Television

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Life imitates art

Remember the episode of The Young Ones where they went on University Challenge? Well now there's a contestant on University Challenge, the long-running BBC quiz show, who has a passing resemblance to TYO's Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson, pictured). Nineteen-year-old James Archer - who was representing King's College, Cambridge rather than Scumbag College - has even had a tangle with the law. He was warned not to wear his miltary-style jacket because it's illegal to impersonate an RAF officer (bright red mohawk hairstyle notwithstanding). More here.

Have you seen Frank today?

... in the 1980s, that was a jingle used on the telly to promote Frank Warrick when he jumoed ship between Brisbane's Channels 7 and 9. Now, Nine has confirmed that Warrick has retired (again) of his own volition. However, like Heather Foord, we are told, he will be involved with the network in some way next year. Given the current state of the television biz, and the fortunes of Nine in particular, I wouldn't be holding my breath until we see either of their faces on the small screen again.

Alas, poor Andre

Doctor Who star David Tennant has belatedly granted a dead man's wish - by using his skull as Yorick's in a new stage production of Hamlet. Polish pianist and Holocaust survivor Andre Tchaikowsky, who died of cancer aged 46 in 1982, had bequeathed his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company in anticipation that it would be used in the famous graveyard scene. Of course, he would never have heard of Tennant, who has only shot to fame recently. More here.

Nine a winner

Despite its many reported off-screen woes, and the ongoing guessing game as to who will be reading the Monday to Friday news next year*, the Nine network is leading the Brisbane TV ratings and looks like winning the year (excluding the Olympics, of course). The big winner last week was the rugby league World Cup final.
* Sorry Bruce, but my money is on Andrew Lofthouse.

Nine signs Andrew Lofthouse

Channel 9 Brisbane has just announced that it's signed the ABC's Andrew Lofthouse. Accrding to a media release, he will read the weekend news from the new year. “Andrew is a wonderful talent. He is an impressive broadcaster and very passionate about Queensland. We are very excited he has chosen to join Nine,” Lee Anderson, Nine Queensland Station Manager/ Director of News, says in the release. Lofthouse is quoted as saying: “I’ve been really fortunate to have had a long and rewarding career at the ABC now I’m excited about the change and about the opportunities and challenges ahead at Nine.”
The question is: Will Lofthouse - the latest in a line of ABC newsreaders to defect to the commercial networks - really be restricted to weekend reading duties, or will the next announcement from Nine concern Bruce Paige?

It's goodnight from Heather Foord

While there has been speculation about the future of Channel 9 Brisbane newsreader Bruce Paige of late, it's his colleague Heather Foord who has announced her resignation from newsreading duties (but apparently not the station). Is this the beginning of several changes on the Mountain? Here's the Nine media release (which, as usual in these cases, cites family reasons):

Nine News presenter, Heather Foord, announced in tonight’s bulletin that she has decided to leave her position as Nine News presenter for the 6pm bulletin.
After 21 years with Nine News, this was a difficult decision which Heather has made to allow her to more time to spend with her husband Tony and four daughters; India, twins Grace and Riley and Maya.
Heather’s statement from the Nine News 6pm Bulletin;
“Before we go, I have some news of my own. After 21 years with the Newsroom, I have decided that this year will be my last. While I love bringing you the news every evening, I would love even more to be home, watching it, with my girls. So this time in a fortnight it'll be goodnight, and goodbye. It's been an absolute privilege being in your lounge rooms for two decades.”
Whilst Heather will not present the 6pm weeknight news bulletin, she will remain contracted to Channel Nine and we look forward to developing opportunities for Heather to remain on air in 2009.
Nine Director of News, Lee Anderson says “Channel Nine understands Heather's decision. There's only one thing that would stop Heather reading the news and that's her commitment to her family. We'll be looking at other ways Heather can contribute which enable her to keep a balance between work and family life.”
Over Heather’s twenty-one years she has seen many changes. Prime ministers and (even more) Premiers have come and gone and she has shared the news desk with several leading men. One career highlight was reporting live from Buckingham Palace for Princess Diana's funeral. Heather says “I have enjoyed every day of my twenty-one years with the newsroom and will miss everyone enormously.”
Nine News co-presenter Bruce Paige says “It has been wonderful working with Heather. She’s a consummate professional and she’s more than a colleague, she’s a valued friend. I will miss sharing the News desk with her.”

Free TV: Is the end nigh?

This article - revealing that most television revenue in the UK now comes from subscriptions rather than advertising - should send a shiver down the spine of commercial free-to-air TV executives. It presages a future where people will pay directly for the content they want and advertising revenue will just be the cream for broadcasters. Conversely, a lot of people are saying the opposite will eventually true of newspapers - that the paid-for papers will disappear in favour of the freesheets. I disagree; I think that people will pay for what they really want, be it a movie, a newspaper, a magazine, a TV series or even a radio broadcast. The challenge for the commercial media is, as always, to produce things people really want.

Sergeant resigns his commission

It may just be a welcome distraction from the economic woes, but the biggest issue in the UK right now concerns former political journalist John Sergeant, who has quit the show Strictly Come Dancing (similar to the Australian show Dancing with the Stars). Sergeant's deliberately bad performances have endeared him to viewers but angered judges who haven't been able to vote him off because his high public vote has made him immune from eviction. The latest is that the BBC will now have to refund viewers who paid to vote for Sergeant after his decision to leave. Angry viewers have said the popular 64 year old was hounded out by the judges, and have threatened a boycott of the show. The bigger issue, of course, concerns all "reality" shows and the uneasy relationship between viewers' votes and the opinions of an "expert" panel. If people pay a premium to phone in and have their say, who are the judges to try to overturn their verdict? And, as Sergeant himself said, the show is about providing entertainment, not who is the best dancer.
PS: Older celebrities, including Cilla Black, have signalled their support for Sergeant. Even a Cabinet minister, Lord Mandelson, has weighed in to the debate, saying "John Sergeant should not bow out. He has become the people's John Travolta. He should be a fighter, not a quitter."

Years in the making

File this University of Maryland research finding under "No s--t, Sherlock": Unhappy people watch more TV. And to think they had to research 34 years of data to come up with something I could have told them for nothing.

Time for a telethon?

Thanks to Kuttsywood for this idea: How about the Brisbane TV stations get together for a telethon to raise funds for those affected by the devastating storms? It would be an opportunity for all media to get together and support a cause that is very close to home.

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