Weekly Telly news highlights from the past seven days.

Smother begins production for RTÉ and BBC

Written by Kate O’Riordan, Smother is a family thriller about deeply buried secrets and their unintended consequences, set in a small town on the wild and rugged coast of Clare.

Dervla Kirwan leads as family matriarch Val, a devoted mother who is determined to protect her family and particularly her three daughters – Jenny, Anna and Grace – at any cost.

Jenny is a heavily pregnant single doctor, unsure of the choices she has made, played by Niamh Walsh (Good Omens, Jamestown). Grace, is an angry but fragile young woman struggling with mental health issues, played by Seána Kerslake (Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, The Hole in the Ground). Anna is a devoted step-mother to two teenage boys whose birth mother has recently reappeared on the scene, played by Gemma-Leah Devereux (Judy, The Tudors).

When Val Ahern’s husband Denis played by Stuart Graham is found dead at a foot of a cliff close to their home the morning after a family party, Val begins to interrogate the events that unfolded the night before. Val explores Denis’s relationships with his children, step-children and his siblings in order to find out who might have been responsible for his brutal, shocking death. The deeper Val delves into her family’s secrets the more she realises how her late husband’s controlling, manipulative behaviour had a deep affect on each member of the family.

The cast also includes Thomas Levin, Hilary Rose and Justine Mitchell.


Weekly Quickies

Miriam Margolyes said ‘pissed off’ twice on This Morning on Monday (March 9th). She first said it when talking about body image as part of her new series Big Fat Adventure. She then said it again when apologising for saying it the first time.

Maggy Chan has been promoted to Managing Director, Global Distribution, at BBC Studios. Maggy joined BBC Worldwide in 2008, and was most recently Commercial Director, Global Markets, where she accountable for the running of day to day operations as well as all finance activities in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Joe Swash won Dancing On Ice 2020 (March 8th) after beating fellow finalist Perri Kiely to take the gong. ITV revealed that there was only 1% in the vote as to who won. ‘Honestly, this is the most amazing experience,’ noted actor and presenter Joe.

The Greatest Dancer also saw Latin dancers Michael and Jowita, win the latest series. The pair had been coached by current Strictly Come Dancing champion Oti Mabuse. The 2020 win is the second in a row for Oti on TGD.

Saturday Night Takeaway aired an extended kiss between two audience members. The male-female snog saw viewers complain to ITV and telly regulator Ofcom. The sloppy smooch even went on too long for hosts Ant and Dec with the former noting, “That’s enough, thank you! It’s a family show.”

BBC production could scale back output if hit by Coronavirus the broadcaster announced. Speaking to our sister site Daily|Nightly the BBC said ‘We are closely following developing news and advice from the Foreign Office, WHO and Public Health England, and will continue to update staff advice and operational guidance as appropriate. We are also talking to our foreign correspondents daily.’ Tony Hall, Director General also said he hoped to keep ‘everything open’ although there may be a lessened service from departments such as BBC News. 

Laura Whitmore and ITV have struck a £1 million deal, The Sun reported, for Whitmore to present the upcoming summer ITV2 series of Love Island, after standing in for Caroline Flack for the first-ever winter run of the show. Flack tragically passed away last month.

Matt Lucas is to step into the hosting duties on The Great British Bake Off alongside Noel Fielding when the show returns to Channel 4. Sandi Toksvig quit the show last year.

Doctor Who came to a close with its lowest ratings since the long-running science-fiction drama returned to BBC One screens fifteen years ago. The 12th series finale drew 4.6 million, which is a million down on the usual figures.


Neighbours stay indoors

Legendary Reg Watson soap Neighbours has cancelled filming in Ireland due to the Coronavirus concerns. Stars from the show have also remained in Australia rather than doing UK television rounds as part of a planned 35th anniversary celebration.

Cast members Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne had been due to appear on programmes such as Good Morning Britain to discuss the serial’s longevity while also recording scenes in Dublin later this month for transmission later in the year.

Filming in Dublin with Alan and Jackie has therefore been cancelled for now, however we love our UK and Irish audience and will definitely be back in the future.

‘[Cast] will no longer be visiting the UK for the Neighbours 35th Anniversary celebrations. Whilst this is obviously very disappointing, the wellbeing of all our cast and crew is our utmost priority.’  – Neighbours Statement


Rylan Clark-Neal Squeezes in another show

The BBC are keeping Rylan busy with a host of shows including cook-off Ready Steady Cook, fashion series You Are What You Wear, Stricly spin-off It Takes Two and now game show The Squeeze. This is on top of radio commitments, the voice of Sky Bingo and ITV shows such as Supermarket Sweep.

Rylan became a viewer favourite after appearing on The X Factor, he earned his presenting stripes on Channel 5 hosting Big Brother’s Bit on the Side and his own chat show. He made his TV debut on Living TV with Katie Price, but no one is holding that against him.

The latest show mixes questions with competitive activities and has been produced at BBC Scotland’s studios in Glasgow – where he has also recorded the new episodes of Ready Steady Cook. Maybe they should debut these programmes on the BBC Scotland channel, it may get more than 20 viewing at any one time.


Get Outta Ma Pub!

Peggy Mitchell may have banned anyone who crossed her from her beloved Queen Victoria in EastEnders, but if a petition is taken seriously – unlikely as that may be – it would be viewers barred from entering telly boozers as often as they currently do.

Since the earliest ‘soap operas’ pubs have been a key focal point for the community to gather – the only exception to this being Brookside who for most of its run resisted having any such location, devising other ways for characters to meet and interact.

A Change.org petition has been created to tone down the use of bars in serial as it ‘normalises drinking culture’. The current big-three are singled out with Coronation Street’s Rovers Return Inn, Emmerdale’s Woolpack and EastEnders’ Queen Victoria all noted. There is of course also The Dog in the Pond in Hollyoaks and The Waterhole in Neighbours.

“In almost every episode of these soaps there is an insidious normalisation of drinking throughout what constitutes a normal day.

“Characters are not only portrayed as constantly popping in and out of the Rovers Return, The Queen Vic and the Woolpack they also open a bottle of wine at home every time a problem arises.” – petition statement

The petition asks that Public Health England and the bosses at BBC Elstree and ITV Studios in Leeds and Salford behind the big-three soaps ‘recognise and address the dangers of legitimising such routine drinking’.


Rewind Quickies

Sheridan Smith and BBC One are on the search for the UK’s ‘Top Dog Stylist’, in a brand new competitive reality entertainment TV series, Pooch Perfect. For Sheridan it will be the first time that she has hosted a prime-time entertainment series but her love of dogs drew her to the format. To paraphrase Mrs Slocombe in Are You Being Served? …‘Is there no call for pussy stylists?!’

Doctor Who story The Talons of Weng-Chiang is a treat for ‘whovians’ on streaming service BritBox. However the six episode story has caused a ‘racist’ blacklash by some due to the fact the show features white actor, John Bennett, dressed as a Chinese man called Li H’sen Chang. Chang, a magician in the plot, is costumed oriental with also a ‘yellow face’ and Chinese accent. The show was made in 1977 when views were different to race, it was the time when Benny Hill did similar on his shows every week. Times have moved on, but rather than remove the story BritBox has placed a warning before the episodes.

Kevin Clifton reportedly wanted to quit Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, after winning the contest. However the pro dancer was lured back for the 2019 series but departed early in its run – leaving Kevin regretting coming back. MSN Entertainment note that offers of lucrative theatre work has also helped sway his decision not to return for the 2020 run.

The One Show music performance featuring Nicole Scherzinger, Ashley Roberts, Kimberly Wyatt, Carmit Bachar and Jessica Sutta – together The Pussycat Dolls – drew over 100 complaints. Not for the fact they were miming and had to start the song a second time when they failed to hear it the first time, but because their dance moves were deemed seedy and inapt for pre-watershed. The Beeb hit back stating ‘We felt it was appropriate for the time slot and wouldn’t fall outside the expectations of most viewers.’

Channel 4 is aiming to launch a Celebrity version of The Circle. The reality series set in a block of flats where the residents only communicate through a social network has proved a hit with viewers. The most recent run saw a guest-spot for This Morning host Richard Madeley and now the broadcaster want a full series of Circle Stars.

Sweet Suffering JehovahRTÉ News reported how the wife of the late Ian Paisley was left unimpressed with a T-shirt staying Sweet Suffering Jehovah. The item of clothing is part of a merch range for Channel 4 series Derry Girls that depicts the show’s Sister Michael saying: “Sweet Suffering Jehovah” Eileen Paisley was quoted as saying ‘I’m sure I speak on behalf of a great number of Bible-believing Christians who are broken-hearted at such a blasphemous advertisement.‘ Well everyone has the right to be offended, even Bible-eating, sorry believing, Christians. Sweet Suffering Jehovah.

Dave Rainford, a regular on BBC brain quiz Eggheads, passed away aged 51. Nicknamed Tremendous Knowledge Dave he had been banned from playing pub quiz machines in Manchester due to his success rate. Eggheads host Jeremy Vine noted ‘I’m very sad to hear that one of the Eggheads has died. Dave “Tremendous Knowledge” Rainford… [he] was the best company after a recording …I never saw him angry or ungenerous, not once.’


BBC Three look at revenge porn

Zara McDermott caught the nation’s eye on Love Island in 2018, and the series propelled her to instant fame. But as soon as she left the villa, Zara was told that naked photos of her had been posted online and had gone viral. She had become a victim of revenge porn. The incident left Zara devastated and looking for answers.

“I feel passionate about helping other people in the situation I was in, so I’ll be sharing my story in detail for the first time. Confronting issues head-on is the only way we can make change and I am putting my heart into this documentary in the hope that it will make people think twice about revenge porn.” – Zara McDermott

She wants to understand the motivation behind sharing such photos and make a difference for the thousands of young people across the country who are being so publicly victimised.

Cases reported to police have more than doubled in the last four years, yet from 2017-18 only seven percent of reports resulted in a charge. A recent study found nearly 10 percent of people in the UK have experienced this invasive and deeply personal humiliation while nearly all the victims are women.


Tric Award Winners 2020

The gongs were bestowed upon the great and the good at this years’ annual Television and Radio Industries Club Awards, which aim to recognise broadcasting excellence.

Winners included Sky One’s A League Of Their Own for best sports programme, BBC News anchor Fiona Bruce took the best news presenter award while best drama saw BBC One’s Killing Eve pick up the trophy.

Unsurprisingly lovable Geordie boys Ant and Dec took home the gong for TV Personality for their ITV work, Kellie Bright took best soap performer for her role in BBC One’s EastEnders, best factual programme was picked up by BBC One’s Blue Planet Live and best food programme went to Channel 4’s The Great British Bake Off. In radio Greg James took the award for radio personality of the year for Radio 1 while BBC Sounds’ That Peter Crouch Podcast took the best podcast gong. Best radio programme went to Capital FM’s Breakfast with Roman Kemp.

In streaming Netflix drama The Crown was best streamed production, in entertainment BBC One comedy Gavin and Stacey picked up best show, best crime series went to BBC One’s Line of Duty and best daytime series was bestowed upon ITV’s This Morning. David Walliams took home the award for best TV judge for ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent but it was rival Strictly Come Dancing that won best reality show for BBC One.

Soap of the Year went to ITV’s Coronation Street and Tric special award was given to BBC Two’s Newsnight.


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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