Saturday, December 16, 2017

Seeing Is Believing

TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Number One: Yer man Tennant's curiously orange hair on Have I Got News For You. You're havin' a laugh, Dave, right? Apparently, this caused quite a stir on social media. Particularly due to the fact that The Doctor is now, finally ginger.
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Number Two: Yer man Tennant's assessment of a recent space story and a recent US political election on Have I Got News For You: 'This week, Donald Trump has announced plans to go to The Moon. Leading half-a-million angry Clangers to sign a petition. And, the Republicans lost a seat in the Senate this week when the voters of Alabama rejected Roy Moore, a right-wing, homophobic, evangelical child-molester. He's so vile even Putin didn't want to help!' 'In America, on CNN, they say alleged child-molester,' noted Paul Merton for the benefit of the BBC's nervous lawyers. 'But, you go for it!' 'Come and get me, Roy!' shouted David, defiantly. 'I wouldn't say that,' added guest Joe Wilkinson.
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Number Three: Tennant's second bit of prime Trump-bashing. 'He said the goal of the new mission [to The Moon] would include "long-term exploration and use of its surface." He's going to open a golf course, isn't he?'
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Number Four: A great bit in the latest episode of Qi called Operations; following a lengthy - and very funny - if you will dissection of the Medieval anatomical drawing The Wound Man (first published in 1491), Sandi Toksvig noted that there was also a contemporary female equivalent, Disease Woman. 'Is Marvel running out of Superheroes?' asked Rhod Gilbert. Sandi went on to note that, nowadays, in the US they have a really in-depth and complex system of categorising injuries called The ICD-10 System which has over one hundred and forty thousand detailed codes of medical complaints which are extremely specific. 'These include: bitten by [an] Orca; forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant; asphyxiation due to being trapped in a car trunk; burned due to water-skis on fire and my absolute favourite, hurt at opera!' The first such attempt to categorise injuries in Great Britain was The Bills Of Mortality. Causes of death in those included such, to modern ears hilarious, descriptions as 'lethargy' ('that's the way I want to go!' suggested Alan Davies), 'frighted', 'killed by several accidents' and 'suddenly'! 'Wound Man would've read that and gone "Yep, I've had that, I've had that, I've had that ...' added Bill Bailey (on terrific form, as usual). There was also the story of Boston Corbett, the Union solider who, famously, shot and killed Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Fanatically religious, in order to avoid sexual temptation and 'remain holy,' Corbett reportedly castrated himself with a pair of scissors. He then, it is alleged, ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting before seeking medical treatment for the wounds to his groin. 'He cut his own testicles off with scissors to avoid temptation?' asked Rhod, his eyes watering at the very prospect. 'Why didn't he just walk down a different street?' Sandi answered that Corbett believed eunuchs were more likely to get into heaven. 'I like him, I wish more men would take this path,' suggested Katherine Ryan.
TV Comedy Moment Of The Week, Number Four: Another one from Qi. 'How many stars are there in Orion's Belt?' Sandi asked the panellists before becoming concerned that Canadian-born Katherine might not understand the question. 'Do you call it Orion's Belt?' Sandi queried. 'Yeah,' replied Katherine. 'We have the same solar system!'
The actual answer is, of course, 'at least nine, it just looks like there are only three because, like the cows in Father Ted, they're "far away!"'
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) took the opportunity at this week's Doctor Who Christmas special press screening to say what he really thinks about the long-running family SF drama which he has overseen for the last nine years reports the Radio Times. And, truly, it was glorious in our sight. At the Q&A which followed the episode's first public screening, the departing showrunner gave an impassioned off-the-cuff speech to the assembled press and punters setting out exactly why he believes Doctor Who to be the greatest television show ever made.
'It's worth saying, because I don't think it's ever said enough. The reason Doctor Who is as successful - I mean humanly successful - for so long in such an enduring way and I'm just gonna say it because I don't ever say it, but now I'm leaving I'll say it, it is actually the greatest television show ever made. I'm gonna prove it to you. There are probably press here who are "No, it's The Wire." It's not The Wire. It's not I, Claudius. It's not The Office. It's not even Blue Planet. It's Doctor Who and I'm gonna prove to whoever is doubting me the hardest that they're wrong to doubt me. How do you measure greatness? Do you measure it by ratings? Do you measure it by reviews? Christ no, of course you don't. Do you measure it by perfection? Is Doctor Who perfect every week? No, it's not. It really isn't. It can't be. Because every episode of Doctor Who is an experiment and if you experiment every single week, sometimes you get a face full of soot and you're blinking the smoke away and you look a bit ridiculous. That happens. Perfection is the refinement of boredom, it's doing the same thing all the time perfectly. Doctor Who, by always being different, can never be perfect. But yes, how do we measure its greatness? There are people who became writers because of Doctor Who. Loads of them. There are people who became artists because of Doctor Who. There are people who became actors because of Doctor Who. Two of them have played The Doctor. There are people, believe it or not, who become scientists because of Doctor Who. That seems improbable given we said the moon was an egg, you'd think they'd have a problem with it. But, people become scientists, people change their view of the world and what they're capable of, because of a silly show about a man who travels around in time and space in a police box. So, never mind the reviews. Never mind anything. Never mind the ratings. Never mind any of that. Count the scientists, the musicians, the scholars, the writers, the directors, the actors, who became what they are because of this show. Count, as you might say, the hearts that beat a little faster because of Doctor Who. I do not even know what is in second place, but without doubt and by that most important measure, Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made.' This blogger has absolutely no intention of editorialising Steven's comments. Well, except to add, ahem, 'yes, what he said.'
Yer actual Peter Capaldi was unable to attend the event but did send along a message which left barely a dry eye in the gaff. 'I'm really sorry I can't be with you tonight. I'd like to thank all my friends on Doctor Who for sharing their good humour, talent and life with me over the last four years. And particularly, Steven Moffat, who has brought so much to Doctor Who, even more than might be realised today, but will be seen clearly in the future. I'd like to thank everyone who loves the show for sharing it with me and sharing the boundless generosity of spirit that it embodies. I wish Jodie and the new TARDIS team all the best for the future - and the past and everything in between - and look forward to watching them journey to new and wonderful places. For me, it's been an amazing trip. I went to the end of time, I met fantastical creatures ... and I blew them up. But now it's over. Time I was off.' Not yet, Peter, but it soon will be.
Meanwhile, following the press event, the first - spoiler-free(ish) - preview of Twice Upon A Time has has appeared on the Radio Times website.
The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) also spoke to Doctor Who Monthly about his final story: 'I must be honest, everyone's watching for the last minute,' he said. 'And people are going to absolutely love Jodie. Then they'll notice that, at the same time, they miss Peter, but it's not like it'll be a grieving process. Or rather, with a new Doctor, it's always grieving and falling in love simultaneously.' Discussing the handover to his successor Chris Chibnall, Steven admitted the process was emotional: 'It's an odd feeling. It's just weird. You suddenly realise that the new guy, the new showrunner, has to come barrelling through the door and take over. It's a slightly bewildering feeling. But it's an amazing process.' And, although Steven wasn't on set for filming on Jodie's first scene as The Doctor, he has seen the finished product. 'It's slightly strange and very, very good. Jodie put a smile on my face immediately. She was funny from the off. I thought that was great.'
He has written for Doctor Who many times since 2005, but while Mark Gatiss's future involvement with the BBC's popular long-running family SF dram is now in doubt, he has insisted that he will always have more ideas for stories. Yer actual Gatiss has previously admitted that he is currently 'unsure' if he will continue to contribute to the series when it relaunches next year under Chris Chibnall. Speaking to the press on-set of this year's Christmas special, Mark said: 'It's been a privilege to write so much of it, and also to be in it. There was a point, I remember, having a very early meeting with Russell about my first script [The Unquiet Dead]. I sort of said, "I want to be in it as well!" but you have to play a long game.' Gatiss, of course, went on to appear on the show several times, making his third on-screen appearance in the upcoming Twice Upon A Time.
'I've broken it down here, a list of costs pertaining to the assassination of a dear friend. A normal dispatch is five hundred pounds cost, but you're going to have to add another hundred to that because Tommy Shelby, like me, is from an oppressed people. Then, I need you to put another ton on top of that because his brother is a fucking animal and he will come after me. And then, you will need to put another hundred on top of that because, well, you are a fuckin' Wop, mate ... Crack on!' This week's episode of Peaky Blinders - The Duel - was probably the highlight of the fourth series of the BBC gangster drama so far. Highlights included the astonishingly violent opening gunfight sequence (which took up around eight minutes of screen time), Polly and Tommy's clever ruse which few saw coming, Arthur's harrowing descent into addiction and, best of all, Tom Hardy dropping the c-bomb! Reviews can be read here in the Gruniad, here in the Torygraph, here in the Indi and here in inews. Summation: It was all a bit tasty, dear blog reader. 'In order to qualify as my seconds, right, they would first have to qualify as being Jewish. And, in order to do that, they would have to replace their natural Italian arrogance with a Jewish air of absolute certainty. see, my good friend Thomas Shelby, he will know the difference ... You will have to add another ton onto your bill. For being a c*nt, mate, alright?'
There was yet another hilarious episode of From The North fave Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish broadcast this week, which included a completely 'this will only make sense if you've actually watched the episode' closing thought: 'So, what have we learned tonight, ladies and gentlemen? Well, we've learned that when the most remarkable co-incidence you have ever experienced in your life happens to you, you stretch everything you can to build a show around it!' Indeed, he did. And yes, Mrs Gorman has got very nice knees. Now, go watch the episode and that will all make sense, dear blog reader. As the show ended, Dave's continuity announcer noted that next week's episode will 'be an emotional show as it will be the last ever one of the series.' One presumes that, if Modern Life Is Goodish is, indeed, ending - after five great series - it is because Dave (Gorman rather than Dave the channel) wants to create a different TV format for his next show rather than because Dave (the Channel rather than Dave Gorman) is cancelling it due to lack of interest. Meanwhile, Dave (Gorman, rather than Dave the Channel) has recently been interviewed by the Den Of Geeks website. And a very good interview it is too. Although they do highlight that moment in a previous series of Modern Life Is Goodish where Dave (Gorman, not Dave the channel) talked about receiving social media criticism after he'd made a mistake in one of his tweets about a Star Wars character, in which someone snarled: 'Dave Gorman, call yourself a geek.' To which Dave pointed out that, actually, he never has ('I last watched an episode of Doctor Who in 1984!')
Keith Telly Topping was jolly proud of himself when getting another couple of questions right on this week's episode of From The North fave Only Connect. Not unexpectedly, they were the football one and the Cluedo®™ one. (And, he spotted the very subtle Half Man Half Biscuit reference as well!)
Sophie Turner has revealed that, during the read-through for the final series, the cast of Game Of Thrones 'burst into tears.' Well, yes, sadly the thought of fast-approaching unemployment can, indeed, be quite emotional.
Several months ago, it was widely reported in the media that Edd China, one half of the presenting duo of From The North favourite Wheeler Dealears, had decided to leave the production after thirteen years. Which, frankly, made this blogger about as depressed as he was when the news broke that The Smiths had split up in 1987! Well, okay, maybe not quite that bad, but it was something of a shock. There were allegations - subsequently confirmed - that Edd's decision was in fact prompted by a change of production company and that Edd felt the new producers were attempting to 'dumb down' the format of the show to save money. In the months since then, dear blog reader, something of a minor war of words has broken out between Edd and his former partner on the show, Mike Brewer. See, for example, Mike allegedly calling Edd 'a traitor' here and, Edd's response here. Well, now the first trailer for the new series of Wheeler Dealers has appeared on Discovery (the - fourteenth - series begins in the UK in early January). It features Mike and Edd's replacement, someone called Ant Anstead. Whether Wheeler Dealers continues to be a From The North favourite without, in this blogger's opinion, the best reason for watching it, time will tell. But, one can't help but feel roughly the same as when Clarkson, Hamster and Cap'n Slowly left that other wildly popular car show and were replaced by Chris Evans, Joey from Friends and ... some other people.
How ironic it was to see three fantastic examples of Twenty First Century Woman - Hermione Cockburn, Rachael Stirling and Helen Pidd - on a 2016 episode of Christmas Pro-Celebrity University Challenge repeated this week on BBC4 being entirely unable to name the woman who fell in front of the King's horse in 1913 and, ultimately, helped to get their entire gender the vote. For shame, ladies, for shame! That one's going to follow all three of you through the rest of your careers, one imagines.
A new game has been released by the BBC. Doctor Who Time Vortex VR gives players the chance to pilot the TARDIS through the depths of the space-time vortex inside a virtual reality version of the show's title sequence. Which is nice. The game is a VR reboot of the successful Time Vortex 360 mobile game released earlier this year. As they 'speed through time,' players will 'tackle hazards and obstacles emerging from the future ahead of them and will need to quickly react by physically turning around to evade threats from the past.' As players progress through the game, they are 'transported into different time zones from past eras, from the current vortex to re-imagined designs from the 1960s and 1980s.' The game is available to play using cardboard headsets, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive via ones web browser. Apparently. However, those without headsets can still play the game with mobiles and tablets running newer versions of Android or iOS and the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari. A full list of all supported devices is available here. To play, fans simply need to visit bbc.in/TimeVortexVR. Like the 360 game, the VR version is an endless runner, which gets more and more difficult the longer people play, taking them on a visually intense journey through the iconic vortex from the show's opening credits. Using the device's accelerometer, players control the game by physically moving around, even giving the player the ability to turn around and travel backwards in time.
This year's Strictly Come Dancing has had its highest ever consolidated average ratings in the show's history – with eleven million people regularly tuning in on Saturday nights. Beating last year's 10.9 million average, new viewing figures show that the BBC1 dancing competition is seemingly more popular than ever, while its ITV competitor The X Factor has been pulling in its own lowest audience figures for its most recent series. Despite various revamps, 2017 has seen Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's singing contest have its worst ever set of ratings, with but 6.3 million people on average tuning in per episode, and the final – which was won by someone called Rak-Su, apparently – being watched by a mere 5.2 million. I 2010, The X Factor was neck-and-neck with Strictly in the media-created 'Saturday night ratings war' and would regularly beat the BBC1 show on Saturday nights, but it seems times have changed with the dance show now massively outdoing its rival.
Derek Jacobi has joined the cast of Good Omens as Metatron. The best-selling novel, co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is currently being adapted by Gaiman for a six-part miniseries for Amazon Prime. Jacobi joins the previously announced David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Jon Hamm for the drama, which is due to be broadcast in 2019. Neil announced the news by sharing a picture on Twitter of himself with Jacobi.
ITV has confirmed there will be a third series of Victoria after this year's Christmas Day special. Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes will both be back as the Queen and Prince Albert in the series, which begins in 1848. According to Daisy Goodwin, the drama's creator, that year marked 'a hugely dramatic and eventful time for both the royal family and Europe.' 'We look forward to regaling audiences with the next part of the illustrious Queen's reign,' said ITV's Polly Hill. Hill, who is ITV's head of drama, added: 'We're delighted that the nation has taken Victoria to its hearts.' Comfort & Joy, the two-hour Christmas special, will be broadcast on Christmas Day.
Great news, everyone! Vic & Bob's Big Night Out is returning for a full series, following news that it's coming back for a Christmas special. They would not, it would seem, let it lie. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are partnering with BBC2 to bring back the cult 1990s Channel Four sketch series Vic Reeves Big Night Out, now rebranded to reflect the fact that Bob should always have got equal billing, if only for creating The Man With The Stick. Vic - Britain's top light entertainer and signer, remember - told the Sun: 'We're going to start writing a full series of Big Night Out in January. We'll spend next year on it. Vic & Bob's Big Night Out is pretty much like Shooting Stars without the guests,' he added. 'TV audiences are a lot older now so if you do a bit of nostalgia, it's always going to appeal to them.' The half-hour Christmas special will be broadcast on Friday, 29 December at 9pm on BBC2 and will feature Vic and Bob revisiting some of their classic comedy characters along with special guest Matt Lucas. 'This is the show we wanted to perform back in the 1980s,' Vic recently claimed. 'Now the time is right. We will be increasing our respective heights in order to perform some of the more intricate and challenging moments.' Vic Reeves Big Night Out originally ran for a mere fifteen episodes on Channel Four in the early 1990s, but its anarchic, free-form comedy and memorably daft moments proved pivotal for establishing the Vic and Bob partnership. Since then, the pair have gone on to make classic telly comedy in The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer, Shooting Stars, the remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and other favourites.
After finishing ninth at this year's Eurovision Song Contest, Australia - which, as you might have noticed, is not in Europe - is 'upping its game for 2018.' Jessica Mauboy will represent her country in next year's Eurovision in Lisbon next May, broadcaster SBS announced on Monday. Mauboy, who is the first indigenous artist to reach number one in the Australian CD charts, said that she would 'sing my heart out for Australia.' She added: 'I'm so proud to be officially representing my country and a little bit nervous - mainly about the dress!' The singer previously appeared at the 2014 Eurovision semi-finals in Denmark, performing the song 'Sea Of Flags' during the interval. Like many modern Eurovision contestants, Mauboy first came to fame on reality TV, coming second in the 2006 series of Australian Idol. After the show, she released a live CD, The Journey, which reached the top five thanks to the popularity of her cover of Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful'. Her debut single, 'Running Back', followed a year later, featuring a guest appearance by Flo Rida. It was certified double platinum and saw Mauboy win her first Aria - Australia's equivalent of a Brit Award. Since then, she has sold more than three million CDs globally, while her songs have been streamed more than one hundred and fifty million times. Which is a lot. She also starred in the 2012 film The Sapphires, playing the role of Julie McCrae, one of four Australian women who travelled to Viet'nam to sing for troops during the war. The film won Mauboy an Australian Film Critics Association Award for best supporting actress and led to her being cast in the lead role of the TV series The Secret Daughter. Australia - despite, you know, still not being in Europe - has been part of the Eurovision Song Contest since 2015, when it was given a 'wild card' entry for the show's sixtieth anniversary. The competition has a huge fan base in the country, where it has been screened for more thirty years, with viewing figures regularly topping three million. Mauboy, whose mother is from the Indigenous KuKu Yalanji tribe and whose father is from Timor, said that she had wanted to represent Australia at the contest ever since her performance in 2014. 'I am a deeply a competitive person when it comes to music,' she said. 'I almost feel like I was the permission for Australia to become properly involved. A year after that, the gate was opened for Australia [and] I almost feel like I've been waiting for this, like it's unfinished business.' The singer has yet to unveil the song she will take to Portugal, but said she intended to compose it herself. 'I want my culture, background and history to definitely affect and be part of the song that I want to write,' she told SBS. 'I think as someone who represents Australia as a whole, within the song I really want to go deep and be able to tell a story, but also have something that sounds like it's just been taken from the radio or a music video. I want to keep the vibe of it being music and that being the heart of it.' The 2018 Eurovision Song Contest will be held on 12 May.
Netflix has defended a - frankly, rather sneery - tweet which revealed that fifty three people had watched its new Christmas film every day for eighteen days in a row. 'Who hurt you?' read the tweet, addressed to them. The tweet caused controversy, with some people on social media that you've never heard of saying it was 'creepy' of the networking platform to keep such close tabs on its audience and mock their choices of viewing since, after all, they had paid for the privilege of watching whatever the Hell they liked on Netflix. In a statement, Netflix said that the privacy of its members was importantto them. Or or two people even believed them. 'This information represents overall viewing trends, not the personal viewing information of specific, identified individuals,' claimed a representative, somewhat unconvincingly. Netflix 'has been studying its user-data closely for some time,' the statement added, but does not 'often' share it. Except now, when it has. When the platform first decided to start producing its own material, it mined its user-data to see what the most popular content was among its existing customers as a guide to what sort of programmes it should be making. At that time it discovered that the most searched-for and viewed material included that which featured Kevin Spacey, the director David Fincher and BBC political dramas - and that led directly to the re-make of the 1990 BBC political thriller House Of Cards, involving both Spacey and Fincher. 'Netflix, like any company these days, keeps a sharp eye on what its users like so that it can offer them more of what they like,' said technology commentator Kate Bevan. 'What is a bit creepy, however, is extracting data points with no context and offering up data that should be anonymised in a way that could identify individuals.'
The actress Salma Hayek has described Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as 'a rage-fuelled monster,' alleging that he sexually harassed and threatened her. Writing in the New York Times, Hayek claimed that Weinstein once told her: 'I will kill you, don't think I can't.' Holly Baird, a spokeswoman for Weinstein, disputed Hayek's account. Dozens of actresses, including Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have now accused Weinstein of various forms of harassment or assault. Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex. Writing in the New York Times, Hayek described working with the film mogul on what she called her 'greatest ambition' - telling the story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She wrote that, after striking a deal with Weinstein for the rights of the movie which would eventually become 2002's Frida, she was forced to repeatedly refuse sexual advances. 'No to me taking a shower with him. No to letting him watch me take a shower. No to letting him give me a massage. No to letting a naked friend of his give me a massage. No to letting him give me oral sex. No to my getting naked with another woman,' she wrote. She went on to accuse Weinstein of threatening to shut the film down unless she filmed a nude sex scene with another actress. 'I had to take a tranquilliser, which eventually stopped the crying but made the vomiting worse,' she wrote of her 'emotional turmoil' at filming the scene in question which she thought was unnecessary. 'As you can imagine, this was not sexy, but it was the only way I could get through the scene.' Weinstein's spokeswoman said in a statement: 'Mister Weinstein does not recall pressuring Salma to do a gratuitous sex scene with a female co-star and he was not there for the filming. All of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate and others who witnessed the events have a different account of what transpired.' Frida would eventually gather six Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress recognition for Hayek. Weinstein has been accused of rape, sexual assault and harassment, but has 'unequivocally denied' any and all allegations of non-consensual relationships.
A mother has called for 'a lewd and offensive' pantomime starring The Krankies and John Barrowman, to be axed. Whether she wants it to be axed with an actual axe is not, at this time, known. Natalie Wood made a whinge about a production of Dick Whittington at Manchester Opera House, claiming that it was 'too smutty' for children. During the show, she added, Barrowman reportedly fondled his co-star Janette Krankie's breasts and also invited audience members to chant 'Alice loves Dick.' Heh. Dick, y'see, cos it's his name, right? Wood, who sounds like a right laugh and who attended the show with ten family members - including six children aged three to twelve - snitched to the BBC that the show 'crossed the line' from innuendo to 'raw' vulgarity. Among the moments she took issue with was one where Wee Jimmy Krankie, played by Janette Krankie, poked her finger out of her trousers, emulating a penis. 'The main issue for us was the actual fondling of Jimmy Krankie's breasts and all the different cheap smutty jokes,' Wood whinged. 'Normally we share the jokes from the show afterwards - these kind of jokes you would have to discourage the children from repeating and or acting out,' she said. A local primary school teacher, who wished to remain suspiciously anonymous, told the BBC that she was also 'concerned' about the pantomime after seeing it with her class. 'I've seen a lot of pantos in my time but this was a step too far - all the staff agreed it was wholly inappropriate,' she whinged. 'I felt really uncomfortable watching it with my class. They were all gasping and saying "this is really rude."' In her letter to the theatre, Wood whinged that her children had 'copied' some of the jokes in the show. 'My children were repeating "Alice loves Dick" and sticking their fingers out of their trousers for a pretend penis throughout the evening. This is not acceptable and my children required far too much explaining about adult humour for a family show.' Promoters Qdos Entertainment said: 'In-keeping with the tradition of pantomime, the script does make use of double entendre and part of that is a play on the names of the characters. None of the humour within the show is intended to cause offence of any kind.' And, this utter trivia constitutes 'news', apparently.
Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch has agreed to sell sixty six billion dollars worth of Twenty First Century FOX's assets, including a Hollywood film studio and his thirty nine per cent stake in Sky, in a deal which transforms his media empire. The takeover involves the eighty six-year-old tycoon and his family taking a 4.25 per cent stake in Disney, gaining control of assets including Avatar, X-Men, The Simpsons and Modern Family as well as the FX and National Geographic businesses. Billionaire tyrant Murdoch will retain control of FOX assets including the profitable, and controversial, FAUX News channel. Which, presumably, Disney didn't want as they are people with a moral compass. 'We are extremely proud of all that we have built at Twenty First Century FOX and I firmly believe that this combination with Disney will unlock even more value for shareholders as the new Disney continues to set the pace in what is an exciting and dynamic industry,' said billionaire tyrant Murdoch. Disney chief executive, Bob Iger, has signed a contract extension to continue to run the business until 2021. James Murdoch the Small, the chief executive of Twenty First Century FOX has not been named in the new corporate structure and is expected to leave to 'pursue other business interests' when the deal is completed. 'We are honoured and grateful that Rupert Murdoch has entrusted us with the future of businesses he spent a lifetime building,' said Iger. 'The acquisition of this stellar collection of businesses from Twenty First Century FOX reflects the increasing consumer demand for a rich diversity of entertainment experiences that are more compelling, accessible and convenient than ever before.' The transaction also marks a pivotal moment for the Murdoch dynasty with the departure from the business of James, who is also chairman of Sky. The move paves the way for his elder brother, forty six-year-old Lachlan to inherit executive control of the Murdoch empire. Lachlan is co-chairman of Twenty First Century FOX and News Corp, the separately-listed business which owns the Murdoch newspaper assets including The Times, the Sun and the New York Post. The deal will not, for now, impact the proposed takeover by Twenty First Century FOX of the sixty one per cent of Sky which it does not already own. The Competition and Markets Authority will continue to investigate the deal as a billionaire tyrant Murdoch-brokered takeover, pending FOX's Sky stake officially changing hands. 'While Twenty First Century FOX's existing plans to acquire Sky remain in place, we expect the current investigation to continue,' said a spokesman for the department of digital, culture, media and sport. Disney and FOX said that they expect the £11.7bn deal to buy the remaining sixty one per cent in Sky will be 'cleared and completed' by June next year. Twenty First Century FOX said that it intends to spin-off the remaining assets as a separate business, called New FOX, which will include FOX Broadcasting network and stations, FAUX News, FOX Business, FOX sports and its regional network of stations in the US. 'The new FOX will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of FOX, as well as the strength of our broadcast network,' said billionaire tyrant Murdoch. 'It is born out of an important lesson I've learned in my long career in media: namely, content and news relevant to viewers will always be valuable. We are excited by the possibilities of the new FOX, which is already a leader many times over.' Under the terms of the deal, which will cement Disney's place as the world's most-powerful entertainment brand, Disney is paying $52.4bn in stock, including $13.7bn in debt – the total value of the deal is sixty six billion bucks. FOX shareholders will own about twenty five per cent of Disney, with the billionaire tyrant Murdochs' seventeen per cent stake in Twenty First Century FOX translating to just over four per cent. 'Through today's announcements we are proud to recommit to that promise and enable our shareholders to benefit for years to come through ownership of two of the world's most iconic, relevant and dynamic media companies,' said billionaire tyrant Murdoch. Disney has said that the deal will generate two billion dollars in savings. 'When considering this strategic acquisition, it was important to the board that Bob remain as chairman and chief executive through 2021 to provide the vision and proven leadership required to successfully complete and integrate such a massive, complex undertaking,' said Orin Smith, lead independent director of the Disney board.
A row has broken out over advice given to police in England and Wales telling them not to stop and search people only because they smell of cannabis. The advice was first given to police last year and was reiterated by an Inspectorate of Constabulary report on Tuesday. The advice says that officers should look at 'other factors' like behaviour as well as merely getting a hit of that sweet, sickly smell. But some officers, including the chief constable of Merseyside Police, said they disagreed. And, they can do that because ... it's The Law. The College of Policing said that it plans to 'review' the guidance. Police officers can use stop-and-search powers if they have 'reasonable grounds' to suspect that someone is carrying items such as drugs, weapons or stolen property. Last year, they were given new guidance by the College of Policing that the smell of cannabis on its own would 'not normally' justify stopping and searching someone or their vehicle. But the Inspectorate of Constabulary said that many officers were 'unaware' of the guidance and it is now urging forces to 'encourage' officers to 'not rely on a smell alone.' However, Chief Constable Andy Cooke, of Merseyside Police, said that he would not be giving that advice to his teams. He tweeted: 'I disagree. The guidance in my view is wrong and the law does not preclude it. Smell of cannabis is sufficient to stop search and I will continue to encourage my officers to use it particularly on those criminals who are engaged in serious and organised crime.' Matt Locke, of Northumbria Police, described the guidance as 'inconsistent,' adding that it was 'a bit of a dog's dinner.' Mike Cunningham, HM Inspector of Constabulary, responded to questions on social media about the 'guidance' by saying that the smell of cannabis 'can be reasonable grounds' to search but it will be 'for the officer to explain.' He added that the advice 'encourages multiple grounds' to merit a stop and search. The row came after the Inspectorate of Constabulary analysed more than eight-and-a-half thousand stop and search records and found almost six hundred were conducted solely because police could smell cannabis. Searches based on other grounds, such as the suspect's behaviour, result in more arrests, the report said.
A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology. The odd-shaped object - described by yer actual David Tennant as 'looking like a space-turd on Have I Got News For You, which led to plenty of subsequent Doctor Poo jokes from Merton and Hislop! - was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October. Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our own cosmic neighbourhood. An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it. The team's efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands. The first set of observations at the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia is due to last for ten hours. Previous observations of the object, called Oumuamua, have 'noted' its strange, elongated shape, making it look a bit like a cigar. Milner's Breakthrough Listen programme released a statement which read: 'Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.' Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center [sic], who is part of the initiative, said: 'Oumuamua's presence within our Solar System affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects.' He added: 'Whether this object turns out to be artificial or natural, it's a great target for Listen.' Professor Andrew Coates, from UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Dorking, who is not involved with Breakthrough Listen, told BBC Surrey: 'I believe there is an experiment being done to actually listen to this object to see if there are any potential signs of life on it. I think this is most unlikely because it's left over from the beginning of that planetary system elsewhere. Much better ways of looking for life are actually missions like our ExoMars project, which is going to be going to Mars in 2020, drilling underneath the surface to look for signs of life. We're building the camera system for that.' He added: 'But, as this thing is passing through very quickly, why not have a listen just in case?' Other researchers who have carried out observations of the asteroid with ground telescopes say that, apart from its shape, it closely resembles natural objects found in the outer parts of our Solar System. It has a reddish colour, which is often indicative of organic compounds that have been irradiated by cosmic rays. Measurements suggest it has a dense structure and is comprised of rock and metal, but with little - if any - water-ice. Although Oumuamua formed around another star, scientists think it could have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any particular star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our Solar System. The asteroid's name, Oumuamua, means 'a messenger from afar arriving first' in Hawaiian.
An Egyptian pop singer has reportedly been extremely jailed for two years after she ate a banana 'suggestively' whilst wearing skimpy clothing in her music video. Shaimaa Ahmed, who is commonly known by her stage name Shyma, was jailed for 'inciting debauchery' after the video showed her standing before a classroom of young men. In the clip, a blackboard behind her is scrawled with the words 'Class #69', and she proceeds to eat an apple and a banana while pouring milk over the fruit. s you do. The video, which was filmed for her song 'I Have Issues' prompted huge controversy in Egypt's largely conservative society – and was widely discussed on TV before prosecutors ordered her arrest. Now, an Egyptian court has very jailed the singer for two years – although she can appeal the verdict to a higher court. The video's director was also fined and sentenced to two years in his absence. The ruling follows a similar case from November, which saw a Lebanese singer interrogated by Egyptian authorities for wearing a pair of shorts on stage. Haifa Wehbe claims she was 'called for interrogation' after the performance at the American University of Cairo. Her manager was called by authorities to 'warn' him that the singer must pick outfits which 'take into account the traditions and customs of Egyptian people.'
This, dear blog reader, is why yer actual Keith Telly Topping never eat bananas. Apart form the fact that the smell of the damn things makes him physically vomit, they are nothing but a timebomb for innuendo and The Clergy have issues with them.
Right, dear blog reader so, that's the Stately Telly Topping Manor Christmas tree sorted for another year.
Disgraced former z-list celebrity publicist and convicted sex offender Max Clifford has died in hospital, aged seventy four, after collapsing in prison. Clifford collapsed in his cell at Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire on Thursday of last week and again on Friday, his daughter said. He was taken to hospital where he suffered a cardiac arrest. He had been serving an eight-year sentence for historical sex offences. In May 2014, Clifford was extremely jailed after being convicted of a number of charges under Operation Yewtree - the Met Police investigation set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile fiasco. During this trial, evidence was given concerning Clifford's 'manipulative behaviour,' including how he promised to boost the careers of aspiring models and actresses in return for sexual favours.
Keith Chegwin, who has died this week aged sixty after suffering from the lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, was a child actor whose boyish good looks and infectious enthusiasm were the perfect ingredients for children's television. He was first seen as a presenter playing up his persona as a cheeky-chappie Scouser alongside millionaire egotists and nutter Noel Edmonds in the Saturday-morning show The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, which ran for six series from 1976 to 1982. Keith was invited to join the programme after having his own idea for a children's chat show turned down by the BBC. In a live broadcast, Edmonds presented a mix of cartoons, videos, celebrity interviews and a children's phone-in to swap their toys, while Chegwin honed his interviewing style by leaving the studio to chat with the public in the Swaparama outside broadcast element of the show. Within two years, he had landed his own programme, Cheggers Plays Pop (1978 to 1986), an oddly addictive format in which two schools competed against each other. Questions about contemporary music were interspersed with physical It's A Knockout-style tasks involving balls and inflatables, plus a studio performance by a family-friendly chart act. It was like a cross between We Are The Champions and Pop Quiz and brightened up a few wet Wednesday teatimes in mid-November with Cheggers' own infectious enthusiasm for even the most mundane of segments. Becoming a perennial of children's TV, Keith also co-hosted Saturday SuperStore (1982 to 1987), a replacement for Swap Shop following Edmonds's move to peak-time shows. Chegwin answered viewers' letters and went out on location with his Delivery Van Roadshow. However, his long run at the BBC then came to an end and, in 1992, he revealed to Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan on This Morning that he had become an alcoholic. He said that making the confession made him stop drinking and turn his life around. He was soon back on-screen doing his well-honed vox-pops with the public, turning up unannounced for the Down Your Doorstep feature on Channel Four's The Big Breakfast in the mid-1990s. 'Wake up you beggars – it's Cheggers!' was his usual greeting. Keith was born in the Walton district of Liverpool, to Margaret and Colin Chegwin, the younger brother of Janice (Long), who became a popular Radio 1 DJ and Jeffrey, his twin. He sang in working men's clubs with The Happy Wanderers concert party from the age of eleven and, on appearing in the children's TV variety show Junior Showtime, was spotted by June Collins – mother of Phil, though we should probably try to forgive her for that crime against humanity – who was an agent for the Barbara Speake Stage school in Acton. She invited Keith to audition for the West End musical Mame (1969), starring Ginger Rogers; he was hired but was unable to appear because of licensing laws for child performers, so he trained at the school instead. Chegwin appeared on TV as a child actor in episodes of The Liver Birds and The Adventures Of Black Beauty (both 1972), as well as the 1973 pilot of Open All Hours and had a regular role as Raymond Clarkson in the ITV sitcom The Wackers. Roman Polanski directed him as Fleance in the extremely bloody 1971 film adaptation of Macbeth. Chegwin also supplemented his acting career with a parallel stab at being a pop singer. He released a couple of solo singles (included the 1973 Andy Bown-composed 'I'll Take You Back' and is reported to have sang - briefly - with the chart band Kenny (although, as far as anyone is aware, he's not on any of their hit singles like 'The Bump' and 'Fancy Pants'). He also made a few singles for Pye Records during the height of his fame on Swap Shop and a single called 'More To Love' with his brother, Jeff, in 1981. After presenting the talent show Sky Star Search (1989 to 1991), Cheggers hosted revivals of two game shows – Sale Of The Century, in 1997 and It's A Knockout, from 1999 to 2001. Then, he made headlines for presenting – nude, apart from wearing a pith helmet – The Naked Jungle (2000), a one-off version of Mr & Mrs with naturist couples collecting fig leaves as they competed against each other. The series triggered Chris Smith, the then lack of culture secretary, to say in parliament: 'We have noted in recent days considerable concern about some of the content on television, particularly in relation to Channel Five.' Chegwin was knocking on people's doors again at breakfast-time for a stint on GMTV (2000 to 2007) and took part in Twatting About On Ice (2013) and Z-List Celebrity Big Brother (2015). In 2006 he was perfectly happy to make a lampoon his own public image on the Ricky Gervais sitcom Extras. His autobiography, Shaken But Not Stirred, was published in 1995. Keith and his first wife, the Swap Shop and Tomorrow's World presenter Maggie Philbin – whom he married in 1982 – were seen as a golden showbiz couple as the time. The marriage ended in divorce in 1993 after Chegwin began a relationship with the family's nanny, Maria Fielden, whom he later married in 2000. He is survived by Maria and their son, Ted, as well as Rose, the daughter from his first marriage.
'Please tell me that's not your penis,' a cliffhanger line from the soap opera Shortland Street, has won New Zealand's annual quote of the year competition. It was blurted out by the character Chris Warner, when a nude picture his son had sent to his girlfriend popped up on the family iPad. Massey University said that the phrase received eighteen per cent of the seven thousand two hundred and thirty eight votes cast. The dramatic moment, which was broadcast in February, soon went viral, even catching the attention of newspapers in the UK (where the show is also broadcast on some obscure digital channel) and the American chat show Jimmy Kimmel Live! which did a - not even remotely funny - spoof of it featuring Alec Baldwin. Massey University holds the phrase competition every year. Organiser Heather Kavan said that there were 'many reasons' for the Shortland Street line's appeal. Although, the fact that it includes the word 'penis' was probably the most embiggened of them. 'The quote is highly entertaining. The suspense is laughably theatrical, rather than anxiety-inducing and, therefore, many people enjoy hearing it again,' she claimed. 'And, of course, Chris Warner's [played by the actor Michael Galvin] delivery is part of the magic, along with Harry Warner's uncomfortable facial expression and the closing music.' She also said that it 'brought attention' to the serious topic of sexting among young people. 'The quote dramatises the risk of storing photos of one's private parts. That's immensely topical. Even whistle-blower Edward Snowden and US comedian John Oliver have chatted about the security of so called "dick pics,"' Kavan added.
Iain Lee has said that the word 'bullying' is 'a bit strong' to describe what happened to him during the recently completed series of I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) in which he finished third. Some people that you've never heard of on social media had complained about the way the radio host was treated by several of his fellow contestants - most notably odious shortarse Dennis Wise, Rebekah Vardy, Amir Khan and Jamie Lomas - and an unspecified number of complaints have reportedly been made to Ofcom about the subject. In a series of tweets and during an interview on spin-off show I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want): Coming Out, Lee has denied it amounted to bullying. He also asked his supporters not to send abusive messages to anyone connected with the show. 'There was no bullying whatsoever,' he said. He went on to clarify his position in a series of tweets. 'Bullying is a strong word. But I was unaware of a lot of what was said behind my back and also what some people said about me after they'd left,' he noted. ITV's sick Victorian freak show for people who are either short of cash or desperate to get themselves on TV ended earlier this week. It was won by some Made In Chelsea-type individual. Apparently.
A recording of Morrissey's hugely contentious interview with a German newspaper has been made public. Der Spiegel put the audio online after the singer claimed - rather unconvincingly - that the paper had 'not conveyed' his views 'fairly.' In the interview, the former Smiths singer gave his opinions on a number of subjects including sexual harassment and the disgraced former actor, Kevin Spacey. The audio, as presented by Der Spiegel, appears to broadly support the way in which Morrisey's comments were initially reported by the publication rather than Morrissey's assertion that he had been misrepresented. In the recording, Morrissey suggested that Spacey - the subject of multiple sexual harassment allegations - has been 'unnecessarily' attacked. Morrissey is also heard describing Germany as 'the rape capital of Europe.' Elsewhere in the interview, he is asked whether he would press a hypothetical button which would cause the death of US President (and hairdo) Trump. 'In the interests of the human race I would, yes,' he replied. 'I think he's a terrible scourge.' Morrissey can also be heard calling the recent decision to replace Spacey in an upcoming film with another actor 'absurd.' He goes on to suggest that the actor Anthony Rapp's claim that Spacey made a sexual advance towards him when he was aged fourteen 'doesn't quite ring true.' Rapp's initial allegation led to a string of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against Spacey, the most recent coming from the King of Norway's former son-in-law. A spokesman for the actor said last month that he was 'taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment' in the wake of the allegations. 'I hate rape and I hate attack and I hate any sexual situation that is forced upon a person against their will,' Morrissey goes on to tell Der Spiegel's interviewer, comments which did appear in the original article. 'But in many, many situations, if you look at the circumstances, you think that the person who is called the victim is merely disappointed.' The fifty eight-year-old was widely condemned after initial reports of the interview, which were based on German translations of his words. In an angry Internet statement this week, titled The Slander System, Morrissey claimed that he had been 'foolish' to speak to Der Spiegel in the first place and that he would not be speaking to the print media ever again. He also claimed that the newspaper had refused his request for 'an unchopped, un-fiddled-with' recording of the interview.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Filthy McNasty

It is officially official, dearest blogggerisationisms reader: Yer actual Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who swansong - Twice Upon A Time - will be broadcast at 5.30pm on Christmas Day on BBC1. This means that by 6.30pm on Christmas Day - if you haven't fallen asleep by that stage what with all the turkey and the Christmas pudding and the booze - you will have met Jodie Whittaker's new Doctor for the very first time in all her lovely ladygirlness. The episode will also mark the end of The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE)'s tenure as Doctor Who's showrunner after eight - excepeitonally successful with everybone bar The Special People - years, with Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall taking up the post for series eleven, currently in production and tentatively scheduled for broadcast on the BBC in the autumn 2018. You knew all that, right? Okay, so that was all a bit pointless. Next ...
The Lord Thy Steven Moffat (OBE) - like The Walkers Brothers - has 'no regrets' about not casting a female Doctor - but he does believe that yer actual Jodie Whittaker (a ladygirl if ever there was one) will be 'brilliant' in the role. Of course she will, only the world's most stupid of idiot glakes think for a single, solitary second that she wont be. And, frankly, no one gives a stuff about what stupid idiot glakes think. Speaking to the Torygraph, the departing showrunner revealed he did consider casting a woman after Matt Smith's Doctor announced his departure in 2013, but has 'no regrets' about choosing Peter Capaldi instead. 'We could have replaced Matt Smith with a woman, given that his Doctor was more sexless and less of a lad, but then I got obsessed with seeing Peter in the TARDIS,' he told Radio Times. 'No-one had any problem' with the long-running character of The Master being turned into Missy, he added: 'But we have to worry about our Daily Mail-reading viewers saying, "That's not the same person!" This isn't a show exclusively for progressive liberals; this is also for people who voted Brexit. That's not me politically at all - but we have to keep everyone on board.' He described Jodie Whittaker as 'a fireball of mischief and irreverence. I think she'll be brilliant as The Doctor,' and added that he 'endorses' Chris Chibnall's decision to cast her. 'All credit to him. It's going to work, I know it is,' The Moff added. 'More and more of the audience were asking for it. It's is absolutely the right choice. Now is the time.' Later, after some media outlets - including, astonishingly and very sadly, the BBC News website - somehow managed to get some of Steven's comments hopelessly mangled, he said: 'For those of you who think I've gone mad I, in no sense, blamed Brexit for the "delay" in a female Doctor. Dear God, they will write anything now. I will not miss this.' Given some of the astonishing horsecrap that Steven has had to put up with over the last eight years being constantly misquoted or having his words used out of context to score cheap points by people with a - usually sick - agenda one, honestly, can't blame him.
By contrast, this week there was also a very interesting - and, considerably better written - interview with The Moff by Graham Kibble-White in TV Choice which you can check out, here, dear blog reader. The absence of an interviewer with an agenda to push in this particular case, as compared to the latter, is jolly noticeable.
In the interview, The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) revealed that there was an 'alternative' ending that he had originally planned for Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary special. The Day Of The Doctor, of course, featured plenty of favourites from across Doctor Who's past - most notably a return for David Tennant and Billie Piper. However, one of The Big Moments as far as many were concerned came from Mad Tom Baker's delightful cameo playing 'The Curator' - who may or may not be a future incarnation of The Doctor. Steven was pressed on that particular scene and whether he would give more detail on who, exactly, The Curator was/is/will be. 'No, I think it was clear enough!' the showrunner told TV Choice. 'Or, as clear as it should be, which is, there's enough there to tell you if you choose to believe that's [a] future incarnation of The Doctor, who's reverted to look like Tom Baker. But, maybe he's lying and he's not. However, there's another perfectly adequate answer as to who The Curator is. You could say it's The Moment, because it originally was. Originally, I'd written the script with Billie Piper coming back, because she sort of disappears in the story. But, when we thought we could get Tom Baker, I put him in. So, that could be The Moment, just deciding to talk to The Doctor through this appearance. I do think of it as, in the distant, distant future, long after Jodie [Whittaker] and long after we're all dead, The Doctor settles down and chooses a different incarnation per day to revisit,' Moffat added. 'I like that idea.'
The BBC, meanwhile, have released a number of new images taken from the upcoming Christmas episode. And jolly exciting they are, too. Here are but a few of them
'I will stop all of you!' This week has also seen the release of a new trailer for the episode, which you can vada here.
Meanwhile, Steven also told Radio Times - shortly before they stitched him up with all that Brexit nonsense - that Doctor Who will 'be around forever.' Saying that he is 'absolutely one hundred per cent optimistic' about the series' future, Steven dismissed any fan negativity over its recent overnight ratings as 'a lot of bollocks. I don't think we're anywhere close to halfway through the new series run. Or close to a third,' he said. Although Steven conceded that the series may eventually need some time off to 'make people miss it,' he said that he is 'certain' that won't be tomorrow. And, it won't be next week either. 'There's a huge amount of excitement in Jodie as the new Doctor. It's going to pep things up. It's going to be around forever,' he enthused. Moffat also offered Sherlock fans a potential crumb of comfort. 'I've just been to a Sherlock convention and I told them all I'm unemployed and cheap so I'm not the problem here. Everyone else is busy. I vaguely assume we will do it again at some point. I don't think it will be very soon. It's due for a bit of a longer gap. It is still so enormously and disproportionately successful. It's successful enough in Britain but if you look at it internationally it's ludicrous.' Steven continued: 'It's massive, so there will always be a demand for it, I hope. And there is no upper limit on how long we can do it. Holmes and Watson can be sixty or seventy. So, I think we will do it again. We all do love it and we all like each other. It's a small team of very nice people.' When pressed on how far into the previously announced Dracula project he and co-writer Mark Gatiss have got, Steven said: 'Not very. We're going to have a meeting quite shortly, as soon as he's free and we'll start writing January-ish.' As for how they intend to tackle the character, the writer explained: 'We're keeping schtum about what we're going to do. We've got an idea of how we're going to handle Dracula, but we're not saying what it is.' Speaking in June, Steven suggested that the Dracula adaptation would be 'a while off,' adding: "Mark and I at some point in the relatively near future are going to do a version of Dracula together, just because there's one famous Victorian we haven't disinterred yet. I've got other plans just before that, mostly involving a balcony and gin and tonic!'
'What deal did you make with Luca Changretta?' So, dear blog reader, this week's Peaky Blinders: 'One of the most daft and thrilling hours of the TV week,' according to the Gruniad Morning Star's Rebecca Nicholson. 'Murphy shared a tense scene with Tom Hardy as a glowering Jewish gangster prone to potty-mouthed Cockney mumbling and Aidan Gillen, whose gypsy hitman seems to hail from Dublin, Glamorgan and California all at once. Pardon me if I pop the subtitles on, gents,' added some smartarse of no importance at the Torygraph. The Daily Scum Mail, meanwhile, claimed - with, obviously, absolutely no sick agenda smeared an inch thick all over their disgusting scummy faces, oh no, very hot water - that 'Viewers are left raging as BBC announcer ruins shock Tom Hardy return,' based, seemingly, on the crass whinging of about four people on Twitter. And, this was such a shock considering that just about every single bit of pre-publicity about the episode in question had featured a photo of the returning Tom Hardy. Morons. We also had the best single dialogue exchange in near enough any TV drama this year: 'Mister Shelby, did you ever consider the possibility that the Communists might win and you and me, traitors to our class, will be put up against a wall and shot?' 'As a businessman, I consider all possibilities. But, Mister Devlin, I'm not a traitor to my class. I am just an extreme example of what a working man can achieve.' Class. In every sense of the word.
Forget all about Tommy Shelby's favourite horse - 'Grace's Secret' - there was another outsider called Vardy's Party running at Cheltenham with a cool asking-price. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment on Wednesday's episode, the odds for Vardy's Party were given on the board as five thousand-to-one, a reference to the odds on Leicester City winning the Premier League at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Which, of course, thanks to Jamie Vardy's goal-scoring prowess that season, they actually did.
TV Comedy moment of the week: The brilliant opening duologue on this week's episode of The Detectorists as Andy and Lance discuss recent changes at Qi. 'Never thought I'd say this but I think I prefer Toksvig to Fry.' 'Controversial!' 'Don't you think she's better?' 'I'm not prepared to stick my neck out that far, mate, but she's certainly doing a good job!'
Speaking of Qi, dear blog reader - Things We Learned From TV This Week, Number One: 'Store scum' is an anagram of 'customers'. Which, as Sandi noted, anybody who has ever worked in retail could have told you.
Things We Learned From TV This Week, Number Two: On Only Connect. The Divine Victoria revealed that on her first date she went to see Steven Berkoff's play Harry's Christmas, a study of isolation and loneliness which is, possibly, one of the most miserable theatre experiences imaginable (it's a great play, don't get this blogger wrong, but it's slit-yer-own-wrists depressing). One imagines, after that, even marriage to David Mitchell must seem bearable!
TV Comedy Line Of The Week: On Have I Got News For You, guest host Mel Giedroic quoting the odious Nigel Farage as having recently claimed 'I've just voted to get rid of my own job. I was the turkey that voted for Christmas.' Mel then added: 'So, in the festive spirit, let's pull out his giblets and shove an onion up his arse!'
There is a fascinating piece by From The North fave Dave Gorman in Radio Times about TV formats which,in Dave's opinion, 'need fixing.' Keith Telly Topping is glad to see that it's not just this blogger who is - and, has been for the last thirty years - somewhat irritated by the way in which the conundrum 'reveal' is always handled on Countdown! Dave also recently did a piece with the Daily Scum Express talking about his favourite records and revealing a love for Doly Parton, Madness and Pulp which is also worthy of your time, dear blog reader.
It was also very funny to see Frank Skinner making a twenty second cameo in this week's episode of Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish to illustrate the ludicrous ways in which some film companies chose to highlight often very minor appearances in movies by people who subsequently go on to fame elsewhere when marketing - or re-marketing - product. This was, with specific reference to Miranda Hart's tiny appearance in a now-forgotten 2007 comedy movie, Twelve In A Box and the way in which James Corden is so prominent on the DVD cover of The Lady In The Van despite having all of three lines in the movie.
And now, dear blog reader, the final and consolidated ratings for the Top Twenty Eight programmes broadcast in the UK during the week-ending Sunday 3 December 2017:-
1 Blue Planet II - Sun BBC1 - 11.45m
2 Strictly Come Dancing - Sat BBC1 - 11.11m
3 I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) - Mon ITV - 10.10m
4 Coronation Street - Wed ITV - 7.94m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.02m
6 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.74m
7 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 6.69m
8 Michael McIntyre's Big Show - Sat BBC1 - 6.37m
9 The Apprentice - Wed BBC1 - 6.29m
10 Pointless Z-List Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.65m
11 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.59m
12 The X-Factor - Sun ITV - 5.49m
13 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.12m
14 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.82m
15 Howards End - Sun BBC1 - 4.81m
16 Paul O'Grady For the Love Of Dogs - Thurs ITV- 4.56m
17 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 4.52m
18 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 4.29m
19 Love, Lies & Records - Thurs BBC1 - 4.16m
20 The Martin Lewis Money Show Live - Tues ITV - 4.04m
21 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 3.96m
22 The A Word - Tues BBC1 - 3.77m
23 The Graham Norton Show - Fri BBC1 - 3.68m
24 ITV News - Wed ITV - 3.63m
25 Match Of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 3.61m
26 Ten O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 3.57m
27 Would I Lie To You? - Mon BBC1 - 3.56m
28 Peaky Blinders - Wed BBC2 - 3.43m
These consolidated figures - published weekly by those smashing people at the British Audience Research Bureau - include all viewers who watched programmes live and on various forms of catch-up TV and video-on-demand during the seven days after initial broadcast. They do not, however, include those who watched programmes on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. Why? They just do, all right? Don't which at yer actual Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, he doesn't make the rules. ITV's nineteen most watched broadcasts of the week were episodes of three programmes, I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want), Coronation Street and Emmerdale. The Sunday night Strictly Come Dancing results episode had a consolidated audience of 10.94 million punters. The X-Factor, on the other hand, drew a total of but 4.83 million viewers for its Saturday episode. One imagines that's not really the sort of figure that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads or ITV (or, more specifically, ITV's advertisers) would consider to be an acceptable audience total whatever they might be have claimed to the Gruniad Morning Star to the contrary. Peaky Blinders, of course, topped BBC2' weekly top thirty, ahead of the three nightly episodes of MasterChef: The Professionals - 3.29 million (Thursday), 3.28 million (Wednesday) and 2.72 million (Tuesday). University Challenge also had 2.72 million punters. Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two drew 2.13 million, followed by Nigella (She Has Her Knockers): At My Table (2.13 million), Celebrity Z-List Antiques Road Trip (2.04 million), The Apprentice - You're Fired! with, 1.88 million, Blitz: The Bombs That Changed Britain (1.84 million) and Expedition Volcano, 1.67 million. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is was watched by 1.49 million, Eggheads by 1.40 million, Football: Women's World Cup Qualifiers coverage, by 1.38 million, Qi, by 1.37 million and Mastermind, by 1.36 million. Channel Four's highest-rated broadcast was for Gogglebox with 2.79 million. Coastal Railways With Julie Walters (2.12 million) and the movie Shrek (2.01 million) came thereafter. The Secret Life Of Five Year Olds had 1.99 million viewers, The Secret Life Of The Zoo, 1.76 million, Great Canal Journeys, 1.66 million, The Channel: The World's Busiest Waterway, 1.58 million and Jamie & Jimmy's Friday Night Feasts, 1.54 million. The Last Leg With Adam Hills drew 1.28 million and The Sex Robots Are Coming, 1.10 million, the same total as Trump: An American Dream. Whether this is the first recorded instance of the words 'Trum' and 'sex robot' used in the same sentence, dear blog reader, this blogger is unsure, but he'll see if he can find out for you. Channel Five's top performer was Sinkholes: Buried Underground, with an audience of 1.51 million. Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways Journeys, GPs: Behind Closed Doors and Jo Brand's Cats & Kittens rounded-off Five's most-watched list with audiences of 1.24 million, 1.18 million million and 1.16 million. Premier League action was back on Sky Sports Premier League. Sheikh Yer Man City's defeat of Swansea City was seen by three hundred and eighty six thousand plus eight hundred and twenty two thousand on Sky Sports Main Events. The South Coast derby between Bournemouth and Southampton, two hundred and eight thousand and three hundred and thirty two thousand on Main Event and yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable and looking like a decent bet for relegation) Magpies woeful and criminally inept loss to Moscow Chelski FC drew one hundred and ninety two thousand plus three hundred and seventy four thousand on Main Event. Gillette Soccer Saturday was watched by fifty three thousand punters on SS PL, two hundred and thirty four thousand on Main Event, one hundred and eighty two thousand on Sky Sports Football and three hundred and fourteen thousand on Sky Sports News. Live SPL, Aberdeen versus Glasgow Rangers attracted one hundred and eighty two thousand viewers of Sky Sports Football. Dirty Leeds against Aston Villains had sixty three thousand and plus two hundred and twenty nine thousand on Main Event. Hamilton Makes History was Sky Sports F1's list-topper with twenty thousand. Fight Night: Joshua Verses Klitschoko was Sky Sports Mix's most watched broadcast with forty five thousand. NFL Redzone had twenty six thousand. Sky Sports Cricket channel posted no figures for this week which, Keith telly Topping supposes, has to go down as a duck in the old scorebook. Though, one imagines that the chaps and ladies over at Sky Sports continue to be absolutely delighted that they didn't get the rights to The Ashes this time around. BT did and, their coverage (on BT Sport 1) of the second test, drew a singularly unimpressive one hundred and seventy two thousand to see England lose. Again. Sky 1's weekly top-ten was headed by The Flash with eight hundred and ninety five thousand viewers and Marvel's Inhumans, by six hundred and thirty three thousand. DC's Legends Of Tomorrow continued with six hundred and thirty two thousand whilst Strike Back: Retribution had five hundred and sixty nine thousand and Supergirl, five hundred and fifty eight thousand. That rancid stream of festering spew Bounty Hunters, featuring odious, unfunny lanky streak of piss Bloody Jack Bloody Whitehall, was watched by four hundred and seventy five thousand people with nothing better or more constructive to occupy their time. For shame, people of Great Britain, for absolute shame. Sky Arts' Landscape Artist Of The Year was seen by two hundred and fifty one thousand viewers. Totts & The Maytals: From The Roots drew thirty eight thousand. Cha! Sky Atlantic's list was topped by a repeat of Game Of Thrones with one hundred and twenty two thousand. Babylon Berlin attracted one hundred and one thousand and Curb Your Enthusiasm, ninety three thousand. On Sky Living, the latest episode of The Good Doctor drew by nine hundred and fifty two thousand whilst Criminal Minds, had eight hundred and seventy seven thousand. Blindspot attracted six hundred and eight thousand and Grey's Anatomy, five hundred and sixty eight thousand. The 2016 movie Mine was the big film of Sky Cinema Premiere, seen by two hundred and ninety nine thousand. Louis Luca & The Snow Machine drew one hundred and fifteen thousand. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated drama (seven hundred and fifty one thousand viewers). Doc Martin was seen by six hundred and sixty one thousand and Endeavour, by five hundred and eighty eight thousand. The - very different - movies The Dam Busters and Die Another Day (both of which, for very different reasons, this blogger has quite a bit of time for) were seen by four hundred and thirty eight thousand and three hundred and forty six thousand on ITV4. Another, this time great, movie Bullitt, has three hundred and thirty one thousand viewers. ITV2's list of shame was dominated by I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) ... Extra Camp, seven episodes of which were in the channel's top ten. Wednesday's was the most-watched with eight hundred and seventy eight thousand sad, crushed victims of society. Every single one of whom needs to take a good, hard look at the themselves in the mirror for any slight traces of dignity or self-worth. Vera topped ITV Encore's top ten with fifty five thousand viewers, followed by Poirot (fifty two thousand). Shallow and appalling tripe The Real Housewives of New York, was viewed by three hundred and twenty four thousand of exactly the sort of specimens who enjoy such risible and ugly exercises in z-list-celebrity-by-non-entity on ITVBe. Similarly wretched conceit, Tamara's World was seen by two hundred and sixty two thousand. Broken Britain in a sentence, dear blog reader. BBC4's top-ten was headed by the - superb - fourth episode of the current series of Detectorists (1.49 million) and by From The North favourite Digging For Britain (eight hundred and forty six thousand). The latest two episodes of the imported French drama Witnesses: A Frozen Death attracted eight hundred and thirty eight thousand viewers and seven hundred and twelve thousand, respectively. The Other Pompeii: Life & Death In Herculaneum drew six hundred and twenty three thousand, From Andy Pandy To Zebedee: The Golden Age Of Children's TV, six hundred and five thousand and Darcy Bussell's Looking For Audrey Hepburn, four hundred and sixty two thousand. Storyville: The Farthest - Voyager's Intergalactic Journey attracted four hundred and forty thousand, the same audience total that watched Christmas University Challenge. 5USA's latest Chicago PD episode was viewed by six hundred and twenty five thousand punters, NCIS: Los Angeles by four hundred and thirty five thousand, Castle by four hundred and twenty five thousand, Bull by three hundred and ninety one thousand and NCIS by two hundred and fifty nine thousand. On Five Star, the movie The Expendables 3 scored two hundred and fifty eight thousand. Knight Rider had two hundred and fifty five thousand on Five-Spike. Scorpion, and NCIS were the most-watched broadcasts on CBS Action (ninety four thousand, eighty eight thousand and eighty eight thousand respectively). Medium attracted seventy three thousand on CBS Drama. For FOX's sake, The Walking Dead's latest episode was watched by a whopping 1.32 million. Family Guy had two hundred and seven thousand and American Dad!, ninety eight thousand. Chicago Med continued its repeat run on the Universal Channel with three hundred and thirty nine thousand viewers. On Dave, From The North favourite Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish give the channel another bumper audience, five hundred and thirty nine thousand very discerning punters. Have I Got A Bit More News For You had three hundred and twenty eight thousand and James May's Cars Of The People, three hundred and seventeen thousand. Would I Lie To You? drew two hundred and sixty thousand and Qi XL, two hundred and twenty seven thousand. Drama's really rather good Kiwi import, The Brokenwood Mysteries attracted and excellent six hundred and fifty two thousand viewers, The White Princess, six hundred and ten thousand, Death In Paradise, four hundred and eighty eight thousand and Inspector George Gently, four hundred and sixty four thousand. Drama Channel staple, Father Brown (one hundred and thirty two thousand) headed the weekly top-ten of Alibi. Another Keith Telly Topping favourite, Hustle topped Sony TV's list with forty six thousand. Yesterday's The True Story Of The Mary Celeste drew two hundred and eighty one thousand, whilst The Battle Of Britain attracted two hundred and twenty six thousand, Morecambe & Wise, two hundred and eighteen thousand and Private Lives Of The Monarchs, two hundred and two thousand. On Your TV, Bones brought in one hundred and twelve thousand and Body Of Proof, ninety four thousand. The Discovery Channel's Gold Rush was seen by four hundred and thirty three thousand viewers. Finding Escobar's Millions had two hundred and fifty thousand, Fast N' Loud, two hundred and twenty three thousand, Alaskan Bush People, one hundred and seventy three thousand and Mythbusters, eighty seven thousand. From The North fave Wheeler Dealers appeared in the weekly top tens of both Discovery Shed (thirty five thousand) and Discovery Turbo (thirty six thousand). Discovery History's True Horror With Anthony Head headed the top ten with nineteen thousand, the same number as watched Battlefields. On Discovery Science, UK's Toughest Jobs was seen by fifty two thousand. Salvage Hunters on Quest was watched by three hundred and fifty four thousand. Pick's Z Nation had an audience of two hundred and sixty eight thousand. National Geographic's list was headed by The Long Road Home and Nazi Megstructures. They were watched by one hundred and thirty two thousand and sixty four thousand respectively. National Geographic Wild's Africa's Super Snakes was watched by forty eight thousand. The History Channel's most-seen programme was WW2 Treasure Hunters (one hundred and twenty thousand). Rome's Lost Legion on the Military History channel was viewed by forty thousand. The Eleven, Homicide: Hours To Kill, Crimes That Shook The Shit Out Of Britain and Killing Spree were Crime & Investigation's top-rated programmes with seventy thousand thousand, fifty one thousand, fifty one thousand and forty seven thousand blood-and-snots-lovers, respectively. From The North's current favourite afternoon distraction, Nightmare In Suburbia drew thirty two thousand. Grave Secrets, Home Alone, Faking It: Tears Of A Crime, Dead Silent and Horror At The Cecil Hotel headed Investigation Discovery's list (eighty three thousand, seventy thousand, sixty one thousand, sixty thousand and fifty seven thousand respectively). GOLD's repeat run of the funny as a boil on the knackers Gavin & Stacey continued with three hundred and thirty seven thousand punters. A crime worthy of a programme on Investigation Discovery, frankly. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers with two hundred and sixty thousand. This, dear blog reader, is what Americans find funny, it would seem. Mind you, look at whom they elected as President and then tell this blogger that it's a country which doesn't do irony. On More4, Grand Designs was the highest-rated programme with three hundred and sixty one thousand. The Storms That Stole Christmas was viewed by three hundred and fourteen thousand. E4's list was topped, as usual, by The Big Bang Theory 2.40 million, by an 'uge distance the largest multichannels audience of the week. Hollyoakes had nine hundred and thirty nine thousand. One hundred and eighty five thousand people - with, it would appear, nothing better to do with their time - decided they wished to be Keeping Up With The Kardashians on E! Merlin headed Syfy's top-ten with one hundred and thirty eight thousand. The Horror Channel's weekly list was topped five episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, one of them attracting one hundred and fifty thousand. House On Haunted Hill, Hell Is A City, The Naked Truth and episodes of A Family At War and The Human Jungle topped Talking Pictures list, with ninety three thousand, eighty nine thousand, seventy one thousand, seventy thousand and forty nine thousand respectively. Planet Earth was viewed by twenty six thousand on Eden. Alaska: The Last Frontier was the Animal Planet's most-watched programme with fifty thousand. Sherlock and Doctor Who on W attracted audiences of one hundred and thirty nine thousand punters and one hundred and twelve thousand. True Crime's Crime Town was seen by seventy two thousand viewers. Deadly Women drew fifty nine thousand and Manson's Missing Victims, forty six thousand. On True Entertainment, M*A*S*H, was watched by one hundred and thirty three thousand punters. Delia Smith's Christmas Collection had ninety seven thousand on Good Food. TLC's list was headed by Ninety Day Fiance (one hundred and thirty seven thousand). The Inspector Lynley Mysteries was watched by sixty eight thousand on Home. Secrets Of The Dinosaur Mummy and Charge Of The Light Brigade topped PBS America's weekly list with twenty four thousand and fifteen thousand. Shameful pitiful and wretched toot Teen Mom 2 on MTV was viewed by one hundred and ninety three thousand planks whilst equally worthless Just Tattoo Of Us had one hundred and eighty one thousand. Wanted Down Under drew two hundred and seventeen thousand on Really. Tom & Jerry had ninety one thousand viewers on Boomerang. On Cbeebies, Peter Rabbit was seen by five hundred and thirty three thousand. Voltron had one hundred and fifteen thousand on the Pop Channel. On AMC, Abduction was watched by five thousand. Pawn Stars drew one hundred and seventeen thousand punters to Blaze. Britain's Next Top Model pulled in one hundred and ninety one thousand on Lifetime. Knight Rider drew forty nine thousand on Forces TV. Britain's Royal Weddings attracted thirty eight thousand on London Live whilst one of this blogger's favourite movies, 1970's The Man Who Haunted Himself had thirty four thousand. Another corker from Keith Telly Topping's youth, Ooh ... You Are Awful! was viewed by twenty five thousand. El Dorado - Temple Of The Sun, drew one hundred and forty nine thousand to the Movies 4 Men channel.

The fifth series of Luther will begin filming soon. Speaking to Deadline, series creator and writer Neil Cross revealed that not only has he written all of the episodes for the forthcoming series, but also that production will begin in January. 'I [have] delivered the final episode of Luther series five,' he said. 'We're in prep right now and we're doing a bit of casting and we start shooting in January. For some reason, I always seem to shoot in the depths of winter.' During the interview, Cross also revealed that he was 'still toying 'with the idea of creating a Luther feature film, but he knows that Idris Elba is a busy chap. 'The fact is that Idris and I are bound in this shared relationship with this character and every TV series, we think it's going to be the end,' Cross said. 'Not least because Idris is a very busy and has a successful career but we always miss him when it's over and then I start coming up with ideas and we always come back for more, for no other reason than we love doing it. Hopefully in some incarnation, the character will continue.' He added: '[A film] is always going to be slightly different [from the TV series] because of how long you have to tell a story. Ultimately, whatever Luther story you tell, in whatever medium, has to focus on that character so in some ways it will be exactly the same because it will be about him.'
Holidays are never quite how they look in the brochure and it sounds like there could be more trouble in the tropics when Death In Paradise returns to the BBC next year. Even with fears that Brexit could put an end to the long-running crime comedy-drama, for the moment at least it's full steam ahead with the return of Death In Paradise amid the New Year festivities. The BBC has confirmed that series seven of show will debut at 9pm on Thursday 4 January 2018. Ardal O'Hanlon is back as Jack Mooney alongside series regulars Josephine Jobert, Danny John-Jules, Tobi Bakare, Elizabeth Bourgine and Don Warrington. However, the on-screen talent doesn't stop there. Having previously been visited by guest stars like Colin Salmon and Francis Barber, Death In Paradise has confirmed there will be more famous faces stopping off for a bit of Caribbean carnage. The actors packing their passports this time around will include Simon Callow, Sian Gibson and Denis Lawson.
The first images have been released for a major original series coming to BBC1 and SundanceTV next year. Set in 'the fast-paced, emotionally-charged world of divorce law,' The Split centres on the Defoes, a family of female lawyers working in London's divorce circuit. Hannah Defoe (From The North favourite Nicola Walker), her sister Nina (Annabel Scholey) and their mother Ruth (Deborah Findlay) 'deal with disastrous relationships and scandalous affairs at work' while also trying to 'navigate their own complicated lives at home.' New additions to the cast include Tony Head, Mathew Baynton, Tanya Franks, Rudi Dharmalingam, BAFTA-winning Chanel Cresswell, Tamara Lawrance and Claire Rushbrook. Stephen Mangan, Meera Syal, Fiona Button, Barry Atsma and Stephen Tompkinson were previously announced as part of the production. The six-part series is written by BAFTA and Primetime Emmy winner Abi Morgan, whose previous credits include Suffragette and River and directed by Jessica Hobbs. The first new series from BAFTA-winning Jane Featherstone's Sister Pictures, it is expected to be broadcast in 2018 on BBC1.
Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist sold more than a million copies when it was published in 2014. So, will the BBC's Christmas dramatisation of the novel be an equally king-sized hit? One waits for ages for a lavish literary adaptation set in seventeenth Century Holland to come along and then two turn up at once. Yet the makers of The Miniaturist will doubtless be hoping the two-part BBC drama gets a somewhat warmer reception than the movie version of Tulip Fever suffered this summer. Released in the US in September, the star-studded film of Deborah Moggach's 1999 novel was mauled by the critics and ignored by cinema-goers. It was, perhaps, a case of ruff justice for the much-delayed period piece, which looks set to be one of the last titles to be released by the beleaguered Weinstein Company. The future looks far brighter for The Miniaturist, however. A highlight of BBC1's Christmas schedule, it promises two sumptuous hours of mystery, intrigue and miniature furniture. Based on Burton's award-winning novel, it also features a parrot, a dog and tiny figurines of its cast members. 'If you do costume drama, this is as close as you come to having an action figure,' suggests actress Romola Garai. 'We were all very excited to handle our miniatures,' she added. 'Their arms and legs move and their eyes follow you around the room.' Set in Amsterdam in 1686, The Miniaturist tells of an eighteen-year-old woman named Petronella Oortman - played by Anya Taylor-Joy - who is newly married to a wealthy merchant. Arriving from the countryside with only a parakeet for company, Nella is disconcerted by the chilly welcome she gets from her husband's sister Marin (Garai) and by her new husband's lengthy absences from the family home. She's even more perturbed by the wedding gift she receives from husband Johannes (Alex Hassell): a doll's house replica of their own home which he tasks her to have furnished. This leads her to make contact with the miniaturist of the title, an elusive presence who seems to know intimate details of what goes on behind closed doors. Burton was inspired to write her debut novel by an elaborate doll's house which is on permanent display at Amsterdam's famous Rijksmuseum. 'I couldn't take my eyes off it,' says the former actress. 'I read that it cost as much as a full-blown town house.' No expense has been spared either in bringing her book to the screen, in a drama that juxtaposes the austere interiors of Nella's new home with the high society in which Johannes operates. 'It was wonderful to see the way the light played off all the different textures,' says Hassell of one party scene lit entirely by flickering candles. 'It looks like a painting and very Christmassy,' he continues. 'It was really important to get the contrast between the spare and the opulent,' explains executive producer Kate Sinclair. It took more than money, though, to ensure Mister Scraps, the dog cast as Johannes' pet Rezeki, played ball on set. 'Mister Scraps was pretty hopeless,' notes Garai. 'He could only do the things he had to do to the sound of a flushing toilet. We had to do these very serious takes to the sound of a flushing toilet, on a loop.' Fortunately there was no such loopiness with Nella's parakeet, whom Garai describes as 'a real professional. She definitely saw this as her big break and took it very seriously.' Marin marks another complex role for Garai, who was seen earlier this year as the mother of a serial killer in Channel Four's Born To Kill. She was also seen in London's West End in Queen Anne, which told of the Eighteenth Century monarch's close relationship with the aristocrat Sarah Churchill. 'You go through many different phases in your career, and in your thirties you start getting character roles,' says the thirty five-year-old star of Suffragette, The Hour and The Crimson Petal & The White. 'At first you play women whom nothing has happened to and then you play people who have had a life and have secrets and experiences. Normally you have one or two things to play, but with Marin there's a gamut. She's very religious yet something of a hypocrite; a force to be reckoned with, yet also deeply afraid. There's a real capacity in this show for people to be different things at different times.'
A trailer has arrived for AMC's new series The Terror. 'Inspired' by an allegedly 'true' story, the drama follows the Nineteenth-Century Royal Navy on a perilous voyage to discover the Northwest Passage. As they find themselves isolated and freezing to death, The Terror explores what will happen to a group of men desperate to survive as they clash with each other and endure treacherous conditions. The Terror will premiere in the UK on 24 April on AMC, while it debuts in the US at 9pm on Monday 26 March. Based on Dan Simmons' novel of the same name, the ten-episode series stars Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ciarán Hinds, Paul Ready, Adam Nagaitis, Trystan Gravelle, Nive Nielsen and Ian Hart. David Kajganich and Soo Hugh, executive producers and co-showrunners, said that the show 'captures a rare combination of fascinating history, complex and flawed characters, the inextinguishable human spirit and the horror and promise of an uncharted world. We are looking forward to bringing viewers into this world.' The Terror is produced by Scott Free, Emjag Productions and Entertainment Three Sixty in association with AMC Studios. Its other executive producers are Ridley Scott, David W Zucker, Alexandra Milchan, Scott Lambert and Guymon Casady.
The Grand Tour series two was released on Amazon Prime on Friday, but during an appearance to promote the show on ITV's Lorraine, Richard Hammond made a surprise admission about the first series. After watching it back, Hamster revealed that he, along with Jezza Clarkson and James May, 'weren't entirely happy' with what they saw. He explained: 'For series one, we did try out some new stuff and not all of it worked – and neither should it have done really. In this massively creative industry, we have to try some stuff that doesn't work. If we'd finished season one and thought, "All of that was okay," then we'd been a bit lazy.' Hamster went on to reveal that the new series is 'of a higher quality' in every aspect, especially as it was filmed entirely in 4K.
Sounds Like Friday Night may have finished off its - rather underwhelming - initial run, but it will be back. The BBC has officially recommissioned the live music show for a second series for next spring, with presenters Greg James and Dotty both returning. 'Sounds Like Friday Night has brought an incredible range of artists to the heart of the BBC1 schedule,' BBC Director of Radio and Music, Bob Shennan, said. 'We are hugely excited to recommission it for a second series.' The initial run of Sounds Like Friday Night received some lukewarm reviews, including winning a place in From The North's worst TV shows of 2017 list. The BBC also had to publicly apologise when Dizzee Rascal swore on live telly in the pre-watershed hours during his performance of new single 'Bedroom Floor'.
The BBC has grovellingly apologised after showing two clips of the wrong actor while reporting the death of Shashi Kapoor. On Monday evening's News At Ten, two video clips were played as presenter Huw Edwards announced the hugely popular Bollywood actor had died aged seventy nine. But neither of the men shown in the clips were Kapoor - one was his nephew, Rishi and the other was actor Amitabh Bachchan. The programme's editor Paul Royall apologised on Twitter for the mistake shortly after the bulletin aired. But, despite this, the error was criticised by some of the corporation's own talent on social media. Adil Ray, the creator and co-writer of BBC1's Citizen Khan, tweeted: 'Someone at the BBC thought the brown person in this VT is the same person. Worse still, neither of them are the deceased actor Huw refers to. It's poor when it would have taken them seconds to verify. Not enough care.' Aasmah Mir, who presents Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4, said she was 'really annoyed' by the error. In a statement the BBC said: 'BBC News At Ten is very sorry the wrong images were used to mark the death of Shashi Kapoor. The piece did not meet its usual standards and the programme has apologised for any upset.'
The new series of House Of Cards 'will probably have the biggest global audience' in the show's history, its executive producer has claimed. Production on the sixth series of the Netflix political drama was suspended after allegations of sexual harassment were made against its star, Kevin Spacey. Speaking about the allegations, Michael Dobbs said: 'Emotionally, it was a tremendous shock, a huge blow to me.' But, he added: 'No individual is greater than the show. Not even me, if I fell under a bus tomorrow, the thing will, should, must carry on. Thousands of people depend directly or indirectly on the show, so it's hugely important that it go on.' Lord Dobbs, the Conservative peer, wrote the original House Of Cards novel in the 1980s. He went on to script the memorable BBC adaptation in 1990 and now serves as an executive producer on the Netflix series. 'It's not been the easiest few weeks, I must say, my world seems to have tilted on its axis somewhat,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 'We'd only got to two episodes into the last season - so [there's been] a great deal of re-writing. The poor people have been sweating over their candles and quill pens. It's been really, truly difficult. What MRC [the production company], Netflix and the writers have done, I think has been truly superb.' He said that Spacey's co-star, Robin Wright, will continue in her role and become the central character in the plotline. 'Already, Robin Wright, had become an equal star. In fact, in many cases she was leading the plot. So, to that extent, it's been a relatively easy transition,' he claimed. Speaking about the viewing figures of the show's next season, Lord Dobbs said: 'I think the next episode that comes out, which will be the first episode of the final season, will probably have the biggest global audience of any of the episodes of House Of Cards. And it does already go all the way around the globe.' Which could be taken as suggesting that Dobbs is actually glad that Spacey's - still at this stage alleged - naughty doings have come to light since there's going to be profit in it. This blogger offers no thoughts on that other than to merely highlight the potential for this statement to be seen in a very unfortunate light. After a string of men came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey, a representative for the actor said that he was 'taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment.' Lord Dobbs said: 'I'm going to say nothing about [Spacey] because I don't know. Other people will decide for themselves what was right or wrong.' The will - and, if Spacey did what he has been accused of, then that's wrong, Michael. Very wrong. 'But, it was about time that somebody in Hollywood set some standards for personal conduct,' he added. The sixth series of House Of Cards will resume production early in 2018 confirmed Netflix's chief content officer on Monday. Ted Sarandos said that the final series would comprise eight episodes - each previous one had thirteen.
Netflix has written the actor Danny Masterson out of its comedy The Ranch after he was accused of sexual assault. 'As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of The Ranch,' the company said, rater bluntly. 'Yesterday was his last day of work and we will make new episodes in 2018 without him.' Masterson has denied the 'outrageous allegations' and vowed to clear his name 'once and for all.' In March, the Los Angeles Police Department said that it was 'investigating' the actor after three women claimed they were 'assaulted' by him in the early 2000s. A fourth woman has since reportedly come forward to accuse him of other - unspecified - wrongdoing. On Tuesday, the LAPD said that there was 'no update' on their investigations. Masterson said in a statement: 'I am, obviously, very disappointed in Netflix's decision to write my character off of The Ranch. From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than fifteen years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I've worked so closely with over the past three seasons.' Masterson played Rooster, the brother of Ashton Kutcher's character Colt, in The Ranch. The pair previously worked together on That Seventies Show. Netflix hasn't decided whether Masterson will remain as an executive producer on the series, which is a comedy set on a Colorado ranch.
John Oliver has confronted Dustin Hoffman in a tense public discussion about allegations of sexual harassment which have been made against the veteran actor. Hoffman defended himself after Anna Graham Hunter wrote about how he allegedly 'groped' her on a film set when she was aged seventeen in 1985. The actor questioned Graham Hunter's claims, asking Oliver: 'Do you believe this stuff that you're reading?' Hoffman said that the HBO talk show host was 'not keeping an open mind' and was 'unquestionably' believing the accusers. 'I believe what she wrote, yes,' Oliver replied. 'Because there's no point in her lying.' The actor countered: 'Well, there's a point in her not bringing it up for forty years.' Oliver was hosting a panel discussion to mark the twentieth anniversary of Hoffman's film Wag The Dog in New York. Oliver said that he 'wasn't sure' whether to broach the subject of the allegations but had decided that he would end up 'hating myself' if he had not. The tetchy exchange was reported by the Washington Post, which also posted a video of part of the conversation. Hunter published her account of her encounters with Hoffman - including diary entries which she allegedly wrote at the time in which she said she had accused him of being 'a dirty old man' - in The Hollywood Reporter in November. Hoffman responded at the time by putting out a statement saying: 'I have the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.' Oliver picked him up on that line at Monday's public question-and-answer session. Oliver said that he 'wasn't satisfied' with it because 'it is reflective of who you were.' He went on: 'If it happened and you've given no evidence to show it didn't happen then there was a period of time for a while when you were a creeper around women. So, it feels like a cop-out to say, "It wasn't me." Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?' Hoffman replied: 'It's difficult to answer that question. You weren't there.' Oliver retorted: 'I'm glad.' According to the Washington Post, Hoffman accused Oliver of making 'an incredible assumption about me,' adding sarcastically: 'You've made the case better than anyone else can. I'm guilty.' Anna Graham Hunter worked as an intern on Hoffman's 1985 TV movie Death Of A Salesman. 'I still don't know who this woman is,' Hoffman said on Monday. 'I never met her. If I met her it was in concert with other people.' The paper's video also showed Hoffman explaining that it was 'normal' to talk about subjects like sex within the close-knit confines of the film crew who, he claimed, were 'like a family.' He said: 'I said a stupid thing but I said it in the midst of the crew and they said their stupid things. But they were sexual in terms of the humour of it. But that's forty years ago.' Hoffman also told a story about touching his The Graduate co-star Katharine Ross on the bottom during rehearsals - an act he played down, describing it as 'nothing.' She became angry, Hoffman added, but he said that it was 'an overreaction' and claimed that she later apologised. The discussion comes as Hollywood grapples with how to clean up its act amid allegations against a string of stars and executives and was a rare example of one of those men being challenged in public.
The film director Bryan Singer has denied sexual assault after being sued for allegedly raping a seventeen-year-old boy. According to court filings obtained by Deadline, Cesar Sanchez-Guzman has alleged he was sexually assaulted by the director on a yacht in 2003. In a statement, a representative for Singer said that the director 'categorically denies these allegations.' It comes in the same week that Singer was reportedly fired as director of The Queen Group biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. The court filings suggest that the alleged assault happened when Singer gave Sanchez-Guzman 'a tour' of the boat. 'During this tour, Bryan Singer lured Cesar into a room, shut the door and demanded that Cesar perform oral sex. When plaintiff refused, Bryan Singer forced him into acts of oral and anal sex,' the filing claims. Sanchez-Guzman is seeking compensation for damages including 'emotional distress, mental anguish, physical and mental pain and suffering, a decrease in his ability to enjoy life' as well as past and future medical expenses and legal costs. Singer's representative said: 'Cesar Sanchez-Guzman apparently claims that he did not remember this alleged incident from 2003 until now.' He added: 'Bryan categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end.' The representative said that, 'once Bryan prevails,' he will, himself, pursue claims for malicious prosecution. Production of Bohemian Rhapsody was suspended last week so that Singer could deal with what his representative described as 'a personal health matter concerning Bryan and his family.' Twentieth Century FOX told the BBC that work had been halted 'due to the unexpected unavailability' of Singer. Days later, it emerged that he had been fired by the company for 'unreliable behaviour' and has been replaced by Dexter Fletcher.
Reggie Yates will not host this year's Top Of The Pops holiday specials after making 'ill-considered remarks' in a podcast interview. Yates grovellingly apologised last month for using the phrase 'fat Jewish guy' to refer to a stereotypical image of managers in the music industry. He has now tweeted to say that he has 'taken the decision to step down' from hosting the music shows, which were due to be broadcast on Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. 'Step down', that is, before he was told to step down one presumes. The presenter added that he apologised 'unreservedly to the Jewish community.' In the Halfcast Podcast, hosted by DJ Chuckie Lothian (no, me neither), Yates had used the phrase while praising artists who chose to remain independently managed, adding: 'They're managed by their brethren.' In his latest statement on Twitter, Yates said that his words 'reinforced offensive stereotypes' and that the comment was 'no reflection on how I truly feel.' Which, rather makes one wonder why he said them in the first place if they really are 'no reflection.' Curious, that. The host, who also presents The Insider series for BBC3 - for the moment, at least - was due to present this year's holiday specials of long-running show Top Of The Pops with Fearne Cotton. A BBC spokesperson said: 'We take these issues very seriously and Reggie is in no doubt about the BBC's view of his comments.'
Gemma Collins - who is some sort of reality TV-type individual, apparently - has said that she won't sue the BBC after falling through a hole in the stage at this year's Radio 1's Teen Awards despite months of tabloid reports that she would be. Or, that she might not, but only if the BBC ask her to be a contestant on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing. The Only Way Is Essex regular had originally claimed that she would 'consult a lawyer' after the incident last month and accused the BBC of negligence. Now, however, she has told OK! magazine: 'I'm not going to sue the BBC,' adding: 'I'd like to do Strictly Come Dancing.' Which seems unlikely after Craig Revel Horwood recently reportedly suggested that she was 'not famous enough' for a place on Strictly. 'Everyone around me is on fall alert now. I've changed my shoes and gone for a thicker heel. I never used to look where I was going. Now someone checks out the area before I arrive to make sure there's nowhere for me to fall,' Collins said. During the event, held at London's Wembley Arena in October, Collins had been announcing Love Island as the winner of 'best TV show' - a contradiction, in and of itself but we'll leave that for another day - when the floor opened up for the programme's cast to emerge. At that point, Collins fell into the hole but was not seriously injured - and laughed the incident off while speaking to Nick Grimshaw and Rita Ora later in the ceremony. Speaking about the accident, Collins said: 'It was bloody painful. I'll never ever live it down. I was laughing so much I wet myself. It was the best thing of my life, I was at Wembley and I was thinking, this must be how Robbie Williams feels and then, next thing you know, bang, down the hole.' At the time, a spokesman for Radio 1 said: 'The BBC takes the health and safety of everyone involved very seriously and we are awaiting a full report from Remedy - the production company who made the show - about the incident. But they have told us that Gemma did receive a full briefing before going on stage.' Collins has also recently been in the news for, reportedly, collapsing at the home of a make-up artist, reportedly revealing that she wants to go on a date 'with someone kinky', reportedly 'picking up her dry cleaning', reportedly pulling out of a 'meet-and-greet' due to 'a family emergency' and literally dozens of other examples of utter trivial horseshit which, seemingly, constitutes 'news' as far as the tabloids are concerned these days. We live in strange and troubling times, dear blog reader. And this woman appears to symptomatic of most of the reasons why.
An, allegedly, 'extraordinary' University of Oxford student who, infamously, avoided jail despite viciously stabbing her boyfriend is reportedly trying to appeal against her suspended sentence. Lavinia Woodward, twenty four, pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding at Christ Church college 'after drinking heavily.' This blogger, let it be noted, has often drank heavily. He has never tried to stab anyone, however. A necessary difference, one feels. Judge Ian Pringle QC suspended her ten-month jail sentence and at an earlier hearing said that he believed immediate custody would 'damage her career.' Which led at least some people to wonder if she had been a shop assistant from Gateshead charged with the same offence, would she have received the same sentence. This blogger will leave it up to you, dear blog reader, to form an opinion on that. She has now applied for permission to take her case to the Court of Appeal. The case prompted a large and widespread debate about inequality in the criminal justice system after Judge Pringle deferred her sentence to give her a chance to 'prove' she was no longer addicted to drugs and alcohol. He had described Woodward as 'an extraordinarily able young lady' and claimed that sending her to The Big House would 'damage' her hopes of becoming a surgeon. In his sentencing remarks, he said that there were 'many mitigating features' in the case and that Woodward had shown 'a strong and unwavering determination' to rid herself of her addictions. Woodward has voluntarily suspended her studies at Oxford until the end of her sentence, when she will face a disciplinary procedure to decide if she will be allowed to return. Oxford Crown Court heard that Woodward attacked her then boyfriend, whom she met on dating app Tinder, while he was visiting in December 2016. She became angry when he contacted her mother on Skype when he realised that she had been drinking. She threw a laptop at him and stabbed him in the lower leg with a breadknife, also injuring two of his fingers. Woodward then tried to stab herself with the knife before he disarmed her. Judge Pringle said that Woodward faced a possible maximum sentence of three years in pokey for 'a category two' offence of unlawful wounding. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office recently rejected three complaints against Judge Pringle in connection with the case. A judge must now look at Woodward's application and decide whether to grant her permission to appeal. One does, rather, wonder what exactly she is hoping to appeal against - not the verdict since she pleaded guilty so, therefore, it must be that she's appealing against the suspended sentence. This blogger is forced to ponders what, should be appeal be granted, she is expecting to receive instead for the charge which she admitted and was convicted of? A small fine, perhaps?
Russia has been very banned from competing at next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee. But Russian athletes who can prove that they are clean would be allowed to compete in South Korea under a neutral flag. It follows an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 games hosted by Russia in Sochi. 'This should draw a line under this damaging episode,' the IOC said. The decision has - of course - been widely condemned in Russia, with some politicians urging a boycott of the games (a bit pointless since they're not going anyway), though other officials have welcomed the chance for 'clean' athletes to take part. IOC president Thomas Bach and his board - who made the announcement in Lausanne on Tuesday - came to the decision after reading through the findings and recommendations of a seventeen-month investigation headed by the former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid. The Russian Olympic Committee has been suspended but the IOC said that it will invite Russian 'clean' athletes to compete in February under the name 'Olympic Athlete from Russia'. Despite repeated Russian denials, the Schmid report has found strong evidence of 'the systemic manipulation of the anti-doping rules and system' which back up previous allegations of government involvement in cheating in the run-up to and during the Winter Olympics almost four years ago. Bach said: 'This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system.' The games in South Korea, which start on 9 February, will now be without one of the powerhouses of Olympic sport. This entire investigation was instigated by whistleblowing doctor Grigory Rodchenkov, who was director of Russia's anti-doping laboratory during Sochi 2014. He alleged that the country ran a 'systematic' programme of doping and claimed that he had created substances to enhance athletes' performances and switched urine samples to avoid detection. The World Anti Doping Agency enlisted the services of Canadian law professor and sports lawyer Doctor Richard McLaren to look into the allegations. The McLaren Report concluded one thousand athletes across thirty sports benefited from the doping programme between 2012 and 2015. WADA obtained what it said was a Russian laboratory database which, it felt, corroborated McLaren's conclusions, while re-testing of Russian athletes' samples resulted in a host of retrospective bans and stripping of medals. Last week, another IOC commission, led by Swiss lawyer Denis Oswald, gave its full backing to evidence provided by Doctor Rodchenkov. As well as the Olympic Committee ban, the IOC has also decided to ban Russia's deputy Prime Minister and former Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, from all future Olympic Games. He is currently the lead organiser for the 2018 football World Cup, which is being staged in Russia next summer. In his report to the IOC executive board, Schmid said Mutko, as the then minister for sport, 'had the ultimate administrative responsibility for the acts perpetrated at the time.' Responding to the report, those notorious cowardly appeasers of cheats and criminals FIFA said that the IOC ruling had 'no impact' on preparations for the World Cup. Well, ofcourse not, there's too much money atstake, isn't there? Football's world governing body added that it 'continues to take every measure at its competitions to ensure football remains free from doping' and that every player will be tested next summer and 'the analysis of all doping samples will be carried out at WADA laboratories outside Russia.'
A self-styled 'Internet prankster' had to be freed by firefighters after cementing his head inside a microwave oven. As you do. Well, as he did. West Midlands Fire Service said it took an hour to free the man after they were called to a house in Fordhouses, Wolverhampton. Friends had managed to feed an air tube into the twenty two-year-old man's mouth to enable him to breathe, the service said. Watch Commander Shaun Dakin said that the man 'could quite easily have suffocated or have been seriously injured.' Dakin said: 'He and a group of friends had mixed seven bags of Polyfilla which they then poured around his head, which was protected by a plastic bag inside the microwave. The oven was being used as a mould and wasn't plugged in. The mixture quickly set hard and, by the time we were called, they had already been trying to free him for an hour-and-a-half.' Unsuccessfully, obviously. Crews from the technical rescue team helped with taking the microwave apart, he added. The individual who did this indescribably stupid thing, one Jay Swingler, subsequently claimed the incident left him 'traumatised' but entirely unrepentant to accusations that it was his own bloody stupid fault.
Border officials have seized one-and-a-half million smackers worth of counterfeit Calvin Klein pants, along with fake Dyson fans, Superdry hoodies and Nike shoes. The authorities are using the hauls to highlight the risk of buying cut-price, substandard counterfeits at Christmas. When told what was occurring and that anything he said may be taken down in evidence and used in evidence, the chap selling the fake pants reportedly replied 'knickers.' Probably. And, that it'll never stand up it court. The Intellectual Property Office is also using humour to fight the fakes. It has created a Youtube series in which a couple sing about their twelve days of rashes, injuries and humiliation due to dodgy Christmas gifts. The daily updates feature warnings about 'copy floppy' boxer shorts, perfume that 'smelt like sick' and 'risky whisky' containing anti-freeze. Every year dire warnings are issued over the dangers posed by fake goods, from poisonings to electrical fires. The Intellectual Property Office hopes that by taking a more light-hearted tone they will reach consumers who have ignored their previous - more seriously - messages. In the run up to Christmas a surge in counterfeits enters the country, from designer watches to children's toys, as shoppers, keen to save money at a costly time of year, are either hoodwinked or turn a blind eye to the lack of authenticity. And, border officials step up their efforts to block them, employing huge x-ray machines to check that the items inside shipping crates match the accompanying documents. 'Counterfeiters will counterfeit anything,' claimed Sean Gigg, a Border Force officer at Southampton Dock. 'It's based on supply and demand. It can be anything from cosmetics to jewellery to watches to the latest toys but also undergarments as well.' Among the items seized in recent weeks are: fourteen hundred Superdry hoodie tops worth approximately one hundred grand; sixteen thousand Gillette Mach Three razor blades worth approximately one hundred and forty knicker; the afore-mentioned over eighty thousand Calvin Klein underpants; four hundred and fifty Dyson fans and Apple chargers worth approximately one hundred and eighty two thousand smackers; over fifteen hundred Pandora charms worth approximately forty five thousand quid; three hundred and seventy nine Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund replica football shirts worth approximately sixteen grand; forty eight pairs of Nike Vapormax trainers and over two thousand Spiderman, Pokemon and Hello Kitty hand-held fans worth approximately thirty thousand knicker. By highlighting the range of products seized, the authorities hope to alert consumers to the chance that if a price is too good to be true for a sought after item, the product almost certainly isn't genuine. While designer handbags and trainers are perennial favourites, other faked items vary from year-to-year following fashions, suggesting counterfeiters have an understanding of the market to match the top retail buyers. In 2013 officials seized mock-versions of Beats by Doctor Dre headphones and Ugg boots. In 2015 fake - and dangerous - hoverboards were a big problem. Last year saw a lot of Harry Potter wands, Nike Air Max trainers and Pokemon, Nintendo and Minecraft cuddly toys being stopped. The IPO said that it wished to grab attention 'rather than be seen as shaking a stick' by trying a more light-hearted approach in its video this year, in the hope that it will be shared on social media. However Ros Lynch, director of copyright and enforcement at the Intellectual Property Office, said that the 'underlying issues' were ultimately very serious. 'Those involved in counterfeiting are in the business to take advantage of consumers and make huge profits in the process. The goods are often of inferior quality, dangerous and the proceeds can be used to fund other serious organised crime. Counterfeiters have a total disregard for safety or quality, and even if items look genuine at first, they may end up being a dangerous or inferior copy.'
There were many victims of the Profumo affair, the sex and espionage scandal which dominated the headlines in 1963, contributed to the resignation of the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, soon afterwards, quite possibly affected the outcome of the following year's general erection and still looms disproportionately large in the history of modern Britain. High on any list of those who suffered - and arguably at the very top - was Christine Keeler, who has died this week aged seventy five. She was the showgirl – she preferred to call herself a model, while others labelled her a prostitute – whose simultaneous sexual liaisons in July 1961 with the then British Secretary for War, John Profumo and a Soviet attaché name Yevgeny Ivanov, lay at the heart of the scandal. A photograph taken at the time, of a young, alluring, but vulnerable Keeler, posing naked on a back-to-front Arne Jacobsen chair, has become one of the enduring iconic symbols of the era. She spent much of the rest of her life after 1963 bemoaning – in countless interviews and several volumes of autobiography, each more lurid than the last – her inability to escape the shadow of the affair. 'It's been a misery for me, living with Christine Keeler,' she said when her 'definitive account' was published in 2001 (the volume was revised in 2012, with the claim, 'Now Profumo is dead I can finally reveal the truth'). Yet she never appeared to really want to put it behind her. She would, reportedly, approach journalists and publishers repeatedly, offering to sell them yet another new angle on the story. The 2001 book, for example, contained new allegations that she had been pregnant with Profumo's child but had been 'pushed' into having an abortion. These were dismissed by those close to the disgraced minister who, in contrast to Keeler, sought rehabilitation by public silence and good works in the East End of London before his death in 2006. He was, of course, a very wealthy man who could afford such a stance. Keeler was habitually short of cash and could not manage the luxury of lying low. She made a second major claim in the 2001 book. Stephen Ward, the osteopath who introduced her and other girls from the wrong side of the tracks to aristocrats and leading figures in the late 1950s and early 1960s, had been, she claimed, a Soviet agent who had tried to murder her. 'I don't know,' she said, 'if he was the fourth man, or the fifth. But he was certainly in the top ten.' By then, only the keenest conspiracy theorist paid her much attention. Most had long-since concluded that Keeler was simply making the majority of it up to produce a good headline. A more charitable assessment might have been that she was struggling – and failing – to sort out in her own mind the sequence of events which overwhelmed her between 1961 and 1963. Her continuing interest in the limelight could leave her in apparently contradictory situations. In 1989, she attended the premiere of the film Scandal, which purported to be an 'accurate picture' of the affair. Her presence was taken as her endorsement of the film, but later she said she turned up only because she needed the five thousand quid attendance fee which she had been promised and claimed that the script had 'misrepresented and abused' her. Keeler was born in Uxbridge; her father had been based at the nearby RAF base. He disappeared from her life early and she moved with her mother, Julie and her mother's new partner, Ted Huish, to live in a converted railway carriage near a gravel pit at Wraysbury in Berkshire. She claimed afterwards that she was always frightened to be left alone with Huish and there were allegations that she was sexually abused as a teenager both by her mother's lover and by his friends, for whom she babysat. She was pregnant at seventeen, but the father of her child, an American serviceman, returned to the US. Her mother made Christine conceal the pregnancy and she gave birth at home and virtually unaided. Her son, whom she called Peter, died after six days. The experience made her all the more determined to escape home and, through a friend, Maureen O’Connor and her own striking looks, she was introduced to the seedy life of Soho, in the late 1950s. She got a job at Murray's Cabaret Club, a favoured venue for wealthy and aristocratic middle-aged men who wanted to meet topless showgirls. Among those she befriended at Murray's was Peter Rachman, the subsequently notorious property racketeer and his then girlfriend, the teenage Mandy Rice-Davies. The two women became close and spent increasing amounts of time together in the company of Stephen Ward at his mews house in Mayfair. Keeler said that her 'relationship' with Ward was never sexual. He was well-connected and had the use of a cottage on the Cliveden estate of his patient, Lord Bill Astor. Keeler and Rice-Davies would go there with Ward, but Ward was banned from Cliveden itself by Astor's wife, the former model Bronwen Pugh. On the weekend of 8 and 9 July 1961, Keeler and Ward were using the Cliveden swimming pool when the Astors brought over their guests, who included Profumo and his wife, the actress Valerie Hobson. Keeler had 'lost' her swimming costume and - perhaps, not unsurprisingly - caught Profumo's eye. An affair between them followed, though she was also seeing Ivanov at the same time. It was later suggested that she had been extracting and passing military secrets in her pillow talk with the two, though her chronic inability to stick to any set of facts for long makes that claim look rather ludicrous. It was other ill-judged attachments of Keeler's that eventually transformed the scandal from rumours in the corridors of power (and the pages of the newly-formed satirical magazine Private Eye) to front-page tabloid news. Her links with a cafe owner, Lucky Gordon and a West Indian petty criminal, Johnny Edgecombe led to shots being fired outside Ward's house in December 1962. The police were called and, in an attempt to extricate herself from the threat of prosecution as an accomplice to a crime, Keeler began talking about the Cliveden weekend and her affairs with Profumo and Ivanov. At the height of the Profumo affair in 1963, Keeler sat for a photographic portrait taken by Lewis Morley. The photo shoot, at a studio on the first floor of Peter Cook's Establishment Club, was to promote a proposed film, The Keeler Affair, which was never released in the UK due to its potentially libellous content. Keeler was reluctant to pose in the nude, but the film producers insisted. Morley persuaded her to sit astride an imitation of an iconic plywood chair, so that whilst technically she would be nude, the back of the chair would obscure most of her body. At the end of 1963 she was sentenced to nine months in prison for perjury in the case brought against Gordon and served six months in Holloway. Her fears led her then to try to sell her story to the papers, precipitating the public revelation of the scandal. Profumo resigned from parliament due to him having lied to the House of Commons in his attempts to stifle the scandal; Ward - whom many consider to be the fall guy of an establishment cover-up - was tried for living off immoral earnings and took his own life before a verdict was reached and Astor was ostracised from society and died in 1966. (During Ward's trial, there was the infamous moment when when James Burge, the defence counsel, pointed out that Lord Astor had denied an affair or having even met the women whilst cross-examining Mandy Rice Davies and she replied: 'Well, he would, wouldn't he?' a phrase which had now become part of the English language whenever describing a somewhat dubious claim of innocence.) Keeler felt that the subsequent official inquiry into the affair, conducted by Lord Denning, was a another crass establishment cover-up. She repeatedly accused Denning of betraying her by ignoring her account of the wider ramifications of events. When questioned about why she constantly altered her own version of events, she said that, for many years, she had 'lived in fear of her life' and, therefore, had kept the most controversial parts to herself. It was, however, mainly her own ghosts which were stalking her. She married twice, both times briefly and unsuccessfully. Her son, Jimmy, from the first marriage, to Jimmy Levermore, a builder, was brought up by Keeler's mother. Seymour, the child of her second marriage, in 1971, to Anthony Platt, the director of a metal factory, remained close to her. She also had a granddaughter. Her face marked by her sufferings, she worked variously in later years as a dinner lady, telesales agent and in a dry cleaner's shop, but claimed that as soon as employers discovered her real identity – she took to using the surname Sloane in an attempt to cover her tracks – they would sack her. It was all, she said, part of a conspiracy to keep her quiet. If such a thing existed, it spectacularly failed.
At some stage late on Friday evening dear blog reader, this blogger had a glance at From The North's visits counter - which is not something that yer actual Keith Telly Topping does with any great regularity, let it be noted - and found it was at this figure.
If this blogger had tried to land on the blog to get that exact number it would have been a million-to-one chance. Or, technically, a three million four hundred and fifty six thousand, seven hundred and eighty nine-to-one chance. Or if he had looked at the blog five seconds earlier (or five seconds later), it wouldn't have worked out the way it did. Which is, cosmically, very satisfying. Somewhere in the universe, dear blog reader, a cog has just turned and something else numerically once-in-lifetime has happened to someone else. It's the nature of relativity. Probably.