Always a treat to talk to Matt Smith, this time on the set in Cardiff. Here he chats, among other things, about whether it’s possible to change the innate character of the Doctor. And James Corden, too. Wouldn’t he make a great permanent assistant?
It’s worthy of a spread bet: BT versus Sky. If you were a bookmaker it’s a mouth-watering encounter. Two British companies thumping it out for the sake of the British sports fan. Well, so they say. It’s laudable and we appreciate it. In one corner is Sky who have a stranglehold on the sports TV market with the majority of rights for anything decent i.e. Football, rugby and cricket. Then along comes new upstart player BT who think it’s wrong that Sky have such a monopoly. The regulators agree and force Sky to offer their content to BT Vision, their pay TV service. Half of all people surveyed said they would take up BT Vision if there were sports. Let’s wait and see. So the Sky Sports packages are now available and if you’re already a BT Broadband customer it’s a good deal and cheaper than Sky depending on just how much sport you would like to watch. The BT pitch is that as a Sky customer with a sports package there are many other channels you simply don’t want. Makes sense.
My initial view was that it was wrong for BT to be allowed this content since they hadn’t originally paid for the rights. But now I’ve come around to the punters’ view: get prices down. There’s too much money in rights anyway and it doesn’t help us win a World Cup, or a Champions League final (it may have helped with the Ashes). So good luck to BT; the long suffering British sports fan is with you all the way. The man with the vision behind BT Vision is Marc Watson. He has great belief in this service, which will also be incorporated in Project Canvas next year. That’s the new BBC-driven, Broadband TV service about which you will hear many things over the next six months. Here’s my chat with Watson, CEO of BT Vision, from whom you will hear much in the next six months too.
And yes I declare an interest. I already have Sky Sports.
Sports types have a particular aura. It’s not something spiritual, just a definitive sense of who they are. So it is with Martina Navratilova whom I met in Wimbledon – the local cinema, not the All England Club – where she was promoting a new film on ESPN about her long-term friendship with Chris Evert. The paradox of the documentary is great rivals on the court, but off the court they could talk about everything. When you talk to Martina, you encounter a warm, funny and sometimes self-deprecating woman, but also a woman who, bizarrely, doesn’t like to talk about British tennis. Ooh no. Listen at the end of the interview when I broach the subject. Did she “walk out”? Well, she made it very aware that the interview was over and walked away to sign posters and that was it. I didn’t even get a, “Missing you already”. I’m blaming Andy Murray of course.
Putting that aside, the film itself is a departure for a sports doc. It’s focussed on the personal story of these two women. Incredible rivals of the court, but close friends in the locker room. For the record, Martina has the bragging rights in one-to-one contests in grand slams. Here is the Q & A in the cinema, together with my interview. The film goes out in October 2010 in the UK, but sooner in the States. Hannah Storm is chairing the session, and produced the film too.
It’s never a good idea to schedule the launch of a new drama on the day of the Queen’s Speech. So it was with ITV’s new series, Identity. No celebrity worth their equity card ever takes the Tube in London, and to be fair, the broadcasters lay on cars anyway. Central London is brought to a standstill while the Queen takes a coach to the Palace of Westminster, which meant that Keeley Hawes, star of Identity, and undoubtedly the turn of the day, would be late. She was indeed very late. So much so that the writer of the series, Ed Whitmore, became a stand-in attraction for half an hour. He was in fact terribly interesting, about how he formed the drama and how it has already been picked up in America. Whitmore also has a project with the BBC but was having much less to say about that as you will hear.
After Whitmore exited, Keeley Hawes made her entrance together with the other leads, Aidan Gillen and Holly Aird.
There was another issue with the timing of the launch. It was only four days after the end of Ashes to Ashes, in which Hawes got a farewell kiss from Philip Glenister. How long would it be before she was asked about the end of such a fine series? One insider admitted: “Why do you think we launched when we did?”
For those interested in how these events come together, ITV, for the first time conducted a simultaneous press conference over Ready To Air, the online preview service for journalists who write about TV. It worked rather well but could interrupt proceedings, too. One suspects more journalists will attend these press conferences “remotely” in the future. Monday 5th July ITV
Every time I think the fuss around Doctor Who is waning, I’m proved very wrong. Like no other series, it has a wonderful ability to re-invent itself. The penultimate episode in the series tonight was a wonderful “best of” smorgasbord of monsters which will delight fans. Last week I went to a great q&a session at Bafta on Piccadilly in which series runner, Steven Moffat (the bloke who okays the scripts etc), Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and yes, Matt Smith explained what the series has been like for them. When I last saw this lot, the new Doctor and his assistant were like nervous teenagers when the new show launched in Wales, where the show is made. Now seeing them on the stage at Bafta, there’s a great deal more confidence from the leading players in this iconic drama. The thing about these q&as from my point of view is that it’s not like a round table with journalists. This is a night for fans, children, and industry types. The questions, as you will hear are more fanzine than magazine. At the end of the screening when Matt and Karen left the building they were mobbed by fans who chased them down the middle of Piccadilly, then started knocking on the windows of their car when it got caught in traffic. It’s the stuff of popstars. These guys are big, even if Stephen Fry thinks it’s a “children’s show”. Here’s the audio from the q&a, for which you will need to wind up the volume a little.
Series finale trailer from the BBC Series finale trailer
When was the last time Doctor Who wore a hat? Well, this adornment could be set for a return in the next series. At a preview tonight for the first of the final two-parter in the latest series of Doctor Who, Matt Smith, the Doctor, gave his biggest hint yet that headgear of some sort is being considered. A great episode, too.
Full Q&A to be posted on Saturday after the episode.
And the trailer for the ep
You’ve got to give it to actor Christopher Eccleston, he really does know how to speak his mind. The former Doctor Who – seems centuries ago now – is playing John Lennon in a new single film, for BBC4, Lennon Naked. First off, he’s terribly good as Lennon. Eccleston does conviction performance, and does it particularly well here. But during this Q&A he’s asked, given another new film on Lennon, and new books, what is it that this new project has taught us about this great artist? “Probably nothing,” he says, truthfully. You’ve got to love him for this. Many other actors would have simply gone into PR speak, but not our Chris. Marvellous. Eccleston is not PRable. There’s a term.
BBC is going through its “biopics’ period”. This follows on from a Boy George film, too, but Lennon Naked is at the quality end of the spectrum. Enjoy. On the podium with Eccleston are writer Robert Jones and producer Edmun Coulthard.
trailer Lennon Naked trailer Courtesy of Christopher Eccleston’s blog
BBC4 , Wed 23 June