Weekly Telly news highlights for the first week of March 2020.

Tall Story for Peter Beale

The seventh actor to play EastEnders’ Peter Beale caused viewers, over the past week, to take to social media to ponder his seven inch growth. Oo-er missus. Well actually, no need for a Frankie Howerd moment, its his height that has been the cause of the chitter-chatter with latest actor Dayle Hudson coming in at 6ft 3 inches.

The previous actor to play Peter, Ben Hardy, stood at 5ft 8 inches tall, leading to some Twitter banter on the sprouting character. The Daily Mail plucked some of the best tweets, including:

‘So Peter Beale is back and now he’s 9 feet tall,’

‘Ben’s storyline is heartbreaking, but come on Peter Beale is nearly 7ft tall.’

‘Why is the new Peter Beale like 20ft tall? Iain looks like a borrower.’

‘Oh a little sidenote but, how tall is new Peter Beale?!’

 ‘I still can’t get over how tall new Peter Beale is, they did not think scene framing through when they cast him.’

Ben Hardy quit EastEnders in 2015 to pursue other acting roles.


Too much coverage of Flack tragedy

Amazingly the BBC received around 100 complaints stating that BBC News had spent ‘too much time’ covering the suicide of ITV presenter Caroline Flack.

The 40-year-old Love Island host died last month having struggled to cope following being suspended from the programme after a personal disagreement with her partner escalated into an alleged violent altercation in December. The host was facing a prosecution for assault.

BBC News defended their coverage of Caroline’s death in a statement;

‘We believe this was a considerable and newsworthy story, given Caroline Flack’s notable career in the media industry, and the circumstances leading up to her tragic and sudden death.

‘We recognise that not everyone will agree with the decisions taken by our news editors, but would stress other major stories were also given prominence including Storm Dennis and coronavirus.’


Weekly Quickies

ITV boss Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of the broadcaster has spoken about Caroline Flack. “I think the thing about Caroline Flack is that ITV are absolutely devastated by what happened to her,” she noted, adding, “As far as duty of care is concerned, we are absolutely focused on making sure our duty of care is, for both our participants and for our talent, world class. We want to be best in class for that.”

Olly Murs also spoke about his late friend on Loose Women this week.  “It’s been tough …it doesn’t really make sense to me yet – I’m still really coming to terms with it. It was a massive shock, I was on holiday at the time. The last couple of weeks has been …so hard to even talk about it, to be honest.” Olly and Caroline Flack co-hosted The X Factor and Xtra Factor for ITV.

Linda Robson accused of ‘casual racism’. Sticking with Loose Women and regular panellist Linda Robson was accused of being a little bit racist after she noted that her husband suggested they shouldn’t order a Chinese takeaway meal because of the Coronavirus outbreak. While the debate was serious, including it observed how the virus had caused many Chinese businesses to suffer financially recently, the audience laughing at the comments just proves what many have long thought – the audience to that show are imbeciles.

Coronation Street has also been affected by the Coronavirus with one actor self-isolating.  The Salford based production notes that a couple of scenes have had to be re-written to work around the unnamed actor’s absence but the issue had caused ‘minimum issues’ for the ITV programme. Bosses at the broadcaster are taking action on a ‘programme by programme basis’.

BBC Scotland, the pointless waste of money from ‘can spend, will spend’ corporation bosses north of the border is being urged to be saved by the SNP. Having been a regular to Glasgow over the past five years I would suggest the SNP start dealing with some real issues such as the terrible pot-holed roads, the increasing number of homeless on the streets and getting the dirty bins emptied more often – rather than chucking money at a vanity project that has proved as popular as coughing in a lift.

BBC Three sticking with the Beeb and a channel that was worth keeping, but ridiculously axed – BBC Three – may be making a comeback reports suggest. Four years ago the channel was chopped from broadcast services, becoming available only via streaming on the iPlayer. There are certainly areas the corporation could cut back, do we need two children’s channels? Surely the content could be time split on one, while most of BBC Four’s content really belongs on BBC Two.

BritBox UK is struggling to retain users after its initial 30 day free trial, according to a survey of 5,000 people by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates. The findings have been disputed by ITV, one of the partners in the service. ‘The O&O research assertions made about BritBox bear no resemblance to our data’ ITV note.

Susan Calman is joining Channel 5 as a replacement for Jane McDonald the broadcaster announced. Jane decided to quit the show to spend more time at home as well as embark on a tour and a special fan-filled cruise of her own. Jane will appear on Channel 5 with one more Cruising With and Jane and Friends before waving goodbye. It isn’t known if Susan will be camply singing at the end of each show when she slips into Jane’s sequined frocks.

Susan Calman, singing for her liners.


Over Ear

Dancing On Ice contestant Joe Swash has been left wearing a large head bandage following an injury obtained while on the ice rink. Joe’s ear was ‘nipped’ by dance partner Alex Murphy’s skate. The former EastEnders actor has taken to wearing a hoodie to try and hide the bandage, but it has failed to be well hidden.

Swash also noted he hasn’t had as much sympathy as he would have liked too. His wife Stacey Solomon was reported to have been left crying with laughter with his ‘mummy’ look.


Derek Jacobi on Corrie’s loss of quality

There is a certain section of the Coronation Street viewership who have been bathing in the pleasures of the ITV3 repeats, with many of them noting the current show isn’t a patch on the ‘classic’ episodes, currently airing from 1995. And while its difficult to please everyone all the time, 81-year-old Derek Jacobi seems to agree with them.

“When it started, ‘Corrie’ was all about the older generation – lovely Annie Walker behind the bar, Elsie Tanner, all of them.” he told The Times.

“There are only token oldies in it now. And it lacks a texture that it had …It’s still good. I still watch it, but it’s not as rich as it was, not as layered as it was, and it’s very plot-driven whereas it used to be character-driven.”

Classic Coronation Street has proved a hit for ITV3, with re-runs starting in 1986. Fans hope that once it reaches the ‘modern age’ of Corrie bosses will rewind the show back even further – to the sixties where the iconic characters such as Ena Sharples, Minnie Cadwell and Elsie Tanner ruled Weatherfield.

Weatherfield, when it was richer in texture.


Weekly In Brief

Bradley Walsh has quit Doctor Who after two years. The singer, presenter and actor will depart the long-running science fiction series in this years’ Christmas Special which sees the return of the Daleks. Co-star Tosin Cole will also bow out in the festive offering.

Doctor Who returns. Sticking with the series the Beeb revealed more on the Christmas show; ‘With the fate of the Doctor seemingly hanging in the balance following the climactic ending to series twelve, Doctor Who will next return to screens for a special in the upcoming festive season in an episode entitled Revolution Of The Daleks.’

Phillip Schofield was pulled off from prime time this week, being another victim of the virus concerns sweeping the world. His latest run of How To Spend It Well  was pulled from schedules at the last minute. The show was due to air on Thursday evening but due to coronavirus outbreak was replaced with a repeat of Griff’s Great Australian Adventure.

ITV confirmed this week that The Good Karma Hospital and Belgravia will return on Sunday 15th March.

BBC Radio 2 presenters Jo Whiley, Reverend Kate Bottley and Richie Anderson are set to swap the studio for the great outdoors to face the ultimate in triathlon tasks, as they Dare 2 Tri for Sport Relief. The challenge will see the trio take on freezing cold open water swims, punishing cycle routes and energy sapping runs in three different UK cities, across three nations, in just three days.

Coronation Street actress Lottie Henshall thanked her fans for their support following her character Jade Rowan’s recent exit. She said Corrie fans were ‘awesome’.

Sport Relief is also getting a helping hand from rock legends, Kasabian, who are offering fans the chance to win tickets to their Solstice II gig, their only UK show of 2020 which is already sold out, to help raise life changing money for the charity. To enter the prize draws and be in with a chance of winning, visit prizeathon.comicrelief.com. Entries close on 12th April, and will cost £10 per entry, with all proceeds going to Sport Relief.

The Windsors Series Three and the Complete Series One – Three Box Set – including Wedding & Christmas Specials – arrive on DVD and digital on the 6th April 2020 from Acorn Media International. Ever wondered what the real reason behind Megxit was? Or whether David Beckham has a shot at a knighthood? All is revealed as The Windsors take on family feuds, pay disputes, uncomfortable truths and royal weddings with their usual panache.

EastEnders announced that Paul Usher is to reprise his role of Danny Hardcastle for a short in the BBC One saga later this month. Paul is, of course, best known for his role of Barry Grant in Brookside.


Doctors Orders

George Clooney has been voted Britain’s sexiest TV medic…even though it’s more than 20 years since he regularly played Dr Doug Ross in hospital drama ER. Hollywood A-lister Clooney beat Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George} from Call The Midwife and Casualty’s Dr Connie Beauchamp (Amanda Mealing) in a viewers’ poll to find the most fanciable screen medic.

Also in the Top Ten are Dr Greg House (Hugh Laurie) from House, Martin Clunes as Dr Ellingham in Doc Martin, and even TV veteran Charlie Fairhead (Derek Thompson) in Casualty.

 The poll by Two Point Hospital, the management simulation game, saw the research also confirm Brits are fascinated with the goings on within hospital walls both in fiction and real life.

Comedian and broadcaster Matt Richardson, who is supporting the launch of Two Point Hospital, says: “Hospitals are fascinating places and it seems we can’t get enough of them on our screens! It’s amazing George Clooney still tops the list 20 years on! With Two Point Hospital launching on consoles, it means you can now have your own, more unusual, hospital in your pocket – perfect for when 24 Hours In A&E isn’t on our screens! The game is good fun, very much less serious than managing a real hospital and give you the chance to cure some very unusual illnesses!”

Top Ten Doctors

  1. Dr Doug Ross (George Clooney), ER
  2. Nurse Trixie Franklin (Helen George), Call The Midwife
  3. Dr Connie Beauchamp (Amanda Mealing), Casualty
  4. Dr Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), House
  5. Dr Martin Ellingham (Martin Clunes), Doc Martin
  6. Dr John Carter (Noah Wyle), ER
  7. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey), Grey’s Anatomy
  8. Charlie Fairhead (Derek Thompson), Casualty
  9. Dr Zara Carmichael (Elizabeth Dermot Walsh) Doctors
  10. Dr Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) ER

Number 8, the medical sex god that is Charlie Fairhead.


More Studios for UK Production

Two decades ago ITV began shutting down their major regional production centres, noting that television was changing and studios would no longer be needed in such large numbers. The cull saw Central Television’s studios in Birmingham and Nottingham sold off, Tyne Tees in Newcastle demolished and Yorkshire TV in Leeds down-scaled. Recently UTV’s major centre in Belfast was sold off as they relocated to tiny office space and similar has happened to Border in Carlisle and ITV Wales in Cardiff.

Now it seems there is a demand for studio space once more with recent news Sky is to built a large complex in Elstree – near the existing successful Elstree TV and Film Studios, the independent Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol have proved a big success for TV and Movie production, while ITV and the BBC have created a hub in Salford.

Blackhall Studios, in an agreement with the University of Reading for Blackhall, are to develop the largest purpose-built studio and digital creative hub complex in the UK.

Located west of London on the outskirts of Reading, the new studios are ideally located to make the most of the creative corridor being developed through the Thames Valley. It is set to create up to 3,000 new jobs in the Reading and Wokingham boroughs, including around 1,500 employed at the studio site.

The state-of-the-art production centre will incorporate extensive purpose-built digital production facilities, represents the first UK investment for one of the leading US studios, based in Atlanta. Blackhall Studios has earned a reputation for being a heavyweight in the industry having worked with major studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Sony and HBO. The studio has housed production teams for ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’, ‘Venom’, ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’, ‘Doctor Sleep’ and the upcoming ‘Jungle Cruise’.

The Studios will be developed to the highest environmental standards, create significant new employment opportunities, feature a high-tech cinema and other facilities that can be used by the local community. The Studios will be in line with Thames Valley Science Park’s and the University of Reading’s values around sustainability and climate change.


Strictly no Headlines

There’s been a lot of Strictly Come Dancing in the press this past week, and the show isn’t even on air. First off judge Bruno Tonioli warned BBC bosses they should be “careful” not to follow ITV’s Dancing On Ice and RTÉ One’s Dancing with the Stars and introduce a same-sex couple just as a stunt.

“We would have to be very careful because we wouldn’t want to do it just to get headlines. It has to be the right person and couple for it to work. The search needs to start and it’s something that is possible. But it shouldn’t be headline chasing.” – Bruno Tonioli quoted in The Sun

Elsewhere in the world of Strictly professional dancer Kevin Clifton has quit the show. The performer who first appeared on the format in 2013 said he was departing the ballroom to concentrate on his life and career.

The BBC told ATV Today in a statement;

“Kevin has been such a brilliant part of Strictly for the past seven years. From reaching the final an impressive five times, to lifting the Glitterball with Stacey Dooley in 2018, he has provided the show with some fantastic moments, through his exceptional talent as a dancer and choreographer. He will be hugely missed by fans and by his Strictly family.  He will always be our Kevin from Grimsby.”

The corporation added there would be no further discussion on Clifton’s departure from the programme. Kevin said he was leaving the series on a high and noted it had been ‘a dream’ to be part of.


Intelligence is Sky high

The debut episode of Sky original Intelligence has been watched by a 7-day cumulative audience of 1.2 million, the broadcaster told ATV Today. They add that it ‘makes Intelligence one of the top five most popular comedies on Sky One in recent years, alongside other hit series launching with audiences of over 1 million, including Brassic, Avenue 5, In The Long Run and The Reluctant Landlord.’

“You don’t need to be an intelligence officer to work out that this show is proving to be a real hit for Sky. We’re super excited to be working with this stellar cast and can’t wait for second helpings of Nick’s brilliant scripts.” – Jon Mountague, Sky Studios Director of Comedy 

Intelligence launched on Sky One on 21st February, with all six episodes available to watch on demand. With a ratings hit on their hands a second series of the comedy, created and written by Nick Mohammed, has recently been commissioned by Sky.


“Stifled” and “a bit frustrated”

That’s how actress Samantha Giles summed up her final few months as Bernice Blackstock in ITV’s Emmerdale.

“It was very tiring. It was full on, filming all those emotional scenes. It really takes it out of you… It felt like the right time to leave. It’s scary because, as actors, regular work is the dream but I want to play other roles.

“You get that creative itch and I was starting to feel a bit stifled and I needed to move on. I got a bit frustrated because often when you’re playing a comedy character you’re not going to get big juicy storylines. I want to get my teeth into something.” – Samantha Giles quoted by MSN Entertainment

Giles has played former Woolpack landlady Bernice on-and-off since 1998.


Corrie not Chickening Out

Over 400 ITV viewers complained to TV regulator Ofcom after Geoff killed, cooked and the served up Yasmeen’s pet chicken Charlotte in Coronation Street.

The disturbing scenes are the latest in a series of abusive scenes with writers of the Salford based production defending their storyline. Over the past few months Yasmeen and husband Geoff Metcalfe have been central to the current plots with his controlling and psychological abuse. Senior Corrie Storyliner, Amy Coombs has noted that ITV wanted to highlight how domestic abuse isn’t only physical, it can be mental too.

“I think a lot of people understandably have said at times it can be uncomfortable to watch. I think the people in it existing in these situations, it can so debilitating, so it is important to give it time to breathe.” – Amy Coombs speaking to The Mirror

The coercive control scenes have seen Geoff take his anger out on Yasmeen for a failed magic trick by locking her in a box, convinced her that she is an alcoholic and cut her off from her friends and family.


The views in this feature are those of Mike Watkins and are not endorsed by ATV Today, ATV News UK or ATV Network Limited.

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