Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week Forty: The Milk Of Human Kindness Dribbling Over The Cornflakes Of Life

So, any road up, ladies and gentlemen of the blog, yer near-gullible Keith Telly Topping was, it would seem, almost-but-not-quite the victim of a dodgy cold-calling computer-related scam-type-affair on Friday. I shall explain further. I had a call at home - having just got in from a very nice lunch with my mother, as it happens - from someone claiming to be from 'Windows 7 technical support' telling me that my computer had been 'infected' by 'hacking files and so on' and that I needed to 'get it sorted' or it could be 'very bad indeed, oh dear yes, terrible' (I'm paraphrasing here you understand although, to be honest, the guy had a very thick Indian subcontinent accent and it was often difficult to make out exactly what he was saying). Something about the call just screamed 'dodgy' from a moment or two into it - I don't know much about computers but I know enough to be fairly certain that Microsoft don't make a habit of ringing people up to tell them there's something wrong with their computer as, there simply aren't enough hours in the day for that! So, I let this guy carry on for a while to see what his game was and was ultimately asked to click onto a website address www.secure.me - only he wanted me to do it via my Windows run option. I didn't, of course, I used a net browser instead. This took me to a log-in page for a company who appeared to be called LogMeIn123 or a variant. At that point some serious alarm bells were ringing so I asked the guy for his phone number so that I could ring them back to confirm that they were who they said they were. The number I was given was 01432 598002 which turned out to be the telephone number for a company who said they were called 'Windowscare'. So, anyway, by that time I realised this was, entirely, a scam, and contacted the Action Fraud helpline who are, I imagine, as we speak getting all legalistic on their sorry asses. Or not. But, it'd be funny if they were. Luckily I didn't actually connect to this website nor had I got to the stage where they asked me for my credit card details, although I had a strong feeling that was coming next. Apparently, this sort of thing is becoming very common, there's even a website detailing various attempts by these naughty people to scam unwitting computer owners into either giving them money for non-existent cover or, worse, 'remote access' which means they can see what you're doing on your computer and, if you're buying anything online, the details of your card. A few moments later my dear old mam, who is ninety and has never owned a computer in her life, was called by the same people so they're clearly going through a Tyneside telephone directory at the moment for potential scamees! The saucy little fakers. Therefore, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping is fair 'in a mood' tonight.

Matt Smith has denied recent - seemingly unsubstantiated - media reports that his Doctor Who co-star Karen Gillan will leave either during of after the upcoming sixth series. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Smith stated that the bond between the current incarnation of The Doctor and Gillan's character Amy Pond is too strong to sever after only two years. 'She can't die, Amy Pond can't die. No way, I'd be sad. I'd miss Karen,' he said. 'I just think for this particular Doctor, his bond with Amy, I think there's a lot more mileage in it yet.' The actor further explained: 'I think there's a long way to go. So I can't see it happening any time soon.' Smith promised that he would exert his influence over Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat to ensure that Amy is not killed off. 'Don't worry, I won't let it happen - I'll save her,' he concluded.

This week saw the return of two favourite US crime dramas, Bones and CSI. Both of them had ended last season of cliffhangers of one sort or another and, therefore, the season openers each had to walk the tricky line of clearing up one set of storylines whilst, simultaneously, starting off another. The good news is, they both managed it - in very different ways, admittedly. Bones is a lighter, perhaps less dramatically satisfying but, ultimately, a more human story. Essentially, the plot of the episode - The Mastodon in the Room - was that, seven months after Brennan and Booth's departure from the Jeffersonian, the entire team had fallen apart. Angela and Jack have been living in Paris, Sweets has given up psychiatry, Wendell's working in a garage and Cam's about to lose her job as coroner. Caroline brings the team back together to solve a case of child abduction and, of course, succeeds. Otherwise you wouldn't've had an episode. It was fun. Comfortable. Like putting on a pair of old slippers after they've been hidden under a table for a few months. CSI had the more risky proposition of dealing with Ray Langston's stabbing in last season's finale. They did it the only way they know how, throwing the team (including a scarred Nicky and a worked off her feet Sara) into a tool-stiffeningly violent episode - Shock Waves - in which a series of bombs at the funeral of the police officer who died in the restaurant shoot-out last year is merely the prelude to a complex plot about revenge. Teenage pop sensation, it says here, Justin Bieber had a small role - and didn't look particularly comfortable in it - although the episode was considerably lightened by a good performance from new semi-regular Sienna Guillory. Bones and CSI then, back with a bang. Literally, in the case of the latter.

I mentioned earlier that I was 'in a mood.' Somebody else who seems to fit into that category most of the live-long day is Lord Alan Sugar of The Dodgy Satellite Dish who has, apparently, called Piers Morgan 'a tosser.' In a mood, perhaps but, apparently, not incapable of spotting a tosser when he sees one. Which is comforting. Although, to be fair, he did own Tottenham Hotshots at one point so, it could be argued he had plenty of practice at spotting tossers. It is alleged. The Apprentice bully-boy is said to have made the comment during an interview on Morgan's ITV series When Piers Met ... according to the Sun. A 'source' claimed: 'He was trying to grill Lady Sugar on what first attracted her to the then-penniless, plain old Alan, but Lord Sugar shut him up by calling him a tosser. It was in good humour but put Piers in his place.' The pair have frequently traded insults in the past. Morgan called Sugar 'a revolting human being' after the Amstrad entrepreneur referred to the Britain's Got Talent judge as 'Simon Cowell's monkey.' You know, Alan Sugar has suddenly gone up about a thousand per cent in my estimation. Anyway, Morgan also once claimed that Sugar was 'not as clever' as his US Apprentice counterpart Donald Trump. That's a bit like saying that Wayne Rooney's not a clever as John Terry. It might be true but, is it really anything to boast about?

And so, dear blog reader, to the coming week's Top Telly Tips.

Friday 1 October
Strictly Come Dancing - 9:00 BBC1 - kicks off its new series, proper ('red carpet events' notwithstanding) via a two-episode special which concludes tomorrow. This sees no one leave - tragically, not even Paul Daniels. Yet - but seven of the celebrities take to the floor in the first live show of the new series, performing either a waltz or a cha-cha-cha. Only judges Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon, Craig Revel Horwood and Len Goodman score the couples on this particular occasion. The public are told to keep their bleeding noses out for another week. Tomorrow night, the other seven will battle it out to see who takes the top spot, all under the watchful eye of Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly. Ann Widdecombe in a tutu. Cannot wait.

It's a bit of a rubbish night on Friday, frankly as we've also got hours of televised sky on BBC2 - or 'golf' as it's also known - as the BBC's coverage of the Ryder Cup continues. Golf? The least interesting sport in the world to watch when you're not actually on the course. except, possibly, rally cross. And bowls.

Saturday 2 October
In Qi: XL - 10:30 BBC2 - Stephen Fry is joined by his guests. And, this week that's the funny David Mitchell, the very funny Sean Lock, and the world's greatest radio presenter Danny Baker, along with regular panellist Alan Davies on the quiz with a difference. Correctness and even intelligence go out of the window as the host asks questions about hoaxes, and awards points for the answers which he finds the most interesting. Yadda, yadda. It's been quite a good start to the new series - although Alan looked a bit bored during the 'anatomy' episode and fell back on his old routine of doing silly voices to get a laugh - but then, it's always nice to have a show like Qi that celebrates knowledge and humour over the crass, banal Heat magazine-style nonsense which saturates so much of the current sick TV landscape. In general, ladies and gentlemen, we get the TV that we deserve. Me, I'd sooner watch Qi than Big Brother. If that makes me out-of-step with the modern world then so be it, but at least I appear to be in good company, something I'm sure the four-to-five million audience the show gets each week will agree with.

Meanwhile, over on takes-itself-far-too-seriously, Merlin - 7:05 BBC1 - an enigmatic young man steps in to help Merlin and Arthur when they find themselves outnumbered in a tavern brawl. Risking his life to protect the prince, the stranger is seriously wounded and taken back to Camelot, where he quickly makes a startling recovery and begins drinking, charming the ladies and causing trouble for Merlin. I hate blokes like that. Kick him in the nuts, Merlin, that's my advice. Guest starring Eoin Macken.

Sunday 3 October
There's a rather good premise for tonight's episode of Inspector George Gently - 8:30 BBC1. In the summer of 1966, the Northumbrian police come under increasing media scrutiny, as Sunderland prepares to host a World Cup match involving the USSR, while campaigners protest against the proposed landing of the Polaris nuclear submarine at Jarrow docks. Both of which actually did happen that year. When an academic is found dead after a CND rally, Gently and Bacchus are dispatched to Durham University to investigate his background - but find themselves in the midst of a wave of social and sexual rebellion. Starring Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby, with Corrie's Sarah Lancashire and the great Warren Clarke (Dalziel and Pascoe).

Still on a footballing theme, Can England Win the Next World Cup? - 9:30 BBC2. Can they? Yes, they can. Are they likely to? No, they are not. Next question. England has the strongest and most successful top-flight league in football, watched by, it is estimated, around one billion viewers worldwide each week. That's a seventh of the population of the planet! Yet it's been forty four years since the national side won a major trophy and twenty years since they even got close. This documentary asks what the smeg is going on with our national game. Former goal-scoring legend and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker goes in search of some answers, hearing the views from some of the game's biggest names including Jose Mourinho, Jürgen Klinsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Harry Redknapp and Johan Cruyff. I love the way they stuck Harry Redknapp in the middle of that list in the hope that nobody would notice and ask 'what the hell is Harry Bloody Redknapp doing being mentioned in the same breath as Mourinho and Cruyff.' Can lessons be learned from the Spanish, who've transformed the fortunes of their - so often in the past underperforming - national team over the last decade? How have the Germans reinvented themselves? And does English football need to change now in order to possess the best league and team in the world? Getting a few more English players into the English Premier League might help, I'd venture. For Keith Telly Topping's own opinion on this subject, dear blog reader, you need to check this out. And, to be fair to myself, my opinion is at least as valid as Harry Redknapp's. If not more so.

There's a long-overdue, and welcome, return for Time Team - 5:25 Channel 4 for the second half of a series which kicked-off nearly six months ago. So, despite what Radio Times might be trying to tell you, this is episode seven of series seventeen, not episode one of series eighteen. Don't be fooled by propaganda! Anyway, Tony Robinson and the archaeologists this week excavate the site of the world's first purpose-built prisoner of war camp, which was constructed to incarcerate seven thousand of Napoleon's troops in 1797 at Norman Cross in Cambridgeshire. The team is particularly interested in locating the cemetery, where more than two thousand inmates were buried after dying from various diseases contracted in the camp - and their search leads them to discover just how brutal prisoners' lives could be. Ah yes, they didn't mess about the Community Service Orders or ASBOs in them days, it was just straight to pokey and an almost certainly fatal case of dengue fever.

Monday 4 October
And, speaking of terrible tropical diseases, if the Commonwealth Games hasn't been abandoned due to typhoid or something by the week commencing this Monday then, with luck, some type of sporting competitions might, just, be underway. Therefore, get ready for the nightly Games Today - 7:00 BBC2. Jolly Hockeysticks Sue Barker and so laid-back he's almost horizontal Jake Humphrey introduce a round-up of action from the opening day in Delhi, as the first eight gold medals of the Games were decided. Including five in the pool. That's not the one on the floor of the bathroom in some of the accommodation blocks, incidentally, but rather at the SP Mukherjee Swimming Stadium. Weightlifting and artistic gymnastics also crowned their first champions of the Games, and the tennis, netball and badminton tournaments were among those to get under way. Hopefully. Unless the stadium collapses, or something.

Do you know what, dear blog reader? I realise that my championing of [spooks] - 9:00 BBC1 - appears to get right on some people's raw tit-end. But, frankly, I couldn't give sodding monkey's banana about that. Because, that's yer Keith Telly Topping down to the ground, right. He's a mean-hearted mother livin' outside the law, and when he gives ya good lovin' you'll come beggin' for more. Just like everybody else does. Anyway, in tonight's episode of the espionage thriller when word gets out that the Azakstan Freedom Front is trying to acquire a lethal outlawed nerve agent, Harry sends Lucas to help the Russians destroy the sample. However, a member of the AFF travels to London (thus, I guess, the Front is Back ... All right, all right, I know it's a Citizen Smith joke but, what do you want? I'm working with the material I'm given here, okay?) in search of the substance. This forces the team to work quickly and welcome an FSB officer to the grid in a bid to track down the rogue nationalist and prevent a biological weapon that has the potential to wipe out the entire city in hours from being used. Guest starring Julian Lewis Jones (from Where the Heart Is).

Now, you all know that yer Keith Telly Topping loves The Gadget Show - 8:00 Channel Five - like the mostest, baby. And, why not - it's 'funky' and 'happening' and all of those other crappy TV industry buzzwords used by twentysomething wankers fresh out of doing media studies at some former Polytechnic given ideas above its station and now getting paid more in an hour than I earn in a year since they got a job in 'the broadcasting sector.' Not that I'm bitter, nor nothing. No, actually, I've very bitter. But, what y'gonna do? And, The Gadget Show, for all that, is still great so it'd be churlish to complain. Despite the fact that I'm very good at it. Pollyanna Woodward and Ortis Deley try out cloud computing, in which resources and software are accessed over the Internet rather than being installed locally on a single computer. Jon Bentley debates the pros and cons of 3D TVs with Jason Bradbury, and visits Singapore to attend the 2010 RoboCup, and the Goddess-like divinity that is Suzi Perry reviews the best pay-as-you-go mobile phones.

Tuesday 5 October
In The Wedding House - 8:00 Channel 4 - a stately home is handed over to a team of wedding experts who 'encourage couples to indulge themselves with a tailor-made wedding ceremony.' This week the mansion witnesses three events: an Alice in Wonderland-themed wedding with bride, groom and guests all dressed as characters from the Lewis Carroll classic; a service accommodating the happy couple's six dogs, and a theatrical wedding featuring a performance of Come What May from Moulin Rouge. What a perfectly horrendous idea for a TV show. And the trailer for this ... thing makes it look even worse than that above description would suggest. Which, frankly, I didn't think was possible. I'm afraid, when it comes to weddings, I'm with the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, who recently described many modern weddings as 'overblown vanity projects,' full of brattish temper tantrums and all 'justified by foot-stomping references to "my special day."' The pre-publicity suggests that 'With the Office of National Statistics recently revealing marriage rates to be at an all time low The Wedding House is attempting to buck the trend by providing all the excitement and variety of a Las Vegas chapel – in the UK. Each couple will have a legally binding civil ceremony or partnership, and can share their special day with family and guests…and the viewing nation. Whether you're a teenager or a pensioner, want a themed ceremony or a whacky wedding, desire a civil partnership or to re-new your vows the sky really is the limit.' Hopefully, the sky is also the limit for whatever Channel 4 executive came up with the idea for this abomination in the first place. Is it too much to hope, however, that they forget to give him or her a parachute?

Easily the best title for a TV show this week is There's a Hippo in My House - 8:00 Channel Five. Now, somebody deserves an award for that. A small one, admittedly, but still ... This is, as you might expect from a show with such a title, a documentary telling 'the remarkable story', as documentaries usually do, of Tonie and Shirley Joubert, a couple living on the outskirts of South Africa's Kruger National Park who adopted a baby hippopotamus six years ago. The programme details how the creature rejected life with its own kind after being released into the wild as an adult, and has come to develop an unprecedented bond with its human carers.

On a slightly similar theme - well, it's got animals in it, anyway - there's Timeshift: When Britain Went Wild - 9:00 BBC4. This is another documentary which explores how the 1960s heralded a new age of environmental awareness in Britain, in which conservation pioneers such as Gerald Durrell, Gavin Maxwell and Peter Scott enlightened the public to the plight of endangered species and the natural world. The programme also reveals how the Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967, which saw a stricken oil tanker leak its cargo into the sea around Land's End, prompted many people to become more tolerant toward taking care of the planet.

And finally on what is, quite possibly, the single crappiest night of TV that I've ever had the misfortune to try and pick some Tip Telly Tips for, there's Rude Tube - 10:00 Channel 4. In this 'hilarious' conceit, Alex Zane 'celebrates the funniest, strangest, and most outrageous clips that have become web classics.' Oh, do you have to, Alex? I mean, couldn't you just say you did but then, didn't? Just a thought. He begins by highlighting moments when things failed to go to plan, including a best man at a wedding having an unusual mishap, a festival-goer who mistakes a urinal for a sink, and a church pastor who regrets going for a motorbike ride inside church. So, You've Been Framed but without the wit of Harry Hill to send the whole thing up. You've been warned, perhaps? Remember, no dumb animals were hurt during the making of this show. Although, lots form the core of the audience. Apparrently.

Wednesday 6 October
In The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1 - Lord Sugar returns for a sixth series in which he challenges another collection of aspiring entrepreneurs, with the eventual winner receiving the prize of a lucrative job at one of his companies. The man who made the world's second most popular satellite dish (when there were only two on the market) gives the candidates' their first task - which is to create their own brand of sausages, before hitting the streets at dawn to sell their wares to unsuspecting passers by. And, at the end of the peisode, one of them will get fried. I mean, fired. Bullyboy TV enjoyed by people who delight in the misfortunes of others. The world is sick and wrong. Still, The Apprentice: You're Fired! follows at 10pm on BBC2 and now that Chiles has pissed off to ITV somebody's hit on the genuinely bright idea of getting Dara Ó Briain to front it. Okay, I might have to put my cynicism in check for a bit over this unexpected development.

Having had a whilste-stop tour through the first thirteen hundred years of little Kibworth's existance as a population centre, in Michael Wood's Story of England - 9:00 BBC4 - the broadcaster and historian reaches the good old fun-loving fourteenth century. And, he explores how the great famine and the Black Death affected the Leciestershire viallage. Delving into the local archives and aided by on-site archaeological excavations, he learns that two-thirds of the village's population were lost but also how these tragic events helped create community spirit. There's a very good piece on the opening episode by the blogger Mietek Padowicz which does a nice compare and contrast exercise with Time Team, the obvious template for this kind of programme. It's fascinating, isn't it, that once upon a time archaeology was considered a television by-word for 'late night, BBC2, don't worry nobody will be watching'?!

From the genuinely informative and educational (two of Lord Reith's three pillars upon which the BBC was built) to something which, if you stretched a point, I guess, could be regarded as 'entertainment.' Peter Andre: The Next Chapter - 9:00 ITV2 - sees the singer performing at the Midlands Music Festival before taking his children, Junior and Princess, as far away from their mother as he can physically get them, on a trip back to his native Australia. In Cairns, the family heads out to the Great Barrier Reef for a fishing trip, but things get hairy when the weather turns rough. Of course, I suppose there's a lesson in why he should have tried to keep the marriage together. If Katie he been there and the boat had sunk, they could've always got their heads together and built a wooden raft. Either that, or used her as a bouyancy aid. Nah, lissen. I've got hundreds of these dear blog reader. I save 'em up for special occasions.

Thursday 7 October
Autumnwatch - 8:30 BBC2 - returns for its 2010 series tonight. Chris Packham and Kate Humble present the nature programme which studies wildlife throughout the season. This week, they share their adventures in the wild side of London, cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James is on the trail of an otter and her cubs in Shetland, and Martin Hughes-Games hears about badgers living in the heart of the city. We haven't been told where Simon King's got himself to yet but, you can bet it'll probably be halfway up a cliff somewhere protected only by a flimsy BBC kagoul.

Nigella Lawson shows how to serve up delicious food in a hurry with another selection of shortcut recipes and other assorted food pornography in Nigella's Kitchen - 8:00 BBC2. She does so whilst pouting seductively to the camera and saying, in a husky voice, things like 'Remember, so long as there's no one else about, I can think of nothing better than running my finger around the bowl and then giving it a good lick.' Or, something equally filthy. And, that's why we all watch it, dear blog reader. Because, let's face it we all want to have a good hard poke around inside Nigella's pantry, do we not? And, if we're really lucky, we might get to dip our sponge fingers into her juice. No, stop it. Roast lamb with rosemary and port, followed by orange and blackberry trifle, is on the menu tonight for an after-work dinner with friends, while hungry teenagers are catered for with a crustless pizza. Plus, a fail-safe lunch of Japanese prawns and party fare with a feast of chicken fajitas, guaranteed to be hot and spicy on the tongue. Even something pure dead simple, like a sandwich, can become a mouthwatering crusty split, stuffed with beef. I need a cold shower after all of that.

EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - sees Michael begging Kat to leave with him, as a despondent Alfie tries to deal with his discovery of this conflaburisation. So, Alfie asks Phil if he can get out of the contract to buy The Vic. Meanwhile, Jay bears the brunt of Billy's anger when he asks questions about his childhood and Bianca worries for Carol when she finds out that Billie has made other plans for his birthday. As noted the other week, brilliantly described by a colleague of mine as 'ugly people shouting at each other.' Which is, I reckon, as good a description as any I heard.

And, so to the news: Eliza Dushku is to make a guest appearance on CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Fancast reports that the Dolhouse star will play an FBI agent in the seventh episode of the new season. The character will apparently begin investigating the background of Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) when he needs high-level clearance for a new project. Dushku, of course, previously played the cult favourite Faith in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel and also starred in the utterly wretched supernatural FOX drama Tru Calling.

Lawyers acting for the convicted murderer Amanda Knox are reportedly trying to stop an upcoming dramatisation of the murder of Meredith Kercher starring Heroes' Hayden Panettiere. It was reported earlier this week that the acrtess had signed on to play Knox in a Lifetime TV movie based on the Italian trial of the twenty one-year-old student and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Knox and Sollecito were convicted of murdering the British student Meredith in Perugia in 2007. The pair have always maintained their innocence and are currently appealing their prison sentences. Maria Del Grosso, Knox's defence attorney, said of The Amanda Knox Story: 'It is inconceivable to make a film when a final verdict on this case has not been reached.' Sollecito's lawyer Giulia Bongiorno commented: 'If the film is shown before the end of the appeals trial we will request it be seized.' The appeals are due to be heard in court later this year, while the Lifetime project is currently slated for broadcast in 2011.

BBC Worldwide is forging ahead with plans to sell a stake in BBC Magazines, which publishes the Radio Times and Top Gear titles. Yesterday, the BBC Trust gave the greenlight for the sale process to go ahead after several months of negotiation on the details. Worldwide - the BBC's commercial arm - has now invited prospective partners to submit commercial proposals for the magazines business, which also handles Gardener's World, Good Food and publications from Lonely Planet. At least thirty parties have already expressed their interest in BBC Magazines, which is the UK's four largest magazine publisher in terms of circulation. The proposed shake-up at BBC Magazines first surfaced in the BBC's strategy review, which called on Worldwide to focus on its international operations and 'move away from physical media.' The structure of any transaction has not yet been determined, but could involve a bidder buying a majority equity stake in the business of up to eighty five per cent. In July, Worldwide sold eighty five per cent of its BBC Audiobooks division, which publishes bestsellers such as Under Milkwood and Winnie the Pooh, to AudioGo Ltd for more than ten million pounds. BBC Magazines, which is valued at around one hundred and eighty million, made a pre-tax profit of over eighteen million pounds in 2009-10. Instead of bidding for the majority stake, commercial partners could instead acquire individual magazine titles outright or agree licensing deals. BBC Magazines said that it hopes to have found a commercial partner for the business by the end of March, but warned that the process may take longer. Radio Times. let us remember, is a magazine that the BBC had published since 1923. The idea of it not being a BBC brand is, frankly, appalling.

Michael Emerson has revealed that he is excited about his new television project. Emerson is working with JJ Abrams and his former Lost co-star Terry O'Quinn on the show, which received a pilot order from NBC earlier this week. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Emerson admitted that he never expected the project to get so far so quickly. 'I really am amazed that what started out as some kidding around on the set of Lost has turned into a network TV reality,' he said. 'I'm still reeling from this sudden turn of events. I'm an actor who has never even succeeded in testing for a pilot and here I find myself involved in a project custom-built for Terry and me! [I] can't tell you how thrilling it is to be part of the Bad Robot family and enter into this exciting collaboration with Warner Bros and NBC. Have we arrived or what?' Emerson also revealed that he is excited about working with O'Quinn again, saying: 'Best of all will be that day when Terry and I show up on the set of a brand new show, look around, shrug our shoulders and say, "Let's get started!" My fingers are crossed!' The show remains, for the moment untitled.

BBC Vision director Jana Bennett has warned the corporation's top on-screen stars that they face 'double-digit' drops in their pay packets. Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5Live, Bennett also admitted that the ongoing controversy over the BBC's senior executive pay is 'damaging the BBC.' Bennett said that the corporation is looking to reduce costs 'across the board,' meaning 'fewer flights and more trains and so on.' The director claimed that on-screen talent faced 'double digit decreases in their fee structure on television,' while the corporation would continue to 'drive quite a hard bargain.' She said that she had 'no hard feelings' towards Adrian Chiles, who quit The ONE Show to join ITV after objecting to Chris Evans being drafted in to present the programme on Fridays. 'I hoped that Adrian would have looked at the different types of projects we had put on the table, I have always been a big fan,' she said. 'Talent in this industry does move around, it was a case of it being weighed up in different ways. Football was a big attraction from ITV which they put on the table. The Friday question was a big decision, I accept that. We are rethinking Friday as a whole, not just The ONE Show. We wanted to bring in different types of elements of entertainment on a Friday and Chris Evans was someone I really wanted to have as part of the channel.' Bennett defended the BBC's decision to withdraw a contract offer to Christine Bleakley, who subsequently joined Chiles at ITV. 'How long to wait for a decision to be made is part of my job. At some point negotiations have to come to an end,' Bennett said. 'We had been open to continuing discussions up to a point, to leave it too long would have meant not knowing what we were going to be doing. I did it regretfully, I don't normally have to do that, in the end it dragged on and on.' Asked about Chiles and Bleakley's new breakfast programme Daybreak, Bennett said: 'That kind of programme will have to bed down, there are a lot of elements in it, obviously a big change. Programmes have to be given time. I wish it well.' Bet she doesn't, really, though. And, I bet she's laughing her ass off that it's doing so badly both in the ratings and the audience reaction to it. I know I am, and I'm just a licence fee payer, dear blog reader. Bennett also defended the corporation's legal battle to prevent racing driver Ben Collins from revealing his true identity as Top Gear's The Stig, which she described as like 'unmasking a superhero. The Stig is a great character. Imagine if you had Mickey Mouse or a superhero being unmasked every time, you start to have the magic of the show chipped away at,' she said. 'The Stig is a character and creation of the Top Gear team, and a creation of the BBC and is in effect owned by the audience. The pleasure of the show is part of that magic not being destroyed. We think it is important to protect the audience's enjoyment and the magic of the show, and not unmasking our superhero character. There is also a contract involved and intellectual property. These are creations through public money which other commercial concerns are exploiting. For us not to have regard to that wouldn't make us a professional broadcaster and media company.'

X Factor producers have reportedly been told to 'keep an eye' on contestant Cher Lloyd after friends expressed their concerns that the show could 'break her.' Since Lloyd's initial audition, in which she impressed judges with her rendition of Soulja Boy's 'Turn My Swag On', the seventeen year-old singer is said to have become frail and nervy. An 'insider' allegedly told the Daily Lies that Lloyd was receiving 'a bit of special treatment' to help her through the competition. They said: 'She is new to this, like all the contestants, and because of her age we are making sure she is prepared for what could happen to her. But if we thought she would suffer in any way in this contest we would not have put her through.' Friends of the teenager from Malvern in Worcestershire are apparently worried that Lloyd could collapse under strain. A 'source' claimed: 'The X Factor is a big deal and you do need nerves of steel to get through it every week. Contestants are separated from everything and everyone they know and are expected to work long and tiring days to prepare. Cher is from a small town and has a tight-knit group of friends. She is also from a huge family that everyone in Malvern knows, and she will hate being without them all. She will be a nervous wreck, we just hope it won't break her.' Simon Cowell has previously spoken highly of the young singer, describing her as a girl who has 'got it together.'

A speaking of people who have got it together, only to see it all fall apart in their hands like so much wet cardboard: It's nice to see that Tracey O'Sullivan of the Shropshire Star is currently running her own - excellent - Daybreakwatch blog, in which she delightfully describes Adrian and The Orange One as 'La la and Po!' Style! Meanwhile, in the latest set of bad news for the former ONE Show hosts, their producer's cunning plan to hire former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott as a roving reporter to cover the party conferences has blown up in their faces when he was barred from the Conservative one. A Labour 'source' allegedly told the Mirror: 'We think they're worried about him punching Cameron.' Which, to be fair, would be a hell of a lot funnier than anything Daybreak's managed to come up with recently. Apart from its ratings figures, of course. They're sodding hilarious. Still rooted around the eight hundred thousand mark whilst the BBC's Breakfast gets almost twice that number. Thursday's episode dipped to a new low of just seven hundred and eighty thousand. And, their audience appreciation index scores are also thigh-slappingly amusing. Still stuck in 'very poor' territory around fifty eight to sixty two region. One shouldn't laugh, I know. But, it's really hard not to. All that money spent on getting them to ITV. On advertising them. On building the set. On hyping this disaster as 'a great event in the history of British TV.' And, three weeks later hardly anybody's watching. And even those that are, seem to hate it!

Lone Star creator Kyle Killen has written an open letter quite literally begging people to watch the show. The new FOX drama premiered to a very disappointing 4.1m viewers on Monday night and this was followed by Internet rumours that the show was, already, facing cancellation. 'For us to survive we're going to have to pull of a minor miracle,' wrote Killen. 'New shows tend to lose viewers in their second week. We're aiming to gain them.' He joked: 'In fact, screw it, let's double our audience. The good news is, our audience was so small that if my Mum and my Dad watch it, we'll pretty much be there.' The writer confessed that a long-life for the series seems unlikely but added that he will remain hopeful. 'The truth is, what we need to do is nearly impossible,' he admitted. 'But isn't that why we watch television? To see something impossible actually happen? Impossible is awesome!' FOX recently confirmed that Lone Star will air in its current timeslot for at least one more week.

Coronation Street producers are taking unprecedented steps to keep their fiftieth anniversary storylines under wraps as filming is due to begin. It has been widely reported that a tram will crash onto the street from the nearby viaduct, killing some characters and destroying buildings. But ITV is keen to stop any further details leaking out. 'We're actually being given scripts with just our own parts in it,' said William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow. 'We don't read the other people's parts. I've never known such secrecy.' A street party has been held on the set in Manchester, where the cast is due to start shooting the first of the anniversary episodes on Monday. Roache, who has been in the show since the first episode, has been named by Guinness as the world's longest-serving soap actor earlier this week. Asked whether Ken might be written out, Roache told BBC News: 'They're really keeping it close to their chests. So we don't know. Some of us might make shrewd guesses but I'm not going to talk about those.' Keith Duffy, who plays Ciaran McCarthy, said: 'Everything is pretty much behind closed doors at the minute. Even the actors themselves don't really know what's happening. I know this viaduct is coming down with a tram, I just hope I'm not underneath it.' While actors are usually given scripts a week in advance, they may only find out about the crucial scenes a day or two before filming, Duffy said. 'They want to keep it tight-lipped. Every good storyline in any good soap always gets leaks and they're just trying their best this time around to try and keep it schtum.' Producer Phil Collinson promised that the anniversary episodes would entail 'tragedy and destruction on a previously unseen scale. The scripts are written, they're all locked away upstairs in a big cupboard,' he said. 'Literally under lock and key. We know where the story's going and we start filming on Monday.' Collinson has enlisted the special effects company The Mill, which won an Oscar for Gladiator and with whom he previously worked on Doctor Who. 'They will be the biggest, most spectacular episodes ever filmed,' Phill added. 'The Mill are very used to creating memorable, spectacular, effects-driven television.' The show will also feature a live episode, which will portray the immediate aftermath of the tram crash. As well as creating the explosive scenes, special effects will be used to show the rest of the fictional Manchester borough of Weatherfield for the first time, Collinson revealed. 'The effects work we'll do isn't just about crashing the tram,' he explained. 'We're going to see Coronation Street in the context of the wider world. So we're going to have great big wide shots that show you the rest of Weatherfield. Life has begun and ended at the top and bottom of the street, but for the first time we're going to see the wider world.' Jack Duckworth, played by Bill Tarmey, is one character who will leave before the end of the year. His final scenes - which are not part of the tram crash - will feature the, brief, return of his on-screen wife Vera, who died in 2008. Collinson declined to give details about the nature of her appearance, but did say: 'She's not a ghost, she doesn't come in on a wire. It's beautiful and poignant.'

Grade A Nutter Mel Gibson is claimed to be 'in talks' to play a role on the AMC drama Mad Men, at least according to a report on Women On The Web. They allege that the 'troubled actor' has met with series creator Matthew Weiner to 'discuss a guest appearance.' The report continues that Weiner recently told a friend of his that he is keen to 'pit Gibson against Jon Hamm's character Don Draper.' Mind you, he might have meant in some kind of naked bear pit wrestling match that he dreamed about after a particularly heavy meal one night, rather than on the actual show. But, anyway, the actor would, the website claims, appear in a story arc in the fifth season which will begin filming next July. Sounds, to this blogger, like the sort of wholly made up story that the Daily Lies usually comes up with in relation to whom is going to be appearing in the next series of Doctor Who. In fact, given that they've named just about everybody actor in the history of acting, it's surprising that they haven't got around to Grade A Nutter Mel yet. So, let's do the show right here and get that rumour started: According to 'highly-respected (in his mind) TV pundit Keith Telly Topping on his, allegedly, widely read blog From The North, troubled actor, alleged racist, alleged anti-semite and alleged girlfriend-abusing alleged Grade A Nutter Mel Gibson (allegedly) has been lined up to play, oh I dunno, let's say the leader of the Zygons in Doctor Who. Allegedly. Topping quotes an alleged 'BBC sourse' - whom he claims to have 'met down the pub' - as saying 'it's, like, totally true man. And, they've got George Clooney playing a Mandrel in a remake of Nightmare of Eden written by Stephen Fry.' The 'source' subsequently added: 'And, I've just seen a UFO outside in the car park. It was all bright and shiny. Looked a bit like a bus, actually. But it was definitely a UFO because it had strange writing on the front. And Johnny Vegas was driving it. Is it your round?' Let's see how long it takes before that's headline news.

Meanwhile, the prostitute who allegedly slept with alleged Wayne Rooney has allegedly promised alleged ITV bosses that she will reveal the alleged details of their alleged liaisons on TV. Allegedly. Jenny Thompson, who claims to have had an affair with the Manchester United and England striker while his wife Colleen - she's not alleged, I've seen pictures of her - was pregnant, has been linked to the next series of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The Sun reports that Thompson has told friends she is 'desperate' to appear on the show. I wonder, when she was with Rooney, did she actually 'lie back and think of England'? Because, if she did, I'm sure what followed was ninety minutes of sheer hell. Anyway, an 'insider' allegedly said: 'Jenny has said she'll talk about Wayne. The top brass are desperate to get her. Imagine her talking about Wayne's bedroom habits on live television. It'll be must-see TV.' I, personally, cannot imagine for a single second a more sickening or degrading example of celebrity-by-nonentity than a young woman being paid by a TV company to tell millions of people about her sexual exploits with a numskull, but then maybe I was just born in the wrong time. And, I don't know about anyone else but there really seems to be something quite disturbing, to me anyway, about the almost gleeful way in which these alleged comments from this 'insider' are phrased and, indeed, are reported. I've got Sid James' voice in my heard as I read them, dirty laugh and all. The newspaper also alleges that I'm A Celebrity ... producers are 'targeting' Rhian Sugden, the model whom Vernon Kay admitted to exchanging sex texts with last year. Welcome to Twenty First Century broadcasting, ladies and gentlemen. Where prostitutes are not only in front of the camera, and behind it as well, but also sitting at home watching.

Channel 4 has defended the controversial rape scene in This Is England '86. During the third episode, which aired on Tuesday, Mick (Johnny Harris) sexually assaulted Trev (Danielle Watson). Some viewers are reported to have praised the show for not shying away from the rape, while others claimed that the scene was 'horrific' and should not have been broadcast. Metro claims that Channel 4, which aired details of a helpline at the end of the episode, has defended the sequence. 'This Is England '86 is appropriately scheduled in a 10pm slot on Channel 4,' a spokesperson said. 'As a writer and director, Shane Meadows is renowned for an unflinching and honest approach to filmmaking.' Channel 4 described the series as 'unflinching and honest,' adding: 'There were on-air announcements alerting viewers to the adult content of the programme, as well as a specific warning for scenes of sexual violence - the latter was broadcast just before 10pm and that scene was contextualised within the episode.' For what it's worth yer Keith Telly Topping found the sequence to be unsettling but, probably artistically justified in so much as the actions of Mick were not glamourised or made to seem anything other than the abject violation of a woman by a very disturbed and dangerous man. Shakespeare once said that the purpose of drama is 'to hold, as t'were, a mirror up to nature.' Sometimes, in spite of ourselves and our sensibilities, we need that mirror very badly whether we want it or not. So, personally, I'd shake Shane Meadows' hand for dealing with the subject at all.

ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus have criticised the far-right Danish People's Party for using their hit 'Mamma Mia' at political rallies. The duo had threatened to sue the DF, saying the band never allowed their music to be used politically. But their record company, Universal, later said the DF had agreed to stop using the 1976 hit which was subsequently used to the title song for a rather good stage musical and a really dreadful film. The youth wing of the party had changed the lyrics of the song to 'Mamma Pia,' in honour of their leader, Pia Kjaersgaard. The anti-immigration DF is the third largest party in the Danish parliament. The DF had played 'Mamma Mia' at rallies and meetings - a version of the song had also been performed for Ms Pia by members of the party' youth wing. Andersson said that he found out about its use when he was contacted by a left-wing pressure group who asked whether he supported the party's policies. 'Firstly, you cannot just rewrite songs as you like and secondly we want them to understand that we have absolutely no interest in supporting their party,' he said. 'ABBA never allows its music to be used in a political context. This is something that we have pointed out to the Danish People's Party.' Universal Music later said no legal action would be taken as an agreement had been reached. 'The Danish People's Party has agreed to stop using the song and that means the matter is concluded as far as we're concerned,' spokesman Olle Ronnback told Danish media. ABBA are not the first musicians to complain about the political use of their songs. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, several artists, including Heart and the Foo Fighters criticised John McCain and Sarah Palin for using their songs at rallies without permission. And in 2009, a group of artists in the UK complained that copyright laws meant they had no legal right to prevent the far-right British National Party from selling an album using their songs to raise funds.

Legendary London concert venue the 100 Club is facing the threat of closure, its owners have admitted. The basement venue on Oxford Street, which has seen performances over the years from the likes of Oasis, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Jam, The Pogues, Roxy Music and Bob Dylan could be shut down in a few months due to spiralling overhead costs. The club was also, mostly famously, the scene of one of the defining moments of the British punk movement, hosting a special two-day festival featuring the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and Buzzcocks in September 1976. Current owner Jeff Horton claims that his rates bill has hit four thousand pounds a month and landlord Lazari Investments have raised the rent by forty five per cent. He said the 100 Club, which began life as a jazz venue and still caters heavily for the genre, could close before the end of the year unless a new buyer or sponsor is found. 'It makes me so angry,' he told thisislondon.co.uk. 'The government, Westminster council and even some of the commercial landlords say they want to help small businesses, they say they want to preserve London's uniqueness, they want to help multi-cultural venues. Yet we're all that and all these organisations have all dumped on us from a great height.' If the venue closes it will be the second to be shut down in the vicinity in recent years. At the turn of 2009, the nearby London Astoria, on Charring Cross Road was closed to make way for the Crossrail project, linking the centre of London to the east and west of the city. A replacement venue is promised after the work is completed, although music fans have argued the current plans are too small to replace the original venue

The Secret Intelligence Service (the forerunner of MI6) experimented with using semen as a form of invisible ink, a recently-published diary entry has revealed. Walter Kirke, deputy head of military intelligence at GHQ France, wrote in June 1915 that the first chief of the service, Mansfield Cumming (yes, I know Qi did that joke so I don't need to), had been 'making enquiries for invisible inks at the London University,' the Daily Telegraph reports. In October, he added that he had 'heard from C that the best invisible ink is semen.' The claims have been made in Professor Keith Jeffery's MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949, which was published this week and is being serialised in The Times. Frank Stagg, a staff member close to Cumming, added that his superiors were delighted when they discovered that 'semen would not react to iodine vapour.' He noted that 'we thought we had solved a great problem' - as this meant the 'readily available' bodily fluid could not be detected easily. The agent who discovered the use for semen reportedly had to be moved from his department after becoming the victim of jokes from other staff. What a bunch of wankers. Anyway, another agent was allegedly urged to use fresh supplies of semen when those receiving his letter noticed an unusual smell. Y'see, that's the sort of spunk that made Britain great. Okay, I'll stop now.

1 comment:

deb in atlanta said...

You're on a roll this morning. Really loads of laugh-out-loud goodies here. Speaking of horrid wedding programmes, in the US we have a really awful "Bridezillas" which is just as screamingly dreadful as you can imagine.