Monday, October 19, 2009

Week Forty Three: Politics, Real And Imaginary

We're off, boys and girls, on yet another wild and crazy, madcap adventure into the wacky world of Top Telly Tipping, dear blog reader. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is ready to lead you all on the expedition of a lifetime, so he is. So sit back, relax and away we go...

... sorry, I just get a bit enthusiastic about this job at times. I dunno why really, the pay's crap and I get hassled by fascists and numbskulls all the time. Still, it's a lviing, I suppose. Just, you know, not a very good one.

Friday 23 October
In EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - tonight is the very night - and the episode - where we all find out who is the daddy of Heather's baby. A mystery which has had the whole country on the edge of their collective seats, as you might have noticed. Or, you know, not. Anyway, Syed realises that his blackmailer is very close to home and Denise wades in on Libby's future. Meanwhile, Minty finds a chink in Adam's armour. Cue the dramatic music and leap about in an wholly inappropriate fashion.

Saturday 24 October
The biggest stars on the telly-box are all bracing themselves for another irreverent ribbing this weekend as Harry Hill delivers his trademark, and deliciously surreal, take on the UK's top TV shows in Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:30 ITV. But which of them will have been lucky (or daft) enough to have caught the big-collared comic's eye this week? (Or, at least, caught the eye of Harry's large team of researchers and writers, anyway?) Has Simon Cowell provided a bit of The Burp Factor? Was Harry bowled over by Tuffers' moves on Strictly? Is he the father of Heather's love-sprog? And did you, dear blog reader, spot the Knitted Character this week? Find out where Harry (and his large team of researchers and writers) have been lurking, in what promises to be another cracking edition of one of the best comedy shows on TV. Plus, FIGHT.

Saturday also sees the return of another comedy diamond, The Thick of It - 10:10 BBC2 - the award-winning political satire devised by Armando Iannucci and starring the great Peter Capaldi. It's reshuffle day at Number 10. When the job at the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship is turned down by just about everybody else, there is no option but to promote unknown quantity Nicola Murray (one of Keith Telly Topping's favourite comedy actresses the very excellent Rebecca Front) to the Cabinet. The downside is that she's very keen (far too keen for Malcolm's liking), has a husband who works for a company that has government contracts, has an eleven-year-old who goes to a private school and is about to face the media at a crucial by-election poster launch. Remind you of anyone in particular? Something will have to be done. How can Malcolm spin his way out of the inevitable trouble that's just laying in wait?

Sunday 25 October
In Ray Mears' Northern Wilderness - 8:00 BBC2 - Ray takes 'an epic adventure' into Canada's unforgiving, yet stunning wilderness. Sadly however, he appears to have emerged from this unscathed. I mean, there's a lot of dangerous animals up there, like bears and moose, one would have, perhaps, hoped that at least one of them could have given the smug, self-righteous, full-of-himself presenter the absolute fright of his life. Anyway, his journey begins in the vast Boreal Forest at the heart of Canada. This is a place where knowledge and experience are still far more important than the equipment you carry, a place left alone for centuries before Europeans arrived. But now, sadly, utterly ruined by intrepid TV adventurers like Ray tramping across it with their camera crews saying things like 'vast expanse' and 'unspoiled beauty.' Ray explores the wonder of this special forest, learns about the people who called it home and unlocks the secrets of this forgotten world. This is a land where knowledge of bushcraft is not just desirable, it's essential. As is a map to the closest hotel, of course. Now, I've got to say upfront, I've never been all that impressed with Ray Mears either as a presenter (I find him rather dry and cold) or, indeed, as a human being. The later, in particular, comes from a series of extremely crass and ill-advised comments that he made to the press in the immediate aftermath of Richard Hammond's car crash. Something that was, frankly, nothing whatsoever to do with him or the programmes that he presents. I really don't like people in TV who use the misfortune of others to get their own name in the papers. And so, for that reason if nothing else, Keith Telly Topping advises extreme caution when approaching anything that Mears is involved in.

A short history of time. When Christopher Isherwood left England for the Germany of the Weimar Republic in 1930, he found a heady world of sexual and artistic freedoms but with a dark underbelly of emerging fascism that he wrote about in his celebrated novel, Goodbye to Berlin described by George orwell as 'a brilliant study of society in decay.' This, in turn, inspired the musical Cabaret, which - thanks largely to Bob Fosse's 1970s film version - came to symbolise the era for modern audiences. But how close was The Kit Kat Klub to the real thing? In The Real Cabaret - 9:00 BBC4 - Alan Cumming, a Tony-winner for his role as The Emcee on Broadway, goes to Berlin to discover what survives of that radical decadent spirit of the immediate pre-Nazi days and talks to, among others, Liza Minnelli and to the singer and Weimar era expert Ute Lemper.

There's also a great episode of House on tonight - 9:00 Sky1. The team wrestle with their consciences when a controversial African dictator is brought into Princeton‑Plainsboro for treatment after falling ill during a state visit to the US. And, for two of House's colleagues in particular, life may never be the same again as a consequence. Wilson, meanwhile, tries to make amends with an angry, feuding neighbour who has not taken kindly to House's presence in the apartment block. For once Hugh Laurie takes something of a back seat in this episode as the focus is, largely, on Chase and Foreman. That said, House still gets to indulge in a bit of kidnapping. Even when he's trying to be nice, he just can't help himself it would seem!

Monday 26 October
In the latest episode of Life - 9:00 BBC1 - David Attenborough looks at how mammals dominate the planet through having warm blood, and by the care they lavish on their young. Weeks of filming in the bitter Antarctic winter (not by David himself, of course, but rather by the unsung heroes of the BBC's Natural History Department) reveal how a mother Weddell seal wears her teeth down keeping open a hole in the ice so she can catch fish for her pup, while a gyroscopically stabilised camera moves alongside migrating caribou, and a diving team swim among the planet's biggest fight as male humpback whales battle for a female. Having warm blood, of course, means that mammals are much faster than their reptilian predators. When filmed in super-slow motion, the rufous sengi – a small gerbil-like creature – demonstrates extreme speed and agility. Being warm-blooded also gives giant, straw-coloured fruit bats the endurance to migrate from all over the Congo to a recently discovered mega-roost of ten million bats in Zambia. And, then there's the Meerkats who live in truly co-operative family groups. It has recently been discovered that some adults will tutor novice youngsters in finding and dealing with difficult prey just as humans teach their young about road safety and not to accept lifts from strangers. Teaching of the next generation, it appears, is a key and unique mammalian talent. An elephant matriarch can have seventy years' worth of learning which she shares with her herd. Life follows a newborn elephant as it gets stuck in the mud under its inexperienced mother. It's grandma who comes to the rescue. Simply, beautifully enchanting. Nowhere else in the world would a TV programme like this be made (the Americans, by and large, love them but won't make them because there's a perception that they're never ratings hits). And, this from a BBC that both Labour and the Tories seemingly wants to eviscerate and cut the budget of. Unbelievable.

Restaurant In Your Home - 8:30 BBC2 - looks like an interesting addition to the BBC's huge arsenal of food shows. Successful seafood restaurateurs - and husband and wife team - Mike and Tina Pemberton show a young couple exactly how to transform their small flat in London into a restaurant for one night only. They have to not only redecorate the space, but also devise a menu, choose the wine, recruit the diners, prepare and serve the food, and then wait to see just how much each diner is prepared to pay for the experience. There are tears, tantrums and triumphs as experience and enthusiasm join together in the kitchen. 'With hilarious results' according to the pre-publicity blurb. That, remains to be seen, I reckon. Mine's a chilli salt and pepper King Prawn with egg fried rice and a nice glass of Chardonnay, please. I'm not fussed about any pudding. Cup of tea would be handy as well. Ooh, tablecloths. That's fancy...

Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a new documentary series presented by Rageh Omaar. In 2007, Nobel Prize-winning US scientist James Watson was quoted referring to research he had carried out which appeared to suggest that black people were, generally, less intelligent than other races. His comments caused a storm of controversy with comparisons being drawn with Nazi ideology and it was, not unreasonably, pointed out that there are a fair number of black geniuses in the world. Omaar, a journalist I have a lot of time for when he's not doing one of those 'Oh, the humanity'-type broadcasts from a war-zone, sets out to probe Watson's comments, meeting some scientists who believe that races can be differentiated as well as those who vehemently oppose this view. Fascinating subject. Controversial too, but that's no reason not to make a TV show about it and explore what lies behind such claims. Part of Channel 4's much-trailed Science and Race series. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Tuesday 27 October
The one of the Top Gear lads that all the ladies want to mother, James May, is out to prove why traditional, old fashioned toys are still relevant today when he pushes them to the limit in 'spectacular, supersize' challenges in the new series of James May's Toy Stories - 8:00 BBC2. Tonight, James takes model aeroplanes to a whole new level when he tries to make a full size spitfire out of Airfix. But the venture soon hits problems when it becomes clear that the giant thirty six foot pieces may not be strong enough and nobody knows how they will fit together. Look out, later in the series, for the episode in which James will live for two days inside a full-sized house made entirely of Lego®™. Top chap, James - blokey and self-deprecating, yet never as deliberately boorish as his mate Clarkson and occasionally a bit of a plank but in a kind of old-fashioned and rather charming way. He's a man out of time, really. He should have been a pipe-smoking, real ale drinking designer at Rolls Royce in the 1950s. James is, however, rapidly turning into a very good solo presenter (his series with Oz Clarke and his documentaries on the great inventions of the Twentieth Century and the Moon Landings, in particular, where very impressive). So, this one looks well worth an hour of your time.

Ghosts in the Machine - 9:00 BBC4 - charts the history of the supernatural on British television. The ghosts have abandoned their traditional haunts of drama and comedy and crossed over into factual and reality TV of late. Classic ghost stories like The Stone Tape and Whistle and I'll Come to You are celebrated. And controversial shows like Derren Brown's Seance and 1992's notorious pseudo-documentary Ghostwatch are revisited. Oh ... might not watch this, then. Ghostwatch really did disturb me, and I was a reasonably balanced twenty nine year old TV reviewer when it was shown. One who'd just got back from watching his beloved (and, then, perfectly sellable) Magpies narrowly lose at Leicester City that day, as it happens. It's funny the things you remember. So, how did television become the medium of the medium? Contributors include Derren Brown, Yvette Fielding and Mark Gatiss. Sounds entertaining but have the remote control handy in case they show any of the really scary 'pipes' bits from Ghostwatch.

In a re-enactment of Jules Verne's literary odyssey, six pairs of celebrities are racing against the clock to raise money for 2009's BBC Children in Need. You might have noticed. It's been on the news and everything. They form a global relay to circumnavigate the world without flying in Around the World in 80 Days - 9:00 BBC1. Tonight, the dramatic race continues with the likable Matt Baker and the divine Julia Bradbury from Countryfile. Now Julia's used to this sort of thing, she's presented travel programmes and likes a good hike in the lake district, but Wor Matt ... not sure if he's the 'trekking across Asia'-type personally. Can they travel the three thousand seven hundred miles from Kazakhstan to China in just fourteen days and without getting shot by nervous border guards?

Wednesday 28 October 2009
Having enchanted the country with his series on post-war Britain two years ago, Andrew Marr's The Making of Modern Britain - 9:00 BBC2 is the obvious follow-up. In the first of a six-part series, Andrew revisits Britain at the dawn of the Twentieth Century. He finds the country mourning the death of Queen Victoria, fighting an intractable and unpopular war against the Boers in South Africa, enjoying the bawdy pleasures of music hall and worrying about the physical and moral strength of the working class. Not all that dissimilar to the early days of the Twenty First Century, then? I really do like Andrew Marr's presentation style. It's got the air of authority that a Simon Sharma or a David Starkey carries to historical documentaries but with a down-to-earth turn of phrase that makes even some of the more complex parts of his narrative far easier to understand than if, say, Paxman had just been standing there shouting at the audience like he did in The Victorians. And, like James May, Andrew seems to be the sort of guy that ladies want to mother. It's probably something to do with the ears, I reckon. Martin Clunes has the same sort of following. Anyway, this looks terrific. And again, like Life, it's the sort of programme that the broadcasters in no other country in the world would consider to be worthy of the budget that the BBC will spend on it. The Daily Mail lice will whinge, of course, because that's what they do. But, in the mean time, the BBC will do what it's always done better than all of its commercial imitators. It will educate, inform and entertain. Seriously, make the most of it whilst you can because after the next election, it's going to be interesting to see how much of the organisation is left.

Britain's Best Brain - 8:00 Five - sees Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball reunited on a TV show for the first time in ten years since Live & Kicking ended. In this brand new eight-part series, each episode will see contestants tackle five tasks, designed to test the specific functions of different parts of the brain. A sort of updated Krypton Factor, if you like. In the opening instalment, contestants including a doctor and a housewife vie for the chance to go through to the final. Sounds quite fun but it must be said the title is hideous!

In Midsomer Murders - 8:00 ITV - the peace of Little Worthy is shattered by a bizarre murder. What, another one? A man is found stabbed and tied down like Gulliver in Lilliput in the sleepy hamlet's model village. Is there a competition among the writers to come up with new methods of dispatch each week? 'We've never had a hung-drawn-and-quartering before...' Barnaby and Jones are called in to investigate and discover many secrets hidden behind the traditions, tourist attractions and tea rooms. Then the killer strikes again. Can the detectives uncover the truth about the residents of Little Worthy and solve the crimes? This is another 'makes the most of...' moment too. Make the most of John Nettles in the role while you can, dear blog reader, because he's leaving soon. At which point, presumably, the murder rate in Midsomer will drop to levels slightly below that of Baltimore.

Thursday 29 October 2009
So, with Masterchef having finished last week just what is the average, food-fixated viewer of BBC2 going to do with themselves for the next eight week? Why, watch The Restaurant at 8:00, of course. Back for a third season, Raymond Blanc is on the hunt for a couple to back in a brand new restaurant venture and, this time, he and his partners will be investing their own money in the winners' establishment. The nine couples battling for the opportunity to change their lives forever are given just one hour to cook a dish that sells their culinary skills as well as their vision for a restaurant. Only the best will go on to the next stage and get one step closer to the prize. Yeah, I quite like this series; Raymond himself is reasonably personable and most of the people on it are enthusiastic without being too annoying. It's still nowhere near as entertaining as Masterchef, however.

In The Event: How Racist Are You? - 10:00 Channel 4 - American anti-racism activist Jane Elliott asks thirty British volunteers of different ages and backgrounds to experience inequality based on their eye colour rather than their skin colour to highlight the problems of discrimination. Krishnan Guru-Murthy introduces this social experiment - a recreation of Elliott's celebrated exercise with schoolchildren in the Midwest in the 1960s - and is joined by expert pyschologists Dr Dominic Abrams and Dr Funke Baffour. Quite a worthwhile subject to tackle and a very novel way of doing it. Hopefully, this will be entertaining but, also, we might just learn something valuable from it. TV doing what TV does better than any other medium. Again, part of Channel 4's continuing Science and Race strand.

ITV2's Fearne And ... (10:00) is a series in which Fearne Cotton shadows 'three of the world's most famous women' to find out what really makes them tick. In this episode Fearne gains exclusive access to the controversial Peaches Geldof - presenter of some of the most tacky and wilfully dreadful TV conceits ever devised, journalist (allegedly), designer (allegedly), party girl (that one's confirmed) and daughter of Saint Bob Geldof, saviour of Africa (where there is no snow, apparently). In this 'extraordinary and revealing encounter,' Fearne follows Peaches to discover the truth behind the headlines. And perhaps what, exactly, this vacuous waste-of-space excuse for a human being actually does to justify her existence, much less the fact that ITV are spending money they can ill afford making a TV show about her. Again, sometimes there simply aren't enough sick-bags in the world.

If you feel you've been starved of David Tennant for too long since Easter, and you simply can't wait till December for his final three Doctor Who specials then, hang out your TARDIS-shaped bunting as the Doctor makes an appearance in the two-part Sarah Jane Adventures starting today - 4:35 on BBC1 - in an episode that also features Nigel Havers. The Doctor makes a spectacular return on what should be the happiest day of Sarah Jane's life. But a deadly trap is awaiting them all. Normally, Keith Telly Topping absolutely cannot stand Sarah Jane Interferes but, yes, he will be watching this one. He's weak and has no backbone.

Onto the first batch of this week's Top Telly News: Joe Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff have become the fifth couple voted off Strictly Come Dancing. The undefeated world boxing champion and the Russian professional were joined in the dance-off - though no one could quite understand why - by Footballers' Wives actress Zöe Lucker and James Jordan. Now, hopefully, Joe and Kirstina will go off on holiday together and get away from the pressure of being tabloid fodder as they have for the last six weeks. Earlier in the evening, Calzaghe scored twenty one points for his Jive, while Lucker impressed the judges with the same dance, totalling thirty points. Coronation Street actor Craig Kelly avoided a third dance-off in a row, despite finishing bottom of the judges' leaderboard with twenty points. There was also another stroppy finger-pointing, insult hurling confrontation between Craig Revel Horwood and Brendan Cole. Which is always entertaining. Natalie Cassidy got a new nickname from Len Goodman ('Hopalong') and Tuffers recovered from his knee surgery to waltz his way into the next round. All four judges voted to save Lucker and Jordan, after both couples performed for the second time. Next week's Strictly will involve the final eleven celebrities performing either an American Smooth or a Samba.

Sacked Strictly judge Arlene Phillips, meanwhile, rushed to the defence of her former colleague Craig Revel Horwood after he compared Jo Wood to a 'bush kangaroo' on Saturday's show. Phillips told the Sun that Horwood's remark should not have caused such a row. She explained: 'I was also writing in my notebook "Skippy the kangaroo."' Yes but, as previously noted Arlene, since you've been sacked from the show, nobody really cares what you think about pretty much anything. So, why you're still bothering to sit there marking the contestants is, frankly, something of a mystery. And one that a psychiatrist could probably better explain than a TV reviewer, so I'll leave them too it. 'I don't think it was a personal comment. Judges are there to comment and she was very skippy. Besides, Craig was cut off and nobody knows what he would have continued to say - he usually ends on something positive.' Wood's dance partner Brendan Cole was seen storming off in fury following Horwood's jibe at the weekend. Phillips insisted 'Stalking off almost makes it worse. He should comfort her and it shouldn't be about him.'

Strictly dancer Vincent Simone has claimed that his partner Natalie Cassidy's curves have not hindered the couple's chances of success. In an interview with the Mirror, the Italian said that physique is not the most important thing in a partner. He stated: 'I looked at Natalie when we met and I knew she'd be amazing at some things but there would be other moves she wouldn't be able to do. When we get paired up with a celebrity, it's not about their size, it's about getting someone who loves the show.' Simone went on to say there have been times when he has swapped roles with Cassidy. 'I did a little drop in the cha-cha-cha. Normally it's a move the man does but I reversed it so that Natalie dropped me instead,' he explained. 'She's very strong. I'm a good dancer because I'm toned so I can be quick and fast but I don't have very big muscles.' When asked about the best aspect of Cassidy's physique, Simone replied: 'Well, her legs are very straight.'

EastEnders producers have introduced a limit on the number of speaking parts in each episode. The Daily Mail reports that because of budget cuts, only sixteen characters will appear in each instalment of the soap. A source said: 'To keep within budget we've been working to an average of sixteen actors per show. It's a bid to save costs.' However, Equity spokesman Martin McGrath said: 'Equity would argue that it is not wise to cut back on the quality of a programme and if this measure has an impact on the quality of the programme, we would be concerned. The BBC should not be seeking to achieve the shortest-term saving at the cost of performers. Trying to produce quality TV on the cheap is doomed to fail.' A BBC spokesman confirmed the quota but insisted that it would not affect the quality of the show. He said: 'EastEnders, along with all BBC programmes, has to make savings, so working to an average number of regular actors per episode is one of many ways to keep within the programme budget.'

Meanwhile, someone described as 'a top police officer' has claimed that the UK's biggest soaps are setting a bad example to children by featuring an excessive number of pub scenes. Pat Shearer, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, suggested that EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale should accept responsibility for binge drinking among underage teenagers. 'It's little wonder we are the way we are. You sit down in front of the television and every evening you're effectively in a pub,' Shearer is quoted by the Sun as saying. 'Everybody is encouraged to drink and it almost creates the norm. Producers need to recognise the impact they may be having on individuals.' I'm sorry, don't you have some criminals to go and catch, Pat, instead of trying your hand at TV reviewing? Jeez, it's getting worse - politicians, coppers, they all want a go at my job. Trust me guys, it's not well-paid.

Amanda Holden kept her shoes close to her chest as she posed with just a pair of stilettos covering her dignity. The Britain's Got Talent judge stripped down to just a tiny pair of animal-print knickers for a new charity campaign to raise funds for research into women's health issues. Amanda is one of a number of stars to pose with their sexy shoes for the Heels that Heal campaign, run by Wellbeing of Women and the News of the World's Fabulous magazine. It aims to reach a five hundred thousand pound target to help young women dealing with issues such pre-menstrual syndrome, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as those suffering from ovarian and cervical cancer.

TV stand-by buttons will be phased out under a new Conservative government, David Cameron said over the weekend. The plan is to save electricity used if sets are not completely switched off but left idle. Tory leader Cameron is promising to work with makers to axe standby altogether in a 'green summer revolution.' The Conservatives will also get appliance manufacturers to make low-energy mode the default setting for appliances. It will mean washing clothes at lower temperatures.

And, whilst he's doing that, a pledge to 'rip up the BBC charter and reverse Government plans to share the BBC licence fee with other broadcasters' has been made by Conservative culture spokesman the vile and loathsome Jeremy Hunt. You know, the man who broke the law a few weeks ago when he encouraged the BBC to employ or not employ people on the grounds of their politics rather than their ability to read an autoque? In an interview with the Financial Times, Hunt said that high corporation salaries show that BBC bosses are 'out of touch with the public mood' during hard economic times. He also said that he would axe the current BBC Trust, which acts as both cheerleader and regulator (a phrase that, ironically, that man whose job he's after, Ben Bradshaw, has been using for some time about the Trust) and improve the conditions for commercial TV by deregulation rather than using taxpayers' money. Hunt said: 'We will have a very fundamental root-and-branch discussion with the BBC about all its activities. We haven't made a decision on the timing of changes in the governance structure, but we do think the structure has failed. We are looking into whether it would be appropriate to rip up the charter in the middle of it, or whether one should wait.'

In its heyday, Countdown's regular audience added up to nearly four million viewers. But even a fresh injection of glamour has failed to solve the puzzle of plunging viewing figures and the show's future has been brought into doubt in recent weeks. On Monday, ratings slumped to only five hundred and forty thousand, the lowest in the show's twenty seven-year run. Earlier this year almost 1.3 million tuned in to see Oxford graduate Rachel Riley and Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling take over from Carol Vorderman and Des O'Connor. But even Rachel daring outfits – including a thigh-hugging red number seen to the left – have failed to attract viewers. Countdown insiders admitted the news was 'disappointing.' Frankly, Countdown seems to be suffering in the same way that Doctor Who did in the 1980s and Top of the Pops did a few years ago. There's nothing wrong with what's been put out per se, but it doesn't seem to be loved by its bosses so the show is left to limp on until someone decides to put it out of a misery that it doesn't really deserve to be in. An enterprising new broom at Channel 4 could quite easily fix Countdown - make it half-an-hour long instead of an hour, stick it back on at 4.30pm and run Deal or No Deal after it as has been suggested eslewhere. It was always a show with an ageing audience and, it could be argued, a lot of its regular viewers are dying off. But, so are Corrie's and that shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

Ideas and material for a new series of Harry Enfield's comedy show with Paul Whitehouse have been stolen from a car. The thoughts for his Harry & Paul show, to be broadcast on BBC2 next year, were contained on a laptop computer taken in Notting Hill. A BBC spokeswoman said the programme would not be affected as filming was not starting for another six months and no scripts had been taken. Police are investigating the theft but no arrests have been made. The thieves are reported to have subsequently phoned Enfield demanding seven hundred and fifty quid for the return of the computer, which he refused to pay, according to the Mail on Sunday. I should thiink not an'all. The cheeky bastards! The newspaper claimed the laptop was taken last week from his wife Lucy's Mini Clubman, which had been parked outside their home. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'There were only early thoughts on the laptop and not actual scripts, so it won't impact on filming for the series.' A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm we are investigating an allegation of theft from a motor vehicle. There have been no arrests and enquiries continue.' Enfield shot to fame in the 1980s on Saturday Live with two memorable comic creations - Greek kebab-shop owner Stavros and grotesque braggard plasterer, Loadsamoney. He then worked with Paul Whitehouse on Harry Enfield and Chums and several seuqels. In 1995 the late comedian Bob Monkhouse had his joke books spanning twenty five years stolen, prompting him to offer a ten thousand pounds reward. They were returned eighteen months later. A management consultant who eventually found them was accused of handling stolen goods, but the charge was later dropped.

Channel 4 is planning to return to Britain's specialist NHS wards for an extended second run of documentary series The Hospital next year. The series, produced by North One, will return for five episodes, two more than its first series which aired this summer. The series was filmed in Birmingham and looked at the relationship between NHS staff and young patients, concentrating on alcohol-related casualties, teenage pregnancies and surgery on obese people. Channel 4 deputy head of documentaries Simon Dickson said the series worked because it was 'not just a traditional ob-doc but had a very strong narrative, with an after-the-event interview style reminiscent of Touching the Void.' He added: 'It was very heightened but people found the films really enjoyable and insightful. It had a sharp editorial perspective and the visual trick of "down-the-barrel" interviews really worked.'

Simon Cowell has criticised Dannii Minogue for her comments about X Factor contestant Danyl Johnson. Minogue made the remarks referring to Johnson's sexuality on last week's show and has since apologised. However, Cowell complained that his fellow judges are playing games with the contestant. 'All three of them were messing with Danyl and I'm not having it,' he told the Daily Star. 'Those three are more competitive than ever. They see Danyl as a big threat to them winning this competition. I know Dannii is not a spiteful or homophobic person and what she said was a joke. She was terribly upset afterwards because she knew she had done wrong. The joke fell flat and she ended up making a bit of an idiot of herself.' He added: 'Danyl's sexuality is his own business. We have never spoken about it.' Cowell also criticised Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh for their comments about Johnson. 'As for Louis and Cheryl, they attacked Danyl for being cocky and confident,' he said. 'His confidence was the reason we loved him at auditions.'

The Metropolitan police have reportedly received at least one complaint about Jan Moir's thoroughly wretched and disgraceful article concerning the death of Stephen Gately. The column, in the Daily Mail, caused outrage on social networking sites and beyond (see Saturday's blog for the full, sordid details). The Press Complaints Commission has received twenty one thousand complaints about Moir's article since Friday – more complaints in a single weekend than the regulator had received in total in the past five years. In the article, Moir - described by at least one website as 'the most hated woman in Britain' - alluded to the events surrounding Gately's death being 'sleazy,' contradicted the post-mortem findings by insisting that it was 'not, by any yardstick, a natural [death],' and stated that the tragedy 'strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.' A Metropolitan police spokesman told Sky News: 'We have received a complaint from a member of the public.' Moir herself is still, stubbornly, sticking to her story that the article was not intended to be homophobic and that she has just been misunderstood. And that those who've complained haven't actually read the piece. Which, frankly, sounds like the desperate excuses of someone who knows they've done wrong and are now trying to weasel their way out of the chastisement they deserve. By and large when you say something and people complain about it, burying your head in the sand and pretending they're the ones at fault not you is a quick route to career suicide. Ask Carol Thatcher. It will be very interesting to see if the Daily Mail - one of the organs of the media who were so critical of the BBC over their decision not to sack Anton Du Beke for making racist comments - will be quite as proactive themselves with regard to Ms Moir's future employment with them. Not to practice what they have previously preached would appear to reveal the Mail as staffed - at an editorial level at least - with rank hypocrites. Something which, I'm sure, the paper will be keen to avoid the appearence of. Sky News' Enda Brady reporting form Dublin said that Gately's family were not planning to read the column. 'I know his family are aware of the article, they have not read it, they will not read it, but they know what is contained in it and they know the sentiment,' he said. 'They are just very, very disappointed.' Meanwhile, the editor of the UK's best-selling gay magazine Attitude, said Moir's decision to link Gately's death with that of Matt Lucas' former civil partner seemed to be an 'excuse to stick the boot in the gay population. If that's not homophobic, what is homophobia?' he told Sky News. The incident once again highlights the way in which, thanks to new technology, the world of journalism (and of people's reaction to journalism) is changing. As Emily Bell noted - in a very thoughtful pice in the MediaGruniad - 'Moir, or her editors, or both, misjudged the speed and breadth of the real-time web and social media in their power to highlight and pressurise at speed and with force. To see the Daily Mail taught a lesson about public outrage in the electronic age would no doubt have raised a weak, battered smile at the BBC.'

Jimmy Carr has escaped conviction after allegedly driving while using his mobile phone. The Daily Mail reports that the comedian managed to avoid receiving a sixty pound fine and three points on his licence because he said he was using the phone to dictate a joke. Carr's solicitor Nick Freeman argued that the law regarding mobile phones refers to them as two-way devices, but a dictaphone is a one-way device. He added that using a phone to record something is no worse than checking the time on it. Outside court, Carr refused to repeat the joke, explaining that the situation was 'too serious.' He said: 'This is a serious thing. I have been found not guilty but I would like to add that using such devices is dangerous and can cause accidents. I appreciate the interest in this case and I love the attention but this is no time for jokes.' Would that Jimmy held that noble attitude on other occasions.

Ocotbeard has reached Day Eighteen and yer actual Keith Telly Topping is, by this stage, starting to resemble an unholy bastard ginger love-child of Peter Sutcliffe and King George V (with a bit of George Harrison circa 1970 thrown in for good measure). Which is, as I'm sure you'll understand dear blog reader, not the sort of parentage one would chose for onself if one was to be an unholy bastard ginger love-child of pretty much anyone. And, it's got grey streaks in it. That's a shock for a bloke in his forties, trust me.

And, lastly, another round of almost Asperger's-like statistics to keep you all entertained for about three seconds. If you're sad: Since yer actual Keith Telly Topping began keeping records on the specific traffic to From The North (on 29 August 2009), the site has been visited by eight thousand, five hundred and eighty two punters who made a total of thirteen thousand, six hundred and thirteen individual page hits (or, to put it anotherc way, 1.59 pages per visit). The average time spent per page was two minutes and thirty seconds and 68.55 per cent of all visits have been by individuals new to the site. Just a shade under forty per cent of visits have come via search engines (mostly from Google), thirty eight per cent have arrived from referring sites (the biggest, by far, being Facebook) and 22.86 per cent have been direct traffic. The eight thousand, five hundred and eighty two visitors have been from ninety different countries (although, still nobody from the Federated States of Micronesia has rocked up here. Or Liechtenstein for that matter. Come on fellahs, it's not size that's important, it's what you do with it that counts). The Top Ten counties, in order, are the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Indonesia, France and India. From the North has also been visited by someone from every single state of the US. Except North Dakota. What has Keith Telly Topping done to piss off the people of Bismarck and Fargo, pray? He enjoyed the film, if that's any help? It's a small world, isn't it?

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