The first weekend of March which is a perfect time to cast an eye over showbiz and telly events from February 2019 as our Monthly ‘Rewind’ editorial with Mike Watkins rounds-up the good, the bad and everything in-between.


Mitchell Sisters reunited… well sort of

On the 15th February it was a big EastEnders reunion for two of the show’s much-loved, and indeed much-missed, faces. Loose Women guest Samantha Womack got a surprise on the ITV show when she was unexpectedly reunited with her former co-star Rita Simons. The pair, who played Ronnie & Roxy Mitchell, left the soap in 2017 when their characters were needlessly bumped off in a swimming pool horror. They remain close friends in real life, but Samantha – who is currently starring in the stage production of The Girl On The Train – found herself welling up.

“It’s been two years [since we left EastEnders], and people still to this day, as fresh as the day we [our characters] died.” …  “The amount of times I’ve read ‘I’m desperate to come back’. I’m alright actually. I’m having a nice time. But we were devastated to kill our characters.” – Rita

Also last month Metro paper reported how their former co-star Dame Barbara Windsor was ‘Dame Barbara Windsor is praying for an Alzheimer’s cure before she dies, despite knowing it’ll be ‘too late’ for her.’ The newspaper noted how the actress famed as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders and of course, a key player in a number of the Carry On movies is hoping she lives long enough to celebrate a cure being discovered for dementia.

Reunited on Loose Women, the Mitchell Sisters alive un-drowned. Loose Women, ITV, weekdays at 12.30pm of course.

Famous for the sake of it stars – without any notable talent – have thanks to ITV and Channel 4 flooded the screens over the past decade thanks to reality and structured-reality series such as TOWIE and Made in Chelsea.

But take these faces and put them in a position that requires someone who knows how to say, present, and it seems their limited ability in the world of television falls out for all to see, well in this case the viewers to Good Morning Britain.

On February 18th Spencer Matthews from Made In Chelsea was more wooden than Ken Barlow’s sideboard when he tried to fill the shoes of the lovable Richard Arnold who is on holiday from the ITV breakfast slot.

“Think Spencer Matthews has just proved most reality stars don’t have talent!” – GMB viewer quoted by The Mirror

Matthews, hosting the showbiz section of GMB, is one of a number of names that have filled in while the regular celebrity news host is away; however long pauses and coming across like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ left viewers unimpressed. Probably the last time ITV breakfast viewers were this unimpressed was the morning they awoke to find Andrew Castle had been replaced with Adrian Chiles.

“Apologies for my lack of experience and wooden performance. I’ll loosen up and get better with time, hopefully!”- Spencer Matthews

Or ITV could actually hire people who have worked at the skill of presenting for years and trained hard to make it look easy…


Fern reveals lift attack

Television presenter Fern Britton has spoke about a sexual attack which took place in a lift back in the late 1980s. The former Ready, Steady Cook and This Morning personality revealed she was ‘snogged’ in an elevator at the Television South studios of ITV.

The 61-year-old noted she had just interviewed the male assailant for TVS, which broadcast to the ITV South region, when the incident took place shortly afterwards.

“I remember doing a television show when I worked for TVS. I was in a lift and a man I’d just interviewed suddenly jumped me and started snogging me. I asked him what on earth he thought he was doing, but it didn’t seem to shame him into stopping.” – Fern Britton, quoted in The Mirror

She went on to note that she feels the most privileged person on the planet is the ‘white male’ adding ‘unless they can feel as uncomfortable as single women walking home at night in the dark there is always going to be that gap in understanding.’ The presenter added that while attitudes are changing there is ‘still a long way to go’. TVS operated as part of ITV from 1982 until 1992. It was replaced by ITV Meridian.

Fern Britton, pictured at Tyne Tees TV, in the era the alligation took place.

Nikki Sanderson bullied over Corrie job

“It was before social media so I used to get it in the street instead… It was when I first started at Corrie. It was all different types of things. I had my hair set on fire, I’ve been punched, kicked, pushed over, had drinks thrown over me, and been called every name under the sun.” – Sanderson speaking to The Mirror

Nikki appeared in Coronation Street as Candice Stowe, later joining fellow ITV serial Heartbeat as Dawn Bellamy however landing her big-gig on the long running Weatherfield based soap opera saw fame become far from fabulous.

“I was stood at the mirror and could smell something burning. I turned around and this girl was there with a lighter, setting fire to the bottom of my hair.”

The actress who spent six-years at the ITV Granada production in Manchester, before switching to ITV Yorkshire’s Heartbeat in Leeds, has since 2012 been a regular in Hollyoaks where she appears as Maxine Minniver in Channel 4 saga. She reflected to the tabloid however how the Corrie cast and team were supportive during her bullying issues.

“I have to say that everyone at Coronation Street and all the people around me were just so wonderful and supportive, which I’m truly grateful for.”


STV secures television rights to a debut novel and a memoir by Scottish authors

STV Productions has optioned Maggie and Me, the best-selling book by writer and columnist Damian Barr. A poignant and painfully funny memoir about growing up gay in Thatcher’s Britain, it won Sunday Times Memoir of the Year, and was BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. BAFTA nominated writer Andrea Gibb will develop the story as a long running series for TV. Gibb’s recent work includes feature film Swallows and Amazons and BBC series Call The Midwife.

The second book STV will bring to life is Fishnet written by award-winning journalist Kirstin Innes, has been optioned for development as a serial for television.  Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize in 2015, this gripping and thought provoking story follows Fiona’s obsessive search for her missing sister who disappeared six years ago leaving her baby in Fiona’s care. As she digs deeper into her sister’s secret life, she is drawn into the dark and complex world of Scotland’s sex industry. The shocking discoveries she makes will challenge everything she believed about sex work, and about the lost sister she thought she knew.


Piers Morgan Blasts ‘Ant and Dec’ NTA win

Rewarding a dangerous driver probably left most of the nation baffled, but the voters of the National Television Awards (they don’t reveal how many voted so we don’t know exactly) decided that Ant and Dec were Best Television Presenters of 2018. Something that didn’t sit well with Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan.

The GMB anchor suggested that he could win an award by taking six months off and only be seen in newspapers walking his dog. Ant later hit back saying Morgan had belittled his mental health issues which caused him to turn to drink, crash his car and leave innocent people thankful they weren’t killed.

What Ant should have done in the video acceptance clip is give the gong to Dec and suggest he deserves it for his vastly better solo presentation last year on Saturday Night Takeaway.

Last years’ events, which saw Ant crash into another car, while over the legal drink limit, probably should be a wake-up call to the Morecambe and Wise problem of when Eric died Ernie was left with little more than end of pier pantos. Even Richard and Judy have taken on solo projects to save themselves from falling into a situation where they only were offered work as a pair.


No Praise for God Slot shunt by BBC One

Songs of Praise has been bringing a little religion into the homes of the nation since 1961. But you may have noticed its over the years edged ever earlier in the schedules of BBC One. Well, it seems its latest ‘push back’ is a step too far for the Church of England who have been outraged by the show being scheduled no longer in Sunday teatimes, but Sunday lunchtimes

Now you just need look around to other mainstream channels to see there isn’t much in the way of God Slots anymore, so whether we agree with the content or not its highly right the beeb should be providing the show where others no longer commerically can. Let’s remember there was a time over on ITV on Sunday’s you couldn’t get moved for some old time religion from Morning Worship to My Favourite Hymns, Highway at teatime and even early evening song and prayer mix Stars on Sunday.

Last year BBC One shoved Songs of Praise on at just after 1pm, and those who prefer their date with God at teatime have been left well, unimpressed. So much so they simply cannot turn the other cheek. The beeb said moving the show would ‘make it easier for viewers to find’.  A reply that must simply go down as one of the most rediculous ever issued. People have been able to find it for nearly sixty years…

Pam Rhodes, Aled Jones, Diane-Louise Jordan Songs of Praise presenters.

Rewind Quickies

[] Has ITV been taken over by Alan Partridge and I missed it? The recent announcement they are quitting with comedy because its ‘too much effort’ – despite Birds of a Feather proving a view favourite – seemed to come out of some spoof documentary about television. Only this view is actually real. Its very worrying. I mean most programmes take a lot of work, if ITV bosses stopped making shows because they were an effort we’d be left with.. well just look at ITV Daytime.. would you want that across the evening too? Lew Grade’s ITV programming was filled with all kinds of programmes for all kinds of people – the very reason ITV began. From cheap filler game shows and soaps that drew large ratings, to high brow dramas and even opera.

[] BBC Scotland peaked with 700,000 viewers on its launch night. The channel, the third beeb Scotland offering behind BBC Alba and BBC One Scotland, saw the ratings peak with the first episode in the final series of Still Game.

[] Dolly Parton told Good Morning Britain that her husband is not one of her biggest fans. The singer spoke to ITV following the premiere of 9 To 5: The Musical saying Carl Thomas Dean doesn’t regularly watch her perform: “He felt like he’d get nervous if I messed up and all that. He’s not necessarily one of my biggest fans as [sic] my music…”. The I Will Always Love You writer and performer noted however he is proud of her achievements. Something many men have also cast their eyes at over the years.

[] Netflix last month announced the launch date for their lasted action drama, Triple Frontier. The production follows a group of former Special Forces operatives played by Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal. The group reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for self instead of country.  But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival. The series starts on March 13th.

[] It was sad news for those who love traditional independent commercial radio, Bauer Media Group who operate stations such as Magic Radio across the nation, GHR in the North and Scotland and regional offerings such as Metro Radio in the North Easthas acquired Celador Radio and Lincs FM Group. Celador Radio comprises 25 licenses across East Anglia, Thames Valley, Solent and the South West including The Breeze network, Sam FM and Radio Norwich. Lincs FM Group comprises nine licenses across Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Rutland including Lincs FM, Rutland Radio and Compass FM. The Lincs FM jingles used to sing ‘Playing hits making memories’ we’ll have to wait and see if that mix of old and new carries on under Bauer who haven’t have a great track record with heritage gold brands in recent years. Their reboot of Magic AM into City 2/Greatest Hits Network failed abysmally in 2015.

[] Sky also confirmed in February that that, after a successful pilot, Sky One and Avalon have united to make an eight-part topical series titled, Comedians Watching Football With Friends. Thanks to Sky’s deal with the Premier League, this new Sky original production will see comedians, and friends, watch two of the big televised weekend matches while they offer sofa-situated analysis and generally chew the fat

[] ITV was cleared by Ofcom over its diabolical episode of Loose Women that saw two Nolans get a little gang-handed with national cleaning treasure Kim Woodburn. The press missed the point; most people I would imagine know Ofcom don’t get involved in editorial decisions anymore – its not the days of the IBA sadly – but the thousands complaining was to make a point to ITV – who totally ignored the entire outrage. Two things come of this, it shows how arrogant ITV bosses are and how utterly unfit for purpose Ofcom is. In the same review the regulator also cleared Channel 5 over the Celebrity Big Brother Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas fiasco.

[] The Goes Wrong Show was announced by the BBC. Written by and starring the original founding Mischief Theatre members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields alongside Nancy Zamit, Charlie Russell, Bryony Corrigan, Greg Tannahill, Dave Hearn and Chris Leask. The show will bring to screens a unique brand of physical theatre filmed in front of a live studio audience.

ITV have dropped popular Birds of a Feather because, in basic terms, they can’t be arsed to create comedy.

Boyfriend jailed following death of Taggart actor’s daughter

Louella Fletcher-Michie, the daughter of former Taggart, Holby City and Coronation Street actor John Michie died a slow and agonising death in a woodland area of a music festival while her boyfriend Ceon Broughton filmed her demise.

Broughton was issued an eight-year jail term following the death of Louella who died from a drug overdose. Broughton, 30, failed to get medical attention to 24-year-old Louella when she became seriously ill at the 2017 Bestival Festival.

“You were only concerned for yourself. You didn’t want to be arrested, you were more in fear of that than in getting help.” – Judge Goose

Broughton, who was on a suspended sentence and worried about going to jail, ignored pleas to get help. Grime rapper Broughton was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and a charge of supplying a class A drug.

John Michie in STV’s Taggart drama.

Love Island’s Jack Fincham joined Chris Packham for a Nature Date

Love Island winner Jack Fincham explored his passion for nature with Chris Packham. Last year, Jack spent a great deal of time bird-watching in the Love Island villa, charming viewers with his passion for nature and wowing them with his depth of knowledge, sharing little known facts about the migratory patterns of swallows, polar bear fur and flamingo feathers.

In an episode of Nature Dates, Jack got a beginner’s guide to bird-watching from Chris as the unlikely pair take a wander around London’s Walthamstow Wetlands, watching out for cormorants, coots, and an elusive kingfisher.

“I’ve loved nature ever since I was a little kid. Nature Dates is a dream come true – walking around amazing areas and seeing all sorts of animals. This time Chris takes me round a nature reserve and helps me spot some really beautiful birds right in the heart of London. I’m hoping people follow my example and go and ask someone on a nature date – could be with a friend or someone they fancy. There’s always something to talk about, and you can find romance in nature, you just have to get out there and look for it.” – Jack Fincham

The episode is available to watch on BBC iPlayer, YouTube and beeb social media.


The Katie Price Update

What’s been happening with our favourite lady of entertainment this month? Well Katie was in February tampin’ fumin’ ragin’ over her son Harvey being used on a photo of ISIS teenager Shamima Begum alongside the words, “let me back you c****,”. Katie has taken the image personally as an attack against her 16-year-old son however it is actually using comments he made on live to mock the ISIS teen.

Still it isn’t particularly nice for Harvey, who has been at the centre of a number of mocking images and comments over the years after being flung into the limelight by his famous mother. Price is trying to stem ‘online trolling’ or ‘online abuse’ by petitioning to make it a criminal offense, which in our current snowflake society seems likely to come to fruition in some form.

The vulnerable need protecting, of course they do, but those who are famous and making a lot of money by being famous for the sake of it should expect to deal with criticisms as they land. In the old days of course it was all done either in print – think TV Times letters page – or via snail mail direct to the celeb. These days comments can be shared on social media for so many more to see.


Matt Smith talks playing a ‘gay role’

You don’t have to be a rapist to play one, nor a woman to play a panto dame, nor commit murder just so you tick that ‘can sympathise’ box. But the gay magazines – thankfully the majority of the readers disagreed with the tone – seemed to get ‘fake outrage’ going that former Doctor Who lead star Matt Smith is to portray a gay character, when the actor is straight.

“I think your sexual orientation, or your sex and your choices outside of work, shouldn’t influence – in either way, positive or negative – what happens. So, to me, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight. That has no bearing on whether you should get the part.” – Matt Smith quoted in Attitude

Smith is to portray photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in a biopic of his life. Matt is best known for his role as The Doctor in science fiction series Doctor Who on BBC One, we can confirm Smith isn’t an alien or a timelord, but still got the gig.

Matt Smith.

Baby Love

Baby announcements came in succession during February in the world of showbiz. Firstly EastEnders’ Stacey Slater actress Lacey Turner announced that she is expecting her first child. The 30-year-old actress made the announcement via OK magazine with her hubby Matt Kay.

Also last month Loose Women regular, for her sins, Stacey Solomon revealed to ITV viewers she was expecting. The 29-year-old is to have her first child with ex-soap actor Joe Swash. The couple already are parents from previous relationships.

Finally Emmerdale actors Charley Webb and Matthew Wolfenden revealed they are expecting their third child. The pair who are not in a relationship on-screen play Debbie Dingle and David Metcalfe in the long running ITV Yorkshire saga.


Media Movers

BBC News has appointed Naja Nielsen as digital director to develop its digital services across all platforms while Sky News has appointed Beth Rigby as political editor. Beth was previously deputy political editor and replaces Faisal Islam who is moving to BBC News as economics editor. The Times’ deputy political editor Sam Coates is leaving the daily broadsheet to take up a role at Sky. Former EastEnders exec Diederick Santer is leaving his role at production company Kudos.

February saw Today Programme presenter John Humphrys announce that he is set to leave the BBC Radio 4 show later this year. John has presented the weekday topical morning show for 32 years and also presents BBC Two television quiz show Mastermind. Global Radio has recruited Fraser Knight from Central FM. He joins Global as a broadcast journalist working across Heart, Smooth Radio and 105-106 Capital FM’s Scottish output. Fran Unsworth, the Beeb’s Director of News and Current Affairs, has been appointed to the BBC’s Board.

ITV News has appointed Jamie Roberton as health and science producer, ITV News West Country has welcomed Alex Wood to the team as a production journalist. Formerly a news reporter for titles including the Bristol Post. CNN International has appointed Nick Friend as a digital sport intern while the broadcaster has also recruited Tara John as digital producer to cover news from the EMEA region. Tara joined from her freelance reporter role at BBC Africa and has also previously served as a reporter for TIME magazine. talkRADIO’s digital editor Thea de Gallier departed the broadcaster for BBC Three.


Quote of the Month

“Comic Relief is a 20-year-old formula that asks comedians to perform and sends celebrities – most often white – out to Africa, and that image evokes for lots of ethnic minorities in Britain, a colonial image of a white beautiful heroine holding a black child, with no agency, no parents in sight… The charity is doing very little to educate the public,” – MP David Lammy

The thing is Comic Relief, which has been going more like 30 years actually, is still going – along with spin-off Sports Relief – and as far as I can see utterly no progress has been made in Africa or the UK for that matter. Kids are still starving in both countries. So fundraising isn’t working, but hey its a night of laughs so let’s not look to deep eh BBC?


Rewind RIP

February saw us say our last goodbye’s to football legend Gordon Banks as well as fellow football player turned coach Eric Harrison, author Angela Levy, actor Carmen Argenziano, actor, writer and director Sam McCready, music performer Blaine Cameron Johnson aka Cadet, footballers Fred Pickering, Cliff Myers, Joe Fascione, Matt Brazier, Danny Williams and Ian Ross. Musician Peter Tork, best known for The Monkees passed away. February also saw the confirmation that footballer Emiliano Sala had died in a plane crash.

We also lost Irish broadcaster Arthur Murphy, singer Gerald English, journalists Vikki Orvice and William Davis, Grampian Television and YTV executive Ward Thomas, Scottish Television announcer and presenter Jimmy Nairn, actress Julie Adams, actors Kristoff St. John and Clive Swift, radio host and comedian Jeremy Hardy and iconic actor Albert Finney.

The month also saw composer André Previn, Yorkshire TV and Tyne Tees weatherman Bob Rust, actor Morgan Woodward and actress Katherine Helmond. It was also farewell to little Bullseye, Paul O’Grady’s pet pooch.

We also can’t let February 2019 pass without lowering our virtual ATV Today flag in respect of 99-year-old Dick Churchill, the final survivor of the infamous WWII Great Escape which saw the true life events become a hit movie. We also lower it for 98-year-old Tim Elkington a Battle of Britain RAF fighter pilot.


Picture of the Month

It’s a flashback to one of the best comedies to come out of the 1990s, BBC One’s Keeping Up Appearances starring the recently departed Clive Swift and Dame Patricia Routledge. Why the photo moment you ask? Well Dame Patricia turned 90 on February 17th.

Patricia as the unforgettable Hyacinth Bucket (spoken Bouquet of course).

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