock, dear blog reader? You got it.
Is it nearly New Year's Day yet?

BBC2 had its strongest Wednesday night in over a month largely thanks to Top of the Pops 2. The Christmas special, featuring previously lost footage of David Bowie and The Spiders performing 'The Jean Genie' in 1973, pulled in an average of 2.56m between 7.30pm and 9pm.
And it was just as yer actual Keith Telly Topping remembered it from 1973 when he was nine years old. Including the brilliant Doctor Who-style distorted special effects used on some of the close-ups.
Between 8.30pm and 9pm, BBC2 overtook BBC1 as TOTP2 peaked with 2.94m compared to the thoroughly rotten Impressions Show's 2.68m.

For the first time since it began broadcasting its own version of the Queen's annual Christmas address to the nation in 1993, Channel Four is to broadcast two Alternative Christmas Messages. One will make a 'plea for tolerance' and be delivered by the stars of some of Channel Four's diversity programmes, including Max Laird from Seven Dwarves and Beauty and the Beast contributor Susan Campbell-Duncan, who has a facial disfigurement. The theme of their broadcast will be 'Just Be Yourself' and they will be joined by Karen Gayle from My Transsexual Summer and acid-attack survivor Katie Piper – the second time she has recorded an Alternative Christmas Message for Channel Four. The second alternative message will feature Vic Goddard, the headteacher of the comprehensive school that appears in Channel Four documentary Educating Essex, and his deputy Stephen Drew. Channel Four's director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove said: 'Channel Four's Alternative Christmas Message is a yuletide institution giving voice to different opinions and social attitudes. This year the [first] message is collectively authored by people who have all starred in shows which foreground diversity. The message is a plea for tolerance and praises difference in a society that often demands conformity.' The two messages will appear on Christmas Day. Channel Four's traditional alternative to the Queen's Christmas Day broadcast first aired in 1993 when it was delivered by Quentin Crisp. Since then it has featured a varied selection of presenters, including an injured veteran from the war in Afghanistan, the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, a 9/11 survivor and Marge Simpsons.

For anyone that's interested, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own Christmas broadcast to the masses came on Thursday when he did a short ten minute round up of the Christmas telly schedules on The Breakfast Show with Alfie and Charlie. You can catch it here approximately one hour and twenty five minutes into the show. This was a public service announcement. With guitars.

Mark Thompson's Christmas message to BBC staff includes the suggestion that 2011 has been 'an exhausting but very successful year for the BBC.' Thompson continues: 'It's been the busiest year for news since 1989 with our local, regional, national and global teams working at full tilt since January.' Thompson says that he is particularly proud of the way in which the BBC covered the two biggest stories of the year, the Arab Spring and the Eurozone. 'In both cases, the particular strengths of BBC journalism – adding explanatory depth to brilliant reportage, sticking with stories when others have moved on, always taking the audience seriously – were to the fore. I visited our teams in Libya and Egypt a few weeks ago and know how much commitment and sheer energy went into the coverage.' Elsewhere, the BBC has been 'just as strong' Thompson states. 'It's been a stunning year for the big events from the Royal Wedding to the Proms and the One Big Weekend in Carlisle to the Strictly final, for drama and comedy from Rev to Luther and for landmark documentaries with Frozen Planet showing the Natural History Unit's amazing ability to out-do itself yet again.' Thompson also mentions a record-breaking year for iPlayer (approaching two billion streams in the year) and mobile digital services. He continues: 'It' been a really encouraging year in the nations with growing success in network TV (and the opening on time and budget of the Cardiff Drama Village) and in English local radio.' Which is, presumably, why Thompson's DQF proposals have slashed twenty per cent of local radio's budget, no doubt. 'BBC Sport and CBBC have been brilliant on the air, despite the hassle and complexity of the move to Salford. Almost two thousand people from many different parts of the BBC are based in MediaCityUK now and we're broadcasting TV and radio from there around the clock.' DQF itself it covered almost in-passing. There has been a 'lively debate' about the funding of local radio, Thompson suggests. Which actually means, 'a right storm of protest.' But, Thompson continues, 'we know that our audiences think the overall package of Delivering Quality First recommendations are well thought through and clearly focused on maintaining the quality of our output.' You do? Okay. We believe you, thousands wouldn't. 'A flat licence fee has inevitably meant difficult choices but we have tried as hard as possible to defend our investment in content and services and the jobs of the outstanding teams across the BBC who deliver those services. With a bleak immediate economic outlook for commercial media and the wider economy, the advantage of five years certainty about funding is likely to grow more apparent. Nonetheless, although public approval of the BBC and support for the licence fee are both very high, it's important we go on making the BBC as efficient as possible. The 2012 Olympic Games in London will not just be the most ambitious single broadcasting event in the BBC's history but the centrepiece of a unique year for the BBC. No department in the organisation will be untouched by 2012, which I hope will be a showcase of everything that's best about the BBC and will show how fundamentally we have grasped the digital moment.' Thompson concludes with some Top Telly Tips for Chrimbo: 'I've seen Great Expectations which is stunning and, though I'm saving it up to watch with my own family, everyone tells me that the Doctor Who Christmas Special is a classic. All this and Sherlock to look forward to in January.'

Arabella Weir has said she, Bill Bailey and Paul Bazely are like The Three Stooges in the Doctor Who Christmas special. The guest stars enter the story when the Doctor, who has landed in Dorset during the Second World War, tries to give a widow and her two children the best Christmas ever by whisking them away to a magical land. Unfortunately, they discover the land is dominated by an enchanted forest where something evil lurks. Don't you just hate it when that happens? However, the actors are keen to point out that they are not evil - quite the opposite, in fact. Arabella said: 'We're not very frightening. When you first see us we look scary, but really we're more like The Three Stooges. We don't really know what we're doing. We're kind rather than heroic.' Bill added: 'And if there are any stunts, it won't be me doing them. When we did a night shoot, we had to go from the studio up to the location. It involved getting into a people carrier, and that was the most difficult thing of the whole night! I had to sort of roll in face down. We didn't look like an elite fighting force at that stage.' Paul said their characters were not 'high end', adding: 'We're sort of working for the council.'

BBC Worldwide have announced that Arthur Darvill will be joining Matt Smith and Steven Moffat at the Official Doctor Who Convention, taking place at Cardiff in March. Other guests at the weekend include actors Stuart Milligan and Simon Fisher-Becker. Also joining the previously announced behind-the-scenes crew Danny Hargreaves (the special effects supervisor), Michael Pickwoad (the production designer) and producer Marcus Wilson are Andy Pryor (casting director), Tom MacRae (author and writer of last year's The Girl Who Waited), Stephan Pehrsson (director of photography) and Caroline Henry (script editor). The Convention is a full day event that will give Doctor Who enthusiasts an amazing chance to delve into the inner workings of the hit TV show and learn how it is created, it says here. With unique access to the cast and production crew, this event offers fans a rare chance to see behind-the-scenes of the world's longest running popular family SF drama.

Wor Sarah Millican's remarkable rise to the pinnacle of British comedy hit another milestone this week as it emerged that her debut DVD has become the best selling of any female comedian. Fresh from her coronation as Queen of Comedy at Friday's British Comedy Awards, Sarah has broken a ten-year sales record held by French and Saunders with her Chatterbox Live DVD. So far it has sold one hundred and sixty one thousand copies, already about ten thousand more than French & Saunders Live. The next most popular, Victoria Wood: Live at the Albert Hall released in 2002, sold about forty eight thousand three hundred copies. Forty eight thousand two hundred and ninety nine too many in this blogger's opinion but, never mind. Sarah started in comedy in 2004 signing up to a performance workshop following her divorce. Since being named Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008, she has appeared regularly on television shows including Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week. She is currently on her second national tour this year.

Now, here's definitive proof, dear blog reader, that you can tell somebody in the television industry virtually anything and, like as not, they'll believe you.
I think you'll probably find that's not his real name, guys. I imagine somebody won a considerable bet there, though.

Ex-EastEnders actress Lacey Turner has joined the second series of Sky Living's supernatural drama Bedlam. The twenty three-year-old former soap actress is part of a cast refresh, which will also include Jack Roth, Nikesh Patel and Gemma Chan joining the show. Hugo Speer will return as Warren Bettany, the owner of Bedlam Heights, while Charlotte Salt is also back as his daughter Kate. Turner is cast as paramedic Ellie, who is struggling with her special ability to see ghosts. Since leaving EastEnders last Christmas, the actress's TV roles have included turns in BBC3's Being Human and Frankenstein - Live. 'I am really excited about taking part in the second series of Bedlam,' said Turner. 'It's a great story with brilliant writing and a fantastic cast. Ellie is a really interesting and conflicted character. I'm looking forward to playing her and seeing where the story takes her.' Sky's Anne Mensah commented: 'We have huge ambitions for Bedlam. The show is a unique combination of engaging relationship drama and real scares. Our fantastic cast are delivering wonderfully on the emotional material and our great production team seem determined to terrify the audience. It's a fantastic mix.'

And, speaking of EastEnders, the BBC soap is hoping for bumper ratings on Christmas Day when Albert Square stalwart Pam St Clement leaves the show after twenty five years. St Clement has played Big Fat Cuddly Pat Evans since 1986, a year after the BBC1 soap launched. While her decision to leave the soap was revealed in July, the manner of her departure has been kept a closely guarded secret. Three different endings have been shot to keep viewers guessing. 'I have enjoyed twenty five-and-a-half wonderful years in EastEnders creating the character of Pat but feel it's time to hang up her earrings,' St Clement said earlier this year. 'Leaving the EastEnders family will be akin to a bereavement. But I'm looking forward to the other work and life opportunities that I will have the time to pursue.' Pat's departure is likely to be a finite one. Previews suggest there will also be a serious confrontation with Walford bad boy Derek Branning (Jamie Foreman). The return of Pat's son David - played by Holby City's Michael French - may also be a factor. EastEnders will face strong competition from ITV's period drama Downton Abbey, which broadcasts its Christmas special on Sunday at the same time.

The NFL has reached a landmark agreement to stream the Super Bowl online and through mobile phones for the first time – although only to residents in the US. American television network NBC, which will broadcast the next Super Bowl on 5 February, said that it would stream the world's biggest TV event through its website. The Super Bowl, which last year attracted a record audience of more than one hundred million punters, will also be streamed through the NFL Mobile app on mobile phone network Verizon. The live-streaming deal will also include NBC's broadcasts of two wild card play-off matches and the Pro Bowl, which will by played in January ahead of the Super Bowl. 'We don't want to limit ourselves to people not in front of the TV,' said Rick Cordella, vice-president of NBC Sports Digital Media. 'The play-offs are appointment viewing. People schedule their day around it.' NBC and NFL have streamed regular season games online since 2008, with its Sunday Night Football service offering extra camera angles not used in the TV broadcast, live statistics and interactive elements. The Sunday night streams have averaged between two and three hundred thousand viewers, compared with about twenty one million watching each game on TV, with NBC and NFL claiming that there has been no negative impact on TV viewing by offering games online. 'Our online streaming represents a compelling, second-screen experience that nicely complements NBC's on-air presentation,' said Cordella.

Right, now here's a special Christmas treat for you all, dear blog reader. Until yesterday, yer actual Keith Telly Topping thought that this, one of the funniest moments from Pete and Dud's Not Only ... But Also - and a sketch that yer actual Keith Telly Topping remembers first watching as a very young boy - had been one of the victims of the BBC's infamous junking purges of the early 1970s. Indeed, in the late Harry Thompson's superb Peter Cook: A Biography (first published in 1997) it's explicitly stated that it had been junked. Thankfully, it seems, a copy does exist (albeit, somewhat lo-fi). This pleases yer actual Keith Telly Topping greatly.
Stephen Fry has issued a stark warning to fans watching the new Sherlock Holmes movie. The actor is involved in a nude scene and said viewers should 'be ready for what is in store.' Fry told the Daily Scum Express: 'This is a very, very dire and serious warning. There is a nude scene. I am naked in some part of the film. There will be a point in which you will want to turn away from the screen. It was very, very cold but people were kind to me.' And the Qi host revealed he was shocked to be cast as Robert Downey Jr's older, smarter brother Mycroft in the movie. 'When they said I would be playing Mycroft I thought, "That's good casting." But when it means I'm playing Robert's brother I thought what? Robert has a very elegant face. I am a lump.' The movie also stars Jude Law, who reprises his role as Doctor Watson, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris and Rachel McAdams.

Meanwhile, Alan Davies has revealed that a Qantas airline steward told him to 'fuck off' after his two-year-old daughter was caught playing in the first class toilet. Unleashing his fury on Twitter, the comic, who is Stephen Fry's regular colleague on Qi, claimed that the steward threw his daughter out of the toilet for playing with a cup, causing the toddler to start crying. When Davies complained, the steward told him to 'fuck off.' Later, when the comedian asked for his name, the steward said, 'Get out of my face.' According to his tweets, Davies then spoke to the chief steward, who did not believe his story. 'A steward made my two year old cry after turfing her out of a First Class toilet and told me to "fuck off" when I complained. I was actually holding my crying two year old girl in my arms when the Qantas steward told me to fuck off. Made for a less enjoyable journey. So after the Qantas steward told me to fuck off I congratulated him on his courage and asked him his name. He said "get out of my face." Managed to call him a gutless coward and sat down. Got his name later. Then the chief Qantas steward came out and told me he didn't believe me, argued with me over it and made my daughter cry again.' A Qantas spokeswoman said that the company is investigating the allegation. 'We are taking Mr Davies' comments seriously,' she said. On Twitter, the airline sent a public apology to Davies, writing: 'We are appalled to hear about your experience on board last night and take this very seriously.'

According to the Metro's Neil Sean, Alexandra Burke denies that flogging her own watches on Argos TV means, effectively, that her singing career is over. 'I'm more than happy to sell them,' Neil quotes her as 'cooing.' (His description, not yer actual Keith Telly Topping's.) On a similar subject, Westlife were, reportedly, 'displeased' that their little-watched ITV farewell show was scheduled up against the Strictly Come Dancing final. 'We would have much preferred another show or night,' Kian allegedly told 'a mole.' One imagines you would, young sir. But, them's the breaks I'm afraid. I mean, let's face, it's not like you're actually anybody remotely important.

Alan Hansen has 'unreservedly' apologised for twice using the word 'coloured' to describe black footballers on Match of the Day on Wednesday evening when discussing the current John Terry and Luis Suárez racism cases. Hansen, fifty six, the show's long-time pundit, said: 'I unreservedly apologise for any offence caused – this was never my intention and I deeply regret the use of the word.' Employing the term had put Hansen at the centre of an online backlash after he said: 'I think there's a lot of coloured players in all the major teams and there are lots of coloured players who are probably the best in the Premier League. If you look at twenty five or thirty years ago it was probably in a bad way - not as bad as some of the other nations on the continent - but certainly there is always, always room for improvement.' His comments caused a backlash on Twitter. The former Tottenham player Rohan Ricketts, now with Shamrock Rovers, tweeted: 'Is this Alan Hansen guy taking the fucking piss? I'm not coloured? He is part of the problem when using that word. We are BLACK Alan![sic].' He added: 'Alan Hansen is more coloured than a black person. But still we would not call him or another white man coloured.' According to the Sun, the former England international Stan Collymore said: 'Coloured? What colour would that be? Blue? Green? Orange?'

Tim Minchin has criticised ITV for cutting his performance on The Jonathan Ross Show. The thirty six-year-old comedian criticised channel controller Peter Fincham for allegedly ordering his satirical song 'Woody Allen Jesus' be omitted from the chat show. 'Someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham,' Minchin wrote on his blog. 'And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show. He did this because he's scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.' Minchin went on: 'It's hardly the end of the world. But I have to admit I'm really fucking disappointed. It's 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.' Jonathan Ross defended Minchin on Twitter, writing: 'Really gutted that the brilliant Tim Minchin song has been cut from my show,' he wrote. '[The] decision was out of my hands.' However, ITV said the musical number was 'not right tonally' - whatever the hell that means - and 'didn't quite work editorially' - ditto - before adding in a statement to BBC News: 'We often make changes to programmes before transmission.' So, in no way influenced by terror at what some louse at the Daily Scum Mail will say whatsoever, then? Fair enough.

Ruth Jones has recalled how her attempts to befriend Gwyneth Paltrow when they worked together on a film fell flat. The Gavin And Stacey co-creator appeared in a film adaptation of Emma, starring Paltrow, and told the Reader's Digest how she tried to bond with her over her Welsh roots. Ruth said: 'I got a part in the film Emma in which Gwyneth was playing the lead. She was going out with Brad Pitt at the time. I asked her if, with a name like Gwyneth, she had any Welsh connections. She wasn't terribly friendly. I thought, "Where I come from, it's an old ladies' name anyway!"' Ooo, get her. The forty five-year-old actress and writer also revealed how she failed to get a place to study drama at Manchester University after she admitted to reading Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives at her interview. Ruth said: 'Unsurprisingly, I didn't get a place there - but, years later, I had dinner with Jackie Collins. She's a Gavin And Stacey fan. I told her that story, and she gave me a signed copy of her latest book - so that worked out alright in the end!'

Ever wondered how the Christmas TV schedules are put together, dear blog reader? This little piece on the BBC News website might give you some idea.

Original cast members of the TV and radio versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are reuniting for a new stage production. The show will star Simon Jones, who played lead character Arthur Dent in both the TV and radio versions of Douglas Adams's SF comedy. It will be staged as a radio recording, which will be made available for download after the tour. The show's first performance will be at Glasgow's Theatre Royal on 8 June. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show - Live! will play at a host of other venues throughout June and July, ending at the Edinburgh Playhouse on 21 July. The production has been adapted and written by its director Dirk Maggs, who was behind Hitchhiker's 2003 revival on radio. Susan Sheridan, who played Trillian in the original 1978 radio adaptation, will also appear in the show, alongside Geoffrey McGivern who will reprise his role as Ford Prefect. A number of guest stars are due to provide the voice for the guidebook which steers Dent around the universe replacing the narration of the late Peter Jones. Their names will be announced closer to its opening date, the show's producers said. Adams' creation began life on radio in 1978, with the initial novel of what would eventually become 'a trilogy in five parts' published one year later. Adams died in 2001. A sixth novel, written by Eoin Colfer, was published in 2009. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was made into an acclaimed BBC TV series in 1981, made a return to radio in 2003. A year later, a big-screen version was made starring Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent and Stephen Fry as the voice of the guide. A number of other stage productions have been created, the most recent being produced by Wales' Theatr Clywd in 1980.

In With The Flynns has been recommissioned for a second series by the BBC, it has been confirmed. Speaking on ITV's Loose Women chat show on Thursday, Will Mellor revealed that the sitcom had been recommissioned, and would be filmed in spring 2012. It is likely to be broadcast in the autumn. In With The Flynns' first series was broadcast in June and July 2011, with average audience figures of three and a half million viewers across the six-episode run.

The Oscar won by Orson Welles for writing the groundbreaking 1941 film Citizen Kane has sold at auction in California for eight hundred and sixty one thousand five hundred and twenty one dollars. Welles wrote, directed and starred in the film, regarded by many as one of the greatest films of all time at the age of just twenty six. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards but won in only one category - best original screenplay. The statuette was once thought lost but resurfaced in 1994 when a US man tried to sell it. Cinematographer Gary Graver claimed that Welles had given it to him as a form of payment. Numerous legal battles ensued before Welles's won back the rights of ownership. The identity of the bidder who won it at an Internet auction has not been revealed. But the auction house said the second-highest offer came from the magician David Copperfield. As well as the Oscar for Citizen Kane, Welles also won an Academy Honorary Award for his 'superlative and distinguished service' to the industry in 1970. Academy Awards very rarely come up for sale. Since 1950, the academy has required Oscar winners to sign an agreement that they will never sell their statuette. But some high-profile sales have taken place before. In 1999, singer Michael Jackson paid $1.54m for the Oscar given to David O Selznick for producing Gone With The Wind.

The ghost of Christmas one hundred years past arrived early for a County Down man when he discovered a Dear Santa letter that his late mother wrote when she was a girl. The scorched letter, dated Christmas Eve 1911, had been up a chimney in a Dublin house for nine decades. Victor Bartlem's mother, Hannah Howard, had written her Christmas wish list when she was ten years old. It was first discovered in 1992 when the current house owner John Byrne installed central heating. He came upon Hannah's letter in the chimney and decided to keep it as a memento of times past. He made it public this week in the Irish Times and it was there that Victor - living more than one hundred miles away in Bangor, County Down - read about it. He was sitting at home when his wife read from the newspaper about the little girl from Oaklands Terrace, Terenure who put her letter up a chimney. It was then that he realised that she was his mother. 'I simply couldn't believe it. I never knew about this letter. I never even knew it existed,' Bartlem said. 'I could not believe it, it was absolutely amazing and it is such a sweet, typical child's letter.' Bartlem said that he was overwhelmed at people's response to the letter. 'It is in the spirit of the time we are in at the moment which is Christmas,' he said. On her Christmas list, Hannah wrote: 'I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee.' Hannah was born on Christmas Day 1900. Bartlem said that his mother attended the Zion Church of Ireland in Raphoe and married Alfred Bartlem in 1931. She had two sons, Howard and Victor. She died in 1978.

And, that ties in nicely with today's Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas. Here's a proper modern Christmas classic. And what has become of late yer actual Keith Telly Topping's genuine attitude to most things this festive season. 'See how we yawn, at your bile and your scorn. It's a beautiful day, Peace on Earth has been played. Make a noise with your toys, and ignore the killjoys.' It probably won't last till next year, Nigel, but thanks for trying anyway.