Sunday, June 27, 2010

Week Twenty Seven: ... Or, There's Football!

We start with some sad news. The acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Alan Plater has died of cancer at the age of seventy five, his agent has confirmed. Plater produced numerous works for the stage and screen, including many episodes of the seminal police drama Z Cars and an adaptation of The Barchester Chronicles. His work was also featured on Armchair Theatre and The Wednesday Play, while he adapted World War II trilogy The Fortunes of War for TV. Plater, who also wrote six novels, was honoured with a CBE in 2005. In the same year, he was presented with the Dennis Potter Award for writing at the BAFTAs. His other accolades included a lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of Great Britain in 2007. Plater's agent Alexandra Cann told the BBC that he had been 'very robust' until the final week of his life when he was admitted to a London hospice. His final screenplay, a historial drama called Joe Maddison's War, starring Kevin Whately and Robson Green and set in his beloved North East, is due to be broadcast on ITV later this year. Ms Cann said it would be a 'fitting tribute' to the writer, who was able to see the drama in production. Among the two hundred plus full-length dramas he produced for the stage, screen and radio was the Beiderbecke trilogy and A Very British Coup, which won a BAFTA in 1989. His later work included Last of The Blonde Bombshells, which boasted Dame Judi Dench in the cast. Alan's early years were shaped by a simple class joke. His family moved to Hull when he was three, though his grandparents still lived in the North East. 'People would ask me where I was going for my holidays,' Plater once noted. 'I would say Jarrow and I couldn't understand why they laughed.' He trained as an architect but left the profession after a short time to pursue a career in writing. In 1968 Plater produced his first trilogy for Theatre 625, To See How Far It Is. Having spent much of his time at Newcastle University involved in 'iconoclastic student journalism,' Plater used his radio background to develop into a brilliant dialogue writer, something that often saw him in a league of his own among contemporary TV auteurs. Plater was dissatisfied with television 'identikit drama', once stating 'If I see another play about a middle-aged menopausal businessman having an affair with his secretary, I shall kick the screen in!' Popular successes followed in plays such as Close the Coalhouse Door (1969, co-written with Sid Chaplin), The First Lady (starring Thora Hird), Seventeen Per Cent Said "Push Off!" (1972: 'The northern yobbo taking the micky out of the college pudding is a time-honoured source of humour,' noted The Times, snobbishly) and The Land of Green Ginger (1974). The latter, especially, with its wistful evocation of northern aspirations and loss of innocence ('People from Hull have this mysterious northern mist behind their eyes,' says heroine Sally Brown), played alongside the broad comedy of another of Plater's recurring themes, the dream of advancement through sporting achievement. This climaxed in the 1975 ITV series, Trinity Tales, a witty parody of Chaucer which covered the lives of a group of Wakefield Trinity fans travelling to Wembley to watch the Rugby League Challenge Cup final. Trinity Tales also indirectly spawned Plater's Yorkshire sitcom, Oh No! It's Selwyn Froggitt (Bill Maynard, who played Selwyn, had been Stan the Fryer in Trinity Tales). Plater's other major TV work has included Granada's The Stars Look Down, the BBC series Middlemen, Orwell on Jura (1983), and Get Lost! (1980). Plater, whose career spanned six decades, was celebrated for writing about ordinary people in ordinary settings. He is said to have been pleased when a critic hailed his first TV play as combining the voices of Coronation Street and the spirit of Chekov. The dramatist later said that being invited to write for Z Cars was 'like a Papal blessing. It was the biggest thing that had ever hit British television.' Plater went on to write thirty episodes for Softly, Softly - a later spin-off series of the gritty police drama. His most recently-seen work was four episodes of detective serial Lewis, the last of which screened earlier this year.

Alexander Armstrong was reportedly forced to leave This Morning earlier in the week when he found out his wife had gone into labour. The comedian was due to appear on the show with his partner Ben Miller. However, the Sun reports that he found out he was about to become a dad for the third time while he was in his dressing room. Miller went ahead with his appearance and told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby:'"It's really exciting - Hannah called Xander and he just sort of said, "I should go now." I think it's three weeks early, but so was their last one, he said.'

ITV has confirmed that it has decided to cancel Heartbeat. The Gruniad Morning Star reports that a final series of the show will be broadcast from next month. Heartbeat, which follows a group of police officers in 1960s Yorkshire, has been on air for eighteen years and, as has been noted by various wages, is just about the only historical TV series in history that has lasted longer than the decade in which it is set. ITV insisted that the decision had not been made for financial reasons and explained that it wants to focus more on shorter dramas broadcast over a week. A spokesperson said: 'Heartbeat has been an important part of the television landscape over the last eighteen years and we are incredibly proud of what it achieved in its heyday as one of ITV's top rated dramas. But we are overhauling our schedule to reflect the changing demands of our audience, refreshing the mix of programming we commission and broadcast. We will continue to maintain our significant investment in the genre, the biggest of any commercial broadcaster, but ITV's future focus will be on new and varied drama commissions.' The final series of Heartbeat will begin on 18 July.

Yvette Fielding has announced that she is leaving Most Haunted. The presenter made the announcement in a statement posted on the website for the show's production company Antix Productions, which she set up with her husband Karl Beattie. 'It has been a great ten years. However, after a lot of thought and soul-searching over the past year, I have come to a decision. It is now time for me to hang up my long black coat, move on and leave Most Haunted as its presenter in order to pursue other projects.' Fielding said that she is proud of what her 'baby' had achieved including being 'watched by royalty' and parodied by shows like Saturday Night Live. 'At the start I wanted to bring paranormal investigations to a wider audience, making them more acceptable and with the ever growing amount of investigation groups that have started since Most Haunted began, I feel that this has been achieved.' The forty one-year-old confirmed that she intends to continue working in the field. 'As well as continuing with ITV2's Ghosthunting With ... - which grows from strength to strength and with some great celebrity guests coming up, it is must-watch TV - I will be carrying on my quest to find paranormal activity on other channels taking investigations further than ever before and extending on what I have already done.' Living has yet to confirm if the show will continue with a new presenter but Fielding expressed her hope that it would. 'I hope that the brand will continue for years to come as it will always be dear to me.'

And, now for some Top Telly Tips:

Friday 2 July
In Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - Steve and Becky get positive news from the adoption co-ordinator, which is a bit of a surprise seeing as they've failed to notice that someone swapped Amy for another child about a month ago. It's also looking a bit rosy for Graeme and Tina, who take a scenic rickshaw ride along Weatherfield's number-one murder hot spot, the canal. It is, genuinely, heartening to know that the scene of Samir Rachid's beating, Roy's near-drowning by Tony and Richard Hillman's drive of his death is now a venue for romance. Unfortunately, in this unusually happy part of Manchester, it's not all smiles for Lloyd who is spending time in a Band of Gold-inspired netherworld thanks to his concern for lap dancer Cheryl. She's sporting a black eye, but her seedy boss Mal might not be the one responsible for the injury. The snot thickens. Of course, it's the third of four World Cup quarter finals tonight so, as ever, be prepared for extra time, penalties, and long rambling post-match analysis. as they say in the telly guides, 'subsequent programmes may run late ... Or, indeed, not at all.'

So, how about Forever Young: How Rock 'n' Roll Grew Up - 9:30 BBC4 - in which a seemingly random selection of not-so-grumpy old rockers, have a big reason to be cheerful - they now qualify for a bus pass to get to the gig. It feels like a never-ending parade of great British blokes from the baby boom generation. Bruce Welch, Eric Burdon and, to prove it's not all Geordies, Gary Brooker and Rick Wakeman, among them, alternating with some great archive clips. Music is strictly from the vaults - it's a blessed relief not to hear either 'Whiter Shade of Pale' or 'House of the Rising Sun' for the forty seven billionth time. Cherie Lunghi provides the husky, if somewhat arch, commentary, but the old footage seems more revealing than the talking heads stuff. Delightful exceptions are good old mad-as-toast Iggy Pop, who didn't achieve any real success until he was in his thirties and Alison Moyet, as the token woman of pop. Incidentally, those lyrics of 'My Generation' (you know the one I mean) is not quoted until the sixth interview. Neil Young, it would seem, had it wrong. It's better to fade away than the burn out!

Saturday 3 July
Finding himself opposite the last of the World Cup quarter finals, in Stephen Fry on Wagner - 8:40 BBC2 - Stephen explores his passion for controversial composer Richard Wagner. Can Stephen, a Jew and liberal, salvage the music which he loves from its dark association it has with Hitler's Nazi regime? Stephen's journey takes him to Germany, Switzerland and Russia as he pieces together the story of the composer's life and career. Along the way he plays Wagner's piano, meets the some of his descendants and eavesdrops on rehearsals for the Bayreuth Festival, the annual extravaganza of Wagner's music held in a theatre designed by the composer himself. Sounds rather good, if a bit highbrow. Not that there's anything wrong with a bit of that, of course. And, let's face it, if you don't fancy the football, it's either this, or The Magnificent Seven on Channel 4!

Sunday 4 July
In Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - Jeremy, Richard and James attempt to find a trio of cars which are equally at home on the race track as they are transporting the average family to the shops. And all for a budget of five thousand pounds. Ah, so it's a one of those challenge episode. Good, I like them. Plus James makes a rare visit to the Top Gear track to test a pair of Porsches, the 911 Sport Classic and Boxster Spyder and Alastair Campbell is the star in the all-new reasonably priced car.

Rain - 8:15 BBC4 - is, not unreasonably, one of series of documentaries all about the weather. This programme uncovers the true shape of a raindrop, shows how and why rain falls and tells stories of how we have adapted or succumbed to this elemental force of nature, such as James Glaisher's hot-air balloon ascent in 1862. The Victorians believed that they could master the rain, but today climate change threatens us with rain that is wilder and more unpredictable than ever.

The celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? - 9:15 BBC1 - has gone all stateside of late. In tonight's episode Brooke Shields embarks on a journey to discover which side of her divided and very different family she most identifies with. On the one hand, there is her mother's thrifty 'coupon clipping' New Jersey family and on the other, her father's more illustrious European aristocratic family with rumoured royal connections. I have to say the American episodes aren't, by and large, as involving as the British ones, of which I'm a big fan. But, they're all right and usually contain a Katie Humble-sized dose of weeping. Mind you, even Brooke can't compete with Natasha Kaplinsky who nearly drowned in her own tears a few years back.

Monday 5 July
Antiques Master - 8:30 BBC2 - sees the country's leading amateur antiques enthusiasts battle it out to become Britain's first ever Antiques Master in this opening episode of a brand new series presented by Sandi Toksvig and featuring antiques expert Eric Knowles. A sort of cross between Qi and Antiques Roadshow. The series starts with four contenders putting their skill and knowledge to the test over a series of tough challenges at Towneley Hall in Lancashire. Who will get through to the semi-finals?

ITV have been a bit on the ball with their crime drama over the last couple of years - one of the few things they have got right. We think of things like Unforgiven, Collision, Whitechapel etc. Well, Identity - 9:00 - is a six-part drama about an elite group of police officers who track down criminals who use the identities of others to help them lie, steal and even kill. Very topical, of course. Identity theft is said to be the biggest growing crime of the Twenty First Century. Led by the dedicated and tough DSI Martha Lawson (Keeley Hawes), the unit's secret weapon is maverick DI John Bloom (Aiden Gillen), whose background in undercover work means he knows what it is like to pretend to be someone else. A man is brought in for shooting a police officer but claims that he has been set up by an identity thief called 'Smith'. When the team uncover similar recent cases, Bloom becomes convinced that the thief is punishing his victims for cheating on their partners. Can the team use his insight to track down Smith? In addition to Keeley and Aiden, it's also got the brilliant Holly Aird in it. Okay, sold! Sounds really good. Might be rubbish, it is possible. But, I'm certainly going to give this one a go.

In tonight's episode of Mary, Queen of Shops - 9:00 BBC2 - retail guru Mary Portas is back to help the nation's independent retailers. Whether they want it or not. In this programme, Mary takes on an eighties hairdressing legend whose business is facing ruin. She is in Rochdale, one of the worst hit cities during the current recession, and on the dark side of of town is the once great John Peers hair salon now teetering on the edge of oblivion. With debts of forty grand, it is going to take a lot of blow-drys to return John's business to its former glory.

Tuesday 6 July
The World Cup semi-finals start tonight. So, take everything that might be on with a pinch of salt!

BBC2 have come up with the great idea of repeating the award-winning sitcom Miranda - 9:00 BBC2 - and tonight it's the best episode, and the one that made yer Keith Telly Topping a fan of the show. The titular heroine (the wonderful Miranda Hart) is rather British when it comes to sex, or 'shenanigans' as she likes to call it. Trying to overcome her hang-ups she decides the way forward with her unrequited love for Gary would be to create a romantic moment so that he'll see her in a more sexual light. Stevie persuades her to join an evening class to learn French, the language of lurv. She goes, only to discover that it's run by her old school teacher Mr Clayton (a terrific performance by Peter Davison), whom Stevie then starts dating, much to Miranda's disgust. If you haven't caught it before, this is a really good, really funny little show. Somewhat old fashioned in some ways, at least aesthetically, it's the kind of sitcom that wouldn't have been out of place on BBC1 in the 1980s. Only, it's good!

Build a New Life: Was It Worth It? - 8:00 Five - is a property and lifestyle series in which Charlie Luxton catches up with people whose earlier moving home was captued by the cameras to find out if it all went according to plan. Tonight, he returns to the Scottish island of Harris to catch up with Harvey and John, who had an ambitious plan to turn a run-down croft into a campsite, only to see legal wrangles threaten the entire venture. How have the couple fared?

Lastly for tonight there's To Kill A Mockingbird At Fifty - 9:00 BBC4. This documentary marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee's groundbreaking and influential novel To Kill A Mockingbird, later turned into an equally groundbreaking and influential film. Writer Andrew Smith visits Monroeville in Alabama, the setting of the book, to see how life there has changed in half a century. And how the prejudices that it so chillingly and insightfully chronicled are still an issue for many.

Wednesday 7 July
In The Private Life of Cows - 8:00 BBC2 - Jimmy Doherty embarks on a quest to reveal the hidden lives of farmyard animals. It's all 'journies' and 'quests' on telly this week. Isn't anybody doing what I'm doing and just sitting in my gaff watching the World Cup and the cricket? No? Just me then? Okay. Jimmy visits a farm in Devon to find out about cows: they are taken for granted but what really goes on inside their brains? Jimmy tries to find answers to questions such as how does a cow work out who is the boss? Why have one thousand people been injured by cows in the last ten years? And why are cows so sensitive to sudden movement? Now, there's a scary thought and a potential Sky One series, When Cows Attack.

Road users bypass them every day - sudden flashes of flowers tied to lamp posts or lying at the side of the road. Across the UK roadside memorials have become the expected response when someone dies suddenly in a traffic collision. For friends and family the spot where these tributes are left often becomes sacred; for others these shrines are an eyesore and a display that, they believe, should be kept private. Yet behind each roadside memorial there is a story of personal grief. In Loving Memory - 9:00 BBC2 - tells some of the stories.

Big Meets Bigger - 8:00 BBC3 - appears to be just what you'd expect from a BBC3 show with that title. Blonde and bubbly Bex Upton is too heavy to be weighed on normal scales and twenty three-year-old Essex girl Anne Odeke is twice the size she should be, despite a family history of diabetes. These girls aren't making any attempts to slim down, so will living with thirty eight-stone Deloris and her twenty three-stone sister Diane in Mississippi finally make them want to fight their flab? Yeah, brilliant. More fat facism brought to you people who 'know better.' Apparently.

Thursday 8 July
Dive - 9:00 BBC2 - is a contemporary teenage love story told in two parts. Lindsey Macallum isn't like those teenagers you read about in the papers. She doesn't go out to all-night parties, she doesn't drink, and she hasn't even got close to having a boyfriend. Lindsey is a sixteen-year-old 2012 Olympic diving hopeful and her life is dedicated to her sport. That is until she meets the local bad boy Robert Wisley and they fall in love.

Cheetah Man - 8:00 Five - had a title that just screams 1940s Hollywood B-movie. But, no, it's a documentary - and a rather good looking one - exploring the work of conservationist Olivier Houalet. For four years, the twenty eight-year-old Frenchman has spent every day with five orphaned cheetah cubs and has adopted the animals' body language to such an extent that he is now accepted as one of them. The film follows Olivier as he sees through to fruition a groundbreaking experiment to return his charges to the wild.

As regular readers will know, yer Keith Telly Topping has been very much enjoying the current series of Lie to Me - 10:00 Sky1. If you've never seen it before, it a drama series about a scientist (played by the excellent Tim Roth) who uses his ability to read facial expressions and body language to solve crimes. In this episode, Cal's daughter becomes involved in a murder investigation. And, a solution is found for the Lightman Group's money problems. Two plots for the pricve of one.

And finally, in Mock the Week - 10:00 BBC2 - Dara O Briain and regulars Hugh Dennis, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons dissect another week with guests Chris Addison, Ed Byrne and Micky Flanagan.

So to the news: Sports minister Hugh Robertson has warned that funding cuts to sport will further reduce chances of the Ashes returning to free-to-view television. In January 2009 the previous government commissioned a review of what sporting events should be made free-to- air. The England and Wales Cricket Board expressed concerns over losing revenue. But Robertson said: 'Public expenditure cuts will impact in sport so the way to equalise it is to give governing bodies freedom to market their own rights.' The review was chaired by former Football Association chief executive David Davies, whose team concluded that England's home Ashes matches should be on the list of 'crown jewels' along with the Olympics, World Cup, Grand National and other leading events. But it now looks certain that the England and Wales Cricket Board will be able to maintain their exclusive deal with satellite broadcasters BSkyB, which currently runs until 2013, although in return the Government will seek assurances on grassroots funding and some changes to how the sport is run. In February, Robertson said it would be 'foolish' to deprive the ECB of their television money from Sky, which is thought to represent around eighty per cent of their income. Robertson is keen for sports to not be so heavily reliant on broadcast money however, and said he would 'encourage' the ECB to introduce more independent directors.

BBC3's new comedy Mongrels has been accused of copying a 2001 Channel 4 series. Mongrels aired for the first time on Tuesday - and very funny it was too - but the creators of Pets have now complained that it borrowed from their programme. Writing on the BBC's TV blog, Pets creator Brian West said that puppeteers Iestyn Evans and Andy Heath had worked on both shows and claimed that the producers of Pets had pitched a spin-off to the executive producer of Mongrels in 2005. He continued: 'You might also recognise Vince in Mongrels. He's Trevor from Pets. At the last count, Pets had over ten million downloads on iTunes, so I don't think it'll be long before other people notice these little coincidences.' Meanwhile, the comedy website Chortle reports that the makers of Pets have received thirty e-mails from viewers pointing out the similarities. However, West later wrote that Mongrels executive producer Stephen McCrum had assured him that Pets was not discussed during the making of the BBC3 show. Heath also defended the programme, posting: 'It is regretful that this comparison is made, as having been involved with both projects myself from conception, I feel like our hard work is being taken advantage of. Pets was Pets. Mongrels is Mongrels. If, as a viewer, you can sit down and say they are the same, then there is little point in making any new shows if the slightest similarity (puppets and animals) can be suggested as idea stealing. I am surprised Basil Brush hasn't been on the blower, as he is a fox, and that must be a copy, right?' He added: 'I worked on both, and know for a fact where they both come from. Two very different ideas.' A BBC spokesperson told the Digital Spy website: 'We Are Mongrels is entirely created and devised by Adam Miller and writers Jon Brown and Daniel Peak with the BBC, drawing inspiration from animation and puppetry of many kinds. It is a new and original production.'

The BBC is reportedly planning to revive the Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes character Gene Hunt. Or, at least, in the wishful thinking of an enterprising tabloid stringer. At the end of the last episode, it emerged that Gene, played by Philip Glenister, had died and was trapped in limbo. However, the Mirror claims that the BBC is now thinking about developing a new spin-off placing Gene in the present day. A - nameless, of course - senior BBC drama producer allegedly claimed to the newspaper that the move would be 'rather interesting' and added: 'The popularity of New Tricks, which features three yesteryear policemen doing a good job in the modern era, shows that old 'uns can still be good 'uns.' Ashes To Ashes co-creator Matthew Graham has previously suggested that Gene Hunt would only reappear if 'Hollywood came calling,' whilst Phil Glensiter himself said that he believed the character was being retired at the right time. So, where the hell his Mirror stories comes from, I have absolutely no idea. Much like the vast majority of shite that appears between the covers of that particular organ of the press.

Jeremy Clarkson has revealed that the BBC - or, at least, someone within it, because the BBC is, as Jezza knows, a very big organisations - ordered him not to cook for guests due to health and safety regulations. While filming for series fifteen of Top Gear, Clarkson put on a barbeque for a number of 'star in a reasonably priced car' guests, including Louie Spence and Al Murray. However, the presenter was telephoned and informed that he was breaching rules. Clarkson told the Sun: 'I was in the middle of offering everyone a sausage when we got a call saying as we hadn't been trained properly, we weren't allowed to give the food we had cooked to any guests. It meant we had to eat it ourselves while our guests went hungry. We don't normally listen to rules - and of course we couldn't stop anyone stealing bits of food.' Peter Jones, who was also present at the event, added: 'We couldn't eat any of the food. Clarkson thought it was hysterical - but they were really serious about it.'

Heroes actor Adrian Pasdar has avoided a jail term by pleading no contest to a misdemeanour charge of driving under the influence. The forty four-year-old actor, who plays Nathan Petrelli in the hit show, was arrested in January after Los Angeles Police caught him swerving at high speeds across a freeway. According to TMZ, Pasdar has been sentenced to thirty six months probation and ordered to pay a three hundred and ninety five dollar fine. He will also need to attend an alcohol education programme and ten Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A second charge against Pasdar, for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test, was dropped by prosecutors.

Lawyers representing a former Survivor producer charged with murdering his wife in Mexico have filed a legal challenge to prevent his extradition back to the country. The Mexican foreign ministry requested on Wednesday that Bruce Beresford-Redman, who is accused of killing his wife, Monica, in April, be extradited from the US, according to The Hollywood Reporter. On Friday the Associated Press confirmed that the state prosecutor of California, where Beresford-Redman is currently staying with his children, had received the appeal against the proposed extradition. Beresford-Redman's lawyers stated on Thursday that he would surrender to US authorities if necessary, but intends to fight extradition to Mexico. Beresford-Redman's wife was beaten and strangled during a holiday to a luxury resort in Cancun. Her body was later discovered in a sewer. He denies all charges, saying at the time that he was 'devastated' by her death.

The cast of Primeval have finished filming the upcoming fourth series. The show was originally cancelled by ITV last year but was later revived when the channel teamed up in a co-production with UKTV, BBC America and the German broadcaster ProSieben. Hannah Spearritt, Andrew Lee-Potts, Ben Miller, Jason Flemyng, Lucy Brown and Ben Mansfield have all returned to the show, while new cast members include Alexander Siddig, Ciarán McMenamin, Ruth Bradley, Jonathan Byrne, Anton Lesser and Ruth Kearney. The programme's executive producer Tim Haines said: 'The cast and crew have been brilliant and they have put in a huge effort over the past four months to deliver some amazing work. We have also been very lucky in that Dublin has afforded us some fantastic new locations and the fact that we've filmed in HD for the first time means that the production values are higher than ever. The rough cuts I've seen are very exciting and I think we are going to deliver a show that will really please and delight the fans.' Well, this particular fan certainly hopes so. Always had a soft spot for Primeval. The fourth series will premiere on ITV next year before being broadcast on Watch. The cast are currently about to start work on a fifth series.

The executive producer of House has claimed that the relationship between House and Cuddy is 'serious.' The pair - finally - got together in the last season finale and David Shore has now told Entertainment Weekly that the show had to examine their relationship. 'We're serious about this,' he said. 'It's something that all network shows are leery about, but we had to do it. [Cheers] had to do it with Sam and Diane and we had to do this.' He continued: 'It's not a soap opera. But there are relationships on the show. And if House and Cuddy have a fight, it's going to be about House's unique perspective on that. It'll also be about how it affects their ability to diagnose patients.' Shore also claimed that the photo showing Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein on the beach does not mean that the relationship will be easy. 'Obviously things aren't going to be simple,' he said. 'Even in [the season opener] there are all sorts of hiccups. What that [scene depicts] is rather different from what you're going to experience when you watch the episode. It's not Beach Blanket Bingo.' Well, thank heavens for that!

Jonny Lee Miller has reportedly signed up to appear in Dexter. According to Variety, the Eli Stone and Trainspotting actor will star in several episodes of the upcoming fifth season. He is expected to play a mysterious man who gets involved with Julia Stiles' character. Shawn Hatosy, Maria Doyle Kennedy and April Lee Hernandez are also lined up to star in future episodes of the show.

Jo Brand has admitted that she finds it difficult to write candidly about her personal life when she works on her autobiographies. The comedienne last year released the first instalment of her life story, titled Look Back In Hunger, and is currently busy writing its follow-up. However, speaking on The Five O'Clock Show, Brand confessed that she often feels uncomfortable with the idea of opening up in print. She explained: 'I'm doing the sequel at the moment. The title of the second one is Can't Stand Up For Sitting Down. I think it's difficult, if you're a quite private person like I am, to write about your life very intimately. But I've put some bits and pieces in.' The fifty two-year-old added that her new book will recall the moment when one of her daughters discovered that she was famous after starting primary school at the age of five. Brand said: 'She came home one day and asked, "Mum - are you Jo Brand?" I said, "I am, yes - why do you ask?" She said, "Because everyone at school says you are."'

And, more sad news. The former Kinks bassist Pete Quaife has died aged sixty six, it has been confirmed. He been undergoing kidney dialysis for over a decade. The musician played on the band's earlier hits including 'You Really Got Me', 'All Day and All of the Night', 'Sunny Afternoon' and 'Waterloo Sunset'. A co-founder of the group, Quaife played with them for five years before leaving in 1969. He had been quoted as saying how unhappy he was during his time in the Kinks, not least because of the fractious relationship between Ray and Dave Davies. But he also proudly recalled his work on the band's landmark 1968 The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society LP. 'Making that album was the high point of my career,' he told Jukebox magazine in 2006. 'For me it represents the only real album made by the Kinks in which we all contributed something.' After leaving the band in 1969, Quaife was replaced by John Dalton, who had previously filled in for him when he broke his leg in a car accident. Several months after quitting, he formed another band, Mapleoak, but it failed to match the success of the Kinks. He teamed up with his former bandmates for a one-off concert in Canada in 1981, but a much-vaunted renunion never came to fruition. Alan Plater and Pete Quaife leaving us in one day. Two men who, for very different reasons. were examples of why the sixties, broadly speaking, were all they were cracked up to be.

From a legend, to Amanda Holden who has, reportedly, auditioned for a role in the London musical production of Shrek, according to sources. Holden has tried for the part of Princess Fiona, the character voiced by Cameron Diaz in the 2001 DreamWorks movie, reports the Daily Mail. Don't touch her, guys, she's box-office poison. Just ask the BBC.

Chris Tarrant's ex-wife has told a court that she was 'taken down' by a police officer following a confrontation over a parking ticket. Ingrid Tarrant, fifty five, of Cobham in Surrey, said that PC Peter Groves had become 'angry' after she parked illegally in a bus stop in Cobham High Street. The television presenter's ex-wife told Kingston Crown Court she had driven off because she was 'frightened.' Mrs Tarrant was appealing against her sentence and conviction in July 2009. But Judge Nicholas Price QC said Tarrant 'persuaded herself' her recollection of events was accurate. He said: 'I do not want it to be thought that I am calling her a liar. She has been able to persuade herself that she was in the right and the officer was in the wrong and that self-deception enabled her to believe what she had said.' As Tarrant left the court, she said: 'I am terribly disappointed.'

Joe McElderry - remember him? - has 'lauded' Simon Cowell for his honesty on The X Factor last year. Speaking to STV, McElderry described how he initially feared the music mogul, but insisted that as he got to know him he realised he is 'really nice.'

A cat which had its back feet severed by a combine harvester has been given two prosthetic limbs in a pioneering operation by a UK vet. Aw, poor little chap. The new feet are custom-made implants that 'peg' the ankle to the foot. They are bioengineered to mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin. The operation - a world first - was carried out by Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon based in Surrey. His work is explored in a BBC documentary called The Bionic Vet. The prosthetic pegs, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) were developed by a team from University College London led by Professor Gordon Blunn, who is head of UCL's Centre for Biomedical Engineering. Professor Blunn and his team have worked in partnership with Mr Fitzpatrick to develop these weight-bearing implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology. Mr Fitzpatrick explained: 'The real revolution with Oscar is [that] we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone. We have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an "exoprosthesis" that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal's limbs to give him effectively normal gait.' Professor Blunn told BBC News the idea was initially developed for patients with amputations who have a 'stump socket. This means they fix their artifical limb with a sock, which fits over the stump. In a lot of cases this is sucessful, but you [often] get rubbing and pressure sores.' The Itap technology is being tested in humans and has already been used to create a prosthetic for a lady who lost her arm in the July 2005 London bombings. 'The intriguing thing with Oscar was that he had two implants - one in each back leg, and in quite an unusual site,' Professor Blunn told the BBC. He said that the success of this operation showed the potential of the technology. 'Noel has some brilliant ideas,' he added. 'And we're continuing to work closely with him to develop new technologies.' So, at least Oscar can get about and live a full and active life, anyway. Bless him.

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