Monday, December 12, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: A Man-In-Black Christmas

So, after all of yesterday's excitement we're back to normal, dear blog reader. It's just another boring Monday morning in December. There are twelve shoplifting days to Christmas and, thirteen to the next episode of Doctor Who. Which is nice.
Bloody hell, it's The Fish People! Run!

Holly Valance and Alex Jones were both eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing on Sunday night. The former Neighbours actress and The ONE Show presenter were voted out after the semi-final, leaving Harry Judd, Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan to battle it out in the final. Jones and her professional partner James Jordan finished bottom of the leader board with a combined total of sixty five points out of eighty for their waltz and salsa, whilst judges awarded Valance and Artem Chigvintsev seventy points for their Argentine tango and charleston. Speaking to hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman after the result, Jones said: 'I've had an incredible time, and when I'm old and grey I'll look back at these three months and I'll think that was a brilliant time.' Or, something like that anyway, it was a bit garbled. On her relationship with Jordan, she added: 'We've laughed eighty per cent of the time, apart from when I get left and right wrong! But it's just been fantastic, and to meet all the other thirteen contestants and pro-dancers and everybody backstage has just been an incredible experience. He has just been able to work miracles, and done it in such a funny way.'
Valance, meanwhile, said that she was 'grateful' to have made some 'beautiful' new friends during Strictly and praised Chigvintsev for his 'brilliant' work. 'I'm just proud that we've been part of the most successful Strictly,' she commented. 'The British public has been incredible, this is much further than we ever thought we could ever imagine. I think besides working with the most brilliant choreographer I've ever witnessed in my entire life, I've made beautiful new friends, and I'll be able to take them with me. The show will end, but all of my new friendships will keep going, so I'm very grateful.' She also said something about being sick of 'frocking up.' Well, at least, I think that's what she said. Chigvintsev said: 'I'm very strict in the rehearsals all the time, and I never really compliment my partner as I should more often. I just want to say [to her] thank you so much. You have been absolutely terrific. Just thank you.'

Meanwhile, Little Mix have been crowned this year's X Factor winners - the first group to win the singing contest. The band, made up of Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson and Leigh-Anne Pinnock beat Marcus Collins to take the title. But, the real news is the overnight ratings. The X Factor final pulled in an average audience of 12.87m across the two hours with a peak of 15.27m. Extraordinary figures by most standards but distinctly ordinary when compared to the same show last year. In 2010, the final of The X Factor attracted an overnight average audience of 17.2m, peaking at 9.20pm with 19.4m (a sixty per cent audience share). So, whichever way you look at it, it's somewhere between three and four million fewer people watching this year's X Factor final as compared to 2010. If ITV aren't just a little bit worried about that, they should be. Simon Cowell, in the mean time, is reportedly 'disappointed and concerned' after the first part of The X Factor final was beaten by Strictly Come Dancing in the overnight ratings. The Wembley Arena special on Saturday, which saw Amelia Lily finish in third place, was watched by a peak audience of 10.6m viewers (10.9m including ITV+1 viewers), while the Strictly semi-final appealed to eleven million earlier in the evening. The X Factor figure is also 3.45m less than last year's final. 'Insiders' have allegedly predicted that alleged 'heads' will, allegedly 'roll' over the latest defeat and that Cowell will likely choose to 'shake up' the judging panel when the show returns next year. 'Seeing the final get beaten by Strictly will be the final straw and heads will roll,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Mirra. 'There is definitely a need for change, on the judging panel and in production. Simon took some of the best staff behind the camera for X Factor USA and the new team haven't worked out. There's a feeling that people are happy to miss the Saturday show and catch up on Sunday because they didn't care who won as much as in previous years.'

There's a very good piece by the Gruniad's Patrick Foster called BBC local radio: has the BBC scored an own goal with its cuts plans? I'm going to quote from it quite extensively - for which, I hope, the author won't mind - but I do urge you, dear blog reader, to click on the link and check out the whole piece. It's a fabulously balanced and forthright piece of reportage, full of wit and nuance and passion. it is, in short, exactly the sort of thing the Gruniad should be coming up with, instead of their pointless nonsense bully boy vendetta against Clarkson and their occasional cynical sneering at populism in all its forms. Stick to what you're good at, guys because, like the proverbial little girl with the proverbial little curl, when you're bad, you're horrid: 'You've probably never heard of the BBC presenter Peter Levy. Likewise Eric Smith, Keith Edwards, Ali Brownlee. None of them earn hundreds of thousands of pounds of the licence fee,' begins Foster's piece. 'You won't see them alongside other BBC presenters in the pages of the tabloid press. In fact, unless you live in Sheffield, Shropshire, Humberside or Teesside, it's unlikely that you'll see or hear them at all. What unites the above quartet – apart from the fact that, as BBC local radio presenters they are household names in their own localities – is that they were all name-checked by MPs as examples of the BBC at its best, in a recent parliamentary debate called to protest against cuts to the corporation's forty local stations across England. It is probably fair to say that local radio stations are among the BBC's least glamorous outlets. It is the domain of lean budgets and stretched staff, broadcasting to a predominantly poor, elderly audience. But the listeners are devoted. A third of local radio's 7.25 million audience – an audience that is, incidentally, up by nearly three hundred thousand on last year – do not tune in to any other BBC station.' An impressive start. Foster then turns to the main problem. 'The cuts facing local radio look low on first glance – twelve per cent versus the twenty per cent facing the rest of the corporation, where some non-content divisions have taken twenty five per cent. But because all forty stations are stuck with the fixed costs of separate premises and transmission technology, the savings must be found purely from staff and programming budgets, which must take hits of around twenty per cent to compensate. Larger stations will therefore have to axe up to a quarter of their staff, with BBC London having to shed the equivalent of seventeen full-time jobs, Leeds eleven, Manchester 10.4 and Newcastle nine. As one editor puts it: "We can do opt-outs from the shared shows, but the question is: will there be anyone around to do the job?"' The next paragraph of Foster's piece is the one that I'm most impressed with because he's done something that virtually nobody else commenting on DQF's local radio proposals has done, asked the opposition. 'Even the BBC's local commercial rivals are concerned. They fear that the main way BBC stations will try to save cash is by replacing intelligent speech shows with cheaper music programming – aping the formats that are the mainstay of commercial radio. Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, which represents the commercial sector, is clear: "The BBC needs to make savings following its licence fee settlement, but this doesn't have to come at the cost of diluting its most distinctive output. At its best BBC Local Radio can offer a distinctive and complementary service to local commercial radio. It would be in no one's interest to reduce its unique content and create a new tier of regional services, or undermine its commitment to local news, discussion and information. The BBC has a very specific public service remit – withdrawal from that leaves all parties fighting over the same territory, with the listener, inevitably, the loser."' As previously noted, of course, the BBC's public service remit tends to be used as a stick to beat the BBC by various people with an agenda - usually, public service broadcasting equates to 'stuff I want to hear' regardless of whether it satisfies one, several or all of the BBC's Royal Charter commitments. Remember, 'to entertain' is in there on an equal footing to 'to educate' and 'to inform.' Anyway, Harrison has, at least, used it in a correct context here. And, so to sport: 'However, the most controversial sporting proposal comes in the form of football commentary sharing. Currently, most stations have highly partisan commentators with intimate knowledge of their local clubs, who traipse around the country, broadcasting back to their local listeners. When Portsmouth play West Ham at Fratton Park, commentary teams from both BBC London and BBC Radio Solent are present. Under the commentary sharing plans, that could end, with BBC London instead given the option of saving cash by syndicating Solent's Portsmouth-focused commentary to its listeners in the capital. [David] Holdsworth [the BBC's Controller of Regions] says: "I understand that fans want to have the perspective of their local commentary. But quite a lot of licence fee payers might look at a match where we've got two local radio stations and a 5Live team and think having three commentary teams in the ground, is that the best way to spend the licence fee?"' To which most football fans would, I'm pretty sure, reply 'sod the licence fee, I want to hear [insert name of local sports presenter].' Foster starts to conclude with the following: 'So what is to be done? The proposals are under consideration by the BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, which is conducting a public consultation that closes on 21 December. There may be a fair wind blowing. There is talk that [Mark] Thompson, stung by the reaction of parliament and public, is hastily preparing a contingency plan that would see a couple of million pounds pumped back into local radio budgets, with the early afternoon sharing proposals overturned. Station chiefs warn of a "nightmare scenario" in which the corporation seeks to head off criticism by scrapping the most visible changes – the plans to share content in the afternoon and evenings – without putting enough cash back to pay for the staff to make the programmes. "Then we would have a massively bigger problem," says one boss. "Instead of having to cut off a finger, we would have to cut off an arm."' Foster's piece ends with this thought: 'All are agreed on one point, that Trust chairman Lord Patten, an astute political operator, will make the final decision. The peer has already made encouraging noises, describing local radio as the "glue" that holds local communities together, even going so far as to term it a "more trusted way of getting information than anything else." Those close to Patten say that he feels "local radio is at the heart of local democracy." Says one source close to the chairman: "The strength of feeling has not gone unnoticed. It has been the biggest issue in the consultation. You should not bet against the Trust making changes to these plans."' Excellent, Patrick Foster, my hat's off to you. Now, dear blog reader, a final reminder - if you haven't already taken part in the DQF consultation exercise, you've got another week left to do so. No matter what your opinions of the BBC are, the Trust say that they want to hear from you. After all, the BBC belongs to you, as a licence fee payer. So, go to the BBC Trust website, read the proposals and take part in the consultation. They're asking for input, it'd be rude not to take them up on their offer.

BBC North in Salford will be home to many parts of the BBC but it will never play host, it would appear, to yer actual Stephen Fry. The Qi presenter, it would seem, is not a fan, attributing the near one billion pound project to 'metro-hatred' and 'provincial arse-licking.' Oh blimey. 'Where does one begin with the BBC's "regionalism"? They destroy local radio but move to Salford to "appease" the North. As if "the North" is one place! I should think even Mancunians are pissed off by it, let alone Geordies or Lakelanders. In-fucking-sane,' blogs Fry, star of BBC1's Christmas centrepiece, The Borrowers. The lad's got a point, you know. And I say that as one very definitely non-Mancunian Northerner. But what about the switch of BBC Sport from London to Salford just months before the Olympics? 'Farcical,' reckons Stephen. 'Weep, groan, roar or wet yourself laughing.' Not a fan, then, I'm guessing?
The final number of victims of the Scum of the World's phone-hacking operation is expected to be in the region of eight hundred people, Scotland Yard has said. This is a fraction of the five thousand eight hundred names the police had previously identified from the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator used by the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid. The head of the Metropolitan police investigation into phone-hacking said that she was confident all those who had their phones hacked or were likely to have been victims of the illegal practice had now been contacted. Sue Akers, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, told The Times: 'We are confident we have personally contacted all the people who have been hacked or are likely to have been hacked. But there is a raft of people still to be spoken to who are potential targets, but are unlikely to have been hacked.' Scotland Yard said the number identified as of last Tuesday was eight hundred and three individuals including crime victims, celebrities, senior politicians and sports people. A Met spokesman said that it 'would be wrong' to conclude that the remaining five thousand names identified in Mulcaire's notebooks were not hacked. 'That is an assumption,' she said. But The Times said that because of the lack of information about the remaining people, they were 'unlikely' to have been hacked. Mulcaire is known to have meticulously documented the name of the individual whose phone numbers he had been asked to get details about. Some victims such as Sienna Miller told the Leveson inquiry that the Mulcaire files showed to her by police contained 'extensive' details about her, including all the mobile numbers she had changed over three months, pin numbers for her voicemail and the password for her e-mail that was later used to hack her computer in 2008. The Met is expected to spend four million smackers per year on Operation Weeting and because of the scale of the investigation is seeking more resources to deal with the workload.

The most singularly impressive thing about Saturday night's overnight ratings was that after all of the pre-publicity, after banging on for weeks about how a 'global superstar' was coming to town, after bigging-up the fact that the words 'Justin Bieber' were 'a trending topic' on Twittter (as though, again, Twitter is now the effing Arbiter of All Things), This Is Justin Bieber pulled in a miserably low audience of just 2.01m (an eight per cent audience share). I laughed, and I laughed and I laughed until I stopped, dear blog reader. And then I laughed some more. The irony of the fact that the episode of CSI in which The Biebster his very self got shot achieved a larger audience on Channel Five a few weeks ago will, I trust, not be lost on anyone.

Edward MacLian has reportedly quit BBC1's Holby City. The Sun reports the actor has decided to quit the medical drama after two years. He plays registrar Greg Douglas in the series having joined the cast in 2010. The tabloid quotes the actor as saying 'I haven't signed another contract so January or February will be the end for me. I thought that two years would be a good barometer of how it went and I've really enjoyed it. They haven't said what my exit storyline is but I think it will be something big.' Laila Rouass recently announced her departure from Holby City after just over a year playing Sahira Shah. The actress has already filmed her final scenes on the medical drama but is expected to appear on-screen into the New Year.

Like eating all the chocolates from your advent calendar in one go, the annual 'outrage at repeats on Christmas TV' story has become a festive tradition in the middleweight tabloids. The Daily Scum Express beat the Daily Scum Mail to the punch this year, but now that Scum Express boss Richard Desmond also owns a TV channel, it's a repeats story with something of a difference. In that, it doesn't include Channel Five. 'Nearly one hundred and twenty three hours of programme repeats will be shown on Britain's four main television channels during Christmas week,' it bellows. So, there you have it, it's official from the horses mouth, as it were – Channel Five is not a 'main television channel apparently. According to the Radio Times, Channel Five's own repeats on Christmas Day will include Animal Rescue Squad, Ice Road Truckers and a 1996 Angela Lansbury musical, Mrs Santa Claus. Its festive highlight, Eddie Stobart's Christmas Delivery, will also have been shown before – on Christmas Eve. Is that what's described as an Express repeat.

And, speaking of scum tabloids and their scum views, the BBC has denied misleading viewers over footage shown on the Frozen Planet series of a polar bear tending her newborn cubs. The corporation insisted it would have been impossible to have filmed the scenes in the wild amid crass and witless criticism reported by the some louse of no importance at the Daily Mirra that the commentary had failed to tell the audience that the scenes had been shot in a zoo. The BBC said the way the footage had been captured had been 'clearly explained' online. 'This particular sequence would be impossible to film in the wild,' a spokeswoman said. 'The commentary accompanying the sequence is carefully worded so it doesn't mislead the audience and the way the footage was captured is clearly explained on the programme website.' The footage, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, was made in a German zoo and was mixed with real scenes from the wild, the Daily Mirra reported. In the episode, broadcast on 23 November, the camera follows a female polar bear in the Arctic as Sir David Attenborough comments: 'She starts to dig a shallow nest. Once the snow here is deep enough, she'll dig down to make a den. She'll then lie waiting for her cubs to be born as winter sets in.' Later, the film cuts to a mountainside: 'On these side slopes beneath the snow, new lives are beginning,' Sir David narrates. In the online clip, posted on 7 November - a full fortnight before the episode in question was broadcast - producer Kathryn Jeffs explains: 'The problem for us is that [the polar bears] do it [give birth] underneath the snow in these dens of ice, and there's absolutely no way that we could get our cameras down there. It would be completely impractical and you wouldn't want to disturb the polar bears by getting that close,' she added. The BBC programme features ten-minute segments at the end of each episode explaining how film crews got up close to the wildlife.

Comedy writer Derren Litten, best known for his ITV series Benidorm, is reportedly scripting a new show for the BBC. Scripts have been ordered by BBC1 for a new show entitled End Of The Line from the Manchester-based independent drama producer Red Production Company, according to trade magazine Broadcast. The series, created and written by Litten, is likely to be set in the UK and fulfill channel controller Danny Cohen's recent call for more sitcoms to 'reflect blue-collar, working class life.' Further details are unknown at this point. Seven episodes for a fifth series of the comedy drama Benidorm, are currently in production. Litten had publicly announced that he was quitting the show earlier this year, but was enticed back on-board to become part of a writing team with news that Joan Collins was a fan and wanted to make a guest appearance in the show. Litten is understood to have penned three of series five's hour-long episodes, with star Steve Pemberton writing a further three. Litten's previous credits include writing and appearing in hit sketch series The Catherine Tate Show.

A cat has inherited a ten million quid fortune after his owner died, it has been reported. Wealthy Italian Maria Assunta died last month aged ninety four and had instructed lawyers to give all of her money to Tommasino, a stray cat she had rescued. She had properties across the country, several bank accounts and share portfolios - but no living relatives to leave it to, the Daily Scum Mail reports. Lawyers Anna Orecchioni and Giacinto Canzona prepared Assunta's will in 2009, but explained that Tommassino couldn't directly inherit the money under Italian law. Assunta requested the money be given to a 'worthy animal association, if one could be found.' 'We had requests from several organisations but in the end we did not find any that we thought were suitable,' Orecchioni said. 'Then earlier this year Maria told us about her nurse called Stefania who looked after her and who, like her, had a love of animals and in particular cats. 'We also could find no living relatives of her at all anywhere. In the end we decided that Stefania was the most suitable person to administer the money that Maria had left in her will. To be honest [Tommasino] doesn't need all that money. He is happy with a saucer of milk and some biscuits.' Well, hell, aren't we all? Stefania added that she 'had no idea' Assunta was so wealthy. Tommasino's inheritance makes him one of the richest pets in the world. Gunter, a German shepherd, received more than ninety million smackers after his owner Karlotta Liebenstien died. Madonna sold her five million quid Miami villa to agents acting on behalf of the dog in 2000. New York's infamous Leona Helmsley also left six million knicker to her Maltese terrier after cutting her grandchildren from her will.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas. Here's proof that when they made Johnny Cash they broke the mould - someone with the ability to turn 'Little Drummer Boy' into a saloon-hall murder ballad! Beat that, Bing and Bowie.