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zondag 6 mei 2012

Scott Foley on 'True Blood' role: 'I'm not a werewolf or vampire'

Scott Foley on 'True Blood' role: 'I'm not a werewolf or vampire'

Scott Foley has dropped hints about his role on True Blood.

The Grey's Anatomy star made his debut as former soldier Patrick in the HBO drama's fourth season finale and will return in the upcoming fifth run.

"People ask me, 'Oh my God, you're on True Blood - what are you?!' And I have to keep saying, 'Umm... nothing! I'm just a guy!'" he told TVLine.

"I'm not a vampire, I'm not a werewolf, I'm not a werepanther, I'm not a fairy, I'm not a shapeshifter. I'm just a guy coming into town trying to finish something."

Foley teased that there is unfinished business between his character and old comrade Terry (Todd Lowe).

"Something happened between the two of them in Iraq that needs to be dealt with," he explained. "I can't say what it is. It has nothing to do with vampires or werewolves. But there is a mission that they need to complete."

British actress Lucy Griffiths will also join True Blood next season as Eric Northman's sister Nora. The actress recently revealed that the two siblings have "a fiery love/hate relationship".

True Blood returns to HBO on June 10 in the US. In the UK, the fifth season will air on FX in the autumn.

Yahoo!–ABC News Stream Nearly Half a Billion Videos in March

Yahoo!–ABC News Stream Nearly Half a Billion Videos in March

Touting the early success of their six-month old online news alliance, Yahoo! and ABC News announced Friday that they streamed nearly half a billion videos in March.

The partnership's videos, including five new original series, were streamed 483 million times, according to comScore. ABC News Digital also reported 131 percent growth since September. Yahoo! and ABC News announced their collaboration in October.

At the time, they said their combined efforts would deliver content to more than 100 million U.S. users each month. Yahoo! News already reached more unique users than any other news site, and the organizations' combined traffic gave them 25 million more uniques than their closest rival,

Yahoo! News and ABC News’ said their digital original series including “Around the World with Christiane Amanpour,” “This Could be Big with Bill Weir,” “Power Players,” “Newsmakers,” and “Katie’s Take” have been viewed almost 60 million times.

Simon Cowell drops Ryan O'Shaughnessy from 'Britain's Got Talent'?

Simon Cowell drops Ryan O'Shaughnessy from 'Britain's Got Talent'?

Ryan O'Shaughnessy is given bad news on Britain's Got Talent tonight (May 5) ahead of the live semi-finals.

The singer-songwriter, whose song 'No Name' went viral after the auditions, is contracted to Universal Music after appearing on The Voice of Ireland, which means he cannot progress on the ITV series.

Syco boss Simon Cowell tells the 19-year-old on tonight's show: "We have a bit of a problem, and I think you know what that problem is, don't you? You're on another show which you're signed up to.

"You signed a contract with another company so why did you come and audition for this show?

"All you're doing is taking the place of somebody else, who isn't in your position on two shows. I'll be absolutely blunt with you, we were going to give you a yes, but I can't... you understand that."

Criticising The Voice, which he left after one week, O'Shaughnessy argued: "Song writing is my thing and I wasn't allowed to express my own music on the other show, but I was on this show, it was a better opportunity for me."

Stating his intention to return to the show, he added: "Right now I know exactly what I want to do, I need to get home, get that organised so I can get out of that show and come back over here and do BGT because that's what I want to do."

However, he "100%" understood why Cowell made the decision to withdraw him from the competition.

If O'Shaughnessy manages to relinquish his contract with Universal, there remains a chance for him to appear in next week's live shows.

Britain's Got Talent airs Saturday at 8.45pm on ITV1 for the show's final audition and unveiling of next week's semi-finalists.

TV Tonight 6th of May 2012

TV Tonight 6th of May 2012

The daily list in alphabetical order, of all the new episodes airing.

    60 Minutes (US) S44E32: "Season 44, Episode 32"
    Alaska y Mario S02E07: "Lo Que Pasa En Las Vegas..."
    America's Funniest Home Videos S22E21: "Season 22, Episode 21"
    American Dad! S07E17: "Ricky Spanish"
    Army Wives S06E11: "Fallout"
    Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes S02E06: "Michael Korvac"
    AX Men S05E17: "Swamp Gold"
    Bait Car S05E13: "Atlanta (10)"
    Behzat Ç. S02E25: "Behzat Ç. ve ekibi iz peşinde!"
    Big Brother Sverige S08E67: "Del 67 (Veckofinal)"
    Bob's Burgers S02E07: "Moody Foodie"
    Britain's Got More Talent S06E08: "Season 6, Episode 8"
    Britain's Got Talent S06E09: "Series 6, Semi Final - 1 (Result)"
    Britain's Got Talent S06E08: "Series 5, Semi Final - 1"
    Canada's Got Talent S01E19: "Live Performance Show Week 6"
    Cardfight!! Vanguard S02E05: "TBA"
    Chopped S11E15: "All Stars: Grand Finale"
    Cupcake Wars S05E09: "Renaissance Faire"
    Dancing With the Stars (AU) S12E04: "Season 12, Episode 4"
    Dateline NBC S21E45: "SU2133"
    Descending S01E12: "The Four Kings"
    Desperate Housewives S08E21: "The People Will Hear"
    Family Guy S10E20: "Leggo My Meg-O"
    Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. S01E08
    Game of Thrones S02E06: "The Old Gods And The New"
    GCB S01E10: "Revelation"
    Girls S01E04: "Hannah's Diary"
    Good Luck Charlie S03E02: "Bad Luck Teddy"
    Good Luck Charlie S03E01: "Make Room for Baby"
    Harry's Law S02E20: "Class War"
    Hunter X Hunter Remake S01E30: "Fierce x And x Ferocious"
    Hvem kan slå Aamodt og Kjus? S02E09
    Jerseylicious S04E11: "Friends and Family Fiasco"
    Khloe & Lamar S02E11: "Compulsive Behavior"
    Kidou Senshi Gundam Age S01E30: "The Town that Became a Battlefield"
    Loiter Squad S01E07: "Episode 7"
    Long Island Medium S02E14: "Spirit and the City"
    Long Island Medium S02E13: "Uneasy"
    Mad Men S05E08: "Lady Lazarus"
    Masterchef Australia S04E01: "Season 4, Episode 1"
    Masterpiece S42E13: "Sherlock II: (1) A Scandal In Belgravia"
    Match of The Day S47E55: "Season 47, Show 55"
    Metalocalypse S04E02: "Diversityklok"
    Mob Wives S02E16: "Of Dogs and Men"
    Moretsu Uchuu Kaizoku S01E18: "Episode 18"
    MythBusters S10E07: "Revenge of the Myth"
    Nurse Jackie S04E05: "One-Armed Jacks"
    NYC 22 S01E04: "Lost and Found"
    Once Upon a Time S01E21: "An Apple Red as Blood"
    One Piece (JP) S06E30: "Episode 30"
    Peking Express S06E06: "Season 6, Episode 6"
    Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle S02E05: "Episode 5"
    Planet Earth Live S01E01: "Episode 1"
    River Monsters S04E06: "Russian Killer"
    Robinsonekspedisjonen vinter S01E08: "Season 1, Episode 8"
    Sand Masters S02E06: "The Firewalkers of Fiji"
    Scheire en de Schepping S01E04: "Season 1, Episode 4"
    Shannen Says S01E05: "A Wedding in Prague-ress"
    Shannen Says S01E06: "Dress Mess"
    Snapped S09E06: "Jennifer Bowen"
    Swamp Wars S02E04: "Flesh-Eating Lizard"
    T.U.F.F. Puppy S02E04: "Dudley Do-Wrong | Puppy Unplugged"
    Tasogare Otome x Amnesia S01E05: "TBA"
    The Amazing Race S20E12
    The Amazing Race S20E11
    The Apprentice (US) S12E12: "Blown Away"
    The Big C S03E05: "Face Off"
    The Biggest Loser (AU) S07E71: "Season 7, Episode 71"
    The Block S05E19: "Room Reveal"
    The Borgias S02E05: "The Choice"
    The Cleveland Show S03E20: "Flush of Genius"
    The Client List S01E05: "Try, Try Again"
    The Killing S02E07: "Keylala"
    The Project S04E107: "Season 4, Episode 107"
    The Real Housewives of New Jersey S04E03: "Third Eye Blind"
    The Simpsons S23E20: "The Spy Who Learned Me"
    The Ultimate Fighter (BR) S01E07: "Season 1, Episode 7"
    The Voice (UK) S01E10: "Live Show 2 Results"
    Toriko S02E05: "Episode 5"
    Tough Love S04E04: "Class or Crass?"
    Ultimate Spider-man S01E07: "Exclusive"
    Unique Eats S04E15: "Craving Comfort"
    Unusual Suspects S03E10: "TBA"
    Van God Los S02E06: "Season 2, Episode 6"
    Veep S01E03: "Catherine"
    Watch What Happens: Live S06E79: "Jeremy Sisto and Melissa Gorga"
    Wicked Tuna S01E06: "Man v. Storm"
    Wild Justice S02E09: "Snake Shakedown"
    Wilson Phillips: Still Holding On S01E06: "Tour Busted"

Jay-Z's World Record to Fall For Viacom's 3rd O Music Awards

Jay-Z's World Record to Fall For Viacom's 3rd O Music Awards

MTV and the Viacom Music Group are returning to the birthplace of rock 'n' roll for the third O Music Awards, staging a road trip from Memphis to New Orleans in which one band will break the Guinness World Record for “Most Live Concerts” in 24 hours.

That record currently belongs to Jay-Z.

A bus of musicians will travel from Elvis Presley’s home city through the Mississippi Delta to The Big Easy with performances along the way.

Robyn headlined the second O Music Awards, and this time MTV promises a worthy band to set the record.

“We’re collapsing the show and a world record into one seamless experience,” Shannon Connolly, VP of digital music strategy for MTV, told TheWrap. “In the past, we had a lead-up with the world record attempt and then a show. With this one it’s all combined and it will make for some really interesting storytelling.”

The awards show, which honors music but with a focus on digital, will combine 24 hours of both awards and musical performances – all of it live.

Some of the broadcast may air on MTV – exact programming details are still in the works – but all of it will stream online.

The second edition of the O Music Awards, which took place in West Hollywood on Halloween night of 2011, garnered 1.4 million live streams, the second biggest live stream in MTV history.

“We’re really excited about the concept of honoring birthplace of rock ‘n roll with trends that are inherently modern and yet are still tied back to roots of music,” Connolly told TheWrap. “The traditional model of an awards show – now the nominees, now the winner -- didn’t feel like it fit.”

Categories will be announced May 23, but past winners include Kanye West for “Best Tweet,” Nirvana for “Best Vintage Viral Video” and Spotify for “Most Addictive Social Music Service.”

Simon Cowell: 'Tulisa Contostavlos is X Factor's reigning head judge'

Simon Cowell: 'Tulisa Contostavlos is X Factor's reigning head judge'

Simon Cowell has joked that Tulisa Contostavlos is the new head judge on The X Factor.

The Syco boss justified his pick by citing the 'Young' singer's 2011 win with girl group Little Mix in her inaugural year.

Cowell wrote on Twitter earlier this evening: "I understand Louis & Gary are squabbling as to who is head judge..since @OfficialTulisa won last year, she is the reigning head judge."

Contostavlos then replied: "@SimonCowell you tell them simon! LOL"

Barlow was the first name to be unveiled for 2012's X Factor series last month, while Walsh's return for a ninth year was announced yesterday.

Contostavlos's place on the new run has not yet been officially confirmed by ITV bosses.

Cowell's comments appear to rule out a return to the show in the autumn, despite Kelly Rowland's departure.

Dannii Minogue, who previously starred on the singing show between 2007 and 2010, has been heavily linked with the vacant role since her secret affair with Cowell was leaked.

The 52-year-old has previously stated his wish to appear on both UK and US versions of The X Factor this year.

JLS, The Wanted to cover for Olly Murs on 'Xtra Factor'?

JLS, The Wanted to cover for Olly Murs on 'Xtra Factor'?

Xtra Factor bosses have reportedly lined up three boybands to cover for Olly Murs on the show.

The singer will miss most of the auditions stage of the competition as he tours the US with One Direction.

The Wanted, JLS and McFly are being tipped as stand-ins to help Caroline Flack, who recently confirmed her return to the ITV2 show.

"Olly has basically ruled himself out of the audition stages of The Xtra Factor by going to the US to tour with One Direction," a source told The Sun.

"He'll be back for the live shows but in the meantime we need stand-ins as it's quite a rowdy show and works better with more than one presenter.

"It was going to just be JLS before, who have experience of the show as that's what shot them to fame. But during talks we realised that it might be better if we used a few boybands."

It is yet to be decided whether an entire band will take over each episode or individual members will take it in turns to host alongside Flack.

Free Comic Book Day Saturday: 'Avengers' Comic Among the Goodies

Free Comic Book Day Saturday: 'Avengers' Comic Among the Goodies

It's that time of year again: Free Comic Book Day, the annual event in which comic book fans -- and potential new ones -- can score a free bag of comics swag at comic book shops all across the country.

Saturday's event marks the 10th anniversary of Free Comic Day, and among the comic offerings this year is a particularly timely issue: "The Avengers, Age of Ultron Point One," which fans can snap up at their local comics shop on the way to see an opening weekend showing of "The Avengers" movie.

Among the other offerings fans might snag during FCBD 2012: comics featuring "The Simpsons," "SpongeBob SquarePants," Peanuts, "Star Wars," "Transformers," "Yo Gabba Gabba," Animal Planet, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Burt Ward: Boy Wonder," Superman, The Smurfs, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spider-Man, Donald Duck and "Witchblade."

The Free Comic Book Day website has a store locator to find out which comic shops are participating.

Perez Hilton Sued for $500K Over Angelina Jolie Ring Claim

Perez Hilton Sued for $500K Over Angelina Jolie Ring Claim

Angelina Jolie's engagement ring reportedly set Brad Pitt back a cool $500,000. And it could end up costing Perez Hilton the same.

Gossip blogger Hilton (real name: Mario Armando Lavandeira) has been slapped with a lawsuit after reporting that the man who designed Jolie's ring had previously been found guilty of fraud.

Hilton's report, published April 17 on his Coco Perez offshoot site, claimed that jeweler Robert Procop, who designed the ring with Pitt, had previously been successfully sued for fraud by  a customer named Roy Allenstein. Allenstein supposedly discovered that the necklace he purchased from Procop contained only 17.62 carats of diamonds instead of 25.5 carats after having it appraised.

The report goes on to claim that the court awarded Allenstein $89,000 in the suit.

But Procop says that's a lie, and now Hilton has found himself in a real-life court drama.

"The statements that Plaintiff was 'guilty' of fraud in connection with his jewelry business and that a court had awarded a judgment against him for that fraud is libelous on its face," the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, reads. "Those statements expose Plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy and they naturally have a tendency to injure Plaintiff in his occupation as a jeweler and jewelry designer."

Procop's attorney told TheWrap that, not only wasn't there a judgment rendered against his client, but there was never a trial alleging that he'd defrauded a customer.

The CocoPerez report was apparently derived from a RadarOnline report, to which it links. That story has been taken down, at the request of Procop's attorney, but according to the attorney it also claimed that a judgment had been awarded against Procop. (RadarOnline, which is not named in the lawsuit, has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.)

According to the suit, Hilton "refused to retract the defamatory statements and take down the Article from his web site even after he was informed of their falsity."

Procop is seeking more than $500,000 in general damages, plus special and punitive damages" in a sum sufficient to punish and deter Defendant from engaging in such conduct in the future."

'The Undateables' gets second series

'The Undateables' gets second series

Channel 4 has reportedly commissioned a second series of The Undateables.

The dating show, which features single people with disabilities, will return with a new four-part series next year, The Sun reports.

The programme attracted ratings of up to three million during its first run, making it one of Channel 4's most successful shows of the year so far.

However, The Undateables's promotional campaign has been criticised and branded offensive towards disabled people.

The Advertising Standards Authority received 21 complaints claiming that the adverts may encourage stereotyping and bullying.

Channel 4 was later cleared of any wrongdoing or breaching the advertising code.

The Undateables is made by production company Betty, which also produces The Joy of Teen Sex.

Britain's Got Talent Showbears want Eurovision: 'If Jedward can do it'

Britain's Got Talent Showbears want Eurovision: 'If Jedward can do it'

Britain's Got Talent stars The Showbears have revealed that they dream of representing the UK at next year's Eurovision Song Contest.

The camp dance act, who are competing in this week's live BGT semi-finals, asserted that they could do better than two-time entrants Jedward and the 2012 UK representative Engelbert Humperdinck.

"There have been rumours that we could be on the next Eurovision," the group told Digital Spy. "If Jedward can do it dear, we can do it. [And] there's not a sequin in sight on [Humperdinck]. But we have had slightly more work done between us.

"Red, white and blue sequins all the way. Spread the sparkle, that's our motto. We need a bit of glamour in it, dear. It's nice to be thought of this early because what [we're] thinking is rather than vote on the best song this year, we should vote for where we most want to go on holiday next year."

Despite saying that they have "no delusions" about winning Britain's Got Talent, The Showbears revealed that they have already thought about the Royalty Variety Performance and would like the judges to join them.

Asked if David Walliams had been invited to perform with them again in the semis, they explained: "It would be a bit too obvious if that happened. I think if they got on this time [we'd] just shove them straight off stage and say, 'Get off this is my moment. You've got Britain's Got More Talent'. We could get Simon Cowell a pair of gold sequin high waisters just in case.

"If we do get the opportunity to perform at the Royal Variety we can get all the judges on then. And the Queen. She can come down and join us if she likes."

The Showbears previously announced to Digital Spy that future routines could be themed around Harry Potter, Fame and the Royal Family.

Looking back at Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Looking back at Jim Henson's The Storyteller

Join Neil at the best place by the fire as he celebrates a childhood favourite, the wonderful Jim Henson’s The Storyteller...

The accomplishments in Jim Henson’s life read like the well-worn pages of a beloved book: The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth… The Storyteller? That’s right The Storyteller; a programme that if you blinked, you may have missed. But, without a doubt, it holds an esteemed place on the mantle of Jim Henson’s later life. So pull up a chair, stoke the fire, feed the talking dog, and sit for a spell. For a story from a realm called 'the late 1980s' is about to begin.

With the recent success of 2011’s The Muppets, the world was once again reminded of the positivity of Jim Henson’s message and celebration of life. However, with most artists there is a darker side yearning to get out, and Henson was no exception. The last ten years of his life were very much a time of experimentation and testing the waters of how far the audience would go with him. Most people know The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. But, how about Dreamchild or The Witches? These projects not only pushed Henson and his team, but showed us the worlds beyond Kermit and the gang.

Every story has a beginning, and it was a folklore class that his oldest daughter Lisa took at Harvard that ultimately brought Jim to The Storyteller. The concept was one that fascinated him, and the two conceived a show that would not only combine authentic multi-cultural folktales, but the technological might of the now-legendary Creature Shop. If the concept couldn’t get any better, the late British television writer Anthony Minghella was hired to script all the episodes. Does that name ring a bell? Oh, he just went on to direct a couple of films like The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley.

A script is only a script, and words are only words. That is until you cast actor John Hurt (Alien, The Elephant Man), as the eponymous title character, to read them. Hurt, wearing elfin-like prosthetics, lent the show an alternating aura of mischievousness and dark gravitas.  The two swirled together, and you were never sure which one you were going to get. Brian Henson, Jim’s son, provided the important comic relief for the series as The Storyteller’s dog named, well, Dog. Dog, like the viewers at home, hung onto his owner’s every word, frequently stopping him to clarify elusive plot points, lighten the mood, or just be plain scared. The casting of John Hurt and Brian Henson were the final pieces to Jim Henson’s creative puzzle, and without their energy the series would not have been quite the same. 

When you’re Jim Henson I don’t imagine it’s very difficult to get top-notch British directors to work for you. He enjoyed collaboration, teamwork, and what it brought to a project. The Storyteller was no exception, and the list of distinctive directors he hired to helm its various segments gave the show a high pedigree and the sense that you were watching a mini-movie. You may not be familiar with the names Steve Barron, John Amiel, or Charles Sturridge but, you certainly know their works. In fact, if you’re not careful you might even miss such accomplished  actors and actresses as Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones), Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous), Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game, Harry Potter), and the great Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean).

The original airings of The Storyteller are a lot like a tale told one too many times: a little muddled. Due to its intense production demands, the American network NBC began showing the initial episodes in a limited fashion, while the final installments were aired as part of the brilliant, but sadly short-lived The Jim Henson Hour. Hans My Hedgehog brings to life an early German folktale of Hans, a baby born in the form of a humanoid hedgehog. Hardships and bigotry follow him wherever he goes, until he abandons society for a hermit- like existence in a remote castle. However, his life changes forever when a king, who is lost in the woods, unexpectedly knocks on his door. The hospitality and help that Hans shows the king isn’t expected to go unrewarded, and a bargain is struck between the two. It is a bargain that will have dire consequences for them both.

It’s one thing to say “I’m going to make a half hour television pilot involving a large, talking hedgehog.” It’s another thing altogether to actually visualize it. From the clothing, to the make-up, to the creatures themselves, everything in this first episode is meticulously crafted and put together. Its dark fantasy realism is no accident as Henson had called in his frequent collaborator, artist Brian Froud, to be the conceptual designer for this episode. The creative synergy between these two men in The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth made both films what they are in look, tone, and character development. Fortunately this continued here.

Froud’s palette and the team of Henson designers visually realized Anthony Minghella’s words in a way never before seen on television. Characters, majestic storybook landscapes, and the scenes they inhabit ebb and flow like the mercurial words of The Storyteller himself. While Rachel Portman’s evocative theme song and score only served to heighten the emotions even further. The bar had been raised and the stage had been successfully set for more. 

Of the initial nine episodes it might be hard for some to pick a favourite. Each one shines brightly in its own way and pushes the medium in directions that a television set almost can’t handle. However, if the spotlight has to shine on two episodes that I feel represent the absolute best of the series, then I’m always invariably drawn to A Story Short and The Soldier and Death.

A Story Short, directed by Charles Sturridge, is unique in the sense that it is an origin story involving our main man The Storyteller himself. The segment, adapted from an early Celtic story, finds him long ago a homeless beggar trying to scrape together a meal. He stumbles across the kitchen of a King, and slyly convinces the head cook that he can make soup from a stone. The traditional stone soup fable plays out, and by the time the cook realizes that he has been swindled, The Storyteller’s belly is full of the richest ingredients of the pantry.

He is hauled before the King himself with the threat of being boiled in oil in front of him. However, the King needs a storyteller and if our hero can tell one story every day for a year his punishment will be absolved. But if he can’t, the cook’s oil awaits him. Everything goes swimmingly for one year. He benefits from the riches of the king, and even acquires a lovely wife. That is until the very last day of the punishment when… The Storyteller comes up a story short.

This episode works because of the inventive way that it turns the traditional structure of the show on its head. Ironically The Storyteller is the subject of his own story, and for the first time he is at a loss for words. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, images of snow, shades of blue, and the feeling of cold permeate; serving to tonally heighten The Storyteller’s predicament. All the while John Hurt makes it look so effortless.

I don’t consider The Soldier and Death the best episode of the series. I consider it to be one of the best things Jim Henson ever did. It’s the first episode of the series that he personally directed and his style, wit, and technological mastery are dominant throughout. Adapted from an early Russian folk tale, we meet a poor soldier who is returning home after a long twenty year war. He has nothing to show for it, but three biscuits that are sadly all he has for food.

While journeying along a lonely road he comes across three beggars and gives them the biscuits instead of money. As a reward for his generosity each one gives him a beautiful whistle, a dance, and a pack of lucky playing cards along with a magic sack. Now this sack has the ability to trap whatever he wants inside of it, and rumors abound of card-playing devils in a nearby abandoned castle. The prize if he wins? Forty barrels of gold! If he loses? His life. The soldier makes his way to the castle, with his lucky cards and magic sack in tow. Now I’m not one to spoil a good story. But, rest assured images abound of intense card playing, Death trapped in a sack, the fires of Hell, and the ethereal tranquility of Heaven. 

The Soldier and Death has so much going for it, it’s impossible to fully put into words. What begins as a romp of a story becomes something deeper, something more pensive. The late Bob Peck, as The Soldier, only adds to this by painting a subtle and sympathetic portrait of a man too used to getting his own way. It’s no accident that he went onto achieve even more status in the fantasy genre as the cunning, but doomed hunter Robert Muldoon in the original Jurassic Park.

However, it’s also a lot of fun. In my opinion, if you’re going to pick one of the top Jim Henson moments it’s when The Soldier quietly lights a match inside the darkened castle. Henson’s camera swiftly pulls back to reveal the swarm of devils laughing and cackling at the card table. It still gives me chills, and the animatronics beat CGI any day. Like the best of Jim Henson’s work, The Soldier and Death runs the gamut of emotions. You laugh, you cry, and in the end you think about life, and as this was one of Jim Henson’s final directorial projects it makes it all the more special.

The Storyteller eventually finished its run in 1990 in a revamped format called Greek Myths. John Hurt had left for greener pastures but, Dog found a new home wandering The Minotaur’s Labyrinth with actor Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective, Harry Potter).These final four episodes, plus The Three Ravens from the first series, regretfully didn’t see the light of day in the USA. That was until the late 90s, when the cable network HBO replayed both series as a whole and the viewing public experienced them as Jim Henson intended. It was then, and with its eventual release on VHS and DVD, that people were reminded how beautiful and rare a show it really was.

A mark of quality is when something you saw as a kid stays with you through the years. It never leaves, and the imagery remains imprinted inside you. For me, The Storyteller does just that. Although Jim Henson no longer is here, his work and his message thankfully are. It’s because of this that we will never have to look that far to find him, and he will always have more to say. But, that my friends, is another story.

Senate Poised to Approve 2 Key FCC Nominees

Senate Poised to Approve 2 Key FCC Nominees

The U.S. Senate could approve long-pending nominations for a pair of FCC vacancies as early as Monday, finally clearing the way for two former agency staffers to move into top regulatory slots, individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

But the Senate’s approval assumes no additional efforts by GOP senators to block confirmation votes for the duo, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai.

“The question is are there other Republican senators out there who, like Grassley, may be playing the hold game?” an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. “There’s no objection on the Democratic side.”

The nominations of the two veteran Washington insiders are back on track because Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently lifted a longtime hold on their confirmation votes.

Grassley had been preventing his Senate colleagues from voting on the two since late last year in an effort to pressure the FCC to release documents related to a controversial waiver to a wireless broadband service. The senator’s document-mining campaign, which has apparently finally dug up some choice nuggets, was totally unrelated to the two nominees or their qualifications to be commissioners.

In an April 27 statement, Grassley said he opted to lift the hold, satisfied that “there is now a process in place to obtain all of the relevant documents from the FCC.”

Said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, in response: “I am glad that the unreasonable hold against two qualified and smart FCC nominees ... has been lifted.”

Confirmation of the nominations by the Senate would bring the FCC back up to its full complement of five commissioners for the first time since last June, when former Republican Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker left the agency to work for Comcast.

Rosenworcel is currently a Senate Commerce Committee staffer. Pai is a partner with the law firm Jenner & Block. Rosenworcel, a Democrat, had no comment, according to a spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee. Pai, a Republican, could not be reached for comment.

50 years of Steptoe and Son: its influence on modern sitcom

50 years of Steptoe and Son: its influence on modern sitcom

Alex traces the debt modern TV comedy has to pay to the original working class sitcom, Steptoe and Son

Steptoe and Son  had an immense influence on British television comedy, and specifically on the writers who created some of the finest British sitcoms of the last fifty years. By the 1980s, working class sitcoms were a staple of the TV landscape. In the autumn of 1980, John Sullivan began work on a sitcom which would become one of the most popular ever screened. A year later on Tuesday 8th September 1981 at 8.30pm BBC1 transmitted “Big Brother”, the first ever episode of Only Fools and Horses…

JOHN SULLIVAN: Only Fools and Horses… , Dear John

Originally entitled Readies, John Sullivan’s second major sitcom was, like Steptoe and Son before it, a generational comedy about men living without women. The show’s casting director initially considered Wilfrid Brambell for the role of Grandad (the role eventually won by Leonard Pearce) before ruling him out as too identified as old man Steptoe. Brambell had appeared as a lift operator in the final series of Sullivan’s Citizen Smith in an episode called somewhat appropriately Only Fools and Horses…!

John Sullivan paid homage to Steptoe and Son on several occasions, perhaps most strikingly in the episode A Losing Streak (1982) which sees Boycie (John Challis) try to stitch-up Del Boy (David Jason, incredibly the third choice after Jim Broadbent and Enn Reitel) at cards only for Grandad’s two-headed coin to rescue the Trotters pride. In the Steptoe and Son episode Full House (1963) a gullible Harold is tucked-up at cards by a bunch of neer-do-wells, losing a small fortune. Later, Albert, wearing a special pair of glasses and using a marked deck, wins the money back and sends the men away with their tails between their legs. The elder men in both become moralistic and both quote the old adage “Don’t gamble!”

Only Fools and Horses… also shared some of the original Steptoe and Son props. The 1985 episode It’s Only Rock and Roll saw the Steptoe’s stuffed bear appear in Del’s lock-up garage in a scene where Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) invites the police around to report the theft of his musical instruments - much to Del’s chagrin. The shows share a wonderful  pathos as the protagonists struggle with their lot. Both Harold and Del Boy want a better life, yet both appear to lack the courage of their convictions. Both characters miss a mother figure and share a sense of family responsibility sacrificing their ambitions to look after an elderly relative and in Del’s case his rather naïve younger brother as well.

When Only Fools and Horses took a break after the fifth series in 1986, Sullivan changed tack and in Dear John, he created possibly his most underrated comedy. Running to only 14 episodes between 1986 and 1987, the show told the story of John Lacey (Ralph Bates) thrown out by his wife and seeking solace in a divorced and separated 1-2-1 club. Sullivan’s rich cast of characters included: Louise (Rachel Bell), who runs the group, but is clearly there because she enjoys others' “sexual problems”; Ralph (Peter Deneyr), a greasy-haired introvert in national health specs and proud owner of a motorcycle combination; Kate (Belinda Lang), a likeable young woman unlucky in love because she has a fear of intimacy; Mrs Arnott (Jean Challis), a quiet older woman in a hat who sits at the back of the group and says little. Last but not least is the marvellous Kirk St Moritz (Peter Blake), a deluded undercover spy in tight leather trousers and possessed of a very casual attitude to relationships. He bickers with Kate, he’s tactless and has no empathy for her problems. John is almost the “normal” one yet he too has some eccentric habits notably head-butting the wall when things don’t go his way. His confused Landlady is Mrs Lemenski. Throughout the series she calls him “crazy person” yet in the sublime final episode, a Christmas special, we discover more about Mrs Lemenski and her background. When John and Mrs Lemenski dance to remind her of how she loved dancing with her late husband, the sudden poignancy is palpable and touching. Ralph Bates was a great actor who died far too young, this series would no doubt have continued had he survived. 

DAVID RENWICK: One Foot in The Grave

Like John Sullivan, David Renwick plied his trade on The Two Ronnies, writing perhaps the finest sketch they ever performed: “Mastermind - Answering the question before last”. David Renwick enjoyed a successful partnership with fellow writer Andrew Marshall, with whom, he scripted Whoops Apocalypse in 1982 and the very underrated Robert Hardy/ John Gordon Sinclair/ Richard Wilson vehicle, Hot Metal (1986-8) both for the late night Sunday slot on ITV.

In January 1990 his new sitcom One Foot in the Grave debuted on BBC1. At first critics didn’t know what to make of what was essentially an old-school sitcom in the tradition of Terry and June. When embittered, forcefully-retired, Victor Meldrew - the show’s permanently-perplexed  protagonist - suddenly produced a frozen cat from his freezer, however, the show changed gear. Outside in the snow he befriended a robin who was rather vulnerable and ultimately killed by a cat. A layer of poignancy is suddenly laced into the mix, something Renwick does particularly well.

In a memorable episode, set largely in the Meldrews' bedroom, as they have a sleepless night being distracted by a loud party playing ”the laughing policeman” at top volume,  they eventually decide sleep is impossible and so talk instead, suddenly a throwaway remark, leads them to stop and reflect on their son, Stuart, who seemingly died young, perhaps explaining Meldrew’s anxiety with modern life somewhat. In another episode, Magaret’s mother struggles to use her answerphone. When the mother dies a few days later, the answerphone message is played by accident, the words taking on a poignant new meaning.


When Caroline Aherne asked for tapes of The Family, the seminal 1974 fly-on the wall documentary by Paul Watkins, she was keenly aware of how the working class had appeared on TV over the years. Aherne settled on a naturalistic homespun Manchester setting. Victoria Wood, writing the second series of Dinnerladies around the same time, observed Aherne’s masterstroke was to avoid canned laughter which allowed the sitcom to be naturalistic and the audience deciding for themselves what they found funny. Wood now regrets that dinnerladies was filmed in front of a studio audience because it was also capable of some powerful scenes which were difficult for the live audience to respond to.

The Royle Family’s great conceit was to subvert the idea of a sitcom where the sofa is a focal point and instead make it virtually a character in itself, constantly in use as defined in the titles as the various family members watch television. The Royle Family first appeared on BBC2 in 1999 and reflected society’s obsession with TV to the detriment of family conversation. Aherne reunited Brookside stars Sue Johnston and Ricky Tomlinson as Barbara and Jim Royle. Aherne herself and co-writer Craig Cash played the daughter and son-in- law Denise and Dave, Ralf Little was Denise’s 18 year-old brother Anthony. Adhering to her quest for realism, Aherne approached veteran actress Liz Smith, the star of Hard Labour, the earliest Mike Leigh Play for Today for Nana. Jim's best mate, the decidedly dodgy Twiggy (Geoffrey Hughes), would make the occasional appearance. Denise’s best friend was the self-consciously overweight next door neighbour Cheryl, played with sympathy and padding by Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson).

It’s often said of The Royle Family that nothing much happens. Actually, it’s the keen observations of how a family interacts that really lifts the show.  Birth, death and marriage have all been covered. Perhaps the most poignant scene is when a heavily pregnant and suddenly quite scared Denise goes into labour on the bathroom floor and is comforted by an (unusually) overwhelmed Jim. A wonderfully warm dialogue between Jim and Denise develops, largely improvised by Aherne and Tomlinson.

Aherne and Cash have honed their skills over the years. The slightly unsettling Mrs Merton and Malcolm is now a distant memory. Cash developed Early Doors which was set in a northern pub where little happened save for the regulars' banter and drinking. The publican, played by John Henshaw, and girl he brought up as his daughter were the show’s main focus often leading to much pathos. Cash played Joe and co-writer Phil Mealey was Duffy. The evocative theme Small World was by Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera. Cash had a knack of selecting the right theme having been a DJ in Stockport where he was the first UK DJ to play Oasis. Perhaps as a return favour, Oasis allowed their 1994 song Half the World Away to be used as the title theme for The Royle Family.


Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office developed the grammar of televison docu-soaps into a sitcom based on the workplace. It was the freshest thing in the schedule for many years, yet at its heart was the spirit of Steptoe and Son, in that it was able to mix the dramatic and poignant with the embarrassingly cringe-worthy behaviour of David Brent. Like so many sitcom greats before him, ultimately he was a loser. He would often cover himself in glory and try to live up to his own hype. His impression of his colleagues and what they actually thought of him were two very different things.

The most poignant moments in The Office came in the Christmas specials: the scenes of Brent visiting the office (he so clearly loves) despite being redundant and made to feel unwelcome. Brent’s character does eventually develop when he meets a woman he actually cares about. Impressively, when his friend Chris “ Finchy” Finch insults the new lady in his life, Brent wrongfoots the audience without a dramatic rebuke as he tells Finch where to go. Topping everything, however, were the scenes between Tim and Dawn and the particularly sweet moment of vindication for the audience as Dawn, after a spat with her boyfriend, realises her love for Tim. His caring nature manifests in his wonderfully uplifting message next to her portrait of him:”… never give up!”


One of the best Channel Four sitcoms of the early 21st century was developed for the (then) up-and-coming comedians Mitchell and Webb by writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong. Peep Show was filmed using head-cams to give the characters' literal “point of view”  accompanied by an internal monologue. The ups and downs of flat-sharing in London was explored from every angle, as Mark (Mitchell) and Jeremy (Webb) stumbled through their chaotic relationships with co-workers and would-be lovers. Super Hans - an addled hanger-on friend of Jeremy - provided much of the comic relief. Yet, at the core of the sitcom was a familiar Steptoe and Son conceit: one character goes out to work and berates the other’s indolence and inertia. 

So, after fifty years it’s fair to say a myriad of sitcoms owe a debt to the masterpiece created by Galton and Simpson back in 1962. The fact working-class sitcom is now so readily accepted and so often presented with a strong hint of realism in both dialogue and performance owes much to the pioneering work of Galton and Simpson.  When they transferred Tony Hancock’s radio series to BBC TV in 1956 they began a whole new genre of entertainment on British television. Galton and Simpson invested so much in Hancock’s career they were devastated when the comic dropped them along with his PA, Beryl Vertue (later Stephen Moffat’s mother in law - no less) in 1961.  Arguably, had Hancock not dropped Galton and Simpson they possibly wouldn’t have created the two totters from Oil Drum Lane and we would have been deprived of one of the best sitcoms every produced.

Facebook Sets IPO Price Range of Between $28-$35

Facebook Sets IPO Price Range of Between $28-$35

Somewhere in Silicon Valley there's a very happy, soon to be extremely rich, group of social networking gurus.

Facebook has set the price for its initial public offering, according to public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also read: Machinima's Gamer-Friendly Site Pulls In the Lost Boys That Movies and TV Miss

The company plans to offer shares at between $28 and $35 when it begins trading this month. That could help it raise over $13 billion and could place the tech giant's valuation at north of $90 billion.

However, the price range is slightly lower than what some analysts had anticipated.

Although Facebook and its founders, a group that includes Mark Zuckerberg, seem poised to cash in big, the company did report a weaker than expected first quarter. Sales fell 6 percent from the previous quarter to just over $1 billion, while profits plummeted 32 percent to $205 million.

Facebook has set May 18 as the day it goes public, according to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal. It will reportedly begin making its pitch to investors next Monday.

Looking back at The Six Million Dollar Man

Looking back at The Six Million Dollar Man

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology... Join us as we salute Steve Austin in our look back at The Six Million Dollar Man

With the release of a mammoth 40-disc DVD box set, featuring all 99 episodes and six TV movies in their digitally remastered glory along with hours of features, including cast interviews, the new box set is going to be of huge interest to fans of the series and those interested in sci-fi action adventure or retro-television. Within this boxset, you'll find the complete series, including the crossovers with The Bionic Woman as well as plenty of background material casting a fresh light on this iconic 70s series.

Martin Caiden's novel, Cyborg, was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man series, a long running TV series starring Lee Majors. Quite bizarrely, the series doesn't start with a pilot and then launch into season one, instead starting with three TV movies that aired in 1973, before the series started in 1974. Running for 99 episodes, across five seasons, it would return in the form in which it started, with a further three TV movies.

The Six Million Dollar Man title doesn't come from the title character's salary, it's the cost of rebuilding him (plus up to a million a year to keep the project running) after a crash. The plan was to use 'scrap' – or an accident victim – as the subject of the project, creating a one-man fighting force to take on the nasties of the world. It could have been anyone, but fortunately it was Steve Austin, world-renowned astronaut.  Unfortunately, he wasn't consulted on the whole cyborg implant scheme and is, obviously, a bit reluctant at first.

Steve Austin, to start with, is a tad arrogant (he is, after all, one of the best test pilots in NASA history) becoming shattered by his accident and further damaged by the burden of technology that is thrust upon him. Bionic arm, bionic legs and bionic eye are all installed and, at first, he resents each implant, but as time progresses he adapts to his new abilities by running very fast, rescuing children, and punching through walls. We discover that his eye can zoom to a 20:1 ratio and has infra-red capabilities, his bionic parts are radioactive and they stop working in extreme cold. He can reach speeds of 60mph, which would later be doubled, and can jump considerable heights.

The first of the TV movies is a rather slow affair that ends with an incredibly short incursion into terrorist territory before Austin escapes. That said, the first hour manages to set up the series incredibly well, with Majors playing the newly augmented Austin in a decidedly melodramatic way as he gets used to the new lease of life and his awkward relationship with OSO director, Oscar Goldman.

The second and third TV movies see Austin becoming more comfortable with his role and adopting a more Bond-like strategy, with his relationship with Goldman improving.  Together, they stop a weapons merchant who wants to buy nuclear submarines and a kidnapper who wants a billion dollar ransom.

In these three movies, we get an oddly prescient overview of what is to come from the series.  We have a ladies' man, secret agent in Steve Austin, with super powers who is equally at home tackling everything from terrorists, to home threats to the bizarre. Very much like the TV series, the movies don't really have any cohesion across the storylines, with simplistic references made to past adventures or activities. Things are always tied up quite neatly, and Austin is on his way to save another day.

The series proper starts with an episode that continues the mad scientist formula. Population: Zero is set in Norris, a town with a population of only twenty-three at the start of the episode, most of whom are now dead. A scientist has decided to unleash his fury on the US by using his knowledge to render unconscious the population of Norris. If he doesn't get his way, he'll do it again, but with deadly force, so Steve has no choice but to stop him.

From these beginnings, we have a run of ninety nine episodes with Majors working closely with the OSI to prevent bad guys of all ilk, from scientists to terrorists and aliens, from destroying any manner of objectives. The series didn't just do 'terrorist of the week' stories, it spread to natural disasters, nuclear threat and then onto aliens, robots, clones and ESP, stretching the limits of credibility even for the bizarre concept of the series. There were also attempts to improve upon The Six Million Dollar Man template, usually by the villain of the week. It seemed that there were lots of folk out there with the resources to build their own robot or cyborg and deploy them accordingly. Sadly, few of them seemed able to build an army of them, so Austin was easily able to best even the best of the bionics.

With a much reduced run-time (the usual 50 minutes instead of an hour and a quarter), the pacing of the series proper is faster, though not to the degree we've become used to in modern television. As the series progressed, the filming techniques were refined – in particular, super-fast movements were shown in slow motion, instead of being sped-up Benny Hill style. The individual episodes were occasionally formulaic – mission outlined, Austin goes on mission, meets attractive and essential-to-plot young woman, he gets imperilled, escapes to save the day, and ends with a quip aimed at bagging him, quite often, yet another date with the attractive young woman at the heart of the plot. The imperilled bit is quite important as it's often the time when he gets to show off his bionic abilities, along with the various saving the day bits, or just to impress those around him.  He's also quite happy to discuss his abilities with anyone with a passing interest and is quite often recognised as a NASA employee, celebrity or OSI employee.

His mission destinations were varied too, not limited to the United States.  He would visit other countries and even go up into space in order to save the day on a weekly basis.  The OSI clearly had varied interests and, quite progressively for American television of this era, showed foreigners as the good guys and bad guys, with Austin working along side every from the Russians to African freedom fighters. That said, there was little moral ambiguity in the series and the lines were clearly drawn between good guys and bad guys.

As was the norm in during the 70s and 80s, the series didn't have a season-wide story arc and, broadly speaking, it wasn't necessarily essential to watch every episode through fear of losing the plot. As the series progressed, however, a smattering of two-parters popped up, some characters would re-appear, including an alien race along with the Sasquatch, whilst a few other villains would pop their heads up more than once to challenge Austin. Many fans claim that the appearance of the Sasquatch was too much for regular fans, though the programme would continue to have decent ratings for quite some time after this particular incident.

According to Lee Majors, he did most of his own stunts, adding to the action hero persona of the man and the character.  Some of the stunts (particularly where flying kicks were involved) look a tad more dangerous than they probably should. Lee Major's Austin was, in essence, an augmented Bond meets The Fall Guy. Attractive to any woman who came within five metres of him, envied by the men and the bane of the bad guys, he cut a swathe through his opponents. There are witty quips (“I'm sorry I had to violate your porthole!”) and plenty of sequences of Austin bursting through walls, running very quickly and carrying out a series of action-packed, super-heroic set pieces. His relationship with Oscar Goldman became less tense after the initial TV movies, with the two working together in a similar way to many TV series that would follow; think Michael Knight and Devon Miles in Knight Rider.

The series attracted many stars of TV and film – Britt Eckland appears in the second TV movie, with other luminaries from genre television appearing throughout the run, such as William Shatner, George Takei, David McCallum, John Saxon, Andre the Giant and even Yvonne Craig swapping her Batgirl garb for a stint in the series. Andre the Giant clearly wasn't booked for his acting ability, instead playing the hulking Sasquatch. Farrah Fawcett, then married to Majors, appeared in a number of episodes, whilst Lindsay Wagner would appear as Jaime Sommers before appearing in her own series, The Bionic Woman.

With a character as versatile and appealing as The Six Million Dollar Man, it wasn't long before he had his own action figure. It was a bizarre-looking thing, with an eye that you could look through, magnifying your surroundings (at least that was the theory), skin that could be peeled away to reveal circuitry and wearing a rather fetching red jump suit. Before it reached the market, however, Hasbro managed to release their own version; The Atomic Man as part of its Action Man/GI Joe range, which included a nuclear powered heart (activated by pressing the button on his chest) and bionic arm that could crush steel and power the included hand-held helicopter device.  His eye wasn't without function either; Atomic Man had a signalling eye, all you had to do was put the head to a light, put your finger on his head and his eye would flash! Hasbro had tried to secure a deal for an official figure, however the plan had failed, so the release of The Atomic Man was seen as a coup when it was released before the official figure made it to the market.  Despite this, Hasbro and Palitoy didn't particularly like the character and, according to Ian Harrison's Action Man: The Official Dossier, both companies tried to distance themselves from the release.

Whilst Caidin would write four books based on his character, other authors would create tie-ins for the series. To appeal to the younger audience, comics, board games and other novelty items would join the inevitable torrent of products for the increasingly popular series. Capturing the imagination of children, the merchandise would go on to include lunchboxes and other child friendly accessories, which led to a change in the nature of the character – away with the killing and in came a more heroic, less gung-ho Steve Austin.

With the success of the series, there was the launch of a sister series, with The Bionic Woman being introduced part way through the run in a two-part story entitled The Bionic Woman and a season three opening two-parter entitled The Return of The Bionic Woman. A former girlfriend of Austin, prior to his bionic days, she suffers an accident of her own and it's up to Austin to convince Goldman to enhance her too. The respective TV series would have a handful of cross-over stories and one-off cameo appearances until The Bionic Woman switched network, putting an end to the cross promotion. Back in this era of action-adventure, character development wasn't high on the league table of importance. That said, the relationship between Austin and Sommers does allow for something bordering on character development, with the various stories in which they appear showing an element of their burgeoning love for each other, before the three TV movies allow this to really take off.

In early 1978, the series came to an end.  It would be nine years later that the first of the TV movies would reunite Sommers and Austin, introduce their son (who would be subjected to bionic improvement) and wouldn't be until 1994 that the pair would live bionically ever after... fighting the various evils of the worlds as they went along. Think of them as a bionic Hart to Hart.

Lee Majors would have varied success in movies and television, though would later go on to portray another action hero in the TV series The Fall Guy. He continues to work today, but will probably always be best remembered as Steve Austin.

The series executive producer, Harve Bennett, would have success in the Star Trek franchise, whilst producer and creator of the The Bionic Woman, Kenneth Johnson, would later go onto success with the series V.

Whilst The Bionic Woman would see a less-than enthusiastically received remake in the 21st Century, there hasn't been a successful attempt to reboot the original The Six Million Dollar Man. There've been hints that people have tried, even resulting in a comic series based on Kevin Smith's abandoned script, with the latest rumour being a Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle. If a reboot, in TV series or movie form, ever happens, let's hope it isn't a comedy or pastiche!