Weekly Telly news highlights and this week a sad farewell to Terry Jones, the ‘cost cutting’ at Beeb News and soap exits and thoughts on returns.

John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Monty Python.

‘Two Down, Four to Go’

“We have all lost a kind, funny, warm, creative and truly loving man.” – Family Statement

Monty Python star Terry Jones died on January 21st at the age of 77, his agent announced. The performer, director and writer had lived with dementia for a number of years. The comedy legend was a member of the surreal sketch team alongside Michael Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam. Chapman died in October 1989 aged 48.

The surviving Python stars last performed in 2014 in a live series of stage shows, the last of which was screened on UKTV channel Gold. The final ever performance of the Monty Python Live (mostly): One Down Five to Go stage show aired directly from The O2 on Sunday 20th July 2014.

“[He] had a confidence that I rather envied. He’d take things on without any worry he might not do them terribly well. I’d always hold back, but I don’t think Terry was ever assailed by those kind of doubts. He was a remarkable chap and had an enormous number of different talents — he was the most multi-talented [team member] of the Pythons.” – John Cleese speaking to the BBC.

The original six members had amused BBC viewers with Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. With a total of four series produced and 45 episodes. Cleese left after three series and went onto sitcom stardom with Fawlty Towers. When the remaining five called it a day in 1974, the final series airing on BBC Two, they would all go on to successes in their own right.

The gang were reunited for several live theatre shows in the 70s and 80s and big screen ventures in 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Life of Brian of 1979 and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life in 1983.

Michael Palin paid tribute on the BBC;

“He threw himself into things with such passion and such energy and he really refused to take on things which didn’t excite him and which didn’t feel different from what else was around. … Part of his warmth was his love of all sorts of things and comedies — he knew an awful lot about the silent film comedians. There were so many aspects to Terry, but I would say enthusiasm and passion were the two main words that described him best.”

In a statement BBC Comedy boss Shane Allen said it had been ‘a sad day to lose an absolute Titan of British comedy.’ The Controller of Comedy Commissioning added that Terry was ‘one of the founding fathers of the most influential and pioneering comedy ensemble of all time, he created a wealth of highly regarded and enduring work across TV, film and print.’ Allen concluded that Terry ‘will be long cherished by comedy fans and dearly missed.’


In Brief

The BBC once more are crying poverty. Oh woe is they, oh thrice woe. As Frankie Howerd would have tittered at such foolishness, yes fool-ish-ness. This time award winning Victoria Derbyshire has been bumped off, well TV wise, to ‘save money. There are several other ways the BBC could save a heap of money, and axing a clearly successful programme is not it.

However dumping the pointless BBC Alba? The even worse BBC Scotland Channel or dropping one of the BBC East news programmes, if dear old Cumbria can cope with Look North from Newcastle then we’re sure the East of England will welcome Stuart White across the entire region… Victoria found out the news of her chop in the press, and took to social media to note she was ‘gutted particularly for our brilliant, young, ambitious, talented team‘.

Speaking of the corporation and money being wizzed down the drain, Sarah Montague has been given £400,000 of our telly tax in the latest unequal pay dispute. The BBC Radio 4 presenter also complained about conditions; ‘When I discovered the disparity in my pay and conditions, I was advised that rectifying it all could run into the millions. I chose not to seek such sums from the BBC but I did want some recognition that they had underpaid me. Last year after a long period of stressful negotiation, I accepted a settlement of £400,000 subject to tax and an apology from the BBC for paying me unequally for so many years.’ she said in a statement.

Coronation Street star Lucy Fallon dazzles in a sparkling white dress as she joins co-stars Alison King and Julia Goulding for her leaving bash’ it could only be a headline from the Daily Mail. The paper reports that Fallon recorded her final scenes for ITV Granada’s Coronation Street on Thursday (January 23rd) at their Salford Quays studios before joining cast and crew for a fairwell party this evening at a Manchester hotel. The 24-year-old has quit her role of Bethany Platt after four years. She was the second actress to be offered the job in 2015 after Katie Redford was dropped over ITV bosses being mislead about her age. The actress had been billed as being 19, when in actual fact she was 25.

300 viewers complained this week over Piers Morgan ‘mimicking’ a Chinese accent on Good Morning Britain. The programme were looking at a milk advert fronted by royal Peter Phillips when he spoke word-for-word exactly what a Chinese voice had said. GMB viewers were actually taking notice enough for around 300 of them to complain to TV regulator Ofcom that Morgan had mocked the country and how they speak. On the show Morgan observed; “Surely you can take the mickey out of it! He’s using ‘ching chang chong’ milk from the Chinese state – that’s what they said in the advert.” Benny Hill would be proud.

David Walliams and Matt Lucas are reportedly working on a television return for Little Britain following a radio special last year entitled Little Brexit. Quite how the show will work in the age of ‘complain about everything’ remains to be seen. The show originally took the stance that anyone and everything is open to be ridiculed, but the pair note society has moved on since 2000.

Jamie Oliver is back with a brand new series, travelling around the country to help a nation of takeaway lovers get cooking again Channel 4 this week announced. With the popularity of takeaways and delivery food sharply on the rise, Jamie is on a mission to show delivery lovers of all ages that their favourite dishes can all be made, cheaply and easily, at home. Saint Jamie will be preaching from the stove later this year.

Sky News reported the serious case of former X Factor contestant Danny Tetley who has been jailed for nine years after being found guilty of grooming teenage boys and inducing them to send him indecent pictures. The news channel noted Tetley had ‘admitted seven charges of causing sexual exploitation of boys aged between 14 and 16, as well as two counts relating to the distribution of indecent images.’ Tetley blamed being unable to cope with his fame for his crimes.

UK independent production company Red Planet Pictures and ITV, have launched the 2020 Red Planet Prize, a bi-annual competition that champions talent and diversity by calling on emerging writers to submit their drama scripts to a panel of experts; this year’s award will focus on finding original voices to bring into the mainstream. The winner of The Red Planet Prize will receive a script commission and the runner up will get development opportunities with ITV.

The Nine, named after how many Scottish viewers are tuned to BBC Scotland, a channel that could be axed instead of Victoria Derbyshire.


Steph McGovern bade farewell to Beeb Breakfast

Steph McGovern shed a tear on BBC Breakfast, The Mirror reported, as she said an emotional farewell to the show during a live send-off on January 22nd. The 37-year-old is off to Channel 4 to front her own series that the fourth network describe as ‘a mix of entertainment, lifestyle and light current affairs’ with guests from the worlds of showbiz, politics and beyond.

The new series for McGovern, The Steph Show, will be hosted from Leeds and feature a studio audience with it hitting the Channel 4 schedules this spring. Steph was first seen on the BBC’s daily morning news magazine back in 2011 as the main business presenter with occasional stints as a main presenter of the show.

Having hosted her last slot on BBC Breakfast the journalist joined Dan Walker and Louise Minchin on the red sofa to say one last goodbye to viewers, becoming emotional as she fought back tears as the Beeb aired highlights of her time on air. Handed tissues main host Minchin noted ‘Oh we didn’t mean to make you cry!’ with Walker adding ‘We had a laugh, didn’t we?’.

Steph McGovern, buggering off from the Beeb.


Labour Leadership Contest gets telly Coverage

Channel 4 will host the first live debate between the candidates vying to become the next Labour Leader. The ITN production will see all four contenders confirmed to take part in the production.

Rebecca Long Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry will get their moment to speak shine in Live: The Labour Leadership Debate.

The hour-long programme will be hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy with a live audience asking questions of the people aiming to lead the opposition.

It will take place on Monday February 17th at 8pm. The leadership contest will be decided by ballot. Voting begins just a few days after the debate, with the result announced in early April.

“This is a vital moment for the Labour Party. We’re delighted that all four people who want the job of leading it have agreed to answer questions and put their case forward.” – Director of TV Production at ITN Productions, Ian Rumsey


BBC One get back inside the Ambulance for sixth series

Acclaimed for its raw but heartfelt insight into the frontline of emergency healthcare across the UK, Ambulance is heading south for the second time, to where the series began. This new instalment of eight episodes will feature the work of the ambulance staff in the capital city, including some familiar favourites and a whole new set of faces.

With unprecedented access to the crews on the ground and the decision-makers in the control centre, the new series will follow the work of London Ambulance Service – Britain’s busiest ambulance trust.

Cameras will follow the new teams as they face the complexities of making the life or death decisions that come with providing emergency medical care to the 8.9million inhabitants of London, as autumn turns to winter.


Good Morning Britain hosts first 1 Million Minutes Awards

Good Morning Britain’s first 1 Million Minutes Awards ceremony kicked off in London on Thursday, January 23rd, with a host of celebrities turning out to celebrate those dedicating their lives to helping fight loneliness in the UK. The GMB studio was transformed for the ceremony and seven winners were honoured by presenters Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway.

There were tears and laughter throughout the emotional hour-long awards at Television Centre and Dame Barbara Windsor also sent a moving video message to one winner – Danny Brown, who was given the award named in honour of the British TV legend. Award presenters included – Scott Mitchell, Larry Lamb, Stanley Johnson and Kate’s jungle buddy Myles Stephenson. The Grief Encounter choir, whose members have all suffered a loss of a parent or sibling, also performed and British poet, Hussain Manawer, recited an exclusively commissioned poem about loneliness and isolation.

The awards sprung from GMB’s campaign of the same name, which started in 2016 aimed at raising awareness for the 2 million people in the UK who are lonely or isolated. Viewers can pledge minutes of their time to volunteer to help end the blight of loneliness. So far, a total of over 150 million minutes to date has been pledged.

GMB have launched their first big gong show this week.


Chris Packham and Ella Al-Shamahi create a waterhole in Tanzania for nature series

That was the news the BBC revealed this week. The programme, to air on BBC Two, sees the corporation’s Natural History Unit working with Mwiba Wildlife Reserve in Tanzania, to build the world’s first waterhole with a built-in specialist camera rig.

With half-submerged and weather-proofed remote cameras filming 24/7, Chris Packham and biologist Ella Al-Shamahi aim to uncover the complex dynamics of the waterhole for the very first time.

They’re filming across six months to gain unique insights into the lives of some of Africa’s most iconic animals, including elephants and lions, and uncover the increasingly important role of water as Africa and its wildlife face the growing impact of climate change.


Dingle on the dangle

Will Debbie Dingle ever return to Emmerdale? The actress behind the character has left the mechanic dangling on a return in a recent chat with The Sun.

Charley Webb told the tabloid that she and show bosses currently have “no plans” about when exactly she’ll return to the Leeds based ITV Yorkshire studios to reprise her popular role of Debbie, a much troubled Dingle. But then show me a Dingle that has been happy for more than a week… This may be why Charley is enjoying her maternity leave so much.

Webb and real-life hubby co-star Matthew Wolfenden, who plays David Metcalfe, last summer welcomed their third child. Emmerdale has been entertaining viewers since around 1993, although has been on air since 1972. The show this week aired a big ‘who dunnit’ over the death of naughty Graham. It turns out the murderer is a blast from the past – but not Annie Sugden obvs. Now that would have been a shocker, if she’d come back 100 year old and full of bitch. Sadly Sheila Mercier passed away in December so we’ll never have the pleasure of a pensioner gun tootin’ Annie.

The actual murderer was Pierce Harris, played by Jonathan Wrather, last seen in the dales back in 2017. The actor has since the episode aired however suggested villainous Pierce may not be entirely guilty after all…

Charley Webb has ‘no plans’ as yet to slip back into Debbie’s overalls.


Next door won’t be just a footstep away

Neighbours‘ actress Jodi Anasta announced she is to depart the Reg Watson created serial after nearly four years playing Elly Conway. The performer who was first seen in Ramsay Street back in July 2016 is to exit the storylines as Elly in order to move back to Sydney. Neighbours is produced at the old ATV0 studios in Melbourne.

Jodi hopes that despite her farewell from daily saga she’ll have plenty of opportunity to pursue new acting projects once she’s wrapped on her departure story in the next few weeks. While how the character will leave isn’t being revealed as yet she notes it will be a ‘an exciting end’ for Elly.

Neighbours was launched by former ATV boss Reg Watson in 1985 following his return to his native Australia to join Grundy Television. He also devised hit sagas such as The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters and Prisoner: Cell Block H. In the UK he had launched Crossroads for ATV as well as operated as Head of Entertainment, Midlands, from 1955 to 1974. Reg passed away on October 8th last year aged 93.


Quote of the Week

Paddy McGuinness spoke to BBC News about the success of Top Gear with its new presenter line-up proving a ratings hit with viewers following four years of ‘turmoil’ after the departure of Richard Hammond, James May and sacked – due to a ‘fracas’ with a producer – Jeremy Clarkson. The series fell to just over two million viewers when fronted by Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc with Evans quitting after his first series. Top Gear has seen nearly 4 million tune in under the tenure of McGuinness, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Chris Harris for its most recent outing.

“The thing about doing telly now, any telly, you’ve got all these social media platforms where people will instantly give you their opinion. Years ago a show could bed in and have a bit of time to breathe and get a bit of chemistry going. We were lucky that we hit the ground running chemistry wise so I think that went in our favour.” – Paddy McGuinness


Joel Dommett to host Dave’s Comedy Against Living Miserably

UKTV’s comedy entertainment channel, Dave, has teamed up with Joel Dommett as he hosts the second episode of Comedy Against Living Miserably.

Dommett will be joined by John Robins, Judi Love and Kiri Pritchard-McLean who complete the full line-up. Comedy Against Living Miserably is a series of filmed stand-up specials produced by Spirit Media to raise awareness for mental health charity CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably, with the second of the stand-up specials to be filmed in front of a live audience at EartH (Theatre) Hackney on Sunday 16th February 2020 with doors opening to the public at 7pm.

Tickets to the event are free of charge and available HERE.

Comedy Against Living Miserably is the latest initiative in Dave’s partnership with CALM since the “Be the Mate You’d Want” campaign launched in 2018, with an ad break takeover where airtime was given to encourage viewers to spend that time texting or calling a mate. The series aims to get the comedy community to join in and help foster a more positive and open culture when it comes to mental health.

Comedy Against Living Miserably.


The views in this opinion piece is those of Mike Watkins and are not endorsed by ATV Today.


 

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