Charles Furness Stars In BBC’s ‘The Whale’
Charles Furness stars as Nantucket seafarer Thomas Nickerson and Jonas Armstrong plays first mate Owen Chase in The Whale, based on a tale that inspired Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby Dick. The BBC One and Discovery drama will be told through the eyes of cabin boy Nickerson who, at 14, was the youngest member of the crew after his ship was sunk by a whale in 1820. The Whale is executive produced by Eamon Hardy and Ruth Caleb and Mike Dormer and John Chapman are producing. Filming begins this week in Malta. READ MORE »
Global Showbiz Briefs: BBC’s ‘The Whale’, International Emmy Awards, Cinedigm In Oz, Channel 5 Acquires ‘The Bible’, & More
Charles Furness Stars In BBC’s ‘The Whale’
Global Showbiz Briefs: New BBC Chief Takes Reins, HBO & Canal Plus, China’s TV Docu Market, Bona Film Group
New BBC Chief Says “Best Days Lie Ahead”
Today was the first day on the job for the BBC’s new director general, Tony Hall. The broadcaster’s former head of news returned to the Beeb after more than a decade as CEO of the Royal Opera House. The organization he confronted today is in far different shape than it was when he left. After going into crisis mode last October when the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal broke open, the BBC was rocked by the mishandling of a Newsnight report that mistakenly identified a senior politician as an alleged pedophile. Those events led to the resignation of former director general George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job. Mark Thompson, Entwistle’s predecessor, left in September to become CEO of The New York Times Company and under his watch austerity measures were put in place after the license fee that was frozen until 2017. Two major unions went out on strike at the BBC last Thursday in protest over what was referred to as “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” along with bullying claims at the company. Hall made a handful of appointments prior to starting at the BBC, but has yet to name a head of news or head of television. In an email to staff today, he said, “With imagination and hard work, the BBC’s best days lie ahead of us.”
BBC Two‘s five-part period drama Parade’s End leads the nominees for BAFTA‘s television craft awards with five. The adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novels started airing on HBO on February 26, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Anne-Marie Duff, Rupert Everett and Miranda Richardson. It took mentions for production design and Tom Stoppard’s writing, among others. Also figuring heavily among the nominees are BBC Two and HBO’s Hitchcock drama The Girl, BBC One and BBC America‘s Ripper Street and BBC Two and BBC America’s cancelled The Hour. Other shows known to U.S. audiences, Doctor Who, Call The Midwife, Downton Abbey, Top Gear and The Thick Of It also scored nods. Olympics programming, inlcuding Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony and Stephen Daldry’s closing ceremony are nommed as is the fictional comedy series about the Games, Twenty Twelve. Awards will be handed out on April 28 in London. Click over for a full list of nominees:
UPDATE, WRITETHRU, 4:33 AM: The National Union of Journalists and media and entertainment union Bectu have set a 12-hour walkout at the BBC starting at noon March 28. The action coincides with the start of an indefinite work-to-rule period in which employees do no more than the minimum required by their contracts. The move could affect Easter scheduling and will be the second walkout in recent weeks over compulsory layoffs and excessive workloads, which the unions believe are compromising quality journalism and programming. That’s especially notable given the high-profile snafus at flagship news magazine Newsnight late last year as the corporation was dealing with fallout from the Jimmy Savile sex scandal.
Bectu says management is attempting to create “a modern-day BBC sweatshop” while it forges ahead with a cost-cutting initiative which will zap 2,000 jobs across the group. The BBC has been tightening its belt since revenues were cut drastically through 2016 due to a freeze on the TV license fees that help support it. The upcoming action is also taking a stance on bullying and harassment. Employees have given evidence to the ongoing internal review that sprang from the Savile revelations. The union says
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage.
Homeland star Damian Lewis will join the cast of BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley when it reunites for Friday night’s Comic Relief telethon. This year’s Funny for Money broadcast is set to offer plenty of YouTube-ready revival sketches for viewers. Already set is Ricky Gervais resurrecting The Office character David Brent. The Vicar of Dibley’s reunion is its first since since another Comic Relief sketch in 2007, which co-starred Sting. Lewis was keen to take part, he said, because he’d been unavailable for past specials. “Some of my favorite actors are in The Vicar of Dibley and I grew up watching them on TV,” he said. He joins a high profile guest cast that includes Kylie Minogue, Sarah Ferguson and Johnny Depp.
Hyde Park Names Stephen Gary VP
Ahead of Cannes, Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment Group has picked Stephen Gary as VP of its international sales division. He comes from IM Global, where he worked on titles like Before Midnight Dead Man Down. He’ll report to Hyde Park International’s president Eric Christenson. The company’s current slate includes Every Secret Thing with Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks, Adult World with Emma Roberts and John Cusack and Sunlight Jr. with Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon, as well as an untitled Elmore Leonard project that stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins. Gary’s career began in the global finance and distribution department at William Morris Endeavor and includes a stint at Essential Entertainment, where he executed sales on The Expatriate and Barney’s Version. - Joe Utichi
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have signed on for a fourth season of the BBC1/PBS Masterpiece drama Sherlock, which started its Season 3 table read yesterday ahead of shooting next week. Cumberbatch, who earned Emmy and …
China Eyes Merger Of TV, Film & Press Watchdogs
In a move that could help to streamline China’s clearance or censorship of entertainment content, the government plans to merge the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). Currently, movie and TV distributors who want to do business in China have to navigate a sea of red tape through SARFT and the merger could help cut that down, but is unlikely to result in wholesale deregulation. SARFT would continue to oversee sensitive content in the media and add the National Copyright Administration under its umbrella. The proposed combination comes as the public is increasingly discontent with a bloated central administration, whose bureaucracy and inefficiency are at odds with a market-oriented economy, The South China Morning Post reported. The proposal, which still needs to be approved, was submitted over the weekend at the National People’s Congress. It’s part of a reform of the cultural sector that began in 2003 and has turned hundreds of former government organizations including publishers and theaters, into companies that operate according to market rules, China Daily notes.
BBC Two has commissioned the feature-length The Wipers Times with My Week With Marilyn‘s David Parfitt producing. Based on the true story of the creation of a satirical magazine that was published in the trenches during World War …
Global Showbiz Briefs: Iran Disses ‘Argo’ After Oscar Win, ‘I Want Your Love’ Banned In Oz, HBO Go Launches In Asia, Depardieu In Chechnya & More
Iran Dismisses ‘Argo’ As “Anti-Iran”, Pro-CIA
Iran’s culture minister blasted Argo, a day after it won the Best Picture Oscar, calling it anti-Iranian and weak artistically. Iran’s state TV also called the movie “an advertisement for the CIA.” “This anti-Iran film lacks any artistic aspects and it is a very weak film from an artistic perspective and we don’t expect anything else from the enemy,” Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency and reported by Reuters. Mehr called the Oscar “politically motivated” because first lady Michelle Obama joined Jack Nicholson via video link from Washington to help present the best picture award. Argo has not screened in any Iranian theaters but the movie has been widely available on bootleg DVDs in the black market in Tehran. The Iran hostage drama also won best film editing and best adapted screenplay.
The BBC this morning published 3,000 pages of interviews and correspondence related to the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal and the 2011 shelving of a Newsnight program that would have revealed the late host’s alleged crimes. The documents include few earthshattering revelations, but are laced with internal criticisms and email chains that provide a window onto the workings of the venerable broadcaster whose armor has been severely dinged in the past several months as a result of the combined crises. (Read the full report here.)
The documents, provided by the Pollard Inquiry into the handling of the Newsnight affair, include testimony from key witnesses like Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman, whose evidence has been the focus of much scrutiny given its criticisms of management. He told interviewers that the Pollard Inquiry was being conducted in a “ridiculous fashion” and called the BBC’s behavior regarding the Newsnight report “contemptible.” He further said he’d been surprised by then-editor Peter Rippon’s response when Paxman wanted to pursue the Savile investigation after learning that rival ITV was about to air its own exposé. According to Paxman, Rippon said “I just can’t do this.” Paxman contends the use of the word ‘can’t’ was “very, very unusual… and I didn’t say, ‘What do you mean ‘can’t'? Someone has told you that you can’t, or you physically can’t face it?’” Paxman says he now believes it was a mixture of both. (The BBC said yesterday that Rippon would take over a newly-created post as editor of the BBC online archive). Paxman added that Savile’s behavior was “common gossip” around the corporation, although much of his testimony has been redacted. The BBC said today that 3% of the overall information has been blacked out “for a very limited number of legal reasons.”
BBC Three Orders Reeva Steenkamp Special
Fast-turnaround specialiast Mentorn Media is at it again. The producer has been commissioned by BBC Three for a quickie doc about the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. Steenkamp’s shooting death has been making headlines since she was killed on Valentine’s Day with star athlete Oscar Pistorius accused of murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Nick London is producing and directing for BBC Three. Rick Edwards, who presented Paralympics coverage for Channel 4, will host. Mentorn’s credits include Ricky Gervais’ An Idiot Abroad for Sky and HBO documentary For Neda. It also recently made fast-turnaround docs about Hurricane Sandy and the Aurora, Colorado massacre. Mentorn’s sister company Passion Distribution is handling sales.
Luketic, Former MGM Exec Sutherland Team On Oz Thriller
Los Angeles-based Australian director Alan White is set to direct Reclaim, a psychological thriller about an American couple who come to Australia to adopt a child after their unborn child dies in a car accident. Due to shoot in Oz later this year, the film is the first from a co-venture between U.S.-based Australian director Robert Luketic and Ian Sutherland’s Origin Productions, who will serve as producers with Brian and Josh Etting of L.A.–based Garlin Pictures. Sutherland, a former EVP of international theatrical distribution for MGM, and Luketic have been developing projects for several years. It will be the first Aussie film for White since 2000’s Risk. The screenplay is by Luke Davies (Candy) and Carmine Gaeta. Casting is underway. Arclight Films, which is selling worldwide rights, pitched the project to buyers at the Berlin festival’s European Film Market.- Don Groves
In an effort to defend their jobs and stem what they consider the compromise of quality journalism and programming, members of the National Union of Journalists working for the BBC went on strike just after midnight local …
Incoming BBC director general Tony Hall has named James Purnell as director of strategy and digital and has expanded Tim Davie’s BBC Worldwide role. Meanwhile, former head of news, Helen Boaden, is going back to radio. The shifts come as Hall prepares to take over at the head of the broadcaster in March. He does so following the late-2012 sex-abuse and editorial scandals that plagued the corporation and resulted in the resignation of former director general George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job. (The moves also come one day after it was revealed that civil claims have been filed against the BBC on behalf of 31 alleged victims of late host Jimmy Savile.) Hall today said, “I am building a senior team that will define the BBC and public service broadcasting for the next decade. It will be a team that is made up of outstanding talent from outside the BBC combined with the best people from within.” He noted that more changes are to come in the next months, notably the appointment of a new head of news and a new director of BBC Television.
Boaden, who stepped aside in November amid an inquiry into the controversial cancellation of an investigative report by the BBC’s flagship current affairs program, Newsnight, later returned to her post but will now segue out of the division, becoming director of BBC Radio. She was formerly a controller of BBC Radio 4.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Savile Claims Hit BBC, Sony TV In Russia, TLC’s ‘Bizarre ER’, Fremantle’s ‘Family Harmony’ And More
BBC Hit With Civil Claims In Jimmy Savile Scandal
A lawyer acting on behalf of 31 victims of the late Jimmy Savile has lodged civil claims for compensation in the high court against the disgraced host’s estate and the BBC over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorney Alan Collins told The Guardian that all claims are against Savile’s estate with “seven or eight” against the BBC itself, which the suits allege has “vicarious liability” in the case. Another lawyer working on behalf of a further 62 victims told Bloomberg that the action was premature, because parties involved had agreed to wait for the results of the police investigation into Savile. “We do not believe the commencement of litigation at this stage to be either necessary or in our clients’ best interest,” she said. – Joe Utichi