Tuesday, July 03, 2012

He Knows The Swingers And Their Cavalry, Says He Can Get In Anywhere For Free

Location images released of an upcoming Doctor Who episode have seemingly confirmed the return of actress Catrin Stewart. The shots, taken from filming of the episode starring Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling, shows the actress in the role of Jenny, the Doctor's Victorian-era ally. The character was last seen in series six episode A Good Man Goes To War and her return has prompted speculation that her lover, the Silurian Madame Vastra (played by Neve McIntosh) may also be back. Other pictures show Rigg, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman wearing similar period outfits to Stewart. The casting of Rigg and Stirling was confirmed on Monday though little is yet known about their characters other than they will be a mother and daughter 'with a dark secret.' The episode features what Stirling described as 'a gift of a script' from Sherlock co-creator and Who veteran Mark Gatiss.

Doctor Who, meanwhile, is one of the final shows to confirm its plans for San Diego's annual Comic-Con event. The cult comics, TV, games and movies convention will be visited by Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan and producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner for a panel discussion with fans on Sunday 15 July. New footage from the show's upcoming series - the last to feature Gillan and Darvill - will also premiere at the event.
Christopher Eccleston's Blackout launched with respectable numbers for BBC1 on Monday night. The three-part drama, about a man who wakes up from an alcoholic blackout to find he has nearly killed someone, attracted 4.47m in the 9pm hour. Meanwhile, ITV's Real Chariots of Fire drew 2.01m despite an eight million lead-in from Coronation Street. Undercover Boss returned with a decent 1.8m. BBC2's ninety-minute documentary 7/7: One Day In London took 1.56m. Panorama's investigation into cold callers interested a higher-than-usual 3.6m at 8.30pm, At the 8pm junction, Today at Wimbledon scored 2.41m for BBC2. Overall, BBC1 had a primetime victory with 19.3 per cent audience share against ITV's 18.9 per cent. For the third day in a row, ITV3 managed to surpass the million viewer mark in the 9pm hour, this time with a classic episode of Taggart which mustered 1.04m. That was the night's most-watched multichannel programme.

Damian Lewis's US thriller Homeland and BBC1's Sherlock and Doctor Who are among the shows nominated for the TVChoice Awards 2012. The shortlist for the awards, which take place on Monday 10 September, also includes nods for ratings hit Call The Midwife and ITV's Downton Abbey. Homeland and Call The Midwife will face each other, Channel Five's US import Once Upon A Time and BBC1's Prisoner's Wives in the Best New Drama category. Meanwhile, Sherlock and Downton Abbey will have to contend with long-running series Shameless and Skins in the Best Drama battle. Doctor Who is pitted against Glee, Merlin and Waterloo Road for Best Family Drama, and the popular long-running family SF drama's stars, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, will also be hoping to pick up Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Respectively. However, the duo will have to beat Martin Clunes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Morgan, Jaye Jacobs, Freya Mavor and Miranda Hart to claim the titles. US sitcom The Big Bang Theory will be up against British hits Outnumbered and Mrs Brown's Boys in the Best Comedy Series category. The Voice and Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads will be in competition in the Best Talent Show category with the BBC series squaring up against Britain's Got Talent, The X Factor and The Apprentice.

Comedians are setting sail from London for ten 'pop-up gigs' between the capital and Scotland. A series of shows will take place along the riverbank as The Pleasance boat travels to Edinburgh, via Oxford, Manchester and Glasgow. Reginald D Hunter and The Idiots of Ants are among those taking part in the one-off event, Jenny Eclair will launch the boat on Thursday. Gosh, let's hope she doesn't fall overboard and, you know, drown. Because, that would be terrible. The finale will take place during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Tell Tales from the Riverbanks is part of the London 2012 Festival comedy programme and is being staged by The Pleasance Theatre, launch pad for comedians including Bill Bailey and Mitchell and Webb. The nine groups of comedians involved will explore the heritage of the places they visit, with local people also invited to take part in the gigs. 'Mucking about in boats is a quintessentially British pastime,' said Anthony Alderson, director of The Pleasance. 'And what better way to take comedy from the cultural celebrations of this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games in London to the Edinburgh Fringe festival than on a canal boat.' The details of each gig, including where along the riverbank the boat will dock, will be announced on the event website shortly before the gig takes place. Gigs will also be broadcast online. Director of the London 2012 festival, Ruth Mackenzie wished the comedians and crew luck. 'It should be great fun for audiences they surprise on the way and who follow them online,' she said.

The Newsroom and True Blood have both been renewed by HBO. Aaron Sorkin's broadcasting drama The Newsroom will return for a second season, having premiered on 24 June to solid ratings and great acclaim. The Newsroom follows the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a fictional cable news channel with Jeff Daniels as the anchor. The series also stars Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr, Dev Patel, Alison Pill and Olivia Munn. Meanwhile, True Blood will return for a sixth season in 2013.

Sky has bought the rights to Elementary, the US modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, one of four stateside shows it has acquired including Vegas and The Following. Elementary, proved controversial because it followed the BBC's own modern-day take on the classic detective story, Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Unlike the BBC version, CBS's New York-based Elementary features a female Doctor Watson, played by Liu, opposite Trainspotting star Miller. The drama, which also stars Aidan Quinn as New York police chief Toby Gregson, will be broadcast on Sky Living in the autumn. Another CBS show, Vegas, stars Dennis Quaid and The Shield's Michel Chiklis and tells the true story of a former rodeo cowboy charged with bringing order to Las Vegas in the 1960s. Quaid plays the sheriff, Ralph Lamb, and Chiklis a ruthless Chicago gangster, Vincent Savino. The Following, a cat-and-mouse thriller starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy and executive produced by Kevin Williamson, is one of two Warner Bros shows also bought by Sky. The second is the superhero adaptation Arrow, which reinvents the DC Comics' creation Green Arrow for a modern audience and stars The Vampire Diaries' Stephen Amell. Both Vegas and The Following will be broadcast on Sky Atlantic, with Arrow due to appear on Sky 1 this autumn. All four shows featured prominently at the annual LA Screenings for new US TV shows in May.

Oscar-winning British film director Sam Mendes has whinged about the BBC's commercial arm for refusing to invest in BBC2's current adaptations of four Shakespeare history plays. BBC Worldwide declined to part-fund the lavish The Hollow Crown productions, which began with Richard II starring Ben Whishaw on Saturday, handing Hollywood studio NBC Universal the chance to step in and provide funding. Mendes, whose Neal Street Productions developed The Hollow Crown concept, said that he tried – and failed – to persuade the BBC's commercial team to stump up about a third of the total nine million quid production cost. Without the extra cash, the Shakespeare programmes could not have been made. The director and team were reportedly 'stunned' with the rejection, which came even though BBC2 was prepared to meet a large part of the cost from the licence fee. 'We originally pitched The Hollow Crown to BBC Worldwide. But they were not convinced that Shakespeare would sell internationally,' he said. Mendes said that he decided to speak out when the fourth play, Henry V, starring War Horse's Tom Hiddleston, was treated to a gala launch headed by the BBC's director general Mark Thompson at the British Museum. Bet that went down well with the big nobs. Joint financing of major productions is normal to share out the financial risk. To save licence fee payers' money, the BBC will meet only a percentage of the production cost, leaving the producer to find a commercial backer to meet the rest of the bill in exchange for handing over income from international and DVD rights. Often, the BBC's own commercial division, Worldwide, meets the funding deficit, but on this occasion Mendes personally failed to persuade the unit in a face to face meeting in January 2011, even thought he could list the well-known actors prepared to appear in the proposed adaptations of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V and Richard II. However, with BBC Worldwide refusing to participate, executives at BBC2 told Mendes that they would only able to guarantee that it could pay for Richard II – leaving the other three productions under threat. Instead, Mendes looked elsewhere and found that NBC Universal – which is rapidly expanding in Britain with programmes such as Downton Abbey – was willing to buy the overseas and DVD rights. NBC believes it can sell The Hollow Crown as a ten-part mini-series of hour-long episodes in some areas, on the lines of The Tudors. 'It is, of course, an irony that the US giant NBC Universal then stepped in and spotted the long-term commercial potential of the project,' Mendes said. Gareth Neame, the British-born NBC Universal executive producer, was asked for help and rapidly agreed. He said: 'I have a sense it will be commercially viable, not overnight, but in the long run. They will be sold for many years to come. Countries such as Germany and Japan are very interested in Shakespeare. It is a roll of the dice, but one we should do.' A spokesman for BBC Worldwide said: 'We have to balance every investment against commercial returns including projections from our international sales team. In this case we decided to pass. We are pleased to hear that Neal Street and NBC Universal are partnering to distribute these films overseas, in addition to UK audiences this summer.' BBC Worldwide said they had recently invested in Call the Midwife (also made by Mendes's Neal Street Productions), and the forthcoming Tom Stoppard adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series of novels. BBC Worldwide Productions are also currently shooting Da Vinci's Demons, described as 'a Renaissance-inspired romp,' in Swansea with a US cable network.

Organisers of the Eurovision song contest have defended it against claims that racism has been a factor in the UK's poor record in the competition. Their response follows comments made by the odious and small composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in an interview with the Radio Times. His Very Lordship Lloyd-Webber told the magazine the low scores of acts like Blue and Jade Ewen had not been based on music alone. The European Broadcasting Union, which stages the annual event, said the claims were unfair.'"At this year's final we had a female black singer representing Ukraine,' said a spokesman. 'We have had no indications of racism. On the contrary, we celebrate the differences among different entries, truly uniting Europe for three nights a year.' Poisoned, bitter gnome, faceache (and drag) Lloyd-Webber claimed that when he took Ewen to Moscow in 2009, he was asked: 'Why have you brought a black artist?' Referring to this year's contest, the composer said: 'I don't think there's any point beating around the bush. I don't think there was one black face on the programme.' Ewen, who sang 'It's My Time' at the 2009 contest, has a Jamaican mother and Scottish-Sicilian father. The singer, now a member of The Sugababes, eventually came fifth in the competition. According to The Tiny One, though, she deserved more. 'At the press conference in Moscow, I was asked "why have you brought a black artist?"' he told the Radio Times. 'I said, "because she is the most talented artist that we had and I think she's a major, major star." I think we would have come second but there's a problem when you go further east,' he continued. 'If you're talking about Western Europe - Germany, fine; France, fine; Spain, fine; Greece, fine; Scandinavian countries, fine. But Ukraine? Not so good.' Asked whether he thought racism had ultimately cost the UK the title, he commented: 'Well, it doesn't mean that we would necessarily have won that year but we could have come second.' So, that'd be a 'yes', then. The 2009 contest was won by Norway's Alexander Rybak, who was born in Belarus and sang his own composition, 'Fairytale'. In actuality, Ewen performed better than some of the UK's other entrants in recent years. Andy Abraham and Josh Dubovie both came last, in 2008 and 2010 respectively. This year the seventy six-year old crooner, yer actual Engelbert Humperdinck, received just twelve points for his song 'Love Will Set You Free', earning an embarrassing second-to-last finish. A BBC spokeswoman said the corporation had 'no evidence whatsoever' of any racism around the Eurovision. 'Jade Ewan got to a very respectable fifth place in 2009 when thirty two out of forty one countries gave the UK points,' she said. 'Jade was given points from nineteen Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, in 2009.'

Former Barclays chairman Marcus Agius will leave his position on the BBC's executive board in November when his term expires, the corporation has announced. He has just quit as chairman of the embattled bank on Monday, saying he was 'truly sorry' for the interest-rate rigging scandal which has dealt a 'devastating blow' to the bank. The Harvard-educated banker, who has sat on the BBC board since 2006, resigned from Barclays on Monday morning and announced an internal review into the bank's practices after the revelations of the scandal. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'Marcus Agius is currently serving his second three-year term as the senior non-executive director on the BBC executive board. He will continue to discharge his duties as senior non-executive director until his second term expires in November.' When he was appointed to the position six years ago, BBC director general Mark Thompson praised Agius's 'impressive and very successful track record in managing large institutions.' A BBC spokesperson indicated it was 'normal practice' for non-executive directors to step down after completing two terms. However, there have been occasions when people have served for longer.

For the first time the BBC will broadcast The Last Night of the Proms live from the Royal Albert Hall in 3D. They hope that it will give the audience at home the feeling they are 'in the orchestra.' Only, not playing an instrument. Obviously. In August, the lost world of dinosaurs will be recreated for Planet Dinosaur 3D. Described as the 'most ambitious animated programmes ever attempted,' a specialist team have worked frame-by-frame to ensure that viewers have the 'ultimate 3D experience.' The opening and closing ceremony of the London Olympic games will be broadcast in 3D along with the highly anticipated Men's 100m final. A highlights package at the end of each day will also be shown in 3D. This weekend the BBC will re-broadcast the Wimbledon Men's singles semi-finals in 3D and selective live coverage from the Men's and Ladies' final games. The free-to-air broadcast of these events in 3D will be available to anyone who has access to a 3D set and to the BBC HD Channel, regardless of which digital TV provider they use.

Blur debuted two new songs at a live show streamed on Twitter on Monday evening. The group, whose last CD came out in 2003, performed the songs - 'Under the Westway' and 'The Puritan' - an hour apart, from a secret rooftop location. The band wrote the songs for a concert in London's Hyde Park to coincide with the Olympics Closing Ceremony. 'I'm really excited about getting out there and playing them for people,' said front man Damon Albarn. Blur performed in the rain for around fifty invited guests, fans on the street who had discovered the location, and the online audience on Twitter. The last time they had played together was in 2009, on a brief reunion tour that included a headline set at Glastonbury. In a question and answer session with fans between the two songs, the band revealed the Olympics concert, on 12 August, would feature a career-spanning set 'including the new tracks.' When asked how it felt to be playing together again, guitarist Graham Coxon answered: 'Like a silk smoking jacket.' 'Under the Westway' also received its first radio play on Steve Lamacq's BBC 6Music show. Afterwards fans took to Twitter to voice their approval, calling the song 'stunning', 'absolutely perfect' and 'emotive, haunting and beautiful.' The two Blur songs were the band's first newly-aired material since the release of a limited edition seven-inch single, 'Fool's Day', produced for 2010's Record Store Day. The new songs have already been made available online. A limited edition double-A-side seven-inch single will follow on 6 August. They will also perform three warm-up dates during early August, ahead of the Hyde Park concert, at venues special to the band - Margate Winter Gardens, Wolverhampton Civic Hall and Plymouth Pavilions.

Gareth Southgate, the ITV pundit and former international footballer, has waded in with some wise words of advice for the current generation of England penalty failures: step away from the TV adverts. Southgate - infamously - appeared in a self-mocking Pizza Hut advert following his missed penalty against Germany in Euro 96 alongside fellow ex-internationals Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle. The nation was not amused. The Daily Lies reports that Southgate has advised Ashley Cole and Ashley Young, whose fluffed spot kicks against Italy saw England knocked out of Euro 2012, not to follow in his footsteps. 'Every single day now when I walk down the street it is always mentioned to me,' he told FourFourTwo magazine.

Andy Griffith, who portrayed a small-town sheriff on US 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show has died, aged eighty six. Bill Friday, a friend of the actor, told local broadcaster WITN that Griffith had died in North Carolina. Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie said in a statement Griffith died around 07:00 EST on Tuesday. The actor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian award, in 2005. Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, he starred in the popular comedy series as Sheriff Andy Taylor from 1960 to 1968. The show portrayed life in the quiet North Carolina town of Mayberry, where the sheriff had little crime to contend with. It spun-off several additional shows. Griffith continued to act, gaining a second TV hit as defence lawyer Ben Matlock in the 1980s and 1990s. He was nominated for a Tony award in 1956 and won a Grammy for his LP of gospel hymns in 1996.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a reminder of when Blur used to make records regularly. Pretty good ones too (although, being the contrary sod that he is, yer actual Keith Telly Topping preferred Oasis). Plus, I've always liked Graham and Dave and I can put up with Damon most of the time, but that Alex James remains a prime knob-end. Anyway ...