Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Liquidator

The acclaimed science-fiction and fantasy author Neil Gaiman has confirmed that he will be writing an episode of Doctor Who for Matt Smith's second series as The Doctor in 2012. Gaiman broke the news in a message sent to SFX magazine as part of his acceptance speech for winning Best Comic at the annual SFX Awards. 'Over the years SFX, and its readers and their votes in the polls, have always been very kind to me,' noted Neil. 'I thought I'd return the favour with what used to be called, in journalistic circles when I was a boy, "a scoop." As anyone who's read my blog knows, I'm a big fan of a certain long-running British SF TV series. One that I started watching - from behind the sofa - when I was three. And while I know it's cruel to make you wait for things, in about fourteen months from now, which is to say, not in the upcoming season but early in the one after that, it's quite possible that I might have written an episode. And if I had, it would originally have been called The House of Nothing. But it definitely isn't called that any more.' Gaiman's works in various media include the astonishing Sandman comic series for DC (a literary masterpiece by any judgement of what constitutes such a description), Stardust, American Gods, Coraline and The Anansi Boys. His most notable TV work was the 1996 BBC series adaptation of his novel Neverwhere. He has won a Hugo Award and the 2009 Newbery Medal. His involvement in Doctor Who has been widely rumoured for some time as he is known to be friendly with Doctor Who's new showrunner, Steve Moffat. So, it would seem we've moved from Russell's alleged Gay Agenda to Steven's very obvious Gaiman agenda. Thank you, thank you. Try the veal. Anyway, this news greatly pleases yer Keith Telly Topping who has met (and shared a panel with) Neil - at CONvergeance in Minneapolis in 2000. I'm ashamed to say I got him to sign a handful of issues of The Sandman that I just happened to have carried with me across three continents, though we did have a very interesting conversation about what a random selection of issues of that particular comic can tell one about the hidden secrets of the owner. 'Issue one - elitist snob; The Sound of Her Wings - likes little goth girls!; Collectors - potential serial killer; Men of Good Fortune - closet romantic; the Shakespeare one - has grand delusions of literacy; Dreams of a Thousand Cats - likes cats; The Parliament of Rooks - bloody weirdo!' etc. Spot on analysis, actually. A thoroughly sharp and witty chap Neil, and - obviously - it goes without saying, a quite brilliant writer of imaginative and classy prose. Anyway, this news has fair made yer Keith Telly Topping's weekend.

EastEnders entrepreneur Jack Branning is to be shot in an unexpected story twist over the coming months. Well, it's not unexpected now, obviously, because I've just told you. But, anyway, the former policeman - played by thirty eight-year-old Scott Maslen - becomes embroiled in the messy misdemeanours of one of the Square's younger residents. Jack will be quite literally caught in the line of fire when the situation quickly spirals out of control. He's rushed to hospital after the shooting and his family are left wondering if he'll pull through. Which he will. So, that's saved you the trouble of watching it all, now. 'An Albert Square source' told the Digital Spy website: 'Billie Jackson's back in Walford for a reason - and it soon becomes apparent that he's hiding a gun from his family. Could Billie be responsible? Is somebody else out for revenge? Or is it all an innocent mistake?' Meanwhile, another 'Walford insider' told the Daily Star on Sunday: 'During his time in the square he's made a number of enemies. But it could well be someone from his dodgy past that catches up with him. And then there's his love life. He's slept with sisters Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell, as well as their cousin Sam. So there's no reason why it couldn't be a crime of passion...' The most important question to ask at this point, however, is are the Albert Square source and the Walford insider one and the same? And, if they are, why are they going under different aliases? An EastEnders spokesperson (what, another one? How many have they got over there?) said: 'We never comment on future storylines.' The scenes, which were reportedly filmed recently at Elstree, are due to be screened in late March or early April. And, if they're not, you know who to blame.

And, in other EastEnders news, Shane Richie is reported to be about to reprise his role as one of the soap's most popular characters, Alfie Moon, later this year. The forty five-year-old actor was last seen in the BBC soap on Christmas Day 2005 when Alfie and his wife Kat (Jessie Wallace) drove off into the sunset bound for America in their Ford Capri. Richie is due to return to filming in the autumn and will make his reappearance in episodes that will be broadcast toward the end of the year. Speaking of his comeback, Richie said: 'It's an honour and a privilege to be asked back to the iconic series of EastEnders which is at the top of its game! I'm looking forward to finding out what Alfie has been up to over the last few years but more importantly - what the future has in store for him.' Controller of BBC drama production John Yorke commented: 'Alfie is one of EastEnders' most loved and iconic characters, so he's bound to get a very warm welcome from viewers when he returns to Walford. We've had so many new and interesting characters settle into Albert Square since Alfie departed that it's going to make for fantastic viewing when one of the show's most familiar faces rides back into the East End.'

A regional TV station played the wrong tape of a weather forecast which showed the presenter swearing earlier this week. The tape of Sara Thornton was mistakenly broadcast by Anglia TV during a break in the out-takes show All New TV's Naughtiest Blunders at 10.30pm on Tuesday night. The twenty eight-year-old stumbled over her words and could be heard to say 'bugger,' and 'fuck it,' before regaining her composure and completing the forecast. Anglia TV said it had been a mistake and revealed that the tape of her rehearsing had been aired instead of the polished final version. The station received a number of complaints reports the Daily Record. A spokesman said: 'Because of technical problems the wrong tape was played. It was never meant to have been played. It was a back-up tape and the presenter is very embarrassed about the whole situation. It was a regrettable accident and we apologise for any offence caused. There are usually a number of takes to get it right and unfortunately there appears to have been a mistake in this case. It would have been human error.'

Louis Walsh has reportedly claimed that Piers Morgan is not qualified to judge Britain's Got Talent. Walsh gave his verdict on the former News Of The World editor after filling in for Simon Cowell on the ITV show's judging panel. Cowell was forced to take two days off earlier this week after contracting 'flu. According to the Sunday Mirror, Walsh described Morgan as 'a poor man's Cowell. He's absolutely desperate to be like him, he even acts like him. He knows nothing about music – he's just a journalist. He's never had a hit in the charts so how can he judge music? I honestly can't believe how he gets away with it,' Walsh said. A source said that the Irish pop guru is energised after a month off in Miami and 'enjoyed shaking things up' on the show. Morgan responded to the criticism by saying: 'I sold 2.8 billion newspapers. That's rather more than he has sold records.' Yes, Piers. You also got sacked from one, I seem to remember.

Julie Benz's role in Desperate Housewives has reportedly been extended. Benz, who plays a former stripper called Robin, originally signed up to appear in three episodes but will now stay at the drama for an undetermined length of time. Executive producer Bob Daily told Zap2It website: 'We've been enjoying [Benz] so much. We've extended her at least one episode and possibly more beyond that.'

Football financier Keith Harris has been approached by wealthy investors to broker a takeover of Manchester United. The Manchester United's Supporters' Trust has held meetings with influential club supporters interested in exploring the options for a change of ownership. And Harris says that the time has now come for supporters of The Scum to buy the club back from the Glazer family. 'You sense that the momentum is gathering and this time these fans truly mean it,' Harris told BBC Sport. 'I think they are saying that enough is enough, there is too much gearing on this football club and it is unhealthy.'

A Polish man appeared in court Saturday charged with harassing the actress Keira Knightley, two days after being arrested outside a London theatre where Keira is currently performing. Marek Daniluk, forty one, from North London, was arrested on Thursday outside the Comedy Theatre where Knightley has a role in Moliere's The Misanthrope. Police arrested Daniluk on suspicion of harassment and he was charged on Friday, before a court appearance in Central London on Saturday. His trial date was set for 4 June. Keira, the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, has previously complained of being harassed, claiming two years ago that she had five stalkers.

Darren Day's wife has reportedly moved out of the couple's home and accused the ex-TV presenter of sleeping with his former-fiancée, Suzanne Shaw. Stephanie Dooley claimed that the one-time couple, who have a son named Corey, spent the night in each other's company six weeks ago and rubbished their insistence that nothing had happened. Dooley told the Sunday Mirror that Shaw was always a third party in their marriage. 'I'm a mum so I would never stop a man talking to the mother of his children. But it seemed excessive. She would call four to five times a night, often late at night. In the last few months he would say he needed to go into another room to talk privately. He said it was easier to talk to her alone,' she claimed. A spokesman for Shaw, who is married to radio DJ Jason King, said that she allowed him to stay the night after he became stuck with no way of getting home. He slept in Corey's room with Corey. Suzanne's friends were present when Darren retired alone to his son's room for the night,' the spokesman added. Dooley said that she had tried everything to make the marriage work, but that it ultimately 'ended in heartbreak. Darren is his own worst enemy. I thought I could save him and I tried everything I could to do that. But the only person who can save Darren is Darren himself,' she said. 'I need to move on with my life. I can't do any more for Darren. He needs help. He said he was clean but the truth is he was drinking and using drugs throughout our ­relationship.'

A twenty four-year-old Warwickshire woman was reportedly asked for proof of her age when she tried to buy a slice of quiche from Tesco. Christine Cuddihy thought the cashier was joking when she refused to let the sale go through because she 'looked under twenty one.' Eventually, as the shoppers queueing behind her grew restless, the embarrassed office worker had to produce her driving licence to prove her age. 'The girl told me: "You don't look over twenty one. I need to see some proof of age",' Cuddihy told the Daily Mail. 'I told her I was certain the proof of age laws do not apply to quiche but she just said: "We have to be really strict now and this applies to quiche bought over the counter." It was very embarrassing, what on earth is dangerous about a slice of quiche? It was rush-hour and the shop was really busy. I was so insulted that they thought I couldn't be trusted with a harmless snack.' The incident happened at the Tesco store in Cannons Park, Coventry. Cuddihy, from nearby Leamington Spa, was on her way home from work when she called in to buy the quiche for her tea. Tesco has subsequently apologised for the incident. A spokesman for the supermarket said shoppers did not have to prove their age to buy quiche. 'We're at a loss to say what happened here,' the spokesman said. 'We couldn't find the staff member who asked for the ID. Age-related prompts at till are set centrally and there obviously isn't one on quiche.'

A third of Britons believe that Family Guy's Peter Griffin is the leader of the British National Party, a study has found. One in three members of the public matched a picture of Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, with the name of Peter Griffin, star of the cartoon sitcom. The survey of almost fifteen hundred people also found that more were able to identify Alex Reid, the new husband of Katie Price, than recognised the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The survey, by the money-saving website MyVoucherCodes, also showed that forty one per cent of those taking part identified a photograph of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, as the Dragons' Den entrepreneur Peter Jones. And Katia Ivanova, the former girlfriend of Ronnie Wood, proved to be more recognisable than a number of leading politicians. Mark Pearson, the managing director of the website, said: 'The fact that Katia Ivanova, who is famous for having slept with a Rolling Stone, is better known that Jack Straw and Alan Johnson put together is indicative of the fact that the public are heavily influenced by the media. It isn't for us to judge whether or not this is right or wrong, but put forward the facts: one of which being that a third of people think that Peter Griffin is the leader of the BNP.'

Alastair Campbell has emotionally denied that Tony Blair misled Parliament over the intelligence in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war. Campbell had to take a moment to compose himself after being asked the question on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. He said the subject kept being brought up by those wanting 'to settle scores.' The former Communications Director also said he did not think Gordon Brown had intended to cry during an interview with Piers Morgan recently recorded for ITV. It has been reported by the Mail on Sunday that the PM shed tears as he talked of the death of his daughter Jennifer, during an interview for Piers Morgan's Life Stories. Campbell advised Brown before the programme which is being broadcast next weekend. He told the Andrew Marr Show that with the election approaching the only way for politicians to escape people's perceptions of spin was to be 'genuinely authentic.' Campbell said Brown had become emotional in private when talking about his daughter, who died in 2002 ten days after being born prematurely. Although he had not seen the interview being recorded, he said he did not believe the Prime Minister had gone on television 'intending to cry.' The PM's wife, Sarah Brown, posted a message on Twitter on Sunday to a well-wisher who said they had been at the recording and hoped she was okay. Mrs Brown said: 'Thank you for coming to watch the interview too - it was a great audience, so warm.' Campbell, who as Mr Blair's Communications Director was often seen to be at odds with then chancellor Gordon Brown, said he had been advising the PM recently on things such as Prime Minister's Questions. He said he would not be returning to the work as a full-time job, but has been in the spotlight recently with the publication of a novel and an appearance before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war. During the emotionally charged interview on BBC1, Andrew Marr asked him about Tony Blair's assertion that he believed the case about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction was proved 'beyond doubt' by the intelligence. Marr asked: 'If beyond doubt is not established in the intelligence when this inquiry looks at the intelligence, does it then follow, yes or no, the Prime Minister misled Parliament?' Campbell replied that Mr Blair 'did not mislead Parliament' before being pressed on whether that was the case even if the intelligence did not confirm the assertion. He began to reply but paused after becoming emotional. He said: 'I've been through a lot on this Andrew. And I've been through a lot of that inquiry ... and ... Tony Blair, I think is a totally honourable man.' Campbell said the media was obsessed with 'settling your scores and setting your own agenda. You did it again this morning, which is probably why I'm a bit upset, this constant sort of vilification. You compared the novel to the dossier, that it was all fiction and all the rest of it. It's not.' He added: 'I'm sorry if I do get upset about this but I was there alongside Tony, I know how that decision weighed on him, I know the care that we took.' Campbell said he understood why people were 'upset' about the decision to become involved in the conflict. But, he added: 'The reason people are going over it again and again and again is because those who do disagree with the judgment that Tony Blair made actually don't want to see the other side of the story.' Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking later on the show, said he was sorry that 'Mr Campbell was upset' by the questions. but 'we are all upset by what happened in Iraq.'

And, finally, in today's All Politicians Are Scum sub-section the three Labour MPs and one Tory peer currently facing fraud charges over their expenses claims are expected to argue that they cannot be tried in a criminal court. Their lawyers are reported to believe that their case is covered by parliamentary privilege which traditionally protects Members of Parliament from being sued for what they say within the Commons. The politicians face charges of false accounting under section seventeen of the Theft Act of 1968. If found guilty they face a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment. MPs Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, David Chaytor and peer Lord Hanningfield - who are charged with false accounting - all deny the allegations.

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