Preview – Children in Need 2016

November 18, 2016 by  
Filed under - Home, News

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You get the feeling that while tonight’s annual Children in Need night will be the usual mix of light entertainment and fun, there will a touch of sadness as this is the first CiN since the death of Terry Wogan in January this year.

Thus it is Graham Norton and Tess Daly who are now mainly at the helm. Among the people and shows will see lending their names to the charity are Would I Lie to You?, EastEnders, Little Mix, Michael Bublé, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Citizen Khan, Russell Kane and Take That. There will also be a tribute to the late Sir Terry.

However, what really matters is your donations. Last year they raised £37 million. Will they beat that?

Children in Need starts on BBC One at 19.30.

2016 BAFTA TV Winners Revealed

May 8, 2016 by  
Filed under - Home, News

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The winners of this year’s BAFTA TV Awards have been announced, presented by Graham Norton, where a wide range of shows were honoured, and many people expressed their support for the BBC.

No single show dominated the awards this year, with three different programmes winning two awards each. This Is England ’90 won the award for “Best Mini-Series” and “Best Supporting Actress” for Chanel Cresswell; Peter Kay’s Car Share won “Best Scripted Comedy” and “Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme” for Kay himself; and Wolf Hall for “Best Drama Series” and “Best Leading Actor” for Mark Rylance.

Other notable winners included Strictly Come Dancing, which won its first ever BAFTA for “Best Entertainment Programme”; comedy writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson being given a BAFTA Fellowship for their careers in which they wrote Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe & Son, and Sir Lenny Henry being given the Special Award for his comedy and charity work, including Comic Relief, as well as encouraging diversity in TV.

Throughout the night many of the winners and presenters made statements supporting the BBC and attacking the government, including Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, for their views on the BBC. Peter Kosminsky, director of Wolf Hall and the first person to receive an award, made a special attacking Whittingdale’s stance on the BBC and Channel 4. He got a standing ovation. James Nesbitt also praised the BBC when presenting the award for “Best Single Drama”, Ian Hislop also made some points about being allowed to mock the BBC when collecting the award for “Best Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme” for Have I Got News for You, and Mark Rylance saying “woe to any government” getting between the public and culture. An attack in cuts that affect disabled performers was made by Ben Anthony, director of Don’t Take My Baby, winner of “Best Single Drama”.

Full list of winners (in order of presentation)

  • Best Drama Series – Wolf Hall (BBC Two)
  • Best Entertainment Programme – Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One)
  • Best Single Documentary – My Son the Jihadi (Channel 4)
  • Best Current Affairs – This World – Outbreak: The Truth About Ebola (BBC Two)
  • Best Mini-Series – This Is England ’90 (Channel 4)
  • Best Factual Series – The Murder Detectives (Channel 4)
  • Best News Coverage – Channel 4 News: Paris Massacre
  • Best Live Event – Big Blue Live (BBC One)
  • Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme – Michaela Cole (Chewing Gum, E4)
  • Best Sport – The Ashes (Sky Sports)
  • Best International Programme – Transparent (Amazon)
  • Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme – Peter Kay (Peter Kay’s Car Share, BBC One)
  • Best Single Drama – Don’t Take My Baby (BBC Three)
  • BAFTA Fellowship – Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (Writers of Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe & Son)
  • Radio Times Audience Award – Poldark (BBC One)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Tom Courtenay (Unforgotten, ITV)
  • Best Reality & Constructed Reality – First Dates (Channel 4)
  • Best Supporting Actress – Chanel Cresswell (This Is England ’90, Channel 4)
  • Best Comedy and Comedy Entertainment Programme – Have I Got News for You (BBC One)
  • Best Specialist Factual – Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners (BBC Two)
  • Best Soap & Continuing Drama – EastEnders (BBC One)
  • Best Features – The Great British Bake Off (BBC One)
  • Best Scripted Comedy – Peter Kay’s Car Share (BBC One)
  • Best Entertainment Performance – Leigh Francis (Celebrity Juice, BBC Three)
  • Best Leading Actress – Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster, BBC One)
  • Best Leading Actor – Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall, BBC Two)
  • Special Award – Lenny Henry

TV extends the exercise ground of the psyche. Does cinema?

November 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

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Over the past few years the consistently high-quality output of HBO, Netflix and even the BBC has ignited a largely tedious debate about the merits of television versus cinema. This debate largely centres on the false dichotomy of television as low-art and the cinema as high-art. As though cinema was born with Ingmar Bergman and not with proto-GIFS of pretty girls falling over in the Nickelodeons of Manhattan, and as if ‘White Chicks’ had never existed. The variations of this argument rest on the shaky foundation that either television or cinema have ever been driven purely by artistic merit.

Let’s not split hairs on this point, television and cinema are money making industries and quality is a selling feature, not an end in itself. Hollywood and Bollywood are just the most obvious examples of the excesses of capitalism when transposed to art – the product placement, automatic franchise triggering and micro-marketing of stars. Even the art house is not immune. From the Nouvelle Vague to the Sex Pistols we have learned that those claiming to aggressively reject the mainstream tend tend to have their own product to sell. Television without advertising – howsoever funded – can avoid the worst manifestations of capitalism in a way that film cannot. Case in point, HBO stalwart ‘Sex and the City’ (whatever your feelings) was a groundbreaking and original show when on television. On the silver screen, I think we can all agree that it was the worst thing that ever happened. At least until there was a sequel.

The true mark of the effectiveness of any cultural form is how deeply it permeates the public psyche. If this is how we grade ‘better’, and that’s more than debatable, then the idiot box sends cinema home with its tail between its legs every time.

Both cinema and television are hugely reliant on audience expectation. This means a reliance on shorthand establishment scenes (it’s a council estate, it’s dishevelled, it’s grey, it’s raining – this is gritty), characters (a woman walks through the streets, she is alone, grubby and scantily dressed – she’s a sex worker), shots (POV of someone standing behind her, the camera lingers jerkily and uncomfortably – she turns, there’s a moment of recognition – she’s so dead, and she’s neither the first or last) and plot (the scene switches to a police station, there’s a man behind a desk, he looks moody so obviously he has internal vulnerabilities that will be caressed by the love of a good woman while he gets on with battling through the psychological maze of the serial killer and so on and so forth.)

In film, the balancing act is reshuffling the various tropes and stock situations in a way that looks new but never takes the viewer too far from comfortable ground. If there is nuance or subversion of expectation then this becomes the centrepiece of the entire narrative and the depth of the complexity is inevitably going to be limited. This comes down to a simple matter of constraints in the running time. Television is not so constrained. When it does fall into cliché, which is more regular than not, the perpetration of these tropes (which may be genuinely harmful – particularly in terms of stereotyping of marginalised people) is far more pernicious. Television lacks the event sensation of the trip to the cinema and the gradual drip-drip in the corner of the living room is far more effective at blinkering a viewer’s internal eye.

But there is an antidote to all this tenacious perpetration and it comes not only in high quality dramas (a good example would, of course, be ‘The Wire’) but also in the most maligned and despised genre of all – the soap opera. To say that the soaps are free from cliché is obviously ridiculous. In terms of predictability, the narrative arcs are only out-ranked by ‘Scooby Doo’. But in terms of character development, nothing compares to a soap. Soaps focus on supposed real people – the disenfranchised, the grotesque, the boring and the unglamorous, all in and all on prime time. These are not characters that could set the box office on fire but in the hands of television, they are not only front and centre but also allowed years of space for character development.

Take an episode of ‘EastEnders’, aired in 2009 titled ‘Pretty Baby’. Influenced by Samuel Beckett’s ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’, the entire episode was a monologue delivered by Dorothy Branning, played by June Brown. She discussed her life, her faith, sickness, old age and deeply unattractive and deeply human traits – selfishness, self-loathing and resentment. It was excellently written and deeply sensitive to the complexity of the human condition. After twenty four years of emotional investment in a character, this is the stuff you can get away with. This could never have found a place in mainstream cinema. The audience would not tolerate a woman in her eighties rattling on about boring shit like marital duty and Jesus for half an hour. But on television, this received the highest audience share of the night.

When it comes to profoundly impacting the collective psyche, cinema cannot compare. A good film can knit its way into the cultural Zeitgeist, it may create icons, but its effects will always be superficial in comparison to even the most mediocre television. Television at its worst can perpetrate the nastiest, stupidest and most pathetic stereotypes – and don’t underestimate how harmful these can be to be to people’s lives. At it’s best, it can show the viewers the true spectrum of human experience and make you listen to an elderly woman in banal psychic pain for a half an hour and come away altered.

Xmas Day TV Clashes

December 13, 2013 by  
Filed under News

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Make sure you get your viewing schedule sorted quickly. Or there could be trouble this Christmas…

Here are your key Christmas Day clashes (with 2012 viewing figures in brackets) – vote now!

1. Strictly Come Dancing Xmas Special (9.2m) v Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs (4m)
2. Call the Midwife (10.2m) v Emmerdale (6.3m)
3. Doctor Who (9.9m) v Coronation Street (8.9m)
4. Eastenders (11.3) v Downton Abbey Christmas Special (8.6m)
5. Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (11.7m) v Downton Abbey Christmas Special (8.6m)
6. Michael McIntyre’s ‘Showtime’ v Love Actually

TV Transfer Deadline Day

September 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

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Live updates on all the top moves and deals on transfer deadline day, with OTB reporters covering the big stories at home and abroad.

11:18

Spotted – It has emerged that striker Peter Odemwingie was seen in London a day before transfer deadline day yet again. This time in the EastEnders carpark. He’s believed to be currently dating star Shona McGarty, but rumours of a three episode “dogging” arc have stuck to him like paint on a plasterer’s radio in recent weeks.

His agent had this to say:

“He’s where? Oh Christ, Peter. Oh Christ! Peter! PETER! PEEEETER! OH JESUS CHRIST! PEEEEETER! OH JESUS CHRIST!”

12:34

Take Me Out to sign MIC player?

Spencer Matthews, the love-rat-cum-gash-hound, has made it clear that he wants to move into Paddy McGuinness’ role long-term, but E4 will only accept a permanent move if they can get Season 3’s Lucy in a like-for-like, tit for tits swap.

Comment: TMO producers have been unapologetic about the need to get more flirty for weeks, but this has all the hallmarks of a panic buy. It’s going to be a long old series for viewers unless it can add a bit of creativity and shaggability to the hosting lineup.

13:08

Saturday Kitchen producer Will Spector on the future of host James Martin, who has been linked with a move to The Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook:

“It’s getting tiring all this speculation. Whilst everyone knows that he’s got a lustrous head of hair and back like a black labrador, no bids have been made and there is no point anyway because he isn’t for sale. How many more times do we have to say it?”

14:57

Danish television station TV Danmark has confirmed that The Killing’s Sarah Lund is presently holding talks with ITV officials about a potential loan move to Midsomer Murders.

Comment: Signing the Dane would, in my eyes, make perfect sense for DCI Barnaby’s team. The British favourite may be getting consistent results in the ratings, but the show has been suffering from a lack of young playmakers for some time and this could be just what’s needed to settle the menopausal fan base after yet another hot flush.

15:26

Match of the Day in shock Jordan acquisition

The BBC’s flagship highlights programme are thought to be closing in on a two year deal for notorious WAG Katie Price, (who in the Brazilian style she’s known for goes simply by Jordan.)

“We’ve been very clear about our need for a solid pair up front for our coverage. She really knows her footballers and we think she’ll be able to provide some serious off-the-field insight. And for what it’s worth Dwight Yorke assures us she’s a safe pair of hands.”

An unnamed scout commented that he thought the move had a lot of potential but worried that she might fail the medical.

Follow Nick Arthur on Twitter

Top 5 Soap Villains Who Deserve Comeuppance

May 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

In recent months, there have been numerous soap villains on the box who have been getting away with far too much in recent weeks.

Whether it’s their bad manners, shady dealings, blackmail, or even murder, it has been quite unpleasant to see these characters walk around like they’re a chosen saint one minute, and then behaving like they’re the devil’s spawn the next.

Here at On The Box, we’ve selected five soap characters we feel deserve their comeuppance this year.

In absolutely any way possible.

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5. Phil Mitchell

There have been many villains during EastEnders‘ 28 year run, some nastier than others. But while Phil Mitchell has been more anti-hero than villain these past few years, he’s still done things in the past that have made us viewers really red in the face.

His treatment of other Square residents haven’t exactly earned him a nice word of mouth, as well as the fact that he has several times jeopardised Lola’s chances of getting baby Lexi back, covering up his son Ben Mitchell’s murder of the much loved Heather Trott.

Seriously analysing Phil Mitchell really puts his character in perspective. You’ll see someone who’s traumatised, lonely, and mentally damaged from years of feuding, manipulation, violence, and abuse.

But to many mainstream soap viewers, he is summed up in one word: bully.

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4. Kylie Platt

Kyle started off in Corrie as a bit of a wild child, but ultimately grew more mature and wise, eventually settling into a marriage with former wild child David Platt. But it seems her crazy antics have cost her a huge deal.

Kylie ended up having a one night stand with Nick Tilsley, following an argument with David, as well as Nick being jilted at the altar by Leanne (They’re together now).

Now Kylie’s pregnant and the child could either be Nick’s or David’s. It’s a classic soap dilemma, and one that had Corrie viewers hooked instantly. Whoever the father is, Kylie’s life is sure to unravel in the worst possible way.

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3. Will Savage

In a way like Kylie, Will entered Hollyoaks a very different character: Geeky, shy, and very insecure. However, during his tenure, his character has taken many dark turns that have ultimately made him a weirder, psychotically disturbed character. He has deceived his family, and manipulated many more. Including most recently Texas Longford, who he’s trapped in a web of lies, which are only getting deeper and deeper.

With an upcoming wedding on the horizon, it stages the perfect opportunity for Will to get his just deserts. But with the events that will transpire following his wedding, will the village see the true Will manifest, and turn him into an village outcast? And will that includes his family too?

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2. Karl Munro

I always knew Karl would be a sly character, but I didn’t know it would take this long to reach this low.

As his obsession of winning back Stella grew, he resorted to burning down The Rovers Return in order to make some form of play back into Stella’s good books.

This led to a tragic turn of events, where Sunita Alahan (Karl’s ex mistress) caught him in the act of torching the cellar of the Rovers, threatening Karl’s Grade A plan in the process. A scuffle later and Sunita is out cold surrounded in flames, as Karl escapes into the street, leaving Sunita to die.

Karl then somehow stoops even lower by turning off Sunita’s life support, killing her in the process. This dreadful act has sadly – but not surprisingly – lead Karl & Stella getting back together. But, as ever in soaps, an act like this will ultimately come back to haunt Karl when the time is right. And in true soap fashion, it may just be at the wedding altar.

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1. Cameron Murray

Carl King may not have been the nicest villain on Emmerdale Farm, but he surely didn’t deserve a gruesome end by Cameron Murray of all people.

Since smacking Carl in the head with a bloody brick, Cameron has resorted to new lows in order for his grubby secret to stay hidden. So much that he murdered again. Alex Moss was the next character to meet Cameron’s deadly hands, and ended up in a muddy grave in the Emmerdale woods.

Serial Killer stories rarely end well for the killer themselves, so it’s obvious to note that Cameron Murray will finally meet his maker when the time is right. Whether it’s this summer, Christmas, or maybe even 2014, if the writers can make this storyline as exciting as when it commenced, we’re in for an absolute treat.

What Christmas television reveals about Britain

December 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

While I’ve never been one for high-minded cultural criticism, the Christmas TV schedules can give us an interesting insight into the society we live in. Christmas and TV have gone together perfectly since forever, and the festive season is always a time of huge films, soap opera deaths and speech-giving monarchs. We crave that familiarity and tradition at Christmas, to such an extent that it’s easy to predict what sort of stuff is going to be on even before that Christmas Radio Times comes through the door.

We live in a time when more people shop online than go to church on Christmas day, and ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’, rather than ‘Peace and Goodwill to All Men’, is the slogan of the period. You don’t need to look through rose-tinted glasses to see that our national traditions are slowly dying. Everyone’s heard their Grandad’s story of only getting a tangerine for their sole present – compare that sort of Christmas to today’s, where legions of kids will wake up to ipads in their stockings on the 25th.

The point is, Christmas is changing, and we look to our televisions as an immovable anchor in an unrecognisable world. The Euro may be tanking, but Doctor Who will still be on. Kids are growing up too fast, but doesn’t the Queen look good for her age? And so on.

I always hate people doing ‘back in my day’ stuff, and I’m not saying that change is bad. If our traditions never changed then we’d still all be gathered round the TV on Christmas Day to watch The Black and White Minstrel Show. It’s just a fact that despite all the excitement and rumours that surround the Christmas schedule, it’s always the same basic formula, and we need it, even if we don’t realise it.

Just look at Eastenders, (or any soap) for example. There’s always a huge fuss made over a shock death, a shock return, a shock affair – it has pretensions of being new and exciting, but it’s just the same Christmas episode that we’ve seen for the past 10 years. We like to think we’re watching something new and daring, but what we want (and what we’re getting) is enjoyable, predictable entertainment.

Christmas isn’t a time to start watching The Wire – we don’t want to have a copy of SparkNotes at hand to comprehend our festive shows, we just want to sit in a Turkey coma with a glass of sherry, and be entertained.

Christmas should be a time for heritage and tradition, and nowadays, the best place to find it is in the TV guide. On Christmas Day in 2050, God knows what presents kids will be opening, and what their ideas of ‘Christmas traditions’ will be. It’s a worrying future, but we can rest easy in the knowledge that The Snowman will still be on the telly, and at least one aspect of Christmas won’t have changed.

‘EastEnders’ legend Nick Cotton was nearly a gay character

December 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

According to John Altman, who has played Cotton on and off since 1985, his character nearly had a gay relationship in the 1980s.

But he claims Julia Smith, Albert Square’s co-founder wrote Altman out of the soap after he quarreled with a potential plot which would have seen Lofty Holloway and he start a relationship.

Altman told The Guardian: “Julia wrote me out for about a year when I protested that Nick wasn’t the kind of man who would start a gay relationship with Lofty, another straight character.”

Amongst other storylines over the years, viewers have seen him twice commit murder, succumb to a heroin addiction, and attempt to poison his own mother.

He was later voted one of television’s all-time most villainous characters in a Channel 4 poll.

OTB Meets… The Hour’s Lisa Greenwood

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Ahead of the second series of BBC2’s acclaimed 1950s newsroom drama The Hour, OTB met with Lisa Greenwood who stars in the show alongside The Wire’s Dominic West and Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw as cheery secretary Sissy Cooper. We talked 1950s, Malcolm Tucker and being recognised by the public…

Hi Lisa, how are you?
I’m fine thanks, yourself?

I’m great thanks. You’ve just finished series 2 of The Hour, what was it like returning to the 1950s?
It was great. We filmed in Hornsey Town Hall, which if you haven’t been to it, is just like stepping back in time every time you go into it. It’s completely converted into the ‘50s basically. The newsroom and main rooms were all in there. It’s quite easy with the hair and makeup as well it really helps. Read more

Poppy Meadow To Remain in Albert Square

October 25, 2012 by  
Filed under News

For the many fans who expected Poppy Meadow’s return to be short lived, it can now be confirmed that she will be staying in Walford for the foreseeable future.
Actress Rachel Bright, who reprised her role as a nail artist this year to help with the preparations for Janine Butcher’s wedding, has now signed a long term deal with the soap.

In the upcoming weeks, the beautician will resume her employment at the local beauty salon, with producers setting up a romantic future for her.

In the meantime, in a linked move, Poppy’s sister Tansy will make a one-episode appearance for a brief guest spot. Actress Daisy Wood-Davis will be playing Tansy, although some eagle eyed viewers might remember her from her first appearance in January 2011, when she was introduced as the best friend of Jodie Gold (Kylie Babbington).

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