Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cold Logic

BBC2 will broadcast a special edition of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe at the end of this year. Charlie Brooker's 2010 Wipe will examine the year in news, television, games and films. Brooker will be joined by guests including Grace Dent, who will look at the year's soaps. Investigative journalist Nick Davies will discuss the alleged News of the World phone hacking, while comedian Doug Stanhope will be doing a piece on the BP oil disaster. Other topics expected to be explored include the rescue of the Chilean miners, the general elections and the Pope's visit to the UK. Brooker's regular guest Tim Key will also make an appearance. Brooker said: 'For those who don't have the patience to relive the entire year in real time, 2010 Wipe will condense the whole of 2010 into one compact, easily-digestible package. Think of it as a souvenir, if that helps. We'll be looking back at the year before it's even finished and pointing and laughing at various bits of it like the repugnant animals we are.' Skill.

Britain's current most hated woman, Gillian McKeith, has finally be voted off I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Face On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible, I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want! Which will, presumably, mean that the show will now revert from being a ludicrously entertaining guilty pleasure - for entirely the wrong reasons, of course - to what it always has been in the past, boring.

Eve Myles has revealed that she plans to move to Los Angeles when Torchwood: The New World begins filming in the US in January. Because, let's face it, if she hadn't the commute would've been a bitch. The actress, who plays Gwen Cooper on the SF series, told Wales On Sunday that she and her partner, Bradley Freegard, have recently purchased a house near a famous LA landmark. 'We are going to be living in the Hollywood Hills, literally underneath the Hollywood sign. It looks like something out of Austin Powers,' she said. Make sure one of the letters doesn't fall on you, Eve. I hate to have to write a headline on this blog one day which suggests H Kills Eve Myles. She continued: 'It's a step back in time to Hollywood in the 1960s. It's really, really retro. It's had one owner and it's been kept exactly as it was.' The 2007 BAFTA Cymru Best Actress winner admitted that the idea of moving to Hollywood is something which she hadn't prepared for until fairly recently. She explained: 'I always said I didn't think Hollywood was for me but it just happened. I'm not the sort of person to go out there and do networking. I would rather work for the RSC or the National Theatre. I've not ticked off a quarter of the boxes I want to fill over here yet. But to be out there for this project is just wonderful. What a brilliant little start in life for my one-year-old daughter, Matilda.'

Peter Capaldi has suggested that some people confuse him with his The Thick Of It character Malcolm Tucker. In an interview with the Daily Record, Capaldi explained that he 'never felt typecast' by Malcolm but confessed that he tries to keep the role separate from the rest of his life. 'I've lost count of the times I've been asked to "be" Malcolm Tucker, to go on a political programme on television, presumably in order to be the character and give opinions as him,' he said. 'I've run a mile from doing so in the past and will continue to do so. It's not that I don't like the guy or didn't enjoy playing him - I loved it. But I'm Peter Capaldi. He's a TV character for whom a team of people write scripts. And to imagine we are one and the same person is dangerous and wrong. So that's why I was annoyed when somebody put me on the same table as Alastair Campbell at a Channel Four political awards ceremony a while back, but I was interested, too, to observe him.' Capaldi also hinted that Tucker may not return to The Thick Of It now that New Labour are no longer in power. 'There will be a new series of The Thick Of It but I'm not sure Malcolm will be involved,' he said. 'I'd hate to just be standing around, this character from the political past. Malcolm deserves to be centre stage, not peripheral. He wouldn't want it any other way, and nor would I.'

Mathew Horne has alleged that he would love to work with James Corden again. The rest of the country, however, would really rather prefer it if they didn't. At least, not on TV, anyway. Couldn't you do one big show for all of your fans, instead? In a phone box.

Jonathan Ross has signed up to host a magic competition on ITV, it has been revealed, just a few days after the BBC announced that the equally unfunny Lenny Henry was doing a similar show for them. Ross will front Penn & Teller: Fool Us, which sees a variety of magicians attempting to fool famous illusionists Penn Jillette and Teller. Acts who successfully trick the duo will win a trip to Las Vegas to open for them at their Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino show, reports the Sun. 'Nothing would delight us more than to give those Vegas tickets to anyone who can baffle us with their brilliance,' Jillette said. Teller didn't say anything. As usual. Executive producer Peter Davey added: 'It's a real pleasure to work with the undisputed governors of magic and their friend Jonathan.'

Arlene Phillips has said that she believes Strictly Come Dancing has 'gone flat.' And yet, ironically, it's getting far greater ratings now than it ever received in the past when the embittered old bag herself was on the judging panel. Go figure. The sacked former judge admitted that she felt last Saturday's show was 'not as exciting or as impressive' as previous editions this series. as if anybody actually cares about what the hell she thinks. Phillips told the Sun: 'Altogether it was a slightly dull and lacklustre show. I felt it had lost its fire. It fell quite flat. The standard of dancing most certainly dropped. I think the show for some reason, and I may be out of step, had slipped. I could have easily given up watching it quite frankly, and you shouldn't feel like that.' The sixty seven-year-old again found the judges' marking to be uneven - singling out Scott Maslen for being scored too generously and Matt Baker for being marked too harshly. 'I thought Matt was right ahead of the pack,' she said. 'The judges scoring him lower than Scott was beyond belief. What was I missing? I sometimes worry that watching this at home you're actually seeing something as a viewer or not seeing something as a viewer that they are seeing on the floor. I am now feeling Strictly out of step with the marks.' This, ladies and gentlemen, from Arlene Phillips. Remember her? A few weeks ago she was claiming that 'Strictly's the last thing on my mind. It doesn't feel like it is a part of me any more. It's so tiresome. I'm bigger than Strictly.' My italics. Which presumably explains why every single week she's in the newspapers giving her thoughts on Strictly. Also my italics.

Andy Hamilton has revealed that the BBC was initially reluctant to commission Outnumbered. Hamilton, who created the partially-improvised comedy with his writing partner Guy Jenkin, explained that the broadcaster was unsure about the show because of the failure of Ben Elton's sitcom Blessed. According to Chortle, Hamilton told an audience at The Comedy School: 'The BBC had just commissioned a thing from Ben Elton about a family with a new baby which died on its arse for all sorts of reasons. One is that it's actually a really boring subject - babies are just robots - but when you get young children who ask you questions all the time, that's more interesting.' Hamilton explained that the production company Hat Trick eventually won enough money to make a fifteen-minute sample of Outnumbered but admitted that the budget was so small they filmed it at his own house. He added: 'To be fair to the BBC, the moment they saw the sample they got it.' Three series of Outnumbered have been broadcast in the UK and an American remake starring Ugly Betty's Ana Ortiz is currently in the works.

Simon Cowell has claimed that Wagner Carrilho's continuing presence on The X Factor was turning the programme into a joke. Turning the programme in a joke? I recognise the words, but ... The full-of-his-own-importance judge said that he was pleased the Brazilian singer left on Sunday night, claiming that it would have been to the detriment of the programme if he had reached the final stages. During the live show, Cowell referred to Internet campaigners, who had managed to help Carrilho progress to sixth spot in the series. Cowell said that the supporters of the fifty four-year-old Dudley singer were not voting for the right reasons. There are right reasons? Baffling. Speaking to Dermot O'Dreary, Cowell said: 'Why I am happy is because there were people out there trying to derail this show for different reasons. What has happened tonight is that we've put this show back in the hands of the public.' Later on The Xtra Factor, he added: 'It's right that people like Wagner are in the competition. But it can't end up at the latter stages of the show as a joke. At the end of the day, these contestants, who have reached the finale stages, entered this competition because they needed a break. It's not about us, it's about them.'

Wagner, meanwhile, has taken a swipe at the tabloids for their constant negative stories about him. The singer claimed that the press had attached labels on him to ridicule his performances and described their stories as 'rubbish.' As, indeed, have you yourself been, Señor Wagner. Funny, admittedly, but still pretty rubbish.

Paul Abbott has revealed that he would love longer series of his show Shameless. The Channel Four drama will return for a new series in January with twenty two episodes instead of sixteen. The first five episode will be broadcast on consecutive nights. 'I was insistent that we didn't corrupt the Shameless format just for the sake of presenting a five-day spectacle,' Abbott told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'It has to just be Shameless.' However, he revealed that he campaigned for longer series, saying: 'I suggested forty per year, so that it mimics the rhythm of soap in the audience's expectation of it being there. Except it's the opposite of a soap because we have finite story concepts and a soap, by definition, is circular. I knew that it had to fake the scent of a soap, even though it's a high quality drama written by writers who don't write soaps.' He continued: 'Audiences should be presented with material that they can trust to be there year after year on longer order because shows build with familiarity. I'm not critical of the drama we've got. The point is, we should be more proud of British drama and learn how to dare to put a long order series in front of the audience that isn't Holby.' Abbott also joked that he isn't worried about running out of ideas for the programme. 'There are thousands of episodes left,' he said. 'I've never once felt short of stories to fill a series. Not once.'

CBBC show Horrible Histories won three awards at the Children's BAFTAs, where former Play School presenter Brian Cant picked up a special award. The light-hearted history show won best comedy and best writing, with presenter Jim Howick winning best performer. Gary Barlow presented CBeebies with the best channel prize. Yet it was seventy seven-year-old Cant who was the most popular winner on Sunday, earning two standing ovations from the audience at the Park Lane Hilton in London. 'When I became a man I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child and they paid me for it,' he said as he accepted his prize. Best known for Play School, Cant also voiced characters on such shows as Trumpton and Camberwick Green. CBeebies also took home prizes for ZingZillas, in the interactive category, and Timmy Time, for best pre-school animation. CBeebies' Justin Fletcher, meanwhile, won best presenter for sketch show Something Special. Fletcher beat last year's winner Richard Hammond - nominated for CBBC's Blast Lab - to the prize. Yet CBBC did win best drama for Tracy Beaker Returns, best entertainment for Relic: Guardians of the Museum and best animation for Shaun the Sheep. CBBC's Newsround special Living with Alcohol also won in the best factual programme category.

Merlin producer Julian Murphy has revealed that discussions are underway regarding a fifth series of the show. It was announced last month that the fantasy drama would be returning for a ten-part fourth series in 2011. Speaking to SFX about the reduced episode count, Murphy said: 'It was, brutally, about money. Merlin is an expensive show and what we are not prepared to do is cut its budget or production values. The BBC has had a really tough [financial] hit.' However, he added: 'We are now discussing the fifth series with the BBC. There is talk of specials ways we can fill in the gap, but these are tough times for British broadcasters.' The showrunner also hinted that the final episode of the show's third series would contain 'three or four absolutely iconic moments. The last two are very special episodes because probably there are more crucial moments from the legend in them than in any other,' he teased. 'The changes that happen in episodes twelve and thirteen set up the direction that series four is going in. You get a good glimpse of the future.'

Meanwhile, as if all the cold weather, travel chaos and the bad news about the recession and the credit crunch aren't bad enough, there comes news that the BBC has ordered a third series of Life Of Riley. There is no God.

NCIS actor Michael Weatherly is to make his directorial debut on a forthcoming episode of the CBS series. The actor has played special agent Tony DiNozzo since the crime drama began in 2003. TV Guide reports that the former Dark Angel star will direct an episode expected to film in January. 'I love all aspects of production, and I have a great deal of respect for the whole craft,' he explained. 'I'm really excited about directing. It's an extension of my curiosity about film and TV.' Weatherly also claimed that his episode of the show would be 'a little bit different' to the norm. 'I've got a lot of ideas about my version of NCIS,' he said. 'It's daunting to imagine that I am going to be running around in charge.' Weatherly's experiences as a first-time director are also expected to be documented by a camera crew in preparation for the DVD release of the show's eighth season.

A local council officer in Wellingborough, has claimed that EastEnders favourite Dot Branning should be issued with a fixed penalty notice for littering. Wendy Mills recently made a complaint to the BBC after spotting that Dot - played by eighty three-year-old June Brown - continues to throw her cigarette ends on the ground without punishment. Speaking to the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, Mills explained that she feels strongly about the issue as she is currently leading a 'No Excuses' anti-litter campaign as part of her council role. Although, apparently, it takes up so little of her, no doubt valuable, time that she can still find the opportunity to watch soap operas and then sense nuisance letters to broadcasters about their -fictional contents. If I was a rate-payer in Northampton, I might well be, frankly, a bit dischuffed at the staggering waste of my local authority taxes. Mills commented: 'I think the show has a responsibility to set a good example. We are hugely influenced by this soap. Dot is a main character and she's old enough to know better.' And, then she let the newspaper know what she had 'commented' like a proper school sneak. Mills's letter to the corporation received a response from a BBC Complaints representative, who wrote: 'Good drama rarely involves the portrayal of the normal, the well-adjusted or the well-run. Writers of compelling drama scripts are, by the very nature of the medium, more likely to focus on the dubious than on people who are quietly going about their daily lives in a responsible manner, taking part in all sorts of activities, professions or sharing a particular belief. As littering is a problem within society, the EastEnders team are simply reflecting what happens in day-to-day life. I appreciate that you feel that Dot should maybe be apprehended by the council for these actions. We're guided by the feedback that we receive and to that end I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our audience log.' They, sadly, resisted the urge to add 'by the way, don't you have anything more important to do with your time, like your job, whatever that is? Now, grow up and get a life,' it would appear. Which is very sad.

Saint Bob Geldof has admitted that he thinks 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' is 'one of the worst songs in history.' Geldof, who co-wrote the Band Aid charity single with faded old glam queen Midge Ure, said that he is sick of hearing the festive song everywhere he goes during December. And, he's not the only one either. Albeit, it's still marginally better than 'Mistletoe and Wine.'

Three senior FIFA officials who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids on Thursday took bribes in the 1990s, according to the BBC's Panorama. Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira took the money from a sport marketing firm awarded lucrative World Cup rights, the programme alleges. The alleged bribes are included in a confidential document listing one hundred and seventy five payments totalling about one hundred million dollars. The three men did not respond to Panorama's allegations. Not even to say they were untrue, which seems a bit strange. FIFA, world football's governing body, also declined interview requests to address the allegations. Panorama also reportED on evidence of a fourth senior Fifa executive - Jack Warner- and his alleged continued involvement in the resale of World Cup tickets to touts. The BBC had received much criticism over the timing of the programme, which comes ahead of this week's vote by FIFA's executive committee on who will host the next two World Cup finals. England is competing with Russia, Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium to host the 2018 tournament. The BBC has defended the timing of Panorama, saying the programme is in the public interest. Andy Anson, the head of England's 2018 bid, told the BBC he was 'disappointed with the timing' of the programme. 'It is certainly not going to win us any votes so we just have to see what happens tonight and move on,' he said. He added that members of the FIFA executive committee worked closely with each other 'and of course if one of them gets hurt the others feel it. That's just life.' Which is a very curious statement for someone to make about alleged corrupt and illegal activity. Does that also work for bank robbery as well, one wonders? The alleged bribes to the three members of FIFA's executive committee were paid by sports marketing company International Sport and Leisure and date from 1989 to 1999, Panorama reported. The company collapsed in 2001. FIFA granted ISL exclusive rights to market World Cup tournaments to some of the world's biggest brands and ISL received millions more from negotiating television broadcast rights. A former account manager at ISL, Roland Buechel, now a Swiss politician, said that staff had long suspected bribes were being paid for the lucrative FFIA contracts. 'It is huge money, billions, that can be earned and all the sports marketing companies they fight, they want it,' Buechel said. Some details of the alleged bribes emerged in 2008, when six ISL managers were accused of misusing company money. One FIFA official - Nicolas Leoz, of Paraguay, the head of South America's football confederation - was named in court papers in connection with payments totalling one hundred and thirty thousand dollars. But Panorama has obtained a confidential ISL document which, they say, lists one hundred and seventy five secret payments. It shows Mr Leoz was paid a further six hundred thousand dollars in three instalments. The second FIFA official named by the programme, Ricardo Teixeira, is head of the Brazilian Football Confederation which is responsible for staging the 2014 World Cup. The ISL list shows a front company in Liechtenstein called Sanud received twenty one payments totalling nine and a half million dollars. Teixeira was closely linked to Sanud by an inquiry of the Brazilian senate in 2001. It found that funds from Sanud had been secretly channelled to Teixeira through one of his companies. The list obtained by Panorama also includes details of one hundred thousand French Francs paid to Issa Hayatou, the FIFA vice-president representing football in African nations. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in a statement that the 2008 court case had largely exonerated the former ISL officials. He said: 'It is important to stress that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings.' At the time when ISL are alleged to have been paying the money out, it was not a criminal offence. The recipients of most of the money paid by ISL into accounts in Liechtenstein cannot be traced. These latest allegations of wrongdoing by FIFA executive members come after two of the twenty four committee members were banned last month from voting in Thursday's ballot. The bans came after the Sunday Times accused Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of being willing to sell their World Cup votes. The fourth FIFA executive named in the Panorama programme is Trinidad and Tobago's Jack Warner, one of the organisation's vice-presidents, and a seemingly odious individual seen in footgae from 2006 telling reporter Andrew Jennings that he would like to 'spit' on the BBC man. Panorama says that it has seen e-mails and an invoice which show Warner was involved in the procurement of eight four thousand dollars worth of 2010 World Cup tickets. The e-mail trail suggests the tickets were destined for the black market but the planned deal - including thirty eight tickets for the final in Johannesburg - collapsed because the touts were not prepared to pay the asking price. In 2006, Panorama revealed that Warner had sold tickets on the black market for that year's World Cup tournament in Germany. FIFA subsequently ordered Warner's family business, Simpaul Travel, to make a one million dollar donation to charity to 'compensate for the profits it had made through resale of 2006 FIFA World Cup tickets.' At a recent press conference, Blatter was asked about the fresh allegations against Warner by a Norwegian journalist who first broke the story of the e-mails. Blatter replied: 'Should it be knowledgeable to us, by official means, or by official channels, then naturally we would have to look at that.' FIFA's media office, when asked by the Norwegian journalist what Blatter had meant by 'official channels,' reportedly replied: 'We have no idea.'

Sky News has announced plans for its first foreign language service in a move that will see it broadcast in Arabic across the Middle East and North Africa. The free-to-watch channel will be run as a joint-venture between satellite broadcaster BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment, owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is best known in the UK for buying Manchester Sheikh Yer Moneymaker FC. Sky News' Arabic service will start broadcasting from 2012 and will employ one hundred and eighty journalists providing round-the-clock news that can be viewed via a television channel, its website and mobile phones. The service will be based in Abu Dhabi but will have offices in London and Washington DC, and will make use of Sky News' network of reporters across the globe. BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: 'Sky News is already one of the world's leading news services and now we're looking forward to bringing a new voice to Arabic audiences. The Middle East and North Africa is undergoing rapid development and we are able to enter this dynamic marketplace with the support and expertise of a strong local partner.' The service will be set up under the guidance of Sky News' former head of international news Adrian Wells before a permanent director of news is appointed. Sky News became Europe's first twenty four-hour rolling news channel when it launched in 1989 and now broadcasts to one hundred and forty five million people in thirty six countries in Europe, and is also watched in Asia and Africa. Its latest move, which it described as 'a significant step' in its development, will see it compete head-to-head with Arabic stations including Al Jazeera. The Doha-based company's English language service launched in the UK on Sky's paid-for TV service in 2006. It went free-to-air on the Freesat digital satellite service in 2008 and started broadcasting on Freeview in July, doubling its availability in the UK.

American film director Irvin Kershner has died at the age of eighty seven. Kershner was best known as the director of second Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back. According to Yahoo News, Kershner's goddaughter Adriana Santini confirmed his death on Monday following his long illness. Kershner also directed Robocop 2, Eyes of Laura Mars and the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again along with the award winning TV movie Raid on Entebbe. Despite his advanced years, Kershner was still working on a number of film projects at the time of his death.

The veteran actor Leslie Nielsen - star of Airplane! and The Naked Gun - has died at the age of eighty four. He died in hospital in Fort Lauderdale, where he was being treated for pneumonia, his agent John S Kelly said. Canadian-born Nielsen started out as a serious actor but in 1980, his role as a hapless, deadpan doctor in the disaster spoof Airplane! made him into a comic star for a new generation. In all, he appeared in more than one hundred movies and over a thousand TV dramas and had a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, in 1926 Nielsen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as disc jockey before receiving a scholarship to New York's Neighborhood Playhouse after the war. His brother, Eric Nielsen, subsequently became a well known politician as leader of the Yukon Territory before becoming the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. Leslie himself initially wanted to follow his father's career as a mountie but, in the end, it was his uncle, the movie actor Jean Hersholt, who was to be the biggest influence on Leslie's career. Beginning with a number of minor television roles from 1948, Nielsen's distinctive voice narrated several documentaries and many commercials, but, with a handful of exceptions, his early work as a dramatic actor was relatively uneventful. Moving to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, he initially carved out a film career as a leading man in much B-list studio product, capitalising on his craggy good looks and six foot two inch height. Nielsen's lead roles in the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet and, a decade later later, the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure garnered him positive reviews as a serious actor. It was not until 1956 that he made his feature film debut in the Michael Curtiz-directed musical film The Vagabond King. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nielsen remembered the Casablanca director as 'a sadist. A charming sadist, but a sadist.' Though the film was not a box office success, Nielsen caught the eye of producer Nicholas Nayfack who offered him an audition for the lead role of JJ Adams in Forbidden Planet, following which Nielsen was signed to a long-term contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. Parts in other MGM films such as Ransom! (1956), The Opposite Sex (1956) and Hot Summer Night (1957) followed. In 1957 he got the lead role opposite to Debbie Reynolds in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor, which, as a Chicago Tribune critic wrote made people consider Nielsen as both a dramatic actor and a handsome romantic lead. However, he was dissatisfied with the quality of the films he was offered, calling the studios 'a Tiffany, which had forgotten how to make silver,' Nielsen left MGM and, although he auditioned for the role of Messala in Ben-Hur he lost out to Stephen Boyd and wouldn't make another film for seven years. After leaving the studios Nielsen worked for Disney on the TV miniseries The Swamp Fox, as American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion. In a 1988 interview, he reflected on the series, stating, 'That was a great experience, because the Disney people didn't do their shows like everyone else, knocking out an episode a week. We only had to do an episode a month, and the budgets were extremely high for TV at that time. So we had location shooting rather than cheap studio backdrops, and very authentic costumes.' Eight episodes were produced and braadcast between 1959 and 1961. Among his television appearances during this period included parts in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Rawhide, Naked City, Route 66, Peyton Place, The Fugative, Dr Kildare, The Virginian, Ironside, Kung Fu, Kojak, M*A*S*H and The Wild Wild West. In 1961, he was the lead in a taut Los Angeles police drama called The New Breed. In 1968, Leslie had a major role in the pilot film for the popular police series Hawaii Five-O - he later appeared in one of the episodes in the show's seventh season - and well as memorable appearances in two episodes of Columbo (including Patrick McGoohan's memorable 1975 episode Identity Crisis). In 1969, he had the leading role as a police officer in The Bold Ones: The Protectors. Nielsen also starred in the William Girdler-directed 1977 action film Project: Kill along with movies like The Reluctant Astronanut and Day of the Animals. His last role before portraying mainly comedy roles was the Canadian disaster film City on Fire (1979) in which he played a corrupt mayor. In 1980, he guest starred as Sinclair on the CBS miniseries The Chisholms. But, it was also in 1980, that his deadpan delivery in the spoof disaster movie Airplane! revealed him to be a truly gifted comedy actor. It was in this role - Doctor Rumack - that he became known for some of the most famous comic lines in movie history. As his character, on aboard a plane in which the pilots, and some of the passengers, have become violently ill, Nielsen says they must get to the patients to a hospital right away. 'A hospital? What is it?' a flight attendant asks, inquiring about the nature of the illness. 'It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now,' Nielsen says, completely straight-faced. 'Surely you can't be serious,' he is subsequently asked by another character. 'I am serious,' he replies. 'And, don't call me Shriley!' The success of Airplane! - and its sequel - led to another, similar, TV role in the spoof crime show Police Squad, where Leslie first played the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin. Although the series only ran for a handful of episodes, the character was popular enough to spawn a series of movie spin-offs a decade later. He went on to make three films as the character in the Naked Gun series, starring opposite Priscilla Presley (and her 'nice beaver') and OJ Simpson. His later movies included All I Want for Christmas, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Mr Magoo, Scary Movie 3 and Spy Hard. Between movies Leslie often displayed a more serious side to his world, touring with his one-man show on the life of the great defence lawyer Clarence Darrow. Two weeks before his death, Leslie was taken into hospital in Florida where he had been living, suffering from pneumonia. His condition worsened over the last two days and relatives said he died peacefully. 'With his friends and his wife by his side, he just fell asleep and passed away,' his nephew Doug Nielsen told the AFP news agency. Four times married, leslie si survived by his two daughters, Maura and Thea.

Finally, we've got Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, if you're worried about what the hell that dreadful racket is all about, don't be. It ain't nothin' but a house party. Northern soul, baby!

Monday, November 29, 2010

What You Don't Know Doesn't Hurt You!

Actress Patsy Kensit has become the latest celebrity to leave the Strictly dance floor, following a tango that fell flat. Her performance received a mixed review from the judging panel, with Bruno Tonioli complaining that it 'lacked spunk.' And, the viewing public seemed to agree. After all the votes were in, the Holby City actress found herself in last place. Kensit took her exit in good spirits. 'You know what, I've had the most incredible time,' she said, adding: 'Firstly I have to thank all those who voted because it's been nine weeks, which was incredible. It's been the most beautiful experience.' Her departure means that Ann Widdecombe survived yet again, despite another barrage of criticism from the judges.

And, if you're not bothered about that then this might get yer blood a-pumpin': Katie Waissel and Wagner Carrilho have become the latest two acts to be voted off The X Factor. The twenty four-year-old Waissel was eliminated from the competition after receiving the least votes from the public, while the Brazilian was voted off the show after competing in a reet-proper Harry Hill-style Wagbo sing-off with Mary Byrne.

Emmerdale's series producer Gavin Blyth has died at the age of forty one, ITV has confirmed. Blyth - who took office at the Yorkshire-based soap in January 2009 - died last week following a short period of ill health. An Emmerdale spokesperson said: 'It is with great sadness that we confirm our series producer Gavin Blyth passed away after a short illness. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this terrible time. He will be greatly missed by us all. Gavin leaves his wife Suzy and children Tom, fifteen, Anya, eleven and Carter, aged one.' Blyth first joined the world of soap in 2002, when he got the job of senior publicist at Emmerdale. He later secured a position of script editor on the programme. In 2005, Blyth became a story associate at Coronation Street before moving onto the role of assistant producer. After returning to Emmerdale in the position of series producer last year, he began steering a major revamp of the rural soap. His decisions included introducing the Sharma and Barton families, bringing back the characters of Cain and Charity and signing up a number of new cast members, including Kim Thomson, James Sutton, Suzanne Shaw and Pauline Quirke. Sally Spode's evil revenge on village vicar Ashley Thomas, the tale of Mark Wylde's murder and Aaron Livesy's sexuality struggle were among the successful storylines which appeared on screens during his time with the soap. Paying tribute to Blyth, Emmerdale's executive producer Steve November said: 'Gavin has made an immense contribution to Emmerdale since taking over as series producer in January 2009 and during many hugely successful years at ITV. As a friend and colleague, he will be missed an incredible amount by us all. It is a very sad day for everyone at Emmerdale. Our thoughts are with Gavin's family and those closest to him at this difficult time.'

In what was, comfortably, the worst-kept secret in the TV industry, Matt Baker has reportedly been chosen as Jason Manford's permanent replacement to host The ONE Show. According to the People, the Strictly Come Dancing contestant and Countryfile presenter, who stood in for Manford for three editions of the BBC1 magazine show last week (and several times previously), beat Chris Hollins and Matt Allwright to the 'coveted position.' A BBC 'source' said: 'Matt's been a big hit with the viewers. He deserved the big break.' Baker has subsequently resigned from his Countryfile job, and will be unveiled as Alex Jones's regular Monday to Thursday co-host next week. Chris Evans will retain his role as host on the show's Friday editions.

Holby City actress Amanda Mealing has revealed the reasons behind her decision to leave the show after six years. Mealing's final scenes as viewer's favourite Connie Beauchamp will be broadcast at Christmas, while details surrounding her exit storyline are currently unknown. 'I love her so much I'd rather leave on a high than see her diminish,' Mealing said of leaving the role. 'I honestly cried every day for the last three weeks and the final week was just impossible,' Mealing told the Mirror. 'I was kind of heartbroken because leaving Holby is like leaving a long-term relationship.' The actress cited a desire to spend more time with her family as the main factor in her decision to leave the show, as well as the recent death of a close friend from breast cancer. 'Her death hit me really hard and gave me the courage to leave,' Mealing explained, being a survivor of the disease herself. 'I felt guilty for being alive, and then you have the paranoia that maybe it's still raging through you and they've missed it.' The actress recently announced plans to run the London Marathon in 2012 to honour her friend.

Tony Warren has revealed that he turned to drink and drugs in order to deal with his success after creating Coronation Street. Next month the ITV soap marks its fiftieth anniversary with its first live episode in ten years, but Warren has admitted that the Weatherfield show once made him miserable. 'It became inescapable,' the seventy four-year-old told the Radio Times. 'Once I went to Amsterdam to get away from it, put on the television and there was Ena Sharples with Dutch subtitles. I put my foot through the screen. After Coronation Street, what do you do for an encore? I had a drink while I thought about it - and that one turned into a million.' However, Warren continued to say that he required something stronger than alcohol in order to fill an apparent void. 'I used to have hugely upset tummies and in those days you could buy preparations with a quantity of morphine in them,' he said. 'I soon discovered it settled not just my tummy but the cold, lonely, aching place inside, too.'

Peep Show has returned to really dismal ratings – attracting just half of the audience of the previous series. The seventh season of the sitcom kicked off on Friday night with viewing figures of just eight hundred and eighty five thousand on Channel Four, compared to the 1.8million who tuned in for the opening episode of the previous series. Another one hundred and fifty thousand watched on the C4+1 timeshift channel an hour later, again down on a figure of just over two hundred thousand viewers who watched on +1 last year. In 2006, the sitcom looked set to be cancelled when the series three ratings hovered around the 1.3million mark, so this weekend's figures look particularly troubling. David Mitchell previously expressed his concern at how Channel Four's decision to premiere the show online a week before the broadcast could affect the ratings. He said: 'I suppose I'm just old-fashioned. I just worry that, if TV dies, Internet revenues will not sustain proper programme-making. It'll all be skateboarding kittens.' It already is on ITV, mate. Figures for 4oD viewing are not available, but just seven thousand seven hundred people have watched the full episode on YouTube so far. The Stephen K Amos Show on BBC2 also performed badly on Friday. Four weeks ago the series launched with just under a million viewers but this week's episode attracted a merely five hundred and fifty thousand to BBC Two.

Critically acclaimed television series The Wire has become the subject of a new media studies class at the Johns Hopkins University. The college, based in Baltimore where the majority of the series is set, introduced the new class this term and also invited a number of guest speakers to lecture on the programme, including the show's creator David Simon. According to Yahoo News, the class uses the series to illustrate the myriad of issues faced by big cities in the US, including drug use and crime. Last year, the University of York added a module to its sociology degree exclusively studying The Wire as a means to look at the political system in a new and exciting way.

Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter has claimed that she is still fascinated by her role of Deb Morgan. The character, the sister of covert serial killer Dexter (Michael C Hall), has been part of the regular cast since the Showtime drama began in 2006. 'Deb has a resilience unmatched by any superhero,' Carpenter insisted, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. 'She just keeps coming back again and again. There's so much to be admired with her. She walks into every scene with Dexter with her heart fully exposed.' The actress confirmed that she was keen to remain part of the show for the foreseeable future. 'I am fascinated by [Deb],' she said. 'I love her, I need her and I'm not finished with her yet.' However, Carpenter admitted that the dark nature of the series left little room for humour in her performance. 'I do feel like I've been denied the pleasure of making people laugh,' she confessed. 'I just really want to do a comedy, even a dark comedy. My dream would be a Woody Allen comedy where I could sing.'

Kiefer Sutherland has revealed how watching back previous seasons of 24 has been an 'eye-opener' for him, and how it has made him feel nostalgic about the last ten years. The actor - who played counter-terrorist agent and one man armour-plated killing machine Jack Bauer - is currently filming a documentary about the series. He explained that he was shocked by how much he had changed over the course of the show. Speaking to Empire about his time on the series, he said: 'Our ageing is documented through the show - it's a bit of an eye-opener. Though if you actually do the math, Jack Bauer is now about eighty five years old!' He added: 'We're putting a documentary together, so I sat down with Rodney Charters, the cinematographer, to look at behind-the-scenes footage from the last eight years. We were laughing, then it got to stuff from the later seasons and it wasn't funny anymore.' A pretty accurate summation of the decline of a once very good series, that.

The former chief executive of S4C has filed notice to take the Welsh-language television channel to an employment tribunal over her sudden departure. Iona Jones left the channel in July, shortly after a meeting of the S4C authority, which oversees the channel. Neither she nor the authority have explained why she left immediately, despite calls for clarity on the issue. BBC Wales website says that it understands Jones is alleging unfair dismissal for her departure. The Employment Tribunal Service has confirmed that Jones has sent documents to their offices in Cardiff outlining her version of the circumstances surrounding her exit. The matter is at an early stage, and a date for a possible hearing has not been set, but it is unlikely to be until the new year. Under tribunal rules, S4C will be contacted to respond to the allegations, and then documents from both sides will be reviewed by a judge. At the time of her departure, Jones made no public comment, and S4C put out a statement saying: 'The authority's members would like to thank Iona Jones for her service to S4C. There will be no further comment.' Jones was the first woman to become the chief executive of S4C and the fourth chief executive in the history of the channel which was set up in 1982. She began her career in broadcasting as a journalist with BBC Wales, before becoming editor of the Welsh language news programme Newyddion. The S4C Authority this week faced fresh turmoil after it announced its chairman had resigned, only for John Walter Jones to say that he was staying until next spring. The authority said Mr Jones told fellow members on Tuesday night that he had tendered his resignation to the lack of culture secretary the vile Jeremy Hunt. The Department for Media, Culture and Sport, which is responsible for appointing the chairman, had said it had not received a resignation letter so, it would appear that Mr Jones sent it by carrier tortoise. Jones has told BBC Wales that he had an understanding with Hunt that he would remain as chairman until next March. The authority has now appointed a vice-chairman, Rheon Tomos, who has appealed to Jones to honour what he called his 'decision to resign.'

FIFA vice-president the odious Jack Warner has renewed his attack on BBC Panorama's investigation into World Cup bidding by claiming the programme will have 'negative fall-out' for England's World Cup bid. In what sounds like a not so veiled threat to the independence of a broadcaster, Warner has suggested that the British media's investigations into the murky world of FIFA's financial transactions is likely to kill England's chances of winning the 2018 bid. Panorama are planning to broadcast the documentary on Monday, three days before the vote, and have written to Warner - as well as FIFA president Sepp Blatter - asking for responses to a number of allegations made against them. But Warner insisted he was not worried about the contents of the investigation. Warner told the Trinidad newspaper Newsday: 'I leave here on Sunday to go to vote on the bid. I haven't yet made up my mind how I'm voting, but the BBC, I'm totally dismissive of the BBC.' Asked whether Panorama could negatively affect the vote for England, he said: 'I believe it might. I don't know really how much it would do that but I would imagine there must be some negative fall-out.' Warner added: 'I don't want to dignify the foolishness by the BBC and what they want to show. If the BBC want to show anything, they could show it, what more could the BBC say about Jack Warner? And, while the BBC is doing its nonsense, I am doing my work, so I'm not worried about that.' As Jonathan Liew notes in the Torygraph: 'When did it become a condition of hosting a World Cup that all criticism of FIFA be suppressed? There's a term for that. It's called "bending over." Whatever happened to the idea of World Cup hosts being decided on the basis of stadiums and transport and Nelson Mandela?'

Market traders in Ghana will be banned from selling second-hand underwear from next February, trade regulators say. According to the Ghana Standards Board, used pants - and other second-hand goods like handkerchiefs and mattresses - are unhygienic and could pose a health hazard. The importation of these items was banned in 1994 but never implemented. Some traders in a market in the capital, Accra, told the BBC they were unhappy the move might affect business. The BBC's David Amanor in the city says there is a lot of consumer demand for second-hand clothing, often imported from Europe, as it is cheaper than locally produced items. 'Ghana is a third world country; we've been doing this all along, so why are they talking about a ban now?' Millicent, a trader in Kantamanto Market in central Accra, told the BBC's Network Africa programme. 'The authorities should think again because our livelihoods are at stake.' She admitted that some of the imported underwear was stained but said customers rummage through the piles and inspect goods before buying. Some customers also seemed dismayed by the news of the forthcoming ban, he says. 'I've been wearing "obroni wewu" all my life from infancy - all the clothes you see on me today from up to down are "obroni wewu" - and I never fell sick because of used clothes,' adds Doris, a shopper at Kantamanto Market.

So to Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, this time around, it's time for a bit of good old fashioned Godlike Genius, I reckon. From the voice that launched a thousand imitators from Bowie, to Marc Almond, to Jarvis Cocker. 'Authentic queers and phony virgins,' indeed!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Week Forty Nine: The Television Man Is Crazy Says We're Juvenile Delinquent Wrecks

Just to confirm, dear blog reader, that the icy fingers of winter have truly cometh to The Frozen North. With an almost biblical vengeance. Here's a couple of pictures taken from oot the window of yer actual Chez Telly Topping at Saturday lunchtime. Isn't one just, like, totally beyond glad to be indoors on a day like today?Ross Noble was particularly brilliant on Friday night's Qi this week, dear blog reader, in case you missed it. 'I'd really like to see an act called Rod Hull and Emo!' If you did miss it, catch the XL edition tonight. Clarkson and Davey Mitchell were pretty good too.

The BBC's coverage of Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton will not fall victim to funding cuts required by the freezing of the annual licence fee, according to a senior corporation executive. Well, thank Christ for that cos we were all so worried that we weren't going to get to see a lot of very rich people wearing silly clothes poncing up and down like they own the place. Which, actually, they do. Jana Bennett, the BBC's director of vision, warned of 'potential delays' to planned series or events because of budget cuts, but said that the royal wedding on 29 April will be given 'due prominence. This will be a big-scale event.' She said that BBC1 will carry the main responsibility of bringing 'everybody together' for the Westminster Abbey ceremony and accompanying celebrations. But, she added that other BBC channels could also play a part, looking at details such as the wedding dress. 'I could see BBC3 doing something like that though they've already got Don't Tell the Bride!' she said. A meeting of broadcasters about covering the event will take place next week and Bennett predicted the wedding could boost the sales of high definition TV sets in the same way the Queen's coronations enticed people to buy their first television in 1953. Bennett admitted BBC TV series and events planned for 2012 onwards could be delayed as a result of the licence fee freeze. She said the corporation will protect the 'scale' of its London 2012 Olympics coverage but other major TV events are likely to suffer. As even an idiot could have predicted when the licence fee was frozen in the first place. What a pity nobody said anything at the time. Oh, wait. The BBC is facing a sixteen per cent funding cut in real terms over six years from next April, as the licence fee is frozen at the annual current level of £145.50, following the hastily negotiated and controversial deal with the government. Budgets for BBC TV channels for the year from 1 April will be set by around next February and will take into account the reduction in funding, Bennett said. She added that the BBC is looking at its finances across the board due to the impending funding cuts. Because, of course, I'm sure most people in this country would sooner the BBC wasted millions of pounds covering the Royal Wedding rather than spent the money instead on, ooo, I dunno, some programmes? Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London yesterday, Bennett said the freeze amounted to a loss of around one hundred and forty four million pounds, and comes on top of the deficit created by the projected £1.5bn pension black hole. She added that the BBC is aiming for a 'zero balance sheet' by the end off its charter period in 2017, and executives are looking to see how this could be achieved. More money could come from BBC Worldwide as it has had a good year and is looking to sell off a stake in its magazines business. 'There's a question of how much they are going to contribute,' Bennett said. But she was coy on speculation that she herself might be joining BBC Worldwide, saying 'people talk to me from time to time about jobs. There's absolutely nothing I can tell you now.' She also denied that she has come under political pressure over Panorama's forthcoming investigation into bids for the World Cup in 2018. Bennett also said that The ONE Show is 'in very good health' in spite of presenter Jason Manford's sudden resignation, but that no permanent replacement was imminent. 'People will be interested [in applying] because it's a great show,' she added. She said that despite Manford departing under a cloud after tweeting explicit messages: 'Tweeting isn't banned. The problem is it feels private but it's public.'

Daybreak presenter Adrian Chiles has conceded that he was 'wrong' in his assumption that the ITV show would be a hit. Chiles left the BBC in order to front ITV's morning show alongside Christine Bleakley, only to endure poor ratings and frequent criticism. He told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'I felt in my water that it was going to be a storming immediate runaway success - I was absolutely sure. And I was completely fucking wrong.' However, the forty three-year-old, who also fronts football coverage for his new employers, has vowed to fight on in order to rescue Daybreak. 'We've only been doing it eight weeks,' he said. 'Who quits anything after that length of time? And it kind of feels like it's getting better already. You feel like it's us against the world at four o'clock in the morning. We're all in this together.'

And so to the next batch of yer Top Telly Tips, dear blog reader:

Friday 3 December
In tonight's Qi - 8:30 BBC1 - Stephen Fry is joined by guests Rob Brydon, Sandi Toksvig, Fred MacAulay and regular panellist Alan Davies on the quiz with a difference. The host asks questions on the topic of Highs and Lows. The XL edition is on at 10:10 on BBC2 tomorrow.

Peep Show - 10:00 Channel 4 - returned last week to some acclaim. On its day it's one of the best comedies on British TV but over recent years it's had more than its fair share of off-days. In the latest episode, the object of Mark's desire, Dobby (Isy Suttie), goes out with a graphic designer, leaving Mark (David Mitchell) no choice but to form a club with Gerrard devoted to winning her over. Elsewhere, Zahra's boyfriend Ben, now back from hospital, offers Jeremy (Robert Webb) the job as head of development for his music website, but things take a turn for the worse when he signs up Super Hans's band Man Feelings.

Arena: Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way - 9:00 BBC4 - is a profile of the award-winning jazz musician, who was born in 1920 and whose career began in 1945 with experiments that became known as 'cool jazz.' The artist's sound marked him as an adventurous and technically accomplished figure of the genre, with songs such as his 1959 crossover hit 'Take Five' still popular today. With contributions by Dave himself and Iola Brubeck, Bill Cosby, Jamie Cullum, Yo-Yo Ma, George Lucas and Clint Eastwood.

Saturday 4 December
After almost three gruelling weeks of trials and tribulations in their insect-ridden temporary home in the wilds of Australia, the three finalists face one last Bushtucker Trial before viewers at home get to decide who will be taking Gino D'Acampo's crown from last year in I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Face On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible, I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want! - 9:25 ITV. Ant and Dec present action from the last day, before chatting to this year's winner and runners-up. Last in the current series which has been, comfortably, the most watched series so far, in many ways the most entertaining and, at the same time, possibly the most disquieting. Which probably says something about something, don't come to me looking for a quick answer on that one.

Sunday 5 December
Operation Mincemeat - 9:00 BBC2 - is a fascinating looking documentary based on Ben Macintyre's book of the same name. Macintyre presents the full story of how Britain deceived Hitler into thinking that the Allies were planning to invade Greece from North Africa in 1943, allowing them to land instead in Sicily - their real objective - with minimal resistance. In part the brainchild of future James Bond author Ian Fleming, the deception had been shrouded in secrecy for over sixty years, but is now thought to have saved thousands of lives and provided one of the decisive turning points of the war. The dead body of a tramp was given a new name, an officers rank and a briefcase containing plans for the fake invasion and the corpse was then floated off the Spanish coast where Nazi spies found it. The ruse was a huge success.

The excellent Any Human Heart continues with its third episode - 9:00 Channel Four - focusing on Logan Mountstuart's years in the New York art world of the 1950s. Kim Cattrall and Richard Schiff are among the familiar faces popping up in the guest cast in William Boyd's sensational adaptation of his own best-selling novel.

Or, if you're odd, you may prefer The Nation's Favourite ABBA Song - 9:00 ITV. Not that there's anything wrong with ABBA, of course, it's just that this show sounds, frankly, wretched. Kate Thornton narrates a countdown of the group's most popular hit singles, as voted for by the British public. Topping the chart with 'Waterloo' in 1974 (not their debut single, despite what the Radio Times might try to convince you), ABBA went on to reach the number one spot another eight times during the 1970s and early 80s. This one-off programme discovers the stories behind all twenty five of ABBA's top forty chart entries and reveals which one is the nation's favourite. Bet it won't be 'The Day Before You Came', that's for certain. Featuring new interviews with band members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Frida Lyngstad, who recall the height of their fame and how they carried on performing and writing music despite the breakdown of marriages within the group. ABBA fans including Robin Gibb, Nicole Scherzinger, Dermot O'Dreary, Terry Wogan, Louis Walsh and Joe McElderry also contribute. McElderry? He's only about twelve! Oh God, this is going to be a horrorshow of obscene proportions.

Many of the people featured on that can also be seen an hour earlier on The X Factor - 8:00 ITV. Viewers have been voting over the past twenty four hours and now the remaining acts find out the results, as Dermot O'Dreary announces which of them will make it through to next week's final. Plus, the stars of hit American show Glee make their debut on live British TV with a performance on stage. Will the heart-stopping excitement never cease?

Monday 6 December
In Kirstie and Phil's Perfect Christmas - 8:00 Channel Four - nauseatingly twee and annoying Tory Kirstie Allsopp and her slightly less annoying mate Phil Spencer demonstrate how to celebrate the festive season 'in style,' it says here, providing tips for securing the best decorations and presents, and advice on laying on the perfect food and drink for family gatherings as well as New Year soirees. Which, I'm sure, will go down really well on council estates up and down the land where nobody has any money because of the spending review. Thanks Kirst and Phil, you lovely people, that's just what we need, a reminder of lots of rich middle-class people with nice teeth having a soiree or several. This episode focuses on preparing a children's Christmas party. Why anybody with an ounce of dignity or self-respect would want to watch this sick exercise in lording it, I have no idea. Continues for the next three nights as well. Joy.

It's the last episode of The Trip - 10:00 BBC2. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visit Bolton Abbey and eat breakfast at the Angel Inn at Hetton in North Yorkshire. On the journey back to London from their culinary tour of the North, they stop off at Steve's parents' house. This has been a great series and, to think, it started off with relatively low expectations. Which is odd when you consider the talent involved but Coogan had been stuck in not particularly good movies for a while and Brydon's undoubtedly talents, too often, seemed to be used in quiz shows. They play, essentially, exaggerated versions of themselves in this clever, witty, beautifully shot, rather gentle and bittersweet partly-improvised comedy. Two actors take a trip across the north to a bunch of restaurants that one is reviewing for the Observer. Along the way, they listen to Joy Division, single Kate Bush songs, swap Michael Caine and Sean Connery impressions and bitch, constantly, about the inadequacies of each others careers. On paper it sounds as dodgy as hell. In execution, it's easily the best thing either man has done in years. Coogan, in particular, is at his very best as a vain, full-of-himself, rather cheap and bitter man who doesn't value friendship. Brydon's character is a shade less stark but he gets most of the best lines. Whether The Trip could sustain another series is debateable, but the first series will be remembered for years to come.

To celebrate the soap's fiftieth anniversary, four of its former actors battle it out in the culinary competition for the chance to win one thousand pounds for charity in Come Dine with Me: Coronation Street Special - 9:00 Channel Four. Julie Goodyear, Ken Morley, Tupele Dorgu and Philip Middlemiss take it in turns to host dinner parties that feature bawdy humour, a male slave in an animal print thong, and boys in drag.

But, if you like Corrie then you don't want to watch that, it'll be embarrassing and rubbish. What you actually want to watch is Coronation Street: The Historic First Episode - 8:00 ITV. A chance to see where fifty years of TV history began, as ITV shows the first-ever episode of the soap, originally broadcast on 9 December 1960. Newcomer Florrie Lindley takes over the Corner Shop, while siblings Dennis and Linda cause headaches for their mother, Elsie Tanner. Among the cast are Doris Speed as Annie Walker, Violet Carson as Ena Sharples, Patricia Phoenix as Elsie Tanner, Jack Haworth as Albert Tatlock and a young William Roache as Kenneth Barlow.

Tuesday 7 December
In Can You Keep a Secret?: Tonight - 7:30 ITV - Mary Nightingale charts the rise of super-injunctions, asking to what extent they protect individual privacy and to what extent they simply exist to limit press freedom. The programme speaks to journalists and well-known figures, including former motor racing chief Max Mosley, who have been at the heart of the biggest newspaper stories in recent years.

Natural World Special: Panda Makers - 8:00 BBC2 - is a documentary shot over the course of two years, providing an insight into work at Chengdu Research Base in central China. Once on the brink of extinction, giant pandas now appear to be set for a period of relative prosperity (unlike humanity). The programme details how workers at the sanctuary hope to breed three hundred pandas as part of an ambitious conservation project, the final aim being to introduce them back into the wild. A captive breeding programme unparalleled in its ambition and the degree of technological innovation involved. Narrated by David Attenborough, this time follows the pandas and keepers over a twenty four month period to see how they're getting on.

Fifty Greatest Plastic Surgery Shockers - 9:00 E4 - as the title might suggest, dear blog reader, features a countdown of the fifty most dramatic cases of plastic surgery, featuring the rich, famous and weird devotees of cosmetic procedures from around the world. Not forty nine. Not fifty one. Just, fifty. The programme uses groundbreaking digital techniques to show viewers how the world's most famous faces would look if they decided to age naturally instead of letting some maniac with a knife near their boat-race. It also features interviews with Jackie Stallone, Pete Burns, Cindy Jackson, Jodie Marsh and Erik Sprague, alias The Lizard Man. Just what we all need, eh, two hours of self-inflicted disfigurement masquerading as entertainment.

Wednesday 8 December
In the latest episode of Edwardian Farm - 8:00 BBC2 - it's January and, the heroic trio struggle to keep afloat during the harsh winter. As the climate forces farmers to become more resourceful, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn work in a Cornish mine a few hundred yards from the farm, and experience for themselves copper mining, once the major source of Morwellham Quay's wealth and made it one of England's busiest ports. Meanwhile, Ruth visits Honiton, where she learns the art of lace-making. at one time, half of the inhabitants of east Devon were involved in lace-making as their main source of income.

After months of planning and more leaks than the Titanic Coronation Street - 7:00 ITV - reaches an episode that's been talked about more than the Middle East. Ashley and Nick struggle to free Peter before the roof of the Joinery collapses. Meanwhile, one resident - and, if you've been watching, you'll know exactly whom - desperately tries to cover his tracks amid the devastation and pregnant Fiz gets caught in the crossfire. Oh, and, just in case you hadn't heard, watch out for that tram. What tram? Splat! Continues tomorrow.

If you didn't catch Lennon Naked - 10:00 BBC4 - earlier this year then it's repeated tonight. This is a rather fine drama focusing on the most turbulent and intense period of John Lennon's life, chronicling the beginning of his relationship with Yoko Ono, which ended his first marriage, and the re-establishment of contact with his estranged father, Freddie. The story also follows the events that led to the end of The Beatles - a popular beat combo on the 1960s, you might've heard of them - and Lennon's subsequent move to America in 1971. It's got a great cast, starring Christopher Eccleston, Christopher Fairbank and Torchwood's Naoko Mori. And it also, thankfully, doesn't follow the Saint John of Strawberry Fields route and try to portray the alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie as some kind of Gandhi figure that the more ludicrous parts of his fandom try to suggest he was. Instead, it gives a portrait of a rather mean and confused individual, someone badly flawed but with a likeable streak that would surface occasionally. Because, Eccleston - in a magnificent performance - plays Lennon as somebody you wouldn't mind having a pint with but whom you'd hate to be related to.

Thursday 9 December
Fifty years ago today, a new drama started on Granada that was expected to last thirteen episodes. Who would've predicted it would come to this? Coronation Street Live - 8:00 ITV - is an hour-long live episode of British television's long-running drama and a celebration of The Mother of All Soaps. Horrific news is delivered to loved ones in the aftermath of the first viaduct crash to hit Weatherfield since 1967, and a someone makes a final wish before death. A traumatised Gary relives his Afghanistan nightmare and a crushing discovery is made as Sally risks everything to save a friend. Followed immediately by Coronation Street: Fifty Years, Fifty Moments giving viewers the opportunity to come down from the buzz of the live episode with an hour of gentle nostalgia.

Or, you may prefer The House That Made Me - 9:00 Channel Four - which actually sounds like a really good idea for a TV show. Four famous figures take an emotional trip back to their teenage homes, which have been meticulously re-created by social historians and design experts into how they remember them. Hopefully, with the permission of the people who now live there, of course. In the opening episode pop star Boy George is the first to undergo the immersive experience, returning to the house that he grew up in as part of a large working-class Catholic family, a place which holds some difficult memories. And, to his family's second residence, where he reminisces about the sitting room and bedroom that he shared with his brothers. Sounds really rather good although I should, I suppose, clue you up on the fact that Michael Barrymore is one of the other people involved in this series which might be an episode that's a bit harder to like.

In My Father, The Bomb And Me - 9:00 BBC4 - the broadcaster Lisa Jardine explores the implications of her late father Jacob Bronowski's secret wartime bombing research and experience of the atom bomb. She also examines how his work played a part in the story of science in the Twentieth Century. Part of the Tools of Science season.

And so to the news: Ofcom has revoked the four adult channel broadcast licences owned by Bang Channels and Bang Media for 'numerous and repeated breaches' of standards. In July, the media regulator fined the two broadcasters a total of over one hundred and fifty thousand pounds for repeatedly airing adult material for 'the sole purpose of sexual stimulation.' Well, isn't that the sole purpose of adult material? Call me an old square if you like, but I kind of thought that was the point. Footage included simulated masturbation and oral sex, including close-ups of genital and anal activity. Sounds like a Saturday night round my place, frankly. But anyway ... The fine followed a series of rebukes from Ofcom for Bang Channels, which operates the bouquet of three Tease Me channels on the Sky platform, and Bang Media, which owns and operates the Tease Me TV service on Freeview. The media regulator noted that, despite the imposition of statutory sanctions, the two broadcasters had 'demonstrated a disregard for their licence obligations, including their obligation to comply with the [Broadcasting] Code.' Ofcom found a further nine breaches of its guidelines in material broadcast on the Tease Me TV channels between 9 and 16 November, representing an 'unprecedented' level of transgression by a broadcaster. As financial penalties do not appear to deter Bang Channels or Bang Media, Ofcom has decided to revoke their licences after judging them not to be 'fit and proper persons' to hold the status of licensed operators in the UK. Fair enough. And, err, Rupert Murdoch and Richard Desmond are? Okay, just checking. 'In reaching this view, Ofcom has been mindful both of its duties to ensure that viewers are protected from harmful and offensive material and of the need to ensure that the freedom of expression of broadcasters is respected,' said the watchdog. 'In this case, the actions of the licensees have gone well beyond what is considered acceptable under the Broadcasting Code or the BCAP Code.' It added: 'The Licensees have not responded to any other regulatory action and Ofcom considers that it must act promptly in accordance with its duties. Ofcom is therefore revoking all the licences held by the licensees with immediate effect on the basis that they are no longer fit and proper to hold those licences. Should the licensees continue to provide a relevant regulated television service they will be guilty of a criminal offence under section 13(1) of the 1990 Act.'

Damian Lewis - who was so good when presenting Have I Got News For You the other week - has signed up to star in a new BBC1 thriller. Stolen focuses on Lewis's character Detective Inspector Anthony Carter, who works in the human trafficking unit. The story follows Anthony as he tries to save three children who have been smuggled into the UK. The show's executive producer Sita Williams said: 'We have wanted to make this film for a very long time, and I'm delighted that the BBC has commissioned it - to bring this subject to a wider audience.' Lewis has previously starred in shows including Band Of Brothers and Life. Stolen has been written by Stephen Butchard, who also penned Five Daughters, House Of Saddam and Vincent.

The Xtra Factor host Konnie Huq is to front a week-long documentary series next month on Current TV that will 'get behind the headlines that shook the nation.' The seven-part series, titled Shocked Britain, has been produced using archive news footage from ITN Source of the most shocking murders, deaths, crimes, terror attacks, celebrity scandals, disasters and headlines of the modern age. Running every night at 9pm from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve, each hour-long show will feature insight from cultural commentators such as Andrew Gilligan, Francis Wheen, Paul Gambachini, Toby Young, Georgina Bailey, Michael Fish and Margaret Beckett MP. The first programme will deal with the terror attacks of 2005. 'Shocked Britain will document the news that has shaped our lives,' said Lina Prestwood, director of content at Current TV. 'It includes archive footage that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you relive the moment you saw the second plane hitting the tower on 9/11, stood frozen to the spot watching the Boxing Day Tsunami, or ran out of fingers counting Tiger [Woods]'s increasing "conquests." Viewers will remember where they were, who they were with and how they felt during some of the most extraordinary and memorable moments of modern times.' ITN Source head of sales Simon Wood added: 'ITN Source are delighted to partner with Current TV on Shocked Britain, a compelling new series which provides the perfect platform for us to demonstrate the full breadth of our content and newsgathering capabilities.' Co-founded by former US vice president Al Gore, Current TV broadcasts a mix of commissioned shows and user-generated content. The channel launched in the UK and Ireland in May 2007 on Sky channel 183 and Virgin Media channel 155. Rumours that there will be a spin-off show, Stunned Britain which will talk to celebrities about where they were when they first heard about the show Shocked Britain cannot, at this time, be entirely discounted.

Neil Morrissey was reportedly 'almost handcuffed' after a drunken rant on a British Airways flight from Australia to London Heathrow. The Men Behaving Badly actor was travelling from Singapore, where he had connected from an earlier flight out of Australia. He was down under as a guest panellist on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity and it was on the second flight that he allegedly began to swear at fellow passengers. According to a British Airways 'source,' the actor yelled at other passengers: 'Travelling Club is fucking great, mate! Free fucking wine! All you can fucking well drink!' Can't fault the accuracy of his statements thus far. Eventually, he fell asleep, the cabin crew attempted to involve the captain after imploring Morrissey to 'cool it.' The actor's spokesperson blamed the behaviour on his 'fear of flying' and because he had consumed several drinks before boarding. British Airways also released a statement confirming the incident, and said that it would not be 'taking any further action' against Morrissey. So, in other words, this is a complete non-story. It's always unwise to get too excited about any story that begins with a statement that someone was 'almost' anything. That - ultimately - means that they weren't. In 2004, Morrissey was detained and questioned by US Customs for being 'rude and drunk' at Los Angeles Airport after a Virgin Airways flight. But then, we've all done that.

ITV is reportedly considering a major acquisition of an independent production company to bolster its struggling programme producer ITV Studios. Adam Crozier, the chief executive of ITV, wants to foster a 'creative renewal' at ITV Studios to help the production arm generate more hit shows, such as Dancing On Ice and Channel Four's Come Dine With Me. Crozier's five-year transformation plan for ITV involves fifty per cent of its revenue eventually coming from sources other than TV advertising to reduce its dependency on the often fickle income source. Last week, ITV hired Hat Trick co-founder Denise O'Donoghue to lead commercial strategy at ITV Studios, working with former Channel Four director of television Kevin Lygo in the division's new senior management team. According to the Gruniad Morning Star, senior ITV executives are now considering options for a major acquisition to enable ITV Studios to grow much more quickly. Industry 'sources' claim that potential targets of 'appealing size and scale' include All3Media, the maker of shows such as Midsomer Murders, Hollyoaks and Peep Show. ITV has not yet made an official approach for an acquisition target, but it is thought to be actively looking at possible deals in the UK and abroad. One source said: 'There is a general corporate understanding that acquisitions will be part of whatever happens in the content area. They will look at all of the sizeable options but you can't base a strategy simply on buying a big company and Crozier knows that. There is a lot of pressure on ITV Studios at a corporate level.' Another source allegedly added: 'An acquisition of All3Media would solve problems for ITV Studios giving them increased turnover, profits and it will diversify ITV's revenue base and critically could drive formats that will sell overseas. Acquisitions have to be part of achieving the aim of doubling revenues from ITV Studios to more than one billion pounds.' Last week, Crozier said at a conference in Barcelona that ITV was 'cash rich' and would actively consider major investments to unlock new revenue streams.

John Cleese was reportedly given a lift home by the police earlier this week, after he was mobbed by fans outside London's Old Vic theatre where he had been hosting the 24 Hour Plays Celebrity Gala. His car didn't show up, so Cleese ended up surrounded by autograph-hunters, paparazzi and 'common people' which, his spokesman said 'started to get a bit out of control.' Particularly the common people, because, you see, they simply don't know their place. A police car pulled up to find out what was happening, and then offered to give him a lift home. Because, of course, the police don't have anything better to do in London of an evening the provide lifts to bewildered pensioners.

OIly weasel Max Clifford has suggested that Gillian McKeith can only blame herself for how she is being perceived by the public. McKeith has faced criticism from her I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... co-stars and the press for allegedly faking several collapses on the show. Clifford, McKeith's former publicist, told the Independent: 'She's become public enemy number one. I'm actually starting to feel a bit sorry for her, but she's got nobody to blame but herself. People had largely forgotten her for the last two years, and she obviously saw this as a way to get herself back on television, where she thinks she belongs. The opposite has been achieved - unless, that is, she plans to make a programme about how to faint in public.' Asked if McKeith could turn around public opinion and win the show, he added: 'When Kerry Katona went into the jungle, her first few days were very iffy, and she turned it around into a huge success. So can it be done? Yes. Is Gillian capable of doing it? I'd be absolutely astonished.' Regarding the end of their business relationship, Clifford confirmed: 'We parted company about two years ago, because her husband thought he could do it instead.'

The owner of a Venezuelan television channel opposed to the government of the rotter Hugo Chavez (and his really small penis) says that he is seeking political asylum in the United States. Globovision president Guillermo Zuloaga fled to the US in June after the Caracas government issued a warrant for his arrest on fraud charges relating to his car dealership business. Zuloaga said the charges were trumped up, as were allegations of his involvement in a plot to assassinate Chavez. The Venezuelan president has waged a long-running campaign against Globovision.

The Twitter one-liner of the week, this week, is from Viz Top Tips: 'PARENTS. Save money on presents this year by simply telling your children Father Christmas doesn't exist and to grow up.' Sound advice.

After the Sun had a go at predicting the Christmas Day schedules earlier in the week (with such questionable results), now it's Digiguide's turn to try the same thing:-
BBC1:
06:00 Breakfast
09:00 The Sarah Jane Adventures
09:50 Shaun the Sheep
10:00 Christmas Day Eucharist
11:00 Film: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
12:25 Film: Madagascar
13:45 BBC News
14:00 Top of the Pops
15:00 The Queen
15:10 The Gruffalo
15:40 Film: Shrek the Third
17:00 BBC News
17:25 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
18:25 Doctor Who
19:30 Eastenders
20:30 The One Ronnie
21:20 The Royal Family
22:20 Come Fly with Me
22:50 BBC News
23:00 Christmas Message from Arch Bishop of Canterbury
23:05 Film: Starsky and Hutch
ITV1:
06:00 CITV
08:05 Film: The Little Polar Bear
09:25 CITV
09:40 Family Film of the Decade
10:40 Film: Santa Claus
12:45 ITV News
12:55 Film: Miracle on 34th Street
15:00 The Queen
15:10 Film: The Grinch
17:10 ITV News
17:30 You've Been Framed at Christmas
18:00 Emmerdale
19:00 Coronation Street
20:00 The Cube Celebrity Special
21:00 Benidorm
22:15 ITV News
22:30 Film: Bridget Jones's Diary
That looks a touch more likely than the Sun's effort, although I'm still not sure about some of it; they've got EastEnders down as one sixty minute episode rather than two thirty minute episodes as it usually is on Christmas Day.

David Cameron says that he is frustrated at the timing of a Panorama probe into FIFA, but said it will not affect England's 2018 World Cup bid. The BBC programme investigating world football's governing body will be broadcast on 29 November - three days before the vote on 2 December in Zurich. 'Is it frustrating that Panorama's doing this programme a few days before? Of course it is,' Cameron told the BBC. 'But it's a free country. I think FIFA will understand.' England 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson had, ridiculously, accused the BBC of being 'unpatriotic' in airing the programme so soon before the vote as though the concept of patriotism is, in any way, a factor in the exposing of wrongdoing which is what Panorama claim they have evidence of. With a recent Sunday Times investigation into world football's governing body also resulting in two FIFA officials being banned while four others were suspended, the British media were feared, by some, to be 'harming' England's hopes. Although if the allegations about some of FIFA's top brass are true and can be proven then the question of whether the prime minister of this country should be quite for keen to hang out with them and lick their collective chuffs in an effort to get them to award this country the tournament is something which, I dare say, a few voters might have something to say about. Be careful what you wish for, baby, it might just come true. David Cameron, for example, has been photographed during this process happily shaking hands with Sepp Blatter. If, as Andrew Jennings suggests in Foul! Blatter really is as bent as a nine pound note, and if the BBC can prove that - all very big 'ifs' admittedly - then what, exactly, does that say about David Cameron's own credability? Panorama defended its decision to broadcast the programme as being in the 'public interest.' A BBC spokesperson stated: 'Panorama has a reputation for strong, independent and probing investigative journalism. The findings of the Panorama investigation into FIFA will be in the public interest.' And Cameron was keen to emphasise the positives of the British media. 'I think we also have to try and convince them [FIFA], yes we've got a robust and independent media, but our media love football and when it comes to the World Cup,' added Cameron who will be part of a thirty-man delegation in Zurich next week trying to win votes. 'In terms of audience, in terms of the press coverage around the world, actually the media will give it a fantastic boost here in this country.'

And, lastly on today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day what might, possibly, be my own desert island single (although, obviously, I'd quite like to take a large waterproof box full of about two hundred of them in the event of any sinkage). The song, of course, is one of Bowie's very best, that's undeniable. But, for me, it's the way that Ian Hunter inhabits it that makes this clarion call to arms to de youf such a great record. The characters in it are given life, so you actually know Wendy who's nicking clothes from Marks and Sparks and Freddie getting spot from pulling stars off his funky little boat-race. Damned dark (the opening line is about suicide), almost Stalinist in its punk-style dismissiveness of the past ('my brother's stuck at home with his Beatles and his Stones') and with a chorus that, essentially, puts two fingers up to everyone not with it and tells them to get out the way. 'I'm a dude, dad!' See, the early seventies wasn't all fifteen minute guitar solos and jazz festivals full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs running around naked and fucking in the bushes!