Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The BBC have issued a new image promoting the return of Doctor Who on Sunday 7 October. And, episode two of the new series has been confirmed as being titled The Ghost Monument. Guest stars for the episode will be the very excellent Shaun Dooley, Susan Lynch and the veteran actor Art Malik. The series showrunner, Chris Chibnall, said: 'Finally – Jodie Whittaker's Doctor is about to crash land onto the nation's screens. It's thrilling to think, in the next few weeks and months, there will be children encountering Jodie's Doctor in the next few weeks who've never seen the show before. She will be forever their Doctor: you never forget your first. Alongside Jodie, we have a delightful ensemble of new characters for the audience to fall in love with, led by the incomparable Bradley Walsh. So break out the popcorn and hunker down for Sunday night adventures in space and time, with The Doctor and her new best friends. The journey is about to begin.' Episode one, of course, we already know is called The Woman Who Fell To Earth. The episode synopsis reads: '"We don't get aliens in Sheffield." In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O'Brien are about to have their lives changed forever, as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And, can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city?' The episode's guest cast includes Sharon D Clarke, Johnny Dixon and Samuel Oatley, it is written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Childs. The Ghost Monument's plot synopsis is as follows: 'Still reeling from their first encounter, can The Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough, in a hostile alien environment, to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?'
Jodie Whittaker's casting in Doctor Who - which has delighted million, including this blogger, but also pissed-off some sour-faced whinging malcontents who are exactly the sort of people that appear to enjoy being pissed-off - was kept so hush-hush by Chris Chibnall and the BBC that even the popular long-running family SF drama's writers didn't find out until the rest of the world did. Chibnall confirmed in the latest issue of SFX that series eleven's writers - Malorie Blackman, Ed Hime, Pete McTighe, Vinay Patel and Joy Wilkinson - turned in initial scripts with The Doctor written as a male in order to keep the secret of Whittaker's hiring under wraps for as long as possible. And, the most surprising thing here is ... SFX is still going? Who knew? 'A lot of drafts of scripts have got "he" in,' Chibnall said. 'The writers didn't know - nobody knew - until that reveal video went out.' For some shows, this might cause some major re-thinking when your writers find out that their lead character has switched sexes, but Chibnall insists that The Doctor has never been defined by being male or female. 'It's very hard for me to think of a decision that The Doctor has taken in fifty five years that is a gender-based decision or action,' he argued. 'I'd really struggle to think of one.' Chibnall conceded that the only situation where gender politics could come into play in series eleven is if The Doctor and her companions travelled to real-life historical periods. 'I think particularly in the historicals – if we're doing historicals, which I'm sure we are – obviously that then affects what happens to all these characters when you go to certain periods of history,' he hinted.
That There Bradley Walsh has revealed he was 'persuaded' to take a part in Doctor Who by his 'pal' Ray Winstone. At least this is according to the Sun, the only organ of the media that still uses the word 'pal' in anything other than an ironic sense (as in, you know, 'you lookin' at me, pal?') Bradley said that Ray told him to 'get back to acting' over a drink at a charity football match. Bradley explained that Ray told him: 'Enough of the quiz shows. Why don't you do more acting? You are a good actor.' Which, indeed, he is. As well as Coronation Street, Bradley has also previously appeared in Law & Order UK, Torn (in which he was superb), Night & Day and The Old Curiosity Shop among many others. Mind you, he was also in an episode of Bobby Davro's Rock With Laughter so, you know, it's not an entirely perfect CV! He is now playing The Doctor's new companion, Graham, opposite Jodie Whittaker and he is full of praise for the first lady Time Lord. Speaking ahead of the first episode, the host of The Chase told People: 'If there are any Doctor Who fans out there, Jodie is magnificent.' This blogger can confirm to Bradley that there, are, indeed, plenty of Doctor Who fans out here. Most of them are quite nice but there are a handful or arseholes. 'It was unbelievable,' he added. 'It is really big stuff and they have gone for it.'
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, here's a message for the UK authorities from some foreign visitors.
Those dear blog readers living in the US - and, those of us lucky enough to have gotten a preview disc sent over a couple of months ago - will already be well aware of just how good new From The North fave Killing Eve is. And now, UK viewers have finally got to see what the fuss is about. The drama, made by BBC America, is a spy thriller written by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It's exciting, witty (often very funny) and just a bit dangerous. Its first episode was broadcast on Saturday, whilst the whole series is available for binge-watching on the iPlayer. And, reportedly, more than a few viewers watched the first episode and we so taken with it that they then spent the rest of Saturday night and Sunday morning valiantly battling sleep-deprivation to watched episodes two to eight. Reviews for the show have been almost entirely positive - with critics praising the scripting and casting. And, seemingly, the public are also rather taken with it. The Gruniad Morning Star's Lucy Mangan gave the show five stars and referred to 'the snapping, crackling script' which she called 'the perfect command of comedy and tragedy. [The show] wears its feminist credentials so lightly. Eve doesn't have to fight any overt sexism. Her boss and husband are good, supportive guys. Villanelle only uses her femaleness to get physically close enough to slice, stab or shoot her victims, not seduce them. This isn't a retrograde step. This is progress.' The Independent's Ed Cumming also gave the show five stars and pointed to leads Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. 'Killing Eve's triumph is to give full throat to each of its many voices. It's the chemistry between the two compelling leads, however, that gives Killing Eve its particular fizz. Even as they are cast as cat and mouse, the two women are fascinated by each other, respectful of the other's skills but determined to win.' Another five star review was handed out by the Torygraph's Jacob Rees - who called the drama 'an absolute peach. With style and verve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has adapted Luke Jennings' Codename Villanelle novellas about the co-dependent joust between a spook and an assassin. Killing Eve looks fabulous in the manner of a glossy cartoon bloodbath, while the multilingual dialogue fizzes and sizzles. And, blissfully, each episode is only forty five minutes. Please can BBC Drama now cool it for a bit? It has successfully reminded us Netflix is not the only game in town.' The Digital Spy website's Jo Berry was also a fan and credited 'Waller-Bridge's skill at mixing drama with wry humour. Villanelle is dangerous, strange, funny and sly and one of the true pleasures of Killing Eve is sitting back and watching Comer's expressive face while wondering what the hell this mad assassin is going to do next. Waller-Bridge subtly makes such observations in her enjoyably snarky script, and also skilfully turns the good-guy-chases-the-villain formula on its head. Killing Eve is a suspenseful, brilliantly played slice of must-see TV and it's an absolute blast.' Carol Midgley, writing in The Times, wrote that 'this is a totally different kind of black comedy, ably assisted by the deadpan delivery of Sandra Oh as Eve' and described Jodie Comer as 'beguiling.' The Financial Times' Suzi Feay credited Waller-Bridge for putting 'a distinctive spin on the spy genre. The interchangeability of the hunter and the hunted is a well-worn trope, but it's given a distinctive spin in Killing Eve by scriptwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose trademark humour has turned even darker and meaner than it was in Fleabag. "This doesn't have a great deal of charm or believability, but it is immensely stylish.' However, not everyone is a fan. Keith Watson at the Metro - whose views this blogger always used to rather respect but who is now dead to me - gave it a measly two stars. Hey, Keith mate, get a job at a real newspaper, mate and stop talking shit about the best new drama Britain has produced since The Night Manager.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the latest - fifth - episode of Bodyguard but one minor detail had some viewers reaching for their mobile phones. At one point, Richard Madden's character, David Budd, gave out his mobile number to another character. It was too tempting for a number of viewers, who seemingly couldn't resist calling it. If they were hoping to speak to the anguished police protection officer, however, they were left disappointed and there are twenty thousand reasons why. That's the amount of fake telephone numbers set aside by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, for use in TV, radio and film. These include numbers for different geographic areas around the UK as well as mobile phone numbers. Harry Rippon, the communications manager for Ofcom, says that this is to save anyone from having their phone number accidentally or deliberately featured on TV - because usually, the first thing some idiots do is call it. 'I think it happens quite a lot - if a number is onscreen, there's always the chance someone could call it,' he told BBC Newsbeat. 'There's always someone who thinks: "What if I call this number?"' Yes, mate. They're called glakes. 'As far as I'm aware, we've always had these numbers for this very reason.' Occasionally, real-life numbers have made it onscreen - creating havoc for the people who own them. In 2003's Bruce Almighty, Morgan Freeman's God repeatedly contacted Jim Carrey's character using a real phone number rather than a fictional one usually used in American films (you can aways recognise them, they have a five-five-five area code). It turned out that the number belonged to different people in various area codes, including one poor chap in Manchester who, reportedly, kept getting phone calls asking to speak to God. Eventually, after the issue was highlighted, the number was changed for the home video and television versions for the movie.
The latest batch of From The North Comedy Line(s) of the Week came from Monday's - terrific - second episode of Qi's P series, Peril. In which Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies and guests Lee Mack, Jason Manford and Aisling Bea engaged in thirty minutes of delicious one-liners and witty comebacks. So, dear blog reader, take your pick from any of the following: On the revelation that the most dangerous job in the world, statistically, is President of the United States (eight out of forty four Presidents have died in office, which is a fatality-rate roughly twenty seven times that of a lumberjack): 'Luckily, the present one is really likable!'; 'Trust you? The legendary liar from Would I Lie To You?'; 'Can anyone think of an example of certain doom?' 'Saturday night, Glasgow Jongleurs!'; 'When I was sixteen you could get a motorbike, get on it and just go ... You could only go at thirty but if you knew a bloke with a garage full of parts you could get a big-bore cylinder and a larger piston, bigger sprockets and a racing exhaust and ... [then] you could do forty!' Alan's wonderful story about doing a tandem sky-dive ('I absolutely shat myself!') and Lee's story of watching a friend bungee-jumping; 'My poppet does not want to be down there!'; 'One series of Bake Off and now, she's an expert!'; 'I remember the old system, U, A, Double-A and X, what was wrong with that? X was very scary or very sexy. So, now, if I get to the letter "X" just looking at the alphabet, I get aroused. The X Factor, I can't watch it!'; 'I'm not even a cat, leave me alone!'; 'Never approach a hamster from behind!' And, possibly the best of the lot, 'where's the bad language in Paddington? Well, there was one bit where he said "where's my marmalade sandwich you c-!"' Sixteen years in, dear blog reader and Qi remains, by a distance, the funniest show on British TV.
The official Qi Twitter account has also confirmed this week that the current series of Qi XL will begin on BBC2 at 10pm on Saturday 6 October with the episode Panimals.
Claire Foy, Thandie Newton and Charlie Brooker were among the British winners at the seventieth Primetime EMMY Awards ceremony. Foy won the best actress in a drama series for her role as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's The Crown. Matthew Rhys also took one of the night's big prizes - best leading actor in a drama series. Game Of Thrones won two prizes - best drama series and supporting actor for Peter Dinklage - while The Marvellous Mrs Maisel scooped five comedy awards. However, two hotly-tipped shows - Atlanta and The Handmaid's Tale - failed to replicate their successes from last year and went home empty-handed. Elisabeth Moss had been the pre-show favourite to win best drama actress for the second series of The Handmaid's Tale, but lost out to Foy. In her acceptance speech, Foy described her time on The Crown as 'the most extraordinary two-and-a-half years of my life.' And, she never whinged about getting paid less than Matt Smith once. Which was almost certainly a first. She added: 'I was given a role I never thought I would ever get a chance to play, and I met people who I will love for ever and ever. And the show goes on, which makes me so proud. So I dedicate this to the next cast, the next generation and I also dedicate this to Matt Smith.' Olivia Colman is due to take over the role from Foy as the drama enters its third series. Stephen Daldry won best directing for a drama series for The Crown. Newton was awarded best supporting actress in a drama series for her role in another From The North favourite, Westworld. 'I don't even believe in God but I'm going to thank her tonight,' the actress said as she took to the stage to collect her trophy. Rhys picked up best leading actor in a drama series for his role in The Americans. 'Parts like these come along so rarely. I will forever be in your debt,' he said. Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror and his co-writer William Bridges won best writing for a limited series. John Oliver added to the British success at the ceremony, picking up the award for best variety talk series for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel was one of the night's biggest winners - adding five trophies to the four it won last week at the Creative Arts EMMYs. The series took home best writing, directing, lead actress and supporting actress in the comedy categories, as well as one of the night's big awards - best comedy series. The Assassination Of Gianni Versace was also one of Monday's big winners - landing best limited series, best directing for a limited series and best lead actor in a limited series for Darren Criss. Henry Winkler won his first EMMY - best supporting actor in a comedy series for his role in Barry - forty two years after he was first nominated for playing The Fonz in Happy Days. 'Skip Brittenham said to me a long time ago, "If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you" and, tonight, I got to clear the table,' he said in his speech. Jeff Daniels took home the award for best supporting actor in a limited series or a television movie for his role in Netflix's Godless - described as a feminist western. In addition to his family and co-workers, Daniels thanked the streaming service for 'letting artists be artists.' He added: 'Little tip for you young actors - when they call and say "Can you ride a horse?" don't lie. You will find on day one that you're in the Kentucky Derby.' Together with the Creative Arts EMMYs handed out last week, this year's awards tally saw Netflix and HBO tied with twenty three awards each. The ceremony took place at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.
Yer actual Jenna Coleman has revealed that she thought she had been 'completely miscast' in her new BBC drama The Cry. In the upcoming series – which recently unveiled its trailer – the Victoria and Doctor Who actress plays a young mother struggling to deal with the demands of her newly born child. Coleman also has to pretend to give birth, screaming in agony while mercilessly squeezing the side of the hospital bed and aggressively grinding her teeth. But, having never had any children of her own – and therefore had no logical reason for going into the labour either – Coleman initially worried that she might not have been right for the part. 'I spent a good first chunk of it just thinking they'd completely miscast – and why on Earth me?' she told the Grunaid Morning Star. 'I'm not a mother! I really kind of hit myself over the head with it. I felt there was obviously something I wouldn't be able to capture. It was something so primal that I haven't literally experienced. And I've really struggled with that.' Though, it's probably worth pointing out at this juncture that - so far as this blogger is aware - Jenna has never been Queen either, or, for that matter, time-travelled yet such lack-of-life-experience didn't seem to impinge upon either of her best known previous roles. It's called acting, love. She did, however, once go to school so that helped when preparing for her stint on Waterloo Road. She revealed that she 'got in touch with her friends' who have had babies and asked them for their insight. In return, she claims, she learned 'a great deal' about 'the day-to-day realities of what it is being a new mum.' And, how to grind her teeth in agony. Probably.
Also, Jenna Coleman will star in a new production of All My Sons at the Old Vic, the theatre announced this week as it unveiled its line-up for next year. Merlin actor Colin Morgan will appear alongside Jenna. Sally Field and Bill Pullman had already been announced for the show, which will run from April. The season is Matthew Warchus's fourth as artistic director. Highlights of the Old Vic's new season include: Rachel Chavkin's Old Vic debut directing Arthur Miller's The American Clock; a performance to mark one hundred years since the Armistice, curated by Arinzé Kene and directed by Annabel Bolton. The show, part of the One Voice series, will be made of of five specially-commissioned monologues; Jack Thorne's version of A Christmas Carol, starring Stephen Tompkinson as Scrooge and a new play by Lucy Prebble based on A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding to close the season.
Rules controlling UK media need to change if British TV is to compete with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, according to the BBC Director General, Tony Hall. At a speech on Tuesday, Lord Hall said that there may be more content but 'it won't necessarily be British content' unless the BBC can meet the challenge. Netflix and Amazon alone are spending thirteen billion knicker a year on programmes. Hall said that only around one hundred and fifty million smackers of the tech giants' output is spent on new UK programmes. All this comes at a time that spending by the UK's main broadcasters has dropped by around a billion notes to two-and-a-half billion quid since 2004. And, the new digital giants are not bound by the regulations which control British TV companies. In his speech to the Royal Television Society, Lord Hall said that he has seen 'a big shift' in how global media works and that British media companies need a fairer system of regulation if they are going to compete against the American giants. 'It cannot be right that the UK's media industry is competing against global giants with one hand tied behind its back. In so many ways - prominence, competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade, production quotas - one set of rules applies to UK companies and barely any apply to the new giants. That needs rebalancing, too.' Lord Hall also said that UK viewers 'want content that is relevant to their lives and they want to see people like them on screen. We all know this instinctively but if we didn't, Ofcom data shows it clearly.' But, Britain's main TV broadcasters are losing younger viewers. Consumption of BBC output by younger audiences has dropped by more than a third from eleven-and-a-half hours a week to seven-and-a-half - that's less than Spotify and YouTube, which together occupy young people for around eight hours a week. The BBC says that Netflix's younger audience is 'about the same size' as BBC television and iPlayer combined. 'This isn't just an issue for us economically, commercially or as institutions,' Lord Hall said. 'There is an impact on society. The content we produce is not an ordinary consumer good. It helps shape our society. It brings people together, it helps us understand each other and share a common national story.' The BBC is, Lord Hall says, going to respond to the challenge of the new 'tech giants' by making the iPlayer more of a 'destination' than a catch-up service, spending more on youth programming and the highest quality output and shifting more production out of London to the rest of the UK. The Director General said: 'We need to move faster on our plans for iPlayer, for BBC Sounds and for young audiences. I have challenged the organisation to find one hundred million pounds a year from our current budgets to invest in these priorities from next April.'
The BBC and the US pay-TV company Discovery are 'understood' - by the Gruniad Morning Star if not anyone more reliable - to be 'in the final stages' of agreeing a one billion knicker break-up of the Gold and Dave broadcaster, UKTV, in a deal which will accelerate plans to build a British streaming rival to Netflix. UKTV, which has a mix of ten free-to-air and pay-TV channels, is jointly owned by the Eurosport owner Discovery and BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the BBC. The BBC has long sought to take full control of UKTV - which made more than ninety million knicker in profits last year and pays fifty four million quid annually for rights to BBC shows ranging from Top Gear to Dad's Army, Qi to New Tricks and Would I Lie To You? to Porridge. Earlier this year, the BBC reportedly explored a buyout after a change of ownership clause in the joint venture contract was triggered by Discovery's takeover of Scripps, the corporation's previous partner in UKTV. The BBC, which does not have the financial flexibility to stage a buy-out on its own, held talks with ITV and Channel Four, but the ninety-day window to make a bid expired in June with no partner on board. It is understood, the Gruniad claim, that the BBC and Discovery have 'all but agreed' a deal to instead break up UKTV, which has operated since the early 1990s, splitting the channels between them. It is not clear how the mix of channels will be divided but those most filled with BBC archive content - such as Drama, Dave and Gold - would be the obvious candidates to remain with the corporation. If a final agreement can be reached, a BBC board meeting later in September is thought to be when the plan would need final approval. In addition, talks between the BBC, Channel Four and ITV about joining forces to create a British streaming service to combat the increasing power of Netflix and Amazon in the UK have been hampered in part by the uncertainty surrounding UKTV. Much of the blame for the delay has centred on the BBC splitting the video-on-demand rights to its programmes, with the corporation packaging up different deals for UKTV and other broadcasters such as Netflix. Earlier this year, Virgin Media took UKTV's channels off-air, accusing the BBC of being 'a linear dinosaur in an on-demand world' for holding back and splitting digital rights. Digital rights to programmes which it made and the commercial exploitation of which is its right. Just sayin'. A break-up of UKTV would have major ramifications for Channel Four, which handles the broadcaster's two hundred and fifty million smackers-per-year TV advertising sales contract. Channel Four stands to lose, potentially, tens of millions of wonga in revenues, depending on what channels are secured by Discovery, which has its TV advertising sales contract with Sky. Channel Four and the BBC have been in talks for months about a potential partnership, including video-on-demand rights, which would be able to be hammered out after the fate of UKTV is known. The BBC's talks with ITV about UKTV are also, the Gruniad claim, 'understood to have stalled in part over issues relating to video-on-demand rights.' The established British broadcasters held similar talks two years ago but in the end only the BBC and ITV managed to hook up to launch a Netflix-style service in the US called Britbox. It was hoped that partners including Channel Four would come on-board for a UK service, but a British launch did not take place. Meanwhile, the Gruniad also claimed that the recently cancelled Big Brother 'could return on ITV' after the broadcaster reportedly entered the bidding for the show's production company, Endemol Shine. The Dutch firm, which also makes The Fall, MasterChef, Black Mirror and Peaky Blinders, is being sold by the private equity house Apollo and billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's Twenty First Century FOX in a three billion smackers auction. Endemol is loss-making and received a blow last week when Channel Five said that it would axe Big Brother after the current series, almost two decades after the show first appeared on British television (see below). Other bidders reportedly include All3Media, backed by Liberty Global, which owns a stake in ITV and Banijay Group, a French production company backed by Vivendi. At ITV's half-year results in July, its chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall, who joined from the budget airline EasyJet in January and was previously chief executive of the Gruniad Morning Star Media Group, said she wanted the broadcaster to do 'more than TV.'
So, as previously mentioned - and, as speculated widely over the last few months - the makers of Big Brother and Z-List Celebrity Big Brother have announced that the show is being extremely axed at the end of the current series. Big Brother's Twitter account shared the news that the nineteenth series of the sick Victorian freak sow, launching on Friday night, would be the last. Channel Five confirmed that Z-List Celebrity Big Brother was also ending. The show first appeared in 2000 and used to be extremely popular, but viewing figures have dwindled away to almost nothing in recent years. A spokesperson told the BBC: "The forthcoming series of Big Brother will be the last - of either celebrity or civilian versions - on Channel Five. We'd like to thank Endemol and all of the production team who have worked tirelessly to make the show a success.' And, you know, failed. Endemol released a statement shortly after Channel Five's announcement to say that they were 'disappointed not to reach an agreement with Channel Five' over the future of the show. The production company did hint that it might not be the end of the show as they added 'the decision opens up a new chapter and we are excited about future possibilities for Big Brother in the UK.' During the launch of the recent series of Z-List Celebrity Big Brother, Channel Five controller Ben Frow hinted that the franchise would be ending as 'the contract runs out at Christmas.' It was revealed recently by Deadline that Channel Five was set to bring popular US TV show The Bachelor to a British audience, as a rival to ITV2's Love Island. The dating show failed to captivate viewers when the channel first attempted a British version in 2012, but the current appetite for dating shows could help revive its popularity. Big Brother was billed as a social experiment on Channel Four, eighteen years ago and involved putting ordinary people in a house over a series of weeks with no contact to the outside world. Davina McCall presented the first incarnation of the show, stepping down in 2010 when it moved to Channel Five. It was then hosted by former winner Brian Dowling before Emma Willis took over in 2013 and been narrated by Marcus Bentley for the whole eighteen years the show has been on-air. The final Z-List Celebrity Big Brother series was won by Ryan Thomas, but was entirely overshadowed by the hysterical drama queen antics of Roxanne Pallett, who quit the Big Brother house in a geet stroppy huff after accusing Thomas of punching her. The incident attracted more than eleven thousand whinges to Ofcom - from people with nothing better to do with their time - and overshadowed the show's other storylines for the rest of the series. Pallett later grovellingly apologised to Thomas, saying that she had 'over-reacted.' In July, Endemol Shine UK applied to Hertsmere Borough Council to keep the Big Brother house at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, for the next three years. The house's current permission was due to expire on 30 September, just sixteen days after the new series begins. The council's planning committee approved the application at a meeting on Thursday, after discussing conditions to restrict noise.
How To Get Away With Murder and Harry Potter actor Alfred Enoch is to star in the second series of BBC thriller Trust Me following Jodie Whittaker's exit. Whether the news of this will see Twitter filled with dozens of whinging malcontents, horrified about the regeneration and claiming tat Enoch is 'not my Doctor' remains to be seen. In the first series, Whittaker played a fake doctor, but won't return because she is about to be seen as a very real one in Doctor Who. The new cast will also include John Hannah, Archie Watson and Ashley Jensen as hospital staff. Enoch, who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter films, will play a paralysed soldier in Trust Me: Glasgow Hospital. His character, Corporal Jamie McCain, will be seen searching for the truth when fellow patients on the ward die unexpectedly. Enoch said: 'It's great to be on board, it's a cracking cast and Dan [Sefton, writer] has done a great job crafting something that's really invested in the characters. It has a psychological concern that is dark and thrilling.' The original four-part drama, Trust Me, was screened in August 2017 and was watched by an average of six million viewers - boosted by the fact that it was the broadcast just days after Whittaker's announcement as the new Doctor. And, it was quite good, to be fair. The new series will be shown on BBC1 next year.
Former Never Mind The Buzzcocks host and Shooting Stars regular fifties throwback Mark Lamarr has been charged with common assault and false imprisonment, the Metropolitan Police has said. The TV personality and comedian, born Mark Jones, was charged on 1 September in London. The fifty one-year-old will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on 2 October to answer for his alleged crimes. Lamarr became famous in the 1990s for presenting shows such as Channel Four's The Big Breakfast and The Word. He presented Never Mind The Buzzcocks between 1996 and 2005. Lamarr also presented a weekly Radio 2 late-night show and specialist music series Shake, Rattle & Roll for twelve years, leaving in 2010.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? will return for a new series in 2019 with comfortable hate-figure for Middle Class hippy Communist Gruniad Morning Star readers everywhere yer actual Jezza Clarkson back in the host's seat, ITV has confirmed. The show was revived for a week of specials earlier this year to celebrate its twentieth birthday. 'I absolutely loved hosting the anniversary shows,' Clarkson said in a statement. 'And, I cannot wait to spend a few precious hours away from James May and Richard Hammond, making the new ones.' Also returning to Millionaire is the 'ask the host' lifeline, which, despite its somewhat limited success for those asking Jezza for help, provided some of the most entertaining moments of the recent run. Matthew Worthy, joint managing director of production company Stellify Media, referred to the new lifeline in a statement on Friday. 'Ask The Host is back! And a quick tip for future contestants: don't use it on questions about fine art, haute cuisine or the scouting association,' he said. Millionaire's revival in May proved popular with viewers - the launch and final episodes both attracted overnight audiences of more than five million. Clarkson took over the presenting role from Chris Tarrant, who fronted the show from 1998 to 2014.
The head teacher of the school which featured in the TV series Educating Greater Manchester has resigned after claiming his suspension felt like 'a personal vendetta.' Drew Povey, head at Harrop Fold School in Little Hulton, Salford, was suspended in July. The BBC claimed that the suspension 'relates to school record-keeping.' Salford City Council denied the allegation that it was a personal vendetta against Povey. Three other members of staff were also suspended as part of the investigation. In a tweet, Povey said that he 'could no longer sit quietly' under the 'threat' of not being able to comment. He said that he understood his suspension related to administrative errors involving 'a very small number of pupils' about how attendance, exclusions and home schooling were recorded. Povey said he 'took full responsibility' for the errors, but did not believe they 'constitute grounds for me to be pursued in the way that I have been. This feels very much like a personal vendetta and I hope that by removing myself from the situation, that some semblance of normality will return to the school, for the benefit of all,' he said. He added that the 'protracted investigation' had 'created uncertainty' and had 'a detrimental impact' on the school. Lisa Stone, the council's lead member for children's and young people's services, said that she was 'disappointed' Povey had made some details of the investigation public. 'In my experience governors do not launch investigations and suspend senior members of staff for mere administrative errors,' she said. 'This is an in-depth and wide-ranging investigation into many serious allegations and it will continue in the interests of the school, pupils, parents and the members of staff who remain suspended. The governing body is trying to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible. It is in no-one's interests to rush through something so serious.' Hundreds of people had signed a petition calling for Povey to be reinstated. Channel Four has been filming a second series of the show at the school. The award-winning documentaries, which have previously focused on Yorkshire, Cardiff and Essex, have won praise for their coverage of the lives of teenagers and teachers.
A man who shot dead a planning officer in view of TV cameras to protect an illegally built bungalow has died in a care home a year after being freed from The Big House. Albert Dryden gunned down Derwentside Council officer Harry Collinson in Butsfield, County Durham, in June 1991 which, this blogger believes may well have been the first occasion on which an act of murder was ever broadcast on British TV. Dryden was convicted of murder and the attempted murder of a solicitor. He was released from prison last year after suffering a stroke and died, aged seventy eight, at the weekend. He was also convicted of wounding the BBC Look North journalist Tony Belmont and shooting a police officer in the arse. Alex Watson, leader at the time of the - since abolished - Derwentside Council, was a lifelong friend of Dryden. Now an independent Durham County Councillor, he said that the case was 'tragic' especially as Dryden and Collinson also knew each other well. He said: 'I'd known Albert all my life - he was well known in the area and was very private. He loved the countryside like Harry Collinson did. They had interests that they shared and it went on for years. Albert would come in and have a cup of tea with Harry and they would talk about the situation. But, Harry was quite adamant that what Albert was doing [building the bungalow without permission] was wrong.' Dryden opened fire on Collinson and a solicitor, Michael Dunstan, as they led a council operation to demolish the bungalow he had built on a smallholding down a country lane. Several other bystanders were hurt in the ensuing shooting. When Collinson, a forty six-year-old father of two, fell wounded into a ditch, Dryden hit him with two further shots. Collinson's brother, Roy, has dismissed claims that Dryden had recently shown remorse for the murder. Collinson said that he had received four letters written by his brother's murderer from his prison cell, but described them all as 'the ravings of a madman. Not once did he show any remorse, culpability, or regret for what he had done,' he said. 'He looked to blame everyone but himself. At one stage he even tried to blame the vehicles that were going to knock down his house, claiming they were not taxed or something ridiculous like that. I get so annoyed when people try to rewrite history, and look at things from a different angle. No excuses can be made for what Albert Dryden did. Good riddance to the man.' Watson, who had visited Dryden a few weeks before his death, said: 'It was quite tragic - devastating for Harry's family because this was a killing that should never have happened. It should have been prevented - the media and the police were there. The police were well warned about the situation because Albert had this passion for collecting weapons.'
FIFA president Gianni Infantino says that a home match should 'not be played in a foreign country,' as he addressed La Liga's plans to stage a game in the US. Spain's top-flight has asked permission from the Spanish Football Federation to relocate Girona's 'home' match against Barcelona to the US. The game would be played at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium on 26 January. 'I think I would prefer to see a great MLS game in the US rather than La Liga being in the US,' said Infantino. 'In football, the general principle is that you play a "home" match at "home" and not in a foreign country.' La Liga president Javier Tebas responded to Infantino on Twitter, he said: 'I will remind the president of FIFA that in the MLS, three teams of Canada participate and Toronto is the current champion and also in Canada there is another professional league.' Canadian teams Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver all compete in the MLS but play home games in their own cities. RFEF, the US Soccer Federation, European governing body UEFA and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football all need to give permission for the game to go ahead. Infantino added: 'There are rules, regulations, that everyone complies with. Such a proposal has to be approved by the respective associations, by the respective confederations and FIFA should also express a view on the matter, not least since it would have implications for football at global level as well.' Luis Rubiales, the president of the RFEF, has previously spoken out against the US game. The Spanish players' union has also opposed the match and following a meeting with La Liga last week, it said the players would 'have the final say.' La Liga, Spain's top flight, has agreed to play one game a season in the US as part of a fifteen-year greed deal with the media company Relevent. Girona is in Catalonia, about sixty miles North of Barcelona. The club say the match represents 'a chance for expansion and growth,' both for the club and the region. Plus, obviously, they'll get a shit-load of money for it and, in the end, that seems to be all they're really bothered about. On line which, basically, sums up everything that it wrong with football and has been for at least the last thirty years.
One of the top shareholders in Unilever has said that it will vote against the firm's plan to move its headquarters to the Netherlands, amid growing investor concern about the plan. Aviva Investors told the BBC that the move could force UK shareholders to sell their shares and offered 'no upside.' However, other shareholdrrs are believed to be in favour of the move. So, in other words, some like it and some don't - pretty much par for the course for Marmite. Unilever, which makes Marmite - and Dove soap - is relocating to 'simplify its corporate structure.' And, to make more money, obviously. It needs seventy five per cent of shareholder votes to get the plan through. Unilever has headquarters in both London and Rotterdam, but announced in March that it planned to have just one HQ located in the Dutch city.
What was described as 'a sinister recording of a children's nursery rhyme' being played repetitively late at night tormented a woman for over a year before investigators solved the mystery. Alice Randle was one of several residents who heard the creepy rendition of 'It's Raining, It's Pouring' coming from somewhere outside their homes on the outskirts of Ipswich. Sometimes the tune played just once at 2am or 4am, but on other occasions it repeated over and over again for several hours. The rhyme, which relates the story of an old man who bumped his head and couldn't wake up, left Randle 'frightened' and questioning whether she was imagining things. 'It's sung by what sounds like a very young child,' she told the Independent. 'It's very haunting, people have said it's like something out of Freddie Krueger.' Randle, who has two children, first heard the tune in September last year and 'initially tried to ignore it' before finally calling Ipswich Borough Council in desperation two months ago. 'The last couple of months I've been quite committed to finding out what it was,' she said. 'I've been out with a friend of mine, we went on a mission, calling local businesses.' The council's rapid response team drove out to the scene several times in an attempt to track down the noise only for it to fall silent before they got there. So, clearly the rapid response unit was rapid enough on those occasions. They finally tracked it down when Randle called after being woken up by the same recording at 11.15pm on 10 September. 'It was only in the last couple of weeks that it started to play over and over again,' said Randle. 'I told them they would definitely hear it if they came this time.' The team arrived at her home in Bramford Road fifteen minutes later. 'We did hear the nursery rhyme playing and it sounded very eerie at that time of night,' a spokesperson for the council said. The child’s voice was being played through a loudspeaker on a warehouse a few hundred yards away on an industrial estate. 'We don't know at this stage why it is playing - it might be simply an alarm that is being triggered - but we will be visiting the operators to find out more,' the spokesperson added. 'We appreciate that people living nearby would find it quite spooky.' Randle said that the owners of the site had told her that the nursery rhyme was being 'triggered by spiders.' Which, sounds like an entirely plausible excuse. 'When they examined the motion sensors there were spiders and webs across it, so that's how they know,' she added. A spokesperson for the site told the Ipswich Star newspaper: 'The sound is only supposed to act as a deterrent for opportunistic thieves that come onto our property and it is designed only to be heard by people on our private land. We are now aware of the problem - the motion sensors were being triggered by spiders crawling across the lenses of our cameras and it looks like we've had it turned up too loudly. We've spoken to the resident who brought it to our attention and adjusted it so this should not happen again.' Ipswich council said it believed this was the first time a nursery rhyme was the source of a noise complaint. 'This is unique in our experience - it was difficult to believe a nursery rhyme would be playing in the middle of the night. But we do take all complaints extremely seriously and asked the residents who contacted us to let us know when it was actually playing so we could investigate properly. Our environmental health team does respond very quickly whenever we can – we do have an out-of-hours service – and we urge people to get in touch if they are troubled by any noise nuisance. It is usually loud music or shouting from neighbours.'
Australia has ordered an investigation into the discovery of sewing needles hidden in strawberries, amid 'growing alarm over scares across the country.' Contaminated punnets have now been reported in six states and territories. A minister called it 'a vicious crime.' One man was taken to hospital after eating a strawberry that held such a needle. Several brands have been recalled, while New Zealand's biggest grocers have stopped selling Australian strawberries 'as a precaution.' Although, you do get the feeling that, with regard to New Zealand selling anything Australian it's simply a case of 'any excuse'. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt ordered the Food Safety Authority of Australia and New Zealand to investigate the scare. 'This is a very vicious crime and it's a general attack on the public,' he said. Local authorities are also investigating, but no suspects have been identified. Cases of fruit tampering were first reported in Queensland last week, before spreading to New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. Growers and police have suggested that some cases may be copycat incidents. The Queensland state government has offered a one hundred thousand dollar reward for information. 'How could any right-minded person want to put a baby or a child or anybody's health at risk by doing such a dreadful act?' Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Saturday. On Thursday, the Queensland Strawberry Growers' Association said that the needles 'may' have been placed by 'a disgruntled employee.' However, police said that it was 'too early to speculate.' At least six brands have been caught up in the scare: Berry Obsession, Berry Licious, Love Berry, Donnybrook Berries, Delightful Strawberries and Oasis. Health officials have advised Australians to cut up strawberries before eating them. Growers have expressed concerns that the scare, which has come during the peak of production, could have a negative effect on sales for an industry worth about one hundred and thirty million dollars a year. Strawberry prices have already dropped around the country, with prices in Western Australia now below the cost of production, ABC News reported over the weekend. On Monday, New Zealand's two largest food distributors - Countdown and Foodstuffs - said they had stopped importing Australian strawberries due to the scare.
A teenager has been 'quizzed by police' after a 'stupid' YouTube stunt in which a boy was spun at high speed on a park roundabout using the wheel of a moped went disastrously wrong. Tyler Broome was left 'with horrific injuries' similar to those inflicted by high levels of g-force, his mother said she was told by doctors. The eleven-year-old passed out and was 'abandoned by those involved,' she said. Nottinghamshire Police confirmed that a sixteen-year-old was interviewed under caution and 'a moped has been seized.' The teenager was 'questioned about his involvement' over what happened at Ashvale Park, in Tuxford on Wednesday. Dawn Hollingworth released a video of Tyler, which shows him spread-eagled across the top of the roundabout as it spins around. At the end of the recording, Tyler appears to fall down, his head flopping forward as it comes to a stop. Blood rushed to his head, causing swelling and bruising to his face, she said. Dawn said that doctors told her Tyler's injuries were 'usually seen in fighter pilots' suffering the effects of g-force. Chief Inspector Andy Rooke said: 'What may have seemed like "a bit of fun" at the time has turned into an incident where an eleven-year old boy has received horrific injuries. We hope that this incident and the severity of the boy's injuries serve as a strong warning to anyone thinking about recreating something they have seen online.' He said Tyler seemed to be 'recovering well under the circumstances' and an investigation continues.
The actress Zienia Merton, who has died aged seventy two, appeared regularly on British television in a fifty-year career during which she found fame as one of the regular cast of the Gerry Anderson science fiction series Space: 1999. Set on the moon – which has been propelled through space owing to a thermonuclear explosion – Space: 1999 was filmed at Pinewood and starred the US actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Merton played the data analyst Sandra Benes, one of only two of the show's regular supporting cast to be brought back for the second series. She left the series at one point but was lured back with the promise that the character would play a more prominent role in later stories and appeared in thirty seven of the drama's forty eight episodes. Merton was born in Burma, the youngest daughter of Minny and Cecil Burton. Her mother was Burmese and her father, a merchant, was half-English and half-French. Zienia had a peripatetic upbringing which took her via Singapore and Portugal (where she began her education) and, eventually, to the UK. A shy and artistic youngster, she was sent to the Arts Educational school (now Tring Park School for the Performing Arts) in Hertfordshire after it was decided that this would benefit her more than a traditional boarding school. The school was able to secure professional bookings for its pupils and so she made her debut as a dancer in the Royal Festival Ballet's Christmas production of The Nutcracker (1957), playing a rat. She repeated this engagement the following year, this time promoted to kitchen maid. Her first screen role was an early brush with science fiction, playing a Venusian in the Children's Film Foundation series Masters Of Venus (1962). Having played a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park open air theatre and various animals in Toad Of Toad Hall at The Comedy Theatre (1962, directed by David William), she got her big television break in 1964 in the epic seven-part Doctor Who adventure Marco Polo. Merton was selected by the director, Waris Hussein, to play the prominent role of Ping-Cho, a young Chinese girl in Marco Polo's retinue who befriends the time traveller (then played by William Hartnell). One episode required Merton to perform a lengthy set-piece of storytelling, recounting the history of the Hashshashins to an assembled audience. The round of applause the cast gave her on-screen was, apparently, a genuine response to how well she had handled the poetic monologue which, as was customary at the time, was recorded 'as live' in one take. She also featured in two controversial BBC productions, playing a prominent role as the forthright Cristina in Dennis Potter's Casanova (1971, opposite Frank Finlay) and as Miss Ho in the 1981 adaptation of Malcolm Bradbury's The History Man (1981, starring Antony Sher). She was one of the terrorists in Hijack To Mogadishu (1980) based on the real-life 1977 militant attack on a Lufthansa plane. Her other television work consisted of guest spots in popular series such as Catch Us If You Can (1966), The Troubleshooters (1967), Jason King (1972), Return Of The Saint (1978), Bergerac (1983), Peak Practice (1998), Wire In The Blood (2008), The Sarah-Jane Adventures (2009, the Doctor Who spin-off created by Russell Davies) and Wizards Vs Aliens (2013 also by Davies). In later years she was often cast as doctors and receptionists, playing the former in Family Affairs (2000), The Bill (2001), Doctors (2001), Judge John Deed (2006) and Coronation Street (2008) and the latter in the woeful Crime Traveller (1997) – and one of each in EastEnders (1998 and 2002) and Casualty (1986 and 1991). Her CV also included appearances in Thirty Minute Theatre, Strange Report, Wilde Alliance, Hammer House Of Mystery & Suspense, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, Grange Hill, Angels, Tenko, Dempsey & Makepeace and Lovejoy. Feature film work was less prolific but included Dick lester's Help! (1965), The Adventurers (1970, directed by Lewis Gilbert) and Wen Du Bei Mir Bist (1970, in which she was second billed after the star, the German singer Roy Black). A career highlight was sharing romantic scenes with Gregory Peck in The Chairman (1969). She was touched when, after Peck's death, she was given a handwritten note he had sent to a director recommending her for a role (which she had been unaware of). A few months ago she was thrilled to be asked to read the BBC audiobook of her Doctor Who story Marco Polo but, having been diagnosed with terminal cancer just over a year earlier, was unsure whether she would have the strength to do it. With typical determination, because she considered the original production to have been a big break and because starting and ending her career with the same project would lend it a pleasing symmetry, she gathered her strength and saw it through. The finished result, recorded in just two days, will be released posthumously.
One of this blogger's favourite actors, the terrific Dudley Sutton was also died this week, aged eighty five, was an actor who epitomised the Elizabethan view of thespians as rogues and vagabonds, 'cony-catchers and bawdy-baskets.' His face provided theatre critics with years of poetic inspiration. They described him as 'a debauched cherub' and 'a fallen angel'; the Gruniad Morning Star's Michael Billington admired his 'baby-face battered with experience' in a production of Strindberg's After The Fire at The Gate Theatre in 1997, while another said of Sutton in Sam Shepard's Curse Of The Starving Class at The Royal Court twenty years earlier that he was 'the only actor who can upstage a baby lamb,' spluttering insults from the side of his mouth 'like a rustic WC Fields.' Dudley was powered by stern beliefs and a desire to upset the applecart, traits that produced well-observed turns in a vast rogues' gallery of colourful supporting roles. His most famous television part was in the BBC's Lovejoy (1986 to 1994), which starred Ian McShane as a scallywag East Anglian antiques dealer and Sutton as his friend and fellow rogue, Tinker. Dudley originally turned down the role of Tinker Dill as he was written as a slovenly, dirty old scruff. Living opposite the antiques market in Chelsea, Sutton knew how antiques dealers really dressed and so sported a three-piece tweed suit, silk hanky and beret, making the part his own and the character a huge hit with audiences.
Dudley was born into a working-class family in Kingston upon Thames; his father was a slot-machine manufacturer. Dudley won a place at Moffats, a Hertfordshire boarding school, which relocated to Devon at the outbreak of the second world war. He was impressed with the wealth of culture the school offered him, but his social background made him feel at odds with his fellow pupils. His embarrassment at being chosen to play a girl in the school play (thanks to his blond hair and blue eyes) quickly turned to excitement, however, as he fell in love with performing. After school, he joined the RAF for five years, working as a mechanic and starring in amateur productions. He was encouraged by an education officer to apply to RADA and enrolled in 1955, but he quickly grew bored and dispirited with the hierarchical atmosphere and plays reinforcing class stereotypes. He preferred to spend his days reading Camus and Sartre in Soho coffee bars, frustrated that the world seemed to be bursting with new ideas everywhere except at his drama school. He visited Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in East London and as he stepped off the tube found himself in a land 'full of pollution, with railway yards and a Yardley's perfume factory and these little half-doored two-up two-down workers' cottages and I thought "this is brilliant." I went to this really beat-up, scruffy theatre and I loved it. It was everything my father hated.' He took to working in a coffee bar, fraternising with 'teddy boys, hookers and these amazing West Indians who were selling spliffs,' was dismissed from RADA and joined Theatre Workshop, appearing in productions including the original version of Lionel Bart's Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be. Littlewood believed not in stars but in collective genius, an ideology that Sutton stood by for the rest of his life. His political education, however, came more from his friendship with the Irish writer Brendan Behan, which flourished when Sutton appeared in a production of Behan's play The Hostage in 1959, than it did from company members: he disliked Littlewood's sentimentality about the working class and she criticised him for being 'middle-class, arty and public school.' It was an exciting, fractious company and Sutton appeared alongside such distinctive actors as Brian Murphy, Yootha Joyce, Barbara Windsor and Richard Harris. He was Malcolm in a 1957 production of Macbeth with Harris that travelled to the Moscow Art theatre and he adored Harris as much for his unruly behaviour as his theatrical force. His most significant role on stage was heading the original cast of Entertaining Mister Sloane at The New Arts Theatre, then Wyndham's, in 1964. He found a kindred spirit in the playwright, Joe Orton: 'To fight the demon of homophobia with a West End comedy was brilliant,' Sutton thought. Dudley was vehemently committed to the legalisation of homosexuality, having seen gay friends hounded and humiliated. Two of his earliest roles in the cinema, in The Boys (1962) and The Leather Boys (1964), both directed by Sidney J Furie, allowed him to act on his beliefs. While filming the latter, in which he played a gay biker, he threw the producer off the set after being told he was 'not being camp enough.'
In his first television appearances he found he was 'giving away the family secrets' with over-expression, so instead he grew skilled at closing down his emotions, which led to a decade playing unnervingly cold fish in a variety of series. After he gave an intense performance as Eddy Black in The Saint in 1964, Roger Moore described him as his personal favourite villain, but Dudley eventually tired of working on seemingly interchangeable crime series – while making a 1970 episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), he even tore up a scene and rewrote it with his co-star, Norman Eshley. His other TV appearances included the 1976 Christmas episode of the BBC sitcom Porridge, in which he played hostage-taker Reg Urwin, and terrific performance in an early episode of The Sweeney as well as Coronation Street, Dixon Of Dock Green, Softly Softly, The Baron, The Avengers, Department S, Z Cars, Strangers, Shine On Harvey Moon, Strangers, Bergerac, The Gentle Touch, The Beiderbecke Affair and its sequels, Boon and Hemmingway. In his later career he had a recurring role as conman Wilfred Atkins in EastEnders, as well as smaller parts in Holby City, Emmerdale and Channel Four's teen drama Skins. He also appeared in films such as The Devils, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Rotten To The Core, Crossplot, A Town Called Bastard, Mister Forbush & The Penguins, The Football Factory and Derek Jarman's Edward II. He ducked in and out of the theatre in later years, returning triumphantly alongside Albert Finney in Ronald Eyre's production of Ronald Harwood's JJ Farr at The Phoenix in 1987 and with one-man shows at The Edinburgh Fringe, Pandora's Lunch Box in 2003 and Killing Kittens in 2006. He was also an entertaining poet, his work ranging from a Molière-inspired verse play to a eulogy on the glory days of London's public conveniences. Dudley was married four times and is survived by his three children, Peter, Barnaby and Fanny.
TV host and comedy writer Denis Norden has died aged ninety six, his family has said. The It'll Be Alright On The Night host died on Wednesday after spending 'many weeks' at the Royal Free Hospital in London, a statement said. Norden wrote his first script for the BBC - Let's Go To The Holborn - in 1941 at the age of nineteen. He teamed up with the comic Frank Muir between 1947 and the early 1960s, writing comedies including BBC radio's hugely popular Take It From Here. In 1977, Norden became the host of the ITV clip show It'll Be Alright On The Night and he presented it until his retirement aged eighty four in 2006. Norden's children Nick and Maggie said that they wanted to thank 'all the dedicated staff and doctors who have looked after him with much devotion.' The statement added: 'A wonderful dad, a loving grandfather and great great-grandfather - he gave his laughter-mongering to so many.' Yet, behind the comedy there was a much darker story. One day during the closing days of the second world war, three young comics went to find some lights for a show they were doing. They were entertaining the RAF in Northern Germany and had been told they would find what they needed at a nearby camp which had recently been liberated. The camp was Bergen-Belsen. None of them knew what evil had happened there. 'We didn't know what to expect,' recalled Norden half-a-century later. 'We had not heard a word about it.' Norden and his two friends - Ron Rich and Eric Sykes - dumped the lights. They went straight back to their own camp and picked up whatever spare food they could find. 'Appalled, aghast, repelled - it is difficult to find words to express how we felt as we looked upon the degradation of some of the inmates not yet repatriated,' he said. Seventy thousand people had died in Bergen-Belsen, most of them by starvation. 'As far as I could see, all these pitiable wrecks had one thing in common. None of them was standing.' Norden was deeply moved by what he had just seen. Nor could he bear the sight of hungry German children hanging round outside the RAF base. 'After seeing the camp, you could in theory hold it against the Germans, but you couldn't hold it against these German kids,' he told the BBC. They handed out their own rations to dozens of small, eager hands. It was a shattering experience for the young Denis Norden, who then had the near impossible task of putting it all out of his mind, walking on stage and making men laugh.
Denis Mostyn Norden was born into a Jewish family in Hackney in February 1922. He was academic and bookish, winning a scholarship to the City of London School. The novelist Kingsley Amis was a fellow pupil. 'I was very tall, very skinny and always had my nose in a book,' Dennis remembered. He also had a burning desire for adventure. He wrote to the Daily Express at the age of sixteen and asked if he could accompany the foreign correspondent to the civil war in Spain. To his amazement the journalist agreed, but his parents put their foot down. So he turned his mind to another ambition. 'I'd seen a photo in Life magazine of two Hollywood screenwriters beside a swimming pool being served drinks by two blondes and I couldn't imagine a better life than that,' he recalled. To find out what audiences wanted, he left school and - at the age of eighteen - became Britain's youngest cinema manager. When the war intervened, he became an RAF wireless operator, teamed up with Sykes and branched out into performing for the troops. Demobbed, he started writing for radio and found himself teamed up with fellow aspiring comic, Frank Muir. The man who brought them together was Ted Kavanagh, producer of Tommy Handley's wartime radio hit It's That Man Again. Kavanagh asked if they would be averse to writing together. 'Not a whit averse,' they replied simultaneously. The fact that they spontaneously used the same arcane phrase showed how their minds could work as one. They would become one of the most successful comedy writing partnerships in British history starting on television in 1947 with a drama, Gerry's Inn. And, one of its most influential - Danny Baker, for example, has based an entire career on the sort of quick-witted wordplay of Denis and Frank's best work. Between them the pair wrote three hundred episodes of Take It From Here with Jimmy Edwards and, later, June Whitfield. The series lasted eleven years and created such memorable characters as The Glums. Their catchphrases like 'Trouble at t'mill' and 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' are still part of the language. There were collaborations with Peter Sellers and other hits including Bedtime With Braden and the television series Whack-O! and Faces Of Jim, both starring their old colleague Jimmy Edwards. They also wrote the satirical sketch Balham, Gateway To The South for the BBC Third Programme. The sketch, which had originally been broadcast in 1948 as part of a comedy series called The Third Division and which featured actor Robert Beatty, was later performed by Peter Sellers for his LP, The Best Of Sellers (1959). Muir and Norden were also responsible for some of the most memorable Carry On lines - most notably Carry On Cleo's legendary 'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me' - which was borrowed, with their permission, from a joke they'd once written for Take It From Here. In the early 1960s, Norden and Muir came up with the television legal comedy Brothers In Law, starring a young Richard Briers and, subsequently, a spin-off, Mister Justice Duncannon. They were given a three-year contract as BBC consultants and scriptwriters. Muir loved it but Norden found the corporation stifling. 'I wasn't much good at it and didn't like it,' Norden said. 'At the end, I just wanted to leave and be independent again.' The partnership ended amicably when Muir opted to stay with the BBC full time. They did, occasionally, work together after that - appearing on quiz programmes like My Word! and My Music. But, for the first time in twenty years, Norden was without a full-time writing partner. 'When you're on your own, there is that terrifying possibility that you may be the only person on the planet who thinks it's funny - and you have no way of finding out,' he said. So great was Norden's need for reassurance that he would hand the pages of his scripts to a secretary in another office and then creep back and listen outside her door hoping to hear chuckles. 'Then, after that came word processors and it's hard to make them laugh,' he noted. Norden hadn't forgotten his childhood ambition to write for Hollywood. He co-scripted an Oscar-nominated screenplay for Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell starring Gina Lollobrigida, but it was as a performer that he became better known. In 1977, he was chatting to Paul Smith, the future producer of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, in the canteen at London Weekend Television. Over lunch, they were giggling about the infamous Blue Peter clip where an elephant proved the old adage about never working with children or animals, particularly on live television. One of their wondered aloud if you could do a whole show based on hilarious outtakes. They rang Michael Grade, LWT's director of programmes and, within half-an-hour they had a commission, a budget and even a title - It'll Be Alright On The Night. The show ran for twenty nine years. 'Well, it's not the best title,' Norden recalled thinking as they left Michael Grade's office. 'But we'd better go with it.' At first, news programmes refused to release their howlers - but eventually relented. Actors and producers were also wary, but discovered that - with repeat fees - they could often get paid more for getting it wrong than getting it right. Norden masterminded the whole production, choosing the clips, writing the scripts and delivering them, clipboard in hand, in his inimitable, avuncular slightly self-mocking style. 'It's like running a farm where the manure is worth more than the cattle,' he would joke. The show was copied around the world and spawned many a clone, even before YouTube made comic pratfalls a cottage industry. 'One of the necessities for a good clip is that you can't second-guess it. The trouble with a lot of blooper shows nowadays is that you can see what's coming,' he would lament. His favourite clip was of a hapless regional TV reporter offering a tray of delicacies to the great British public out shopping. 'Are you feeling peckish?' asked the journalist. 'No, I'm Turkish,' came the confused reply. A spin-off, Laughter File, first broadcast in 1991, showed spoof adverts, real foreign adverts, practical jokes, live television mistakes and other various 'oddities', which Norden said, 'tickled our fancies, just when they needed tickling.'
A little uncomfortably for someone whose main role at ITV was to poke fun at television going wrong, Norden was tangentially involved in a prime example of it. In 1978, he and Muir wrote (based on an earlier radio version) The Glums, a half-hour domestic sitcom that was one of the segments of Bruce's Big Night, a catastrophically-received attempt to base the entire ITV peak-time Saturday schedule around Bruce Forsyth. Norden was still working into his eighties until failing eyesight forced him to retire in 2006. A haemorrhage at the back of his eye meant that he could no longer see the clips. Naturally rather shy, Denis Norden never saw himself as a performer. A marvellous wit and raconteur, in his own mind he was simply a 'writer who keeps getting wheeled out.' In truth, he was far happier at home than on stage - with his two children and his wife Avril, whom he married in 1943 and who died earlier this year. For years, he resisted writing an autobiography, claiming that Frank Muir had pretty much covered everything in his own memoir, A Kentish Lad. A book called The Bits Frank Left Out would be disappointingly brief, he said. But, in his eighties and by now partially sighted, he changed his mind. He used a special computer which read back what he had typed, although it was a long and painful process. Clips From A Life was published in 2008. What shines through is his love of working with other comedians and the challenge of making other people funny. And, looking back over more than seventy years in comedy, he counted himself 'supremely fortunate' to have worked at the time that he did. 'We not only lived through the golden age of so many forms of popular entertainment,' he wrote. 'We were present at the birth of them, enjoyed their heyday and were there to mourn their passing.' Although absent from TV in the last decade of his life, Norden retained a legacy and presence through reboots. Just three weeks before his death, David Walliams became the second successor to Norden (following Griff Rhys Jones) in another peak-time ITV revival of It'll Be Alright On The Night. Fittingly, the edition of Private Eye published on the day of Norden's death included a punchline punning on the 'infamy!' line. Denis Norden, funny to - and beyond - the last.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Thou Shalt Be Well-Rad

There is a really jolly useful summation of various comments made by yer actual Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall during their recent round of media interviews at the very excellent Blogtor Who site, which you, dear blog reader, can have a damned good vada at here. And, as an additional bonus, if you want to have a right good laugh and feel morally superior in the knowledge that there are some total bleedin' glakes out there in Interwebland, then have a look at some of the comments left by their dear blog readers.
It has been something of a staple of modern Doctor Who series, but there will, apparently, be no 'romantic frisson' on board the TARDIS in the forthcoming series. Yer actual Jodie Whittaker has insisted that we will see 'nothing more than friendship' between The Doctor and her trio of companions and, certainly no hanky-panky or anything even remotely like it. 'We are a friendship group in this season,' she told The Times. Asked about a possible 'love connection' between The Doctor and one - or more - of her new friends, Jodie responded: 'No. But we all love each other.' Jodie's Time Lady will be joined by Graham (That There Bradley Walsh), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) in her forthcoming travels through time and space. 'It feels like a family by the end of it,' Gill had previously told the Digital Spy website concerning the TARDIS team dynamic. 'For my character, there's times where she wants to go home and make sure everything's okay. But I feel like by the end of it, while she knows it's always an option to go home, this is kind of her new family.' 'It starts off as a bit of chaos,' added Tosin Cole. 'It's all over the place and then we just kind of gel. There's more of an understanding of each other and [a sense of] knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses.'
And, the accompanying Times photoshoot was also worthy of considerable attention.
Christopher Eccleston has never seemed particularly keen on returning to Doctor Who in any official capacity, but that doesn't mean that he won't return to the character for something unofficial and romantic. Over the weekend, a video surfaced of yer actual Big Ecc - in character as The Doctor - wishing a couple named Liam and Blaine (or 'Blaime,' as The Doctor ends up calling them) congratulations on their wedding. The exact connection Ecc has to the couple is not clear, though the description in the video notes the wedding surprise was arranged 'by a friend.' Another, shorter video for the couple was also filmed by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell Davies, who sarcastically accuses Blaine of once wanting to marry him before running off to Liam. In his video, Eccleston is not in costume (although he is wearing a T-shirt, which for his Doctor was sort-of, in costume) or standing near any particular hallmarks. Instead, he's standing outside in a garden - possibly his own. Taking on his Doctor's trademark blend of warmth and irritation, Eccleston first complains that it's 'typical you apes' didn't manage to get him an actual invite to the wedding, before expressing sincere congratulations. 'My two hearts are beating as one for you both today,' he said. 'Congratulations on your wedding day, and I won't be there in the blue box, but I will be there in spirit. Have a lovely day.'
Seven million overnight punters - including this blogger - tuned in to the fourth episode of BBC1's acclaimed drama Bodyguard on Sunday - and the political thriller has left viewers guessing about what is really going on in a way that hasn't been the case with many recent dramas. In Sunday's episode, David Budd (played by Richard Madden) tried to deal with the aftermath of a bomb explosion during a speech by Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). And one major plot twist in particular has generated conspiracy theories. The first three episodes revolved around Madden's and Hawes' characters but on Sunday, viewers were told Montague had been killed in the bomb and the actress only appeared in the episode during one, brief, bit of CCTV footage prior to the bomb going off. The drama's creator Jed Mercurio - who was also responsible for Line Of Duty - told Radio Times that viewers would never see her death coming. 'I like to try to do things that move the story on,' he said. 'With Bodyguard I wanted to have this event mid-series that would completely alter the dynamic.' Indeed, for about two minutes mid-episode this blogger genuinely thought that Mercurio had killed off both of his leads as Budd made what seemed at first to be a successful suicide attempt. Growing up, Mercurio said, he 'struggled to believe' in TV drama because he knew the central characters wouldn't die. 'I remember watching TV as a kid and, whenever there was some sort of jeopardy involving the hero, I could reassure myself that they were what I'd call a "can't-die" character, so everything would be okay.' Hawes herself thanked fans for their reactions to the series on Twitter, whilst also having a delicious pop at a ridiculous nonsense story about weight loss spouted by some louse of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail. 'It's a real shock because the whole show, the whole advertising, the whole talk about this entire drama has been the dynamic between her and the bodyguard,' Buzzfeed TV editor Scott Bryan told Radio 5Live concerning the death of Montague. 'And then, in episode three - not a pivotal episode in a normal run of things - to kill off your main character is a bold, bold move.' Sarah Hughes from the Gruniad Morning Star echoed those thoughts, writing: 'The death of Home Secretary Julia Montague at the drama's half-way point was a bold move, but I'd argue, despite the hole it now leaves, a brilliant one.' We know from Line Of Duty that Mercurio is the master of the unexpected plot-twist - Hawes was also in series two and three of Line Of Duty before also being killed off. It is unusual for shows to unexpectedly kill off a major character - although it does happen occasionally - like with Lisa Faulkner in the second episode of [spooks] or Sean Bean's Ned Stark in the first series of Game Of Thrones. But it is even more bold when a show centres so closely around two people. However, a lot of viewers are apparently finding it hard to believe that Montague really is dead, especially when we haven't actually seen her body on-screen and there are plenty of theories about whether it might all be some elaborate cover-up. 'I don't think she's dead,' critic Joe Michalczuk told 5Live. 'I think it's too bold. We haven't seen the body. I'd be gobsmacked if she doesn't come back.' One of the wilder Interweb theories suggests that Bodyguard may actually be a modern re-telling of Romeo & Juliet - with some pointing out that the names Julia and Montague 'could be derived' from Shakespeare's play. In the play, Juliet does fake her own death, with Romeo - unaware of her true plans - deciding to join her, drinking poison and dying. Scott Bryan thinks that might be a twist too far. 'I think [Julia being alive] would be a bit loopy, even for Jed Mercurio levels - and he's known for making massive plot twists - for it to make sense that she isn't dead.' While the mysteries of the series are yet to be solved, that has not stopping the show's creator from thinking about the future. But, he tells Radio Times he has been 'slightly worried' that the first series may make Richard Madden 'too big a star' to appear in any potential second. The former Game Of Thrones actor has even been touted as the next James Bond, albeit not by anyone that actually knows what they're talking about. Mercurio said: 'He's the genuine article, a real leading man. And I think this role has put him very much in the spotlight for bigger things.' Talks with the BBC about a second series are unlikely to happen until the first series has finished. 'You have to wait until the end because anything can happen,' Mercurio said. 'Some shows do nosedive at the end, or some piece of content could become incredibly controversial and affect the way the show is seen. In the end, you have to accept that the broadcaster holds all the cards.' There are two episodes of the first series left and, as we have seen, anything could happen.
From the North's Comedy Line Of The Week came, of course, from the return of From The North favourite Qi complete with its first change of title sequence in sixteen years. 'Complete this sentence,' Sandi Toksvig asked the panel - Danny Baker, Phill Jupitas, Teri Hatcher and Alan Davies - 'Donald is the first President in one hundred and sixty eight years not to have a ... what?' 'Trace of common decency,' suggested Alan to huge applause from the audience. And, obviously, a klaxon. And, probably,  ban from entering into America for the foreseeable future!
'We think she's been operating for two years across ten countries. She's highly skilled, untraceable and, frankly, she's starting to show off!' A hair pin, a bottle of poisoned perfume and a fashionably sparse Parisian apartment are some of the clues about the life of Villanelle, the chic-but-psychopathic assassin wreaking havoc in the BBC's new spy thriller Killing Eve which starts this weekend. When awkward-but-brilliant, desk-bound MI5 officer Eve Polastri (played, superbly, by Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh) is assigned to track down a killer (Doctor Foster's Jodie Comer in a truly star-making once-in-a-lifetime performance), she finds her mundane life turned upside down. And, an epic game of cat and mouse ensues over eight exciting and often hilariously funny episodes. Killing Eve has already developed a cult following in the US, where it was broadcast by BBC America earlier in the year and has been nominated for two EMMY Awards. Its second series is currently being filmed and even the legendary film director Sir Ridley Scott is reported to be a fan. Whilst the spy-genre is often riddled with clichés, it is the women at the centre of this show, both off- and on-screen, that set it apart from the norm. This blogger has had the preview discs of the series since shortly after it began in the US and has been evangelically telling everyone that will listen (and, indeed, anyone that wouldn't) about how pure dead brilliant it is since watching the whole series in a weekend binge about a month ago. Seriously, dear blog reader, trust this blogger on this one even if you never trust him on anything else he has ever recommended in the past or ever will again - nothing you have ever previously watched is even remotely like Killing Eve.
The series is an adaptation of the Codename Villanelle novel by Luke Jennings, with scripts written by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Espionage is so often a male dominated field, so how did having two women in the lead roles change the genre? Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle admits that they never even thought about that aspect. 'I don't think we had a single conversation about gender,' she claims. 'Actually we tweaked quite a lot of how much Villanelle used her sexuality and that was quite a conscious thing of her not to do, to not sex people to death. That's not what she does. She just really likes killing cleverly and she also doesn't get off on it in a sexual way, she's just interested to know what happens!' Sandra Oh adds that 'Women aren't resolved by their domestic circumstances, they're out there killing people!' The drama also stars Fiona Shaw as intelligence boss Carolyn and Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Eve's ambitious assistant, Elena - both roles that were originally men in the books. (To be fair, the series also has strong roles for Darren Boyd, Owen McDonnell, David Haig and Kim Bodnia, so it's not, entirely, a testosterone-free zone!) Nevertheless, Oh points out many of the show's women are at different ages and at different points of their careers. 'You get to see a progression of where women are in their career - you see Elena at the start wanting to be like Carolyn and then you have Eve who is in the mid-point of her career and you see Carolyn who's at the very top, it's just exciting!' she says.
In the first scenes of the opening episode, viewers see MI5 colleagues refusing to entertain the idea that Villanelle's crimes could have been committed by a woman, while Eve is the first and only person in the room to suspect it. Perhaps this inability to see women as villains has something to do with the fact that a woman in the spy genre is normally much more likely to be the scantily clad love-interest or a damsel in distress than the culprit. But, Villanelle is no ordinary criminal. Whether she's snacking on bruschetta in the hills of Tuscany or ordering silk throws for her Parisian apartment, her taste for the finer classy things in life is a recurring leitmotif in the series. 'She's designing her own life,' says Waller-Bridge. 'It's not about looking at Villanelle being cool, it's about her feeling cool and that's what's feeding her or feeling like she's living the life she suppose to live. She can have sex with anyone she wants - and she does - and she'll eat a tiny sandwich on the hillside because she can! She's kind of in the "Villanelle movie" of her life.' Waller-Bridge also says that the spy's flair for fashion comes directly from the original novels and that Jennings was 'very specific' about what Villanelle wears. 'He's got impeccable taste! The clothes were a huge part of Villanelle and that's what made it so fun.'
In August, after the show was broadcast in America, Jennings revealed how mostly female LGBT fans contacted him on Twitter to praise him for creating characters like Eve and Villanelle. He wrote in the Gruniad Morning Star: 'Their messages were passionate and moving. They claimed the show as their own, they told me. They identified profoundly with Eve and Villanelle, and they felt validated and made visible by the women's relationship.' When asked about Villanelle's bisexuality, Waller-Bridge says that she factored it into her creative process. 'The idea that these two women became obsessed with each other in every possible way was just exciting and new and nuanced and real,' she says. 'It was a different kind of passion I'd seen, and it just felt very natural to the characters. The moment Eve knows Villanelle knows she exists, a switch is turned on in her that hasn't been turned on before, and watching her work out what that is and seeing their chemistry together when they first meet - we say it was when they 'fell in love' with each other. The sexual power play between these two women isn't for anyone else, it's just for them. They're just women who adore each other.' The first episode of Killing Eve will be broadcast on BBC1 on Saturday at 9.15pm whilst those who wish to binge-watch the entire series will be able to do so on iPlayer as soon as the opening episode has debuted. And, you will want to, dear blog reader. Again, you'll just have to trust this blogger on that score.
Game Of Thrones may not have been eligible for last year's EMMY Awards, thanks to its hiatus in broadcast, but at the Creative EMMYs held on the weekend of 8 and 9 September, it returned with a vengeance. On the first night, it took seven of the fifteen awards for which it was nominated: Outstanding Prosthetic Make-up for a Series, Limited Series, Movie, or Special; Outstanding Special Visual Effects, Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score); Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Limited Series, or Movie; Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costume; Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Period or Fantasy Programme (One Hour or More) and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour). Other genre shows were also represented: Black Mirror's USS Callister episode took three awards - Outstanding Television Movie, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Limited Series Or Movie and Outstanding Sound Editing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special. The Handmaid's Tale won Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Contemporary Programme (One Hour Or More), Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Samira Wiley and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series. Westworld was honoured with Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within a Scripted Programme And Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) And Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series. Counterpart (coming to Starzplay in the UK later this month) won Best Title Design, while Stranger Things took home Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour).
How proper terrific it was to see a fit and healthy-looking From The North favourite yer actual Elvis Costello popping up on The ONE Show this week, speaking about his recent cancer scare.
Last month it was officially announced that the next Star Trek series will feature Sir Patrick Stewart returning to his Star Trek: The Next Generation role of Jean-Luc Picard. There is little known about the show and it doesn't even have a name as yet, but we now have some more details on the Picard series, thanks to one of the executive producers. One of the executive producers for the new series is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, who has been sharing some of the goings-on from the recently formed writers' room. This week Chabon has again used his Instagram account to reveal more about the show, including the year for the show's setting - 2399. Regarding the time-setting of the show, Chabon's post states: 'So we finished our first amazing two weeks in the space2999 writers' room and I think all you 99ers out there are really going to "grok" what we have planned.' Chabon also used an image from the 1970s SF series Space: 1999 to send out his message. The last time we saw Picard was in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis, which took place in the year 2379. At the Star Trek Las Vegas convention, Patrick Stewart said of the setting: 'Twenty years will have passed, which is more or less exactly the time between the very last movie – Nemesis – and today.' 2399 puts the new Picard show at the end of the Twenty Fourth century, which is somewhat poetic as it will bring to an end the century which was the setting for the acclaimed Star Trek: The Next Generation and the two subsequent series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - the Star Trek series which got good the quickest and stayed good the longest - and Star Trek: Voyager - which was crap. Through twenty one series those three dramas covered the period between 2364 and 2378, with Nemesis taking place one year after the Voyager finale. The only known events set out in canon for the post-Nemesis Twenty Fourth Century comes from the 2009 Star Trek movie. JJ Abrams first Trek film established that in 2387 a supernova which threatened the galaxy exploded, destroying the planet Romulus. Spock was able to prevent the supernova from destroying the rest of the galaxy but he and his ship were drawn back in time, along with a - very angry - crew of Romulan miners, to kick off the new Kelvin timeline in the Twenty Third century. Star Trek has shown a number of 'alternative' futures, like Voyager's Timeless with an embittered Harry Kim being chased by a Captain Geordi LaForge in a 2390 where the USS Voyager had crashed, killing most of the crew. We also saw a version of Picard in the mid-2390's in the Next Generation finale All Good Things, where he is retired to his family vineyard in a Federation where relations with the Klingons have again become hostile. While these alternative late Twenty Fourth Century scenarios are not, necessarily, canon due to changes in the timelines created in those episodes, one thing that is consistent is that the Federation and Starfleet endures.
The Director General of the BBC has told MPs the broadcaster's coverage of a police raid on the home of Sir Cliff Richard was 'over the top' and had so far cost it more than one-and-a-half million quid in costs and damages. Tony Hall told the digital, culture, media and sport committee, that the total cost of Richard's high court privacy action against the BBC was 'not yet known,' but most of it would be covered by an insurance policy and, thankfully, not from licence fee payers. Lord Hall also said that free licence fees for over-seventy fives would be reviewed. 'The concession, as it's currently formulated, comes to an end in June 2020. We, the board, have got to decide what to replace it with,' he told MPs. It could continue or be reformed, he added. The BBC was mindful that those over sixty five or seventy five 'consume many, many more BBC services than others,' he said, adding: 'There is real hardship among some, or many, of those over-seventy fives too.' MPs heard that the BBC has so far paid one hundred and forty three thousand knicker in damages and eight hundred and fifty thousand smackers in costs to Richard - for the dreadful crime of reporting the news. It has also paid five hundred and fifteen thousand notes in costs to South Yorkshire police. But follow-up hearings to deal with the singer's specific claims in relation to financial loss were 'ongoing,' Hall said. Hall said that his own view of the BBC coverage, which used a helicopter to fly over the Richard's Berkshire home to film a police raid on the property in 2014, was that 'we overdid it. I think the helicopter was overdoing it. It was something to report but down the bulletin,' he said. Officers from the South Yorkshire force were investigating a historical sexual assault allegation made against Richard, who was not arrested or charged with any offence. The BBC decided not to appeal against the ruling in the case brought by the singer. Hall said that the judge took the view privacy was more important than public interest. 'I felt the case itself was not one I was happy to go to appeal on because of the way I thought we overdid it, to be blunt with you,' Hall said. The legal advice was it was 'very unlikely' the BBC would win an appeal, he continued, adding it would cost more money and prolong Richard's ordeal. But, Hall added that parliament 'needed to clarify this issue' over reporting, 'which I don't think is for judges to decide. The policy issue is at what point does the balance between the freedom to know and information outweigh the individual's right to privacy. And that is very complex,' he told the committee. He said that he was out of the country at the time of the raid and not involved in decision making on the story. Hall said that he had approached Richard to suggest they sat down and tried to 'sort this out without going to court. Sadly, but I guess understandably, the legal view came back which was: "We don't want to talk. We are prepared to settle if you say you've acted illegally." But I don't think we acted illegally.' Hall also told MPs that the BBC had lost some of its biggest names partly because their pay had been published. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans recently announced that he is to join Virgin Radio, while former Radio 4 PM host Eddie Mair has joined LBC. MPs heard the BBC was dealing with 'just over two hundred' cases involving equal pay through an informal process and that sixty eight formal grievances were outstanding. 'We are seeking to answer these historic issues as quickly as possible in a proactive, open way,' Anne Bulford, the Deputy Director General, told the committee. Before giving evidence to the committee, Hall said that the BBC was planning to streamline its online presence after 'internal research' found 'just a handful' of its numerous platforms accounted for ninety per cent of its audience. In future it will focus on its main core services: iPlayer, news, weather, sport, children's programming, the study resource Bitesize and the audio and music app Sounds, which is to replace iPlayer Radio. 'In the global marketplace against well-resourced competition, we have to concentrate on a smaller number of stand out services that deliver our very best content online,' Hall said in a speech to BBC employees in Salford. The BBC Earth and BBC Arts sections of the website will be removed and there will be fewer features as well as less focus on 'celebrity gossip.' So, that's some good news anyway. The cull of services comes as the BBC attempts to overcome the challenge posed by services such as YouTube and Netflix.
Danny Boyle has called on film-makers and writers to 'reach around the hollow cavern' of Brexit to ensure that British TV and film continues to be seen as amongst the best in the world. The director said that working on his most recent production, the ten-part television drama Trust, which starts on BBC2 next week, had made him more determined to work with European production companies. 'The series is set in 1973, the year in which we joined Europe, so there was something ironic about the fact we were making it with the knowledge we were going to leave,' Boyle said. 'It just seemed more and more insane to us, especially as we were making it with this wonderful Italian co-production company. I can only hope that film-makers, writers, journalists will try to build around this. Airline companies certainly will, as will businesses. Right now it feels as though something has been severed and we’re adrift but I hope that people will try to compensate for this terrible void that's been created for us by politicians.' Trust, which tells the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, the grandson of the then richest man in the world, marks Boyle's return to TV, his first project since directing the pilot of the 2014 police drama Babylon. Trust was written by Simon Beaufoy, who worked with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire and One Hundred & Twenty Seven Hours and stars Donald Sutherland as John Paul Getty, Hillary Swank as Gail Getty, the kidnapped teenager's mother and Brendan Fraser as the fixer called in to sort everything out. Beaufoy said that he was interested in the story because of the 'baroque level of dysfunction' within the Getty family. 'On the face of it, it seems like a small story about a rich kid who gets kidnapped, but the more I dug the more I found out about this family,' he said. 'The idea that three generations of this family had passed down this terrible absence of love from one generation to another was really compelling and I became increasingly fascinated by the idea that this kidnapping was the pivot around which you could tell the story of the richest family in the world and what unhappiness all that money bought to them.' Boyle said that the Gettys were 'the first family to become a media story, a soap opera in the way that all rich families now are soap operas and we're addicted to reading about them.' The pair had already begun working on Trust when news broke that All The Money In The World, a film covering the same events and directed by Ridley Scott, was being made. 'You always see these stories about people in Hollywood doing two similar projects at the same time and it always strikes you as being ridiculous: why haven't they got together and sorted it out?' said Boyle. 'But really, we were already halfway down the runway when we found out that Ridley was planning his film.' Boyle said he watched Scott's movie after he had finished shooting Trust. 'Oh God, of course I went to see it. It's very, very enjoyable and bizarre seeing the same locations occasionally. If you think too much about two similar projects then eventually you start to go mad. You just have to hope that there's enough difference in the two stories that they'll be worthy of whichever one people select.' The major difference between the two projects lies in Trust's suggestion that the young John Paul Getty III (played by Harris Dickinson) was in on his own kidnapping, an action partially borne out of financial desperation and partially out of a teenager's desire to know he was wanted. 'It's not really that controversial an idea,' said Beaufoy. 'A book came out not that long ago in which one of his girlfriends admitted it. There were lots of clues already suggesting that it might be the case, but she outright says it and that played into something which was so fascinating – the idea that this is a story not so much about money as about love and how people have tried to replace a lack of love with money and what a flawed and desperate notion that is.' Working in television rather than film allowed them to take risks, including making an episode entirely in Italian and told from the point of view of the kidnappers and directed by Emanuele Crialese. 'TV really emboldens you to do slightly challenging things like that, whereas film always seems slightly risk-averse because they're putting all their money on the roulette wheel every time,' Beaufoy said. Boyle agreed: 'You feel with TV that they've already earned the money and are now spending it, rather than the other way round.' He said that 'prestige TV' owed a huge debt to the BBC. 'Artistically I think that having tried to destroy the BBC they're now all following it.'
The head of US media giant CBS, Les Moonves, has 'resigned with immediate effect' following allegations of sexual misconduct against him. CBS had been investigating Moonves since allegations appeared in the New Yorker in July - and fresh accusations from six more women appeared on Sunday. Moonves, denies the allegations, calling the latest 'appalling.' Which, if untrue, they are. And, indeed, if true, they also are. In a statement CBS said that twenty million dollars would be paid immediately in support of the Me Too movement. It said that 'one or more organisations' which supported Me Too and female workplace equality stood to benefit, but did not specify which. The donation has been deducted from any severance benefits which may be due to Moonves - the amount of which is pending the results of 'an ongoing independent investigation' into his conduct. The latest allegations appear in a new article in the New Yorker by Ronan Farrow, who also authored the July piece and this year shared a Pulitzer Prize for detailing assault accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The six women in the latest piece allege sexual harassment or assault by Moonves between the 1980s and the first decade of this century. Some allege that he forced them to perform oral sex or exposed himself without their consent. Some say that he damaged their careers when they rebuffed him. TV executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb and writer Jessica Pallingston are two of the women who give graphic descriptions of the misconduct they accuse Moonves of carrying out. Under Moonves' leadership, CBS has been the most-watched network in the US. He developed hits like CSI and The Big Bang Theory, while his sixty nine million dollars earnings in 2017 made him one of the highest paid chief executives in the world. His tenure at the top of CBS, which he joined in 1995, has been marked by a power struggle with Shari Redstone who, through her family's business National Amusements, is the controlling shareholder in both CBS and the media conglomerate, Viacom. Redstone and Moonves had been engaged in a court battle as he tried to thwart her plan to merge CBS and Viacom. But the announcement of Moonves' departure came at the same time as CBS said it was ending legal action against National Amusements. For its part, National Amusements said that it would not seek a merger between the two companies 'for the next two years.' In a statement it announced that Moonves would step down as chairman, president and CEO 'with immediate effect.' Joseph Ianniello will serve as president and acting CEO. The Financial Times said Moonves was resigning because this would entitle him to a hefty severance package, including stock options. US media said the resignation package for Moonves could amount to one hundred million bucks. However, CBS said that he would not receive any severance benefits until the result of an independent investigation into him. In a separate move, six directors have stepped down and six new ones have been elected. Moonves issued a statement on Sunday saying: 'Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.' The New Yorker quoted a statement in which he says: 'The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some twenty five years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my forty years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations.' A further six women also accused Moonves earlier this year. All of them said that they believed their careers had suffered because they rejected his advances. At the time Moonves said he 'may have made some women uncomfortable' in the past, adding: 'Those were mistakes and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected that "no" means "no". On Monday, CBS This Morning presenter Norah O'Donnell told viewers that 'he's my boss - or he was my boss - and that makes it hard to comment on it.' She discussed her conversation over the weekend with co-host Gayle King about how it had been less than a year since their fellow CBS presenter, Charlie Rose, resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations against him. She then turned to the camera and said: 'There is no excuse for this alleged behaviour. It is systemic and it is pervasive in our culture. And this I know this is true to the core of my being: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.'
The BBC has announced that it will be re-releasing Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy next month. The award-winning 1981 TV adaptation of Adams' radio series and novels will hit DVD and Blu-ray on 1 October in a remastered set along with an impressive array of new features and archive footage.
Odious full-of-his-own-importance berk Jamie Oliver reportedly chased a man down the street after the man attempted to burgle the chef's house in North London. According to witnesses, the chef pinned the man down while waiting for police to arrive last Tuesday evening. It is understood that the man had attempted to break into other houses on the street where Oliver, his wife and five children were all home at the time. Oliver confirmed to the BBC the incident had taken place and, the BBC claimed, 'looked shaken when recalling the event.' Asked on Monday about the ordeal, Oliver was reluctant to comment in detail but told the BBC: 'It's not a situation you want to get involved with, it was what it was and it ended okay.' A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told the BBC News website: 'Police were called to reports of an aggressive male attempting to gain entry to residential addresses in N6. The male was apprehended by members of the public and was subsequently detained by police. He was taken to a North London police station and was subsequently released with no further action.' It is not known why the man was released, but press reports suggested that it could be due to a lack of evidence or to the suspect having mental health problems. An alleged neighbour allegedly told the Daily Mirra: 'It was just a brave, selfless thing to do. Everyone is really thankful for his quick thinking and courage.'
If it does launch as currently scheduled in 2021, it will already be fourteen years late. When finally in position, though - orbiting the Sun one-and-a-half million kilometres from Earth - NASA's James Webb Space Telescope promises an astronomical revolution. The US space agency boasts that it will, quite literally, 'look back in time to see the very first galaxies that formed in the early Universe.' As if those claims were not bold enough, scientists have now surmised that the eventual successor to the Hubble Space Telescope may - thanks to its six-and-a-half metre golden mirror and sensitive cameras - have another extraordinary talent. The JWST may be able to look for signs of alien life - detecting whether atmospheres of planets orbiting nearby stars are being modified by that life. Despite this, the project to build it narrowly survived cancellation by the US Government in 2011. That was in no small part down to its (perhaps appropriately) astronomical cost - an estimated ten billion dollars rather than its originally planned one billion. Back on Earth, however, astronomers - including the University of Washington team who proposed 'life-detection' observations using the telescope - are unerringly thrilled at the prospect of its launch. University of Washington astronomer Joshua Krissansen-Totton and his team have looked into whether the telescope could detect signs of what they call 'biosignatures' in the atmospheres of planets that are orbiting a nearby star. 'We could do these life-detection observations in the next few years,' says Krissansen-Totton. The basis for this search may lie in JWST being so sensitive to light that it could pick up so-called 'atmospheric chemical disequilibrium.' It may not be a catchy term, but it is an idea with a long heritage, promoted by celebrated scientists James Lovelock and Carl Sagan. The reasoning is that if all life on Earth disappeared tomorrow, the many gases which make up our atmosphere would undergo natural chemical reactions and the atmosphere would slowly revert to a different chemical mixture. It is continually held away from this state by organisms on our planet expelling waste gases as they live. Because of this, searching for signs of oxygen (or its chemical cousin, ozone) has long been thought to be a good way of finding life. But this does rest on the assumption that extraterrestrial life runs by the same biological rules as our own. However, it may not. Therefore, assessing atmospheric chemical disequilibrium - looking for other gases and figuring out how far out of kilter from 'normal' a planet's atmosphere sits - could be key to finding alien life of any kind. The chemical make-up of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star can be measured in light by carefully measuring the minuscule dip in starlight as the planet passes between us and the star during the planet's orbit. The gases in the planet's atmosphere cause the light reduction to vary with the wavelength - or colour - of light, revealing information about how much of each chemical is present. Krissansen-Totton simulated the data that would be obtained if JWST were to look at planets orbiting a small Jupiter-sized star called TRAPPIST-1, about thirty nine light-years away from the Sun. This star caused a sensation in 2017 when it was discovered to host seven roughly Earth-sized planets, several of which could possess liquid water and hence might be a good bet for hosting life. The Washington researcher predicts that James Webb could measure the amounts of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the fourth planet, TRAPPIST-1e, from the dips in light at wavelengths affected by these gases. It would be a tough measurement of an unimaginably tiny signal, but Cornell University astronomer Professor Jonathan Lunine is excited by the prediction, saying 'they make the case that this can really be done with JWST.' Once the measurement is made, though, Krissansen-Totton explains, 'you can then ask the question: do we know of any non-biological processes that could produce that effect?' Planetary atmospheres, including our own, he points out, can also be modified by non-biological processes, such as volcanic activity. So, if the atmosphere of TRAPPIST-1e was found to be awry, researchers would then need to rule out any non-biological effects before declaring the existence of extraterrestrial life. Krissansen-Totton says that 'that kind of confirmation is going to require multiple observations, to really make a totally solid case. But if we detect something that we don't have an alternative explanation for, I think that would be an incredibly exciting discovery.' For now, the telescope's mirror remains securely locked in a lab in California and astronomers must continue to wait for these possibilities to be explored. JWST will be joining a host of new facilities that will subject planets around other stars to some serious scrutiny over the next few decades. Huge ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile are also planned and the European Space Agency's UK-led Ariel mission, designed to probe the atmospheres of planets around other stars, will blast off in the late 2020s. Lunine says: 'I think that we're in a remarkable time for understanding our Universe and exploring the cosmos and James Webb is going to take the next step in that. It is going to be truly worth it.' Professor Gillian Wright, principal scientist on the telescope's UK-led Mid-InfraRed instrument, agrees. 'We've never had access to something this big in space before,' she says. 'To say a telescope will open up new windows on the Universe sounds kind-of cliched, but with James Webb it's really true.' JWST is led by NASA but is a joint venture with the European and Canadian space agencies.
The first known studio recording of the late David Bowie has sold for nearly forty grand - four times the estimate. The 1963 demo tape, rejected by Decca, features a sixteen-year-old Bowie - then known as David Jones - singing 'I Never Dreamed' with first band The Kon-Rads. The eighteen-minute recording was sold by the band's drummer David Hadfield, who had discovered it in a bread basket in his loft. Omega Auctions said it sold for a total of thirty nine thousand three hundred and sixty knicker after 'a bidding frenzy.' Amongst people with more money than sense, seemingly. Certainly if the twenty second clip of a - not particularly well-recorded version of a pleasant enough but hardly Earth-shattering Beatlesque pop song featured on the BBC News website is anything to go by. Omega had estimated it would reach ten grand. The Director of Omega Auctions, Karen Fairweather, said the recording was the last lot of the day and it had already reached eleven thousand smackers in pre-bidding before the auction even began. The bidding was fierce between two overseas collectors, who did not attend in person, before the winning bid was made. 'There was certainly applause when the hammer went down,' she said. 'It's a fantastic piece of history.' Auctioneer Paul Fairweather described the tape as a 'significant recording, completely unique.' He said that it 'offers new insight' into Bowie as 'a fledgling musician who would go on to super-stardom.' Promotional sketches made by Bowie from when he was in The Kon-Rads, along with photographs and band documents, sold for over seventeen thousand knicker and an early 1963 poster of the band went for six thousand notes. All prices include buyers' premium. Bowie was The Kon-Rads' saxophonist but it was decided that he should sing lead vocals for the tape. Hadfield said: 'David had no inclination to become a singer at this point, his heart and mind were focused on becoming a world-class saxophone player. Our agent, Eric Easton, who also managed The Rolling Stones, asked us to do a demo so he could try and get us an audition at Decca. We had decided that we would do a couple of guitar instrumentals and one original song. Decca initially turned us down, but when they eventually gave us an audition later that year, vocalist Roger Ferris was the lead voice and David sang backing harmonies.' Bowie left the band shortly after the audition.
Kirstie Allsopp has left Twitter after facing 'a fierce backlash' when she admitted that she had smashed her children's iPads over her gaming rules. Parents 'slammed' (that's tabloidese for 'criticised' only with less syllables) the full-of-herself TV presenter online after she revealed that she broke her sons' devices when they played games outside their permitted time. Criticism soon flooded onto social media, with many people calling her 'privileged' and 'absurd.' Neither, to be fair, an entirely inaccurate description of Allsopp. Her Twitter account has since been deleted. And, the most remarkable thing about this entirely malarkey is that this rank and utter horseshit constitutes 'news', apparently. 'Self-important woman says something stupid, gets criticised for it, decides not to use her computer. More news at ten.' When, exactly, did the world go completely mad, dear blog reader?
Reality TV-type person Nadia Essex - no, me neither - has been extremely sacked from Z-List Celebs Go Dating for alleged 'Twitter trolling.' The 'dating expert' (whatever the fek that entails) who has appeared in the E4 show since its launch in 2016, is set to miss the rest of filming for series five. Her former co-host, Eden Blackman, quit the show after its fourth series, reportedly over a fall out with Essex. A show spokeswoman told BBC News: 'Nadia has been suspended following improper use of social media.' Whilst Z-List Celebs Go Dating has not confirmed the exact details behind Essex's suspension, the Sun alleges it was revealed that she had set up fake accounts to send abusive messages on social media. Blackman has also spoken on her suspension and linked to an article on his own Twitter account which alleged that Essex's trolling was directed at him. Essex is yet to release a statement about the suspension and the social media allegations.
The latest From The North Headline Of The Week award goes to BBC News for Boris Johnson Says May's Brexit Plan 'Worse Than Status Quo'. This blogger likes it, dear blog reader. He likes it, he likes it, he la-la-la-likes it ...
The British Grand Prix will be shown live on both Channel Four and Sky in 2019, as part of a new partnership between the broadcasters. Channel Four has also secured highlights of all races, while Sky will carry every race live on its subscription-only F1 channel. Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel Four, said that she was 'delighted' with the 'exciting and innovative partnership.' Sky chief executive Stephen van Rooyen added: 'Today's partnership is the start of a new era of collaboration between Sky, Channel Four and, we hope, other British broadcasters.' As part of the deal, Channel Four will screen series one of the Sky drama Tin Star, while Channel Four box sets will be available to Sky customers.
The BBC says that it has worked out how to eliminate 'streaming lag,' which causes live TV to be delayed by several seconds when watched online. Many online viewers of the World Cup in the summer heard neighbours cheering goals which they had not yet seen happen, because the online stream was a few seconds behind the TV broadcast. BBC Research & Development said it has now managed to eliminate the delay. However, its software is not ready to be rolled out to the public yet. Live TV watched online is often behind by several seconds because it takes longer to reliably send video over the Internet than to broadcast it. The issue has also affected Amazon's broadcast of the US Open tennis tournament. Analysts from streaming firm Phenix said that the online broadcast was often up to forty five seconds behind the TV transmission. When video is streamed online it is broken up into small packets, which are reassembled by the recipient's device. If each segment is very short, processing them becomes inefficient. However, if they are too long, there is more of a delay between the TV broadcast and online stream. The BBC said it 'found ways' to create smaller segments that can be 'passed through the system more quickly.' It said viewers of the resulting online streams would see action 'at the same time as they would see it if they were watching on TV.' 'With sport, it's irritating if you're watching something that is twenty or forty seconds behind live TV,' said Jake Bickerton, technology editor at the industry magazine Broadcast. 'The BBC also did trials at the World Cup streaming 4K [ultra high-definition] HDR content. Not only was there a delay, but consumers had to have really good broadband at home. It isn't going to be simple to get something compressed to a point where it can get to viewers at home through broadband very quickly. If the BBC is able to reduce latency, then it's a great thing going forward.' The innovation will be on show at the International Broadcasting Convention, which starts on Thursday in the Netherlands. However, the BBC said it would need the co-operation of the whole broadcasting industry to get the system up and running. It suggested the technology may be available by the time of the next World Cup in 2022 and could be delivered to existing equipment with a software update.
London Stadium's owners want West Hamsters United to retract a claim that they 'deliberately misled' the public when stating the Hamsters' rent 'does not even cover the cost of matches.' The London Legacy Development Corporation said on Friday that it faces 'ninety seven years of losses' partly due to 'low rents' paid by West Hamsters. The Hamsters disputed this, also claiming that they contribute a total of ten million knicker a year in revenue, including rent. However, the LLDC says this is 'wrong.' It claims that the club 'pays us around three million pounds a season,' adding: 'It remains a fact that the West Ham usage fee does not cover event-day costs.' Following last week's LLDC appearance before the London Assembly, the Hamsters released a statement in which they criticised its 'strategy to point the finger at West Ham United.' The club claimed that it was 'concerned the public and, more importantly, taxpayers' were 'being deliberately misled' over the long-running financial struggles of a stadium which was built for the London Olympics in 2012. In July, it was revealed that four hundred and fifty thousand smackers of taxpayers' money had been spent on unsuccessfully searching for a sponsor for the venue, which cost three hundred and twenty three million notes to convert into a football ground after an original estimate of one hundred and ninety million quid. A letter sent by LLDC chairman Sir Peter Hendy on Monday in response to West Hamsters' statement read: 'This is an extremely serious and damaging statement to make against public officials appearing before elected assembly members and we will be asking West Ham to retract the claim.' The letter adds: 'Their claim that we enjoy ten million pounds from our association with West Ham is simply wrong and the money we generate from West Ham does not cover the cost of putting on the match days. We are not pointing the finger at West Ham for this, it is just a fact and something we have to deal with. We also said that the West Ham contract was just one area which caused financial problems for the stadium. The others we laid before members included the cost of seat moves from football to athletics and back again, our contract with UK Athletics and the stadium operator and high running costs. These are all areas we are tackling and making progress in getting on to a sound financial footing.' West Hamsters subsequently refused to retract their claim that public is being 'misled' over London Stadium finances.
Blunderland's chairman, Stewart Donald, has said that the club's record thirteen-and-a-half million knicker signing Didier Ndong remains absent without leave and revealed that lawyers for the club are examining whether it is possible to sue Ndong and his teammate Papy Djilobodji for allegedly 'deliberately devaluing themselves.' Djilobodji, an eight million notes former Moscow Chelski FC centre-half, had permission to miss pre-season training in July but the twenty nine-year-old, allegedly, 'failed to clock in last month' and to Wearside returned only last week, when tests indicated that his fitness levels were 'significantly sub-standard.' Ndong, meanwhile, a twenty four-year-old Gabon international signed from Lorient two years ago, last week posted poolside pictures of himself on Instagram, though they have since been deleted. And, despite the unseasonably hot weather we've been having in the UK of late, it appears that the photos were not taken in or anywhere remotely near Blunderland. The pair's failure to report for duty at the League One club is believed to have been informed by 'a mutually cynical desire to force down their values' to the point where Blunderland would be forced to either terminate their contracts, thereby leaving them free agents, or sell them for minimal fees according to the Gruniad Morning Star. If true, this could have enabled both players to command higher wages than they could otherwise expect at any potential new club and would explain why the duo have stayed away despite The Mackems withholding their wages. 'I'm certain we're allowed to fine them,' Donald told Talksport on Tuesday. 'But the question is whether they've done enough in breach of their contracts [for us] to terminate their contracts and pursue them for wilfully devaluing themselves. Didier Ndong has shown no interest in returning to the football club whatsoever. We don't even know where he is. Papy has returned but in his last conversation [before coming back] he said: "You'll never see me in Sunderland again."' For which attitude, hey, you can't blame the lad to be fair. Like Ndong, though, Djilobodji has a problem - although both players' agents strove to find them new clubs during the summer, a series of potential sales and loan moves foundered. 'Just because they can't move now we don't think they've behaved well enough for us to say, "All right, we'll pay you,"' Donald added, 'never mind play them, because neither of them are in condition to play.'Initially a compromise with Dilobodji had seemed close. 'We gave Papy Djilobodji permission to not be with us in July, when he said he wouldn't turn up if we didn't pay him, so he could find another club,' said Donald. 'We gave him some guidelines to keep himself fit to make sure he was up with the pre-season standards but he didn't turn up in August [when he was supposed to if a new club hadn’t been identified] and neither player found a new club. There's an obligation on players to turn up in a condition in which you can play football and the reality of it is that I would probably have beaten [Djilobodji's] stats when he returned. He was unfortunately way off what everyone else is and then didn't turn up for the next training session. When you've not turned up for seventy two days and missed eight games of the season and you come up in a condition which means you'll probably miss the next twelve games, I think that sort of says you're not really committed.' Caen, Hannover Ninety Six and Bursaspor all expressed an interest in Djilobodji, who spent last season on loan at Dijon with Blunderland thought to be paying two-thirds of his thirty two grand-a-week wages. Nice money if you can get it - or, indeed, if someone is stupid enough to pay you that for doing sod-all. Torino had a six-and-a-half million smackers offer for the twenty five grand-a-week Ndong accepted in June - but were unable to meet his staggering wage demands. He had asked to leave when The Mackem Filth were extremely relegated from the Premier League in 2017 but failed to play a single minute of football during a loan stint at Watford during the second-half of last season.
Maltby Main FC goalkeeper James Pollard made 'two fabulous saves' in quick succession during his side's two-one defeat by Frickley Athletic in the first round qualifying of the FA Cup captured by BBC camera. And, you can watch James' acrobatic here.
Shortly after half-time on Tuesday night in Elche, Spain's Marco Asensio, a young man on a mission, slid out a through-ball inviting his teammate Rodrigo to test his pace against Domagoj Vida and then his poise against Croatia's advancing goalkeeper, Lovre Kalinic. Rodrigo won both duels and, in doing so, converted the one hundredth goal of the UEFA Nations League. Across Europe, there would be another six to come that night, as a new competition closed out its largely successful arrival on the calendar of international football. There were some fetching headline stories, not least Spain's six-nil demolition of a Croatia who only two months ago were finalists at the World Cup. There was a high standard of entertainment, from Luxembourg to London. Goals came at a rate just under 2.3 per fixture, a shade less than the frequency enjoyed through Russia's much-applauded World Cup. But then that tournament did not have to put up with the party-poopers of Italy, who managed just one goal, a penalty against Poland, in their first two Nations League outings and a grand total of no shots at all on target from any of their strikers. If the hoped-for Italian renaissance evidently has a long way to run, the Nations League, greeted with some cynicism when it was proposed, looks like a boost for many, big and small. The intention had been to inject competitive edge into those dates on the diary usually filled by friendlies and to guarantee that European countries, whose priority over the season will still be the qualifiers for major tournaments - either the World Cup or European championship - have regular matches against nations of a similar standard. Spain's victory over Croatia and Switzerland's bruising of Iceland by the same six-nil scoreline might have fans wondering whether the gap between those teams has widened so alarmingly since the World Cup that the losers were not taking this September's work so seriously. But the jeopardy is genuine: the Croatians and Icelanders now face up to the prospect of relegation from Nations League A, the top bracket, unless they can bounce back next month. The verdict from most coaches on the Nations League has been positive. The contests were not allowed to meander into disjointed final half-hours by a rafts of substitutions, a condition that afflicts friendly games and the refereeing was largely rigorous, to which players responded. Witness the England abject outrage when the World Cup semi-finalists had what they supposed was a late equaliser in their two-one defeat to Spain at Wembley Stadium ruled out by whistle-happy clown. They seethed long into the post-match interview sessions. Had the loss happened in a friendly, tempers would have likely cooled long before then. Spain, whose national team are in a need of a major boost, will already be eyeing a place in the mini-tournament that gives this novel event its showpiece climax, a pair of semi-finals and a final in June. So may France, the world champions, after taking four points from their games against Germany and the Netherlands. But it is down football's food-chain that the real benefits of the Nations League are felt. Here, in League's B, C, D the carrot of a possible place in the play-offs for the 2020 European Championship finals - a backstop option, if you like, in case the normal qualifying for that event goes awry - is a real motivator and the opportunities to measure progress against teams of a similar ranking is a bonus. This, for example, has been a terrific week for Andorra, with their Nations League draws against Latvia and Kazakhstan, the latter one-one thanks to an eighty sixth minute equaliser from Jordi Alvaez, whose only previous goals for his country had been achieved on sand. He also plays beach football for Andorra. His strike on Tuesday was a grand moment in the mountains. Some context: In fifty European championship qualifiers over the last twenty years, Andorra, always the lowest seeds in their groups, have never won so much as a single point. Yet the tiny Pyrennean state had believed they were developing real nous in international football. It looks like they are. Last month's goalless draw in a friendly against the UAE had hinted at progress and that has now been confirmed. 'The Nations League has been a great idea,' said Koldo Alvarez, Andorra's head coach and, as their former goalkeeper, a man who spent eleven years stretching in vain to reach shots from Europe's superstar strikers. He will be taking his team to Georgia and Kazakhstan next month for the kind of team-talks that were never possible before. He will tell his players that they really can dream of a possible route to the next European Championships.
Meanwhile, Liechtenstein won their first competitive football fixture at home in seven years last week when they beat Gibraltar two-nil at the Rheinpark Stadion, home to FC Vaduz, in a UEFA Nations League D Group Four game. So, good for them.
A Premier League footballer has been charged with raping a schoolgirl in France after allegedly lying to police about having sex with the then fifteen-year-old because he, allegedly, 'did not want to upset his girlfriend.' The twenty three-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is currently on bail awaiting trial along with his cousin, who is now twenty five, over the alleged attack in the city of Nimes, a court heard. Both men, who could face jail terms of up to fifteen years, deny charges of raping the unidentified victim, who was 'found in tears and deep shock' by school friends after the alleged rape in July 2012, according to legal sources. There are reportedly to be 'no immediate restrictions' on his playing career, although he is constant touch with detectives and lawyers in France. The girl was fifteen at the time of the alleged incident – the minimum of age of consent in France – and claims that she was forced into sex by her assailants, who were then seventeen and nineteen. Neither of the men are French, but they were on holiday together at a campsite in Aigues-Mortes, which is thirty miles South of Nimes, and close to the Mediterranean coast. At first the footballer denied having sex with the girl. When evidence was produced by police investigators, he changed his story saying: 'I didn't want to upset my girlfriend.' Now the defendants say that they had consensual sex with their accuser and always thought she was older than fifteen. She has admitted to being drunk on 18 July 2012 – the day of the alleged incident – saying the accused plied her with alcoholic drinks to make her more interested in sex. Friends reportedly found her crying just before 6am the next morning, when she described the footballer as 'pretentious and a bastard.' So, that could, basically, be any Premier League footballer. He is thought to have already signed professional terms at the time. According to the girl and her friends, the defendants knew her age because she had explained to him she could not go to the campsite disco 'because she was only fifteen years old.' After changing his story, the footballer told judges that the girl 'had consented to sex' in a tent, but was threatened with legal action in a Nimes youth court. The complainant, who is now twenty one, has not changed her story, say prosecuting sources. When the defendants reached the age of eighteen, the complaints were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Nimes Assizes. Both men appeared before judges in July and have been bailed to return on a date to be fixed. Remy Nougier, the barrister defending the footballer and his cousin, said that he had 'appealed the elevation' of the case to the higher court and that his clients 'vigorously contest the accusations.' In March, French officials announced plans to fix the legal age of sexual consent at fifteen, meaning sex with someone younger than that would automatically be considered as rape.
Jimmy Anderson took the final wicket of the international summer to become the most successful fast bowler in test cricket and secure a one hundred and eighteen-run victory for England in the fifth test against India at The Oval. The thirty six-year-old bowled Mohammed Shami to claim his five hundred and sixty fourth test wicket, surpassing the record of Australia's Glenn McGrath. It secured a four-one series victory for England, who were held up for much of the fifth day by centuries from KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant. However, a stunning leg-break from Adil Rashid dismissed Rahul as the tourists fell from three hundred and twenty five for five to three hundred and forty five all out. Anderson drew level with McGrath's total with two quick wickets on Monday evening, but he - and England - could not force victory on Tuesday until into the final session. Rahul and Pant's two hundred and four-run stand gave India faint hope of an improbable victory and of a more likely draw, but Rashid dismissed both players in successive overs to put England on top. The final three wickets fell quickly: Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja both edged Sam Curran behind before Anderson bowled Shami with a full, straight delivery. The players were then led off the field by Alastair Cook in his final test match for England. 'The last two days will live long in the memory,' ex-England captain Michael Vaughan said on Test Match Special . What a week we have had and what a series it has been.' Anderson's emotion on passing McGrath's record was evident - the pace bowler teared up as he and Cook left the field - and he finished the series as the leading wicket-taker with twenty four wickets in five tests. 'I'm trying not to cry,' Anderson told TMS. 'It's been a special achievement for me. It's not something I've aimed for. I've just enjoyed playing for England - it's an amazing job.' When asked about Cook's retirement, Anderson added: 'It's been difficult. He's a very good mate of mine and he's helped me through a lot of my career. He's been there as a friend for me. I'll miss him.' It has been a strange series for England - while they have beaten the number one side in the world, there are still a few lingering questions over the make-up of their side. They need, once again, to find an opener, although this time it is to replace Cook rather than his - clearly struggling - partner Keaton Jennings, while there are still questions over the top order. Jennings averages 18.11 from nine innings in this series, while Joe Root started the series batting at three and ended it at four - Moeen Ali having been brought back into the team and promptly pushed up the order. Sam Curran, named the man of the series, is a positive for the hosts, having taken eleven wickets and scored two hundred and seventy two runs in the four tests he played whilst the batting form of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Ali and, before injury, Chris Woakes were positively. Nevertheless, Root's side need to shore up their batting before the winter tour of Sri Lanka - particularly given England's struggles away from home in recent times. Although Anderson took the wicket that sealed the match, it was a superb delivery from Rashid that ended the frustrating sixth-wicket partnership between Pant and Rahul. Rashid was overlooked for long periods in the morning and afternoon session and, when he did bowl, he struggled for control against India's two attacking batsmen. Pant, in particular, tried to dominate Rashid, hitting him for three sixes - one of which brought up his century. With the new ball available after tea, the leg-spinner may have been expected to be taken out of the attack. However, Root opted to persist with him - and with the old ball - and he was rewarded when the Yorkshire leg-spinner produced a stunning delivery that turned extravagantly after pitching outside leg to hit the top of Rahul's off stump. Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott, speaking on Test Match Special, said the delivery was reminiscent of a Shane Warne ball. The leg-spinner then dismissed the second centurion, with Pant hoicking the ball down to Moeen at long-off. Given India's loose batting at times in this series, it may have been surprising to some that they were able to take the game into the final session. But England let the game drift: Anderson and Broad both opened the bowling and were not seen again until the mid-afternoon. Anderson's reintroduction in the sixty eighth over was greeted with the biggest cheer of the day. Broad's omission from the attack may have been due to his broken rib, an after-effect of the blow he took when batting in the first innings, but Anderson's absence, given his potency in this series, seemed odd. That India got so close to England's target was entirely down to Rahul and Pant, who batted with intelligence and aggression throughout the day. Moeen lacked penetration in the afternoon session while Rashid continually dropped short when eventually asked to bowl. Pant in particular played some eye-catching strokes. He brought up his century in fitting style, getting down on one knee and launching Rashid over deep mid-wicket and into the stands. Rahul, too, opted for the aerial route, smearing Stokes over extra cover for six before flat-batting the same bowler down the pitch for four to bring up his own ton. The two also started quickly after tea as they reached their two hundred-run stand, but they were unable to keep out Rashid as he found his line. Despite the result, this has been a largely competitive series - and India have looked a much-improved side compared to the one that toured here four years ago.
Always remember, dear blog reader, no matter how bad - how utterly terrible - your life may seem at times, it could be much, much worse. You could, for example, be a passenger in this car.
The actor Peter Benson, who played Bernie Scripps in the popular ITV series Heartbeat for eighteen years, has died, his manager said. Benson died aged seventy five on Thursday after a short illness. In the popular long-running police drama set in the 1960s, Peter played a funeral director who got into a variety of disastrous money-making schemes. He appeared in all eighteen series of Heartbeat from 1992 and also in its spin-off series, The Royal. Benson also played Henry Tulip in the opening episode of the BBC comedy The Blackadder and appeared more recently in the hospital drama, Casualty. He was memorable as Bor, one of The Vani guards, in the 1983 Doctor Who story Terminus getting several of the best lines in Stephen Gallagher's witty script. 'Am I dead yet?' he asks one of his colleagues as the effects of radiation poisoning take effect. When told that, in fact, he is not, he replies: 'Funny, I could have sworn that ... Still, it's a relief. I'm hoping for something rather better on the other side!' He played Henry VI for the 1983 BBC production of Shakespeare's Hollow Crown trilogy. He featured in the ITV soap opera Albion Market and the notorious BBC drama on the life of Pope Alexander VI, The Borgias. Other lines on his CV included roles in The Bill, Trinity Tales, The Devil's Crown, Will Shakespeare, Maria Marten Or Murder In The Red Barn, Tenko, Have His Carcass, Boys from The Bush, Paul Merton: The Series, Merlin and Coronation Street as well as the movies The First Great Train Robbery, Cry of The Banshee, Roman Polanski's Tess and Hawk The Slayer. As well as his TV work, Peter was also a skilled singer, dancer and theatre actor.
The actress Fenella Fielding has died at the age of ninety after suffering a stroke. Fielding's career spanned seven decades and she was best known for appearing in two of the Carry On movies. The name Fenella Fielding will prompt a smile on the face of just about anyone over the age of forty. They will be thinking, of course, of that defining role in Carry on Screaming!, one of the very best of the film comedy series, which pastiched Hammer horror films and saw Fielding win many male admirers for her vampish Valeria, purring seductively at Harry H Corbett's dim-witted copper. It's a properly great performance from Fielding but in some ways it's a shame that it is this for which she will be best remembered. She was, in fact, a serious actress remembered for a single, stand-out comic role.
Fenella survived a violent upbringing to play Ibsen, Shakespeare and Euripides on stage. As an artist, her sheer versatility captivated both Federico Fellini and Noel Coward. This was a woman of wit and wisdom who kept a copy of Plato beside the bed. She came to prominence in the Fifties when she appeared in Sandy Wilson's musical version of Valmouth and forged a varied theatrical career which included revue and many of the classics, including a stunning Hedda Gabler opposite Ian McKellen. Writing in the Independent in 2008, Robert Chalmers said: 'One of the mysteries of British life [is] that Fenella Fielding whose wit and distinctive stage presence captivated figures such as Kenneth Tynan, Noel Coward and Federico Fellini, should have drifted into obscurity rather than being celebrated.' Certainly after the Sixties, Fielding's career went into the doldrums early. Some of this can be attributed to her supreme choosiness, but there is also a hint that, perhaps, she was difficult to cast - too bound up with the public perception: eccentric and highly theatrical. When she did appear on film and TV, it was often in roles that adhered to this image, such as the fatuous, celebrity-obsessed Mrs Hunter in the BBC's 1985 adaptation of Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. A particularly fallow period occurred from 1979 when she was swindled by her manager and was forced to sell her home. Her voice, however, velvety and commanding, did at least ensure some lucrative income. Back in 1967, she was the voice that hailed the villagers in The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan reportedly told her to tone it down and 'not be too sexy.' Should found that difficult. At the start of the Twenty First Century, she began working with recording company, Savoy, on a number of readings including TS Eliot's Four Quartets and JG Ballard's Crash. The producer David Britton had been impressed by Fielding's voice and its 'subtext of menace.' There is a sense with this literary work that Fielding was fulfilling her intellectual ambitions - after all she had a reputation of holding her own with such thinkers of the day as the impresario Henry Donaldson and the journalist Jeffrey Bernard, with whom she had an affair.
But, for millions, that serious side is often forgotten. Instead, she will forever be Valeria - draped on a divan in a skin-tight scarlet dress; her voice oozing with sex appeal and sporting eyelashes like upturned claws. She turned down all future Carry On work but the die was cast. In the public mind, she was the quintessential Sixties femme fatale, delivering rich double entendres with lashings of false innocence. And sadly, as a performer, her career slowly drifted into obscurity almost as soon as she uttered her most immortal line. Fielding was known to be reclusive, but she did grant an interview to the Torygraph last year to promote her memoir - inevitably entitled, Do You Mind If I Smoke? - talking to Jasper Rees about the cruelty that she suffered at the hands of her father who managed a cinema in Silvertown and of how Kenneth Williams (her co-star both in revues and Carry On Screaming!) had a tendency to steal all the best lines. Rees noted how Fielding wore her hair 'styled exactly like the MGM publicity still of her in the 1966 film Drop Dead Darling.' And this, perhaps, is how we will remember Fenella, preserved in aspic. In reality, this crisp-voiced woman was a clever classical actress of rare intelligence. Fenella Marion Feldman was born in Hackney in 1927 - the youngest child of a Romanian mother and a Lithuanian father. The relationship with her parents was never easy, often strained and occasionally violent. As a toddler, she seemed to speak in gibberish. Her mother and father worried that she was failing to develop normal language skills until they chanced upon her in an animated conversation with a doll. 'I suppose,' she later wrote, 'I just didn't want to speak to my parents.'
The young Fenella harboured a burning desire to perform. She took ballet lessons and gave her youthful talent for comedy free rein in the annual end of year show - once memorably cavorting around the stage to the tune of 'Nobody Loves A Fairy When She's Forty'. Other parents, she bitterly noted, showered their children with fresh flowers after each performance; her own parents merely offered up the same basket of artificial blooms, year-after-year. It was hard not to take it to heart. As she entered her teens, life at home became darker. Her father - who could be charming in public - was a 'street angel, house devil,' she recalled who 'used to knock me about with his fists.' To make matters worse, her mother, she claimed, would 'egg him on.' Fenella thought the violence would pass, but it didn't - at least until she threatened to go to the police. She left school at sixteen and spent a year at St Martin's School of Art. Her parents were appalled that she might see naked men - or even worse, naked women - in class, which was bound to result in pregnancy and drug addiction. There were rows every morning. Eventually, they forced her to leave home. Still wanting to act, Fielding would hang around stage doors in the West End in the hope of bumping into Alec Guinness or Laurence Olivier. She won a two-year scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art - which pleased her mother and father greatly until it dawned on them that she might actually become an actress. Her mother began turning up at RADA at lunchtime, making a scene and insisting Fielding leave. 'Really, darling,' she would say, 'these common people!' After a while, the school quietly withdrew her funding. She considered going to university but her father told her he would 'rather see her dead at his feet.' Instead, she was dispatched to learn shorthand and typing. She found it soul destroying. In misery, Fielding downed seventy aspirin in a suicide attempt but changed her mind at the last minute. She swallowed pints of mustard water to induce vomiting after calling an all-night Boots to ask how to reverse the effects. She found digs in Mayfair run by friendly prostitutes. In 1952, she appeared in an amateur production at the London School of Economics alongside Ron Moody - then a mature student. Moody supported her ambition to become an actress, persuading her not to pack it in and train as a manicurist. She changed her name from Feldman to Fielding, pretended to be seven years younger than she actually was in order to compensate for her late start in showbusiness and began appearing in comedy revues.
By the end of the 1950s, she had made a name for herself in the musical Valmouth. It was quirky and, for the time, rather lurid - but Fielding's rave reviews led to an awkward reconciliation with her parents. Her mother turned up at the Lyric Theatre bearing a peace offering of sorts: a fried chicken. Next was Pieces Of Eight, a comedy revue written by the unlikely pairing of Peter Cook and Harold Pinter. Starring alongside her was Kenneth Williams - already firmly established as a household name from radio - who quickly proved to harbour a brittle ego under the thinnest of thin skins. When one review called Fielding a 'beautiful butterfly of comedy,' he reportedly exploded in rage. Encouraging her to ad lib, he ruthlessly stole all of her best lines. He became threatening and bluntly warned her not to steal his limelight. When Fielding extemporised the end of one sketch with the line 'the last one dead's a sissy,' there were hysterics. Williams went white and shrieked that she had 'called me a homosexual in front of the whole audience.' 'It was awful,' she later recalled. 'I'd never been so frightened in all my life.' Worse was to come as she branched out into film and television after making her small-screen debut in 1957 playing a prostitute in Rudolph Cartier's adaptation of The Magnificent Egotist part of the BBC's Sunday Night Theatre strand. In 1959, she appeared in Follow A Star alongside Norman Wisdom - whom she came to loathe. 'Not a very pleasant man,' she later said. 'Hand up your skirt first thing in the morning. Not exactly a lovely way to start a day's filming.' Socially, the 1960s could not have been more glamorous. Vidal Sassoon, personally, did her hair and the bohemian journalist Jeffrey Bernard took her on riotous club nights. She would sit and talk long into the night with the flamboyant artist Francis Bacon and the rest of that decade's rakish beau monde. Professionally, there were roles on television in the likes of The Avengers and regular appearances on the Saturday night satire show That Was The Week That Was. Her CV also included Destination Downing Street, International Detective, Tony Newley's The Strange World Of Gurney SladeDanger Man and Saki. Her film appearances included working alongside Dirk Bogarde in Doctor In Love and Tony Curtis in Arrivederci, Baby! as well as Carry On Regardless, No Love For Johnnie, The Old Dark House and Lock Up Your Daughters! On stage, she pursued her first love, drama. The Times described her performance in the title role in Hedda Gabler as 'one of the experiences of a lifetime.' Fellini took her to Claridge's and offered to make a film where she starred as seven different incarnations of male desire. Unfortunately, she was already booked to do a stage season in Chichester so she turned him down - to the great disappointment of her agent. Then came the role which made her a legend. Carry On Screaming! reunited Fielding with with her old nemesis, Kenneth Williams. The filming took three weeks, made her hugely famous and - in many respects - her career never recovered. Reclining on a chaise longue, Fielding entices Harry H Corbett towards her. The eyes flutter and the voice purrs. 'Do you mind if I smoke?' she inquires seductively - before vast quantities of dry ice envelopes her. Half-a-century later, children would still shout that line at her in the street. She politely declined all invitations to appear in other Carry On films - including an offer to play the lead in Carry On Cleo - partly in an attempt to avoid being typecast by the success of Screaming! Instead, whilst Carry On Cleo was in production she was appearing as Cleopatra in a far more serious take on roughly the same story, the Theatre 625 play All The Conspirators: The Ides Of March. But, for the rest of her life, she struggled to escape Valeria.
The offers dried up and her on-screen career quietly slid away. She did Morecambe & Wise Christmas specials and some voice work for both the cult series, The Prisoner and a 1970 Magic Roundabout project - Dougal & The Blue Cat. But she didn't make another film for almost fifteen years. Fielding was rarely completely out of work, however. She continued on stage - with a string of well-reviewed provincial shows - in which she didn't have to play 'either a lady or a tart.' But, eventually, she struggled for money and was forced to go to claim benefits - an experience which she found demeaning. She never married, despite a string of interested male admirers. One possible future husband died, another couldn't get over his alcoholism and had to be abandoned. For twenty years, she maintained two separate lovers and managed to prevent them from ever meeting. 'I loved them both,' she wrote but decided on 'never committing; never having a marriage that could have gone awful.' Politically, she was of the left - despising Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and refusing to help her older brother, Bas, when he stood for election under the Conservative banner. However, they remained close and she was proud of him when, without her help, he became an important figure in the party and eventually entered the House of Lords. Latterly, there was work with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson in Guest House Paradiso and a role as an eccentric granny in the gritty Channel Four teen drama, Skins. But, for Fenella Fielding, her best work always took place on stage. At the age of nearly ninety, the Financial Times described her performance in Euripides' The Trojan Women as 'unbearably moving, at the extreme limits of pathos.' For most of the rest of us, however, she is preserved in memory as the camp vamp of Carry On legend. She will forever be 'England's First Lady of the double entendre' with a velvety voice and silvery twinkle in her eye. She was resigned to that professional fate. The autobiography she published in 2017 has little bitterness or regret in it. The only thing that rankled was when she met fellow actors - and there were many - who'd been asked to do adverts with a 'Fenella Fielding-like' voice. 'Bloody cheek,' she would say with perfect comic timing. 'Why didn't they ask me?'
And, finally, dear blog reader ...