BBC to mark 30th anniversary of Spitting ImageBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 7 January 2014 - Reported by John Bowman
The 30th anniversary of ITV's satirical puppet show Spitting Image is to be marked with a special documentary on BBC Four.

In Whatever Happened To Spitting Image? the arts strand Arena will reunite the founding creative team and tell the vexed and frequently hilarious story of the genesis of the satirical puppet show, with exclusive contributions from caricaturists Peter Fluck, Roger Law, and TV producer John Lloyd.

Spanning 131 episodes over 18 series from February 1984 to February 1996, the show was made for Central Independent Television and broadcast across the ITV network.

The puppets became almost as famous as the politicians they lampooned, and in 2000 were auctioned off at Sotheby's. In the course of the documentary, the team sets out to discover where they now reside and who is taking care of them in their old age.

Revealing the extraordinary technical achievement of the series, Arena meets the caricaturists, puppet-mould-makers, designers, puppeteers, impressionists, writers, and directors who worked tirelessly to ensure the show landed its weekly jibes and punches at the politicians, royals, and celebrities of the day. And, tracing its journey to our TV screens, through 12 years of huge audience figures and weekly controversy to its eventual demise, Arena will ask what Spitting Image got right, where it went wrong, and whether its absence for the past 17 years has left a hole in the schedules that has yet to be filled by modern broadcasting.

The documentary has been directed by Arena series editor Anthony Wall, who said:
I made a film about Fluck and Law in 1980, some years before Spitting Image was made, so it's great to be able to revisit their distinctive contribution to Britain's television history.
Cassian Harrison, the channel editor for BBC Four, commented:
It's a testament to Arena's success and eclectic tastes that they've secured access to the Spitting Image team. This is a timely opportunity for Arena to look back at one of television's most extraordinary satirical successes.
A date for broadcasting the one-hour programme is yet to be confirmed, with the BBC currently saying that it will air in the spring, but it will have a preview screening at the BFI Southbank on Thursday 27th February at 6.10pm.
Thirty years ago, Roger Law and Peter Fluck were happily ensconced in a converted Temperance Hall in Cambridge making cruelly funny Plasticine caricatures. These models were photographed and presented to the world in print under the anonymous byline "Luck & Flaw". Unlike a drawing, the caricatures looked like they might move and, Geppetto-style, they did. Law and Fluck, with co-conspirator TV comedy supremo John Lloyd, unleashed one of the most shocking and hilarious TV series ever. Arena tells the story of Spitting Image.
After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Fluck, Law, Lloyd, and Wall.

The big-screen showing and Q&A will be followed at 8.45pm with a special two-hour celebration and Q&A featuring clips and guests including impressionist Steve Nallon plus "victims" Lord Roy Hattersley and Lord David Steel.
We're delighted to host a panel of well-known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge and who became household names in the process, alongside some of their victims - politicians and celebrities - who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers. Using illustrative clips, we examine the show's controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers, and directors. So, in the words of one famous crew member: "Puppets up, loves - wave those dollies in the air!"
Tickets to both events go on public sale at 11.30am on Tuesday 11th February - click here for the preview screening/Q&A and here for the celebration/Q&A - with a joint event ticket also being made available.




Timeshift: How to be Sherlock HolmesBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 January 2014 - Reported by Chuck Foster
As the current series of Sherlock draws to a close, BBC4 is to broadcast an edition of Timeshift, focusing on the fictional detective and the people who have portrayed him on screen.

How to be Sherlock Holmes: The Many Faces of a Master Detective
Sunday 12th January, 10:00pm

For over 100 years, more than 80 actors have put a varying face to the world's greatest consulting detective - Sherlock Holmes. And many of them incorporated details - such as the curved pipe and the immortal line 'Elementary, my dear Watson' - that never featured in Conan Doyle's original stories. In charting the evolution of Sherlock on screen, from early silent movies to the latest film and television versions, Timeshift shows how our notion of Holmes today is as much a creation of these various screen portrayals as of the stories themselves.

Narrated by Peter Wyngarde, with contributions from Sherlocks past and present including Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Tim Pigott-Smith and Mark Gatiss.

Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas) Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Christopher Lee (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas) Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes: Mark Gatiss (Credit: BBC/Matthew Thomas)




New presenter announced for The Sky At NightBookmark and Share

Thursday, 12 December 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
Space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is to join the presenting team on The Sky At Night, it was announced today.

She will join existing presenter astrophysicist Dr Chris Lintott when the series returns in its new half-hour slot on BBC Four in February.

Dr Aderin-Pocock is a research fellow at the University College London Department of Science and Technology Studies and an honorary research associate in the Physics and Astronomy Department. Her TV career includes presenting BBC Two's Do We Really Need The Moon? and Do We Really Need Satellites? as well as regular appearances on BBC One's The One Show.

It was feared the long-running astronomy series - which began in April 1957 - would be axed after the death of its host Sir Patrick Moore last December, but it was reprieved after a massive campaign.

Commenting on her new role, she said:
The opportunity to present The Sky At Night is like completing a circle and fulfilling a lifelong dream. Above all, it's a huge honour to follow in the footsteps of Patrick Moore, a passionate advocate of the wonders of the night sky.

As a child I would beg my parents to allow me to stay up late and watch the programme. It even inspired me to go to night school at a young age to make my own telescope mirror, which I lovingly crafted and gave me my first glimpse of the breathtaking spectacle above us.

This enthusiasm eventually led to a degree in physics and a PhD in mechanical engineering and then working on the wonderful 8m Gemini telescope in Chile. I'm so looking forward to being a part of this cherished and much-loved institution.
The Sky At Night became the longest-running programme with the same presenter in television history.

Over the past year, it has been fronted by a team of regular reporter/presenters, who will continue to appear in the future.

Executive producer Jonathan Renouf said:
Maggie is a fantastic addition to this series. She is a renowned space scientist and science communicator who will bring tremendous enthusiasm and excitement to the programme. Alongside other BBC series such as Stargazing Live, I hope The Sky At Night will continue to share the wonders of the night sky with a new generation of viewers.
Cassian Harrison, the editor of BBC Four, said:
As The Sky At Night makes a new home on BBC Four I'm delighted to welcome Maggie to its roster of terrific talent. Maggie is a true evangelist of the wonders of the night sky and a passionate science communicator. She'll be an exciting presence on the team.




The Sky At Night wins reprieveBookmark and Share

Thursday, 31 October 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
Record-setting astronomy TV series The Sky At Night is to continue following a campaign to save the BBC show.

However, it will lose its 20-minute slot on BBC One and will move to BBC Four, where it is currently repeated in a 30-minute format.

Following the death last year of presenter Sir Patrick Moore, it was feared that the programme - which was first broadcast on 24th April 1957 - would be axed when last month the BBC said its future was being reviewed. That sparked a massive protest, with an online petition garnering more than 52,000 signatures.

Now the BBC has announced that the monthly programme will first air on BBC Four in a half-hour slot from February 2014, with repeats on BBC Two.

Kim Shillinglaw, the head of commissioning for BBC Science and Natural History, said:
Sir Patrick Moore inspired generations of astronomers and I hope that alongside the BBC's other astronomy content, such as BBC Two's Stargazing Live, The Sky at Night will enthuse further generations about the wonder of the night sky.
Cassian Harrison, BBC Four's editor, commented:
I'm delighted that we are continuing with such a treasured BBC brand, and look forward to welcoming the programme to its new home on BBC Four, where it will join a rich mix of other science content.
Moore presented the show from its start to his death and only missed one edition in July 2004 - because of food poisoning - making it the longest-running programme with the same presenter in TV history. The series has been fronted by a team of presenters since Moore's death, including Jon Culshaw, Dr Chris Lintott, Dr Lucie Green, Dr Chris North, Dr Paul Abel, and Pete Lawrence. It is yet to be decided who will present it when it comes back.

Following the announcement of its reprieve, Culshaw tweeted:
Grand news, The Sky at Night is saved and will stay. Huge thanks to @Saveskyatnight and to everybody who signed and spoke up so passionately
The next edition will be on Monday 4th November at 12.30am (except Scotland, when it will air at 1.15am). It will be off air in January, when the slot will be taken by the BBC Two astronomy show Stargazing Live, hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain.




Only Connect on the moveBookmark and Share

Saturday, 19 October 2013 - Reported by John Bowman
The BBC Four quiz show Only Connect is to move to BBC Two next year.

Hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell and currently in its eighth series, the programme - in which teams compete to find connections between seemingly unrelated clues - will stay on BBC Four for another series next spring before hopping channels.

Janice Hadlow, the controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said:
BBC Four has a proud tradition of growing successful shows and I'm delighted Only Connect is making the move to BBC Two, where I hope it will connect with an even broader audience.
Coren Mitchell commented:
I and the rest of the Only Connect team are hugely excited about our Icarus-like flight towards the sun of mainstream broadcasting. If our wings start melting, I'll just flap harder.
Alan Tyler, the BBC's executive editor for entertainment commissioning, added:
Victoria and the Only Connect team have set the gold standard in quizzes. We are all really looking forward to seeing the show in its new home, whilst the hunt is already under way for a successor on BBC Four.
Only Connect is made by Parasol Media Ltd and RDF Television, produced by Jenny Hawker, and executive-produced by Chris Stuart and Mark Hill. The show regularly attracts more than a million viewers, making it one of the most-viewed programmes on BBC Four.

The channel has tendered for a replacement show and, following short-listing, is currently seeing run-throughs of three contenders: The Knowledge from BBC In-House Entertainment, Enigma from RDF-Parasol, and Eliminate The Impossible from Victory Television.




Kenny Everett Drama To Air On BBC FourBookmark and Share

Thursday, 20 September 2012 - Reported by John Bowman
A drama celebrating the life and work of pioneering radio DJ, TV star, comedian, and record producer Kenny Everett is to be shown on BBC Four next month.

Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story stars Oliver Lansley as Everett and Katherine Kelly as his wife, Lee, in a production written by Tim Whitnall. It is billed as the story of Everett's against-the-odds struggle to achieve both personal and professional fulfilment, as seen through the prism of his marriage - Everett wed Lee Middleton in 1966 but by 1979 they had separated, divorcing in 1984 - and is told with the help of some of Everett's most famous comic characters, including Sid Snot, Cupid Stunt (pictured below), and Quentin Pose.

It charts how he became one of Britain's best-loved, most rebellious, and truly innovative broadcasters and comedians.

Also appearing in the 90-minute drama, which has been directed by James Strong, are Simon Callow as Dickie Attenborough, Jonathan Kerrigan as John Alkin, and James Floyd as Freddie Mercury.

Everett, who courted controversy throughout his broadcasting career, started out as a DJ for pirate station Radio London. He later moved to presenting shows on Radio Luxembourg, Radio 1, Radio 2, and Capital Radio. In 1968 and 1969, Everett produced the Christmas records made by The Beatles for members of their fan club.

His TV CV included The Kenny Everett Video Show and The Kenny Everett Video Cassette for ITV between 1978 and 1981. After a fall-out with the commercial broadcaster, though, he took The Kenny Everett Video Show to the BBC, where it ran from 1981 to 1988.

In 1984, he starred in the Hammer horror spoof Bloodbath At The House of Death, in which Don Warrington, Gareth Hunt, and Sheila Steafel also appeared.

Everett died in April 1995 aged 50.

Describing the ambition behind the BBC Four drama, associate producer Luke Franklin said:
The task of distilling the multiple, often chaotic strands of Kenny Everett's remarkable and eventful life into 90 minutes of drama felt like an ambitious one, right from the off. Luckily, the desire to see the project made generated endless enthusiasm in its key creative team – writer Tim Whitnall, and director James Strong, who was on board for much of the development process – as well as the consultants, who knew Kenny and advised on every detail of the production.

From the start of the development process, authenticity was always a central aim. It soon became clear that the script was likely to focus upon Kenny's relationship with Lee Middleton (now Lee Everett-Alkin) – to whom Kenny was married for almost a decade and a half. It was through the prism of this defining relationship that Tim Whitnall felt Kenny's story could best be told. The period of Kenny and Lee's relationship encompassed Kenny's rise to fame in the UK and his coming to terms with his sexuality – but also worked as an unconventional love story in its own right.

Together with her husband, John Alkin, Lee was the first consultant to come on board the project, to which she gave invaluable support and access to her archives – as well as notes on the accuracy of the script at each draft stage. Given the script dealt with the gradual breakdown of the marriage, as well as its many happier periods, Lee's involvement as a first-hand source was essential.

Lee met with Oliver Lansley and Katherine Kelly early in pre-production, sharing with both actors details and insights from her life with Kenny which could inform the events dealt with in the script.

Kenny's long-time manager and friend Jo Gurnett was the other major consultant on the project, advising and providing detail and perspective on the whole script, but especially on those elements which dealt with Kenny's professional life and his personal life outside of his marriage to Lee.

Barry Cryer - Kenny's colleague and co-writer on Kenny's television series for both Thames and the BBC – was also a script consultant, as was journalist David Lister, the author of Kenny's biography In The Best Possible Taste.
Richard Klein, the controller of BBC Four, said:
Kenny Everett was a genuine original: wild and unfocused maybe but also deliciously anarchic and always entertaining.

In many ways Kenny was a very modern celebrity, wearing his heart on his sleeve while coping with a complex life. Re-evaluating this talented and exuberant personality, enabling audiences to reconsider Kenny's undoubted impact and legacy, makes this a very BBC Four drama.
Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story, which has been made by Mammoth Screen for BBC Wales, will air on Wednesday 3rd October at 9pm.