Friday, November 27, 2009

The War Of Mariah Carey's Bog-Roll (The Sequel)

Yer Keith Telly Topping - along with the legend that is Alfie Joey - spent most of yesterday in a BBC Comedy Extra event at the Live Theatre in Newcastle dear blog reader. It was really good. Genuinely fascinating (and very encouraging) stuff, both in terms of stuff that we're going to be pitching in the short, medium and longer term. And, I got into a very interesting discussion about what constitutes 'good' ratings for a BBC1 sitcom. And, the short answer was 'a lot less than you might think.'

Kate Garraway has reportedly been 'spoken to' by the producers of GMTV after she claimed that Mariah Carey was 'a diva' in her New! magazine column earlier this week. According to the Mirror, the show's co-host was not even present in the studios when Lorraine Kelley conducted the original interview with Carey and was, subsequently, misinformed about Carey's demands by some nameless colleague. Garraway claimed that Carey had requested two minders to carry the singer into a chair and that she had brought her own toilet paper to the studio. Carey's spokesperson rejected the reports as a 'gross exaggeration.' A source said: 'What Kate claimed wasn't true and it has caused big problems backstage. The huge entourage was actually a choir and musicians used by Mariah. When stars come to be interviewed on GMTV they don't expect this. Kate has been carpeted by bosses and told it cannot happen again. It looks bad for GMTV to be linked to these sort of comments about a guest.' A source close to Garraway added: 'She was misinformed and is mortified by what has happened. She has apologised to Mariah and her bosses and will make amends in her column next week.' Keith Telly Topping isn't sure, exactly, what Ms Garraway expected to happen when she laughing told a magazine's readership intimate details about the toiletry requirements of a guest on the show she presents in the style of a crawly school sneak. But, I'm prepared to stick my neck out here and suggest that if extreme anger and possible repercussions weren't foreseen by her, then Ms Garraway would appear to be not half as clever as she thinks she is.

The public can expect a 'smaller BBC' after the analogue TV signal is switched off in 2012, director general Mark Thompson has said. Speaking at a Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London, Thompson was outlining plans for the BBC's strategic review next year. He said there would be 'reductions in some kinds of programmes and content,' including web services. However, he promised more money would be spent on original British content. 'Expect to see a further shift of emphasis in favour of key priority areas: The best journalism in the world, high quality programmes and services for children, content of every kind that builds knowledge and shares music and culture and a long-range commitment to outstanding British drama and comedy,' Mr Thompson said.

Richard Curtis has announced who will play Vincent Van Gogh in his upcoming episode of Doctor Who. The writer had previously revealed that his episode would feature Vincent Van Gogh 'stabbing a monster.' Curtis told Bullz-Eye: 'We've got a brilliant guy playing Van Gogh - which is who it's about - who you should look up on YouTube. He's a guy called Tony Curran, who really could not look more like [him]. He's a wonderful actor who was in this brilliant movie called Red Road that came out, a rather serious movie. But he's going to be great. I've had a lot of fun. We start to shoot in about a month.' Curtis added, concerning his interest in the show: '[I] enjoyed it a lot when I was young, probably drifted away in the middle years and then, of course, it was stopped. I've watched pretty well every episode of the new manifestation, because there's so little family TV, so few times when you can sit down with the whole family and everybody get something out of it. So I'm a serious new convert.'

Stephen Fry has been voted the fantasy dinner party host of choice, according to a survey by after-dinner mint brand After Eight. The poll, which asked members of the public whom they would most like to see host a dinner party that they were attending, saw Fry gaining twenty two per cent of the votes. Also at the top of the list were X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell, Barack Obama and Joanna Lumley. What a fabulous world we live in, ladies and gentlemen, where more people would like to have dinner with Cheryl Cole than the President of the United States. At the bottom of the poll were Terry Wogan, Strictly Come Dancing host Bruce Forsyth, politicians David Cameron and Gordon Brown and husband-and-wife television presenting team Richard and Judy.

Coronation Street's producer, Kim Crowther, is stepping down from her position after two-and-a-half years in the job. She will be replaced by the former Doctor Who series producer Phil Collinson in the second half of next year, just a few months before the show's fiftieth anniversary celebrations. Crowther joined Coronation Street in November 2007, succeeding Steve Frost as the soap's effective showrunner. Collinson will begin working at Corrie's Manchester home, Granada Studios, from March to allow for a substantial handover period, before he officially takes office in the late summer. He will work alongside Weatherfield's executive producer Kieran Roberts.

Mathew Horne has encouraged fans to enjoy the final series of Gavin & Stacey instead of worrying about it coming to an end. Can Keith Telly Topping just point out that he isn't, actually, worrying about that or anything remotely like it. Celebrating, might be a slightly more accurate term.

Ali Bastian reportedly injured her foot on Monday during rehearsals for Strictly Come Dancing. According to the Daily Mail, the actress should be allowed to perform this weekend once a doctor makes a decision tomorrow. But, she has missed a significant amount of training time for her Charleston with partner Brian Fortuna and, therefore, needs viewer sympathy. A source said: 'She has badly bruised her foot during training and has been ordered to rest. She is going back to the doctors tomorrow and they have advised that she should be fine to dance on Saturday.'

The England regional news consortium will be based in the North East regions of Tyne Tees and Border, the government has confirmed.

Hip-hop superstar Eminem reportedly wants to join The X Factor as a guest judge. Oh, great, that'll sort the men from the boys. According to the Sun, the controversial rapper is a big fan of a show and believes that he could join Simon Cowell on the panel. Eminem said: 'No disrespect to the current judges but you need people who are global, platinum-selling stars.' I think you'll find that is, actually, disrespectful to the current judges, Marshall. Albeit very funny. And, factually accurate as well!

The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board has outlined a new TV ratings system which is to be introduced next year and which could trigger an increase in viewing figures. Coming into force on 1 January 2010, the new ratings system includes a more representative geographical design, along with a completely new viewing panel. In a trial run of the panel in five thousand one hundred homes during a four-week period up to 8 November, BARB reported that channels were found to have a four per cent higher rating compared to the existing arrangement. As broadcasters continue to struggle under a tough advertising market, the increased ratings could provide a boost to their fortunes in 2010. If only 'on paper.' While unveiling the new system, BARB chief executive Bjarne Thelin claimed that it will provide the TV industry with 'gold standard currency. Much of the new system is similar in concept to the current one, but there are important changes, including a completely new viewing panel - so there will be some differences in the output,' he explained. 'In a parallel-run assessment, overall viewing to BARB reported channels is around four per cent higher, comparing the new panel to the existing panel.' BARB - jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising - said that the new system is not a radical overhaul, but rather a refinement of the operation already in place. When implemented next year, it will cover three hundred itemised channels and a selection of minority channels grouped as 'other viewing.' The new panel is designed to give a better representative of the UK population, including more accurate ethnic profiles and a greater understanding of multi-platform homes. A new regional map will ensure that there are no overlapping territories and full coverage of catch-up viewing on Virgin Media and Sky will be factored into ratings figures. Programme viewing via non-TV on-demand platforms will still not be included in the ratings, but Thelin said that a test panel to cover specific PC and laptop viewing could be created in the future. 'While BARB 2010 won't be a radically different service at the outset, flexibility for the future has been created by changes in structure and methodology. We have our eye on the future and know the service will keep on developing,' Thelin said. 'BARB has to be completely satisfied with any techniques before we can consider incorporating them into the core service - we will continue to ensure the integrity of the core service, and to maintain the integrity and clarity of our data.'

Residents of the street which helped inspire the Mr Benn stories have clubbed together to pay tribute to the classic children's character. Festing Road, in Putney, became famous when the illustrator David McKee lived there in the late 1960s and made it Mr Benn's home address. On Saturday, an engraved paving slab will be laid outside the house where McKee created the iconic cartoon. McKee has also revealed that he has just signed a new Mr Benn movie deal. Mr Benn's adventures always began when he visited a magical fancy dress shop. The shop's changing room was a portal to another world which reflected Mr Benn's chosen costume. The stories are best known through the thirteen TV episodes that were first broadcast in the early 1970s, and have often been repeated. McKee, who now lives in France, will be attending Saturday's celebration party. 'I'm very fond of Mr Benn,' McKee told the BBC. 'When you create a character, it's very much like your children - you have to give them a certain amount of attention and a certain amount of liberty as well.'

The BBC's My Story is a major new campaign giving ordinary people the chance to have their true-life stories turned into a book. The BBC are looking for remarkable true-life stories from ordinary members of the public and from all walks of life. Fifteen stories will feature in a major five part TV series. Five people will also win a book deal with Harper Collins and a cash advance of twenty big ones. Nice. This is not a writing competition, however, so you don't even have to be good at writing to take part. The five winning stories will be ghostwritten by the publishers and each of the five winners will have their name on the cover of their own book. This competition is open to everyone over the age of eighteen who doesn't have a current publishing deal. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, all that matters is that the story is true and based on your own life or your family's life. All people have to do to enter is go to the website based at www.bbc.co.uk/mystory, and click on the Add Your Story icon. Or you can write to My Story, c/o PO Box 65655, London W12 2BG. The closing date for entries is 16 December 2009. Get writing.

ITV has taken full control of GMTV after buying Disney's twenty five per cent stake in the breakfast broadcaster for a fee of somewhere in the region of twenty two million pounds. Which, presumably, means that it's somebody at ITV whom is currently putting Kate Garraway over their knee for a damned good hiding. The network now plans to more closely integrate GMTV's breakfast-time programming with its day-time lineup. 'GMTV is the gateway to the ITV day and a perfect fit with ITV's existing day-time programming,' said ITV chief operating officer John Cresswell. Which is another way of saying if you like Jeremy Kyle, you're going to love this. 'It represents an exciting opportunity to create a highly complementary day-time schedule offering great programming from 6am to 6pm.' GMTV has held the national Channel Three breakfast-time licence since 1993, when it outbid the incumbent TV-am for the slot. Prior to today's move, ITV owned seventy five per cent of the broadcaster.

The BBC has dropped plans to broadcast a ballet inspired by impresario Sergei Diaghilev this Christmas – after discovering that it features a deformed Pope who rapes nuns. Yeah ... that's probably wise. The corporation said in October that it would televise In The Spirit Of Diaghilev from Sadler's Wells as part of a season of ballet programmes. The production comprises four acts - each by a groundbreaking choreographer - and was commissioned from Axiom Productions on the basis of 'a broad outline' rather than a detailed breakdown of each. At the time, BBC4 controller Richard Klein said it was 'the combination of one of the most inventive and musically exciting ballet scores being performed by one of Britain's foremost dance groups.' But when performances began in mid-October it emerged that one of the acts, Eternal Damnation To Sancho And Sanchez by Javier de Frutos, centres on 'a group of horny priests and a fictional hunchback Pope, who rapes eunuchs and pregnant nuns.' There were 'prolonged discussions' at the BBC about whether to air the performance and risk offending viewers or effectively censor it because it was unsuitable according to Broadcast magazine. In the event, the BBC has opted for the latter and will air three of the acts on 18 December, but has dropped de Frutos' work altogether. A BBC spokesman denied there was any disagreement over the decision. He said the performance contained material unsuitable for the pre-watershed slot for which it was commissioned and that the BBC was unwilling and unable to edit the performance. 'We're not able to show it after the watershed because the scenes in this work are particularly strong. Even in a post-watershed slot it would not be possible to show the work in its entirety. As is often the case with performance pieces the programme was commissioned before the final details of the work were established.'

Five has announced plans to screen season of CSI repeats as part of their Christmas line-up. Actually, they didn't call it that, they said 'a CSI special' in the press release but, that's basically what it amounts to. Introduced by William Peterson, Grissom's Greatest will feature sixteen of the iconic character's best episodes. Also planned is two-hour festive special Most Shocking Celeb Moments Of The Year, which will look at celebrity stories which have shocked in 2009 - including Katie Price's I'm A Celebrity... exit. Other programmes in the schedule include a screening of Michael Jackson's thirtieth anniversary concert and a back-to-back screening of the first ten episodes of FlashForward, which will go out on one of the digital channels. Five's channel controller Richard Wolfe said of the line-up: 'Christmas on Five is all about over-indulgence - draw the curtains, put an extra log on the fire, crack open the big tin of Quality Street and gorge yourself on our shamelessly entertaining festive fayre.' Sounds lovely, actually (and, terrifyingly, not that dissimilar to a normal Christmas in the Telly Topping household). But then, please remember, Richard is also the man who commissioned Live From Studio Five. So, you know, his opinion - on anything - has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The row between STV and ITV has intensified yet again, after disagreements over whether the latter is providing its licensees with a clean feed of programmes. STV director of broadcasting and regulatory affairs, Bobby Hain, claimed that ITV was 'invading STV's territory' with its constant on-air references to ITV, ITV.com and digital channels such as ITV2. Hain added that the right to a clean feed went back to the 'strong regional roots' of ITV. 'You only have to watch at the weekend to see the amount of references and competitions in programmes to ITV services,' he said. 'As an STV viewer, you should be able to have a relationship with us that is built around the licence, and it should be free from ITV messages and ITV promotions. It's certainly our view that much of the promotion for ITV properties is a breach of the clean feed.' Hain added that STV was reserving its position but was prepared to fight for its entitlements. ITV, however, dismissed Hain's claims, a spokesman saying he was 'inaccurately describing the clean feed obligation as one which entitles STV to receive a transmission feed entirely free of references to ITV. It's important to make clear that it actually requires ITV to provide a feed which is as clean as it was at the time the merger undertakings were given – in short, containing no increase in such references,' he said. Earlier this year, ITV introduced separate end-credit captions for the stv.tv website on Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and agreed to limit references in the ITV News to itv.com. References to itv.com were also taken off the credits. Hain said STV would continue to opt out of ITV dramas to diversify its schedule. The broadcaster has passed on the Christmas dramas An Englishman in New York (cos, hoots mon, there's nae Scots that that), Mr Eleven and Sleep With Me, and is said to be 'still deciding' whether The Prisoner will be shown next year. Presumably working on the assumption that 'they'll never understand it in Greenock.'

Adam Godley has reportedly landed 'a recurring role' on FOX's Dollhouse. According to Entertainment Weekly, the series has recruited the British actor 'for a multi-episode stint.' Well, it can't be that multi-episode, there's only about nine left.

Beat the Star has been dropped from ITV to make way for new entertainment formats. The entertainment show, which was co-produced by Ant and Dec's Gallowgate, and Zodiak's Diverse Production, has run for two series on ITV since April 2008. An ITV spokesman confirmed: 'We have had two successful series of Beat The Star but we will not be commissioning a third series.' For which, read, 'we have had two seasons of Beat The Star but we will not be commissioning a third. You do the math.' The show, hosted by Vernon Kaye, pitted celebrities against members of the public in a series of challenges. The show was originally based on the German format Schlag Den Raab and the first series was filmed in Cologne. The last seven-part series aired in an early Sunday evening slot in April and May this year and averaged around four million viewers. Gallowgate has already been commissioned to make the new six-part family challenge show Push The Button for 2010, which will be hosted by McPartlin and Donnelly.

Twenty Twenty Television, the production company behind The Choir and The World's Strictest Parents, has made two senior management appointments in specially created posts. The Shed Media-owned producer has hired former Windfall Productions head of development Emily Roe as head of specialist factual development. Chief executive Tim Carter said: 'We have experience in specialist factual, especially in history with shows like That'll Teach 'Em for Channel 4, and we want to get back to this. There are also more opportunities now because factual is being looked at in a different way. It's broader because factual and features commissioners are looking at specialist factual more, such as the BBC specialist features department. It also helps that [Emily Roe] has good relationships.' Roe's credits include the Channel 4-National Geography co-production Inside Nature's Giants and Surgery Live!, also for Channel 4. Joining Roe at Twenty Twenty is Dominic Barlow. He was the producer on the current BBC1 period drama Garrow's Law, and has now been appointed as its full-time head of production with responsibility for drama, factual, children's and digital. Carter said: 'With Garrow's Law alone, [Barlow] has proved he can provide value for money. In the current commissioning climate, that is invaluable across our output.'

Channel 4 is considering charging viewers to watch new programmes online before they air on TV as part of plans to break down the barriers between the schedule and on-demand viewing. The move comes as the government's Digital Economy Bill is set to update C4's remit by enshrining a duty to promote digital services and to exercise editorial control over on-demand services. Kevin Lygo, director of content and television, told The Media Festival last week that some staff were 'terrified' the move would affect ratings for the first airing of new programmes, but that the broadcaster needed to adapt to changing viewing habits. 'Why shouldn't we, on shows like Skins or The Inbetweeners, The IT Crowd or Peep Show, put the first episode out [online, for free] and then say, "You can watch the next two episodes now for five pounds or ten pounds?"' Err ... because nobody will pay it? Just a wild stab in the dark. Lygo said there had been 'huge debate' internally about Skins' online premiere, but that it had paid off in the end without substantially eating into viewing figures for the first broadcast. Channel 4's head of new media, Jon Gisby, said the move was one of several plans to offer 'different windows' for viewers' convenience. He said C4 wanted to build on initial success with selling shows to download on iTunes during the thirty-day catch-up window when they were free to view on 4oD. 'At some point, the linear schedule will live alongside a range of viewing options and we have to be ready,' said Gisby. Details of C4's plans come as law firm Olswang and You Gov's annual convergence survey found that one-in-three people are willing to pay for catch-up TV online even when it is free elsewhere. And, if you believe that, dear blog reader, then you'll probably believe anything. The first batch of Channel 4 shows debuted on YouTube's new Shows section last week and the broadcaster plans to add its entire 4oD catch-up to the site in the new year. Separately, former Discovery Networks International vice president of strategy and digital media Keith Underwood has joined Channel 4 as head of commercial strategy.

Yesterday has commissioned a John Nettles-fronted documentary about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during the second world war. During the whole of 2010, Yesterday will broadcast a range of programming about the importance of 1940 in modern history under the banner The Spirit Of 1940. Nettles will co-write and present The Channel Islands At War about the German invasion and subsequent occupation of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. Due to premiere next year, the three hour-long programmes will feature Nettles meeting islanders who experienced the occupation, and also visiting places where evidence of the war can still be seen. For the anniversary campaign, Yesterday has also commissioned Optomen Television's Ration Book Britain, in which What To Eat Now presenter Valentine Warner will explore the food that kept Britain alive during wartime. 'These two commissions give us the perfect opportunity to unearth and capture personal insights that are becoming rarer and rarer, to create two captivating programmes that really add another dimension to recognised historic events such as the occupation of the Channel Islands and rationing,' said UKTV's Jane Rogerson. Yesterday's Adrian Wills added: 'With its massive line-up of significant events such as Dunkirk, food rationing and Churchill becoming Prime Minister, 1940 is arguably the most important year in British history. And one that we believe defined the British spirit for many decades thereafter.'

ITN has signed a ground-breaking deal with China's biggest commercial broadcaster, Shanghai Media Group, which will see ITN archive material transformed into a number of new documentaries. Under the deal, ITN will provide footage on topics ranging from the Chinese-Japanese war, Chinese fashion in the 1920s, the history of Shanghai and the former Portuguese colony in Macao. SMG's internal production units will use the archive as a base to make a range of new programmes for the broadcaster. ITN sales manager, Neil Meadows, said it that the deal was 'hugely significant' in terms of revenue. He added that the deal made SMG one of ITN's top twenty international clients. 'We've had three core focus areas for our international expansion in new territories this year: Broadcasters, education and corporate. Following our deal with the Foreign Language Teaching and Research press earlier this year, this is another box ticked and we're hoping to seal a corporate deal before the end of the year,' he said. ITN already co-produces the daily lifestyle programme The Cool Edition for SMG's English language channel ICS, which features a round-up of what's "cool" in England and China. The agreement was brokered by the media company IPCN, which most recently sold Endemol's Italian studio format The Best Years Of Our Lives to the same broadcaster. Managing director Rebecca Yang said: 'We have built a strong relationship with SMG at a variety of levels. This deal is just the beginning of a long-term and prosperous co-operation.'

Justin Lee Collins' first show for Five under his two-year golden handcuffs deal will be strip scheduled across the Christmas period. The game show Heads Or Tails will run for eleven consecutive nights in mid-December with contestants competing to win one million pounds on the toss of a coin. The Eyeworks UK series includes a celebrity special with Denise Van Outen and Coronation Street's John Thomson competing to win the million for their chosen charities. Richard Woolfe - remember him? - said 'I'm hugely excited that we'll be showing Justin Lee Collins' first Five show this Christmas.' As excited as you were to get Ian Wright to front Live At Studio Five, Richard? 'Heads or Tails is a completely absorbing and unashamedly feel-good game show which will have all the family playing along at home.' Or, you know, not.

Rogue Traders presenter Matt Allwright is to front a peak-time BBC1 consumer travel show designed to expose the worst of the tourist industry. The Secret Tourist is a four episode series by Outline Productions in which Allwright will investigate the experiences of aggrieved British holidaymakers and identify some of the poorest resorts and hotels abroad. Each week, a family of holidaymakers will go undercover to investigate their accommodation and report back. They will be helped by environmental health expert Lisa Ackerly. The investigation will cover all the tourist facilities on offer, from testing the swimming pool water to sampling the food and swabbing the rooms. Allwright will then confront the hotel management with the findings, in his best Rogue Traders style. That's Rogue Traders for you, dear blog reader. Doing its best to shag up Britain's small businesses. I'm sure their mums are all very proud of them. In addition, reporter Carole Machin will explore what else can go wrong elsewhere in the chosen resort and will collect evidence of companies' bad practices before confronting those responsible. The Secret Tourist will also reconstruct - in a wholly believable way, no doubt - scenarios in which tourists are approached by con artists and will reveal the techniques they use to part holidaymakers from their cash. The series was ordered by BBC commissioning editor for features and formats Jo Ball, who should be ruddy well ashamed of herself. The series is scheduled to air in late spring 2010.

The team behind Come Dine With Me and Britain's Best Dish are to produce two new factual formats for ITV's daytime schedule. Controller of popular factual programmes, Jo Clinton-Davis, and director of daytime and factual programmes, Alison Sharman, have ordered the five part series Auction Party and Country House Cooking Contest (also five episodes) for the channel's 2010 schedule from ITV Studios' factual department. Come Dine with Me creator Nell Butler will executive produce both programmes. Auction Party will challenge members of the public to make a big cash profit by hosting a live auction in their living room. With a budget of five hundred pounds and the help of auction expert Tom Keane, each host sets out to find locally acquired antiques, modern collectables and family treasures to sell. Country House Cooking Contest will see Michelin-starred chef John Burton Race help six amateur chefs create challenging dishes to be served up at formal black-tie dinners, drinks receptions and shooting parties at glamorous rural homes. The best chef will be awarded one thousand pounds. Clinton Davis described the commissions as 'original and smart' shows which 'blend factual entertainment, aspiration and rich and engaging take-out.' The commissions follow the success of the third series of Britain's Best Dish. ITV Studios factual controller Tim Miller said: 'Both of the new shows are anchored in proven popular territory – cooking and auctions – but they also feel fresh and exciting. They both have a clear and simple proposition with entertaining and surprising twists.'

Endemol UK has become the country's biggest independent producer after completing the purchase of Tiger Aspect and Darlow Smithson Productions for around thirty million pounds. Endemol UK chief executive Tim Hincks said: 'It was a quick process because that was how IMG wanted it… There is lots to be worked out. We want the management [of Tiger and DSP] to say how we can help. We are not buying something that requires surgery. This is not a fire sale.' Hincks, who stressed that he was not talking about IMG's original acquisition of the two producers in 2006, added that the market has changed since the earlier period of deal-making. 'We didn't take part in the frenzied consolidation at that time – who was it good for? Buyers overpaid and it put huge strain on management. But this is the right time and the right deal.'

Erin McNaught had to undergo emergency surgery earlier in the week after severing her finger in a motorbike accident. The model and Neighbours actress - who played Sienna Cammeniti in the Australian soap - fell on a dirt bike that she was riding and reportedly got her hand trapped in its spinning wheel. McNaught's spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph: 'An electronic dirt bike fell on her. She is having a major operation to reattach the finger, reconnect nerves and blood vessels in the finger that were severed in the accident.'

Home and Away producers have reportedly revealed that they are considering a return to the UK. Director Cameron Welsh wrote on the Australian soap's website that he would love to film some episodes in British again. 'I was fortunate enough to be involved in the last shoot and I know everyone who went along had a great time,' he said, adding: 'We'd be open to shooting anywhere in the world if the storylines permitted.' The Summer Bay cast, who celebrated the show's twenty first anniversary earlier this year, have decamped to the UK before, including a stint in Shropshire in the 1990s.

A first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species has been sold for over one hundred thousand pounds after it was found in a family's toilet. The auction of the influential 1859 work was timed to coincide with the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its publication. Margaret Ford, director and head of books and manuscripts at Christie's, said: 'We are thrilled to have seen so much interest for the book leading up to the auction where clients competed in the room and by telephone, with an anonymous telephone bidder winning the battle and acquiring it for one hundred and three thousand two hundred and fifty pounds.' The book, one of one thousand two hundred and fifty first-edition copies, was reportedly bought by the Oxford-based family for a few shillings around forty years ago and kept in a bookcase in a guest toilet in their home. According to the auction house, the previous owners' son-in-law realised the importance of the book when he spotted a picture of its spine at a Darwin exhibition.

Brian Blessed is to star as Henry VIII in a series of sketches called Henry 8.0, from Monkey, for BBC Comedy's on-line platform Comedy Extra. Set in the present day, Henry is alive and well and living in a suburban semi with his long-suffering wife, Catherine Parr. Shot from the perspective of his webcam, the sketches show Henry addicted to the internet and have him do battle with on-line shopping, downloading music as well as internet dating. Keith Telly Topping actually saw the first one today at the event I was attending. And it's very good. Brian Blessed said: 'When I got the scripts I just wanted to do it immediately. It's completely magical and original.' Written by Mark Davison and Glen Long, Henry 8.0 starts on-line on Thursday 26 November. The show was commissioned by BBC executives Simon Lupton and Martin Trickey. Lupton said: 'We thought this was a terrific idea which was very sharply written and well observed. There really was only one person who could play Henry and, fortunately, he shared our enthusiasm and agreed to do it. Monkey have done a great job and we are thrilled to have Brian and these pieces on Comedy Extra.'

A man accused of trying to rob a supermarket in Portugal got stuck for eleven hours with his trousers down after they slipped off as he attempted to get free. Shop owner Antonio Oliveira arrived at work to find the unnamed twenty two-year-old lodged in the gap with his legs and bottom facing the street, Sky News has reported. Oliveira said: 'He lost the support on the inside and also on the outside because he could hardly touch the floor with the tips of his toes. He had his bottom out, it really was a bad day for him.' An Almancil resident added: 'Half in, half out, the poor guy wanted to move and couldn't, and without trousers. The things people do.' Only, they probably said it in Portugaleese.

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