Saturday, October 09, 2010

Week Forty Two: He'd Like To Have Been Ronnie Kray, But Then Nature Didn't Make Him That Way

The acclaimed British director Roy Ward Baker, whose 1958 film A Night to Remember memorably recreated the sinking of the Titanic, has died in London at the age of ninety three. Born in 1916, he began his career in the film industry as a tea boy at Gainsborough Studios before going on to work as an assistant director, most notably on Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). Roy served in the Army during World War II, fighting in North Africa until he was transferred to the Army Kinematograph Unit in 1943 in order to make better use of the skills had developed in his pre-war career. There he produced documentaries, propaganda films for the domestic audience and teaching materials for troops. One of his superiors at the time was the novelist Eric Ambler, who gave Baker his post-war break asking for Baker to direct The October Man, an Ambler screenplay, which was made in 1947. The pair would later work together on several occasions, most famously when Ambler adapted Walter Lord's A Night to Remember for Baker's 1958 screen version starring Kenneth More and Honor Blackman. During the early 1950s, Baker worked for three years in Hollywood where he directed Marilyn Monroe in the crime pot-boiler Don't Bother to Knock (1952) and Robert Ryan in the 3D noir Inferno (1953). Choreographing the icebergs on a Pinewood backlot was child's play compared with directing Monroe in a melodrama about a mentally deranged babysitter. Baker was not happy when he discovered that the aspiring starlet had been chosen to play the lead. He did not know much about her, and the little he had seen left him with no illusions about her talents as an actress. Moreover, he felt that, at twenty five, she was too old for the part, which was supposed to be for a nineteen-year-old girl. The experience turned out to be even worse than he had feared. Monroe would go nowhere without her drama coach, Natasha Lytess, who would stand beside the camera, grasping her abdomen and growling: 'It comes from here!' Baker grew so frustrated by her interference that he persuaded the studio head, Darryl Zanuck, to dispatch a memo to the star which read: 'You have built up a Svengali, and if you are going to progress with your career and become as important talent-wise as you have publicity-wise, then you must destroy this Svengali before it destroys you.' When it came to shooting the film, Baker decided that the best tactic was to promote Monroe not as an actress, but as a celebrity who did not need to act. The tactic worked brilliantly. He returned to the UK during the latter part of the decade but, like many of his generation, found work in the British film industry hard to come by and so gravitated to television in the early 1960s. Baker's career was rudely interrupted after The Singer Not the Song (1961), an unintentionally high camp Western based on a novel by Audrey Erskine Lindop. The film detailed an intense relationship between a bandit (Dirk Bogarde) and an Irish Roman Catholic priest (John Mills). Baker never wanted to direct it, suggesting the studio gave the job to Luis Bunuel; but Rank insisted and Baker found himself being dispatched to Spain with Bogarde. The actor, too, had been reluctant to make the film and, as he was the only star of any standing whom Rank had on their books for such a role, he used his position to insist on his own conditions and generally play prima donna throughout. The only matter on which Rank refused to budge was the casting of John Mills as the priest. 'I promise you,' Bogarde reportedly told Baker, 'if Johnny plays the priest I will make life unbearable for everyone concerned.' He was, by Baker's subsequent account, as good as his word. 'He was very nasty. Johnny didn't know what the hell was going on. He said, "What's the matter with this fellow?" I said, "He doesn't like you, that's the trouble." He was determined to rough the whole thing up. And I had to do my best to restrain him.' Although it made money abroad – especially in Catholic countries – the picture was a costly flop in Britain, where reviewers were more interested in the cut of Dirk Bogarde's leather trousers than in the moral issues the movie was trying to address. It caused Rank to retreat into managing bingo halls and bowling alleys and helped to bring an end to the most successful period of Baker's career. In recent years the film's strong homosexual overtones have brought it something of a cult status. Baker would spend much of the next decade and a half making a number of classic horror movies for Hammer along with regular episodes of ITC's prestige TV series like The Saint, The Avengers, The Persuaders! and The Champions. According to his son Nicholas, Baker died peacefully in his sleep at a London hospital on Tuesday. Having retired in 1992, his most recent appearance was as an interviewee on the BBC2 documentary series British Film Forever in 2007. Quatermass and the Pit, Scars of Dracula, Dr Jekyll & Sister Hyde and The Vampire Lovers were among the popular genre titles he made for Hammer and he also directed the portmanteau anthologies Asylum and The Vault of Horror for Hammer's main rival for the UK chiller market, Amicus Films. Baker's CV also included episodes of Minder, Fairly Secret Army, The Irish RM, Danger UXB, The Human Jungle, The Protectors, Spyder's Web, Journey to the Unknown and The Baron. He directed Bette Davis in the 1968 movie The Anniversary and Hayley Mills in the highly-regarded 1981 mini-series The Flame Trees of Thika along with dozens of movies including Jacqueline, Morning Departure, The One That Got Away, The Weaker Sex and the 1981 Sherlock Holmes TV movie The Masks of Death. But his defining work was A Night to Remember. Prior to James Cameron's Oscar-winning Titanic, the film was considered the definitive big-screen depiction of the 1912 disaster. In 2000 Baker published his memoirs, Director's Cut: A Memoir of Sixty Years in Film, and in 2002 he sold his production files and letters at auction. Roy married his first wife, Muriel Bradford, in 1940. With his second wife, Joan Davies, whom he married in 1948 he had a son, Nicholas.

Thursday was clearly 'tribute night' on US TV as Bones did a Jersey Shore themed episode - The Maggots in the Meathead - and CSI entered into the murky world of the Twilight movies (Blood Moon, featuring Max Beesley). Both were decent enough episodes although the CSI one, in particular, played around the edges of actually getting interested in the whole fandom-as-obsession schtick but then seemed to get bored with the idea half way through. For the show that, magnificently, did an episode about how science fiction fans aren't all hopeless losers a few years ago (A Space Oddity), this week's episode felt curiously one dimensional. Bones, on the other hand, is still, gradually, feeling its way back towards normality after having had its format shaken up so much by last series' finale. They're getting there and the subplot involving Temperance having to mask her true feelings for Booth now that he's so happy with his new girlfriend is rather good.

The executive producers of Hawaii Five-0 have revealed that they would like James MacArthur to guest star in the show. MacArthur starred for twelve years in the original series as Danno Williams, the character played by Scott Caan in the current - highly enjoyable - remake. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the show's executive producer Peter Lenkov explained that he is trying to persuade MacArthur to make an appearance. 'We've been talking to James about being on the show but he just doesn't know because he's busy with a business he's launching,' Lenkov said. 'But we'd love to have him.' Lenkov also revealed that he would like another original cast member Al Harrington, who played Detective Kokua, to return. 'It still feels early in the season,' he said. 'We have time.'

Liam Gallagher has reportedly agreed to take part in a celebrity edition of Total Wipeout. No, it's not 1 April, honestly. According to the Mirror, the show's host Amanda Byram has asked a number of her 'celebrity friends' to participate in a special charity edition of the show and Gallagher is alleged to be one of them. The programme would allegedly raise money for Sports Relief. An alleged 'source', the newspaper claims, alleged said: 'Liam Gallagher and Fearne Cotton are Wipeout addicts and up for it.' This, dear blog reader, yer Keith Telly Topping simply has to see. But, I'm betting, he won't any time soon. And, on that unlikely bombshell in the sunsheeeeeayne, so we move to the next batch of yer Top Telly Tips:

Friday 15 October
Tonight sees the return of the popular US crime drama The Mentalist - 9:00 Channel Five. Following his confrontation with serial killer Red John, Patrick Jane (played by the excellent Simon Baker) is unsure of his future with the California Bureau of Investigation. Police chief Gale Bertram calls on the consultant's help when a prominent lawyer and Statehouse lobbyist is kidnapped, but finds him reluctant to join the investigation. Crime drama, guest starring Michael Gaston (Jericho), with Robin Tunney. I know this one is a bit of cult favourite with a lot of From The North readers so, you'll all be getting a bath nice and early and sitting in your dressing gowns watching this, no doubt. Then, it's a cup of nice milky cocoa and off to bed.

Or, you may prefer - if you're mentally unstable - Davina McCall: A Comedy Roast - 9:00 Channel 4. In this, a classic example of what passes for 'entertainment' on television these days, the former Big Brother presenter endures a 'roasting' experience involving humorous insults and irreverent tributes by her celebrity friends. Not a literal one, of course, with a spit. Although, if it was, I might be slightly more inclined to watch. Smug, full-of-his-own-self-importance host Jimmy Carr welcomes comedians including Rich Hall, Julian Clary and Patrick Kielty, as well as oafish Chris Moyles, dismal Dermot O'Dreary and the extremely blonde Fearne Cotton. There is no God. Also turning up will be a number of ex-Big Brother contestants, such as Brian Dowling, Nikki Grahame and Brian Belo who, seemingly, will appear on any old crap as yet another excuse to get their worthless faces back on TV. We have created a monster, dear blog reader.

Following the sad news of his death earlier in the week, Norman Wisdom: His Story - 9:00 BBC2 - is a swiftly put-together documentary about the life and career of the late comedy actor, told by those who knew him well. From his son, daughter and daughter-in-law to famous friends including Stephen Frears, Ricky Tomlinson, Leslie Phillips, Honor Blackman and Vera Lynn. Of course, given that two years ago Sky erroneously played Norman's obituary on their news channel, it's probable this wasn't nearly so swiftly put-together as you might think, dear blog reader.

Saturday 16 October
In Qi XL - 9:45 BBC2 - Stephen Fry is joined by guests Ruby Wax, Ross Noble, Sean Lock and regular panellist Alan Davies for the quiz with a difference. The host will be asking questions on the subject of animal names that begin with the letter H, awarding points for the answers he finds the most interesting. And being witty, erudite and charming. Even to Ruby Wax. Which takes some doing, I reckon.

Big drama night for Channel 4, this. The Pillars of the Earth - 9:00 - sees Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Hayley Atwell and Donald Sutherland star in this love story set against the backdrop of war, religious discord and power struggles in Twelfth-Century England, dramatised from the bestselling novel from Ken Follett. When a white ship suspiciously sinks, drowning King Henry's sole heir, his nephew Stephen takes the throne and England is plunged into anarchy during a bitter family feud with his cousin, the king's daughter Matilda. Amid all this, Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring, rejects a marriage proposal, mason Tom and his family search for work and idealistic new Prior of Kingsbridge monastery Philip learns a dangerous secret.

There's two and half hours of The X Factor on tonight - 7:30 ITV. I mean, haven't people suffered enough already? The second live studio round, and having done it once, the remaining acts now know what is expected of them as they step out onto the stage hoping to deliver a knockout performance. Also battling it out are the judges as they each mentor one category: Simon Cowell is looking after the groups, Cheryl Cole mentors the girls (so long as they're not Zimbabwean, of course), Dannii Minogue has got the boys (yes, yes, we've all heard the rumours) and Louis Walsh has the over Twenty Eights. Which he's not happy about as he's normally much more comfortable mentoring young boys. Or, so it is claimed. The decision as to who will be in the bottom two is down to the viewers' vote as usual, but the hopefuls still have to impress the judges, as they are the ones who ultimately decide who will stay and who will go. Dermot O'Dreary presents with his usual mixture of feigned interest and sympathetic patronisation. The results can be seen tomorrow at 8pm.

Sunday 17 October
Tonight sees the return of The Secret Millionaire at 9:00, in which Channel 4 get millionaires to do what the government should be doing and giving money to people who deserve it. Tonight, entrepreneur and gadget enthusiast Chris Brown, who has made his fortune by running an online travel business, goes undercover as a photographer in a deprived area of north Manchester, searching for good causes to donate to. Among those he meets are a woman who has devoted herself to helping parents who act as full-time carers for their children, as well as a refuse worker who refurbishes rescued bikes and gives them away for free. However, he is left shaken when a visit to a homeless charity forces him to confront painful memories from his childhood.

Tony Robinson and the team visit the Oxfordshire town of Burford to respond to a challenge from his mate Professor Mick Aston in Time Team - 5:30 Channel 4. Here, they investigate the remains of a medieval hospital in the grounds of Burford Priory, where Mick has found evidence of a lost Anglo-Saxon settlement. Over three days, the team hopes to unearth the history of both the hospital and the earlier Saxon community, and the subsequent discoveries look set to redraw the historical map of the area.

In Single Father - 9:00 BBC1 - a confused Dave tries to avoid Sarah when he drops Evie off at school, but is forced to discuss their kiss when he meets her at his daughter's parents' evening. In an effort to be supportive, he tracks down Lucy's biological father, only to learn an unsettling secret about Rita that makes him question their relationship. Elsewhere, Tanya is afraid to confide in Dave when she ruins an important set of photos, and a desperate Ewan deliberately harms himself. Romantic drama, starring national heart throb David Tennant, Suranne Jones and Millie Innes.

If you don't fancy that then on the other side there's Downton Abbey - 9:00 ITV -which, on the back of a couple of X Factor results shows has achieved huge ratings for its first two episode. And, very good it is too, it's nice to see ITV producing something that bit more thoughtful and classy. In tonight's episode, the fair arrives in the village and Mrs Hughes finds herself the centre of speculation when she meets a former suitor who makes her question her position at Downton. Meanwhile, Violet and Isobel lock horns over a medical ailment affecting Molesley, and Carson fears there is a thief at work in the grounds. Costume drama, starring Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt (see right) and Kevin Doyle.

Monday 18 October
Horizon: Is Seeing Believing? - 9:00 BBC2 - asks a very interesting philosophical question. We have all been fooled by sleight-of-hand at some point in our lives (several points if you watch Derren Brown on a regular basis) but, this programme suggests, our other senses can be duped just as easily. For example, the sense of taste can be tricked by changing the colours of food and drink. Now, scientists are using this type of sensory illusion to explore how our senses work together symbiotically. Could it be possible to map one sense onto another as in the case of Daniel Kish, who lost his sight as a child but now uses sound to create a vision of the world?

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss continues at 9:00 on BBC4. In this, much anticipated segment of the three-part series The League of Gentlemen star and Sherlock author turns his attention to his own childhood epiphany with the British movies of the 1950s and 1960s, which were dominated by Hammer Films and made in the English Home Counties. This is of particular interest to yer Keith Telly Topping, as it happens, because around 1975 yer Keith Telly Topping his very self became fascinated with horror movies. Teenage boys often seek some form of angst rebellion, of course; something that the grown-ups either can't understand and/or don't like. Being twelve, however, yer keith Telly Topping couldn't satisfy his new found addiction with a splatter movie at the local ABC (that interesting diversion was yet to come). His initial access, therefore, was entirely through TV. His local ITV station, Tyne-Tees, were then beginning a Friday night anthology of mainly first-run X-raters from the fifties and sixties. It was called Appointment With Fear and was (at least initially) dominated by the outputs of British studios like Hammer, Amicus and Tigon. The opening movie was Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and yer Keith Telly Topping watched it, in his bed, on a portable black and white telly. He was, instantly, hooked. Interestingly enough, twenty miles down the road in Bishop Auckland, yer actual Mark Gatiss was doing the same thing. 'It's a little-celebrated fact that between the 1950s and the early 1970s, Britain became rather good at something,' Mark once wrote in the Gruniad Morning Star. 'This is, in itself, practically unheard of and to have such a sustained period of competence seems as far-off now as Wembley glory or the possibility of a good sitcom. What we cracked, making it into a genre very much our own, was the horror film.' So, anway, in this episode Mark meets some key figures from the production company to find out why its works conquered the world, explores the excessive emphasis on sex that contributed to its ultimate decline. Interviewees include the very queen of Hammer herself, the actress Barbara Shelley (seen left getting to know Christopher Lee quite well) and actor David Warner about his quite literal hair-raising experiences making Amicus's From Beyond The Grave. And, of course, if you watch this - and enjoy it - then chances are you'll be thinking about seeking out some of movies that Mark highlights. In which case, you'll probably be needing a decent guide book to the subject. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, a very personal appreciation of approximately eighty classic examples of British horror movies from 1956 to 1974. Written, perhaps, by a well-respected local author, journalist and broadcaster. The kind of chap who grew up watching the TV débuts of such films on Appointment With Fear and on those late-night BBC2 summer horror double-bills of the mid-seventies and who developed a deep love for such trashy shockers, one which time cannot dim however hard it tries. Something like that, anyway. But, if you can't find a book fitting that description, then you could just order a copy of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's A Vault of Horror from Amazon, of course. Hey, it's what I'm here for, dear blog reader. To do all the thinking so that you don't have to.

Back to its very best this series, [spooks] continues - 9:00 BBC1. In a move to bring peace to Palestine and Israel (yeah, good luck with that), the US president travels to London to chair secret détente talks between negotiators from both countries. But the threat from a journalist to print the story indicates there is a leak. As Lucas investigates, he discovers a plan to assassinate the president, putting the team under immense pressure to locate the sniper and prevent an international scandal. Starring Richard Armitage et al.

As mentioned last week, it's all happening at nine o'clock on Mondays at the moment. Over on ITV it's the second episode of Whitechapel in which Chandler and Miles continue their efforts to track down the killer, or killers, who is, or are, using the legacy of the Kray twins to invoke fear and paranoia on the streets of Whitechapel. Ah, good old loveable Ronnie and Reggie. They might have giving Jack The Hat a bit of a nasty spankin', but they were good to their dear old mum so that was all right, then. Apparently. Anyway, when the threats become personal here, the detectives begin to wonder just how far the power of murderer, or murderers, reaches. Superior, and complex crime thriller, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton. This or [spooks]? Oooo, toughie. Thank goodness for the invention of recording devices.

Tonight's episode of Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - is, get this, the show's seven thousand four hundred and forty eighth. That, in and of itself, isn't particularly remarkable. The fact that someone, somewhere is counting, however, is. Anyway, what happens here is that Graeme remains unconscious in intensive care, thus Tina outlines to the police her history with Dodgy David. Who, of course, claims he cannot remember anything. Yeah, right. Pull the other one. Claire, meanwhile, is stunned when her mother asks the Peacocks to move to France with her, Nick puts financial pressure on a beleaguered Carla, and Rosie flirts with Jason as he works on the Websters' fire-damaged kitchen.

Tuesday 19 October
In MasterChef: The Professionals - 8:00 BBC2 - four hopefuls must fillet and cook a John Dory while another four must correctly make a steak tartare. With one eliminated from each task where, as usual, Monica will stand there with a look on her face that appears to suggest she'd like to fillet and cook the lot of them, her boss Michel Roux cooks classic recipes of cabri à la provençale and a nougatine basket fillet with fruit and chantilly cream, topped with spun sugar. Oh, stop it! The two from each part who most adroitly re-create these dishes will proceed to the quarter-final. And Gregg Wallace will be on hand to add occasionally pithy comments and have his face light up every time somebody puts a nice bit of choccy pud down in front of him. Bless.

Just a couple of weeks after the last series finished, Holby City is back - 8:00 BBC1. The authority of Connie (the brilliant Amanda Mealing) is usurped when she meets Henrik Hanssen, the new joint director of surgery, who makes an impression on the staff by warning them that tough times lie ahead. Meanwhile, a grieving Faye (Patsy Kensit) lies to Joseph, telling him Linden is the father of her unborn child, and Michael tries to make use of the HolbyCare scheme to reinvent himself as the hospital's saviour. Guy Henry, who will be appearing in the final two Harry Potter films, joins the cast. Of course, as has been widely reported, both Amanda and Patsy - frankly, the best two reasons for watching the show - will be leaving during the coming months. I mean, not together, they're going for different reasons!

Mark Gatiss, seemingly, can do no wrong in TV terms at the moment. He's very much flavour of the month thanks to his contributions to Sherlock and Doctor Who. A project that Mark has wanted to do for many years arrives on your screens tonight, dear blog reader. The First Men in the Moon - 9:00 BBC4 - is an adaptation of HG Wells' classic SF tale by, and starring, Gatiss. It is July 1969, and as the world waits with bated breath for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to set foot on the moon, a young boy meets ninety-year-old Julius Bedford, who tells the story of how he and an ambitious scientist (played by Gatiss himself) joined forces to conquer the lunar surface sixty years before the Americans. Also starring Rory Kinnear and Alex Riddell. He's a really interesting chap is Mark Gatiss and, as with his documentary series on horror films you get the sense that this is, very much, a labour of love, made with enthusiasm.

Motorway Madness - 8:00 Channel Five - is a documentary providing a behind-the-scenes look at life at a Worcestershire motorway service station, examining the work of its staff over the course of a busy bank holiday weekend. Over the three-day period, more than one hundred thousand people pass through the doors of the services. Which is course means that the dedicated team is pushed to its very limits. So? They applied for the job in the first place, what are they whinging about?

Wednesday 20 October
The Apprentice - 9:00 BBC1 - reaches a crucial point in its current series. After last week's poor sales figures, the candidates are desperate to make some bread as they take over a bakery. The teams are each given a stall for selling their goods and also battle for the right to supply a hotel, a restaurant and a coffee shop. The heat is on in the bakeries as the candidates work flat out to keep up with the orders. Which team will rise to the occasion and make the most dough? As my radio oppo Simon Logan noted last week in relation to the sausages task, they've started to repeat themselves. Because, I know for a fact that I've told the bread/dough/money joke at least once in relation to previous series! And that's not good news, dear blog reader. Either for His Very Lordship Sugar-Honey or, indeed, for yer Keith Telly Topping.

In good old reliably bonkers Grand Designs - 9:00 Channel 4 - doomy-voiced Kevin McCloud charts the progress of interior designer Kathryn Tyler, who has decided to build her first home on a narrow hillside plot in her parents' back garden. Why she didn't bother to just buy a house like, you know, 'normal' people the programme doesn't, actually, specify. But, you can probably make an educated guess. Anyway, Kathryn sees the Scandinavian-inspired eco house as 'the ideal project' for putting her own design skills into practice but, as the realities of construction on an awkward site begin to become apparent, will Kathryn's youth and inexperience also start to show and her dreams of building something liveable in come to pieces in her hands like so much wet cardboard? Oh God, don't they ever have any normal people on this ruddy show? Or, is it always bright young things employed in 'that's not a real job' type jobs who knit their own yoghurt, grow their own hummus and have, like, nothing but, like, total respect for Coldplay?

Tonight also sees the return of the popular US crime drama Bones to Sky1 at 9:00. In the opening episode, The Mastodon in the Room, the team is reunited from all corners of the world to help Cam uncover the identity of a boy from his skeleton. But, personal discoveries make them all realise that they belong back in Washington.

Thursday 21 October
We've got the return of a particular favourite of all of us on the Top Telly Tips slot, The Culture Show - 7:00 BBC2. Arty Andrew Graham-Dixon is in Glasgow to present a profile of writer and artist Alasdair Gray on the publication of his 'autopictography' A Life in Pictures. He also visits Chichester Cathedral to see how the campaign to restore the important Tudor paintings is progressing. Elsewhere, Miranda Sawyer meets the British rapper Tinie Tempah, Big-quiffed Marky Kermode discusses the film The Kids Are Alright, and Damien Hirst reveals his favourite TV art moments, featuring Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Bacon. Great to have it back.

Controversial even before it's been shown The Taking of Prince Harry - 9:00 Channel 4 - is a feature-length docudrama examining the risks of redeploying Prince Harry to the front line in Afghanistan. It presents a hypothetical scenario in which he is kidnapped while on military duty, one guaranteed to get right up the noses of the Daily Scum Mail and, therefore, one this blog support fully. Besides which, it might, actually, be quite good. Still, why wait to watch a TV programme when you can criticise it, sight-unseen, before transmission for sinister agenda-based purposes? Anyway, leaving right-wing judgemental scum to one side for a second, the programme will, apparently, explore what the likely responses would be if such a high-profile individual were to be captured; how it would be managed in the UK, who would be in charge and how the negotiations would be carried out. Starring Sebastian Reid. Sounds like a worthwhile bit of speculative drama, frankly, and one that neither Buckingham Palace or the MOD have raised any objections to. At least, not before they've actually seen it.

The new series of the popular music quiz, Never Mind the Buzzcocks kicks-off at 10:00 on BBC2. Producer Mark Ronson is the first guest to take on the hosting duties, with regular team captains Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus being joined by Strictly Come Dancing judge Alesha Dixon, Mollie King from The Saturdays and comedian Paul Foot. On a good day, Buzzcocks is still thigh-slappingly entertaining although, personally, I find Fielding about as funny as a dose of genital fungus and mourn the day somebody had the bright idea of replacing the departing Bill Bailey with such a creature. Still, you can't have everything, can you? Where would you keep it?

And, finally, on Dave's One Night Stand - 11:00 Dave - Jack Whitehall performs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London. So, if you like comedy, then that's one definitely worth avoiding.

On to the news, now. Terry Wogan is reportedly among the guest presenters on the upcoming series of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. The BBC2 pop quiz, as noted, returns on Thursday. Taking on the role of host will be a selection of famous faces including Wogan, actress Catherine Tate, bone-dry comic Jack Dee and hip-hop DJ Tim Westwood. Completing the line-up of presenters are Mad Frankie Boyle, Robert Webb, Tim Minchin and Josh Groban. Guests lined up for future episodes of the show include Paloma Faith, Eliza Doolittle and Professor Green, X Factor acts JLS, Olly Murs and Jedward and celebrities including Russell Watson and Howard Marks.

Cheryl Cole reportedly wants the controversy around Gamu Nhengu's X Factor exit to be discussed on this weekend's show. According to the Mirror, the Heaton Horror wants the debate about why the Zimbabwe-born singer was axed at Judges' Houses 'put to bed.' She apparently told the show's producers that they need 'to tell the truth' because the incident is in danger of overshadowing the whole series. In previous series, Simon Cowell has spoken out on the show about controversies surrounding the programme. Last year, he and Dannii Minogue addressed public complaints that the Australian had been wrong to discuss contestant Danyl Johnson's sexuality during her judging comments.

Rick Sanchez has given his first interview since leaving CNN following remarks he made about Jon Stewart and his former employers. The anchor was fired by the company after he referred to Stewart as 'a bigot' and made comments about his bosses during an interview on Stand Up! radio last week. 'It's tough, I screwed up. I was tired; I'd been working fourteen-hour days for two and a half months, doing three shows, I was exhausted,' he told Good Morning America. 'My daughter had a softball game I desperately wanted to go to and I was a little impatient. I said some things I shouldn't have said; they were wrong and not only were they wrong, they were offensive. People who were offended deserve to know that's not what I meant, I apologise and it was wrong of me to be so careless and inartful. It happened and I can't take it back. I have to stand up and be responsible for it, just like I teach my kids.' He went on to say that he was 'wrong to scapegoat' Stewart and said that he had been 'feeling a little bit put out' about the lack of diversity he felt existed in the media. 'I was feeling a little sensitive and I was looking at the landscape and I was looking and I was seeing [little diversity] and I externalised the problem and I put it on Jon Stewart's shoulders and I was wrong to do that.' As for whether he would want to return to CNN in the future, he said: 'Absolutely. CNN is a wonderful organisation that treated me well and took care of my family. CNN didn't screw up, Rick Sanchez screwed up.' Sanchez issued an official apology to Stewart earlier this week and said that he has called the Daily Show host to voice his remorse in person.

Daniel Radcliffe is due to appear in this year's Simpsons Halloween special. The Harry Potter star will feature in the Twenty First edition of the long-running cartoon's Treehouse Of Horror episode, which includes parodies of well-known films and TV shows. Radcliffe will play a vampire called Edmund in a spoof of The Twilight Saga, according to gossip blogger Perez Hilton. In the segment, titled Tweenlight, Hilton claims that the mysterious Edmund will attend Springfield Elementary and fall in love with Lisa. Other stars that have previously been confirmed to appear in the Twenty Second season of The Simpsons include Ricky Gervais, Paul Rudd, Hugh Laurie and Martha Stewart.

Actress and singer Juliette Lewis has been injured in a hit-and-run crash in California, police have said. Sergeant Sean Kelley told the BBC that Lewis was in the back of a car when a driver went through a red light and smashed into Lewis's vehicle in Burbank. Lewis, thirty seven, complained of a pain in her head, back and neck and was taken to hospital and later discharged. Her spokesman said the screen star was 'a bit banged-up and sore but otherwise thankfully okay.' Officers are looking for the driver and said that he would be arrested on suspicion of hit and run. The Natural Born Killers actress was on her way home from an event where she had been promoting her forthcoming movie Conviction. As well as acting, Lewis also sings in the band The New Romantiques. In 1991 she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Cape Fear.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has warned of potential 'abuse of power' should Rupert Murdoch's News Corp be allowed to take full control of Sky. In an interview on US public service television, Thompson claimed that News Corp's proposed takeover of Sky could result in 'a significant loss of plurality in our media market.' In June, News Corp failed in a seven hundred pence per share bid to buy the sixty one per cent of Sky that it does not already own. However, the two parties agreed to keep the lines of negotiation open. Thompson declined to officially join calls for the British government to block the bid, but gave a strong indication of the BBC's opposition to the takeover. He believes that combining News Corp's News International titles - the Sun, the Times and the News Of The World - with Sky could create a dominant media player in the UK. Pressure is mounting on business secretary Vince Cable to investigate the proposed deal and, if necessary, use his power to veto it on grounds of public interest. Speaking on the Charlie Rose Programme on the publicly-funded PBS network, Thompson said: 'We're not saying there's been a crime committed here. What we're saying is there is - given the scale of the potential ownership in UK media - there's a strong case for looking at it systemically and deciding whether or not anything needs to be done to address the issue.' He added: 'If the two [News Corp and Sky] were combined, there might be a significant loss of plurality in our media market. Cable, the relevant minister, will decide whether he wants to refer this. It's not that they've done anything wrong. It's just that there is a potential of an abuse of power.' In the next fortnight, News Corp is expected to formally notify the European Commission about its intention to mount a takeover of Sky. That will kick off a regulatory process that could result in Cable referring the deal to media regulator Ofcom for further investigation. In August, Thompson used his MacTaggart lecture to claim that News Corp had become too powerful, arguing that the Sky takeover would lead to 'a concentration of cross-media ownership that would not be allowed in the United States or Australia.' According to the Financial Times, Thompson has agreed to sign a letter on behalf of the BBC board asking Cable to intervene in the takeover. The letter, also signed by several leading newspaper groups, is understood to warn that Murdoch could threaten the diversity of British television and the press should he gain total control of Sky's £5.9bn revenues and nine hundred and forty nine million pounds cashflows.

Katie Holmes has reportedly suggested that she doesn't feel embarrassed by her former role in Dawson's Creek. The thirty one-year-old, who played Joey Potter in the show, revealed that she enjoyed acting in the drama which made her a star as a teenager. She told OK: 'It was great fun. I have fond memories. It's like looking at a yearbook.'

Former Tottenham Hotspur footballer Darren Anderton has suggested that Lord Alan Sugar 'didn't have a clue about football' during his tenure at the club. And, this is different from the owners of ninety nine per cent of football clubs how, exactly? I mean, look at yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved Magpies for a kick-off. Besides which, all of this coming from old Sicknote, a bloke who was injured so much during his time at the club he was in danger of being put down, is rich frankly. Sugar took control of the London club in 1991, along with manager Terry Venables, and spent sixteen years in the boardroom at White Hart Lane. According to the Sun, Anderton, who joined the club in 1992, said that while Sugar's business skills were obvious, The Apprentice magnate was less skilled in terms of the sport. Anderton wrote in his memoirs: 'I actually liked Alan Sugar but he was good and bad during his time at White Hart Lane. He wanted to do well for Tottenham Hotspur and was prepared to take risks to achieve it. He was fair to a point, but easily riled, and I think it pissed him off that my agent got the better of him a couple of times in contract negotiations.' The thirty eight-year-old added: 'He was obviously a great businessman but he didn't have a clue about football.'

Organisers of the Commonwealth Games have blamed used condoms for blockages in the drainage system at the athletes' village. According to Reuters, work is now being done to clear the 'thousands' of non-biodegradable contraceptives which have been flushed down the toilets. Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell said: 'f that is happening, it shows that there is use of condoms and I think that is a very positive story. Athletes are being responsible. We all know that encouraging safe sex is a very important thing to do.' Organisers have reportedly provided eight thousand condoms free of charge for athletes' use in the village. Well, they do call them 'the friendly games,' after all.

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