Saturday, November 20, 2010

Week Forty Eight: It's A Rich Man's World

Charlie Brooker has signed up for a new BBC2 series. How TV Ruined Your Life will see the Screenwipe and You Have Been Watching host explore a different theme each episode, such as love, money, fear or progress. The show will try to explain how different the television ideal is from real life. The six-part series will also include a mixture of archive footage and sketches. A number of different comedians and actors - including Kevin Eldon, Inbetweeners star Belinda Stewart-Wilson, news presenter Helen Fospero and Thaila Zucchi - will perform on the show. How TV Ruined Your Life is expected to premiere early next year.

A documentary about the life of Eddie Izzard has revealed the motivation behind his extraordinary ambition and his struggle for success as a professional comic. The death of his mother from cancer when he was six had a profound effect on him. He says in the new film, Believe, he has always thought that if he 'did enough things maybe she would come back.' He told Sky News: 'I seem to have the determination gene. I don't know if that's to do with my mum or whether that's built in. I am just a tenacious idiot. After mum died I thought the applause of the audience was something I swapped for my mum's affection. That is how I analyse it. I'm not sure what a psychiatrist would say.' Probably 'well done, that'll be two hundred pounds, please,' to be honest. Eddie has, of course, been described by John Cleese as 'the lost Python.' But despite being a very public figure used to making people laugh, filling auditoriums and starring in films alongside Hollywood actors like George Clooney, he is also a curiously private man and not much is known about him other than what he actually wants people to see. The film-maker Sarah Townsend - Izzard's former girlfirend and, under the name Sarah McGuinness, the composer of the music for his shows since The Definite Article - said that she was not convinced she had a story to tell until the very end of filming when he opened up and spoke, movingly, about his mother. She explained: 'The problem we had, is he is so well-versed in interview and so able to divert from difficult questions and so good at presenting himself. With all aspects of his life including that most difficult - transvestism - it is very hard to get underneath that. He only tells you what he believes you should know and he will never reveal himself, which is fine but no good for a film when you need a real story with a real drama. When he spoke about his mother, the room fell silent for ten minutes. It was a magical moment.' Filming the documentary was a labour of love for Townsend. They started shooting in 2003 with no budget, tracking down Izzard's famous friends like George Clooney and Robin Williams, as well as interviewing his family and school friends. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a fifteen-year 'overnight' success. 'In the early days he played to empty theatres and was booed off stages but still had an overriding belief there is nothing to fear but fear itself. His thick skin has helped him endure years of knock-backs before success finally came.' Eddie himself adds: 'If you are positive, ambitious and learn how to fight in a positive way - that's good.' Although his comedy material is seldom political, in real life he is an ardent Labour supporter who backed Ed Miliband in the recent leadership campaign. Now, he fears coalition cuts are too deep but is confident that Labour will return victorious before long. He told Sky News: 'I'd like to see them get back in in four years or four-and-a-half years' time. It isn't like back in 1979.' Despite being a vocal republican he is all for next year's royal wedding and thinks Prince William and Kate Middleton are a good match. 'They look like they've done it well. Even though they've taken a long time to get married I think it's absolutely right. It is a weird burden being in that full-on spotlight that just switches on and stays on. The fact they've split up and came back together is good. I just think there shouldn't be a monarchy.' The film sums up his determination as demonstrated again last year when he ran forty three marathons in fifty one days for charity. His next challenge, he says, with be to compete in the Iron Man triathlon.

The BBC has defended its coverage of the upcoming Royal Wedding following complaints from viewers that there has been too much focus on the engagement already. In a statement the broadcaster confirmed that 'a number' of complaints had been received from licence fee payers 'who feel that there has been too much coverage' of Tuesday's news that Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged. The announcement from Clarence House on 16 November 2010 that Prince William is to marry his girlfriend, 'was the confirmation of long-expected news about an imminent royal wedding,' an official response stated. 'The betrothal of Britain's future King was undoubtedly an important news story.' It continued: 'Our coverage throughout the day reflected the worldwide interest in the story which featured on the front pages of all major UK newspapers as well as many foreign media. The story attracted above normal audiences for most of our TV outlets and our top story on the news website alone attracted 1.3 million readers.' They added that other news stories had featured throughout the day alongside news of the Royal Wedding. Of course, one can absolutely guarantee that if the BBC hadn't covered the announcement in full, tongue-rimming, glory like it was The Only News In Town, scum somewhere would've been complaining about that. Can't do right for doing wrong, it would seem - the BBC might as well have that legend tattooed on their collective forehead. On Tuesday night, ITV political editor Tom Bradby's interview with the couple screened simultaneously on both BBC and ITV, with the latter pushing Emmerdale into a later slot.

Steven Moffat has said that his hit series Sherlock was inspired by a desire to place Sherlock Holmes in a new historical context. Speaking to Assignment X, the showrunner defended his decision to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as the Victorian sleuth, a part that has traditionally been played by older actors. He explained: 'The thing is, people keep saying, "Is this the youngest Sherlock Holmes?" You look at the Sherlock Holmes stories and the fact that we think of him as fifty is a product of the [film and TV depictions]. It's not true - he must be, in the first story, in his late twenties or early thirties. He's referred to as a young man, even in the first story as a student. So he clearly could be twenty nine in that first story. The great thing about reinventing Sherlock Holmes is that the whole story happens all over again. And we can do it any way we like. We can change the rules; we can shock you with what we do. So don't assume that we are going to do everything according to the rulebook. We are at times throwing it away. So it might be frightening - brace yourselves for shocks.' Moffat also revealed that his Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss was responsible for Cumberbatch winning the lead role in the BBC1 series. 'Mark knew Benedict, but oddly enough, watching [the 2007 film] Atonement, in which he's the creepy villain, I sort of thought, "He's brilliant and he looks a bit like Sherlock Holmes." I talked to Mark and he said, "I know him," so we just bunged the script off to him, he liked it, came in and read for it and that was it. Benedict was our first and only choice. It's a funny thing, but sometimes there are several James Bonds you can imagine, but sometimes there's just a natural choice. Benedict was the entire package for us.'

Matt Baker has emerged as the bookies' early favourite to replace Jason Manford on BBC's The ONE Show. Manford, who began presenting the show in July alongside Alex Jones, quit the magazine programme with what is believed to be immediate effect on Thursday night, following tabloid revelations about his private life. Paddy Power - the kitty's friend - has now placed Baker as the three-to-one favourite to land the role from Monday to Thursday. However, the Countryfile presenter's commitments to Strictly Come Dancing and next year's tour could prevent him from taking the job. The bookmaker has put former host Adrian Chiles at sixteen-to-one for a shock return from ITV, where he currently hosts Daybreak and the network's football coverage. Which will probably give dear blog readers some sort of insight into exactly how much inside information these clowns actually have. According to newspaper reports - or, you know, speculation - guest presenters will fill in until a permanent choice is made.

Here's yer next lot of Top Telly Tips:

Friday 26 November
On this week's Qi - 8:30 BBC1 - Stephen Fry is joined by guests Jeremy Clarkson, David Mitchell and (for the third time this series) Ross Noble along with regular panellist Alan Davies, on 'the quiz with a difference.' This week the avuncular host will be asking questions on the topics of health and safety, awarding points for the answers he finds the most interesting. One suspects the inclusion of Jezza in this week's show is, very definitely, deliberate! And, of course, the big news is that, hurrah, the XL edition is on tomorrow - BBC2 at 10:15. Ah, XL, how we've missed thee whilst watching the dodgy struttings of wrinkly auld rockers on Saturday nights for three weeks.

If you missed Britain by Bike - 9:30 BBC2 - when it was shown on BBC4 earlier this year then you missed something of a little treat. Not least because it prompted a review by cynical mouthy full-of-own-importance AA Gill in the Sunday Times which included some extremely pejorative language that got him a very public damned good trousers-down spanking from the Press Complaints Commission. Which, let's face it, is always good for a laugh. Anyway, in this series big cuddly Clare Balding follows in the tracks of the author and bicycle fan Harold Briercliffe, embarking on a cross-country journey to experience the thrills of 1950s-style cycling. She begins her route in North Devon, visiting Lynmouth and the nearby village of Lynton, before heading to Woody Bay. The presenter concludes her trip with stops at the silver mines of Combe Martin and the seaside town of Ilfracombe. Like Clare herself, it's rather amiable and 'nice' in a sort of quite old fashioned, BBC Home Counties kind of way and features some terrific cinematography. Well worth a visit if you missed the series last time around.

The Man Who Recorded America: Jac Holzman's Elektra Records - 9:00 BBC4 - is a documentary examining the history of the Elektra record label and its founder, the maverick Jac Holzman. Initially, the company built its name in the mid-1960s on folk revival artists such as Judy Collins and Tom Paxton but it became best known for signing cutting-edge musicians, including Love, Tim Buckley, Iggy Pop and The Stooges and, most famously, The Doors. This programmes featuring contributions by Pop, Collins and Jackson Browne, as well as some seldom-seen BBC archive footage. Part of BBC4's Elektra Records Night.

Saturday 27 November
The Armstrong & Miller Show - 9:30 BBC1 - has been decent enough this series. Sometimes a bit patchy - their 2001: A Space Odyssey series of sketches went on for far too long - although some of the new characters are terrific. yer Keith Telly Topping particularly likes the vampires. Anyway, Xander Armstrong and Ben Miller reunite in the latest episode for more absurd sketches and wacky humour, it says here, including the return of accident-prone art historian Dennis Lincoln-Park.

In Strictly Come Dancing - 6:30 BBC1 - the seven remaining couples enter the spotlight once again, hoping to impress judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon, as well as the voting public, and secure a place in next week's quarter-final. Or, in the case of Ann Widdecombe, turn up, faff around a bit, and make a mockery of whole point of the show's existence in the first place. Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly get all the celebrities' reactions as they leave the dance floor, before the panel's scores are revealed.

You always know what you're getting with Harry Hill's TV Burp - 7:15 ITV. The big-collared comedian, as usual, takes a good hard look back at the week's small-screen highlights, subjecting the latest soaps, reality shows, documentaries and other assorted oddities to his unique brand of scrutiny. And, as usual, it'll all end in a fight. Just like a Friday night out of the pop, in fact, only this is usually funnier. Last in the current series.

Sunday 28 November
The Radio Times description of Alan Cumming's The Real Cabaret - 9:00 BBC4 - is rather curious. It suggests that 'the actor, who made his name in Sam Mendes' Broadway production of Cabaret, sets out to discover the story behind the book that the award-winning musical was based on.' Now, personally, I always thought Alan Cumming 'made his name' in GoldenEye and, of course, before that The High Life ('deary me!') long before he hit the boards at the Emcee in 1998. But then, I suppose Radio Times are merely simplifying things. For, you know, glakes with short memories. Anyway, in this documentary, Alan discovers how Cabaret's author, Christopher Isherwood, left behind his comfortable upper-class life in Britain to sample the delights of Thirties Berlin's hedonistic decadent nightlife, and used his experience of Weimar culture to inform his collection of short stories Goodbye to Berlin. Includes contributions by the film version of Cabaret's star, Liza Minnelli, German singer Ute Lemper and musician Coco Schumann.

In the latest episode of Garrow's Law - 9:00 BBC1 - the lawyer defends a naval captain whose attempt to expose corruption at a military hospital results in him being accused of libel. In court, Garrow vigorously attacks the establishment figures who have tried to silence his client, leading to a fiery confrontation between him and Sir Arthur - and causing Southouse to suspect his employer has an ulterior motive for wanting to win the case. Meanwhile, Lady Sarah becomes increasingly unsettled by public speculation, and Farmer spots an opportunity to prey on her vulnerable emotions. Superior costume legal drama starring Andrew Buchan and Alun Armstrong, with Ron Cook.

Monday 29 November
The opening episode of Ian Hislop's Age of the Do-Gooders - 9:00 BBC2 - is entitled Britain's Moral Makeover. In this, the broadcaster explores the contribution to society of Nineteenth Century individuals who, he believes, invented a 'public service ethos' and made Britain a desirable place to live. He investigates William Wilberforce's campaign to abolish slavery, the impact of Charles Trevelyan's battle to make the civil service a meritocracy, and Thomas Wakley's exposure of the fatal consequences of cronyism in the surgical profession. Featuring contributions from the author AN Wilson and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I must admit, I've always found the spitefully mean-spirited use of the term 'do-gooder' by those with a crass, Daily Scum Mail style agenda to be somewhat perplexing. Are those who use it as a general term of abuse really so against people who want to 'do good'? Would they prefer it if they 'did bad' instead? Actually, come to think of it, if we're talking about either readers of, or those who write for, the Daily Scum Mail then the probable answer to that is, sadly, yes. But, it's very odd, don't you think? It's like the way in which the term 'liberal' in the US is often a virtual dirty word from those who use it. As though it's the biggest insult they can come up with. A sneering, pinch-faced and cynical declaration of worthlessness because someone wants to make the world a better place.

Art of Germany - 9:00 BBC4 - sees The Culture Show's Andrew Graham-Dixon exploring, not unreasonably, the history of German art. Well, the clue's in the title, I'd suggest. He does this by visiting places of significance and looking at paintings, sculptures and other works. Which, to be fair, is his job - he's an art critic, after all. Andrew begins his journey by travelling to the large cathedral in Cologne, which he believes encapsulates the varied character of the country's creative output. He also looks at the earliest paintings of the Northern Renaissance in Munich, a city that is home to the woodcuts of Albrecht Durer and the cosmic visions of Albrecht Altdorfer. Part of the BBC4's Germany Season.

In 2006, the award-winning investigative journalist Andrew Jennings published a book called Foul! which looked into the vexed subject of allegations concerning all manner of naughty shenanigans and dodgy malarkey going on, allegedly, within world football's controlling body, FIFA. These included alleged million dollar bribes to secure alleged marketing rights for the company ISL along with alleged vote-buying to secure the alleged position of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and suggestions of bribery attributed to CONCACAF president Jack Warner. None of which have ever been proven in a court of law, it is important to add at this juncture. The book - and an attendant episode of the BBC's Panorama which Jennings fronted - was well-reviewed, sold in considerable numbers and, if even a quarter of its allegations are true, suggests that football is, essentially, as bent as a boomerang from the top on down. If true. Which, as noted, it may well not be. Although, let's put it this way, nobody has yet sued Jennings over any of the allegations that he made. So, four years on the BBC have given him another go at the subject. In Panorama: FIFA's Dirty Secrets - 8:30 BBC1 - Jennings again investigates corruption allegations levelled against some of the FIFA officials who are set to vote on England's World Cup bid, claiming to have found new evidence which supports accusations that several executives have taken bribes. Jennings also probes the existence of what are described as 'secret agreements' which could benefit FIFA financially should England succeed in their bid to host the 2018 tournament. Although, in the interests of linguistic fairness, one can rightly point out that if Jennings knows about them, then they're not really secret any more. Now, the first thing to note here is the timing: The BBC are broadcasting this documentary just a couple of days before the announcement is made on who has won the 2018 bid. Which, of course, has led to accusations of the BBC being 'unpatriotic,' by Andy Anson, the head of England's 2018 World Cup bid. And, therefore, hardly an impartial source in this matter. 'I'm incredibly disappointed with the timing of what the BBC seem to be proposing with Panorama,' he said. The BBC argue that the programme, will be 'in the public interest.' And it's jolly hard to argue against that - particularly as any notions of 'patriotism' have absolutely no place in the world of investigative journalism, that's a ludicrous, risible suggestion by Anson. If there has been corruption going on, and Jennings and the BBC can prove it in this programme, then they have a right - indeed many would argue a public duty - to bring such wrongdoing into the light and expose it to wider scrutiny. My only slight worry is that the programme is going to end up a fudge, just like Panorama's infamous 2006 episode on the subject of transfer dealings in British football and the role of agents, Football's Dirty Secrets (note the very similar title). Which promised much in pre-publicity in the way of specific allegations about specific transfers but, ultimately, produced very little in the way of hard evidence against any of the individuals named in the programme. Although, again, it's noticeable that four years on - and despite lots of hot air being blown by the likes of Sam Allardyce, Harry Redknapp and Kevin Bond - nobody has actually sued the BBC over anything alleged within the documentary. (Bond filed legal papers against the BBC, but withdrew the libel action, eight days before the trial was set to commence.) So, you know, the jury remains out on this one. Anson's accusations came on the day that FIFA released an executive summary of the various 2018 bids, which rated England as 'low risk,' a rare piece of good news for the 2018 team which has been buffeted by frequent setbacks - very few of them, of the BBC's making let it be noted. In May, Lord Triesman stepped down as England's 2018 World Cup bid chairman after reportedly accusing the Spanish and Russian football federations of conspiring in bribery in the course of a private conversation with a woman who was, secretly, taping what he said and then selling the story to the Scum Mail on Sunday. Classy. More recently England's bid suffered further damage internationally following corruption allegations made against FIFA by the Sunday Times newspaper - albeit, corruption allegations which appear to be broadly true and have led to the recent bans on at least two members of the FIFA executive committee who were caught in a sting operations, seemingly asking for money in exchange for their votes. Anson, who also criticised the Panorama programme - sight unseen - as 'sensationalist,' has been to see the BBC's director general Mark Thompson about the documentary, but the 2018 bid chief made it clear that he had not asked for the programme not to be shown. Which is good because, frankly, if he had, I'd've expected Mark Thompson to have his ass thrown out of the building and into the streets just as I would any special interest individual who seeks to tell the BBC what it can and cannot broadcast. 'I just told him what the potential implications of doing it would cause,' said Anson, who alleges that he 'knows' the contents of the letters Panorama had sent to FIFA executive committee members it had wanted to interview. 'The issues seem to be things dealt with by the Swiss courts and by FIFA in the past. They're not happy with someone raking over old issues but then, no one would be.' No, indeed. Particularly not if there is any actual criminality involved, mate. Bank robbers seldom seem to enjoy the police 'raking over old issues' either, I've noticed. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Quite the opposite, in fact. 'Maybe we're overreacting. I'm hoping it's an uninteresting and uninspiring programme.' Actually, I think most viewers will, rather, be hoping the opposite. Asked whether Panorama is looking at how much England's bid will cost, Anson replied: 'The time to look at that was when we chose the host cities. If they really cared about that, the time to do it was then, not with two days to go before the vote.' Which, I have to say is something that I do agree with. I think the timing of the programme, rather than the contents, is what's most at issue here. Anson also insisted that he would not want the government to intervene over the Panorama broadcast given the BBC is publicly funded. Not that they could, the government (of any political persuasion) has absolutely no authority - morally or legally - to tell the BBC what it can and can't broadcast and any suggestion that it ever should, under any circumstances, is an outrage that needs to be slapped down from a height with much righteous indignation. The BBC belongs to the licence fee payers, not to the government. 'It is not up to the government to stop the programme,' Anson added, quickly, perhaps realising he was on the verge of going too far. 'The government has been unbelievably supportive of the bid. We have a free media in this country and the BBC can do what they want, I just have to make sure they understand my view of what they are doing.' Former FA chief executive Mark Palios told BBC 5Live: 'It's naive to think people will not be affected by this. It's a small vote - there's only twenty two people - so one or two votes may make all the difference.' Anson, however, remains upbeat about his bid's chances of success and maintains that England have not lost a single vote during the past month. In which case, one has to wonder what all the fuss is about? Dare say we'll find out on 2 December one way or another.

In Miranda - 8:30 BBC2 - things are finally looking up for Miranda's love life after she finds herself with two dates; one with the best man of Tilly's fiancé, the other with a charming acquaintance of Stevie. She is especially thrilled by the unusually smooth running of her rendezvous with the latter - but problems arise when she attracts even more attention from an unwanted source. On the evidence of the opening episode of the second series, Miranda Hart's delightfully batty sitcom remains, comfortably, the best example of the genre on British TV. Comfortably.

Tuesday 30 November
The Foods That Make Billions - 9:00 BBC2 - as previously mentioned is made by The Money Programme team. They reveal how grain has become one of the most lucrative commodities of the food industry. Unprecedented access to some of the world's largest companies provides an insight into how breakfast cereals have radically influenced the modern consumer's diet, and highlights why cheap production costs and effective advertising and marketing have helped to develop the popular brands found in many of the nation's kitchens.

Kerry Katona, Steven Hawking, Andy Townsend and The Chuckle Brothers had all better beware. Mad Frankie Boyle is back with a bang! In Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights - 10:00 Channel Four - the fantastically angry Glaswegian comedian applies his no-holds-barred style to a selection of stand-up performances and pre-filmed sketches, in which he 'picks apart all aspects of modern life and British culture.' Or, in other words, in which he insults just about everyone and everything imaginable with a cynicism and disregard for convention that can be astonishingly refreshing. Although his humour is, perhaps understandably, very uncomfortable for some viewers. Personally, I think Mad Frankie is worth his weight in gold, although he can, sometimes, push for shock-value at the expense of a touch of restraint which could make his material funnier (his notorious Rebecca Adlington riff on Mock The Week being one, celebrated example). Ultimately, he's a comedian who divides opinion and that's a good thing. Probably the best aspect of his transfer to Channel Four is that at least the Daily Scum Mail and their scum ilk won't have the BBC to treat as their personal punch bag the next time he makes a joke about the queen's 'pussy' being haunted. Now, it's someone else's turn.

In tonight's EastEnders - 7:30 BBC1 - Syed's suspicions are aroused when he finds Masood's hotel room key, while Ian and Jane have a heart-to-heart that results in her deciding to work at their marriage. Kat tries to reassure Jean that Stacey is not in any trouble, Ryan is torn between the two women in his life after making amends with Janine, and Heather takes pity on a lonely Dot.

Wednesday 1 December
Julia Bradbury's German Wanderlust - 8:30 BBC4 - is a new series in which somebody has the bright idea of using the words 'Julia Bradbury' and 'lust' in the same sentence. Wicked. Exploring the landscapes of Germany on foot in a bid to learn about the Romantic movement which shaped the nation, the divine Julia Bradbury's adventure in Ze Fatherland begins with a visit to the River Rhine. Parts of which, of course, are surrounded by castles, vineyards and medieval villages which add an element of beauty to what was regarded as little more than a useful transport artery two hundred years ago. Achtung!, Gott in Himmel! And all that malarkey. Part of the previously mentioned Germany Season.

Tonight's episode of Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - sees Carla seeking solace at the Joinery as gossip runs rife about her drink problem. Ken is shocked by what he finds when he heads to the bar. Tyrone tells a guilt-ridden Molly he wants Christmas to be special for baby Jack, and Steve is on edge as Jim McDonald makes a reappearance. Elsewhere, John informs Joy Fishwick that Colin has returned to Canada and does not want to be contacted.

In the latest Film 2010 with Claudia Whatsherface - 10:45 BBC1 - the host (looking even more like a bastard love child of Dusty Springfield and a panda these days) is joined by journalist Danny Leigh to review Julian Schnabel's Miral, featuring Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. They also discuss forthcoming releases Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, a fantasy comedy by Jalmari Helander, and Secretariat, a Disney horse-racing drama starring Diane Lane, Scott Glenn and James Cromwell.

Thursday 2 December
At Home with the Georgians - 9:00 BBC2 - sees the historian Amanda Vickery exploring how the British obsession with homes actually began three hundred years ago and not with the invention of Sarah Beeny. Using the diaries and letters of men and women of the Georgian era, she discovers how a residence became crucial to the success or otherwise of a marriage and uncovers surprising truths about the lives of spinsters and bachelors.

Lee Mack hosts the satirical current affairs quiz Have I Got News for You - 9:00 BBC1 - with former mayor of London Ken Livingstone joining the regular team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

Art of Cornwall - 9:00 BBC4 - offers an insight into the lives and work of eight artists, including Kit Wood, Alfred Wallis, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, who helped the art colony of St Ives in Cornwall become as important as Paris and London in the history of modernism. The programme offers an alternative perspective of the art world in the Twentieth Century, alongside a portrayal of the history and landscapes of Cornwall itself.

In Relocation: Phil Down Under - 9:00 More4 - Phil Spencer gets as far away from Kirstie Allsopp as it's possible to whilst remaining on the same planet. He meets Mark and Amanda Daniels, who are house-hunting on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. The couple left behind their recruitment business in Devon and moved to Australia armed with one million dollars to buy their dream home. It's all right for some, isn't it? But the property expert struggles to meet their needs. He also investigates his own family history, before working at one of the country's finest wineries in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. Like I say, all right for some!

And so to the news: BBC1 has announced the cast for its new daytime drama Justice. Robert Pugh, who recently starred in Doctor Who and the film West Is West, has landed the lead role as Patrick Coburn. Patrick is the judge in a local community justice centre but is viewed by the public as either too liberal or too obsessed with power. See, there's that use of 'liberal' as a generic insult again. When did being 'liberal' become a crime equivalent to molestation? Did I miss that memo? As well as dealing with various cases, Patrick is forced to defend the centre when it comes under threat from the judicial establishment. Former Peak Practice and Casualty actor Gary Mavers has signed up to play Patrick's right-hand man Joe Spencer, who tries to get residents to trust the judge. Meanwhile, Casualty's Gillian Kearney will play local reporter Louise Campbell, who is intrigued by Patrick's past, and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels actor Jake Abrahams will play a career criminal called Jake Little. The cast also includes Christine Tremarco, Jodie Comer, Ellie Paskell, Carolin Stoltz, the great Tom Georgeson and Derek Barr. BBC Daytime controller Liam Keelan said: 'Our new fictional drama, which is part of our week-long focus on the UK criminal justice system, reinforces BBC Daytime's ambition to bring more unique home-grown drama to the schedules following on from recent successes such as Moving On and The Indian Doctor.'

Starz has reportedly ordered a new pilot starring Kelsey Grammer. According to Variety, Boss focuses on the life of the Mayor of Chicago. Grammer is thought to have landed the lead role in the project, which has been described as 'a modern-day King Lear.' Gus Van Sant, who has worked on films including Milk and Good Will Hunting, has signed up to direct the project. Grammer is best known for his role as Frasier Crane in Cheers and Frasier. He recently starred in the very disappointing Back To You and Hank, as well as producing a number of shows including Medium.

And, speaking of Medium, CBS has confirmed that it has decided to cancel the show. Rumours about the drama's future have been circulating since the network decided to reduce its episode order from twenty two to thirteen last month. Patricia Arquette later suggested that the show will not continue past its seventh season. Deadline reports that the programme's creator Glenn Gordon Caron has now confirmed in a message to fans that the series is coming to an end. 'It's true,' he said. 'Allison Dubois will dream her last dream on Medium, Friday 21 January. In what we believe will be a series-defining episode, Allison and her family will stare destiny in the eye. And destiny will not blink.' Medium originally aired on NBC but was cancelled last year. CBS later described the move as 'inexplicable' and adopted the show.

Cheryl Cole is reportedly 'desperate' for the current series of The X Factor to be over. You're not the only one, hen. According to Star, the singer has been 'struggling to cope' after being at the centre of a number of controversies in the current competition. A 'source' allegedly told the magazine: 'This year's X Factor has been tough on Cheryl. On top of all her personal problems, the show has pushed her to breaking point. First she has to deal with the furore after she sent Gamu home and now she is under fire every week for some reason. She says she can't do anything right and she's not sleeping properly because of it.' Still, I'm sure your bank manager's happy enough. It has also been reported that Cole's rumoured role on the US version of the talent contest is now in jeopardy, as Simon Cowell has suggested that she must break America musically first.

Beau Bridges has reportedly signed up for a role in Brothers & Sisters. Deadline alleges that the actor has landed a major storyline in the series. The arc, which is expected to begin early next year, will see Bridges's character begin a relationship with Nora (Sally Field). He is expected to appear in at least five episodes of the show. Bridges and Field previously starred together in the 1979 movie Norma Rae. Bridges has also had roles in television shows including Stargate SG-1 and My Name Is Earl.

TV scientist Brian Cox has confirmed that he is to record again with 1990s pop group D:Ream. The physicist was originally the band's keyboard player on several hits including their best known number 'Things Can Only Get Better.' 'It's a new album and I'm playing on a couple of songs,' he told 6 Music. After D:Ream disbanded in 1997, Brian was awarded a PhD in High Energy Particle Physics in Hamburg and became a household name with his award-winning BBC2 series Wonders Of The Solar System. 'The album's essentially finished and Pete [Cunnah - lead singer] called me up and said, "just for old times sake, do you want to stick a few keyboards on a couple of songs?" I said, "yeah, brilliant" and actually I'm going into the studio tomorrow.' Professor Cox, who currently works at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, said his work commitments meant he was unlikely to tour with D:Ream, 'although I might try to turn up at a gig somewhere. It was a great bit of my life and I just wanted to give it another go,' he added. 'But the last time I played with D:Ream was in 1997 at the election. I've probably forgotten how to play.'

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier has said that the broadcaster must invest in content and technology to capitalise on the 'second digital switchover' of web and TV convergence. Speaking at the Morgan Stanley TMT conference in Barcelona, Crozier said that the emergence of services such as Google TV and Apple TV was already causing problems for traditional digital TV operators in the US. In a process often known as 'cord cutting,' customers cancel their pay-TV subscriptions in favour of consuming entertainment content from other sources. It is a major worry for American cable operators as it threatens their core subscription businesses. In the UK, YouView - the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Channel Five, TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva joint venture - will launch next year to bring video on-demand and Internet services to the subscription-free Freeview and Freesat platforms. Crozier believes that the emergence of such connected services is the sign of a second phase of the digital switchover, as TV and the Internet start to come together. 'Through YouView and accessing the video on-demand and archive and everything else, it moves it on to an a la carte menu, which is where people can have the majority of their television free and then pay for the things they want,' Crozier said. 'For pay platforms that's quite difficult - the model there is to get people to pay for things you don't really want to get the things you do.' To cut costs during the recession, ITV reduced its content investments in favour of buying in mass audience programming such as The X Factor to attract advertisers. However, Crozier's five year transformation plan for ITV focuses on investing in content and services to drive up revenues and reduce the broadcaster's dependency on advertising revenues. 'Clearly we're fairly cash-rich at the moment and obviously we need to make sure that our balance sheet is as effective as possible and that's something we're starting to consider now,' he said. 'But equally we have some investments we need to make, and we've been upfront about that a few months ago, and we need to make sure we take steps while things are good.' Earlier this week, ITV hired Hat Trick co-founder Denise O'Donoghue to lead a 'creative renewal' at ITV Studios with former Channel Four director of television Kevin Lygo. O'Donoghue and Lygo will be tasked with generating hit programme formats at ITV's production arm for its own channels and for sale to international broadcasters. Crozier also said that ITV's website has 'suffered from the lack of investment' over the years, after recent figures indicated that the site gained 15.6m average monthly video views over the twelve months to 6 November, down six per cent year-on-year. ITV is currently working on an overhaul of its web services, including a new micropayments system, as part of plans to sell its content on a wide range of platforms.

Alan Runtbotherer, the editor-in-chief of the Gruniad Morning Star, has described the potential 'chilling effect' of News Corporation's bid to take full control of Sky. Delivering the annual Andrew Olle lecture in Australia, Rusbridger discussed the state of journalism. In the speech, he said that the recent phone hacking scandal at the News Corp-owned News of the World demonstrated the negative effect 'one large media company can have on public life.' Rusbridger said that the controversy 'raises questions which are not so much about hacking, troubling as those are, but about how other forces in society - whether it is other media organisations, the police, the regulator or parliament itself - behave when faced with the muscle of a very large, very powerful and sometimes very aggressive media group.' In June, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp launched an eight billion pound bid to acquire the sixty one per cent of satellite broadcaster Sky that it does not already own. The proposed deal, which is currently being reviewed by regulators in the UK and Europe, would bring together the UK's biggest pay-TV operator with its largest newspaper group. Combined, the two companies would boast a turnover of £7.5bn, compared to the BBC's £4.8bn drawn from the licence fee and commercial arm BBC Worldwide. Rusbridger said that his concerns about the deal were not about Murdoch as a media owner, but rather that 'there's no-one I would want to have that much power.' He added: 'Knowing of the chilling effect one large media company can have on public life and institutions, how could it be good public policy to allow a still greater concentration of power across not just one wing of the fourth estate, but two? You can devise all kinds of metrics of reach, engagement and come up with any number of definitions of what constitutes a market in order to justify [the takeover] - and, believe me, people will - but it would still feel wrong.' Last month, a group of newspaper groups and broadcasters - including the Gruniad Media Group - signed a letter calling on business secretary Vince Cable (Lib Dem. Allegedly) to investigate the proposed merger on grounds of public interest. After News Corp had formally notified the European Commission of its intention to launch a full takeover of Sky, Cable opted to refer the bid to Ofcom for further investigation. The UK media regulator's deadline for submissions expired this week, with a wide range of media groups and individuals expected to air their views on the deal. On Wednesday, James Murdoch warned the government that blocking News Corp's takeover of Sky could threaten the media giant's future investment in the UK. The 'big bully boys' equivalent of threatening to take his ball and go home if he - and daddy - didn't get their own way.

Take That, Cheryl Cole and JLS were among the stars who helped raise more than eighteen million pounds during the BBC's Children in Need TV appeal. A host of celebrities took part in this year's seven-hour telethon, which raises money for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. By the end of the show at 0200 GMT the amount raised stood at eighteen million and ninety eight thousand pounds. Organisers hope the event will raise more than the thirty nine million pounds generated last year, once all donations are in. Terry Wogan, Tess Daly and Fearne Cotton hosted Friday night's programme, which featured a joint appearance from the casts of EastEnders and Coronation Street. In a sketch, the residents of Walford and Weatherfield shared an exchange as the two towns were twinned for the evening. There was also a preview of the Doctor Who Christmas special. Take That sang their new single 'The Flood' and 1995's 'Never Forget.' The Heaton Horror kicked off the TV appeal with a performance of her latest single and JLS, Sir Tom Jones, Kylie Minogue and Susan Boyle also took to the stage. In Boyle's case, after it had been reinforced. Elsewhere, Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button went head to head in a go-karting challenge, with the help of two teams of young carers. And a BBC news presenters team - including Fiona Bruce and Kate Silverton - performed a rendition of the Lady Gaga song 'Poker Face.' Which was actually quite funny. The presenters of Loose Women performed a Girls Aloud song. Which wasn't. The stars of Dragons' Den took part in a Come Dine With Me special, Doctor Who and Torchwood star John Barrowman presented from Glasgow, where the cast of the Queen musical We Will Rock You performed. That wasn't very good either. In Cardiff, The ONE Show's Alex Jones was seen at the Millennium Stadium during half-time in the Wales v Fiji international rugby match, where girl band The Saturdays performed. Meanwhile, viewers in Northern Ireland saw Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates and John Daly host their part of the show from the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. David Ramsden, chief executive of Children in Need, said the BBC was 'humbled and inspired' by the money raised every year. 'In these tough times the millions raised tonight will make a real difference to thousands of young lives right across the UK. On behalf of the children I would like to thank everyone for their incredible generosity.'

Shaun Ryder has reacted badly to the arrival of new I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... contestant Alison Hammond. Hammond made her unexpected appearance on Friday evening, catching the campmates off guard and sending Ryder straight into the Bush Telegraph. 'Oh more fucking people in the camp. And a loud person and a cheery person as well,' the former Happy Mondays front man complained. 'She's probably a really nice person, don't get me wrong. I like Alison. I like horse shit in the country but I don't want it in my living room. I just don't want to go through it. I've done fuck all for eight days except socialise. I'm about that far from fucking off.' Outside, Nigel Havers explained: 'Shaun was a bit put-out because you know Shaun, he takes a bit of time to get to know people and he thought that was the ultimate limit. Thirteen he thought was just too much to handle.' However, a less than sympathetic Jenny Eclair commented: 'Miserable old sod. He's gone into Mancunian grumpy mode. Well, we can all do that.' Later, as Hammond handed round her gift of a chocolate orange, Shaun thanked her and said: 'Alison, if I do bail it's absolutely nothing personal. It's just that there are too many people.' Yesterday, Ryder told his campmates that he could happily leave on Friday, as he had lasted seven days on the show.

Oily, brown-tongued little snail Michel Platini has warned that England's 2018 World Cup bid is more at risk from the British media's years of criticising FIFA rather than recent investigations (see above). There have been fears that the Sunday Times and BBC Panorama investigations into the world governing body have damaged England's bid but Platini, UEFA president and a FIFA vice-president, said that the problem is a long-standing one. He also believes most of the twenty two FFIA executive committee members who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts on 2 December have already made up their mind. Platini told the Independent: 'I don't think it's a problem. These investigations are just people doing their job, no? If [the England bid] do not have a good feeling about FFIA, that's nothing to do with these investigations, but that comes from what the English press have been writing about FIFA for very many years. That could be a problem for the bid. But this? No. Anyway, I think people have already decided which way they are voting.'

Which brings us to yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, for today's choice, I've gone for one of the most perfectly crafted little pop singles of the 1970s. Not, perhaps, the coolest record to have featured on this slot in the past month or so - especially as I bought it on exactly the same day as I bought 'Clash City Rockers'! - but it's one that this blogger still plays, for genuine pleasure, every now and again. In fact, I think I'll play it now.Ah, Bob Fish. Voice like an angel. And, play that mighty saxophone Mr Horatio Hornblower (whose real name was Nigel, apparently. True story!) Fabulous guitars too. What NME used to call 'a twenty-four carat pop classic.'

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