Wednesday, January 09, 2013

It's Loud And It's Tasteless And I've Heard It Before

Death In Paradise returned to BBC1 for its second series with an overnight audience of 6.86m punters on Tuesday, the Caribbean drama's biggest audience to date by a distance (it launched with 5.7m viewers in late 2011). The drama, starring Ben Miller, Danny John-Jules, Don Warrington and Sara Martins, averaged exactly the same audience as ITV had for their new Sunday night hit Mr Selfridge. Also returning - in its case, to BBC2 - was the annual Stargazing Live which pulled in a terrific 3.07m punters from 8pm (and, 2.1m for the spin-off discussion show Back to Earth afterwards). EastEnders was the night's highest-rated programme of the night with 8.43m at 7.30 on BBC1. It was a good night generally for the BBC with Holby City's Swedish episode watched by 5.1m. Meanwhile on ITV, a celebrity episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was watched by 3.3m viewers at 8pm. Not very good, you might consider. Millionaire's figure, however, look positively outstanding when compared to the risible 1.68m audience for ITV's 9pm factual offering, All You Can Eat. The Polar Bear Family and Me capped a strong night for BBC2 with 2.31m from 9.30pm. Overall, BBC1 dominated primetime with 25.3 per cent of the audience share, ITV way behind with 12.6 per cent, just ahead of BBC2 on nine per cent.

Some further fantastic news now, yer actual Top Gear will return for its nineteenth series at the end of January, it has been confirmed. And, in so much as that's guaranteed to piss off lots of knobcheese wankers working for the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Scum Mail, that's a jolly good thing. Jezza Clarkson his very self, Richard Hammond and James May will be back for another run of the popular motoring entertainment series on Sunday 27 January at 9pm on BBC2, the official Top Gear Magazine announced this week. The show will open with a long-awaited - belated - 'Christmas' special. Series nineteen will follow immediately afterwards. Features expected in the new series include a road trip across the US in the SRT Viper, a Lexus LFA and an Aston Martin Vanquish, a race from Wembley to Milan to watch a football match and Captain Slow rallying in a Bentley Continental GT, driven by ex-Mini WRC driver Kris Meeke. There will also, apparently, be an Africa special where Clarkson, Hammond and May buy a station wagon and have to drive to the source of The Nile. Last year, the presenters were reported to have signed up for at least three more series of the show.

Bones will return for a ninth season on FOX, it has been announced. The network confirmed that the crime drama, which stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, will be back in the 2013-2014 schedules. FOX revealed the renewal at the Television Critics Association winter tour. 'After more than one hundred and fifty episodes, Bones continues to be one of television's most dynamic and consistent dramas,' said FOX chairman Kevin Reilly. Bones co-creator Hart Hanson recently revealed that he was 'very confident' about the show's chances of renewal. 'We know the end of this season and we also know the end of the series,' he said. 'We have to be ready to end the series. If we don't get a season nine, then. We have to combine [the two endings].'

Once again, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is forced - forced, I tell ya - to quote at length from the best current TV reviewer on the planet, the Metro's Keith Watson. Today, it's in relation to the return of Death In Paradise: 'Something odd happened in the middle of murder-by-numbers crime drama Death In Paradise,' wrote yer man Watto. 'I put my critical faculties into neutral, let the Caribbean breeze waft over me and gave in to its shamelessly escapist charms. It's the TV equivalent of diving into a deep blue duvet. Surely destined to end up endlessly repeating in daytime oblivion, Death In Paradise is a laid-back antidote to the wobbly camera and blood-red gore that has become de rigueur for crime thrillers. You know, the ones that have you clutching your head and/or stomach as the picture does a loop-the-loop while careering around the headless corpse of a novice nun or some such. Admittedly, Death In Paradise did feature a man with a machete embedded in his back but we were spared the grislier details. In that context, an uptight Ben Miller sweating, sleuthing and relishing lines such as "Who am I to argue with the voodoo goddess of love?" is tantamount to genius. Death In Paradise takes the Midsomer Murders template and gives it a West Indian makeover; a pina colada rather than a sweet sherry, if you like. It gets the job done and there are times when that's all you can ask.' Indeed.

So, as noted, Monday saw the return of Stargazing Live to BBC2 And, as usual, the series featured presenters Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain bringing their enthusiasm for astronomy to life, inviting viewers to appreciate the sky and the visible objects that surround us each evening. Last night, with big-haired Brian May from Queen along for the ride. It was quite a sight. Each show is followed by a half-hour discussion about the evening's theme and discoveries, with the two presenters joined by guests and a studio audience. This year, Back to Earth also features an extra special guest in the form of Doctor Who's K9. The Doctor's tin dog is, it would seem, on hand to offer his own unique smart-arse knowledge of the stars based on his travels in the TARDIS. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. This week's shows look at Mars, charting history through the stars, and then meteors, asteroids and comets.
The advertising watchdog has criticised a magazine and a clothing firm for attempting to drum up business by using images of the late Jimmy Savile in e-mail campaigns, including one which features the (alleged) rotten old scallywag of an ex-presenter wearing what appears to be underwear while smoking a massive cigar. Symbolism? You decide, dear blog reader. Campaigns by Trailbike & Enduro Magazine and clothing company DirtySmart provoked complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority that they were 'offensive, irresponsible and aiming to exploit the media coverage surrounding the allegations of sexual abuse against Savile.' TBM sent an e-mail promotion to almost four thousand people enticing them to become a subscriber using an image of Savile last October, just days after the Metropolitan Police launched a formal investigation into two hundred sex abuse allegations against the (alleged) damn bad bugger. In the e-mail, Savile is seen reclining in a leather chair wearing what appears to be only underwear while smoking a cigar. He is clutching a digitally-inserted copy of TBM magazine. The e-mail ran with the copy 'TBM: How's about that then' and the line 'the publication that doesn't take itself too seriously.' Magazine owner Extreme Publishing said that TBM had been aiming to 'satirise themselves' to imply that they were 'culturally naive and had not realised the negative connotations' of publishing the image. Which is a right load of old horseshit, frankly, they knew exactly what they were doing. The magazine claimed that the image and wording of the e-mail were 'not distasteful.' DirtySmart sent an e-mail in the run-up to Halloween giving recipients the option of two images to click on. One image, featuring a Halloween pumpkin, directed to a fifty per cent off voucher. The other, a cartoon image of Jimmy Savile's head, was jokingly said to 'double the price of everything.' The ASA said that advertisers are allowed to use topical news stories to run tactical marketing campaigns, but needed to 'take particular care' of those 'involving allegations about the sexual abuse of children, to avoid accusations of exploitation in order to sell products and services.' Both e-mail promotions were banned by the ASA, which ruled that they were 'insensitive and likely to cause serious offence to some recipients.' The ASA advised both companies to prepare future advertising campaigns with 'a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.'
An ex-counter-terrorism detective has told a court it was 'ludicrous' to suggest she offered information to the Scum of the World for money. Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn is accused over Operation Varec, which considered whether Scotland Yard's inquiry into phone-hacking should be reopened. She did not ask for money and was 'probably misheard' by the Scum of the World journalist, she claimed in a statement. Casburn denies one charge of misconduct in public office. The charge relates to 11 September 2010 when Casburn, fifty three, from Hatfield Peverel, was working in counter-terrorism, managing the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit. Southwark Crown Court heard that one of her team was asked to carry out financial investigations as part of a Scotland Yard inquiry into phone-hacking. It is alleged that Casburn rang the Scum of the World's news desk at 7.51am to 'offer information', allegedly, in exchange for payment. She gave the names of two of the people who were then under investigation during the conversation, it is said. Appearing in court, Casburn said: 'I regret the decision.' Asked by Patrick Gibbs QC, for Casburn, whether she had offered to sell inside information during her conversation with the Scum of the World journalist, she said: 'No. I find the whole sentence ludicrous.' In a written statement to the court, she claimed that she 'did not need' the money, and that her phone conversation had taken place 'on a busy road' so her words could possibly have been misheard by the Scum of the World hack she spoke to. Addressing the court, Casburn - who had blubbed her eyes out the previous day when evidence was given against her - described how in 2010 she had been 'dealing with an acrimonious divorce' and 'experienced a failed IVF procedure' with her new partner. That same year, one of her team was assigned to the hacking inquiry without her knowledge, though she claimed that she only discovered this later. Casburn said: 'I felt very strongly that we shouldn't be doing hacking. Our function was to prevent terrorist attacks and I was particularly worried that the behaviour of my colleagues was such that they thought it was a bit of a jolly. They thought it was all going to be a bit of fun, getting to travel, getting to see famous people. I felt sufficiently strongly we should not be diverting resources which are to do with saving people's lives. It made me really angry,' she added. Casburn contacted the Scum of the World on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York because, she claimed, shed was frustrated about this and it was 'maybe the only option', the court was told. She claimed that she could not speak out against the phone-hacking investigation plans, which had been re-opened by the then assistant commissioner Champagne John Yates. 'I didn't believe I could make any difference to the decision-making around using counter-terrorist assets for the phone-hacking inquiry,' claimed Casburn. Describing the 'very male-dominated' atmosphere at her unit, Casburn likened it to the TV series Life On Mars. Some male colleagues, she claimed, had 'frozen her out,' playing golf together, and she was 'denied a desk despite being a chief inspector,' the court was told. Earlier, the court heard from Detective Superintendent Dean Hayden who was the detective in charge of the 2010 hacking probe Operation Varec. Scotland Yard launched Varec after a New York Times exposé of phone-hacking at tabloid papers, the court was told.

Rageh Omaar, the former BBC war reporter is to become a special correspondent with ITV News. Omaar joins ITV this week from Qatar-based news channel al-Jazeera, which he joined in 2006. The Somalia-born reporter became a household name during the invasion of Iraq, reporting from a hotel rooftop in Baghdad. It is not the first time ITV News has tried to hire Omaar, having tried to woo him in 2004. Omaar said: 'Joining ITV News represents a return to news reporting for me, which is where my passion for journalism began.' He said he was 'incredibly excited to be joining such a fantastic and thriving news organisation with a wonderful history.' ITV said that he would be responsible for covering 'a broad range of news stories and producing special in-depth reports from all around the UK and when required, on stories abroad.' Omaar, who won a BAFTA for the BBC's coverage of the invasion of Afghanistan, worked on investigative and documentary programmes for al-Jazeera, including a series about Twenty First-Century slavery. Michael Jermey, ITV's director of news and current affairs, said Omaar was 'one of the very best television news correspondents of his generation.' As well as working across the BBC he has also previously reported for Channel Four's Dispatches, Sky News and ITN, and has written two books, Revolution Day: the Real Story of the Battle for Iraq and Only Half of Me: Being a Muslim in Britain.

Michael Portillo has revealed that Great Continental Railway Journeys will be returning for an extended second series, which starts filming later this year. He's also said that Great British Railway Journeys has at least one more series left in the format after the next run, and that he'd consider doing a world series if the BBC are prepared to fund it.

Anne-Marie Duff is to return to Shameless for the final episode of the series. It was confirmed in October that the long-running comedy-drama will draw to a close after eleven series, with Duff - who played Fiona Gallagher in the show's first two years - recently returning to filming. Annabelle Apsion will also reprise her role of Monica in the final Shameless run, with Jody Latham and Elliott Tittensor additionally returning as Lip and Carl Gallagher. The characters Kev (Dean Lennox Kelly) and Yvonne Karib (Kelli Hollis) will also be back for the last fourteen episodes, which will be broadcast on Channel Four from spring 2013. 'The tenth anniversary seems a fitting time to shut the book on Shameless,' series creator Paul Abbott said last year. 'We've had an absolute ball making this stuff up for a living. We've given back in spades and got away with absolute murder, on behalf of such a fantastically outspoken audience.'

Tina Malone has described Splash! as 'garbage' television, despite being a contestant on it. Which, anybody who had the misfortune to watch the opening episode of ITV's latest attempt to flush the collective intellect of a nation down the netty knew anyway. The Shameless actress is one of several z-list celebrities taking part in the ITV reality series, which sees contestants - desperate to get themselves on TV - attempting dives each week under Tom Daley's mentorship. Malone admitted that she had signed up for the show - along with several other reality shows in the past - purely for the money that went with it. 'Diving off a three-metre board into an eighteen foot pool is absolutely horrendous,' she told Liverpool radio station Juice FM. And, we're supposed to, what? Feel sorry for you? 'I'm fifty years of age in two weeks,' she whinged. 'I haven't seen my final swimming costume yet – but I hope it's going to be a tent. I'm an actor, not a celebrity. It's the big fat cheques that make me happy. That's why I've done Celebrity Come Dine With Me, Celebrity Four Weddings – which I won – and Celebrity Big Brother, which I knew I'd only be in for fifteen days. But, unfortunately, you have to do this garbage.' Malone also pleaded with viewers not to vote for her in Splash!, saying she still gets her cheque if she only does one dive. She said: 'Don't keep me in Splash! I still get the same money if I do one heat or three heats, so don't vote for Tina Malone.'

Full of his own importance Rory Bremner has claimed that there is 'a serious problem' with the lack of political satire on British TV. The impressionist, who appeared on Channel Four's politics series Bremner, Bird and Fortune between 1999 and 2010 doing his crap impressions, claimed that the lack of an engaging politics show and the apathy from the public towards politicians was worrying and 'a great shame. I think there is seriously a problem with satire at the moment. There is a problem because the link between people and politicians has eroded after the expenses scandal and lots of other things,' Bremner said. 'First there was That Was The Week That Was, then we had Mike Yarwood doing Ted Heath and Harold Wilson impressions, then there was Spitting Image and then there was our show. But the point about those was that we lampooned these politicians in weekly shows, but in a strange way people got to know who the politicians were through the shows. Which is why they were great.' Err, I didn't think you were 'great' Rory or anything even remotely like it. John Bird and John Fortune, they were great. You were about as funny as a kick in the cock. Bremner said the 'lack of characters' in modern politics was partly to blame for the shortage of satire. 'There are a few glaring omissions like Boris Johnson. In terms of his personality, he just appeals across the board and has a extraordinary turn of phrase; even if you hate him, he definitely has charisma. But he stands out so much more, because there is nobody else,' said Bremner. 'I don't think even David Cameron knows who half the cabinet are. I imagine in cabinet meetings, he says, "I thought we'd talk about ... sorry I've forgotten your name? It's Theresa May isn't it? Sorry, I didn't recognise you without your moustache." When Labour came to power, we knew who Tony Blair, Prescott, Mandelson and Gordon Brown were. When the coalition came to power, nobody really knew who Danny Alexander was. These guys have risen without trace and there isn't that recognition factor.' Commenting on whether he would return to do a political TV impressions show, he said: 'That's my first love and I would love to do that now because it's a fascinating time, but my brain hasn't been there for the past six-to-eight months. There isn't a weekly show out there now that is engaging, which is a shame and I think there's a big gap. This government hasn't got a satire or comedy that has really got a hold of it.' He continued: 'The Thick of It is a great, but that's more about a political culture than individuals and is a natural successor to Yes, Prime Minister. And I think if you compare those two shows, you see how times have changed. The Thick of It is much darker and much angrier, which reflects the different times we live in. The default position now for the British public is total cynicism. Whether it's Blair and Iraq and spin or the expenses scandal, it's pretty much destroyed the relationship the public had with politicians. Tony Benn said, "If the public don't take the politicians seriously, then where does that get you?"' Bremner confessed that it would be 'difficult' to produce a show such as Bremner, Bird and Fortune now because 'to do a really well-researched satire show is expensive. The whole show used to be very expensive and people don't have too much money in broadcasting any more,' he added. So, Bremner's answer to all this, it would seem, is to take a job hosting the new Channel Four afternoon quiz Face the Clock. You disgust me.

And, speaking of bell-ends, John McCririck has started legal action against Channel Four over allegations that he was dropped from the broadcaster's racing coverage due to age. Rather than, you know, being an embarrassing cheb that nobody likes very much. Just a suggestion. McCririck was one of the channel's presenters to be axed when it switched production teams from Highflyer to IMG in 2012. Derek Thompson, Mike Cattermole and Alastair Down were also dropped in the handover. Veteran form expert Jim McGrath has remained on the team, alongside new anchor Clare Balding. McCririck whinged about Channel Four's decision last October and is now said to be suing the channel with the services of employment and sports law specialist solicitor Stephen Beverley, of the London West End Cavendish Legal Group. In a statement, McCririck said: 'Channel Four and production company IMG Sports Media were yesterday each served a letter before action for age discrimination. After twenty nine years with Channel Four Racing, on a rolling annual contract, I have been sacked without any consultation or cogent explanation. I am seventy two. For loss of future earnings, unfair career damaging, public humiliation, stress and mental anguish, I will be seeking five hundred thousand quid. Ageism is illegal. For tens of thousands of employees it has become the feared scourge of our society. This litigation should prove to be a watershed. There's no upper limit to the amount of damages employment tribunals can award under the Equality Act 2010. I am seeking a further exemplary, punitive £2.5m, part of which will be donated to charitable organisations helping to prevent negative prejudice in the workplace.' Speaking about the changes to the racing line-up last year, a Channel Four representative said: 'It hasn't been an easy process and there have been complications on the way but, with regards to the choice of the squad, we were conscious that the programme will have a very different feel. Behind Clare Balding as lead presenter and Nick Luck in a supporting role, we were looking for a more journalistic approach to the content.' From 2013, Channel Four Racing will broadcast eighty eight days of coverage a year and show nearly three hundred hours of live action. This includes a range of premium events, including the Cheltenham Festival, Aintree's three-day John Smith's Grand National meeting, the Investec Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.
MTV has been criticised by the UK advertising regulator after it broadcast an advert for reality show The Valleys featuring 'sexually suggestive content' before the watershed. The Valleys advert featured various young people at a house party, with scenes including a woman bouncing on the sofa so that viewers could clearly see her pants, women flexing their breasts, two women kissing and a woman touching a man's stomach. Phwoar. I don't know about you, dear blog reader, but this blogger had, very definitely, got The Steaming Horn after all that. The voiceover casually informed viewers: 'The harder they party, the harder they fall. Will they make it in Cardiff, or will they just end up back in the valleys? Brand new reality, coming soon to MTV.' Disgusting. Shouldn't be allowed. The advert was cleared by Clearcast, the body which approves advertising for broadcast, but was given the restriction that it should not be shown in or around programmes specifically targeted at children. Because, of course, children have to be protected from any hint of, you know, s-e-x. It's The Law. However, four complainants, who had seen the advert between 8pm and 9pm during Eddie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, said that due to the sexual content it was inappropriate to schedule the advert before the 9pm watershed. Following an investigation, the ASA also found that the advert had been shown before 7.30pm, when children could have been watching. After being contacted by the ASA, Clearcast said that it felt that the advert 'did not go any further in terms of real or implied sexual content' than other reality TV shows, and considered the current restrictions to be 'sufficient.' The body felt that the visuals were 'of a comic, slapstick nature rather than serious sexual content.' It said that the advert's ending, which showed the couples emerging in a field full of sheep, 'underlined the idea that the group were having fun away from home rather than engaging in seductive or overtly sexual behaviour.' The ASA acknowledged that the advert did not contain any explicit nudity, but noted that it did feature a number of shots that 'focused on breasts' and had 'suggestive' scenes. 'Many of the interactions between individuals at the party were depicted with a sexual element and we considered that the overall tone of the ad was sexual,' the ASA added. Somebody's clearly not getting anywhere near enough trombone practice at home, dare one suggest? 'We therefore considered that the ad was not suitable for broadcast when younger children might be watching. We concluded that the ad was not suitable for broadcast before 7.30pm and that the scheduling restriction applied was not sufficient.' The ASA judged that the allegedly sexually suggestive content was not sufficient to warrant a post-9pm restriction, but warned MTV that it must not appear again in its current form before 7.30pm.

Sales of yer actual David Bowie's previous LPs have surged following the announcement of his new CD. The singer, who released his first single in ten years - titled 'Where Are We Now?' - yesterday, has seen his hits collection The Best Of Bowie zoom up the download chart to number seven. His new record The Next Day, which is out on 12 March, is currently the top-selling LP on iTunes on pre-orders alone. 'The thing with Bowie, as with any chart icon, is that when people are reminded of the brilliance of his music, they want to listen to it again,' HMV's Gennaro Castaldo told the Independent. 'Alongside his original followers still enjoying his albums on CD and vinyl, his songs are now just a download away for a whole new Internet generation of potential fans that are out there, so we can expect and explosion of interest in 2013.' The designer of Bowie's new CD artwork Jonathan Barnbrook recently explained the unusual cover, adding: 'It would have been clearer to many people if we had scribbled all over the cover but that didn't have the detachment of intent necessary to express the melancholy of the songs on the album.'

Which, of course, brings us to Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which is this. What, too obvious?