Saturday, May 01, 2010

Week Nineteen: You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby

An average audience of eight and a half million people watched the BBC's prime ministerial debate during which that cretin Gordon Brown managed - just - to avoid tripping over his own feet on the way to the podium. At 21:00, a peak of over nine million viewers watched the last of three TV debates featuring Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The figures cover simultaneous live screenings on BBC1, BBC HD as well as the BBC News and Sky News channels. An average of 9.4m viewers tuned into the first - ITV - debate a fortnight ago, whilst four million watched last week's Sky event. Thursday night's coverage was up against Coronation Street on ITV, which attracted 6.7 million, somewhat below-average by the soap's usual very high standards, whilst the UEFA Europa League game between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid on Five drew almost three-and-a-half million million. Which saw Liverpool eliminated. Which, it has to be said, was quite funny. Personally, I was watching plucky little Fulham doing what Liverpool couldn't over on ITV 4 myself. Topics discussed during the ninety-minute debate, hosted by David Dimbleby in Birmingham, included spending cuts, immigration, housing and banking reform. And why it is that Mr Brown seems utterly unable these days to get through a single day without doing something bloody stupid.

The Thick Of It's Peter Capaldi will star as one of the three wise men in Tony Jordan's The Nativity on BBC1 this Christmas in a cast which also includes Cranford's Andrew Buchan and Tatiana Maslany. Capaldi, who plays the expletive-spewing spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, will play Balthasar in the four-part drama, with Buchan, who also starred in ITV's The Fixer, as Joseph. You can just imagine what Malcolm Tucker would have made of 'Bigotgate' can't you. 'He said effing WHAT????' Maslany, who won a special jury prize for her role in A Grown Up Movie Star at this year's Sundance Film Festival, will play Mary. The cast will also include Art Malik, John Lynch, Jack Shepherd and Neil Dudgeon. The Nativity has been a long-standing project for Jordan (whose impressive CV also includes Life on Mars, Hustle and EastEnders), who began researching it five years ago. 'The challenge for me was to retell a story that has been told countless times before, a story that everyone knows intimately, yet to do so in a way that will still surprise and move you, to see parts of the story you'd never seen before,' said Jordan. 'I really think that we've achieved that and I'm incredibly proud to have been asked by the BBC to be involved in such a wonderful project.' The BBC said the drama would 'show the Nativity from a fresh viewpoint, highlighting how seemingly ordinary people reacted to the extraordinary and miraculous events that befell them.' Filming begins in Morocco next month. Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, said: 'We are proud to bring audiences this beautiful story retold for Christmas 2010 by a master storyteller. We hope our version of the nativity will give audiences all the wonder, magic and inspiration of the original while also telling a less familiar tale, that of ordinary people going about their lives with no sense of the enormous importance their story would hold for centuries to come.'

Let's have some Top Telly Tips:

Friday 7 May
In How to Live a Simple Life - 9:00 BBC2 - inspired by his experiences in Around the World in Eighty Faiths, part-time vicar Peter Owen Jones returns to credit-crunch Britain and to the realisation that modern life has become a frenzy of spending and working. He yearns for a life of simplicity and meaning - a deeper connection to both nature and people. Filmed over the course of nearly a year in his beautiful Sussex parishes, the first in a three-part series follows Peter as he tries to turn his back on consumerism. I don't know about anybody else but I'm actually quite glad I was born into a relatively affluent society in the Twentieth Century rather than being an extra in Constable's The Hay Wain, thanks all the same, vicar. Many of my ancestors had a life of 'simplicity and meaning.' And, they mostly died in back-breaking poverty, in the gutter, long before their time. You'll excuse me if I find a longing for such an existence both crassly sentimental and somewhat illogical.

Meanwhile, after last week's brilliant episode in which, Oh my God, they killed Benny Elton(!) Ashes to Ashes - 9:00 BBC1 - steps up to the plate again with a piece of socio-realism. After an attempt to stop a prison riot goes badly wrong and one of their own is left behind, the team must negotiate with the leader of the revolt and save their captured colleague. But Alex is stunned when a prisoner claims to be someone from her own past (or, you know, future), and Chris and Ray are in mortal danger when their undercover rescue attempt is rumbled. As their lives hang in the balance, Alex must put her growing differences with suddenly dark and mysterious Gene aside to try to save their team.

Then there's Shanties And Sea Songs With Gareth Malone - 9:00 BBC4 - in which, as you might expect from the 'giveaway' title, The Choir's Gareth Malone travels along Britain's coast to explore our hidden history of shanties and sea songs. Sort of like Scottish Neil Oliver (and his lovely hair), only with a tuning-fork instead of a map. In Portsmouth Gareth meets a devoted shanty singer, before continuing on to Wor Bonny Tyneside - so, I'm better we'll get at least one chorus of 'Bobby Shafto's Gone To Sea' - and the Yorkshire coast, where the Filey Fisherman's Choir are determined to keep the old traditions alive. Yer Keith Telly Topping used to go on holiday every other year to Filey in the 1970s, dear blog reader. Quite a nice place, actually. But, a bit quiet. Anyway, Gareth also gets an insight into the songs of the Herring Girls in Gardenstown, Scotland, while in Whitby he meets Kimber's Men, a group who have dedicated themselves to writing and singing songs celebrating heroes of the sea. Yeah, sounds rather off-beat and watchable. If you miss it, one worth catching on iPlayer, I reckon.

Saturday 8 May
Doctor Who - 6:00 BBC1 - is the much-anticipated The Vampires of Venice. Yes, you read that correctly, dear blog reader, that is six o'clock, the earliest that a non-Christmas Day episode of Doctor Who has started since 1985. Shifted to a even earlier slot, yet again, because Over The Rainbow - a show which gets on average about two million fewer viewers than Doctor Who every week - needs more screen-time, apparently. And then, the BBC wonder why they get complaints. I've been broadly supportive of the BBC in their scheduling of the show over the last couple of years - the realities of modern television viewing habits, notwithstanding - but there reaches a point where 'early evening' is 'too early evening.' And six o'clock is that point. Anyway, on to the episode; dessicated corpses and terror fill the canals of the ancient Italian city as the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to Sixteenth Century Venice. Hang on, I hear you say, who's this Rory character? Where did he spring from and what's he doing in the TARDIS with the doctor and Amy. Ah well, y'see, that's the trouble with writing these previews a week in advance .It requires you, dear blog reader, to shut yer mouth until the episode before this one has been shown so you know what, exactly, the deal is. Keith Telly Topping, he tells it like it is. Or will be. Apparently. That's always the problem with shows about time travel, your tenses get all mixed it. Where was I? Where am I? Where will I be? Next...

Sunday 9 May
The Seasons with Alan Titchmarsh - 7:00 ITV - sees The Thinking Octogenarian's Stud presenting a brand new four-part series in which he looks at the seasons of the year and how they define our lives and our landscape. Titchmarsh travels the length and breadth of the UK - no doubt on very good expenses - to see how the seasons play out around the country, taking in some stunning scenery along the way. So, at least it'll be pretty to look at. At least, the bits when Titchmarsh himself isn't on-screen. The series starts in the springtime when colour begins to fill the landscape, mating rituals begin (although, hopefully none involving Titchmarsh cos that would be sick) and the fishing season starts. Titchmarsh casts for trout on the River Test, travels to Yorkshire to witness the heather burning and goes to Cumbria for their traditional charcoal burning. As a friend of mine recently noted we are the species that walked on the moon, built the pyramids and mapped the oceans. Do we really need another Alan Titchmarsh vehicle on TV. We're better than that, surely?

Somebody that I'd like to see a lot more of on TV is the poet, wit and one-time pop-star Roger McGough who narrates The Box That Changed Britain - 9:00 BBC4. This is the story of how a simple invention - the shipping container - has changed the world forever and forced Britain into the modern era of globalisation. With a blend of archive and modern-day filming, the impact of the box is told through the eyes of dockers, seafarers, ship spotters, factory workers and logisticians. From quayside in container ports to on board enormous ships, the documentary explains how the container has transformed our communities, economy and coastline. Roger, of course is seen far too infrequently on our screens these days (he turned up on an episode of Qi a couple of years ago just to remind you that he's still alive). My own favourite Roger moment (apart from the third chorus of 'Lily The Pink', that is) occurred in Eric Idle's 1978 Beatles spoof (if you will) rockumentary The Rutles in which Roger was introduced thus: 'Roger McGough is a Liverpool poet. He is the author of many books set in, and around Liverpool, including, The Mersey Sound, Gig, The Liverpool Scene, and two of his Liverpool poems are in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English verse. He was born in Liverpool, attended school in Liverpool, was married in Liverpool, and his football team is of course ... Everton.' And, if you've never read any of his poetry, for God's sake get yourself a copy of The Mersey Sound, or Watchwords (for Snipers, one of the greatest poems ever written in the English language). You won't regret it.

Monday 10 May
The supermarket is highly competitive where the approach to securing shelf space is ruthless as we discover in High Street Dreams - 9:00 BBC1. However, Jo Malone and Nick Leslau are convinced that a great product teamed with effective branding can catch the eye of the most demanding food buyers. The Singh family from East London hand-produce their own recipe for chilli sauce in their garden shed. Can Jo and Nick help them to get their product on the supermarket shelves?

The 1980s are back, big-style these days. You might just have noticed. We've got Ashes To Ashes on Friday nights, the Tories are back in vogue and greed is, all of a sudden, good again. Did you miss the memo? Don't worry, that just means you probably live on a council estate. Get out your shell suit, eat your pot noodle, get that mullet cut and join the army. It's great, you can have a gun if y'want. We're going to have a short, sharp three week non-nuclear war with some third world military dictatorship that can't possibly defend itself against us. Marvellous. Anyway, to help you get glassy-eyed with nationalistic fervour and in a right good mood for some tool-stiffening slaughter, there's Top Of The Pops 2: 80s Special - 7:30 BBC2. In this, Mark Radcliffe presents a look back at some of the most memorable Top of the Pops performances from the decade - the era that taste forgot - including Adam Ant, Kylie and Jason, Culture Club, Bucks Fizz, Yazz, Duran Duran and Wham! What's the betting it won't feature any Smiths?

Sandwiched in between tonight's two episodes of Corrie is Goodbye Blanche - 8:00 ITV. Blanche Hunt was one of Coronation Street's most popular characters and entertained millions. Maggie Jones, the actress who played her, died last year. She first stepped into the role in 1974 and went on to make the part her own, establishing Blanche as the mother-in-law from Hell, with her outrageous one-liners, usually aimed at son-in-law Ken's failures and her daughter Deirdre's disastrous personal life. Her friends and colleagues pay tribute to Maggie and recall Blanche's best moments.

Wormwood Scrubs - 9:00 ITV - is the first of a new two-part documentary about the life of prisoners and staff at one of Europe's largest prisons, the notorious Scrubs. This compelling episode focuses on the staff and the severe conditions which they work under. Cameras follow officers in the segregation unit as they attempt to manage one of the country's most disruptive offenders and show staff trying to keep order in the jail in the aftermath of a suicide. The programme also reveals the shocking truth about the availability of drugs in the prison, which has as many as ten dealers to one wing. The irony of that fact that the programme is shown at nine o'clock, long after most of the people who'd probably appreciated it most have slopped-out and are locked down for the night is, true me, probably completely lost on TV schedulers everywhere.

Tuesday 11 May
Tonight's episode of Holby City - 8:00 BBC1 - is called Take No Prisoners. They seldom do. Oliver gets the promotion he's been waiting for, but in doing so he shoulders too much responsibility and blows Penny's big secret. Mark begs the board for a laser to save a talented young footballer's career and gets tempted by the CEO job. And Maria, sick of Donna taking her for granted, applies for the Keller sister's job behind her friend's back. So, a busy night in Holby general, as usual.

Fearne and ... - 8:00 ITV2 - is a series in which presenter Fearne Cotton - who can, apparently, walk in a straight line and talk at the same time - shadows three of 'the world's most famous women' to find out what really makes them tick. Okay, sounds good. Except, you might be wondering, Carla Bruni? Michelle Obama? Angela Merkel? No, you'd be dead wrong. Today Fearne gains an 'exclusive insight' into the life of controversial heiress and former convicted felon Paris Hilton, and discovers the surprising truth about the infamous superstar. That she can't walk in a straight line and talk at the same time. Fearne joins Paris for a couple of months, getting to know the real person behind the headlines, and spending time in Ms Hilton's Los Angeles mansion. So, that'll be the blonde leading the bland. Delightful. If anybody ever tells you, dear blog reader, that television is nothing more than a sickening excuse for exhibitionists and attention-seeking whores to indulge themselves in narcissistic self-promotion and you're thinking about arguing with them, just remember this programme. Did we just live through six weeks of The Ludicrous Ms Dahl for this, dear blog reader?

Meanwhile, in EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Masood considers fleeing to a new life with the unsuspecting Jane, while Ronnie gives Billy good news unaware that he could still lose everything. Ben's plan to prove how cool he is backfires.

Wednesday 12 May
It's live Europa League Football action - 7:00 Five - from the final of this year's competition. Which, of course, is between Roy Hodgson's brave and plucky little Fulham and Liverpool's conquerors Atletico Madrid. The action takes place at the HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg. Kick-off is at 19.45. So, if you want something else to watch there's Junior Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1. Lord Alan Sugar is on the search for his first ever Junior Apprentice to bully and oppress. From over twenty eight thousand applicants, ten candidates will compete for a tailor made fund worth twenty five grand to kick-start a career in business. The teens taking part are set their first business task - to sell five hundred pounds worth of cheese at busy London market stalls. Working against the clock to make as many sales possible, both teams are desperate to avoid a showdown with Lord Sugar in the boardroom. Can't stand this nonsense, and I still despair of the fact that it's popular with the general public. Are we really such a terrible society that we actually enjoy watching some overgrown school-bully in his fifties bellowing at teenagers? And, the other thing that it's worth remembering about Sugar, of course, is that he started off his business career by being responsible for the ninth best home computer on the market. He followed that by being the maker of the second best satellite TV dish on the market ... when there were only two on the market. And, after that, he owned Tottenham Hotpsur football club. Who the Hell is he to tell other people how to be successful? He could do with taking some tips for others himself, frankly.

Lion Country - 7:30 ITV - is a documentary series following the work of Englishman David Youldon with the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust. In this episode, David introduces his favourite lion, four-year-old Phyre. She was the first lion he hand-reared, and they share a close bond. Later, David travels three hundred miles to the Dambwa Forest in Zambia, home to one of the programme's other sites. He meets thirteen-month-old Leya, who has strong predatory instincts, and her lazy brother, who would rather sit than hunt.

If you didn't catch Dollhouse earlier in the year when it was first shown, it's currently being repeated at 8:00 on ITV4. This is a - rather high-concept - SF adventure series created by Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon about a mysterious and sinister organisation which reprogrammes young people's minds. It ran for two short seasons in the US but completely failed to find any sort of audience, and was then cancelled. Which was a shame, actually, as it was properly brilliant and, since it's finished, it's picked up something of a cult following. In this episode whilst imprinted as a fun-loving college girl, Echo (the quite astonishing Eliza Dushku) meets Victor's assignment, the psychotic serial-kidnapping nephew of a Dollhouse shareholder. If you've never seen it and you're looking for something to avoid the football, you can do a lot worse than this. But, be advised, unlike a lot of TV drama you do have to use your brain a lot with this. If that's too much like hard work with stick with the football.

Finally tonight, Jamie Does... The French Pyrenees - 9:00 Channel 4. Let's hope the French Pyrenees do him back, eh? Harshly.

Thursday 13 May
All At Sea - 9:00 ITV - is a new three-part series in which a group of celebrity landlubbers embarks upon a journey along the south coast of England in a variety of different boats from luxury yachts to fishing trawlers. And, presumably, spend their time tossing about. Richard Madeley, Dawn Porter, Nick Hancock, Rosemary Shrager, Bradley Walsh and Mark Durden-Smith split into two groups of three for their voyage. In the first episode, they travel along the Cornwall and Devon coast. Richard, Dawn and Nick go in style in a vintage motor yacht while Rosemary, Bradley and Mark rough it on a fishing trawler. I'm hoping there's going to be lots of shots of celebrity chunder going over the side. I mean, let's be honest, that's really the only reason for watching such a conceit as this. Well, that and the fact that seeing Richard Madeley in any sort of discomfort is always a good thing.

In Location, Location, Location - 8:00 Channel 4 - Phil Spencer and Kirstie Allsopp host the property advice series. This week, the duo are in Surrey, helping two very different couples hunt for the perfect home. Susie and Andy Clark need somewhere to house themselves, their two children and Susie's eighty nine-year-old father, while childhood sweethearts Sam Summers and Jess Jeary are buying their first home together.

And, lastly. Have I Got News for You - 9:00 BBC1 - is, just in case you haven't been watching for the past thirty nine series, a 'popular topical news quiz,' with team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop. This week's guest host is lovely old Martin Clunes - who's usually very good on this - whilst the guest panelists are Chris Addison (who's in danger of a bit of over-exposure at the moment, I reckon) and Julia Hartley-Brewer. It's post-election week and this'll be the first episode since Cameron's likely landslide so I'm sure they'll have plenty to talk about. Like how long they'll have left to make the programme once Big Dave and Jezza Hunt get to work on the BBC with a machette.

And, so to this week's TV News: Speculation is currently mounting that BBC1 controller Jay Hunt could move to Channel 4 following Kevin Lygo's departure. 'Sources' claim that C4, which has just lost Lygo and which has new chief executive David Abraham starting next week, is keen to sound out Hunt for a senior content role. It it not clear whether this would be as a direct replacement for Lygo or something else entirely. Hunt has been in her current position since May 2008 and has a background in current affairs which would play well with a Channel 4 audience. She has a track record of placing hard-hitting factual programmes in prime time, and has had recent successes with this science magazine show Bang Goes The Theory and Five Daughters, the docudrama based on the Ipswich murders. However, there may not be an immediate vacancy for a new Director of Television at Channel 4. Abraham has indicated he may want to be hands-on in this area for an initial period while he takes stock of the commissioning team. He is also likely to take his time decided whether to replace Lygo directly, and if so with whom. A move away from the glare of public scrutiny that comes with a BBC controller job could appeal to Hunt on a personal level. Last summer she came under fire from a variety of scum tabloids after public disclosure of a series of deals between the BBC and the companies run by her husband and ex-husband and admitted she found the experience 'extremely hard,' despite being officially cleared of any wrongdoing. She told the 2009 Edinburgh International Television Festival that although the BBC1 controller job is very rewarding, the bad sometimes 'doesn't completely balance' with the good. '[The bad press] was extremely tough to read. It was extremely hard for my family and friends to read and I think me being a woman certainly played a part in it,' she said. The potential move has also surprised some of her BBC colleagues who claim Hunt would be better suited to ITV, if she were to move. 'She's so overtly populist and quite light – she is very intelligent and all the rest, but she did daytime before and tends to lean towards lighter programmes,' a source told Broadcast. Earlier this year there was also strong speculation that BBC3 controller Danny Cohen would return to Channel 4, where he has spent much of his career. However, Cohen told Broadcast magazine in February that he has not had any contact with Abraham, other a move to Channel 4 or any other subject. The BBC declined to comment.

Meanwhile, BBC director general Mark Thompson has given BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow 'a public dressing down' about the direction of the channel, 'shocking senior colleagues' it has been claimed. Hadlow came under fire over the strategic direction and performance of BBC2 at a wide-ranging strategy meeting last week, attended by around twenty five senior BBC Vision staff. At least, according to Broadcast who seem to have had someone present at the meeting Copper's Narking to them. Those present, the magazine claims, were 'taken aback' by the manner of Thompson's comments, and the fact he chose to raise the subject in front of Hadlow's peers. It is also claimed that she left the meeting 'visibly distressed.' 'People were really shocked by the way Mark got stuck in to her,' a 'source' said. Given what happened the last time a BBC 'source' told the media something that Mark Thompson didn't want the media to hear, if I were this soucre, I'd currently be making plans to clean out my desk. But, anyway ... Another 'source' added: 'It is pretty common knowledge she is doing a really tough job. I think Mark thinks she is doing it well, but the way he framed the criticism wasn't helpful. That discussion should not have been held in front of anyone else.' Two jobs at the BBC going cheap. Any offers? Hadlow has been controller of BBC2 for around eighteen months and has presided over a series of hits including Wonders Of The Solar System and Miranda as well as established audience winners like Top Gear and Mock The Week. However, the rest of BBC2's new comedy is in weaker shape and the channel has struggled to carve out a clear identity which is distinct from the populist BBC1 and the highbrow BBC4. BBC2 has been lined-up for a major overhaul as part of the BBC's Putting Quality First review, including more authored, state-of-the-nation drama and risky comedy. Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said: 'We don't discuss private meetings, but both the director general and myself regard Janice as a superb controller. BBC2 is in great shape, as has been identified in the strategy review.' Hadlow added: 'I have been having passionate conversations with Mark for the best part of the last decade about television and I am sure we will continue to do so.'

Mad Frankie Boyle has heavily criticised the BBC Trust for its 'cowardly rebuke' of a joke about Palestine. The Trust's editorial standards committee apologised earlier this week over his remark on the BBC Radio 4 comedy show Political Animal in June 2008. The well known Scottish comedian said Palestine was like a cake being 'punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.' In an open letter, Boyle said the BBC was 'a great institution' but was 'cravenly afraid of giving offence.' Not that I necessarily disagree with that, Frankie. But, couldn't you have afforded a stamp and made it, you know, a closed letter. Boyle also wrote that he had been moved to tears after watching a documentary about life in Palestine and had promised himself he would do something. Boyle continued to say that the BBC wished 'to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content.' He also criticised the BBC's decision not to air a charity appeal for aid to Gaza last year. 'It's tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well-drilled lobbying,' he said. One person had complained that Boyle's original remarks were 'anti-Semitic.' In December 2008, the BBC's editorial complaints unit agreed that the use of the word Jew in the context was 'inappropriate and offensive,' a finding endorsed by the editorial standards committee. It said: 'As a result, the committee wished to apologise to the complainant on behalf of the BBC for any offence the remark may have caused him and other listeners to the programme.' The ESC said 'that the breach, while serious, did not require an apology or correction from the BBC online or on-air.' The complainant was dissatisfied and took the issue to the BBC Trust, leading to this week's grovelling apology.

The divine Goddess that is Dame Jenny Agutter (no, I know she isn't yet, but we can dream, surely?) has praised her Railway Children co-star Bernard Cribbens for his part in recent episodes of Doctor Who. Cribbens starred as Wilf Mott in Voyage of the Damned in 2007 and reappeared several times before having a key role in the fate of the Tenth Doctor in The End Of Time. Agutter told the Digital Spy website: 'I've always enjoyed Doctor Who. It's one of the few things we were allowed to watch on television in boarding school! I think Bernard's great. He himself said that he had the best time making it. He said it was really, really fun. He's always so good and whatever he creates is really interesting.'

And, speaking of 1960s TV icons who still look good in 2010, David McCallum has confirmed that he is returning for the next season of NCIS. Earlier this week, McCallum was named as one of four cast members of the US military crime drama show who were said to be seeking pay rises from CBS by a variety of media outlets. However, McCallum's manager Abe Hoch has now explained that the actor already has a contract for the forthcoming eighth season. 'I'm sure some of the others are negotiating, but he's not affected by it,' Hoch told TV Guide magazine. 'He falls into the Mark Harmon/Rocky Carroll category [of people who already have contracts]. He's signed for additional seasons.' Hoch added: 'He's excited to be coming back to the show and can't wait to see everybody.'

The executive producers of Lost have praised Allison Janney. It recently emerged that Janney, who previously starred in The West Wing, will appear in the fifteenth episode of the show's final season. Speaking to TV Guide magazine, Lost creator Damon Lindelof revealed that Janney has a major role, adding: 'She's incredible, but we can't give away who she's playing. We will confirm that she will be a woman.' That's a relief. I mean, the thought of CJ being anything other than a woman is, frankly, a bit alarming. Meanwhile, executive producer Carlton Cuse said: 'We were so happy that she was able to do this. It was really hard for her because she was getting ready to shoot a pilot, but she squeezed us in. Then once we saw her in this part we were like, "How could anyone else have done this but Allison Janney?"' Lindelof added that they had called the character 'Allison Janney' while writing the script but explained that they had never expected she would agree to join the show until they had 'a lovely conversation' on the telephone. Cuse also claimed that Janney's role required 'incredible presence' and said: 'She had so much presence in The West Wing. She was in charge and had the strength we needed.'

The leaders of the UK's three main political parties have paid tribute to Adrian Chiles, during the presenter's final appearance as host of The ONE Show last night. In a quite sickening attempt to curry favour with the general public by linking themselves, however tenuously, with someone popular, these three desperate men lined-up to give Chiles a damned good brown-tongue rimming. Chiles seemed stunned - and slightly horrified - as Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all sent him messages of good luck for his future career. At a time when, all three, frankly, should have better things to do with their time. According to the Mirror, Prime Minister Brown said: 'Adrian I think I last had a long talk with you at the Olympics when you did such a marvellous job presenting there, but you've done amazing things on The ONE Show and sports and everything else you've done in reporting, and you've simply done a great job that makes us all proud. And when we talk and meet up, you talk about West Bromwich Albion all the time and I talk about Raith Rovers all the time. At least West Bromwich are going up, I'm afraid Raith Rovers are stuck where they are. But my best wishes to you in everything you do in your future career.' And then, as soon as he thought the camera was off him, he added 'thank Christ that's over. Bloody Brummie gobshite.' Conservative leader David Cameron, meanwhile, said: 'So Adrian you're moving on, it's been great appearing on your show, wonderful watching you on The ONE Show, I don't know how they're gonna do without you, best of luck for the future.' Then, he turned to Smithers, standing beside him, and added 'have the Rolling Stones killed.' Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: 'Adrian, all the best with your move, one of the most unforgettable things I've done since becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats is handling miniature hedgehogs on your ONE Show. You are indelibly etched on my memory for that reason alone.' Chiles said that he couldn't believe the tributes were real. That's because they weren't, Adie, they were just saying what they thought the public wanted to hear. Because, they're scum. 'I thought that must be a lookalike - unbelievable,' he said. Rumours that next Brown, Clegg and Cameron are off to do a similar tribute to Alexander the Meerkat cannot be, entirely, discounted at this time.

An upcoming episode of Britain's Got Talent will be shifted to Sunday night to accommodate this season's Champions League final. For the first time in the football competition's history, the final will air on a weekend. ITV has the rights to the sporting event, which features Jose Mourinho's fine Inter Milan side - conquerors of Chelsea and Barcelona taking on Bayern Munich who beat The Scum in the Quarters. The final takes place in Spain on Saturday 22 May, meaning that Simon Cowell's diarrheoa will have to be pushed back a day to ensure that it gets a prime time slot. 'We can't squeeze BGT on before, especially as football fans will want to hear Jose's mind games in the build up to the match between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich,' a source told the Mirror.

There's a ridiculous little fluff piece by one Toby Young in the Daily Scum Mail on the subject of his former flatmate Sohpie Dahl and the critical mauling her Ludicrous Ms Dahl show received, which you can read here. I particularly liked the article's utter denial and the absurd suggestion that 'she will have been deeply wounded by these comments - even though the show was a ratings success.' My italics. Oh no it wasn't, pal. Not in any way, shape or form. Not even a little bit. It lost half of its small-to-begin-with audience over the course of six weeks and ended with a pathetically tiny 1.4 million for the final episode, less than half of what that slot usually gets. And, it was beaten by both Channel 4 (Supersize Vs Superskinny) and, really embarrassingly, Five (Cowboy Builders) on the last night. And, if that 'wounds' Sophie, then I'm afraid that's nothing to what those of us who have watched her wretched shite excuse for a TV show had to put up with. God save us all from armchair apologists.

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