Saturday, January 21, 2017

On A B-Road

We start the latest bloggerisationisms this week, dear blog reader, with a new semi-regular From The North feature. Great moments of television history, number four hundred and eighteen: Ronni Ancona appearing on this week's episode of Qi wearing a sailor's hat with the word 'spanker' on it. Oh, don't, you Qi elves, you'll only give people notions.
And, so to the great moments of television history, number four hundred and nineteen: The 'Humphrey Bogart movies what have been misspelled by one letter' round in the latest episode of Only Connect. That was witty.
As some of you dear blog readers may know, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's sometime writing partner, the comedy legend that is Alfie Joey, in addition to being a world class stand-up comedian, impressionist, actor, writer and local radio broadcaster is, also, a very fine cartoonist, something which his Facebook followers will be well aware of. Often, they're of a topically satirical nature but, Alf's latest effort is on a Doctor Who theme. Of course, it was left to this blogger to point out that in Alf's first draft of the piece - which he knocked up a couple of weeks ago - he'd missed off John Hurt. Alfie, being a total soft-touch when it comes to crass bullying from members of Doctor Who fandom, instantly included The War Doctor in the final version, which you can see reproduced here. They're in the wrong order, admittedly. But, at least Hurty's now in there. Alfie, this blogger was happy to inform him, was now complying with Official BBC Continuity, and that. Mind you, Colin Baker appears to be a couple of inches shorter than Sylvester McCoy instead of, you know, a foot taller. And, Mister Pertwee seems to have been kidnapped and replaced by my nan. But, other than that, a jolly fine effort I'd've said.
On Saturday, for us dinner at yer actual Stately Telly Topping Manor, there was - get this - Kashmiri chicken masala with basmati rice, red onions and smokey garlic fougasse. And a nice glass of sweet-medium white. Oh yes. (Keith Telly Topping's old mucker Barnaby was properly aghast at the purchase of fougasse until this blogger was forced to confess that, actually, he'd wanted a nice naan bread instead but ASDA had none left in stock.)
And, to be honest, that's about it for the week's major talking points. Well, other than the Sunday Herald's TV highlight of the week, obviously.
Sentiments which, seemingly, The Doctor broadly agreed with. Which was nice.
David Clementi has called for a review of 'crown jewel' sports rights in his first appearance after his appointment as BBC chair, in which he also demanded - demanded, please note - that all senior appointments at the corporation should be 'politically independent.' Whether they will be, or not, is another question entirely. In the first two hours of a grilling by members of the Commons lack of culture, media and sport select committee to confirm his appointment, Clementi, the government's 'preferred choice' as chair - and, therefore, a political appointee his very self - said that he had 'always been politically neutral' and that his board and senior executives should be too, adding: 'I never met the Prime Minister.' Asked about the promotion of the former Labour lack of culture secretary James Purnell to a key editorial role as head of radio, Clementi said: 'There should be open competition for all senior appointments and one of the tests will be political independence.' Applicants to the new BBC board would also be judged for their impartiality, he suggested. 'Those who come with a political agenda will not be appointed,' said Clementi, the former chairman of the insurance company Prudential. One or two people even believed him. Clementi surprised observers by suggesting the debate over what constitutes a 'crown jewel' sports event – one which should be provided exclusively free-to-air – should be reopened. He suggested that golf's Open Championship was just such an event and should not have been lost to Sky last year. Saying that he 'regretted' the loss of 'one of two national occasions,' he called for the list of crown jewel sports to be reviewed. 'There were just a few I regard as national events and I would like to see free-to-air,' he said. The BBC lost live rights to England cricket test matches to Channel Four in 1999 and they moved to Sky in 2005, while Eurosport has secured exclusive pan-European rights to the Olympics. The list of crown jewel events is governed by legislation and a voluntary code set up in 2009, which was re-signed by sports bodies governing cricket, football, golf, tennis and rugby union and league last October. Clementi said several times that 'impartiality and accuracy' should be 'at the heart' of the corporation. 'The BBC is nothing if it doesn't carry the trust of the people to be impartial and accurate. Above all, the BBC needs to be seen as the medium of record in the era of fake news and post-truth era,' he said. 'The BBC has a real role to ensure it is seen as the place where people go to make sure they can distinguish between fact and fiction.' He backed the corporation's reporting of the EU referendum, saying it 'did a good job in a set of very difficult circumstances.' He said he thought the BBC had 'continued to tread a good path down the middle,' but he 'would like to see some research. I am absolutely determined that we should meet this requirement every time and stand back and question ourselves about bias. My own personal view is that the BBC has done a good job,' he said. 'I've always been politically neutral. I've never belonged to a political party.' On bringing his experience of privatisation or marketisation to the BBC, Clementi said that the broadcaster would 'look at' what could be outsourced effectively. 'The BBC is going to be under very significant financial pressure as a result of licence fee negotiations,' he said. 'We are bound to spend a good deal of time over the next few years considering ways of actually reducing the cost base of the BBC without harming the frontline services.' Although he ducked questions about how he would have dealt with the imposition of funding for free TV licences for over-seventy fives, Clementi was critical of the 'behind-closed-doors' nature of last year's settlement. 'If I thought financial settlement was incompatible with obligations of the charter then I would have to resign,' he said. Clementi also told MPs that the BBC was right not to 'chase the money' to keep The Great British Bake Off and that it should not create a copycat baking show to compete with the programme when it relaunches on Channel Four. The rival channel paid seventy five million smackers for three seasons of The Great British Bake Off after negotiations between the programme's makers, Greed Productions, and the BBC broke down last year. Its presenters, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, the judge Mary Berry and the 2015 winner, Nadiya Hussain, have all committed themselves to the BBC, with only Paul Hollywood following the greed and moving to Channel Four. Asked during his confirmation hearing if the BBC would be right to make a similar show, Clementi said that such a move would be 'quite disappointing' and could breach copyright rules. He told the committee: 'If it was a precisely similar cooking show I think it would be wrong, but I don't think that is what they intend. My personal opinion is they need to find a different format. My very personal view is that it peaked with Nadiya Hussain. That's a very personal view not the BBC's and good luck to Channel Four.' Clementi said that he was 'not sad' the BBC had lost The Voice to ITV, and praised the new talent show Let It Shine, fronted by Tory tax-avoider Sir Gary Barlow OBE. 'The concept is not new, [but] it is quite warm-hearted,' he said. Wrongly. 'There's a slight twist in way they do voting. Shouldn't judge it on the first two episodes. We should allow it a few more Saturdays to judge it.' Clementi described himself as 'an avid TV watcher,' saying his 'specialist subject is BBC1 and BBC2 between 8pm and 11pm.' He cited Sherlock, the Agatha Christie adaptation The Witness For The Prosecution and the Brontë sisters drama To Walk Invisible as examples of 'distinctive programming' produced over Christmas and added that the 'sheer quality' of other BBC dramas made them distinctive. Clementi, who authored the report suggesting a unitary board with an independent chair should be created, denied that he had effectively written his own job description. He claimed that he had not considered applying to be chair until after the BBC Trust chair, Rona Fairhead, had ruled herself out. 'The actual criteria by which the open contest has been judged was not set by me, [it was] set by DCMS officials and ministers, no doubt working with a headhunter. An open and orderly process has taken place, the result of it is I am here in front of you.'
The BBC's new wildlife presenter Gillian Burke has said that she was 'horrified' to be blamed for 'breaking up' the Springwatch team. Wildlife presenter Martin Hughes-Games -already in big trouble with a lot of people over his recent, highly critical, comments about Sir David Attenborough - claimed last year that he had been 'sidelined' from the show because he is 'white and middle class.' It emerged later that Gillian, who was born in Kenya and now lives in Cornwall, would be joining the Springwatch team. The BBC denied that diversity was 'the issue' and Hughes-Games later returned to the strand and will appear on Winterwatch along with the other long-term presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan and newcomer Burke. She told Radio Times magazine: 'A friend texted me one Monday morning saying I was in the papers. Can you imagine the horror for me of apparently busting into the party and being blamed for breaking it up?' She said: 'In many ways Martin and I have had a very similar journey. We both went to Bristol University, both did biology, both went into natural history as researchers and then worked our way up as producers.' She added: 'I can totally understand why people would want to know where I've come from, the perception is that I've just shown up. But I've been doing this a long time. My first job in natural history was in the mid-late nineties and I've worked pretty solidly in it ever since. I have grown up alongside all the people involved in programmes likes Planet Earth. I have my own story and my own journey and it's taken me a long time to get here.' She said that she 'dreamed' of working at the BBC's Natural History Unit while studying biology at Bristol University. She added: 'Walking up and down to lectures took me past and I remember gazing at it and thinking, "Wow. That's where I would like to work."'
The character of Inspector George Gently is hanging up his trenchcoat once and for all. Ten years after Martin Shaw turned the beloved Gently novels into a hit BBC series, filming has begun on two final feature-length episodes. Back in action one last time will be Shaw as the eponymous inspector, who is tested like never before just as he winds down his career. In the first of two films - Gently Liberated - the inspector and his trusted allies Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) and Coles (Lisa McGrillis) are brought in to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice. However, their final case in Gently & The New Age has The Met's new Special Investigations Squad boss, Lister, bringing in the inspector his very self to investigate high levels of corruption within the force. Both of these episodes will be set in 1970. As he prepares for his finale as Gently, Martin Shaw said that it has been 'wonderful' returning to the long-running crime drama. 'We're a very happy and close company and working with such friends is a joy,' he added. 'I'm excited at being able to bring the series to a proper finale, a farewell that befits such a popular series.' Executive producer Peter Flannery admitted that it is 'bittersweet' to say farewell to a character and ensemble cast who have entertained BBC1 viewers for a decade. 'I'm sad to finally part with George Gently - the series and the character,' he said. 'Loosely based at first on the novels of Alan Hunter, the world of the stories became my own creation which audiences have enjoyed for nearly ten years. It's been a privilege along the way to work with talented and committed teams and I hope that many of them will look back on George Gently - as I will - with pride and pleasure.' The two final episodes will feature guest appearances from Victoria Bewick, Anamaria Marinca, Richard Harrington and Steven Robertson. Both episodes will - as usual - be set in the North East, and are currently being filmed on location in and around Durham.
That there Karen Gillan has come home to Scotland to direct her first feature-length film. Called Tupperware Party, it is 'wrapped up in challenging issues' and also marks a return for the actress to where her fascination with movies began. 'Weirdly, I am back where I started,' said the twenty nine-year-old actress, writer and director on the set of Tupperware Party. 'I have been concentrating on acting for, I guess, the last decade. But, when I first started off when I was a young child expressing an interest in all this I had a video camera and was directing short films. It feels exactly the same, except everything is on a slightly bigger scale.' Inverness-born Kazza is, of course, best known for her roles as Amy Pond in Doctor Who (you knew that, right?) and - to a lesser extent - as space pirate Nebula in 2014's Marvel movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy. Since her breakthrough role in Doctor Who she has also appeared in the films Not Another Happy Ending, Oculus and In A Valley Of Violence and US TV shows, including Selfie. But Kaz has also been busy writing and directing her own material. She already has two short films to her name, including a horror short called Conventional. Tupperware Party, which she wrote and is directing and starring in, is an art-house film set in her home city and is being made by a US-based film company. Gillan says: 'Tupperware Party follows the story of a girl called Lucy who lives in Inverness. She is dealing with the suicide of her best friend. It is one year one on and she is having a really hard time expressing how she feels about the whole event. Her angst manifests itself in quite destructive ways.' The film is being shot at location across Scotland, including Inverness itself. When the BBC caught up with Kazza, the production was in Bo'ness, near Falkirk. She said: 'It was so important for me to film in Scotland first and foremost because the film is set in Scotland. The only other film I've seen set in Inverness was Loch Ness, which is great and I really enjoyed it, but I really wanted to show the reality of the place and what it is like to grow up there. There is a sense of identity that is beyond the tourist sort of aesthetic.' Tupperware Party is being made by Mount Hollywood Films, a production company with a mission to offer women and film-makers from minority backgrounds leadership roles such as writing, directing and producing films. 'I have such an amazing team to collaborate with,' says Gillan. 'We have such a strong team of females on this project. We didn't choose anyone because they were female. To me gender is irrelevant and it is whoever is best for the job.' Andru Davies, of Mount Hollywood Films, said that Gillan is 'exactly' the kind of film-maker the company wants to work with. 'She wrote the script, she is directing it, she is the lead actress, it is female-driven and her partners are all women,' he said. But, he added: 'It is a story that speaks to both men and women.' It is not only the Scottish actress that has won over the film company. Making Tupperware Party has convinced Mount Hollywood Films to return to Scotland to make other films. Davies said: 'It is great working here. We are actually moving some of our other projects to Scotland because of how much we have enjoyed working here. The crews are amazing and the towns are great.' Part of Tupperware Party's crew is producer Claire Mundell, who also has her own independent film company, Synchronicity Films. She previously worked with Karen on Not Another Happy Ending. 'At the end of that film she told me she was writing a script about suicide in Scotland, which is a really big issue as we know,' said Mundell. 'That really resonated with me and I thought the opportunity of working with Karen as a writer, director and female film-maker would be really exciting.' Mundell also said that Tupperware Party is yet another film which 'underlines' the need for Scotland to have its own studio with an industry-scale stage. The Scottish government has been looking at how to provide such a facility. Mundell added that such a studio would allow 'whole film-making processes' to be done in Scotland and not just filming at locations before the movies are finished in a studio overseas, or in England. 'The stage is necessary to inspire our own indigenous film-making talent and TV-making talent to be more ambitious and be more international with the stories they tell,' she said. Tupperware Party should be available for release in cinemas this year - twelve months when Gillan will rarely be far from the big screen. Over the course of 2017 she will appear alongside Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in The Circle, reprise her role as Nebula in Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume Two and, at Christmas, will feature in a follow-up to 1995's Robin Williams hit movie Jumanji. 'And then I'll be making a little appearance in the next Avengers movie,' she added. Avengers: Infinity War, expected to be released in cinemas next year, brings together many characters from the Marvel comic 'universe', including from Guardians Of The Galaxy as well as the Iron Man and Captain America stories. Some scenes for Infinity War are, reportedly, to be filmed in Scotland. 'What are the chances of that?' said Karen, hoping that if this is, indeed, the case she might be able to appear as her character from a galaxy far, far away in a place not too far from her home.
Angus Deayton is to host The Great British Bake Off spin-off Creme De La Creme. The show, for professional pastry chefs, is staying on the BBC despite the main show moving from BBC1 to Channel Four. The first series of Creme De La Creme, broadcast on BBC2 in 2016, was hosted by z-list celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. Deayton is best known as a former presenter of topical quiz Have I Got News For You, from which he was very sacked in 2002. Creme De La Creme will see ten teams of chefs competing in tasks to make perfect pastries and spectacular showpieces. Deayton will be joined on the Greed Productions show by judges Benoit Blin, chef patissier at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire and by Cherish Finden, the executive pastry chef at The Langham in London. Greed Productions' executive producer Kieran Smith said: 'We're delighted Angus has taken up the baton to host the new series. His distinct humour and presenting style brings a fresh dynamic to the show.' The show will return to BBC2 later this year.
The Xtra Factor will no longer be broadcast on ITV2, instead moving to an online-only programme. The spin-off show has broadcast on ITV's sister channel since 2004. In a statement, ITV said that it made the decision 'to focus efforts on digital platforms' and to 'move away from a linear switchover show.' But, mainly, because The Xtra Factor is shit and hardly anyone watches it. ITV claimed that the decision is 'not related' to its most recent presenters Radio 1's Matt Edmondson, Rylan Clark-Neal, and Roman Kemp. Edmondson tweeted it was his 'dream job' and he had an 'absolute blast' working on it. Previous presenters have include thin-skinned scourge of the bullies Fearne Cotton, that dreadful Willoughby woman, Olly Murs, Caroline Flack and Sarah-Jane Crawford.
Moneysupermarket's twerking businessman and Paddy Power's cat-kicking blind footballers were some of the most-complained-about adverts of 2016. Moneysupermarket's dancing bodyguard Gary, twerking strutter Dave and dancing builder Colin were all in the top ten, the advertising watchdog said, rather wearily. The Paddy Power advert was first shown in 2010 but still drew four hundred and fifty complaints when it recently reappeared on TV screens. The Advertising Standards Authority said that none on the list 'crossed the line' from bad taste to offence. Three Moneysupermarket price comparison website adverts attracted two thousand four hundred and ninety one whinges between them. From people with nothing better to do with their time, seemingly.
Some viewers claimed that they found the bodyguard's dance moves 'distasteful' and the adverts with the strutters and the builder as 'homophobic.' Exactly how, none of the whingers explained.
An advert for dating website Match.com showing a woman removing her female partner's top and kissing her received eight hundred and ninety six complaints. It was alleged to be 'sexually explicit' and 'inappropriately scheduled.' The Paddy Power advert featured men playing blind football and inadvertently kicking a cat due to the sound of a bell round its neck. The ASA had already ruled the majority of viewers would see the advert as humorous and not humiliating or undermining to blind people when it was first shown in 2010 and so it did not investigate it again. The bookmaker's advert about Scottish football fans 'not minding' about not qualifying for Euro 2016 - because they could bet on England to lose - was whinged about for being 'racist' and 'anti-English.' And let us once again simply stand up and salute the utter risible shite that some people chose to care about, dear blog reader.
Also in the top ten most whinged about adverts were Smart Energy's 'Gaz and Leccy' cartoon characters, the Home Office's Disrespect Nobody domestic violence campaign, Maltesers featuring a woman in a wheelchair talking about crushing a bride's foot at a wedding reception disco and Gourmet Burger Kitchen's references to 'giving up vegetarianism.' The complaint about the Home Office's advert was that it implied only men were responsible for domestic abuse and that it could discourage male victims of violence from coming forward. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: 'The ads that attract the highest number of complaints are often not the ones that need banning. Our action leads to thousands of ads being amended or withdrawn each year, mostly for being misleading, but there wasn't one misleading ad in the top ten. In the list there are a number of ads, which while advertising their product or service, have also sought to present a positive statement about diversity but were in fact seen by some as doing the opposite. In all those cases, we thought people generally would see the ads in a positive light and that the boundary between bad taste and serious or widespread offence had been navigated well enough, often through using sensible scheduling restrictions.'
A former Ofcom board member is seeking a judicial review of the decision by the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Bradley, to sack him without compensation after he expressed support for the EU. Bill Emmott, a former Economist editor, has accused the vile and odious rascal Bradley of 'unreasonable behaviour' and questioned her fitness for office, in a long-running row which exposes tensions between the government and the media regulator, a politically appointed quango, elected by no one. The vile and odious rascal Bradley, who is already facing a judicial review over her decision to consult on two remaining aspects of press regulation, had accused Emmott of 'misbehaviour.' He, in turn accuses the vile and odious rascal Bradley of 'recklessly defaming a person of good reputation.' The row started before last year's EU referendum when Ofcom accused Emmott, then its new chief enforcer of television quality and standards, of contravening its code of conduct by speaking out publicly 'about politics.' Eventually the vile and odious rascal Bradley's Department for Culture, Media and Sport extremely terminated his contract as chair of Ofcom's content board without compensation last November, overturning what Emmott believed was an agreement to pay him seventy five thousand knicker for termination without cause. Although Emmott objected to his dismissal by Ofcom for 'three tweets, one Italian interview and an article about Donald Trump,' as he put it, it is the DCMS action which has prompted the legal complaint and the ire of his discombobulation. He is calling for the vile and odious rascal Bradley's decision to be 'quashed,' especially given the fact that he had been recused from internal discussions and decisions concerning the referendum. A DCMS spokesman said that the decision to terminate Emmott's contract was due to his 'failing to adhere to the Ofcom board members' code of practice.' As for the pay-off, an alleged DCMS 'source' allegedly said: 'It was never in Ofcom's gift to offer a financial settlement – it was only ever a matter for DCMS. When the secretary of state looked at the case, she was clear taxpayers' money must not be used to reward a breach of conduct.' Emmott has until 3 February, three months after the DCMS decision, to launch legal action and has decided he will do so despite the legal costs. 'I aim to get the costs paid by DCMS but if I lose I'm willing to bite the bullet because of the principle involved. The government should not behave in this way,' he said. It is the second time the government appears to have rejected a senior Ofcom recommendation. In December the DCMS rejected the only BAME and female candidate put forward by Ofcom for one of four new board positions at Channel Four. The signs of tension come as Ofcom faces its biggest ever challenge, taking over the regulation of the BBC from April. Ofcom's chair, Patricia Hodgson, who appointed Emmott, had her own contract extended by another year, to 2018, partly to oversee the integration of oversight of the BBC. The vile and odious rascal Bradley also faces a decision about whether to refer the bid by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's Twentieth Century FOX for full ownership of Sky to Ofcom by this spring. Emmott has been vocal in his criticism of Ofcom since leaving the regulator. In an article in the Financial Times in November, he wrote: 'In its current shape and leadership, Ofcom looks unfit for the vital national task of protecting editorial standards at the BBC.' He has been critical of the way he has been treated compared with a remaining board member, Sheila Noakes, a Tory peer who supported Brexit.
The 'real' threat to global critical infrastructure is not enemy states or organisations but squirrels, according to one - alleged - security expert. Cris Thomas has been tracking power cuts caused by animals since 2013. Squirrels, birds, rats and snakes have been responsible for more than seventeen hundred power cuts affecting nearly five million people, Thomas told a security conference this week. He explained that by tracking these issues, he was seeking to 'dispel the hype' around cyber-attacks. His Cyber Squirrel One project was set up to 'counteract' what Thomas calls the 'ludicrousness of cyber-war claims by people at high levels in government and industry,' he told the audience at the Shmoocon security conference in Washington. No, don't look at me like I'm making this up, that's what it's called and that's what he said. Squirrels topped the list with eight hundred and seventy nine 'attacks.' Thomas concludes that the damage done by real cyber-attacks - Stuxnet's destruction of Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges and disruption to Ukrainian power plants being the most high profile - was 'tiny' compared to the 'cyber-threat' posed by animals. Most of the animal 'attacks' were on power cables but Thomas also claimed to have discovered that jellyfish had shut down a Swedish nuclear power plant in 2013, by clogging the pipes that carry cool water to the turbines. He also alleged that there have been 'eight deaths' attributed to animal attacks on infrastructure, including six caused by squirrels downing power lines which then struck people on the ground. Thomas - better known as SpaceRogue - set up Cyber Squirrel One as a Twitter feed in March 2013 and initially collected information from Google alerts. It has since evolved into a much larger project - collecting information from search engines and other web sources. Thomas only collected reports compiled in the English language and admitted that he was 'probably' only capturing 'a fraction' of animal-related power cuts worldwide. 'The major difference between natural events, be they geological, meteorological or furry, is that cyber-attacks are deliberate orchestrated by humans,' said Luis Corrons, technical director of security firm PandaLabs. 'While natural disasters are taken into account when critical infrastructure facilities are built, that's not the case with computers. Most critical facilities were never designed to connect to the rest of the world, so the kind of security they implemented was taking care of the physical world surrounding them. The number of potential attackers is growing, the number of potential targets is also going up. So we all need to reinforce our defences to the maximum - and also worry about squirrels.'
It could become one of the most important legal battles in music - Sir Paul McCartney (MBE) is suing Sony over control of The Be-Atles' back catalogue. The Be-Atles were a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them. Macca has gone to a US court, seeking to regain the publishing rights to two hundred and sixty seven of the band's classic songs which he does not own. He's been trying to get them back since the 1980s, when Michael Jackson famously out-bid him for the rights. Jackson's debt-ridden estate sold the songs to Sony last year, along with a library of others including 'New York, New York'. Sir Paul's legal case, filed in a Manhattan court on Wednesday, is over what is known as 'copyright termination' - the right of authors to reclaim ownership of their works from music publishers after a specific length of time has passed. It was part of the US 1976 Copyright Act and, in recent years, performers like Prince, Billy Joel and Blondie have used it to regain control of their work. However, Duran Duran recently lost a similar case - when the British High Court ruled that the contracts they signed in the UK took precedence over their rights in the US. Under UK law, music publishing companies can control the copyright until seventy years after the artist's death. Sir Paul is worried that Sony/ATV Music Publishing will use Duran Duran's loss to challenge his attempts to obtain The Be-Atles' back catalogue. With his legal action, Sir Paul is trying to ensure Sony does not stand in his way by accusing him of a breach of contract or publishing agreement. 'Rather than provide clear assurances to Paul McCartney that defendants will not challenge his exercise of his termination rights, defendants are clearly reserving their rights pending the final outcome of the Duran Duran litigation,' said the legal papers filed on his behalf. The papers state that Sir Paul wants 'quiet, unclouded title to his rights.' Sony/ATV said it was 'disappointed' by the lawsuit, calling it 'both unnecessary and premature.' Unlike Duran Duran, Sir Paul has filed his legal case in America and the verdict could have major ramifications for other British artists. Songs in the Lennon-McCartney catalogue, composed between September 1962 and June 1971, become eligible for copyright termination in the US after fifty six years. The first will be 'Love Me Do', which could revert to Sir Paul in 2018 - but others are not due to become available until 2025. Macca started sending notices to Sony/ATV in 2008, stating his desire to reclaim the copyright, the legal papers said. His lawyers have repeatedly asked Sony/ATV to acknowledge his rights to terminate copyright - but the company has declined to do so, it continued. He is seeking a declaration from the court that he can reclaim his songs, as well as legal fees. In a statement, the music publisher said it had 'the highest respect for Sir Paul McCartney with whom we have enjoyed a long and mutually rewarding relationship with respect to the treasured Lennon and McCartney song catalogue.' It added: 'We have collaborated closely with both Sir Paul and the late John Lennon's Estate for decades to protect, preserve and promote the catalogue's long-term value.' Alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie Lennon's share in The Beatles' songs will not return to his estate because his widow That Yoko Bloody Ono sold the rights to his music to Sony/ATV Music in 2009, with those rights lasting the entire copyright's lifetime (seventy years).
About thirteen million pages of previously declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency have been released online. The records include reports of UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost eight hundred thousand files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development. Among the more unusual records are documents from the Stargate Project, which dealt with psychic powers and extrasensory perception. Those include records of testing on z-list celebrity psychic Uri Geller in 1973, when he was already a well-established performer. Memos detail how Geller was able to 'partly replicate' pictures drawn in another room with varying - but sometimes precise - accuracy, leading the researchers to write that he 'demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.' Other unusual records include a collection of reports on flying saucers, and the recipes for invisible ink. While much of the information has been - technically - publicly available since the mid-1990s, it has been quite difficult to access. The records were only available on four physical computers located in the back of a library at the National Archives in Maryland, between 09:00 and 16:30 each day. With a sign saying 'Beware of the Leopard' nearby. Allegedly. A non-profit freedom of information group, MuckRock, sued the CIA to force it to upload the collection, in a process which took more than two years. At the same time, journalist Mike Best crowd-funded more than fifteen thousand dollars to visit the archives to print out and then publicly upload the records, one-by-one, to apply pressure to the CIA. 'By printing out and scanning the documents at CIA expense, I was able to begin making them freely available to the public and to give the agency a financial incentive to simply put the database online,' Best wrote in a blog post.
Gene Cernan - the last man to walk on the Moon - has died, aged eighty two. America's space agency NASA said that it was 'saddened by the loss.' Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice - on Apollo 10 and as commander of Apollo 17 - and was the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972. On 11 December 1972, Gene Cernan piloted Challenger, Apollo 17's lunar module, into the Taurus-Littrow valley, near the Sea of Serenity, on the surface of the Moon. In later years Cernan would describe the valley where he had landed accompanied by the geologist Jack Schmitt as 'our own private little Camelot.' Three days later, having travelled to such locations as The Sculptured Hills and the Van Serg and Sherlock craters, the astronauts prepared to leave. Cernan marked out his daughter Teresa's initials in the dust, where they remain to this day and probably will for many hundreds of years to come. The story - and Cernan's relationship with his daughter - was later adapted into 'Tracy's Song' by the rock band No More Kings. Before climbing back into the lunar module, Gene paused and spoke to Mission Control back in Houston: 'As we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came, and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.' In the intervening years, God, or at least the US government, has been decidedly unwilling, to the lasting dismay of astronauts such as Cernan, who labelled it 'a slide to mediocrity' and the first men on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who jointly appealed to President Barack Obama in 2010, Cernan remains the last human being to have trodden on the surface of the Moon. 'It was perhaps the brightest moment of my life, and I can't go back,' he said. 'I am one of only twelve human beings to have stood on the Moon. I have come to accept that, and the enormous responsibility it carries, but as for finding a suitable encore, nothing has ever come close.' By the time he made the Moon landing, Cernan was already a seasoned space veteran. In May 1969 he had been a crew member, flying low over the lunar surface in the Lunar Module, when Apollo 10 conducted the dress rehearsal for Armstrong, Aldrin and the first Moon landing. In May 1966 Gene had accompanied Tom Stafford on the Gemini 9 mission, which entailed an extraordinarily hazardous space walk with Cernan, one hundred and eighty five miles above the Earth's surface, getting entangled in his equipment. Back on Earth, Stafford recounted that Cernan had asked him once he was back in the spacecraft if Stafford would have left him marooned in space. Stafford told him: 'How could you give a shit? You're already dead!' Gene was also a back-up crew member for the Gemini 12, Apollo 7 and Apollo 14 space missions. Cernan's roots were in Central Europe. His mother, Rose, was of Czech ancestry and the family of his father, Andrew, a supervisor at a naval installation, were Slovak. Gene was born Eugene Andrew Cernan in Chicago in March 1934 and raised in the towns of Maywood and Bellwood in Illinois. He left Proviso East High School in 1952 and studied electrical engineering at Purdue University, Indiana. Coincidentally, both Cernan and Armstrong were Purdue graduates. While at university, Cernan had joined the US navy's officer training corps, aiming for a commission in the naval reserves, which he got in 1956. By 1958 he was a naval flyer, posted to Miramar, California - later to be known as the Topgun Air Station – and piloted FJ4 Fury and A4 Skyhawk subsonic fighters. Then, in 1963, he completed his training with a master's in aeronautical engineering from the naval postgraduate school in Monterey, California. It was a CV that made him an obvious candidate for the space programme. The military and civil competition between the US and the Soviet Union, which had seen the latter put the first satellite into space and in 1961 the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit, crystallised when, on 25 May that year, President Kennedy pledged that the US would conduct a successful Moon landing by the end of the decade. The Mercury programme was about getting an astronaut into orbit – a task first accomplished by John Glenn in early 1962. The second stage was Gemini – developing the technology to prepare for a Moon landing. The third, Apollo, was about going to the Moon itself. In 1959 the Mercury Seven became the first US astronaut team and Cernan was subsequently inspired by Alan Shepard, the first American in space - albeit for a mere fifteen minutes. In October 1963 NASA accepted Cernan as a trainee astronaut as part of the third group of intakes (his contemporaries included Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, David Scott and Al Bean). After the Apollo 17 mission, Cernan was part of the team working on the Apollo-Soyuz project which brought the cold war rivals together in space. In 1976 he quit NASA and became an oil executive in Houston. Later he founded a consultancy specialising in energy and aerospace and chaired the Johnson Engineering Corporation (1994 to 2000). Cernan never severed his links with science and space and was employed by ABC-TV as a commentator on issues around the space programme. From 1987 he was a contributor to ABC News and the weekly Breakthrough segment of Good Morning America for segments on health, science and medicine. He was featured in the space exploration documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon, in which he stated: 'Truth needs no defence' and 'Nobody can take those footsteps I made on the surface of the Moon away from me.' Gene also contributed to the book of the same name and also to Andrew Chaikin's acclaimed A Man On The Moon (1994). In 1999 he published, with Don Davis, his own autobiography, The Last Man On The Moon, and last year a film documentary of the same name went on general release. Gene is survived by his second wife, Jan Nanna, their two daughters Kelly and Danielle and by his daughter, Tracy, from his first marriage, to Barbara Atchley, which ended in divorce in 1980. Gene always came over in his interviews as a really poetic soul, a man who appeared to fully grasp, both intellectually and emotionally, the symbolic magnificence of the space programme that he was a part of and its scientific and historic importance. He will be greatly missed.
Rachael Heyhoe Flint, the former England women's cricket captain, has died aged seventy seven. She is survived by her husband Derrick, their son Ben, and her stepchildren Rowan, Hazel and Simon. Ben said that the family was 'deeply saddened.' Rachel captained England between 1966 and 1978. She also played in the first ever women's match at Lord's, against Australia, in 1976. During her career she played twenty two Test matches and twenty three one-day internationals. She was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2010. She also became a successful journalist, after dinner speaker and expert in public relations, which brought her back into contact with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers as she headed up the club's work in the local community. The MCC president Matthew Fleming said: 'Rachael Heyhoe Flint was a pioneer of women's cricket - she was the first global superstar in the women's game and her overall contribution to the MCC, cricket and sport in general was immense.' Clare Connor, the ECB's director of women's cricket, and one of Rachel's successors as England captain said: 'She was so special, so ever-present and now she has gone - but her impact can never be forgotten. Rachael was one of our sport's true pioneers and it is no exaggeration to say that she paved the way for the progress enjoyed by recent generations of female cricketers.' When her playing career ended, Rachel became one of the first women admitted to the MCC. In 2004 she became the first woman elected to the full committee. She was awarded the MBE in 1972, the OBE in 2008 and was made a life peer in 2011.
The TV director Rodney Bennett has died at the age of eighty one. Rodney directed ten episodes of Doctor Who; his first outing was on the two-part 1975 story The Sontaran Experiment, the first Doctor Who story to be filmed entirely as a Television Outside Broadcast. The production, filmed on Dartmoor, was disrupted when Tom Baker - in only his second story in the lead role - broke his collar bone during filming, necessitating the actor to wear a neck-brace under his scarf. He returned to the studio for his next production The Ark In Space, which was shown before The Sontaran Experiment despite being filmed after it. The story is widely regarded as a classic, with both Russell Davies and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) citing the story as one of their favourites from the original run of the popular BBC family SF drama. The story enjoyed some of the highest ratings in the programmes history, with over thirteen million punters tuning-in for episode two. Rodney Bennett's final story for Doctor Who was the 1976 story The Masque Of Mandragora - another terrific, and well-remembered four-part story featuring Baker. Filmed largely at the Welsh resort of Portmeirion, the story also marked the first appearance of the TARDIS' secondary console room. Having done student theatre whilst studying at Cambridge, Rodney started at the BBC in radio – producing material for the World Service and The Third Programme. When BBC2 began in 1964 he applied for an attachment to the schools' department and began to learn the craft of directing with a camera. He happened to be in the right place when a scheduled Z-Cars director fell ill, giving him a chance to move into mainstream drama. He went on to work on such series as Madam Bovery, The Case Of Eliza Armstrong, Thirty Minute Theatre, Dead Of Night (1972's well-remembered Return Flight), The Regiment, The Legend Of King Arthur, Sense & Sensibility, Dombey & Son, Soldier Solider, Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm, The House Of Elliot, Rumpole Of The Bailey, Tales Of The Unexpected, Play For Today, The Lost Boys and Doctor Finlay. In 1980 he directed the BBC version of Hamlet in which he cast Derek Jacobi as the eponymous Prince, alongside Patrick Stewart and Lalla Ward. In 1993 he directed the ITV production of The Darling Buds of May in which he cast the relatively unknown called Catherine Zeta Jones. He received two BAFTA nominations for Monsignor Quixote and The Legend Of King Arthur. He is survived by his wife, Jill, their children Adam and Kate, and four grandchildren, Ben, Hannah, Max and Aurelia.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle went back to the top of the Championship with a comfortable win over the bottom side Rotherham United on Saturday. Daryl Murphy struck in first-half stoppage time with The Magpies having dominated much of the opening period. Matt Ritchie made the game safe soon after the restart as he slotted home after Yoan Gouffran's shot was saved. Ayoze Perez scored the third before Ritchie got his second with a composed finish as Newcastle re-established their one-point lead at the top. With first-choice strikers Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic both out injured and Mo Diame away on African Nations Cup duty, there were concerns as to where Newcastle's goals would come from, but those fears were banished as Perez went close a number of times as the home side dominated the first half.
With several long-term injuries (Vernon Anita being the latest addition to the growing list) and three squad members still away with their national sides in Africa, United were forced to include a number of fringe players on the bench, including Sammy Ameobi and Jamie Sterry, both recently returned from loan spells and teenager Dan Barlaser who made his first team debut in mid-week in the FA Cup victory over Birmingham City. It was The Millers, however, who should have taken the lead when Magpies goalkeeper Karl Darlow fumbled the ball on the edge of the area and into the path of Jerry Yates, who was eventually denied by Darlow as he recovered superbly from the error. Murphy gave Rafa The Gaffer Benitez's men the lead seconds before the break as he turned in DeAndre Yedlin's cross and, soon after the interval, Ritchie made it two-nil to help ensure Rotherham would lose for the seventeenth time in twenty one games in all competitions. Perez then got his first goal since October after another cross from the impressive Yedlin, before Ritchie grabbed his second of the game, slotting home a pinpoint pass by Jonjo Shelvey - who returned for his first league appearance after the completion of his five-match suspension. With Brighton & Hove Albino's bruising victory over The Sheffield Wednesday on Friday evening (a game with three sendings-off and a geet rive-on wi' kids gettin' sparked and aal-sorts), only a win would have seen The Magpies reclaim the top spot. Meanwhile, another defeat for Reading - three-two at Derby - meant that the gap between United and third place was extended again to nine points (effectively ten, given The Toon's vastly superior goal difference). That gap was also maintained when fourth placed Dirty Leeds United lost to Barnsley in the Saturday teatime game.
The comedian Ed Byrne helped an injured hillwalker in The Cairngorms. Byrne was at the end of a two-day walking trip with adventure and outdoor writer Phoebe Smith when they came across Josh Bratchley on Tuesday. Bratchley twisted a knee when his right leg went through a snow drift on his way to the remote Corrour Bothy. Byrne gave him his walking poles and accompanied him to another bothy. Bratchley, an experienced mountaineer, said that he was grateful for the help. Byrne and Smith, author of The Book Of The Bothy, were in The Cairngorms for an article Byrne is writing for a forthcoming issue of The Great Outdoors Magazine. After the trip, Byrne, whose TV work includes appearances on Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You, tweeted: 'Awesome couple of days in Cairngorms. Knocked off three Munros from Corrour Bothy and even helped an injured walker get to safety. Feeling smug.' So, no change there, then. Byrne, a keen long-time hillwalker who completed his eightieth Munro on his walk in The Cairngorms, told BBC Scotland News: 'It's not a tale of derring-do and hanging off the end of ropes. I helped Josh by carrying his rucksack which, to be fair to him, was heavy with the amount of provisions he was carrying for his own trip. I gave him my lighter sack.' Bratchley was carrying enough wood and coal for an overnight stay at Corrour Bothy and to leave behind for others who would be using the shelter after him. He said: 'My foot went through the hard surface of a snow drift and into the soft snow below and my leg got stuck. Because of the rucksack I lost my balance.' Byrne and Smith, who were passing, asked if he was all right. At first, Bratchley had felt little pain and thought he could carry on to Corrour Bothy, which was a shorter trek than one back to where his car was parked and where he could safely rest before deciding on whether he could walk further. However, his leg became more painful and he decided to catch up with the pair for some company off the hill. He said: 'I was hoping the conversation would take my mind off my sore knee. Ed swapped his rucksack for mine. When I first spoke to Ed, I didn't notice who he was. But after I caught up with him the second time and they had introduced themselves I said to him that he looked familiar and I asked if we had met before in Scotland, or in the Welsh hills where I do a lot of walking. He then told me I might have seen him on TV and it was after that it clicked who he was.' After resting up for a night at Bob Scott's Memorial Bothy, Bratchley was able to get back to his car and return home. Following his mishap, doctors have told him he has damaged ligaments and cartilage. Hillwalkers looking after one another was praised by a mountain rescue team in a separate incident earlier this month. Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team congratulated two young mountaineers who saved the life of a hypothermic walker. The pair realised that the man, who was walking alone, was in difficulty about two kilometres from the summit of Ben Macdui. Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team said they had 'virtually carried him for two or three kilometres.' Mountain rescuers were then flown in by helicopter to help and the casualty was given medical treatment.
New Hampshire State Police said that a woman accused of driving at ninety one miles per hour during a snowstorm claimed she was late for an appointment to have a new car stereo installed. Police said they stopped twenty one-year-old Anastacia Hocking, of Laconia, on Interstate Ninety Three on Wednesday morning. The highway was covered with snow and slush. Hocking claimed that she was late for the appointment. She was extremely arrested on a reckless driving charge and is scheduled to be arraigned on 3 March.
An Oklahoma woman was arrested on an array of charges following what has been described in media reports as 'a bizarre crime.' According to KJRH, police extremely arrested forty four-year-old Karan Rebitzke after she allegedly kidnapped a door-to-door salesperson and held her against her will. Authorities allege that Rebitzke invited a saleswoman into her home on Thursday, and then started 'ranting about religion and God.' The victim told police that she tried to leave the location several times, but Rebitzke blocked the door and would not let her out. After about an hour, the victim told officers that she was 'able to escape' from the home. However, she claimed that Rebitzke, who was completely nude at the time, then 'began chasing her.' Police arrested Rebitzke on complaints of kidnapping, assault and battery and obstructing or interfering with a police officer.
Dogs can do many things, but flying usually isn't one of them. Unfortunately for an eight-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, his owner seemingly believed that he could fly so she tossed him over the Blue Heron Boulevard Bridge in Rivera Beach, Florida. Witnesses told authorities that they saw the unidentified woman throw the family pet, named BJ, thirty feet off the bridge onto Phil Foster Park beach below. Thankfully, the dog survived the fall although he did dislocate his leg. According to the Palm Beach Post, local Animal Care and Control said that the dog is 'in a lot of pain' and 'in serious but stable condition.' The canine is also suffering from 'a significant amount of swelling.' 'He is not completely out of the woods yet,' Captain David Walesky told the outlet. The Sun Sentinel reported that a lifeguard tended to the injured dog until help arrived. 'It did attempt to sit up. It was yelping really badly,' a witness, Laura Weinberger, said. 'We had to turn away. It was just horrible to see a dog in so much pain and shock.' According to the outlet, after the woman threw the dog off the bridge she laughed, got undressed and decided to get into the water. She was taken by authorities to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. BJ was adopted from animal care and control in 2010 by the woman's family.
A woman has revealed - in detail - what it is like to sleep with a male sex doll according to the Daily Mirra. 'Sex columnist' Karley Sciortino gave her review of her twenty-minute session with 'Gabriel' as she tested out the dolls' skills for a documentary about male sex dolls. The 'experiment' aimed to test the notion that only men could have intercourse with a sex doll because women were thought to need an emotional attachment. A silicone doll such as Gabriel costs about five grand. Each doll can be customised but the penis comes in both flaccid and erect options - presumably interchangable (please note this blogger resisted the urge to say 'inter-screwable', even though he was sorely tempted) with tests being conducted to make the penis warmer. This would also stop a potential problem with the dolls' bodies often being too cold. Sciortino, a columnist for Vogue and Vice from New York, described the organ as 'very life like' with 'real pubic hair,' a 'hard inside' and a 'soft outer layer.'
A woman in America has been accused of taping her son to a wall so she could get some housework done and filming it live on social media. Shayla Rudolph, aged eighteen, has been very arrested on an abduction charge. Her two-year-old son has been taken into custody by child services in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Police say that they received a tip-off on Wednesday about a Facebook Live video showing a woman sticking her son to a wall and taping his mouth shut. They said that their review of a copy of the live stream showed Rudolph using clear packing tape to restrain the boy for about fifteen minutes. The woman can be heard in the video telling her son he has 'the best mummy in the whole wide world.' Her son can be heard trying to cry. 'Don't make me put more tape up there,' she says. 'Sit still. You can see the TV from right there.' Rudolph can also be heard apparently explaining - apparently for the benefit of those watching the live stream - that what she is doing allows her to do her housework. 'You can't clean without them running around tearing up? Tape them to the wall,' she says. 'You can't cook because they're running around? Tape them to the wall.'
Michelle McManus has claimed on social media that she was 'assaulted' by a man 'wielding a guitar case.' The singer alleged that her jaw was 'injured' in the attack in the Shawlands area of Glasgow. The man involved, she said, was not known to her and had 'battered' her across the face 'for no reason' in the confrontation at about 2am on Sunday morning. McManus established her career after winning the TV talent show Pop Idol in 2003. Speaking of the alleged assault, she said that she was 'still trying to process' what had happened and thanked those who had sent her messages of support. She went on to name the man she said had attacked her, describing him as a musician who plays at a bar in the South side of Glasgow. In 2009, McManus became co-presenter presenter of STV's lifestyle magazine show The Hour. The programme was cancelled in 2011 due to shockingly poor viewing figures.
And finally, dear blog reader ...
Faith healers are no strangers to outlandish claims but a South African pastor may well have claimed a new record by purporting to have cured a woman's 'vaginal warts' ... with his shoe. Footage shown on the Daily Mirra website shows Zendile Andries November asking a woman in his congregation about the 'pimples.' The Victorious Faith Ministries pastor - who also claims he can cure AIDS with the power of prayer - then removed his shoe and handed it to the woman, who placed it between her legs. She then dramatically dropped to the floor with the churchman's mighty footwear lodged between her thighs doing the work of The Lord. After a subsequent visit to the bathroom, another woman announces that her friend's condition has been 'miraculously cured' - to cheers from the congregation at the Bloemfontein church. Lordy, issa miracle.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Final Problem: The End?

'Hello, my name's Jim Moriarty. Welcome to The Final Problem!'

'Deep water, Sherlock. All you life, in all your dreams, deep waters.'
'Right you two, Wiggins has got your money by the gate. Don't spend it all in one crack den.'
'You're just leaving.' 'Well, we're not staying here, Eurus is coming and she's disabled all your security. Sleep well!' 'Doctor Watson, why would he do that to me? That was insane!' 'Yes, well, someone convinced him that you wouldn't tell the truth unless you were actually wetting yourself!' 'Someone?' 'Probably me! ... Don't worry, there's a place for people like you, the desperate, the terrified, the ones with nowhere else to run.' 'What place?' '221B Baker Street. See you in the morning. If there's a queue ... join it!'
'So, there were three Holmes kids? What was the age gap?' 'Seven years between myself and Sherlock, one year between Sherlock and Eurus.' 'Middle child, that explains a lot!'
'Oscar Wilde. He said "the truth is rarely pure and never simple." It's from The Importance Of Being Ernest, we did it in school.' 'So did we, now I recall. I was Lady Bracknell.' 'Yes, you were great.'
'This is a private matter.' 'John stays.' 'This is family.' 'That's why he stays.'
'The demons beneath the road? This is where we trap them. Sherrinford is more than a prison or an asylum. It is a fortress built to keep the rest of the world safe from what is inside it. Heaven may be a fantasy for the credulous and the afraid. But, I can give you a map-reference for Hell.'
'For your own physical safety do not speak, do not indulge in any non-verbal signals suggestive of internal thought. If the safety of my sister is compromised, if the security of my sister is compromised, if the incarceration of my sister is compromised, in short if I find any indication my sister has left this island at any time I swear to you, you will not. Say "thank you" to Doctor Watson.' 'Why?' 'He talked me out of Lady Bracknell. This could have been very different!'
'Someone's been redecorating.' 'Is that allowed?' ''She's literally taken over the asylum, we have more to worry about than her choice of colour schemes.'
'That's the trouble with uniforms and name badges, people stop looking at faces. You'd be better off with clown outfits, at least they'd be satirically relevant.'
'Everyone we sent in there ... it's hard to describe, it's like she ...' 'Recruited them?' 'Enslaved them.' 'She's been capable of that since she was five, she's an adult now!'
'My name is Sherlock Holmes.' 'The detective?' 'The pirate.'
'She was never the same after that Christmas. It's like you woke her up.'
'Did you see your sister?' 'Yes.' 'How was that?' 'Family's always difficult.'
'Am I being punished? There's no such thing as bad. Good and bad are fairytales; we have evolved to attach an emotional significance to what is nothing more than a survival strategy of the pack animal. We are conditioned to invest divinity in utility. Good isn't really good, evil isn't really wrong, bottoms aren't really pretty, you are a prisoner of your own need.' 'Why aren't you?' 'I'm too clever.'
'She's very clever.' 'I'm beginning to think you're not.'
'I love you.'
'If Eurus has enslaved you then who, exactly, is in charge of this prison?'
'Today we have to be soldiers, Mycroft and that means to Hell with what happens to us.'
''Yes, very good Sherlock. Or, you could just look at the name on the lid!'
'Smell all that insane criminality. Do you have cannibals here?' 'Yes.' 'How many?' 'Three.' 'That's good. People leave their bodies to science, I think cannibals would be so much more grateful!'
'This isn't torture, this is vivisection. We're experiencing science from the perspective of lab rats.'
'There is, in this facility, a prisoner whose intellectual capabilities have occasionally been useful to the British government.' 'What, for like really difficult sums? Long division, that sort of thing?' 'She predicted the exact date of the last three terrorist attacks on the British mainland after an hour on Twitter. That sort of thing. In return, however, she requires treats. Last year it was a violin.' 'This year ...?' 'Five minutes unsupervised conversation with you.'
'Sherlock Holmes, it's finally time for you to solve The Musgrave Ritual, your first case ... and The Final Problem.'
'Not in my face, please, I promised my brain to The Royal Society.' 'Where would you suggest?' 'Well, I suppose there is a heart somewhere inside me. I don't imagine it's much of a target but why don't we try for that?'
'Is that him, sir? Sherlock Holmes' 'A fan, are you?' 'Well, he's a great man.' 'No, he's better than that. He's a good one.'
'You gave her what she was looking for, context.' 'Is that good?' 'It's not good and it's not bad, it is what it is.'
'Sherlock, you were always the grown-up, what do we do now?'
'Every choice you've ever made, every path you've ever taken, the man you are today is your memory of Eurus.' So, that's that then, dear blog reader. An end? A beginning? Dunno. Could be either. Could be both. But, whatever it was, it was great. Just like Mycroft's Lady Bracknell. Only, better. 'Open your eyes. I'm here. You're not lost any more. You just went the wrong way, last time. This time, get it right.'
'PS. I know you two. And, if I'm gone I know what you could become. Because I know who you really are, a junkie who solved crimes to get high and the doctor who never came home from the war. Well, you listen to me, who you really are, it doesn't matter. It's all about the legend. The stories. The adventures. There is a last refuge for the desperate, the unloved, the persecuted. There is a final court of appeal for everyone. When life gets too strange, too impossible, too frightening there is always one last hope. When all else fails there are two men sitting arguing in a scruffy flat like they've always been there and always will. The best and wisest men I have every know, my Baker Street Boys. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.' Yes. What the dead lady said.
The Final Problem was leaked online forty eight hours before its broadcast on the Beeb. A Russian version of the episode - The Finalski Problemovitch, one presumes - was uploaded to the Internet by some extremely naughty individual or individuals unknown. The creators of Sherlock, of course, Goddamn pissed off by this occurrence and immediately urged those fans who had sought out the episode not to spoil it for others by sharing it online. Not that many of the selfish bastards took any notice of this. And, said that if they caught up with the sod what done the uploading, they'd stick his or her or their naughty bits in a vice and squeeze them till they squealed. Or something. A post on the programme's official Twitter page said that it was 'aware' the episode had been uploaded extremely illegally. 'If you come across it, please do not share it,' fans were urged. Sherlock producer Sue Vertue also tweeted: 'Russian version of Sherlock The Final Problem has been illegally uploaded. Please don't share it. You've done so well keeping it spoiler free. Nearly there.' At a preview screening of the series finale held on Thursday in London for journalist and critics - at which the final four minutes were omitted (and, now we know why!) - The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) suggested that another series of the detective drama 'was possible' at some stage in the future - schedules permitting. And he added that he and fellow creator Mark Gatiss his very self were not planning the latest episode to be the final ever. But, it might be. Or not. Clear?
One simply has to stand up and applaud the imagination which goes into TV fan conspiracy theories, even if they are sometimes a wee-bit far-fetched. Or, even, you know, a lot mental. One that surfaced during a Q&A after the Sherlock finale screening on Thursday night was the possibility that there is actually a secret fourth episode in the current series, filmed at the same time as the first three and ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting viewers either next week or at some stage in the future. The 'evidence' for this theory? A 'clue' apparently hidden in episode two, when Culverton Smith explains that he has confiscated three recording devices from Sherlock's belongings in his hospital room. 'Must be something comforting about the number three,' says Sherlock. 'People always give up after three,' before revealing that he has hidden a fourth device in the walking stick that John brought into the room earlier. Knowing that they might not be able to get the increasingly busy Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman back together to shoot more Sherlock for the foreseeable future, did creators Mark Gatiss and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) take the opportunity to film an extra episode while they had the chance but managed to keep it a secret? No, of course they didn't, the very suggestion is mental. But, if they had, when would it be broadcast? Never, because they didn't make one. Simple really. The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) was unequivocal when that very question was put to him. 'It doesn't reflect the fact that there's going to be a fourth episode - for Heaven's sake, what kind of secrets do you think we're keeping?! Let's go home and check, look episode four, the lost special!' So, that'd be a 'no' then?
Sherlock's big finale contained many surprises, not least a top-secret, blink-and-you'll-miss-it A-list celebrity cameo. Yer actual Paul Weller – The God Damn Modfather his very self – only went and appeared, in heavy disguise, in The Final Problem. (Given the quasi-religious awe with which Paul his held by many of us old Jam fans 'of a certain age' one could argue this properly qualified as an, ahem, 'Vatican cameo.' But, only if you're as totally sad as yer actual Keith Telly Topping is.) The episode closed with a montage of Sherlock and John back doing what they do best – solving mysteries from the thoroughly rebuilt 221B Baker Street. The Virry Jeysus Of Cool appeared in the sequence dressed as a - seemingly very dead - Viking. The cameo came about because Paul is friends with yer actual Martin Freeman and was returning the favour after the actor appeared in the video for Weller's 2015 single, 'Pick It Up'.
An - alleged - 'BBC source' allegedly told the Sun: 'The viking lying on the floor in the final scenes is in fact Paul Weller. He is a good friend of Martin Freeman's. Viewers will never have been able to clock him in the costume as the scene is over so fast.' Yeah, but they can always use freeze-frame.
Or, failing that, just read the end credits.
It's not Paul's first brush with cameo immortality, of course. In 2011 he made a memorable - and, on that occasion, speaking - appearance in the much-missed Johnny Vegas BBC3 sitcom Ideal.

The Final Problem ended on a note which left the door open for further adventures and The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) and Mark Gatiss have admitted that the decision not to end on a cliffhanger was entirely intentional. 'We're not planning it to be [the final series] but it might be, it's possible and we could end it there,' The Moffat said. 'We couldn't have ended it on any of the previous series, but they always ended on walloping great cliffhangers!' Gatiss suggested that, by the end of the episode, the characters played by Benny and Marty have finally become the 'classic' Holmes and Watson that audiences are most familiar with. 'It's actually, weirdly, a backstory,' he said regarding the entire four series (and a special) so far. 'We never intended that to be, but the reason we leave it at Rathbone Place is that actually if we do come back - and we'd love to come back - we could very easily start with a knock on the door and Sherlock saying to John, "Do you want to come out and play?" They have become the two heroes that we always knew them to be.' The Moffinator echoed his co-writer's comments: 'That is [Benny's Sherlock] becoming the Sherlock Holmes of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. The one we're used to. The wise old man of Baker Street, who is still terrifying, who is still cold, but has a heart that you never doubt.' Moffat later added: 'Sherlock's future, for those of you asking, it's definitely the end. Of Chapter One. Doctor Watson is now Doyle's brave widower and Sherlock Holmes has become the wise and humane version of the main run of the stories (we've focused, so far, on the colder Holmes of the early days.) Whether we ever get to Chapter Two - our boys consciously living the myth and battling wrong-doers - rather depends on our two stars. I'd be slightly surprised if we never made it again. But I've been surprised before.' Which is, essentially, what Steven - and, indeed, Mark, Benny and Martin - have been saying for months every time the question has raised its head. So, Cumberbatch and Freeman's mad-busy schedules permitting, see you all again in, what, three years, maybe? Possibly five!
In that mind-blowing twist at the end of The Lying Detective last week, we discovered that Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes had a secret - extremely naughty, and, frankly, mad as a box of frogs - younger, smarter sister, Eurus, who revealed herself to be the master of disguise behind three apparently separate characters; there was the Scottish girl that John flirted with on a bus in episode one, his Germanic therapist and Faith, the impostor daughter of villain Culverton Smith, whom Sherlock had spent an evening with whilst high on very hard drugs. It's a development almost no-one seemed to have seen coming - and for that, huge credit has to go to actress Siân Brooke who, with minimal make-up, managed to transform herself into three very different women without ever allowing viewers to guess that they were the same person. Brooke knows exactly how the audience felt after the big reveal, though because during the casting process she actually auditioned for each of Eurus's characters separately, never having a clue that they would turn out to be the same role. 'When I found out I'd got the part, I felt exceptionally lucky to be part of something, to join something that I'd loved for such a long time,' said Brooke, speaking to Radio Times after a screening of The Final Problem this week. 'And then, when I discovered exactly what it was I couldn't quite believe it. I didn't find out until I got the part that I was going to be his sister. It was a revelation!' 'We got Siân and a lot of other people to audition as if there were several parts, like Faith and the girl on the bus,' revealed Mark Gatiss. 'And then it was only at the eleventh hour that we said "Actually they're all the same person."' 'It was amazing,' added Brooke. 'I kept coming in for these meetings, these secret meetings, and thinking "Why am I [being asked to audition for all these parts]? Oh, there's just a couple of [small] parts and a big part," that's what I thought. "Well, it's a part in Sherlock, lovely." And then when they actually revealed what it was I was like "What? What?! What?!"' It was a clever way for Gatiss and Moffat to see how convincingly Brooke would be able to perform each role within the episode and also to help guard the secret of Eurus's identity from her until they knew she was the one they wanted. Brooke said that landing the part(s) had been 'a dream come true' but also 'nerve-wracking,' thanks to the quality of the show she was working on. 'Joining something like this, it's so exciting,' she said. 'It's just the most unbelievable show - the highest quality, so much care and love - so to join it is just a dream come true.'
Siân's first credited role was in 2003 Disney series Dinotopia, with roles following in the Rik Mayall comedy All About George, A Touch Of Frost and Foyle's War and TV movies like Housewife, Forty Nine and Under The Greenwood Tree. In 2007 she landed the recurring role of Lori in Cape Wrath. Over the years she has also had guest roles in Doc Martin, Vexed, New Tricks, Silk, Garrow’s Law, Lewis, Man Down, Not Safe For Work and The Moorside Project.
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) and Mark Gatiss have revealed that they first contemplated introducing the idea of a Holmes sister way back in the show's first series. Moffat explained: 'We made - and, thank God, cut - a reference in [2010's] The Great Game where Mycroft is explaining that he is smarter than Sherlock. And then goes on to say, "My sister, of course..." and then gets cut off. It was just a joke, just a passing thing. Thank God we cut that, because we could keep the secret a bit longer. The madness, that we thought would never sustain, of hinting that Sherlock's got a brother and then pulling, frankly, in the circumstances, the only twist you can - which is it's actually Sherlock's sister.' The notion of a third Holmes sibling would finally be introduced on-screen in 2014's series three finale, His Last Vow - with Mycroft remarking: 'I'm not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one ...' 'That line was never written down,' Gatiss revealed. 'I just did the scene and said, "I'm saying this now!" - that's the way to keep secrets, is just never to write anything!'
Sherlock has drawn on more than a few Arthur Conan Doyle stories as inspiration for its episodes thus far, but one tale never quite made it to television. Mark Gatiss has revealed that he had originally planned an adaptation of short story The Red-Headed League. I did actually start doing The Red-Headed League, which I've always wanted to do,' he explained. 'But, it didn't quite fit this run.' First published in 1891, The Red-Headed League sees a pawnbroker named Jabez Wilson recruit Holmes and Watson to investigate strange happenings involving a group of exclusively red-haired men. Series producer Sue Vertue revealed that Gatiss had pitched a modern version of the story 'a few times,' with the writer quipping: 'I want more gingers!'
There's a fascinating and entertaining interview with Sherlock and Doctor Who director the very excellent Rachel Talalay at the Bitch Media website which you can read here dear blog reader. And which should, hopefully, put all of that 'Steven Moffat is sexist' nonsense in the gutter where it belongs. But, it probably won't.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is delighted to brag that he got the 'they were all used in Levi jeans commercials' music round of Friday's episode of Only Connect after but two of the four questions. Mind you, it's just about the only possible thing that 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' and Steve Miller's 'The Joker' have in common.
One question which this blogger didn't get right but which he very much enjoyed was the Marx Brothers one. That was clever.
TV Comedy Line Of The Week came from a thoroughly entertaining episode of Qi and Sandi Toksvig revealing that back in the Eighteenth Century, the concept of nostalgia was considered to be a disease: 'Suspected causes of nostalgia were unfulfilled ambition, poor hygiene, "coming from farming stock" and masturbation!' 'I've got two of those,' added Alan Davies, helpfully.
The episode also featured the Qi debut of US TV legend Jerry Springer, who was on terrific form and who noted, in relation to the numerous lunatic subjects that he's featured on The Jerry Springer Show over the years: 'You can say any sentence in the world and as long as you add "... and the women who love them", then you've got a show!'
Here are the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Five programmes, week-ending Sunday 8 January 2017:-
1 Sherlock - Sun BBC1 - 9.53m
2 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 9.26m
3 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.36m
4 Coronation Street - Wed ITV - 8.29m
5 Silent Witness - Mon BBC1 - 8.25m
6 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 7.54m
7 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 7.02m
8= Taboo - Sat BBC1 - 7.00m
8= Let It Shine - Sat BBC1 - 7.00m
10 The Voice - Sat ITV - 6.64m
11 Antiques Roadshow - Sun BBC1 - 6.51m
12 Endeavour - Sun ITV - 6.27m
13 The Halcyon - Mon ITV - 5.88m
14= Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.80m
14= Six O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 5.80m
16 BBC News - Mon BBC1 - 5.73m
17 Midsomer Murders - Wed ITV - 5.63m
18 Unforgotten - Thurs ITV - 5.58m
19 Pointless Z-List Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.37m
20 Still Open All Hours - Sun BBC1 - 5.13m
21 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.08m
22 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 4.70m
23 The ONE Show - Tues BBC1 - 4.53m
24 Dance, Dance, Dance - Sun ITV - 4.37m
25 FA Cup Match Of The Day Live - Fri BBC1 - 4.23m
These consolidated figures include all viewers who watched programmes live and on catch-up during the seven days after initial broadcast, but do not include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. Don't blame this blogger, he doesn't make the rules. Sherlock's overnight audience of 5.99 million brought one or two rather sneering comments from some people with a sick anti-BBC agenda within the popular press so, one is delighted to note that The Lying Detective's final audience figure showed a timeshift of over three million additional punters for the second week running. On BBC2, the top-rated programme was University Challenge with 3.32 million punters. Yellowstone was watched by 2.83 million, Dragon's Den by 2.79 million and Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets Of Orkney - featuring From The North favourites Chris Packham and Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair) by 2.43 million. The Great Interior Design Challenge attracted 2.40 million viewers, followed by Thailand: Earth's Tropical Paradise (2.35 million viewers), The World's Most Extraordinary Homes (2.25 million) and the excellent opening episode of An Island Parish: Anguilla (2.17 million). The start of a new series of No Offence was Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast (2.96 million), followed by The Undateables (2.48 million), Food Unwrapped (2.42 million) and How To Lose Weight Well (2.22 million). First Dates Hotel was seen by 2.16 million viewers, whilst Location, Location, Location drew 1.98 million. Twenty Four Hours In A&E was watched by 1.93 million viewers and Walking The Americas by 1.90 million. Channel Five's top performer was, Celebrity Big Brother with 2.57 million, ahead of Lip Sync Battle (1.69 million viewers), GPs: Behind Closed Doors (1.2o million) and Bargain-Loving Brits In The Sun (1.04 million). Coverage of the Premier League action between Stottingtot Hotshots and Moscow Chelski FC on Sky Sports 1 was seen by 1.57 million punters. Monday's game between West Hamsters United and The Scum drew 1.34 million whilst Bournemouth versus The Arse on Tuesday was seen by 1.05 million. The La Liga clash between Villarreal and Barcelona on Sky Sports 2 drew one hundred and seventeen thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was top of the pile on Sky Sports News HQ with three hundred and seventy five thousand punters. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated drama (nine hundred and seventeen thousand viewers). Doc Martin was seen by six hundred and eighty two thousand and Tonight At The London Palladium by five hundred and ninety four thousand. The movie 633 Squadron - with Ron Goodwin's epic score, a particular favourite of this blogger - headed ITV4's weekly list with five hundred thousand punters. ITV Racing Live drew three hundred and forty thousand viewers whilst a broadcast of An Audience With Billy Connolly had three hundred and thirty four thousand. ITV2's most-watched broadcasts were also for movies Despicable Me 2 and White House Down (1.25 million viewers and nine hundred and seventy one thousand respectively). Poirot headed ITV Encore's top ten with fifty seven thousand viewers, ahead of Vera (also fifty seven thousand) and Victoria (fifty five thousand). BBC4's list was topped by The Natural World (six hundred and fifty thousand), followed by Top Of The Pops: The Story Of 1983 (six hundred and forty two thousand), its companion piece, Top Of The Pops 1983: Big Hits (six hundred and thirty thousand), Why The Industrial Revolution Happened Here (five hundred and forty three thousand) and Timeshift: The Last Days Of The Liners (fifty hundred and thirty four thousand). Lost Kingdoms Of Central America drew five hundred and twelve thousand and Biggest Band Break-Ups & Make-Ups had five hundred and five thousand. Timeshift: Sword, Musket & Machine Gun was watched by five hundred thousand and The Magic Of Mushrooms was seen by four hundred and eighty six thousand. Horizon had four hundred and seventy seven thousand. Sky1's weekly top-ten was headed by Delicious (1.38 million viewers). Hawaii Five-0 was seen by nine hundred and forty eight thousand, Modern Family by nine hundred and nineteen thousand and NCIS: Los Angeles by seven hundred and sixty six thousand. Sky Atlantic's list was topped by The Affair (two hundred and sixty four thousand). Game Of Thrones attracted two hundred and three thousand. On Sky Living, the latest episode of Elementary attracted 1.15 million whilst Blindspot had eight hundred and seventy one thousand and Conviction attracted five hundred and nine thousand. Nashville was watched by two hundred and sixty four thousand viewers. Sky Arts' broadcast of The Phantom Of The Opera was seen by seventy three thousand viewers whilst Bowie, Prince, Music Legends We Lost In 2016 had sixty three and Erotic Adventures of Anais Nin, forty eight thousand. 5USA's Law & Order: Special Victim Unit was watched by five hundred and ninety six thousand viewers and NCIS by five hundred and seventeen thousand. NCIS also topped CBS Action's list (one hundred and fifty four thousand) and, the start of the latest NCIS series on FOX's was watched by 1.05 million viewers. American Dad! (two hundred and ninety two thousand) and Family Guy (one hundred and fourteen thousand) also featured in the FOX top-ten. The Universal Channel's weekly list was - also - headed by NCIS (one hundred and forty four thousand). On Dave, The Dirty Dozen was the highest-rated broadcast with three hundred and forty three thousand punters, followed by Top Gear (three hundred and eight thousand), Mock The Week (two hundred and ninety thousand), Have I Got News For You and Qi XL (both two hundred and fifty six thousand). The latest episode of Drama's repeat run of Inspector George Gently was watched by seven hundred and thirty thousand viewers. New Tricks had four hundred and sixty one thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programmes were Murdoch Mysteries (two hundred and fifty two thousand), Death In Paradise (one hundred and forty thousand), Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (one hundred and three thousand), Sherlock (one hundred and two thousand) and New Tricks (ninety eight thousand). On The Sony Channel, Jumanji was watched by one hundred and eighty one thousand and Matilda by one hundred thousand. Yesterday's Wild Canada continued with three hundred and twenty three thousand and Steptoe & Son with two hundred and ninety seven. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush had four hundred and seventy nine thousand viewers. Wheeler Dealers continued with two hundred and forty seven thousand whilst Treasure Quest: Snake Island was seen by one hundred and eighteen thousand and Alaska Mega Machines by one hundred and eleven thousand punters. Discovery History's Battlefields topped the weekly-list with thirty thousand. Al Murray's Road To Berlin had twenty eight thousand thousand. On Discovery Science, How It's Made was seen by sixty three thousand viewers. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme was Superyachts with forty five thousand. The rest of the top-ten, as usual, was dominated by episodes of Wheeler Dealers. National Geographic's list was headed by Air Crash Investigations which had eighty four thousand viewers and Killing Reagan (sixty seven thousand). The History Channel's top-ten list was topped by Forged In Fire (one hundred and twenty one thousand). On Military History, the ludicrous Hunting Hitler was watched by thirty eight thousand punters. Faking It: Tears Of A Crime, The Coroner: I Speak For The Dead and The Perfect Murder were ID's top-rated programmes of the week (with one hundred and fifty one thousand viewers, seventy two thousand and fifty four thousand murder-lovers respectively). Crimes That Shook Britain, The First Forty Eight and Robert Pickton: The Pig Farmer Killer headed CI's list (one hundred and forty eight thousand, sixty seven thousand and fifty two thousand). GOLD's broadcast of Mrs Brown's Boys attracted three hundred and fifty nine thousand. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (two hundred and fourteen thousand). Your TV's Overkill: The Murder Of Jonbenet was seen by one hundred and nine thousand. On More4, Four In A Bed was the highest-rated programme with five hundred and fifty five thousand. Eight Out Of Then Cats New Year Special attracted five hundred and twelve thousand punters. E4's latest episode of Hollyoaks drew 1.23 million viewers. The Horror Channel's broadcast of The Ninth Gate attracted one hundred and ninety three thousand. The top-ten list also included Where The Devil Hides (eighty three thousand), A Study In Terror (sixty four thousand), Prince Of Darkness (fifty six thousand) and Magic (fifty four thousand). The Librarians, headed Syfy's top-ten with four hundred and sixteen thousand. Coast and Wild Canada were watched by forty thousand and thirty eight thousand respectively on Eden. Tanked was the Animal Planet's most-watched programme with fifty two thousand.

Did you watch Roxy and Ronnie's dramatic New Year's Day EastEnders departure or spend Christmas Day with Mrs Brown's Boys? Those of you who missed the festive specials certainly flocked to BBC iPlayer to watch them back because they were the most-watched shows on the platform over the festive season. Outnumbered, Sherlock, Call The Midwife and Doctor Who were also among the Top Twenty most popular shows (half of which were episodes of EastEnders) watched on iPlayer between 20 December and 2 January. The week running from 26 December to 1 January proved the most popular in the streaming service's history: Over sixty nine million requests were made, more than any other week since iPlayer's launch and December made history too, as the service's most popular month of all time with two hundred and eighty one million requests. 'Christmas is always a popular time for people to watch programmes on BBC iPlayer, but it's fantastic to have had our best ever week in our best ever month over the festive season, with huge numbers coming to iPlayer to see the cliff-hangers of Albert Square, the drama of The Witness For The Prosecution, comedic antics from Mrs Brown's Boys and the thrilling return of Sherlock,' said Dan Taylor-Watt, Head of BBC iPlayer.
Speaking of Christmas telly ratings, there's a rather good - and well-balanced - piece by Radio Times's Ben Dowell on that very subject entitled TV remains king at Christmas in British homes as ratings remain buoyant in a digital age which is worth a few moments of your time, dear blog reader.
The BBC iPlayer will be 'reinvented' in a bid to be the top online TV service in the UK by 2020, the broadcaster's Director General Tony Hall has said. Lord Hall told staff that he wanted the BBC to 'reinvent public broadcasting for a new generation.' He described iPlayer as 'the biggest revolution of the last charter' and said it now had to increase its reach. 'We need it to make the leap from a catch-up service to a must-visit destination in its own right,' he said. One way that the service may do this is by making more series available in their entirety on iPlayer, before they are screened them on terrestrial television. This has been tried previously with programmes such as Peter Kay's Car Share and enables viewers to 'binge-watch' entire series. The Director General added that the media landscape had 'changed beyond all recognition - it's more global and more competitive.' Lord Hall said that the BBC must 'pioneer new technology' if it is to 'remain a global leader' and 'develop new ways of personalising services' for viewers as well as how it can 'embrace developments' in artificial intelligence and voice recognition. 'Our goal, even in the face of rapid growth by our competitors, is for iPlayer to be the number one online TV service in the UK,' Lord Hall said.
Sir David Clementi, a former banker with no previous broadcasting experience, has been confirmed as the new chair of the BBC. Theresa May has confirmed the appointment of Clementi, the 'preferred candidate' put forward by the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Bradley, who will lead the corporation's new unitary board that will replace the BBC Trust on 1 April. 'I am confident that Sir David will provide the strong leadership necessary for the BBC to remain the world's best broadcaster,' said the vile and odious rascal Bradley. 'Sir David will bring a wealth of experience to the role and was the strongest candidate in an extremely competitive and high-calibre field. He has extensive experience as a chairman in both the commercial and not-for-profit sector and has a strong regulatory and business background. I am confident that under his direction, the nation's broadcaster will continue to go from strength-to-strength.' One or two people even believed her. Clementi, the former deputy governor of the Bank of England and chair of Prudential and Virgin Money, published a report in March calling for the BBC to have a unitary board 'consistent with the model used by large, publicly listed companies.' The government adopted the recommendations of his report, which called the existing BBC Trust 'flawed' and said that it should hand oversight to the media regulator, Ofcom. A politically appointed quango, elected by no one. A string of leading candidates with strong broadcasting backgrounds had ruled themselves out of running for the role – which, at one hundred thousand knicker per year, is relatively low-paid by City standards – but comes with heavy time demands and a high level of media attention. Clementi is being paid ten grand less per annun than the BBC Trust chair role, which was held by former Financial Times chief executive Rona Fairhead and is being extremely scrapped. Clementi, who turns sixty eight next month, was chosen from a shortlist of three put to May over the Christmas and New Year break. The other two on the shortlist were John Makinson, the chair of the book publisher Penguin Random House, and Deirdre Hutton, the chair of the Civil Aviation Authority. Clementi and Hutton are understood to have been the final two candidates considered by the vile and odious rascal Bradley. 'The BBC is a world-class broadcaster and one of the UK's most beloved and cherished institutions. It would be a great honour to join the BBC at an important time in the organisation's history,' said Clementi. Tony Hall said: 'I am delighted that Sir David Clementi has been announced as the preferred candidate. I am really looking forward to working with him.' Again, one or two people even believed him. Hall previously voiced 'concerns' over the lack of culture department's Clementi-report-influenced White Paper on the BBC, which initially gave it the power to appoint the majority of members to the fourteen-strong unitary board. A change to the proposals means that as well as the chair, the government will also be responsible for appointing four non-executive board members representing each of the devolved nations. Crucially, Clementi will be a member of the nominations committee to appoint five non-executive members. The BBC will appoint four executive members, including the Director General. The lack of culture, media and sport select committee will hold a pre-appointment hearing with Clementi next Tuesday. Committee member John Nicolson, a Scottish National party MP, said that Clementi would receive 'a proper grilling' on topics including the BBC's independence and his views on media plurality, given FOX's proposed takeover bid for Sky. 'The committee is going to want to be assured that he will defend the BBC's independence from political interference,' Nicolson said. 'We want to make sure he is appointed properly, independently and that he guarantees BBC editorial independence. All of us want to make sure he is the right man for the job.' The government sought to find a new chair for the unitary board after Fairhead, the chair of the BBC Trust who was handed the role by Oily David Cameron, stood down after May indicated that Fairhead would have to apply again for the role. Sir Michael Lyons, a former BBC Trust chairman, said that while Clementi had proved himself 'astute' in the City he needed to recognise that the BBC was not the same as a publicly listed company. 'What's important is that Clementi focuses on making sure the BBC serves the people who pay for it: the British public,' he said. 'That means recognising it is not simply a big communications company. That it has an obligation to challenge power – economic or political – and most of all that its future depends upon the extent to which the British public trust it. All those things are entrusted to the new chairman. It is more complex than a simple business with a profit and loss sheet to be reflected on. That is the agenda for him.' Fairhead said: 'Hearty congratulations to Sir David for becoming the government's preferred candidate for the new BBC chairmanship. I wish him, the new board and the BBC every possible success.' Top of the agenda for Clementi will be to work hand-in-hand with Hall to set the strategy and editorial direction of the BBC and implement cost savings of eight hundred million smackers by 2020.
The veteran broadcaster John Humphrys has spoken about the political pressure put on him during thirty years of presenting the BBC's flagship radio programme Today. The interviewer said that relations with Downing Street during Tony Blair's time in office became so strained that the BBC was told 'something needed to be done' about 'the John Humphrys problem' or the government would stop co-operating with the Radio 4 programme. Humphrys recalled: 'An, admittedly lively, exchange with Harriet Harman, who was the social security secretary at the time, produced a response from Downing Street the like of which the programme had never generated before. It was a letter threatening to withdraw co-operation from Today unless something was done about what they called the "John Humphrys problem." That letter foreshadowed a more confrontational relationship between Downing Street and journalists, especially in the BBC, over the years to come.' The broadcaster said that a report on Blair's handling of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq 'nearly brought down the BBC. In 2003, we invaded Iraq because, we were told by Tony Blair, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't. Three months later I did a perfectly unremarkable early-morning, three-minute interview with a correspondent. I've done thousands of them over the last thirty years. Did I say unremarkable? It nearly brought down the BBC. Andrew Gilligan had been told by a reliable source that the dossier warning us of the threat from Saddam had been deliberately "sexed up." That claim was, ultimately, to lead to the suicide of the source, Doctor David Kelly, the destruction of Tony Blair's reputation and the resignation of the two most senior men in the BBC – the Director-General and the chairman.' Humphrys said that the then-government spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, 'orchestrated' the government's response, and later told Humphrys that he saw his role in Downing Street as 'altering' the PM's 'interaction with the media.' Campbell told him: 'We had to change the terms of the trade, that the press had been, frankly, setting the political agenda and in a way which, in my mind, was detrimental to the interests of the Labour Party. I think at times we probably went over the top. I think sometimes we were too aggressive.' Humphrys said that interviewing Margaret Thatcher was 'a truly scary prospect for the new boy' because her answers were 'unpredictable', but noted that she had never complained about the coverage she received while in Downing Street. The broadcaster said Thatcher once called in to Today from the kitchen of Number 10 to react to an item on the programme and her then press secretary, that awful Ingham creature, knew nothing about it until he heard the interview whilst driving. 'I nearly drove off the bloody road,' that awful Ingham creature later told Humphrys. Tragically, he didn't. Humphrys said: 'Mrs Thatcher never complained about the treatment she got at the hands of us lot. Things started changing when John Major came to power. Everything changed when New Labour arrived on the scene.'
The character of Agnes Brown is to front a new Saturday night TV show on BBC1. All Round To Mrs Brown's will be hosted by Agnes, the female alter-ego played by Brendan O'Carroll in the sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys. O'Carroll said: 'The entire cast is excited by this. I think Agnes may be worried that she'll need a bigger kettle to make tea for everyone that's coming round!' The series will be broadcast later this year. The BBC said that the show would feature 'celebrity guests, surprise audience shenanigans and outrageous stunts' in front of a live studio audience. Charlotte Moore, the director of BBC content, said: 'Bringing one of our biggest comedy stars, Mrs Brown, to Saturday nights in 2017 with a new entertainment show is going to be full of fun and mischief and totally unpredictable.' Though hated and sneered at by many critics and lots of Middle Class hippy Communist glakes at the Gruniad Morning Star, Mrs Brown's Boys, became a hit - with, you know, 'normal people' - when the sitcom first aired in 2011. Mrs Brown first appeared on Irish radio station RTE 2fm in 1992 and has been the focal point of a series of books and a long-running stage show. But, it was not until O'Carroll's character hit the small screen that he became an international star. A Saturday night live episode of Mrs Brown's Boys was watched by more than eleven million punters last year. In 2014, the spin-off film Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie topped the UK and Ireland box office. All Round To Mrs Brown's is to be produced by Hungry Bear Media in conjunction with O'Carroll's production company BocPix.
British actors enjoyed a golden night in the TV categories at the Golden Globe Awards in Hollywood last weekend. Three stars of BBC spy drama The Night Manager - Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie - won acting awards. Claire Foy, who plays Her Maj in Netflix's royal drama The Crown, was named best TV actress and the show won best TV drama. In the other TV categories, The People Versus OJ Simpson: American Crime Story and Atlanta won two awards each. The Golden Globe Awards, which are run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, honour the best in TV and film from the past year. The musical La La Land swept the board in the film categories. In the TV section, The Night Manager was the biggest winner. The six-part thriller was adapted from the 1993 John Le Carre novel of the same name and made in a co-production by the BBC and US network AMC. Hiddleston won best performance by an actor in a mini-series or TV movie for playing a hotel night manager who is recruited by the British government to infiltrate an arms dealer's inner circle. 'Well, this is lovely,' Hiddleston said in his acceptance speech. He also said something else rather inconsequential which got some people you've never heard of on Twitter all vexed and frothing-at-the-mouth. So, no change there, then. In the series, his handler was played by Olivia Colman, who was named best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or TV movie. However, Colman was unable to attend the ceremony to collect her award s she is about to start filming the new bigscreen adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express. The arms dealer was played by Huge Laurie, who won best supporting actor. And, he can be seen below, apparently after a small furry creature ran up his trouser leg. 'Thank you to the HFPA for this amazing honour,' Huge said. 'I suppose made more amazing by the fact that I'll be able to say I won this at the last ever Golden Globes.' In a reference to US President-elect Donald Trump, he continued: 'I don't mean to be gloomy. It's just that it has "Hollywood", "foreign" and "press" in the title.' Meanwhile, The Crown beat shows including Game Of Thrones and Stranger Things to win the best TV drama series title. Netflix's regal epic tells the story of the British royal family from the 1950s onwards and has a reported budget of one hundred million notes. Accepting her best actress award, Claire Foy paid tribute to the actual Queen, saying: 'She has been at the centre of the world for the past sixty three years and I think the world could do with a few more women at the centre of it if you ask me.' Elsewhere, The People Versus OJ Simpson: American Crime Story won two awards from its five nominations - best mini-series or TV movie, and best mini-series or TV movie actress for Sarah Paulson. And hip-hop comedy Atlanta was named comedy or musical series, while its creator and star, Donald Glover, won best actor in a comedy or musical series.
The BBC is to adapt another John le Carre spy novel for a new TV series following the success of Golden Globe-winning The Night Manager. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, set at the height of The Cold War, is being adapted by the Oscar-winning writer of Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy. It follows Alec Leamas, a hard-drinking British intelligence officer whose East Berlin network is in tatters. Le Carre said he was 'very excited' by the adaptation, which will appear on BBC1. The series will be another co-production with US network AMC, following their joint effort on The Night Manager. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold is set in 1962, months after the building of The Berlin Wall. In the story, Leamas's agents are either on the run or dead - victims of the East German counter-intelligence officer Hans-Dieter Mundt. Leamas is recalled to London where he is offered a chance at revenge. The novel, written in 1963, was made into a - quite superb - movie starring Richard Burton in 1965 and le Carre said that he was looking forward to seeing it on-screen again. He said: 'I'm very excited by the project, and have great confidence in the team.' Beaufoy added: 'It's incredibly exciting to be working on the best Cold War spy story ever written.' Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, said: 'Following the huge global success of The Night Manager, it's a privilege to announce that John le Carre will return to BBC1.'

The Coen brothers are to make their first television series, which will be called The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs. Variety reports that Joel and Ethan Coen will write and direct the show, which will be set in the Old West. The scope of the programme, which is likely to be a mini-series, is reported to have been 'too ambitious' to be covered in one feature film. Westerns are familiar territory for The Coens, who have previously made True Grit and No Country For Old Men. While this will be their first original TV series, they were credited as executive producers on the TV adaptation of their 1996 movie Fargo. American Hustle producer Megan Ellison and Annapurna Television's president of television Sue Neagle will serve as executive producers on The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs. The Coen brothers said in a statement: 'We are very excited to be working with Megan and Sue on this project.' The duo are the latest Hollywood names to venture into television. Silver Linings Playbook director David O Russell is developing a series for Amazon, which will star Julianne Moore and Robert De Niro. Last month, it was announced that Julia Roberts would star in her first TV series - an adaptation of Today Will Be Different by novelist Maria Semple.
The creator of BBC2's most successful drama series for fifteen years - Line Of Duty - has taken up a new challenge for Sky. Jed Mercurio will be adapting the HG Wells novel The Time Machine to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the author's birth, according to Broadcast Now. He will be joined on writing duties by Chris Lunt - who also wrote ITV's crime drama Prey - and the pair are aiming for a long-running returning series with the adaptation.

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has confirmed that a fourth series of the acclaimed BBC period thriller will start shooting in March. 'I'm very, very excited because I'm just completing episode six of series four, which again I think is the best yet,' he told Deadline. 'I'm loving it and it's not like work, it's not like a labour. I love doing it and the boys are coming back and they're loving the scripts and we start shooting in March.'
ITV's Doc Martin will come to an end in 2018. Despite rumours that Martin Clunes's long-running medical comedy-drama would finish this year with its eighth series, the actor recently clarified that we won't bid farewell to the village of Portwenn quite so soon. 'We start making [series eight] in spring and it'll probably be on-air in the autumn,' Clunes told the Radio Times, adding: 'So [this] is the second to last [series].' The current plan, according to The Times, is for Doc Martin to follow its eighth series with one further batch of new episodes to be broadcast next year. Clunes, of course, has the inside track on Doc Martin's future, since he and his wife Philippa Braithwaite produce the show through their company Buffalo Pictures.
Having been very satisfyingly bee-atch slapped about the mush with a wet haddock this week by both Meryl Streep and Huge Laurie, That Donald Trump Fellow was also on the receiving end of yet another good old fashioned fisting in a promo clip for episode ten of The Grand Tour. This week sees yer actual Jezza Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May arrive with their travelling tent in Nashville - and Jezza warmed the audience up with a bit of Trump-baiting. Which will presumably, make the Gruniad Morning Star really conflicted since they loathe both Jezza and Trump. The Trump 'tirade' - actually, merely a bit of Premier League sarcasm - emerged as Jezza greeted the residents of the city, noting that it was originally named after General Nash - a prominent figure during the War of Independence. Describing Nash, Clarkson said: 'War hero, kicked the British out, you got independence. And, how's that working out for you?' to the amusement of the audience. Among the other exploits featured in the episode are the trio's attempts to save the world's coral reefs in Barbados. In pure Grand Tour style, they try to build a new reef using just car body shells as a foundation. What could possibly go wrong?
The Crystal Maze is coming back for a full series, with alleged comedian Richard Ayoade taking up the role of The Maze Master. Channel Four has commissioned twenty new episodes of the adventure game show, including some z-list celebrity specials for Stand Up To Cancer. The Crystal Maze returned for a one-off episode last year, in aid of the charity. The 2016 show was hosted by Stephen Merchant and featured Sara Cox, Josh Widdicombe and Rio Ferdinand. Channel Four said that commissioning a full series was 'a no-brainer' - a very apt description of the kind of people who normally take part in The Crystal Maze, frankly - after the success of the one-off special.

A new BBC1 show will see ten budding painters put through a 'boot-camp' in a bid to be crowned Britain's best amateur artist. Why? I mean ... why? The Big Painting Challenge will be hosted by Mariella Frostrup and the Reverend Richard Coles. Which is sad,actually, as this blogger really wants to hate this on general principle but he really likes The Rev. Don't you just get annoyed when suchlike happens? Mark Bell, the head of commissioning for BBC Arts, said it was 'very different' to a show with the same name hosted by Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon in 2015. Which is a necessary point to make since that was a twenty four carat disaster in terms of critical reaction and viewing figures. The new Sunday prime-time series begins in mid-February. 'The objective is to engage people actively in the process of making art,' Bell said at a launch event at London's National Portrait Gallery. 'This is an arts programme but absolutely designed to go beyond the core arts audience. It feels fresh, exciting and different.' Two artistic mentors, Diana Ali and Pascal Anson, will guide the ten contestants through different disciplines such as portraiture, landscape and still life. At the end of each episode, the contestants' work will be exhibited to members of the public before three judges - Doctor David Dibosa, Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd - decide which contestant will be eliminated. Anson - who previously painted eight British Airways planes for the London 2012 Olympic Games - said that viewers would see 'lots of high emotion' as the artists were 'pushed out of their comfort zones.' Why pushing someone out of their comfort zone is a good thing, he didn't explain. 'Both Diana and myself really push them hard because that's when you get the best out of someone,' he claimed. 'Concentrating for six hours on a painting is very draining and can lead to all sorts of emotions - from crying at one end to being very elated at the other.' The BBC Arts winter line-up also includes programmes about a range of cultural figures including Maya Angelou, Francis Bacon, Phyllida Barlow, Marlon Brando, Chrissie Hynde, Dame Vera Lynn and Terry Pratchett (see below). And, BBC Four's Britain In Focus season will celebrate the art of photography.
An allegedly 'humorous' documentary about the late fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett has been commissioned by BBC2. Terry Pratchett: Back In Black will tell his story in his own words, with the comedian Paul Kaye voicing the writer. 'Terry wanted to write the story of his life but he never got around to it,' said Mark Bell. The creator of the Discworld series died in 2015, eight years after being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. The film, to be shown on BBC2 later this year, will feature contributions from fellow authors Neil Gaiman (seen below with Terry) and Val McDermid. Rob Wilkins, the writer's long-serving assistant, said that they had been working on the documentary during 'the last few months of Terry's life.' Wilkins said the film would follow the 'trilogy' of TV documentaries Sir Terry himself made between 2009 and 2013. In a statement, the BBC said the programme would show the author was 'still having the last laugh.'
Liam Cunningham has revealed when the final series of Game Of Thrones will begin filming and, how many episodes it will contain. Shooting is currently ongoing on the seventh series and will wrap in February - with Cunningham telling Dubai One that work will begin on the last batch of episodes approximately seven months later. 'I think [the next series] is going to be extraordinary,' he enthused. 'We're still filming - we don't finish until the end of next month. That's seven episodes and then we start again in September and there's a final six.' Whilst the next two series will be shorter that the previous six, the total time spent filming (roughly five months) will be the same as for a ten-episode run. According to another member of the Thrones cast, Iain Glen, that means the 'scale and size of the set pieces' will be 'more epic' and 'more extraordinary' than ever before. Game Of Thrones has, traditionally, returned each year in early April, but the next series has been filmed later in the year - to accommodate a winter shoot - and won't launch until the summer of 2017. Once the epic fantasy saga does draw to a close, HBO may launch a spin-off - with network chiefs confirming that they are currently weighing up a number of 'possibilities' for any potential new show.
Hugh Dancy has told TV Line that he doesn't expect any Hannibal continuation to occur for 'four or five years.' Creator Bryan Fuller has made it clear that he would 'love' to bring the cancelled NBC series back with an adaptation of Hannibal Lecter's most famous outing – The Silence Of The Lambs. Dancy confirmed that he has spoken to Fuller about a 'reworking' of the classic Thomas Harris novel, though there isn't 'anything concrete' to report. 'I know where we stood at the end of season three, in terms of what he was thinking about and it did reflect some elements of Silence Of The Lambs,' Dancy said. 'He loves that source material, as he would tell you.' Fuller spoke to the Digital Spy website last month about a possible return for Hannibal, telling them that 'everybody involved wants to come back and continue telling the stories.'
Twin Peaks is, of course, coming back and now we finally have a date for our reunion with Agent Cooper and co. The revival of the cult series will be broadcast from Sunday 21 May. But, after waiting twenty six years for some new Peaks, is the drama back for good? Co-creator David Lynch is refusing to rule out another outing in future - even if there are 'no plans for anything more' right now. 'I said before I wasn't going to revisit it and I did,' IGN quotes David as saying. 'So, you never say no.'
It's the mystery that Simpsons fans have been trying to solve for decades: what kind of car does Homer Simpson drive? Of course we already knew a fair few things about Homer's trusty family sedan, it's a fetching shade of pink, it's virtually indestructible and it's (probably) very uneconomical on fuel. Now, thanks to a recent episode Pork & Burns, we know exactly what make it is and even what year it was made. It's officially confirmed that Homer drives a 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla.
FOX seemingly isn't ready to order more of The X-Files just yet, but we seem to be getting closer than ever to a decision. One year on from the SF classic's highly-rated return to TV for six episodes, the network still isn't ready to commit to an eleventh series. However, FOX president David Madden told reporters at the TCA press tour on Wednesday that he expects to make a major X-Files announcement 'shortly.' Madden later explained to The Hollywood Reporter that his goal is for new X-Files episodes - ideally more than the six which were made in 2016 - to be ready 'no later than 2018.' Scheduling is being blamed for a lack of progress up to now, since David Duchovny and From The North favourite Gillian Anderson have both been busy working on other shows over the last few months. With Duchovny's crime thriller Aquarius being axed at NBC and Anderson's BBC series The Fall on an extended hiatus, it's at least possible they will have more time to commit to The X-Files this year. When The X-Files revival was recently released on Blu-ray, creator Chris Carter assured the Digital Spy website that he is 'more than eager' to revisit the most recent cliffhanger. 'I think we made good on the promise of the opportunity to come back and I feel proud of the work,' Carter said. 'What we could have done is come back and done the lazy thing - we could have done sequels [to existing episodes] or a victory lap, but we didn't. We came back and did fresh, original material, pushed the boundaries of the show, and I think we showed that The X-Files has a lot more life in it.'
After an geet 'uge uproar and total rive-on over the portrayal of Michael Jackson, Sky Arts has announced that it will not broadcast the episode featuring Joseph Fiennes. The anthology drama Urban Myths had cast Fiennes - who is extremely white, just in case you didn't know - as Jackson (who wasn't ... at least, not to begin with) 'leaving fans befuddled and incensed', apparently. One would, perhaps, have thought that 'fans' may have had more important things to be 'befuddled and incensed' over in a world, seemingly, gone mad but, there's no accounting for what befuddles and incenses 'fans' dear blog reader, is there? The release of a trailer for the series on Wednesday of this week did little to assuage the furore. When asked for her thoughts about the portrayal of her father, Paris Jackson tweeted that she was 'so incredibly offended by it, as I'm sure plenty of people are as well and it, honestly, makes me want to vomit.' Sky Arts said that it decided to pull the episode 'in light of the concerns expressed by Michael Jackson's immediate family.' And, the threat of vomiting too,one presumes. 'We set out to take a light-hearted look at reportedly true events and never intended to cause any offence,' Sky Arts claimed. Though, it's difficult to see how they thought that. I mean, one imagines that the people at Sky Arts are not brain-damaged morons or the victims of cruel medical experiments despite some evidence to the contrary. The episode was part of the network's Urban Myths series and centred on a fabled story in which Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor - played by Stockard Channing - and Marlon Brando - played by Brian Cox - supposedly took a cross-country road trip together after 9/11. Sky Arts called the project 'a series of tru ... ish stories.'
Singer Ray J Norwood (no, me neither) has reportedly threatened Z-List Celebrity Big Brother with legal action after he was prevented from re-entering the Big Brother house. The American artist and songwriter, apparently, left the reality TV programme on Tuesday after he 'blacked out' allegedly over pain caused by a cracked tooth. Speaking to US website TMZ, he said that he had been complaining about the pain for 'three-and-a-half days.' He added: 'It got to the point where some of the housemates in the house felt I was being ignored, we took petitions to say, "Hey we're not doing any more tasks until Ray J's tooth gets fixed." I've got a cracked tooth where I need a filling fixed, I've got a gum coming over my other tooth. I'm in a lot of pain.' Though, not so much pain that he was unable to talk, seemingly. After the show's producers decided to remove him Norwood the house over the pain, he claimed the wind hit the tooth and he 'blacked out. I end up in the hospital forty five minutes, they get me a some nutrition and I eat some McDonald's and I'm cool, I'm literally fine, I'm ready to go back in the house and they won't let me back in,' he alleged. 'I'm really hurt by it because I felt like I was doing well. I was having such a good time. I felt like I was connecting with the British fan base. What's sad is they won't let me do the show any more, they won't let me back in the house. It's not fair to me.'
Chris Evans has revealed that he was 'terrified' he was 'going to die' over Christmas when he was struck down by pneumonia. The DJ talked about his health scare on his Radio 2 programme earlier this week, telling listeners that his temperature spiked at one hundred and six degrees whilst he was on holiday in Barbados over the festive period. He said: 'It started over Christmas. [I was] felled like a sack of spuds on Christmas Eve and still sort of have it. I peaked at a temperature of one hundred and six. Nearly pegged it to be honest, nearly pegged it.' But, he didn't. So that's all right then. Apparently.
Odious oily full-of-his-own-importance glake Piers Morgan announced on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday that Susanna Reid is pregnant with twins (who are both going to be called Piers). But, of course, it was not true. Like many of the things that the Daily Mirra printed with the odious oily glake Morgan was its editor. Although, seemingly, this utter trivial bollocks constitutes 'news' as far as several tabloids are concerned.
The Hungarian camerawoman who was filmed kicking migrants along the country's border with Serbia was sentenced Thursday to three years' probation for extremely disorderly conduct. Petra Laszlo, who appeared in the Szeged District Court by remote video from an undisclosed location, mounted a tearful defence of her disgraceful actions and said that she would appeal. Judge Illes Nanasi said Laszlo's behaviour 'ran counter to societal norms' and said the facts of the case 'did not support' Laszlo's self-defence claims. The incident occurred near the border town of Roszke on 8 September 2015, where Laszlo had gone to film migrants from the Middle East who were trying to pass through Hungary on their way West. While she was filming, several migrants broke through a police cordon and jostled her as they moved past. Laszlo responded by delivering a swift kick to two people as they fled, one of them a young girl. Later, she appeared to trip another migrant carrying a child. 'It was all over within two seconds,' Laszlo said. 'Everybody was shouting, it was very very frightening.' Her employer, the Internet-based N1 TV, fired her sorry ass after the incident, she said. The court reached its verdict after watching a frame-by-frame examination of Laszlo's actions during the melee. Laszlo did not appear in person because she had received death threats, her attorney, Ferenc Sipos, told The Associated Press. She hopes to be 'vindicated' on appeal, he said. 'It is not a crime if somebody acts to defend herself. She was in danger, and she tried to avert this danger with her actions,' he said.
The child actor who played Damien in The Omen punched two cyclists in a 'road rage' attack and narrowly avoided jail when he was sentenced ... on Friday the thirteen. Harvey Spencer Stephens, forty six, got out of his Audi RS6 to punch the men, smashing one of their helmets. Stephens admitted two counts of ABH and one of criminal damage after the assault on Toys Hill, near Westerham on 21 August last year, reports the Sun. Stephens became famous when he took on the role of devil child Damien Thorn in the 1976 cult classic movie - where in one scene he circles demonically on a tricycle. Stephens extremely admitted his guilt at Maidstone Crown Court on 8 December and returned for sentencing on Friday. Judge Martin Joy sentenced him to twelve months in The Big House, suspended for two years, for the ABH charges. He was also given two months, suspended for two years, for the criminal damage charge. Joy said: 'This was undoubtedly a serious case of road-rage and quite clearly it has had an ongoing effect on the victims.' In court, prosecutor Kieran Brand described how Stephens started sounding his horn when two riders, Mark Richardson and Alex Manley, were side-by-side on the road as one overtook the other. Richardson flicked his middle finger at Stephens, who then overtook the pair and pulled over. Brand said that Stephens punched Richardson, knocking him unconscious, prompting Manley to intervene. Stephens responded by asking Manley: 'You want some, do you?' before punching him twice, hard, causing him to fall on his back. Stephens held him down and punched him a further six or seven times, causing dental injuries and damaging his helmet, Brand said. Defence counsel Ben Irwin said that Stephens, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and accepted that he ha 'behaved poorly.' Kent Police investigated the incident, arresting Stephens a week or so later. Toys Hill is a steep climb popular with cyclists. Stephens was four years old when he was picked for the role of Damien. He reportedly got the part after he attacked the director, Richard Donner, on command, even punching him in the testicles. Despite the film's success, Stephens' acting career never took off, although he did have a cameo appearance in the 2006 remake of The Omen. In an interview in 2007, Stephens said: 'It was good, but I was only five, a lot of it went over my head. It wasn't a big deal. It was good while it lasted.' Recently Stephens had been working at his own security firm which went into liquidation at the end of last year. He has previously described himself as 'a property developer.'
Daniel Craig and his wife, Rachel Weisz, are at the centre of a row with their neighbours over a fifty foot tree. The couple, who live in North London, face chopping the large plane tree down after its roots were blamed for causing subsidence to a neighbouring property. But, despite them not challenging an application to fell it, other neighbours have described the move to destroy the tree as 'unforgivable' - although, quite what the Hell it has to do with them is another matter entirely. Margaret Crowther has lived opposite the property for more than five decades. She has opposed the application to fell it. 'My kitchen window overlooks this back garden,' she said. 'The magnificent plane tree has been a feature since I first lived in my flat in 1966. It would be unforgivable to fell this very fine tree.' The property of Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz's neighbour, who is complaining about the damage the tree has allegedly done to their home. A planning application has been submitted to the local council to remove the tree, which could grow to one hundred and fifty feet, at the rear of their property. Another neighbour, Colin Jacobson, described the move as 'worrying, upsetting and unnecessary. This tree has been part of my family's life since we moved here in 1966,' he said. 'It has been a feature of our children's growing up, always there as a reminder of the beauty of nature in a dense central urban area. These trees are not just aesthetically beautiful, they have been part of this neighbour­hood, its feel, for so long. To have it taken away like this, it will be like losing a limb. We have lost so many trees in this stretch over the years. It used to be so much greener, with wonderful, mature back gardens throughout the neighbourhood - trees have been continuously cut back over fears of subsidence.' But the next door neighbours of the Hollywood couple - who married in 2011 - claim that the roots of the trees are causing subsidence to their home, a Victorian house built in 1850. They say the trees have 'caused cracks' to appear in seven of their rooms in their home. Craig has refused to comment on the proposals and the couple are not appealing the application. An engineer's report into the trees stated that they have 'caused subsidence' to a next-door property causing cracks in their bathroom, two bedrooms, a living room, a conservatory, a utility room and a hallway. The report states that the cracks are of 'varying sizes,' but pinpoints the trees as the main cause. Subsidence specialist Stuart Harris said in a report to the local council that the trees in Daniel and Rachel's garden was 'clearly the cause of the damage.' He states: 'The cracks [are] indicative of subsidence as a result of shrinkage of the clay subsoil due to the moisture extracting influence of the left hand neighbour's rear plane trees and pear tree, along with the same neighbour's front beech trees. In order to stabilise the property and prevent further damage occurring in the future, the cause of the movement needs to be addressed.' The local council said that a consultation into the application ended on Wednesday and the council will now 'consider' the complaints before making a decision on whether to allow the trees to be destroyed. A second application has also been submitted by another close neighbour to fell an apple tree.
Daryl Murphy's first league goal for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle sent The Magpies back to the top of The Championship in a hard-fought win against Brentford at Griffin Park. Having played, distressingly, like a right bunch of Big Soft Girls for the majority of the last four games since influential midfielder Jonjo Shelvey got himself banned for his - allegedly - naughty ways, United got back to winning at their first visit to Griffin Park since 1992. Dwight Gayle had put The Magpies into a first-half lead with his twentieth goal of the season before going off injured shortly afterwards. Lasse Vibe equalised for Brentford after the interval and almost put them ahead when his chip hit the post and rolled along the Newcastle goal-line before being cleared by United's captain, Jamaal Lascelles. Somewhat against the run of play, Murphy's header from an Ayoze Perez cross sealed the win late on, the Irish international's second goal in two games following his strike at Birmingham in the FA Cup last weekend. Perez wasted a chance to seal the victory shooting too early after a stray pass reached him a few minutes before the end. United held out through a staggering nine-and-a-half added minutes, during which time The Bees saw two penalty appeals ignored by referee, Chris Kavanagh. A great late stop from man of the match Karl Darlow to deny Jota ensured that The Magpies collected three points. Newcastle's return to the Championship summit came courtesy of Brighton & Hove Albinos's two-nil defeat at Preston Both Ends and puts them a point ahead of The Seagulls, albeit having played one game more. Despite the win, The Toon's manager, Wor Geet Canny Rafa The Gaffer, will have been concerned to see not only top-scorer Gayle but also midfielders Isaac Hayden and Vurnon Anita all forced off through injury. Gayle became the first Newcastle player to score twenty league goals in a season since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 before a knee problem saw him replaced by match-winner Murphy. Brentford, unbeaten in three league games before kick-off, were unfortunate not to come away with at least a draw. But, they didn't. Vibe himself could have had a second-half hat-trick when he also saw a shot blocked by substitute Grant Hanley and fired inches wide from the rebound.
A male Japanese monkey has been filmed trying to mount and mate with a Sika deer. The dirty monkey. Researchers saw the primate attempting to mate with at least two deer in November 2015, during the macaque breeding season. The macaques regularly bathe in hot springs in snow-covered parts of Japan and live side-by-side with the deer. The macaques have previously been observed grooming the deer or riding them in a playful manner but never before trying to give them a right good seeing to. One hopes that at least this chap had to common decency to address the lady before attempting to, ahem, get to know her better. Something along the lines of 'Hello, dear,' perhaps. Oh, suit yerselves. The 'curious' behaviour is outlined in a study published in the journal Primates, for such a publication does exist - although they might want to consider changing the name to Cheeky Monkeys from now on. The monkey seemed to be a low-status male, who guarded his 'love interests' by chasing away other male monkeys who came near. Co-author Alexandre Bonnefoy commented: 'The male mounted the deer and displayed some copulation behaviours, which included about fifteen sexual movements over a period of ten seconds, before dismounting.' It is not the first example of inter-species mating. In 2014, reports of an Antarctic fur seal 'coercing king penguins into sexual relations' made headlines worldwide. As, indeed, it would the filthy beasts.
A 'sex-mad' tortoise has developed arthritis after doing a bit too much jiggy-jiggy with lady tortoises. Bert, the tortoise, now reportedly requires wheels in order to get around his home at the Dinosaur Adventure Park in Norfolk. The twenty two-year-old African spurred tortoise had developed 'swelling' in his rear legs when he returned from a breeding programme in 2011. The two month session saw him have The Sex with five females producing an unknown - but, one presumes, not insignificant - number of offspring. 'He is a lover not a fighter, that is certainly true,' said Martin Hocking, the acting manager at the park's Secret Animal Garden. 'African spurred tortoises are prolific breeders who can produce up to sixty to seventy offspring a year and he is no exception.' Bert's massive tortoise libido looks to have taken its toll on him however and he has spent the past eight weeks on his wheels. 'The wheels help Bert's mobility and will hopefully help him heal by aiding circulation,' park operations manager Adam Goymour added. 'The public are always interested by Bert and wonder why he has wheels, there is a sign up on the window of his enclosure that tells all the info about his previous injury and why he is on the wheels. Kids love it and think he is a bionic tortoise and that he needs those wheels to help him with his super tortoise speed.'
A Florida man has been accused of having sex with his dog, with the abuse possibly having been going on for years according to the Daily Scum Mail. Bradley Jean Hubbard was extremely arrested when 'a family member' called police to report the sexual abuse of the family's pit bull, named Baby Girl. A member of Hubbard's family reportedly 'could not take it anymore' after seeing the man take the dog to his room to, allegedly, have sex with the poor mutt. The woman reportedly told deputies that the abuse had happened 'more than one hundred times' over the last three years. She explained how she had been able to witness the attack as Hubbard's bedroom door had a hole in it, 'as a result of a violent outburst.' The witness said that she heard the dog 'whimper and cry out in pain' during each incident. Investigators took the dog to a vet who concluded that the dog's genitals showed 'signs of abuse.' That's The Dog's Bollocks in terms of deduction, there, dear blog reader. Hubbard could be very charged with 'engaging in sexual acts with an animal' and 'causing the pain, suffering, or death of an animal.' Hubbard, who has been arrested several times before on charges including battery, larceny and resisting arrest has since been released bail.
A Dutch vegan who applied for a Swiss passport has allegedly had her application rejected because the locals found her 'too annoying.' Nancy Holten moved to Switzerland from The Netherlands when she was eight years old and now has children who are Swiss nationals. However, when she tried to get a Swiss passport for herself, residents of Gipf-Oberfrick in the canton of Aargau rejected her application. Holten, a vegan and animal rights activist, has campaigned against the use of cowbells in the village and her actions have, it is claimed, 'annoyed' the locals. The resident's committee argued that if she does not accept Swiss traditions and the Swiss way of life, she should not be able to become a national. Holten told local media: 'The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy. The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin.' She added: 'The sound that cow bells make is a hundred decibel. It is comparable with a pneumatic drill. We also would not want such a thing hanging close to our ears?' Tanja Suter, the president of the local Swiss People's Party, claimed Holten has 'a big mouth' and that residents did not want to grant her citizenship 'if she annoys us and doesn't respect our traditions.' Responding to the rejection, Holten said: 'I think I spoke my mind too often, and I say it out too loud.' Holten, who describes herself as 'a freelance journalist, model and drama student,' has also campaigned against a number of other Swiss traditions like hunting, pig races and the noisy church bells in town. The case has now been transferred to the Cantonal government in Aargau, which can overrule the decision and can still grant her a Swiss passport despite the objections of the locals.
A bite out of his grilled cheese sandwich led a Maryland man to allegedly fire a shot inside his house and barricade himself for hours, according to Baltimore County police. Police said that fifty five-year-old Daniel Blackwell got into an argument with his wife on Sunday evening after she allegedly took a bite out of his sandwich. Well, to be fair, in some Southern states that's a capital offence. The woman told police that she heard the first shot from their basement while she was making dinner. She said that she went downstairs 'to check on' Blackwell and found him surrounded by guns and ammunition about to engage in a crazed armed killing spree of geet manic ultraviolence. Soon after, three more gunshots were fired up into the kitchen where she was standing. The woman then 'fled the house' with three teens and called police, prompting Blackwell to barricade himself in. Police said tactical, K9 and hostage negotiation teams responded to the call. A three-hour stand-off followed and only ended when Blackwell peacefully surrendered himself into police custody. No one was injured. Police said that a search of the house resulted in fifteen firearms, four of which were loaded, being found and seized. One loaded gun was placed just inside the front door. Blackwell was not legally allowed to own any guns due to prior assault convictions, according to police. He was charged with attempted first and second-degree murder, first and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and various firearms violations.
A man claims that he was wrongly jailed for three days after police mistook his kitty litter for methamphetamine. Mind you, this is according to Metro - rather than a real newspaper - so take it with not so much a pinch as a vat of salt. Ross Lebeau, from Texas, was arrested on suspicion of 'possessing an illegal substance.' Police stopped his car early in December. When they searched the vehicle, they found half-a-pound of what they believed to be crystal meth, inside an old sock. 'They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County. This was the bust of the year for them,' Lebeau told Eyewitness News.However, it was actually cat litter which Ross kept in the car to prevent the windows misting up with condensation. Lebeau was kept in custody for three days before police realised their idiotic mistake. 'I would like an apology,' ABC reported Ross as saying, no unreasonably one might argue. 'I was wrongly accused and I'm going to do everything in my power, with my family's backing, to clear my name.' According to the channel, initial tests of the kitty litter indicated it was meth. However, more extensive testing showed that result was inaccurate. In a statement, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said: 'Regarding this incident all indication shows that the deputies followed basic procedures and followed established protocol related to this incident. Because of the established procedures in place and this contraband was submitted to the Institute of Forensic Science it was determined not to be methamphetamine and charges were dismissed.' Which if you look up 'non-apology apologies' on Google, you'll find that was at the very top of the list.
An undercover police officer 'chased himself round the streets' for twenty minutes after a CCTV operator mistook him for suspect reports the Daily Torygraph. The junior officer, who has not been named, was monitoring an area hit by a series of burglaries in an unnamed market town in Sussex. As the probationary officer searched for suspects, the camera operator radioed that he had seen someone 'acting suspiciously' in the area. But, he failed to realise that it was actually the plain-clothed officer he was watching on the screen, according to details leaked to an industry magazine. The operator directed the officer, who was on foot, as he followed the 'suspect' on camera last month, telling his colleague on the ground that he was 'hot on his heels.' The officer spent approximately twenty minutes giving chase before a sergeant came into the CCTV control room, recognised the 'suspect' and laughed hysterically at the elementary schoolboy-type mistake. The details of the alleged blunder were 'leaked' to Police magazine, which is published by the Police Federation, this week by an, allegedly, 'senior officer' who allegedly witnessed the alleged embarrassing incident. Sussex police were unable to provide further details of the alleged incident, the alleged officers involved or even where (or if) it allegedly occurred.
To the weather now, dear blog reader. There's a lot of it about, you might have noticed. And, we'll start with ... Pacific Storm Gallifrey, due to hit the West Coast of the US any second now and, turn it a bit nippy. Hang on, Gallifrey? Is The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) writing for The Weather Channel now?
Winter. It's snow joke, you know.
And, then there's Venus Rising (over Gatesheed). You can always spot Venus in the sky over the UK by the big white arrow pointing at it. Everybody knows that!
Thousands of fans of the late and much-lamented David Bowie gathered in London for a charity concert on what would have been his seventieth birthday earlier in the week. Guest singers including Simon Le Bon and La Roux were among the performers at the event which came ahead of the first anniversary of The Grand Dame's death. Gary Oldman, a close friend of David, sang the first song. The three-hour show in Brixton, Bowie's birthplace, also included performances by the likes of Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley and Def Leppard's Joe Elliott. Musicians who played with David - including pianist Mike Garson, guitarist Earl Slick and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey - also took part. While the concert was taking place, David's son, the filmmaker Duncan Jones, tweeted pictures of his late father. Songs featured in the show included 'Let's Dance', 'Changes', 'Ashes To Ashes', 'All The Young Dudes', 'Life On Mars?', 'Rebel Rebel', 'The Man Who Sold The World', 'Suffragette City' and 'Starman'. Quite a bit of footage from the concert has already appeared on You Tube, including this gorgeous ten minute segment of Gail Ann Dorsey performing 'Aladdin Sane' and 'Space Oddity'. As the concert came to a close, Oldman told the appreciative audience: 'Our thanks to these amazing musicians and, of course, to the amazing music of David Bowie.' Events taking place during Bowie's birthday weekend included concerts in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Tokyo. A David Bowie walking tour through Brixton was also launched. All of the events were raising money for youth arts education. The London concert raised funds for the Children & The Arts charity.
And, speaking of yer man Dave, this blogger's dear old chum Charles Martin has written a very good piece on David's early singles for Decca, Parlophone and Pye during the mid-1960s which you can read here: Check it out, dear blog reader, it's Modtastic.
There's also a good piece by Mark Savage of the BBC website, Ten things we've learned about David Bowie since his death. This blogger particularly enjoyed the last one: 'Francis Whately's documentary, David Bowie: The Last Five Years gave fans a rare glimpse of Bowie's sense of humour. He was seen larking around backstage, sticking flashing baubles to his face and attacking his band with a plastic crow. Towards the end of the film, Whately excavated a rare interview, in which the star was asked what he wanted be remembered for. "I'd love people to believe that I really had great haircuts!"' Which, of course, he did. Except for numbers three (1969), seventeen (1983) and eighteen (1986), obviously! Even in Tin Machine, the hair was never the problem.
Oh, and the Digital Spy website's Twenty Six stories that prove David Bowie will always be a legend is worth a read too. Especially for the Thin White Duke-era mugshot!
The renowned political commentator Professor Anthony King has died at the age of eighty two. His death was confirmed by the University of Essex where he taught government from 1966. Professor King was a regular commentator on British erections and helped the BBC with its coverage for over twenty years. David Dimbleby said: 'It's very sad news, completely unexpected to me. Tony King was passionate about the way government worked, he was extraordinary.' Dimbles, the BBC's general erection coverage anchor, added: 'He also played a public role. He was on the committee for standards in public life, on a committee on reform of the House of Lords, so he was sort of embedded, in the way we do our politics. We used to have lunch every so often in between elections to talk about how things were going and he was always absolutely fascinating.' Born in Canada, Professor King moved to the UK in the 1950s and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he gained a doctorate in politics. He went on to become one of Britain's leading experts in the political sciences and wrote extensively on the people and trends that have shaped Parliament over the past fifty years. His works included the history of the Social Democratic Party, Margaret Thatcher's leadership style and the rise of the career politician. Baroness Shirley Williams, a close friend of King, said: 'Tony was one of the finest political scientists of his generation and his loss will be keenly felt by those of us who knew and worked with him.' He was best known as a populariser of politics and electoral trends; he analysed opinion polls for the Daily Torygraph for many years and was the BBC's analyst on its erection night coverage from 1983 to 2005. The Gruniad Morning Star's associate editor, Martin Kettle, wrote: 'Death this morning of Anthony King, Essex professor, BBC psephologist, prolific writer, husband of Jan, most generous of friends.' Peter Riddell, the commissioner for public appointments and a former political journalist, wrote: 'Tony King bridged the worlds of academia, the media and public policy, always stimulating company with fresh insights.' University of Essex vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: 'Anthony King was a giant of political science and one of the University of Essex's longest-serving members of staff, joining us in 1966 just two years after the university opened. An inspirational teacher, a great political thinker and a brilliant writer, Professor King analysed politics in books and on television with incredible intelligence, insight and wit.' Close friend and colleague Professor David Sanders, the university's regius professor of political science, said: 'Tony was the intellectual heart of the Department of Government at Essex. His facility for making complex arguments accessible to audiences of all kinds was unparalleled. His personal kindness was immense. I will miss him more than I can say.'
Larry Steinbachek, the former keyboardist with Bronski Beat, has died at the age of fifty six. Larry formed the popular beat combo with Jimmy Somerville and Steve Bronski in 1983 and they had chart success with songs including 'Smalltown Boy', 'Why?' and, after Sommerville's departure, 'Hit That Perfect Beat'. Their extraordinary cover of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' with Marc Almond was also a huge hit. Steinbachek's sister Louise Jones told BBC News that he died last month after a short battle with cancer, with his family and friends at his bedside. The electronic trio were also known for raising awareness about gay rights. The elegiac 'Smalltown Boy' was about the anguish and difficulties of growing up gay and the sleeve for their debut LP, The Age Of Consent listed the various ages of consent for gay men in different countries. When Somerville left to form The Communards in 1985, Steinbachek and Bronski continued the group with John Foster. Larry moved to Amsterdam in 1994 and continued to make music and worked on various stage musicals.
The author and filmmaker William Peter Blatty, best known for writing The Exorcist, has died at the age of eighty nine. William Friedkin, who directed the film adaptation of Blatty's novel, broke the news of his death on Twitter. 'William Peter Blatty, dear friend and brother who created The Exorcist passed away yesterday,' he wrote. The Exorcist was published in 1971, with the hugely - and controversial - successful big screen adaptation, also written by Blatty, following two years later. Despite a troubled production and a muted launch, the film went on to become one of the highest grossing in history and is considered by critics to be a classic horror movie. Blatty's widow, Julie Alicia Blatty, told The Associated Press that the writer died on Thursday at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. The cause of death was multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, she said. The Exorcist won Blatty an Oscar for best adapted screenplay and he went on to write and direct the second sequel The Exorcist III. Blatty also wrote novels such as Elsewhere, Dimiter, The Ninth Configuration and Demons Five. His screenwriting credits include A Shot In The Dark, The Great Bank Robbery and Promise Her Anything. Blatty married four times and had eight children.
Rockabilly guitarist Tommy Allsup, who narrowly avoided boarding the plane on which Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper were killed, has died aged eighty five. The musician famously lost a coin toss for a seat on the plane. His place was taken by Ritchie Valens, who also perished when the plane crashed. Allsup went on to become a Grammy-winning musician, who played with Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison and Willie Nelson. He said that he thought about the crash and thanked God every day of his life. The musician died on Wednesday at a hospital in Springfield, Missouri, due to complications from a hernia operation, said his son, Austin. 'Tommy Allsup was one of western swing and rockabilly music's finest,' said Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy. 'The Oklahoma native and was admired by his peers and fans alike [and] heralded by Paul McCartney as one of the finest guitar players in the world. Our deepest condolences go out to Tommy's family, friends, and creative collaborators.' Born Tommy Douglas Allsup in 1931, the musician was the twelfth of thirteen children and an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. He grew up in Owasso, Oklahoma - a tiny town with a population in the hundreds before it became a centre for the airline industry in the 1950s. When he was sixteen, he would hitchhike to Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa to watch early rock and roll shows. 'I was six foot tall, and back then they didn't even have IDs,' he local newspaper Tulsa World last year. 'If you were big enough to stand up to the bar, you could get you a beer.' Eventually, he plucked up the courage to perform at the venue himself and, by the mid-fifties, he was a jobbing musician. He met Buddy Holly in a recording studio in 1958 and the star invited him to join his band on the fateful Winter Dance Party tour a year later. Crossing Midwest America in freezing conditions, many of the musicians succumbed to the 'flu and even frostbite. To avoid one particularly wintry bus journey, Holly decided to charter a plane between Clear Lake, Iowa and their next venue in Minnesota. Allsup was originally supposed to catch the flight, but Valens - who had previously suffered a fear of flying - pestered him to swap places. 'He asked me four or five times could he fly in my place,' Allsup recalled in 2007. 'For some reason, I pulled a half-dollar out of my pocket and flipped it. He said "heads" and it came up heads. So I went out to the station wagon and told Buddy. I said, "I'm not going. Me and Ritchie flipped a coin. He's going in my place." Buddy, said "cool."' The plane crashed shortly after take-off in the Iowa countryside. Allsup was initially listed as one of the victims, as he had given his wallet and ID to Holly, asking him to pick up some mail from the post office when he landed in Minnesota. 'When they found the bodies the next morning, they found five wallets with five different IDs,' Allsup said. 'So they had my name on Associated Press as one of the people on the plane.' Austin Allsup said his father took losing the coin toss as 'a blessing' and that he was 'humbled' to be connected to 'such a monumental moment in music history.' He added that Valens' sister had contacted him after his father's death to offer her condolences. 'I told her in my message back, now my dad and Ritchie can finally finish the tour they started fifty eight years ago,' he told ABC News. Allsup's friend Randy Steele said that Tommy 'got an additional fifty seven years and eleven months' out of the coin flip and 'used it for good. I was literally in awe of him, not just because of his talent, but because of the kind of man he is.'