Saturday, March 13, 2010

Week Twelve: Guilt Tripping

Hadrian's Wall was lit from end to end on Saturday evening by a team of five hundred and fifteen volunteers holding flaming torches. The line of light followed the eighty four-mile national walking trail, which shadows the original route of the wall - built between AD122 and AD128 - spanning the entire breadth of northern England. Volunteers, each responsible for a gas-powered beacon, stood at two hundred and fifty metre intervals. The first torch was lit at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend, at quarter to six on Saturday evening just as it was getting dark. The fires then progressed up the Fossway, down Shields Road, through central Newcastle, along the Quayside, up Westgate Road and down the West Road to Denton. And, thence ... onward west. The final beacon was ignited at Bowness-on-Solway, on the Cumbrian coast, about an hour-and-a-half later, with the entire line of light remaining illuminated for nearly an hour thereafter. Organisers described the response from volunteers as 'overwhelming,' with people from as far afield as Canada and Australia signing up to take part. Thousands of would-be modern legionnaires used Facebook and Twitter to argue why they should be among those chosen to light the beacons. Reasons included intimate details of romantic trysts at particular spots, anniversaries and a simple love of the dramatic landscape, especially where the wall runs along the escarpment of the Whin Sill between Housesteads and Vindolanda. Viewing areas along the central line of the wall had been sold out for some months, and places were also snapped up at related events, including an organised walk from Haltwhistle and a cycling tour of the ramparts by a number of people described as 'cheese enthusiasts.' Well, the Romans had cheese, so why not? Hadrian's Wall Heritage said that visitors were best advised to head for two major events – theatre and son et lumière at Segedunum and a torchlit fancy-dress procession with acrobats dangling from a heliosphere balloon above the centre of Carlisle. Well, they're a funny lot in Carlisle, it has to be said! A rehearsal last month showed that the line of lights could be seen from up to ten miles away, set off by the darkness cloaking the sparsely inhabited sections of the wall. Beacons in less dramatic stretches, including fragments of wall among the housing estates of Newcastle close to Stately Telly Topping Manor, were also well attended and highly visible. The event followed a successful 'regarrisoning' of the wall last year, with actors and role-play enthusiasts playing the cosmopolitan imperial army that defended Rome's most northerly border. Research on DNA and stone inscriptions has shown that troops from Spain, modern Romania and even Northern Africa were involved, and that some of these settled to raise families locally in the vicus settlements that sprang up around forts on the wall like Chesters, Housesteads and Birdoswald. Linda Tuttiett, chief executive of Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd, which has led the project, said: 'After many months of planning we will now be seeing this stunning world heritage site illuminated by hundreds of lights. We have been delighted by how much enthusiasm this event has generated, with people coming from across the UK and overseas to take part as illuminators or just to watch one of the events.' The spectacle, to mark British Tourism Week, required the co-operation of more than one hundred and twenty local landowners. And, you can see some footage of the spectacular here. Vetatur Fumare, bonny lad.

The ONE Show presenter Christine Bleakley completed her water-ski challenge across the English Channel on Friday in one hour and forty minutes. Bleakley raised thousands of pounds for Sport Relief by crossing the twenty one-mile busy shipping lane to France. On completing the task, she said: 'I can't believe I've actually done it. It was really tough.' Only, you know, she said it in a more Christine Bleakley kind of way. Like somebody talking - not unattractively, let it be said - through a mouth full of gobstoppers, basically. Strong winds meant that the thirty one-year-old, who fell into the water eight times during the challenge, faced sub-zero temperatures all the way across. 'The water was freezing and having to get up after every fall was exhausting,' she added. 'Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me along the way, it really kept me going out there.' The task had been delayed several times because of poor weather and the presenter still had to compete with arctic winds during the ordeal. Before setting off, Bleakley had admitted to being 'petrified' as she is said to be 'frightened of water' and is 'not a strong swimmer.' Bleakley had been in training for just a few weeks and has only recently started water-skiing. She decided to take on what she described as the 'crazy' task for Sport Relief after visiting East Africa last year. 'I went to Uganda where I met Hajjara, a teenage girl carrying the weight of the world on her young shoulders,' Bleakley said. 'After losing her parents to AIDS, she's been left all alone to care for her younger siblings.' Bleakley's progress was followed on the official Sport Relief Twitter feed. Shortly after she began the challenge, it said: 'Seventh fall - seven miles done. Cold, hard, slog.' Messages of support for the presenter were been posted on The ONE Show's website. Eddie Cheever said: 'You are crazy and amazing all at the same time.' And David Anthony called her 'an inspiration.' Footage of her challenge was subsequently shown on The ONE Show episode on Friday evening. A host of stars have been taking part in sporting challenges for the charity. Earlier this month a relay of celebrities including David Walliams, Fearne Cotton and Davina McCall completed a bike ride from John O'Groats to Land's End. Which, I guess, is as good a place as any to start this week's Top Telly Tips:

Friday 19 March
It should be one crazy mother of a night on Sport Relief 2010 - 7:00 BBC1. You get the feeling that someone behind the scenes had a thoroughly enjoyable game of TV consequences, tearing celebs out of their comfort zones and planting them in places where you'd least expect. How about Match of the Day does Masterchef? Thus Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson try their hands at competitive cooking watched over by a vastly unimpressed John and Gregg. What about Dragons' Den does Strictly? Yeah, we can probably handle Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones taking to the dance floor. Or, The Choir's Gareth Malone getting a bunch of sporting heroes to sing together? So long as it's 'Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough,' I'm guessing that one should work too. Then, there's a mini-episode of Ashes to Ashes starring Michael Parkinson and balding unemployed magician Paul Daniels. And so on. In among the sketches will be updates on the sporting challenges taken up by celebs, from Christine Bleakley trying to walk on water to Eddie Izzard's staggering forty three marathon feat. And of course some moving appeal films will be aired to remind us of the point of the whole thing - to dig deep and see if we can collectively put the funds raised well over the twenty million pounds mark. Although, those are usually the bits that people who've record the night will fast-forward straight through.

Prog Rock Britannia: An Observation in Three Movements - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary in BBC4's usually excellent occasional Britannia series, about the single worst thing that ever happened to music in this country. Progressive rock. And, of the generation of horse-shite, earache-inducing bands that were involved in it. From the sad, sick, embarrassing international success stories of Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson and Jethro Tull to the trials and tribulations of some lesser-known bands such as Caravan and Egg, this documentary covers all the six/eleven time signatures and pretentious lyrics about elves, goblins and alien visitations you could possibly want. To avoid. Just give me a gun, someone. Did we really fight the Punk Wars for this? They should all have been forced to get their hair cut and spend a couple of years in the army. Anyway, the film is structured in three parts, charting the birth, rise and exceptionally satisfying decline of a movement famed for its complex-to-the-point-of-showing-off musical structures, utterly pointless technical virtuosity and strange, and quintessentially English, literary influences. Pass the Valium. Pass out. True story ladies and gentlemen. Yer Keith Telly Topping has, on top of his computer monitor, a copy of a cassette of Genesis Live (you know, the one with Peter Gabriel sporting a purple pyramid on his head on the cover). I keep it there for one, very specific, reason. So that if ever I get inflated ideas above my station, I can look at that and think, 'you wanker, remember that once upon a time, you actually paid good money for that.' I'd recommend all dear blog readers do the same - with a record of your choice, of course - that you look at, occasionally, and think 'what was I on when I bought that?'

Dom Joly and the Black Island - 7:30 Channel 4 - is something of a curious caper that is chiefly worth watching because, for lovers of the Tintin books, pretty much anything which involves the adventures of Georges Hergé's boy reporter is worth a look. Comedian and columnist Dom Joly - someone whose shows yer Keith Telly Topping has rather mixed feelings about - would like to 'become Tintin, to live out my boyhood fantasy.' So he retraces Tintin's footsteps in his Scottish adventure, The Black Island. But first, Joly visits Brussels, where he gets kitted out in plus-fours and sky-blue jumper, dyes his hair, and learns that Hergé travelled very little, relying on photos to re-create the far-flung countries featured in his books. There are some questionably meandering interludes where Joly pretends to steal a Snowy-like dog and tries to recruit a bearded sailor to accompany him, before he heads for the real-life inspiration for his tale - the enchanting Isle of Barra. One of his more enjoyable conceits, this.

Saturday 20 March
As politicians over the last few years have become less and less charismatic and more and more spectacularly unlikeable, sleazy, corrupt and arrogant something really rather curious has happened to one of their former number. One of the least likeable politicians of the last twenty years quit Westminster, started making very personal TV shows and suddenly turned out to be - or, at least, appear to be - quite a decent bloke. How on Earth did that happen? Michael Portillo has lived and worked in Westminster for much of his life, but now he thinks British politics is in dire straits. And, he's probably dead right. So could the answer lie in giving more power to the people? In Michael Portillo: Power to the People - 8:30 BBC2 - the former example of Thatcherism Made Flesh sets outs on a journey of discovery to find how we could all be given more of a say on the issues which matter to us - from directly elected mayors, to enabling parents to set up their own schools, to residents taking over the local village shop, to electing our own police chiefs. As in his recent shows on subjects as diverse as the railway, anger management and suicide, Old Portaloo is personable, reasonable, articulate and thoughtful and comes over as a really rather decent chap with some interesting, if not always practical, ideas on involving people in the political process at the very time when cynicism and apathy are spreading faster than the nation's wastelines. If he'd been like this when he was in parliament, he could have been prime minister by now. And, thus, probably the most hated man in the country. Seems you made the right choice, Michael.

Postponed from last week, to make way for the rugby, Requiem For Detroit and highlights from Lambing Live (no, really), Qi XL - 9:15 BBC2 - is the first of the episodes from earlier in the series in which the extended repeat wasn't scheduled at the time. So, get ready - and this time, I actually mean it - for fifteen minutes more than you saw last December of Stephen Fry glancing gleefully at gardens and various other subjects starting with the letter G. He does so with a 'dream team' panel of Davey Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Dara O Briain and Alan Davies. It's one of the best episodes of the latest series so, if you missed it first time around, definitely make a date tonight. I know I said that last week but, trust me, this time I don't think the Radio Times schedulers are messing with my head.

Sunday 21 March
The Restoration Man - 9:00 Channel 4 - sees George Clarke travelling the British Isles meeting people who want to restore the nation's architectural treasures. Dear old Mark Horton - affable Coast and Time Team regular though, let us never forget as minus point, the archaeological consultant on Bonekickers - has bought an eighteenth century folly and plans to convert it, himself, into a luxurious family home. Bath Lodge is a derelict shell with no access road or utilities. George turns detective to uncover the history behind the mysterious building. Yeah, I like the sound of this. Although it's a bit close to that thing Griff Rhys Jones did a few years ago. Still, I'd sooner have this on Channel 4 than Big Brother any day.

Yer Keith Telly Topping went overboard on Wonders of the Solar System - 9:00 BBC2 - when it started a couple of weeks ago and he's pleased to report that the first couple of episodes were absolutely fantastic. Amiable, enthusiastic professor Brian Cox - you know, him who used to be in D:Ream, and a definite contender for Neil Oliver's crown of the loveliest hair on TV - describes how the laws of nature have carved wonders across the solar system. In tonight's episode, he reveals how something as flimsy as an envelope of gas - an atmosphere - can create some of the most wondrous sights in the Solar System. He takes a sky-ride in an Electric Lightning and flies eighteen kilometres up into the thinner reaches of Earth's atmosphere, where he sees the darkness of space above him and the thin blue line without which we would all be dead below. It's for stuff like this that I pay my licence fee. More, please.

Monday 22 March
FlashForward - 9:00 Five - returns, after three months away just a few days after it came back in the US. It's in trouble, if you've been watching so far, I'm not going to sugar-coat this. Two showrunner producers have came and went, the ratings have been pretty dreadful following an impressive start and rumours abound that the series might not even make it as far as the promised twenty two episodes, let alone to any further seasons beyond. If you haven't caught it so far then this might be your last chance, frankly. Which, overall, would be a shame. It's a sort of sci-fi drama about a mysterious event that causes the entire population of the world to black out and experience visions of six months into the future. In this episode, Mark (the overly serious Joseph Fiennes) is suspended from duty at the FBI and must talk to a therapist in order to regain his badge. Demetri (the excellent Mark Cho) teams up with CIA agent Vogel to continue the search for Lloyd (Jack Davenport). Simon (Dominic Monaghan) attempts to hack into Lloyd's computer in search of clues. And lovely lesbian Janis (Christine Woods) learns some family secrets about Simon. Confused? You will be. But stick with it, it needs all the viewers it can get.

And, speaking of returning US favourites, House - 9:00 Sky1 - is also back tonight with an episode that yer Keith Telly Topping actually saw a preview disc of shortly before Christmas. That's because, he's ace. Sorry, it's just that I get so little chance to blow my own trumpet... Anyway, the hit US medical drama about a maverick, anti-social New Jersey doctor is back. The plot: House and the team try to treat an ailing college football star just as Foreman's brother makes a surprise visit to Princeton‑Plainsboro. With hilarious consequences.

A particular favourite of all of us on the Top Telly Tips slot is The Gadget Show - 8:00 Five. The consumer technology series presented by Jason Bradbury, Jon Bentley, Ortis Deley and the divine Goddess that is Suzi Perry. In the latest episode, the presenters go up against a group of sport stars and experts in a variety of fields to see whether advances in technology actually can help amateurs to beat professionals at their own games.

And, a week's worth of Top Telly Tips wouldn't be cricket without another mention for yer Keith Telly Topping's current favourite show on TV (well, at least until 3 April) MasterChef - 8:30 BBC1. Sarky bleeders John Torode and Gregg Wallace continue their search for the country's best amateur cook, searching among the detritus of middle-class chancers, over-amibitious students and blubbling desperate housewives who waft through the studio like flour in the wind. The heats so far have produced some exceptional cooks, but only the best will make it through to the semi-final stage. They face three tough tests - they must design an exceptional three-course meal that will impress the judges, but initially they must prove they have the skill, palate, talent, commitment and passion to change their lives and pursue a future in food. D'you know the bit that I really love? It's when they have the quarter-finalists out for a skill tests and say, for example, 'would you like to cook a meat dish or a fish dish'? I'm desperate the next time Sunderland Stacey's on there for the question to be 'would you like a cake or a meringue'? And, for the reply to be, 'no, you're right, I'd love a cake.' What? What?

Tuesday 23 March
The Delicious Miss Dahl - 8:30 BBC2 - sees Sophie Dahl revelling in the joys of cooking for one on a purely selfish day. Not a shellfish day, dear blog reader, that's in store for a future episode, I imagine. Sophie's day begins at breakfast with her take on an omelette Arnold Bennett (you can't make it without breaking eggs, apparently) and the preparation of peanut butter fudge. Yummy. Then there's a buffalo mozzarella bruschetta with shaved fennel and courgette salad for lunch. Finally, it's dirty martinis and a dinner of roasted halibut with spinach and watercress sauce, healthy sweet potato chips and wild mushrooms, followed by rich chocolate pots with brandy soaked cherries. The only satisfaction to be taken from this, dear blog reader, is that the amount of calories Sohpie is cramming into her gob - if this really is an average day in her life - will mean that her figure, like her looks, will be merely transitory. And then shortarse Jamie Cullum will be out of there faster than a descending D minor.

Supersize vs Superskinny - 8:00 Channel 4 - is a magazine programme examining a variety of food fascism issues around weight and body image, presented by accomplished oboist Dr Christian Jessen and Anna Richardson. Obese Julie Treadeagle swaps diets with underweight caffeine addict Jade Potts. Don't do it, girls - you're being used for the dubious entertainment of a few hundred thousand scum voyeurs. Be fat (or skinny) and effing proud of it and tell Christian and Anna to take their concerned sinister agenda and ram it in the fridge. Away from giving these poor girls a really rotten self-image, Anna investigates the latest diet products and fads. I hope you choke on a cough-sweet.

Children's Hospital - 7:30 ITV - is a documentary series set, not entirely unexpectedly, in the brand new Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, which is now the largest hospital for children in the UK. In the first episode, we meet seven-year-old Jack Norfolk who faces his twenty second operation. He needs surgery on his hip bone which has been damaged by disease and is preventing him from walking. Jack has a history of medical problems from kidney disease to diabetes which complicates matters. Also, in Accident and Emergency a child has an orange pip stuck in her nose, and a five-year old has a nasty gash on his head. You know what's a really good cure for getting an orange pip out of the nose? Not sticking it up there in the first place.

Wednesday 24 March
We in Britain spend more on chocolate each year than investors spend on gold - true story - but as Easter approaches, how much do we know about where it comes from or how it's made? Chocolate - The Bitter Truth - 9:00 BBC1 - sees Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon going undercover as a cocoa trader in West Africa and discovering children as young as seven working long hours on cocoa farms. He buys a tonne of cocoa made with child labour, and sees how easy it is to sell it into the supply chain which leads to our high streets. And, presumably, having made a tidy profit, he then invests it in Kraft shares, buys a large bar of Bournville and settles down for a nice night in watching EastEnders. Jesus, it's getting worse - you can't eat or drink or wear anything these days without being made to feel guilty about it. I like chocolate. It's very nice and has got me through some really dark times in my life. I really don't want to have images of poor little starving African children in my head when I'm tucking into a Terry's Chocolate Orange, thank you very much. It's as bad as when I used to go along to union meetings in the 1980s and I'd pull my sandwiches only to be told by some shrill Milli-Tant clone 'you don't eat Mother's Pride, do you? Don't you know it's milled from the blood of babies in Sowato?' Listen, I'll be in the kitchen eating ice cream if anybody wants me. Unless that's being used to prop up the Mugabe dictatorship, of course.

Having recommended Inside John Lewis - 9:00 BBC2 - a couple of weeks ago, I only went and watched the first episode and was rather blown away by how good it was. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a fly-on-the-wall documentary series going behind the scenes of John Lewis - one of Britain's biggest and best known department stores. Episode three looks towards the future. John Lewis is expanding its fashion offering online and we learn what their customers are expecting from a brave new world of twenty first century shopping. The big question facing John Lewis's management is whether they can embrace this online world without compromising on what it considers to be the business's holy grail - personal and specialist service. I loved the bit in the first episode where a lady, out shopping with her mother said 'I think everyone goes to John Lewis. For your knickers, school uniform and saucepans.' Her mother then lauded the shop's express curtain-making service. 'God made the world in seven days, and John Lewis will make your curtains!' And I liked Andy, the managing director who gave as good as he got in every interview. This has been a really good little show - touching and occcasionally very funny. Again, a question we ask so often, where else in the world, and indeed, where else in Britain other than on the BBC, would you get a show like this.

In Time Shift - 9:00 BBC4 - Tom Baker narrates a film telling the story of the rise of the popular loaf and how it has shaped the way we eat. That's two bread puns in the opening line, just in case you weren't paying attention because you were thinking about dead babies, or something. I don't blame you, dear blog reader but, trust me, that's what they want you to be thinking about instead of a nice doorstop of thick crust, smothered in Lurpack. For centuries, the ordinary people ate brown bread though that was about as easy on the teeth as a brick. Softer, refined white bread was so expensive to make that it became the sole preserve of the nobs. But then, wouldn't you just know it, almost as soon as affordable white bread was achieved, dietary experts - you know, people who use the word 'doctor' in their title who aren't, actually, doctors ... or Time Lords, for that matter - began to trumpet the virtues of brown. Unsurprisingly, the British public proved reluctant to give up their white loaves having seen the job the poor Hovis delivery boy had getting them their daily bread. So, perhaps we should forgiven Gillian Keith her - many - trespasses. Not today, though.

Life of Riley - 7:30 BBC1 - is, of course, a rather average Caroline Quentin sitcom vehicle based around a terminally wet newlywed couple and their dysfunctional extended family circle of children, step-children, step-siblings, half-siblings, ex-partners and in-laws. I laughed at it about three times during the first series last year. Which, to be fair, is three times more than Big Top managed, hence the description of it as average rather than appalling. The second series begins with a plot that involves building work putting Maddy and Jim's bedroom off limits. So, everyone has to shuffle round to make room and the lack of personal space leads to some uncomfortable discoveries. With hilarious consequences. Hopefully. But, I wouldn't bet on it.

Thursday 25 March
Inside the Perfect Predator - 9:00 BBC1 - is a documentary which reveals the inner alchemy that gives four extraordinary hunters the edge over their prey; from the moment they detect their victims through to the vital kill. Among the hunters profiled, the fastest animal on the planet, the peregrine falcon; the world's largest predatory fish, the great white shark; the fastest land-animal, the cheetah; and the prehistoric Nile crocodile. Stick 'em all in a cage and let them battle it out for the title, I say. Just like X-Factor but with a bit more dignity.

Total Recall: The Toyota Story - 9:00 BBC2 - is a special edition of the Money Programme investigating Toyota's recent recall of millions of cars. How did the problems which caused this drastic step happen to a company which had previously been synonymous with reliability and customer satisfaction? Filmed in Japan, the US and the UK as the crisis unfolded, this is the remarkable inside story of what happens when good cars go bad. Still, at least it was really funny watching a bunch of hyporitical Hollywood actors having to climb down from their previous laughable declarations about what a perfect machine the Prius was!

It's all documentaries tonight, I'm afraid. The Air Hospital - 9:00 Channel 4 - is the latest effort from Cutting Edge which concerns the C-17 Globemaster, one of the world's largest military transport aircrafts. The plane can carry anything from tanks and helicopters to troops and supplies, but can also be transformed into a flying hospital with everything needed to bring home wounded service personnel in under thirty six hours from the point of injury direct from the front line. The production team was given exclusive access to film missions as the plane brought back injured personnel from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Sounds good stuff although, I always snigger uncomfortably when I hear the name Camp Bastion mentioned. It always sounds like a French footballer to me.

And finally Russell Howard's Good News - 10:30 BBC3 - is a topical comedy show hosted by Mock The Week's Russell Howard, who offers his unique perspective on the big stories dominating the media across TV, online and in print, as well as picking up on those sometimes overlooked things which made him smile. Recorded in front of a studio audience, it also gives viewers the chance to shape the news agenda by allowing them to submit their own stories online. It's not bad and Russell is, as always, very engaging, although it does feel as though an uncomfortably large part of its template has been lifted, wholesale, from Harry Hill's TV Burp. Still, if you're going to rip something off, rip-off the best.

And now, the news: Michael Madsen has signed to guest star on FOX's 24. The fifty two-year-old will play Jim Rucker, a former military officer with a past connection to Jack Bauer, according to TV Guide. The Kill Bill star will begin a short arc on the show as it approaches the end of its current season. Madsen is also known for his roles in Species, Thelma & Louise and as the psychotic, ear-slicing bank robber Mister Blonde in Reservoir Dogs.

Meanwhile, NBC has approached FOX about picking up 24, according to a number of reports - some far more believable than others, it should be noted. Entertainment Weekly, for instance, claims that the network is interested in taking the real-time drama on, should speculation that FOX is planning to call time on the show come to fruition. 'There's definitely some interest,' explained an insider close to the negotiations. FOX is said to be considering cancelling the series after eight seasons due to declining ratings and spiralling production costs. However, the mooted move would almost certainly delay its additional plans to launch a Jack Bauer film franchise. 24 executives have previously insisted that it would be logistically difficult to produce a movie whilst the programme was still running.

The popular teen drama Skins has been commissioned for a further two series, E4 announced on Friday. A new cast will be selected for series five and six. Open auditions will take place in London and Bristol in April, ready for filming of the first batch of episodes during the summer. Channel 4's head of drama Camilla Campbell said that replacing the cast every two years made Skins a 'truly distinctive show.' The first episode of the current series attracted over one million viewers in January. The Bristol-based show, which follows the lives of a group of troubled teenagers, helped to launch the careers of Nicholas Hoult, who recently starred in A Single Man and Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel. Since the show began in 2007, it has explored several hard-hitting storylines including personality disorders, substance abuse and death. 'Skins has always been about new talent, both on and off screen, and the decision to recast the series every two years is one of the reasons Skins stands out,' Campbell said. 'Now another group of teenagers will have the rare opportunity to be part of a British drama series that says something about their lives and is one of the most exciting shows on television. I can't wait to find out who they will be.'

Katherine Heigl has reportedly been released from her Grey's Anatomy contract. The actress was due to return to the show earlier this month after taking maternity leave, but reportedly failed to arrive on set. According to Entertainment Weekly, the show's creator Shonda Rhimes has released Heigl from her contract but ABC Studios and Heigl's representatives will still have to negotiate an exit deal. One source claims that Heigl was 'at home and ready to return to work' on 1 March, but another explained that it is 'much more complicated than that.' The insiders also revealed that talks between Heigl and ABC have been taking place for several months. Both sides reportedly agreed last week that it was best for Heigl to leave the series now instead of at the end of the season. Heigl is not expected to return to the Grey's Anatomy set, meaning that her final episode has already been broadcast. The actress previously clashed with ABC executives when she described the hospital drama's schedule as 'cruel and mean.' Which, much as yer Keith Telly Topping loves Katherine (and always has done since Roswell all them years ago) is, frankly, a bit girly-drama-queen even for me.

Karen Gillan has said that new Doctor, Matt Smith, has made the role his own in the upcoming series of Doctor Who. The actress, who plays the Doctor's companion, Amy Pond, told BBC Newsbeat that the cast and crew are 'really proud' of their work on the show. Gillan said: 'What Matt's done is something completely incredible. He's completely made the part his own and I think people really are going to fall in love with his Doctor.' She added that on-set, Smith is 'like an annoying older brother - but annoying in a brilliant way.' One would hope so! Of her own character, she explained: 'Amy is a very sassy young lady. She's not completely in awe of The Doctor all the time, there's none of that. She doesn't take his word as gospel.' Gillan also admitted that she is 'completely nervous' about the airing of her first episode.

In related news, Nintendo has signed a ten million pound contract to bring Doctor Who to Wii and DS consoles, according to tabloid reports. The Sun claims that the company plans to have the game, which will be based around Matt Smith's Doctor, in shops in time for Christmas 2010. 'This has been in the pipeline for years,' an insider is quoted as saying. 'We're delighted to have finally nailed down a deal. We went with Nintendo as they have huge appeal for families and Doctor Who is very much a family brand. The Wii console is key for us as it's something families play together.' According to the paper, the BBC is apparently keen to monitor the game closely and has rejected anything which they consider too violent. The insider continued: 'BBC Worldwide, which licenses BBC shows, has been trying to find some way of doing it. But you can't have Doctor Who blowing things to bits with a laser gun. That would massively change the nature of the show.' Damn straight. Although, to be fair, for a pacifist he does have a nasty habit of killing things.

Summer Glau has joined NBC's forthcoming superhero drama pilot The Cape. The project centres on a framed ex-police officer (played by David Lyons) who becomes a masked vigilante named The Cape to clear his name. Which all sounds rather like Dack Rambo's The Sword of Justice from the 1970s. Cool! Glau, the former Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles actress, will play Orwell, a blogger who exposes corrupt cops and writes about costumed heroes, claims The Hollywood Reporter. The twenty eight-year-old is probably best known for her recurring role on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and co-starring on FOX's Firefly. And, for all Browncoats out there, here's a nice picture of her holding a bloody big gun.

Sir David Jason is to loan his voice to CBBC's first ever in-house animation series, the channel has announced. Sir David, who was previously the voice of eyepatch-wearing superhero Danger Mouse, will play Randalf the wizard in the new fantasy series, Muddle Earth. 'I am delighted to be back doing one of the jobs I enjoy most for such a wonderfully entertaining new children's series,' the seventy-year-old actor said. Muddle Earth is based on the book of the same name by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, and follows the misadventures of Randalf and his human apprentice Newt. Together they try to stop the villainous Doctor Cuddles and an evil blue teddy bear from taking over the land.

Patsy Kensit has reportedly announced her decision to end her four-year stint on Holby City. The actress is said to wish to focus on her troubled marriage with fourth husband Jeremy Healy, according to TV Biz. Kensit's spokesman confirmed that she and her husband are 'experiencing difficulties' and are 'trying to work things out.' The website claims that Kensit will leave the BBC drama in September when her character, ward sister Faye Byrne, is written out. 'I have had a fantastic time playing Faye but I felt it was the right time to move on,' Kenist is quoted as saying. 'I will really miss the cast and crew, but not the long hours. It has been lots of fun but very hard work. Although it can be a tough schedule at Elstree Studios, I will be very sorry to say goodbye to the fantastic team there.' It is understood that Kensit's character will not be killed off, leaving the possibility of a return to the series on the cards at some stage in the future. Her final scenes are likely to air at the end of the year.

Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle is to face trial for dangerous driving, it has been confirmed. The actor's case was referred to crown court this week after he made a brief appearance at Liverpool Magistrates' Court. Whittle, who plays Calvin Valentine on the Channel 4 soap, spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth in court today, ITN reports. The hearing is thought to have lasted for just a minute. The former Strictly Come Dancing contestant will appear at Liverpool Crown Court on 21 April for a plea and case management hearing. Whittle was arrested last November following an incident in Liverpool city centre which allegedly saw his car striking freelance photographer Steve Farrell. He was officially charged with dangerous driving a month later.

ITV has confirmed that its new ITV HD channel will launch on Virgin Media, Sky and Freesat next month. From 2 April, Sky and Virgin Media subscribers will be able to watch the new high definition simulcast of ITV, which will also transfer to a static channel from its current Red Button availability on Freesat. Viewers on all three platforms will be able watch ITV's World Cup coverage in HD. That's if you can stomach two hours of Andy Townsend, of course. And David Pleat. Also available on HD drama will be series such as Father & Son, Identity and The Prisoner. The channel is already available on Freeview HD. ITV director of television, channels and online Peter Fincham said: 'The availability of high definition content is something viewers have come to expect as standard and, as we approach the 2010 World Cup, I'm delighted that we are able to launch our new channel, ITV HD, on all major platforms. All of our output will benefit from the stunning picture quality that high definition offers, whether it's ITV's original drama, landmark factual shows, entertainment events or our live football.' ITV HD will be made available at no extra cost to Virgin Media subscribers on the XL TV package, while some of ITV's HD content will also launch on Virgin Media's on-demand platform. 'ITV offers some of the UK's most loved programmes and we're delighted to add them to our growing HD channel lineup,' said Virgin Media executive director of digital entertainment Cindy Rose. 'This year's World Cup promises some unforgettable games and Virgin Media TV viewers will be able to enjoy every nail-biting, heart-stopping, breath-taking moment in stunning high definition.'

Microsoft's Bing search engine will reportedly replace the government's Chage4Life campaign as sponsor of The Simpsons on Channel 4. The software giant intends to invest millions of pounds in a wide-ranging advertising campaign for Bing, including sponsorship of the long-running animated series on Channel 4 weeknights. Under the three-month deal, which is worth a reported five hundred thousand pounds, Bing idents will appear at the start and end of each episode, as well as around the advert break. Microsoft hopes a multi-platform advertising campaign will help Bing compete more effectively with Google in the lucrative online search market. According to Nielsen statistics for January, Microsoft and Yahoo! both handle four per cent of online searches, way behind Google's eighty six per cent market share. Using the slogan 'Bing and Decide,' (catchy!) the adverts will focus on Bing's ability to enable more informed choices by depicting users suffering from 'information overload' which only Microsoft's search engine can cure. Speaking about the promotional campaign, Microsoft UK managing director of consumer and online Ashley Highfield said: 'We're committed to investing in search at a local level to deliver value for our advertisers. The ad campaign brings to life the concept of Bing as a decision engine, a tool that both cuts through the information overload and offers a new search experience. We're confident that this will help grow our user base, offering advertisers an alternative search solution.'

Julian Fellowes has claimed that television executives are obsessed with catering for young people. The screenwriter, who penned The Young Victoria, explained that television is more suitable for older people. According to the Daily Mail, who needless to say lapped all this up, he said: 'One of the agreeable things about TV is that it is for an older, more adult audience. You often hear talk about trying to get a young audience but television is not really for a young audience.' Who says it isn't, Julian? 'They have a different way of spending their time. Very few in their teens and twenties will watch TV in the traditional way. I can't tell you the number of discussions I've had about this mythical youth audience. It fascinates me that very few TV executives seem to feel empowered to embrace the older audience.' Fellowes added: 'The age thing should not be seen as a problem for television. We should not lose sight of the older audience. The age of TV is thirty until death.' In response ITV's director of drama Laura Mackie said: 'ITV aims to make drama that appeals to a young audience and Julian is right in saying that drama viewers tend to skew older. That said, a number of our series including Wild At Heart and Married, Single, Other do have appeal to the young and we always aim for as diverse an audience as possible.' Well, in the case of Married, Single, Other if the ratings figures so far are any indication then it doesn't seem to appeal to pretty much anyone, young or old. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the BBC insisted that the corporation does not focus on the target age group when commissioning programmes. The representative explained: 'The average age of our drama audience is fifty five and while it is vital that we continue to cater for them - and equally our younger viewers - the defining quality is always how good a script is.' As it should be.

Kelly Brook has reportedly signed a deal to appear in Neighbours. Brook is preparing to move to Australia later this year when her boyfriend, rugby player Danny Cipriani, starts playing for the Melbourne Rebels. According to the Daily Star, Neighbours producers contacted Brook after learning that she is relocating. 'She is really excited about going to Australia, and to get an approach from Neighbours is a real bonus,' a source said. 'Show bosses are planning to freshen it up to mark twenty five years on the box and Kelly is just the sort of glamorous star they want.'

Police have reportedly been called to investigate hate mail received by the actress Catherine Tate. A series of what are described as 'sinister letters' which 'contain false allegations' have been sent to the TV comedian's London home this month, according to the Sun. A source said that the notes had caused 'great alarm' to Tate and her husband Twig Clark. 'They contain completely false allegations. Catherine is understandably incredibly upset. It's very sinister,' the insider said, while a family friend added that the communications have left the couple baffled. 'Catherine and Twig are wondering what type of crank would send letters like these,' the friend said. A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed that detectives are investigation 'malicious communication.' How horrible. I know Doctor Who fandom can breed some extremely unpleasant individuals but, it's to be hoped that this awful incident has nothing to do with Catherine's - excellent - stint on the show and that the sick individual concerned is caught, quickly, and given the psychological help he so obviously needs.

Chris Tarrant was given a 'comedy roasting' at a Channel 4 gala event dedicated to him earlier this week. Jimmy Carr and Jack Dee lead the humourous 'tributes' to the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host, according to the Sun. The comics both teased Tarrant about his divorce from fifty five-year-old Norwegian, Ingrid, in 2007, when he was forced to pay a sizable sum to his ex-partner. Carr joked: 'Chris is famous for his charity work - he recently gave twelve and a half million pounds to a Norwegian single mother. When she said she wanted a divorce, Chris said, "Is that your final answer?" She said, "Yes, I'll take the money."' A source commented: 'Chris took it all in good humour - but he got his own back at the end when he roasted everyone who had a go at him.'

Former NASA astronauts who went to the Moon have told the BBC of their dismay at President Obama's decision to push back further Moon missions. Jim Lovell, commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, said Obama's decision would have 'catastrophic consequences' for US space exploration. The last man on the Moon, Gene Cernan, said it was 'disappointing.' Last month Obama cancelled NASA's Constellation Moon landings programme, approved by ex-President George Bush. NASA still aims to send astronauts back to the Moon, but it is likely to take decades and some believe that it will never happen again. The astronauts spoke to the BBC at a private event at the Royal Society in London on Friday organised by the Foundation for Science and Technology. They were joined by the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong. Cernan said 'I'm quite disappointed that I'm still the last man on the Moon. I thought we'd have gone back long before now.'

GMTV presenter Richard Arnold has joked that he had to whip Kate Garraway into shape for Let's Dance For Sport Relief. Is it really so very wrong to hope that there was some literal whipping involved? It is? Ah well ... I can take being wrong once in a while.

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