Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Doctor Jimmy & Mister Jim

The BBC's espionage drama [spooks] is reportedly helping to increase interest in working for security service MI5. According to the Daily Scum Mail, the number of visits to the MI5 website triples from an average of five hundred to fifteen hundred during the Monday night slot when [spooks] is on BBC1. (All dear blog readers should be advised, if you do use the link provided to check it out, don't blame yer Keith Telly Topping if you end on a List somewhere, about something.) Whilst the programme is broadcasting, seven of the top ten phrases used in search engines to find the site are related to jobs, including 'MI5 careers,' 'MI5 jobs,' and 'How to join MI5.' I always thought they approached you rather than the other way around. However, the Service is understood to be concerned that the violent and bloody storylines in [spooks] could deter female candidates from joining. MI5 has launched a recruitment drive specifically aimed at attracting more female intelligence officers, as fifty nine per cent of its employees are currently male. A senior Whitehall source said: '[spooks] is a great TV show, but the violence can put women off applying for jobs at MI5. A career in the Service is about brain, not brawn - carefully piecing together vital intelligence to protect the UK and its people.' Yeah. Probably didn't help when Lisa Faulkner got her face shoved in a deep-fat fryer in episode two. That sort of set the tone for much of what's followed.

Meanwhile the final episode of the current series of [spooks] (the BBC's description, pre episode, the first suggestion that the series had, indeed, been officially recommissioned) was the fully-anticipated white-knuckle ride of testerosterone fulled mayhem, with the blood, and the screaming, and the betrayal. At least Not-Lucas didn't kill Ruth, as some pre-publicity had suggested he would. I'd've hunted him down like a mangy dog and cut the sod's knackers off with a rusty razor blade myself if that had been true. But, the final stand-off between Not-Lucas and Harry on top of a London skyscraper was the stuff of Bond movies climaxes. 'This job is a machine. Good people go in, they get chewed up, they get spat out. That's how you make sense of it.' Brilliant. Curious end to the scene, though. Is Not-Lucas supposed to be dead or not? Circumstantial evidence suggests probably yes, but the reaction shots and ambiguity of some of the direction - most un-[spooks]-like when it comes to a death of a regular - leave that one open to question until we meet again at the appointed hour. And so, we had a cliffhanger, of sorts, Harry seemingly about to be thrown to the political dogs. And then, for the first time ever, a Doctor Who-style '[spooks] will return in 2011' caption. There are some shows that, not matter how hard you try, you just can't kill.

The BBC Trust has said that BBC1 and BBC2 are performing well, but that both could do more to provide fresh and creative programming for their audiences. Good God, that's just about the first sensible - non craven cowardly - thing The BBC Trust has said in months. The Trust published the final conclusions of its 'service review' of the two channels, along with digital network BBC4, after releasing its interim conclusions in July. The review found that BBC1 and BBC2 both 'provide a high quality offering much valued by viewers and make vital contributions to delivering the BBC's public service remit.' However, The Trust told the two channels to show greater ambition in the way they serve their audiences. The Trust believes that BBC1 must harness its size and scale as the UK's most watched channel by 'being more ambitious and taking more creative risks in peak time.' In particular, the channel should 'actively seek to increase the level of range, variety and surprise in pre-watershed peak time, and show greater creative ambition at 9pm.' The BBC's governing body said that it expects to see improvement in audience perceptions of BBC1 by the end of 2011 or it will consider further action to address the concerns. BBC2 was told to make its factual, drama and comedy output more 'distinctive' to 're-establish its position as a channel which audiences recognise as being manifestly different to BBC1.' It would help if BBC1 stopped nicking many of its best comedies, in that case. The Trust again said that daytime output on BBC1 and BBC2 'needs to make a greater contribution to the BBC's reputation for quality and distinctiveness.' However, the BBC Executive was merely told to continue implementing an already agreed series of proposals to improve its daytime output. Shows under scrutiny are thought to include Cash In The Attic, Homes Under The Hammer and Bargain Hunt. The review also found that more should be done to increase the impact of current affairs programming on BBC1 and BBC2, while plans must be implemented to improve the quality of opt-out shows in the UK nations. Also, The Trust said that much of BBC4's programming is seen as high quality and distinctive by audiences, with more than eighty per cent being rated as 'original and different.' However, the channel was told to find more ways to increase its overall impact with audiences, including its content being more effectively signposted and promoted on other BBC channels. 'We have just agreed with government a tough new licence fee settlement which gives the BBC stability for the remaining six years of the current Charter,' said Sir Michael Lyons, the outgoing chairman of The Trust. 'It will present us with some difficult choices, but The Trust is clear that, within that new settlement, the BBC must strive to further raise the distinctiveness of its programming in order to satisfy viewers' expectations, particularly for the flagship channels BBC1 and BBC2.' Diane Coyle, the BBC Trustee who led the review, added: 'This review finds all three channels are broadly delivering on their remits - producing high quality and popular programming across the breadth of TV genres which makes a strong contribution to the delivery of the BBC's public purposes. But our research shows that audiences demand more from the BBC, with viewers looking for ideas they can't find anywhere else. The channels have significant influence and appeal, and while plans are already underway to improve daytime output, the Executive needs to be more ambitious and take more creative risks to satisfy viewers' expectations.' BBC Vision director, Jana Bennett, said the findings endorsed 'the strength and ambition' of BBC plans to deliver 'even greater quality and originality.' In audience research carried out as part of the review, many respondents said BBC1 acted as a benchmark for other broadcasters and praised its drama, news and natural history documentaries. Bennett said audiences had a strong appetite for 'fresh and new ideas' on TV and that the BBC would take a leading role in feeding that. Audience research showed that BBC channels led other broadcasters for 'quality, originality and distinctiveness,' she said. 'Shows currently on-air like Strictly Come Dancing, The Trip, Getting On and Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention demonstrate this in practice.' She added: 'On BBC1, we will seek to bring even greater range and variety into peak, building on a very strong base - programmes like Sherlock, Bang Goes the Theory, Five Daughters and Outnumbered, to name but a few.' She said BBC1 would provide more range and variety during peak viewing and that the corporation would ensure that BBC2 was a 'highly distinctive alternative to BBC1' with programmes like Wonders of the Solar System and The Normans.

Gavin & Stacey actress Joanna Page is to host a new panel show for BBC3. Alleged comics Jack Whitehall and Micky Flanagan (well, certainly the former) will captain the teams on 10 Things You Don’t Know About Your Mum – which pitches a pair of young adult siblings against their parents. Christ, that sounds unmissable.

Coronation Street's Vicky Binns has teased that the fallout relating to the identity of baby Jack's father will be 'immense.' Binns's alter-ego - Molly Dobbs - has found out that Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell) is the father of her son. Unbeknown to Molly and Kevin, Jack Duckworth overheard their conversation and is now aware of their affair. Furthermore, Binns has revealed that Jack does confront her. 'Molly's shocked to the core when Jack tells her,' she told What's On TV. 'Not because he might tell Tyrone but because his reaction is so beautiful. He doesn't condemn her and instead urges her to leave Weatherfield with Tyrone and baby Jack.'

Meanwhile, Bill Tarmey's final episode as Coronation Street's Jack Duckworth has been praised by critics and viewers alike. The long-standing character died of a heart attack in the chair that his wife Vera passed away in nearly three years earlier. The poignant episode included a cameo appearance by Tarmey's former co-star Liz Dawn, who played Vera's ghost in an emotional final scene which saw the pair dance to 'Softly As I Leave You.' Having seemingly joined Vera in the afterlife (which, I guess for one episode at least, qualifies Corrie as yer actual Telefantasy), Jack's foster son Tyrone, discovered Jack's body saying 'Goodnight, Dad.' The Gruniad's Mark Lawson described the scene as achieving 'a depth unmatched in other drama,' praising the show's writers for 'the injection of magical realism.'

Meanwhile, here's Mama Telly Topping's glakish comment of the week, when discussing Jack Duckworth's departure from Corrie and the fact that Big Vera would be appearing during his death scene: 'She's dead, isn't she? I mean, in real life.' No mother, yer Keith Telly Topping noted, 'she's in tonight's episode, that's a bit of a giveaway. Corrie can do a lot of wonderful things, but I don't think they've perfected raising the dead just yet.'

Grumpy old Michael Parkinson used part of an interview with the Independent's Deborah Ross to, once again (like a broken record) talk about his aversion to the modern state of celebrity and of the modern state of modern celebrity interviewers: When asked what he thought about, for instance, Piers Morgan's talk show, Parky was at his irritable best: 'I've never seen it,' he said. 'I've got better things to do on a Saturday night. Like taking the lady out for a lovely meal.' But, Deborah continued, wasn't he just a bit curious? 'Why would I be? It's all tabloid, X Factor people.' Hadn't himself interviewed Robson Green, Deborah protested? 'He was huge at that time,' replied Parky as though that made all the difference. Asked about all of the women that he interviewed, back in the day - when stars where real stars, and the late, great Gene Kelly was still just the great Gene Kelly - who had been the most desirable? 'Diana Rigg, in the Seventies,' Parky replied without a second thought. 'Lustrous.' And the most beautiful? 'Raquel Welch at twenty four. Flawless skin with a translucent quality, and wonderful eyes, although later it was very difficult to make out what had been done by God and what by hand.' Had Parkinson ever interviewed people whom he'd actively disliked, the interviewer continued? 'Of course. You don't have to like someone to interview them.' Pressed for examples, and refusing to give any, the name Meg Ryan was, inevitably, mentioned. 'I'm not saying, and none of your beguilements can charm me,' Parky replied with a straight bat that his good friend Geoffrey Boycott would've been proud of. Parkinson's office, Deborah revealed, is filled with nice paintings and cricket stills along with a montage of Parky surrounded by many of the people he's, famously, interviewed; Muhammad Ali, George Best, Billy Connolly, Dame Edna, Dame Helen, Dame Judi, Dustin Hoffman, Sir Macca and Madonna. It took twenty years to get Madonna on the show, he noted: 'But, once she came to us she was wonderful.' On the subject of who had made the most excessive demands, Parkinson named another diva, Mariah Carey. 'She demanded a large dressing room which had to be draped in white linen and damask and all that balls. So we created this space for her in what had been a band room, underneath where the ordinary dressing rooms were, but when I tried to go downstairs to say hello, I was prevented by this platoon of huge security guards who didn't have a clue who I was. "But I'm the bloody host!" I told them. They just looked at me and said: "Yeah, man, yeah."' The interview, ostensibly, was to discuss his latest book, Parky's People, which features one hundred of his best interviews. Deborah mentioned that one of the interviews which she most remembered, aside from the obvious like Rod Hull and Emu, was one with Val Doonican, when he told the story of how, knowing he had throat cancer, retreated to the shed at the bottom of the garden to die. Deborah suggested that it made her cry. 'It made me cry!' Parky confessed. He concluded the interview with a genuinely funny anecdote about a woman who came up to him recently at a book signing with a book that wasn't his. The New Testament: 'I said to her: "I didn't write this." She said: "I know. I'm not stupid." So I asked her why she'd bought it for me to sign it. "Because," she said, "it was cheaper than your book!"'

Top Twenty programmes, week end 31 Oct 2010
1 The X Factor - ITV - 14.67 million*
2 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 - 11.28 million*
3 Coronation Street - ITV - 10.33 million*
4 Eastenders - BBC1 - 9.88 million
5 Downton Abbey - ITV - 9.84 million*
6 Countryfile - BBC1 - 8.23 million*
7 New Tricks - BBC1 - 8.19 million
8 Emmerdale - ITV - 7.95 million
9 The Apprentice - BBC1 - 6.96 million*
10 Merlin - BBC1 - 6.92 million
11 [spooks] - BBC1 - 6.36 million
12 Holby City - BBC1 - 6.01 million*
13 Whitechapel - ITV - 5.74 million
14 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 - 5.62 million*
15 BBC News - BBC1 - 5.44 million
=16 Have I Got News For You - BBC1 - 5.37 million
=16 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV - 5.37 million
18 Piers Morgan's Life Stories - ITV - 5.31 million
19 Single Father - BBC1 - 5.28 million*
20 The Cube - ITV - 5.21 million
As always, those programmes featuring an asterisk indicates that the total figure also includes HD viewers.

Olivia Wilde has promised that she will return to House later this season. The actress, who plays Thirteen, took some time off from the show to film the movies Cowboys & Aliens and The Change-Up. However, she told Entertainment Weekly: 'I am coming back to House. This season, as a matter of fact. It is a done deal.' Wilde also promised that her absence from the show will be explained when she returns. 'They have it all worked out and the viewers will find out where she went and why she left,' Wilde said. 'I think it is an interesting progression for her. Thirteen has been through a lot so it has to be escalated. She has Huntington's. She had a brain tumour and went blind. She had a bad break-up. She's sexually ambiguous. She had problems with drugs. I thought, "What else can [creator] David Shore possibly come up with?" They had to take it to a whole new level. They are really taking some big risks this year, which is exciting.'

Dannii Minogue has defended her decision to keep giving Matt Cardle women's songs on The X Factor. Cardle has consistently performed songs which were made famous by female vocalists, showing off his impressive falsetto vocal. Defending her song selection, Minogue said: 'For me, an incredibly written song is a great song. And that's all we try to do, pick something that they connect with. I can choose a song that he doesn't connect with at all because it is a "guy's song" or we can choose something like he did like Saturday night, which is incredibly personal to him, connected with his family and everything that he felt at that moment. For me that translated to the audience and people at home. I don't think it's about a guy or a girl's song. It's about choosing something for his voice. His voice reaches notes that most guys don't reach.' Louis Walsh backed his rival judge, adding: 'I think Dannii has picked, really, really good songs for Matt. I think he might win.'

There's a great piece by Mark Gatiss in this week's Observer as part of their occasional series The Film That Changed My Life. In Mark's case, it's Billy Wilder's 1970 masterpiece, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: 'The magic of this film, I think, comes down to the writing of the dialogue by Wilder and his writing partner, Izzy Diamond. There are a number of conversations between Robert Stephens (Sherlock) and Colin Blakely (Watson) that are just like tiny symphonies. Every gag, every little annunciation or pause is poised perfectly and, watching it recently (it was a template of sorts for Stephen [sic] Moffat and me as we made our adaptation for the BBC) made me realise that Wilder and Diamond were among the best screenwriters in the world. They gently take the mickey out of Sherlock Holmes in the way that you can only do with something that you really adore. It's a fantastically melancholy film. The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is treated beautifully; Sherlock effectively falls in love with him in the film, but it's so desperately unspoken. There's an amazing scene where, to get out of a situation where a Russian ballerina wants Sherlock to father her child, he claims Watson and he are gay. Watson is outraged and, when he calms down, speaks of the women all over the world who could attest to his sexuality. He says to Sherlock, "You do too, don't you?" Holmes is silent, and Watson says, "Am I being presumptuous? There have been women, haven't there?" Holmes says, "The answer is yes – you are being presumptuous." Sensational.'

The BBC has scrapped a proposed drama about a fictional siege in a London secondary school because of apparent creative difficulties with the scripts, according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Siege, a four-part BBC1 drama commissioned earlier this year, has now been dropped, the BBC confirmed. The drama was being made by independent producer Big Talk. 'After much consideration the BBC and Big Talk have mutually agreed that Siege will not be taken any further. It was a hugely ambitious event piece and unfortunately as can sometimes happen not all the ingredients came together despite the brilliant work of all involved,' the BBC said. They added that the decision was taken before the appointment of new BBC1 controller Danny Cohen. Siege was approved by BBC1's former controller, Jay Hunt, and Ben Stephenson, the controller of drama commissioning. A BBC 'insider' allegedly said that the decision was taken 'as early as possible' in the drama's pre-production stages in order to avoid incurring additional costs. 'In the current climate we have to make brave decisions like this,' the source added. The BBC said scrapping Siege will lead to further commissions from the same department. Siege's fictional plot involved the government dealing with kidnappers who are holding one hundred civilians hostage and demanding the release of a notorious war criminal from a British jail. The scripts had been written by Kate Brook from an idea by Simon Curtis, whose executive producer credits include the acclaimed BBC2 drama Five Days. Siege was the first TV drama commission for the independent producer Big Talk, which was founded by Nira Park and is also responsible for critically acclaimed BBC2 sitcom Rev.

Tony Marchant, the creator of Holding On, has been commissioned to write a new BBC1 drama set in the probation service. The drama, Public Enemies, focuses on the relationship between twenty eight-year-old Eddie, recently released on life licence from prison after serving ten years, and his probation officer, Paula, returning from suspension following a crime committed by an offender under her supervision. Public Enemies has not yet been cast and filming is scheduled to begin next spring. The drama is being made by Tiger Aspect. Marchant said that he felt the subject was ripe for dramatic examination given recent high-profile news stories about the UK's social services. 'Public Enemies looks at the criminal justice system from the points of view of the offender and the gatekeeper. It's about disgraced individuals trying to reclaim their lives and their reputations. It's also a forbidden love story,' he added. The drama marks Marchant's return to work with Tiger Aspect, who produced his earlier dramas, Channel 4's Kid in the Corner and BBC1's Recovery. Greg Brenman, the Tiger Aspect head of drama, said: 'Public Enemies has all the vital ingredients to be another genre defining and gripping story for audiences craving the best in contemporary drama.' Public Enemies was commissioned by the BBC's drama commissioning controller, Ben Stephenson, and will be overseen by Polly Hill, who said: 'The stories of Eddie and Paula are complex gripping surprising and incredibly moving, while Tony also writes beautifully and powerfully about the issue of rehabilitation and whether as a society we really believe in it – can a young man who has served his time in prison for murder get his life back, and will the community he returns to let him?'

Jimmy McGovern has revealed that he does not like the 'tongue-in-'cheek" approach to British drama. Oh, great. Another embittered old Red whinging that it isn't 1965 any more. I've never understood this obsession that many TV professionals seem to have of dissing the work of other people in the industry, seemingly under the assumption that it'll get more people to watch their own show. Do they imagine that millions of people will, collectively, say 'My God, he's right, I've been a fool onto myself. Instead of watching a programme I like tonight, I'm going to turn over and sit through some depressing old bollocks about council estates'? Speaking to the Observer (oh, now there's a surprise), the Street writer complained that many television programmes don't take themselves seriously enough. After having had a go at Downton Abbey, and crime drama in general (this, from the man who created Cracker, let's remember) he then noted: 'Why write drama that doesn't matter? The only way to tell stories on TV is to convince people that what they are seeing is actually happening now and is real. I just can't handle the tongue-in-cheek approach, the kind of thing you see on Doctor Who. Though there are millions who can, I know.' Yes, there are. McGovern also complained that many television executives 'think they are better than the average television viewer,' saying: 'So you get this regurgitation of the same sort of thing. I am sixty years of age now and white and working class and if a story appeals to me, then probably lots of people will find it appealing too and the reason for telling the story will become clear as they watch.' So, what you're basically saying, Jimmy, if I understand you correctly is that you're 'better than the average television viewers'? Have I got that right, because that's how it sounds to me? He added: 'I am all for telling good stories and although I used to try to change people's attitudes, I don't do that now. The point of the drama should be in the story.' Within a few hours the scum press, of course, got exactly the argument they'd been fishing for by printing this whinging pile of steaming horseshit in the first place. Writers Steven Moffat and Matthew Graham responded to McGovern's recent comments in typically forthright fashion. And good on them for that. Moffat, who writes and produces the series McGovern specifically criticised, responded to the remarks on Twitter. 'The tragedy - no the irony - is I do take Doctor Who seriously,' he wrote. 'That is me being serious. Just lost the argument, haven't I?' Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph gleefully reported that Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes co-creator Matthew Graham - who has also written for Doctor Who in the past - was another to take to Twitter in response to McGovern's bleating. Matthew dismissed McGovern as a 'grumpy writer' who used the publicity generated by his own programmes to ridicule 'his brothers and sisters' in the business. 'Jimmy accusing Doctor Who of irrelevance,' he begand. 'Perhaps the Doctor should rape all of his companions and turn the TARDIS into a crack den. Some dramas are about northern people raping their sisters because of the legacy of Thatcher's government. Some dramas are about eccentric time travellers whisking their accomplices off on magical adventures. Some dramas gently and delightfully explore the social morays of the classes in Twentieth Century England. Some dramas brilliantly and compellingly examine the interconnecting lives of residents in a single street.' Graham added: 'Jimmy, you are a compelling, humane, acerbic and brilliantly relevant writer. One of our very best. But when you grumble about good shows that entertain millions and ask for the spectrum to be reduced you sound like the enemy of creativity. Worry about your own work and keep your nose out of other people's.' Yes. I say yes to thee, Matthew Graham, you beautiful man.

In marginally related news, Matt Smith has declared that his everyday existence has changed dramatically since he took on the lead role in Doctor Who. Well, yes, it would have. You never had embittered old tossers like Jimmy McGovern getting in your face when you were playing for Northampton juniors I'll bet, Matthew. In an interview with the self-same Torygraph, the actor admitted that he misses the anonymity of going out in public without being recognised by passers-by. 'Walking down the street to buy a pint of milk is now a very different experience from what it was two years ago,' he stated. 'Nothing can really prepare you for such a dramatic change in your life.' Smith continued: 'People come up to me fifty times a day. How do I deal with it? I wear a hoodie and a pair of shades and I keep my head down. But I knew what I was entering into. [Fame] is just part of the remit - and a small price to pay when you get to run around time and space every day!' The actor added that The Doctor's comfort in his own skin in every situation is his personal favourite of the Time Lord's personality quirks. 'He's not afraid to be himself - which is liberating and endearing. He's never underhand - just a bit mad. I want to embrace the madness and push it further.' Smith also revealed that his Doctor Who predecessor, David Tennant, offered to consult with him on how to portray The Doctor. He explained: 'I talked to David when I got the part. He said, "If you ever need to talk about anything, give me a buzz." But it has to be your own journey. I don't want to be bugging David. You have to learn these things for yourself.'

Singer-turned-TV presenter Myleene Klass has defended Stephen Fry over a controversial interview in which he allegedly suggested women don't enjoy sex. Though, what the hell it has to do with her is, frankly, anyone's guess. The actor came under fire last week - mainly from Gruniad Morning Star readers, although the Daily Scum Mail got their collective tongue in there too - for comments he allegedly made to Attitude magazine. In which he, reportedly, claimed that heterosexual women only have intercourse so they that can have a relationship with a man - and they only enjoy it when they get paid. Fry subsequently insisted that he was misquoted after giving a 'humorous' interview, declaring in a series of posts on his Twitter page: 'Much as you may wish to think me a compound of the most misogynistic, ignorant, sexist and antediluvian pig who ever trod the planet, I can truly report that I know and love enough women to be quite assured of the fact that women do indeed enjoy sex. I was simply taking a thought for a walk.' Klass is adamant that Fry doesn't deserve the unfair backlash. Whilst simultaneously using this as a crass and wholly objectionable excuse to get her own face in a national newspaper for something that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with her. Again. She tells the Daily Express, 'Can we all just lay off the poor guy? He's one of the nicest men in the world. I wish people would realise who is good and who is not good out there. He is one of the good guys. He's on our side, ladies. It's about time one of the girls stood up and said, "Leave off one of our guys." I'll always stand up for him and I do have a crazy crush on him from a geek's perspective. He's an articulate, humble man and something's been said in an ironic sense and shame on anyone who has taken it out of context.' Well, thanks for your contribution to the debate, Myleene. Now nick off back to whatever mindless thing it is that you do to justify your own existence.

Lenny Henry - remember him? He used to be funny about thirty years ago - has made light of X Factor judge Louis Walsh's comments about the similarities between himself and Paije Richardson as they threatened to provoke uproar. Among glakes. According to Metro, Walsh 'raised a few eyebrows' during Saturday night's show when he described the soulful nineteen-year-old as a 'little Lenny Henry' following his performance of 'I'm A Believer' by The Monkees, mixed with Outkast's 'Hey Ya.' Fellow judge Simon Cowell and presenter Dermot O'Leary questioned the remarks at the time, which prompted Louis to stress that he had not meant to cause offence. 'I'm a huge fan of Lenny and was paying Paije a compliment,' he said. And, Henry himself has also laughed off the comments at an event to promote his ex-wife Dawn French's new book A Tiny Bit Marvellous. During a question and answer session, Dawn asked her former husband: 'Are you Paije from The X Factor?' Henry then answered: 'No, Ainsley Harriott.'

Viewers have suggested that a question about Doctor Who on The Million Pound Drop was incorrect. The show, hosted by Davina McCall, sees contestants gamble one million pounds on eight questions. If they get an answer wrong, they lose all of the money they bet on it. According to the Mirror, producers are now checking one of the questions on Friday night's show. McCall asked husband and wife team Johnny and Dee to name the longest-serving Doctor on Doctor Who from Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston. The pair split their remaining six hundred and fifty thousand pounds between McCoy and McGann but lost everything when McCall revealed that Tennant was the correct answer. Tennant played the Doctor in forty seven episodes (and two Children In Need specials) from Christmas Day 2005 to New Year's Day 2009. But some fans have complained that McCoy was actually the correct answer because he took on the role from 1987 to 1989 and in a 1996 film, with no-one else playing the part in between. Doctor Who Appreciation Society member Anthony Wainer said: 'There are different ways to interpret it.' Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Channel Four said: 'The producers are investigating.' Jimmy McGovern, meanwhile, has rumoured to be curled up into a little ball on his living room floor gnashing his teeth and wailing.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has reportedly apologised to the BBC Trust over his decision to sign a protest letter against News Corp's proposed takeover of Sky. Last month, the Trust quizzed Thompson on how 'appropriate' it was for him to join a group of media companies in signing the letter submitted to business secretary Vince Cable objecting to the deal. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, The Trust has released part of the minutes from its meeting on 21 October, in which Thompson 'acknowledged that he had not discussed the co-signing of the letter directly with the chairman [Sir Michael Lyons] or engaged with trustees.' The minutes also reveal that Thompson 'stated his regret' over the way in which he failed to inform the BBC Trust of his decision to sign the protest letter against News Corp's bid to acquire the sixty one per cent of Sky that it does not already own. However, The Trust also gave no indication that it was, necessarily, unhappy with the contents of the letter, simply stating that there would be 'no further comment' on the situation. Thompson faced criticism for getting personally involved in the Sky takeover protest, including an objection from Stephen Mitchell, the BBC's deputy director of news. However, the controversy is now rather academic as Cable has intervened in News Corp's £7.8 billion takeover of Sky in response to concerns about its impact on media plurality in the UK. Cable has ordered Ofcom to investigate the deal on grounds of public interest as the enlarged company would include four major national newspapers and a pay-TV company boasting profits of more than one billion pounds.

Jamiroquai's Jay Kay has revealed that he thinks the UK has 'dumbed down' because of today's popular culture. The singer - who made an utter fool of himself last week with various comments that were attributed to him before an appearance of The X Factor - said that Britain is laughed at by other countries for shopping and obsessing over celebrities. He told Recognise: 'We are turning into a country of gossips, this isn't Great Britain anymore. We keep talking about 1966 when we won the World Cup and winning WW2, which is nice to talk about, but it isn't great now. Britain is the poor man of Europe, Italy laughs at us - they call us the nation of chatterers and shoppers, and that's what we are. All we talk about is the Beckhams and Jordan. It really is Little Britain. All we get fed from television and magazines is rubbish.' The forty-year-old added that he believes children who break the law should be sent to work in the army. He explained: 'If a kid gets caught with a knife, send them to work in the army. There they can learn a trade and earn some respect for themselves.' Jesus, have you met Jimmy McGovern, Jay? You two'd get on like a house on fire.

Hayden Panettiere is set to star in the high school slasher film, Downers Grove. The Heroes actress will be fighting to save herself from being the next target alongside Twilight's Nikki Reed in the thriller, written by Bret Easton Ellis, said The Hollywood Reporter. Based on the novel by Michael Hornberg and directed by Prom Night's Nelson McCormick, the film is set in a high school in a Chicago suburb where every year, one senior student dies a bizarre death before the end of the school year. 'We are very excited about this project,' Myriad CEO and president Kirk D'Amico said. 'The combination of the thriller genre, a very popular and well-known cast, Bret Easton Ellis' dynamic screenplay and Nelson McCormick's incredible skill with young actors and ability to create tension and terror on screen is just unbeatable.' Downers Grove, which will also star Rebecca De Mornay, will start filming in Louisiana next spring.

Ofcom has critisised the Islam Channel after it broke broadcasting guidelines by broadcasting programmes that condoned marital rape and violence against women. In its latest Broadcast Bulletin, the media regulator said that five programmes aired on the satellite TV channel in 2008 and 2009 breached the broadcasting code. The watchdog launched its investigation into the programmes - which were all broadcast in English - in response to a report published by the Quilliam thinktank in March. Ofcom criticised the Islam Channel for allowing host Nazreen Nawaz to condone marital rape in a programme broadcast on the channel in April last year. In the show, she said: 'And really, the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband's [sexual] relations - this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. In fact it is a bit strange, the converse is strange. To refuse relations would harm a marriage. But it shouldn't be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman.' Another programme featured a Qestion and Answer session in which the presenter, Sheikh Abdul Majid Ali, said that it was okay to hit a woman 'just to make her feel that you are not happy with her.' In a different programme, Majid Ali also claimed that any woman who wore perfume smelt by the opposite sex was 'a prostitute.' The Islam Channel - which was fined thirty thousand pounds by Ofcom in 2007 for a series of breaches - also broke broadcasting guidelines by airing overly one-sided coverage of international affairs and conflict in the Middle East. Ofcom is sufficiently concerned about the Islam Channel's understanding of the broadcasting code that it has called the broadcaster's management in for a meeting to discuss compliance procedures.

Google Maps has been blamed after Nicaraguan forces 'accidentally' invaded Costa Rica last week and raised their flag on disputed land in the adjacent country. According to AFP, a Nicaraguan commander mentioned the online mapping service in an interview with Costa Rica's La Nacion to justify the raid. After meeting Organisation of American States secretary general Jose Manuel Insulza, Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla said: 'Costa Rica is seeing its dignity smeared and there is a sense of great national urgency.' She added that the matter would be taken to the UN Security council if the OAS is unable to resolve the matter. In a post on its Lat Long Blog, Google's geo-policy analyst Charlie Hale outlined the historical complexity of the disputed region and added: 'We determined that there was indeed an error in the compilation of the source data, by up to 2.7 kilometres. The US Department of State has provided a corrected version and we are now working to update our maps. Once our updates go live in Google Earth and Maps we will be depicting the border according to the most recent and definitive records available. But as we know, cartography is a complex undertaking, and borders are always changing. We remain committed to updating our maps as needed.'

The Large Hadron Collider - or The Black Hole Machine as Mad Frankie Boyle always called it - has successfully created a 'mini-Big Bang' by smashing together lead ions instead of protons. Excellent. So, can we build a Death Star now and go cruising the galaxy for strange new worlds, with new life forms so we can get all Dalek on their asses? No? Well, what was the effing point of that then? The scientists working at the enormous machine achieved the unique conditions on 7 November. The experiment created temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun. The LHC is housed in a twenty seven kilometre-long circular tunnel deep under the French-Swiss border near Geneva. Up until now, the world's highest-energy particle accelerator - which is run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research - has been colliding protons, in a bid to uncover mysteries of the Universe's formation. Proton collisions could help spot the elusive Higgs-Boson particle and signs of new physical laws, such as a framework called supersymmetry. But for the next four weeks, scientists at the LHC will concentrate on analysing the data obtained from the lead ion collisions. This way, they hope to learn more about the plasma the Universe was made of a millionth of a second after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. One of the accelerator's experiments, ALICE, has been specifically designed to smash together lead ions, but the ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid experiments have also switched to the new mode. David Evans from the University of Birmingham, UK, is one of the researchers working at ALICE. He said that the collisions obtained were able to generate the highest temperatures and densities ever produced in an experiment. 'We are thrilled with the achievement,' said Dr Evans. 'This process took place in a safe, controlled environment, generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun. 'At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma.' Quarks and gluons are sub-atomic particles - some of the building blocks of matter. In the state known as quark-gluon plasma, they are freed of their attraction to one another. This plasma is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang. He explained that by studying the plasma, physicists hoped to learn more about the so-called strong force - the force that binds the nuclei of atoms together and that is responsible for ninety eight per cent of their mass. After the LHC finishes colliding lead ions, it will go back to smashing together protons once again. Cos, you know, why not? It's better than banging rocks together. So ... no Death Star, then? Pity.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is, almost certainly, the only song about a seasdie tramp living on the Isle of Man to be a Top Ten hit in Great Britain and a Top Twenty hit in the US. Unless of course, you know different dear blog reader.'I saw ya!'

No comments: