Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tent true, ennit ?

The risk-taking BBC drama department has announced four new commissions. Lady Chatterley's Lover (last seen on the BBC in 1993, in a four-part adaptation written and directed by Ken Russell, starring Sean Bean and Joely Richardson); The Go Between (the 1971 film starring Alan Bates and Julie Christie was last shown on BBC2 in January - a radio dramatisation was made by the BBC in 2012); An Inspector Calls (last BBC tv adaptation in 1982, starring Bernard Hepton; at least two BBC radio versions this century); and Cider With Rosie (filmed by the BBC in 1971, adapted by Hugh Whitemore, starring Rosemary Leach; Carlton TV made a version in 1998, adapted by John Mortimer, starring Juliet Stevenson)

The director of Cider With Rosie is to be Philippa Lowthorpe, who fulfilled the same role on the yet-to-be-grasped-by-many BBC version of Jamaica Inn.  Every word will be crystal-clear.

Powder hound

Nik Gowing (Latymer and Bristol), self-styled Main Presenter BBC World News, is stepping back from daily shows.  This will trigger a dash to BBC News mandarins, not to fill his desk in London, but for the coveted ticket to Davos he's secured for a number of years, bringing his full journalistic skills to bear on the big issues in world economics.

Give us an "R"

2 million viewers have (so far) not made it to the end of Jmmmaygarin on BBC1, either through ear-strain, eyestrain on the digital subtitles, or as a protest against the Coalition's new stance on the Cornish.

Episode One 6.1m overnight, Episode Two 4.5m overnight, and Episode Three 4.1m overnight.

Double your money

Students of property development may be interested in the future for the old Radio Times/BBC London/BBC Training/BBC Trust building at 35 Marylebone High Street. The BBC finally got out in 2011, and claimed to be "saving" (i.e. not paying) £300m over the remaining years of its lease. The head lease was then owned by Conegate, the property vehicle of West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, who started out in real estate attempting to own a "Private" sex shop in every UK town.

As the BBC left, Conegate sold their 999-year lease to Scottish Widows Investment Partnership for £32.3m.

In June last year SWIP won planning consent allowing a change of use for the office space to residential (Cheers, Mr Cameron) with a scheme by posh architects Dixon Jones. The ground floor will stay retail, but the rest of the site becomes 19 flats and five townhouses - none of them "affordable", but there's a cash commitment of £8.7m to Westminster. The development is to be called "Marylebone Gardens".  Yesterday the site was sold to Ken Parker's Royalton property developers for £75m.

Conservatively, 19 flats, at, say £5m each, and five town-houses at, say £9m, could bring £140m - however complex the construction, plenty of room for a nice Royalton profit.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Mumbles

Was last night's episode of Jmaygarin (Oo-arrr-riginal Brddish Drumumble) an improvement ?  Was it really a sound issue - or perhaps the revenge of Mebyon Kernow for their slighting in W1A, as director Philippa Lowthorpe sought authentic Cornish accents ?

We'll have to wait for the audience figures later this morning to judge. Meanwhile, if you're out and about on the roads this morning, watch out for a despatch rider heading rapidly towards the set of Pllldrrk (Poldark 2015) just outside Tetbury, carrying the DG's latest pamphlet, "Valuing Diction in Drama", a follow up to the 1974 essays by John Birt and Peter Jay highlighting "The Bias Against Understanding" in television news and current affairs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Somewhere hidden in ITV-land, the hosts of Good Morning Britain are up and about doing pilots ahead of next Monday's launch. So expect a dripfeed of pre-publicity photographs and interviews. And, this morning, the revelation of the new logo...

I can sort of imagine the pitch: "It's like a speech bubble for the social media generation, with egg yolk connotations - and a hint of guitar plectrum. It says we'll be connecting with you at breakfast, and plucking at your heart strings with the best human interest stories".
  • 0840 update: Alternate take, from @blogmywiki: "It's a sunrise - but an anchored sunrise, a new dawn - with a point to make"

Are your sound engineers 25 ?

July last year: "I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man," Lord Hall tells the Radio Times, "but I think muttering is something we could look at."

"Actors muttering can be testing... you find you have missed a line. You are balancing people’s needs as they get older – which, as someone of my age, I completely appreciate – with the creative need of a director to put in music or sounds that help to make the drama or the programme more real and vital."

I didn't watch Jamaica Inn; already twitchy over the trailers. But those who did suggest a few letters could be heading to the DG. As far as the two basics of acting  - "Speak up and don't bumb into the furniture" - it seems Jamaica Inn achieved one. Many complained they had to switch on subtitles.

Some who saw previews and others who have watched since online suggest their versions were perfectly clear, and that last night's broadcast may have had a fault in transmission. But there was no apology for any technical problem at the end, which suggests Red Bee may not be across Twitter.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Answering the big questions

What IS Country Music ?  The BBC's new Director of Music Bob Shennan was on a panel to opine on this matter at the recent Country Music Association International Marketing Summit in London. I've highlighted elements of this newsletter before, and the captions have proved unreliable - so here are the originals together.

There's potential for a series here.

James Purnell - What IS Trance Music ?
Alan Yentob - What IS Easy Listening ?
Lord Hall - What IS Dubstep ?

Sunday, April 20, 2014


A couple of odds and ends on Derek Cooper. A correspondent shares an anecdote from the late Robert Robinson, who also went to Raynes Park Grammar before he went up to Oxford University, though he was a couple of years older than Mr Cooper - and studied at Exeter College, whilst Cooper was at Wadham. . 

"Bob used to delight in telling the story that as Derek Cooper was about to flunk his degree, he fell off his bicycle and got himself awarded a degree aegrotat, as he was so injured that he couldn’t hold a pen."

And, on the gestation of The Food Programme, as well as a 1971 pilot, there was a precursor. A Radio 4 series called A La Carte, produced in Birmingham by Jock Gallagher.


The Mail has spotted former BBC DG George Entwistle doing a bit of mike holding at the Tate Modern, capturing the words of Nicholas Serota for a short video about the Matisse exhibition. That's not necessarily against union rules in these straitened times, though Mail claims he's the executive producer; he told an onlooker "I'm supervising a film for a friend of mine".

The video was made for the charity ArtFund, and is fronted by art historian Jacky Klein, sister of Suzy. See for yourself whether or not George still has it...

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