Friday, December 03, 2010

Week Fifty: All Revved Up And Ready To Go

Did you know, dear blog reader, that the longest word - at least, the longest word in common use - in the English language which does not contain a vowel is 'rhythms'? You didn't? Well, you do now.

This, incidentally, is what Great Britain and Ireland currently looks like. From space. If you happen to be, you know, up there. With David Bowie.Ooo. Pretty. And, effing freezing as well. Anyway ...

Doctor Who fans will be left 'quaking' apparently by a rather more down-to-earth creature than the usual weird and wonderful monsters this Christmastime - a shark. The festive special, to be shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day, will feature the creature from the deep in a retelling of the classic Dickens tale A Christmas Carol. Actor Matt Smith said: 'The episode features a wonderful shark which I was very excited about. I've always wanted to explore the aquatic - viewers can expect Jaws with a twist.' The episode revolves around an Scrooge-like character, Kazran Sardick, who is played by Michael Gambon. The Doctor takes on the role of the Christmas ghosts to save the old miser's soul - and his companions' lives. 'It's a fun old yarn and the Doctor simply loves Christmas,' said Smith.

Cheeky-chappie Lee Mack came up with probably the top comedy one-liner of the week: It occurred when Lee was introducing the Goddess-like slab of wonderfulness who is Wor Big Cuddly Sarah Millican on have I Got News For You on Thursday night. 'On Ian Hislop's team is a Geordie comedian who's been described as "The Bridget Jones of comedy." Though, obviously, without the big white knickers. She's from Newcastle, she doesn't wear knickers!' Tasteful!

Simon Cowell has joked that Cheryl Cole is 'mad.' At least one assumes that he was joking. The fifty one-year-old said that he thinks his fellow X Factor judge has always been crazy. 'The slogan this year was "embrace the madness,"' Cowell said of the ITV show. 'Cheryl says she can't work out if she is embracing it or actually going mad. It's a fine line - but Cheryl has always been mad! If you look into Cheryl's eyes you will see total madness!' Well yeah. I mean, it could certainly be argued that the 'nation's sweetheart' seemed pretty 'crazy' when she smashed that poor lass in the face in the netty of some Guildford nightclub all those many years ago. Just in case you thought that anyone had forgotten about your assault conviction, Cheryl. It's still a matter of public record and will be for some time to come.

Metro's Ten Must-See Programmes this Christmas can be chewed over here. I'm okay with most of them but Come Fly With Me? Really?! You don't think those two were just a smidgen massively over-rated? Okay ...

Let's have a look at the next lot of yer actual Top Telly Tips:

Friday 10 December
In this week'sepisode of Qi - 8:30 BBC1 - Stephen Fry is joined by guests Big Cuddly Clare Balding, Big Funny Dara O Briain, Smug But Sometimes Funny Jimmy Carr and regular panellist Amusing Alan Davies for the quiz with a difference. The host asks questions on the topic of the week - in this case horses and hunting - awarding points for the answers which he finds the most interesting ... yadda, yadda. You know the rules by now, come on. The XL edition is on tomorrow night at 10:15 on BBC2.

No, don't look at yer Keith Telly Topping all surprised like, Strictly Come Dancing is on tonight - 9:00 BBC1. Brucie and Tess host the first of this weekend's two semi-finals, in which the remaining couples take to the floor in a bid to win over judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon, as well as the viewers at home. In tomorrow's show, the celebrities have their final chance to impress before the voting lines open, with the results being revealed on Sunday night. Listen, is it nearly over yet? Even I'm starting to get bored now and i normally quite like this show.

Coronation Street: The Big Five-Oh - 9:00 ITV - has three teams of soap actors, past and present, competing against a fourth team comprised of what are described as 'celebrity fans' in 'a light-hearted quiz' to mark the golden jubilee of the soap, revisiting memorable scenes, characters and events from the show's history. Host Paul O'Grady - a Scouser, not a Manc, that's a bit thoughtless, surely? - also serves up musical performances with a Weatherfield twist and a feast of birthday surprises. And with that, you'll be delighted to know, Corrie's fiftieth anniversary celebrations come to a close and we can go back to normal for another fifty years.

Saturday 11 December
In the first of two Total Wipeout Celebrity Special - 7:00 BBC1 - Richard Hammond tries to keep a straight face as he presents the efforts of ten allegedly famous faces who have travelled to Argentina to take on the extreme obstacle course in a bid to win ten thousand pounds for their chosen charrriddeee. And, to get their faces on TV into the bargain. The contestants facing such challenges as the Slide, the Sucker Punch and, of course, the Big Balls are 2008 I'm A Former Z-List Celebrity ... winner Joe Swash, fitness expert and choreographer Kevin Adams (who?), Strictly Come Dancing professionals James and Ola Jordan, Waterloo Road actor Luke Bailey (who?), comedian Tim Vine, The ONE Show's Carrie Grant, one-time Emmerdale actress Adele Silva (who?!!!), record-breaking javelin thrower Big Fat Cuddly Fatima Whitbread and TV presenter Kaye Adams (whom?) Yeah. So, yet again, this appears to involve some new use of the word 'celebrity' that I hadn't previously come across. Some of these ... people will fall by the wayside, whilst others will make it through to the Sweeper, taking them one step closer to the final - and as usual, Amanda Byram will be on the spot to chat to the contestants about their performances. And, sometimes, laugh at them. Which is always worth watching. And, let's face it, the beauty of this show normally is that there are few pleasures in life more delicious than watching a bunch of ignorant bellowing plebs from Essex with a massively inflated opinion of their own importance getting smacked, hard, in the mush with a rubber boxing glove and falling flat in the claggy mud afterwards. That goes double for people described as 'celebrities' who, in fact, are not that or anything even remotely like it. So, mark me down as a definite viewer for this one.

After months of auditions, boot camps and live shows, this is it, the final of The X Factor - 7:00 ITV. This year's series has rarely been out of the headlines - which, along with all of the crap yesterday about the World Cup bid, and hours of televised snow this last week, may give future historians a glimpse into the shallowness and obsessions of life in the early years of the Twenty First Century. There have been shock eliminations - Gamu Nhengu and Aiden Grimshaw to name but two - and contestants who have divided the nation. Like Katie Waissel. And Wagner. Now, The X Factor comes to a close in a double bill as the acts give it all they have got - but only two will make it through to the last part of the competition. A few surprises are also promised during the show as big-name musical guests will perform live. Dermot O'Dreary presents. Concludes tomorrow at 7.30pm. I wouldn't bother watching it, personally, because Matt's gonna win that.

Following immediately afterwards, alleged comedian - although I've yet to meet anybody outside a fifteen mile radius of Bolton that actually finds him in the slightest bit funny - Paddy McGuinness plays matchmaker as some desperate-for-a-shag men try to impress thirty single women and win a date in Take Me Out - 9:00 ITV. In the first episode of this sick and tawdry exercise in vanity and crudeness, a personal trainer from Reading, a Scottish farmer, a cage fighter from Norwich and a Hampshire architect enter 'The Love Lift', each hoping the female participants will keep their lights on as a sign of approval and earn themselves a trip for two to a romantic island.

Now, you've got a choice of viewing at nine o'clock dear blog reader because, if you don't fancy Take Me Out (and, who - in all honesty - could blame you) there's also The Idiot Awards - 9:00 E4. There's some titles for TV shows that just sit up and beg for a damned good hiding, are there not? I know it's lazy journalism and all that but, dear blog reader, I've had a busy day and I want me tea now. So ... Alleged comedian Russell Kane - who, if anything, I find even less funny than Paddy McGuinness - presents a spoof awards ceremony which seeks to honour moments of stupidity. Well, have a look at ITV2's schedules, kids, I think that's already been done. Categories include most idiotic reality show moment, idiotic airport meltdown, and one lucky winner is bestowed with the lifetime achievement award. The show features clips, and appearances by Jodie Marsh, Sian Lloyd and Michelle Bass. Is it too much to hope there'll be a special award given out to whichever cheb-end member of Channel Four's middle management dreamed up this sick little exercise in inverted snobbery?

Sunday 12 December
What a horrorshow tonight is - a repeat of Inspector George Gently (and not even one of the good ones either), The X-Factor final or a night of snooker on BBC2. Be still my beating heart, you may burst. There's one drama diamond, however. Any Human Heart - 9:00 Channel 4 - which concludes tonight. Logan emerges from his coma, but is upset to hear of Ben's death. After being discharged from hospital, he returns to his old flat in London, where he struggles to make ends meet. In a bid to make the most of what remains of his life, he becomes involved with an anti-fascist organisation - only to discover his new friends have sinister plans. Last in this stunning drama mini-series, starring Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadyen and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Looking a bit further afield, and for the culturally minded among you (and, I'm guessing that's probably about three of you), there's Macbeth - 7:30 BBC4. This is a contemporary adaptation of the Shakespeare drama of ambition, treason, regicide, guilt and tragedy - directed by Rupert Goold, filmed at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Patrick Stewart stars as the Scottish nobleman whose lust for power leads to murder and treachery. With Kate Fleetwood, Martin Turner and Michael Feast. One for iPlayer, I reckon.

Or, there's Piers Meets Elton: A Life Stories Special - 9:30 ITV. See what I mean? Horrorshow!

Monday 13 December
The Savoy - 9:00 ITV - is a documentary which follows the multi-million pound refurbishment and reopening of the grand Savoy hotel in Central London. This began in December 2007, when the establishment closed its classy doors for the first time in one hundred and eighteen years. Things, however, did not always go to plan for the general manager, Kiaran MacDonald, with the budget soon disappearing into a black hole of rising costs and with the hotel still resembling a building site on the day scheduled for reopening. Narrated by Hugh Bonneville.

In River Cottage Christmas Fayre - 9:00 Channel 4 - long-haired dandy fop Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - whom yer keith Telly Topping can take, but only in small doses - and his team offer tips to punters on enjoying 'the perfect festive holiday.' Well, one that doesn't have Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or his mate Jamie Oliver on TV very much would be something of a start, I'd venture. Hugh and co share party food recipes for goose, brawn and speciality breads, as well as handmade delights to fill a hamper, including potted Stilton and pear cheese. Very big on the council estates, goose. Honest. They also reveal road-tested hangover cures. (Don't drink heavily the night before being, I'll bet, not one of them.) They create their own version of a Christmas grotto and make celebratory crackers for the table. Why? Just effing buy them like normal people, for God's sake! What with this nonsense, and bloody Kirstie Allsopp and her nasty little twee world of la-di-dah in which you can knit your own yoghurt for a Christmas present for somebody you don't like is it just this blogger or does anybody else want to do away with the middle classes completely in one enormous cull? I mean, I know it's harsh and unnecessary and all that, but think of the savings to the economy. The hummus industry would have to close down almost immediately. It's only tradition that's stopping us, people. You know it makes sense.

It's near enough the final episode of the current series of Extreme Fishing with Robson Green - 9:00 Channel Five - which remains jolly entertaining despite (or, perhaps, because of) its bloody silly title. In the latest episode, the actor teams up with Captain Taco Perez at Fort Lauderdale in Florida to catch a sailfish, but is disappointed when his expedition proves less than successful. However, his efforts finally pay off in Miami, where he manages to land the fish with the help of a local man with thirty years' experience in the field. So, as Harry Hill pointed out a few weeks back, that'll probably mean the local catches the thing and Robson just watches before claiming all the credit. Later, however, Wor Robson heads inland to the lakes and creeks of Gemini Springs to try his hand at bowfishing from a flat-bottomed airboat, and visits the West Palm Beach Fishing Club to hunt for the bull shark - an aggressive predator that has been known to attack humans. I think I've met one or two of them down the Bigg Market a few times. My own favourite Robson Green story remains a personal one. When long-serving Newcastle United full-back John Anderson was awarded a testimonial match by the club in 1992, before the main game there was a match between a team of jockeys and Tim Healy's Showbiz XI. Robson, then a rising star on Casualty appeared for Tim's team as a rather nippy little winger, impressing many of the crowd with his pace and dip of the shoulder. Indeed, so impressed was the chap standing immediately behind yer Keith Telly Topping in the Milburn Stand that, every time Robson got the ball he bellowed 'Get in, there, Jimmy The Porter!' Actually, come to think of it, there's a much better Robson story which he tells himself. After the first series of the magnificent Touching Evil went out in the late 90s it gained something of a cult audience in the US where it was shown on BBC America. One rabid fan was Bruce Willis who would, subsequently, produce his own US version of the crime drama and take the part of the serial killing journalist originally played by Jimmy Nesbitt in the original. Robson first became aware of Willis's love of the show when he was contacted and asked if he would speak to the Hollywood star on the phone. As with a lot of these kind of things he was first rung up to say that Mr Willis would be speaking to him in twenty minutes time. Then again about ten minutes later. Finally, the phone rings and, on the other end of the line, is that unmistakable voice. 'Hi, Robson, Bruce Willis here. I just want to let you know how profound I thought Touching Evil was. Seriously. One of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life.' The only thing that poor Robson can think to reply is 'Thanks Bruce, I thought you were great in Die Hard!'

Tuesday 14 December
Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town - 9:00 BBC2 - sees Cambridge professor and Pompeii expert Mary Beard uses forensic science to examine the lives of the infamous Roman town's residents, providing a snapshot of their culture just prior to Mount Vesuvius's deadly eruption. Operating from the nearby settlement of Oplontis, she submits remains from the devastated settlement to a series of comprehensive tests that aim to reveal what those who died in the disaster ate, where they came from, what diseases they suffered and details of their sexual activity. Yer Keith Telly Topping his very self went to Pompeii a few years ago. It was bloody hot, that's my main memory of it. Well, that and The Prologue, obviously.

In The Search for Life: The Drake Equation - 8:00 BBC4 - Bang Goes the Theory presenter Dallas Campbell visits scientists across the globe who have researched different aspects of Dr Frank Drake's equation. Formulated in the 1960s, it was intended to determine where to point one of the radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia in a bid to detect extraterrestrial life. Despite the calculation of a possible fifty thousand civilisations being able to communicate across the galaxy, no signals were received - but the project focused science on other questions about the universe.

The War You Don't See - 10:35 ITV - sounds like a worthwhile venture. Veteran broadcaster (and dreary old leftie) John Pilger examines the media's role in war, exploring the relationship between governments and journalists in the reporting of conflicts. He traces the history of independent and so-called embedded journalism from the First World War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and discusses the impact of ever-more sophisticated weaponry and propaganda on war reporting with former BBC reporter Rageh Omaar, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (presumably filmed before he went into hiding from The Man) and former American news anchor Dan Rather. I do like Pilger's documentaries. I don't agree with all of the politics that the man stands for, but his ability to piss off people whom I would shed not a tear to see dying in ditch, on fire, normally makes up for the occasional moments of Trotsky-bollocks. We need lone independent voices like Pilger's, to keep us honest and to keep us sane. In the very week when the Panorama have been shat upon by many of their own spineless journalistic colleagues for doing their job and investigating the sour and rotten doings that goes on in the world of football - see below - sometimes we need a good hard reminder that we live in a country which would probably like to muzzle its press, but doesn't actually have the balls to try. And thank God for that.

The Morgana Show - 10:35 Channel Four - is a sketch-based comedy series, starring alleged comedian Morgana Robinson previously best known, if that's the right word, for Channel Four's wretched TNT Show. This new vehicle features characters including past-her-prime Hollywood siren Madolynn, schoolboy interviewer Gilbert, super-cool teenager Verity and a pair of rival TV news reporters. With contributions by Tom Davis and Terry Mynott. I have to say that, on the evidence of the first episode which I caught because it immediately followed Mad Frankie Boyle's disappointing new format last week, this might, possibly, be the single worst TV show that I've ever seen. Albeit, I have to add in the interests of balance that I'm not sure I want to actually give it that much credit. To be the definitive worst it would have to be something special. And, there's nothing remotely special about this. Let's just say it was appallingly dreadful and leave it at that.

Wednesday 15 December
Dig 1940 - 7:30 BBC1 - is a new series in which Jules Hudson is joined by aviation archaeologists Steve Vizard and Gareth Jones to excavate wartime artefacts and the wreckage of aircraft shot down in the initial months of the Second World War. They head to France, accompanied by war veterans Peter Ayerst and Richard Sampson, who lived through the aerial conflict and the Battle of Dunkirk in person. So, this is the BBC, essentially, trying to do Time Team again. What's that, the fourth attempt? Fifth?

We've also got the return of The Million Pound Drop Live - 8:00 Channel Four. A celebrity mother and daughter couple - and, I'm presuming, as usual, that the word 'celebrity' will be used quite wrongly here - play to win money for charity, kicking off the first of four editions shown over consecutive nights. Working in pairs, the contestants start with a million pounds - but to hold onto it, they must know the answers to eight tricky multiple choice questions. If not, they have to spread the money over the alternative solutions, with their remaining funds diminishing with every incorrect choice. Mildly diverting game show, hosted by Davina McCall. Continues tomorrow. Bet you can't wait.

Mad And Bad: Sixty Years Of Science On TV - 9:00 BBC4 - is a, potentially fascinating - ninety minute journey through the history of science programmes on television, exploring what factual strands including The Sky At Night, Horizon and Tomorrow's World and speculative futurist SF drama like Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy tell viewers about Britain over the past sixty years. What did they get right? What did they get massively wrong? Was, for instance, Doctor Who's view of the year 2000 back in the 1960s any more or less accurate than Tomorrow's World's predictions? With contributions by David Attenborough, Patrick Moore, Robert Winston, Tony Robinson and many more. Narrated by Robert Webb. Yeah, I like the sound of that one.

In tonight's Emmerdale - 7:00 ITV - Rhona is unsure whether she can go through with the pregnancy after the midwife confirms her fears and tells her the baby has Down's syndrome. Elsewhere, Hazel (played, rather pleasingly as it happens, by Pauline Quirk) starts to feel the pressure of what she has undertaken, Andy comes round with flowers to apologise to Katie, and Leyla is furious when Alicia charges her for babysitting Jacob.

Thursday 16 December
Remember a time when The Royal Variety Performance - 8:00 BBC1 - used to be one of the TV highlights of the year with the best acts in showbusiness topping the bill? No, me neither, I'm only forty seven. But, anyway, Michael McIntyre hosts the eighty second annual event from the London Palladium, where stars from the worlds of music, comedy and theatre will perform in the presence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. 'Oh, do I have to do the Royal Variety Performance this year, mother? Can't I be king instead?' Music is provided by Take That, Kylie Minogue, Cheryl Cole, N-Dubz, Russell Watson and the Chelsea Pensioners, as well as performances from the casts of The Wizard of Oz and Les Miserables. Comedy comes from John Bishop, Sarah Millican, Micky Flanagan and, sadly, the terminally unfunny Jack Whitehall, a man with a face so instantly punchable that he really should consider hiring himself out to various boxing clubs and gymnasia, he could earn a bomb, so her could. And, of course, this year's Britain's Got Talent winners Spelbound get their chance in the spotlight. It's lucky, really, that the dancing dog didn't win in the end, the thought of it shatting turds all over the stage just before Jack Whitehall came on could, possibly, be seen as some sort of critical comment. And that would never do.

Dirk Gently - 9:00 BBC4 - is a rather decent looking drama, starring Stephen Mangan as Douglas Adams' holistic detective, who focuses on the interconnectedness of all things. An investigation into the case of a missing cat is found to be linked to a chance encounter with an old friend, an explosion in a warehouse, a missing billionaire and a plate of biscuits. With Darren Boyd, Helen Baxendale and Jason Watkins.

In the Best of the Culture Show 2010 - 7:00 BBC2 - Arty-Andrew Graham-Dixon presents a round-up of the best art, books, films and festivals of the year. Among the highlights, British artist Chris Ofili discusses his career in a rare interview, Mark Kermode meets fashion designer and film director Tom Ford, and authors Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Andrea Levy and Peter Carey talk about their latest novels. Daniel Barenboim celebrates the work of composer Arnold Schoenberg with Clemency Burton-Hill, and Tinie Tempah reveals the influences behind his music. Last in the current series.

And, so to the news: BBC2 has announced a partnership with World Book Night, a major event that aims to give away up to one million books. Coverage of World Book Night will be aired on BBC2 on 5 March next year. Inspired by the success of World Book Day, the event will aim to put 'accessible work of enduring quality' in the hands of adult readers in the UK and Ireland. The campaign is supported by writers JK Rowling and Seamus Heaney, along with musician Damon Albarn, actor Colin Firth and sculptor Anthony Gormley. Enthusiastic readers will be encouraged to sign up to the campaign to give away their favourite books to people who they think might enjoy them. Anyone can apply to become one of the twenty thousand givers, choosing a title to donate from a list of twenty five books selected by an expert panel, including the BBC's creative director Alan Yentob. The chosen givers will be able to donate forty eight copies of their much-loved book. 'BBC2 will host World Book Night from its inception on 2 December through to the event itself on 5 March,' said Yentob. 'Whether as a giver, recipient or viewer, we hope that BBC audiences will be inspired to get involved with this ground-breaking project.' BBC arts commissioning editor Mark Bell added: 'Reading and sharing a good book is a pleasure enjoyed by millions of people in this country so it is fitting that the BBC, as part of its continued commitment to literature and reading, partners with World Book Night.'

Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent, managed to find a silver lining in the England 2018 World Cup bid fiasco. 'One positive thing about England not getting the World Cup – it means my piece on disability and tech is running on the Six O Clock News,' he tweeted on Thursday afternoon. Thank goodness someone was keeping things in some perspective.

Scary old rancid harridan Ann Widdecombe has claimed that Strictly Come Dancing is not a dancing competition. Well, I'm pretty sure it is, actually, chuck. The clue's somewhat in the title, you know? The former Conservative MP - with her face that uncannily resembles a chap whose finger has just gone through a piece of toilet paper mid-wipe - insisted that the BBC programme was about entertaining viewers and that she will 'try hard' to win the series. 'Let's be logical about it,' she told ITV's Lorraine. 'If it was a dance competition you would never begin with Ann Widdecombe and Kara Tointon in the same competition. You wouldn't do it. If it was a dance competition, you would start with evenly matched people - and that would be incredibly tedious. It's entertainment - and we're competing in entertainment.' Asked by guest-host Michael Ball if she thought that she could win the show, Widdecombe said: 'I'd love to think so but I'm not that convinced - but we are trying our best. We will go for it! Nothing depends on this for me. I'm not relaunching my career or anything, I'm just having fun.' And, I'm sure we're all jolly glad someone is.

News Corp has reportedly offered assurances to the European Commission on the way it would run Sky if its protracted takeover was to be approved. In a statement this week, the EC confirmed that it had received the offer from News Corp and would extend the deadline of its first phase of inquiry from 8 December to 22 December. No specific details on the remedies offered have been released, but company sources indicate that they refer to restrictions on how the enlarged group would operate. However, the measures are not believed to include the sale of any media assets, such as The Times newspaper or Sky News. News Corp is understood to be keen to avoid the EC's investigation going into a second phase, which would trigger an in-depth probe that could last six months. In June, Rupert Murdoch's media giant proposed to buy the sixty one per cent of Sky that it does not already own. Sky's independent directors rebuffed the move, but agreed to keep the lines of negotiation open. The takeover would have to be approved by the EC, as there have been fears that it could erode media plurality in the UK and hinder fair competition across Europe. Ofcom is also reviewing the proposed takeover, after being asked by business secretary Vince Cable to investigate whether there are sufficient grounds for concern. The media regulator will report back by 31 December and could advise Cable to hand the case to the Competition Commission for a lengthier and more in-depth plurality inquiry.

John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has been likened by an MP to Stewie Griffin, the evil baby from Family Guy. The unflattering comparison was made by Brooks Newmark, an American-born Conservative MP for Braintree in Essex. In a message posted on his Twitter page last month, Newmark wrote: 'When agitated, the speaker really does sound like Stewie in Family Guy!' Actually, to be fair, I know a couple of people like that as well. And, I mean, they're proud of it too! Newmark has also previously used the microblogging site to describe parliamentary debates as 'v v dull' and 'like watching paint dry.' Well, you signed up for the gig, pal, now you're stuck with it for the next four years. Or, until the students shame the Lib Dems into doing the right thing and pulling out of the coalition. Whichever is sooner. Stewie Griffin, of course, is the youngest member of FOX's popular animated family and speaks with a British - Rex Harrison-like - accent. He often attempts to take over the world or kill his mother, Lois. Derren Brown does a rather fabulous impression of him, by all accounts. Newmark's comparison is not the first time that poor old Mr Bercow - who, at least, has a very tasty wife (see left) - has been unflattering likened to a fictional character by a mouthy Tory politician. Last week, according to the Daily Troygraph, the prime minister oily David Cameron revealed that health minister equally oily Simon Burns had compared the diminutive speaker to one of the seven dwarfs in Snow White. After Bercow insisted that he was 'not happy' following a recent minor car crash, Burns asked: 'Well, which one are you?' I say. Isn't that 'tallist' or something?

Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has told oily David Cameron to 'stop saying' that he is or was a fan of the band. Oily David Cameron has spoken several times of his love of the Mancunian indie rockers and picked their second single, 'This Charming Man', as one of his favourite records when he appeared on Desert Island Discs. Marr, whose chiming arpeggioed Rickenbacker guitar stylings were central to the band's distinctive sound, tweeted: 'David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths. No you don't. I forbid you to like it!' Class! No really, Johnny, you're my hero anyway baby, but that's just taken your hero quota up to eleven. It's not the first time that the oily toerag's teenage idols have come back to give him a ruddy good telling off for being such a Tory, either. When oily David Cameron revealed during the 2010 election campaign that his favourite band when was an actual Eton Rifle was The Jam and that he was a particular fan of Paul Weller's 'socially-aware' lyrics, this comment was reported to Weller. Who merely replied 'what a pity he didn't understand them.' Heh!

Julian Lennon has suggested that his father - the notorious alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie John - abandoned him 'three times' during his childhood. In an interview with CNN, Julian explained that he is still coming to terms with the fact that his younger half-brother Sean had a much closer relationship with the late Beatle than he ever did. 'Surprisingly, Sean has an incredible amount of understanding and love,' he said. 'And I think he recognises that situation and the fact that to a degree I was abandoned as a kid, ya know, twice if not three times in many respects.' The 'Too Late For Goodbyes' singer continued: 'So, he's a smart boy. We were both dealt a difficult blow and we've both dealt with it pretty well, I think.'

A traditional snowball fight in the eastern German town of Leipzig reportedly escalated into a full-scale riot on Monday night. Initially forty people turned up to enjoy the winter tradition, but as the number of those taking part topped five hundred, fireworks and other items started being thrown, the Local reports. A police statement read: 'The black-clad mob threw not only snow but also firecrackers, bottles and rocks. Officers became the main target of the hooligans but a completely uninvolved car driver also fell victim, with the mob smashing his windscreen with a beer bottle and injuring his arm.' A police car was damaged in the affair and two officers were also wounded.

Kent Police have complained after a woman from Chatham dialled 999 to report a missing snowman. The woman claimed that the missing figure was a genuine theft because of the pound coins she had used for eyes, BBC News reports. She told the emergency operator: 'There's been a theft from outside my house. I haven't been out to check on him for five hours but I went outside for a fag and he's gone. My snowman. I thought that with it being icy and there not being anybody about, he'd be safe. It ain't a nice road but at the end of the day, you don't expect someone to nick your snowman, you know what I mean?' Innit? According to This Is Kent, Chief inspector Simon Black said: 'This call could have cost someone's life if there was a genuine emergency and they couldn't get through. It was completely irresponsible - we have spoken to her and advised her what is a 999 call, and this is clearly not. We do have powers to prosecute people for misusing the 999 system, but in this case the woman genuinely thought this was a theft that she should report it because she'd used pound coins for the eyes and teaspoons for the arms.'

And, still it continues. As reported yesterday, the British media has been blamed for England's failure to win the fight to host the 2018 World Cup, as the BBC faces something of a minor backlash from a bunch of utter numskulls on its website. Three hundred and eighty seven to be exact, according to the Daily Telegraph. That's the average attendance of a GM Vauxhall Conference match on a wet Wednesday in February, incidentally. Just thought I'd mention that. Yesterday, Russia was named the host of the world football showpiece in 2018, beating England and joint bids from Spain and Portugal and The Netherlands and Belgium. England's campaign was dogged by controversy, including an unflattering expose in the Sunday Times and an edition of BBC's Panorama on Monday that alleged corruption at football's governing body, FIFA. This was possibly best summed up by the Gruniad's headline, FIFA Sticks Together And Damns the British Media. According to BBC News, England 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson claimed that FIFA president Sepp Blatter talked to members of the executive committee about the 'evil of the media' just prior to yesterday's vote. Anson said: 'I think that was unhelpful - the last thing those guys hear before they go and tick the box is the evil of the media. That is not helpful and actually inaccurate. I was told by someone who was in the room that that's the last thing they were told by Sepp Blatter. There was a final sum-up before they voted and I think it was at the beginning of that. That's not helpful to our cause.' Junji Ogura, from Japan's FIFA executive committee, praised the strength of England's bid, but said that the negative media coverage was a 'big influence' on the voters. 'I thought England was a very strong candidate. Their presentation was one of the best presentations,' he said. 'But I think there was a big influence from the BBC and the Sunday Times. These reports possibly influenced people. It made damage for some people.' Because, as we all know, of course, people with absolutely nothing to hide whatsoever wouldn't dream of voting down a bid just because a couple of newspapers and broadcaster had asked questions about their conduct. Oh no. Last night, the BBC website was 'inundated' with comments as some glakes blamed the timing of Panorama for England's failure in Zurich. Reports the Sun, which produced a headline of BBC Ruined Our Bid Says Campaign Boss that, surprisingly, managed not to mention the excellent journalistic scoop of their own sister paper, the Sunday Times' at all. The Daily Scum Mail, meanwhile, came up with an alternative scapegoat. And, a barely-concealed sickeningly racist one at that. If you're in the least bit disappointed that England didn't get their bid accepted, as yer Keith Telly Topping momentarily was, yesterday afternoon, then do take a glance at this pox-ridden drivel - written by one Paul Harris, apparently - and at a few of the bonehead numskull comments which it attracted and, you know, celebrate. We might not have won the World Cup bid but, Jesus, we're better than this. Harris, however, need not be all that despondent; after all, Russia has such a great record of racial harmony and tolerance you'd've thought he'd be glad that a country with a significant white supremacist faction had got the gig. Thankfully, at least, the Scum Mail does employ at least one proper journalist - well, if you can call West Ham supporter Martin Samuels that. On a pinch, I suppose. His article on the subject was a bit more user-friendly: 'FIFA have given their two World Cups to the countries in which the press is most muzzled, most powerless, most murdered - certainly in Russia - and least able to question their masters. What sticks in the throat is that we knew all this, and still allowed ourselves to get sucked in. The correct response when meeting Jack Warner, the duplicitous, odious FIFA vice-president who has been allowed to rule the world from Trinidad and Tobago, is to summon the fraud squad, not shake him by the hand. We sent the Three Lions - David Beckham, David Cameron and Prince William - to Zurich but we may as well have sent the Three Stooges. The bid was doomed from the start because FIFA does not like the power and wealth of the English club game, and hates being questioned or criticised when it makes another self-serving or toothless decision. The shame for English football is not that the bid was lost but that it was lost as we tried to compete on their terms. We played FIFA's game; that horrible, schmoozing, lobbying, crawling, venal game, that we thought would grease us through the door. And it still wasn't enough.' A leaked e-mail sent by a BBC News executive told World Service journalists that 'reaction to the FIFA decision has become part of the story.' The executive also said that thousands of comments had poured in about the World Cup decision. Well, three hundred and eighty seven, anyway. 'Criticism of the BBC (and to some extent the Sunday Times) is part of that story and we should reflect that.' From three hundred and eighty seven people. On Tuesday, the BBC defended its decision to air Panorama's corruption investigation so close to the vote, after the Football Association described it as an 'embarrassment' to the corporation. Given the events of yesterday, is it worth wondering if the Football Association, those noted appeasers of bullies and charlatans, have changed their collective minds?

In conclusion, then, let's send our very own rocket to Russia. Hey! Ho! Let's go!I feel better already. 'Smithers, have The Rolling Stones killed!'