Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011 - Weeks One & Two: Nothing Changes On New Year's Day

Good morning, dear blog reader, and welcome to a brand new year. Hope you didn't overdo it last night on the pop. And, if you did, look on the bright side - if all that Mayan Calender nonsense is right and world really is going to end in 2012 then you've got a maximum of seven hundred odd days to put up with your headache. Now, quick, go and have yourself an Alka Seltzer and then settle down because this is going to be a good one. The blog update, that is not, necessarily, the year to come.

Having only caught a couple of them on first broadcast, yer Keith Telly Topping - and this is beyond sad, I fully realise dear blog reader - only went and spent most of New year's Eve watching Sky's Little Crackers series of short films. As I'd, sort, of glimmered from the various reviews I'd seen, these ranged quite a bit in quality. There were a few that were really very good indeed; Jo Brand's Goodbye Fluff - a tale of teenage loneliness and bonding featuring Tracey Beaker's Dani Harmer, which was both funny and touching - Julia Davis's The Kiss - with Kevin Eldon turning in a great performance as her 'boob'-obsessed dad and Kathy Burke's beautiful Better Than Christmas about her Clash epiphany! Others were more obviously confessional like Stephen Fry's and, especially, Catherine Tate's efforts. And, some were just downright ruddy peculiar as in Bill Bailey's weird, nightmarish Car Park Babylon. There was also the 'oh yes, I remember now why I used to like her back in the eighties when she was actually funny' Operation Big Hat from Dawn French. And, then there was Victoria Wood's bloody awful miserablist exercise in 'wistful nostalgia like we used to 'ave oop North' nonsense. Which, like that total abomination she somehow got the BBC to broadcast last Christmas, just makes me wish that woman would piss off and leave my TV alone. Anyway, aside from also getting annoyed at the irritating voice of the Welsh girl continuity announcer (sorry, love, but you sound just like Ruth Jones and, therefore, make me want to do violence to someone or something) yer Keith Telly Topping is happy to report that, for once in their wretched existence, Sky One have actually produced something watchable and worthwhile. (All right, they did thorne as well, I'll give them that!) Credit where it's due, and one hopes this is the sign of greater things to come in the future.

Actors David Suchet and Sheila Hancock are among the stars of stage and screen recognised in the New Year Honours. Suchet, sixty four, and Hancock, seventy seven, become CBEs, as do influential record producer Trevor Horn, sculptor Richard Wentworth and dance choreographer Wayne McGregor. Writer Lady Antonia Fraser said that she was 'very pleased and surprised' to be made a dame for services to literature. Folk musician Richard Thompson and Les Miserables lyricist Herbert Kretzmer are appointed OBEs. Suchet is best known for playing Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in the long-running TV series. The London-born actor has played a wide variety of roles on stage and screen during a career spanning more than forty years. Hancock, the widow of Inspector Morse star John Thaw, has also enjoyed a varied and successful career. She has appeared in numerous plays, movies and TV sitcoms (notably The Rag Trade and The Bedsit Girl) and was seen this year in West End musical Sister Act. 'It is lovely, really lovely,' the actress said. 'I'm surprised how pleased I am. I got a letter saying the Prime Minister's office was going to ask the Queen to consider me and I immediately thought she would say no.' Award-winning actress Harriet Walter is appointed a dame for services to drama. The sixty-year-old, who has appeared in scores of plays, TV series and films -most recently Law & Order UK - previously became a CBE in 2000. Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen is appointed a CBE, as are former Radio 4 controller Mark Damazar and Blackadder and Qi composer Howard Goodall. Meanwhile comedy producer and writer John Lloyd - who also counts Blackadder and Qi among his achievements - has been made a CBE. Lloyd, fifty nine, worked as a radio producer at the BBC during the 1970s creating The News Quiz and Quote ... Unquote among others. He also co-authored two episodes of his friend Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His TV career began as producer of Not the Nine O'Clock News, before going on to produce satirical show Spitting Image and Blackadder. In 1990 he was given a BAFTA lifetime achievement award at just thirty nine. Burt Kwouk, the eighty-year-old actor best known for his recurring role as Cato in the Pink Panther films, has also been made an OBE. Thompson, a particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping, also receives his OBE for his service to music. He was a founding member of Fairport Convention and went on to critical acclaim, both as a solo performer and with his ex-wife Linda, as a superb guitarist and songwriter. Next year they should make him an earl as well. Then he'll be an earlobe. Frankie Goes To Hollywood producer Trevor Horn, who also rebooted Robbie Williams's career, said he was 'amazed' by his CBE. Horn, a prolific songwriter, was also noted for his own number one hit 'Video Killed The Radio Star' with his first group The Buggles, which has the distinction of being the first promo to be aired by MTV. Horn said: 'It's not something you ever think about in my line of work because it so enjoyable anyway - you don't look for any other rewards.' He went on: 'It's so amazing to have a load of people listen to a record you've made.' The sixty one-year-old producer assumed the official-looking letter informing him of his honour was from the Inland Revenue. 'I wondered what it was and thought it was a tax bill,' he said. Oh, an Annie Lennox got and OBE as well which, I'm sure, will thrill lots of people who knit their own yoghurt.

ITV has apparently been 'left shocked' by the recent set of disastrous ratings for their flagship breakfast show Daybreak which From The North took such glee in reporting yesterday. I know, I know, it's very wrong to laugh at the misfortune of others. But, hell, this is Daybreak we're talking about and if anybody deserves it, they do. Before Christmas, the programme was steadily climbing its way back up the ratings ladder towards, you know, 'average' with daily audiences of round about eight hundred thousand after a difficult period in the months following its launch in September. However, according to the Sun, the show hit a ratings low on Wednesday after it attracted only three hundred and ninety thousand viewers (it was actually four hundred and five thousand as From The North reported yesterday. Nice to see the ever reliable Sun being so accurate), compared to BBC Breakfast's 1.26 million. A 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'The ratings low is a shock, as it was thought the show had come through the worst. It was thought it should have done alright yesterday as it was the first day back to work for many people after Christmas, but Breakfast absolutely whipped it.' Daybreak is currently being presented by stand-in hosts Kate Garraway and Dan Lobb while Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley are away on holiday. An ITV spokesperson blamed the figures on the change in viewing habits over the Christmas holiday, and pointed out that ratings were down across the board. They said: 'The changes to normal viewing patterns as a result of the Christmas holiday have affected the performance of all channels' breakfast programming this week.' Daybreak's audience appreciation scores remain firmly rooted in the mid sixties (remember, any score under seventy five is below average).

Piers Morgan, meanwhile, has criticised the decision not to include Bruce Forsyth in the New Year's Honours List. Although what the hell it has to do with him - or indeed anybody else other than The Queen - is another matter entirely. And, on that bombshell, let's have a bumper - two-for-the-price-of-one-in-the-New-Year-sales - edition of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's Top TV Tips. Starting with, ahem, today.

Saturday 1 January
Viewers can look forward to starting the year by warming the cockles of their collective heart on the waves of warm affection which waft from Peter Bowker's funny, sweet-natured look at the early years of our most beloved comic partnership, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in Eric and Ernie - 9:00 BBC2. This biopic follows the duo before they hit the really big time, from their first meeting when they were both teenage turns on the same variety bill, through the days of touring grotty clubs and faded music halls, right up to their first - disastrous - television series, Running Wild in 1953. 'Northern comedy just doesn't play on television,' says a snotty BBC exec, before forcing the lads into a series of lame, generic TV sketches. It was a bit like expecting Vic and Bob to be able to fit into Last of the Summer Wine. The evolution of the surreally brilliant act that was to make them national treasures is nicely done, thanks to Bowker's light touch and to a smashing cast, particularly Daniel Rigby as the genial, uncomplaining but sharp-witted Morecambe, who manages both to look and sound like Eric without resorting to caricature. Bryan Dick is also great as the grafter Ernie, whose forbearance is frequently tested by his partner but who never seems to mind. The genuine friendship that the two shared shines through in a sweet-natured tale of optimism in the face of numerous kickbacks. They, as has been noted, brought us sunshine. Victoria Wood, who plays Eric's formidable mum, Sadie, and who had the original idea for Eric and Ernie, presents a documentary on Morecambe and Wise's formative years afterwards at 10.30pm. The real pair's 1976 Christmas Show (that's the one with John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Elton John and Angela Rippon if you're wondering) is on earlier at 7.55pm. Oh, and keep an eye open, also, for the afore-mentioned Vic Reeves - Eric Morecambe's metaphorical postmodern bastard love child - in an acting role in Eric and Ernie as Eric's dad! Magic.

And, speaking of yer actual prestidigitation, if the thought of a prime time Saturday magic show brings back childhood memories of - warmly - David Nixon, or - horribly - balding Tory Paul Daniels, then stop that nostalgia trip right now. Because The Magicians - 7:30 BBC1 - claims to be much more hard-edged. Judging by a trailer for the series, it's a big, noisy cavalcade of illusion, sleight-of-hand, street magic and a few things that look downright dangerous. Host Lenny Henry - trying to be involved in a worthwhile TV format for the first time since about 1989 - introduces 'internationally renowned magic practitioners' Chris Korn, Luis de Matos and the delightfully prosaically named UK duo Barry and Stuart. For some reason there's an element of competition as celebs - this week Ashley Banjo (who?), Bruno Tonioli and Sian Williams - partner the magicians and are ranked by the studio audience. Sounds ... different.

A surprising and welcome return for the spiffy Running from Dinosaurs family SF drama Primeval - 7:30 ITV. It looked at one stage as if Primeval would be wiped out by the asteroid of austerity, despite its five million viewers for series three. But thanks to its overseas popularity one big co-financing deal later, and here we are with the first of two sparkly-new series. If you're a newcomer, this is a hybrid of The Time Tunnel and Jurassic Park (with a bit of Doctor Who thrown in) and follows a group of scientists through bizarre anomalies that disgorge prehistoric and futuristic creatures. If you're a regular viewer who has simply lost track, a neat recap at the beginning reminds us that Abby (the lovely Hannah Spearritt) and Connor (Andrew Lee-Potts) were last seen stranded in the peril-packed Cretaceous period. As we resume, a fluke discovery enables the plucky pair to return home, taking a big, lumbering souvenir with them, but that turns out to be the least of their worries. It's great to have this excellent little show romping around again and although some of the old cast are gone, good old reliably duplicitous Ben Miller is back and at his over-the-top best. The effects are better than ever, and the mix of thrills and fun is just what you'd want for New Year's Day. Two episodes in a weekend kick-off the series as part two is on tomorrow at 7pm. Primeval's co-creator Adrian Hodges has claimed that killing off Sarah Page (Laila Rouass) was 'a creative decision.' The producer told Total Sci-Fi that he was keen to introduce new regular characters to tie in with the show's revival. 'Sarah Page has gone as a character,' he confirmed. 'Just one of those creative decisions that we took in the downtime. It was nothing to do with Laila Rouass. Tim [Haines] and I felt that we had to have new characters and to do that we had to let one or two of the others go. We couldn't afford them all!' Hodges revealed that Page's off-screen death will be briefly referenced in the show's new run. He explained: 'There is some dialogue about her death, and there's an expanded reference in the webisodes on the ITV website.' He added that the introduction of new character Matt Anderson (Ciaran McMenamin) was prompted by former lead Jason Flemyng's departure from the series. 'Once we knew Jason wasn't going to come back for the whole run, we needed a new leading man,' he said. 'We wanted to take what had worked best about Douglas Henshall's character Nick Cutter combined with what we liked about Danny, and we wanted to go slightly younger.' He added: 'We spent more time in development on Matt and his back-story than on anything else because we wanted to make the text and the subtext come together over the whole thirteen episodes.' Meanwhile, Ben Miller has insised that the show has a bright future ahead. The actor told SFX that the show is 'completely built to last. It can just keep on going,' he suggested. 'You've got all the human stories between the cast and those have always been really, really well written. There's lots of comedy, there's good dramatic love stories in there as well, and you've got people being chased around by massive things with big teeth. What's not sustainable about that?!' Miller also admitted that his character, Lester, has 'warmed up a lot' throughout the show's run. 'Lester's still the same person, but he has changed throughout the series,' he said. 'That's what I really love about the show, that he has developed as a character.' He continued: 'He's still the same person, but his attitude was extremely condescending towards his team in those early days. That's changed.'

Sunday 2 January
Rufus Sewell, sharp-suited and laughably handsome with a shade of designer stubble, smoulders like a day-old bonfire as Michael Dibdin's straight-down-the-line Italian detective, Aurelio Zen in Zen - 9:00 BBC1. Thank heavens he doesn't put on a calzone-thick fake accent, because that would just be silly. If, you know, potentially amusing. Neither does anyone else in this languid tale of murder and corruption on the Amalfi coast. The laconic, unknowable Signori Zen - separated from his wife and back living with his mama but still with an eye for a comely Signora - is dragged into murky waters by a government official after the killing of an influential fixer and his two prostitute companions. A suspect (the excellent Greg Wise) has confessed to the crimes, but he now claims to have found God whilst languishing in prison and has recanted his previous statements. Which could be politically awkward for all concerned though Zen, a model of probity, searches only for the truth in a very Poirot style way. It's a dense tale (from the people who brought us Wallander and DCI Banks so that's not really a surprise) which is, occasionally, a bit hard to follow. Not that this matters too much, as there are so many lovely things to look at - sunny Italy (one of the prettiest countries in the world) and, of course, Sewell and his lustrous Italian co-star Caterina Murino themselves. Ciao!

Miss Marple (played by the almost-but-not-quite-as-good as Joan Hickson Julia McKenzie) is largely confined to the sidelines of The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side in Agatha Christie's Marple - 9:00 ITV. In this adaptation of Agatha's eighth - and best - Miss Marple novel, the heroine is incapacitated after breaking her ankle, but luckily her eyes and ears are Joanna Lumley's, as her friend and St Mary Mead resident busybody Dolly Bantry. The village is transfixed by the arrival of a Hollywood film star, the high-beam smiling Marina Gregg (played by the wonderful Lindsay Duncan). When Marina flings open the doors of her manor house for a reception, however, one of the guests drops dead. What follows is a colourful Christie parade of suspicious glances, estranged adopted children and a lumbering investigating police officer (Hugh Bonneville, currently the busiest man on television). It's good fun, and no one takes a second of it seriously, particularly Will Young, who has a deliciously bitchy turn as a camp pharaoh. If the Joan Hickson BBC version was Revolver and the Angela Lansbury/Elizabeth Taylor movie adaptation was Herman's Hermits Greatest Hits then this is The Who Sell Out. Mad, bad, and impossible not to love!

Before now, you'd need to be a trendy games teacher to explain 'urban sports' like powerbocking and street luge. But the odd-couple pairing of bonkers Chris Evans and Big Fat Cuddly Clare Balding open up these alien activities to the masses by hosting an exciting celebrity contest in Famous and Fearless - 8:00 Channel Four. It does seem a rather lop-sided conceit pitting ex-athletes like double Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes against, say, a former member of Atomic Kitten. Funny, though. There is an incentive, however - every evening till Friday the winner gets ten thousand smackers for a good cause of his or her choice. And waving a charitable donation in front of a Z-List former celebrity is like dangling a pilchard multipack in front of Robson Green. In both cases, they'd punch out an endangered panda to get to the prize.

Monday 3 January
In Silent Witness - 9:00 BBC1 - Nikki is looking stricken, something which the gorgeous Emilia Fox pulls off better than almost anyone else on TV. The frail, elegant pathologist is haunted by the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl lying on her mortuary slab. Silent Witness likes to hit us with these kind of horrors - it's full of lingering shots of dead bodies and of the doctors who slice them up. It all starts to get too much for Nikki as the team investigate a spate of deaths in a hospital where the child-murderer was treated and she is forced to confront her own psyche as she wonders why it is that this case affected her more than others. Because it's a two-parter ending tomorrow the plot is stretched extremely thin, embellished with more arty noodlings than an early King Crimson LP. But stick with it: things get enjoyably creepy in tomorrow's conclusion.

Professor Brian Cox (particle physicist, the thinking woman's crumpet and former D:Ream keyboard player) co-hosts a three-night sky watch with comedian Dara O Briain (also a physicist and a frustrated astronomer) in the much-anticipated Stargazing Live - 8:00 BBC2. They hope to guide us round the galaxy and, while they're up there, identify three unusual astronomical events: a partial solar eclipse, the Quadrantids Meteor Shower and Jupiter aligning with Uranus. That's pronounced You-ran-us, remember, not Your-anus. Just in case anybody was about to snigger. Special guest and career stargazer (of a, usually, vastly different kind) Jonathan Ross has signed up to be the show's cosmic apprentice. In just three days he'll have to prove that he can plot his way round the night skies using only a pencil, paper and a pair of binoculars. Mark Thompson, The ONE Show's in-house space expert, is in charge of Ross's extra-terrestrial education. What could possibly go wrong?

Throughout his long career Bob Monkhouse was routinely dismissed - by morons - as a slick, shallow, egregious TV game-show host. But he was also an educated, highly intelligent man with an almost frighteningly technical approach to comedy, who throughout his life kept notebooks in which he deconstructed other people's gags to find out what made them work. As we discover in The Secret Life of Bob Monkhouse - 9:00 BBC4. After he died in 2003, the existence of his enormous video archive of fifty thousand VHS tapes and four thousand film prints became public knowledge. Monkhouse was an obsessive taper of TV and radio shows for several decades; he had video recorders at home years before they were commonplace. His treasure trove, examined in detail in this fascinating biography, is a TV and film historian's dream. The documentary also paints a vivid picture of a complicated man who, whether you liked him or not (and, yer Keith Telly Topping very much did) was a consummate performer dogged by a nagging fear of failure.

The Lakes - 8:00 ITV - is a documentary exploring life in the Lake District which built up something of a cult audience during its last outing. It returns for a second series tonight with a first edition concerning a man who has spent fifteen years breeding micro-pigs. He discusses his passion for the animals, and we also meet a local couple preparing for a lakeside wedding talk about their love of nearby Ullswater. Plus, hotelier Thomas Noblett reveals his latest endurance challenge, following his attempt at swimming the English Channel. Comedian Rory McGrath narrates. If you fancy this, yer Keith Telly Topping can guarantee that it'll be an amiable and undemanding thirty minutes of your life and very pretty to look at.

Tuesday 4 January
You may think that Harry Hill has cornered the market in raising laughs from the absurdities of television with TV Burp, but David Walliams is taking a much wider remit, looking at not just TV but also cinema and adverts in David Walliams' Awfully Good - 9:35 Channel Four. Walliams's conceit is that there are some ideas that are so ill-conceived and so misguided that they become fascinating entertainment. His case is made with just the title of the BBC's 1978 contemporary black music show, Blackcurrent. It ran for one episode. And while everyone loves the scouts on the rollercoaster on Jim'll Fix It, who remembers the kid whose heart's desire was to eat a lemon in front of a brass band? Essentially this is a clips show, but Walliams's arch delivery and the sheer oddity of some of what's on display should elevate it above the run-of-the-mill.

In The Secret Mediterranean with Trevor McDonald - 8:00 ITV- the veteran broadcaster embarks on an epic journey across the Mediterranean, discovering the unexpected, the forgotten and the extraordinary. It says here. He begins by boarding super yacht the Christina O, which was once owned by Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and visits Izmir in Turkey, where he witnesses the unusual sport of camel wrestling. The final leg of this part of his journey takes him to the Italian city of Venice.

Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents - 9:00 BBC3 - is a new show which follows teenagers on that modern rite-of-passage: a week of dancing, drinking and risqué behaviour far from the eagle eyes of mum and dad. Little do they realise, however, that their intrepid parents have also hopped aboard a plane to Malia in Crete and are just around the corner with binoculars, gawking at every vodka-fuelled moment of their offspring's wild and hedonistic adventure.
Unsurprisingly, the unwitting little dears soon reveal their less angelic sides, especially golden boy Joe, who has saved up all year to go on holiday with his eleven mates. He's soon sporting neon-pink nail varnish, a yellow tutu and not much else while the girls (also scantily clad) flirt with Zeus, the Greek water-sports instructor. Squeamish parents might want to keep a cushion handy.

And, finally, the best TV title of 2011 so far and, I guarantee it'll be quite a while before we get a contender for its crown, is Anne Diamond's War on Fat - 9:00 Sky3. In this, the former TV-am presenter hears true stories of dieting triumphs and disasters while searching for the secrets of motivation that will help her, like so many others, shed those extra pounds. Why she does this, nobody cares. Except possibly Anne since that seems to be the only job she can get in TV these days. Perhaps we'll never care. But, like I say, top marks to whoever came up with the show's handle.

Wednesday 5 January
In Timeshift: The Golden Age of Coach Travel - 9:00 BBC4- viewers enter a lost world of good-natured fun with this affectionate documentary. It's a hymn to simple pleasures with a gently comic theme. Here, we are told, travelling was at least as good as arriving, thanks to sing-alongs and frequent refreshment stops. Who could guess the incredible road safety statistics - that road deaths today are less than half the 1928 level, despite the increase in vehicles from two to thirty four million-plus? This is a social history of working-class leisure, mostly focused on trips to holiday resorts, the kind of thing that BBC4 does so effortlessly. There's also a rare glimpse of tight-knit communities where friends and neighbours not only lived cheek by jowl, but shared their holidays together, too. Horrorshow.

NCIS - 9:00 Channel Five - returns tonight. Handsome, chiselled maverick navy operative Tony DiNozzo is laughing in the face of fear as the new series of this polished, high-octane US crime procedural begins. DiNozzo (played by the excellent Michael Weatherly) is in fact so good-looking he doesn't actually have to do much except be a staggeringly attractive force for good while tied to a chair cracking pithy one-liners with his captors. He's been kidnapped by some very bad people while on a mission to Somalia to rescue his beautiful colleague, Mossad officer Ziva David (Cote de Pablo). After being administered a truth serum DiNozzo performs a very valuable service for fans who need a catch-up and for anyone who's never actually watched NCIS before, as he gives a quick run-down of his colleagues and their jobs, a bit like a spaced-out human resources apparatchik. (Remarkably, his interrogator manages not to ask 'isn't your boss Mark Harmon who used to be in The West Wing? And that pathologist you've got, wasn't her the blond Russian in The Man From U.N.C.L.E?') None of this will do any more than give your brain cells a quick jog around the block, but NCIS is one of those confident American series which knows exactly what it's doing and where it's going and gets there with the odd witty and unexpected surreal detours. It's joyously, shamelessly flag-waving, too - watch out for a brilliant piece of gung-ho military triumphalism at the end. And also for the delightful Abbey (Pauley Perrette) one of the finest comic characters US TV has produced in the last decade at least.

The investigation into the multiple murders and the arrival of the lethal drug fentanyl in this country isn't going too well for DCS Langton and his team in Above Suspicion: Deadly Intent - 9:00 ITV. They are sure that drug baron Alexander Fitzpatrick is behind it all, but though the killer has been caught on CCTV they still can't identify him. And even though his ex-wife, Julia, confesses that he made her re-marry as a front to obtain new identities, it's not much help either. 'We had him and we've lost him,' shouts a frustrated DI Travis as they get close to nabbing him and fail again. But it's what she says under cover of the noise of a light aircraft as it takes off that's the most startling. For a Lynda La Plante story, there's a heck of a lot of poignant, even tender, moments. But, it is a Lynda La Plante story so there's a fair bit of torture and sexual violence as well.

Former Tory horrorshow and now, seemingly, quite decent chap Michael Portillo continues his travelogue in a welcome repeat of Great British Railway Journeys - 6:30 BBC2. Beginning in Enfield, he visits the Royal Small Arms Factory, the largest machine shop in Europe in Bradshaw's day. He then discovers the influence of trains on Newmarket's races, and heads to Cambridge to find out why it could be considered the birthplace of football. Continues tomorrow.

Thursday 6 January
Not Going Out - 9:30 BBC1 - is Lee Mack's flat share sitcom which returns for a fourth series. It seemed to be on the verge of cancellation last year but survived - as much, perhaps, because of a lack of anything to replace it as because of its own qualities. Not Going Out can, however, take pride in its inoffensive plotting and its smart, well-constructed gags. As yer Keith Telly Topping's oppo Alfie Joey notes, it's one of the most densely driven comedy vehicles with more jokes-per-page that virtual any sitcom in history. Sometimes at the expense of anything resembling a storyline, admittedly. And, also, as with most of these kind of things, if you thrown enough jokes at a wall, some of them will stick and some of them wont. Fortunately Lee himself is a supreme gag merchant so most of his quips, at least, have great delivery going for them. In some ways - like Miranda - this is a rather old fashioned sitcom conceit. Possibly that's why it, for the most part, works. This week, Tim goes clubbing, but getting tired at the end of the night he heads to Lee's wearing a double-breasted, fawn trench coat, which he thought was his but, as it emerges, isn't. With hilarious consequences, no doubt. He knows this because there are drugs in the pocket. And Tim would never keep drugs in a coat - especially not of this kind (white, powdered, illegal) and this quantity (loads).

The Laconia incident was a low point of naval warfare, involving the 1942 sinking of a British transport ship, the RMS Laconia, by a German U-boat and the attempts to rescue survivors. Alan Bleasdale retells the story from the perspective of the U-boat's crew and the passengers - including civilians and hundreds of Italian PoWs in The Sinking of the Laconia - 9:00 BBC2. It's hard to watch characters on a doomed liner without the shadow of Titanic looming large, but the main drama lies on the U-boat, whose noble captain (played by Ken Duken) is the nearest thing to a hero the story has. Brian Cox plays the lugubrious captain of the Laconia and Andrew Buchan does a sterling turn as a junior officer, but the script gives them little to work with. At times, it's as slow and rusty as the aged ocean liner itself. Tomorrow night's concluding part brings us a tragic twist in the tale. Also starring Lindsay Duncan, Jodi Balfour, Ideal's Ben Crompton and Ciaran McMenamin.

'I like to cuddle and smell and stroke animals,' says actor Martin Clunes near the start of Martin Clunes: Man to Manta - 9:00 ITV. In any other walk of life an awkward moment might follow such a confession but, when it's part of a TV documentary, we just carry on as though nothing's happened. This statement, perhaps, explains why Clunes has already shared his love of canines in the documentary A Man and His Dogs and then his passion for all things equine in his series Horsepower. It doesn't really shed any light on why he's now decided to get up close and personal with distinctly uncuddly and non-furry manta rays, though. That Clunes is a nervous diver since he suffered a panic attack underwater three years ago merely adds to the mystery. However, he flits about the globe making genial conversation with marine biologists, divers, turtle conservationists and fishermen like a sort of cut-price Robson Green. He even gets quite soppy about some of the baby animals he sees and learning how the elusive mantas - like so many of the ocean's creatures - are under threat. Eventually he takes the plunge to swim in crystal-clear waters off the Maldives with about forty of these magical, graceful fish, which have been drawn to the region by a feast of plankton. They really are quite beautiful, even if you can't actually cuddle them.

Britain's top mentalist is, despite his increasingly elaborate TV specials, still most at home on stage. Derren Brown: Enigma - 9:35 Channel Four - is his latest theatre show, recorded at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London. Dazzling Dezza once again makes use of his fascination with the illusionists, and the charlatans, of the past: one of the big party pieces here is his re-creation of the Victorian phenomenon of somnambulism. But beyond any concept, Brown is an astonishing purveyor of cold reading and autosuggestion. What he apparently knows about strangers in the crowd, and what he can - seemingly - make them do against their own free will, is truly unbelievable. Not, perhaps, quite as mindblowingly spectacular as his last stage tour - An Evening of Wonders - but still well worth an hour of your time.

'I'm apprehensive,' says Michael Mosley. The likeable presenter of last year's The Story of Science is playing guinea pig in a controlled laboratory experiment, but there's fun to be had watching him revert to a jabbering child under the influence of psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms. He's investigating a century of developments in experimental psychology in The Brain: A Secret History - 9:00 BBC4. The message is clear: given the right circumstances, people can be persuaded into doing almost anything. As Derren Brown is busy proving over on the other side without, seemingly, the aid of any artificial stimulants! Makes you think, doesn't it? Also tonight, at 8pm, What Makes Us Clever? scours the Horizon archive for a history of how we measure our own intelligence. Me, I just get into a conversation with a very stupid person. Works every time.

Friday 7 January
Hustle - 9:00 BBC1 - is all about surface in this tale of a bunch of crafty grifters enjoying a life of big-money scams in a glamorous, high-rolling version of London. But we know by now not to look too closely at the nuts and bolts. The plots are generally wafer-thin and the capers contrived but, frankly, who cares? It's not meant to be Doctor Who, is it? It's a watchable splash of escapist nonsense that's just the job for a cold winter's evening. Usually when we rejoin the gang for a new series (and this is the seventh so far), they're under threat, on their uppers or on the verge of splitting up. But not this time. All is rosy for Mickey Bricks and the gang as they embark on a good old-fashioned Spanish Prisonertype fraud to pay back a nasty model agency boss who has upset Eddie the barman's niece. It's a vital part of the Hustle formula that the marks should be broad, cartoon baddies who deserve what they get, and guest star Anna Chancellor as ruthless agency CEO Wendy Stanton, who's been scamming one hundred grand each year from naive young girls hoping to make it in the modelling business, is just the job. Stars the usual crew, including Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister and the great Robert Vaughan. If you've never caught it before and you like flashy American series like Leverage, or heist movies like Ocean's 11 you're going to love this.

If you're a closet magician who's been harbouring a swishy trick - levitating a horse, making the odd monument disappear and the like - then, finally, there's a platform and an enraptured audience to praise and jeer as appropriate. Yes, Penn & Teller: Fool Us - 9:00 ITV - is, essentially, Britain's Got Talent with wands. Introduced by Jonathan Ross, Las Vegas tricksters Penn and Teller will sit in the crowd as aspiring magic men and women attempt to pull the wool over their eyes. But what a thick, sheepskin-in-wolves-clothing wonder it would have to be to get the better of two of the world's most acclaimed practitioners of yer actual prestidigitation. Call me cynical if you like (okay, you can stop now), but these novices are as likely to flummox the master illusionists as Arsene Wenger is to actually see the incident that led to one of his players being sent off. Still, if anyone does pull off the impossible, they'll win a luxury trip to Vegas to support Penn and Teller in their hit show at the Rio Hotel & Casino. Nice work if you can get it.

Tonight's Coronation Street - 7:30 ITV - is episode seven thousand five hundred and eight. Not that anyone's counting, of course. After discovering Tyrone and Sally's secret, Kevin has a quiet moment in the garage listening to some Peter Cetera and reflecting on how he's brought the whole sorry mess on himself. No, not really - true to long-standing form he has a tantrum, tears across the street and lamps Tyrone one in mush, leaving poor old put-upon Sal feeling all guilty and discombobulated about the manifest unfairness of life. Someone else dealing with the effects of a beating is Tracy Barlow, who has now regained consciousness and is pointing an accusatory finger against the wholly innocent Becky. But, would you trust the word of a woman who lied about the paternity of her child, concocted allegations of abuse against Charlie Stubbs and fibbed in the testimony she offered at Gail's trial? Not to mention don't (part of) a stretch for murder. You can see why her dad, Ken, is a man filled with some doubts.

Saturday 8 January
There's a new series of All New Total Wipeout - 6:00 BBC1. The adventure game show in which twenty men and women travel to Argentina to compete in physically demanding games on a purpose-built obstacle course. This had proved to be very popular over the last few years. Because, let's face it, who doesn't enjoy seeing a crowd of arrogant boastful clowns wittering on about how great they are shortly before they're biffed, hard, right on the conk by a rubber boxing glove and end up grovelling around in the clarts? In the new series, the contestants will have to face several fiendishly difficult challenges making their debut, including the Ring-a-Dings, a set of tyre-like obstacles, and the Dodgeball Boys who will be throwing wet foam bullets on Dizzy Dummies. Richard Hammond, smugly but not unamusingly, presents from the safety of the studio, while Amanda Byram meets the contestants on the course itself and laughs at their misfortunes. Which is always worth seeing.

An evening of programmes dedicated to the illusionist Derren Brown beginning with a documentary providing an insight into his career, Behind the Mischief - 9:00 Channel Four. The film features unprecedented access to Dazzling Dezza's notoriously private private life, meeting family, friends and his closest collaborators, as well as contributions from some of his famous fans including Stephen Merchant, Matt Lucas, Simon Pegg and Bill Bailey, plus clips of his classic TV moments. Part of the channel's Derren Brown Night.

Tonight's Qi XL - 9:00 BBC2 - sees Stephen Fry hosting a welcomely extended version of the quiz with a difference. Guests this week are Robert Webb, Phill Jupitus, Ronni Ancona along with regular panellist - and stooge - Alan Davies. They have to answer questions on the topics of hypnosis, hallucinations and hysteria. All whilst Derren Brown is doing his thing on the other side. Now that's a copyright issue waiting to happen if ever there was one.

Sunday 9 January
In a change from previous series of Dancing on Ice - 6:30 ITV - Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby present the first of two preliminary rounds in which the public chooses the line-up for this year's contest. Over the next two weeks, sixteen couples perform, but only the top twelve will make it through to the main competition. Can your hearts take it, dear blog reader? The contenders - in no particular order of desperation to get their boat-races on TV - are a right rum lot, frankly: Kerry Katona, Angela Rippon, Chloe Madeley ('celebrity'? Surely some mistake?), Elen Rivas (ditto), Craig McLachlan, Denise Welch, Dominic Cork, Jeff Brazier, Jennifer Metcalfe, Johnson Beharry, Laura Hamilton, Nadia Sawalha, Sam Attwater, Steven Arnold, Vanilla Ice and 'Comedy Dave' Vitty. Tonight, eight of them compete for viewers' votes, putting months of training with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean into practice on the ice. The results can be seen at 9.30pm.

Former foundry owner Gabriel Cochrane (Holby Blue's Richard Harrington) arrives in Candleford a broken man, having lost his wife, business and fortune in Lark Rise to Candleford - 8:00 BBC1. The residents take pity on the newcomer, and Dorcas offers him a home and a job - but discovers he is nursing a dangerous grudge that could ruin his chances of getting back on his feet again. Meanwhile, Emma receives some good news that could enable her to clear her debts, and Ruby returns to find Daniel has made himself a little too comfortable at home. A welcome return for the sweet-natured costume drama, with Julia Sawalha, Olivia Hallinan, Claudie Blakley, Mark Heap and Victoria Hamilton.

On a similar theme, Wild at Heart - 8:30 ITV - also returns for a new series. While on honeymoon with Alice in London, Danny reluctantly arranges to meet his estranged father Robert and ends up taking him back to Leopard's Den in an attempt to make up for lost time. However, when his dad reveals tragic news, the revelation threatens to tear the family apart. Meanwhile, Du Plessis misses a potentially deadly virus when left in charge of the lions. Guest starring the great Warren Clarke. Once brilliantly described, by Harry Hill, as follows: 'Wild At Heart is not always just "animals escaping from their pen-Where is he?-Don't know?-Better go after him-Oh, there he is-Will you marry me?-Not sure!-Please!-Okay!-The monkey's got diarrhoea-I'll be with you in a minute-We're going to have to close down due to lack of money-Who's this coming down the road?-Oh it's Hayley Mills." Although it's often just that.' Stephen Tompkinson and Dawn Steele head the cast.

Monday 10 January
Comedian and actor Ben Miller returns to his roots as a physicist (the source of much comic potential during his memorable appearance on Qi a couple of years ago) to try to define one degree of temperature in Horizon: What Is One Degree? - 9:00 BBC2. His mission takes him to the frontiers of modern science as he meets researchers working with varying levels of heat, visits a lab where he experiences the strange effects of quantum physics, and installs a weather station in his own home.

In The Biggest Loser - 9:00 ITV - Davina McCall hosts the show in which seven couples, including twin sisters from London and a husband-and-wife duo from Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, embark on a weight-loss journey, undertaking a gruelling training and exercise regimen, and facing a weekly weigh-in. Because, let's face it, in the minds of TV producers everywhere who doesn't enjoy having the lives of a bunch of wobble-bottoms ritually humiliated for entertainment? In the first challenge, the contestants cycle a marathon, which leaves two participants needing medical assistance and one team facing automatic elimination. Sick, dear blog readers. The person who dreamed it any, anybody that takes part, and anybody that even thinks for a moment about whether to watch the damn thing or not. Sick.

All you Gleeks - as I believe you style yourselves - will be delighted as the popular Glee returns for a new series - 9:00 E4. Having narrowly missed out on the trophy for the Regionals, the McKinley High School Glee Club starts a new year of education determined to secure victory in the competition, despite Sue's efforts to stop them. Sam Evans joins the singing students as a protégé of Finn Hudson, but it is not long before they become rivals, while foreign exchange student Sunshine Corazon makes an enemy in the form of Rachel.

British screenwriters Sean and Beverly Lincoln are delighted when their TV series is picked to be remade for an American audience, and promptly move to Los Angeles to start work on the show. However, things begin to unravel at the couple's first studio meeting after the network president casts Matt LeBlanc in the lead role as detailed in Episodes - 10:00 BBC2. This comedy, stars Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig alongside the Friends actor and, from the trailers I've seen it looks ... pretty dreadful. Which is a shame as I've very much enjoyed the work of all three leads in other things they've done. Hopefully this is a case of somebody simply having picked the wrong clips to put on the trailer and it's actually much better than it's been made to seem. Fingers crossed because, as noted, it's got the potential to be really good.

Tuesday 11 January
It's blood and snot night on British TV as returns for a new series Taggart - 9:00 ITV. Pathologist Duncan Clark (Davood Ghadami) begins work with Burke and Reid on the case of a tortured and mutilated body found in a vacant warehouse. 'There's bin a murrrrrderrr' says someone, at some point. Probably. 'What, ANOTHER one?' asks someone else. Yeah, yeah, just get on with it. After identifying the victim as newly qualified doctor Scott Clarkson (no relation to Jezza, one supposes), they discover he may been involved in a drugs scam, but the investigation is complicated by the unexpected arrival of London cops DI Casey and DS Moretti. Long-running Glasgow-based detective drama, guest starring Reece Dinsdale (Coronation Street) and Steve John Shepherd (Plus One), with Blythe Duff, John Michie and Alex Norton.

Meanwhile, at the same time over on Five CSI: Crime Scene Investigation starts its eleventh series. In the aftermath of last season's finale with Ray Langston in hospital with a knife in his kidney and Nicky feeling guilt over the police officer who died whilst they tracked down a serial killer, a sequence of explosions at the funeral of the officer, Franklin Clarke, leads the team to suspect good old mad-as-toast Nate Haskell could be behind the bombings. However, an ailing Ray dismisses this theory as he intervenes from his hospital bed, and a breakthrough comes with the discovery of a mobile phone sim card on one of the corpses at the scene of the crime. Guest starring teen heartthrob Justin Bieber. Which should put a couple of hundred thousand teenage viewers on the audience. Watch out you don't have any nightmares, children.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall investigates the world's diminishing fish stocks and sets out to understand what is happening to the British fishing industry in Hugh's Fish Fight - 9:00 Channel Four. He begins by launching an ambitious campaign against EU regulations that cause more than half of the cod caught in the North Sea to be thrown back in dead, and teams up with head chef Tim Maddams in an effort to revolutionise the traditional British chip shop. Continues tomorrow.

Wednesday 12 January
Michel Roux's Service - 8:00 BBC2 - is a new series in which the chef and restaurateur who viewers will know from his role in MasterChef: The Professionals trains eight young people, none of whom has previously considered a career a waiter, to become front-of-house experts, and at the end of the project two of the participants will be awarded scholarships with the Academy of Food and Wine. So, MasterWaiter, essentially? Michel begins by showing the trainees the exacting standards of service at a Michelin-starred restaurant, before making them work at a busy establishment during a Saturday night. Continues tomorrow. Hopefully, Michel's delightfully sour-faced and bullying oppo Monica will be putting in an appearance.

In Shameless - 10:00 Channel Four - Frank is still lost in his own SF odyssey. Meanwhile, Shane discovers a new venture for the Maguires - school security - and Mickey is anxious about Timmy's release from prison. Elsewhere, Mimi is confused by Avril's attempts to help her back to full health. Drama, starring David Threlfall, Nicky Evans and Ciaran Griffiths. Continues tomorrow.

Rip Off Britain - 7:30 BBC1 - is the That's Life for the Twenty First Century. A consumer's advice programme full of nasty little 'concerned' vox pops with a chip-on-their-shoulder agenda to put as many of the country's small businesses as possible to the wall. Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Jennie Bond - a trio of Esther wannabes if ever there were three - tackle various consumer issues, travelling around the country to investigate viewers' whinging complaints that they were charged a fiver too much by some poor schlep who was daft enough to agree to put their patio doors on for them. In future, do it yourself and see how easy it is.

Timeshift: The Modern Age of Coach Travel - 9:00 BBC4 - is a sequel to last week's show about the Golden Age (see above). Essentially, it's a documentary exploring Britain's 'love' (if that's the right word) of coach journeys in more recent years, from school trips to outings for football fans and band tours. The programme also looks at how alternatives to those introduced by the National Coach Company in the 1970s have sustained interest in the vehicle. Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Thursday 13 January
Human Planet - 8:00 BBC1 - is a new series exploring mankind's ability to survive in extreme environments, visiting locations in remote corners of the globe to see how people have adapted to their surroundings. The first episode focuses on the ingenuity of humans to survive in marine conditions, and provides an insight into the different techniques used by subsistence whalers in Indonesia, fishermen in northern Spain, Brazil and the Philippines, and the Bajau Laut sea gypsies, whose methods include hunting underwater using spears. Narrated by John Hurt.

You might think, dear blog reader, that a programme with a name like Men of Rock - 9:00 BBC2 - might, possibly, be a profile of some grizzly old fiftysomething bloke with long hair who still wears leather trousers and gets on stage each night to bellow some sexist nonsense about his woman squeezing lemon all down his leg. baby. But, no, it isn't. Mercifully. Instead it's the latest vehicle for TV's favourite geologist Iain Stewart who retraces the steps of pioneering scientists who used the landscape of Scotland to make ground-breaking discoveries about Earth. He begins by telling the story of James Hutton, the founding father of geology, whose work led to a profound revision in theories about the planet's origins.

ITV have a rather good looking drama series starting at 9:00, Kidnap and Ransom. When Naomi Shaffer is kidnapped in South Africa whilst on business, hostage negotiator Dominic King is given the responsibility of bringing her home safely. He successfully arranges the ransom for her release and flies to Cape Town for the exchange, but things then go badly wrong at the handover. Superior looking three-part thriller, written by Patrick Harbinson and starring Trevor Eve, Helen Baxendale, John Hannah, Emma Fielding and Patrick Baladi. Eve's wife Sharon Maughan also has a small part.

And finally there's Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live - 10:30 BBC3. Shappi Khorsandi presents comedy talent from this year's Festival Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe, featuring some of the best stand-ups currently working today. And some of the crappest non-entities like smug waste-of-space Jack Whitehall too. Among the good stuff are sets by Sean Lock, Adam Hills, Emo Philips and Jon Richardson.

And, so to the news: The BBC has defended its decision to air an interview with a supporter of state-sponsored execution of gay men, arguing that the contribution was to give balance to news coverage of the birth of Sir Elton John's son. On Tuesday, the BBC's News At Six bulletin featured a report on the birth of Sir Elton's first child with his partner David Furnish on Christmas Day. The piece also featured an interview with Stephen Green, of right-wing group Christian Voice, who has previously supported the proposed death penalty for gay men in Uganda, reports the Pink News website. In the interview, which was repeated later on the BBC News channel, Green claimed that the baby was 'a designer accessory' for Sir Elton, and said that depriving the child of its natural mother was 'an act of pure selfishness.' The contribution of Green caused controversy among many viewers, but a BBC spokesman said that it was included to reflect the wider debate on surrogacy for gay couples. The spokesman said: 'The practice of surrogacy is a sensitive subject and remains controversial in some quarters. Our short news bulletin featured Elton John talking about wanting to have a child and an opposing viewpoint. All sides of the debate on surrogacy have been widely reported in the news media and our coverage has reflected this.'

The producer of Skins has promised that series five of the drama will have more 'silliness' and 'fun' than series four. Earlier this year, some fans of the show reacted angrily to the decision to brutally kill off the character of Freddie (Luke Pasqualino), while the programme's executive producer also admitted that the series should have been less depressing. Now, Skins producer Matt Strevens has assured viewers that the upcoming series will not be as dark as the last run. 'Things were heavier in the last series because the characters were older and had bigger things to deal with,' he told the Sun. 'But with the new cast, they are younger and we can have some fun with them. We want to bring more of its silliness back in.' However, Alexander Arnold, who plays heavy metal fan Rich Hardbeck, said that the show would still be as gritty as ever. 'It is still dark in places,' he insisted. 'It isn't a political show - it is just a representation of youth culture. We lay out scenes that viewers can relate to.'

Reruns of The Goodies have been deemed something of a ratings hit, after attracting up to a million viewers despite a late-night timeslot. BBC2 has been repeating full episodes of the Seventies comedy this Christmas for the first time in more than thirty years. And the eight shows have attracted audiences of between five hundred thousand and one million viewers, despite going out at 11.30pm at the earliest. The figures seem to have vindicated campaigners' pleas for the shows to be repeated after so long. Dear old Graeme Garden said: 'I'm rather impressed by the viewing figures for The Goodies repeats. I'm only sorry that about sixty million people were either asleep or didn't know it was on.' Lisa Manekofsky, president of The Goodies Rule - OK! fan club, added: 'I'm absolutely delighted to learn that The Goodies has been garnering such excellent ratings for BBC2, even given the late hour at which the repeats were scheduled – each staring between 11.30pm and 12.25am– and the limited promotion for the broadcasts. I am optimistic the BBC will see this as a successful trial run which will lead to additional repeats. Hopefully these would be scheduled earlier in the day, to reach a larger audience as well as to respond to the feedback from fans wanting their children to be able to see the show.' Bill Oddie had previously suggested that the BBC had refused to air the shows until now because of a grudge over the trio defecting to ITV for their last series. Which is unlikely. Yer Keith Telly Topping must admit, The Goodies was his favourite show was he was ten and - despite the odious little hippy-Communist that Oddie had turned himself into in recent years - I've been thoroughly enjoying rewatching some of these whilst I've been waiting for the cricket to start over on Sky! Some of them haven't aged well, it's true, although it was lovely to see The Baddies episode the other night with dear old Patrick Troughton doing Richard III and going so far over the top he was down the other side as Dr Petal. Come on Beeb, let's have some more of these, my old UK Gold tapes are starting to wear very thin and I could do with a decent copy of Planet of the Rabbits or Frankenfido for the Twenty First Century.

Executives at the BBC's studios in Cardiff where Doctor Who and Upstairs Downstairs are filmed have been spending more than one thousand pounds per day on taxis, it has emerged. According to figures obtained by - and gleefully reported by - somebody with an agenda painted two inches thick at the Daily Torygraph, the production headquarters of BBC Wales spent five hundred and ninety five thousand pounds on taxi rides in the eighteen months up to November. The BBC said that the money was mostly being spent on taxis for artists and contributors, but also insisted that 'every effort' was made to curb the costs. A spokesman for the corporation noted: 'In 2009 to 2010 BBC Wales produced more than fifteen hundred hours of television programming and nearly fourteen thousand hours hours of radio with a total turnover of one hundred and fifty million pounds. Transport costs are an inevitable consequence of these business activities, with around half of this spend incurred to transport guests, artists and contributors. However, every effort is made to minimise the level of such costs. This included use of a centralised booking system which enables us to monitor taxi use and negotiated better deals with suppliers.' The Torygraph, of course, like their scum chums over at the Daily Scum Mail promptly, rounded up one Charlotte Linacre, a spokesperson for the campaign group - for which read 'bunch of mouthy right-wing toerags' - The Taxpayers Alliance. She said that the BBC is spending far too much on the 'luxury convenience' of taxis. Listen, Charlotte, quick word of advice, chuck. I'm a taxpayer. So is just about everybody in this country over the age of sixteen - The Queen being the one notable exception. On what authority, exactly, do you claim to speak for all of them? I mean, did I miss the memo that said you could bandy about the term 'tax payer' in my name? Because, let me clear about this, you do not speak for me. Or for anybody that I know, for that matter. There are probably forty million people in this country who pay taxes - maybe more. I dare say, if you ask all of them, you might find quite a few who don't like their money being spent on all manner of different things; you know, guns, tanks, the expense claims of members of parliament, stuff like that for instance. In all likelihood, you'll also find a fair number of them who have a very low tolerence threshold for self-appointed busybodies getting themselves in the newspaper every time one of their Tory scum journalist mates rings up asking for a juicy quote.

Burglars have raided the home of BBC Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid as she slept upstairs with her family. The thieves forced their way into Reid's south London property during the early hours of Thursday morning, making off with a haul that including a flat screen television and her Vauxhall Zafira car. However, the forty-year-old presenter, who shares the terraced home in Lambeth with her partner, Dominic Cotton and their three sons, only realised there had been a break-in later in the morning. 'We found out we had been burgled when our six-year-old son came upstairs and said, "Daddy, where's the TV?"' she told the Daily Scum Mail. 'I'm just so relieved I didn't bump into them. They swept up a few valuable items and made a dash. Thankfully they didn't take anything of great personal value - or the children's Christmas toys.' She added: 'The boys know what happened, but they are not too concerned. They were just excited about the police coming around and dusting the fingerprints.' Reid broke the news of the raid by posting the statement 'burgled' on her Twitter account on Thursday. Later, she added the message: 'Thanks all for brilliant msges [sic] of support. Have done all admin. If u spot abandoned but well-loved silver Vauxhall Zafira in Lambeth.' A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said Lambeth Burglary Unit was investigating the break-in. He added: 'A report of a burglary was made to Lambeth Police. The burglary took place overnight. It appears the burglar entered the premises by forcing a front window. Property stolen included a television and the occupants' car.' Yeah. We knew all that from her Twitter posting mate.

The Sri Lankan government has banned the BBC for a third time from covering an official panel's investigation into the country's civil war. The twenty six-year conflict in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009 after the government forces won victory over the Tamil Tiger separatists. The commission is investigating the final years of the war, which centred mainly in the heavily militarised north of the island. Last month, the government granted the BBC full access to cover proceedings of the war commission, but that promise has now seemingly been reneged on. As the panel visited Tamil prisoners at a high-security jail in the southern location of Boosa, the BBC and other domestic journalists were blocked at the prison gates. According to BBC correspondent Charles Haviland, Boosa jail holds around seven hundred Tamil Tiger suspects, including some who have been in custody for years without trial. A defence ministry official informed the BBC on Wednesday that its correspondents could visit the prison, but they were prevented from entering yesterday. This marks the third time that the corporation has been blocked from reporting on the panel's proceedings since it started work in August. There have been persistent rumours that the prisoners have been tortured inside the Boosa jail, but those have been denied by the government. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also declined to testify in front of the panel because they believe that it is not independent.

Radio 4 is to make another series of panel show Act Your Age, which pitches comedians of different generations against each other. Team captains Jon Richardson and Lucy Porter will return, but Roy Walker will no longer be leading the Old Guard side, where Tom O'Connor and Ted Robbins will now be regulars. Richardson will be joined by Holly Walsh on the 'Up-And-Comers' team while Rufus Hound joins Porter on the Current Crop side. Hosted by Simon Mayo, the third series is being recorded from next month.

North Korea's state-run television has broadcast Gurinder Chadha's film Bend It Like Beckham. In a tweet, the UK Ambassador to South Korea, Martin Uden, said it was the 'first ever Western-made film to air on TV in North Korea.' Originally released in the UK in 2002, the film was broadcast across North Korea on 26 December. Although the original is one hundred and twelve minutes long, the version broadcast was cut to one hundred and four minutes. It was a rare treat for North Koreans whose state television normally broadcasts animations, hagiographies of its great and dear leaders and images celebrating the country's army, model farms and villages. Uden said that the broadcast had been arranged by the British embassy. During the film, a message was broadcast saying that it was being shown to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between North Korea and the UK. It was reportedly the first time that North Korea has observed such a diplomatic anniversary by showing a film from that country. Bend It Like Beckham features a sport, football, beloved among North Koreans, but it also depicts some potentially taboo topics - like interracial relationships, homosexuality and religion.

Bob Dylan has officially been cleared of any involvement in a prank which saw nearly four thousand dollars worth of pizzas ordered and uncollected from a New Jersey restaurant. A man claiming to be part of the performer's crew ordered one hundred and seventy eight extra-large gourmet pizzas last month, saying that they were for an after-show party following Dylan's gig in the state. Workers at Antonio's Pizza in Amherst had been shown a backstage pass as ID and had worked until 5.30am to complete the order. The man who made the order was identified via CCTV and, apparently, had no affiliation with the singer-songwriter. Amherst Bulletin says that the forty six-year-old man was nabbed by the rozzers and has made a deal with the restaurant, although the amount he will repay to them it has not been disclosed.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Now, be fair dear blog reader, I've never did once claim that yer actual Keith Telly Topping didn't have the ability to be effing obvious if the mood took him. Ah, Mr Bonio. I'll bet you regret the mullet now.

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