Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ain't That A Lesson For Us All?

The Voice once again topped the overnight ratings on Saturday, drawing an audience of 6.87 million, almost three hundred thousand up from the previous episode's overnight figure. BBC1 had its traditionally strong Saturday evening which was only let down by the very disappointing The Getaway Car (3.48m at 6.50pm). But, that aside, all the rest of the night's BBC1 programmes won their respective slots; Pointless Celebrities attracting 4.52m, Casualty with an audience of 5.09m, The National Lottery Live drawing 3.91m and Match Of The Day: FA Cup Highlights closing the evening with 2.82m overnight viewers. On ITV, Ninja Warrior had the better of The Getaway Car from 7pm - with 3.98m - but odious, risible shat Take Me Out was seen by a mere 2.91m and The Jonathan Ross Show by but 1.89m. BBC2's evening began with Flog It! (1.89m from 6.35pm), followed by a repeat of King George & Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued The Monarchy (1.96m), Dad's Army (2.12m) and The Real Marigold Hotel (1.50m). On Channel Four George Clarke's Amazing Spaces: Floating Homes attracted nine hundred and sixty two thousand viewers and the movie Now You See Me was watched by 2.08m from 9pm. Channel Five's Toddlers Make You Laugh Out Loud had an audience of eight hundred and seventy thousand punters. World War II Battlefield Recovery was watched by three hundred and sixty eight thousand, Football League Tonight by five hundred and eleven thousand and Celebrity Big Brother by 1.80m.

Sunday once again belonged to BBC1, with evening highs for Countryfile's Winter special (a remarkable 8.13 million overnight viewers from 7pm) and Call The Midwife (7.60m an hour later). The 9pm drama battle between War & Peace and the return of Vera to ITV, however, saw the Brenda Blethyn thriller have slightly the better of the two - 5.45 million against 5.18 million for the BBC's Tolstoy adaptation. BBC1's overnight ratings triumphs began in the afternoon with Match Of The Day Live and the FA Cup clash between The Muck Dons and Moscow Chelski FC watched by 4.26m (and a peak audience of 4.77m at 5.30pm). Vera aside, it was another horrible night for ITV. The wretched Planet's Got Talent was watched by 1.81m and Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands plunged to new depths with 1.40m from 7pm. Beowulf is,frankly, rapidly turning into another Jekyll & Hyde-style disaster for the commercial channel. Normally ITV tend to leave low-rated shows in their slots for the entire run but Beowulf's numbers are terrible - under one and a half million overnight viewers for a Sunday evening primetime drama. Surely they cannot continue broadcasting it at 7pm slot for another seven weeks? After that fiasco, Vera - considering the horrorshow lead-in and Call The Midwife as competition for its first half - did remarkably well in the circumstances. Panda Babies at 10.15pm drew 1.01mto end a shocking night for ITV. BBC2's evening began with Ski Sunday drawing 1.20m, after which the movie John Carter was watched by 1.13m, Dragons Den by 2.19m, James May's Cars Of The People by 1.75m and True Grit by nine hundred and twenty one thousand. On Channel Four The Incredibles attracted 1.80m whilst the return of the channel's crass z-list celebrity vehicle The Jump drew an average of 2.09 million overnight viewers, down five hundred thousand from the equivalent episode in 2015. The winter sports reality format, which features z-listers including Dean Cain, Sarah Harding and Linford Christie, managed a nine per cent share of total TV viewing between 7.30pm and 9pm. That was followed by Deutschland Eighty Three (five hundred and eighty thousand viewers) and Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown (five hundred and nine thousand). Channel Five showing of The Wedding Date brought in eight hundred and sixty two thousand, Celebrity Big Brother was watched by 2.31m and Celebrity Botched-Up Bodies was seen by eight hundred and forty one thousand.

The return of Vera is, of course, always welcome at Stately Telly Topping Manor. Two hours of watching drama for the sole purpose of looking for location inconsistencies. That's always a fun way to spend a Sunday evening. There was one corker during Sunday's episode; it's nice to know that the terrace bar next to the Baltic Arts Centre and the Millennium Bridge on Gatesheed quayside is now, apparently, a Chinese restaurant. Looks like a bloody nice one as well. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping must check it out some time.
The final and consolidated numbers for the Top Twenty Four programmes, for week-ending Sunday 24 January 2016 are as follows:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun - 9.77m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 8.70m
3 Silent Witness - Mon BBC1 - 8.40m
4 Attenborough & The Giant Dinosaur - Sun BBC1 - 8.05m
5 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 7.88m
6 Death In Paradise - Thurs BBC1 - 7.83m
7 Still Open All Hours - Sun BBC1 - 7.75m
8 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 7.42m
9 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.23m
10 War & Peace - Sun BBC1 - 6.70m
11 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.97m
12 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 5.72m
13 The National Television Awards - Wed ITV - 5.71m
14 Shetland - Fri BBc1 - 5.45m
15 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.37m
16 Pointless Celebrities - Sat BBC1 - 5.25m
17 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.02m
18 Match Of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 4.73m
19 Holby City - Tues BBC1- 4.72m
20 Ten O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 4.44m
21 Birds Of A Feather - Fri ITV - 4.34m*
22 Endeavour - Sun ITV - 4.30*
23 Benidorm - Fri ITV - 4.28m*
24 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.20m
These consolidated figures include viewers who watched the programmes live and on catch-up, but does not include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via computers. Those ITV programmes marked "*" indicates that they do not include HD viewers. Disappointing final figures continue for several ITV dramas, including Mr Selfridge (3.62m) and Jerico (3.16m) whilst the fourth episode of Beowulf again didn't even register an audience large enough to make it into ITV's top thirty programmes. On BBC2, University Challenge drew an audience of 3.18. The final of the latest series of Only Connect had 2.90m viewers, followed by Trust Me, I'm A Doctor (2.71m), Victorian Bakers (2.64m), Dragon's Den (2.60m), Dad's Army (2.40m), James May's Cars Of The People (2.20m), MasterMind (2.13m), What To Buy & Why (2.02m), the movie War Horse (1.95m) and The Town That Took On The Taxman (1.91m). The latest episode of Qi drew 1.71m. Location, Location, Location was Channel Four's top-rated broadcast of the week (2.67m), followed by The Undateables (2.46m), How To Lose Weight Well (2.25m), Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown (2.12m) and Walking The Himalayas (2.11m). Celebrity Big Brother continued to dominate Channel Five's week (Friday's eviction episode was the highest-rated with 2.95m. Depressing, isn't it?) Lip Sync Battle had 1.88m viewers, the movie Labyrinth was watched by 1.68m and the return of Gotham attracted 1.52m. Sky Sports 1's Live Ford Super Sunday and The Arse's clash with Moscow Chelski FC was watched by 1.64m punters, the largest audience for a multichannel broadcast during the week. Sky Sports 2's coverage of Live Test Cricket and Sunday's play in the fourth test between outh Africa and England was watched by two hundred and thirty six thousand. Gillette Soccer Saturday was Sky Sports News's highest-rated broadcast, as usual, with awhopping nine hundred and ninety thousand punters. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated broadcast with 1.23m. A broadcast of the movie Absolute Power headed ITV4's top ten (two hundred and ninety six thousand). Empire Of The Tsars: Romanov Russia With Lucy Worsley on BBC4 drew an audience of nine hundred and twenty two thousand. The Young Montalbano was watched by eight hundred and thirty five thousand, whilst The Queen's Castle was seen by seven hundred and eighty thousand and The Good Old Days was watched by five hundred and eleven thousand, an audience figure that also saw Timeshift: Shipwrecks - Britain's Sunken History. The movie Die Hard With A Vengeance (nine hundred and three thousand) topped BBC3's top-ten list. Sky 1's most watched programme was the opening episode of Stan Lee's Lucky Man watched by 1.63 million viewers, making it the channel's biggest launch for an original drama series in the last four years. Hawaii Fie-0 drew 1.02. Sky Atlantic's weekly list was topped by Blue Bloods (four hundred and ten thousand). On Sky Living, Blindspot was watched by nine hundred and twenty nine thousand and Bones by seven hundred and two thousand. Sky Arts' Occupied had one hundred and thirty eight thousand. 5USA's broadcast Castle was watched by four hundred and seventeen thousand viewers and NCIS by three hundred and ninety two thousand. NCIS also featured in the top tens of FOX - the third episode of series thirteen attracting nine hundred and eighty nine thousand - and the Universal Channel - on which Major Crimes drew an audience of two hundred and nine thousand. CBS Action's weekly-list was topped by Bad Girls with one hundred and thirty three thousand. On Dave, Mock The Week was the channel's highest-rated programme with three hundred and fifty seven thousand. That was followed by Top Gear (three hundred and thirty seven thousand), Dave Gorman's Modern Life Is Goodish (three hundred and thirty six thousand) and Qi XL (three hundred and four thousand). Drama's The Inspector Lynley Mysteries was watched by five hundred and thirty eight thousand. Alibi's highest-rated programme was Castle (four hundred and sixty eight thousand). Watch's broadcast of an old series of MasterChef was the channel's biggest hit of the week, Tuesday's episode seen by two hundred and twenty thousand. Yesterday's David Starkey's Monarchy: The Windsors had an audience of two hundred and twenty one thousand viewers whilst a repeat of the excellent David Bowie: Five Years was seen by two hundred and three thousand. Wild China drew one hundred and ninety thousand. On the Discovery Channel, Gold Rush was watched by four hundred and thirty three thousand punters. Fast N' Loud had three hundred and thirty six thousand. On Discovery History, Tony Robinson's Wild West topped the weekly-list with audience of fifty thousand thousand viewers (more or less double the usual figure for the slot. Gunslingers was watched by thirty one thousand and Weapons Of War by twenty nine thousand. On Discovery Science, Mythbusters was seen by thirty three thousand punters. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programme were Fast N' Loud (fifty five thousand) and Wheeler Dealers (forty nine thousand). National Geographic's top ten was headed by Air Crash Investigations which had two hundred and seven thousand viewers and Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes (eighty six thousand). The Curse Of Oak Island was seen by one hundred and seventy six thousand viewers on the History Channel. I Almost Got Away With It and A Crime To Remember were ID's top programmes of the week (both watched by seventy four thousand). The First Forty Eight topped CI's top ten (forty seven thousand). Eden's A Volcano Odyssey was seen by twenty nine thousand and Yellowstone by twenty seven thousand. GOLD's top ten was headed by themuch-trailed The Comic Strip Presents ... Red Top (two hundred and thirty four thousand) and Blackadder Back & Forth (one hundred and twenty three thousand). Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (three hundred and thirty three thousand). On ITV Encore, Downton Abbey was watched by seventy nine thousand viewers. True Drama's William & Kate had thirty one thousand. Your TV's Unusual Suspects had seventy seven thousand viewers. On More4, Come Dine With Me was watched by four hundred and sixty two thousand.

Nearly six million people tuned in to watch The ONE Show's tribute to the late Sir Terry Wogan on Monday night. The special episode attracted an overnight audience of 5.82 million viewers - more than one-and-a-half million more viewers than any other episode of the magazine show in the last month. So far this year, the only ONE Show to match it was another special covering the FA Cup draw. BBC1's strong night continued with EastEnders (6.86m) and Silent Witness (5.81m). On BBC2, University Challenge had an audience of 2.81 million viewers, followed by Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking (2.89m) whilst Bloody Queens interested 1.27m at 9pm. ITV's two episodes of Coronation Street were watched by 7.3 million and seven million viewers respectively. Benidorm attracted 3.8m th the cfhannel at 9pm. Channel Four's night started with Dispatches' investigation of parcel firms which pulled in 1.37m, the network's most watched programme of the night. Later, Supershoppers had 1.29m and The Undateables was seen by 1.26m. On Channel Five, Ancient Mysteries had an audience of seven hundred and forty thousand viewer at 8pm. Celebrity Big Brother kicked off its final week with a somewhat reduced audience of 2.01m whilst the latest episode of Gotham drew eight hundred and two thousand viewers at 10pm.

Now, dear blog reader, you are about to enter a certain place so, if you're bothered about such malarkey, beware.
'What would you do if you were a werewolf?' 'Get high all the time!' Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster - broadcast this week in the US - was, by a distance, the best The X Files episode since 1996. It's also the first X-Files episode written by the legend that is Darin Morgan since ... well, 1996. Coincidence? After From The North fave Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny his very self signed up to do a six episode mini-series of the cult 1990s SF drama, the name most of the show's fans - and, yer actual Keith telly Topping counts himself as fully paid up fan - were most excited to see in the credits for the revival series was Morgan. The writer and director is a favourite among fan for his absurdist-yet-poignant and thoroughly sharp episodes - he wrote four for the original series, Humbug, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, War Of The Copraphages and Jose Chung's "From Outer Space" as well as allegedly providing uncredited rewrites to a couple of others - notably Quagmire - and acting in another two, Small Potatoes and The Host. If you think of an X Files episode which falls into the 'one of the funny ones' category then, chances are, Darin Morgan - or his protégé Vince Gilligan - wrote it.
Morgan wrote this week's and it is everything you would expect from a Darin Morgan episode. It's properly hilarious, full of classic SF and horror references and B-movie spirit and is, ultimately, rich with meaning. It's also fabulous. It begins in classic Morgan style with Mulder at a low ebb, dejectedly throwing pencils at his I Want To Believe poster. When Scully brings him their next case, he complains about how, in the fourteen years that he and Scully have been off The X-Files, much of the creepy and weird paranormal phenomena which they previously investigated have turned out to be either hoaxes by attention-seekers or misunderstandings due to natural causes. Mulder's raison d'être has always been that he wants to believe in weird shit but, sometimes, he wants to believe too much to the point of making himself look foolish. Now, he seems to be on the verge of monster atheism. 'Mulder,' Scully says wearily, 'the Internet is not good for you!' No one writes Fox Mulder's character better than Morgan and no one is better at making him into a vaguely ridiculous figure tilting at windmills to the exasperation of his partner. Cleverly, however, Morgan inverts the usual X Files formula as Mulder becomes the sceptic in this episode and it's Scully who is enthusiastic about solving a bizarre mystery. 'I forgot how much fun these cases can be,' she says gleefully, after they've begun to look into a series of grizzly murders that may or may not have been committed by some feral beast in the woods. It has all the hallmarks of a werewolf attack, with throats ripped out during a full moon.
In one of the episode's funniest and most incisive scenes, Mulder paces back and forth in front of Scully, exploring multiple theories about the case, as well as what he expects her rebuttals to his theories will be whilst she is unable to get a word in edgewise. However, she is nevertheless elated by her partner's sudden enthusiasm as compared to his earlier lethargy. 'This is how I like my Mulder,' she says. 'So you're agreeing with me?' Mulder asks. 'No!' Scully replies. 'You're batcrap crazy!' The great thing about Morgan's script are that David Duchovny who, sometimes, appears to be phoning in his performances genuinely seems to love being given something usual to work with and here, as in previous Morgan episodes, he acts his little cotton socks off. As the investigation progresses the focus points to an odd chap staying at the same motel as Mulder and Scully, Guy Mann (played by the excellent New Zealand comic and actor Rhys Darby). Mulder finds out that Guy had been seeking psychiatric help, while Scully tracks him down to his job at a cellphone store. Meeting Mann at the cemetery, Mulder is told the sad story how Guy is actually a lizard creature who has been turned, against his will, into a were-human. Even if he does tell some outrageous lies about Scully seducing him. It can't be overstated how utterly hilarious the resulting fantasy sequence is, especially watching Anderson as she plays a kind-of cartoon version of The Fall's Stella Gibson, desperate for any bonking she can get, no matter with whom. 'Stop!' Mulder cries in the midst of Mann's exaggeratedly lurid tale of sex in the storage cupboard. 'That ... did not happen!' Alas, Mulder knows Scully too well.
Scully, of course, cracks the case whilst Mulder is still off chasing monsters; the killer turns out to be a local Animal Control officer, whose grandiose attempt at exposition is cut short by Scully's irritated 'save it for the trial!' 'But, I had a whole speech prepared,' the man whinges as he's led away by the fuzz. There's even a brief allusion to one of Morgan's previous scripts, Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose with the suggestion that Scully may (or may not) be immortal. Mulder, though, isn't satisfied with Mann's story: 'If there's nothing more to life than what we already know, there's nothing but worries, self doubt, regret, loneliness.' The agent seeks out the lizard man one more time because he doesn't believe his story. 'Life's hopeless,' he is told. 'A few fleeting moments of happiness surrounded by crushing loss and grief.' This is, again, Morgan at his best, exploring the senselessness of existence with a potent mix of humour and pathos. 'I'm just looking for some kind of internal logic,' Mulder says, as the insect-eating, blood-squirting, shape-shifting, lizard-monster's tale becomes increasingly labyrinthine and ridiculous. 'Why?' Mann asks, not unreasonably. 'There isn't an external logic to any of it.' This might be regarded as Morgan's smart way of commenting on the very show for which he's writing. For better or for worse, The X-Files thrives on impenetrable narratives which can never be neatly decoded. He's done this several times before - most notably in Jose Chung's "From Outer Space" - slaying more than a few of the sacred cows at the heart of The X Files' sometimes po-faced worldview. If The X Files does continue beyond the current six-episode run, it's to be hoped that Darin Morgan can be persuaded to write for it again as, to put it simply, nobody does it better.
Surely, dear blog reader, you didn't think for a second that Gotham had seen the last of Fish Mooney. Of course, the vixenish villainess got a dramatic send-off at the end of series one - pushed off a tall building by The Penguin - but in superhero drama no character ever really stays gone if they're popular enough. So, Jada Pinkett Smith is reportedly set to return when series two of the acclaimed drama returns next month. FOX has confirmed to TVLine this week that Pinkett Smith's character will be back for 'multiple' episodes in the second half of series two. Both Pinkett Smith and Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller have previously hinted that Fish could be back on the show.
Stephen Fry is to return to the issue of his own bipolar disorder as part of a two-week BBC1 season on the issue of mental health which also includes EastEnders exploring the issues of postpartum psychosis. The launch of a fortnight's programming on the UK's most-watched television channel, set to include several special reports on the main evening news bulletins as well as hard-hitting documentaries, demonstrates how mainstream the issue has become. The last time the BBC launched a season on mental health in 2013 it focused on young people only and was broadcast on BBC3. New NHS figures showed that the number of deaths annually among mental health patients in England has risen twenty one per cent over the last three years. The government's campaign, Time To Change, launched last October to raise awareness about the issue among young people, comes amid mounting criticism of cuts to mental health services. BBC1's In The Mind season kicks off on 15 February with a primetime broadcast of a documentary which sees Stephen Fry return to the issue of his own disorder ten years after his first award-winning show for BBC2. In The Not So Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive: Ten Years On, Stephen talks about his suicide attempt while filming in Uganda in 2012, six years after the last documentary was shown. Now president of the mental health charity Mind, Stephen talks about how his own busy lifestyle exacerbates his own illness, which can be managed but not cured. Diagnosed with cyclothymia, a version of bipolar disorder considered less severe than some, Stephen's appearance in the two-part documentary in 2006 went on to win an EMMY award for best documentary. Charlotte Moore, the controller of BBC TV channels and iPlayer said that a decade after this documentary is 'the right time' to revisit the issue: 'Now feels like the right time to bring this important subject to a mainstream audience on BBC1. To find out what has changed, what progress has been made and what the future holds for people living with mental health conditions in the UK. Over the last decade we've broken down taboos and medical advances mean we have a greater understanding of the brain than ever before, but we're not there yet. There is still so much more that needs to be done.' James Harding, director of BBC News, says: 'This is a moment when we stop and reflect on one of the big issues of our time, one that touches all of us. We will report and examine – with all the BBC's expertise, insight and understanding – on what's really happening in mental health.' A key strand to the BBC1 season is a series of special reports set to be shown on the BBC's main evening news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm. Topics will range from neuroscience to the NHS, and mental health in the black community. David Brown, the project initiator for BBC News, said: 'We're aiming to make a real contribution to understanding of mental health in the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to do something special for the BBC1 audience with an issue which will almost certainly touch all of us at some point in our lives.' Other documentaries include My Baby, Psychosis & Me, which details the real-life stories of two women who suffer from postpartum psychosis following childbirth. A storyline involving Stacey in EastEnders will involve the same issue. When BBC3 launched the It's A Mad World season, the headline-grabbing titles, including Don't Call Me Crazy and Diaries Of A Broken Mind, attracted some controversy but won plaudits for raising awareness of the issue.

The BBC will broadcast the next five Olympics - Summer and Winter - on its television, radio and online platforms and continue an association that began with radio coverage of the 1928 Games. It had already secured the rights for the 2016, 2018 and 2020 Games. Now an 'innovative' partnership with Discovery Communications ensures the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and the Summer Games two years later will also be broadcast by the corporation. The announcement ensures the BBC will continue to be the free-to-air home of the best Olympic action until 2024. 'The Olympic Games is one of the nation's most treasured sporting events,' said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport. 'This is an extensive package of rights that ensures we can offer the best of the Games, across TV, radio, online and digital, maximising the reach and impact of the BBC. This ground-breaking partnership also shows how the BBC can collaborate and work with others to continue to bring the very best in sport to licence fee payers.' The 2012 Games in London were watched on the BBC by more than fifty million people in the United Kingdom. Seven million people accessed the BBC website every day, with one hundred and eleven million requests for video and more than two million people downloading the app. 'The BBC prides itself on bringing the biggest sporting moments to the public,' said Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC. 'I'm delighted that through our new partnership with Discovery, the BBC will continue to carry the torch for great sporting coverage right through to the 2024 Games. While the BBC has had to take some tough financial decisions, this partnership underlines our commitment to making world class sport available to all.' As part of the agreement, Discovery will sub-license from the BBC exclusive pay-TV rights to the 2018 and 2020 Olympic Games. David Zaslav, president and chief executive officer of Discovery Communications, said the deal was 'a win for UK sports fans.' He added: 'For thirty years, our two organisations have charted new frontiers with co-production partnerships in factual and natural history programming. Now we join together once again to bring the most compelling stories of human ambition, sacrifice and achievement to people across the UK.'

The BBC has also agreed a four-year deal to broadcast video coverage across its website of all major ICC cricket tournaments. The deal allows the BBC to show video clips, end-of-day round-ups, digital preview programming features and archive material in the UK. Major events will include the World Twenty20, Champions Trophy, Women's World Cup, and the 2019 World Cup. Video will be used to enhance coverage on all digital platforms, mobile alerts and on an enhanced live page.

Relatives of Frank Finlay have paid tribute to the Oscar-nominated actor after confirming that he had died last week, aged eighty nine. Josh Coombes, the drummer with the band Tigress, said that his grandfather, Finlay, had been 'a funny, loving, amazing storyteller' and 'an inspiration and one of the best actors this country has ever seen.' Finlay liked to remind interviewers that he had once played Jesus Christ. But with his prematurely silver hair, swarthy, vulpine features and deep, spine-chilling voice, it was as villains that he really excelled. Early in his career he played Iago to Laurence Olivier's Othello both on stage and in a movie adaptation, the performance in the latter won him Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. Of Finlay's television performances, the critic AA Gill once observed: 'I've always imagined that he must have been on his way to Speaker's Corner with a board promising the end of lust, nuts, sitting and the world, got banged on the head on the bus and ended up in Television Centre.' The end of lust, though, was never on the cards, for in the title role of Dennis Potter's adaptation of Casanova and as Peter Manson, the father with an unhealthy interest in his nubile daughter (Susan Penhaligon) in A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, Frank shattered the boundaries of what was considered acceptable to show on television. Mary Whitehouse popped up to condemn the 'lewdness' of Finlay's portrayal of the Eighteenth-Century seducer, working his way steadily through a cast of women in varying states of undress. She would, perhaps, have been even more appalled if she had known that some of the girls playing prostitutes were the genuine article. 'The BBC couldn't get actresses who were prepared to take their blouses off,' Frank recalled. 'So in the end they got girls off the streets.' The scandal caused by Casanova was as nothing, however, compared to the furore that erupted over A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire. With its themes of infidelity, sexual jealousy and incestuous desire, the series, a dramatisation of Andrea Newman's novel, became a Friday night cult in 1976 and was watched by over twenty million variously shocked or enthralled viewers. By the end, as Clive James concluded, 'everybody had been to bed with everybody else, except the baby.' The series turned Finlay into something of a sex symbol and TV Times readers voted him the best actor of the year for his role. But Frank always saw his television career as secondary to his main job as a theatre actor. He recalled that when A Bouquet of Barbed Wire was first screened, he was working with John Osborne on a stage production of one of his plays. 'Now, what's that bloody awful telly you're in on Friday nights?' Osborne asked him, adding: 'Terrible, it is? But I find I can't miss it!' Frank Finlay was born in Farnworth, Lancashire, in August 1926. His father, Josiah, worked as a packer in a local battery factory and Frank was educated at St Gregory the Great School where he appeared as The Mad Hatter in a production of Alice. During post-school jobs as a butcher's apprentice and a grocer's assistant, he took up amateur dramatics, then became an assistant stage manager of a theatre in Scotland before gaining a scholarship to RADA. He arrived in London to find himself in the company of a working-class theatrical invasion alongside Albert Finney, Alan Bates and John Osborne. 'It was still the time when the Reps were doing "Who's for tennis?" plays, so we spent days trying to lose our North Country accents,' Finlay recalled. 'Within two years of our leaving, they had a full-time voice coach teaching the students how to sound as if they came from Oop North!' After two seasons backstage, he made his first professional appearance in 1954 at Guildford rep, and three years later moved to Hammersmith and then Coventry, where the first part of Arnold Wesker's East End trilogy, Chicken Soup With Barley, was being staged. When it transferred to the Royal Court in 1958 in John Dexter's production, Frank won praise for his role as the incontinent Jewish paterfamilias Harry Kahn and went on to confirm his place as a rising star in the rest of the trilogy (Roots and I'm Talking About Jerusalem). One of his earliest television roles was in the family space adventure serial Target Luna (1960), as the journalist Conway Henderson. In a wide-ranging career across stage and screen, Frank starred as Porthos in Dick Lester's The Three Musketeers and its sequels, alongside Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and Michael York. He also starred in Shaft In Africa, played Adolf Hitler in 1972's The Death Of Adolf Hitler, as well as appearing twice as Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes adaptations (A Study In Terror in 1965, and Murder By Decree, fourteen years later). He also played a role in an episode of the Granada Television adaptation of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett, in which his son, Daniel, also played a minor role. Frank was a thoughtful Van Helsing in the BBC's 1977 adaptation of Count Dracula, was gloriously over-the-top as The Witchsmeller Pursuivant in the first series of The Black Adder and played Jacob Marley in a 1984 version of A Christmas Carol. In his later career, he appeared in the TV series Life Begins and as Jane Tennison's father in Prime Suspect. In 2007, he guest-starred in the Doctor Who audio adventure One Hundred and in Merlin, as Anhora, Keeper of the Unicorns. Frank was a devout Catholic who served as Vice President of the Catholic Association of Performing Arts and was a great supporter of Corpus Christi in Covent Garden. He was appointed CBE in 1984 though many fans wondered why he was never knighted. 'Perhaps I haven't been high-profile enough,' he suggested in a self-effacing interview with the Independent in the 1990s. His turns as Sancho Panza in The Adventures Of Don Quixote and Voltaire in Candide, both BBC Play Of The Month productions, however, led to BAFTA awards. He was married to his wife, Doreen Shepherd, for fifty years until her death in 2005. He is survived by their three children, Stephen, Cathy and Daniel.

The veteran BBC broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan has died aged seventy seven, after a short illness. In a statement, his family said: 'Sir Terry Wogan died today after a short but brave battle with cancer. He passed away surrounded by his family. While we understand he will be missed by many, the family ask that their privacy is respected at this time.' BBC Director General Tony Hall said: 'Terry truly was a national treasure.' Limerick-born Wogan had a fifty-year career on radio and television, including presenting Wake Up To Wogan on Radio 2 and the Wogan chat show on BBC1. He was also the voice of The Eurovision Song Contest in the UK for many years and had been involved in the annual Children In Need telethon since it began in 1980. An easy-going man off air, as well as on, he remained remarkably untouched by fame, fortune or any whiff of scandal. Michael Terence Wogan was born in Limerick in August 1938, the son of a grocery shop manager. His upbringing was strongly religious. At the age of eight he was sent to Crescent College, a school run by Jesuits where discipline was harsh. 'We were brainwashed into believing,' he later said, describing losing his faith at seventeen as 'a relief.' Sir Terry originally went into banking after college before switching careers to join Ireland's national Radio Eireann as a newsreader and announcer. He moved into light entertainment, as a DJ and host of TV quiz and variety shows in Ireland, before joining the BBC, where he would stay for the rest of his career. He first broadcast on the Light Programme in September 1966. He presented the Tuesday edition of Late Night Extra for two years on BBC Radio 1, commuting weekly from Dublin to London. After covering Jimmy Young's mid-morning show in July 1969, he was offered a regular afternoon Radio 1 slot between 3pm and 5pm. In 1972, he took over the breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. Wogan enjoyed unprecedented popularity, achieving audiences of up to eight million listeners. His seemingly ubiquitous presence across the media meant that he frequently became the butt of jokes by comedians of the time but he was capable of self-parody, releasing a vocal version of the song 'The Floral Dance' in 1978, by popular request from listeners who enjoyed hearing him sing over the instrumental hit version by The Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band. He presented the breakfast show from 1972 to 1984, as The Terry Wogan Show and then from 1993 to 2009 as Wake Up To Wogan. Sir Terry first covered Eurovision for television in 1973 and from 1980 to 2008, he provided the commentary each year for the BBC. His chat show, Wogan, ran from 1982 to 1992, eventually being broadcast three times a week. During that time, he also hosted the popular quiz show Blankety Blank. He also compèred Come Dancing, Miss World, Do The Right Thing and Auntie's Bloomers. He wrote a column in the Sunday Telegraph for many years and published several books, including the autobiographies, Is It Me? (2000) and Mustn't Grumble (2006). Having been awarded an OBE in 1997, Wogan took British citizenship in 2005 and was knighted the same year. He was the recipient of numerous broadcasting awards, as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Limerick. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant for Buckinghamshire and was a freeman of Limerick and of the City of London. In Who's Who he listed his occupation as 'jobbing broadcaster.' Sir Terry is survived by his wife of fifty years, Lady Helen - whom he often referred to in the radio shows as 'the current Mrs Wogan' - and their three children. The couple also had a daughter, Vanessa, who died in infancy.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, here's a fine glass of Juice.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Look At Me Standing Here On My Own Again

Yer actual Peter Capaldi has made his first journey with the UN Refugee Agency, to witness some of the front-line work the charity is doing in the Middle East. The UNHCR, a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees, is currently helping some of the six hundred and thirty thousand Syrian refugees living in Jordan. The charity took Peter to meet some of the people displaced by the civil war in Syria and to see some of the work being done to support them. A short film of the actor's experience in the region has been released, along with pictures from the visit. More content from the trip will be released over the next few weeks, including a virtual reality experience.
Since it was announced last week that The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (OBE) will be stepping down as Doctor Who showrunner (in about a years time after the next series has been made and broadcast), fans have been clamouring to know what The Doctor himself makes of this forthcoming regime change. Speaking to Radio Times, yer actual Peter Capaldi his very self said it would be 'very exciting' to see what The Moffat's replacement, Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall, does with the show. 'I think Chris is a wonderful writer, so that's the exciting thing about Doctor Who - I don't really know what he's going to do with it. It's going to be different and he'll take it in a direction that is his. And that'll be very exciting. That's the lovely thing about Doctor Who, it keeps changing. Steven's been fabulous but it will be very exciting to see what Chris does.' And, whichever new direction the series does go in, Capaldi adds that playing the Time Lord will always keep him on his toes. 'It's always a challenge. I don't take it lightly, it's always hard trying to figure out how to do it. But that's a delightful challenge.' As to whether Peter himself will also be leaving at the end of the next series, a few newspapers appear to have been trawling various Interweb forums for rumours and have begun predicting that he will. Mind you, one of the papers making these claims was the Daily Mirra - whose record on the comings and goings on Doctor Who is risibly awful - so that suggests, for the moment anyway, such suggestions should probably be taken with a vat of salt. Although, obviously, the fact that the Mirra very definitely didn't get this story - or, possibly, non-story - through phone-hacking (oh no, very hot water) could be regarded as progress. As far as this blogger is concerned, Keith Telly Topping really would not be surprised if Peter was to leave along with Steven at the end of series ten - three series per Doctor seems to be becoming the normal these days. But, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is happy to wait for confirmation of this from a 'source' a hell of a lot of trustworthy than the Daily Mirra.
EastEnders (7.03 million viewers) and Silent Witness (5.69m) were kings of the overnight ratings jungle on Monday as BBC1 continued its dominance of the start of the week. Even the night's Panorama special Putin's Secret Riches attracted a higher-than-usual overnight of 2.9m. Later, The Tracey Ullman's Show was watched by 1.8m from 10.45pm. The best ITV could manage in reply, outside of soaps, were Griff's Great Britain (3.2 million viewers) and Benidorm (four million). Monday is also, of course, BBC2's big night of the week and, even without Only Connect which ended its most recent series last week, the latest University Challenge quarter final (3.10 million for St John's Oxford's narrow victory over St Catharine's Cambridge) and Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking (2.93m) bringing in bumper figures for the channel. Either side of those highlights, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip attracted 1.54m whilst, at 9pm, Immortal Egypt With Joann Fletcher had an audience of 1.1m. On Channel Four, How To Lose Weight Well was seen by 1.42m, the channel's highest-rated programme of the evening, just beating the overnight figure brought in by The Undateables (1.39m). At 10pm, Crashing lived up to its name, being watched by but four hundred and eighteen thousand. Ice Road Truckers kicked-off the night for Channel Five with six hundred thousand viewers, followed by Celebrity Big Brother (2.18m) at 9pm and eight hundred and ninety three thousand for a terrific episode of Gotham an hour later. Natural World: The Himalayas drew four hundred and forty one thousand on BBC4, followed by Nature's Wonderlands: Islands Of Evolution (five hundred and fifty one thousand) and The Fish Market: Inside Billingsgate (four hundred and fifty two thousand).

BBC2 enjoyed yet another really good night on Tuesday, with the return of Winterwatch at 8pm drawing three million overnight punters, whilst The Real Marigold Hotel was also watched by an excellent three million audience at 9pm - well ahead of ITV's disastrous flop Saved which drew a mere third of that audience (1.01 million viewers) in the same slot. On BBC1 at the same time, Silent Witness maintained its usual slot-winning malarkey with another audience slightly in excess of six million viewers at 9pm. An hour earlier, Sugar Free Farm was seen by 3.3m on ITV. Given ITV's recent horrific ratings on Tuesday nights, that actually could be considered something of a triumph. Celebrity Big Brother continued to attract a multitude of numskull glakes - 2.38m - to Channel Five.

Samantha Cameron's - entirely unsuspicious - victory on BBC1's The Great Sport Relief Bake Off drew an audience of 4.6 million overnight viewers on Wednesday. Despite the extensive coverage that the Prime Minister's wife's appearance generated, it was no match for the long-running ITV drama Midsomer Murders which appears to have gained a new lease of life this currently series. While Cameron's baking battle against Jason Manford, goalkeeper David Calamity James and EastEnders actor Maddy Hill drew an audience share of twenty per cent at 8.30pm, it was beaten by the ITV crime series, which achieved an audience of 4.81 million and a twenty three per cent share between of the available audience between 8pm and 10pm. The Great Sport Relief Bake Off near enough doubled the audience it inherited from Dickensian, which scored 2.4 million at 8pm. On BBC2, Winterwatch continued to pulled in impressive numbers, 2.1m watching its second episode at 8pm, followed by Trust Me, I'm A Doctor with 1.6m an hour later. On Channel Four, Mary Portas Secret Shopper had an audience of 1.3m and Twenty Four Hours In A&E attracted 1.5m an hour later at 9pm. Bodyshockers had nine hundred and twenty thousand viewers at 10pm. GPs Behind Closed Doors was watched by 1.1m on Channel Five whilst Ten Thousand BC was seen by six hundred thousand.
As usual Death In Paradise dominated Thursday evening's overnight ratings outside of soaps with an audience of 6.01m at 9pm. Speaking of soaps, EastEnders pulled in a very decent 6.76m at 7:30pm, but oddly only 5.56m for its second episode of the night at 8:30pm. Sandwiched in between the two episodes, the latest episode of Dickensian could only managed 2.29m. On ITV, Birds Of A Feather's recent momentum was well and truly halted by facing EastEnders, the extremely tired and unfunny sitcom posting a mere 3.21m. The drama Jericho continued to struggle with an overnight audience of but 2.27m at 9pm. On BBC2, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip was watched by 1.61m, The Story Of China by 1.34m and Winterwatch was seen by 2.70m from 8pm, despite the absence of a reportedly very poorly Chris Packham from the night's episode. Location, Location, Location attracted 1.90m to Channel Four at 8pm, whilst The Restoration Man drew 1.40m at 9pm and First Dates had 1.03m at 10pm. Channel Five's Ben Fogle's New Lives In The Wild brought in six hundred and seventy two thousand followed by Britain's Bloody Crown (six hundred and thirty nine thousand) and Celebrity Big Brother (a truly depressing 2.38m at 9pm). Traffic Cops was watched by six hundred and thirty eight thousand on the soon-to-be-kicked-online BBC3 at 8pm. On Sky Arts, the much-trailed The Nightmare Worlds Of HG Wells attracted fifty three thousand punters, slightly up on the slot average for the channel.

'Pop music was frowned upon at Stowe. Along with happiness and heterosexuality!' It was genuinely difficult to sort out what the best bit of the final episode of Brian Pern: Forty Five Years Of Prog & Roll was, so many were its highlights. The latest series of the Simon Day-Rhys Thomas spoof, if you will, rockumentary came to an end with a reunion gig for the 'classic' Thotch line-up, organised with typical skill (and loads of dishonesty) by Michael Kitchen's slippery manager, John Farrow. The only way he can get Brian and the rest of the guys back together is by pretending that Paul Whitehouse's Pat Quid has dementia!
Thereafter, it was just one brilliant gag after another: There was Noddy Holder's appearance on Pat Quid's Fishing With Rock Stars, Big Basil Steel (the excellent Alan Ford) and his memories of Thotch's breakthrough gig: 'Jethro Tull were originally top of the bill. Well, I wasn't fuckin' havin' that. I grabbed that Ian Anderson by the throat, I said "piss orf 'ome, or I'll shove that flute so far up yer shitpipe you'll be farting 'Greensleeves' till Christmas." So 'ee did!' Then a fantastically angry Martin Freeman was asked to read the audio book of Brian's autobiography in a Welsh accent with predictable results, Denis Lawson turned up playing Thotch's bass-player and Simon Callow was deliciously so far over-the-top he was down-the-other-side as their mad-as-toast Syd Barrett-like former percussionist who invaded the stage at the reunion dressed at Henry VIII! Also, we had something of a To The Manor Born reunion with Peter Bowles and Angela Thorne as Brian's parents and Farrow criticising Tony Pebblé's theme tune for Mr Tumble's Special Day Out! Plus, the revelation that Brian played The Gravis in Frontis and the wonderful final sequence - ripped-off shot-for-shot from the end of The Long Good Friday - and featuring good old Peter Gabriel's be now annual self-deprecating appearance. One sincerely hopes Brian survives being held at gunpoint by Peter Gabriel for a fourth series.
Friday evening's viewing was dominated by the 4.9m viewers to BBC1 for Match of The Day Live watching The Scum beat Derby County 3-1 to progress into next round of the FA Cup. Prior to that The ONE Show attracted 4.19m. The lack of its usual opposition, EastEnders, helped The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV to its biggest overnight audience in some time, 3.79m. Mr Selfridge followed with 3.1m at 9pm. It was another strong Friday night for BBC2, with Mastermind being watched by 1.58m at 8pm, What To Buy & Why by 1.43m, the final episode of Winterwatch (and Chris Packham thankfully recovered from his nasty dose of shits the night before) by 1.93m and Qi by 1.1m. The Last Leg returned to Channel Four at 10pm for a special watched by 1.12m. It rounded off a decent night for C4 in which Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown was seen by 1.16m and Jamie & Jimmy Friday Night Fiasco by 1.17m. Celebrity Big Brother's latest pair of eviction shows pulled in 2.38m and 2.14m respectively. Between the two Lip Sync Battle continued with 1.26m. On BBc3, a broadcast of Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland attracted five hundred and forty two thousand whilst on Sky 1, Stan Lee's Lucky Man had three hundred and fifty nine thousand overnight viewers.

Highlight of Friday's - excellent - episode of Qi, Monster Mash, was From The North favourite Sara Pascoe's reply to Stephen Fry's question about why Great White Sharks bite people: 'It's to keep themselves in the news!'
Almost as good was Stephen reading out a lengthy list of unusual - and recently named - species of mushroom that included 'foetid parachute', 'pink disco', 'greasy bracket', 'white brain', 'fragrant funnel' and 'cinammon jelly baby'. 'These are all bands that've had a John Peel sessions' suggested Josh Widdecombe.
Incidentally, did anyone else note the BBC continuity announcer mentioning before the programme started that the episode was 'filmed last year' and wonder why? After all, all Qi episodes are recorded several months in advance of broadcast. Presumably, it was in case anyone was surprised by one of Phill Jupitas's suggested daft mushroom names, 'Alan Rickman's fridge gunk', the late Mister Rickman, of course, being still very much alive then this episode was filmed last June. Quite why the BBC felt they needed to do this when it should have been perfectly obvious to all but the most brain-damaged of morons, or the victims of cruel medical experiments, is another question entirely. I mean, come on, viewers are not idiots. Oh, hang on ...

The X-Files​ was always going to be one of the biggest TV hits of the year, but its impressive ratings in the US may have been even better than FOX themselves predicted. The second episode of the revived SF classic starring David Duchovny and From The North favourite Gillian Anderson brought in 9.6 million overnight viewers and a more than decent score in the coveted eighteen to forty nine demographic. Earlier this month, FOX chairman Gary Newman said that the network would 'absolutely' do a second new mini-series of the drama if they can make everyone's schedules line-up, according to Deadline. It remains to be seen whether the show can keep up the high ratings for its full six-episode series, but if it can stay anywhere even close to that figure, the chances of a renewal look likely. The X-Files's return on Sunday 24 January attracted a massive 13.5 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen figures. FOX won the eighteen to forty nine demographic overall, thanks to NFC Championship coverage delivering a whopping 40.69m punters at 7pm.
Yer actual Keith Telly Topping received preview discs of the first two episodes of The X Files earlier this week and enjoyed them very much. The first episode, My Struggle written by series creator Chris Carter, suffered from having to set up the premise and - sort of - explain what the original series was all about to latecomers, but it managed to do all that and tell a story of its own quite adequately. This blogger has never been a great fan of Carter's dialogue, particularly when he has his characters as it were 'speechify' (which, in The X Files, they do quite often) but he's always been great at plot and this episode was no exception. Plus, it was terrific to see Duchovny and Gillian back together again. Duchovny's attitude towards The X Files has fluctuated over the years and in the period shortly before his leaving in 2000, there's little doubt that he was, effectively, phoning it it. But, here, he seems to have come to terms with the fact that whatever he does, he's going to be Fox Mulder for the rest of his career and, seemingly, made the best of it. The second episode, Founder's Mutation by series regular James Wong, was terrific - proper old-school X Files which got the balance between humour and horror spot on. So, a promising start and Keith Telly Topping is really looking forward to the third episode, Mulder & Sculley Meet The Were-Monster to be broadcast in the US next week and written by his blogger's own favourite X Files' writer, the great Darin Morgan.
The company set up by Jeremy Clarkson made a profit of half a million pounds last year despite his departure from Top Gear. Which seems to have really annoyed some Middle Class hippy Communists of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star if this piece of sneering garbage is anything to go by.
Although the next series of W1A is some way off, fans are being sustained by frequent examples of 'real W1A' such as the recent unveiling of BBC3's daft new logo and an incident last week at Channel Four's media conference on diversity. The keynote speech delivered by Jessica Hynes - PR consultant Siobhan Sharpe in the BBC satire - was, according to some shite of no importance at the Gruniad Morning Star, 'disrupted by an impromptu press conference given at the rear of the room by Tony Hall, who was sheepishly trying to explain to hacks why he had reduced diversity in his top executive team (by the restructuring that entailed Kim Shillinglaw's exit), and why ending the BBC2 controller post did not mean the demise or humbling of the channel.' Channel Four's spin doctors, the Gruniad alleges, 'ushered Hall to the foyer while Hynes, not in character, warned the audience: "Our cultural muscles are being atrophied in a semi-conscious, flabby mainstream."' Whatever that means.
Jon Cassar, a former producer on 24, is reportedly asking fans of the series to give its forthcoming reboot a chance. The high-octane, tool-stiffeningly violent espionage thriller is returning to FOX as 24: Legacy, but with Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead's Corey Hawkins replacing Kiefer Sutherland as lead. Which, as this blogger previously noted, is a bit like remaking Jaws without the shark. Cassar, who won an EMMY for directing 24 in 2006, tweeted fans to ask them to support 24: Legacy in spite of his own - and Sutherland's - absence. "' urge all of you to give 24: Legacy a chance. Don't dismiss it yet.' Emphasis on the 'yet' there, on could suggest. 'Its a new chapter. Its okay to love Jack Bauer and still try something new,' he tweeted. Yeah, that's gonna happen.
'I've come to put some order into this place,' were Piers Morgan's first words when he took up a permanent three-day-a-week hosting slot on ITV's Good Morning Britain. Press reports - completely without any agenda, of course - have since suggested that the sacked former Daily Mirra editor has 'put wind in the show's sails', with The Huffington Post claiming this week that Morgan's arrival has boosted viewing figures to 'over the seven hundred thousand mark.' The reality is that not much has changed in relation to Good Morning Britain's ratings. Since Morgan's début on 23 November, Good Morning Britain has averaged six hundred thousand viewers per episode, which was almost identical to the show's figures over the same period in 2014-15. The BBC's Breakfast, meanwhile, has continued to plough along with a steady 1.5m audience since Morgan's arrival at ITV. On a related theme, regarding ITV News At Ten it has been billed as the 'battle of the bongs' and there have certainly been some barbs exchanged between the BBC and ITV over their respective 10pm bulletins. Reports on the tussle have consistently claimed that ITV News At Ten has gained half-a-million viewers since Tom Bradby became anchor on 12 October. However, since Bradby's arrival, ITV News At Ten has averaged 1.97m viewers in the three months to Friday 15 January. This was flat year-on-year, but up three hundred thousand viewers on the previous quarter, which covered the summer months – a traditionally quieter time for television viewing.
The first episode of ITV's flop fantasy drama Jekyll & Hyde was broadcast 'too early' to be suitable for young children, media watchdog Ofcom has ruled. Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - found that several scenes in the first episode, broadcast at 18:30 on 25 October last year, 'were likely to frighten and disturb younger children. And make them shit in their own pants. Probably. I suppose we should all thank God that Ofcom didn't exist in the 1960s and 70s when Doctor Who doing that to seven year olds on a weekly basis. ITV had argued that it had 'warned' viewers about the content and that most of the violence depicted was 'fantastical.' It's only a pity that they didn't chose to warn viewers that Jekyll & Hyde was, also, rubbish. Although, it didn't take viewers long to find out if the ratings figures were anything to go by. But Ofcom disagreed, describing the violent scenes as 'dark and menacing.' The media watchdog received more than five hundred whinges from members of the public with nothing better to do with their time about the episode. It noted that six scenes in particular were a cause for concern - a man being attacked in a street as the programme opened, a girl trapped under a truck with Mister Hyde leaning over her, another scene featuring a monster called The Harbinger, a fight in an alley, a nightclub fight and a family attacked in their home at night. ITV said that the street attack was 'stylised and non-realistic throughout' and the truck scene was 'brief and limited' and 'editorially justified.' The broadcaster also argued that The Harbinger scene 'was not unsuitable for children', the alley fight was shot in a 'stylised and non-realistic manner' and the family death scene was 'suitably limited.' It added that the nightclub fight scene was 'highly unrealistic.' But, while Ofcom recognised the programme as a whole did contain elements of fantasy, 'the scenes of fantasy noted above depicted relatively realistic and brutal acts of violence.' It also noted five of the six scenes highlighted were broadcast between 6:30 and 7pm. While it 'took on board' ITV's point that the audience might have had some idea of the tone and content given the well-known novel on which the series was based - no shit? - 'viewers may not have expected this programme to contain violent and scary scenes and in the first thirty minutes.' To which one can only conclude that if viewers didn't expect this then their need to get themselves a new brain because the one they have is, clearly, full of shat. It also dismissed ITV's defence that it was 'unlikely that many children, particularly young children would be preparing for bed at this time.' Ofcom also stated that it 'did not consider the pre-broadcast warning in this case was adequate.' The watchdog acknowledged the 'programme's content was not so strong that, with the appropriate scheduling, it could not be broadcast pre-watershed.' But it 'would have exceeded the expectations of viewers, and in particular parents and carers, at this time and on this channel' and ruled that ITV had breached a rule stating 'children must be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.' Another programme found to be in breach of Ofcom rules was the BBC's The ONE Show, after eleven people whinged about a joke made by the comedian Jimmy Carr broadcast on 4 November. Carr said: 'I tried to write the shortest joke possible, so I wrote a two-word joke, which was: "Dwarf shortage." Just so I could pack more jokes into the show.' He added: 'If you're a dwarf and you're offended by that: Grow up!' Which is, admittedly, bit cruel but, actually, not unfunny. Towards the end of the programme, just before 8pm, presenter Matt Baker grovelled: 'Listen, just a quick word to say that if anything that Jimmy has let slip tonight was a little bit close to the mark maybe, but we're sorry.' The BBC said 'while The ONE Show production team takes a particular view on the tone they would like to adhere to and feels this joke was inappropriate in light of that, the BBC does not believe that it amounted to a breach of the code.' Ofcom - just to repeat, a politically appointed quango, elected by no one - rules state that: 'In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity.' Ofcom said: 'In our view, it would have been clear to the audience - and a substantial level of offence would have been likely to have been caused - by Jimmy Carr combining his initial joke ("Dwarf shortage") with his follow-up statement ("If you're a dwarf and you're offended by that: Grow up!") in order to derive humour from people with the medical condition of dwarfism.' In light of the incident with Carr, the BBC said it had amended the letter guests are asked to sign prior to appearing on The ONE Show to include the following line: 'Jokes made at the expense of minorities are likely to cause offence, so please save them for other arenas.' Meanwhile, the watchdog also decided it would not investigate viewer complaints about Channel Five's Celebrity Big Brother. Ofcom received four hundred and eighteen complaints relating to comments about sexuality made by Winston McKenzie during the programme's launch show on 5 January. In his entry video, McKenzie said that he would 'cope with a homosexual in the house' by 'standing against a brick wall all the time.' Comments which are, in this blogger's opinion, about a thousand times more offensive than those made by Jimmy Carr and, not even tempered by the fact that they were supposed to be said in jest. Ofcom claimed that it 'assessed' the comments but decided they 'did not warrant' an investigation. 'We are satisfied that Channel Five broadcast clear and appropriate warnings about the potentially offensive content,' it added.
Yer actual Matt Smith is to take on the role of avant-garde photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in a forthcoming film. The former Doctor Who star will be directed by the award-winning Ondi Timoner in the biopic, entitled Mapplethorpe, according to Deadline. Zosia Mamet, known for the HBO comedy-drama Girls, has been cast to play rock goddess Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe's one-time lover. Mapplethorpe became famous with his shocking sexual images of New York. He was very much a documenter of life throughout the 1970s and 1980s and his instrument of choice was for a long time a Polaroid instant camera, rather than a sophisticated multi-lens alternative. In an interview in 1988 with the publication Artnews, Mapplethorpe said of his work: 'I don't like that particular word "shocking." I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before.' Director Timoner, who is also a screenwriter, has twice won awards at the Sundance festival for independent film with her documentaries Dig! and We Live In Public. She tweeted that she wanted to make the film for the anniversary of Mapplethorpe's death, linking to Hollywood's story about Smith and Mamet taking starring roles. 'We'll honour Mapplethorpe on the twenty fifth year of his death by bringing him to life on screen,' she said. She also told Deadline: 'After several years of developing this script and searching across the globe for the perfect talent to embody the rich and layered roles of visionary artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, I am ecstatic to have found Matt Smith and Zosia Mamet. They will bring indelible passion, raw humanity and authenticity to this timeless, inspiring story.' Mapplethorpe died from AIDS in 1989, aged forty two. An HBO documentary about his life called Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures made its première at Sundance this week. Smudger his very self will next be seen on the big screen in comedy-horror Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, opposite Lily James, Jack Huston and Sam Riley, which opens in the UK on 11 February. He is also making the much-anticipated Netflix series The Crown, which sees him playing Prince Philip with Claire Foy as the Queen.
Idris Elba is teaming up with BBC3 for a series of short films to appear on the channel when it moves online. The Luther actor's production company, Green Door Pictures, will collaborate with BBC3 on the films from new writers. Established names will work alongside new actors for the series. BBC3 controller Damian Kavanagh vowed that the channel, which goes online next month to the joy of millions, would be 'bold, British and creative.' He has a budget of thirty million smackers a year for 'creative ideas', he said at an event to launch the new-look channel. Elba said: 'I'm looking forward to working with BBC3 and giving new writers and actors a chance to show what they can do.' Kavanagh added that the short films, made in conjunction with BBC Drama in-house, would be set in London, featuring 'chance encounters between two people.' New programmes for the channel also include Clique, focusing on two friends starting university in Edinburgh, magic show Life Hacks with Ben Hart and Unsolved: The Boy Who Disappeared which tells the true story of the disappearance of a teenager two decades ago. BBC3 programmes including Stacey Dooley Investigates and Life & Death Row will still be available when the switchover happens on 16 February. Kavanagh said: 'We're reinventing our offer for young people and this is just the start. We will be bold, we will be British and we will be creative.' The channel is introducing two new formats for online - The Daily Drop, home to a stream of daily content, and The Best Of, bringing together original long-form programmes and new content, including short films. BBC Director General Tony Hall said: 'We are the first broadcaster in the world to work out what it's going to be like in this on-demand world. This is new and let's be clear, it's also risky, but risky in the way it should be risky because if we don't take risks, who's going to?' He applauded BBC3 for making programmes that 'provoke such strong reactions' and emphasised the importance of finding new talent. 'I want people to look back on the new BBC3 as being the place that spotted the next James Corden, the next Aidan Turner, the next Sheridan Smith,' he said. Switchover night will include the first episode of Cuckoo, the first film from the new series of Life & Death Row and Live From The BBC, featuring 'new British comedians.' Although, if they're anything like the majority of 'comedians' BBC3 has been forcing down the public's throat for the last decade, they'll be about as funny as a dose of gonorrhoea.
Midsomer Murders' Neil Dudgeon has said that the idea that the BBC should not make popular entertainment programmes is 'cretinous in the extreme.' Yep, that's about the size of it. The star of ITV's long-running drama series and his family are avid watchers of Strictly Come Dancing, and he said the show is 'brilliant.' Dudgeon, who has played John Barnaby since 2011, was referring to comments made by the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, in relation to the pending BBC charter review. He told Radio Times that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale 'said the BBC shouldn't make popular programmes and chase viewers. But who would have known that a programme about ballroom dancing would end up being one of the most popular shows on the telly?' He added: 'The idea that the BBC shouldn't attempt these things is cretinous in the extreme.'
People over seventy five may be asked to give up their free TV licence or make a voluntary contribution to it, under plans being considered by the BBC. The corporation must absorb the loss of six hundred and fifty million smackers worth of licences for over-seventy fives from 2020 as part of a funding deal agreed with ministers last year. A report on ways to appeal for voluntary contributions is due in 2016. The BBC has refused to comment on suggestions that celebrities might front a publicity campaign. The Times - who, obviously, had no agenda to push in this particular case whatsoever - reported that such a campaign could be run by 'personalities such as Sir Michael Parkinson and actress Dame Helen Mirren.' Historically, the government has met the cost of free licence fees for over-seventy fives, transferring the money to the BBC annually. Indeed, it was a previous - Labour - government who introduced the schemed in the 1990s. In 2013-14 the total bill for the government was six hundred and eight million knicker, which amounted to about a fifth of the BBC's annual budget. The corporation's responsibility for the free licences - something which they never asked for - will be phased in from 2018-19, with the full liability met by the BBC from 2020-21. At the time of the announcement in July, the BBC claimed that it was the 'right deal in difficult economic circumstances.' One or two people even believed them. In return, the government agreed the corporation could ask for voluntary payments from those who currently receive free licences. Ministers also agreed that the BBC could look into ways of closing the 'iPlayer loophole', which at present means that if people only watch catch-up TV and do not watch any live TV, they do not need a licence. The BBC has said, though, that there is 'no proposal' to make people pay to watch catch-up TV on iPlayer on top of the licence fee. Labour peer Dame Joan Bakewell - formerly a government-appointed champion of the elderly - told BBC London that the licence fee represented 'enormous value for money' for pensioners, adding that those who had the means to pay should do so. But she said that the BBC should not be in a situation where it had to ask in the first place. 'The government pulled a fast one recently because what they did was this transgress from one enterprise, which is government policy about [cutting] welfare, into the BBC's licence fee - which is a completely original and outrageous undertaking.' Roger Laughton, a former BBC and ITV executive, agreed the BBC was 'between a rock and a hard place.' But Dot Gibson, general secretary of National Pensioners, warned the corporation against using celebrities to try to persuade ordinary pensioners to give up their free licence. 'Many older, vulnerable people might be taken in by this when they should be protected,' she said. 'The government needs to take back responsibility for the free TV licence or we're going to see it cut by stealth and then eventually removed altogether.' Interestingly, that comment - which this blogger entirely agrees with - has been either misquoted or ignored entirely in most of the coverage of this story in national newspaper which, on again, obviously have no - sick - agenda. Oh no. The BBC confirmed that Frontier Economics, a consultancy led by former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell, would report back within months on the best approach to asking people for contributions. It said it would then 'look at the best way forward, including whether to run a campaign.'

Sir David Attenborough has said he is 'always fearful' for the future of the BBC. The veteran naturalist was speaking during a visit to the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, which was championed by his late brother, Richard. He described the national broadcaster as 'vulnerable' and said that people take it for granted 'sometimes too often.' Attenborough, who celebrates his ninetieth birthday in May, said: 'The whole of the world of the media is changing in such a profound way, the way people see images, the way people hear talk, and the BBC has to change to match that. But at the same time, the fundamental founding principles of the BBC about providing a platform for as many views and aspects that the community has remains powerful and extremely valuable. You only really appreciate that when you go overseas and you look at it with the eyes of people from across oceans who look at the BBC as a beacon for thought and civilisation and we take it for granted in this country, sometimes too often.' He added: 'The BBC is a very vulnerable organisation, as well as being a very valuable one. And if you work at the BBC and care for the BBC, there is no moment when you shouldn't sink back and say "Oh well, we're fine, nobody is going to damage us and you're quite wrong."' Attenborough returned to the place of his childhood in the East Midlands city to officially open the new £1.5m gallery extension to the arts centre at the University of Leicester. The renowned broadcaster also spoke of his concerns for the future of the planet. He said: 'We have overrun it and we don't know what we are doing. We have already planted seeds for the future which are ineradicable. The temperatures are going to increase whatever we do. At the moment the question is whether, in fact, we can keep them down to a level which won't be disastrous. We are doing what we can but the problem is gigantic.' Speaking about the prospect of countries co-operating to find a solution, he said: 'Many people say it's an impossible ask. But unless we make some positive concession or some response to that task, we are in for serious trouble.' He also said that scepticism about climate change was 'bad thinking.' He said: 'If it's so overwhelming, why do people deny it? The answer is for a lot of people the acceptance of climate change is very difficult for them because it may make a difference to their income or their business. It may damage their business, it may make them want to try and do things that will cost money, so it's more convenient to say "no, I don't believe it." But to anyone who, as it were, doesn't have a vested interest I would have thought that the scientific evidence is beyond doubt.'

Good news for fans of political drama House Of Cards - the show, starring Kevin Spacey, is being renewed for a fifth season.

ABC is delving into the Watergate scandal for a potential limited event series. The series from RFK and Angriest Man In Brooklyn producer Robert M Cooper will not retell the seismic political event from the perspective of disgraced US president Richard Nixon. Instead, the television series is being adapted from the 2014 memoir by Nixon's White House Counsel John Dean - who served prison time for his involvement in the infamous cover-up. Writer Jon Maas explores Dean's relationship with the president and his involvement in the Watergate break-ins and subsequent cover-up conspiracy. Dean ultimately pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and became a key witness for federal investigators. The series, should it make it to screen, would be far from the first dramatisation of Watergate - with the most famous being Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman's Academy Award-winning All the President's Men.
Convicted sex offender Max Clifford has claimed in the high court that the former royal butler Paul Burrell 'lied' in his evidence over a fifty thousand quid privacy claim. On Monday, Clifford also denied himself telling 'a pack of lies' and claimed that he was innocent of the sex offences for which he is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. He has previously described Burrell's fifty grand claim for 'breach of confidence and misuse of private information' as 'an affront to common sense.' Burrell claims that he hired Clifford in 2001 to 'limit bad press coverage' about him but, rather than stopping the stories, the publicist passed on material to the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. Clifford's case is that the 'agreement' was for him to sell information on Burrell to a newspaper. Burrell told Deputy Judge Richard Spearman that the fax which Clifford sent to then Scum of the World editor, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, in November 2002 was 'a very personal, intimate and private documentation' of details about Burrell's life with the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the late Princess Diana which was not in the public domain. 'I worried about putting that down on paper and I worried if I was trusting the right person with that information,' he said. He rejected a claim by Steven Barrett, counsel for Clifford, that the information about the butler's fall downstairs, the help given him by the Queen and gifts she had given his family, was 'not very exciting.' 'At that time it would have been very interesting to any tabloid.' Barrett claimed: 'Is it entirely possible that your anger and hurt feelings have arisen because this story just didn't sell?' Burrell replied: 'Absolutely not.' Clifford claims that Burrell 'authorised' him to send the fax as 'a pitch' but the former butler says that he hired the PR man to limit bad press coverage about him and any agreement between them was terminated before the fax was sent – the day after Burrell was acquitted at the Old Bailey of stealing items belonging to Princess Diana. Referring to Clifford, Burrell said 'This is a man who I trusted and was betrayed by.' Burrell said that after the trial, he sold his story to the Daily Mirra for three hundred thousand knicker as he had been 'viciously' attacked by the media and wished to give his defence which was not heard in court. He was also offered one million smackers 'to tell all' about his time in the royal household but decided not to. After he met Clifford in April 2002, Burrell sent Clifford a letter – which was later faxed to well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks – in response to the PR man saying that he needed to know more about him. 'He said I had to trust him with my innermost secrets because all his clients did that and he locked their secrets up in his safe. He said that as my agent he would need to know my secrets so that he could defend me,' Burrell claimed, adding: 'The letter that I sent was a matter of trust. I thought to myself "everyone trusts him", he had a reputation as the number one PR agent at that time, he was everyone's "go to man."' He said that Clifford 'went ballistic' when Burrell terminated their relationship shortly afterwards because his counsel in the criminal trial said that it could not continue. A year after the fax was sent, Burrell published his book A Royal Duty - plenty of copies of which are still extremely available in Poundland - but did not feel this gave Clifford some form of retrospective justification. 'I am outraged and deeply upset by his actions. I trusted him. I find it difficult to explain just how low I was at that time. It was the most challenging time of my life and I have never felt so vulnerable, so to know that someone I trusted breached my trust in that way, for commercial gain, is sickening. At the time, I felt I had to trust someone, I obviously trusted the wrong person,' he said. In his evidence, Clifford said that Burrell was 'never a PR client' but came to him for one reason – to sell 'a sensational story' about his time in royal service. The letter, which contained a 'very very watered-down' version of what Burrell said he wanted to reveal, was sent to him on the understanding that Clifford would use it to 'broker a deal' for the sale. By sending the fax, he was following Burrell's instructions, Clifford claimed. After he sent it to well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, whose paper was the highest potential bidder, the money offered was a lot less than the four or five hundred thousand knicker that Burrell allegedly wanted. At that point, Clifford said he gave up as he did not have the time or inclination to waste on a story which was 'very weak' and not worth much. 'And, it remained in confidence. Nothing he said to me appeared in the News of the World,' Clifford said. Challenged by Burrell's counsel, William Bennett, that his evidence was 'nothing more than a pack of lies', Clifford said: 'It's one hundred per cent true and Paul Burrell knows it which is why he can't look me in the eyes now.' Clifford, who maintains his innocence over the sex offences for which he was given some serious bird - well, he would, wouldn't he? - and says that he is appealing against his conviction, denied that he was prepared to lie not only to Burrell but also to the court. 'No, it's Paul Burrell who has lied to this court, not me. Look at his face,' he said. At the close of his evidence, the judge qualified the normal courtesy granted to witnesses, saying: 'For obvious reasons I am not going to say you are free to go.' Unless he meant free to go back to jail, obviously. The hearing was adjourned.
Three weeks after his death, David Bowie has twelve CDs in the UK top forty, equalling a record set by Elvis Presley in 1977. The Grand Dame's swansong, Blackstar, spent a third week at number one, with Best Of Bowie, Hunky Dory, Nothing Has Changes and The Fall & Rise Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars all in the top ten. Bowie's other CDs in the top forty include "Heroes" (twenty eight), Diamond Dogs (thirty), Station To Station (thirty two) and Scary Monsters (thirty six).
Meanwhile, media reports suggest that David Bowie left an estate valued at about seventy million quid, according to his will which has been filed in New York. Half will go to his widow, Iman, along with the home they shared in New York. The rest is shared between his son and daughter. It was also revealed that Bowie had requested that his ashes be scattered in Bali in a Buddhist ritual. The will was filed in a Manhattan court on Friday under Bowie's legal name, David Robert Jones. His personal assistant, Corinne Schwab, was left two million dollars and another one million went to a former nanny, Marion Skene. David's son, the film director Duncan Jones and daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones, both received twenty five per cent of the estate. Alexandria was also left a home in upstate New York. In the will, written in 2004, Bowie asked that he be cremated in Bali but if that was 'not practical', then his ashes be scattered there anyway 'in accordance with the Buddhist rituals.' David's body was cremated on 12 January in New Jersey, according to a death certificate filed with the will.

Crayyyyyyg Dayyyyyyvid has, finally, made his peace with being lampooned - brilliantly - on the sketch show Bo' Selecta! Leigh Francis first rose to public prominence after mercilessly parodying Crayyyyyyyg Dayyyyyyyvid on TV while wearing an oversized mask and sporting a kestrel. Discussing his move to Miami on The Jonathan Ross Show, Crayyyyyyg Dayyyyyyyvid claimed that he didn't go to the US to escape Bo' Selecta! One or two people even believed him.
This blogger is indebted to his old mucka Scunthrope Steve for the following thought for the day: 'Nothing says "Classy" more than a photograph of Rita Ora sans kecks, looking as if she's just about to engage with a hotel room door stop.' Well, we've all done it, be fair.
Heavy snow has fallen in parts of Scotlandand Northern Engand, just hours after Storm Gertrude brought a day of high winds and rain. Up to six inches of snow was forecast for some places above three hundred metres after cold air swept in on Friday evening. The Met Office has issued amber 'be prepared' warnings for snow and high winds for areas North of the central belt until 6pm on Saturday. A yellow 'be aware' warning is in force for the whole of Scotland. A red 'be very fucking aware' warning is expected to follow. South of the border yellow warnings for snow wind and ice have been issued for North East and North West England, while similar warnings are in place for the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber. And, given the battering that Stately Telly Topping Manor is currently taking from the wind lashing in from the North, it can be long before the roof comes off. The snow followed a day of disruption due to high winds brought by Storm Gertrude, with a gust of one hundred and five miles per hour recorded in Shetland. The weather led to schools being shut, power cuts, bridges closing and delays across Scotland's transport network.

The actor Abe Vigoda, who played a doomed Mafia soldier in the first two The Godfather movies, has died aged ninety four. His family said that he died peacefully in his sleep. Vigoda played Sal Tessio, an old friend of Don Vito Corleone, who plots to take over the family after The Don's death by killing his son, Michael. The role made Abe recognisable to millions and led to many more roles, including as detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series Barney Miller. His most memorable line in The Godfather comes just before his character is taken to his death, when he tells the family adviser, Tom Hagen: 'Tell Mikey it was only business. I always liked him.' Before the Godfather movies, Vigoda had worked in relative obscurity in TV and on the New York theatre circuit. Vigoda began acting while in his teens, working with the American Theatre Wing. His career as a professional actor began in 1947. He gained acting notability in the 1960s with his work in Broadway productions, including Marat/Sade (1967), The Man In The Glass Booth (1968), Inquest (1970) and Tough To Get Help (1972). According to Francis Ford Coppola's commentary on The Godfather DVD, Abe landed the role of Tessio in an 'open call' audition, in which actors who did not have agents could come in. Many of his later roles were as gangsters, but in Barney Miller he became much-loved in the comedy role - Phil Fish known for his world-weary demeanour and persistent haemorrhoids. In 1977 his character got his own spin-off series, focusing on the character's domestic life. Abe also appeared in films such as Cannonball Run II, Look Who's Talking and North. Towards the end of his life, Abe often appeared on Internet lists of living celebrities believed to have died and he played along with this on TV chat show appearances. In 1982 People magazine mistakenly referred to Abe as being dead. At the time, Vigoda, then aged sixty, was alive and well and performing in a stage play in Calgary. He took the mistake with good humour, posing for a photograph published in Variety in which he was sitting up in a coffin, holding up the erroneous issue of People. The same mistake was made in 1987 when a reporter for the local television station WWOR, Channel Nine in Secaucus, mistakenly referred to him as 'the late Abe Vigoda.' Abe became the subject of many running gags pertaining to such mistaken - and premature - reports of his death. In 1997, Vigoda appeared in the film Good Burger as the character Otis, a restaurant cook. Several jokes were made about his advanced age, including his character saying 'I should've died years ago.' That same year he was reportedly shopping at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan when the salesman remarked, 'You look like Abe Vigoda. But you can't be Abe Vigoda because he's dead.' Abe, reportedly, assured the man that he was, indeed, Abe Vigoda but he was definitely not dead. 'I've checked,' he added. A Late Night With David Letterman sketch showed Letterman trying to summon up Vigoda's ghost, but Abe walked on set and declared, 'I'm not dead yet, you pinhead!' In May 2001, a website was mounted with only one purpose: to report whether Vigoda was alive or otherwise. Abe was married to Beatrice Schy from February 1968, until her death in 1992. They had one daughter, Carol. He is survived by his daughter, two grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Paul Kantner, a founding member and singer-guitarist of rock band The Jefferson Airplane, has died aged seventy four. His death was confirmed by publicist and former girlfriend Cynthia Bowman, who said that Paul died of multiple organ failure and septic shock. Although the band was fronted by vocalists Grace Slick and Marty Balin, Kantner was considered a driving force. With songs like 'Somebody To Love' and 'Volunteers', the San Francisco group helped pioneer the psychedelic sound. They formed in 1965 when folk singer Balin decided to create a rock group in response to The Be-Atles-led British Invasion. Kantner, a college drop out who was already a familiar face on the San Francisco beatnik circuit, was the first person Balin approached. 'He was the first guy I picked for the band and he was the first guy who taught me how to roll a joint,' Balin wrote on Facebook after learning Kantner's death. 'And although I know he liked to play the devil's advocate, I am sure he has earned his wings now.' The band quickly attracted a local following - and when fledgling promoter Bill Graham opened his legendary Fillmore Auditorium, Jefferson Airplane served as the first headliner. Signed to RCA Records for the then-princely sum of twenty five thousand dollars, the band scored five gold LP in the US, including 1967's hugely influential Surrealistic Pillow and 1968's Crown Of Creation in their first run of success. Their first hit single, 'White Rabbit' combined the story of Alice In Wonderland with euphemistic lyrics suggesting the experience of a drug trip; but later songs adopted the political stance of the hippie movement, with 1969's 'We Can Be Together' declaring: 'We are obscene, lawless, hideous, dangerous, dirty, violent and young but we should be together.' The band advocated psychedelic drugs, rebellion, fucking in the streets and a communal lifestyle, operating out of an eccentric house near Haight-Ashbury. Its members supported various political and social causes, passed out LSD at concerts and played at both the Monterey and Woodstock festivals - where the band's set was scheduled for Saturday evening but wound up taking place at eight o'clock the following morning after The Grateful Dead and The Who played for nine fucking hours each. Their badges and bumper stickers' read "The Jefferson Airplane Loves You' - but their idealism took a knock at The Rolling Stones' infamous Altamont free festival, where a group of Hells Angels, who had been hired as security, killed a spectator and beat Balin unconscious with pool cues when he tried to get them to chill the fuck out. The group began to fragment soon after, with Kantner releasing a well-received solo LP, Blows Against the Empire and other members forming the blues-rock band Hot Tuna. Kantner rejoined Balin and Slick, who was by then his wife, in 1974 under the name Jefferson Starship. They continued to have success until the 1980s, against a backdrop of litigation with an old manager and former band members. The guitarist left in 1984, saying 'the band became more mundane and not quite as challenging and not quite as much of a thing to be proud.' He then took legal action against the remaining members, forcing them to truncate their name to Starship. Kantner reformed and toured with various versions of Airplane, Starship and his own KBC band in the 1990s and 2000s. 'Our condolences go out to the friends, family and fans of Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane on the news of his passing,' members of The Doors wrote on their Facebook page. Although, not Jim Morrison, obviously. He was busy completing his shift at the Swansea bread production factory at which he's worked since 1971. The Recording Academy, which is due to award Jefferson Airplane a lifetime achievement Grammy this year, mourned Kantner as 'a true icon" of the 1960s music scene in a statement. Kantner is survived by three children; sons Gareth and Alexander and daughter China, a former MTV presenter.

Singer-songwriter Colin Vearncombe, who performed under the name Black, has died at the age of fifty three, two weeks after being injured in a car crash. The Liverpudlian singer, whose 1987 single 'Wonderful Life' was a top ten hit in Britain and around Europe, suffered head injuries in the crash in Ireland on 10 January and was subsequently placed in an induced coma. He died on Tuesday, his publicist said. Colin's wife, Camilla, said that she was 'deeply grateful' to medical staff who had cared for him. The father-of-three, who was in intensive care at Cork University Hospital, 'died peacefully' with his family at his side 'who were singing him on his way', a statement said. 'Colin received the best possible care from the expert and highly professional staff there and we are deeply grateful for everything they did,' his wife and three sons said in a statement. Fellow Liverpool musician Pete Wylie paid tribute to his friend on Twitter, saying the news was 'so very sad. I want to send all the love I can muster to Colin's parents, brother and partner and to all who loved him and who he loved too,' Pete wrote. 'I could still sing the very first song Colin recorded with me in the WAH! studio. I remember it that clearly. And that voice!' Born in Liverpool in 1962, Vearncombe had his first top ten hit with the single 'Sweetest Smile' in June 1987 when he was twenty five years old. His second hit, the even more memorable 'Wonderful Life', which he had previously two years ealier to little fanfare, made the top ten in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy. However, despite having found fame, Vearncombe later said 'the pop star life' was not as he had imagined it. 'I was frustrated by how few of the people in the music world I respected. Maybe I just didn't go to the right clubs. I've never been a great schmoozer or networker and the idea of setting out to meet a certain type of people is anathema to me,' he said. 'It was two years of disappointment - I didn't have any wild sex, I'm not a druggie, so I was just digging a hole for myself.' 'Wonderful Life' has since been used in numerous advertisements and films and has been covered - really badly - by artists including Tina Cousins and Katie Melua. But as Colin's recent collaborator Calum MacColl commented: 'I think he got to the point where he really resented being Colin 'Wonderful Life' Vearncombe and he wanted people to listen to some of his other stuff and the breadth and the darkness.' Indeed, as MacColl pointed out, 'Wonderful Life' itself is a very deceptive song. Superficially celebratory, 'it's actually a very, very dark song. There's a darkness and a twist to what Colin does.' Vearncombe himself was well aware that his work did not lend itself to glib labelling. 'I'm a marketing man's nightmare, because I don’t sit comfortably in a genre and that makes it harder to sell me,' he once said. One of three sons of Sylvia and Alan, Vearncombe went to Prescot Grammar School, then Liverpool University for an art foundation course. He first aspired to become a musician when he saw Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock. He made his first appearance on record with the 1981 single 'Human Features', released on the independent Rox Records label. He explained that he called himself Black instead of using his own name because 'I think no one would have ever remembered me. People just look at that number of letters and it makes them go dyslexic.' 'Human Features' caught the attention of Pete Fulwell, manager of Pete Wylie, and with his help a second single, 'More Than The Sun,' appeared on the Wonderful World Of ... label. Black, now comprising Vearncombe and David Dix, toured with the Thompson Twins and The mighty Wah! and, in 1984 signed to WEA Records. However, after releasing 'Hey Presto' and a new re-recording of 'More Than The Sun', the label dropped them. In 1985 Colin released the first version of 'Wonderful Life' on the independent Ugly Man label. It barely scraped into the Top Seventy Five, but caught the ear of Chris Briggs at A&M Records, who signed Black to a two-LP deal. Colin later reflected on his two big hits. 'It's another of life's rich ironies that because my first marriage fucked up in a very big way, I ended up writing a couple of songs that were the most successful I've ever written.' The Wonderful Life LP sold more than one-and-a-half million copies and reached number three on the UK chart. However, the follow-ups Comedy (1988) and Black (1991) failed to repeat its success, despite some critical acclaim and Black and A&M parted company. Vearncombe retreated to the Normandy countryside with the producer Mike Hedges to record Are We Having Fun Yet?, which he released on his own Nero Schwarz label in 1993. It sold well in Europe, but was largely ignored in the UK. It was six years before his next CD, The Accused, which he released under his own name following a period of introspection and reassessment ('I was depressed without realising I was,' as he put it). It was the start of a burst of creativity which brought the CDs Abbey Road Live (1999), Water On Snow (2000) and Live At The Bassline (2001), recorded in Johannesburg with South African musicians. The double CD Smoke Up Close (2002) contained a batch of songs he had recorded in sparse, one-take performances. In 2003 he moved to Schull in West Cork with his second wife, Camilla Griehsel, a Swedish singer whom he had met in the late 1980s and with whom he had three sons. Griehsel said of Vearncombe that 'he was romantic, kind and gentle and I'd never felt so loved by anyone.' After a period of working on poetry and painting, which produced the illustrated volume I Am Not the Same Person (2012), last year, he returned to his original stage name for a crowd-funded CD, Blind Faith, which received positive reviews. He has also published poetry and staged exhibitions of his paintings in Ireland. His publicist said there would be a private funeral, as well as a memorial service for him in Liverpool 'as we know there are many, many people who will want to celebrate Colin's life and work.' Colin is survived by Camilla and their sons, Max, Marius and Milan.

It's fairly obviously, therefore, what today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day will be, dear blog reader.