Thursday, January 24, 2013

Come On You Stranger, You Legend, You Martyr, And Shine!

The BBC has announced details of the new, much-anticipated Jonathan Creek Easter special. It was first confirmed in December that the detective series would return for a one-off episode titled The Clue of the Savant's Thumb, its first new episode since 2010. Alan Davies - looking a lot greyer than he used to - will be back in his duffel coat in the title role, with Sheridan Smith reprising her role as Internet investigator Joey Ross. Rik Mayall will also return to the series as Detective Inspector Gideon Pryke, a character last seen in 1998 Christmas episode Black Canary. Guest stars in Savant's Thumb include Sarah Alexander, Joanna Lumley, Mayall's old Young Ones co-star Nigel Planer and Hasina Haque. The ninety-minute special will see Creek and Joey 'drawn into a complex case involving a secret society, strange events at a girls' boarding school, and the miraculous disappearance of a body in front of three witnesses.' Sounds cracking. Filming is currently under way on the episode, which has, as usual, been written and directed by the show's creator the great David Renwick.

The cult French thriller Engrenages (Spiral), a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self, returns to BBC4 for its fourth series on Saturday 9 February at 9pm in the slot vacated by Borgen which finished the previous week. This is, of course, excellent news.
Strictly Come Dancing beat The X Factor - as it did so often in the ratings this autumn - to win the best talent show prize at the National Television Awards in London on Wednesday evening. The BBC1 dancing contest ended The X Factor's three-year run winning the prize, also beating Britain's Got Toilets, Twatting About On Ice and The Voice. It comes after Strictly consistently twanked the ITV programme's ass hollow in the ratings during their last series. Presenter Tess Daly said that she was 'thrilled to bits' to win the award. 'It's Strictly's tenth year this year and this is the icing on the cake,' she said. She paid tribute to her co-host, Sir Bruce Forsyth, who did not attend the ceremony and later added that she would be calling him to tell him the good news. Although, presumably, he already knew if he was watching it on TV. Might've had something better to do, admittedly. All the prizes handed out at the ceremony at London's O2 Arena were voted for by the public. Ant and/or Dec won the best presenter award for a twelfth consecutive year. They accepted their award via a video link from the London Palladium where they are currently filming Britain's Got Toilets. 'We're so happy and pleased to win,' yer actual Declan Donnelly said. Ant McPartlin added: 'This is ridiculous - twelve in a row. We have to say thank you to every single one of you.' The Geordie duo also had success with their ITV show I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), which won best entertainment programme. It is the fifth NTA the programme has won after previously winning the award in 2011 as well as prizes for best reality programme in 2003, 2007 and 2012. Former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, who took part in the latest series, said she was 'super-thankful to the public' for the award. Rilly. Y'know. It was also a strong night for BBC drama, with Irish actor Colin Morgan winning best male drama performance for Merlin and Miranda Hart picking up best female drama performance for her role in Call The Midwife. Morgan beat yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch, Matt Smith his very self and Daniel Mays to win the award for his role in the fantasy show, which ended after five series (the last three of which we pretty good) in December. 'It's been a five-year journey, so it's a huge honour to end on a high and get the recognition from the fans,' he said backstage after winning the award. Hart was in Australia, but in a message read out on stage the actress said she was 'properly thrilled and very grateful.' She added: 'Please give my award for safekeeping to Gary Barlow who since snogging me on my show is totally smitten and will be taking me as a lover.' The BBC missed out on winning the best drama award, which went to Downton Abbey for a second consecutive year, beating Doctor Who, Merlin and Sherlock. Phyllis Logan, who plays housekeeper Mrs Hughes in the costume drama, paid tribute to odious, up-his-own-arsehole writer Lord Snooty, saying his 'imagination has captured the imagination of a lot of you all around the world.' Coronation Street was named best serial drama for a second year running - beating EastEnders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks - while Alan Halsall, who plays Tyrone in the soap, picked up best serial drama performance. The actor paid tribute to former co-star Bill Tarmey, who died last year, saying he would be looking down on him 'having a pint of Guinness for me.' Producer Phil Collinson also paid tribute and dedicated the soap's win to the late actor. ITV's This Morning was named best daytime programme - its fourth NTA in its history. Although Doctor Who had been nominated for three prizes, the show came away empty-handed, as did Sherlock with two nominations. But there was considerable BBC success - for Mrs Brown's Boys (loathed by the critics but loved by its huge audience), which won best sitcom for the second time. Speaking backstage after collecting his award, the show's writer and star Brendan O'Carroll dismissed negative reviews which critics have given his show in the past. 'We write it for the audience, not for somebody that writes in newspapers or magazines,' he said. O'Carroll also revealed he may consider making a fourth series of the show, despite initially saying it would end after three years. Frozen Planet also won best documentary series, and Qi deservedly picked up best comedy panel show. EastEnders' David Witts, who plays Joey Branning, was named best newcomer. The actor admitted that he had not prepared an acceptance speech as he did not expect to win. The best factual entertainment award was presented to Paul O'Grady: For The Love Of Dogs. Joanna Lumley was awarded a special recognition prize with tributes being paid to the actress by her Absolutely Fabulous co-star Jennifer Saunders, Prime Minister David Cameron and film director Martin Scorsese - who cast her in this year's Wolf Of Wall Street. Lumley's TV and film career spans six decades, from the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969 to Absolutely Fabulous which has run, on and off, for twenty years. She also starred in fondly remembered cult TV shows The New Avengers and Sapphire & Steel. She is a formidable campaigner, speaking out on behalf of the Gurkhas, Free Tibet, wildlife and mental health issues among others. A tearful Lumley said afterwards: 'It was the most unexpected and earth-shattering thing to hear these people speak so generously of me. To sit there with my son beside me, it was unbelievably touching. What touched me tonight was seeing the picture of my daddy who is dead now, and was the inspiration behind me supporting the Gurkhas as much as I did. My family were everything to me.' A landmark award for the BBC's coverage of London 2012 was presented to an emotional Lord Coe and London 2012 Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and David Weir. The presentation opened with host Dermot O'Dreary and David Walliams spoofing the sketch shown at the Olympic Opening Ceremony featuring The Queen and James Bond star Daniel Craig. Only the Olympics version was funny and this one wasn't.

The National Television Awards was popular once again for ITV this year, attracting almost 5.6 million overnight viewers. Hosted by Dermot O'Dreary, the star-studded ITV ceremony averaged 5.58m between 7.30pm and 10pm. However, the coverage shed eight hundred thousand punters on last year's event, and lost out to David Attenborough's Africa which commanded 5.81m in the 9pm hour for BBc1. The Great Comic Relief Bake Off's penultimate edition again fared well with 3.94m for BBC2 in the 8pm hour, proving more popular than BBC1's Food Inspectors which was only capable of mustering 3.5m in the same slot.

There was a particularly interesting CSI broadcast in the US last week, involving the death of a local TV anchorwoman who was stabbed in the neck during a power cut and was, seemingly, hated by pretty much everyone. Rumours that the character was based on Sky News anchor Kay Burley cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied.
It was 'returning villains week' on US television this week, it would seem, with both Bones and Hawaii Five-0 bringing back two of their most persistent bad-guys (the characters of Christopher Pelant and Wo Fat, respectively). Two very good episodes, as well, particularly the Bones instalment which benefited from a marvellously twitchy and wired performance from the always impressive Tom Thyne.
A surge in watching TV shows on mobile phones and tablets on the way to work fuelled a rise of more than a third in viewing on the BBC's iPlayer video-on-demand service last year, with Danny Boyle's London Olympic Opening Ceremony the most requested programme of 2012. There was a one hundred and seventy seven per cent year-on-year increase in the use of mobiles and tablets to watch shows on the iPlayer, according to BBC figures published on Thursday. Mobile and tablets accounted for more than a quarter of the 2.32bn TV and radio programmes watched on the iPlayer last year. In total thirty six and a half billion minutes of BBC programmes were watched on the iPlayer in 2012 on some device or other. The BBC said this was a thirty four per cent increase over 2011. They added that usage statistics show most people with mobiles download a show at night and watch it on their commute to work the next day. This surge in popularity of watching programmes on the go helped to push the use of PCs to its lowest level since the iPlayer launched in 2007. In 2012, forty seven per cent of requests for iPlayer content came from PCs, the first time it has fallen below fifty per cent. 'Last year, the use of iPlayer shifted from PCs and early adopter devices like game consoles to screens used by all audiences,' said Daniel Danker, general manager of programmes and on-demand at the BBC. 'Mobile, tablet, and connected TV skyrocketed, with a particular emphasis on audiences taking iPlayer on the go.' The most popular iPlayer show of 2012 was Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony, which had 3.3m requests to view. Top Gear also proved massively popular - to the obvious gurning for the Gruniad Morning Star and it's hippy-Communist-lice-scum journalists - with episodes of series eighteen featuring seven times in the top twenty list. Rumours of its demise, it would seem, have been greatly exaggerated. The highest was the season's opening episode with 2.8m views. Sherlock managed third place, with 2.5m views of the first episode of series two, A Scandal in Belgravia. The recent first half of Doctor Who's seventh series also featured strongly with three episodes in the top twenty most watched programmes, topped by Asylum of the Daleks with 2.24m hits.

Being Human will return for its fifth series next month. BBC3 has confirmed that the paranormal drama - created by Toby Whithouse - will launch its latest run on Sunday 3 February at 10pm. Damien Molony, Michael Socha and Kate Bracken will star in the new six-part series as the vampire Hal, the werewolf Tom and the ghost Alex. The fifth series premiere will introduce Whitechapel star Phil Davis as the menacing Captain Hatch and will also see the return of the sinister government agent Mr Rook (played by Steven Robertson). Having been fired from their old jobs at the local café, Hal and Tom find new employment at the Barry Grand Hotel, where they first encounter 'poisonous pensioner' Hatch. Whithouse recently claimed that series five of Being Human will climax with an ending that 'will leave you guessing.'

Emily Mortimer, Chris Addison and Rebecca Front will star in new comedies on Sky Living, part of a big-budget drive by the BSkyB-owned pay-TV channel to prove that it is not all about 'diets, weddings and fashion.' A clutch of new home-grown comedies and dramas will sit alongside the channel's US imports, including Sherlock Holmes adaptation Elementary and Sky's NBC co-production, Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Director of Sky Living, Antonia Hurford-Jones, said her channel had been 'a major beneficiary' of Sky's pledge to increase its investment in home-grown programming by fifty per cent to six hundred million by 2014. Mortimer, the star of HBO's The Newsroom, will appear opposite her friend Dolly Wells in the six-part comedy, Doll & Em. The Curb Your Enthusiasm-style show will follow what happens to Mortimer when she goes to Hollywood and is followed by, Dolly, who becomes her PA after splitting up with her boyfriend. Addison will appear in Trying Again, an eight-part comedy written by Simon Blackwell. Addison will star as a man whose fiancée has an affair with her boss. Front, another Thick of It star, will appear in The Spa, an eight-part sitcom about a Hertfordshire health club created by Benidorm writer Derren Litten in which she will play the 'Leighton Buzzard slimmer of the decade.' Sky Living has also commissioned six comedy pilots under the theme Love Matters, featuring The It Crowd's Katherine Parkinson, Isy Suttie from Peep Show and Sarah Solemani, from BBC3's Him & Her. Hurford-Jones said that she wanted to get a series out of 'at least one of them.' The channel will also broadcast five new drama pilots, including Katherine Kelly and Anne Reid in The Last Witch, written by Sally Wainwright, who most recently wrote BBC1's Last Tango in Halifax, in which Reid also starred. BSkyB acquired the Living channel in 2010 as part of its one hundred and sixty million smackers purchase of Virgin Media Television. However, much of its recent investment has been directed towards its other entertainment channels, Sky1 and Sky Atlantic. The female-skewed channel arguably enjoyed its highest profile in the middle of the last decade, on the back of shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, lesbian drama The L Word, US import Charmed and long-running paranormal series, Most Haunted. 'We want to make sure we don't have too old-fashioned a view of what women want,' said Hurford-Jones, who succeeded former Closer editor Jane Johnson at the channel last year. 'It shouldn't just be about diets, weddings and fashion, although there is a place for those things.' No ghosts, though. They're gone for good! Living is also home to the long-running reality show, Four Weddings. 'It should be a channel that is loved by women and watched by men,' she added. 'If you tell people it's a women's channel, it is likely to send people running. To me it wouldn't matter if it was a show about a football team or a mechanics' workshop, it's about great stories, intricate relationships, key characters.' Two shows which were formerly shown on Sky1 have switched to Sky Living, comedy drama Mount Pleasant and US crime drama, Bones. Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model will also return for its ninth series, with new judge Dannii Minogue (the least famous of the Minogue sisters). Hurford-Jones said it would be 'more honest and authentic' than previous series. The channel has also commissioned its first long-form factual programming with three new strands, Becoming Mum and Dad, Newlyweds and She's Having a Baby. Another series, Typically Married Couples, will feature couples 'talking about their relationships and sex lives.' Sounds hugely missable. Doll & Em is a family affair, produced by American-born actor Alessandro Nivola, who is married to Mortimer. The series is executive produced by Andrew Eaton, whose credits include BBC2's The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and will feature a host of celebrity cameos. Hurford-Jones described the semi-improvised series as Mortimer's 'passion project.' She said it was 'in equal measure hilarious and warm and incredibly cringeworthy. You sort of want to hide behind the sofa. If you allow people to do the things they really want to do, they do it brilliantly,' she added. Sky's director of entertainment channels, Stuart Murphy, said Sky Living was 'a really big chance for us to get women at Sky, a real chance to extend our reach for women. Living has represented a lot of different things at different points. We can't stop still if we are going to keep the brand developing, it's got to keep moving, particularly for a female audience who are on trend a lot more than the men.' He said its Dracula adaptation was lavish, dark and sexual, 'like The Tudors.' Only, less beheading, one imagines. 'It's the start of the new Living. It's tongue in cheek too, which a lot of the old Living wasn't.'

Ed Vaizey, the total lack of culture minister, has called on BSkyB to scrap the millions of pounds which it charges public service broadcasters - including the BBC - to carry their TV and radio channels on its pay-TV services, and hinted at regulation if a deal cannot be hammered out. Well, it's about sodding time, frankly. That's something which should have been done years ago. Vaizey said BSkyB needed to cut its retransmission fees to make it a 'level playing field' among broadcasters' – the BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five do not pay to be carried by Sky's pay-TV rival Virgin Media. 'Public service broadcasters and licence fee payers have paid large amounts to satellite providers for the content to be carried,' he said, speaking at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday morning. 'We recognise this situation has evolved over time in a way we never intended.' It is thought BSkyB makes about ten million smackers a year in retransmission fees from PSBs. 'I welcome the steps Sky have taken so far to reduce retransmission fees to a much lower level,' acknowledged Vaizey. 'But I urge them to go further, taking into account the undoubted value that PSBs offer to satellite platforms and their viewers, so that there is a level playing field – zero fees either way.' However, Vaizey stopped short of saying that the government would introduce regulation to force BSkyB to drop its charges. Because, Uncle Rupert wouldn't like that. 'We're not going to rush into a regulatory solution because I believe there's no reason the market shouldn't be able to work out a fair and equitable solution as things stand," he said. But if the industry can't find a way to stop imposing this cost on licence fee payers and PSBs, we will look at options for intervention.' Speaking to reporters after his speech, Vaizey indicated that the TV industry would have twelve to eighteen months to sort out the retransmission fees issue, before the government would consider stepping in. In 2010, the then BBC director general Mark Thompson argued that Sky should start paying for carrying PSB channels, given that the vast majority of viewing on the pay-TV platform is of shows from free-to-air broadcasters. Thompson, in his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, noted that News Corporation – Sky's biggest shareholder - successfully gets US satellite and cable operators to pay retransmission fees for its channels, including FOX and FOX News. In the past the PSBs have paid Sky a combined twenty five million quid a year in retransmission fees. Last year, Sky cut its retransmission charges, which apply to more than one hundred TV and radio channels, which almost halved the amount the BBC paid. By 2014 PSBs will pay about eleven million quid a year. The BBC in the past paid about ten million quid a year, however this dropped to six million smackers in 2012 and will be £4.4m a year by 2014. ITV's payment to Sky will have dropped from about eight to three million by 2014. Channel Four's will decline from five million notes to £2.7m and Channel Five from £1.4m to eight hundred grand over the same period. Figures show as much as fifty per cent of total viewing on Sky's satellite service is of PSB channels, and the percentage is much higher for peaktime viewing in the evening. Vaizey was also asked in Oxford what his position would be if News Corp chairman and chief executive billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch approached the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about getting the 1981 undertakings that guarantee the editorial independence of The Times and The Sunday Times changed. Murdoch agreed to keep the titles separate as a condition when he acquired the newspapers more than thirty years ago. However, an increasingly tough market and mounting losses has led News International look at whether the undertakings should be amended. 'I haven't seen the [1981] undertakings and haven't had any advice [on the matter],' Vaizey weaselled. 'It is probably a decision for the secretary of state, and it would be taken in an objective and independent way. We haven't had an approach.' The BBC director of policy and strategy, John Tate, said: 'We welcome the government's comments today, which recognise the significant value that BBC content brings to the satellite platform. The removal of these fees will enable the BBC to invest more of licence fee payers money in original UK content.' Sky argues that the PSBs get plenty in return for the retransmission fees they pay, for example the benefit of decades of investment in creating the satellite pay-TV platform which reaches more than ten million viewers. 'Public service broadcasters benefit from the billions of pounds we've invested in our TV platform, and the technical services we provide them,' said a spokesman for BSkyB. 'Thanks to Sky's investment, they reach forty per cent of their audiences via our platform and use our technology to customise channels and services for the benefit of their viewers.' Sky likened the payments to the same as other services such as an electricity company or rental of studio space. 'The payments they make are no different from broadcasters paying for electricity, studio facilities or any other services,' he said. 'And just as no one expects utility firms to provide them with cheap, subsidised energy, we simply aim to recover our costs on a fair and proportionate basis.' Vaizey said not to expect any 'big bang' changes to existing regulation in a new white paper, the basis for a new Communications Act, which he added would be tabled later this year. 'There simply isn't a great clamour for wide-scale reform,' he said. 'For the most part our regulatory framework is working well, industry isn't choked by regulation.' Vaizey added that he will be meeting the UK's biggest Internet service providers next week to examine if they are doing enough to protect young users from inappropriate online material. The meeting will also include Reg Bailey, Mothers' Union chief executive, who published a report for the government on the commercialisation of children, and MP Claire Perry, the prime minister's adviser on commercialisation and sexualisation of children. 'I intend to review what has been achieved so far, there is a lot, and to make sure ISPs do more, particularly in terms of raising awareness of parental controls,' Vaizey said.

Don't Start Me Off, the website which hosted some of the more unpleasant comments directed at academic Mary Beard following her appearance on BBC1's Question Time last week, has closed down. The site, a message board enabling anonymous posters to express their annoyance at public figures, institutions and on various other topics, posted a message on its home page late on Tuesday announcing that it is closing immediately. 'After much thought we have decided to close the site. It's been great fun but our job is now done. We wish to thank everyone who we've had the privilege to know and to banter with. We wish you all the best for the future,' the message stated. Don't Start Me Off describes itself as the 'Home of the Annoyed' and urges contributors to 'be funny, original and inventive and to swear (but not too much).' Other rules include 'Don't: Say "cunt" every single sentence' and 'Don't: Say you want people to die or get cancer.' Mary herself welcomed the closure of the site. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour on Wednesday morning she said that the closure was a 'victory for citizen's action online' and was a consequence of the 'wave of protests from women and men. In the end the guys – and I assume they are guys that are running it – did the sensible thing and said "look, we are not going to go on with this,"' she added. Mary said that she 'thought long and hard' before challenging the comments on the Don't Get Me Started forum but said that one reason she did was because women have been told 'for millennia' to 'just shut up and take the abuse or otherwise you will make it worse.' She added that online 'rules' should be the 'same as face-to-face,' adding: 'If I heard that in a bar I would go up and say excuse me guys can you shut up or go outside. In a way it's trying to claim that normal manners and courtesy of social interaction for online as well as for face-to-face conversation.' Beard said that online abuse directed at women is likely to be a factor in women 'with frank views' turning down the opportunity to appear on television and in shows such as Question Time. The site was singled out by Mary in a blog for The Times Literary Supplement in which she complained about the torrent of 'truly vile' sexual abuse online as well as the 'gobsmacking misogyny' of a kind that would 'put many women off appearing in public.' Mary, a professor of classics at Cambridge University who recently presented the BBC2 programme Meet the Romans with Mary Beard, said that the abuse followed an exchange with an audience member on Question Time last Thursday about the effect of immigration on services in the Lincolnshire town of Boston. In her blog, Beard said that the experience revealed 'a side of Internet trolling that I haven't experienced before' and made reference to a photo of her face superimposed onto a picture of female genitalia. 'First, the misogyny here is truly gobsmacking. The whole "cunt" talk and the kind of stuff represented by the photo is more than a few steps into sadism. It would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate, especially as all of this comes up on Google.'

Moscow Chelski FC midfielder Eden Hazard was sent-off for kicking a ball boy during the Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Swansea. The Belgian kicked the ball boy who had failed to return the ball promptly after it had gone out for a goal-kick. Swansea captain Ashley Williams condemned Hazard's behaviour. 'Demba Ba told me that the boy held on to it. I saw [Hazard] kick him in the ribs, and you can't do that,' he told Sky Sports News. Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said: 'I think [Hazard] will regret it when he sees it. The ball boy should have let it go but he was pushed first and then he kicks him. I understand as a player when you are behind and you are under pressure you sometimes say or do things you shouldn't but there are some things you cannot do.' The game ended in a goalless draw, Swansea winning 2-0 on aggregate. They will play Bradford City in the final.

Singers Billy Bragg and Roy Harper are to be honoured with lifetime achievement honours at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards later this month. The Bard of Barking will receive the Roots Award in recognition of his thirty-year career as a socially-conscious singer-songwriter. Harper, a folk rocker who started out in the 1960s and has influenced a generation of alternative acoustic musicians, will also be recognised. The ceremony takes place at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall on 30 January. Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and Dougie MacLean, who wrote the Scottish anthem 'Caledonia', will also receive lifetime achievement accolades. Now in its fourteenth year, the event will be hosted by Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis. Singers Sam Lee, Jim Moray and Karine Polwart lead the field in the competitive categories with three nominations each.

And finally, just when you thought it was safe to venture into the letters pages of the local press ...
Genius, so it is.

This very evening, dearest bloggerisation readers, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will be attending Uncle Scunthorpe's latest The Record Player eventette at the very Tyneside itself. One tonight's platter we have The Pink Floyd four at their most cigar like. Which is nice.