By Scott Matthewman on March 29, 2011 2:20 PM
Next Tuesday sees the start of a new six-part series, Campus, on Channel 4. Written by the team behind Smack the Pony and Green Wing, the series stars Andy Nyman (magician and co-writer of West End hit Ghost Stories), Joseph Millson (The Sarah Jane Adventures and the original Raoul in Love Never Dies) and Jonathan Bailey (Off the Hook and who was a brilliant Jamie in Jonathan Harvey play Beautiful Thing at the Sound Theatre in 2006). It is set at the fictional Kirke University, a campus populated by weird individuals along the lines of Green Wing or (showing my age) A Very Peculiar Practice.
View the first few minutes of episode 1 below (warning — contains very strong language):
If the set up sounds a bit familiar to you, that may be because the series was first cultivated in 2009’s Comedy Showcase strand.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by Channel 4’s last big comedy launch, Friday Night Dinner, but this show tantalises me…
Campus starts on Tuesday, April 5, 10pm on Channel 4.
So here we are again - with another series of So You Think You Can Dance, the performer audition format first cooked up in the USA by Brits Nigel Lythgoe and Simon Fuller, the people behind Pop/American Idol. After debuting strongly last year, Season 1 settled down to be a modest hit for BBC1’s Saturday evening schedule, and so here we are with a longer, 12 week run.
One of the things that the longer series length has allowed is more light to be shed on the audition process. Last year, all the auditions & “choreography camp” were covered in one paltry week, which was nowhere near enough to see the dancers who would go on to the live shows. This year, while the process is still limited to two weeks’ worth of shows, that does at least give us some breathing space.
Also last year, the judging line-up for the live shows had not been finalised, so the auditions saw various guest judges join Nigel and Arlene Phillips. This time, the full judging panel is in attendance throughout - so for good or ill, we have Louise Redknapp and Sisco Gomez from the start.
“This is Season 2. The judges are going to want more and expect more,” says Nigel’s VT. “I want to be dazzled. I want to be screaming. I want to be shouting,” says Arlene. I think the last two are dead certs anyway, but fingers crossed for the first.
By Scott Matthewman on March 23, 2011 1:12 PM
With the demise (for now, at least) of the BBC’s Saturday night musical theatre talent shows, the main talent contest for BBC1 is now So You Think You Can Dance, which returns for a second series on Saturday. The BBC has released the pre-credits teaser from Saturday’s show:
I’ve heard on the grapevine that, after last year’s series rattled through the audition process leaving us with several finalists who we’d never “met” prior to the start of the live shows, this year the series will give a little more time to the intensive selection process that whittles down all the applicants to the dozen or so dancers who will compete for public votes every Saturday. This can only be a good thing - every year I’ve been covering the BBC’s talent competitions for The Stage, from Any Dream Will Do onwards, a major gripe has been that the audition process has been glossed over.
Nobody wants The X Factor-style series on the BBC, where the footage of talented individuals auditioning is eked out over a couple of months by giving increased amounts of airtime to people who should have been weeded out at the very earliest stages. But showing the huge amount of work that goes into auditioning, with even the best dancers having only a chance of getting through, should make for great television, while enabling the audience to empathise with both those who make the cut and those who don’t. It should also help to remind the public just how hard dancers work, and how effortless motion on stage comes as the result of arduous training.
From BBC1’s point of view, So You Think You Can Dance is a mass-market entertainment show that needs personalities to take part — and to a certain extent their dance ability is secondary. One of the reasons why I love reviewing these shows for TV Today is that it’s a chance to redress that balance, to look at the performance first and the performer second.
Each week, my review of the show will go online every Monday or Tuesday. Do please join me at thestage.co.uk/sytycd and weigh in in the comments box!
My personal highlight, though, was James Corden’s turn as Gavin and Stacey’s Smithy, trying to motivate the celebrities helping Comic Relief, and deciding which of them should go to Africa to record a film.
Part of the fun of the original sketch was never quite knowing when it was going to end, so every additional famous face helped ramp up the comedy. On YouTube, the progress bar gives the game away somewhat, but it’s still very funny.
Red Nose Day raised over £74 million on the night, and averaged over 9 million viewers and a 37.8% over its three hour running time.
By Scott Matthewman on March 21, 2011 12:30 PM
Twenty TwelveBBC4, Monday 10pm
The launch — and subsequent failure — of the real life Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square last week made last week’s first episode of this sitcom seem even more on the button. This week, Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) has to welcome the Brazilian delegation who are looking after the 2016 Rio games.
White Van ManBBC3, Tuesday 10.30pm
BBC3’s new sitcom stars Will Mellor (Two Pints of Lager) as a young man who takes over the family handyman business, complete with white van and lacklustre assistant. The clips I’ve seen so far suggest that this will be a solid comedy, enlivened by Mellor’s central performance and solid support from the likes of Clive Mantle and Georgia Moffett.
Mark Lawson talks to David MitchellBBC4, Tuesday 10pm
The comedian is riding high at the moment, from sketch shows and Peep Show (with costar Robert Webb) to his articulate rantings in The Observer and on Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live. He talks about his life and career from childhood onwards.
Midsomer MurdersITV1, Wednesday 8pm
Neil Dudgeon joins the cast as DCI John Barnaby, cousin of John Nettles’ now long-gone Tom (enabling the series to continue to be sold to some overseas markets under the title Barnaby). Of course many eyes will be on the programme and its lack of ethnic minority casting, but one thing’s for sure — the body count will be high, and the stories will be barmy.
Women in LoveBBC4, Thursday 9pm
DH Lawrence planned both The Rainbow and its sequel Women in Love as a single work split into two volumes. Circumstance ended up with the second novel not being published until five years after the first. Previous adaptations have tended to treat the two works as separate, but here they are combined and dramatised in two feature-length instalments. Rosamund Pike and Rachael Stirling play sisters Gudrun and Ursula, with Joseph Mawle, Rory Kinnear, Saskia Reeves and Ben Daniels in support.
The news that Brian True-May, co-creator and producer of ITV1 crime drama Midsomer Murders, has been suspended from his job for commenting to Radio Times about his refusal to cast ethnic minorities on the show, should come as no surprise. The way he chose to justify his stance read like comments from a bygone age that have no place in the modern broadcasting industry.
That said, I grew up not far from Midsomer country - north Buckinghamshire rather than the South Bucks/South Oxon used for the series’ location filming. And the rural villages of this part of the home counties were, in my youth, almost exclusively white. At my local school (which I left a little over 20 years ago), I think the number of non-white pupils out of the entire school roll of 650+ never got above single figures.
I still live in the area, in a market town that has a small, but noticeable ethnic minority population. But I commute every day into London, through an array of Chiltern villages that includes True-May’s home of Great Missenden.
At most of those intermediate stations, those joining the train are predominantly white. Many are archetypes that one sees on Midsomer Murders itself: the posh stockbroker with copy of the Daily Telegraph that he insists on reading at full spread, oblivious to the discomfort of those sitting next to him. The lady who lunches in her second-best pearls, chattering to her friends while the au pair struggles with the screaming kids further down the carriage.
Taken on its own, that might suggest that to give the series a valid sense of place, the vast majority of the cast should indeed be white. But I’m conscious that I tend to only see the rush hour commuters, at least on my London-bound journey. When travelling off-peak and returning home, the number of non-white faces on board the train does change. Not so noticeably that I would comment on it were it not for this issue hitting the headlines, but change it does.
There is an argument, I suppose, that the Midsomer world is lost in time anyway: take any episode, and cars and mobile phones are the only items likely to date it to a specific year. It is an old-fashioned series set in an old-fashioned world, and any sense of realism goes out the window when you realise that more people have been killed in the sleepy hollow of Badger’s Drift than could ever have lived there in the first place.
But the fact remains that the series is set in the present day, and while Home Counties villages may have a predominance of white residents, having some residents who do come from ethnic minorities does not make those villages any less English.
In the Radio Times article, True-May says:
We’ve never had any complaints. Nothing at all. We’ve had Ofcom complain because somebody said too many bloodies. The bizarre situation is we’ve had about five Barnaby houses, five police stations and nobody’s ever spotted the difference. They just don’t notice.
And yet we’re supposed to believe that the occasional non-white character would mean that Midsomer Murders “just wouldn’t work”? I think not.
By Scott Matthewman on March 10, 2011 4:17 PM
Earlier today, I popped along to a club in central London for a press conference with Blue, the British pop band who are representing the United Kingdom in 2011’s Eurovision Song Contest Final in Dusseldorf in May.
We were treated to a play of the radio edit of the new single. The full version will be premiered on Graham Norton’s Radio 2 show on Saturday morning, but The Stage has been graciously allowed to publish a 20 second taster clip:
I’ve had a chance to listen to the song several times now, and it’s definitely catchy. There’s not a huge amount of depth to the lyrics, true — and it contains one of my pet hates, a rhyme of (un)divided/united. But as a chart friendly song that should play well on radio stations across Europe in advance of the final, I think it will work.
On stage, the actual live performance of the song will be quite different, because all the vocals must be delivered live. Eurovision rules allow a maximum of six performers on stage, so the four-piece band will be joined by two backing vocalists. The band themselves explain:
The live vocal version will premiere on The Graham Norton Show on BBC1 tomorow night — which means that the version that will be performed in Dusseldorf premieres before the studio-led version. Wise move.
Stage direction/choreography for the UK entry will be the responsibility of Gary Lloyd, whose credits include West End show Thriller! Live and numerous TV and live music events.
Of course, since the band went on a pop hiatus, Duncan James has played Billy Flynn in Chicago twice, and originated the role of Warner in the London production of Legally Blonde the Musical. Simon Webbe also ventured into musical theatre, playing Shank in Sister Act at the London Palladium. The two of them spoke about how their West End experience has shaped them:
As in previous years, the two Eurovision semi-finals will show on BBC3, with the final airing on BBC1 and the BBC HD channel as well as Radio 2. The build-up will be covered in a documentary, airing some time in April, following Blue as they prepare for their performance. Although it’s still being filmed, it will include the band receiving advice from former Eurovision participants including Cliff Richard and Lulu, as well as former Eurovision songwriter Robin Gibb.
I have to say, with this entry the UK has the best chance we’ve had in years of doing well (although we shouldn’t forget that Jade Ewen managed a very respectable fifth before last year’s dismal last place). After the 2010 final, Ewan wrote a very commendable now what? piece with some sensible suggestions:
So do what you need to do to get a credible song and performer in the contest for 2011 and start the process all over again. Use the breadth of the BBC if you have to, but get them on board early; cleanse the brand (again) for professional musicians; and get everything lined up for an Olympian effort in 2012 to take us back into the Top Ten of the results table.
On the strength of I Can, I’d say the BBC’s Eurovision team are definitely heading in the right direction.